Katsuyori Shibata was supposed to work a “Grappling Rules Match” at Wrestle Kingdom 16 yesterday against a surprise opponent. After his rival was revealed to be LA Dojo trainee Ren Narita, Shibata took the mic and announced that the bout would be a regular wrestling match.
It now appears that the whole thing was not an angle, and instead Shibata took the decision to risk and change the rules on the fly, as reported by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Dave Meltzer confirmed that “everyone backstage was freaking out”, including the high rank of NJPW such as head booker Gedo, since Shibata was forced to retire in 2017 following a serious head injury and the idea was that he would never take such risks again.
The general thought is that Shibata wanted to show everyone that he’s ready to compete again, and the wrestler himself declared after the match that he would be up to face any possible penalty after violating the limits imposed to him by NJPW.