My translation of a long interview series with Ibushi Kôta, featuring Yamaguchi Yoshinori and Shibata Katsuyori, that appeared on the Puroresu Today website starting on 12/23 2016.
As always, my annotations are in , and annotations by the original publication are in ().
Original text and images © プロレスTODAY. See the links for the rest of the images and full experience.
Ibushi Kôta Special Interview (Complete Version): In-Depth Discussions About Wrestling, the Three Musketeers, HaseKen, The Four Pillars of All Japan, Deathmatches, and Much More!
Yamaguchi: When did you think you wanted to become a pro wrestler?
Ibushi: In fifth grade in elementary school. My first motivation was to become Son Goku from Dragon Ball. But that’s impossible, you know. After that, I got the chance to watch wrestling, and that’s when [I thought,] this is like real life Dragon Ball.
Yamaguchi: Did you watch live at the venue?
Ibushi: On video.
Yamaguchi: What was your first match? New Japan? All Japan?
Ibushi: I think it was New Japan vs WAR.
Yamaguchi: Tenryû! And Shibata at that time was…
Shibata: I was on commentary.
Yamaguchi: Was it when Tenryû faced the top stars of New Japan one by one, when he outshone everyone?
Ibushi: It probably was around Heisei Ishin Gun vs WAR.
Yamaguchi: Such an exciting [time]! Those kinds of matches are packed with emotion. Which side were you a fan of?
Ibushi: In the beginning, I didn’t understand the fact that there were promotions [behind this], so when I watched it, at first it felt like to me it was Tenryû’s time to shine. I cheered for Tenryû. For about two months (laughs). I thought, pro wrestling has a lot going on, so I rented a lot of videos, and who I ended up being really obsessed with were Hase (Hiroshi) and Sasaki (Kensuke).
Yamaguchi:: [What about] the team of Hase and Ken[suke]?
Ibushi: [I was just rooting for] Hase alone. Hase and Mutô tagged.
Yamaguchi: They were a splendid tag [team]. Their performances were really good too, as were their outgoing promos. What about Hase touched you?
Ibushi: It really was his brilliance. His brilliance. Of course, this goes for the giant swing and such,[it made me realize,] oh, those are the things you can do in the ring. When I was little I didn’t watch anything outside of kickboxing and stuff, so this really amazed me.
Yamaguchi: You could really feel wrestling in the aura Hase was giving off.
Ibushi: It really was like that.
Yamaguchi: It wasn’t Mutô [you were a fan of]. I get the impression that Mutô might be someone who [had been] on your mind for one moment or another, but…
Ibushi: I wasn’t obsessed with Mutô. When it came to the Three Musketeers1, I was [all for] Hashimoto.
Yamaguchi: What, really? I wouldn’t have guessed that! Out of the three of them you liked Hashimoto Shinya the most?
Ibushi: I thought Hashimoto Shinya was the best in the world!
Yamaguchi: What did you like about him?
Ibushi: His strength. Just his strength. I really thought Hashimoto was strong.
Yamaguchi: He really was. His explosive kicks were amazing.
Ibushi: At that time, there weren’t any other martial arts[-based] moves [like that]. I thought that he was the best. When Hashimoto wore the IWGP Heavyweight [belt], he was the absolute best.
Yamaguchi: What’s your favorite Hashimoto match?
Ibushi: There are a lot, but his match with Takada at the Dome got me really pumped up. I love the all-out war during UWI vs New Japan (1995).
Yamaguchi: Those times had [people] lose their minds.
Ibushi: That was the peak (laughs).
Yamaguchi: Shibata, you were commentating at that time…
Shibata: I was. [The show on] 10/9 was amazing.
Yamaguchi: Was the crowd size the largest ever at that time?
Shibata: [The event] had a bigger crowd than even Inoki’s retirement match. It was the largest [crowd to date].
Yamaguchi: Ibushi, were you rooting for New Japan at the time?
Ibushi: I was New Japan through and through.
Shibata: You couldn’t come to the venue, right? You were still small.
