The 2017 New Japan Cup wrapped up today as Katsuyori Shibata penalty-kicked his way to victory over Bad Luck Fale. It was a slow-grinding match with the imposing heel dominated his smaller adversary. In the end, Shibata's fighting spirit came through as he went on to secure his first ever tournament victory.
Following the trophy presentation, Shibata got on the microphone and thanked the fans as he did after the semi-final. His slow transition from tweener to babyface has been masterfully worked.
After Wrestle Kingdom 10, Shibata would feud with the 'third generation' wrestlers before learning to respect them. He would then take his NEVER Openweight Title abroad and even capture gold in the UK, all while bearing the Japanese flag on his gear as a sign of national pride. Then, after defeating Ishii in the semi-final of the New Japan Cup, Shibata thanked his old rival and the fans. This represented Shibata who was always a bit of a lone wolf, finally embracing the support from the crowd.
Shibata got on the mic again following his win today, telling the audience that with his choice of championship match at the April 9 show Sakura Genesis, he would be electing to face IWGPHeavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada. It will mark Shibata's first shot at the most significant title in Japan since returning to the promotion in 2012.
Shibata vs Fale was a decent match but if you are looking for the best matches of the tournament, look up Tomohiro Ishii vs Kenny Omega, EVIL vs Hiroshi Tanahashi, or the latest affair in one of the best rivalries currently going, the semi-final of Ishii vs Shibata.