My translation of an interview serialization with Ibushi Kôta from New Japan’s official mobile site, that began on 9/1 2017.
As always, my annotations are in , and annotations by the original publication are in ().
Original text and images © New Japan Pro-Wrestling Co., Ltd.
Note: pull quotes may differ from actual answers. This is part of the editing in the original.
Note: an official English translation of this interview was published on New Japan’s English site, but the last part is entirely missing, as well as parts throughout the entire interview (sometimes even bigger chunks, like the beginning). Also I feel like the official translation doesn’t accurately represent Ibushi’s words or feelings, at some points even completely changing the meaning. Therefore, I look at this as a warranted and necessary addition.
What is on Ibushi Kôta’s mind right now? He reveals the truth behind the birth of the “kamigoe”, among others! An exclusive, candid interview at the dojo! (Part 1)
Ibushi Kôta stood in the spotlight in this year’s G1. He tells it all, about his match with Tanahashi in the G1, and the truth behind the birth of his new finisher, “kamigoe”!
We snuck into the dojo where Ibushi Kôta trains to bring you this special long interview that pressed him for his real thoughts and feelings! (Part 1)
I watch plenty of YouTube [videos] here. I have watched [videos] for as long as eight hours [at a time]
Today, we came to the dojo where you train regularly. Apparently it’s also called the “secret base”. How frequently do you come here?
Ibushi: Let me see. For the most part, I come here about five times a week. Out of everything I normally do in my life, I probably spend most of my time here.
I see. hear that you basically practice alone here, on top of that?
Ibushi: Yeah. Usually, the people who train here are people who have jobs, so [I’m alone]. But for the main part, I’ve been practicing by myself here for about 12 years, so it’s not inconvenient for me. It’s been about four years since I moved to this dojo, though.
You had a secret base before this one.
Ibushi: Well, more than a secret base, this place, as well as the one before, is an OPG (working adults wrestling [promotion]) dojo (laughs). For the old dojo, I went there before I had my pro wrestling debut, even.
Interesting. Is it easier for you to practice alone?
Ibushi: It is, because sometimes I really don’t want others to see the hardship showing on my face. And conversely, I can’t really push myself to the last stage unless I’m alone.
You call both a chiseled body and polished moves your own. I get the feeling that you subject yourself to a pretty austere training.
Ibushi: You might call it austere, or it could be the complete opposite (laughs). It’s different depending on the day. I decide everything based on the mood when I enter the dojo, on the energy I have when I come in.
Oh. When you’re not being strict [with your training], what is it specifically that you do?
Ibushi: When I’m not being strict…Uhm. We have WiFi here, so…(smiles wryly)
I see (laughs)
Ibushi: And at my house, I don’t have WiFi…
What, you don’t have WiFi at home?!
Ibushi: No. So I mainly watch YouTube (laughs). I watch plenty of YouTube [videos] here. I have watched [videos] for as long as eight hours [at a time].
Eight hours! (laughs)
Ibushi: Yeah. But I have thought up a lot of moves too, through watching YouTube videos.
So it’s a dojo, but it also doubles as an internet cafe.
Ibushi: Yes! There’s a vending machine set up close by too, so it’s perfect (laughs). We have a dummy to try moves on right here. It’s the best environment in my opinion.
Having matches this time, I thought, pro wrestling isn’t [about] the matches, is it?
So, Ibushi. This time we want to ask you questions focusing on New Japan’s G1 CLIMAX, in which you took part for the first time in a while. It’s been roughly two weeks since it ended. How do you look back on it?
Ibushi: Hmmm…I ended up having the amount of matches I had in [the last] two years in about one month’s time, so. Before it started, there were some things I couldn’t predict. I [was worried how] I would suddenly have two year’s worth of matches. But, surprisingly, it turned out fine in the end.
Some fans and people involved were worried if you’d be able to finish the race, since it had been a while for you.
