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Wrestling / Katsuyori Shibata

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Pain is temporary, pride is forever.

Katsuyori Shibata (born November 17, 1979 in Kuwana, Mie, Japan) is a professional wrestler and former mixed martial artist best known for working in New Japan Pro-Wrestling, and Ring of Honor, although he's also worked as both a freelancer in Pro Wrestling Noah and in Big Mouth Loud. He's currently signed onto All Elite Wrestling.

Shibata started his professional wrestling career in 1999, alongside his best friend Waru Inoue. At the time he and his fellow rookies Hiroshi Tanahashi and Shinsuke Nakamura were billed as the new "Three Musketeers of New Japan" destined to become New Japan’s biggest stars.

However that all changed when in 2005, he announced that he would be leaving New Japan Pro Wrestling and become a freelancer. Wrestling for Big Mouth Loud and Pro Wrestling Noah before embarking on a career in MMA, ending with a record of 4–11–1.

He returned to New Japan and the world of professional wrestling in 2012. Forming a tag team with another Mixed Martial Arts fighter Kazushi Sakuraba called Laughter 7. He would make further appearances in Noah, alongside Sakuraba.

Early in 2013, Sakuraba suffered an injury, leaving Shibata as a solo wrestler once again and beginning a storyline between him and his best friend Hirooki Goto which ultimately culminated in a match at Wrestle Kingdom 8. From there on he’s feuded and gone up against his fellow Musketeers, Tanahashi and Nakamura, formed another tag team with Goto called Meiyu Tag where they became the IWGP Tag Team champions at Wrestle Kingdom 9 and has participated in the G1 climax. One particular match of note was his match against Tomohiro Ishii in the 2013 G1, which earned a 5 star rating by Dave Meltzer as well as an increase of stock for both men.

He finally won his first singles championship at Wrestle Kingdom 10 after beating Ishii for the NEVER Openweight Championship and subsequently defended it against him at the rematch. On March 3, 2016, Shibata signed a one year full time contract with New Japan, ending his days as a freelancer. The following year, Shibata won the 2017 New Japan Cup and challenged reigning IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kazuchika Okada. Finally fulfilling a promise to challenge him back in 2014.

Sadly, Shibata's career was cut short after his match with Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis in April of 2017, when he was found with a hematoma that required emergency surgery. While he eventually recovered, it was said he would never wrestle again. As of writing, he's still working with NJPW as the head coach of their new training center in Los Angeles.

But this isn't the end. On August 12th, 2019, the night of the G1 Climax 29 finals, things got interesting. After bringing in his former tag team partner KENTA to New Japan for the tournament, everything seemed fine. Until KENTA joined Bullet Club. Shibata, enraged at this betrayal, rushed the ring and attacked his former friend, delivering his signature moves whilst also fending off Bullet Club members. Eventually, the numbers game proved to be too much, and KENTA cemented his allegiance by laying out Shibata with his own Penalty Kick and doing Shibata's signature "arms and legs crossed" pose while sitting on his chest. While this was supposed to lead to a match at Wrestle Kingdom, doctors confirmed that they wouldn't take the risk of clearing Shibata for a match ever again.

And then, from out of nowhere. On October 21, 2021, the night of the G1 Climax 31 finals, Zack Sabre Jr. came out to the ring, unadvertised. Then, Shibata's music started playing, and all of a sudden, the two wrestled in a 5-minute UWF rules exhibition match. After the match, Shibata grabbed the microphone and declared that the next time he would be in the ring, it would be a wrestling match. Come Wrestle Kingdom 16, and Shibata wrestled his first match in nearly four years, beating a fellow student of his, Ren Narita. While only time will tell just what the future of Shibata's career and health will be, one thing is certain, The Wrestler is back!

"The Tropes":

