Tetsuya Naito is set to turn 40 in 2022 and retirement is on his mind.
Naito has done it all in New Japan and remains one of the top competitors in the company, but wasn't in the singles spotlight as much in 2021, thanks in part to a knee injury that took him out of the G1 Climax tournament.
Speaking to NJPW, Naito discussed the knee injury that cost him a G1 run.
"I lost weight heading into the G1," he said, commenting that it was partly to move easier. "A lot of it was stamina for a run of singles matches, but while I was rehabbing, I figured I’d actually lost a little too much weight, so I ate a lot while I was off. My knee was a big part of that. The more weight you have on a bad knee, the worse it gets."
In turning 40 this year, Naito knows he's closer to the end of his career than the beginning and that the word "retirement" has been on his mind.
"To tell the truth, when I started in the business, I thought I’d go until I was 40. As I’ve gotten nearer, I’ve started to become more conscious about retirement. I’m not saying I’m going to hang it up tomorrow. It’s just that the word ‘retirement’ is looming in my mind. That’s a sad thing for sure, but it’s motivating at the same time. Time waits for no man. But that means if I don’t enjoy everything to its fullest now, I’ll regret it later. If anything, being aware of my use by date has made me stronger than ever. I’m not going to carry on just to carry on. When I’ve lost sight of a goal, I’ll stop then and there. Goals are important to me. If I have them I can do anything, without them, nothing. I think once I don’t have a goal left, I’ll switch to civilian mode, in a heartbeat. Every time I’ve gotten one goal, I’ve had the next in mind. When I can’t think of what’s next, that’s when I’ve hit the finish line, I think. You never know, all that might take until I’m 70, and I’ll be active until the day I die," he joked.
Though retirement might be on his mind, Naito does have plans to compete in World Tag League in 2022. He teamed with SANADA in World Tag League 2021. The duo finished with 16 points, just missing out on the finals.
"After my injury, I was glad to go around the country and make towns. We were close too, but it all fell apart in my second home of Hiroshima. So near and yet so far, story of my year. But it was fun being back in the WTL. I always wanted to be in there these last few years and the company didn’t let me. I had a great time. I’ll be in again next year. Whatever happens," he said.
Naito is set to face Jeff Cobb on night two of Wrestle Kingdom 16.
Fightful will have live coverage of both nights of Wrestle Kingdom on January 4 and 5. You can view the lineup for both shows by clicking here.