Kota Ibushi won G1 Climax 29 earlier today in Tokyo, and with his pinfall victory over Jay White, a shot at the IWGP Heavyweight championship next January at Wrestle Kingdom 14.
But that wasn’t the story fans are buzzing about coming out of New Japan’s big show on Mon., Aug. 12. The hottest thing from the Final at Nippon Budokan came during and after one of the tag matches in the mid-card.
KENTA (fka Hideo Itami in WWE) teamed with Tomohiro Ishii & YOSHI-HASHI to face a Bullet Club trio of Bad Luck Fale & Guerillas of Destiny. Tama Tonga has been teasing a new member for NJPW’s most famous faction, and the audience knew something was up when KENTA never tagged into the six-man. Towards the end of the match, he jumped off the apron when Ishii went to tag him, and returned to lay the Stone Pitbull out with a running knee. A GTS added the exclamation point, Tama got the pin, and it looked like the Biz Cliz had added a big gun.
Before KENTA could make it official with a promo, however, well, just watch:
Katsuyori Shibata hasn’t wrestled since a stiff headbutt in his match with Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis in 2017 proved to be one stiff headbutt too many for the man known as The Wrestler. An emergency procedure to address the subdural hematoma he suffered saved his life, but it looked like his career was over. Shibata never said as much, and even while training Young Lions at New Japan’s dojos in Japan & California indicated he was keeping in shape in hope of being cleared, a la Daniel Bryan.
It’s not clear if he’s fully cleared for matches, or was just given the go ahead to run this angle. But even if this is it (and even if you only tangentially follow New Japan), the shot of him hitting the stalling drop kick and then emphatically waving his arms to dismiss his “wrestling soulmate” is a breathtaking moment.
Shibata was the man who introduced KENTA to New Japan after his disappointing, injury-plagued WWE run. Which makes you think this angle was probably being set-up all the way back in June when this angle happened, although according to Wrestling Observer, no one backstage knew he’d be getting physical on Monday.
And while he didn’t get to make his speech, that Too Sweet signaled KENTA is in Bullet Club.
Sitting on Shibata’s chest in his own signature pose ensures this story isn’t over. Whether The Wrestler himself strikes back, or leads a team to get revenge, remains to be seen.