The Wrestler is coming back.
As expected, Katsuyori Shibata’s appearance at New Japan’s Best of the Super Juniors and World Tag League finals show at Ryōgoku Kokugikan today (Dec. 15) was to announce he’s been cleared to return. No opponent has been announced yet, but Shibata’s first official match since 2017 will take place on night one of Wrestle Kingdom 16, Jan. 4 at the Tokyo Dome.
Befitting his all-business style, Shibata kept his speech short and got right to the point. While fighting back tears, he simply announced his return match.
／— njpwworld (@njpwworld) December 15, 2021
WORLD TAG LEAGUE 2021 ＆
BEST OF THE SUPER Jr.28 優勝決定戦
登録＆視聴⏩https://t.co/Tj7UBINMhP#njpw #njwtl #njbosj pic.twitter.com/kMko0SWPG6
Not counting the UWF rules grappling match he had at the G1 Climax finals a couple months back, Shibata’s last match also took place in Tokyo’s iconic Sumo Hall. His retirement came after he suffered a subdural hematoma against Kazuchika Okada here in 2017.
As to prospective opponents for Jan. 4? My first guess would have been KENTA, seeing as he turned on his old partner while joining Bullet Club in 2019 (and gave us the first hint of a possible comeback for Shibata in the process). But KENTA issued a challenge to Hiroshi Tanahashi to continue their IWGP United States title feud right before Shibata’s announcement, so...
Give us your guesses — or just make loud emotional noises about the exciting news of The Wrestler’s return — in the comments below.