Welcome back to Champions 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’ll be taking a look at the current reigning GHC Junior Heavyweight champion, Kotaro Suzuki.
Suzuki began his fourth reign as GHC Junior Heavyweight champion on April 19th when he beat Yoshinari Ogawa in a good match.
As of writing, Suzuki has defended the Junior Heavyweight championship twice, against Atsushi Kotoge and Kaz Hayashi.
Defence 1 – Atsushi Kotoge
Kotoge announced his intentions to challenge for the GHC Junior Heavyweight championship via Twitter.
The pair used to team together when Kotoge was in Stinger and are former GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.
At Noah in the spotlight 3, FULL THROTTLE faced off against Kotaro Suzuki and Kaito Kiyomiya. Before the match even started Kotoge was pestering Suzuki when he was in his own corner. Suzuki told him to go away. We saw glimpses of the future match when both were the legal men for their team.
After the match Kotoge tugged on the championship which was on Suzuki’s shoulder. Suzuki turned round and hit Kotoge’s hand away.
After the main event Suzuki stormed the with stinger to attack Daisuke Harada. With the commotion Kotoge snuck into the ring and dropped Suzuki with the killswitch.
The match was made for 14th of june
The match itself was very technical. There were some great technical sequences throughout the match. Suzuki was targeting Kotoge’s ribs. Kotoge was in the underdog role for most of the match with Suzuki being in control for a large majority of the match.
During the final stretch Kotoge was starting to get the upper hand and went to the top rope for a moonsault. As Kotoge leaped Suzuki managed to counter the moonsault into the mass driver for the win.
Defence 2 – Kaz Hayashi
After the Kotoge match, Kaz Hayashi came out to challenge Kotaro Suzuki for the GHC Junior Heavyweight championship. Suzuki accepted the challenge.
Hayashi and Suzuki have a long history. The have faced each other in NOAH, All Japan, WRESTLE-1. They also have tagged together having one the WRESTLE-1 tag team championships in 2016.
The match was made for the 21st of June.
This match, like the last defence, was very technical. Full of counters, lock-ups, holds, armbars, submissions. Hayashi seemed to be gassed early in the match. I don’t think he had the stamina to keep up with Suzuki. So the match suffered from a slow pace even for a technical match. Kotaro Suzuki picked up the win with a Tiger Driver.
What has gone well in the reign
So far Suzuki’s reign has been solid, if unspectacular. The Kotoge match was very good with a very memorable ending. Like Nakajima last week, Suzuki’s is hard to rate because he has held the belt for a short amount of time.
Suzuki himself is amongst the best juniors that NOAH have, so any future matches that he will have should be in the good to great region.
Suzuki also plays the bad guy really well. It’s easy to root against him and he can really get a crowd into a match. Obviously, there are no crowds right now but it’s such a great feature to have and I think it was evident in the Kotoge match, as he dominated and it wasn’t boring. I found myself cheering on Kotoge and was hoping he would get back into the match.
What could have been done better?
Personally I am not interested in this reign. This is nothing to do with Kotaro Suzuki as he as one of the best juniors NOAH has to offer. It’s the fact that the junior division in NOAH has been dominated by the same two groups. Stinger and the previous Ratels. Since last February the last 5 GHC Junior Heavyweight tag team champions have been from either Stinger or Ratels. Same with the last 3 GHC Junior Heavyweight championship.
It’s hard to get invested in a championship that has been passed between the same group for almost a year. With the junior division NOAH has (for me it’s the best in the world) a person from outside one of those 2 groups can win the championship. It would give us fresh matches and fresh stories to explore.
That is the only gripe I have with this reign.
What comes next
Kotaro Suzuki has a defence coming up on the 19th of July against YO-HEY. YO-HEY came out after the Kaz Hayashi match and challenged Suzuki. a fight broke out as Kotaro held the belt up to YO-HEY, and YO-HEY grabbed Kotaro’s face. So the match was made for the 19th of July.
Predictions for the rest of the reign
My prediction for the rest of the reign is that Suzuki will lose the title before the Global Junior Tag league. Although it’s yet to be announced I think it will take place in August of September. So I think he will get 2 or 3 more defences in. I think his opponents will be:
- Daisuke Harada
- Seiki Yoshioka
Personally I think it will Hajime Ohara who will be the one to dethrone Suzuki. Ohara is one of the most underrated juniors not only in NOAH but in the world. The match will be great and Ohara will be the one to break the stranglehold that Stinger and the former Ratels have on the division. Allowing for fresh stories and match ups that will allow people to how good Ohara and the junior division is.