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New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Impact Wrestling join forces this weekend for the Multiverse United 2 card, and the show is headlined by Hiroshi Tanahashi challenging Alex Shelley for the Impact world title.

One of the most decorated champions in New Japan history, Tanahashi is a wrestling legend. This match makes Tanahashi the first to ever wrestle for the AEW, Impact, and IWGP world heavyweight Championships in the same calendar year. While he did not win the AEW or IWGP world heavyweight title, a run with the Impact belt would be fascinating.

“I’ve become a veteran wrestler in New Japan, but I still want to keep getting better,” says Tanahashi, speaking through a translator. “As a New Japan wrestler, if I have the Impact title around my waist, it will open up a lot of doors for myself and show a lot of new avenues for NJPW wrestlers to follow.”

Airing this Sunday on FITE, Multiverse takes place at the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia. That site was once home to ECW, and videotapes of that revolutionary promotion helped inspire Tanahashi. He revealed that Rob Van Dam was a particularly strong influence, and his work was a combination of flash, substance, and innovation–which is also a blueprint that Tanahashi has paved.

“I was a university student when ECW started attracting attention with their hardcore matches,” says Tanahashi. “I have a lot of respect for RVD. I can still picture him diving at his opponent on a table without having any fear of them getting out of the way. I would watch the tapes of ECW when we had them in Japan, and I was really taken by their extreme, hardcore style.

“Now that I’ve been to 2300 Arena many times, it’s become one of my favorite venues. I am so glad that people outside of Japan watch New Japan Pro Wrestling. It encourages me to study English.”

The trip to America will also see Tanahashi wrestle Matt Cardona later tonight at a House of Glory indie show in New York, which is another fun matchup. The same can be said for Tanahashi and Shelley, though their match will contain a different type of intensity. They have held each other in high regard for the past two decades, yet, incredibly, this will mark the first time they have ever wrestled each other in a singles match.

“Alex Shelly and I are good friends,” says Tanahashi. “We’ve known each other for a long time. When I first went to TNA for an excursion in 2005, Alex was already a star. He has a good and strong heart. I can see he takes this business very seriously. It is an honor to wrestle him.”

Even with the losses in title matches this year–first to Kazuchika Okada in February, then MJF in June–Tanahashi has a chance to rewrite that narrative if he defeats Shelley.

“This is a great opportunity,” says Tanahashi. “I am fighting to become Impact world champion.”

Justin Barrasso can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.