Image © BBM
The following interview appeared in Weekly Pro Wrestling No 2142, Issue 10/6. I originally made this translation available via Google Drive, but have now migrated it here.
() are annotations by the original publication.  are annotations by me. This is an editorialized running text with occasional quotes, NOT a full interview. I have translated passages I deem relevant at my own discretion. Ibushi quotes in bold.
Ibushi, who last year became the third person in history to win consecutive [G1 CLIMAX tournaments], is looking at yet another victory. This would be the first time someone has won three consecutive [G1 CLIMAX tournaments]. In addition, if you count that year three years ago when he lost to Tanahashi in the finals, Ibushi has advanced to the finals three years in a row now. If he advances to the finals this year as well, he will set a record by becoming a G1 finalist 4 years in a row. Ibushi himself says about the records that he “isn’t fixated on the historical aspect of it”, but in the current state, he isn’t exactly headed straight towards achieving that record…
Returning to the ring for the first time in 2 months, Ibushi felt completely different. “That day my condition was at about 30% [of what it normally is] (laughs bitterly). I couldn’t move at all. I couldn’t push ahead, I couldn’t go where I’d normally go [in the match]…My body wouldn’t come along.”
Ibushi has experienced missing [events] due to external injuries like broken bones several times in the past, but this is his first time being absent due to pneumonia. If it was an [external] injury, he knew “how well he would recover the next day”, but this time, everything was unknown.
“With external injuries, healing involves listening to your pain during treatment and stopping appropriately. But [I didn’t know] how difficult [this was with] pneumonia. At first, I felt like I was back to normal surprisingly soon, so I gave it my all (to adjust my condition) and then I suddenly fell off and couldn’t move for three days. On the day (of my return match) I couldn’t control the pace at all.”
“I’m in a state where I don’t know what’s the right thing to do. There’s still some parts that are dragging along, but I also feel like I made the right decision with some other parts. If I had returned in a tag match, a sudden singles match in the G1 would have been hard. I think I’m glad I returned in a singles match in preparation for the G1.”
[Ibushi] was handed a bitter loss by Takahashi Yûjirô, who ended last year’s [tournament] with a win record of 1, but the fight has only just begun. There are many possibilities to recover [his strength] for a third consecutive victory.
“I really wanted to aim for my best possible state…but [I haven’t] ever had an opening of the G1 [like this]. This time it’s pretty much a game of chance.”
Since he wasn’t recovering from an [external] injury, Ibushi “could do it just like before if someone told [him] to do it”. However, he is also aware of the fact that there “are parts of [him] that can’t move continuously, whether it’s in taking a move or dishing out one”.
About his idea of the G1 this year, Ibushi had this to say:
“I’m also worried, but the thing I want to focus on the most is looking forward [to the matches]. Looking forward and having fun. I have a feeling this year’s G1 is going to turn out to be one where I can have fun wrestling.”
“I think maybe this is the time I should enjoy [the tournament]. I feel like we are still breaking into a new era, in wrestling and in the world. In America there are venues where [fans] can cheer out loud without wearing masks, but in Japan, [fans] still can’t cheer out loud (in venues). This isn’t going to change during the G1, and I have a hunch that because this isn’t going to change any time soon, it will give birth to a new style of pro wrestling.”
Ibushi is adamant that wrestling is changing due to Corona, just as the world is changing due to Corona.
“Before, it was easier to know. [The fans] could cheer, [so you knew] when they were getting excited, or when a match was good. [And] on the flipside, (when there was no cheering), you could tell the place was uneasy and all that, but now there are times when you don’t know [what the fans think] when they clap. As this is continuing, it has changed the wrestling [itself] as well. I feel like this is a turning point.”
Like Ibushi says, this year’s G1 is a battle fought in the middle of a transition phase. Luckily, the wrestlers that [he] is strongly aware of right now, Naitô Tetsuya and Takagi Shingo, are both in the same block as him, and also of the same age. To Ibushi, “this [makes it] a good block”, and he is highly motivated because of this. About the match against Takagi, which was postponed after the Dome and is scheduled for 10/3 in Nagoya, he said: “A title match and a tournament match are different, but still I want to fight him as soon as possible.”
[…] In other words, he missed setting the record of main eventing the Tokyo Dome three times in one year, which is a different record from three consecutive G1 victories. He also feels like he aims for a fresh start with the main event at next year’s Tokyo Dome.
“It’s like, I want to move up from the G1. This is my chance for the Dome, so I have to finish this. But what I have in front of me for now is the G1. It’s my ticket to the Tôkyô Dome. This is why I can’t lose the G1.”
He isn’t completely unaware of the Dome, but for now his top priority and most important matter is winning the G1. Before he can enter the new year, he needs to focus on [this year’s] fall.
“This time, the basic premise is having fun. During the G1 tournaments up until now, I felt tense and nervous, and I didn’t have fun. But right now, there are a lot of things that make me anxious, and it tends to feel like the times are very dark. All the more do I want to brighten things up, and for this goal I will also have fun. First of all, if I’m not having fun, then the people watching won’t have any fun, either. Of course, I’ll try to use this fun as a means to win, but even though winning [the G1] three times in a row would be the first time in history [anyone has done that], on my priority list fun is at the top. If I can stick to this, I feel like I can win a third time.”
While absent, Ibushi was at times troubled by doubts about “whether [he] was needed (by the wrestling world)”, but this G1 has let Ibushi regain a positive attitude, by “giving [him] confidence”.
Although [his G1 had] an unexpected gloomy start, what’s left is just to immerse himself into the battles at the frontline of New Japan.“The worst part really is that [the fans] couldn’t see [me]. I felt so sorry that the audience couldn’t see [me] even though they were paying the same money as before. But I can make it up. Ibushi Kôta isn’t gone quite yet. This is a new start [for me]. This year’s G1 is more about having fun than about setting a new record.”