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Tetsuya Naito: ‘Jon Moxley Is Very Famous, Right?’

“We wrestled once in Japan years ago and I lost, so I know first-hand that he's tough”

The IWGP world heavyweight championship is going to be on the line in Chicago.

Reigning champ Tetsuya Naito wants his match in April against Jon Moxley at New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s Windy City Riot show to be a title defense.

“Jon Moxley is very famous, right?” said Naito, speaking through a translator. “I don’t really follow what happens in wrestling overseas, so I don’t know just how great a wrestler Moxley is.”

Naito and Moxley have only wrestled once before in a singles matches, which took place during the G1 in 2019. Moxley won the match, and nearly five years later, Naito is seeking a different result.

“We wrestled once in Japan years ago and I lost, so I know first-hand that he's tough,” said Naito. “I will get revenge on him this time, and getting revenge on Moxley in the United States is definitely an exciting prospect.”

Naito puts his IWGP world heavyweight title on the line against Sanada this weekend in the main event of The New Beginning in Sapporo. It is his first title defense since he defeated Sanada at last month’s Wrestle Kingdom 18.

Courtesy NJPW

Courtesy NJPW

One of wrestling’s most distinct stars, Naito has never held much of an affinity for title belts. He typically tosses them away or discards them, so it is no real surprise that he finds the IWGP world heavyweight title beneath him, too.

“I was opposed to unifying the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental titles right to the bitter end,” said Naito. “When I fought for the IWGP world heavyweight title at Wrestle Kingdom, I went in with no interest in the world title itself.

“Why challenge, then? I challenged because that title was in the main event. More than anything, I wanted to win and have my roll call in the main event of the Tokyo Dome. That's the reward I was fighting for, not the title.”

Courtesy NJPW

Courtesy NJPW

Naito got his well-deserved roll call at the Tokyo Dome after winning the belt. In a twist, it was thanks to Sanada, who saved Naito after the match from an attack by EVIL. The former Los Ingobernables
De Japon stablemates filled the ring, and once Sanada dispatched EVIL, Naito finally got his long-awaited roll call celebration.

“That was what I wanted,” said Naito. “Whether I have the belt or not, my life is exactly the same. So it reaffirmed to me that my status is on a level above any championship.”

The New Beginning show is a fitting name. Will Ospreay just exited New Japan, and the show in Sapporo marks the farewell of the great Kazuchika Okada. The landscape is changing in New Japan, and Naito believes he is the one to lead the company into an even more prominent position.

“Okada and Ospreay are taking on new challenges,” said Naito. “Good for them, and I wish them well. But my job is to make sure they regret leaving New Japan, and I need to keep defending this title in main events to do that.

“There are fans who might be worried about the future of New Japan. But anyone watching will be able to see that with Tetsuya Naito and Los Ingobernables De Japon around, there's no cause for concern.”