In what may be the best bit of long term booking in years, Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi, the Golden Lovers, are back together and ready to take on the tag team world in NJPW. For those not in the know, Kenny and Kota were a team years ago in DDT Wrestling known as the Golden Lovers. As a team they were known for their over the top mix of incredible athleticism, in-ring comedy, and anime/video game references. Their matches were things to behold whether they were taking on other teams or, in a rare few instances, against each other. The two were perfect for each other. You see, there is a very good reason Kenny Omega is not wrestling in the states most of the time. When he was starting out he knew he was different and that his ideal wrestling promotion was different. And because YouTube is a thing, he stumbled across Kota and DDT. DDT is not normal. It is insanity writ large in the guise of professional wrestling.
All of their success together, starting with their first match in 2008, came to a head at DDT’s biggest show of the year, Peter Pan. In 2012, Omega and Ibushi main evented against each other in a match for the KO-D Openweight title, the top belt in the promotion. It is a legendary match that absolutely tore the house down. Ibushi ended up winning the match and became the first and only man to ever kick out of Kenny’s finisher, The One Winged Angel.
Around this time both Kenny and Kota were appearing for NJPW with Kenny wrestling as a junior and Kota a heavyweight. In 2014, two years removed from having the match of their careers, Kenny signed an exclusive deal with NJPW. Kota was doing work for a few different companies at the time, Kota is the kind of guy who is good enough to basically do whatever he wants, and with Kenny staying a junior, the Golden Lovers were effectively no more. Kenny joined Bullet Club becoming The Cleaner. And yet, even though they were apart, there were constant nods/winks/references from Kenny to Kota. It was something always right below the surface, always hinted at.
The two were kept largely apart for over a year until Invasion Attack in 2015. At the time AJ Style was the IWGP Heavyweight champ and leader of Bullet Club. That night he was defending his title against Kota and just when it looked like Kota was about to win, via the Phoenix Splash, who should pop onto the apron for the distraction but Kota’s former partner, Kenny Omega. They never spoke, Kenny never directly interfered, but it was enough. AJ countered the splash into a Styles Clash for the win. Kenny did a wonderful job here showing real emotional distress over his stablemate winning and his former partner losing.
The two stay apart again for all of 2016 minus some comments in various interviews. During this time, Omega ends up taking over leadership of Bullet Club after AJ, Gallows, and Anderson all left for WWE. Kenny moved up to heavyweight and went on an absolute tear winning the G1 tournament and setting himself up for a title shot at WrestleKingdom 11 in January 2017. Meanwhile, Kota is all over the place in 2016 notably absent from NJPW as he was competing in WWE at the Cruiserweight Classic. Now, he wasn’t really absent as he was playing the Tiger Mask W character for NJPW, a long standing tradition for the company. Leading up to the 2017 G1 the rumors started flying that Kota would indeed take part. That was all Kenny needed to jump back in. He cut a promo at the start of the G1 stuff basically saying that he was better than Kota and that he needed to see him in the ring. The promo itself is basically an anime speech that would feel right at home in Dragonball. Unfortunately, Kota did not make the finals of the 2017 G1 so the dream match never came to fruition. Omega spent the rest of 2017 defending the US title while Kota spent the year taking on Cody Rhodes. Their rivalry grew strong throughout the year with Cody turning from bad guy to something more sinister. Things started coming to a head when Cody, in a special six man tag match featuring Kota whom he had lost to the previous night, was about to use a steel chair on the surgically repaired neck of Kota Ibushi. Right before the blow could be struck, out came Kenny for the save. And the first cracks in Bullet Club became visible.
So now here were are. Early in 2018, Bullet Club is fracturing right before our eyes. Spurred on by Cody Rhodes, himself now playing a full on anime villain, leadership is in question. Omega recently lost his US title to Switchblade. BC member Hangman Page saw it as his opportunity to state his intentions of going after the belt. Kenny however, did not appreciate the timing taking the belt from Page and giving it back to Switchblade. This caused a hullabaloo in the ring bringing out the rest of Bullet Club, Kenny shoving Matt Jackson, Matt and his brother Nick leaving, and Cody and Kenny left in the ring to work out their differences. Which they did when Cody turned on Kenny hitting him with the Cross Rhodes. And then, Kota Ibushi.
Thanks for reading this week. Honestly, there’s more that could be said about Kenny and Kota reuniting but I’ll leave it to you to find your way. It truly has been an example of wonderful storytelling over many years, something so rarely seen in modern professional wrestling. If you have a moment please like and share this post and follow me on twitter and instagram, @geekadedan. And make sure to check back next week for another reason to love wrestling. Until then…