Katsuyori Shibata kept NJPW L.A. dojo talents in the dark about his return

Clark Connors shares that Shibata kept the NJPW L.A. Dojo trainees in the dark about his return to in-ring competition

Photo Courtesy: New Japan Pro-Wrestling

Clark Connors speaks about Katsuyori Shibata’s return to the ring.

Night one of NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 16 featured Katsuyori Shibata competing in a traditional singles match for the first time since 2017. Shibata had his first sanctioned match in five years this past October when he met Zack Sabre Jr. in a UWF rules exhibition.

Shibata is the head trainer for New Japan’s L.A. Dojo and thus far, talents like Clark Connors and Gabriel Kidd have graduated from under his training. His most recent batch of students were not aware that Shibata would be returning to the ring. Clark Connors appeared on Wrestling Observer Live and shared that it was commonplace for Shibata to amateur wrestle at the dojo, but they were not clued in about him being cleared.

Yes and no [Connors responded when asked if it had been obvious for a while that Shibata was cleared]. I would say mentally, he never skipped a beat. He treated every training, every practice with the intensity that he is still one of the best professional wrestlers in the world. It’s not like he’s just a coach or anything. I don’t think there was a single second in his mind that he didn’t see himself as a pro wrestler still, you know? And yes, the doctors told him he couldn’t wrestle but, he, I don’t think ever thought that. But he’s obviously always very safe. He would get in there with us and amateur wrestle but we’d always, you know — he’d wear a helmet. You know, a padded Rugby helmet and it was always — we were always very cognizant of, you know, not trying to take — if we take him down, that we’re not gonna bang his head on the ground, and not to say that it’s very easy to take him down, it’s tough. But yeah, I think for him, it was always without a doubt, he was gonna come back. As for the actual match, even the exhibition [against Zack Sabre Jr.], he did not say a word to us. I had no idea. I had seen him — put it this way, he doesn’t wear the helmet when he wrestles with us anymore, or he hadn’t for a little while. But, you know, that was just him getting better day-by-day. But in terms of the match or anything, I had no idea. Like he ‘fabed all of us so yeah, good for him I guess.

This coming Thursday, NJPW is resuming live events as a part of their ‘Golden Series’ tour. To take a look at the several of the show lineups throughout the tour, click here.

If the quote in this article is used, please credit Wrestling Observer Live with an H/T to POST Wrestling for the transcription. 

About Andrew Thompson 3438 Articles
A Maryland native and graduate of Norfolk State University, Andrew Thompson has been covering wrestling since 2017.