wrestling / News

Katsuyori Shibata On NJPW’s Changes Due To The Pandemic: ‘Everything Changes With The Times’

September 28, 2020 | Posted by Joseph Lee
Katsuyori Shibata

In an interview with NJPW’s English website, Katsuyori Shibata spoke about the changes the wrestling industry has been forced to make since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are highlights:

On his relationship with Ryu Lee: “The first time I met him was in Hokkaido in 2017. He came to me backstage and told me he’d forgotten his kickpads and wanted to borrow mine. I told him we’re different sizes and all I had was used ones, but I lent him them and he was very grateful. After his match he returned them and said ‘you’re my idol’. To be honest, I really didn’t know much about him before that night, but I went and watched his matches and the things he can do, just incredible. I thought it was a bit weird that he would go as far as call me his idol, but then I think it wasn’t technique that appealed to him when it came to me. I think that in-ring style is part of that, mind. Ever since that night, he was always happy to see me, and we’d take pictures together. I actually got kickpads made for him to give as a present, but we never had a chance to meet, so I was finally able to send them to him through our trainer, Nagano. A lot of overseas wrestlers seem to look up to me.”

On if he has any stories from his Young Lion days: “I don’t know about specific stories, but the one thing that I feel nostalgia for… when I first came into the Dojo it was so mentally draining, so tough. But Norio Honaga used to take me to the public bath that was nearby. That place is gone now, but it was a real oasis for me.”

On wrestling during the pandemic: “Well, everything changes with the times. What we take for granted goes away, and completely new things show up. But with COVID, it’s not just shaken this business but all of society. We’ve had to deal with these negative affects to our lives. What was taken for granted isn’t anymore, and our normal way of thinking has gone out the window. What used to pass for common sense isn’t anymore, and we have to live within this new normal. It’s going to be some time before we can get back to where we were, of having jam packed sold out venues yelling their support. But I think we’ve come a long way since those first weeks of lockdown where we weren’t able to run at all. It’s a matter of perspective, right? We’ve come a long way in a short time, and at any rate, that whole idea of crawling your way up from rock bottom, that’s what pro-wrestling is all about. What I’ve always seen in wrestling, and what makes it appeal and draw an emotional connection right from the get go when you introduce someone to it is that sense of conviction in the face of struggle. Times change, but that’s always at the core of what I think pro-wrestling always should be.”

article topics :

Katsuyori Shibata, Joseph Lee