For the second time in a month, a major star in New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) is facing an injury that could potentially be career-ending.
According to NJPW, Katsuyori Shibata suffered from a subdural hemotoma (bleeding in the skull between the brain) after his April 9 IWGP Heavyweight Championship match against Kazuchika Okada at the Sakura Genesis event in Tokyo.
While the match was hard-hitting throughout, a lot of people are pointing to this particular headbutt — which happened 30 minutes in to the 38-plus minute match — as a potential cause.
According to Tokyo Sports, Shibata collapsed backstage after the match and he experienced numbness on the right side of his body before he was taken to a local hospital for a five-hour surgery. That procedure was reportedly successful, and Shibata was conscious and communicating normally afterwards.
A subdural hematoma is a very serious injury that can often be fatal if not treated quickly. It’s unclear how much this will affect Shibata in the future, but his career could be over after what was the biggest match of his career against the biggest star in Japan.
This is the second time in Shibata’s career where someone has suffered a traumatic head injury during a match; the first being back in 2000 when Masakazu Fukuda passed away after suffering an injury against Shibata after a flying elbow gone wrong.
This is also the second serious injury for NJPW in just over a month, as Tomoaki Honma suffered a severe neck injury in March that left him paralyzed for several days. Honma has since undergone surgery and he has regained movement in his extremities.
Shibata is a former three-time NEVER Openweight Champion and tag team champion in NJPW. He had recently won the 2017 New Japan Cup, which had granted him a match against Okada for the most prestigious title in Japan.