The Feel-Good Moment Of The Year In Pro Wrestling Happened In Japan This Weekend

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On April 9th of this year, Katsuyori Shibata was scheduled to wrestle Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Sakura Genesis. Everyone was stoked about it in the build-up, and when they stepped foot in the ring together, it was clear they’d live up to the hype. I could say the same about 90% of New Japan matchups this year, because their 2017 rivals any year for any promotion ever, but this one felt reeeeaaaally special.

At one point Okada hit the Rainmaker (his finisher), on Shibata, who no-sold the fuck out of it, not even leaving his feet. He followed it up with a devastating headbutt that split his own head open and proved to do much worse later on…

Shibata’s whole gimmick is basically that he’s a badass who no sells moves and hits very hard, and while that’s cringey and doesn’t work for anyone on the independent scene, it works for Shibata. There has been concern about his stiffness in the past, because even though “strong style” is a staple of NJPW, “The Wrestler” takes it to a whole new level…

After the match with Okada (which Shibata lost), he collapsed backstage due to dehydration and a subdural hematoma. That’s a brain bleed, folks. Not good. Reports were frantically coming out, saying he was near death, possibly blind, and for sure never stepping foot in a wrestling ring again.

Then, this weekend at the final day of the G1 Climax, his music hit and this happened:

What he said was “I’m alive! That’s all!” and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. This man who’s given everything to the art of pro wrestling, including almost his life, is living to see another day.

While he’ll still likely never wrestle again, New Japan is keeping him around as a head trainer at their dojo. Hopefully he teaches the young lions to not lay it in so much.

P.S. Tetsuya Naito beat Kenny Omega in the G1 Final. We’ll talk about that on From The Top Rope this week.