NJPW has announced the set of rules for Katsuyori Shibata's return match at Wrestle Kingdom 16.
At Wrestle Kingdom 16 night one on Tuesday, January 4, Shibata will face off against a mystery opponent. It was revealed at a press conference/contract signing event overnight that the match will be contested under "catch wrestling rules."
"Stretches and submissions will be in use, as well as throws. Victory will be attained as usual, via pinfall, submission, countout etc. However, strikes of any kind will be prohibited," NJPW announced.
Shibata, who is the head coach of NJPW's LA Dojo, was forced out of action for more than four years after suffering a subdural hematoma in a match against Kazuchika Okada at Sakura Genesis in 2017. He made his return to the ring at this year's G1 Climax finals in October, going to a five-minute draw against Zack Sabre Jr. in a grappling exhibition.
Shibata spoke about the rules for his match at Wrestle Kingdom 16:
I wanted to give this a different name to the grappling exhibition match I had with Zack (Sabre Jr.) and set it apart as something else. Grappling rules is a concept that is already common in MMA, where strikes are banned. Catch wrestling rules is something that I think can be specific to pro-wrestling, and that’s why the name change is there.
To explain (those differences with grappling rules) more specifically, I think it allows for moves using the ropes, or more pro-wrestling styled, ‘three dimensional’, if you will, expression (than a grappling match). Victory to a pro-wrestler comes down to skill and technique in this environment, and it strips pro-wrestling right down to its essentials.
To go to the roots of wrestling a bit, pro-wrestling sprung out of what we call the Lancashire style in England, and that’s something we mustn’t lose sight of. I want a fusion in NJPW that brings the base fundamentals to the fold. This is something that’s just beginning, and I think these rules, match times and things of that nature can change as the concept evolves. That’s it!
Wrestle Kingdom 16 is a three-night event. The first two nights will be held at the Tokyo Dome on January 4 and January 5. The third night will be an NJPW vs. Pro Wrestling NOAH event at the Yokohama Arena on January 8.