After winning his second consecutive NJPW G1 Climax, Kota Ibushi is slowly cementing his legacy as one of the best wrestlers in the world.
From his beginnings in Dramatic Dream Team Wrestling to traveling the world and now a full-time contract with NJPW, it seems as if there is nothing Ibushi has not done.
Here is a look at the career of the Golden Star and how he went from a young boy in love with wrestling to a now two-time G1 Climax winner.
Before his wrestling career, Ibushi was already extremely athletic and sports inclined as he pursued karate in his early years. He even won a shin karate K-2 tournament in 2003. It was his talent for this that may have made his transition into the world of professional wrestling much smoother.
Dramatic Dream Team Wrestling (DDT)
Kota Ibushi made his professional wrestling debut on 1st July 2004 for Dramatic Dream Team (DDT) Wrestling. Although he lost his first match to wrestler Kudo, it was the only beginning of a very successful run for the Golden Star.
During his first few years in the company, Ibushi accomplished a lot. In 2005, he won his first title in the form of KO-D Tag Team Championships with Daichi Kakimoto. From there, he also won the Japanese Independent World Junior Heavyweight Championship, the DDT Ironman Heavyweight, and KO-D Openweight Championship.
However, many fans across the world remember his time in DDT for his tag team Golden Lovers with Kenny Omega. The duo first officially teamed up together on January 24th, 2009 and seemed to be the perfect fit from the start with a very similar high-flying and risk-taking style. In their first match, the team defeated HARASHIMA and Toru Owashi to win the KO-D Tag Team Championships. They held these titles until that May where they were defeated by Dick Togo and TAKA Michinoku.
During this time, Ibushi also accomplished a lot as a singles competitor making him a huge part of DDT’s history. He was a three-time KO-D Openweight champion, a three-time Ironman Heavyweight champion, and won the Best Match Award in 2012 for his match against Omega. Ibushi even had a match at DDT’s annual Peter Pan show against the NJPW representative and IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, a man whom Ibushi would come to be very familiar with.
After a successful time at DDT and following an injury, on February 21st, 2016, Ibushi announced that he was resigning from DDT after over a decade in the company.
During this time, Ibushi also gained a lot of experience across the world on the independent circuit. He was lucky enough to compete in different companies within Japan including New Japan and Big Japan Pro Wrestling. In 2008, he also competed in several US promotions including Ring of Honor, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, and Chikara.
New Japan Pro Wrestling Debut
It in May 2009, Ibushi took part in his first NJPW Best of Super Tournament where he wrestled against the likes of TAICHI, Jushin Thunder Liger, and Prince Devitt. From there, Ibushi was a regular in the Jr division not only taking part in more BoSJ’s but also as part of the Jr tag division with Kenny Omega.
In October 2011, the Golden Lovers defeated Apollo 55 (Ryusuke Taguchi and Prince Devitt) to hold the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Tag Championships for the first time together. It was also in that year that Ibushi first challenged for the IWGP Jr Heavyweight Championship at the Tokyo Dome against Devitt. Although he was unsuccessful, it was a title he would eventually hold after being Devitt at Dominion in 2011 and he would then go on to hold it a further two times.
After some time away from the company, Ibushi decided to add some weight and take part in the 2013 G1 Climax. This led him to sign a dual contract allowing him to work both in NJPW and back in DDT. He was the first wrestler to officially have two home promotions. It meant that Ibushi came much more of a strong presence within NJPW and cemented his legacy in the Jr division by winning the IWGP Jr Heavyweight title for his third time.
However, fans were shocked when Ibushi announced in 2014 that he had not only extended his NJPW contract but was now a fully-fledged heavyweight wrestler. He made his return after the G1 and challenged Shinsuke Nakamura for his IWGP Intercontinental Championship. Although defeated, Ibushi didn’t let this faze him. He went on to take part in another G1 and challenge for more of the bigger titles in the company.
Unfortunately, after a cervical disc herniation announced in November 2015, Ibushi was sidelined from New Japan and then handed in both his NJPW and DDT resignation claiming he could not handle the burden of two schedules.
WWE Cruiserweight Classic Tournament
Going back to the independent scene for a few months, in June 2016, Ibushi was announced as a participant in the WWE Cruiserweight Classic tournament. During this time, he fought against wrestlers from across the world including Buddy Murphy, Cedric Alexander, Brian Kendrick, and was eventually eliminated in the semi-final by TJP. Although Ibushi had a few more appearances on NXT teaming with Hideo Itami (KENTA) and TJP, he did not sign a WWE contract.
Return to NJPW
Ibushi continued on the independent scene until the 20th of June 2017 when New Japan announced that Ibushi was going to be returning to the company to compete in the 2017 G1 Climax.
However, his return was marked by one event: The Golden Lovers Reunion. After Ibushi beat Cody at Wrestle Kingdom 12, the Golden Star was attacked by Cody after the match. As this happened, Omega came out to save his former tag team partner. This gesture was repaid when Ibushi saved Omega from an attack from Cody and Hangman Page at the New Beginning in Sapporo tour. With this, they reunited the Golden Lovers for the first time since 2014. After this, the team went on to have high calibre tag matches and Ibushi was even Omega’s second when he finally beat Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship.
After speculation that Ibushi might be following Omega and joining All Elite Wrestling, the Golden Star announced on 11th February 2019 that he was signing a full-time NJPW contract.
This was a huge moment for Ibushi who idolised the Intercontinental title because it was held by his two heroes, Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi. Despite losing the title to Naito in his next defence, Ibushi year only got better. He went on to win his first G1 Climax and had the shot to challenge Kazuchika Okada for the Heavyweight belt at the Tokyo Dome.
Unfortunately, Ibushi’s Wrestle Kingdom experience was less than perfect. On the first night, he was defeated by Okada and then was beaten by Jay White on the second night. However, it seemed to be a small blemish. After these losses, Kota Ibushi went on to tag with his hero Tanahashi and the duo went on to win the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Championships from the Guerillas of Destiny as part of Golden Ace. Yet, like all the other wrestlers, his momentum was put on hold due to the pandemic.
Luckily, as NJPW returned, although Ibushi lost out in the New Japan Cup, Ibushi has just managed to win his second consecutive G1 Climax. As one of the standouts in the tournament with amazing matches against the likes of Jay White, Minoru Suzuki, Kazuchika Okada, and TAICHI, the Golden Star made it to his third consecutive final. By beating SANADA in the final, he also joined an exclusive list of back-to-back winners which consist of Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Masahiro Chono.
With several people eyeing up his Tokyo Dome contract, including Jay White, only time will tell what Ibushi’s 2020 and 2021 will be like. Many fans would love to see the Golden Star hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and hopefully that will happen at some point.