Kota Ibushi looked set to make history at the 2021 G1 Climax, until an injury cost him his New Japan Pro Wrestling career in one fell swoop.
The Japanese star had built himself up over the years as one of the best wrestlers in the world. Until his injury, few could compete with Kota Ibushi inside the ring.
This is why he was pushed so hard in New Japan. After a short spell in WWE as part of the Cruiserweight Classic, he signed full-time with the promotion (after years as a freelancer) and began his push to the main event of Wrestle Kingdom.
He won two consecutive G1 Climax Tournaments (2019 & 2020), and main evented Wrestle Kingdom 14 and 15 (facing Kazuchika Okada, Tetsuya Naito and Jay White, in respective matches).
He won both IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships at Wrestle Kingdom 15, unifying the belts and forming the new IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.
This did not endear him to the fans, but eventually they got used to the new title and the new lineage. He was soon seen as a top star in the company, alongside Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi.
The 2021 G1 Climax came and Ibushi soon made it to his third successful final. Nobody had ever won three tournaments in a row, and the Golden Star looked set to make history.
However, it would all go so wrong.
Kota Ibushi Was Injured In The G1 Climax
After winning his group in the G1 Climax in 2021, Kota Ibushi was drawn into a huge clash with one of the greatest champions of all time – Kazuchika Okada.
The winner of the bout would win the chance to face Shingo Tagaki for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship in the main event of Wrestle Kingdom 16.
The match was on the 21st October, 2021 and emanated from Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, Japan.
Kota Ibushi had won the previous two editions of the legendary tournament (2019 and 2020), and was aiming to make history, as the first man to win three in a row.
The match between Ibushi and Okada lasted 25 minutes, and was one of the best G1 finals of all time. However, the ending of the match completely soured it, and made it one fans don’t go back and watch.
At the end of the match, Kota Ibushi suffered a shoulder injury which rendered him unable to wrestle. While he would usually wrestle through injuries, this one was so bad that the referee was forced to stop the match.
Okada was given the win by referee stoppage, earning his match against Shingo Tagaki at Wrestle Kingdom.
While many hoped that Kota Ibushi’s injury would heal soon, and see him wrestle at Wrestle Kingdom the following year, he would never wrestle for NJPW again.
The shoulder injury proved worse than expected, with him losing strength in the arm all the way up to his return to wrestling in April 2023.
The injury put an end to Kota Ibushi’s NJPW career, although a controversial rant about NJPW and the Yazuka also had a big effect on his career coming to an end.
Kota Ibushi Was Nearly Fired By NJPW For A Series Of Tweets
In May 2022, Kota Ibushi opened a pandoras box of rumours and accusations that he could never close again.
The former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion was out injured at that time, still recovering from his shoulder injury from the G1 Climax final.
In a series of Tweet, following NJPW officials trying to get him to return to wrestling while injured, Kota Ibushi claimed he would “expose all about the former cheaters-gun (already returned) and the sexually harassing bosses”, indicating that he would reveal some dark secrets surrounding the New Japan Pro Wrestling bosses.
However, later tweets indicate that the NJPW bosses tried to get Ibushi to return to wrestling before he was ready, furthering his discontent with the company and helping to prompt him to post the damning tweets.
It was reported that Kota Ibushi was fired after the outburst, although that turned out to be false.
Instead, he waited out his contract and was released by NJPW in early 2023. He wrestled his first match in two years once leaving, facing off with “Speedball” Mike Bailey in a match over WrestleMania weekend.
His injury now seems fully healed, and Kota Ibushi is expected to debut in AEW soon, likely as part of The Elite for a Blood & Guts match against the Blackpool Combat Club.
Kota Ibushi’s injury made him miss Wrestle Kingdom, but did you know he was planned to face Kenny Omega in the Tokyo Dome?
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.