His twelve-year career has seen challenges, obstacles, and triumphs. Today he stands as one of the pillars of New Japan Pro Wrestling's present and future. Tetsuya Naito's career first began when he was successful during a try out at Korakuen Hall and earned a place with the company.
He still needed to train and prepare for his first match, learning all that was necessary so he could justify his roster spot. His first match, a loss, was in May 2006. His growth continued as he competed in his first Best of the Super Juniors tournament, as his career began as a Junior Heavyweight. He finished last in his block losing four matches, and only earning four points.
The Emergence of No Limit
While losses may hurt some talent, in the case of Naito it only fueled him to continue to succeed. The following year, he aligned himself with Yujiro Takahashi and together they formed a tag team known as No Limit. They quickly earned the respect of the other tag teams in the junior heavyweight division, eventually winning the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship from Akira and Jushin 'Thunder' Liger.
That same year they took part in a series of five matches in what was labeled the No Limit Generation Smash, and in a unique twist, these battles took place at various music/dance clubs throughout the city of Tokyo. The teams they faced were comprised of veterans; Manabu Nakanishi and Yuji Nagata, Jado and Gedo, and Toru Yano and Togi Makabe, and newer talents like Hirooki Goto and Shinsuke Nakamura, and Koji Kanemoto and Wataru Inoue.
Once again, the measure of a person is not how often they are knocked down, but if they can pick themselves up and continue to move forward. No Limit lost each of the matches in the series, but by the fall of 2008, they defeated Minoru and Prince Devitt at Destruction '08 to again capture the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag titles.
The Birth of a New Style
After holding the titles for nearly three months, Naito and Takahashi lost the titles at Wrestle Kingdom III. After losing the titles, the team was part of what was described as a developmental tour to help expose them to different styles of wrestling around the world. This tour even had them join the North American based promotion TNA Wrestling for a couple of months.
They then travelled to Mexico where they competed for notable promotion Consejo Mundial de Lucha Libre, or CMLL for short. The Japanese team was presented as heels, or rudos, to the Mexican crowd during their time there. The angles they were involved in included a hair versus hair match, and feuds with notable Mexican talent.
The Return to New Japan Pro Wrestling
By the end of 2009, NJPW announced that No Limit would return at the upcoming Wrestle Kingdom IV. At this event they faced the tandem of Bad Intentions in Karl Anderson and Giant Bernard (also known as Albert and Tensai in WWE), and former WWE tag team champions and (at the time) TNA Wrestling tag team Team 3D, Brother Devon and Brother Ray.
At the event they successfully captured the IWGP heavyweight tag team championships. They held those belts until May 2010, losing them at that year's Dontaku event. After that loss Naito wanted to explore other options. It wasn't personal, but after having achieved a great deal of success in a tag team he wanted to branch out into singles competition.
At the outset of his singles run he captured win after win over current or former champions. However, in the fall of 2010, Naito and Takahashi reformed and took part in the 2010 G1 Tag League tournament. They went as far as the finals before coming up short. Even though No Limit had reformed, not all was well with the tandem.
The End of No Limit
By the following May, they had worked themselves into a position where they were competing for the IWGP tag team champions against Bad Intentions. However, the duo was unsuccessful after Takahashi deserted Naito in the ring, leaving him to face the champions alone.
Naito appeared to move past this and went on to compete in the tournament to crown the inaugural IWGP Intercontinental champion. After losing his second-round match, Naito was attacked by Takahashi, ending their team once and for all. At this point Naito had to decide what he would do next; a weaker person would have looked to make amends with his teammate.
However, he had achieved all he could as part of a tag team and it was time for him to seek success as an individual. Would he find the success he so desired? Only time and experience would determine that – find out more in part 2 of our Naito profile!
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As a wrestling enthusiast for over 30 years, my fondness for professional wrestling explores the irrational in a rational way. I will explore the details inside and outside the ring and hopefully have a laugh with you in the process. I've had the fortune to interview wrestlers from Lucha Underground, TNA, Ring of Honor, GFW, and former WWE talent as well. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and feel free to visit my website Pro Wrestling Post.