7. Tetsuya Naito vs. Shingo Takagi – G1 Climax 29 Day 14
When Shingo Takagi joined Los Ingobernables de Japon the stable changed and when he moved to the heavyweight division it changed further. Naito and Takagi had been sparring partners years earlier and this was their first match together since Takagi’s debut. The G1 Climax has been the site of many of Naito’s best matches and this was one of them.
Takagi had dominated the Best of the Super Juniors but the G1 Climax was a different animal. Had Takagi been able to defeat Naito there would have been a shift in the balance of power in the group. In many ways, this was a test for both of them. This match slipped under the radar as this was perhaps the greatest G1 Climax ever, but it was still definitely worth seeing.
6. Tetsuya Naito vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi – G1 Climax 27 Day 17
One of Tetsuya Naito’s greatest rivals has been Hiroshi Tanahashi. After Naito’s change in character, Tanahashi was the person he directed the majority of his hate towards. The two had battled at Wrestle Kingdom 11 and Dominion but their trilogy of matches in 2017 came to a head at the G1 Climax.
Naito hated Tanahashi as he felt Tanahashi had taken his moment from him at Wrestle Kingdom 8. This was the final clash between them and Naito brought his A-Game. 2017 was Naito’s year and nothing could stop him from reaching the tournament final. A fantastic match against Tanahashi only helped his case than he was the perfect man to push into the future.
5. Tetsuya Naito vs. Chris Jericho – Wrestle Kingdom 13
While 2017 was Naito’s peak as a performer, 2018 was less kind to him. After failing at Wrestle Kingdom 12, Naito spent a good deal of 2018 being tormented by Chris Jericho. Jericho beat Naito to win the IWGP Intercontinental Championship at Dominion before their rivalry culminated at Wrestle Kingdom 13. This is where a switch was flipped in Naito’s head with his relationship with the Intercontinental title.
Jericho and Naito had an incredible brawl resulting in an equally incredible match. The most important aspect of this match was when Naito realized the title and he were connected. Naito had spent the previous two years trying to destroy the belt but now he knew the title would always return to him. It was a moment that was necessary for his development before he could ever hope to reach New Japan’s mountaintop.
4. Tetsuya Naito vs. Kazuchika Okada – Wrestle Kingdom 12
Many had Wrestle Kingdom 12 pegged to be the coronation of Tetsuya Naito. He was the most popular star in the company and would be fitting of the top spot in the company. All he had to do was defeat Kazuchika Okada in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom to finally fulfill his destiny.
Unfortunately, this was not the night for Naito and he would have to wait another two years for his happy ending. Naito and Okada had a tremendous match and it looked like Naito was on his way to winning. However, Naito was unable to distance himself from his old character and allowed his old way of thinking to obscure his focus. Okada retained his title and Naito only had himself to blame.