Katsuyori Shibata On His LA Dojo Trainees, Tanahashi, More

Photo by New Japan Pro-Wrestling/Getty Images

Katsuyori Shibata was recently interviewed by the official website of New Japan Pro Wrestling for a quick 11 questions Q&A session. During the discussion, he talked about his Los Angeles Dojo trainees in NJPW Strong, his current relationship with Hiroshi Tanahashi, and more.

Below are some highlights.

Katsuyori Shibata on his LA Dojo students in NJPW Strong:

It’s been a relief to me. You know, a few months ago when Lion’s Break Collision was getting going, I was really worried about how Clark, Karl and Alex were doing. But you can see how they’ve gotten a lot bigger, and they’re very focused, not doing anything too flashy. And what really surprised me is they’ve taken stuff that I’ve worked on with them and refined it. Like, I had been working with Clark on his rope work. Running in a different direction to the other guy, thinking about the ring in terms of diagonals, like a diamond rather than a square. He’s taken that advice and incorporated that huge pounce into his moveset. The first time I saw that, I jumped out of my seat!

We’ll Facetime a lot and I’ll ask them if they’re keeping up with the training, but still, before the matches got going, I still wondered. Now I think everything that’s happening in the US is validation of what I’ve been doing these last couple of years. It’s been a real pleasure watching them wrestle. I can’t wait to get back over there and get back to working with them. I think they’re already on the next step. From here it’s about making that money.

Katsuyori Shibata on his relationship with Hiroshi Tanahashi:

Doing commentary on NJPW STRONG with him is a lot of fun (laughs). We’re good friends now. When I had my injury, he came to visit me in the hospital, and I think that was the start of our relationship being stronger.

For both of us, the wrestling world has changed a lot since we were coming up, and I have my own filter when it comes to watching from an LA Dojo perspective. We both have different ideas and viewpoints, but we both really love this business and that comes through when we talk. You know, it reminds me. When I did my tryout, and it was me, (Wataru) Inoue, Tanahashi and some other kids there, Riki Choshu asked us one by one ‘why do you want to be a pro-wrestler?’. I said ‘because I love wrestling!’. He said ‘just because you love it don’t mean you can do it’. I understand that now, but the reverse is true. You can’t do it if you don’t love it. If you don’t love this, then you won’t have the motivation you need to do it. Look, every single person in this business is crazy, absolutely nuts. (laughs) Putting your life on the line out of a desire for self expression is something I think only we truly understand. That’s why we’re able to show you what a dream come true looks like, every single night.

Katsuyori Shibata on his greatest rival:

I don’t have an answer off the top of my head, but I think when I came back to NJPW and wrestled Tanahashi, that was special. You had us in very different circumstances, the guy who left versus the guy who stayed and completely different ideologies. I was being interviewed at the time, and I was trying to put my finger on what that connection was. The interviewer said ‘it looks like a rivalry to me’ and it was a case of ‘oh, so that’s what this is like’.

Well, we all love this company in our own ways. You look at Shinsuke Nakamura, he loved and still loves NJPW. There’s no way he would use the words ‘Strong Style’ in connection to himself otherwise. To be honest, I’ve often thought about just what the heck Strong Style really means; I would never use the words myself. But we all express our ideas about NJPW in our own ways.