Pro Wrestling NOAH draws 5,523 fans to Sumo Hall for the Battle of Aesthetics. Every title is on the line including the crowning of the inaugural GHC National Championship between Takashi Sugiura and Michael Elgin. The main event features N-1 Victory winner, Kenoh, receiving his second shot to stop Kaito Kiyomiya’s GHC Heavyweight Championship reign. Let’s get started!
El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr., KAZMA SAKAMOTO & Kinya Okada def. Mohammed Yone, Quiet Storm & Hitoshi Kumano @ 6:08 – **
Full disclosure: this is the first Quiet Storm match I’ve watched in years. He’s perfectly fine but some things don’t make the cut and I always file his opening matches as skippable. That streak ended once I decided to review the full show. Hijo and Okada both had strong dropkicks, Hijo got to showcase with a moonsault to finish the match and that was that. Not much to see here.
Mitsuo Momota & Tamon Honda def. Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue @ 10:10 – *1/2
A match billed “NOAH the Classic” featuring the undercard comedy portion of the show. Referee Mighty Inoue had the spot of the match when he locked in a sleeper on Masao Inoue after Honda claimed he was being choked. They had the crowd in giggling fits with this light-hearted comedy but for me it went on twice as long as it should have and quickly lost its appeal. I’ve already spent too much time typing about the match.
Hajime Ohara, NOSAWA Rongai & Kazushi Sakuraba def. Hi69, Junta Miyawaki & Osamu Nishimura @ 8:20 – **1/2
To the surprise of no one, Nishimura was the match’s highlight. He traded Cobra Twists with Sakuraba and got in his uppercuts. In somewhat of a surprise, Hi69 was one who tapped. Miyawaki seems to have leapfrogged him in the pecking order which is a good sign for the future. Everyone here hit their marks and we were treated with both Nishimura and Sakuraba. Unfortunately we got so little Ohara but such is life for the guy right now. The best of the night to this point.
Atsushi Kotoge, Chris Ridgeway & Eddie Edwards def. Masaaki Mochizuki, Minoru Tanaka & Super Crazy @ 11:30 – ***
Now we’re beginning to see signs of life. It was great seeing Super Crazy still have fluid momentum, he didn’t look out of place for a second. Mochizuki and Ridgeway had a fun exchange where they mirrored each other’s moves. Tanaka was solid as always and all six guys hit the ring with explosion which helped wake me up for the rest of the show. Let’s hope they keep building at this pace.
Kazuyuki Fujita def. Shuhei Taniguchi @ 7:57 – ***1/2
On the Korakuen go-home we saw Fujita deliver a punt to the head that finished Taniguchi. Understandably, Taniguchi looks to start by returning the favor. He connects with the blow early, drops Fujita on the apron and drives him into the post. Taniguchi brings the match back inside where he takes a headbutt from Fujita that cuts Taniguchi above the eye. For the rest of the match Taniguchi is bleeding all the way down his face for an awesome visual.
Taniguchi fights back with a flurry of headbutts to Fujita’s shoulder, misses a punt and takes a DVD but pops right back up and gets in Fujita’s face before getting dropped with slaps. Fujita punts Taniguchi twice and locks in a rear-naked choke for the win. Great intensity from both men. This is the type of match only NOAH is offering right now which is helping them stand out.
Would I have liked this better if Taniguchi won? Absolutely. Sadly, even if he did win there’s very little hope NOAH would follow up with a strong push for him. As it stands, Taniguchi got enough out of this feud to look like a contender. We already know he’s not going to win any title challenge he makes even if he did beat Fujita so they may as well not give him that win. Fujita can instead move on to someone who has more worth in the NOAH ranks.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke def. Kotaro Suzuki & Yoshinari Ogawa (c) @ 10:58 – ***
Three crafty juniors and Tadasuke. The other three are always a joy to watch. Their movements in the ring are always crisp and fire off moves in both a slick and creative fashion. And then you have Tadasuke who…throws lariats. In theory this isn’t bad but Tadasuke doesn’t carry himself like a power guy whose lariats will rock you. Instead he looks like a dork who can only throw one move because he’s boring. He’s at his best when getting beat down by Suzuki and Ogawa. Harada deserves a more exciting partner because as it stands it’s very difficult to get excited for this reign. The match itself was good, just not at the level it could’ve been if say Hi69 was Harada’s partner.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship
HAYATA (c) def. YO-HEY @ 14:11 – ***
This is the type of match you show to a fan of current NJPW to convert them to NOAH. They’re both bright, flashy and hit a lot of slick moves. The problem is this comes off like a lite version of what New Japan is doing right now. Mainly filled with headscissors and moonsaults, I do think HAYATA is a reasonably creative wrestler. I fondly remember HAYATA’s match against Harada last year but YO-HEY is largely uninspired. Here he did a good job at selling enough to elicit a crowd reaction as they rallied around him to pull off the win.
HAYATA’s Headache (a short rana driver) is a great move but was used too much and when it finally finished YO-HEY, it was the weakest looking of the three he hit. The match was good enough to be considered for a recommendation, the hang up I have is seeing all of the other juniors in NOAH who wrestle a style I’d much prefer over NJPW-lite.
GHC Tag Team Championship
Go Shiozaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) def. Masa Kitamiya & Yoshiki Inamura @ 17:02 – ****1/2
Everything about this match rules. Nakajima starts by giving Kitamiya a Vertical Spike and pushes him to the outside. Kitamiya spent more than five minutes on the floor. He didn’t just pop back up because it was early in the match. No, he stayed down because that’s Nakajima’s finish every time the move is hit. Inamura then has to take a beating from the tag champs. This is where a match can get boring but Nakajima and Shiozaki know how to work on top. They soak in every moment they have to humiliate the rookie. I normally hate Nakajima’s corner camera spot but it works against a rookie who is supposed to look like a dork.
