Since its founding in 2000. NOAH has had some of the best wrestlers in history step into their ring. From founder Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi, two men who many consider to be two of the greatest wrestlers in history. To Vader,2 Cold Scorpio, Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA who are some of the most underrated wrestlers in history.
You would think that they would be amongst the best that have ever boarded the ark. While you could make arguments for Kobashi, Misawa, Marufuji, KENTA for being the greatest in NOAH’S history (these 4 are usually the ones people say is the greatest in NOAH’S history). Those are some of the best wrestlers in history Kobashi and Misawa especially. However, I think it is someone completely different.
Today, I put forward an argument for who I think the best in NOAH’S history. That person is Takashi Sugiura.
Sugiura made his debut on the 23rd of December 2000. He was the first wrestler to debut in Pro Wrestling NOAH. Making his debut at age 30.
Early on Sugiura wrestled as a junior heavyweight. He captured the GHC junior heavyweight championship twice. He also teamed with Yoshinobu Kanemaru to capture the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships twice. During these reigns, Sugiura was a double champion twice, making him the only wrestler in NOAH to do so.
Sugiura moved up to the heavyweights. He would capture his first heavyweight belts alongside Naomichi Marufuji as they captured the GHC Tag Team Championship.
Sugiura would capture his first GHC Heavyweight championship in 2009 and would go on to have the second-longest reign in the championship’s history at 581 days – falling short of Kenta Kobashi’s 735 days reign.
As of writing Sugiura has racked up 6 GHC Tag Team Championships, 4 GHC Heavyweight Champions (a record only shared by Go Shiozaki although Sugiura set this record first). He was also the Inaugural GHC National champion and as of writing, he is the longest-reigning champion in the belt’s history.
- GHC Heavyweight Championship (4x) (most defences in a reign: 14) (total days held: 1064 days)
- GHC Tag Team (6x) (most defences in a reign: 4) (total days held: 604 days) *as of writing as he is the current champion.
- GHC National Championship (most defences in a reign: 4) (total days held: 189 days)
- NWA Intercontinental Tag Team Championship (most defences in a reign: 6) (total days held: 397 days)
- GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship(2x) (most defences in a reign: 2) (total days held: 316 days)
- GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship(2x) (most defences in a reign: 2) (total days held: 420 days)
- Global Tag League 2014(NOAH)
- Global League 2014(NOAH)
- Furinkazan Tag Tournament 2014(ZERO1)
- Global Tag League 2015(NOAH)
- Global Tag League 2019(NOAH)
So why do I think he is the best?
There are two reasons why I think that he is the greatest in NOAH’S history.
While yes Kobashi did have that legendary reign, which is one of the best if not the best title reign in history. The matches in the reign were ranged from very good to match of the year contender the defences against Akiyama, Takayama and Nagata being amongst the highlights of the reign. While Kobashi was still capable of putting on matches of the year they were not as frequent as they were when he was in All Japan. While that may seem obvious as Kobashi’s peak was in All Japan he was still very good during his NOAH run.
Misawa is like Kobashi. While still capable of putting on great matches. Misawa’s decline was a lot faster than Kobashi’s. Misawa was in pain due to injuries, causing his in-ring work to decline. Like Kobashi, Misawa was still capable of putting on amazing matches. The singles match between him and Kobashi in 2003 is considered by many as one of the greatest matches in history. Just like Kobashi, Misawa was at the peak of his powers in All Japan.
Next, we move onto Marufuji
The genius of the ark is one of the most influential wrestlers in history with many crediting him as an influence. Marufuji’s exploits in the mid to late 2000s in the junior division and Ring of Honor gained him worldwide plaudits. He was putting on great matches with an array of opponents both in singles and tag team competition. However, injuries have caught up to him. Trading his high-flying antics to a more ground and strike-based style. His in-ring work is still good and is one of the premier big match wrestlers in NOAH, but his work is not as good as his early years.
Lastly, we have KENTA
Like Marufuji his work in Ring of Honor and NOAH’s junior division in the mid to late 2000s gained worldwide plaudits. Unlike the other 3 on this list, KENTA’s in-ring work never really declined until after he left NOAH. He left at the peak of his powers to go to WWE; so if you are looking at KENTA’S in-ring work in NOAH then it is great. Excellent matches across two divisions and he never really declined that much before leaving.
Now we take a look at Sugiura
Like the previous two Sugiura got his start in the junior division, excelling in both tag and singles being a big rival of both KENTA and Marufuji. Sugiura kicked into another gear when he got the heavyweight division. Unlike the others on this list, however, Sugiura’s in-ring work has not declined with age. If anything it has gotten better. He has not slowed down one bit. His work has gone from strength to strength. He rarely gives a bad singles match and his consistency is unmatched.
Overall I think Sugiura wins this one. While you could argue he hasn’t had the same amount of excellent matches as the others (I disagree with that) his consistency throughout his almost 20 years with the company is unparalleled. Whether it be at the top of the card as the GHC Heavyweight Champion or in some six-man tag matches his level doesn’t drop very often.
I had already listed his achievements before but here I will go into them a bit more.
Sugiura held both junior titles twice in his time in the junior division. He was a double champion twice hold both belts at the same time on two different occasions making him the only man to do so.
Sugiura has won the global tag league 3 times which is the joint record (Naomichi Marufuji is the other man to win it 3 times). He alongside Masato Tanaka are the only team to have won the tournament back to back (2014,2015). He has also one the Global League (2014). Sugiura is only one of three men to have won both the global tag league and global league in the same year (Yoshihiro Takayama and Kaito Kiyomiya being the other two).
Sugiura is also a 6-time GHC Tag Team Champion. Which puts him second in most tag team title reigns behind both Go Shiozaki and Akitoshi Saito. Sugiura has won the title with 5 different partners. He was the inaugural GHC National Champion.
Sugiura also holds the record for most GHC Heavyweight Championship reigns with 4 (only Go Shiozaki can match that). He has the second-longest reign in championship history at 581 days. Has the most days accumulated as champion with 1064 days. He also has the most defences in a reign with 14.
His 4th title reign is considered to be one of the best of the 2010s for how consistently good the matches were.
His achievements plus his in-ring ability and catalogue of great matches and I think Sugiura has a case to be the greatest in the history of NOAH. From my perspective, he is one of the most underrated talents in recent history. He did not gain the western fame and plaudits like KENTA and Marufuji did even though you could argue that he was just as good as them. Now at the age of 50, he is still going strong, Sugiura has been getting better and better with age. When he does hang up his boots he will go down as an all-time great in NOAH and the whole of Japanese wrestling. His work will be looked back on fondly. It will age like a fine win just as he has.