Tetsuya Naito has stated he doesn’t think IWGP World Heavyweight Champion SANADA is a ‘superstar’.
Naito, a former 3-time IWGP World Champion himself, was a stablemate of SANADA in Los Ingobernables de Japon and during this time SANADA even helped the charismatic Naito defeat Kazuchika Okada for the World Championship at Invasion Attack in 2016.
Since then, SANADA has gone on to reach the pinnacle of New Japan by defeating Okada himself and claiming the gold. Despite this, Naito says the champion isn’t a ‘superstar’.
Speaking with NJPW’s official website Naito had this to say:
“If I don’t say something 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,”-Tetsuya Naito
Naito was dispatched by United Empire’s Jeff Cobb in the opening round of the G1 Climax and will now go on and face Hirooki Goto in his next match, whereas SANADA got the win against Hikuleo in his opening bout, dispatching the giant with Deadfall.
Will we see this clash of former IWGP Tag Team Champions? Or is a shocking early exit on the cards for Naito and SANADA? Either way, the current champion will be looking to prove his former leader wrong.