Kota Ibushi suffered a shoulder injury while facing Kazuchika Okada in the finals of New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s G1 Climax 31 tournament. He hasn’t wrestled since that October 2021 match, and during his time away he got into a nasty public battle with NJPW about his availability and other issues he had with management.
Recent reports indicate Ibushi, a former IWGP Heavyweight champion, was one of the New Japan’s stars whose contracts expired at the end of January. This announcement of his first booking in more than a year seems to confirm that.
There’s been a lot of speculation that Ibushi could reunite with his Golden Lovers tag partner Kenny Omega in AEW. That may happen down the road, but Kota’s return won’t be on a Tony Khan-booked show. Instead, it will be for Game Changer Wrestling.
*BREAKING*— GameChangerWrestling (@GCWrestling_) January 31, 2023
KOTA IBUSHI returns to the ring and makes his GCW Debut at @collective2023 in Los Angeles!
March 30 - 4PM
Josh Barnett's Bloodsporthttps://t.co/JwxCrIM4jD
March 31 - 8PM
Joey Janela's Spring Breakhttps://t.co/Bqbu1ZSr3z
Both events will stream LIVE on @FiteTV+! pic.twitter.com/SXV6MwUBD4
Opponents have yet to be announced for Ibushi’s two matches during GCW’s annual WrestleMania week event, The Collective. They’ll showcase the two sides of his wrestling personality, however.
Josh Barnett’s Bloodsport is a worked mixed martial arts shows, where there are no ropes around the ring and victory only comes via knockout or submission. It’s a perfect place for Ibushi to show off his karate background, and the strong style work New Japan is known for. Joey Janela’s Spring Break, on the other hand, celebrates the campier aspects of pro wrestling (such as with its signature “Clusterfuck” main event, a battle royal known for its comedy spots). Here Kota can show off the skills he honed in DDT, the most sports entertainment-y of Japan’s major promotions.
It should be a great reintroduction, in front of an audience of die hard wrestling fans live in Los Angeles, and on screens around the world.
What’s next for the 40 year old Ibushi after that? Stay tuned.