Tetsuya Naito’s Stardust Genius Gimmick Nearly Killed His Career

Hamish Woodward

Tetsuya Naito was known as the Stardust Genius, and was seen as the future Ace of New Japan.

However, over the years he began to be known by many other names, with many fans forgetting that the former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion was called that in the first place.

In this article, we’ll explain why Tetsuya Naito was called the Stardust Genius, and look at why he abandoned the gimmick (and the fans) ater nearly killing his NJPW career.

Why Was Tetsuya Naito Called “Stardust Genius”?

Tetsuya Naito was given the nickname “Stardust Genius” because he was pushed as the next big star of NJPW.

He was claimed to have “stardust all over him”, another way of saying the phrase “star written all over him”.

From his time as a Young Lion, Naito was positioned as a future star in the main event. With his innate charisma and high-flying moves, he was likened to Hiroshi Tanahashi – hence “Stardust Genius”.

Tetsuya Naito appeared alongside Kurt Angle as a Young Lion in NJPW.

After going solo upon his return from Mexico in 2010, Tetsuya Natio was pushed as a future of the company and the next big face after Hiroshi Tanahashi.

He excelled in high-flying wrestling, as well as being profound in the art of technical wrestling. NJPW bookers saw him as the next Ace of the company and a genius on the mat, hence the name Stardust Genius.

Despite stellar performances in the ring, Naito could not live up to his expectations. The crowd weren’t reacting to him, and a disastrous match with Jeff Hardy at Wrestle Kingdom 5 father stalled any momentum he had.

The fans soon turned on Naito, so he turned his back on them.

Naito Went To Mexico To Learn About Tranquillo

In 2013, Tetsuya Naito won the G1 Climax to earn himself a match with IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 8.

This would normally be the de facto main event of the show, as the Heavyweight title was the biggest title in the company.

Sadly for Naito, this was not to be. This was mean to be his big chance to become the face of the company, but his push was soon rejected by the NJPW fans.

They did not like Naito as a bland babyface, and rejected him in favor of stars like Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi.

This was a crushing blow to the Stardust Genius, who had worked his whole life to become a star in NJPW.

Sensing that fans were not happy, NJPW did something nobody had ever seen before. They released a fan poll, asking them which match should be the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 8.

The two choices were:

Much to his disappointment, the fans overwhelmingly voted Naito out of the main event, promoting the Intercontinental title into the final match of Wrestle Kingdom.

This disappointment prompted Naito to go to Mexico and redefine himself, with great success.

eaming with La Sombra as part of Los Ingobernables, which saw him develop a new heel persona, that emphasized the concept of Tranquillo.

This new gimmick made Tetsuya Naito a huge star upon his return. For years, the Stardust Genius put his body and soul on the line for NJPW, only for the fans to reject him as a star.

He returned instead with a new attitude. He no longer cared about the company or the fans, and refused to try as hard to please them as he once did.

His new attitude saw him disrespect every aspect of New Japan, including throwing the title belts around and treating them with great disrespect.

Naito even abandoned his “Stardust Press” finisher, replacing it with the Destino move he learned while in Mexico.

This made Naito a huge star. Fans began to love this gimmick, which showed a new side of the previously bland babyface.

It was especially entertaining he formed his own chapter of the Los Ingobernables faction, known as Los Ingobernables de Jopon, as one of the leading heel factions in the company.

With the help of new teammates like Bushi, Evil and the debuting Sanada, Tetsuya Naito defeated Kazuchika Okada at Invasion Attack 2016 to finally win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.

He abandoned the idea of being the “Stardust Genius”, instead focusing on himself and his group, not caring about what anybody else thought.

This brought great success to Naito, who carried it on with a victory over Okada at the 33rd G1 Climax tournament in 2023.

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