Kota Ibushi On New Era For Wrestling, Winning G1 & KENTA Joining Bullet Club

Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

The NJPW website posted the second part of their in-depth interview with 2019 G1 Climax winner Kota Ibushi and in part two the once Golden Lover talked about what it signifies in pro wrestling to be the G1 winner, considering himself a lone wolf in New Japan and gives his thought on newcomer KENTA aligning himself with Bullet Club. Most quotes from the interview are below:

After you won the G1, you talked about a new era starting. Now, one would assume that meant the ‘Ibushi Era’, so to speak.

Ibushi: Ah, not really. I think it’s more a case of a new era for pro wrestling at large, including me. Wrestling has really changed this year. I think it’s in the middle of a big change right now.

We’re coming into something new, after the era that Tanahashi brought us into. 

Ibushi: What Tanahashi led, that wasn’t just him, but everybody around him expressing themselves. This era now; winning the G1 put me in the position where I was able to declare it as a thing. I’ve felt for a while that we’re entering a new era, but it wasn’t until I won the G1 that I was in a position to say as such.

You talked about ‘getting the right to speak’. It was quite a novel turn of phrase. 

Ibushi: Right. There was something I wanted to say for a long time, but winning the G1 finally meant I had the right to say it.

I think it was one of the first times you really spoke like a top guy. Before it’s seemed as if you had ideas or feelings that you were holding in somewhat.

Ibushi: Maybe I haven’t asserted myself much before.

And then at the press conference, to come out with that idea of going for two championships. It was so unexpected in itself, and then for you to just put it out here was very unlike you.

Ibushi: Really? Have I changed? I don’t think I have. I don’t feel any different, anyway.

No, it’s just that you’ve suddenly started speaking your mind a lot more.

Ibushi: Yeah, I get that. There was plenty of stuff I wanted to say before, but then it would be  ‘who cares what you think?’ (laughs)

Really? I think you could have said more before, too! 

Ibushi: Hmm, I was stopping myself a lot of the time.

Wary of putting yourself out there?

Ibushi: Right. But when I won the G1 I finally felt like I was in a position to say all these things. To talk about this new era we’re in.

You’ve been talking about wanting to broaden the scope of pro wrestling for a long time now. Once you said you wanted to wrestle on the street outside Shibuya station. 

Ibushi: Yeah. That feeling, wanting to broaden pro wrestling, that hasn’t changed. And wrestling in the street, that was one experience, one experiment. I wrestled in the street. It broadened pro wrestling by, oh, this much. OK, onto the next thing. That’s one way of expressing yourself through pro wrestling. But now I think I’m, like, five levels beyond that.

Winning the G1 means that much to a wrestler.

Ibushi: It makes that goal of broadening wrestling easier. Even people who don’t know anything about wrestling will listen to that message more coming from a G1 winner. If you’re no big name, it doesn’t matter whether what you’re saying or doing is any good, people will just ignore you. It just ends at ‘What the hell is that geek talking about?’

A fair point.

Ibushi: But when you’re the G1 winner, then people look at you differently and listen to you more closely. If I’m the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, I can spread my vision of wrestling even further. And if I were to win the Heavyweight, then the Intercontinental in two back to back days, in the Tokyo Dome. That’s… legendary.

It would be, indeed.

Ibushi: If I could accomplish that, then I could make wrestling bigger in an instant. Someone being able to achieve a feat like that, everybody would take notice, and from there, a good performance suddenly has all these people along for the ride. That’s my goal here.

I understand. Still, it took guts to announce that idea for the Tokyo Dome. 

Ibushi: But it’s completely, completely different to what Naito’s been saying about wanting to be a double champion. When I was asked during the press conference if it was a message to Naito, I said ‘maybe a little’, but the truth is, ‘not much’.

Not much? That in itself is not going to make Naito happy…

Ibushi: Haha, well it’s just coincidence that for two very different reasons, we both want to hold double gold. But the idea of having two title matches in back to back nights, that’s a first right? I was the first person to say that?

Nobody else put that out there, you’re right. Naito said he wanted to be the first double champion, but your vision seems more detailed at this point. Then again, Naito does hold the Intercontinental Championship at the moment, that’s a big difference. 

Ibushi: Right. I don’t have either of the necessary parts of the whole idea (laughs).

You can kind of imagine challenging the IWGP Heavyweight champion while holding the Intercontinental Championship. On the other hand, that prospect, if your idea is put into practice, how will it happen, what will it look like? That’s exciting.

Ibushi: It’d be awesome right? That in itself would be broadening pro wrestling.

But before all of that, you’ll likely be defending your Right to Challenge Contract against both KENTA and EVIL.

Ibushi: Yes.

Before you faced him in Dallas, you mentioned KENTA as someone you were mindful of. How was it actually wrestling him? 

Ibushi: The ankle injury was what it was, and I couldn’t put as much into the match as I wanted to. But up to that point, he was exactly as I’d imagined. Still a hard hitter.

At the last night of the G1, KENTA joined BULLET CLUB. 

Ibushi: Unbelievable, right? Why did he come to New Japan? After his match with me he offered a handshake, and did the same with Tanahashi and Ospreay, right?

It seemed he was doing that every match.

Ibushi: That’s what I don’t get. He seemed to be respecting the hontai members, so why would he then go and join BULLET CLUB? Was that something he’d always planned to do from the beginning, or did he get drawn to BULLET CLUB after he’d started?

It’s a mystery. But he seemed to be enjoying himself when it happened.

Ibushi: Enjoying himself?

He was grinning ear to ear. 

Ibushi: Oh, really.

KENTA has quickly surrounded himself with new people, but in the meantime, you mentioned in your post match comments that you’re a lone wolf. It’s quite the contrast.

Ibushi: I’ve been a lone wolf for a long time. But I did feel kind of lonely at the G1 final.

You were lonely? I suppose it would have been nice to see all the hontai members come and greet you after you won.

Ibushi: Yeah, it would.

Tanahashi didn’t show his face.

Ibushi: Well, there’s probably a reason for that.

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