Becoming God in 365 Days

The night is darkest just before the dawn. And I promise you, the dawn is coming.

Wrestle Kingdom 14, January 4th and 5th 2020, ended with double defeat for Kota Ibushi. The Golden Star’s shining light darkened in despair.

Wrestle Kingdom 15, January 4th and 5th 2021, ended with double wins and double titles for Kota Ibushi. The Golden Star transcending into immortality, fulfilling his prophecy to become God.

Credit: NJPW

The first ever double Wrestle Kingdom in Tokyo Dome was headlined by the history making promise to crown the first ever IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental double champion. Kazuchika Okada, Jay White, Tetsuya Naito and Kota Ibushi clashed over the two nights, one man guaranteed the two grandest titles in all of pro-wrestling. Inevitably, one of those four men would fall far from grace and suffer two defeats, and that poor soul was Ibushi. The most grandiose of dreams, of being the double champion, were met with the cruel sting of reality.

Ibushi found solace alongside a mentor, teaming with Hiroshi Tanahashi to become IWGP Tag Team Champions a month later in February. As Golden☆Ace , Ibushi immediately found his footing alongside the man he reveres as a God. However, the more they teamed the more it became apparent that Tanahashi was the weak-link, the Ace even acknowledging it and saying that Ibushi had surpassed him – Ibushi’s finishing knee-strike bearing true: Kamigoye, meaning to surpass God.

Golden☆Ace lost the tag titles in their first defence and failed in their attempt to win them back. With the G1 Climax looming, Ibushi’s focus switched back to singles competition, and with that focus came a startling promise: Ibushi was claiming he would become God. Not a God, the God.

Credit: NJPW

The outlandish comment became the vocal point of his backstage comments as he racked up wins in the G1. Then, the unthinkable happened: Kota Ibushi made the finals of the G1 Climax for the third successive year, the first man in history to achieve such an unfathomable feat. Then, the unthinkable again: Kota Ibushi won the G1 Climax, becoming a back-to-back winner and cementing his path back to the main event of Wrestle Kingdom. What started as fantastical comments of becoming God suddenly held weight. To go from the lowest of lows to the highest of highs in a single year? That is perhaps the work of a higher-being.

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. If Ibushi could be God, it bears reason that there could be a Devil too. At Power Struggle, the devilish Jay White shocked the world by defeating Ibushi to win the G1 winner’s contract. Never before had the G1 winner lost their opportunity to challenge at the Tokyo Dome. History was once again shaped around Ibushi, only this time it wasn’t in his favour. The path to the double titles had been ripped out of Ibushi’s hands, but a surprising tranqiullo angel would be his saviour.

Jay White made the savvy decision to challenge for the double titles on night two of Wrestle Kingdom, which left champ Tetsuya Naito without a match on night one. Ever prideful and with lofty dreams of his own, Naito wanted to defend his titles against Ibushi on night one of Wrestle Kingdom, recognising that Ibushi’s G1 win warranted that the match should take place. Firmly aboard Naito’s ark, Ibushi sailed into Wrestle Kingdom 15, the possibility of becoming God still tangible.

Credit: NJPW

The biggest and most important match in the storied rivalry between Naito and Ibushi climaxed with Ibushi finally winning the big one. For the first time in his career, Ibushi was the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, and to make things even sweeter, he was also the IWGP Intercontinental Champion – a title he holds in the highest regard, a title that was raised to prominence by another man he believes in as a God, Shinsuke Nakamura.

When Ibushi accomplished the seemingly impossible earlier in the year, Jay White was there to mercilessly stab reality back into Ibushi’s heart, and now the Devil of White looked to drag Ibushi down from the heavens again. A dream almost come true, the transformation to God almost complete, but one swift slash from Switchblade could slice those ambitions down, the misfortune of being the double champion for a mere 24 hours scarily possible. What’s a king to a God? Ibushi discovered the power of King Switch firsthand.

With his penchant for making history, it perhaps shouldn’t be surprising that Ibushi would make history one final time on his journey to become God: his main event epic with Jay White was the longest match in Wrestle Kingdom history at 48 minutes and 5 seconds. Thankfully, Kamigoye’s meaning to surpass God must also relate to the Devil, as Kota Ibushi cut down White and retained his titles.

Credit: NJPW

Ibushi’s journey is far greater than just the past 365 days, but his story within the past year that shepherded him to the closing moments of Wrestle Kingdom 15 will be especially remembered. A beloved fan favourite, going from the depths of defeat to the magnificence of unparalleled triumph. A Golden Star shining resplendent as a God. A reminder of why we love pro-wrestling. In these difficult times, it sure does feel good to have such a benevolent God.

Ibushi’s final words at the end of Wrestle Kingdom 15, inside the Tokyo Dome, as the indisputable IWGP Heavyweight and IWGP Intercontinental double champion:

“And now, I’ve just become…God!”