Following his graduation from Ritsumeikan University, Hiroshi Tanahashi made his professional wresting debut in 1999 when he competed against Shinya Makabe. Within a year, he managed to earn stardom, mainly due to his big win over the legend Negro Casas in 2000.
His career continued to thrive in the following years, predominately with his win in the 2002 G1 Climax where he pinned Kensuke Sasaki in less than two minutes. He soon joined hands with Kenzo Suzuki to form the tag team ‘Kings of the Hills’. However, the pairing ended in a little while.
In February 2003, the talented wrestler returned as a solo performer in a match against Manabu Nakanishi. His career began to escalate rapidly in the latter half of 2003 when he acquired the IWGP U-30 Openweight Championship as well the IWGP Tag Team Championship titles.
In January 2005, he lost the U-30 Openweight Championship titled to Shinsuke Nakamura in Tokyo Dome. However, Tanahashi regained the U-30 Openweight Championship in June when he defeated Toru Yano.
In June 2006, Tanahashi began focusing on the IWGP Heavyweight Championship tournament. As his fellow competitor Brock Lesnar failed to show up, Tanahashi was placed in a match for the vacant title which he eventually won against Giant Bernard, thus acquiring the IWGP Heavyweight Championship trophy.
Also, in 2006, he debuted in the United States with TNA at Final Resolution, where he lost the match to A.J. Styles.
After holding the IWGP Heavyweight Championship belt for about nine months, Tanahashi lost it to Yuji Nagata. Then in February 2008’s New Japan Ism tour, he defeated A.J. Styles in a rematch of their 2006 bout in the wrestling promotion Total Nonstop Action Wrestling (TNA).
In 2008, he entered the New Japan Cup tournament and won over Giant Bernard to become the first two-time winner of the coveted New Japan Cup.
On January 4, 2009, the talented wrestler defeated Keiji Mutoh to begin his third reign as the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. He soon began his fourth one after defeating Manabu Nakanishi in June.
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In August 2010, he made it to the finals of the 2010 G1 Climax tournament. However, he lost to Satoshi Kojima in the finals.
In January 2011, Tanahashi won the IWGP Heavyweight Championship for the 5th time. A year later, he lost his title and ended his reign after being defeated by Kazuchika Okada. However, in June, he regained the title for the 6th time with his win over Okada in a rematch.
In July 2011, he paired with Jushin Thunder Liger to lift the CMLL World Tag Team Championship trophy against El Terrible and Tama Tonga.
On January 4, 2014, he defeated Nakamura in Tokyo Dome to earn the title of IWGP Intercontinental Champion for the first time. Two years later, he lost the title to Kenny Omega.
At the Invasion Attack 2016, he alongside Yoshitatsu and Michael Elgin became the NEVER Openweight 6-Man Tag Team Champions.
Tanahashi retained his IWGP Intercontinental Championship title for the 2nd time in June 2017 when he registered a win over Tetsuya Naito. However, on January 27, 2018, he dropped the title, ending his reign at 230 days.
He then went on to enter the 2018 G1 Climax where he eventually defeated Kota Ibushi to lift his third G1 Climax tournament trophy.
On January 4, 2019, he quashed Kenny Omega in Wrestle Kingdom 13 to become IWGP Heavyweight Champion for the 8th time also the first Tokyo Dome IWGP Heavyweight Championship challenge rights certificate holder to become champion at Wrestle Kingdom. The following month, he lost his title to Jay White, ending his reign with 0 defenses.