The relationship between Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi is one of the most unique in pro wrestling. While they have not interacted directly in over two years, Omega still commented on Ibushi’s current reign as IWGP World Heavyweight Champion.
Speaking with Sports Illustrated, Omega talked about the expectations you face as the World Champion in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Here is the quote:
“For me, I learned there are three places of expectations as champion. There is the expectation of what the fans want from you, there is the expectation of what you want for yourself, and then there is the expectation of what the company wants you to be. I always found that, when I was wrestling for myself, I was able to take things to a certain point. When I was wrestling for the company, I barely made any headway at all. I lost myself. I never found out who I was. It wasn’t until I tuned into what it was the fans were looking for—there is always something the fans are left wanting. If you can satisfy the hunger that hasn’t been satiated by the fans, and give them what they hunger for, or do it better than the person before you, that’s where you find your most success. That’s where you’ll find the passion, and then you can project that in your own performances.”
Kenny Omega then carefully chose his words, saying Ibushi is now a company man and that isn’t what made him special.
“I don’t mean this in an offensive way, but what I would say to Ibushi is, he’s done a great job of delivering everything that the company has asked him to be. He became, on the exterior, everything that they’d asked him, everything they’d wanted him to be from the beginning, everything that [Hiroshi] Tanahashi wanted him to be. I think that, if he wants to ascend to another level, he has to leave that behind and become the person he was destined to become. Company man Ibushi is not what makes him special, and that’s not the reason he’s champion.”
Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi worked as the Golden Lovers tag team most recently in 2018. When Omega signed with AEW, it signaled the end of their relationship.