Katsuyori Shibata Had NJPW Officials "Freaking Out" Following Wrestle Kingdom 16 Audible
NJPW Wrestle Kingdom 16 night one saw the glorious full in-ring return of Katsuyori Shibata, as ‘The Wrestler’ beat Ren Narita in his first competitive wrestling match since 2017.
What was originally billed as a ‘catch wrestling rules’ match, with no strikes allowed, pre-match Shibata took the mic and announced that the match would instead be held under regular pro wrestling rules.
Now, according to Wrestling Observer Radio’s Dave Meltzer, Shibata taking the mic and changing the rules was an audible, causing New Japan staff backstage to ‘freak out’:
"Everybody was freaking out backstage, nobody knew what was going on. This includes, like, the main people in the company, like [NJPW booker] Gedo and stuff like that. They didn't know," said Meltzer. "He absolutely, 100 percent, nobody, I mean it's possible somebody knew this, but nobody essentially knew Shibata was going to go out there and do a real match.”
Meltzer continued: "100 percent. He went out there, he told the ref and he told the fans that we're going to do a regular match, and they went and did a regular match.”
Shibata last wrestled a competitive match in April 2017, suffering a life threatening subdural hematoma during the course of a hard hitting affair with Kazuchika Okada. With many considering Shibata’s career over, Shibata shocked the world by hosting a short five-minute grappling exhibition with Zack Sabre Jr. at the G1 Climax finals in October 2021 before announcing his proper return at Wrestle Kingdom 16.