Even long before it was called Wrestle Kingdom, New Japan Pro Wrestling has been running an annual show in the Tokyo Dome on January 4th. Since 2004, when Hiroshi Tanahashi defended the now defunct U-30 Championship in a match against Yutaka Yoshie at NJPW Wrestling World 2004, Tanahashi didn’t miss a single show. That has changed in 2020. He will still perform in the Tokyo Dome when he faces Chris Jericho on January 5th, but for the first time in 18 years, we did not see Hiroshi Tanahashi lace up his boots on January 4th.
His Legendary Career In The Tokyo Dome
While Yuji Nagata has him beat in the number of matches had at the Tokyo Dome, Hiroshi Tanahasi has defined the Wrestle Kingdom era of the annual January 4th events. Eight times he has competed at the event to either win or defend the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in the main event of the show, beating the likes of Satoshi Kojima, Keiji Mutoh (The Great Muta), Kazuchika Okada, and Kenny Omega. Only one time was he unsuccessful in in a match for the title at Wrestle Kingdom, that being in 2008 at Wrestle Kingdom II where Shinsuke Nakamura defeated him to win the championship.
He has also competed three times at the event for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, beating Nakamura for it in 2014 and defending it against Jay White in 2017, but failing to claim it in 2016 against Tetsuya Naito. The match in 2014 is infamous, as it won in a fan vote to main event over the scheduled main event of Tetsuya Naito & Kazuchika Okada, which help lead to Naito taking some time to find himself in Mexico and discovering the Los Ingornables faction, which he would use to relaunch his career.
Hiroshi Tanahashi Vs. Chris Jericho
Two legends of wrestling will clash in one of the marquee matches on January 5th. If Hiroshi Tanahashi is able to win the match, he will earn a shot at the All Elite Wrestling Championship, currently held by Chris Jericho. Chris Jericho will not go down easy, and has pledged to end Tanahashi’s career under the bright lights of the Tokyo Dome. It is sure to be one of the more intense matches on the second night of action from Wrestle Kingdom 14.
It was odd not seeing Hiroshi Tanahashi on the January 4th show, but they needed to space out matches over two nights. Night one had plenty to offer, and night two promises to be just as good, if not better.
Are you looking forward to another night of action from NJPW? Let us know down below, and stay tuned for results from the second night of Wrestle Kingdom 14.