Tetsuya Naito injury causes card havoc in Korakuen

Tetsuya Naito pulls out of tag main event with right knee issues, Nagata wrestles SANADA one on one. 

The fourth night of a four card streak in Korakuen Hall was due to end with Tetsuya Naito tagging with SANADA against Kota Ibushi and Yuji Nagata, but a sudden announcement at the start of the evening played havoc with the card, and raised eyebrows with fans. 

It was revealed to fans before the opening bout that Tetsuya Naito had sustained a right knee injury and would be unable to compete in Korakuen Hall. As a result, the main event tag team match was changed to a semi-main singles bout, and an intriguing one at that as SANADA faced Yuji Nagata one on one. 

Before this or any other matches could take place, Tetsuya Naito appeared before the Korakuen Hall with a greeting and an apology. Stating he was deeply sorry to be unable to wrestle, Naito made it clear that he would be in action in Osaka on February 28 by directing the focus of his comments to double IWGP Champion Kota Ibushi. Saying ‘now isn’t the time for ‘God’ to hear what I think’, Naito pressed Ibushi to truly explain in no uncertain terms just why he wants to unify the IWGP Intercontinental and Heavyweight Championships. Naito thanked the fans for listening before leaving Ibushi to make comment backstage.  

The card shift would give Yuji Nagata his highest profile match of 2021 thus far, and a huge opportunity to potentially defeat the last number one contender to double IWGP gold. Two classical athletes albeit at vastly different stages in their career, SANADA and Nagata exchanged holds in the early going, and each threw the other across the ring in a bid to assert dominance. 

It would be Nagata with a brief advantage as he stood from a Paradise Lock attempt and landed some stiff kicks, but SANADA would respond with a Dragon Screw and plancha before taking firm control with strikes to the right knee. A Figure Four followed, driving Nagata to the ropes, and forcing the veteran to grit his teeth, firing back with strikes and a Kitchen Sink before landing kicks with his good left leg. 

Nagata didn’t have the base to hit the Exploder he wanted, but a Butterfly Suplex was true. Sensing Nagata was giving him more trouble than expected, SANADA tried to quickly finish the Third Generation member with a Moonsault and then Skull End, but both attempts failed, and Nagata was able to deal some hefty damage in Nagata Lock II. 

The Justice Knee in the corner and an Exploder scored to get two for Nagata, and an Enzuigiri followed, but the Backdrop Suplex wasn’t forthcoming. SANADA was able to connect with a Magic Screw, and as the two came to their feet Nagata and SANADA traded harsh elbows, the veteran gaining the upper hand and landing a brainbuster for a nearfall. 

Nagata went for the Backdrop Suplex, but Cold Skull shifted his weight to get a two from the referee. Finding distance and time, SANADA flipped into Skull End, and a Moonsault followed for the win.