On January 4, 2022, New Japan Pro Wrestling will hold Wrestle Kingdom 16. Of the many wrestlers fans expected to see at the show, Katsuyori Shibata was not one of them. However, during the intermission of the Best of the Super Juniors and World Tag League finals show in Sumo Hall, Shibata announced that he will be making his in-ring return at Wrestle Kingdom. Shibata’s opponent for Wrestle Kingdom has not been announced.
Shibata suffered a subdural hematoma in a match against Kazuchika Okada and was forced to retire. Though Shibata has not been absent from NJPW programming, he has not taken any bumps since the injury. At the finals of the 2021 G1 Climax, Shibata had a five-minute UWF rules match with Zack Sabre Jr., but the match was a series of reversals and grappling with none of the expected NJPW stiffness or bumps.
This match fueled speculation on a potential in-ring return for Shibata. This was further heightened by NJPW, who announced that Shibata would make an announcement at the finals in Sumo Hall. It is unclear what his match at Wrestle Kingdom will look like, but it appears that Shibata is medically cleared to have a standard match without significant limitation.