Kota Ibushi and Kenny Omega are two of the finest talents in New Japan Pro Wrestling. Ibushi's early career and success occurred in his native country of Japan, but he has also competed in North America, continuing to build on his notoriety and earning fans along the way. Omega's journey to New Japan was a little different, as he attempted to achieve success in North America but began to receive widespread acclaim once he moved to Japan.
Their careers are storied and special, and in fact, they first came together to form a tandem eight years ago in a promotion that was not New Japan. This was after a tour in the summer of 2008 where Omega joined that promotion, DDT, and he formed a team with Ibushi in the winter of the following year. Their success together was immediate, as they captured tag team championships that same month. During their time together, this team became one of the best teams in Japan.
The Initial Formation
After a year, Omega and Ibushi competed as a team for New Japan Pro Wrestling. One of their opponents, Jado, ended up unable to compete after sustaining an injury in the match. During the early part of their time as a team in New Japan, Ibushi and Omega took part in a feud with Ryusuke Taguchi and Fergal 'Prince' Devitt, who now competes under the name Finn Balor in North America, a team that was known as Apollo 55.
As their rivalry raged on, it culminated with a championship win as Omega and Ibushi captured the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship at NJPW's Dominion '10. There was so much acclaim for the result of that match that Tokyo Sports named it the match of the year for 2010, making them the first Junior heavyweight team to capture this award.
Growing in Love & Success
Omega and Ibushi held the championships for a few months after losing them back to Devitt and Taguchi. While the loss could have affected the team's future success, it only acted as a minor speed bump. Outside New Japan, the Golden Lovers captured 6-man championships later on. Ibushi and Omega's immediate ability to work together so seamlessly was incredible.
Their offense was synchronized as though they had been working together for years. Over the course of five years, they were recognized as the stand out performers in Japan. Fans should remember that Omega embraced the Japanese culture and in so relocated there, unlike other North American wrestlers who only go to Japan for four to six-week tours and then return home until the next tour.
His overall enjoyment of Japan helped make his relationship with Ibushi in and out of the ring as successful as it was. During their five-year run as a team, there was no animosity, it was nothing but complete harmony as each man knew what the other was thinking before they knew themselves.
The End of the Love
In the fall of 2014, Omega announced that he would be committing his time and energy to NJPW on a full-time basis, and in the process, the Golden Lovers team was dissolved. His departure was nothing personal, and when they split the duo left on good terms. After going their separate ways, both men went on to achieve success independently.
For Omega, he went on to transition from being a junior to becoming a heavyweight and received acclaim as being among the greatest wrestlers in the world. He also eventually became the leader of the Bullet Club. He has had some of the greatest matches in the promotion's history against current IWGP heavyweight champion Kazuchika Okada. In fact, wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer rated his match against Okada at Wrestle Kingdom 11 as the first ever six-star match.
Ibushi Comes into His Own
While Omega and his other Bullet Club brethren were running rampant, Ibushi was busy blazing a trail for himself. He also challenged Okada on a number of occasions, but it was his matches against Prince Devitt for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title that were among the most notable of his singles career. He also worked alongside El Desperado and challenged for the IWGP Junior heavyweight tag team championships.
Ibushi has suffered an array of injuries during his career, and, despite achieving championship success on a number of different occasions he battled a herniated disc in his neck. He didn't rest on his laurels in the least in his time away from Omega. Their paths didn't cross, as Ibushi was engaged in meaningful matches against the likes of Shinsuke Nakamura, AJ Styles, Ricochet, Tetsuya Naito, and Hirooki Goto.
The Golden Lovers Reunited
However, Ibushi needed to lighten his schedule as the injuries he had suffered in the past were mounting up. At one point, he disappeared from the promotion only to return as Tiger Mask for a time. In 2017, he competed in NJPW's famed annual G1 Climax tournament, competing in nine matches and winning five of them. As the months passed Ibushi increased his schedule.
On January 4th, he faced Bullet Club member Cody, while Omega faced Chris Jericho at the same show. They were on the same card, but the big development occurred later in the month when Ibushi came to the aid of Omega who was being attacked by his Bullet Club colleagues. There appeared to be no rhyme or reason, but it didn't matter.
The Future Looks Golden
Since then, they have reunited as a tandem and have been facing various Bullet Club members including the Young Bucks and Cody and Marty Scrull, both in Japan and in North America. Now that Omega is engaged in a protracted feud with Cody, having recently faced him in North America, where does that put the future of the Golden Lovers?
Perhaps their success together could be all short-lived once again. Could this be Omega using Ibushi in his battle for Bullet Club supremacy? Or what if this is Ibushi's entrance into the Bullet Club, and that what fans may be witnessing is the Golden Lovers Club? Wherever this alliance ends up, fans should be glad to see where they have been, where they, are and where they may be going.
As a wrestling enthusiast for over 30 years, my fondness for professional wrestling explores the irrational in a rational way. I will explore the details inside and outside the ring and hopefully have a laugh with you in the process. I've had the fortune to interview wrestlers from Lucha Underground, TNA, Ring of Honor, GFW, and former WWE talent as well. Feel free to follow me on Twitter and Instagram and feel free to visit my website Pro Wrestling Post.