Ibushi: Yeah…I wasn’t like, worried I wouldn’t be able to get through the G1, though. [It was] the intuition for my matches with New Japan, if anything. I was only worried about whether that would suddenly be able to kick in.
Ah, I see.
Ibushi: I had confidence because I had wrestled in other [promotions], but I wasn’t sure if that part of me would translate into the current New Japan. If I would be okay having [all] these matches in a row.
Like a worry about whether you would fit into the current New Japan, if you would be able to put out your best. But, to your surprise…?
Ibushi: Yes. Surprisingly, it was fine (laughs).
Also, before the G1 opener, didn’t Naitô Tetsuya criticize multiple times that you had had so few matches?
Ibushi: Ah, yes, he did.
He said things like, “I don’t want you to compare me to people who wrestle so few matches” and “The G1 isn’t a tournament where wrestlers who’ve had nothing more than ten matches can step up.”
Ibushi:…But, here’s the thing. After having [matches] this time, I thought, like, pro wrestling isn’t [about] the matches, is it?
Oh, is that so?
Ibushi: Yeah. For example, How long was the finals match between Kenny (Omega) and Naito again?
34 minutes and 35 seconds. It became the longest G1 finals match in history.
Ibushi: I see. But, so, Naitô—all his matches in those 19 tournament [days] have been longer than 30 minutes, right? It’s not like I’m poking at Naito here but…I [wonder if] this isn’t thinning him out a bit.
Ah, you mean there is maybe a difference in the density of matches, even if you talk about over a hundred per year.
Ibushi: I wonder if he doesn’t feel [that it’s] watered [him] down? That’s what I want to know. Because I have put my all into wrestling every single match, but I paced myself to have about one match per month in these last two years or so.
You mean you haven’t watered yourself down in these two years.
Ibushi: Yes. If I can, I want to avoid watering myself down, I’m that type. Hehehe!
This time it was super fun (laughs). I feel like, more than [just] the G1, I genuinely enjoyed wrestling.
Before the G1, you stated something to the effect of, the current New Japan has turned into something new compared to the time when you were fighting there. Now that the G1 is over, how [do you feel about that, looking back] once more?
Ibushi: Let me see. I have the impression that New Japan began changing a lot in 2014 or 2015, and that it was entering a new stage. And in 2016 I didn’t have a single match [for them], and when I came back to New Japan for the first time in a while for the G1 in 2017, it felt like the level had been raised yet again. Also…I also felt a little bit in danger, or like it was scary.
[What do you mean] concretely [by that]?
Ibushi: The matches themselves all felt like they were clearly at a much higher level, higher than when I took part in the G1 in 2013 and 2015.
When you took part in the G1 in 2015, you said that the only memory you had of it was that it was hard, but what are your thoughts now that you have completed this G1?
Ibushi: Oh, this time it was super fun (laughs). I feel like, more than [just] the G1, I genuinely enjoyed wrestling. That’s a feeling I haven’t had at all lately.
You didn’t get this feeling in WWE or somewhere else?
Ibushi: No. I didn’t feel this way in WWE.
What do you think was the number one reason that this was so much fun for you?
Ibushi: Hmmm. I really tried doing my own wrestling this time, I think. Fundamentally, I want to wrestle in such a way that it brings joy to the people watching, but this was different. I wanted to do just the wrestling I wanted to do.
Wrestling your way?
Ibushi: Yes. Like, wrestling that [I put] one hundred percent [into], without thinking about the fans. Wrestling that doesn’t just bring about the things the fans want…
Like wrestling not what the fans want to see from you, but wrestling solely like you yourself want to.
Ibushi: Exactly! I love meeting the fans’ demands. But [this time I did it] in a way that mixed it with [wrestling I want to do].
So you were able to become more focused on yourself, while still being aware of the fans watching.
Ibushi: Yes. I noticed up until now, I had focused on [wrestling], thinking that I had to do everything the fans wanted, or everything that was expected of me. Now, I wrestle a little bit more thinking about myself first.
