Naito meets the press as World Champ

Naito talks title win, SANADA challenge

Tetsuya Naito delivered his first press conference as IWGP World Heavyweight Champion on January 9, in the wake of a rematch between he and SANADA for the world title being made official for February 24 in Sapporo.

‘With my first Tokyo Dome main event in three years and finally getting my roll call, 2024 is off to a perfect start. I often stop at the entrance after a main event win and look back. That sight is something that only a main event winner can see, something special. But I didn’t look back as I left this time. That’s because I’ll be able to see it again. I promise that I will win the main event in the Tokyo Dome once again, this time to take that look back at the top of the ramp, cabron.’

Questions from press

–How do you feel about the direct rematch announced between yourself and SANADA for Sapporo February 24?

Naito: It’s official, is it? It’s rare for SANADA to speak his own mind on the mic like he did. When I saw that I thought that something in him had finally changed. I was only able to have my rollcall because SANADA was there to cut off EVIL when he ran in, so I owed him big. After what he said on the mic, actually speaking his mind, and what he did in the Dome, I said ‘let’s do it’. I was excited to get home and see what he had to say for himself backstage as well. I thought he’d be fired up to say something, but then- no comment. How disappointing. You making that challenge was a gift to the people, right? It was because you wanted the fans to be happy, right? If so, he should have said something, even if it was exactly the same as what he said in the ring, he should repeat himself. When he didn’t say anything at all, it was a real shame, and it made me wonder whether it’s worth going for this match. I have to say I’m not excited about this title match. Of course, for the people in Hokkaido I’m excited to show off the belt to them, but wrestling SANADA in another title match, not so much. The stances are different this time. I’m the champion, he’s the challenger. I always feel like it’s on the challenger to push themselves when it comes to a title match. That’s the case in the ring and backstage. It’s official now, so he needs to put in the work between now and then and have something to say every night. Otherwise I won’t be fired up, and the result will be the same as in the Dome. I’ll wrestle him, but I’m not jumping up and down about it.

–There are five singles matches in Sapporo between LIJ and Just 5 Guys that night. Your thoughts on those matches?

Naito: I know this comes from what SANADA said on the mic in Sumida. I wonder how the rest of the team feel. Was SANADA the only one not to comment that night? I really want to know what SANADA’s mindset is. Maybe that’s his strategy. Maybe he wants to keep me guessing about what he’s thinking. If so, then fine. But if he just wants to get home early and that’s why he’s so quiet, well he’ll never be more of a wrestler than he is right now, he’ll be sure to leave in Sapporo, and he’ll leave in tears, again. 

–This is your first time holding the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Have your thoughts changed since?

Naito: Well, I haven’t worn it yet. I hold it, but I haven’t worn it round my waist. When this belt was made, I was against it right up to the very end. I never had any good thoughts about this title before, and now I have it… it’s  complicated. Maybe I have a little more attachment to this belt than I did before the Tokyo Dome, but just a little. Perhaps the more I hold it, the more attached I’ll become, and if not, well I guess I’ll just toss it. I mean, if you break belts around here they just give you new ones, right? With a different name. Seems there’s precedent. 


–Do you feel like something has changed about you since you’ve achieved that goal of having the Dome rollcall?

Naito: It’s only been a few days, and maybe things will be different later down the line. For now, it felt great to have that rollcall in front of that many people. I thought going in that if I didn’t have a vision for what I wanted to do after I had the rollcall, then I would be done as a wrestler. That’s why I brought up Mazda Stadium. To have a rollcall in Mazda Stadium, in my home of Hiroshima. And I said this backstage, but I want a rollcall in my backyard, in the Tokyo Budokan, and where I made my debut in Saitama. I want to yell along with fans all over Japan, and all over the world- ‘De-Ja-Pon’.