It’s been a very strange week for reporting on the news of New Japan star Katsuyori Shibata and his injury suffered after his IWGP Championship match against Kazuchika Okada this past weekend. Shibata and Okada had a five-star match, but it was most memorable from a terrifying legitimate headbutt that legitimately split Shibata open, as is his general modus operandi. New Japan reported that following the match, Shibata collapsed and was taken to a hospital for emergency surgery for a traumatic brain injury.
The news that immediately followed that news was a report from Dave Meltzer (which was elaborated on in this week’s Wrestling Observer Newsletter) that sources had indicated this injury was actually a storyline. To elaborate on what he had heard, Meltzer shared a story about Mitsuharu Misawa working everyone by faking a serious neck injury during a 1994 tournament, but doing so in order to help a promotion create three top stars, and improve his own legend and legacy in the process.
However, in Thursday’s Wrestling Observer daily update, Melter reported that the latest news is not a storyline at all, and signs now indicate this is a very real injury, and New Japan may actually be attempting to downplay the severity of Shibata’s status, if anything. Meltzer says this is “not 100 percent” legitimate, but a combination of the headbutt in question and dehydration could have led to Shibata’s subdural hematoma, and that he was temporarily paralyzed on his right side. Although he is currently awake and able to communicate, and recovering in the hospital, there is a belief that he may not return to New Japan, because he will never be cleared to wrestle again.
We will obviously continue to update you on further developments. If this news is in fact on the level, Shinsuke Nakamura’s comments that Japanese wrestling needs to make some changes ring truer than they did before.