(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Kota Ibushi vs. Kenny Omega – DDT Peter Pan 2012
There are few modern wrestlers more polarizing than Kenny Omega and Kota Ibushi. Both of them are similar to one another, which is probably why they teamed together for a long time and remain such close friends.
Both of them have legions of loyal fans that praise everything they do and defend them with every keystroke. At the same time, both of them have many detractors, both among fans and within the wrestling industry itself. One could make the argument that both of them were integral in the gradual shift in wrestling from something serious to something silly and farcical and they’d have plenty of supporting evidence. Of course, if one were to make that argument, the other side would point to all the ‘serious work’ Omega and Ibushi have done in recent years, especially in New Japan.
But what happens when you put these two “maverick” wrestlers in the least restrictive environment possible and let them do whatever they want? Read on to find out.
As a reminder, I am reviewing Five Star and almost-Five Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes back to the 1980s and I’m going to pick different matches from different eras to see how they look today. Check out previous entries in my 5 Star Match Reviews series right here.
Many years ago, DDT Pro Wrestling was an indy promotion in Japan that tried to copy WWE’s entertainment-focused style but with puro matches mixed in as well. DDT became quasi-famous on the internet for taking some WWE ideas to the extreme. They had their own version of Goldust but WAY creepier, they’ve featured some of the wildest and most incomprehensible match stipulations ever conceived, and their version of the hardcore or 24/7 title has changed over a thousand times and has included both animals and inanimate objects as champions. So yeah, DDT was where wrestlers went to push the envelope. And both Omega and Ibushi did just that.
Ibushi’s most infamous career moment came when he wrestled a DDT character named YOSHIHIKO. The problem with this scenario was that YOSHIHIKO was a sex blow-up doll, which meant that not only was Ibushi basically wrestling himself, but he also had to sell for “his opponent”, including something called an Infinite Canadian Destroyer.
As for Omega, DDT loaned him out to STARDOM so that he could wrestle a nine-year-old trainee named Haruka.
If Ibushi and Omega were capable of such unbridled lunacy separately, then what sort of madness would unfold once they competed against each other one-on-one?
This match originally took place on August 18th, 2012, at DDT’s annual Peter Pan event. It was never given a formal rating by Dave Meltzer, but it has been praised by wrestling fans online all the same. Let’s see how well the match holds up after over a decade.
This is for Ibushi’s KO-D Openweight Championship. Omega gets a clean break on their first lock-up and then counters out of various holds from Ibushi and knocks him down. On the next two shoulder tackle spots neither man goes down and Omega pie-faces Ibushi. They trade running kicks All Japan style until Ibushi catches Omega’s foot and lands a martial arts rush. That’s followed by a coordinated dance routine-style exchange, including a literal Street Fighter-style ‘Hadouken’ from Omega. He thinks he’s Ryu and Ibushi has to sell for that. OK, so that’s how it’s going to be.
They shake hands and Omega starts working over Ibushi’s left arm. Surprisingly, Omega starts wrestling more like Bryan Danielson or ZSJ with some psychology and logic as he both dismantles Ibushi’s arm.
Ibushi escapes but Omega continues hammering his weakened left arm. Ibushi fights out of a standing armbar but Omega hits back with chops and an Undertaker-style elevated arm wrench. Then Omega follows with one of the nastiest over-the-shoulder armbreakers I’ve ever seen, which he worsens by twisting Ibushi’s arm so that it’s more likely to snap as it crashes into his shoulder. Omega goes for another arm wrench but Ibushi escapes, ducks a leapfrogs, and roundhouse kicks Omega. But his control doesn’t last long as Omega counters an Irish whip and kicks Ibushi’s bad arm. Omega lands another chop but runs into a dropkick that sends him to the floor. Ibushi goes for his triangle moonsault to the floor but Omega cuts him off on the turnbuckle. Then Omega spikes Ibushi with a half-and-half suplex on the ring apron. Nasty landing for Ibushi.
