After Katsuyori Shibata’s Wrestle Kingdom 16 return, it looks likely that KENTA could be next on the radar for the former British Heavyweight Champion. After his victory over Young Lion Ren Narita at Wrestle Kingdom 16, fans wondered whether that would be the last time we see Shibata in the ring. However, with the announcement of their match being normal rules, not the “Catch Wrestling” rules previously announced, it looks certain that Shibata will be seen in the ring again.
Who his next opponent will be is a mystery. However, former WWE and NOAH star KENTA has set his sights on the former NEVER Openweight Champion. After Wrestle Kingdom had finished, KENTA tweeted out three simple words. “GIVE ME SHIBATA”
KENTA vs Katsuyori Shibata
A KENTA vs Shibata match has been one fans have wanted to see ever since KENTA debuted in NJPW. In 2019, Shibata returned to NJPW, announcing that former WWE star Hideo Itami, now reverting to his previous name KENTA, was making his NJPW debut.
KENTA had previously been a star in New Japan’s rival company, Pro Wrestling NOAH. Whilst KENTA was loyal to his previous employer, the chance to wrestle in one of the world biggest wrestling companies was too much to pass up.
Shibata accompanied KENTA to the ring many times after that. Unfortunately, KENTA would turn on his Shibata on the final night of the 2019 G1 Climax. He joined the heel stable “Bullet Club”, attacking Katsuyori Shibata and beating him down into the ring. It was the first time the retired star had had any physical altercation since his injury, and gave fans hope of an eventual return to the ring.
Shibata would eventually return to the ring on the final night of the 2021 G1 Climax. He wrestled British grappler Zack Sabre Jr in a UWF-Style match. The match had no strikes allowed, nor any bumps were taken. It was a safe match for Shibata to ease his way back into the win, the the match ended in a time-limit draw after five minutes.
With Shibata’s victory in a normal-rules match, a bout against KENTA seems likely. He wrestled nearly 12 minutes in his win over Ren Narita, to the delight of all the fans in attendence.
KENTA will be taking on Hiroshi Tanahashi on the second night of Wrestle Kingdom. KENTA and Bullet Club defeated the team of Tanahashi, Ryusuke Taguchi and Rocky Romero on the first night of Wrestle Kingdom, and will defend his IWGP United States Heavyweight Championship on the second night. That match will be a No-Disqualification match, after KENTA won the championship from Tanahashi at Power Struggle 2021.
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.