My translation of an interview with Ibushi Kôta that appeared on the Da Vinci website in July of 2017.
As always, my annotations are in , and annotations by the original publication are in ().
Original text and images © Kadokawa Corporation.
Note: pull quotes may differ from actual answers. This is part of the editing in the original.
A shoplifting crime at age 3 was his starting point for wrestling? Are the rumors of gim signing with WWE true? The “outrageous” first half of Ibushi Kôta’s life that shocked his female fans (interview)
Ibushi Kôta: the man who has an unparalleled athletic ability and a genius sense for wrestling, and whose beautiful face hides a silly ditz who boasts enormous popularity with female wrestling [fans]. Last year in October, said man’s autobiography was published in two volumes. The titles are “Golden☆Star Ibushi Kôta: The Best” and “Golden☆Star Ibushi Kôta: The Maddest“ (both Shokugan Shûeisha Production).
The reason why it was divided into two volumes is that he’s someone whose [life] can’t fit into [just] one single book. Ibushi—that means both the Ibushi who is the “The Best” wrestler, and “The Maddest” person. He’s often said to be “completely unhinged”, and the anecdotes in “The Maddest” could prove to be a loyalty test for his female fans. Can you withstand it and still like him even after reading these [books]…?
Both books contain quite the shocking content, but which one is closer to [representing] your true self?
“Both are me, but ‘The Best’ [shows my] progress better, I think. ‘The Maddest’ is closer to [something like] my old self. Come to think of it, I think “The Best” is also very unhinged. It feels like right now, I’m closer to becoming unhinged in the way [the latter presents it].”
Sorry for bringing out talk about sex at this point, but [you say in the book] your favorite type of woman is “that [type]” (laughs).
“Well, there it is (laughs). I’m 34 now, and that was [me] until [I was] about 28. In my teens and twenties “that” was almost all [I was thinking about]. That slowly changed, and now my personality and how [I think about that] and stuff like that has changed. I’ve become [more] honest.”
It destroyed [my] image of you as an innocent, pure [person] (laughs). Were there many female fans of yours who were shocked when they read “The Maddest”?
“I have no doubt there are. [People] told me to tell them everything, since [they say] I don’t divulge much in the book, but I tell you, I say almost everything in there (laughs). There were a few parts that made [people] blink twice, but almost all of it is true, so I guess [they’ll] just have to [accept] that.”
I get the impression that [stories of you] “forming a shoplifting group at age 3” or “burning down a bamboo grove at age 4” are in a sense, just what’d you expect from you, or that they seem like something you’d do.
“I still remember it like it was yesterday. The shoplifting [story was that], I have a brother who’s two years older than me, and between my brother’s kindergarten friends there was this toy car that was popular. The battery for that one would run out immediately. When [one of the friends] wanted a new battery but didn’t have the money for it, I told them to leave it to me. I’d say, ‘I’m going to get you [your battery]’.”
So it wasn’t just about shoplifting, you wanted to do something for people, [right]?
“That’s really what it was. They’d be happy once I brought them the thing I stole. They’d be happy and tell me how cool I was. That felt really nice. Even today, when others think I’m amazing, that gives me the best feeling out of them all. I think this of course ties back to [my] wrestling as well. There’s a connection between shoplifting and wrestling (laughs).”
What about the bamboo grove you burned down?
“That was when I was four years old. Near my home, I had built my own house out of cardboard. There were a lot of mosquitos and such, so I’d used insecticide [spray] as well. But they didn’t die at all, so one day, I brought a lighter, but that didn’t kill them either. Turns out, if you mix insecticide with fire, things become crazy. I thought this was amazing, and simply became excited by the flames in front of me, and before I had noticed, the bamboo grove was burning…I was afraid I was gonna die, so I ran back home. Then when I heard the fire engine sirens, I knew immediately what was up. I was [convinced] they had come for me (laughs).”
At the same time when you were 4, you witnessed a friend from middle school’s act with a Yoshihiko-like “puppet”…
“You can go further and say that [he] was…testing out Yoshihiko.” (restrained)
Oh my God!!! You came into contact [with that] at 4 years old (laughs).
