Kota Ibushi Will Face Hirooki Goto For The NEVER Openweight Championship, But Not At Wrestle Kingdom 13


It’s been a weird few months for NJPW‘s NEVER Openweight Championship. Will Ospreay’s title match against then-champion Taichi was cancelled due to an injury sustained by the junior heavyweight. Then former champ Hirooki Goto challenged for the title and won it back from the Holy Emperor at Power Struggle. Since then Goto has been angling for a title match with Kota Ibushi, who Ospreay had also been trying to coax into a non-title fight before his injury on September’s Destruction tour.

Ibushi repeatedly rejected Goto’s challenge, but on the November 18 World Tag League show, in a confrontation after a six-man tag team match between wrestlers belonging to the Chaos and the Elite factions, Goto lured him into accepting the match by saying he would stop offering it. Backstage, Ibushi mentioned part of the reason he accepted was that he doesn’t have anything else going on at Wrestle Kingdom, but today, NJPW announced that the Golden Star will face the Fierce Warrior at the World Tag League Final show on December 9 in Iwate.

This will be Goto and Ibushi’s fourth one-on-one match. Ibushi defeated Goto to win the 2015 New Japan Cup, Goto beat him in the 2017 G1 Climax tournament, and Ibushi picked up the win when they met in G1 Climax 28.

As the Wrestle Kindom 13 card takes shape, the timing of this championship match leaves it open to speculation who will wrestle for the NEVER Openweight Championship on January 4 at the Tokyo Dome. If Ibushi wins, Goto could ask for a rematch on New Japan’s biggest show of the year, or he could be challenged by a returning Ospreay. It’s also plausible that a victorious Goto could challenge Ospreay next (or be challenge by him), since he expressed a desire to wrestle his stablemate for this title after he won it back at Power Struggle.