Nakajima just stares at the corner waiting for Kitamiya to get back to the apron and once he does, Nakajima boots him right back down. Inamura’s big comeback being a shoulder tackle was perfect and Kitamiya’s hot tag ruled. He starts eating Shiozaki’s chops and popping up from every driver. The dude is on fire. He even has such a smart moment where he slips off the buckle and instead of admitting to the fans he blew the spot, he course corrects into another move. All four of these guys know their role and executed them perfectly. Kitamiya eats a second Vertical Spike for the cut and dry finish. Everything made complete sense. This match ruled.
Great Muta def. Naomichi Marufuji @ 12:05 – ***
A cute special attraction match. This worked better than if they tried to actually wrestle. You got a mist spot early from Muta to block Marufuji’s attack with a chair. Muta ran in with a fire extinguisher (that was at ringside for some reason) and Marufuji sprays the fire extinguisher at Muta who gets him back soon after with mist and a fireball (oh, that’s that reason). Muta then hits a series of Shining Wizards for the win. This wasn’t some technical masterpiece, they instead went full on with the gimmicks. It’s pretty sad to watch a crowd laugh at Muta but you can’t blame them when you see this performance. Have fun watching this for the laughs but by no means is it something that needs to be seen.
GHC National Championship
Takashi Sugiura def. Michael Elgin @ 21:35 – ***1/2
Riki Choshu comes out to present the GHC National Championship.
If you follow my Twitter you know Sugiura is one of my favorite wrestlers on the planet right now. I think you can make a case for him being the wrestler of the year and I thought this match had the potential to put him over the top. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case. A polite 3.5 for this match because it could’ve been much better. For as much as I loved Elgin’s match against Daisuke Sekimoto a few months back, I had major gripes and I have the same ones here in this match.
Elgin comes in with so much intensity early that it looks phony and makes him come off like he’s cosplaying. The match really starting to get going around ten minutes in and then the intense look on his face begins to fit the mood. The first half feels so forced and hammy that I was laughing and groaning at Elgin’s performance. He doesn’t carry the natural charisma that Sugiura does. As all great matches do, this got better in the closing stretch, but the first half was too off-putting for anything more than a friendly 3.5 rating. A good match but one that didn’t live up to its potential.
GHC Heavyweight Championship
Kaito Kiyomiya (c) def. Kenoh @ 31:10 – ***3/4
Kenta Kobashi comes out to present the new GHC Heavyweight Championship belt.
On the Korakuen go-home, Kenoh delivered a double stomp off the top to Kiyomiya who was bridging in a suplex. This resulted in Kiyomiya being stretchered out of the building. Now in the title match, Kenoh goes right after the neck with a DDT on the apron followed by a top rope double stomp. His attack on the neck was focused and consistent throughout the match and it was up to Kiyomiya to fight back. I loved their Januray title match and there was a sweet callback when Kenoh hit a dragon suplex on the apron. Kiyomiya’s dive over the corner to the floor was big spot of the match. Kenoh channeled Kawada with the Stretch Plum and step kicks as a shot at Kiyomiya’s worship of Misawa.
The constant kick outs of the tiger suplex was a bit too much. Think back to the Nakajima match with the Vertical Spikes earlier in the show. That move felt like a killer. Here, you never know which suplex will be the finish. The story between these two was told well enough, it was a serviceable main event by accomplishing its goal of Kiyomiya being the guy to beat in NOAH. The problem is you have guys under him on this card that looked much more complete than him and they look that way because they are. That’s no real fault to Kiyomiya because he’s still so young in his career and the fans are willing to support him on his journey. Just saying that though, there’s an acknowledgement he isn’t there yet and instead the fans are willing to respect and wait for him to put it all together.
This is a similar case to Ben-K in Dragon Gate. We understand what they’re trying to do and support the decision even if we can see he’s not fully there yet. Kiyomiya has the crowd better than Ben-K does at the moment but he’s also been crowned as the guy six months longer than Ben-K. All that aside, this was a really strong match, just not one that feels like it’s put Kiyomiya over the hump and into the great category.
Overall I thought the show peaked early with the incredible GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship match. The story of Kitamiya struggling to overcome his old tag team partner, Nakajima, and Inamura having to struggle to stay alive was told extremely well. AXIZ are the frontrunners for the tag team of the year. With AJPW’s tag league starting today I’m sure the Violent Giants will be out to steal that crown.
We also had matches like the main event and Sugiura/Elgin that were really strong but didn’t quite live up to their billing. Both were good enough but neither were something absolutely blow-away. Serviceable is probably an insult, they were above that but below great. A somewhat mixed bag. The battle between Fujita and Taniguchi was another standout match. Taniguchi bleeding hard-way from a headbutt and continuing to push himself into a big time performance ruled.
Serviceable is a word I can use on both junior matches. They were good, solid matches but Harada deserves a better partner than Tadasuke and HAYATA should be given an opportunity to showcase away from YO-HEY who I feel drags him down. All in all I’d say this was a solid show with one blow-away match in the middle of the card and a few strong ones scattered throughout.
Shiozaki & Nakajima vs Kitamiya & Inamura
Kaito Kiyomiya vs Kenoh
Kazuyuki Fujita vs Shuhei Taniguchi
Takashi Sugiura vs Michael Elgin
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