My translation of an interview with Ibushi Kôta and Kenny Omega published in the Weekly Pro magazine on 2/4 2009. To my knowledge, this was the first ever joint Ibushi and Kenny interview.
Original content and images © BBM.
As always, my annotations are , and annotations by the original publication are in ().
First of all, congratulations on winning the tag titles.
Ibushi: Thank you.
Kenny: Thank you very much!
It’s surprising you won the belts in your third match as a team.
Ibushi: We have gradually gotten into sync. Even if we don’t practice [together] that much, we are in sync in the matches.
Kenny: When we had our singles match (August 6th 2008, DDT Beer Garden Wrestling in Shinkiba), I felt a chemistry, something that was connecting us, and I thought if we became teammates, we could lift each other up.
In our report for the Tag Team title match on 1/24 in Shinkiba, we described you two as “Golden Twins”. It really seems that you are in sync like twins even outside the ring, even though you come from different countries and you’re a different age.
Kenny: No twins! Kenny and Ibushi, Lovers!! (laughs)
Ibushi: Golden Lovers?! (laughs)
Kenny: Yes! I have heard that sometimes, there is somebody on the other side of the planet who is doing the exact same thing the moment you are doing it. I think in wrestling, he is that for me.
Ibushi, you didn’t think either that there would be someone who’s so in sync with you, did you?
Ibushi: No, I didn’t.
Kenny: That’s all?! (laughs)
Ibushi: No, no. I’m happy. There’s no one aside from Kenny. I want him to know I cherish him. Even outside of wrestling, we match.
Kenny: I really think that, in order to create a wonderful tag team that everybody remembers, you have to love your partner even outside the ring, and you always have to take care of them. For example, the Rockers, the Rock’n’Roll Express, the Briscoe Brothers, the Hardy Boys…they trust each other, and because they share common views in real life too, that reflects in the ring as well. Just because two really good guys are tagging, doesn’t mean they are a good team.
Ibushi: Well said!
Kenny: Are you my manager?! (laughs)
Directly after you won the belts, you talked about your goal being to defend them abroad. I didn’t expect this kind of comment from you, Ibushi, as you hate [being] away from Japan.
Ibushi: Yeah. I’m scared of [being] in a foreign country, so it’ll be painful. When I [went to America] recently (April 2008, when he appeared for ROH), I was really scared, so I took Nakazawa (Michael) with me as interpreter. But if I [go with] Kenny, I’ll be all right. I’ll be at ease, even if I travel abroad.
Kenny: Yeah! (laughs)
How do you communicate when Nakazawa isn’t there?
Ibushi: I’m [talking in] Japanese, Kenny in English.
Kenny: Uhm…Nuance! Body language.
Ibushi: We can tell. Somehow. Somehow, we know what [the other] is thinking.
Oh, did you understand him right now?
Kenny: Maybe, yes!
What are you usually doing when you hang out?
Ibushi: We’re fooling around in the dojo while working out, or [we go to] the arcade. Stuff like that.
Kenny: We’re two lonely men, but we just want to have fun. We’ll think of each other and have fun (laughs).
I see (laughs). So, what do you like the most about the other, or what do you think is great about him?
Ibushi: Definitely his adaptability. He’s amazing at matching himself to people. That goes for adapting himself to his tag team partner in wrestling as well, like with the Golden Shower (double Firebird Splashes, a tag team move that they used as the finisher for the title match on 1/24 in Shinkiba), but there are a lot of different people in the world. He can adapt himself to all of them, in his private life. That really is…that’s incredible.
Kenny: I think we’re similar to each other, but…Maybe his mobility, athletic ability? He’s especially good at high flying. Actually, by tagging with him, I can face new challenges for myself. That’s very inspiring. Me and Ibushi, we each have different areas where we exceed. I’m trying to keep up with Ibushi when it comes to the high flying part. When it comes to the comedy part on the other hand, I excel at that more than Ibushi, so I want him to come up to this [level]. Like this, we lift each other up, and in the end, I hope we can both become even more wonderful wrestlers.
Ibushi: Oh, also Kenny’s really expressive. When he’s hurting, or angry, or having fun. I’m studying that when we’re in the ring together.
Kenny: Oh! I didn’t think about that (laughs).
One common thing you share is your love for indie [wrestling].
Kenny, for this tour in Japan, you’re quietly having a one match event with Dragon Soldier LAW (1/12, Takashimadaira [St.]) in Itabashi, right? How in the world did it come to that…?
Kenny: DSL! That happened because I made a comment about him on S-ARENA on Samurai!TV.
Ibushi: When the three of us, with Nakazawa, appeared on that, he suddenly blurted out that he loves DSL.
Kenny: I got asked by Mita (Mita Sayoko) which wrestlers I like, and I said that I like DSL and Tanaka Safety Wrestling. Then he himself contacted me. Though I also actually got an offer from Tanaka Safety. Next, I might do wrestling [in a] karaoke box with Tanaka Safety!
Kenny: I want everyone to understand that I love the indies. How should I put this…I don’t hide it when I love something or when I hate something, and I don’t plan to mince my words either. I think there are guys who hide what they really like or really hate and don’t talk about it, but I couldn’t do that.
Ibushi: He really is like (me).
Ibushi: This is good!
How was the actual match with DSL?
Kenny: Aah..It turned out to be completely different from what I had imagined at first (bitter laugh).
Ibushi: I watched the video of it later, but I wish I could have gone! I had gone home to Kagoshima at that time.