Ibushi returns to the ring and eats a corner elbow. He blocks a suplex so Omega lands stiff forearms to the back of his neck which was tenderized moments ago by that apron suplex. Omega connects with a deadlift vertical suplex for a two-count and then applies some double-arm submission hold to target both of Ibushi’s arms and his neck. Omega switches to a neck crank and when Ibushi tries kicking out (literally), Omega elbows his neck and collar Danielson-style. Ibushi continues landing quick but largely useless strikes between Omega’s attacks so Omega gets angrier and lands a running kick to Ibushi’s neck for another two-count. Omega applies a modified cross armbreaker. Ibushi powers over into a pinning predicament for a two-count. Omega easily forces Ibushi back into the armbar and wrenches it as much as he can. Ibushi still tries powering over into a pin but can’t stay in that position for longer than a two-count. Ibushi eventually escapes by stomping on Omega’s face and hits an elbow strike with his (relatively healthy) right arm. But Omega overpowers him with a double ax handle to his left arm and then stretches it through the ropes using his foot. Omega sends Ibushi into the opposite corner. Ibushi flips out and lands a counter powerslam. He goes for the moonsault half of the combo but Omega gets his knees up. Then Omega goes back to the armbreaker but Ibushi gets a ropebreak.
Omega lands an ax handle to Ibushi’s neck and Ibushi hits back with (bad arm) punches. Omega stiffs Ibushi and charges but runs into another roundhouse to the gut. A chop/elbow exchange ensues and Ibushi musters through the pain in his right arm to hit back (instead of using the left arm; what is it with these supposedly top-tier wrestlers always relying on their right arms to strike even as those arms are targeted and weakened?). Ibushi hits more roundhouse kicks and sends Omega into the ropes for a dropkick but Omega holds onto the ropes to avoid it. Ibushi gets sent to the apron, blocks a forearm, and springboards for a dropkick, only for Omega to dropkick him in midair. One, two, Ibushi kicks out.
Omega goes for his Aoi Shoudou fisherman neckbreaker but Ibushi escapes with knees to Omega’s head. Omega hits a boot to block a corner charge and then flips over into a snap Frankensteiner. But Ibushi bounces right up and lands a Frankensteiner of his own that sends Omega to ringside. Ibushi jumps to the top rope and lands a corkscrew senton to the floor.
Ibushi lands a springboard dropkick into the ring and then a second one onto the elevated entrance ramp. Ibushi goes for what looks like a lawn dart toss but Omega escapes. Omega teases a dragon suplex on the ramp. But Ibushi blocks and lands a half-and-half suplex of his own. Omega gets spiked on his head and neck this time.
It takes Omega some time to return to the ring, and when he does Ibushi drops him with stiff kicks and a moonsault knee splash for a two-count. Omega reverses a corner whip and a school boy roll-up attempt. Then he ducks a roundhouse kick but Ibushi uses the momentum to land a standing corkscrew moonsault splash for another two-count. Ibushi goes for a Last Ride Powerbomb. Omega escapes, teases a Hadouken, makes Ibushi flinch, and hits a high kick instead. Omega confuses Ibushi and hits a running dropkick to Ibushi’s knee followed by his Kotaro Crusher for another two-count. Ibushi blocks one fireman’s carry but can’t block another as Omega lands a slam/running shooting star splash combo for yet another two-count. Omega follows with a jumping thrust kick and teases another dragon suplex. Ibushi escapes and tries to run the ropes but Omega pulls him back and connects with the dragon suplex. Ibushi rolls to ringside and Omega lands his suicide dive to the floor.
The video at the end of this section has the full match but it misses a key spot in the match. Both guys brawl into the stands and Ibushi regains control with a kick to Omega’s face. Omega goes down and Ibushi summons his inner daredevil. Ibushi climbs to the balcony and moonsaults onto Omega below! Ibushi has no regard for his own life.
Back in the ring, Ibushi lifts Omega up for a super Frankensteiner but Omega blocks and drops Ibushi face-first into the top turnbuckle. Big bucklebomb by Omega. Then he charges for an attack but Ibushi hits first with a thrust kick. Omega lands on his feet to block another suplex. Ibushi does a backflip/matrix to dodge another Hadouken and then hits both a roundhouse and a deadlift German suplex. But Omega bounces onto his feet and connects with the Hadouken (really just a double palm strike). One, two, Ibushi kicks out.
