Hiroshi Tanahashi, New Japan Pro Wrestling’s current NEVER Openweight Champion, recently recalled his one month excursion to Mexico’s CMLL promotion.
Alongside current WWE star Shinsuke Nakamura, Tanahashi spent a month working and training with the legendary lucha libre promotion back in 2005.
But despite being well looked after throughout, The Ace admitted to struggling with one particular element of the lucha libre style in the latest edition of his ‘Ace’s High‘ autobiographical blog:
We were learning, even while we were treated like stars. That said, Nakamura adapted much better than I did. Like I don’t think I was able to kip up once on the trip, but that’s a fundamental move in lucha. I used to try when I was a Young Lion and never could get it, so I gave up. Then here I was training in a lucha class and people getting mad at me because I couldn’t do the simplest thing.
Tanahashi and Nakamura were IWGP Tag Team Champions at the time and even registered a successful defense of their belts against Rey Bucanero and Olímpico.
But despite this, the future NJPW Hall of Famer felt his tag team partner had made a more positive impression on his Mexican peers:
I think all the other guys were like ‘who the hell does he think he is?’ I could do a handspring, could do a backflip. But I couldn’t kip up. And then Nakamura is doing everything with ease and having a ball. With his MMA experience as well, he was getting a lot of respect. After the training session, he had guys coming up to him asking him to teach them submissions and them teaching him ‘llave’ while I sort of twiddled my thumbs. Not a great experience for me.
Despite this, The Ace returned to CMLL on a number of occasions across his career, via the company’s working relationship with New Japan, and won both the CMLL World Tag Team and World Trios Championships on separate occasions.