Tetsuya Naito spoke with NJPW about the company’s return, his title defense at Dominion against the winner of the New Japan Cup and more. You can check out highlights below:
On Okada saying that beating him at Dominion is his main focus: “Is that so? … I only have one big singles match to work toward. If you think about it purely from a damage standpoint, my opponent would have gone through a tough match to win the New Japan Cup just 24 hours before I face them July 12, but on the other hand, they’ll be in a much better place when it comes to stamina and conditioning.”
On the winner of the tournament coming into Dominion with momentum: “I have to agree with that. You win the Cup and the very next day you’re riding that high into a title match? Plus you have the fans in the building for those two nights. So they were behind you in the New Japan Cup final and then they’ll be behind you all the more for Dominion … you do have that image of Okada closing things out, but this year is different on a lot of levels right? We’re in Osaka Jo Hall several times this year. We were there in February and I closed the show. So I think it’s time for things to change a little, don’t you?
On the show being the biggest indoor gathering for the company since the pandemic broke yout: “I really would have liked to come back to a full building, but circumstances are what they are, there’s nothing I can do about that. It does hurt. Last year, when I thought I might be done with my eye injury, I started talking about the importance of ‘now’. You can only see the Tetsuya Naito of right now, right now. So I really want as many people as possible to see me, and it hurts that we can’t do that. But, it’s the right thing. I can dislike it and it can still be the right thing to do. I hope we can get to those jam packed arenas to close the show with my roll calls as soon as possible. And it is kind of cool that we are the biggest. All the way around, in terms of doing this, and in terms of how well we’re handling it all, pro-wrestling is taking the lead, and New Japan Pro-Wrestling is taking the lead. We can be proud of that.”
On the importance of NJPW taking the lead now that they’re coming back: “Well, I think when we announced that we were returning, the reception from the fans was very positive. That’s a result of that absence, that people had to be patient and had a chance to miss us. But now we are back, we have to show people that they were right to wait, and that we really are as good as we say. That needs to come through the screens on TV and NJPW World.”
On how he handled being unable to compete: “Well, I think we all took wrestling for granted. I took wrestling for granted, being able to have a match for granted, wrestling in front of people for granted. That norm went away. So I think it reminded me just how important pro-wrestling is, and what a privilege it is to be able to wrestle in front of a crowd and do what we do. I always think every match is important, but now I’ll treat it with even more importance. So that’s how I felt. Plus, some frustration. Other companies were having matches and we weren’t. I was jealous to be honest. I’ve always been NJPW centered, but I actually watched some of the other promotions.”
On fans getting into other companies while NJPW was away: “I mean, it’s no surprise that NJPW fans might have checked out other promotions during this period. So it’s on us to make people think ‘ah, yeah, NJPW is better!’ For better or for worse, we were behind the other promotions when it came to the empty arena setup and now it’s tie to really show what we can do.”