The Ace of the Universe was named President & Representative Director of New Japan Pro-Wrestling last week. Today (Dec. 26), the company held a press conference to officially introduce the eight-time IWGP Heavyweight champion with his new titles.
New Japan owner Takaaki Kidani opened the presser by thanking outgoing President Takami Ohbari, who took the job in January 2019, for guiding New Japan through the pandemic. Ohbari thanked the fans, and said he’s left Tanahashi with “the tools to bring NJPW to the highest position it’s ever been.”
Tanahashi was described by Director Hitoshi Matsumoto, who was also appointed on Dec. 23 along with the new President, as a “player manager”. Tanahashi currently holds the NEVER Six-Man titles with Kazuchika Okada and Tomohiro Ishii, and will challenge Zack Sabre, Jr. for the NJPW Television title next week at Wrestle Kingdom 18. When talks about him joining the office became serious in November, Tanahashi requested that Kidani allow him to continue wrestling in his new job. He even has his eyes on New Japan’s current top belt:
“As an active wrestler I still haven’t won the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship and there is a lot left undone, but an Ace can be an Ace on both sides of the fence, I thought.“
The goal of winning the World Heavyweight championship came up against when Tanahashi was talking about the advantages of continuing to perform in the ring while leading the company:
“As a wrestling president, I think that I’ll have a unique effect on our live business. I’ll be able to promote and sell in a way that I wouldn’t as much after retirement.
I’m thinking about what I have left as an active wrestler. Through that time the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship is still my top goal. Maybe people might baulk at that answer! But I will give it my all in the ring and out.”
He said that he’ll travel with the promotion when it’s on the road, but will be in the office when they’re running shows in Tokyo. Tanahashi also mentioned having “more title matches in markets outside of the norm” and selling out the Tokyo Dome among his goals as President. With Jan. 4 (the date New Japan holds Wrestle Kingdom each year) falling on a Saturday in 2025, Tanahashi is targeting Wrestle Kingdom 19 for a Dome sellout.
The new President cautioned fans and wrestlers that growing NJPW would be a gradual process, but he’s confident he’ll be able to achieve his goals. Tanahashi spoke about his belief they’ll make the late Antonio Inoki proud with their results — results he’ll achieve by focusing on the fan experience:
“During my time as a wrestler I’ve learned and realised a lot. Coming into a match my thoughts aren’t about winning as much as they are responding to fans hopes and expectations and wanting them to leave with something in their hearts. That’s the mindset I’ll bring as President as well...
“I want to consider just what the fans want from NJPW. I remember as a fan, going home and over dinner or beers talking about how much fun the show was and how much I want to go back. That’s what I want our fans to feel as well.”
You can read more English translation of what Kidani, Ohbari & Tanahashi said at the presser here.