There have been many reports all over the Internet that Tetsuya Naito had received, and turned down an offer from WWE back in June of this year.
According to Naito, the leader of group Los Ingobernables de Japon in an interview he did with Tokyo Sports, he “didn’t even give it thought.” It’s very interesting that the first time we’re hearing about it is months later. But what is more intriguing is what longtime publisher and editor of The Wrestling Observer, Dave Meltzer had to say: “Naito would be one of the three (at least) Japanese top guys feelers have been sent to. The other two that we’re aware of didn’t turn the offers down without thought although one would be a huge surprise and the other would be a great worker who I didn’t see flourishing in the WWE system, but also probably wouldn’t have any reservations about moving to the U.S. like many of the Japanese might.”
There is so much to take in here, but let’s start with Naito. The rise of Tetsuya Naito as one of Japan’s, if not the World’s, best wrestlers has been amazing to watch. From the Stardust Genius to tossing around the IWGP Heavyweight Championship like it was a piece of trash, his entertainment levels are off the charts. It’s no wonder that WWE would come calling and it makes even more sense that Naito would send them packing. Naito’s loyalty is to New Japan and it seems like his loyalty will keep him there in the long run. LIJ is a tight-knit group whose popularity grows with each passing day. With the possible departure of The Elite (Kenny Omega, Cody Rhodes and The Young Bucks) coming at the beginning of 2019, Naito could find himself right back in the IWGP Heavyweight Title hunt very soon.
Now, for those other two “feelers” Meltzer mentioned: to me, the “huge surprise” would be Hiroshi Tanahashi. The Ace of New Japan Pro-Wrestling in the WWE? The man has done literally everything there is to do in NJPW, so it would make sense for him to test the waters stateside. Also at 41, he could make this a one or two year deal and head back to Japan and ride off into the sunset.
The star who “wouldn’t have any reservations about moving to the U.S.” could honestly be anyone. If I had to take a shot in the dark, I’d go with Tomohiro Ishii. He fits the bill of a “great worker who I didn’t see flourishing in the WWE system” to a tee, in my opinion.
What do you think? Who could the other two nameless New Japan wrestlers Meltzer mentioned be? Let us know in the comments!