It wasn’t an “experiment”. I tried doing it little by little, and gained the confidence that I could do this.
I see. When we asked you about this before the fact [the G1], you said something like, the Okada vs Kenny match at the 1.4. Tôkyô Dome [had made you realize that] what you want to do right now is different [from that match].
Ibushi: Yeah, it’s different. There’s that too.
Including that, were you able to do what you really wanted to do?
Ibushi: Yes. I was able to bring out a little bit of the things I wanted to do. And I had enough confidence in it. That’s why I felt I was [able to] have fun with wrestling. This may be worded poorly, but it wasn’t an “experiment”. I tried doing it little by little, and gained the confidence that I could do this.
How much did the G1 make you feel like you could really do this?
Ibushi: If I had zero [confidence] in the beginning, then by the time of the opener match against Naito, I was at about 50 percent. And then when I thought, man, wrestling is fun—that was around when I passed through my third or fourth match.
Speaking of the third match, that was your match versus Ishii (Tomohiro).
Ibushi: Oh, the time around when I went past Ishii was really fun! I didn’t [have a] concrete [idea] that this match [would be] the start [of me having fun] or anything, though…
I wonder if the match with Tanahashi in Kagoshima was when this all came together for you. You felt fairly good for that match, including the situation, no?
Ibushi: Yeah. That match felt really, really good (laughs). That was probably my first time having a match for New Japan in my hometown. The response from the crowd was amazing too.
But you said that you hadn’t really gone much to that Kagoshima Arena, right?
Ibushi: [I have never been] at all…(smiles wryly). Oh no, I did once go to the Kagoshima Arena to watch [wrestling].
However, on May 1st, New Japan held matches in your place of birth (Kagoshima, Aira Municipal Sôgô Athletics Park Gym), and all that. How far away from your parents’ home was that again?
Ibushi: It’s extremely close by…Within 10 minutes on foot. It’s perfectly within walking distance (laughs).
Actually, I’ve always wanted a move in the style of the Bomaye. I’ve thought about using the Bomaye for ages.
However, this time, the three favorable conditions of [this being in] your hometown of Kagoshima, [it being] the main event, and your opponent being Tanahashi Hiroshi, all came together. And what’s more, your deciding finisher for the victory was the Kamigoe. But you used this move before [the match in] Kagoshima, right?
Ibushi: Yes. I brought it out in the match against Zack Sabre Jr. in Kôrakuen, and against Ishii in Machida. I used it two or three times in the G1 before I did so in Kagoshima.
When I went to the interview for your official training video before the G1, it started out as an interview to showcase your new moves, but it turned into an interview in which [you said,] you couldn’t do a new move. Did this move come to you as you were doing it?
Ibushi: To tell you the truth, I’ve had the move itself in mind from the start, it was just that I didn’t think about it as a new move…However, ultimately, you never know how much power a move has unless you try it out in a match, right?
Right. Since you don’t have a training partner, either.
Ibushi: So, it would be rude to call it a testing ground, but the one match out of [all the] ones I tried actually doing it in, that gave me the confidence I could really do well [with this move], was the fight against Tanahashi.
I see. That move has an amazing name.
Ibushi: Yes. Kamigoe (grins).
Going by that name, I don’t think there is a single New Japan fan who doesn’t associate it with a certain wrestler.
Ibushi: So, uh, actually, I’ve always wanted a move in the style of the Bomaye. I’ve thought about using the Bomaye for ages.
You have? Bomaye (now renamed Kinshasa) is the finisher of Nakamura Shinsuke, who is now in WWE.
Ibushi: Yes. And I would have loved to use [Bomaye] as soon as he went to America, because of my relationship with Nakamura, but the timing ended up being a little too far apart, so…
You mean you missed your window to use the Bomaye. In that sense, [using it after] returning to New Japan might have been the ideal timing.
