Rockstar goes global

New Japan’s Tetsuya Naito’s
Dayton Wrestling Debut


Tetsuya Naito (Center) leads New Japan Wrestling’s assault on Dayton.
Photo: Seriously Funny Photography

By Gary Spencer

International entertainment doesn’t come to Dayton often enough. But that’s about to change this coming weekend when one of New Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest stars, Tetsuya Naito, invades Rockstar Pro Arena in downtown Dayton.

This isn’t the first time Rockstar Pro Wrestling has played host to world famous wrestling stars in its seven years of existence. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat, Mick Foley, Sabu, Rob Van Dam, Tommy Dreamer, Rhino, Al Snow, and Kevin Sullivan have all made their presence felt at RPW’s downtown arena. But Rockstar Pro isn’t just about booking wrestling stars of the past. Rockstar has built a reputation for itself by nurturing up-and-coming talent from the Ohio region, many of whom have gone on to international recognition in organizations such as WWE, Impact Wrestling, New Japan Pro Wrestling, and Lucha Underground including Sami Callahan, Sarah Logan, Jake & Dave Crist, and Dezmond Xavier.

“Some of our own homegrown Ohio talent’s success proves what a hotbed of indepedent wrestling Ohio is,” says Rockstar Pro Wrestling co-owner GeeGee Bradley. “The great local talent that make up Rockstar’s main roster and the rabid Dayton fans are what makes Rockstar special. Those things are why and how we bring in WWE legends and the top independent stars from all over North America, Europe, and Japan. They know they’re going to work with the best talent in the world in front of the best fans in the world.”

As many wrestling fans know, some of the world’s top independent stars wrestle for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Performers such as Kazuchika Okada, Kenny Omega, The Young Bucks, Hiroshi Tanahashi, Minoru Suzuki, and Cody Rhodes are being recognized as being some of the best in-ring performers in modern pro wrestling. Such stars have attracted the attention of a new generation of wrestling fanatics all over the globe which has allowed New Japan to become the second biggest wrestling promotion in the world, second only to WWE. New Japan’s hard-hitting in-ring style, lack of soap opera-esque storylines and treatment of wrestling as a legitimate sport have also made NJPW a popular alternative to Monday Night Raw and Smackdown Live. Furthermore, New Japan has a storied 45-plus year history that has seen icons such as Ric Flair, Brock Lesnar, Sting, Kurt Angle, Antonio Inoki, The Steiner Brothers, The Great Muta, Stan Hansen, AJ Styles, and Shinsuke Nakamura as part of their alumni.

“I think the rise in interest (in New Japan) comes from wrestling fans truly wanting an alternative,” says Impact Wrestling star and Pro Wrestling Revolver promoter Sami Callihan, who has also wrestled for NJPW. “The style is considered real over there, and they treat it as such.”

Currently, New Japan has a potential legend in the making in Tetsuya Naito, a wrestler known for his intriguingly brash persona that he backs up in the ring with crisp, exciting athleticism and an uncanny ability to tell a story in the ring. Back in January, he main evented Wrestle Kingdom, NJPW’s biggest pay-per-view of the year in front of a crowd of 40,000-plus at the Tokyo Dome and millions streaming the event live on New Japan’s internet service. NJPW’s native stars rarely come to the U.S. to perform, and this will mark the first time Naito has ever wrestled in Ohio.

“Naito is THE top guy in Japan right now,” Bradley says. “He’s currently involved in a rivalry with former WWE champion Chris Jericho. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a Japanese wrestling superstar in his prime.”

“Naito is without a doubt one of the best wrestlers walking this planet today,” Callihan says. “This is one of the first times EVER that Naito has wrestled in America. We had to jump through a bunch of hoops to make this happen, and if this goes well it will be just the begininng of bringing huge international stars to the Midwest.”

The rest of the card is star-studded as well, featuring some of the best independent talent in the nation. Moose, Brian Cage, Ohio Versus Everything, Shane “Killshot” Strickland, Trevor Lee, Jessicka Havok, and AR Fox are also among the performers for the night, representing some of the biggest indepedent promtions in the U.S. such as Ring of Honor, Impact Wrestling, Lucha Underground, and Combat Zone Wrestling. The show is filled out by Rockstar Pro main roster regulars Gregory Iron, Clayton “Gainz” Jackson, “Hot Fire” Myron Reed, and “Kinetic” Cole Padrick who are stars in the making in their own right.

“This card is a star-studded ‘who’s who’ of indepedent wrestling in 2018,” Bradley comments. “This is going to be a must-see event that the wrestling community will be talking about for some time!”

Rockstar Pro Wrestling and Pro Wrestling Revolver present “Friday the 16th: Naito Takes Dayton” this Friday, February 16 at Rockstar Pro Arena, 1106 E. Third Street in downtown Dayton at 7:30pm. For more information please visit www.RockstarProArena.net.

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Gary Spencer
Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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