Ahead of his showdown with Kota Ibushi at Castle Attack NJPW superstar Tetsuya Naito spoke with the NJPW press about the IWGP Intercontinental championship, and how significant it has been over his prestigious career. Highlights from the interview can be found below.
Says he’s unclear on Ibushi’s idea to unify the I.C. and heavyweight titles:
To be honest, I really don’t understand what he’s trying to do. He isn’t getting across to me at all. I’m sure in his own mind, he has it figured out, but hearing his comments, I don’t understand it, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I’m not talking about support here; you aren’t going to please 100% of the people with anything at all. I think it’s a good thing, it’s important that he’s putting his views out there and saying what he wats to do regardless of who might support him. But all we’re getting is Ibushi wants to do something new without a clear idea of what and why.
Explains why he’s challenging just for the I.C. championship at Castle Attack:
Well. There are a ton of titles in NJPW right now. In my opinion, and it’s never changed, the one that really represents the very pinnacle of pro-wrestling is the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Now I’m going to be honest; I’m not a fan of direct rematches. To lose a title and then come back and demand a rematch, I did it with EVIL last summer, but…I’ve got to say, I’m not comfortable with it in general, and in Ibushi’s case, there was no nonsense, no interference, no cheating in the Tokyo Dome, he beat me clean. To come right back and challenge for the heavyweight title again, after that match, that’s disrespecting the title, I think. But if I did nothing, Ibushi would go ahead with his plan to unify. he might do it tomorrow, or the next day. Yes, if I won New japan Cup, that would give me a rightful challenge, but he might unify before then. I couldn’t let that happen. So, no tranquilo. If I hadn’t challenged, I’d live to regret it.
Talks about the I.C. title’s legacy being lost:
I don’t know what the title is supposed to represent, and I’d like it gone. So, if for six months, somebody doesn’t challenge me for it and take it away from me, then I’ll turn it over. At that point the company could decide to have a match to fill the vacant title, but if nobody wants it, nobody will be in that match. That’s how it’ll end. If Ibushi unifies them, it becomes the IWGP Double Championship, or what have you. The IWGP heavyweight Championship, and the Intercontinental, all that goes away.
His connection to the I.C. title:
It’s strange. I’ve always questioned the purpose of the IWGP Intercontinental Championship, but if you look back on my career, it’s been the belt I’ve been most connected to. I’ve never understood the significance of *it*, but *it’s* always had a significance for *me*.