Hiroshi Tanahashi vs. Satoshi Kojima
April 9, 2008
All Japan Gaora Special Champion Carnival Night Five
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan

Reviewed by Mike Spears (@fujiiheya / @spearsovations), Co-Host of Open The Voice Gate, Proprietor of Spearovations.

Gifted by Sean Sedor (VOW Author Page / @SASedor2994)

Hiroshi Tanahashi has rarely played heel in New Japan (especially in the Bushiroad/Gedo era), so that makes it such a treat to see him thrive in the element as an invader in this A block decider in the 2008 Champion Carnival. I didn’t keep up with that era of All Japan as much as other promotions, but I loved Tanahashi’s heel work when he invaded DDT so I’m not surprised that this peaked high for me. I have zero clue when I mentioned my love of that DDT match, so this could have been a deep pull. Tanahashi’s DDT run wasn’t necessarily a big thing at the time, and it did result in a match with Ken Ohka, but I don’t think I referenced this in years. 

Tana plays Invader Heel as a heat machine. It’s a clever play from someone who has such a deep and classic connection with the audience. It’s a lot of being a bit of a dick and feeding off the crowd. He gloats. This is New Japan’s supreme specimen, forged in the famed gym. And you are graced by his presence tonight. It’s also very clear that Hiroshi Tanahashi openly delights in playing this kind of role and that’s just a nice thing to see in 2023. 

The Champion Carnival scenario is that win and you are in and will face Suwama for the overall tournament win later on that night. Looking through CageMatch, apparently Tanahashi Went Through It. He beat Taiyo Kea but had two half-hour time limit draws with late career Toshiaki Kawada along with Keiji Mutoh. Sorry you went through that, Ace.

Anyways, this match is really rad. Both guys are in their physical primes, even if this is pre-peak Tanahashi. Satoshi Kojima has Always Been Cool. The Korakuen crowd was game to turn him face for the night as a result of Tanahashi’s invasion, and Koji always knows how to capitalize on that. They do have some solid elbow work pay off in the last moments with Kojima lariats, but this really was about Tanahashi being Invader Heel. He won this with a flash pin after a healthy dose of TARU (sorry it’s still a Voodoo Murders match)!

So I cannot tell if this match is a deep cut reference to a favorite match of mine or someone who is a promotional expert who found a very “Dragon Gate” match that coincidentally happened in another promotion. I did really dig this though. I’d go ****½ and guess Paul Volsch.