Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Golden Champions: How the Omega/Ibushi Story Continues Across Continents

As a lifelong comic book reader, long-term storytelling in pro wrestling is something that really gets me going. When a wrestler jumps from company to company, they often find themselves reinventing themselves or creating new characters to work. But occasionally, a wrestler or two come along who are so invested in long-term creativity that they make damn sure that everything they do in the ring serves to slowly advance their career character arc, and in a "sport" that is basically a grunting, sweating theater in the round, it can be really fascinating to follow. Take the story of The Golden Lovers, the closest thing you'll find to a long-term, epic romance in pro wrestling. 

Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi are two of the most purely talented pro wrestlers on Earth. They also may or may not have been in a relationship back when they were a tag team called The Golden Lovers in Japanese comedy promotion DDT. The short short version (which is still long, long, long) of the story goes like this: 

Back in 2008, a young Kenny Omega, nerdy, in his mid-20s, and still relatively young in his wrestling career, saw a video of Kota Ibushi wrestling in Japan and became instantly enamored with him, recording a super-enthusiastic promo challenging Kota to a match in DDT. For whatever reason, everyone kinda went for it, and that year, Kenny flew to Japan to meet his destiny. They wrestled a wild match that went into a parking lot and featured moonsaults off parked cars and vending machines and other wild shit. Kota won the match and they basically fell in love with each other. DDT signed Kenny with the idea that he would become Kota's rival and they would have shitloads of insane matches with each other, but they swerved the promotion by saying "NO we're in LOVE and we want to be a TAG TEAM because we LOVE EACH OTHER so much." DDT said, "oh, uh, what's your team name?" "We're THE GOLDEN LOVERS and WE'RE IN LOVE." DDT: "Oh, shit, so you're not just saying that, huh?"