After having the best match of his life, things are looking worse and worse for the pro wrestling career of New Japan Pro Wrestling (NJPW) star Katsuyori Shibata.
According to Dave Meltzer of the Wrestling Observer (subscription required), the growing consensus is that Shibata will never wrestle again after suffering from a subdural hematoma (bleeding in the skull) in a match back in April. Shibata originally had to have emergency surgery the night after the injury occurred, and he had to have at least one more surgery in May after he was still suffering partial paralysis on the right side of his body.
It is believed that Shibata’s injury happened during this headbutt that occurred 30 minutes into the 38-minute classic match against Kazuchika Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship at the April 9 Sakura Genesis show.
Subdural hematomas can often be fatal if not treated properly, and even though Shibata is recovering, it is looking more and more like this will be the end of his career. It is a real shame, too, as Shibata truly looked like a superstar when facing Okada — the top star in Japan — for the title.
Meltzer reports that if Shibata’s in-ring career is indeed over, NJPW will likely transition him into a backstage or coaching type role with the company.
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 recently 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. His career, however, is still in question as he faces a long recovery.
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 IWGP Heavyweight Championship — the most prestigious title in Japan.