With a personality and in-ring approach that would make him a star in any wrestling company in the world, Tetsuya Naito is one of New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s most extraordinary talents.
With the recent news of New Japan’s joint pay-per-view with AEW in June, there’s a chance that Naito will have all sorts of highlights in forbidden door. As the leader of The Ungovernables of Japan, he could find himself involved in a battle against the Blackpool Combat Club, Team Taz, or Death Triangle.
Or he could fight a singles match on the supercard against “Hangman” Adam Page or Keith Lee.
There is no shortage of options. However, Naito, in an interview with Sports Illustratedhe said he has no plans to issue any challenges.
“There is no fighter I want to call,” says Naito through a translator. “The reason is simple. AEW wrestlers will gather around and yell, “I want to wrestle Tetsuya Naito!” and ‘I want to fight The Ungovernables of Japan!’ It is not difficult to see this happening. It won’t be long before he does.”
Before the trip to the United States this spring, he does have a specific opponent in mind for this weekend. Naito will challenge Kazuchika Okada in wrestling dontaku on Sunday for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship in a match that will be broadcast with commentary in English. Destined to be eternal rivals, the two have already parted ways for their first two matches so far this year.
naito lost in the golden series show in February in his 29-minute match, failing to reach his goal of dethroning Okada. But he avenged that loss in the New Japan Cup semifinals last month, defeating Okada in a 27-minute affair that continued his high level of excellence in the ring. The two share such undeniable chemistry, and it’s immediately apparent once they share the ring together.
Okada is on the quest to be the greatest champion in New Japan’s illustrious 50-year history, as well as in the entire world. To accomplish that feat, he leaves no stone unturned, which includes bringing out the best in his longtime rival. For Naito, this marks an opportunity to restructure the hierarchy of power in New Japan, which he would effectively do by starting his first run with the IWGP World Heavyweight Title.
“When I first entered New Japan Pro-Wrestling, I yearned for the IWGP heavyweight championship,” says Naito, who had three runs with that title, the precursor to the current belt. “I truly believed that the IWGP heavyweight throne was the belt at the top of the pro wrestling world. But now the IWGP heavyweight throne is gone, and the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship was born.”
The IWGP World Heavyweight Championship was born in March 2021, when New Japan officials unified the Heavyweight Title with the Intercontinental Championship. Considering the history and prestige of the now defunct title, Naito expressed his displeasure at the creation of a new title. However, he admitted that a title reign with the belt may help convince him to feel otherwise.
“I’m the one who tried to stop the birth of the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship,” says Naito. “Even now, I don’t have any special feelings for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. But if I keep it up, even just this once, maybe the way I think about the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship can change.
“There is only one reason why I am aiming for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. That is going back to where I belong, the main event of the Tokyo Dome on January 4, 2023.”
It’s not out of the realm of possibility for Naito to emerge victorious and win the belt. A perpetual thorn in Okada’s quest for excellence, he overshadowed the reigning champion at New Japan’s. golden wrestling series show on Monday in Hiroshima. Naito and LIJ’s brothers Hiromu Takahashi and Bushi defeated Okada, Toru Yano and Yoh of CHAOS after Naito’s razor pin spelled the end for Yano.
Scroll to Continue
Showing his dominance over a defeated foe, Naito punched Okada; in other parts of the wrestling world, that might be called Naito demanding Okada acknowledge him. After the fist bump, Okada went for his Rainmaker Lasso. However, Naito avoided contact, knocking Okada down with a low blow, then knocking him down with his trademark Fate. The sequence took on added meaning as Naito originally introduced that move as his full counter to Okada’s vaunted Rainmaker.
Existing in many ways as the Batman and Joker of professional wrestling, Naito shared that he enjoys competing against Okada. He was later intrigued when asked if Okada would ever be welcomed as a member of LIJ.
“Until now, I had never thought about that,” says Naito. “Because I think it’s more fun to fight Okada than to team up. However, I am interested in this idea of Okada and Naito teaming up if he joins The Ungovernables of Japan.
“Okada is tall and powerful; He has speed and stamina. And he is smart. He is an excellent fighter in all aspects. His heart is a real fortress. And there are many groups in the world of professional wrestling, but The Ungovernables of Japan is the best, so I could see why he would want to join. ”
Upon further reflection, Naito concluded that a partnership would not work, at least for decades to come.
“Maybe we can form a team one day,” says Naito. “But if it’s going to happen, it would have to be 30 years from now.”
A more likely tag partner for Naito is former Los Ingobernables leader Andrade, who now shines in AEW. Naito and Andrade would make an excellent team, especially considering how much they have accomplished since being together seven years ago in Mexico.
“Do people want that?” Naito asks. “Are you interested in me teaming up with Andrade? They’re excited? My response to that, of course, is ‘Easy’.”
Naito also addressed whether he would ever leave Japan to take a gap year in the United States. Before long, even within a span of six months, he would bring a whole new dynamic to AEW’s in-ring product.
“I love New Japan Pro-Wrestling so I don’t want to take a break from the game,” he says. “But if I ever go abroad, I want to go for a long time.
“I want to fight in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Costa Rica, Australia, United Kingdom, Ireland, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Palau. I want to show The Ungovernables of Japan to the world.”
Before starting those big international expansion plans for LIJ, Naito’s only focus is on Okada. His shot at the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship will be the main event on Sunday. wrestling dontaku.
“This is my third singles match this year against Okada,” says Naito. “We are going to find out who is the center and the heart of New Japan Pro-Wrestling, right during the fiftieth anniversary. Do people think it’s Okada or Naito? I’ll show you on Sunday.
Justin Barrasso can be contacted at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @justinbarrasso.