Hiroshi Tanahashi has had some strong words regarding Brock Lesnar and The Beast Incarnate’s time in New Japan Pro-Wrestling in 2005 – 2006.
Lesnardebuted for the Japanese company in October 2005 winning the prestigious IWGP Heavyweight Championship from Kazuyuki Fujita. In July 2006 Brock Lesnar was scheduled to defend the title against Hiroshi Tanahashi but the match never happened. According to reports at the time ‘visa issues’ were blamed. Lesnar was stripped of the title due to his inability to defend it and a tournament was held to crown a new champion. Hiroshi Tanahashi won the tournament, winning the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the first time.
In a new Aces High column on NJPW’s website, ‘The Ace’ Hiroshi Tanahashi discussed that match that never happened with Lesnar.
“I’ve been through my fair share of bumps in the road in my career, but this was a huge shock. I remember we were in Kushiro when we found out; I was in the locker room when I heard Choshu bellowing in the room next door ‘what the f***!’ kind of thing. Then a few minutes later one of the young boys comes over and says ‘Tanahashi, Mr. Choshu wants a word with you’. Now I was thinking ‘oh, boy.’”
“I go in there and [Riki Chosu] says ‘Lesnar’s not coming,’ I was just stunned like the world had gone into darkness in front of me. I never knew the real ins and outs of the contract issue, but I do know he had a really special money situation going on, and I would imagine that was what was at the heart of it. It was really an unprecedented set of circumstances when it comes to IWGP title matches. He was a real force of nature, especially at that point in time. You’d see him opposite [Giant] Bernard, who’s bigger than Lesnar, but there’s no way you’d think that to look at the two of them together, simply because of Lesnar’s forcefulness.”
Tanahashi then highlighted how important the match was to fans of NJPW:
“Back in those days, we would have this big lion mark flag at the venues for fans to write messages of support on. Going into this match, we ran out of space on the first flag and had to get a second. That was how hyped the match was with the fans in the venues, but all of a sudden it was gone.”
Hiroshi Tanahashi then talked about what kind of match he thinks he would have had with Lesnar. Tanahashi also noted that to him, Lesnar’s style of wrestling is selfish.
The Ace explained:
“Technical, I think. It would have to be; you certainly couldn’t match him for power. To be brutally honest, I could never get into any of what I saw of Lesnar. It was all one-sided, a completely selfish way of wrestling. I saw him come up in the early 2000s, and he was just pounding people, you never got to see anything from his opponents. I just didn’t understand his deal at all.”
“To be honest Lesnar didn’t really care where he was wrestling as long as he got his payoff. That wasn’t the case with Bernard and other foreign guys like that. It really took me aback that there was someone who cared absolutely nothing for the place they were working. That was part of my motivation for that match.”
Brock Lesnar kept the physical IWGP Title belt despite being stripped of it by NJPW. Lesnar defended and lost that title to Kurt Angle as part of Antonio Inoki’s IGF promotion.