By the way, what are you keeping your eyes on lately on the indies?
Ibushi: Lately, more than indies, it’s Kaiju [for me].
Kaiju?! Oh, you mean when you said you want to be in Kaiju Big Battel during contract talks this year?
Ibushi (grinning): Yes!
What is that, anyway?
Ibushi: Huh, you don’t know what Kaiju Big Battel is?!
I’m sorry, I came unprepared…
Ibushi: So called army nerds and kaiju nerds do something similar to wrestling, while wearing costumes.
Where did you come to learn of it?
Ibushi: When I was in ROH last year. A woman who said she’s in Kaiju Big Fight came to see me. Then, after my match, she came to ask me if I would have a match with her and gave me about 10 DVDs. I wondered what the hell they were and watched then, and then [I was] already [hooked]…I wanted to be there as soon as possible, but I had a lot of things to do last year, so I didn’t bring it up. Then, next year, or, well, this year, I thought about bringing it up during contract renewals. I saved up for a year. I will absolutely be going to be at Kaiju [Big Battel] this year.
Please don’t talk like [you’re on] “I Will Win☆My Dream”1…By the way, when you watched the video, what did you think?
Ibushi: I want to become a kaiju.
Do you, Kenny, have any interest in Kaiju [Big Battel]?
Kenny: I don’t hate it, but…I don’t think that’s wrestling. But, I do want to try and become a kaiju.
Do you now? (laughs) Returning to the topic, currently DDT is working towards the big goal of [having a] show in Ryôgoku.
Kenny: If I can come back right in time for that, I definitely want to be there.
If you keep your belts until then, there is a high chance you’ll be on [the show].
Ibushi: Speaking of Ryôgoku…[that’s where] the [Best of the] Super Junior [tournament] in ‘94 [was]! And Michinoku [Pro] in ‘96 and ‘97!!
Seems like you have an emotional attachment to it. Are you elated to stand in the same place where these [events took place]?
Ibushi: No, I’m not.
Ibushi: Well…because it’s completely different. It’s DDT’s Ryôgoku this time. Of course it’s the big stage, and I’m very motivated, but to be honest, I’m also anxious, so.
Kenny: However, I think DDT just has that power to fascinate the fans at a big, Ryôgoku-level show. This is a chance [for them].
The main event for Ryôgoku will be the title match for the KO-D Openweight Championship. Ibushi, you’ve made your challenge to Takagi Sanshirô for the very same championship on 2/22 in Kôrakuen…
Ibushi: I’ll do my best!
Did you challenge this time because you were having your eyes on a big match?
Ibushi: Hmm…that doesn’t really have anything to do with that, for me. I’m always after the belts, and we got the tag belts, and I feel good. [I thought,] I have to make my move now that I have the momentum!
I heard you started going to the gym for kickboxing again after four and half years.
Ibushi: Whenever I [used kicks in a match], I was sort of feeding from the “savings” I had accumulated while doing kickboxing in the past. But over time, those disappeared too, so I thought, I had to get more stamina and such as well, and I began going [to the gym again]. Naturally, the first three days or so were very rough (wry laugh), but as I stuck to it for a while, I returned to about the same [level] where I was when I was actively [kickboxing].
Kenny: We talked earlier about lifting each other up, and this is it, right? I have a singles [belt] right now in my hometown in Canada. So I want Ibushi to also become a singles champion.
Ibushi: Thank you (laughs).
So, Kenny, you’re going home later in February, but how was your second time in a DDT ring?
Kenny: I think I was able to achieve two different goals. The first one was having matches again in Japan. Of course, not just having matches, but in the sense of fascinating the fans with a wonderful, memorable performance. The other one was winning a title in Japan. We won the KO-D Tag Team belts. And then that opened up even bigger goals and dreams for me. That’s the dream of wanting to become popular as a tag team with Ibushi in the whole world. For that purpose we’re practicing together in this dojo and we developed our finisher…Oh, right, right! We practiced the Golden Shower here in this OPG dojo, and it’s a really dangerous move. But, I want to thank a member of OPG, AK, for volunteering to take that move so we could perfect it. With this tag team that we built thanks to their hard work, I really want to set my sight not just on DDT or Japan, but the whole world. However…I actually haven’t talked to Ibushi about that yet. It doesn’t matter unless Ibushi agrees to it (wry laugh).
He says, [so what do you think, Ibushi]?
Ibushi: He wants to go around the world as a tag team, right? Okay!
It feels like [he meant] something a bit different…
Ibushi: Hmm…You’re talking about becoming popular in the whole world, right? All right, we’re not just going to become popular, we’re going to spread! I know what you’re thinking about (grins).
Kenny: Thank you!
Interview postscript: First of all, I want you to take a good look at the photos that line these pages you have opened. What happy faces the two of them have! These goofy pictures are actually not something that we pointed them to, but something they came up with and did on the spot. I was surprised again at how well they get along when we did this interview. I was deeply moved by how well people can understand each other, even though they were born and raised differently.
The moment they are together, their surroundings immediately brighten. Laughter never stopped for even a minute on the site of the photo shoot. It was their natural chemistry as two guys who love pro wrestling and just can’t help it. In the modern world where gloomy news are rampant, the power of their sunshine fills everything with a bright, strong light.
1 A defunct show highlighting New Japan’s younger talent and their aspirations. Succeeded by Lion’s Gate. My understanding is the interviewer is lightly making fun of Ibushi talking like a young lion.