Kota Ibushi was one of the top wrestlers in New Japan during his prime. He had several great matches over the years and later made history as the first-ever IWGP World Heavyweight Champion in 2021. But that was quite some time ago as Ibushi hasn’t wrestled in over a year.
However, a new report in the Wrestling Observer Newsletter has shed light on Kota Ibushi’s wrestling future.
Kota Ibushi’s NJPW contract set to expire at the end of January 2023
Kota Ibushi has been signed to New Japan since 2010 and competed for them before that as a freelancer on a per-appearance basis. He has won every New Japan title except for the US title and the six-man tag titles. He has also won the New Japan Cup, the Best of the Super Juniors tournament, and the G1 Climax twice.
Ibushi’s 2021 started off on a strong note as he unified the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental titles to create the new IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. However, his reign was short and he got sick before he could participate in his scheduled title challenge. Then things got worse when Ibushi suffered a serious shoulder injury during the 2021 G1 Climax tournament final.
That was Ibushi’s last wrestling match to date. And any other news related to Ibushi has been related to a highly publicized war of words between Ibushi and NJPW officials. In May 2022, Ibushi accused NJPW officials of, among other things, “abnormalities” and “sexually harassing bosses”. The matter appeared to have been settled, but then both Ibushi and the management side were publicly announced to have financial penalties levied against them.
Since then, some NJPW insiders theorized that Ibushi wouldn’t be returning to New Japan, especially after he was allegedly pressured to return at Wrestle Kingdom 16 despite not being physically ready.
Adding more fuel to this fire is Dave Meltzer, who noted in his Wrestling Observer Newsletter that Ibushi’s contract expires at the end of January 2023. Ibushi hasn’t made any other reference to this matter apart from, according to Meltzer, some vague mention of being a free agent:
“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.”
Ibushi was recently seen sitting with his old tag partner Kenny Omega during Omega’s post-All Out suspension. The two were seen in Tokyo together, though neither was wrestling or doing anything wrestling-related at the time.