Although Tetsuya Naito was able to walk out of Wrestle Kingdom 14 as a double champion earlier this month, he became dangerously close to not being a part of the Double Gold Dash.
Weeks before his matches at Wrestle Kingdom back in early January, Naito had surgery due to a muscle in his right eye being paralyzed which caused him to see double for month. The issues began in May and in an interview with NJPW, Naito explained the specifics of his injury.
"Right above the eyeball there are these three little muscles… It was one of those. That muscle was paralyzed. So essentially my right eyeball wasn’t being supported properly. That meant I could see out of one eye, but with both eyes open, I couldn’t focus my vision," Naito said.
Naito believed that the problem would go away by itself with time, but eventually it got to the point where he went from seeing double to triple around October. At first, he didn't want to tell NJPW officials about the issue because he hated going to the hospital, but eventually had to go and get it checked out by a number of trainers, doctors and specialists.
"Well, I kind of thought at first that if I slept it off, it’d get better by itself, but it didn’t. And then I went to see an optician on my own, but that was no good either. I spoke to the trainer, saw opticians, neurologists, ear, nose, throat guys, and nobody could figure it out. Eventually I was told to go to a university hospital and get it really thoroughly investigated. That was September. Right. So I’m making no excuses for my results in the ring, but you can probably understand how hard it was to concentrate. I was seeing two of everything, tripping far more than usual. Even walking up the steps to the ring or running the ropes was something I was having to take much more care in doing. Things that I wouldn’t normally think twice about, I was suddenly having to consider really carefully. And up to now, I’ve always taken backstage comments quite seriously, but if I had nothing left over after my matches, I wasn’t going to half-ass a promo. So I was giving fewer comments," Naito said.
The surgery gave Naito the opportunity to rest up and properly prepare for his matches at Wrestle Kingdom 14. Naito ended up first beating Jay White and then Kazuchika Okada to win the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles, become the first man in NJPW to hold both belts at the same time.
"I don’t think it would have happened [if I hadn't gotten surgery]. The timing of this surgery was part of my whole resurgence coming together," Naito said.
Naito will defend both belts against KENTA on The New Beginning On Osaka show, taking place on February 9.