Ibushi: Yeah. I was still in first grade of middle school.
Yamaguchi: Hashimoto back then was electrifying. He shone the brightest.
Shibata: It’s because he took [the belt] back, isn’t it? The IWGP [belt] that had floated off to a different shore.
Yamaguchi: I think you can divide pro wrestling into watching it, and doing it. Around what time were you leaning towards doing pro wrestling?
Ibushi: Fifth grade. After having watched it for about a month, I started training to become a pro wrestler.
Yamaguchi: What kind of training did you do?
Ibushi: I collected information, and [did] the squats they wrote in the magazines…
Yamaguchi: Those said 3000 or like 5000 squats, right? (laughs)
Ibushi: I tried to do them somehow, my own way, until I couldn’t anymore.
Yamaguchi: I feel like they exaggerated a lot in their writing during the old wrestling days.In Tôkyô Sports and such they wrote that a crab pinched Kobashi (Kenta’s) nipple and such (laughs).
Ibushi: What the hell? (laughs)
Shibata: [They wrote that] he did squats on a plane, or like in an arcade and such.
Yamaguchi: There was a picture in the Tôkyô Sports of a crab pinching Kobashi’s nipple!
Ibushi: Why, though? To get stronger? (laughs)
Shibata: Him and the crab had good chemistry (laughs).
Yamaguchi: Have you done any kind of special training like that, Ibushi?
Ibushi: It was all special training for me. I thought that, if I didn’t do stuff out of the ordinary, I wouldn’t be able to become a wrestler.
Yamaguchi: Was there a twisted kind of special training that comes to your mind?
Ibushi: Uhm, which one was it (laughs)…I did a lot of things that almost killed me.
Yamaguchi: What…? Like, for example?
Ibushi: The most dangerous one, I don’t remember it, but I coiled a rope around a rock and my leg, and I told a friend to throw me into the river. It was about 5 m [deep]. I thought that, if I couldn’t rise up on my own, then I had no business becoming a pro wrestler. [My friend] thought it was a special training, and did it, but once I was [in the water], I couldn’t move at all (laughs).
Yamaguchi: That seems like it would kill you (laughs).
Ibushi: My friend got worried and went to look after me, but discovered I had lost consciousness (laughs). [He] cut the rope to save me.
Yamaguchi: Did you almost drown?
Ibushi: It seems like I did. I don’t remember at all.
Shibata: Did you go underwater?
Ibushi: I simply fainted.
YamaguchI: That kinda stuff is nearly impossible…
Ibushi: I often wanted to find out from how high I could jump and stuff like that. Like, I always want to challenge myself.
Yamaguchi: You were a very competitive child, weren’t you?
Ibushi: I’ve always believed that I was number one.
Yamaguchi: Were you obsessed with foot race, or like the [sport] events in school and such?
Ibushi: Yeah, that too. I never wanted to be the loser.
Yamaguchi: Were you fast?
Ibushi: Yes. I think I had very good motor coordination.
Yamaguchi: What kind of sports did you do during your time in school?
Ibushi: Swimming, and then in highschool I did rugby.
Yamaguchi: Do you feel like rugby built a foundation for your wrestling in a sense?
Ibushi: It really did. I did [rugby] because of wrestling.
Yamaguchi: So, for a tackle, you’d [yell at your opponent] “Come at me!”, and such?
Yamaguchi: [And do] the tackle in a wrestling style…
Ibushi: Basically, I threw them (laughs).
Yamaguchi: Aren’t throws forbidden in rugby? (laughs)
Ibushi: They usually are, but I did them anyway.
Shibata: You’ll be banned from the field for those [kind of] fouls, right?
Ibushi: I was banned several times (laughs).
Yamaguchi: I feel like you are in a position that’s removed from the confines of current wrestling, but the foundation for that was built ever since you were small.
Ibushi: I was definitely more unhinged as a kid, I think.
Yamaguchi: Did your friends ever ask you if you were all right in the head?
Ibushi: My friends were weirdos too (laughs).
