Backstage Update On Katsuyori Shibata's NJPW Return

New details on Katsuyori Shibata's unlikely (but sensational) return to a New Japan ring.

Katsuyori Shibata Zack Sabre Jr.
NJPW

Katsuyori Shibata wrestled his first match in over four years yesterday, making a shocking appearance during this year's NJPW G1 Climax finals show to work a brisk five-minute UWF-style exhibition with Zack Sabre Jr.

Shibata, who hasn't competed since being hospitalised for a subdural hematoma (for which he was given an 18% chance of survival) following a match with Kazuchika Okada in April 2017, wrestled ZSJ to a draw. Having shaken hands with the Englishman afterwards, he took the microphone and announced that the next time he was in an NJPW ring, he'd be in his gear, raising hopes of a full-on comeback.

Voices of Wrestling have since reported that Shibata has been pitching comeback ideas for a year, if not longer, with the ZSJ exhibition one of them. Although he was turned down at first, NJPW booker Gedo eventually came around on the idea and approved it ahead of yesterday's show.

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Only Shibata, Gedo, and ZSJ knew of the angle until just before it happened. It was kept a secret to everyone else.

As far as the former NEVER Openweight Champion wrestling again goes, NJPW officials have reportedly been open to the idea, setting Wrestle Kingdom 16 (4, 5, and 8 January) as a target, but a match can't happen until he receives medical clearance. Shibata himself believes he is good to go and has pitched multiple ideas, including another exhibition and a tag match pitting him and Hirooki Goto vs. KENTA and another Bullet Club member.

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"Whatever Shibata wants, I'm here and waiting," said ZSJ of Shibata in his post-match comments, teasing another match between the two.

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WhatCulture's Senior Wrestling Reporter, Presenter and Editor. Formerly Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @andyhmurray.