International Spotlight: Hiroshi Tanahashi

Christi LottCorrespondent IJuly 9, 2009

Thank you for enjoying last week's spotlight on Shinsuke Nakamura. Today, we continue our tour of Japan and New Japan Pro Wrestling and turn our spotlight to Nakamura's biggest rival and the current IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi!

Alot of WWE fans will say that Chris Jericho is one of or is the most charismatic wrestler in the company, as well as being the best of the best in putting on quality matches. For me, if anyone could rival, let alone equal Jericho in that department, it's Hiroshi Tanahashi. Tanahashi has the ultimate swagger of a top star. At some points in his career, he even, in a cocky fashion, skipped to the ring. He has the bravado of believing he is the best in wrestling, and one many occasions has backed that up.

Let me give a little background information on him, and some highlights in his early career. Like many Japanese wrestlers, Tanahashi started wrestling in college. In that time, he was noticed by New Japan scouts and was quickly given a tryout in which he was successful. Over the next few years he recieved a big push including beating lucha legend Negro Casas as well as WCW and WWE alum Scott Hall and being in a popular tag team with Kenzo Suzuki.

A real-life 'Fatal Attraction' incident nearly ended his career, but in an ironic twist may have been the best thing to happen to him. In 2002, Tanahashi was stabbed in the back by a TV reporter he was dating. The incident recieved major coverage and put Hiroshi on the map with casual fans anticipating a return.

After returning his star continued to rise, with highlights including capturing the U-30 (under 30) Championship, as well as winning his first IWGP championship in 2006, which he held for nearly a year.

Yes, I go on and on about his match with Shinsuke Nakamura. It was an awesome match! It was the first time I saw him and I have to say, he has failed to disappoint me since. But he's got many other impressive matches under his belt, inculding two high quality matches with TNA's AJ Styles.

 In January of this year, he put on a great match with his long time mentor Keiji Mutoh (The Great Muta) to win his third championship. Two more great highlights came in this year alone, inculding a superb match, possibly my favorite match of his where he took on TNA's Kurt Angle and one month later had another great match with star Hirooki Goto. We here in the States have been fortunate to be briefly exposed to him, thanks to a brief excursion to TNA, cut short when he was chosen to face Mutoh.

Hiroshi Tanahashi is definitely at this moment NJPW's Star Ace, and it's a title he deserves. A bit more known for his looks, including a chisled body and funky haircut, his athletic skills do get a bit overlooked. Tana's got a great set of wrestling skills, including a beautiful dragon suplex, a cool looking swinging falling reverse DDT, a nicely done Cloverleaf submission and a picture perfect frog splash he calls the High Fly Flow. Tana brings a bravado to his mannerisms that are amusing and very fitting to him, including enticing the crowd to chant his name, blowing kisses at girls in the audience and at times, mocking his opponent.

But no one can deny this guy is fun to watch. Like Jericho, he's a star...and he knows it.

Next week we will move from New Japan to Pro Wrestling NOAH, where the spotlight will be on the current GHC Heavyweight Champion and ROH alum Go Shiozaki!