The entire month of May has seen the apparent destruction of the relationship between Kota Ibushi and New Japan Pro Wrestling, as the former IWGP World Heavyweight Champion has fired off numerous tweets criticizing the promotion. Through it all, New Japan has stayed silent; until today.
In a press conference held on Friday, New Japan President Takami Ohbari and Bushiroad President Takaaki Kidani addressed the Ibushi situation. Both men’s statements were transcribed in English by New Japan. Ohbari spoke first, beginning by apologizing to wrestling fans before detailing the controversy from his point of view.
“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.”
Upon learning of the belief from the “Official”, who has since been identified as Yusuke Kikuchi, that Ibushi may be looking to leave New Japan, Ohbari revealed he met with Ibushi on March 31, where the two briefly trained. During the session, Ohbari claims Ibushi told him his recovery time was taking longer than expected from a shoulder injury he suffered in the G1 Climax Finals last year.
Following the session, Ohbari and Ibushi went to a restaurant for dinner to continue their conversation. After hearing Ibushi’s side of the story at this dinner, Ohbari says he reprimanded Ibushi for his actions, but accepted Ibushi’s apology and ultimately found Ibushi wasn’t attempting to breach his contract. However, Ohbari also claimed he didn’t know what Kikuchi had said to Ibushi and thus didn’t offer him an apology 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.”
From there, Ohbari says New Japan management determined the best course of action was to meet with Ibushi and apologize, which he would claim occurred yesterday, May 26. After apologizing to New Japan fans again, Ohbari laid out New Japan’s formal 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.”
At that point, Ohbari ceded the floor to Kidani, who made a brief statement expressing his gratitude towards Ibushi and his hopes that both sides could put this situation behind them. Kidani also strongly suggested the promotion had no plans 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 Ohbari and Kidani would take questions following their respective statements. They revealed that Ibushi’s punishment would likely be a fine and that the punishment for Kikuchi had yet to be decided but would, at least, result in a transfer to another position.
Ohbari and Kidani also stated they had discussed every bit of the press conference with Ibushi in their meeting yesterday, and that he would make his own statement on the matter should he choose to do so. They also said that there was no timetable for a return from injury. Ibushi had stated prior to the controversy he was “70% to 80% healthy” in April.
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
As noted in this article, Ohbari did mention Ibushi’s mother and her suicide attempt in his statement at the press conference. It appears Ibushi was reacting to New Japan’s initial statement released on Twitter, which did not mention the remarks. Ohbari and New Japan’s official Japanese account would later release new statements, clarifying the marks were included.
— 新日本プロレスリング株式会社 (@njpw1972) May 27, 2022
— 大張高己/Takami Ohbari (@TAKAMIOHBARI) May 27, 2022
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