Just under a year ago, New Japan Pro Wrestling star Katsuyori Shibata‘s career and life took a drastic turn. During his acclaimed IWGP Heavyweight Championship match against Kazuchika Okada, the combination of a stiff headbutt and dehydration gave Shibata a subdural hematoma. Despite a successful emergency surgery after the match, it was reported that the traumatic brain injury had ended Shibata’s wrestling career.
Since then, we hadn’t heard much about Shibata from NJPW until they announced he will be the head coach at their new dojo in Los Angeles. He released an official statement describing how he came to this new position:
“With rehab and training, I’ve been sensing it’s time to move past the struggle of finding what I am capable of doing. These days, I’ve had a burning desire to take on a new challenge… What can I do in my current state? I thought a change of pace was needed, and the next thing I knew, I found myself in Los Angeles.
“By some twist of fate, my thoughts happened around the time the new NJPW dojo was being set up in LA. While getting the dojo ready, I had the chance to assemble the ring with some of the young wrestlers and train with them, and I found myself doing wrestling moves I haven’t been able to do before.
“These days have been full of discovery, and as I teach them things, I am learning too … As I continue with my rehabilitation and training, I have a desire to pass down the fundamentals, the know-how and techniques and the philosophy that I have built up through my own experience in pro-wrestling to the younger generation here in Los Angeles. This is the best thing ‘I can do’ [sic] right now, and I believe it will benefit the young wrestlers of the next generation and the wrestling world as a whole.
“The good, classic Japanese pro-wrestling is starting to disappear from the current wrestling world. But we must never lose that fighting attitude and spirit of traditional Japanese pro-wrestling. I have accepted the mission to open the gate and transcend the cultural differences to pass down our knowledge to the younger generation … “
Shibata was a notable practitioner of strong style puroresu and was promoted as one of “the new Three Musketeers” of NJPW — along with Shinsuke Nakamura and Hiroshi Tanahashi — early in his career. With him heading up the LA dojo, we could see a new crop of American wrestlers working Japanese-style pretty soon.
Scorpio Sky, who has worked for ROH, PWG, Impact, WWE, and more over the years, will also join the dojo as an assistant coach for their Spring Camp starting later this month.