Yamaguchi: [Did they ever say] things like, let’s become professional wrestlers[?]
Ibushi: We’d often have sudden fist fights. I don’t know if that’s normal among friends, but……
Shibata: Birds of a feather flock together…
Ibushi: I don’t know about that (laughs). But, yeah, that’s how it was.
Yamaguchi: Did you waver [in your belief] in pro wrestling at one point after your childhood?
Ibushi: No. Not even once.
Yamaguchi: Meanwhile, you’ve been on TV too. Were you always watching New Japan?
Ibushi: I had always been watching New Japan. I watched All Japan too, just around the time of the Four Pillars.
Yamaguchi: Who’s your favorite of the Four Pillars?
Ibushi: I cheered for Misawa the most, but I also liked Kawada.
Yamaguchi: What did you like about Kawada?
Ibushi: His way of taking moves!
Yamaguchi: Because he took them with his entire body and [urged the opponent to] come at him many times, even though he was small?
Ibushi: Kawada has like, a special way to take moves. I imitated that.
Yamaguchi: You like Misawa, but for your fight style and play-wrestling, you were [more] aware of Kawada[?]
Ibushi: I added [a bit of] Kawada [into my style and play-wrestling] as well.
Yamaguchi: You’ve always liked everything about wrestling.
Ibushi: I watched everything!
Yamaguchi: Did you also watch joshi wrestling?
Ibushi: I wasn’t…as obsessed with joshi wrestling.
Yamaguchi: There are people who will watch men’s wrestling, but not as much of joshi, or any at all.
Íbushi: [They] are only interested in men’s wrestling, yeah.
Yamaguchi: Have you ever watched deathmatches?
Ibushi: I have. During the time I was watching, they used to show “The Soul of the Ring”, and I would [be impressed by] how unhinged IWA JAPAN or Big Japan Pro Wrestling were, rent the tapes and watch them. That happened often.
Yamaguchi: Did you ever picture yourself in a deathmatch?
Ibushi: Not for…deathmatches, no.
Yamaguchi: It must feel different on the skin.
Ibushi: If I had to choose whether to do it or not, I wouldn’t do it. I viewed it as something else, but when a friend told me, this is the wrestling I watch, it’s amazing, [deathmatches] would be among [those videos], and we watched deathmatches together.
Yamaguchi: [They’d] say how amazing [this] wrestling is, to teach you how broad it is. Wrestling really is broad.
Ibushi: Because a lot of things can be wrestling. Deathmatches are wrestling too.
Yamaguchi: There aren’t terribly many people who can do deathmatches.
Shibata: If you don’t love it, you can’t do it, I think.
Yamaguchi: I wonder if there’s the kind of people who are just obsessed with it.
Shibata: It seems like there are a lot of people who come to Big Japan because they want to do deathmatches. But I feel like deathmatches have some things in common with Ibushi…
Ibushi: No, deathmatches are different, though. I’m not good with blood.
Yamaguchi: You never lost that much blood?
Ibushi: I have (laughs). But not in matches.
Yamaguchi: After the many turns in the road, how did you end up at DDT?
Ibushi: I thought I’d go to New Japan, until I graduated highschool, but I probably felt at some point that it wouldn’t work out. I was skinny, and I couldn’t gain weight. I had always wanted to “get strong” naturally since before I had crossed paths with wrestling, and even if the chance to go to New Japan would vanish, I still wanted to get strong. That’s why at 18, I started kickboxing. I worked a normal job back then, and dedicated all my time to kickboxing.
Yamaguchi: What was your first job?
Ibushi: I was a mechanic at the airport in Narita. Since it takes three years to get your mechanic license, I cleaned [the planes] while doing maintenance. I started kickboxing while I was working there, but even then, I wanted to become a wrestler. There were times when I would become disheartened in my pursuit of wrestling, but, around 19 or 20 I think, I went to watch DDT, and at that time, a wrestler with a kickboxing gimmick, Thanomsak Toba, was there, and when I saw him, I thought, I can do this too (laughs).
