One of Antonio Inoki’s favorite wrestlers took on Eddie Kingston at WrestleDream, with Katsuyori Shibata aiming to become a Triple Crown Champion in ROH and NJPW. AEW also drafted in one of the referees for NJPW, who wanted dearly to be part of the event honoring the wrestling Icon.
Katsuyori Shibata paid clear tribute Inoki to start the match. Referencing Inoki’s famous match against Muhammad Ali, Shibata lay on his back on the mat, kicking at the legs of Kingston. This only lasted around 10 seconds, as opposed to Inoki doing it the entire match against Ali.
Kingston the invited Shibata to chop and kick him – this was a bad move, as he was absolutely nailed in the chest before being locked in a technical submission move. He continued trying to make Kingston tap out, but the ROH Champion kept finding the rope to force a break of the hold.
Shibata transition from submission to submission, keeping control of the match. However, Kingston managed to find an opportunity to hit a back Suplex on his Japanese opponent, getting some respite from his relentless attacks. Kingston laid in his own chops, both men showing their immense fighting spirit. They gave each other some of the hardest chops ever seen in AEW, before a number of big moves by both men left them both lying on the mat.
This was a much more “Japanese-style”match you’d usually see in AEW, clearly showing the influence that style of wrestling has one both men (especially given that Shibata was a student of Inoki). Shibata controlled Kingston for most of the match, with huge strikes and submission giving him the edge for the bulk of the match.
Katsuyori Shibata looked to have won the match, when he locked in Inoki’s Octopus Stretch. Kingston looked to be passed out, but a flailing arm reaching for the ropes saved him. The pair traded more huge strikes that left them both reeling. Kingston looked to have won with a Uraken, but Shibata kicked out at just one – showing his immense fighting spirit.
It took one more Uraken and a powerbomb to take out Shibata. Kingston won the match and retained his title in a match that was a fine tribute to Antonio Inoki.
Hamish is a writer and podcaster and wrestling fan who is a key part of the Atletifo team.
After playing countless hours of WrestleMania X8 on the Gamecube, he discovered Rey Mysterio getting his head crushed by The Great Khali, and thus a love for professional wrestling was born.
He is also a Media Graduate, as well as writing for multiple sites about Premier League football and the culture of Wales – his home country.