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Shibata’s Wrestle Kingdom return featured striking after all

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After revealing he’d return to the ring at Wrestle Kingdom 16, Katsuyori Shibata clarified that his first official match since suffering a subdural hematoma in a 2017 while facing Kazuchika Okada would be contested under “Catch Wrestling Rules”. No opponent was announced in advance.

The Wrestler’s opponent today (Jan. 4) at the Tokyo Dome wasn’t much of a surprise — it was one of his students at New Japan’s Los Angeles Dojo, Ren Narita. The outcome wasn’t one either. The twist was that striking would be allowed after all. Shibata announced as much before the bell.

There was a fair amount of the grappling promised by the original stipulation, notably by Narita as he worked his teacher’s leg. But Shibata took full advantage of the new one — with a merciful lack of the headbutt-based offense he’d utilized before his brain injury. He lit Narita up with leg kicks before transitioning to his finish.

What’s next for Shibata? In his post-match interview, he’d only say that he’d proved he could return safely, and that he could wrestle a standard match.

For full results of Night One of Wrestle Kingdom 16 at the Tokyo Dome, click here.