Shibata: That guy wrestled for Big Japan, too.
Ibushi: I thought, if a guy like that can have his debut here, I can make it here as well. So I took the entrance test and passed.
Yamaguchi: I heard this randomly from Takagi, but he said you didn’t go to practice (laughs). That you said the joined training together with everyone wasn’t what you personally wanted.
Ibushi: I’d always done bumps by myself, ever since 5th grade in elementary school. I had [practiced] various falling down [techniques], but I had never done proper pro wrestling bumps. I had tried it out, but I found it strange that it hurt so much (laughs). Like, I won’t get used to this, it will break me. When I thought about it, I wasn’t even sure what taking bumps was. I thought, taking [moves] meant doing it in such a way as to not destroy the body, so since I have so few injuries, [I thought] I must be the best at taking bumps. That’s why I said I wouldn’t come to practice.
Yamaguchi: An ironheart (laughs).
Ibushi: I guess (laughs). I wonder (laughs). At the time, I didn’t read the room. Even when I screwed up, I didn’t understand [why].
Yamaguchi: You have a strong spirit (laughs). You need a bit of courage to tell someone you’re not coming to practice.
Ibushi: They didn’t know what to say. Like, what’s up with this guy?
Shibata: And you hadn’t even debuted yet (laughs).
Ibushi: Who does this guy, who hasn’t even had his debut yet, think he is, telling me stuff like that? They got angry [at me] too…It was embarrassing. They just told me, okay, do what you want (laughs).
Shibata: You got through with it because that was DDT.
Ibushi: If this had been New Japan, they would have killed me.
Shibata: They would have.
Yamaguchi: You unconsciously chose the path that fit you the most, I think.
Ibushi: Maybe, yeah.
Yamaguchi: I think it was a deciding factor, even for how you are right now. I think it’s your biggest strength that you always carried those thoughts and feelings with you. It played a part in your identity, the proof of yourself as a wrestler. I know that you felt an enormous honor when you had the dual contracts with New Japan and DDT, but there must have been quite the pressure as well.
Ibushi: The pressure was there. I thought it was cool, because [I] was the first [who had done that] in the wrestling business.
Yamaguchi: How did you feel at the time when you got the offer?
Ibushi: It was something I decided after speaking with [both management sides]. So when the idea first came up, I wanted to do a double contract because I couldn’t choose either way, so I thought doing it half and half was the best way. At the time, I thought it was best to do only the big matches [for New Japan], that that was also best for my body this way.
Yamaguchi: Did you also feel excitement because this was unprecedented, that you had been chosen to do this?
Ibushi: I did. It excited me the most to know that I was the first to tread that ground.
Yamaguchi: You garnered the most esteem for that. In that vein, do you have a vision of [yourself] as an even bigger wrestling star, that you can do even more? For example, wanting people to answer “Ibushi Kôta” when someone asks “Who’s big in today’s wrestling?”, or like, not just in movies, but you being present in general in the world in television series and such.
Ibushi: I want to become famous in general.
Yamaguchi: Do you think of the Ibushi Wrestling Research Institute as something to expand the activities of wrestling, and take wrestling as a whole to the next level and things like that?
Ibushi: You spoke my mind (laughs). That’s exactly what it is.
Yamaguchi: You’re currently part of the talent agency Oscar Promotion. How was it receiving the offer?
Ibushi: At first, the deal was that [talent from] DDT would join Oscar, and I didn’t have an independent contract with them then, but when I was able to sign with them even though I had stepped away from the dual contracts, that was when I became aware of the fact that I was under contract with them. I was glad. I knew it was an opportunity.
Yamaguchi: You must have been really glad that they offered you [that contract] because they recognized you personally.
Ibushi: I was really, really happy.
Yamaguchi: Were you ever unsure about accepting roles for TV? (laughs)
Ibushi: I thought about it a lot, but I was ready to do anything. When I actually starred in a movie, it was a big advantage for my way of expressing myself, for my expression in wrestling.
