This month has seen the apparent destruction that is the relationship between Kota Ibushi and New Japan Pro Wrestling, as the former undisputed world heavyweight champion has repeatedly blasted promotions employees via tweets. As of today, however, New Japan has come out to state its position regarding its future with Ibushi.
At a news conference on Friday, New Japan President Takami Ohbari and Bushiroad President Takaaki Kidani answered the Ibushi situation. Both men’s statements were translated from Japanese by New Japan. Ohbari began by apologizing to wrestling fans before detailing his point of view on the controversy.
“Kota Ibushi is a wrestler exclusively contracted to New Japan Pro-Wrestling,” Ohbari said. “As such, it is understood that in order to devote full attention to NJPW matches and associated events, he is required to inform and receive express permission from NJPW before outside appearances. On March 4, in breach of the terms of his contract, Mr. Ibushi made an appearance seconding wrestlers at a Just Tap Out event. The aforementioned Official is responsible for contacting various wrestlers contracted to New Japan Pro-Wrestling, but also has a long personal history with Mr. Ibushi that extends far before him becoming an exclusively contracted talent. The Official contacted Mr. Ibushi in the belief that Mr. Ibushi’s actions in breach of his contract were taken deliberately to persuade NJPW to terminate its agreement with him. Perceiving this as a betrayal of personal trust established over a number of years, his messages were sent in an emotional state as a result.”
When Ohbari was told by Kikuchi that Ibushi might be looking to leave New Japan, Ohbari claimed he met with Ibushi on March 31 for a brief training session. During the session, Ibushi said his recovery time from an injury sustained in the G1 Climax Finals last year was taking longer than expected.
After the conversation, Ohbari and Ibushi went for a drink and then had dinner. After hearing Ibushi’s side of the story, Awari told him he accepted his apology but also reprimanded him for his actions. However, Ohbari said he did not know what Kikuchi had said to Ibushi so he did not offer to apologize in return.
“Several weeks later, on May 10, screenshots of the conversation on the LINE service were made public,” Ohbari continued. “I have since learned that those tweets were made when Mr. Ibushi was acting in a state of concern for his mother, with mental distress being caused by this situation. Mr. Ibushi told me that after discussing the details of his situation with his mother on May 8, she attempted suicide on May 9 and suffered a broken bone in her back as a result. After the first series of Mr. Ibushi’s tweets were posted, a meeting was held on May 10 including our company’s legal staff in order to understand the particulars of the situation, and to determine the best possible course of action for both New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Mr. Ibushi.”
According to Ohbari, New Japan management determined that the best course of action was to meet with Ibushi and apologize. They would claim this happened yesterday, May 26. Even after apologizing to new Japan fans again, Ohbari offered a formal announcement about New Japan’s stance on the situation.
“Mr. Ibushi’s actions in attending an outside event without proper procedure, as well as publicly disclosing internal affairs were actions in breach of his contract, and after consideration of the particulars I previously mentioned, an appropriate penalty for Mr. Ibushi will be determined,” Ohbari said. “However, the words of the Official in his text conversation were inexcusable, especially in their direction to a wrestler who risks his life in order to fulfill his role as a professional. It is this mindset that directly led to Mr. Ibushi posting his critical tweets about the company. For the thoughtless content of these messages, we fully and unreservedly apologise to Mr. Ibushi. Despite the Official’s lengthy relationship with Mr. Ibushi, the lack of consideration shown to him and by extension our wrestlers at large should also be met with an appropriate penalty.”
Then, Ohbari stepped down to allow Kidani to state that he hopes these two sides can put this situation behind them, and also suggest there are no plans for the promotion to move on from Ibushi.
“Kota Ibushi is, and will remain a key member of the New Japan Pro-Wrestling roster,” Kiddani declared. “This kind of severe disagreement between company and talent should not happen again; in order to prevent any such instances in the future, and ensure the best possible working environment for talent, we will be actively engaged in discussion with Mr. Ibushi about improving company policy and implementing proper procedure. We again would like to apologise to fans, wrestlers and personnel for the concern and the disruption caused in the middle of the Best of the Super Jr. tour.”
Both officials revealed that Tetsuya Ibushi’s punishment for his actions is likely to have been fine. They did not discuss the consequences of Kikuchi’s actions but at least, results in a transfer to another position.
Ohbari and Kidani also discussed the press conference in their meeting yesterday, stating that Ibushi would make his own statement if he chooses to do so. Ibushi had stated in April that he was “70-80% healthy”.
It was revealed that Ibushi would address the press conference later in the morning on Twitter. His tweet, translated by @golden_kuma, suggested that some issues still needed to be resolved by both sides.
“Don’t leave out the part you don’t want to talk about, the true story from May 8th,” Ibushi tweeted. “I’ll address in detail. My mother sensing my concern, asked me if there are any problems on May 8th As a result of the story that I told her, on May 9th, she attempted suicide and broke her hip bone. That was 95% of my tweet. Why did you leave it out? I told you yesterday that I would address if it (their explanation on the press conference) was not correct.”
Ibushi: As a result of the story that I told her, on May 9th, she attempted suicide and broke her hip bone. That was 95% of my tweet. Why did you leave it out? I told you yesterday that I would address if it (their explanation on the press conference) was not correct.(2/2)
— Kuma (@golden_kuma) May 27, 2022
Ohbari added those remarks to help make the story more compelling, triggering a response from Ibushi and prompting New Japan’s release of a statement clarifying they included them.