On last nights AEW Rampage, New Japan Pro Wrestling legend Katsuyori Shibata wrestled his first match in the United States for nearly 7 years. The former NEVER Openweight Champion delighted and surprised fans when hem saved Orange Cassidy from an attack from PAC on AEW Dynamite, before signing the open contract to set up the match for Rampage.
They spent no time in booking this dream match. A few years ago, nobody knew who Orange Cassidy was, as he did not grow his fame until his debut in AEW at Double or Nothing 2019. Meanwhile, Shibata was forced into retirement in 2017 after a headbutt during a match with Kazuchika Okada went array and caused a brain injury that nearly killed him.
Since then, The Wrestler has worked on returning to the ring, wrestling one safe match with Zack Sabre Jr last year and then a proper match with Ren Narita at Wrestle Kingdom 16. Meanwhile, Orange Cassidy had grown into one of the best wrestlers in the world and one of the most popular men in AEW. He most recently won the All-Atlantic Championship in AEW, his first title in the company.
The pair faced off in the opener of AEW Rampage. It was an incredibly jubilent affair, with everyone just happy to see the Japanese legend step into a ring one more time. AEW even brought in Mike Tyson (former Heavyweight Boxing Champion Of The World) onto the commentary desk for the bout, bringing a “big fight” feel to the proceedings. It had all the makings of a real championship encounter.
Once Katsuyori Shibata and Orange Cassidy made their entrances, the long-awaited match could begin. It started out safe and carried on that feeling until the end, Cassidy doing his best to protect his previously retired opponent. The fans had already begun to chant “holy shit” before the fight had even begun, so the pair had the crowd on their side from the word go.
The bout featured some fantastic character work, with both men pulling out their best bits and even taunting the other by copying their trademark moves. This included Shibata mimicking the classic “lazy kicks” and Cassidy copying his cross legged seated stance. It was a fun encounter between two polar opposite opponents who showed incredible chemistry together.
It looked at the beginning like they would not have the Japanese star take any bumps and try to contain any potential head injuries. However, he was not having any of it. Shibata took a suicide dive to the outside, a number of suplexes and strikes from the All-Atlantic Champion that at first felt bad to watch but eventually became entirely normal.
After a fun, back-and-forth encounter, Orange Cassidy picked up the win over the former NEVER Openweight Championship with a great looking Orange Punch, pinning him for the victory. While some may have been upset to see Shibata losing on his debut in AEW, he was facing a newly crowned champion and super popular face in his first match, and with the current state of his health unknown it would be foolish to put a championship on him just yet.
Katsuyori Shibata and Orange Cassidy
While the match may seem slightly thrown together, the pair do have a recent history together in AEW. After losing to Will Ospreay at Forbidden Door, Katsuyori Shibata saved Orange Cassidy from a beatdown from the United Empire. He fought them all off and stared down the leader Ospreay, hinting at a big-time match between the two sometime in the future.
While any theorised that Katsuyori Shibata vs Will Ospreay would face off soon after Forbidden Door, it did not take place. Rumours did swirl about a potential Wrestle Kingdom match which had fans intrugied, both men seem to be occupied with different opponents. It looks certain that Will Ospreay vs Kenny Omega will take place at Wrestle Kingdom 17, while Shibata vs KENTA is likely the match for the Japanese star if he is booked to wrestle.
Orange Cassidy has yet to wrestle for New Japan in their home country. However, he has been hailed as one of the top wrestlers in the world by many, including the “Ace of the Universe” Hiroshi Tanahashi. Chris Charlton of “Podcast Off” reported that;
“Tanahashi had a ton of praise for Orange Cassidy on his podcast this week, and said he would get a big reaction in the Tokyo Dome. He was impressed by PAC as well (but forgot his name)..”
Orange Cassidy vs Katsuyori Shibata was given a rating of 7.74 by the users on Cagematch.net. The match lasted 14 minutes and was voted the best match on that episode of AEW Rampage. The current highest rated match on the site is also another Shibata match, for his battle against Kazuchika Okada.
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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.