New Japan Pro Wrestling held a press conference earlier this morning to address the odd situation with top company superstar Kota Ibushi that has been unfolding over the last few weeks.
At the beginning of the month the former IWGP world heavyweight champion released a text conversation between himself and NJPW official Yusuki Kikuchi regarding an appearance he made at a Just Tap Out event back in March, a move that was in breach of his exclusive NJPW contract. In the thread Ibushi revealed some telling information about how NJPW handled his shoulder injury, with Kikuchi bringing up the notion of potentially releasing Ibushi for his actions.
Ibushi also added in his leaked texts that the stress of the situation made his mother make a suicide attempt. While she did not succeed she did suffer an injury from the attempt.
At today’s press conference NJPW President Takami Ohbari and Bushiroad Founder and President Takaaki Kidani spoke on the situation, stating that both Ibushi and Kikuchi were reprimanded for their actions, but neither will face any further penalty or be released from the company. You can read their full statements below.
NJPW PRESIDENT TAKAMI OHBARI:
“Today, on behalf of New Japan Pro-Wrestling I would like to address recent claims made by Kota Ibushi.
Starting May 10, Kota Ibushi began releasing statements critical of certain members of NJPW staff on Twitter. Firstly I would like to deeply apologise for the concern these comments caused amongst fans and personnel.
The statements posted on Twitter included screenshots of a text conversation with a member of staff (henceforth “Official”) that included a threat that Ibushi’s contract would be terminated. On investigation, we ascertained from the individual concerned that these screenshots were indeed genuine. I would now like to take a moment to explain the series of events that led up to the aforementioned posts to the extent of our current understanding.
Kota Ibushi is a wrestler exclusively contracted to New Japan Pro-Wrestling. As such, it is understood that in order to devote full attention to NJPW matches and associated events, he is required to inform, and receive express permission from NJPW before outside appearances.
On March 4, in breach of the terms of his contract, Mr. Ibushi made an appearance seconding wrestlers at a Just Tap Out event. The aforementioned Official is responsible for contacting various wrestlers contracted to New Japan Pro-Wrestling, but also has a long personal history with Mr. Ibushi that extends far before him becoming an exclusively contracted talent. The Official contacted Mr. Ibushi in the belief that Mr, Ibushi’s actions in breach of his contract were taken deliberately to persuade NJPW to terminate its agreement with him. Perceiving this as a betrayal of personal trust established over a number of years, his messages were sent in an emotional state as a result.
When I myself learned of Mr. Ibushi’s appearance in a different promotion, I requested a full status report from the Official. Therefore it is possible that the official’s contact with Mr. Ibushi also involved a desire to find out the exact particulars of the situation to relay to myself. In relaying this report, the Official told me that he thought Mr. Ibushi wanted to leave NJPW.
Not wanting to lose the services of Kota Ibushi in such a manner, and wanting to find out his true mental state and opinions on this matter, I arranged a meeting with Mr. Ibushi at his personal training facility on March 31.
In my brief meeting with Mr. Ibushi, we chatted while we conducted some light exercise. As we moved on the mat, and participated in some jump training, I was amazed at his super human physical abilities, yet Ibushi confided that he found recovery from his 2021 shoulder injury was taking longer than he had expected, and that his range of motion was far from ideal.
After our conversation, Mr. Ibushi took me by car to a restaurant where we continued our conversation. Our conversation was amicable, and Mr. Ibushi explained to me that he had been invited to Just Tap Out by its manager TAKA Michinoku. He also explained that while he was in the dressing rooms, he made an impulsive decision on his own accord to head to ringside and second the wrestlers.
After receiving Mr. Ibushi’s explanation, I reprimanded him, reminding him that this was a breach of his contract with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, as well as a breach of licensing agreements we hold with other companies. Mr. Ibushi sincerely apologised for his actions. Mr. Ibushi’s penalty for his breach was limited to a reprimand as, on hearing with Mr. Ibushi, it was clear there was no intention to breach the terms of his contract, nor did he believe a breach had taken place because he had not participated in a match.
At the point of our meeting, I did not know the exact wording or particulars of Mr. Ibushi’s text conversation with the Official and as a result, did not offer a proper apology for the content of the conversation.
Several weeks later, on May 10, screenshots of the conversation on the LINE service were made public. I have since learned that those tweets were made when Mr. Ibushi was acting in a state of concern for his mother. Mr. Ibushi told me that this situation triggered his mother’s mental distress, leading to a suicide attempt at the start of May in which she suffered a broken bone in her back.
After the first series of Mr. Ibushi’s tweets were posted, a meeting was held on May 10 including our company’s legal staff in order to understand the particulars of the situation, and to determine the best possible course of action for both New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Mr. Ibushi. We determined that said best course of action would be to directly meet with Mr. Ibushi, to formally apologise and hear one another’s opinions before making a public announcement should one be deemed necessary.
As a result, there has been no formal announcement from the company on this matter until this time. However yesterday, myself and the company owner Mr. Takaaki Kidani were able to meet with Mr. Ibushi, and discuss this statement to you here as well as our opinions on the matter. Before proceeding I would like once again to sincerely apologise to fans for the concern caused by this series of events.
I would now like to relay the company’s stance on this situation.
Mr. Ibushi’s actions in attending an outside event without proper procedure, as well as publicly disclosing internal affairs were actions in breach of his contract, and after consideration of the particulars I previously mentioned, an appropriate penalty for Mr. Ibushi will be determined.
However, the words of the Official in his text conversation were inexcusable, especially in their direction to a wrestler who risks his life in order to fulfil his role as a professional. It is this mindset that directly led to Mr. Ibushi posting his critical tweets about the company. For the thoughtless content of these messages, we fully and unreservedly apologise to Mr. Ibushi.
Despite the Official’s lengthy relationship with Mr. Ibushi, the lack of consideration shown to him and by extension our wrestlers at large should also be met with an appropriate penalty.
Later in the press conference, they stated that Ibushi would likely see a reduction in his salary for breaching the terms of the contract while it was undeteremined what penalty Kikuchi would face, but Kidani said he might be moved to another position.”
BUSHIROAD PRESIDENT TAKAAKI KIDANI:
“First let me express my sincerest personal gratitude to Kota Ibushi for his contributions to New Japan Pro-Wrestling and his thrilling matches in the ring. It is my sincerest hope that he continues to be connected to NJPW moving forward. However, his utmost priority at this time must be to the care of his mother, as well as full recovery from his injury. It should go without saying that he will remain under contract for as long as that process takes.
Mr. Ibushi receives so much support from fans all over the world. While it might be difficult for him to perform in the ring, I sincerely hope that he can continue to contribute outside of it, at signings, talk shows, or, and this is my personal wish, to assist in operations at STARDOM. I continue to hold Mr. Ibushi in the highest regard, and if he ever again feels he wants to move away from NJPW, I hope we can have a full and frank exchange of ideas.
It’s my opinion that Kota Ibushi’s contributions to his company and the world of professional wrestling have been innumerable. I join fans in hoping that he continue to shine as only he can, and take any issues he has outside of the ring as a top priority. I hope with this conference today we can put these issues behind us and move forward together.