New Japan Pro-Wrestling is scheduled to return to the Tokyo Dome this coming Sunday for the Wrestle Grand Slam pay-per-view. Unfortunately, the show's main event seems to be in jeopardy as Kota Ibushi, set to challenge Shingo Takagi for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, is reportedly sick. New Japan issued a recent health update, saying the former champ had been sidelined due to the effects of the COVID-19 vaccine. A new statement was released on Wednesday, confirming Ibushi has been diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia.
The company's statement read, "Kota Ibushi has been out of competition since the beginning of the Summer Struggle series due to illness. After careful investigation and thorough assessment, he has been diagnosed with aspiration pneumonia. Ibushi’s illness was originally reported as a result of side effects arising from his COVID-19 vaccination. Aspiration pneumonia has no connection to COVID vaccinations, and Ibushi’s illness is not a result of his inoculation. We apologise for any misunderstanding. Ibushi has also tested negative for COVID-19.
"In order to give Ibushi more time to make a full in-ring recovery, he will be absent from cards on July 22 and 23 in Osaka, as well as July 24 in Nagoya," it continued. "A final decision on his participation at Wrestle Grand Slam on July 25 will be made after assessing Ibushi’s recovery."
Ibushi's illness is just the latest installment in what has been an unlucky 2021 for New Japan's top championship. Ibushi initially won both the IWGP Heavyweight and Intercontinental Championships at Wrestle Kingdom 15 in January, then opted to merge the two titles into the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship in March. The decision was panned by fans as it took away one of IWGP's top titles while replacing the Heavyweight title with a design that immediately drew comparisons to WWE's defunct Divas Championship. Ibushi then lost the title to Ospreay a month later, only for Ospreay to vacate the championship in May due to injury.
Takagi then won the vacant belt at Dominion in early June, defeating multi-time world champion Kazuchika Okada. It's unclear who will be Takagi's opponent if Ibushi is unable to wrestle.