On the 23rd December 2015, Naomichi Marufuji faced Minoru Suzuki for the GHC Heavyweight title. Never before had this title been so precious as it was then to Noah. The GHC Heavyweight title is more than a belt; it is Mitsuharu Misawa’s belt, it is a symbol of the company.
By 2015, Misawa had been dead six years and Noah were feeling the loss more than ever. A series of decline in business caused by company restructure following the tragedy in Hiroshima in which Misawa was killed, plus a revelation that the promotion had Yakuza ties, had hurt Noah badly. An alliance with New Japan was formed, and a storyline decided whereby The Suzuki Army would try and invade Noah, which would pit the two groups against each other.
By 23rd December 2015, New Japan held all the belts (except the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Championship which was held by Daisuke Harada and Atsushi Kotoge, and Taiji Ishimori had managed to win back the GHC Junior Championship that evening from Taichi); Kenta Kobashi made a special appearance at the beginning of the match and presented the belt to both men.
To Marufuji he gave a stern look as if to say “you know what this belt means, and you know what you must do”.
Even Kenta Kobashi, who had had his own ups and downs with Noah recently, had his role to play in the preservation of the company against New Japan and The Suzuki Army.
In a fierce battle, Naomichi Marufuji used the Emerald Flowsion (Misawa’s signature move and a move he doesn’t often use) to put Minoru Suzuki away and regain the belt for Noah.
As The Suzuki Army withdrew up the ramp, Noah wrestlers surrounded the ring, and Kenta Kobashi presented Marufuji with the GHC Heavyweight title. Takashi Sugiura could be seen clapping in the background, he looked as if he was mentally preparing himself for what he had to do next.
Sugiura went to Marufuji, raised his arm as if in celebration and then gave him the Olympic Slam. He kicked over the trophy that all GHC Heavyweight champions receive after a defense, and then seemingly after a moment of hesitation, walked across the ring ripping his Noah t-shirt off and throwing it on him. Then he turned and walked up the ramp to where the Suzuki Army where waiting and put on the t-shirt they handed him.
There was something highly uncomfortable as Minoru Suzuki grabbed Takashi Sugiura and turned him round roughly to face the crowd and the ring. Takashi Sugiura didn’t get on the microphone and explain himself, but his body language did the speaking for him. Where he wanted to be was with Noah, he looked sad, and while the Suzuki Army celebrated, he could only lift his arms half heartedly, no smile. No look of triumph.
Backstage in the post match promo, he looked blank and somewhat tired.
Sure, he could have refused, could have said he wouldn’t do it, but Noah both in storyline and in true to life terms where fighting for their survival, and Sugiura (one of the three left in the company who had been part of the exodus from All Japan) understood how important this was. Sure, he would play the bad guy if he had to, and he would, but he never enjoyed it.
This wasn’t Noah versus Noah, this was New Japan versus Noah, and he had to go along with it.
All Japan, (from where Sugiura came from originally) and New Japan have been traditional rivals for years, there was a time when being associated with one could get you fired, or even blackballed for life. The two promotions were forbidden to talk to or communicate with each other, and as late as the mid 2000s, veterans from both companies got annoyed if fans approached them wearing rival promotion merchandise. It was ingrained in them.
“I think that everyone knows it, but I did not enjoy the match last time. This time I want to show a match that only Marufuji and I can do”
Takashi Sugiura (May 2018)
There was to be no substantial title reign for Naomichi Marufuji. He was champion for only 39 days before Takashi Sugiura took the belt from him at “Great Voyage in Yokohama 2016”.
There have been GHC title defences in the past where the champion has lost on their first defense, (Yoshihiro Takayama and Takeshi Morishima), but neither of them had to endure booking which involved chairshots or interference by seconds, seconds fighting with seconds and the ref getting knocked down, and in any case, this kind of booking was not a Noah staple. The match ended with Takashi Sugiura getting the win, not by athletic ability or a hard fought competition, but rather by chairshots to Marufuji followed by an Olympic Slam for the win.