Ibushi: I always wanted to adapt something of Nakamura ever since I originally wrestled him in the 2013 G1. And then, when I met him face to face shortly before he left for WWE, he told me—I don’t know if this was a joke or if he was serious—that I should totally go ahead and use the Bomaye. I still carry those words with me. It felt like he had imparted something on me.
So no matter what Nakamura’s true intentions were with that, you accepted it [as an initiation].
Ibushi: Yes. That’s how I took it.
So therefore you felt it was your duty [to use it], or rather, that you wanted to use it one day?
Ibushi: Yes. But at that time, I wasn’t really wrestling anywhere, so I thought, when I come back to wrestling, I’ll definitely use it. [But] I didn’t really get any opportunities to use it…In the meantime, I took part in the WWE tournament, and I decided I would definitely use it in Japan once the tournament was over. However, in the end, the time in which I didn’t use kept growing and growing. And what should I say, then I [used the Bomaye] here and there, and then the Kamigoe was ready just at the perfect moment.
I think defeating Tanahashi Hiroshi with that move was extremely dramatic, on top of all that.
Ibushi: Yeah. Somehow it’s a strange feeling, you know? If you think about our relationship…
Regarding Tanahashi, between you and him, the score stands at 1 to 1. Your future plans aren’t all yet known, but do you feel like fighting Tanahashi one more time?
Ibushi: Like I said in my [backstage] comments, I don’t think I have overcome Tanahashi with this G1 match. There’s also the fact that [the match] was [just] one of the tournament matches in the G1 [and not the finals or something like that]. It’s not like [I’m] lax with tournament matches, or anything, but also, it’s a completely different situation from a normal title match or singles match. So I think I want to break our tie by having one more match with him and winning that.
You and Zack are the only ones to have a win over Tanahashi in this year’s G1, apart from Naitô. Zack will have a title match in Hiroshima next.
Ibushi: Yes. So next it’s going to be Zack versus Tanahashi in Hiroshima, yes? I for sure want to have a match against the winner of that.
Role reversal in the match with Naitô Tetsuya, and an avalanche piledriver that could have been worse?! Also, the true meaning behind him kneeling down! An exclusive, candid interview with Ibushi Kôta! (Part 2)
He must probably feel right now like he has already overcome me
So, Ibushi. I want to ask about Naitô. Before the G1 opener match, he stated that he thought you were neglecting him a little bit. How was it having a match with him after such a long time?
Ibushi: Hm. It was like he was a completely different person than the last time I had a match with him (2015, New Japan Cup, semifinals. Ibushi emerged the winner). I absolutely felt a different confidence in him than before. And also towards me…
A confidence towards you?
Ibushi: Yeah. Before, Naitô was a little bit…strange towards me (laughs). Even when we talked. Like he didn’t have confidence in anything.
Naitô used to be strange towards you.
Ibushi: Yes. Normally he’d pretty much like, stand his ground when he spoke, but there were times when I talked about my opinion, and he’d reluctantly go, Really…?, looking concerned. I felt this lack of confidence in our previous match as well, but this time there was no trace of that left.
I think before, you were always very much on Naitô’s mind. Because I think overcoming you was a big subject for him.
Ibushi: Oh…So he must probably feel right now like he has already overcome me then (laughs).
I think there was a grappling for the pacing in the match. Was that part different as well, compared to before?
Ibushi: It was completely different. In our matches before, Naitô always felt to me like he was on the backfoot. So I always felt that I could win, no matter what. I had so much freedom that I could play around and still win.
I see (laughs). And this time?
Ibushi: This time it was the complete opposite. This was my first match in a while, and my first attempt at the G1 [in a while]. I always worried about whether it would turn out all right, in all my matches. I was also worried about how I could take this into a direction beneficial for me. I think that was probably the other way around, before.
So, this time your positions really turned around.
Ibushi: Yeah. I really think that [is how it was].
Do the fans want to see a crude Ibushi, or an athletic Ibushi? Or do they want to see an Ibushi who is free?
But that opener match was really terrific. Especially for your avalanche piledriver, everyone froze in place.
