Hiroshi Tanahashi Comments On Friendship With Kazuchika Okada

njpw okada tanahashi battle in the valley

Hiroshi Tanahashi’s decade-plus-long rivalry with Kazuchika Okada has transformed into an interesting friendship.

Tanahashi and Okada have wrestled each other many times over the past decade or so. Their main-event rivalry began in February 2012 and has led to multiple main-event classics and some of the best matches in modern times.

Yet while they spent many years as opponents, in recent times they’ve put their differences aside and become tag partners. And by partnering together, they’ve actually become friends.

This would’ve been seen as impossible only a few short years ago. And yet, in an interview with Justin Barrosso of Sports Illustrated, Hiroshi Tanahashi explained why and how his intense in-ring feud with Kazuchika Okada turned into a friendship built on mutual respect and passion for the wrestling industry, to the point that they’re compared to Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan.

“I can rely on Okada. He has that ability to turn the tables when the chips are down, and that fires everybody up, myself included. Okada is trying to make New Japan Pro-Wrestling more exciting, whether in Japan, the U.S., singles or tag team division. He has the same desire as I do.

It had been a long time since I wrestled Okada, and I definitely felt a big gap between me and him,” says Tanahashi. “Okada wasn’t blown up at all during the match; I couldn’t drive him into the wall like I had been able to in the past. That’s what I remember the most from the match.”

Tanahashi and Okada last faced off at NJPW Battle in the Valley 2023 in their fifteenth singles match since The New Beginning 2012.