Nothing of this was their own. Nothing of this was Noah. Sugiura even stuck his tongue out like Minoru Suzuki did as New Japan stormed the ring and beat Noah down. Even referee Nishinaga got punched out.
Marufuji lay on his back, spreadeagled and staring at the ceiling; he looked as if he wondered how it had come to this. Sugiura, meanwhile, stood by the turnbuckle away from him as more New Japan appeared and beat up on Noah. There was no enthusiasm at all from him, not even when he put his foot half heartedly on Taiji Ishimori. If anything, he looked as if he was checking on him.
The match picture was taken on a stamped on “Pro Wrestling Noah” banner next to a still immobile Naomichi Marufuji.
Takashi Sugiura made one defense of the title, before dropping it to Go Shiozaki in May 2016, after that Sugiura won it back in July and then lost it to young Katsuhiko Nakajima. By this time the alliance with New Japan had ended, and Noah were picking up the pieces.
“Takashi Sugiura is stronger this time, he doesn’t need a chair, his body is a dangerous weapon. That is why I want to see a match which turns heads”.
Takashi Sugiura won the title back in March 2018, after he destroyed brash young Kenoh for it in Tokyo at “Great Voyage 2018 in Yokohama”, the very same event in which he had known such humiliation in 2016. Naomichi Marufuji was not his first challenger, but rather Atsushi Kotoge who had competed as a heavyweight in the tag division. The match had two purposes; one to cement Kotoge as a serious heavyweight singles competitor (despite the cape and the fact he appeared to be talking to himself) and for Naomichi Marufuji (who had seconded Kotoge, a role he hadn’t been required to do for years, being both a senior, a veteran and the Vice President of Noah) to challenge him for the title. Marufuji proposed that they put on a “GHC match, that only we can do”.
By that, he meant he and Sugiura and Noah, no one else. It would be done to Noah’s pace and to Noah’s taste.
No one else’s
This will most likely be the last GHC Heavyweight run for both of them, and most likely the last time they will ever face each other for it. Marufuji has hinted that he may retire when he is 40 (which will be in 2019), and Takashi Sugiura, although he has made no comment on his own stepping down from the ring, is almost fifty; and both have the example of Misawa in front of them. This is their way of going out with a bang. For their last charge, they do not wish for their last match together to be one which was like a cartoon and very un-Noah like in its essence. It will be theirs, and it will ultimately be Noah’s.
Whatever the outcome, the way will be clear for the next generation to rise, but the demons left behind from that night in Yokohama in 2016 need to be exorcised first by two men who deserve their final title match to be so much better.
Mathew’s Top 10 Joshi Wrestlers (Excluding Stardom)
Did your favorite non-Stardom wrestler make the cut? Check out Mathew’s Top 10 and find out!
Did your favorite non-Stardom wrestler make the cut? Check out Mathew’s Top 10 and find out!
I’ve wanted to do this one for a while and I’m gonna use this time to get to it.
You normally see me cover Stardom along with a few shows in the Joshi scene from time to time, but this countdown list is going to focus on the wrestlers that aren’t apart of the Stardom roster. Let’s be honest, if I did add Stardom on this list then that would be almost half and that’s not fair since there are so many talented Japanese women from various promotions and they deserve recognition.
I’m also going by active members instead of all-time to keep up with the current scene, so let’s get right to it as I talk about my Top 10 Joshi wrestlers.
10. ASUKA (Freelancer)
– No, not that Asuka, this is a different ASUKA. ASUKA was able to make history in the short amount of time she’s been around professional wrestling in her three-year career and it’s still going. Asuka was originally from Pro Wrestling WAVE until the end of 2018. She was the first transgender wrestler to main event their biggest show and also the first transgender wrestler to win their biggest title, the Regina Di WAVE Championship. She’s only twenty-years-old and has so much to offer as she represents her community while having the agility of a young Jushin Liger. I only knew her around 2017 but that was when she was also coming out of her shell in the wrestling world and what a big impact she has left so far. She definitely is someone worth keeping an eye on.
