History Maker: Will Tetsuya Naito Be the One? (2/2) 【G130C】

Tetsuya Naito talks the second half of his G1 campaign

Sitting at the top of B Block at present, Tetsuya Naito has had a strong start to G1 Climax 30. Yet his top spot comes in a block, and indeed tournament setting where no wrestler is undefeated after four nights; the first such occurrence since 2015, making for what could become the closest G1 Climax in five years. In the second part of this interview, Tetsuya Naito speaks about the second half of his potentially historic campaign. 

 I never got to walk into my home away from home with both the belts until now

–Let’s continue our look at your G1 opponents. On October 6 you face YOSHI-HASHI in Hiroshima. An important place to you…

Naito: I definitely have a home field advantage… even if that’s just because I’m a fan of their baseball team, heh. But it is a shame that I’m in my home away from home but I’m only in the semi-main. 

–That’s right. This will be the first time on the tour that you aren’t in the main event.

Naito: It’s my second home, and I should be the main event regardless of my opponent. So yeah, it is really disappointing. But then, I never got to show Hiroshima the double belts until now, so I want to make sure everyone gets a good look.

–And your opponent is YOSHI-HASHI. He’s struggled to get results in the past, but he’s had a really impressive year.

Naito: He has. I think finally winning a title was a big motivator for him, don’t you? We haven’t touched since the restart in June, so I’m intrigued to see just how good YOSHI-HASHI is in 2020, and I think he’s a different man to the one that started the year. I just hope having that NEVER 6-Man belt doesn’t burn him out.

–You think he might burn out as a champion?

Naito: I saw the match where they won the belts, and it was awesome. The defence was really great, too. But even though YOSHI-HASHI never got the win, he was the one that closed the night on the mic, right?

–It was Tomohiro Ishii that got the pin in August.

Naito: Everybody was expecting him to succeed. Everyone was cheering him on, but YOSHI-HASHI didn’t do it in the end. It felt a bit like he lucked out. He wasn’t the one that got to the goal line, but everyone was patting him on the back anyway, like he’d finally come to the end of his journey. And after he put all that into words, I wonder whether he might burn out now, with nothing to chase. His fans, too for that matter. 

–I see.

Naito: So I’m half excited to wrestle this new champion YOSHI-HASHI, and half keeping my expectations lowered. It’s weird.

–You want to see more of him.

Naito: I do. You know, I’ve known that guy since before he broke into the business, and I know just how hard he’s worked at everything, how hard he’s had to work at everything. So is it really OK for him to be satisfied just making it that far? Can’t he do more? That’s what I’m asking.

Juice? That might be my easiest match

–On October 8 you face Juice Robinson in Okayama. 

Naito: Juice is a tall guy, and really big when you get up close to him. He’s fast, he’s powerful, he can jump high. He can deal with just about anyone. Probably.


Naito: I definitely need to be careful of him. But having been away for so long, I wonder whether he’ll be right at the top level, my level. I think this might be my easiest match.

Dick Togo is more dangerous than EVIL

–October 11, in Aichi, a turning point in the league, as we get into the final stretch. You face EVIL for the third time this year.

Naito: Well, it just so happens that we’ll meet in the same venue when I challenged him and told him the rental period on the IWGP titles was over. This will be a nice continuation of that moment for the Aichi fans.

–I see.

Naito: The thing with him of late is that he’s only been able to wrestle if he has Dick Togo with him. Togo’s more dangerous than he is; if it was just me and EVIL one on one, it would be a given I would win. They’d better have a good team talk together before they come to face me, or they’ve got no chance.

–A lot of people want EVIL to go into his matches purely one on one.

Naito: You know, I do wonder. Is that the kind of match he really wanted to have when he left LIJ? It’s disappointing. But if that’s what he wants to do, if that’s who he is, then have at it. I can’t complain, and I won’t complain. 

–It’s likely EVIL has this match circled on his calendar, so to speak.

Naito: Right. And like I’ve said before, Jay White and KENTA are back now, right? And he doesn’t have any hardware with him right now. So this is a critical series for him, and his match with me is especially important. This is going to really shape what the future holds for EVIL.


I want to be first inside the Yokohama Budokan

–On October 14, we head to the Yokohama Budokan, where you will face Toru Yano.

Naito: Oh, I’m hyped for this one! The Yokohama Budokan!

–You’re excited to be at the new arena. I know you actually visited the old Yokohama Cultural Gymnasium on the last day before it was torn down.

Naito: Ah, yeah, after the card we had in Makuhari Messe I drove down to Yokohama real quick to get one last picture there. I took a quick snap of the new Budokan as well. 

–You’re a real fan of going to different buildings.