Omega lifts Ibushi up for the One-Winged Angel but switches to a bridging German instead for a two-count. He charges to the ropes…and runs into a lariat. Last Ride Powerbomb by Ibushi. Omega barely kicks out and then cuts Ibushi off as Ibushi climbs a turnbuckle. Then Omega lifts Ibushi onto his shoulders (with his neck appearing to have recovered miraculously) and lands another Croyt’s Wrath deadlift German but off the top rope this time. Ibushi lands on his head from the top rope but still has the power to kick-out at two.
Ibushi cuts Omega off on the top rope and teases a powerbomb. Omega resists and lifts Ibushi into a backward piledriver position but Ibushi falls to the mat instead and hits a handspring back kick. Desperate, Omega drives Ibushi’s face into the turnbuckle but Ibushi escapes…and jumps onto the top rope. Springboard hurricanrana from the top rope to the floor! Holy shit!
It takes both guys a long time to re-enter the ring but both eventually make it. Omega hits a few slaps but Ibushi fires back with a nasty spinkick to Omega’s gut. They trade forearms until Ibushi hits back with close-fisted punches. Omega tries blocking but Ibushi keeps hitting so Omega ducks and lands his snap dragon suplex. But Ibushi gets right back up smiling and roundhouses him again. Ibushi misses a Phoenix Splash but rolls away…only for Omega to crack him with a V-Trigger knee strike. One Winged Angel connects! One…two….and thr – NO, Ibushi kicks out. Ibushi becomes the first and only person to ever kick out of Omega’s finisher! Ibushi fires up but can’t even stay standing and both men sink to the canvas.
Both wrestlers make it to their knees and start trading forearms. They continue exchanging strikes as they fight to their feet and then both connect with simultaneous lariats. Omega blocks another lariat but Ibushi turns that into a backflip kick. Ibushi charges for a lariat. Omega ducks and hits a northern lights suplex into a cross armbreaker. He hammers Ibushi’s hands to break his grip and locks the hold in fully. Ibushi tries re-clasping his hands so Omega switches the hold to Ibushi’s other arm. but Ibushi manages the seemingly impossible and rolls over to the ropes for a break.
Omega signals the end and goes for an OWA from the turnbuckle. Ibushi hits right hand punches to Omega’s head and eventually makes Omega slip down. Ibushi lands a huge roundhouse to put Omega on the top turnbuckle. Then Ibushi packages Omega down and hits a top-rope Phoenix-plex. Good God, he just folded Omega in two and spiked him on his head from the top rope. One, two, Omega barely kicks out. Phoenix Splash connects! One, two, and three! Ibushi beats Omega!
Winner and STILL KO-D Openweight Champion after 37:26: Kota Ibushi
That wasn’t quite what I expected. With this being DDT, I was expecting forty minutes of pure lunacy mixed with silliness and goofy gestures. What we got instead was 98% New Japan-style serious wrestling and maybe 2% silliness in the form of Omega’s facial expressions and both guys’ standing up after being spiked. If you’ve seen Omega or Ibushi in their primes in New Japan, that should give you an idea of what took place here. This wasn’t the joke or mockery of pro wrestling I thought they’d pull off; instead, it was a high-octane wrestling competition with a healthy dose of psychology mixed in with the diabetic extremes both guys have become known for. And in the end, it was one of the best matches both wrestlers ever had, including their rematch six years later in New Japan.
This match felt more like a callback to 1990s All Japan than it did an indy spot-fest. Omega started the match dismantling Ibushi’s arms and neck and wrestled smartly for the first fifteen minutes. But despite all his clever work, Ibushi slowly kept resisting and then pushing forward. Omega got plenty of heat by keeping Ibushi grounded and on the defensive. For every one weak hit Ibushi got in, Omega got five strong ones. Omega created this huge challenge for Ibushi to overcome, which Ibushi did, slowly but surely. Despite Ibushi’s flashes of control, Omega did a fantastic job controlling the match and making it harder and harder for Ibushi to make a sustained comeback. that story ended up working well’ Ibushi has made a career out of taking extended and brutal beatings only to come back not all at once but gradually in a piecemeal sort of way.
