The flagship show of NOAH’s double header against Wrestle Kingdom! Did it flop or fly?
So the first big positive was that Korakuen Hall was sold out to No Vacancy for this show. Yes that means there’s still standing room only/general admission, but the seats being sold was a big surprise. English and Japanese fans alike weren’t sure if this was taking too big of a gamble, but so far so good.
Four pivotal championship matches and a special singles with Michael Elgin makes the second half of this card pretty damn stacked.
Kiyomiya could continue to be NOAH’s new shining light, or Shiozaki might get one more shot at greatness. The main event should be special.
Let’s get to the show.
- 50 Funky Powers (Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm) vs Dark Agents Return (Masao Inoue & Akitoshi Saito): Inoue wins via Head & Arm Cradle @8:00 – **
- RATEL’S (Tadasuke & YO-HEY) vs Hitoshi Kumano &Seiya Morohashi: Tadasuke wins via Outkast @7:55 – ** 3/4
- Daisuke Harada & Shuhei Taniguchi vs El Hijo de Dr. Wagner Jr & Hajime Ohara: Harada wins via German Suplex Hold @10:40 – *** 1/4
- KONGOH (Kenoh & Yoshiki Inamura) vs Hideki Suzuki & Kinya Okada: Kenoh wins via KO @9:50 – ** 1/2
- Naomichi Marufuji & Minoru Tanaka vs Chris Ridgeway & Doug Williams: Williams wins via Chaos Theory German Suplex @13:20 – ***
- Michael Elgin vs Katsuhiko Nakajima: Elgin wins via Elgin Bomb @11:55 – *** 1/2
- GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: STINGER (Atsushi Kotoge & Kotaro Suzuki) (c) vs KONGOH (Hao & Nio): Kotoge retains via Tiger Driver/Killswitch Combo @10:35 – ***
- GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship: HAYATA (c) vs Yoshinari Ogawa: Ogawa wins via Figure Four Cradle @20:45 – **** – TITLE CHANGE!!
- GHC National Championship: Masa Kitamiya vs Takashi Sugiura (c): Sugiura retains via Avalanche Olympic Slam @20:30 – *** 3/4
- GHC Heavyweight Championship: Kaito Kiyomiya (c) vs Go Shiozaki: Shiozaki wins via Moonsault Press @27:40 – ***** – TITLE CHANGE!!!!
50 Funky Powers (Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm) vs Dark Agents Return (Masao Inoue & Akitoshi Saito) – Hey, Inoue’s not complete comedy. For being two teams of more veteran wrestlers, this was a fun match. Funk Powers had some nice tandem moves, Inoue still had a few moments of dawdling comedy, but the fact that his endless array of roll-ups and cradles actually worked…this new year is starting out well for Inoue. Decent opening match.
RATEL’S (Tadasuke & YO-HEY) vs Hitoshi Kumano &Seiya Morohashi – Morohashi shows up every so often since he has history in NOAH. Most recently splitting time between NOAH, DDT and BBJ, Morohashi is nothing to be taken lightly. YO-HEY seems excited to exchange some moves with Seiya, but then, when is YO-HEY not excited? We get a solid match where the RATEL’S guys hit a lot of their signature stuff. Gamen G combos lead to a pin break up, but Tadasuke puts the match away with Outkast. Coming off his first title reign in NOAH, Tadasuke could be positioning for a bigger push in the future.
Daisuke Harada & Shuhei Taniguchi vs El Hijo de Dr. Wagner Jr & Hajime Ohara – Even though Shuhei isn’t a part of RATEL’S, he’s recently coming off an issue with Takashi Sugiura, so joining up against two members of Sugiura-Gun makes plenty of sense.
Shuhei and Wagner actually have a few nice power spots. Shuhei batters Wagner with headbutts and lariats, but Wagner manages to get an opportune strike and Missile Dropkick to bring in the two Junior Heavyweights. Ohara and Harada are just smooth as butter with everything they do. Ohara hits a few backbreakers and a couple submissions before attempting his Muy Bein, but Shuhei breaks up the submission. Great back and forth, Rolling Cradle attempts and Harada goes into a few signature maneuvers like his delayed Knee Lift, Release German Suplex, and when that doesn’t finish the match, Harada hits the German Suplex Hold for the victory. A lot of good stuff, but the final portion with Ohara and Harada is where the energy picks up and the match switched gears a bit.
KONGOH (Kenoh & Yoshiki Inamura) vs Hideki Suzuki & Kinya Okada – This feels like a match that is setting the table for something more. When Kenoh comes in, he wants Suzuki, but Okada tries to prove himself. Kenoh no sells everything and just relaxes in the corner while the younger wrestler tries to inflict damage. Eventually, Kenoh just walks Okada back to his corner, puts Suzuki’s hand on the kid’s head and steps back like “Was that so damn hard”. Kenoh lit up Suzuki, Inamura even got some decent bumps out of Suzuki before Okada came back in. We get one more exchange with Kenoh and Suzuki which is honestly just Kenoh lighting him up with Palm Strikes and kicks, Okada tries to do something and Kenoh knocks him out with a few quick smacks and a High Round Kick to the head. Not a particularly great match, but amusing and seems to have more on the horizon.
Naomichi Marufuji & Minoru Tanaka vs Chris Ridgeway & Doug Williams – Marufuji and Williams start, and we get some solid World of Sport style wrestling. Tanaka and Ridgeway turn things up nicely with the Junior style, Tanaka even pulls off a Shooting Star Press. Let’s remember Tanaka is 47 years old, so it’s not just a run of the mill move. Could’ve been paying homage in his own way to Liger since this show was going on at the same time as Wrestle Kingdom. The fact that Doug Williams came out of retirement and goes over with his Chaos Theory is a great touch to stuff. Pretty good match before intermission.
