One of AEW’s biggest targets when the promotion formed was Kenny Omega’s Golden Lovers tag partner Kota Ibushi.
But despite plenty of interest, Ibushi announced that he would be re-signing a long term deal with NJPW where he is one of the most popular stars.
He has now explained, in an interview translated by NJPW commentator Chris Charlton, why he made the decision.
“The second I went, that would be the end of my wrestling career, I thought. What I realized [talking to AEW] was I really don’t care about money. … AEW said they just want me in their ring in some form. The ideal for them was for me to move to America and be there full-time. I turned them down just after Wrestle Kingdom. … If I went it would be the end of my career. There wouldn’t be anywhere else to go after that. No step up, nothing left to do. That would be the last step to make, and after that things would just go down. Great money, but I want to keep developing.”
As AEW are still trying to form a relationship with NJPW, there is still a possibility that Kota Ibushi will appear in an AEW ring down the line, but his rejection of the new promotion is proof that there is a world beyond WWE and AEW.