Hiroshi Tanahashi Absolutely NAILS The Problem With "Old Guard" Wrestling Critics

NJPW's Ace on embracing new talent ideas - and not getting left behind.

Hiroshi Tanahashi AEW
AEW

New Japan Pro-Wrestling's Hiroshi Tanahashi is determined never to become part of the "old guard" of wrestling critics desperate to cling on to their generation of wrestling.

The puroresu icon said as much in the latest edition of his Ace's HIGH column for NJPW's official website. Titled "Canvas Masterpiece", the piece saw Tanahashi reference his classic King Of Pro-Wrestling 2012 match with Minoru Suzuki, which he called a response to "'circus' complainers" left behind by the sport's evolution:-

–There were a few cases at the time of former wrestlers criticising NJPW; you responded that you didn’t have time for people who weren’t watching consistently, and were ‘parachuting in’ to find something to complain about.
Tanahashi: Right. So when Suzuki was bringing that up, it was his attempt to change the direction of that match and make me wrestle his pace rather than my own. I think you can see his words reflected in the match itself.
–It was a very different match indeed, marked out by having no pinfall attempts except for the High Fly Flow that ended the match.
Tanahashi: I remember the strikes, and the Figure Four in that one. I had all those ‘circus’ complainers in mind and wanted to stick it to them with that match.

Continuing, Tanahashi stated his belief that such attitudes don't help the business. At 45 years old and with 22 years in the sport, NJPW's Ace is doing all he can to never be of that mindset:-

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–There was one notable comment from a veteran around this time that wrestlers were more interested in playing (superhero) Kamen Rider than being tough.
Tanahashi: That’s the one that got to me most, as a wrestler and as a Kamen Rider fan (laughs).
–Disrespectful on two levels.
Tanahashi: I mean, I’ve watched every minute of every Kamen Rider show, and I don’t think that guy had an idea of what Kamen Rider was about either when he said that to be honest. The point is a comment like that doesn’t help the business, doesn’t help the boys, the staff, the fans, nothing. Nobody profits from talking like that. I get maybe there’s an idea of an old guard wanting to hold on to their generation of wrestling, but I’ll do all I can not to be like that ever.

Tanahashi added, in a comment applicable to almost all complaints of this nature, that those who adopt such approaches are ultimately shunning their roots and making themselves look bad:-

–You feel they set a bad example.
Tanahashi: I’m not going to be wrestling forever. But even after I hang the boots up, I want to be in the corner of the younger wrestlers, figuratively. I want all the wrestlers to know I have their backs. All of us got to be where we are because of NJPW, so to then turn around and slam something you saw for two seconds and don’t like, you’re denying your roots and making yourself look bad in the long run.

An eight-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and one of the most important wrestlers in NJPW history, having helped lift the company up during one of its toughest historical periods, Tanahashi's words hold weight.

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Senior Reporter
Senior Reporter

Andy has been with WhatCulture for six years and is currently WhatCulture's Senior Wrestling Reporter. A writer, presenter, and editor with 10+ years of experience in online media, he has been a sponge for all wrestling knowledge since playing an old Royal Rumble 1992 VHS to ruin in his childhood. Having previously worked for Bleacher Report, Andy specialises in short and long-form writing, video presenting, voiceover acting, and editing, all characterised by expert wrestling knowledge and commentary. Andy is as much a fan of 1985 Jim Crockett Promotions as he is present-day AEW and WWE - just don't make him choose between the two.