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Naito takes a pay cut ahead of his shot at Okada’s IWGP World title

That Testuya Naito has re-signed with New Japan Pro-Wrestling isn’t terribly surprising.

The 39 year old leader of Los Ingobernables de Japón is one of the company’s biggest stars. He’s set to renew his long rivalry with biggest, Kazuchika Okada, when they meet for Okada’s IWGP World Heavyweight title on Feb. 20 in Sapporo. If he wins, Naito will add the belt to his resume with three IWGP Heavyweight and record six IWGP Intercontinental championship runs.

Given all that, the fact Naito told Tokyo Sport he took a 24% pay cut in his new contract does seem a bit surprising, though.

A quote about the new deal he signed on Jan. 17 sounds like a mix of shoot and work:

“Due to the influence of COVID-19, the audience is decreasing, and I was expected to offer a salary cut, but I didn’t expect this much... Even I got nervous about this. When I saw the amount offered, I literally opened my right eye with my thumb and index finger.

“Next year, I want to take advantage of a higher salary than this cut. After all, it means that even if Okada won the G1, there was no rain of money in New Japan. If this happens, I have no choice but to make it come down on my own.”

The challenges facing NJPW are real — the pandemic coming right on the heels of AEW’s rise really damaged their hopes of establishing themselves as the global #2 behind WWE. Having a chip on his shoulder about Okada is a long-standing worked shoot storyline for the company, and this nicely plays into that, too.

So while this is interesting news, probably best to stay... Tranquilo.

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