Naito: I think I’ve been closer to it than any of the other wrestlers. It’s a gorgeous building from the outside. Not too big, though?

–Full capacity without social distancing will be about 3000, I think. 

Naito: Hmm. A little smaller than I imagined. Gorgeous place though.

–Brand new, it opened on September 6. In 2024 there’ll be a bigger main arena attached to it. It sounds like you’re more excited by the venue than the match with Yano.

Naito: I think that’s fair, heh. We haven’t been there before, it’s a brand new place. I’ll probably get there first, I want to be the first one inside that place. 

–You’ve been quite opposed to the idea of Yano being in the G1 in the past.

Naito: Well, sometimes I wonder whether he really fits into the G1, you know? But he won the provisional KOPW2020, and he presents something different to everybody else. So I think there are a lot of people looking forward to seeing what he does.

–He is a different style to everybody else.

Naito: So you can’t really deny him his place, right? I have to admit, I like wrestling him too. It’s a psychological warfare, it’s bending rule on rule on rule. You get a match with him you can’t get with anyone else.

I can’t hate KENTA’s style

–Your last group match is on October 17 in Ryogoku against KENTA. You’ve said you’ve been looking forward to this one; your first meeting with KENTA since you wrestled him for the double titles in February.

Naito: Yeah. I can’t hate his style. He’s a smaller guy, but he comes right at you. 

–It’s a difficult opponent to have for your last night.

Naito: There’s the same questions with him as Juice. He’s been wrestling on NJPW STRONG, but he’s only had a few matches in the States before the G1 started. So the question is what shape will he be in by the end of this tournament.

–So get past the B Block, and who do you think would face you from A Block?

 Naito: I think Okada is the right pick.

–You answered that without thinking much.

Naito: I think he’s still the favourite. But if it came to people I want to face, I’d say Shingo Takagi or Ospreay. I’ve always wanted to face Ospreay, even though the last two years we’ve been in different blocks. He’s gotten so much bigger, but he’s still as athletic as he always has been. I’d like to try him.

He’s always so… magnetic. I hate that

–And Shingo?

Naito: I really liked the match I had with him last year in Osaka. Since then we’ve been in the same corner, but he’s been on my radar.

–Oh, he has?

Naito: I hate that guy, you know? Constantly talking. All the goddamn time. Talking to himself in the locker room, talking to himself on the road. He drives me crazy. But he’s an awesome wrestler.

–You can’t fault his performances.

Naito: Right. He’s always been that way. Stoic in his matches, completely devoted to his training. He’s never changed all these years. Always the center of attention. 

–That bully in him.

Naito: Heheh. Whenever he acts on anything, he never thinks about how anybody else feels, it’s always about what he thinks. Always the same. And always so… Magnetic. I hate that (laughs). 

–And he’s your teammate! It’s weird, but we haven’t talked about Kota Ibushi.

Naito: Well, he is last year’s winner. He’s a lot like Ospreay, putting all he has into flying around that ring. But after the restart, I thought his tag team with Tanahashi was a little disappointing. 

–They had their difficulties. A lot will remember Tanahashi telling Ibushi to ‘become god’ though. 

Naito: They found themselves a little from there on out, but getting to that point was pretty rough. I wanted Ibushi to carry that team, but in the end, it was him getting frustrated when Tanahashi couldn’t hold up his end of the bargain. 

–They did seem to have communication issues. 

Naito: I wanted him to say to Tanahashi ‘all you have to do is be there. Leave it all to me!’ But that didn’t happen. As it was, it was kinda just like his team with Kenny Omega, right? I think that disappointment just pushed him to the background for me.

–I see. Ibushi has said that he plans to win and face you on January 4.

Naito: Oh, really?

–….On the other hand he’s said he doesn’t want to wrestle you for another five years… He’s said he enjoyed wrestling you so much he wants to leave it a while.

Naito: What a weird thing to say. (laughs). Well, if he’s that interested in me, he has to get me interested in him. If we both draw each other in, I’m sure we’ll meet again in due course. 

Let’s face it, Yujiro is here because of COVID.

–By the way, do you have any thoughts on your former partner Yujiro Takahashi being in his first G1 in five years?

Naito: We’re going to talk about that, too? I mean to be honest, let’s face it, Yujiro is here because of COVID. He wouldn’t have this spot if it weren’t for the travel issues affecting some of the wrestlers. He got a bit of a shine when he started this feud with Okada, but it’s all a spot he wouldn’t have if it weren’t for the pandemic.


Naito: I’m sorry, but I really don’t care about him. Obviously once upon a time he was the center of attention for me, but right now he’s nowhere on the radar. Still, I’d like to see him make the best of this chance. Don’t waste it, prove me wrong if you can.