In one of the most heartfelt moments in all of pro wrestling history, Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi finally reunited as the Golden Lovers. What exactly this means going forward is still somewhat unclear, but for now we can all relax in the knowledge that true love is indeed forever. Just who are the Golden Lovers though? a tag team? a friendship? a real life couple? Just why is this all such a big deal? Lets take a look into this unique relationship that began before either stepped foot in a NJPW ring.
How it all began
To start off we have to go all the way back to 2006. Kenny Omega has just dropped out of what was the WWE’s developmental system at the time, Deep South Wrestling. Unhappy with the promoters, trainers and being unable to express himself outside of a script, Kenny finds himself back on the Independent scene. Around this time Kenny is introduced to wrestling promotion DDT (Dramatic Dream Team). Kenny was captivated both by the promotion’s style over the top style and one of its stars Kota Ibushi. The young Kenny Omega was desperate to get involved with the promotion, so he began uploading videos to youtube of him wrestling DDT style matches, as well as issuing a challenge to Ibushi.
KO’D Tag Team Champions
Kenny Omega eventually found his way into the promotion in 2008, and he would get his match against Ibushi too (which you can still see now on DDT universe). The two would quickly form a mutual respect and form a tag team. Originally set to be called the Golden Brothers, Kenny would remark that they were the “Golden Lovers” and so the name stuck. As a team they wasted little time in establishing themselves as a force to be reckoned with, winning the KO-D Tag Team Championships for the first time in 2009. Over the next few years they would make a name for themselves as a premier tag team on the Japanese independent circuit.
A unique pairing
Now to understand the type of chemistry these two would form, is to understand the kind of place DDT is. Essentially created as a spoof of the WWE, DDT is a wild and wacky promotion where sex dolls, ladders and tables have title reigns, homosexual innuendo is commonplace and matches have often been known to take place in trains, office blocks, baseball fields and lakes, sometimes under ridiculous stipulations. The wrestling is still top notch, but if you ever wandered why Kenny seems so comfortable in drag, and Kota is so off-centre, DDT probably had quite the influence. Take one gauntlet match they competed in for example, which saw them fight off a ‘demonic’ being, get attacked by cola and come face to face with two 8 year olds. The pair became known for their humour, which included playing off their name to some extent, often insinuating, they were in fact a couple.
IWGP Junior Tag Team Champions
In 2010 things would step up a gear for the duo, as they made their debut in NJPW. After defeating Jado & Gedo in their debut, the two would begin a rivalry with Apollo 55 (A team made up of Prince Devitt & Taguchi.) The Golden Lovers, who were also still competing in DDT as well, would defeat Apollo 55 in 2011 for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championships. The match would be named by Tokyo Sports Magazine as match of the year (A first for a Junior Tag Match).
Final Days of the Duo
Over the next three years the two men would continue to make a name for themselves both as a duo and as singles competitors, in DDT & NJPW. Ibushi would win the best of the Super Juniors 2011 Tournament and then the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, on two occasions no less, as well as defeating Kenny Omega in a headlining match at Budokan hall, at DDT’s 15th anniversary show to retain the KO’D Openweight championship. He then debuted in the NJPW Heavyweight division at the G1 Climax 2013. In 2014 Omega announced he was leaving DDT to join NJPW full time. With Ibushi now competing in the heavyweight division this effectively brought about an end to the Golden Lovers. The two wrestled their last match (for now) as a duo in October 26, 2014 for Omega’s farewell match.
Leader of the Bullet Club
Omega had a very sudden turn of character upon his full time debut in NJPW, as he aligned himself with Bullet club and became the Cleaner. Under his new villainous persona, he became a dominant feature in the Junior division, much like Ibushi, Omega would go on to win the IWGP Junior Hevyweight championship on two occasions. Ibushi meanwhile remained a popular member of the Heavyweight division, only held back somewhat by his decision to remain as a freelancer. In January 2016, Kenny Omega would take over leadership of the Bullet club from AJ Styles, moving up to the heavyweight division in the process. Just one month after this Ibushi, who had been out with an injury, would resign from both NJPW & DDT. Temporarily ending speculation of an upcoming match between the two.
Road to the G1 Climax 2017
Omega would go on to become huge star in NJPW, defeating Tanahashi to become the Intercontinental champion, becoming the first Gaijin to win the G1, headlining Tokyo Dome against Okada and becoming the inaugural IWGP U.S Champion. Ibushi meanwhile remained a freelancer, most notably competing in the WWE Cruiserweight classic. He would return under the persona of Tiger Mask W for a short while before finally returning to compete in the 2017 G1 Climax. Omega, who was in a seperate block from Ibushi, challenged his former tag partner to meet him in the finals. Ibushi was unable to make it to the finals however, instead Omega would fall to Tetsuya Naito. Following the match the two former partners would finally meet again backstage, though no words were spoken and fans were left to guess what the relations between the two would now be.
Reunited at last
Omega who had would go on to defeat Chris Jericho at Wrestle Kingdom whilst Ibushi would defeat Omega’s stablemate Cody. The following night at New year’s dash, Omega would save Ibushi from an attack by Cody, leading to an argument between the two Bullet Club members. Dissension had been growing from within Bullet Club ever since Omega took over as leader, and it all boiled over at New beginnings, with Cody attacking Omega. This time Ibushi made the save, and after initial rejection from Omega, the two former partners would embrace in the ring. What happens next is a mystery, maybe the two will go after the tag belts? perhaps they will battle the bullet club? or maybe this will end in the two facing off against each other? Only time will tell.
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