Tetsuya Naito Talks Mental Struggles, Why He Doesn’t Want To Face Ibushi

Tetsuya Naito

Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Tetsuya Naito will challenge for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship tomorrow at Wrestle Kingdom 14. Should he win, he’ll get to face off against the winner of Okada and Ibushi for the top title in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. He spoke to NJPW’s website about mental issues, his Double Gold Dash goals, and more.

Check out highlights below:

On mental issues he’s dealt with in 2019:

I don’t want to go into specifics, but for a while I thought I couldn’t wrestle anymore. Truth is for about six months, maybe since May, I had this kind of crisis of confidence. From about May, I’d felt something was up, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I thought I could cover it up, but I think the result was that it did come through. I was constantly wrestling in that state of unease. I hate going to the hospital, but I really wasn’t myself for a time.

It’s like any injury, and I’ve had bad knees for a while, things don’t get back to 100%, but when it comes to this issue I’ve had, I’ve managed to recover well enough during the time off. Bear in mind, 100% or not, I came pretty damn close to zero … It was a lot of mental strain. I really thought I might not be able to get in a ring again.

Why he wasn’t speaking backstage:

I don’t want to say something for the sake of saying something. I want to put 100% into my matches and my promos. That’s 200 total, but if I can only put out 170 in this mental state, and I’m giving 100 in my matches, well I don’t think it’s worth giving a half-assed comment backstage, after I’ve given it such importance before.

It did mean my opponents and the fans were left guessing. That’s fun in itself, right? So at first it was a matter of my mental state, but in the middle there I realised not speaking was just as effective.

Why he wants to make history:

Making history, that’s been the aim. Records, they’re made to be broken. But when you’re the first to do something, that stays forever. I was trying to think of something that’s never been done before, that I could be first at. And then it hit me; double IWGP champion.

There’s always been a distinction between the two titles; people wrestling for the Intercontinental Championship haven’t mixed with the Heavyweight contenders. So rather than have people think that I’ve gone back to just wrestling for the IC title, I wanted to say, no, I’m going to have this and wrestle for the heavyweight title as well.

I wanted to get rid of this idea that once you’re in that position of wrestling for the IC, you never move away from it. Bear in mind, too, that I never had any interest in the Intercontinental belt in itself. The Heavyweight title has always been the number one belt to me.

Why he doesn’t want to face Kota Ibushi:

We were tied together during the spring. After I put forward the idea of double gold, he started complaining … Someone who complained that much and then flip-flops? Nah, I don’t want to face him. I’m fired up to take on Okada. That said, I do really enjoy wrestling Ibushi.

And if it did come down to me and Ibushi, I wonder what Shingo (Takagi)’s going to think? Think on that, the first members of the ’57 Club’ where myself, Ibushi, Shingo and then Okamoto from Tokyo Sports. Okamoto aside, I bet Shingo will be pretty hot watching that main event.

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