9. Takumi Iroha (Marvelous)
– Twenty-six years old and only six years in the wrestling business, Takumi really is something else. She comes from the Marvelous promotion and is considered their top star in the promotion and for good reasons too since she’s just dynamite. Amazing how she started in Stardom and years later, she would make a better name for herself wrestling in various promotions and winning different titles as well. She recently won SEAdLINNNG’s top title, the Beyond the Sea Championship when she defeated the first champion and owner of the promotion, Nanae Takashi. A very talented woman with some fantastic strikes to top it off as she’s someone you would wanna book for your promotion for a couple of shows.
8. Tsukasa Fujimoto (Ice Ribbon)
– The ace of Ice Ribbon and the only one to hold their top title, the ICExInfinity Championship for a total of six times and has had some incredible reigns as the champion. Thirty-five years old and wrestling for only ten years as she was trained by some of the best people like Nanae Takahashi, Manami Toyota, and Emi Sakura. Hardly sloppy in the ring, can work with most styles, these are great qualities to look for in a wrestler in general and Tsukasa is no exception to that.
7. Hikaru Shida (OZ Academy/AEW)
– While she is now considered AEW, she still left an impact in the Japanese scene and is also considered OZ Academy for the time being, so she counts to being on here. This ten-year veteran made sure the world knew who she was when she just performed globally, not bad from someone who started in Ice Ribbon back in 2008. She won major titles from Ice Ribbon, WAVE, OZ Academy, RCW, and Sendai Girls. She was also the one that got knocked out by Naomichi Marufuji on one of her produced shows in 2017 in under two minutes but she wanted a rematch a year later and while she lost, she took her punishment like a champion and still give the fans a great show on her 10th anniversary. Now that she has joined AEW, the fans overseas are sure to get something special with her around as she could be the top star of that division.
6. Hiroyo Matsumoto (Freelancer)
– Otherwise known as the Lady Destroyer and she might be the best Freelancer in the Joshi scene. She’s wrestled in almost every promotion for Joshi wrestling, became more noticed when she recently joined WWE’s Mae Young Classic in 2018 where she lasted until the second round. Hiroyo is strong, fast, technically sound in the ring, and has had many great matches in all of the promotions she’s worked for and you knew you were going to get your money worth since she was that talented. She may not look like much but believe me when I say that she’s an absolute monster and can just wreck you if she wanted to. Surprised nobody has snatched her up for an exclusive contract because she would be the top star in an instant, but I think she enjoys going to various promotions and performing on a high level that she definitely does make do with what she has, so nothing wrong with that.
5. Miyu Yamashita (Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling)
– The star of TJP and for good reasons. She only has about five years of experience with only a background in karate, but she was able to hold the TOKYO Princess of Princess Championship two times for a grand total of 746 days and during those times that she was a champion, she’s had great title defenses on top of it to make her a worthy champion of that company. She was also the SHINE Champion when she went to a title or title match during WrestleMania weekend. She’s like the Shotaro Ashino of TJP. just great in the ring and while not many follow the promotion, people would mostly keep an eye on her from how talented she is. I really hope she gets future opportunities to fight other people from various promotions soon because she would have a lot of dream matches built up that you’d be crazy not to do any of them. Great talent and somebody please get her some special bookings on the double, she’s worth your time!
4. Chihiro Hashimoto (Sendai Girls)
– Meiko Satomura’s prized pupil in Sendai Girls and that woman is Chihiro Hashimoto. If you look at her at first glance, you would think she would be a powerhouse but she’s also very technical in the ring. Chihiro has been wrestling for three years also and Meiko went full speed for Chihiro to make her the top star of her promotion and even be known as one of the best of the next generation of Joshi wrestlers. A four-time Sendai Girls World Champion with a combination of 777 days and each title defense would always leave you satisfied and wanting more of her at the end of things. With very little years under her belt, there’s plenty of room for her to grow in the upcoming years of her career and she might be another one that’ll be considered an all-time great when she does decide to hang it up. Powerful and wrestling-sound, Chihiro has the tools and can back it up at the same time and she’s just getting started.
