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Katsuyori Shibata: My NJPW Grappling Match Wasn't The End Point

Working towards his return

While Katsuyori Shibata's career inside the squared circle appeared to be over, the former NJPW star suddenly faced Zack Sabre Jr. in an unannounced UWF Rules Exhibition Match in October. 

Shibata still hasn't been cleared for a full-time return, but he told NJPW in an interview that the grappling match was a step towards his eventual return. 

"What you saw with the grappling rules thing, that was a step forward. A big step forward, like something went from zero to one in my mind, but a step forward. And it took me four and a half years to get to that point; not a two steps forward one step back thing, but the culmination of a ton of effort and inching forward to that point. I think it was an easy thing to overlook, but in the match you can see me doing a headstand as well. That was all part of the confidence I'd built; it's been this long since I had surgery, and my skull is completely healed up and hardened now," Shibata said.

The Wrestler then noted that the exhibition match in October "wasn't the endpoint" and he has a plan so he can eventually return to the ring again. 

"I do, in as much as I think if I don't have something to work toward, I would be spinning my wheels. Obviously I understand the people that feel I shouldn't push myself, but at the same time, nobody knows where my body is at better than me. I don't want to cause the company, or any of the other wrestlers any trouble, or put anybody in a bad position. I know what I'm capable of, and I know best where I can take things," he added.

"It's all about going bit by bit to get to where I want to be, and it's something that requires this relationship of trust with the company. I can't thank President Ohbari enough for OK-ing the whole thing, and really everybody involved with that exhibition."

Shibata was forced to retire in 2017 after suffering a subdural hematoma following a match with Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis. Shibata then underwent emergency surgery and it emerged following the match that he would likely never wrestle again. He signed with NJPW as the head coach of the LA Dojo soon after and he has spent the last four-and-a-half years training the next generation of talent. 

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Aidan Gibbons

Written by Aidan Gibbons

Journalist/Editor-in-Chief of Cultaholic.com Twitter: @theaidangibbons