After a brutal war with IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada, reports indicate that NJPW’s Katsuyori Shibata may never wrestle again.
The 37-year-old New Japan Pro Wrestling star Katsuyori Shibata may have wrestled his last match, suffering a potentially career-ending injury during a classic bout against IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada on April 9th.
Shibata, known for his realistic, hard-hitting style in the ring, delivered a headbutt to the champion in the final moments of New Japan’s recent SAKURA GENESIS show; a manoeuvre that inadvertently split his own head open in the process. Check out the headbutt in the video below:
— njpw_global (@njpwglobal) April 9, 2017
He was rushed to the local IUHW Mita Hospital and diagnosed with a subdural hematoma, a severe bleed in the skull that puts enormous pressure on the brain, and if not treated quickly and properly, can lead to major brain damage or even death.
It was originally reported that Shibata was completely unconscious following his match with Okada, some even noting that he was partially paralyzed from the bout, which lasted almost forty minutes.
According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, Shibata was shaky but able to move around backstage before collapsing and was fully coherent at the hospital.
There are some within the industry that believe Shibata’s injury is a “work”, or a falsehood created to better sell the effects of the match between him and Okada while providing a legitimate reason to write him off shows to heal up from nagging injuries. That being said, there are many – and in fact the majority of media professionals – who believe the hematoma was real, and could very well mean the end for one of the best pro wrestlers in the world.