On August 13, 2017 — just a handful of days from now, it’ll all be over. NJPW will have concluded its 27th G1 Climax tournament and one-half of the Wrestle Kingdom 12 main event will be determined. It’ll also be time to once again say goodbye to Kota Ibushi.
“The Golden Star” Ibushi blessed us wrestling fans with some of the greatest individual performances in NJPW G1 Climax history this year. At the time of this writing, Ibushi’s G1 matches have averaged just over 4* per our reviewers at Voices of Wrestling. Four of Ibushi’s matches were rated four stars or better with two coming in at 4.5*+. He’s been the best in-ring performer in this year’s G1 with matches in all types of shapes, sizes and styles.
Whether you use star ratings or not, it’s undeniable the impact Ibushi has had on this year’s G1. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of his NJPW full-time departure in early 2016, Ibushi has reemerged as the star he was always supposed to be. He’s reemerged as one of the pillars of NJPW’s main event picture. A man who could be relied upon to draw a house, main event a show or put on a spectacular performance.
But it’s fleeting.
In a few short days, Ibushi will be gone once again. He’ll probably return. Probably. Maybe he’ll be back under the Tiger Mask—though the show’s ending could also put an end to the character. Perhaps we’ll see him emerge against wrestling on a train, launching fireworks at his opponents or piledriving guys into toilets.
Kota Ibushi piledriver into a night club toilet, because… why not? ? pic.twitter.com/9EM6bfnPHp
— Richard Lane (@RichardLane666) March 12, 2017
That’s the Kota Ibushi experience these days and for better or worse, we have to accept it.
Part of me wants Ibushi to be the rogue freelancer that pops up in various places all across the world. I want to know that someone in wrestling is doing exactly what he wants, when he wants, where he wants. So few wrestlers have the opportunity to be as free and as clear as Ibushi has been over the last year and a half. If he wanted to wrestle a Kaiju on WrestleMania Weekend, he did it. He wanted to moonsault off Eddie Deen’s Ranch? Why not. Want WWE to create a tournament that you can win in hopes that you’ll sign? Yep.
Since February 2016, when Ibushi announced his resignation with New Japan Pro Wrestling, he’s been a free spirit. Not held down by any one company, any one wrestling ideal. A man of his own destiny.
I want Ibushi to be the happiest he can be. I want Ibushi to perform at his highest level because he feels refreshed or gratified in his work. I want that for him. But I already really want him in New Japan Pro Wrestling again.
This year’s tournament has proven what many of us already knew: Ibushi is a star but at what brightness that star shines is completely up to Ibushi. If he wants to main event a Tokyo Dome, win a G1 or reign as IWGP Heavyweight Champion, he can. If he wants to be one of NJPW’s top marketable stars as they eye international expansion, he can.
The question, as it’s always been with Ibushi: does he want to?
When the G1 wraps up, Ibushi will once again ride into the sunset. How long until he’s back again, who knows. All I know is, I’m not ready to say goodbye.