Kota Ibushi shocked wrestling fans around the world a couple of weeks ago when he announced he would be a free agent in the wrestling world for the time being. The New Japan Pro Wrestling star has really made a name for himself over the past couple of years as one of the most athletic wrestlers in the world. Suffering an injury last Summer, most had expected the Japanese star to return to NJPW once fully healed.
Instead, Ibushi declared that he will work for multiple promotions in the coming months, possibly years, as a freelancer, while also starting up his own wrestling federation called the Ibushi Wrestling Research Institute. There were several factors that influenced his decision, with Ibushi announcing during a press conference with the Japanese media that he was influenced by mental and physical tolls brought about by working for both NJPW and DDT (Dramatic Dream Team).
It appears Ibushi’s freelancing work will take him to the center of the North American wrestling world in a couple of weeks. It was revealed late Tuesday that Kota Ibushi will be appearing for Gabe Sapolsky’s EVOLVE wrestling promotion during WrestleMania weekend in Dallas on April 1 and 2.
Kota Ibushi comes to WWNLive Experience in Dallas 4/1 & 2. He will be at EVOLVE cards & wrestle at WWN Supershow. https://t.co/8yDYPx7uCX— Gabe Sapolsky (@BookItGabe) March 9, 2016
Ibushi’s involvement with EVOLVE is interesting as the company now has a working relationship with WWE. Triple H recently attended EVOLVE 54 in Orlando in late January, and this upcoming appearance for Kota in Dallas will only fuel the rumors that he is looking at following his former NJPW co-worker, Shinsuke Nakamura, to WWE. While Ibushi may not have any plans to do so at this time, once he gets to Dallas and sees the spectacle that is WWE’s WrestleMania weekend, he may change his tune on a future in wrestling in North America.
Ibushi’s contract with New Japan Pro Wrestling expired in January. The company had said at the time of his injury (a herniated disc in his neck) back in early November that they planned on renewing his deal when it came due. However, Ibushi’s plans to freelance and start his own promotion nixed that. He will still be able, and possibly willing, to work for NJPW on a freelancing basis, though no future matches have been announced at this time. Ibushi will return to the ring on March 22, just a couple of weeks before his appearance for EVOLVE in Dallas, when he wrestles for one of his former employers at DDT Ryogoku. The bout is being advertised as his farewell match for DDT.
One of the brightest wrestling stars in Japan, Ibushi, 33, began his career in 2004 working for DDT. It quickly became evident he would become one of the biggest elements of wrestling’s future in Japan. While working for the promotion over the next several years, he also had stints around the world working for other companies. Ibushi wrestled in the United States in 2008 and 2009 for Ring Of Honor and Pro Wrestling Guerrila, and he also worked EVOLVE’s first show in 2010.
Despite this success, Ibushi’s true breakthrough came when he signed with New Japan in 2009. Over the next six years, Kota went on to win the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship (three times), the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships (one time), the Best Of The Super Juniors tournament in 2011, and the New Japan Cup in 2015.
It was during his New Japan run that Ibushi achieved his notoriety around the world. He won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s award for “Best Flying Wrestler” in 2009, 2010, 2012, and 2013, and Ibushi’s bout with Shinsuke Nakamura at WrestleKingdom 9 last year won the Observer’s award for 2015’s pro wrestling match of the year.