Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi have teased the debut of the Golden Lovers in AEW, but who exactly are the tag team that took the wrestling world by storm in Japan?
Who are the Golden Lovers?
The Golden Lovers are a tag team in professional wrestling containing Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi. The duo found fame first teaming together in DDT (a Japanese wrestling promotion), before reaching singles success in New Japan Pro Wrestling. The pair eventually reunited in NJPW and became one of the most beloved tag teams in the division, with fans clamouring for a return of the duo.
The duo’s relationship began in the mid 2000s, when they met up as part of the roster for DDT. They quickly formed a strong friendship (maybe even more?) and began teaming together, becoming one of the best and most exciting junior heavyweight tag teams in the world.
The two formed Golden Lovers (stylised as “Golden☆Lovers) in 2009 and instantly became one of the top teams in DDT. Their innovative in-ring work made their matches must-see but it was their characters that made them stand out from the rest of the pack. The name Golden Lovers came from the nickname for Kota Ibushi (Golden Star) and the fact the two were said to be lovers.
The pair were a typical high-flying babyface tag team, with once crucial difference – they were in love. Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi were partners who were in love, with their characters being that they were a gay couple who were also a tag team.
The duo brought romance into professional wrestling, something not tried in Japan since the 1990s with the WAR (Wrestling and Romance) promotion. The duo being a couple was something not seen in the East, with promotions being generally split by gender in Japan. This gave them a unique story to tell, with fans wanting to see the couple not only win inside the ring, but to do so together as a pair.
It was a great love story that lasted for five years in DDT. In that time, the Golden Lovers won the KO-D Tag Team Championship twice, as well as defeating Apollo 55 (Ryusuke Taguchi and Prince Devitt) to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship in 2011. Becoming champions in both promotions was a huge accomplishment few tag teams can claim and doing so with such a controversial gimmick at the time makes it even more impressive.
However, the partnership would come to end when Kenny Omega would sign full time for New Japan Pro Wrestling. Whilst Kota Ibushi has since called NJPW his home, at the time he was still exploring his options as one of the most sought after freelancers in the wrestling world.
Kenny Omega would battle it out in the Junior Heavyweight Division in New Japan, eventually conquering all that faced him and moving up the Heavyweight Division. He quickly ousted AJ Styles as the leader of the infamous Bullet Club stable, become a top star in the company and forging an incredible feud with Kazuchika Okada.
Omega would defeat Okada in a 7 star match to win the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, being the first Gaijin (or foreigner) to win the belt since AJ Styles years prior. He became a beloved main eventer due to his in-ring skills and was one of the top stars in the company until his departure in 2019 to help form AEW.
Meanwhile, Ibushi would tour around the world, wrestling as much as he could in his bid to become the best wrestler in the world. He had numerous classic matches, most notably being the Wrestle Kingdom 9 classic against Shinsuke Nakamura. He also appeared in the WWE during the Cruiserweight Classic, where he reportedly hi-fived Vince McMahon after not knowing who he was.
He would later sign full time for New Japan and would become the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, unify the IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental Championship belts. The Golden Lovers did reunite at The New Beginning in Sapporo in January 2018, after 4 years apart. They embraced in the ring and introduced Ibushi into The Elite, teaming together as the Golden Elite.
However, in January 2019, Kenny Omega lost his IWGP Heavyweight Championship to Hiroshi Tanahashi and left NJPW for good. He, along with fellow Elite members Adam Page and The Young Bucks, left the company (and Ibushi) to form All Elite Wrestling (AEW) in the United States. Despite being part of the Golden Lovers, Kenny Omega did not invite Kota Ibushi to the promotion, breaking his heart an disbanding the team, possible for good.
But at Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega a couple in real life?
Are The Golden Lovers Gay?
While many assume that the Golden Lovers are in a gay relationship together, they have never confirmed their sexuality to wrestling fans.
There has been questions over their sexuality in recent years, especially with their characters portrayed in the ring. The pair tagged together as the “Golden Lovers“, and played up some aspects of their “relationship” for the fans in DDT, implying that the pair were together. While it was never confirmed to the fans that the pair were dating, it is considered general knowledge amongst fans that the pair were in fact in a relationship at one point in time.
Neither Kota Ibushi nor Kenny Omega have confirmed whether or not they were in a relationship. Both have referenced each other multiple times since they have been separated from each other (Ibushi in NJPW, Omega in AEW) although they have yet to reunite since Kenny Omega left New Japan in 2019.
In an interview with Dave Doyle (an openly gay journalist himself, Kenny Omega spoke about whether or not he and Ibushi are gay themselves. When asked about whether the Golden Lovers were truly partners in life, Omega refused to state if it was true or not, instead deciding to “let people think what they want to think”.
“Let people think what they want to think. If LGBT people can identify with our story, if they think ‘the Golden Lovers are my team,’ I’m good with that. It’s the story of two wrestlers who shared dreams on their way up, who became fast friends, who are now reuniting at the top of their game.
Will The Golden Lovers Be In AEW?
The Golden Lovers could be debuting in AEW soon, as the duos appearance in the company was recently teased by Kota Ibushi. When asked about AEW on Twitter, Kota Ibishu stated that he would go “three times” to the promotion, and finished the tweet with the words “But Lovers Can”, teasing that the Golden Lovers could make an appearance in the company
“I have high expectations for AEW, so I’ll go three times. I can’t promise that the card will be assembled correctly, but Lovers can.”
(the Tweet has been translated with Google Translate so may not be wholly accurate, so take with a pinch of salt).
Up until now, it has seemed impossible for Kota Ibushi to appear for AEW. In the early days of the promotion, the relationship between AEW and NJPW had soured greatly, due to the perceived disrespect by The Elite for leaving the promotion to start their own.
However, new management in New Japan has fixed the relationship between the two and has made it more likely for a Golden Lovers reunion in AEW or New Japan. The two companies collaborated with a joint show named “Forbidden Door” featuring talent from both promotions, so it is likely that Kota Ibushi will jump over to AEW at some point in the future to reunite with his “lover”.
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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.