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NOAH ‘Higher Ground’ (2.16.20) Results & Review

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Pro Wrestling NOAH comes live from Abema TV for the first time since the company’s purchase. They bring in 1,197 to Korakuen Hall featuring a main event tag team match previewing the upcoming title matches between Go Shiozaki/Kazuyuki Fujita and Takashi Sugiura/Kaito Kiyomiya. Also on the card is a special attraction singles match as Katsuhiko Nakajima takes on Hideki Suzuki. Let’s get started!

Hajime Ohara & Kinya Okada def. Hitoshi Kumano & Seiya Morohashi @ 7:05 via Ohara Muy Bien on Morohashi – **
Okada started off the match where he was able to show off some athleticism with a dropkick. The main course of the match saw Ohara dominating before scoring the win with Muy Bien. Somewhat surprisingly it wasn’t Kumano costing his team the win as the former Back Breakers duo both came out of the match unscathed. Ohara gets back on track after his semifinal loss in the Global Junior League.

Mohammed Yone & Tadasuke def. Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue @ 7:48 via Yone Kinniku Buster on Inoue – **1/4
Some big collisions between Yone and Saito early. The two are bringing a showcase to Abema! Inoue was less than a goofball than usual but it still didn’t end with a positive result. Yone remains strong after the departure of his long-time tag partner, Quiet Storm.

Daisuke Sekimoto & Ryuichi Kawakami def. The Tough (Masa Kitamiya & Yoshiki Inamura) @ 12:17 via Kawakami Hurricane Driver on Inamura – ***
BJW invade NOAH to test Inamura who will be in BJW’s Strong Climb tournament next month. Inamura was in a Strong Climb preview match in BJW last week but then he was teaming with his block rival, Kawakami. Here the two were able to square off, trading big boy moves back and forth. Sekimoto had no dog in the race but he faced off with Inamura last December in a match that now looks like it was a trial which earned Inamura a spot in Strong Climb. Kitamiya did what he could to help his partner but Sekimoto wound up trapping him in the Argentine backrack on the outside which allowed Kawakami to handle NOAH’s young prospect one-on-one and score the victory.

Dragon Bane def. El Hijo de Canis Lupus @ 11:19 via 630 Splash – **3/4
Bane and Lupus have returned to NOAH for another showcase match. These two were on December’s tour where they traded wins back and forth. They have an in with NOAH thanks to NOSAWA’s relationship with IWRG. This wasn’t the smoothest match but Bane was going bananas with a huge shooting star press off the top turnbuckle to the floor as well as a step up springboard tornillo. Both these guys are still in their early twenties so it’s fun to watch them work out their craft in front of these NOAH crowds who aren’t regularly exposed to this style.

The main card of the March 8th Yokohama show is revealed:
GHC Heavyweight Championship
– Go Shiozaki (c) vs Kazuyuki Fujita
– Naomichi Marufuji & The Great Muta vs Masaaki Mochizuki & AKIRA
NOAH vs AJPW
– Katsuhiko Nakajima, Shuhei Taniguchi & Junta Miyawaki vs Suwama, Shuji Ishikawa & Yusuke Okada.
5-on-5 Elimination
– Kongoh (Kenoh, Masa Kitamiya, Yoshiki Inamura, Hao & Nio) vs Sugiura-gun (Hideki Suzuki, Kazushi Sakuraba, Hajime Ohara, NOSAWA Rongai & Kinya Okada)
– Impact Wrestling is bringing Michael Elgin

Kongoh (Kenoh, Hao & Nio) def. Shuhei Taniguchi, Minoru Tanaka & Junta Miyawaki @ 8:43 via Kenoh Diving Double Foot Stomp – **1/2
Kongoh use the numbers early on to isolate Minoru until he brings in the heavy by tagging in Taniguchi who cleans house. Miyawaki winds up getting the tag and has a nice combination of offense where he judo throws Kenoh, keeps ahold of the wrist and brings him down for a fisherman’s buster. His flurry is short-lived and when both Hao and Nio dive to the outside to keep Miyawaki isolated, Kenoh picks up the win. Kongoh’s teamwork continues to provide positive results for the group.

Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Hideki Suzuki – 30 Minute Time Limit Draw – ****1/4
After taking his partner (Go Shiozaki) to a thirty minute draw last fall, Hideki Suzuki does the same to Nakajima. This was a big mood match if there’s ever been one. Suzuki has a history of swallowing guys up with his ‘catch as catch can’ style but they did a tremendous job of making is seem like Nakajima could hang. These are two extremely crafty wrestlers who work a style which can be seen as tedious yet it’s anything but. They go back and forth with holds until spilling to the outside where strikes are traded throughout the crowd.

