Wednesday, June 21, 2017

When You Wish Upon a Golden Star

Of all the G1 competitors, Ibushi is the one that elicits the most real response.
Photo Credit: Scott Finkelstein
New Japan Pro Wrestling makes a big deal out of announcing the competitors in the G1 Climax - a round-robin tournament held every summer. Our fearless editor TH wrote about this yesterday, listing the announced wrestlers and giving his thoughts. Zack Sabre Jr. will be new to the G1. So will Juice Robinson. I highly approve of both. Also, Cody is not in it. *lowers head and laughs at the ground* The video package announcing all of this was shown during intermission of a Kizuna Road show at Korakuen Hall. As each wrestler was announced, the crowd clapped politely, or in the case of guys like Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada, with great enthusiasm.

But when it came to the last wrestler in the video package, the audience didn't immediately recognize him. He was shown from behind, standing on a lake shore. You only heard his voice saying, "I don't know if I can keep my emotions in check. It's going to be explosive." And then a few quick images of a familiar shirt appeared, eventually showing the man moonsaulting off the top rope to the outside. It was Kota Ibushi, and each person in the crowd reacted like a loved one had just woken up from a coma.

For all intents and purposes, Ibushi has indeed woken from somewhat of a coma. Not since the fall of 2015 has he appeared in NJPW under his own name. He took time away for a neck injury, and then all of a sudden showed up in WWE for the Cruiserweight Classic. After predictably stealing the show there, he was offered a substantial contract by Uncle Paul, but he turned it down. After all, Kota Ibushi is like the wind, man. He can't be held down.

Soon after that, Ibushi started appearing as Tiger Mask W, a living embodiment of a character from the Japanese kids cartoon of the same name. I have done little to no research on this show, and you can't make me. I resent it completely because it caused Ibushi to wrestle in an even sillier mask than the one Tiger Mask has to wear every night. Even though it was cool to see Ibushi in NJPW again, it felt ridiculous. It was like your spouse had gotten plastic surgery to look like someone else.

I loosely refer to Kota Ibushi as my "spouse" because I love him (Ed. Note - Get in line, Kenny Omega was here first. TH). I don't use that verb too often with wrestlers, but I will use it for him. I think he is transcendent. He checks off all the boxes that we see in someone like Okada: handsome, athletic, a true showman who connects with fans, never takes a night off. And yet Ibushi just might be better than Okada; his offense is more explosive, and he can fly through the air like the best of them. And did I mention he's handsome? Oh, well he is. I'm a very heterosexual gentleman, yet even I can admit that Kota Ibushi has been known to give me the vapors.

The point of this is that Ibushi has some catching up to do in NJPW. Many new faces have popped up in the G1 Climax since his relatively short two-year absence from the tournament. Not until next week will we know which blocks the wrestlers have been placed into, thus learning who each guy will face. We can only pray that Ibushi and Kenny Omega find each other this summer, but if not, there are so many other potential barnburners for Ibushi to create.

The G1 was already going to be a can't-miss situation, but now it has reached a new level. I'll just be over here, fanning myself on my fainting couch. I do declare, Kota.