Breaking up is hard to do. At least, that's what Neil Sedaka told us in 1975. When you go through a breakup, you have plenty of options. You can cry about it, which is perfectly acceptable because it shows a level of love and care about the relationship. You can immediately tell all your mutual friends that you ended the relationship, even if it's not true, in an effort to get ahead of the story and look like the stronger person. Or the jerk, depending on how you tell the story. You can act like you don't care and you never cared about the relationship. You can write a song about it and become the biggest pop star in the world.
Or you can do what Kota Ibushi did.
One year ago, Kota Ibushi found himself in a similar position he was in this past weekend. He needed a victory over the IWGP Heavyweight Champion to earn a spot in G1 Climax Finals. Last year, he bested his best friend and life partner Kenny Omega before losing to Hiroshi Tanahashi in the finals.
A win against Tanahashi would have put Ibushi down the path of singles stardom; a nearly guaranteed title shot against Omega and the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at Wrestle Kingdom. A small strain on a relationship built around mutual respect and understanding.
A loss to Tanahashi set Ibushi back in his career, in his mind, and in the eyes of Omega.
All In planted the seeds for All Elite Wrestling. After a tumultuous start to the beginning of the year, The Elite were back on the same page. Cody and Kenny were no longer sizing each other up to seize control of Bullet Club, and Ibushi, who once had the attention of both men, was now the third wheel.
King of Pro Wrestling '18 was Kenny and Cody making their new friendship Facebook official and then tagging Ibushi for the clout boost. Ibushi was owed a title shot against Omega by virtue of his G1 victory over him. Instead, he was forced to sit idly by as Omega flaunted his new friendship with Cody by adding him to the match.
As 2018 faded and it became obvious that Kenny wanted to be with his best friends instead of his Golden Lover, Ibushi was left with a choice. Remain in a comfortable relationship where your partner's attention is divided between you, his three best friends, and the new billionaire sugar daddy. Or allow his partner to go overseas, pretend you are going to do the long-distance thing, and then make no secret that you are partying without boundaries every night he is gone.
Ibushi chose the latter option.
He committed to New Japan, deciding to bathe in beer and ignore the advice of the Wu-Tang Clan while his partner went to America to become All Elite. With Omega away, Ibushi could now live for himself. He wasn't automatically tied to Omega, who was a brighter star thanks to the shine around his waist. He could now become the Golden Star in Japan that he was meant to be.
Kota had a whirlwind affair with Tetsuya Naito, a man who brought out the best, and also the worst, in Ibushi. It was exactly what he needed following his split from Omega. Naito didn't care about Ibushi's past and barely cared about his future. He saw something he liked, swiped right, and tried to passionately murder him every time they were in the ring together. And the adventurous Ibushi didn't mind one bit.
Ibushi's newfound freedom and his intrepid romps with Naito allowed him to quickly get over Omega, who was busy working on his various vanity projects, one of which included promoting his relationship with Ibushi.
It all led to this past weekend.
Much like he did last year, Ibushi defeated the IWGP Champion, in this case Kazuchika Okada, to earn himself a spot in the finals. Last year, as he stood in the ring across from New Japan's favorite son, Omega was there in his corner. This year, as he stood across from New Japan's most hated villain, there was no one watching his back. Instead, he stared at Jay White, who now controls the faction that played a big role in destroying his once golden relationship, and could not have looked more confident.
Ibushi fought for himself in the Finals of the G1 Climax 29 Tournament. He didn't need to impress his life partner and the current champion, whose encouragement and forced hugs only served as extra pressure. He wasn't overwhelmed by facing The Ace of the company, who himself had the legendary Katsuyori Shibata in his corner, which only enhanced Ibushi's need to impress in order to be accepted.
He was up against Jay White and Bullet Club, a group he no longer had any paranoia about. He knew they weren't on his side. And the enemy you know is better than the one you don't.
In the end, Ibushi's confidence never wavered. He knew what he was up against and trusted himself to perform and overcome. No Blue Chew necessary.
By defeating Jay White, Kota Ibushi is now living his best life. He is off to headline the Tokyo Dome, challenging the IWGP Heavyweight Champion for the one accolade that has eluded him in his NJPW career.
Breaking up is hard to do. But sometimes, you have to break up to truly find your golden self.