Yamaguchi: Did you practice for your role?
Ibushi: I mostly had no practice for the role. It was trial by fire.
Yamaguchi: As far as other wrestlers go, Mutô has starred in “Shining Woman”.
Yamaguchi: Wrestlers of old are in more movies than you’d think, aren’t they?
Shibata: Most of them don’t really make it, though.
Yamaguchi: It feels like, because you, Ibushi, have such a fresh sensibility, you’d be able to genuinely make it in movies. Do you feel like you’d be suited as an actor or that you’d want to do that?
Ibushi: I only want to connect acting with wrestling in some way. I’m not a dedicated actor.
Yamaguchi: Takeda Kôzô from K-1 appeared in an NHK period drama, didn’t he? It’s interesting to see a currently active wrestler who does that kind of thing, I think.
Ibushi: He’s a freelancer, so he’s in a position where he can do that.
Yamaguchi: Do you have a fan club?
Ibushi: A lot of places have gotten in contact with me, but I haven’t gone out of of my way to make one. It would be better if the home page and such were made by the fans too, but I feel like it wouldn’t be the same [as when I made it].
Yamaguchi: I think in some ways, DDT fans and New Japan fans have a different style.If you had to put that difference into words, what would it be?
Ibushi: Hmmm…They’re completely different. If we’re talking wrestling, then they’re polar opposites. DDT prioritizes putting on the kind of wrestling the fans want. [Being] close [to the fans] and such. New Japan is a place that presents people with the matches New Japan does. I like both.
Yamaguchi: Your [understanding of ] wrestling has always been diverse [like that]. It feels like you had that double contract because you could do that. As someone who is the same age as you, how do you view Naitô from Los Ingobernables?
Ibushi: I personally feel like, until a few years ago, Naitô was ahead of me. But right now, he’s gotten instantly ahead of me [again].
Shibata: You feel like you were overtaken?
Ibushi: It’s like, he’s going ahead so [I] can take it back from him.
Shibata: Sounds like [you’re confident] you can easily surpass him (laughs).
Ibushi: It‘s just a matter of when and where I’ll pass him.
YamaguchI: I want to see you mix it up with the current Naitô. Is Naitô Tetsuya someone you yourself are interested in?
Ibushi: I’m interested.
Shibata: Don’t you like the way LIJ are doing things?
Ibushi: What do you mean? (laughs) That I want to join them?
Shibata: The style and such, that they’re so clearly distinct [from everybody else].
Ibushi: I do like that.
Yamaguchi: They seem to have great chemistry. I think their matches have really good chemistry ever since things got like that, but they’re all the more interesting in my opinion when it’s heels vs babyfaces.
Ibushi: I think we’d probably click.
Yamaguchi: Speaking of [heels], Kenny (Omega) has made statements [that indicate] he’s aware of you. The word on the street you hear from some people is that [you two] could reunite in Bullet Club, but what’s your impression of Bullet Club?
Ibushi: I’ve never been a heel. I’ve been doing this for 12 years, but I’ve never once been a heel. In that sense, I think Bullet Club has its place as an expression of [the wider world of] wrestling. They have my curiosity.
Yamaguchi: What do you think about Kenny’s heel turn?
Ibushi: I think it’s a good thing. I think that he probably has never had a proper heel run either, so in the coming several years, the experience gained from being a heel is going to benefit him.
Yamaguchi: It’s definitely useful to have a variety of experiences. I wonder if perhaps, there’s possibly a heel capacity sleeping within Ibushi?
Ibushi: I do want to try it once.
Yamaguchi: What’s your perception of Okada (Kazuchika)?
Ibushi: There are many people who get a push from the company. [And] there’s some who can make something out of that, and some who can’t, but I think Okada’s smart, and his intuition is top class too. I’m impressed by how he was able to take this and run with it. There aren’t that many people [who can do that].
Yamaguchi: You feel like he’s respected by his surroundings?
Ibushi: Yes, I think so. His talent is incredible.
Yamaguchi: Like a harmonic force?
