In part two of his post G1 Climax interview, Kota Ibushi goes in depth on his plans as G1 winner, including his press conference proposal to wrestle in back-to-back title matches in the Tokyo Dome!
Have I changed? I don’t think I have. I don’t feel any different, anyway.
–After you won the G1, you talked about a new era starting. Now, one would assume that meant the ‘Ibushi Era’, so to speak.
Ibushi: Ah, not really. I think it’s more a case of a new era for pro wrestling at large, including me. Wrestling has really changed this year. I think it’s in the middle of a big change right now.
–We’re coming into something new, after the era that Tanahashi brought us into.
Ibushi: What Tanahashi led, that wasn’t just him, but everybody around him expressing themselves. This era now; winning the G1 put me in the position where I was able to declare it as a thing. I’ve felt for a while that we’re entering a new era, but it wasn’t until I won the G1 that I was in a position to say as such.
–You talked about ‘getting the right to speak’. It was quite a novel turn of phrase.
Ibushi: Right. There was something I wanted to say for a long time, but winning the G1 finally meant I had the right to say it.
–I think it was one of the first times you really spoke like a top guy. Before it’s seemed as if you had ideas or feelings that you were holding in somewhat.
Ibushi: Maybe I haven’t asserted myself much before.
–And then at the press conference, to come out with that idea of going for two championships. It was so unexpected in itself, and then for you to just put it out here was very unlike you.
Ibushi: Really? Have I changed? I don’t think I have. I don’t feel any different, anyway.
–No, it’s just that you’ve suddenly started speaking your mind a lot more.
Ibushi: Yeah, I get that. There was plenty of stuff I wanted to say before, but then it would be ‘who cares what you think?’ (laughs)
–Really? I think you could have said more before, too!
Ibushi: Hmm, I was stopping myself a lot of the time.
–Wary of putting yourself out there?
Ibushi: Right. But when I won the G1 I finally felt like I was in a position to say all these things. To talk about this new era we’re in.
IWGP Heavyweight, then Intercontinental, two back to back days, in the Tokyo Dome. It’s… Legendary.
–You’ve been talking about wanting to broaden the scope of pro wrestling for a long time now. Once you said you wanted to wrestle on the street outside Shibuya station.
Ibushi: Yeah. That feeling, wanting to broaden pro wrestling, that hasn’t changed. And wrestling in the street, that was one experience, one experiment. I wrestled in the street. It broadened pro wrestling by, oh, this much. OK, onto the next thing. That’s one way of expressing yourself through pro wrestling. But now I think I’m, like, five levels beyond that.
–Winning the G1 means that much to a wrestler.
Ibushi: It makes that goal of broadening wrestling easier. Even people who don’t know anything about wrestling will listen to that message more coming from a G1 winner. If you’re no big name, it doesn’t matter whether what you’re saying or doing is any good, people will just ignore you. It just ends at ‘What the hell is that geek talking about?’
–A fair point.
Ibushi: But when you’re the G1 winner, then people look at you differently and listen to you more closely. If I’m the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, I can spread my vision of wrestling even further. And if I were to win the Heavyweight, then the Intercontinental in two back to back days, in the Tokyo Dome. That’s… legendary.
–It would be, indeed.
Ibushi: If I could accomplish that, then I could make wrestling bigger in an instant. Someone being able to achieve a feat like that, everybody would take notice, and from there, a good performance suddenly has all these people along for the ride. That’s my goal here.
–I understand. Still, it took guts to announce that idea for the Tokyo Dome.
Ibushi: But it’s completely, completely different to what Naito’s been saying about wanting to be a double champion. When I was asked during the press conference if it was a message to Naito, I said ‘maybe a little’, but the truth is, ‘not much’.
–Not much? That in itself is not going to make Naito happy…
Ibushi: Haha, well it’s just coincidence that for two very different reasons, we both want to hold double gold. But the idea of having two title matches in back to back nights, that’s a first right? I was the first person to say that?
–Nobody else put that out there, you’re right. Naito said he wanted to be the first double champion, but your vision seems more detailed at this point. Then again, Naito does hold the Intercontinental Championship at the moment, that’s a big difference.
Ibushi: Right. I don’t have either of the necessary parts of the whole idea (laughs).
–You can kind of imagine challenging the IWGP Heavyweight champion while holding the Intercontinental Championship. On the other hand, that prospect, if your idea is put into practice, how will it happen, what will it look like? That’s exciting.
Ibushi: It’d be awesome right? That in itself would be broadening pro wrestling.
–But before all of that, you’ll likely be defending your Right to Challenge Contract against both KENTA and EVIL.
–Before you faced him in Dallas, you mentioned KENTA as someone you were mindful of. How was it actually wrestling him?
Ibushi: The ankle injury was what it was, and I couldn’t put as much into the match as I wanted to. But up to that point, he was exactly as I’d imagined. Still a hard hitter.
–At the last night of the G1, KENTA joined BULLET CLUB.
Ibushi: Unbelievable, right? Why did he come to New Japan? After his match with me he offered a handshake, and did the same with Tanahashi and Ospreay, right?
–It seemed he was doing that every match.
Ibushi: That’s what I don’t get. He seemed to be respecting the hontai members, so why would he then go and join BULLET CLUB? Was that something he’d always planned to do from the beginning, or did he get drawn to BULLET CLUB after he’d started?
