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TIME AND FATE: NOAH’S GHC HARDCORE CHAMPIONSHIP

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“It seems there was once a belt a long time ago I guess.”
Hi69 (May 4th 2018 after a hardcore match with Daisuke Harada).

I hope to present here a brief history of what was known as the GHC Hardcore Championship.

NOAH is not a hardcore promotion that does deathmatches (although they did run one in May 2018 between Hi69 and Daisuke Harada, this was Harada’s first time doing hardcore), so you weren’t going to win this belt by lighttubes, blowing the ring up, electric barbed wire or stapling paper to your opponents head; although it was defended in some matches termed as “hardcore”, or at least as hardcore as NOAH got in that era.

In this situation “Hardcore” meant that anyone could challenge for it regardless of division as it was openweight, you just had to survive and have incredible endurance. The title could be won by a count-out, and if the challenger was smaller than the champion and lasted fifteen minutes, the title could change hands. A win could only be gained by a pinfall, no submission was allowed.

The title could only be challenged for by NOAH wrestlers (or those working for NOAH at the time, such as Scorpio in 2005), not from anyone by an outside promotion.

The title began in 2004 when Jun Akiyama came up with the idea. He felt the concept would be exciting as it would create matches regardless of weight and size and would be open to anyone of any division. Mitsuharu Misawa agreed to the idea, funded it, and the belt was created. For this reason Misawa was considered to be the chairman of the belt (in the same way that the GHC has its own committee who decide who gets it etc), and the belt was thought to be Jun Akiyama’s as it was created in his style, the same way that the GHC Heavyweight is Misawa’s.

The GHC Hardcore belt differed from the other GHC belts as the main belt was white (Jun Akiyama’s colors) with the crest being silver, and for that reason it was sometimes known as “The White GHC”.

In the beginning it was decided that the belt would only be defended outside of the Kanto area (outside of the metropolitan Tokyo district which included Chiba, Saitama etc), with a fan who won a competition reading out the match announcement (like Joe Higuchi did for championship matches). After the match they would have the honor of handing the belt to the winner, and posing for a commemorative photo afterwards. This didn’t happen as the belt would be defended very much in Tokyo.

Immediately the rules caused confusion as in Jun Akiyama’s first defense, Takuma Sano was put in a front necklock and passed out, the referee not hearing his “I quit”. The belt then passed to Naomichi Marufuji who lost it to Mohammed Yone. NOAH held a rare deathmatch, where Yone faced Morishima in a “Chain Death Match” in Osaka in April 2005, it went to a double knock out. Yone’s fourth defense was against Scorpio, who was taken to hospital after the match having injured his leg.

Scorpio lost the title to Kentaro Shiga in September 2006, and the title became a tag title as Shiga unified it with Kishin Kawabata after vacating the belt as he declared he wanted to make a tag with it, (although there were never two belts made for this purpose), and the belt was billed as the “GHC Openweight Hardcore Tag Team Championship”. It was defended that December at Korakuen Hall in a “Lumberjack Deathmatch”.

By late 2007, the championship belt was becoming sporadic as NOAH booking and NOAH fans were losing interest in it, compared to the turn around of roughly six months when the belt was first inaugurated, Kishin Kawabata made only four defenses in eleven months before losing it to Makoto Hashi in October 2008, he made only two in nine months before losing it to Kenta Kobashi in June 8th 2009 who defended it four times before vacating the title after becoming injured that December.

No one after this it seemed to have much interest in reviving the belt and NOAH had little interest in booking it. Simply put, the concept had run its course, and by late 2009 and early 2010, NOAH were facing serious problems with the death of Misawa and internal fighting about the company restructuring. In the following years talent walkout, scandal, a decline in business and money issues became a far more pressing problem than who held a little white belt with a silver crest.

As of August 2018 NOAH have announced no plans to bring the GHC Hardcore Championship back, and the belt is not listed on the site under a the list of championships.


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