3. Sareee (World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana)
– I’m gonna level with you on this one, I’m fairly new to her despite being in the wrestling business for eight years, meaning she wrestled since she was fifteen-years-old, but I was able to become a fan of her the moment I saw her. She’s currently wrestling for World Woman Pro-Wrestling Diana and was known as an underdog of sorta. For about a year now, she was able to have big moments in her career when she defeated Aja Kong to become the promotion’s World Champion for the second time, defeating Meiko Satomura clean during a Sendai Girls show in an amazing match, and was able to defeat Chihiro in a title for title match to win the Sendai Girls World Championship, making her a double crown champion with two of the biggest belts in the Joshi scene. A lot of the veterans like Meiko and Nanae are high on Sareee and have faith in her being another won to be the future of professional wrestling as a whole. She has a lot more to prove and plenty of time to do it as this is now her time to shine from here on out.
2. Arisa Nakajima (SEAdLINNNG)
– Aside from Nanae Takashi, I believe Arisa Nakajima is one of the best that SEAdLINNNG has to offer. Arisa is both intense and physical in the ring and while not many have seen a lot of her matches, she always left a big impression on people that have watched her matches and gave them something memorable. While most will be known for their stiff kicks in the ring, she’s more known for her elbows and they’re just as deadly as any stiff kick that you see in most matches these days. Made her career in JWP and is now looking to stand out in her new home and hopefully a future Beyond the Sea Champion when the time is right. Killer instinct and a veteran in the business with thirteen years of experience, she’s someone that will amaze you in that ring.
Before I get to my final one, here’s a small list of honorable mentions down below.
– Nanae Takahashi (SEAdLINNNG)
– Emi Sakura (Gatoh Move)
– Mika Iwata (Sendai Girls)
– DASH Chisako (Sendai Girls)
– Aja Kong (OZ Academy)
– Yuka Sakazaki (Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling)
– Riho (Gatoh Move)
– Yuu (Freelancer)
– Mayumi Ozaki (OZ Academy)
– Saori Anou (Actwres girl’Z)
– Miyako Matsumoto (Ice Ribbon)
1. Meiko Satomura (Sendai Girls)
– I think it’s obvious that she would be at the top of the list for everything she has done throughout her career and still performs at such a high level. The creator of Sendai Girls, Meiko Satomura would go down in the history books as one of the greatest females and wrestlers in general of all time with her incredible wrestling ability and her contributions to the business as a whole. She was also the first female to win DDT’s top title, the KO-D Openweight Championship but that reign didn’t last long, unfortunately. She’s held big titles in her own promotion, Stardom, AAAW, and in Fight Club Pro. Meiko has been wrestling for almost twenty-five years and she still wrestles as if she’s half her age while also being lethal at the same time. She made a big impact in Japan, the United States, and just globally as a whole that she’s earned every accomplishment that she has received. My favorite Joshi wrestler and one of my all-time favorites. If you haven’t seen her before, then something is wrong with you.
Thank you all for taking the time out of your day for reading my list. I’m sure there’s quite a few that I’m missing on here but there are just so many talented women in the Japanese wrestling scene that it’s so hard to put them all in as they all deserve praise. If you have time in your day for more, definitely look up all of these women since they’re worth your time.
(NOAH) WEEKLY NEWSLETTER VOL.38 ~ 9TH JUNE 2019
The busy week that was in NOAH! The first Misawa memorial show and thoughts on the KENTA situation!
The busy week that was in NOAH! The first Misawa memorial show and thoughts on the KENTA situation!
CURRENT TOUR RECAP
Global Junior Tag League 2019 held its final two nights before the big finals in Osaka, on the 8th June in Yokohama, and the 9th June in Tokyo (the 9th June being the Mitsuharu Misawa memorial show).
