SANADA has discussed the twin pressures of defending his IWGP World Heavyweight Champion and competing in the upcoming G1 Climax tournament.
In an interview with the official New Japan website, the 35-year-old also reflected on June’s AEW x NJPW Forbidden Door pay-per-view.
He started by speaking of how moving from Los Ingobernables de Japon (LIJ) to Just Five Guys had brought him a lot more attention but also support.
SANADA confessed that being the champion is harder than he imagined, mainly because he has trouble slowing down to appreciate the moment. But he believes once he figures that out, he’ll be an even better champ.
When he went to Canada for the Forbidden Door event with AEW, he said he really felt the importance of the IWGP title. He recounted a chat with CM Punk, who called the title “the coolest.” This reminded SANADA of how widely respected the IWGP Champion is.
Returning to Canada was a big deal, he said, because it reminded him of his first overseas excursion. He added that he enjoyed defending his IWGP title at Forbidden Door since it let him show off his skills in a fresh setting.
Looking ahead to the G1 tournament, SANADA, being the oldest in a group of younger and less experienced wrestlers, jokingly called himself the “grizzled vet.”
He said he understands that as the current champion, he’s the one everyone will be watching in the A Block.
SANADA said he is ready for the pressures of the tournament and sees the upcoming matches as opportunities, saying, “This is my block after all.”
He also gave his thoughts on the wrestlers he will be up against in the tournament.
Although acknowledging that Hikuleo’s size could be tricky, he said a win would set him up nicely for the rest of the tournament.
Shota Umino has potential but lacks creativity, he said. Even though he’s lost to Ren Narita in the past, he is sure of his growth since then and cast doubt on Narita’s current form.
Regarding Yota Tsuji, SANADA said he respects his attitude and ambition but doesn’t see him as a big threat.
He admires Kaito Kiyomiya’s hard work but feels something is missing, and he likened Gabe Kidd to a stubborn teenager.
As for Chase Owens, the other veteran wrestler in the block, he said he always regards wrestling him as a chance to learn.
SANADA knows how physically demanding the G1 can be. But his goal is to win the tournament and make it the “year of SANADA.”
He said he wants to face and beat Hiroshi Tanahashi in the final, even though it might ruin “a fairy tale story.” He finished by saying he doesn’t care about stats such as the IWGP Champion not winning the G1 since 2000, and prefers to focus on being “in it to win it.”