Dating back to the winter of 2022, Nagata had been dealing with knee troubles.
In February, Yuji Nagata became the AJPW Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion by defeating Kenta Miyahara. With that victory, Nagata has now held the Triple Crown, IWGP and GHC Heavyweight belts.
Ahead of his upcoming title defense against Shuji Ishikawa on March 21st, NJPW1972.com pushed out their interview with Nagata. After winning the Triple Crown Title, he stated that the ‘sense of duty’ as a champion kicked in and he began thinking about AJPW’s ticket sales and how to boost the company up.
Well, having won the title, I’ve started to have AJPW’s ticket sales in mind, so I think that sense of duty a champion needs has kicked in. I do feel I need to be responsible to boost AJPW, and it didn’t take long for somebody to step up to try and take the title back as well.
The 30-year veteran went on to open up about the knee injuries he’s dealt with since late 2022. He had ‘about’ 75 ml of fluid built up in his knee.
Nagata stated that when he’s on the road with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, they have their trainer travel with them but AJPW does not have that luxury. Nagata added that he was not taking care of himself and had to use a cane for a while.
Last year’s Real World Tag League, I hurt my left knee, and going into this (title match), I’d hurt my right. It was really tough for me to walk for a while, but I did all I could between Western and Eastern medicine to make it in time.
It really is (rare for me to have injury issues), but it just hit me all at once. When I’m on the road for NJPW, we have our trainer that can help me work through any stiffness or pains, but AJPW doesn’t have that luxury. And I think I wasn’t taking good enough care of myself and letting things slide as well. I really took that to heart — things were definitely rough for a time. I had to use a cane to walk for a while.
I had about 75 ml of fluid built up on my knees. So I was doing all I could in the holidays to try and heal up. I didn’t drink alcohol, and tried to walk as little as possible before I could get ready for this match.
Circling back to the topic of his title win, there was a point when he was having doubts going into it. He was not sure if he would be able to support All Japan the way the top champion should, but he regained his confidence once the match was done.
Like I said with my injury, having actually made the challenge, there was definitely those doubts over whether I can take that title (and) support AJPW as champion. That was definitely how I felt heading into this, but then actually having had that match, it made me feel like I have a lot I can still offer.
The 54-year-old Nagata is under contract with New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He last wrestled for the company on the Wrestle Kingdom 17 pre-show.