The RATELS seesaw bought Daisuke Harada and Tadasuke down with a bump, while at the other end of the scale rose, bringing YO-HEY & HAYATA up. On the 8th in Yokohama, Tadasuke fell to Hajime Ohara after ten minutes, and Daisuke Harada fell to Yoshinari Ogawa’s sneak schoolboy pin on the 9th. This now means that they are out of the league.
YO-HEY & HAYATA however, on the rising end, won against Hitoshi Kumano & Chris Ridgeway (and eliminating them in the process) and the following night, won against Hi69 & Minoru Tanaka (who despite this loss, have said that they will be challenging for the GHC Junior Heavyweight tag belts). The finals of Global Junior Tag League 2019 in Osaka will be Stinger vs YO-HEY & HAYATA.
The main event of the Yokohama evening was called “The Mitsuharu Misawa Memorial Pre-match” which pitted the veteran team of Naomichi Marufuji, Takashi Sugiura & Shuhei Taniguchi against AXIZ (Go Shiozaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima) & Kaito Kiyomiya.
As Shuhei Taniguchi is going to be Marufuji’s opponent on the 13th in Osaka, there were tensions between the two, although fans did report that there was tension between all the the vets.
During the match, Naomichi Marufuji worked on Go Shiozaki’s shoulder (Shiozaki was to be his opponent for the 9th June), while Shuhei Taniguchi concentrated on everyone else, and Takashi Sugiura against Kaito Kiyomiya in particular. Sugiura managed to destroy him, and later commented that he would be very disappointed if the title match turned out the same way.
NOAH held the first night of the Mitsuharu Misawa memorial show on June 9th (Misawa actually died on the 13th June, when NOAH will be in Osaka) in Tokyo. The memorials are always a moving event with the flower altar arranged for him where fans leave gifts of flowers, his favorite food, drink and even cigarettes, and the traditional ceremony when he is welcomed to the green ring as the GHC Heavyweight Champion while “Spartan X” plays. The event was sold out with even the standing room tickets going quickly.
Naomichi Marufuji had a singles match against Go Shiozaki.
This match was symbolic as Shiozaki has never ever beaten (until now) Marufuji in a singles match, but in a hard fought fight, he managed to get the win over him by a Gowan Lariat\Emerald Fusion combination. Marufuji slunk away to lick his wounds, while Shiozaki spoke in the ring, thanking Marufuji for keeping NOAH alive, and Misawa for creating NOAH. Marufuji, in the post match promo, swore to become “the wall that Misawa was”.
The GHC Heavyweight match started off civilly, with a handshake between the young champion and the veteran challenger, then all gloves were off, and Takashi Sugiura battered him for the best part of the match. Kiyomiya endured everything; the Olympic Slam, vicious elbows, the DDT avalanche, apron suplexed, speared, and that match finisher that has taken out other older, hardened and more experienced challengers, the front neck choke-hold.
The match finished after 33 minutes and 53 seconds, with Kaito Kiyomiya using the Tiger Suplex.
There was no immediate challenger after the match, (although both Kenoh and Naomichi Marufuji had hinted at a challenge), and Kiyomiya had no speech either, simply holding the belt up and pointing to the ceiling.
Elsewhere on the card that evening, Junta Miyawaki got his second win, and the biggest win of his career when he schoolboy pinned NOSAWA Rongai in the league, it was too late for either team to win, but the effects on Miyawaki’s confidence was immense.
It was hoped that KENTA would make his return to NOAH on this night, but instead he appeared at a New Japan show in Osaka, and announced he would be competing in the G1 Climax. NOAH fans are naturally disappointed, as it was hoped that he would come home to NOAH first. Naomichi Marufuji posted on Twitter (without directly naming anyone, but it was obvious who he meant), saying to the effect that on this day of all days, he chose to do this. He wished him luck, and said “don’t get buried”.
