Kota Ibushi has made it close to the IWGP Heavyweight title in the past but failed. The next chapter of his story features another shot at Wrestle Kingdom 15.
The stage for Wrestle Kingdom 15 is set. The two-day card has important matches on both nights. However, the night-one battle between Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi stands out as one that will have fans glued to their seats. These two men are not only battling for the two titles in Naito’s position, but they are also fighting for the “opportunity” to face Jay White on night-two. With all the history and success both men experienced in recent months, this is the match to see for Wrestle Kingdom 15.
On one side there is Naito, the man who holds the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles. He overcame the road bump that was Evil earlier in 2020, but outside of that, he has been widely dominant as champion. At least it seems that way. Even with those titles in his hands, he is still suffered several losses, especially in the 2020 edition of the G1 Climax. For many, it is a surprise to see Naito as such a long-running champion this year. Some may blame altered plans due to COVID-19 or this being a “final” run of sorts for Naito at the top of the card. Either way, he is performed well with the main event on his shoulders.
Then there is Ibushi. This year he claimed the G1 trophy for the second time in a row. But something about this victory feels different than the 2019 win. In 2019 Ibushi announced his intentions to remain with NJPW as other developments were happening that led to the establishment of All Elite Wrestling. He went on to win the G1 for the first time, but everything fell apart at Wrestle Kingdom 14 where he lost to Kazuchika Okada on night one, then lost to Jay White the next day. Those are the types of defeats that can define a career. The lights were shining the brightest and Ibushi was unable to get the job done.
It is that type of storytelling that makes New Japan so special. Since losing at Wrestle Kingdom to start 2020, Ibushi has been on a tear. Not only has he continued to find singles success, but he also earned the IWGP tag team titles for a strong run with Hiroshi Tanahashi. But now is time for Ibushi to stand tall as a singles champion. In 2019 word was that he signed a two-year deal to remain a part of the New Japan roster. Booking him into the title picture and finally as an established champion is the right call if the promotion intends to keep one of their best and perhaps one of the top performers in the industry on their team.
However, to get that win he has to go through the man that not only beat him in 2019 at the same show but also defeated him for the Wrestle Kingdom title shot at Power Struggle in November. These two are linked in a story that shouldn’t end but only begin a new chapter.
Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi are going to tear the house down during their night-one match at Wrestle Kingdom 15. As Jay White stands waiting for the victory the next day, Ibushi is poised to face him in what should be the next step in the main event feud that New Japan can build itself on for time to come. The question is whether now the time is to give Ibushi his long-overdue push to the top of New Japan Pro Wrestling.