  • The Ace: Downplayed, both in New Japan and Big Mouth Loud, as for whatever reason, he left potential stardom for what was supposed to be guaranteed stardom in Big Mouth Loud but was instead beaten by almost everyone they brought in. New Japan was then iffy about pushing Shibata when he came back and when they did eventually start to get behind him until Shibata got injured pretty severely.
  • Anti-Hero: Shibata is treated as a hero for butting heads with the likes of the Bullet Club, but he has made it very clear that he's not here to entertain anybody nor is he here to help save New Japan. He's here to fight and prove that he's the best.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • Tomohiro Ishii, another hard hitting, stiff worker like Shibata. Their match at the G1 Climax was what got them a Dave Meltzer five-star rating.
    • Hiroshi Tanahashi. Both men, along with Shinsuke Nakamura, were destined to be NJPW's next top stars, until Shibata left New Japan to go pursue a career into MMA when NJPW needed new stars. When he came back Tanahashi, who already didn't like Shibata's strong-style leanings due to feeling the style lacked psychological grace or regard for the long-term well being of anyone involved, now had substance to his emnity towards Shibata, retaining bitterness at his perceived lack of loyalty and respect.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: To the point he earned comparisons with Akira Maeda.
  • Bash Brothers: With Inoue and Goto back in NJPW. In AEW, it's him and Eddie Kingston. With Shibata being one of the few wrestlers that Kingston has massive respect for.
  • Berserk Button: Silas Young did a very good job wrestling Shibata at the 2016 Death Before Dishonor but when Young decided to start using strikes Shibata no sold most of them, asking Young to give him more. But when Young spit in Shibata's face, Shibata just beat the hell out of Young until Young went back to grappling, throws and cheating but Shibata eventually gained the upper hand in that regard too and proceeded to beat more hell out of Young even though he really didn't have to at that point.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: Once the bell rings, the rather calm and stoic Shibata turns into a violent killing machine.
  • Big Damn Heroes: He came to the aid of Orange Cassidy after his match against Will Ospreay at the first Forbidden Door.
  • Blood Knight: Among the New Japan pureborns, he was the one with the smallest fear of being beaten down in MMA. He left NJPW for Big Mouth Loud because he actually liked Inoki's policies and did not care about being sent to fight a hopelessly superior MMA fighter.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Often challenged and disrespected legends when he ascended from rookie. He accused Toshiaki Kawada of stealing his finisher kick.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Shibata suffered an acute brain injury during his match with Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis 2017 (most likely from a headbutt he gave Okada that was so hard that he bled), and was immediately hospitalized and had to undergo surgery. While the surgery was successful, it was initially believed that he wouldn't wrestle again, although he did eventually return five years later.
  • Cast from Hit Points: Before his match at Wrestle Kingdom 10 against Tomohiro Ishii. Shibata said that he was ready to give off years of his own life to beat Ishii and judging from the amount of damage both of these men inflicted on each other, he may have succeed.
    • His career-ending injuries sustained while doing everything in his power to take the IWGP title from Okada, as well. As such, when he returned to being a semi-active wrestler in 2021 onwards, his wrestling style had to change in order to facilitate this; while he still employs very brutal strikes in his repertoire, Shibata has taken to focusing more on his technical skills to get the job done.
  • Catchphrase: "Ijo!" (以上) That's all.
  • Childhood Friends: Him and Goto were former classmates in High School.
  • Combat Pragmatist: In a world where wrestlers come up with finishing moves that range from awe-inspiring to legitimately crippling to straight-up goofy, Shibata opts for a different route: The PK (Penalty Kick) is just him kicking you in the chest really, really goddamn hard.
  • Computer Voice: Due to his lack of fluency in English, he cuts his promos in AEW using Google Translate on his smartphone, with a female voice reading out the translation.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Formed Meiyu Tag after being beaten by his best friend Hirooki Goto.
  • Determinator: Shibata gives as much as he takes, which is stiff elbow strikes, bone breaking headbutts and hard kicks. All in a stoic and no-nonsense manner. If you want any proof, look no further than anytime he and Tomohiro Ishii get in a fight, at that point you can expect the two to tank each other's hardest palm strikes, headbutts, and other assorted attacks for as long as they can in at least two or three sequences, all the while screaming at each other for more.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: New Blood Evolution Valiantly Eternal Radical was to be about younger wrestlers and independent circuit talents, as the name implies, but Shibata was determined to make the NEVER Open Weight Title belt about proving his superiority to the rest of the "Third Generation" who brought New Japan back from the brink, not counting himself among their number. That said, it took Shibata awhile to actually win the thing and as champion he has been quick to answer challenges from many independent or otherwise not contracted to New Japan wrestlers, such as Silas Young. This impacted the NEVER Openweight Championship to such a degree that its focus was then shifted to incredibly hard-hitting matches rather than as a showcase for the previously named groups.
  • Enemy Mine: After the 2016 G1 Climax he joined with the "Third Generation" he set out to defeat to defend New Japan from the NOAH invaders.
  • Every Year They Fizzle Out: This was his usual performance in the G1 Climax, starting off strong in the beginning weeks before choking in a major matchup, usually against the main stars of the company, and ending up near the top, but not enough to make it to the finals.
