Tetsuya Naito Admits “I Know My Time Is Limited”

Tetsuya Naito

Tetsuya Naito is aware that his in-ring career is winding down.

The 41-year-old New Japan star has a guaranteed opportunity at a 4th reign as IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom 18 following a victory in the 2023 G1 Climax Tournament.

Speaking with NJPW following the victory, Naito believes that he can still put on impressive performances in his forties and that he looks better than previous winners Masahiro Chono and Hiroshi Tanahashi did when they won the tournament at a similar age:

“I said as much on the mic, but I hate the word ‘forever’. Time waits for no man, after all. I heard that talk when I watched the match back on World. But to give the flip side to that comment, I was at Ryogoku as a fan when Chono [Masahiro Chono] won his last (in 2005), and backstage when Tanahashi [Hiroshi Tanahashi] won his last (2018). I think if you put Chono at 41 against Tanahashi at 41 and me at 41, I’m better than them, and I have more in the tank.”

Continuing the interview, Tetsuya Naito admitted that injuries have been piling up and he can not move as well as he used to, but he still enjoys competing:

“Well, if you watch those other matches back, they’re a lot less mobile at that point than I am now, I reckon. I definitely feel I have a lot further to go yet. At the same time, I know my time is limited. I have knee troubles, eye troubles. The end of the line, that image of retirement that was so far away for so long is now coming into focus a little.

But I think that’s just another reason to enjoy where I am as a wrestler and to live in the now, right now. I need to make the most of every moment. That’s not just in the ring, either. Being in the gym, it’s a big motivator for me to push harder, knowing I can’t afford to delay anything.”

Tetsuya Naito Still Receiving Critical Acclaim In 2023

Even though the New Japan star is closer to the end of his career than the start of it, that is not stopping him from still putting on match-of-the-year contenders. His semi-final match at the G1 with Will Ospreay was rated six stars by Dave Meltzer.