Hiroshi Tanahashi Calls Empty Arena Events ‘A Black Eye’ To Wrestling

Credit: NJPW/TV Asahi

Hiroshi Tanahashi, the “Ace” of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, feels very strongly against running shows without an audience in Japan.

Speaking with Sports Illustrated, the 8-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion spoke about the state of wrestling in Japan, how it differs from wrestling in the United States, and the mental image that keeps him going through these rough times.

“The wrestling business is in an extremely difficult situation,” says Tanahashi. “After all, we are athletes in a contact sport and we perform in front of packed crowds. That’s a recipe for disaster right now. It’s hard to say when exactly we’ll have matches again, but I hope in the meantime wrestlers look after themselves, stay in top shape and keep fans hungry to see us when we can come back.”

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He continued, “There isn’t a governing body for Japanese pro wrestling,” says Tanahashi. “As such, we can’t necessarily enforce cancelations. That’s been the responsibility of each company. But to run events in the middle of a pandemic presents the wrong image of professional wrestling to society and would deal a black eye to the industry that might still remain even after the pandemic ends. I thought it was important for us to come together, understand exactly what’s happening and do what’s right, even if that means returning to action after other pro sports.”

For Tanahashi, he is eager for the day that there are thousands packed into a stadium cheering once again, but understands that may be a long way away.

“Just imagine something for me,” says Tanahashi. “Imagine that this pandemic is behind us and wrestling is back. Imagine thousands of fans together, cheering on the wrestlers fighting in the ring. Imagine those wrestlers, giving it absolutely everything they have. That mental image alone is pretty motivating. So please everyone, take care of yourselves. Let’s get through this, and we’ll meet again with smiles on our faces someday soon.”

To read the full interview, click here.