Kota Ibushi won the 2019 G1 Climax Tournament. as a result, he has the right to challenge the IWGP Heavyweight Champion, currently Kazuchika Okada, on January 4 in the Tokyo Dome.
In a new interview with the official Global site of New Japan-Pro Wrestling, Ibushi discusses his relationship with Okada, whom he defeated on August 10 to win the A-Block of the G1 Climax Tournament.
"He’s a different guy to the one I faced before. I think my perception of him has changed as well. Before, I thought of him as the hot young star of New Japan, but now I think I feel much more… would I call him my rival? I don’t really know. Maybe that’s the closest word."
Kota would go on to compare his relationship with Kazuchika Okada to that of his relationship with IWGP Intercontinental Championship holder, Tetsuya Naito. "Naito is different. I’ve called him a rival in the past, but I don’t know whether I can really say that… With Okada, I don’t think I can say with 100% conviction ‘he’s my rival’. I’d say maybe 70%. I have no idea what you call that," said Ibushi.
Kota would call WWE Superstar Shinsuke Nakamura and NJPW Ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi godlike in his eyes,
"Nakamura and Tanahashi are my gods. I’m beneath them, but it’s not because I’m beneath them that I call them that. I have to surpass them, and I think that time is getting closer. But I don’t care whether he main events the Tokyo Dome, or he’s at an indie show in front of 50 people, Nakamura is still my god. I want to surpass him, I feel I have to surpass him, but it’s because I respect him so much I call him that and I always will until the day I die... So, where Okada stands in all that, I’m still finding out. But rival is the closest word I have right now."