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Makai Club #1

Tetsuya Naito - Where he stands as a wrestler?

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Tetsuya Naito for the past several years has the most beloved wrestler in New Japan but is he one of the best wrestlers in regards to his matches? 

 

Some people would call him the best, some would call him terrible and sloppy at times. I think he is something inbetween. I find his work to be inconsistent. He can have these great matches, like the Tanahashi trilogy in 2017 and the Omega matches in the G1, which I thought were great to watch. But then just look like he is sleep walking his way through a match, like his Minoru Suzuki matches.

 

I find him best when he is playing off his opponents rather than being worked over (I'm going to use Suzuki match) or controlling the match (his recent Ishii match in the G1). 

 

I'm going through a ton of early Naito to see if there is any difference and there are some but not a lot. Mostly a bit more aerial offence and way more bland than his LIJ character. 

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Naito was always more interesting to me in regards of how he plays his character than actually being a wrestler.

Sure he can kick ass in the ring like in the matches you've mentioned, but I always got more enjoyment of him heeling it out, having spit contests with his opponent or stalling to take off his suit than what he did in the ring, specially because sometimes he gave us some ugly, lazy shit.

I guess that can count too. The fact that he can elicit a good response without needing to do so much tells me he is great, or at the very least a very smart worker.

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The little bit I've seen of Naito's early 2010's babyface work has generally been good. He certainly was bland as a character, but he was a bit flashier and had some nice offense. Obviously he struck gold with LIJ and gave us one of the best characters in recent memory. He kept some of the flashier stuff in his arsenal but took out a lot of his high-flying stuff as well. It was a smart move as he's much more of an anti-hero and cool rogue now.

I'd have him as at least a top 20 worker the past few years with 2017 being his peak. I do agree that there are times where he looks off and I'm not sure if that's just laziness or years of wear-and-tear (from what I've heard his knees have been in awful shape for some time). I agree the Suzuki match is a good example of him not gelling well with a sadistic and/or dominant heel although I'm higher on the Destruction match from last year than most.

I really need to see more of his early tag and face work to say if he'd make a top 100 list for me, but the next few years are probably going to be very telling.

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Easily the best of the modern New Japan crowd. Most great matches, works well as heel or face, most consistent seller, easily the most charismatic. Can do minimalist character stuff but also work effective bombfests. Not perfect and can be inconsistent but the positives easily outweigh the flaws. 

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