Tetsuya Naito: There is no denying SANADA's ability, he just isn’t a superstar

Originally published at Tetsuya Naito: There is no denying SANADA's ability, he just isn’t a superstar

Naito’s pre-G1 interview. 

NJPW1972.com recorded a series of interviews with the participants of this year’s G1 Climax tournament. One of the talents who sat down with the site for a chat was Tetsuya Naito

As the conversation rolled on, Naito was asked about his former Los Ingobernables de Japon stablemate and reigning IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, SANADA. 

Naito stated that if a random fan was grabbed off the street and asked to name the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, they would have to think about it at best. He said there’s no denying SANADA’s ability, but feels he’s not a superstar. 

If I don’t say something (about SANADA), that means there’s nothing to say. He’s the champion, but he isn’t standing out like he should. If you grabbed a random fan off the street somewhere in the world and asked them who the champion in New Japan is, they would have to really think about it at best, right? 

That’s where SANADA is. He won the New Japan Cup, and he took the belt, so there is no denying his ability. He just isn’t a superstar. That’s why when you asked me who I want to face the G1, I didn’t answer SANADA because he’s the champion. I answered with Shingo Takagi and Yota Tsuji. Kazuchika Okada would be a big final as well. Me and SANADA, not so much.

Earlier in the chat, Naito weighed in on Shota Umino, Yota Tsuji and Ren Narita being branded as the ‘Reiwa Three Musketeers’. He thought someone messed up on socials and hit send on the wrong account. Naito added that if it was him, he would never want to be lumped in with two other people like that. 

I thought someone had screwed up at first (with the Reiwa Three Musketeers announcement). Like they weren’t supposed to post it on main, or they didn’t mean to send the tweet from their drafts or something. I just couldn’t believe what I was reading.

I was in Mexico at the time, and I just couldn’t help but wonder just why NJPW were pushing that out. It was hardly a very impactful way of putting it out there anyway, and then if it was me, I would hate to be lumped together with the other two like that. I was definitely wondering how they would react though, especially Tsuji. I was glad to see he didn’t disappoint.

No way (did I ever want that label). I wasn’t hot on the New Musketeers — in my mind, it was done with Chono, Muto and Hashimoto. It just feels like dragging it out needlessly to attach ‘new’ to this or ‘Reiwa’ to that. Rather than being stuck in the past, better to make something new.

Naito suffered a loss in his first G1 match of the season. He fell in defeat to Jeff Cobb.