Ibushi: He’s not just good with outsiders, but with friends and family too. He’s great in a lot of ways. You get it when you talk to him.
Yamaguchi: Have you and Okada ever talked in the locker room?
Ibushi: We’ve talked often, yeah.
Yamaguchi: You’re not too similar in age, right?
Ibushi: He’s younger than me, but we don’t talk about wrestling. We do small talk and such, ‘cause Okada’s the type who gets along with anyone. We usually talk about whatever we feel like.
Yamaguchi: Was there someone in New Japan who’d talk passionately about wrestling? How about Tanahashi and co.?
Ibushi: Tanahashi doesn’t really talk that much. Not even about pro wrestling.
Yamaguchi: Did he ever give you advice on how to build up muscle or get in shape?
Ibushi: If I asked him, he would answer, stuff like that. If I talked to him, he would talk to me a lot, but since I’m not really the talkative type, we didn’t talk that much.
Yamaguchi: How was Nakamura (Shinsuke)?
Ibushi: He would always, always talk to me on his own (laughs).
Yamaguchi: Nakamura is an intellectual, and he has that unique sensitivity for structuring matches. Did that spur you on, too?
Ibushi: It did. There are a lot of parts I watched and learned about from Nakamura and Tanahashi.
Yamaguchi: Are there any words in particular that got you excited and stayed with you?
Ibushi: I think more than words, what Tanahashi does outside of matches is amazing. Including when he goes to events or performs in public and things like that.
Yamaguchi: He doesn’t take a day off.
Shibata: There was a time when he was called a god for a reason.
Ibushi: That hasn’t changed. He’s a god.
Yamaguchi: How is Nakamura?
Ibushi: Nakamura is…He lives on pure intuition (laughs). Him and Tanahashi are really the exact opposite types.
Yamaguchi: It feels like he’s a philosopher, like a philosopher of wrestling.
Ibushi: Yeah. But I’m not sure, since it’s [all] intuition [with him]. I often don’t know what he’s saying (laughs). But he’d tell me, I think I get that, yeah.
Yamaguchi: [When] he’d say, I’m on fire! and such.
Ibushi: (laughs) Nakamura really [lives based on] intuition.
Shibata: You resemble Nakamura, in my opinion.
Ibushi: Oh, [so you mean] I lean closer to Nakamura….[?] Maybe.
Yamaguchi: I don’t know why, but I think in the ring you’re like Tanahashi, and in your personality and insanity you lean towards a martial artist, or towards Nakamura.
Ibushi: Hmm. I’m sure the wrestling that we watched and that influenced us was similar. That’s why I think our wrestling clicked.
Shibata: You won the Best Bout [award for one of your matches], right? (August 14th 2013, G1 CLIMAX).
Yamaguchi: Back then, I thought you guys might die from that nasty war you had…
Shibata: You really did each other in. I’m glad you survived that.
Ibushi: That was our first time wrestling each other, and got us the Best Bout on the first try.
Yamaguchi: [What do you think] looking back on that match?
Ibushi: I think neither one of us was nervous about it then.
Yamaguchi: I think you were able to get into the right mindset of what you could do before the match, because you had a relationship of mutual trust before you fought.
Ibushi: We were able to build that kind of relationship even though we hadn’t had a match yet.
Yamaguchi: Were you ready to go above and beyond?
Ibushi: It felt like our red lines were both really low. I thought that was what we felt [to be true] about each other.
Yamaguchi: What motivates you to go so far?
Ibushi: Wanting to leave behind something incredible, and showing [the fans] the best I can do at that time, that they won’t see any other time. I’m from Kagoshima, and even in the local [arenas outside of Tôkyô] I’ve seen amazing matches every once in a while, and I’m glad I got to see those. I want to always show the people in Tôkyô something amazing, but I also don’t want to slack off in the regions [outside Tôkyô]. I’m giving it my all, even in the provinces.
Yamaguchi: If that were to happen, I think the number of fans of yours would increase. Speaking of, you have a lot of female fans, and I think they give you lots of presents. Is there anything you get from them that makes you [especially] happy?