Ibushi: Oh! Yeah that…there is a lot I [could] say about that, but to be frank, maybe it could have been worse.
Such a dangerous move and [you say] it could have been worse?!
Ibushi: Yes. Because that piledriver was only from the second rope. I have done three of those [in one match] from the top rope to a wrestler named Ihashi Gôta, in DDT.
I see. When you did this move, I actually thought this could be the new move you were talking about. But to put it another way, that [new] move is still not ready, right?
Ibushi: Not at all! But the direction of that [new] move is a little bit different for me…It feels like…it’s closer to presenting something the fans want.
As you mentioned in the previous part, it’s like you purposely put out a move the viewers want [to see].
Ibushi: Yeah. I feel like I could have gone harder with that. [I think,] there is still room to take it to the next level, and the one above that.
If you took it to the next level, would it be something you’d present [to the fans] on your own accord?
Ibushi: Maybe…But I also feel like I shouldn’t do something more [dangerous] than [what I do now]. I didn’t know all [during the match if I should]. I wasn’t able to flow [with the match] well because of that feeling, I think.
When it came to how you would express yourself in New Japan, were you unsure about which parts were acceptable and which parts were unacceptable?
Ibushi: Yes. That match was full of uncertainty.
Do you think this uncertainty [was part of] what led to you losing the match?
Ibushi: Yes. I was too aware of the fans during that opener match. Like I was bending myself too much to [fit] what I thought the fans wanted to see. Throughout the match, I was [thinking] about whether the fans wanted to see this type [of me] or that type. Basically, it was, do the fans want to see a crude Ibushi, or an athletic Ibushi? Or do they want to see an Ibushi who is free? What kind [of me] do they want to see? It feels like I wrestled that match searching for that [the whole time].
I see. But I think you got settled in as you kept doing the tournament matches of the G1.
Ibushi: Yes. Halfway through, I put [the uncertainty] behind me and thought, all I need to do is realize what I want to do is what everyone wants to see. Once I started doing what I wanted, it became easier in an instant. The matches were fun for me.
I [wanted to say] sorry, towards the fans who had supported me, and the fans who had supported New Japan
Also, I missed this [watching live] at the venue, but when I heard about it after the show was over, I was quite surprised! On your way to the exit, you turned to the ring and knelt down, didn’t you?
Ibushi: Ah! Yes. Yes, yes. I did.
And what’s more, you seemed to have knelt down in front of the press backstage as well. Is it okay if I ask why you did that?
Ibushi: Oh, yes, it’s okay. I don’t know how many fans there were who had watched me two years ago—but it had been about two years, right? [I wanted to express] the feeling of being sorry, to the fans who had supported me, and the fans who had supported New Japan. I was sorry that there had been two years in which [the fans] weren’t able to see me. Because basically, if I had stayed [in New Japan] like that…
They would have been able to see you.
Ibushi: Yeah. So I wanted to tell them sorry that they hadn’t been able to see me during that period.
I see. So then, was this something that happened spontaneously?
Ibushi: It…yeah, it happened spontaneously. Because there was a big reaction [towards me] during the match, especially when my entrance theme hit, so I realized the fans still thought of me, and I [wanted to say] thank you to them for that. [Me kneeling down] was the manifestation of these feelings of regret and gratitude.
You mean that kneeling down had two meanings. There really was an incredible crowd reaction for you when you came in, in Sapporo.
Ibushi: Yes. The cheers were so loud…
Also, when you came in for the first time on the first day of the three day Kôrakuen [event], there were also loud cheers. It was kind of moving.
Ibushi: Yes. It was amazing…At that moment, I realized, oh, that’s right! This is the first time I’m appearing in Tôkyô! They were so loud. They exploded.
As such, were the reactions and cheering from the fans throughout the G1 [a] considerably big [plus for you] this time?