  • Expy: To a young Akira Maeda. They both belong to the same kind of revolted, hard-kicking shooters.
  • Fan Boy: He once said in an interview that he would quit being Shibata all together if it meant wrestling as Spider-Man.
  • Finishing Move: A sleeper hold to his opponents that leads into the PK (Penalty Kick) and it's variations. One variation involves Shibata performing a Go 2 Sleep followed up by a Penalty Kick, adopted the G2S from his friend and tag team partner KENTA
  • Freudian Trio: The Superego to Shinsuke Nakamura's Id and Hiroshi Tanahashi's Ego
  • Friendly Rival: Had a series of incredibly hard hitting and brutal matches with his best friend Hirooki Goto, just for sheer competition's sake.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: With Hirooki Goto and KENTA. Shibata and Goto were both best friends in high school while Shibata and KENTA have described themselves as twin souls.
  • Jerkass: He’ll beat Young Lions (developmental talent) to a pulp in the ring and is probably one of the company’s most brutal workers.
  • I Know Karate: Was a national level amateur wrestler and also trained for MMA with Masakatsu Funaki and Kazushi Sakuraba.
  • I Know Madden Kombat: Uses various soccer kicks in his arsenal.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: It's usually not the sort of ground and pound you'd expect from a mixed martial artist or stomping from a pro wrestler. Shibata usually just simply kneels down and starts clobbering his opponent with forearms.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Shibata's finisher, the PK, is rather basic. A kick to the chest of his opponent. Yet the amount of force and speed he puts into it, makes you wonder how he doesn't kick their head off.
    • This is Shibata's gimmick in general. He doesn't have the over-the-top personalities or flashy outfits and themes that many of his fellow wrestlers in New Japan (or anywhere else for that matter) have, opting to come to the ring in black trunks similar to what the young boys wear and keeps his presentation and arsenal very spartan.
  • No-Sell: While people talk about lack of selling in New Japan in general, this is a large part of Shibata's whole gimmick. Amusingly, this carries over during his time in both Ring of Honor and AEW where younger, flashier wrestlers like Wheeler Yuta try to goad him into a striking match only to fall after one strike from Shibata.
  • Ramming Always Works: Ran full speed at Hayato Sakurai in the opening seconds of their MMA fight, which knocked Sakurai down for a few seconds.
  • Red Baron: "Kyoken Wrestler" ("The Mad Dog Wrestler"), "Kenka Strong-Style" ("Brawling Strong-Style"). "The Wrestler" to emphasize his shooter style.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: He and Fumihiko Uei taunted NJPW by claiming that Big Mouth Loud was not just an indy promotion, but the "Real New Japan".
  • Signature Move: A series of rabid forearms to his opponent at the corner of the ring followed by a running dropkick from the opposite corner.
  • The Straight Man: In contrast to flamboyant and colorful characters like Shinsuke Nakamura or Hiroshi Tanahashi, he is billed as "The Wrestler" and wears plain black trunks, stomps straight to the ring with no fancy ring entrance, and after winning a match stomps right back to the locker room without any elaborate celebration. The few times he ''doesn't'' walk straight back out after a win, they're usually for very good reasons.
  • Suplex Finisher: Pulled off a German suplex on Ikuhisa Minowa of all people in their MMA fight.
  • Tag Team: Several, including Laughter 7 with Kazushi Sakuraba, Team Takeover with KENTA and Meiyu Tag with Hirooki Goto.
  • Use Your Head: In retaliation to the NOAH Wrestlers trying to aggravate his shoulder injury after the 2016 G1 Climax, Shibata knocked out Katsuhiko Nakajima with a headbutt. Since then, Shibata's headbutts have been feared by nearly the entire pro wrestling world.
  • Unscrupulous Hero: Shibata is not here to entertain anybody nor is he here to help save New Japan. He's here to fight and prove that he's the best. He's a brutal fighter and yet he's automatically on the side of good due to butting heads with the likes of the Bullet Club and his interactions with Hirooki Goto showing a lighter side to him.
  • Wrestling Family: His father, Katsuhisa Shibata.
  • Worked Shoot:
    • Despite not being a formal shoot-style wrestler, Shibata is infamous for his hard hitting offense and his realistic bouts.
    • There is also a degree of Reality Subtext invoked in his rivalry matches with Hiroshi Tanahashi: as the stories go, Tanahashi legitimately felt betrayed by Shibata's willingness to ditch NJPW for the supposedly greener pastures of MMA, and has apparently held it against him for years. NJPW has also apparently been very skittish on giving him a title reign, with his victory over Tomohiro Ishii at Wrestle Kingdom 10 in 2016 for the NEVER Openweight Championship being the first singles title he's ever held for NJPW.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
    • With Hirooki Goto, his childhood friend and former tag team partner. This occurred when Goto accepted the offer to join the Chaos stable to try and achieve success, but this irked Shibata. This lead to a match for the NEVER Openweight title at Wrestle Kingdom 11, which Shibata lost. Eventually things were sort of ironed out when CHAOS united with the main unit to fight the Cutthroat Era Bullet Club. However, this only let to another falling out…
    • With KENTA, his twin soul and other former tag team partner. This occurred when KENTA, having been brought to NJPW by Shibata, teamed up with Ishii and Yoshi-Hashi against the Guerrillas of Destiny and Bad Luck Fale on the night of the G1 29 finals… only to betray the two CHAOS members with a Busaiku Knee to Ishii, cost his own team the match, and cement his allegiance to the Bullet Club. Shibata's instant violent response, and the subsequent beating he took from KENTA and Bullet Club, became the lasting headline of the night, with anticipation for Shibata's return and retribution looming over the company's stories.
  • Worthy Opponent: Yuji Nagata, whom he defeated for the NEVER Openweight championship in Dominion 2016. Shibata bowed to him after their grueling match, after which Nagata initiated an embrace.