Nakajima shows his dominance through strikes and brings the match back inside. The signature spot of Nakajima seems him putting the boots to his opponent’s face and posing in the corner. This often makes his opponent looks like a dork but here Suzuki fights it off in a multitude of ways and with the early leg work, makes sense why he’d fall from the leg sweep of Nakajima.

Matches like these are why NOAH is picking up steam right now. While other companies are looking for the big spots, NOAH is rewarding their fans with something they won’t see on any other major platform. There are juniors who don’t dive and Inokists like Fujita & Suzuki who provide an alternative to the mainstream.

Politically, the result makes sense. You have Nakajima as the reigning WRESTLE-1 Champion so he can’t take the fall and if he’s not going to use this win over Suzuki to challenge for the GHC Heavyweight Championship, what’s the point of Suzuki eating the pin? This also gives Suzuki the story of taking both members of AXIZ to a draw and with Shiozaki currently feuding with Fujita, it wouldn’t be a stretch to think Suzuki will challenge him next.

These types of matches are extremely refreshing in the modern climate. Good, old-fashioned, logical pro wrestling.

RATEL’S (Daisuke Harada, HAYATA & YO-HEY) def. Stinger (Atsushi Kotoge, Kotaro Suzuki & Yoshinari Ogawa @ 12:59 via HAYATA Schoolboy on Kotoge – ***1/4
The rivalry between the two junior factions (refreshing concept) continues. HAYATA comes out with his ribs taped up, giving Stinger a target. They lay the boots to HAYATA who is then assisted to the back, effectively making this a handicap match. Global Junior League winner, Harada, takes on all three members of Stinger and has a heated exchange with GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion, Ogawa.

This becoming a handicap match, YO-HEY has to tone down the shenanigans and be craftier than ever to even the odds. Eventually HAYATA makes his way back out and dodges all of Stinger’s attacks before catching Kotoge in a schoolboy to score the win. The injury to HAYATA added more heat to a rivalry that continues to find ways to stay fresh despite becoming long in the tooth. RATEL’S will be coming after the junior titles, all currently held by Stinger.

Sugiura-gun (Kazuyuki Fujita & Takashi Sugiura) def. Go Shiozaki & Kaito Kiyomiya @ 20:31 via Fujita Sleeper Hold on Shiozaki – ***1/2
Preview match for two upcoming title matches. First, Kaito Kiyomiya will be challenging Takashi Sugiura for the GHC National Championship. These two had NOAH’s best match of 2019 for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. Kiyomiya has won their previous three singles meetings.

Go Shiozaki will be defending his GHC Heavyweight Championship against Kazuyuki Fujita; a clash of wrestling philosophies. Fujita was trained under Inoki while Kobashi trained Shiozaki. Their interactions in these warm up tag matches have made their differences abundantly clear.

The match saw the four clash, Sugiura-gun having the upper hand throughout the majority of the time. Shiozaki blistered the chest of Fujita but when it came to Kiyomiya’s end of the bargain, he was dominated by Sugiura who tossed around the former GHC Heavyweight Champion like a ragdoll. This wound up bringing some fire to Kiyomiya near the end of the match but when Fujita punted the head of Shiozaki twice and applied the sleeper, the lights went out.

Overall Thoughts
This wasn’t some big blow away show, but it was a logical one nonetheless. Hajime Ohara is staying hot despite losing the Global Junior League. Hitoshi Kumano is no longer the fall guy. Inamura is facing the biggest test of his young career by representing NOAH in BJW’s Strong Climb tournament. Kongoh continues their dominance as a unit. Nakajima and Suzuki have a good old-fashioned wrestling match that’s sure to polarize. All the upcoming title matches between the juniors and heavyweights are being built up in significant ways.

There’s a lot to like in the stories here if you’re someone who follows along outside of the titles matches. If you’re only looking for the meat and potatoes, check out the Nakajima/Suzuki match and come up with your own stance on its legitimacy in the modern era.

Recommended Matches
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Hideki Suzuki
Sugiura & Fujita vs Shiozaki & Kiyomiya

Along with providing show reviews from across Japan, Robert McCauley is also an editor for WrestlingDesk.

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