–It’s a mystery. But he seemed to be enjoying himself when it happened.
Ibushi: Enjoying himself?
–He was grinning ear to ear.
Ibushi: Oh, really.
–KENTA has quickly surrounded himself with new people, but in the meantime, you mentioned in your post match comments that you’re a lone wolf. It’s quite the contrast.
Ibushi: I’ve been a lone wolf for a long time. But I did feel kind of lonely at the G1 final.
–You were lonely? I suppose it would have been nice to see all the hontai members come and greet you after you won.
Ibushi: Yeah, it would.
–Tanahashi didn’t show his face.
Ibushi: Well, there’s probably a reason for that.
I just have to work on rehabbing the ankle. There’s no treatment, but I don’t need surgery.
–Let’s talk about EVIL. You had mentioned that you were looking forward to facing him…
Ibushi: I feel pretty bad about it, but that match, my ankle was in pretty rough shape.
–It was your first match since the ankle injury.
Ibushi: I talked before about deciding after Dallas I needed to change my style, to not fly during my matches. This was the first match on form that, so at that point…
–It was a case of trial and error for you.
Ibushi: Right. Before the injury I would be putting all I have in my old style. During that match I was putting all I had into changing it. With the EVIL match I hadn’t really settled on my new match style. It took coming through the G1 to perfect that style. If we could have another match now, I’d go with my current kicks and knees, my current results driven style.
–I see. The ankle is still an issue, but it isn’t a case of taking the time off to go straight to hospital.
Ibushi: No. There isn’t really anything to do but work on rehabbing it. There’s no treatment per se. But I don’t need surgery.
–How is it feeling now?
Ibushi: It’s a sprained ligament, but there was also some damage done to the bone. Touching the bone hurts, and there’s a ligament underneath there that’s sprained. The ligaments hold the bone in place, so if I relax it, everything just falls apart. You might have seen in the final, my thigh muscles were always bulging; I had to keep it tense the whole time.
–That sounds really tough.
Ibushi: As of right now, I’m really trying not to move it. I have little jobs to do but no major movement like a match for a couple of weeks (interview conducted August 13) so I can focus on getting it better.
The injury was a good experience all in all. It showed me I can overcome some really tough situations.
–To change the subject a little bit, it seemed as if you really enjoyed your match with SANADA on July 20.
Ibushi: I did.
–There were interesting words exchanged before that match. SANADA had said that you were better than Okada and Tanahashi. You were asking whether SANADA was happy where he is in LIJ.
Ibushi: He doesn’t really fit in with LIJ to me. I think there’s a spot for him where he can be at his best, and it isn’t as SANADA, it’s as Seiya Sanada.
–You would rather see SANADA as Seiya Sanada. Would you rather see him in hontai in that case?
Ibushi: I think so. But it doesn’t really matter what I think. What SANADA thinks is the most important thing.
–At the end of the G1, it just as easily have been Tetsuya Naito opposite you in the final as Jay White. Being completely honest, was a part of you hoping that Naito would have made the final?
Ibushi: No. I didn’t think that far in advance. Any thoughts like that are things you wind up taking into the match with you. I decided beforehand to go into it completely neutral and that’s what I did. You can’t know what’s going to happen, and you have to be ready for anyone, so staying neutral is the best choice.
–You didn’t have time to think about Naito.
Ibushi: Not at all. I was busy enough thinking about my ankle.
–So the ankle became a major theme for you in the G1. When you think about it, it’s impressive that you were able to overcome that injury.
Ibushi: Absolutely. It was a big deal for me mentally, spiritually. Obviously it was a physical hurdle to overcome, but I also showed how much I’ve grown as a person.
–This is difficult to say in front of you, but in the past, you’ve made a lot of fans and staff worry about you.
–I think there’s been uncertainty toward you in the past. But that you were able to overcome that ankle injury and produce results at such a high level means an awful lot for you going forward.
Ibushi: I was able to overcome something pretty big. It’s a case of ‘well, if I could beat that, then…’. Next time something scary happens, I can think ‘hey, I was able to get over the ankle injury during the G1’. It was a good experience all in all. It showed me I can overcome some pretty tough situations.
–I think you winning the G1 dispersed any thoughts of the old Kota Ibushi.
Ibushi: Good. That is a good thing, isn’t it? Or is it?
–Absolutely. I mean it’s made you a lot stronger.
Ibushi: Good, good. That’s a plus.
–To bring us round to the end here, honestly, how does it feel to have a ticket to the main event in the Tokyo Dome in your hands?
Ibushi: The one year I wrestled Nakamura I was in one match of a double main event, but that was kind of ‘well, they’re calling it a main event but…’ Am I right?
–2015, at Wrestle Kingdom 9.
Ibushi: At the end of the day, that was really a semi-main event. But now, if I get to challenge for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, that would really be a main event, right? And then there’s my little idea.. I don’t know if it would happen, if the company is OK with it or not, but if that did happen, I’d be in back-to-back main events in the Tokyo Dome. There’s so much possibility there, I can’t help but be excited about it.
–Whether your idea gets followed through on or not, you still hold a key part to one of the Tokyo Dome main events. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of ideas about that.
Ibushi: Oh yeah. I’ve still got a lot to put out there.
–Oh you’re not done!
Ibushi: Not by a long way!
–Well, we look forward to seeing it!