Thursday, April 2, 2015

The First New Japan Name for War of the Worlds Announced

Tanahashi is the first name announced from New Japan
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
Ring of Honor announced its first name from New Japan Pro Wrestling for the four-show, co-promoted shows between the two promotions in Toronto and Philadelphia, and it comes as both a sigh of relief and a little bit of a letdown in the same breath. Hiroshi Tanahashi, the seven-time IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, will be making the trek across the Pacific for the shows. Tanahashi was the biggest star in NJPW for the longest time, and while he's still a big main event player, he shares the stage with wrestlers like AJ Styles, Kazuchika Okada, and Shinsuke Nakamura. In terms of pure wattage, Tanahashi provides a nice bit of star power for the shows, which was feared might be missing.

Rumors circulated around the time that the show was announced that the NJPW presence would be mostly gaijin and that no real big stars would come over like they did last year. Tanahashi, Okada, Nakamura, Jushin "Thunder" Liger, Gado, and Jedo all mad the trip in 2014, but the concern was that number would be slashed if not eliminated. Tanahashi allays that fear substantially. If NJPW is going to send him over, it's not inconceivable that the company will send a similar contingent over this year as well.

However, from a personal standpoint, Tanahashi is about the least interesting name of the non-gaijin who could have made the trip. Comparisons to John Cena aren't just apt because he was on top for a huge chunk of the '00s. Like Cena, he's become a "good guy" in name only, punctuated by mocking Okada as he tearfully walked away from the ring at WrestleKingdom 9, which has made a bit of his stay at the top of the card overbearing. Like Cena! Also, last year he engaged in a feud with Mike Bennett, which was puzzling given their respective positions on the card at the time, and he could be back to continue said feud. Although Bennett's not really that bad a performer and has climbed up the card in the last year, it's still not the marquee match that a huge crossover event should be built around. But then again, no matches have been announced just yet, and Tanahashi will almost certainly be here for the whole run of shows, which means four chances to wrestle against the ROH roster.

Regardless of the negatives, Tanahashi being announced is a good start for the roster of crossover guests. The set of shows should be one of the marquee events of the year, and hopefully, even more big names, even ones who haven't been to America before (like, I dunno, Tomohiro Ishii? TOMOAKI HONMA???) will be making the trip this time with Tanahashi.