From Sports Hochi
“All the moves I use now, I did before I left elementary school.”
Sports Hochi: We heard that you decided to become a pro-wrestler when you were in the fifth grade…
Ibushi: Oh, you want to know everything from the beginning? My family bought their first VHS player around that time, so we went to rent a video tape. I wanted to watch ‘Dragon Ball’, but my big bother wanted to watch pro-wrestling. He had more pull than me in the family, so I gave in. At first I had no interest in pro-wrestling, but when I watched it, I thought this might be the ‘real Dragon Ball’. I was always fascinated by strong heroes and I wanted to be stronger. I started recording midnight pro-wrestling shows. My hero was the Great Sasuke from Michinoku Pro-Wrestling. I became especially interested in Indy pro-wrestling. Of course, I watched New Japan and All Japan, too.
Sports Hochi: What about the Indies fascinated you?
Ibushi: There is no difference between the major or indie promotions, when it came to the sacrifices they made. It was amazing to see the Great Sasuke going all-out, even if the venue held less than 50 people. I was convinced of his greatness. As I watched more of his matches, I marveled in his ability to bounce back, even while being hurt. I focused on what made him a fighter. I was very mesmerized by him. And thinking about how he fought helped me to overcome my own difficult situations. I kept telling myself, ‘He is still getting up, even if he’s injured. I need to keep pushing myself.’
Sports Hochi: Your all-out fighting style, ‘for life’ is still apparent…
Ibushi: Yes. My motivation hasn’t changed since I was in the fifth grade.
Sports Hochi: In 2004, you debuted in DDT, which is heavily entertainment focused. You never thought about going directly to New Japan?
Ibushi: I was a light weight, so I didn’t even try. I told myself it’s impossible for a light weight like me to become a New Japan pro-wrestler. Instead, I believed that I should go to DDT which will probably accept me. Now I think it was my mistake to think that way.
Sports Hochi: Also, the match between New Japan vs UWF. when Mutoh lost to Takada must have made an impression on you, correct?
Ibushi: In that time, about 13 or 14 years ago, I believed that a pro-wrestler had to be big like Mutoh. To work in a major company like New Japan, I believed that there’s no chance for me. So I didn’t think I was eligible for New Japan.
Sports Hochi: That was about the time when you were in high school?
Ibushi: That time I was still 50/50 about my desires. Part of me doubted myself, the other part was absolutely sure.
Sports Hochi: When you finished high school, you moved to Tokyo. Then, you worked at Narita Airport as a maintenance worker for a year.
Ibushi: I wanted to be a pro-wrestler so bad. But in Kagoshima, there weren’t any pro-wrestling companies. I knew I had to go to Tokyo. I let my teacher and my parents decide where I should work. I didn’t think I would be working there for more than a day. I wasn’t bothered by it.
Sports Hochi: You always said you can, ‘make any moves real if you can imagine them in your head’…
Ibushi: I don’t mean to sound boastful, but yes, the moves which I use now were all moves from my elementary school days. I was able to hit the ‘Phoenix Splash’ in sixth grade. I was scared to try moves on other people, though. So, it’s been about 25 years since I started using that move. I never missed.
Sports Hochi: Do you think you are very competitive?
Ibushi: Yes, always. Even when my neighborhood had sports competitions, I was frustrated that I wasn’t able to join the adult games. I was 3 and I cried because I was on the children’s team. I never wanted to lose, to anybody. Somehow, they put me in the adult team, and of course they beat me. But I believed, somewhere in my heart, that I won. I was very competitive.
Sports Hochi: How do you study moves?
Sports Hochi: From Sasuke, of course… and Hayabusa. I re-watched tapes until I wore them out.
Sports Hochi: Before you debuted as a pro-wrestler, you also learned kick boxing and modern karate.
Ibushi: Kickboxing made me aware of weight. It made me hesitant to gain more weight because I wanted to take kickboxing seriously. In kickboxing, you have to lose weight. In that time I only weighed 70kg. There weren’t wrestlers who only weighed 70kg in New Japan. However, I still thought I would be a pro-wrestler while kickboxing. I believed that pro-wrestling was the strongest, even though MMA was very popular at the time. That was around when I was 20 or so.
Sports Hochi: You won a kickboxing tournament when you were 21 even though you were only doing it for your pro-wrestling career.
Ibushi: Yes, I am truly sorry, but I never cared about kickboxing. It was only for my pro-wrestling development. I’m sure that those who I beat hate me for that.
Sports Hochi: And in 2004, you debuted in DDT.
Ibushi: There were some wrestlers who did kickboxing at DDT. Kudo, who I fought in my debut, used to be a kickboxer, as well. But I thought my kicks and punches were better than any of them. So, I knew I could hang. To me, DDT was a mix of entertainment and fighting. I felt that place was fun, and I had freedom.
Part 2 coming soon…