Welcome back to Champion’s Corner, the series where we talk about champions in different promotions. We talk about some of the defences, what is going right in their reign, what is difficult about their reign and more. Today I am talking about the current reign of GHC National champion Katsuhiko Nakajima.
Nakajima began his first reign as GHC National champion on May 9th when he beat Takashi Sugiura in an amazing match.
As of writing, Nakajima has defended the National championship against Masao Inoue and Manabu Soya.
Defence 1 – Masao Inoue
On the 31st of May during the intermission of the show, Masao Inoue came to the ring. Similar to how his tag partner Akitoshi Saito challenged Go Shiozaki the previous week, Inoue pulled out a letter of challenge. Inoue technically had a victory over Nakajima, as Inoue and his partner Akitoshi Saito had beaten AXIZ (Go Shiozaki and Katsuhiko Nakajima.) in the Global Tag League. The commentators were giggling during his reading of the letter. This is due to Inoue’s bumbling nature. Katsuhiko Nakajima accepted the challenge at the match was made for the 14th of June.
Inoue is a comedy wrestler. So Nakajima wasn’t really taking him seriously. Inoue still had his comedy antics in this match, like slipping off the turnbuckles and not getting in the ring even when Nakajima was holding the ropes open for him. Nakajima has a tendency to be cocky when it comes to championship matches and it has cost him in the past (see the match against Takashi Sugiura for the GHC heavyweight title in 2018). This match was no different Nakajima was cocky. Not really taking Inoue seriously. This attitude changed when Inoue came close to winning on a number of occasions. Using roll-ups, a couple of sneak attacks and even a low blow at one point. Nakajima woke up, so to speak. He didn’t want to be beaten by a comedy wrestler like Inoue. In the end, Nakajima won the match via a sleeper hold.
After the match, no challenger came forward. Nakajima suggested that NOAH hold a tournament full of junior heavyweights and heavyweights to determine a new challenger.
Defence 2 – Manabu Soya
Noah did, in fact, do a tournament to determine the next number, one contender. The tournament was an openweight tournament. With 7 heavyweights and 7 junior heavyweights entering. The tournament was contested over 2 days with Manabu Soya emerging victorious with a victory over stablemate Masa Kitamiya in the finals. Nakajima would come out and confront Soya after the match. The title match was set for the 21st of June.
Soya came out with Kongoh (the stable he is in) in support. Nakajima came out by himself. Soya had the advantage of pure strength. However, Soya was about to fight in his 5th match in 3 days. Nakajima was a lot fresher than Soya. So Nakajima had the advantage, in that regard. Soya used his strength to his advantage knocking Nakajima down forcing Nakajima into a tactical retreat out of the ring. Nakajima tried winding Soya up but to no avail. Nakajima soon realised that this was going to be a gruelling fight. The match was hard-hitting, with both men throwing mean strikes – Nakajima using kicks and Soya using forearms.
Soya would use his power while Nakajima would use his speed and striking. Nakajima did get a bit cocky during the match when he hit a head kick and pinned Soya with a huge grin. But Soya powered out. Soya gave everything including a massive lariat that turned Nakajima inside out. In the end, Nakajima was able to pick up the win with the Vertical Spike. A very physical and great match.
What has gone well in the reign
So far Katsuhiko Nakajima has held the title for just a few months, having won it in May. He isn’t past the 3-month mark yet. It’s kind of hard to judge when he has held the belt for a short time. His matches have been good. With both of them being different which is good because variety can be the spice of life. The Inoue match was the crafty veteran vs the cocky young champion with the veteran almost winning with a few tricks he pulled out but in the end, the youth was too much for the veteran. The Soya match was the powerhouse challenger vs the more agile champion. The dynamic was great and it made for a great match with the more agile champion overcoming the powerhouse.
I also like the fact that Nakajima is giving more of an identity. When Sugiura was champion he did say it was an openweight title and juniors could challenge. We only had one junior challenger in Minoru Tanaka. Nakajima after the two defences keeps driving home that this is an openweight championship and that he welcomes any challengers. I hope this leads to more heavyweight vs junior matches and not just a belt that the heavyweights fight over when not in the world heavyweight or tag team title scene.
What can have been done better
Honestly, I am having a hard time deciding, because so far Nakajima’s reign has been near close to perfect. Great matches even in empty arenas. Giving the belt a sense of identity. The reign has also been quite short so no major problems have come yet.
What comes next
Well as of writing no contenders have come forward to challenge for the championship. With Noah getting back to having crowds very soon I would expect to see a challenger come forward soon. So Nakajima will probably continue to be in tag matches for the foreseeable future. I do expect a challenger will come forward from those tag matches.
Predictions for the rest of the reign
I think that Nakajima will hold the National championship till a little into 2021. I say this because I have Nakajima to go on and win the GHC world heavyweight championship. Personally don’t think Noah will have the National champion win the the GHC world heavyweight championship. As for defences this is who I think Nakajima will defend against:
- Kinya Okada
- Atsushi Kotoge
- Daiki Inaba
- Hideki Suzuki
- Seiki Yoshioka
This allows Nakajima to have a solid reign. As for the person who dethrones Nakajima I have two options in mind. First Shuhei Taniguchi who for me had a great 2019 putting in some great matches. I think that he deserves a singles title because of that. He has also never held a singles title in Noah before.
The second option being Daisuke Harada. Harada has been the ace of the junior division for a couple of years now. He has won everything there is to win in the division. I think Harada is also eyeing a move to the heavyweights. winning this title will allow him to not only move up to the heavyweights.It would also allow him to resolve any unfinished business with any juniors before fully moving up to the heavyweight division.