Kota Ibushi has been ranked the sixth best wrestler of 2020 in the first-ever ITR 50 as announced in the latest issue of Inside The Ropes Magazine.
Ibushi began 2020 in quite possibly the biggest spot in Japanese wrestling, main eventing night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom 14 opposite Kazuchika Okada in a losing effort for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. Ibushi’s woes continued on night 2 where he lost to Jay White, before forming the Golden Aces with Hiroshi Tanahashi and picking up his first major accolade of the year by winning the IWGP Tag Team Championships with ‘The Ace’.
Following NJPW’s four-month hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ibushi would find some success in the New Japan Cup by defeating Zack Sabre Jr in the tournament’s first-round before succumbing to Taichi in the second. Ibushi’s troubles with Dangerous Tekkers didn’t end there though, as he and Tanahashi went on the lose their tag team titles to the Suzuki-Gun duo shortly before entering the 30th annual G1 Climax – where the ‘Golden Star’ would really begin to shine.
Ibushi would tear through his assigned A Block with some incredible performances – losing only two of nine G1 matches – and advanced to the finals opposite B Block winner SANADA, where he’d become only the third man in history to win the tournament twice back-to-back. Ibushi would make further history by losing the G1 Right To Challenge briefcase to Jay White at Power Struggle in a shock upset, becoming the first G1 winner ever to lose the title shot prior to their Wrestle Kingdom challenge.
Heading into 2021, Ibushi has an eerily similar mountain to climb versus what he faced at in January – with the ‘Golden Star’ set to challenge Tetsuya Naito for both the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships on night 1 of Wrestle Kingdom 15. The winner of that match will defend against Jay White on night 2.
Inside The Ropes Magazine writer Gareth Wood detailed why Ibushi has been one of NJPW’s most consistent and impressive performers all-year:
“Delivered consistently strong singles bouts as well as a very enjoyable partnership with Hiroshi Tanahashi. Still trying new & interesting things with the art form. Had become part of the NJPW pantheon with a second consecutive G1 victory.”
Issue 4 of Inside The Ropes Magazine, which features the ITR 50 in full, is available for purchase digitally worldwide and physically in the United States, Canada, Australia and Ireland through select retailers.