Michael Elgin vs Katsuhiko Nakajima – Elgin comes in looking to rebound from his loss to Sugiura, and Nakajima still has the loss to Shiozaki hanging over his head. So both are in a position to need the win, but who will get the momentum?
The pace to this match is pretty quick, which is to be expected from it’s placement on the card. Coming on after intermission puts you in the “main event” half of the show, but we’re not going to get 25 minutes of refires and comebacks. Elgin’s power faced Nakajima’s kicks head on, and got the best of the brash tag team champion. Nakajima was able to stave off Elgin a few times, but it was just delaying the inevitable when he finally grabbed him and hit the Elgin Bomb. This was a good match, and might put Elgin in a position to face the winner of the GHC Heavyweight match.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: STINGER (Atsushi Kotoge & Kotaro Suzuki) (c) vs KONGOH (Hao & Nio) – Good work from everyone in this match, but the crowd seemed a little flat. Could be the Hao and Nio are freshly repackaged, so this title shot felt a little rushed. Suzuki is a technical master, Kotoge is always fun to watch, but again, this felt like a match that never got out of first gear. Not a bad match, but a little underwhelming for a title match.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship: HAYATA (c) vs Yoshinari Ogawa – This was a clash of styles, but done very well. Ogawa is in his 50s, but a very proficient technical wrestler, where HAYATA is the young flashy typical junior style. This also continues the STINGER and RATEL’S rivalry, so there’s a lot of build here.
Ogawa does a good job at focusing HAYATA’s left leg. Ogawa proceeded to slap on a few Figure Fours and Indian Death Locks. HAYATA showed his resolve and championship pedigree by fighting through the pain and putting together most of his effective offense. The finish was great when HAYATA went for Headache (Snap Frankensteiner on a kneeling opponent), but Ogawa blocks it, crosses up the legs and pins HAYATA for the upset victory.
GHC National Championship: Masa Kitamiya vs Takashi Sugiura (c) – Suspension of disbelief is a hard thing with Masa Kitamiya matches. He tends to often get positioned as a contender, but he rarely wins any matches that truly matter.
The match starts with a few minutes of both men exchanging Shoulder Tackles. Now I get that they’re both beefy guys and this is more of an establishing their dominance moment, but it didn’t work at all for me. It was slow, redundant and went too long. Suigura often had the advantage, and the few times Kitamiya got offense it was usually a counter or just whatever he could get a hold of. They traded stealing one another’s moves, but again, Kitamiya needs to be booked stronger to make me care here. The National title has turned into the equivalent of New Japan’s NEVER Openweight, where it’s just strong strikes and inflicting pain.
Thankfully as the match went on, things got better, but again…I never saw Kitamiya having a chance. Suigiura needing the Avalanche Olympic Slam to put him away is basically his strongest finisher, so it still protects Kitamiya a little…but I can’t really believe him in any title scene for a while.
— プロレスリング・ノア (@noah_ghc) January 4, 2020
GHC Heavyweight Championship: Kaito Kiyomiya (c) vs Go Shiozaki – Shiozaki earned this opportunity after a decent run in the N1, and a few key wins, most notably against Katsuhiko Nakajima during the 15th anniversary match. Kiyomiya has carried the belt for a little over a year, while establishing himself as the face of the new NOAH. From an emotional standpoint, Shiozaki is someone that many consider the true soul of NOAH. Student of Kobashi, came up while Misawa was still around, and still carries himself from the Golden Era. The biggest question mark with Shiozaki is; will the fans finally accept him as champion?
This was a fantastic match. Kiyomiya showed his determination to remain champion by going after Shiozaki’s bad elbow and trying to work whatever advantages came his way. Shiozaki on the other hand, summoned a lot of NOAH’s history to power him through points of the match. Kobashi’s Machine Gun Chops, Misawa’s Rolling Elbow to interrupt Kiyomiya’s offense, and Vader Hammers to disorient the young champion. Kiyomiya did his best to stave off the challenger, even using Misawa’s Emerald Flowsion for a near fall. Shiozaki pulled out plenty of tricks and tributes as the veteran challenger should, and this was fantastic to watch. Shiozaki winning with the Moonsault is great since it’s a tribute to Kobashi to begin with, and it was the move that got him this opportunity anyway.
Kobashi presenting him with the GHC Heavyweight Championship was just a nice moment to cap it all off.
Overall Score: 8.5/10
Wow, this was an epic card that started a little slow, but nothing was even close to bad. The last 3 matches arguably held up against most of the Wrestle Kingdom big matches.No one knew how this experiment was going to end. Running a show at the same time as Wrestle Kingdom worked out fairly well for NOAH. Korakuen was packed, the fans seemed to really be into the show, and all of the important players from 2019 had a role to play.
Also very cool to see Shiozaki get a chance to redeem himself. Referred by many as a Fallen Ace, the fans seemed generally receptive of him during the match and the victory, so maybe Go will finally get the reign he deserves, with adulation instead of insults. Oh! Ogawa continues this current trend of old champions. It is however cool to note, this is Ogawa’s first reign as GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. Even though he’s always been considered a Junior, he got a run as GHC Heavyweight Champion, long before his first GHC Junior run. Life’s funny sometimes, right?
Pro Wrestling NOAH starting off strong. Great show.