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Hiroshi Tanahashi Recalls Keiji Muto Asking Him to Go to AJPW With Him, Never Doing An Overseas Excursion

September 23, 2020 | Posted by Jeremy Thomas
Hiroshi Tanahashi

In the latest of his Aces High interview pieces, Hiroshi Tanahashi looked back on Keiji Muto’s jump from NJPW to AJPW and how Muto asked him to make the jump with him.

On not ever going overseas to wrestle: “The chance never came to me. I wanted to do it. Maybe I think there was a bit of backlash to my calculating ways, heh.

On getting a similar experience to going overseas in NJPW: “If you think of Japanese wrestlers who made it right to the top without that experience overseas first, it’s me and Kenta Kobashi really (laughs). But I think I got that experience here in the end … A lot of guys, especially traditionally would become natural heels just by being Japanese overseas. That forces you in the position of learning how to structure a match in many a way. Me, I was here, and presenting myself as a babyface, but I was getting booed out the building anyways, so I learned to work the same way! (laughs) And for a lot of guys the goal that gets set for them while they’re overseas is to get into that top flight shape and that’s something I didn’t need, I was already a body guy.”

On Keiji Muto trying to recruit him to go to AJPW with him and if he knew it was going to happen: “Not really, no. It was all business as usual, I was doing my chores, and he went ‘hey Tana, let’s go eat’. So I thought ‘yes, off we go to Ginza!’ … But instead we wound up going to the Denny’s near the Dojo. He got us some coffees and as we’re sitting there drinking those he explains that he’s leaving for AJPW. And then he says ‘Hey, Tana, I want you to come with me.'”

On why Muto left: “I think he was just done. He’d had enough of NJPW, and this was a chance to try something different, reset and find his passion again.”

On his response to Muto: “I didn’t give him an answer right away. But he was very into the idea. He asked me how much I was making, said he could match my deal with NJPW … but to me it was never about money. I was still green, I hadn’t achieved anything here yet.”

On if he felt he should stay right away: “Yes and no. I mean, here was my teenage idol literally looking me in the face and saying ‘I want you’. That’s just surreal. But I told him I needed some time to think, and then it was the New Year’s holiday.”

On telling Muto he was staying: “I went home to Gifu for a bit, and Muto called me there, asking if I was in or out. To be honest I was thinking ‘oh shit, I forgot to talk to him’ and just said ‘well, I think I’ll stay’. He said ‘ah, ok. Sorry for putting you on the spot like that.'”