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Kota Ibushi’s return set as New Japan deals with new wave of COVID concerns

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First, the good news.

New Japan’s inaugural IWGP World Heavyweight champion Kota Ibushi has been out of action since early July recovering from a case of aspiration pneumonia. Over the last few days the company’s set-up his return, with new IWGP United States champ Hiroshi Tanahashi calling for Ibushi to be his first challenger for the belt. Ibushi responded, saying he’s not 100% yet, but will be when he faces Tanahashi.

The company’s since announced The Golden Star vs. The Ace for one of their Wrestle Grand Slam shows at the MetLife Dome in Tokorozawa.

Despite initial reports that Ibushi’s illness was related to COVID vaccine side effects, his pneumonia turned out to be unrelated. NJPW is dealing with a new wave of COVID cases and exposures, though.

That’s the segue into the bad - or hopefully just less good - news.

Current IWGP World champ Shingo Takagi and his Los Ingobernables faction-mate BUSHI were pulled from last weekend’s Summer Struggle show as they were suffering from high fevers. New Japan today announced they tested positive for COVID, but reported positive results from early treatment: “Their fevers went down and their conditions are not becoming worse.”

Six other wrestlers (Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi, Gedo, and Dick Togo) were sidelined due to contact tracing. A title match between Takagi and EVIL is currently booked to headline the Sept. 5 Wrestle Grand Slam show in MetLife Dome.

New Japan’s sister promotion Stardom has also been dealing with COVID concerns. The Bushiroad-owned joshi company has canceled several shows in the last two weeks as several members of their roster quarantined due to potential exposure.

Here’s hoping everyone gets and stays healthy.