NJPW Addresses Frustrations From Kota Ibushi, Ibushi To Remain Under NJPW Contract

Earlier in May, Kota Ibushi took to social media to express his frustrations with NJPW management.

In the messages (translated by @golden_kuma), Ibushi threatened to expose "the former cheaters-gun (already returned) and the sexually harassing bosses, from the company president's lies to his unreasonable power harassments."

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The text messages between Ibushi and NJPW talent relations member Kikuchi revealed that Kikuchi threatened to end Ibushi’s contract with NJPW due to an appearance at a Just Tap Out show on March 4 that was not approved by Kikuchi. Ibushi accused management of "power harassment" after threats to terminate his contract.

In a press conference held by NJPW, President Takami Ohbari said, "I would now like to take a moment to explain the series of events that led up to the aforementioned posts to the extent of our current understanding. Kota Ibushi is a wrestler exclusively contracted to New Japan Pro-Wrestling. As such, it is understood that in order to devote full attention to NJPW matches and associated events, he is required to inform, and receive express permission from NJPW before outside appearances.

"On March 4, in breach of the terms of his contract, Mr. Ibushi made an appearance seconding wrestlers at a Just Tap Out event. The aforementioned Official is responsible for contacting various wrestlers contracted to New Japan Pro-Wrestling, but also has a long personal history with Mr. Ibushi that extends far before him becoming an exclusively contracted talent. The Official contacted Mr. Ibushi in the belief that Mr, Ibushi’s actions in breach of his contract were taken deliberately to persuade NJPW to terminate its agreement with him. Perceiving this as a betrayal of personal trust established over a number of years. His messages were sent in an emotional state as a result."

Ohbari said he received a report that Ibushi had intention to leave NJPW and contacted Ibushi on March 31 to discuss the matter.

After receiving Mr. Ibushi’s explanation, I reprimanded him, reminding him that this was a breach of his contract with New Japan Pro-Wrestling, as well as a breach of licensing agreements we hold with other companies. Mr. Ibushi sincerely apologised for his actions. Mr. Ibushi’s penalty for his breach was limited to a reprimand as, on hearing with Mr. Ibushi, it was clear there was no intention to breach the terms of his contract, nor did he believe a breach had taken place because he had not participated in a match," he said.

After Ibushi's tweets regarding his frustrations and his mother attempting suicide, NJPW held a "countermeasure meeting including legal personnel" to discuss the best course of action.

As a result, there has been no formal announcement from the company on this matter until this time. However yesterday, myself and the company owner Mr. Takaaki Kidani were able to meet with Mr. Ibushi, and discuss this statement to you here as well as our opinions on the matter. Before proceeding I would like once again to sincerely apologise to fans for the concern caused by this series of events," said Ohbari.

Regarding the subject of Kikuchi and his messages to Ibushi, Ohbari said, "However, the words of the Official in his text conversation were inexcusable, especially in their direction to a wrestler who risks his life in order to fulfil his role as a professional. It is this mindset that directly led to Mr. Ibushi posting his critical tweets about the company. For the thoughtless content of these messages, we fully and unreservedly apologise to Mr. Ibushi. Despite the Official’s lengthy relationship with Mr. Ibushi, the lack of consideration shown to him and by extension our wrestlers at large should also be met with an appropriate penalty."

Representative director of Bushiroad Takaaki Kidani said, "First let me express my sincerest personal gratitude to Kota Ibushi for his contributions to New Japan Pro-Wrestling and his thrilling matches in the ring. It is my sincerest hope that he continues to be connected to NJPW moving forward. However, his utmost priority at this time must be to the care of his mother, as well as full recovery from his injury. It should go without saying that he will remain under contract for as long as that process takes."

NJPW gave the following summation:

Kota Ibushi is, and will remain a key member of the New Japan Pro-Wrestling roster. This kind of severe disagreement between company and talent should not happen again; in order to prevent any such instances in the future, and ensure the best possible working environment for talent, we will be actively engaged in discussion with Mr. Ibushi about improving company policy and implementing proper procedure.

We again would like to apologise to fans, wrestlers and personnel for the concern and the disruption caused in the middle of the Best of the Super Jr. tour.

Ibushi has been out of action since he suffered a shoulder injury in the G1 Climax Finals against Kazuchika Okada. He was announced for the New Japan Cup, but was pulled from the tour, which reportedly upset Ibushi.

It was stated in the press conference that Ibushi is training to return, but his shoulder isn't "in ring shape" and it is unknown when he will be back in the ring.

When asked about "penalties for Ibushi and for the Official," Ohbari replied, "Regarding Kota Ibushi, especially considering the circumstances surrounding everything that happened, there was never any consideration given to termination. But given the contract breach involved in the unsanctioned appearance as well as publishing company secrets, that is something that would likely result in a salary reduction."

Ibushi posted the following message on social media after the press conference:

Fightful will provide more details on the situation as they are known.

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