Two month ago, Katsuyori Shibata was one of the biggest stars in New Japan, and figured to be a huge part of the main event scene, or at least the midcard title scene, as NJPW made its debut in the United States and turned its focus to North American expansion. But during a much-lauded IWGP Heavyweight Championship match against Kazuchika Okada, Shibata hit one of his signature shoot headbutts, and that, along with dehydration and exhaustion from the grueling match, caused a subdural hematoma.
Shibata collapsed backstage and had to be rushed to a hospital for emergency brain surgery. He later underwent a second brain surgery, and for some time was dealing with numbness in his limbs and vision problems. He is up and around and in good spirits at the moment, but the fears that his career as a wrestler may be over have not subsided.
According to the latest Wrestling Observer Newsletter, the belief is that Shibata will indeed never return to wrestle again, but New Japan wants to keep him around as an integral part of the company. The current plan is to use him as a full-time coach in the promotion and at the dojo when he is well enough for the task. The supposition here, then, is that if NJPW does indeed follow through on their plans to open a U.S. dojo, Shibata could very well be a big part of that.