Aaron Henare from the United Empire has set his sights on making a substantial impact as he kickstarts his second appearance in the esteemed G1 Climax tournament.
The 33rd edition of the Climax kicked off on Saturday and is already boasting an array of top-quality matches, one of which was Henare’s loss to Mikey Nicholls in a 12-minute thriller.
However, Henare refuses to be discouraged by his initial loss. Instead, he has channelled his focus towards another endeavour that fills him with immense pride.
NJPW Star Aaron Henare Makes History
By participating in the second night of the NJPW 33rd G1 Climax, Aaron Henare achieved a historic milestone as the first professional athlete across all sports to proudly exhibit the revered and culturally significant Mataora tattoos.
The Mataora tattoos hold a profound meaning of nobility within the Māori: the indigenous Polynesian people of mainland New Zealand. These facial tattoos carry a unique significance to the Māori culture, as they believe that the head represents the utmost sacredness within the human body.
Henare spoke about the tattoos in a recent interview with Te Ao, a Māori news website.
“I was getting all of these tohu (signs). It’s been a magical week, running into whānau members everywhere I go. It’s like getting these markings attracted everything.”
“I feel more secure in myself as well, and more representative of my tūpuna.”
“I’ve felt mana, responsibility, power all wrapped up in one. It’s not just that I’ve got these markings and I’m the man, it’s now ‘I’ve got these markings, now the responsibilities have doubled, tripled, quadrupled.'”
Henare received the tattoos upon his return to New Zealand on June 23, his first time back in the country (known as “Aotearoa” to the Māori) since January 2022. The process of the face tattoo was not a walk in the park, as Henare detailed in the interview with Te Ao.
“When you put it into perspective, that was the most painful thing that I went through in my life, but I know our tupuna went through a lot more than that; losing their land being disconnected from their culture. That pain that I bear is nothing compared to the pain they bore.”
Aaron Henare’s next NJPW G1 outing will be on July 19 in Sendai, when he takes on former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Shingo Takagi. Meanwhile, Henare’s United Empire stablemate Will Ospreay will take on YOSHI-HASHI the day before, on July 18th.