Katsuyori Shibata Returns At NJPW G1 Climax 31 Final, Faces Zack Sabre Jr. In UWF Rules Exhibition Match

Shibata is back!

In a shocking turn of events on the final day of G1 Climax 31, Katsuyori Shibata returned to the squared circle and faced Zack Sabre Jr. in a five-minute UWF Rules Exhibition Match. 

ZSJ wasn't scheduled to appear at today's show from the Nippon Budokan but Zack sauntered to the ring following the intermission. Shibata's music then played over the titantron and 'The Wrestler' headed to the squared circle to the surprise of everyone. 

Both men fought back and forth in the short five-minute match as they repeatedly tried to apply submissions and time expired before either ZSJ or Shibata could score the victory. 'The Wrestler' and Sabre Jr. then shook hands following the match.

After the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion had vacated the squared circle, Shibata announced to the crowd that the next time he would be in the ring, it would be in a match. The former NJPW star then took a back bump before heading backstage. 

Shibata had been retired since 2017 when he suffered a subdural hematoma following his match with Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis. Shibata's use of the headbutt combined with dehydration also caused some paralysis on the right side of 'The Wrestler's' body.

It emerged following the incident that Shibata would likely never wrestle again and he signed with NJPW as the head coach of the LA Dojo. He had gotten physical inside a NJPW ring since the injury, but he hadn't wrestled a match before today.

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Aidan Gibbons

Written by Aidan Gibbons

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