Reliving Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomohiro Ishii from WK10

With Wrestle Kingdom 3 weeks away I went back and watched the match that got me hooked on New Japan Pro Wrestling. Katsuyori Shibata vs Tomohiro Ishii. No holy S**t chants needed here, the audible gasps from the audience says it all. If you look up the definition of strong style in the dictionary you will see a picture of Shibata and Ishii facing off and that’s it.


Well there really isn’t one. English commentator Matt Striker said it best with his quote.

There’s an author named Zach Dominello who said “why is this match happening? SHUT UP that’s why”

Ok so this match did actually have a title on the line, the NEVER open-weight championship, so there were stakes involved for the match but no real story which is perfectly fine. The name NEVER is an acronym, “New Blood”, “Evolution”, “Valiantly”, “Eternal” and “Radical.”(You gotta love the Japanese.) The title was designed to showcase up and coming talent and highlight their skills, but it didn’t really work out that way. Instead it ended up showcasing double tough bastards willing to batter each others bodies to bits.

Is that the best you got?

For 17 jaw shattering, spine breaking minutes these 2 warriors went blow for blow in a game of “is that the best you got?” At one point Shibata and Ishii took turns sitting on the canvas inviting the other to kick them in the back as hard as they could. The slapping sound of flesh on flesh and bone on bone was sickening but I just couldn’t look away, it was almost like I had been hypnotized into seeing this bout through to the end. When they weren’t hitting each other they were suplexing each other on the back of their necks! If that wasn’t enough, they then took turns in headbutting each other. These were not your usual “worked” headbutts, no no, you could hear the sound of skull cracking skull! Why?……Just why???? Again, SHUT UP, that’s why.

To sell or not to sell? That is the question.

Shibata and Ishii ate everything the other threw at them, they would pop up off the mat after a series of clotheslines and suplexes with a combination of their own before both crashing down to the canvas. They would no sell the others offense just to get their own in. when they did sell, it was glorious in it’s melodrama, although I don’t really think selling is the right word, they must have been legitimately hurting for real. I understand that pro wrestling is pre-determined and requires trust and co-operation. However this match was more like a an actual MMA fight with a pre-determined winner, co-operative fighting if you will. Shibata came out victorious on this night and captured his first singles title in the company.

Watch and learn sweet thing.

If you haven’t seen this match I highly recommend you go out of your way to see it. You can find it on NJPW World in either Japanese or English Commentary, and honestly it doesn’t really matter which you listen to. Pain sounds the same in any language. Although it must be said that Matt Striker is one of the most underrated commentators in wrestling. He gave reason to why certain moves were being done and he didn’t talk over the action, instead letting the action do most of the talking. Every forearm, every chop, every kick, every clothesline can be heard AND felt through the screen. The grunting and yelling from the competitors at each other almost makes you think that you can understand Japanese. Yes this match probably contributed to Shibata’s career being cut short, but he chose this style to wrestle in. After all, “THIS AIN’T BALLET.”

Is it wrestling though?

To quote Bryan Danielson.


This question will never go away and it is rather frustrating. I always answer this very question with the following answer. “Pro wrestling can be what ever you want it to be. It can be a beautiful choreographed spot fests, or a down and dirty slugfest. It can be silly, sophomoric humor or gut-wrenching soap opera drama, and everything in between”. Wrestling doesn’t have to be just one thing. The real question we should be asking is, “have we been entertained?” some parts of pro wrestling may not be what you are used to but that doesn’t make it bad, it just makes it different. As long as we have been entertained in some way then pro wrestling has done it’s job.