Kota Ibushi has long been considered one of the best wrestlers in the world, with even Vince McMahon wanting to sign the Japanese star at one point in time. The Golden Star is currently under contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling and is one of the top stars in the company (despite an injury keeping him out for almost a year) so the chance of WWE signing him any time soon is slim-to-none.
However, in 2016 Kota Ibushi did work for Vince McMahon as he took part in the beloved Cruiserweight Classic Tournament. The former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion was one of the biggest names in the tournament, which included fellow New Japan star Zack Sabre Jr, AEW’s Ariya Daivari and WWE stars Mustafa Ali and Tommaso Ciampa, as well as many more.
Ibushi was the favourite to win the tournament, however the only question on his victory would be whether or not he would sign a deal with WWE. Vince McMahon famously only signs talent to exclusive contracts, meaning Kota Ibushi would only be able to wrestle in WWE. This is something that was at odds with his style at the time as he was considered one of the biggest free agents in wrestling, even refusing to sign a deal with New Japan.
Ibushi did not sign the deal with WWE and as such would fall to TJ Perkins in the semi-final match, losing by submission. He would leave WWE after this match and would never wrestle for the company again, eventually penning a deal with New Japan to make him one of their top stars and one of the biggest names in professional wrestling.
However, a story emerged from one of his appearances in NXT that had the wrestling world in stitches. The former Golden Lovers member is known for his unique outlook on life (Ibushi claims he lives in 25 hour days) and as such has certain blind spots in the world. One of these is knowing who the owner of WWE is.
During NXT Takeover Dallas (where Ibushi was taped sitting in the crowd watch the show, a staple of golden-era NXT), the Japanese star was spotted backstage at some point during the show. As reported by Enuhito, a Japanese wrestling reporter, Kota Ibushi went backstage and “high-five” to a “big man”. Unbeknownst to the Golden Star, the “big man” in question was Vince McMahon.
Not being a childhood fan of the WWE, Kota Ibushi did not know who Vince McMahon was, despite him working for the former WWE Champion at that point. It is likely that he only had dealings with Triple H, who ran NXT and organised the Cruiserweight Classic and never had a conversation with McMahon during his time with the company.
According to further reports, staff backstage were “really upset” that Ibushi seemingly disrespected the Chairman by high-fiving him whilst not know he was the man behind the success of the whole WWE. However despite the mix-up, Vince McMahon still wanted to sign Kota Ibushi for the 205 Live roster. Unfortunately, he refused and returned to New Japan.
As hard as this story seems to believe, it was confirmed by wrestling Journalist Dave Meltzer. After being alerted of the report via tweet, he replied simply with “That story is true by the way”.
It would be confirmed by Ibushi’s former Golden lover partner Kenny Omega, as the former AEW Champion Kenny Omega chimed in with his opinion on the matter. Omega and Ibushi were rumoured to be dating at one point and are very close friends, so he would have spoken to his friend about the incident as it had happened.
He replied to Meltzer confirming the story, stating “Hard to believe, but yeah, some of the most talented wrestlers in the world aren’t constantly walking on eggshells and scared shitless of their boss.”
It is likely now that Kota Ibushi and Vince McMahon are aware of each other and were introduced at some point after the infamous high-five. Kota Ibushi is rumoured to be joining AEW and reuniting the Golden Lovers in AEW once he has recovered from his injuries, as well as competing in NJPW to regain his IWGP World Heavyweight Championship.