The past few months have seen a whirlwind will-they-won’t-they relationship between WWE and Japanese wrestling phenomenon Kota Ibushi. Things like his stellar performances in the Cruiserweight Classic, his surprise match on NXT, and his recent commitment to the Dusty Rhodes Tag Team Classic have all seemed like positive developments. However, his exit prior to the final round of the CWC also seemed to indicate that Ibushi was reluctant to sign a significant WWE deal.
We’ve had our fingers crossed since then, but it looks like the nail may unfortunately be in the coffin as far as negotiations go. Via translation from Chris Charlton, Ibushi revealed to Tokyo Sports that nothing will change his mind on the matter.
“Zero chance. Absolutely not. But these one-shot deals are an absolute plus for all concerned. If I can be the precedent for this kind of deal, it opens the doors for a lot of Japanese talent in WWE.”
Ibushi’s certainly not the first Japanese star to get a limited WWE engagement. Most recently, Jushin “Thunder” Liger opened NXT TakeOver: Brooklyn in 2015. I’m still hoping he shows up for the next Royal Rumble, because that one’s within driving distance of me and there’s no way I’ll be missing that.
In any case, we’re certainly hoping Ibushi is correct with his assessment of the situation. If he truly ends up being responsible for a system that showcases great Japanese talent (and eventually convinces a few to sign), then he’ll end up being an important figure in changing the wrestling landscape.
The cynic in me, however, can’t help but theorize that this might actually have the opposite effect, convincing WWE not to take risks on high-profile international stars who may end up eventually backing out. Or, third option: WWE just builds their own Ibushi from spare parts left around the Performance Center. I mean, they know they can’t get Kenny Omega, so they just stole the blueprints and built their own Mega Man fanboy. I’m not sure we can chalk that one up to coincidence, that’s all I’m saying.