Injured NJPW Star Confirms Plans To Attempt In-Ring Return

Katsuyori Shibata is set to make a major announcement during New Japan Pro-Wrestling's Best of the Super Jr./World Tag League finals on Wednesday. Fans are hoping to hear about a full return to in-ring action but Shibata feels he may have only a handful of matches left, at most.

Shibata was forced into early retirement in 2017 after he suffered a subdural hematoma during a match against Kazuchika Okada. His long road to an in-ring recently took a big step forward when he took part in a 5-minute exhibition against Zack Sabre Jr. on the final night of G1 Climax 31.

Katsuyori Shibata said after the exhibition that the next time he's inside a ring will be for a proper match. But he admits it's not easy to convince trainers and doctors that he's ready.

"That's the thing I wanna work on," Shibata told KAMINOGE magazine (Transcription via @golden_kuma). "Carefully. I'd like to talk to the doctor and the company about how often I should wrestle. This is just my feeling, but I probably have only a handful of matches left in me if I'm able to wrestle. A couple of matches per year."

Katsuyori Shibata has worked for years to prepare his body for a return to in-ring action. But he feels there's still more he must do before he's fully prepared for another match.

"I'll have medical tests before and after each match," Shibata said. "I think I need to improve my physical condition while seeking matches/rules that fit it. So the exhibition match at the G1 finals show was a huge step forward."

Katsuyori Shibata is currently the head trainer at New Japan's dojo in Los Angeles. He has his own feelings about where how he'd like to see professional wrestling evolve as it moves into the future.

"The grappling-rule exhibition match was THE type of wrestling that I wanted to show," Shibata explained. "Nowadays, 'test of endurance' has become mainstream and there is little back-and-forth action"