Kota Ibushi contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling is confirmed to expire in January 2023 – amid interest from AEW in the Japanese wrestling superstar.
Ibushi was considered one of the best wrestlers in the world over the past few years and was thought of as one of the top stars in New Japan. He became the man to unify the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships in 2021 and was the last ever IWGP Heavyweight Champion, before it was merged to create the world heavyweight championship instead.
However, he has not been seen inside the ring for over a year. His last match came at the 2021 G1 Climax final when he wrestled against the ace of NJPW, Kazuchika Okada. Ibushi has previously won the past two iterations of the tournament and was hoping to become the first ever wrestler to win three consecutive cups.
Sadly, he suffered a major shoulder injury in the match and the referee had to call the match in Okada’s favour after 25 minutes. He was expected to miss Wrestle Kingdom 16 but fans had hoped to see him back in the room again once he had healed. Sadly, over a year later, he is nowhere to be seen with rumours of his injury setbacks being worse than first thought.
However, news of his contract expiring has been the talk of the company in the build up to Wrestle Kingdom 17, with Dave Meltzer having some exclusive news about the expiry date of Kota Ibushi’s NJPW contract
Writing in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Dave Meltzer confirmed that Kota Ibushi’s contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling expires in January 2023, after their biggest event of the year – Wrestle Kingdom 17. The famed wrestling journalist noted that there had been “a lot of bad feelings over the past year” between Ibushi and the company.
He also confirmed that the Golden Star has been training in the ring lately, for the first time since his horrific injury in the final of the 2021 G1 Climax.
“Kota Ibushi has been in light training in the ring of late and thus far the shoulder has held up well so that’s a good sign. His New Japan contract expires at the end of January and he made a tweet hinting at that. There was a lot of bad feelings over the past year but nothing is definite regarding staying or leaving at that point past he brought it up in a cryptic way about being a free agent in two months.”
The rumours about Kota Ibushi signing a contract with AEW in the coming weeks have begun to intensify, especially with recent actions and comments from his former Golden Lovers tag team partner Kenny Omega. In recent matches, Omega has name dropped Ibushi, used his wrestling moves in the Elite’s best of seven series against Death Triangle and even wore a Kota Ibushi shirt in the sixth match of the series.
The two men’s careers have been intertwined for years (especially given the rumoured nature of their relationship) and there would be no better place to tell the final part of their story than in the main event of an AEW show. Do you think AEW should sign Kota Ibushi once his NJPW contract expires in 2023?