But the real appeal in this match comes from the crazy high-spots these guys do. But what makes them different from, say, AEW or black and gold NXT, is that there’s still a kernel of logic and realism hidden within those laborious and flashy spots. Neither Ibushi nor Omega pulled any punches here; they hit as hard as they could whenever possible and went out of their way to make their biggest moves look painful and impactful. Beneath all the flash was a sense of escalation from Omega; he was in control for most of the match and ran out of options as time passed and Ibushi kept going. Ibushi even kicked out of Omega’s OWA, which was protected for so long and still is to this day. With his biggest weapon incapable of ending the match, Omega decided to try an avalanche version (instead of going for the OWA again; there was no way Ibushi would kick out of two of them but I digress). But Ibushi survived that and every other little trick that Omega threw at him. And when Ibushi was on offense, he realized the only way to beat Omega was to go full steam ahead with the high-risk-high-reward mentality. Ibushi hit some crazy moves here because he couldn’t play it safe; he had to surprise Omega and do a lot of damage in a short period if he wanted to win. That’s why Ibushi did all those insane dives and extreme spots like the Phoenix-plex.
But the match still had some flaws that might make it hard for some viewers to get into. Ibushi’s selling was hit or miss here as he took plenty of damage to his arms and sold accordingly but didn’t really do the same with his neck, as seen with his athletic bursts out of nowhere during his first comeback. It seemed like Ibushi had no idea how to incorporate Omega’s limbwork into his comeback so he just brushed it off and didn’t do much better selling until the end when Omega went back to the arm out of desperation.
As for Omega, he wasn’t as wacky or over-the-top as he’d become later on but he still showed some of his own issues here. The way he bounced up and moved around at times following such high-impact bombs from Ibushi made him look almost cartoonish. He had these weird facial expressions that made him look less serious or in pain and more goofy and exaggerated (Vince McMahon once said that a wrestler’s facial expressions are critical; so if we look at how Omega did on that front here, he kinda struck out). And like in Omega’s later matches, he didn’t really slow down that much once he got off the mat. he’d take a beating, sell on the mat for a long time, and then get up and move with the same speed and agility as before.
Then again, this issue was common to both wrestlers; they acted like being on the mat for a long time allowed them to heal up so quickly in a short time, instead of staggering their recoveries and making the match come across like more of a struggle.
And aside from the above, the only other thing that would’ve improved the match and made it REALLY fantastic would be Omega attacking Ibushi’s legs. We saw a glimpse of that as Omega hit a running dropkick to Ibushi’s leg. It would’ve made perfect sense for Omega to go down that avenue as well since Ibushi’s style was built around kicks and dives. And if he couldn’t use one leg then Omega would’ve had an even easier time in control and would’ve come even closer to winning. And even if Omega didn’t win, going down that path would’ve gotten him even more heat and made Ibushi’s comeback way more compelling as he’d have even more pain and damage to overcome.
Final Rating: ****3/4
This match was the antithesis of pretty much everything DDT became (in)famous for. It wasn’t a joke, it wasn’t over-the-top, and it wasn’t a mockery of pro-wrestling or an attempt at exposing the craft. This was as close to serious and competitive wrestling as it gets with these two daredevil mavericks. What’s more, it was astonishingly great; these guys actually wrestled and took this match seriously. The match actually had a sense of competition, tension, and linear build towards an exciting finish. Even though it had some ridiculous dives (because, Ibushi) and some cartoonish moments (because, Omega), those things were barely noticeable in the grand scheme of things.
This is one of the better matches involving Omega and Ibushi in the same ring. It’s disappointing that, years later when their work would reach a much larger audience, they’d fail to live up to the standard they set for themselves here.
Thanks for reading. You can email me with any questions or comments, and be sure to check out my 5-Star and Almost 5-Star Match Reviews series here.