Former NJPW and DDT star Kota Ibushi has made quite a name for himself in Japan. As a pro-wrestler taught in the art of Japanese Strong Style, he is known for getting down and dirty with kicks and punches that would make normal people turn away. On top of all of this, he has a great high-flying move-set that is considered to be the best in the world... barring maybe one other man who we will get to in a bit. Ibushi was in a bit of a bad situation late last year, and many wondered if he would be back any time soon, if ever.
He ended up suffering a cervical disc herniation, which is by no means a good thing to see when you read it out-loud. However, this is commonly known as a slipped disc. Pro-wrestlers have gone through them in the past, but you normally see it in older athletes who have been working for quite a long time. Due to Ibushi being 33 years of age and having debuted in 2004, he clearly fits this sort of injury.
However, it does appear that he wants to take things slow with his return. In February, he announced he would be leaving both NJPW and DDT. He felt that he could not handle the burden of working two strict schedules, which people were always thinking was a bad idea for him anyway. He wanted to then continue on as a freelancer, which meant we would see him wrestle but not for a major company under any sort of contract.
It was then rumored that Kota Ibushi was in town during WrestleMania week, and once a picture surfaced of him with NXT Champion Finn Balor and former NJPW great Shinsuke Nakamura, it was confirmed he was there. He ended up working for Evolve that week, which has a partnership with WWE. He would then go on to appear in the crowd at WWE NXT Takeover: Dallas, where the camera would "find" him.
It seems almost confirmed that Ibushi will take part in WWE's Global Cruiserweight Series this summer, but will he sign a deal with WWE before, during, or after this? According to Kota Ibushi in an interview with Tokyo Sports, there were no talks regarding a WWE contract while he was in Dallas. Most find this absolutely crazy, as Triple H would never see a free agent like Ibushi out there and just not talk to him about working for WWE.
On top of this, Ibushi was used on camera for the NXT Takeover event. While that does not mean he signed a deal, that does mean he is not telling the whole truth. The Wrestling Observer notes that potential WWE signings are told to downplay rumors of a contract to the media if they are asked. It doesn't make a lot of sense to some, but there is a good reason. Potential talent have to pass all tests to be signed, and some have not done so. Former ROH Champion Nigel McGuiness is one of the most notable, who was going to be signed at the same time as Bryan Danielson, also known as Daniel Bryan.
He didn't pass the medical testing and was not allowed to work for WWE. Due to all of this, talent have to go through all of this before they can be signed. This is why guys like Bobby Roode and Kota Ibushi have not "officially signed" with WWE yet.
The Observer goes on to claim that while Kota Ibushi has not signed a deal with WWE, the expectation is that he will end up doing so.
According to Japanese reporter Enuhito, who is an authority on Japanese wrestling news, claimed that Kota Ibushi will be working for the IGF promotion in Japan later this year, and he's apparently doing so to study owner and WWE Hall of Famer Antonio Inoki. So if that holds up, we won't see Ibushi signed to a deal any time soon. He seems to like the freelance lifestyle, but don't count WWE out on giving him a deal worthy of sticking around. The rumor is that WWE wants to have him signed by this summer, but we will have to wait and see if they can manage that.
[Image via WWE]