Ibushi: They were! Maybe it’s strange for myself to say this, but wherever and whenever I came out, I heard loud cheering. That made me incredibly happy…I think I definitely got through the G1 because of that. Like it made me less exhausted (laughs).
The cheering gave you more strength (laughs).
Ibushi: Yes. I really felt like that was definitely the case. I felt like I was really healed by the cheering.
Sometimes, people talk about such things only to pay lip-service, though.
Ibushi: No, I really think this! This is really what I felt this time.
You got energized and were able to recover thanks to the cheering from the fans. It feels like that is one of the foundations of working as a pro wrestler.
Ibushi: Right. I mean, if anything, that’s why I started wrestling. The first thing I wanted was to wrestle because I wanted to be cheered by people. I also want [the fans] to think of me as amazing and strong. That’s how I have felt since the very beginning.
In the match with Fale, jumping from the balcony felt different than before. Like everyone was jumping together with me.
In any case, [people] tend to intensely focus on your [matches] with Naitô and Tanahashi, but is there anything from your other matches that left an impression on you?
Ibushi: Almost every match had everything [of me] in it, but the match against Fale was the one in which I showed what I have been doing in these past two years, or rather, in which I was able to show that. Even though I lost.
Was that the match with Fale (7/29, Aichi) that you yourself said you were looking forward to?
Ibushi: Yes. That match—I had only had a few matches [by the time of that match], but I think I was able to reveal a bit of what I had experienced in these last two years.
Which part [of the match made you think] that?
Ibushi: Well, I have done this before in the past, but the spot when I jumped from the balcony and such. I have done it before, but it felt different when I jumped from the balcony in this match. The fans were really fired up, so it felt like the [whole] venue was like, unified as one when I jumped.
Ah, I see.
Ibushi: That was what was different from before, I guess. It was different from the other times I’ve jumped from high places. This was as though everyone was jumping with me.
Like you were seizing control of the hearts of the fans and you all jumped together.
Ibushi: Yeah. I have had that happen when I was wrestling these two years. Because I’ve been working a little bit on boosting wrestling together with the fans. In that moment, I knew with confidence that I had been able to show that.
In the next part, he finally tackles [the topic of] his relationship with Kenny Omega!
”At that moment, I felt like it was over for now with Kenny” Even Ibushi himself is perplexed…?! An exclusive interview with Ibushi Kôta about the shocking reunion with Kenny! (final part)
Kenny told me to meet him in the finals, but I never gave him an answer to that, you know?
So, Ibushi. I think in this G1, what drew a lot of attention was your relationship with Kenny.
Before the opening of the tournament, Kenny said that he would be waiting for you in the finals. Was he weighing on your mind too?
Ibushi: Yeah. I guess so. I watched quite a lot of his tournament matches, after all.
How did you feel watching Kenny’s matches during this year’s G1?
Ibushi: Hmm…I had always known that all of Kenny’s matches were high quality. Even so, [the quality] was even higher than I had expected. I was surprised by…how far he had taken his type of wrestling.
In the end, Kenny fought his way to the finals, while you couldn’t reach the finals.
Ibushi: Yeah…Of course, a part of me had entered the G1 with the goal in mind to reach the finals. But I guess I never actually answered Kenny’s promise [to meet in the finals].
Right, you didn’t.
Ibushi: He told me to meet him in the finals, but I never gave him an answer to that, you know?
Instead, you said in an interview before the opener, “Should we have this match in the finals?”
Ibushi: Yeah. Even so, I wanted to get to first place in my block, and of course it was a big goal of mine to win the G1…I guess this time I didn’t achieve that.
That match also had some parts that were similar to Okada vs Kenny, but when I watched this match, I felt like I understood.
The finals turned out to be a clash between Kenny and Naitô. They both have a deep connection with you, so how did you look at this match?
Ibushi: Both of them were amazing. I really thought they put [all] the things that had gotten them so far in the last two years into the match. I got a pretty different impression from them than I did when I was in [New Japan] two years ago.
