Double IWGP champion Tetsuya Naito recently spoke with the NJPW Press to hype next week’s WrestleKingdom 15 pay per view, where he will be defending the gold against long-time rival, Kota Ibushi. Highlights from the interview can be found below.
When he first met Ibushi:
I reckon it would probably have been his first Best of the Super Jr. 2009.
Ibushi making waves early on in his NJPW career:
He was really making waves in NJPW at that point, but we hadn’t had the opportunity to face off; he was a junior heavyweight for one thing. It was actually in 2012, when I hurt my knee, that the whole ‘1982 Club’ started, and all of us wrestlers the same age started meeting. Then I came back and we were in the same G1 block, right away.
On the first time he wrestled Ibushi:
It was a big deal to wrestle someone the same age in the G1. My dad was watching as well, and he was a big Ibushi fan. He said he was really looking forward to the match, which put a lot of pressure on me (laughs). And then when we locked up, it was like something I’d never experienced before. Obviously I wanted to win, but still, it felt so…easy, so much fun. Like I was messing around doing wrestling moves on gym mats at school.
Wrestling Ibushi in his return match back in 2017:
After that match there was a lot of criticism online. People saying we’d kill ourselves. Of course, one misstep, one wrong move and our careers would be over. But we knew that and yet we were having so much fun. Every step of the way I was thinking how much fun it was to wrestle Ibushi. But beating him, after he’d taken that time away, it really felt like our positions changed with that match. Like I was above that line, he was below. After that match, even if the win:loss records said different, I felt like I was above him in the pecking order.
How important their match at MSG was:
I think the fans over there didn’t want, don’t want to see a bunch of matches that are supposedly tailored toward them. They like New Japan, they want New Japan. So it was important for us to have that match.
Promises to blow people away with their WK 15 showdown:
Look, when we get right down to it, what we’re here to do as pro-wrestlers is simple. We want everyone buying a ticket, watching on TV, watching online, in Japan and around the world, to enjoy themselves. So if the wrestlers aren’t enjoying themselves, it doesn’t seem reasonable that the fans would. Ibushi is the ideal opponent for me in that case, and we’re doing it in the biggest match of the year. With more people watching than any other time, we’re going to blow all of them away.