NJPW has announced the rules for Katsuyori Shibata’s return to the ring at Wrestle Kingdom 16.
In the December 27 Wrestle Kingdom 16 press conference, Shibata confirmed that he’ll be competing under Catch Wrestling Rules on the January 4 show.
While victory is still achieved through pinfall, submission, count-out and disqualification, no strikes of any kind will be allowed. Stretches, submissions and throws are all permitted. Shibata’s Wrestle Kingdom opponent has yet to be announced.
Discussing the potential future of the stipulation in pro-wrestling, Shibata said:
“Grappling rules is a concept that is already common in MMA, where strikes are banned. Catch wrestling rules is something that I think can be specific to pro-wrestling, and that’s why the name change is there. To explain (those differences with grappling rules) more specifically, I think it allows for moves using the ropes, or more pro-wrestling styled, ‘three dimensional’, if you will, expression (than a grappling match).
“Victory to a pro-wrestler comes down to skill and technique in this environment, and it strips pro-wrestling right down to its essentials. To go to the roots of wrestling a bit, pro-wrestling sprung out of what we call the Lancashire style in England, and that’s something we mustn’t lose sight of. I want a fusion in NJPW that brings the base fundamentals to the fold. This is something that’s just beginning, and I think these rules, match times and things of that nature can change as the concept evolves. That’s it!”
During the October 21 G1 Climax Final show, Shibata wrestled Zack Sabre Jr under UWF rules in his first bout since 2017, when it had been stated, following surgery after suffering a subdural hematoma in the ring, that it was unlikely that Shibata would ever wrestle again.
Wrestle Kingdom 16 will take place across January 4, 5 and 8, with the third night of the event advertised as a NJPW vs Pro Wrestling NOAH inter-promotional show.