In the past, about the Okada vs Kenny match, you’ve said something to the effect of, “It’s amazing, but it’s a different direction than I [want to go in]”. [What do you think] about this Kenny vs Naitô [match]?
Ibushi: Kenny vs Naitô was…Hmmm. There were some parts that were similar to Okada vs Kenny, but when I watched this match, I felt like I understood.
Oh, you were able to empathize with this match?
Ibushi: Yes. When I thought about how it would turn out if I were in the finals, [I thought] that maybe I’d go in the same direction for the match [as these two]. I sensed that I could in part understand, but…Hmm. However, I don’t know how it would have turned out if I myself had actually been [in the finals].
You can’t say either way?
Ibushi: Yeah. How would it have gone if I had been in Kenny’s place, if I had been in Naitô’s place? I have no clue, even now. But I do feel as though it would have turned into a similar match. I guess I just have to accept those circumstances.
Do you feel like Kenny’s style was very pronounced in this finals match?
Ibushi: Hmm…[The match] tasted like a mix of both wrestlers, but nonetheless, watching it, I thought it leaned more towards Kenny.
When [I] asked Naitô about this match with Kenny, he said he loves these kinds of matches.
Ibushi: Oh, really? He did?
Yes. It looks like Naitô loves taking in the opponent’s style. However, perhaps if you had been [Kenny’s] opponent, he would have adapted to your style.
Ibushi: Yeah. How would this have turned out if it had been a match between me and Kenny? To be honest, I have no idea. How will it be the next time we meet…?
At that time, I was going to tell him something like, sorry I couldn’t meet you in the ring, but…
Also, this was a popular topic before, but Kenny had made half of his gear with a blue [reminiscent of yours] in mind.
Ibushi: Yes. That made some impact…I myself don’t know what Kenny was thinking of when he made this gear. Did he design it like that to meet me in the finals? Or was it to call attention to [his wish] to tag with me? Did he consciously create that from the beginning? I really don’t know what the meaning of it is…
I’m going to finally ask the most pressing question concerning that course of events. Shortly after Kenny lost in the finals of the G1, you were waiting for him backstage. There was a shocking scene of you two encountering each other. Did you head over there [in order to meet him]?
Ibushi: …All throughout the G1, until the very end, I was carrying this awareness of Kenny with me. Some part of me felt sorry that I didn’t fulfill [my part of the promise] to meet him in the finals. So, at that time, I was going to tell him something like, sorry I couldn’t meet you in the ring.
Ibushi: But when Kenny actually stood in front of me, he looked so exhausted and beat-up, and all I could get out was, are you okay?… He went into this match with a bad neck, and it had clearly been targeted heavily in the match [by Naitô], so I was sure it had been screwed up, and I wanted to make sure he really was okay…
First you had to tell him your worry.
Ibushi: Yes. And then, he suddenly swiped my hand away…
Right. It was a really short moment. However, this shocking scene sparked a lot of speculation among the fans.
Ibushi: Hahaha. Yeah, there were a lot of different reactions (smiles wryly).
The next day on Twitter, you wrote: “There was nothing in yesterday’s touch. As it is right now, I wonder if [he] was even in a place where I could touch him. It all sounds so unfortunate, but each of us is [walking his own path right now]…But, in the end.” There was nothing in particular about the future of your relationship with Kenny Omega. Was this really only about that moment alone?
Ibushi: Hmm…It was like it was broken inside of me, at that moment [when we met]. I don’t think it’s ever [going to be like that again]…Am I going to clash with Kenny? Or are we going to shake hands there and become a tag team? [Either one] was probably possible [at that moment]. [But] I think that moment in which something was going to happen, it’s gone now.
I see. You mean that, by coming into contact with Kenny [like this] once, the possibility that something is going to happen [between you two] is gone now?
Ibushi: Yes. That’s why it felt to me like it was over with Kenny [for now]. But there was also a part of me that [felt like] it’s not over yet…To tell you the truth, I don’t know how Kenny feels about this.