Post match promos ~ Hamamatsu City
ATSUSHI AOKI PASSES AWAY
It was announced on June 3rd that All Japan (and NOAH born) wrestler, Atsushi Aoki, had been killed in a motorcycle accident in Tokyo. His bike had failed to take a swerve correctly, and he had crashed into a side wall.
Although he was an All Japan wrestler at the time of his death (plus their junior heavyweight champion, and a trainer in the dojo), Atsushi Aoki had actually started his career in Pro-Wrestling NOAH. A friend of Takashi Sugiura from their days in the JSDF (Japan Special Defense Forces), he had entered the NOAH dojo after an introduction to Naomichi Marufuji in Aomori, and graduated on the same date as Shuhei Taniguchi, December 24th 2005. He stayed with NOAH until 2013 when he walked out to All Japan with his trainer, Jun Akiyama (alongside Yoshinobu Kanemaru, Kenta Kobashi, Go Shiozaki and Kotaro Suzuki) in protest over NOAH’s firing of Kobashi due to injuries. During his time in NOAH he had held the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team championship twice, once with Kotaro Suzuki and once with Naomichi Marufuji. Jun Akiyama called him one of his most talented students who had a remarkable capacity for remembering advice about technique and carrying it out, what you told him after one match, he would remember in another.
After the walk out to All Japan, Aoki would return to NOAH one last time in September 2018 when he faced Takashi Sugiura and Daisuke Harada, while teaming with Jun Akiyama at Naomichi Marufuji’s “Flight”.
He was forty-four years old at the time of his death.
NOAH held a commemoration service for him at Yokohama, with old dojo friend and fellow trainee, an emotional Shuhei Taniguchi holding his picture.
NOAH’S PHOTO EXHIBITION
Pro Wrestling NOAH have announced that another photo exhibition will take place on Saturday September 14th until Monday September 16th at the ROJI Gallery in Osaka. The exhibition will be known as “NOAH the BEST 2019”. There is no word as of yet whether another photo book will be released.
“COME AT ME YOU BASTARDS” ~ Kenoh’s column
Kenoh’s column this week dealt with one of his favorite subjects, not his hatred of Naomichi Marufuji, Takashi Sugiura or his hate\love\older brother relationship with Kaito Kiyomiya, or LIDET, but his beloved car.
“BEYOND MISAWA AND KOBASHI” ~ Interview with Go Shiozaki
Go Shiozaki gave an interview to “Weekly Pro” in which he speaks about AXIZ, Shuhei Taniguchi, Sugiura, the new NOAH and other subjects.
- GHC Heavyweight Champion: Kaito Kiyomiya
- GHC Junior Champion: Minoru Tanaka
- GHC Heavyweight Tag Champions: AXIZ (Go Shiozaki and Katsuhiko Nakajima)
- GHC Junior Tag Champions: Stinger (Kotaro Suzuki & Yoshinari Ogawa)
~ To hype the Sumo Hall show on the 2nd November (which I will be attending), NOAH have commissioned a truck with artwork advertising the event, to drive around Tokyo on a schedule in June. Fans have been asked to photograph it, hash tag it and put it on Twitter.
~ Takashi Sugiura got home from the event at Korakuen Hall and saw his two dogs play fighting, he took a picture, put it on Twitter and said, “I also lost today, and so did you”.
The 9th June show (the Misawa Memorial from Korakuen Hall, Tokyo and the second to last night of Global Junior Tag League) will be broadcast by G+ on Thursday 13th at 8pm JST.
The 13th June Mitsuharu Misawa memorial show from Osaka, will be shown on the 22nd at 10pm on Samurai TV. This will be the final night of Global Junior Tag League 2019.
Riki Choshu’s Power Hall (featuring Go Shiozaki and Yoshiki Inamura) will be broadcast live on the 26th June on Samurai at 6.30pm
PICTURE CREDITS: YO-HEY, NOAH GHC, PKDK
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