Naito and Umino, YOH and Hiromu exchange pre-Sapporo words

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A public press conference in Sapporo this Friday saw fans hear from contenders in both the weekend’s main events.

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Shota Umino and Tetsuya Naito were first to the table for the press conference. Umino commented that this had been his first full tour since he was back from excursion, and noted that while Naito was about to face Keiji Muto in Muto’s last match in the Tokyo Dome, he did not view this as a tune up match for Naito nor a special ‘challenge match’ for him, but rather the first step to a paradigm shift in NJPW.

Naito began his comments with concern about Red Shoes Unno officiating his son in the main event but ‘in the end it will be Red Shoes having to count to three for Umino’s defeat’. Damning Umino with faint praise, he stated that ‘the setback he’s about to face is for his own good, to which Umino fired back that ‘there will be no set backs, just one big step forward’. Ending his comments with the promise of the first big ‘de Ja Pon’ chorus in Sapporo since 2019, Naito looked ready for Umino tomorrow.

YOH would start the next part of the press conference as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship challenger. Apologising firstly for missing two live events due to an illness, he assured fans that he would be completely ready for Sunday’s title bout. Alluding to the town being steeped in controversial wrestling history, YOH stated that ‘this won’t be the town where anything can happen, but the town where something big does happen, and that will be me wearing the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship’.

YOH expressed disappointment at ‘Mr. Belt’ not speaking since Hiromu won it at Wrestle Kingdom, leading to the champion inviting YOH to ask it a question. The belt remained resolutely mute however as Hiromu took the microphone. ‘I definitely feel the pressure’, Hiromu said in reference to his schedule and duties as champion to fill Hokkai Kita Yell. Hiromu declared that with seats still to be sold, he wanted the building fully packed by Sunday where they would see Hiromu continue to lead. YOH meanwhile suggested a dream match of himself as IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion facing IWGP World Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada come Anniversary in March, stating that ‘if I wasn’t confident I’ll win, I wouldn’t be here.’


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