It probably feels close to “it’s over” with Kenny
At that time, Kenny’s seconds, the Young Bucks, had a very strong negative reaction towards you, as if they [were saying,] “Who the hell are you?!”
Ibushi: Yeah, it’s true (smiles wryly).
For the Young Bucks, there was probably this anxiety that something would break if they let Kenny and you come into contact [again].
Ibushi: The Young Bucks…Yeah.
However, ultimately, did you feel that this was the end, like you wrote on Twitter?
Ibushi: Well. It probably feels close to “it’s over”.
How about—were you hoping to be together with Kenny at that moment?
Ibushi: Ah…I’m not sure.
Or were you simply worried about his physical health?
Ibushi: Yeah. I was mainly worried about his body. And then there was a part of me that [wanted to say] sorry that I hadn’t been able to reach the finals.
Did you feel like you had to reply to the ball Kenny threw you about meeting in the finals, because you hadn’t replied to that all this time?
Ibushi: Hmm. I guess it’s like, [in the ring] was my only [chance]. Because in the end, I wasn’t able to respond in the ring, even though I tried. That was my only chance.
Because of this, with that touch [you had backstage], the story between you and Kenny in the G1 was over?
Ibushi: Yeah. That’s it.
I really have no clue what Kenny’s true intentions are. What are they? I feel like Kenny is always going straight ahead.
However, I think the fans would be deeply unsatisfied with this. They’re saying a lot of different things, though (laughs).
Ibushi: Ah, yes, they are (laughs).
Yes. Like, “I think Kenny vs Ibushi is going to happen” or, “I think they’re going to tag”. However, you have said that you feel it’s over for now. Conversely, are you setting your sights on other wrestlers right now, like Tanahashi, or someone else?
Ibushi: Hm. I’m looking in a different direction right now, yeah. However, even so, it’s still lingering inside of me. It feels weird, you know? I really have no clue what Kenny’s true intentions are. What are they, really? It feels like with Kenny, he’s always going straight ahead. Every single time, I worry my brain about whatever [he] could mean [by this].
This may sound a little strange, but I get the impression that out of [all] the current New Japan wrestlers, Kenny is perhaps the only one who is so vehemently seeking [to meet] you.
Ibushi: Yeah, I get that same feeling. But, if that’s the case, then I really don’t know why he shook off my hand at the end. I still don’t know what that was about. He has said so many different things to me, but maybe with this, he meant [to say,] “You couldn’t reach the finals. So it’s over.”
Ibushi: I felt that a little bit myself. If I had answered him, I [would have said,] “It’s too late.”
You mean there is a possibility it was his way of saying, Ibushi, it’s already too late?
Ibushi: I don’t know. What did he mean? What was that about?
Oh, man, it feels like the mystery is only going deeper, even if I’m asking the people involved about it.
Ibushi: I’d like to know [too]. I really don’t know (smiles wryly).
It feels like, just for the matches of this G1, the New Japan fans aren’t quite convinced of me yet, and I also feel like I’m not convinced.
The current series [of shows] is finishing up in Hiroshima. What’s your vision for yourself in New Japan in the future, based on the results of the G1?
Ibushi: Let me see. I would probably like to participate in the next [series of shows], just a little bit. Even in the G1, there were actually quite a lot of things I wasn’t able to put out…I want to do that, and have lots of people watch.
Ibushi: It feels like, just for the matches of this G1, the New Japan fans aren’t quite convinced of me yet, and I also feel like I’m not convinced.
I think it’s unavoidable that, if [we] come to understand the ways you express yourself in New Japan, [we] want to see more of you.
Ibushi: Yeah. There is a lot more to Ibushi Kôta [you haven’t seen yet]. I haven’t shown anything of that yet.
Basically, more than wrestling anybody [specific], you want to show more of that?
Ibushi: Yes. I want to reveal [more of that] in the New Japan ring. I have more potential, and I feel like I have only shown a little bit [of what I can do].