“I learned a lot of bad things from that person, like how to feign being unconscious and such.”
It’s said that your origin as a wrestler was “play-wrestling”, and you wrestled with a pillow as your opponent in your own room, right? This sounds just like an origin for your matches with Yoshihiko.
“[I wrestled with] pillows and mattresses and such. It’s similar to Yoshihiko. If I had to say, I did more bumps than I did [offensive] moves. Of course I started out by doing moves on them, but I noticed that anyone can do moves, and I decided to take [more] bumps [instead].”
I’ve also tried [wrestling] at home [like that], but I could never use that for pro wrestling. How do you become able to take moves from a pillow or a puppet?
“I did it by imagining the pillow holding me, but if you have no real experiences of people throwing you, there are some parts of it you won’t be able to do. If you don’t at least once feel what it’s like to be thrown, then the feeling of being thrown by a puppet probably won’t link up [when you wrestle]. Or like, if you only ever have Yoshihiko as your opponent, then you will only ever learn defense against Yoshihiko.”
Okay, then I’ll try getting thrown [by real people] (laughs).
“If you can learn being thrown into a pool or onto a soft mattress or something like that, I think you can learn how to [wrestle] with Yoshihiko as well.”
This January, you quit both New Japan and DDT, both of whom you had contracts with, but it actually looked like you were retiring [altogether]…
“[It was] last year in November or December. I was in the middle of being absent due to injury. I wanted a reset, you know? Of everything. It wasn’t that I wanted to quit wrestling, I wanted to restart from a fresh new, blank page. I’m the type who can’t start over unless I’m resetting. But after thinking it through for several days, I thought that the risk was too big, and after reconsidering, I decided against it.”
Your passion for wrestling has returned?
“Well, I’m sticking to wrestling and giving it my best right now.”
Currently, you’re also taking part in WWE’s Cruiserweight tournament in America. How does that feel?
“The American fans already knew who I was, and exploded the moment I came in. It was like they had always waited for me.”
You just came home today from your match in the second round, but there’s a rumor that you signed with WWE.
“I was told earlier. I haven’t talked with them about anything. Every time I go, I get needled about making a decision soon, but right now I don’t think about anything like that at all, so I refused [the offers].”
[What about] the rumor you mutually signed autographs?
“We haven’t (laughs). Although they did ask me for it.”
What’s your biggest motivation right now aside from wrestling?
“Making the people who watch happy. I think about nothing else aside from like, if I did this, then it’d fire them up, and such. That hasn’t changed since I was little, [or] since I shoplifted. It’s the same with shoplifting (laughs).”
You’ve been saying that you want to make wrestling more popular and that you’d do anything for that. Do you still feel the same way about that?
“Yes, I do. My recent movie appearance (now on sale: “Daikaiju Mono”) is also part of that. And although I was taking part in the movie because I want to make wrestling popular, that in and by itself was different, and fun. Talking isn’t exactly my strong suit, but like, remembering your lines and acting them, that’s just a little bit like wrestling. I didn’t think I would while in the middle of filming it, but once I saw the screening of the finished movie and the fans enjoying it, it felt really good. I was really glad I had done it, and I think I want to do it again.”
What are your future goals?
“There’s a lot of unfinished business, so first of all I want to realize all of that. I haven’t yet won the IWGP Heavyweight [title]. I moved up into the heavyweight division, but I haven’t gotten a belt yet. Any belt. In DDT, lately, you don’t hear [them doing] anywhere matches as much anymore. It seems they’re doing them in front of 100 or 200 people, but I would like to wrestle those in front of like, 10,000 or 20,000 people. I think that that would definitely increase the number of wrestling fans.“
Ibushi Kôta possesses an unbelievable charisma, as a wrestler and as a human being. [People] tend to get hung up on his no-good behavior, but it’s rare that you find someone so grounded and clever. And of course he has an absurd side to him, and that too is part of his appeal. I want those people that have no interest in wrestling to read his two autobiographies and submerge themselves completely in Ibushi’s world. I can’t think of anyone who wouldn’t fall in love with wrestling after they’ve known Ibushi Kôta.