Ibushi: Hmmm…I don’t wear these, but T-shirts they made for me, [with] a collection of autographs [on them] and such. The thought behind going this far and doing this for me makes me really happy. There’s not a [fan] letter I don’t read. I make sure to read every fan letter in its entirety as well. There are basically phone numbers and LINE [contacts] in [every] letter, though (laughs). If it’s from people in their 20s, [they] even add purikura pics. It’s a lot to dig through, but every once in a while there’s something that gets me choked up (laughs). Sometimes I feel conflicted [about contacting the fan back], but I know that if I crossed that line, it would be over. [My] self control holds the upper hand.
Yamaguchi: Your self control is going for the pin. Should be an easy victory (laughs).
Ibushi: Yeah (laughs).
Yamaguchi: Do you drink?
Ibushi: I usually don’t. I don’t drink alone or anything like that. [But] if the occasion arises, I will have a drink [at the right time and place]. Since I basically can’t drink alcohol [at all], I can only drink coke.
Yamaguchi: Do you have anything you hold dear or a keepsake or something like that?
Ibushi: [The author] of Kinnikuman, Mr Yudetamago, was so nice to draw a picture of me and Kinnikuman, and gave it to me.
Shibata: You got that as an extra prize of admiration from Yudetamago at the Puroresu Awards (in 2012), right?
Ibushi: I did. That was it!
Yamaguchi: I love [Kinnikuman] so much as well, so I’m super jealous. Which [character] from Kinnikuman did you like?
Ibushi: Usually Kinnikuman [himself]. There was a Kinnikuman Wrestling event once, right? Kinniku Mania (2009), or something. Robin Mask was there [too].
Yamaguchi: You look like [being] Robin Mask or Warsman or someone like that would suit you (laughs).
Ibushi: Speak for yourself (laughs).
Shibata: But neither of them came for the award ceremony (laughs). Ibushi had the flu, and Mr Yudetamago had burned himself…
Yamaguchi: How was it, going to WWE and having matches in that environment, where the training facilities and the ring and the venues and such are so large in scope and the fans are already [so] excited from the get-go?
Ibushi: It feels like the crowd is in a different mood right from the start. How should I put it…
Yamaguchi: It feels uncomfortable?
Ibushi: In a good sense…it’s fun and easy to do, and in a bad sense, it makes it [too] easy, or like, you lose [the will to put] effort into it. I feel like in DDT, I spent most of my time thinking about how I could get the crowd fired up, what I could do that they wanted to see.
Yamaguchi: In the world of WWE, I think they are in such a bubble with the fans that even if the talent changes, the excitement of the fans doesn’t change. Did you tell WWE that you wanted to get the fans fired up in your own way or anything like that?
Ibushi: I knew that, if I did what I had always been doing, then I would definitely get over. That turned out as expected.
Yamaguchi: Was there anything the WWE wrestlers said to you?
Ibushi: They told me to just do what I had been doing [in wrestling] in Japan. And then they were all surprised [by my athleticism] when I went ahead and actually did it.
Yamaguchi: Your style was mind-boggling to me! Your amazing athleticism, and then even more so because you do things no one else can do!
Ibushi: I’m glad to hear that.
Yamaguchi: So you firmly refused a multi-year deal with WWE. You prioritized yourself over the money.
Ibushi: I don’t really [care about] money…
Yamaguchi: I think that ephemeral side of yours that calls attention to your own wrestling, despite you putting your life on the line for it, that connects you to how the fans feel.
Shibata: I want to see more and more matches of yours.
Ibushi: I’m going to have a lot more matches starting in 2017!
Yamaguchi: Dear fans, please look forward to the next splendid chapter of Ibushi’s career. Thank you for today.
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1 The team of Mutô Keiji, Chôno Masahiro, and Hashimoto Shinya. Later inspired at least the naming of the “New Three Musketeers”, Tanahashi Hiroshi, Nakamura Shinsuke and Shibata Katsuyori.