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Striking will be prohibited in Shibata’s return match at Wrestle Kingdom 16

One of the things a lot of fans are looking forward to the most on next week’s three-night Wrestle Kingdom 16 cards is the return of The Wrestler - Katsuyori Shibata.

While Shibata’s explanation of what his match will be at a press conference today (Dec. 27) might disappoint some hoping for his full-blown return to New Japan’s upper echelon, it will reassure others worried about his health after a subdural hematoma forced him to retire in 2017.

The Jan. 4 match against a yet-to-be-announced opponent will be held under “Catch Wrestling Rules”. NJPW explained that means:

Stretches and submissions will be in use, as well as throws. Victory will be attained as usual, via pinfall, submission, countout etc. However, strikes of any kind will be prohibited.

Shibata elaborated on how this is an evolution of the “Grappling Rules” bout he and Zack Sabre Jr. had in October:

“I wanted to give this a different name to the grappling exhibition match I had with Zack. and set it apart as something else. Grappling rules is a concept that is already common in MMA, where strikes are banned. Catch wrestling rules is something that I think can be specific to pro-wrestling, and that’s why the name change is there.

To explain [the differences from grappling rules] more specifically, I think it allows for moves using the ropes, or more pro-wrestling styled, ‘three dimensional’, if you will, expression [than a grappling match]. Victory to a pro-wrestler comes down to skill and technique in this environment, and it strips pro-wrestling right down to its essentials.

To go to the roots of wrestling a bit, pro-wrestling sprung out of what we call the Lancashire style in England, and that’s something we mustn’t lose sight of. I want a fusion in NJPW that brings the base fundamentals to the fold. This is something that’s just beginning, and I think these rules, match times and things of that nature can change as the concept evolves. That’s it!”

The Wrestler’s Catch Wrestling Rules match will be a part of this line-up for next Tuesday in the Tokyo Dome:

  • New Japan Ranbo to determine who will challenge for the Provisional King of Pro Wrestling 2022 Trophy on night 2
  • Yoh vs. Sho
  • Hiroshi Tanahashi and The Mega Coaches (Ryusuke Taguchi & Rocky Romero) vs. Bullet Club (Kenta, Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo)
  • Los Ingobernables de Japon (Tetsuya Naito, Sanada & Bushi) vs. United Empire (Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan & Jeff Cobb)
  • Katsuyori Shibata vs. TBA
  • Tomohiro Ishii (c) vs. EVIL for the NEVER Openweight championship
  • Dangerous Tekkers (Taichi & Zack Sabre Jr.) (c) vs. Chaos (Hirooki Goto & Yoshi-Hashi) for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team titles
  • El Desperado (c) vs. Hiromu Takahashi for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight championship
  • Shingo Takagi (c) vs. Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP World Heavyweight title

So far, night two in the Tokyo Dome looks like this:

  • Flying Tiger (Robbie Eagles & Tiger Mask) (c) vs. Bullet Club’s Cutest Tag Team (Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo) vs. The Mega Coaches (Ryusuke Taguchi & Rocky Romero) for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team championship
  • Mayu Iwatani & Starlight Kid vs. Tam Nakano & Saya Kamitani
  • Four way match for the Provisional KOPW 2022 Trophy
  • House of Torture (Evil, Yujiro Takahashi & Sho) (c) (with Dick Togo) vs. CHAOS (Hirooki Goto, Yoshi-Hashi & Yoh) for the NEVER Openweight 6 Man Tag Team championship
  • Sanada vs. Great-O-Khan
  • Tetsuya Naito vs. Jeff Cobb
  • KENTA (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi in a No DQ match for the IWGP United States title
  • Takagi or Okada vs. Will Ospreay for the IWGP World Heavyweight championship

The NJPW vs. NOAH line-up for Jan. 8 in Yokohama can be found here.

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