Hiroshi Tanahashi: Why He Should Become the AEW Interim Champion

Hiroshi Tanahashi is one of the best wrestlers on Planet Earth. This is just a simple fact. And when he stepped through the curtain to answer CM Punk’s question of who The Second City Savior would be facing at AEW/NJPW: Forbidden Door, the IWC lost its collective mind. This was going to be a match for the ages. Two generational icons going head to head for the AEW World Championship in what would’ve been a five-star, Meltzer rating-breaking bout before they’d even locked up. It was also one that Hiroshi Tanahashi would’ve lost, but lost in a most spectacular way. CM Punk had only just beaten Hangman Page for the belt and there was no way in hell that Tony Khan would’ve let him drop it in what would’ve been his first proper defence, and certainly not to a member of another promotion. No, it would’ve been a glorious war between two of the greatest ever, but in the end, Punk would’ve hit about four GTS’s on Hiroshi Tanahashi and got the pin, 1-2-3. But this is wrestling and they say that the card is subject to change for a reason.

During a tag match that saw The Best In The World team up with FTR to face off against The Ass Boys and Max Caster, Punk got injured; badly enough that he’s had to take a substantial amount of time off to get surgery and heal up. What could’ve been a tragic case of wrong place/wrong timing was eased somewhat by Tony Khan refusing to let Punk drop the title and then having the foresight to book Jon Moxley to go over Kyle O’Reilly so he could be the one to face Hiroshi Tanahashi at AEW/NJPW: Forbidden Door for the Interim AEW World Championship.

Which is simple enough, right? Moxley and Tanahashi will tear the house down. Probably better than Punk vs. Tanahashi would’ve done. Mox will get the win. Dave Meltzer will have kittens. And we’ll all go to bed happy that Mox is the Interim Champion.

Or will we? Personally, I think that Jon Moxley going over here would be the wrong choice and that Hiroshi Tanahashi should pick up the win, and here’s why.

Hiroshi Tanahashi in ring for NJPW

No One Will Expect It

Well, they won’t really, will they? Come on, can you honestly say with your hand on your heart that if Hiroshi Tanahashi beats Jon Moxley at Forbidden Door that you really, really thought it was going to happen? No, you can’t. Don’t lie. Every sensible dollar or pound being laid down right now will be on Mox to walk out of this show as the winner, and it’s not that surprising. After all, we’re talking about putting AEW’s biggest prize around the waist of another wrestler while their current champ—who hasn’t relinquished the title, let us not forget—gets fit again. So why would you put it on someone who doesn’t even work for the company? From a booking point of view it makes zero sense which is why, to me at least, it makes the most sense of all.

Taking the gamble on a swerve that even Vince Russo would think was a risk would only pay dividends as it would finally establish that AEW is the number one show to watch, as you never know what the f*ck is going to happen every week. “Holy crap! Did they put their World Championship on someone from NJPW? What the hell are they gonna do next?” It instantly makes AEW must-see TV, and you can’t buy that kind of publicity. It also would help towards solidifying my next point, which is…

It Would Establish A Full Working Relationship With NJPW

This is an important point and one I fully believe that AEW should’ve been working towards from Day One. AEW isn’t the WWE; it never will be. The WWE is an entity unto itself and trying to compete with them is about as sensible as taking COVID advice from Donald Trump. It ain’t gonna work and you’re gonna end up dead. So what’s the alternative? Simple. Learn to stand apart. Tony Khan has already proven that—outside of him being an incredible manchild who shouldn’t be allowed near Twitter—he’s willing to take a risk or ten, such as buying up ROH. So why not create a tight-knit community with other companies that differ from Big Vinnie Mac’s way of doing things?

Having NJPW’s ace Hiroshi Tanahashi take the big gold belt all the way back to Japan would see AEW seemingly without a World Championship, but as Lemmy said, the chase is better than the catch, and with Punk rumoured to be out until the end of the year, it would allow Moxley vs. Tanahashi II where I’d expect Mox to reclaim the belt for himself and for AEW. The build to this could be epic, with Moxley stalking Hiroshi Tanahashi at every opportunity; showing up at post-match conferences at NJPW and beating the hell out of his foe; showing up mid-match at some of NJPW’s events and causing Tanahashi to be DQ’d. All with the express purpose of making Hiroshi Tanahashi’s life miserable until he gives him what he wants: his goddamn rematch. And when he gets it—either at a solo AEW or NJPW show, or another combined PPV—the roof would not only be torn off the place, it would be jettisoned into f*cking space. This would also tie in nicely to…

CM Punk’s Triumphant Return

Sooner or later, CM Punk will be back and he’ll want to prove that he—and he alone—should be seen as the sole AEW World Champion. Now, if he is out until the end of the year, he could be fit and raring to go just in time for Wrestle Kingdom 17, and what better way for him to do this than in a Triple Threat Match against Jon Moxley and Hiroshi Tanahashi?

Come on, this s*it writes itself. Hiroshi Tanahashi wins the belt at Forbidden Door. Jon Moxley spends about four/five months chasing him down to reclaim the title, and then they set up a rubber match for Wrestle Kingdom 17, only for CM Punk to announce his grand return and demand that he’s put in the mix. Punk vs. Moxley vs. Tanahashi for the AEW World Championship to headline the first night of Wrestle Kingdom 17? I’m already booking my tickets for Japan.

Will It Happen?

I’m going to go on record right now and say that I fully expect Hiroshi Tanahashi to beat Jon Moxley at AEW/NJPW: Forbidden Door and that everything I’ve laid out in the previous one thousand plus words will come to fruition. Which means it won’t. Sorry, my track record at this kind of thing is terrible. Seriously, go and look at any of the SPOBS predictions that I’ve been involved in and you’ll see that I don’t seem to know my arse from my elbow. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t dream and that sometimes a hunch doesn’t pay off. Even though most sites have Hiroshi Tanahashi at +140 compared to Moxley’s -200, which means you have more chance of bumping into God in your local boozer than you do of Hiroshi Tanahashi picking up the win, I’m still gonna have a cheeky £10 punt on NJPW’s ace to walk out of this weekend’s Forbidden Door the new AEW Interim World Champion.

It’s time for AEW to put up or shut up. Do the unthinkable. Take the risk. Establish yourself as the true alternative to the WWE. Or just spend the rest of your time in Vince McMahon’s titan-shaped shadow.

Written by Neil Gray

SPOBS very own Mouth Of The South (West).

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