On Saturday, November 20th, Pro Wrestling NOAH and New Japan Pro Wrestling held a joint press conference to announce that a special NOAH vs NJPW show was set to take place on January 8th 2022. This is, of course, scheduled to be the 3rd night of NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom 16 event.
This is the 4th and final part of this mini series, feel free to catch up below:
- Part 1: The birth of NOAH & the early battles between the two
- Part 2: 2002-2004/5
- Part 3: The 2nd war, 2009-2012, & moving toward to collaboration
Last week, we established that 2013 was less about NJPW vs NOAH, but NJPW actually helping out NOAH by loaning them talent.
Toru Yano & Takashi Iizuka became outsider champions, holding the GHC Heavyweight Tag Titles hostage for several months. Jushin Thunder Liger & Tiger Mask IV held the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles until the end of 2013. And Yuji Nagata won the 2013 Global League by beating Takeshi Morishima in the finals. He failed to beat KENTA for the GHC Heavyweight Championship.
2014 would be much like 2013, as every single NJPW vs NOAH match happened in a NOAH ring. Nagata beat Maybach Taniguchi via DQ on January 5th. On that same show, Morishima dethroned KENTA and, as Nagata beat him during the Global League, Nagata challenged him first.
Nagata and Liger worked the January tour. And on February 8th, Nagata beat Morishima to become the new GHC Heavyweight Champion. This was the first time that an NJPW wrestler had held the GHC Heavyweight Championship.
And Nagata, the glorious man that he is, started dancing in the ring to his theme music after the match. In NJPW this would be to entertain the fans. Doing it in a NOAH ring, he was just rubbing the fans faces in it.
We’d only have to wait two weeks for Nagata to make his first defense. On February 22nd, he beat KENTA in what would be KENTA’s last GHC Heavyweight Title match (for now, we’ll see what happens in 2022 with NJPW vs NOAH) as he left NOAH just three months later.
March 8th saw NJPW involvement in four matches. Takuma Sano (formerly Naoki) celebrated his 30th Anniversary by teaming with his old rival Liger to beat Yoshihiro Takayama & Genba Hirayangi. The CHAOS trio of Yano, Iizuka & YOSHI-HASHI lost to Katsuhiko Nakajima, Muhammad Yone & Atsushi Kotoge. Naomichi Marufuji & Tetsuya Naito went to a 30 minute draw with KENTA & Masato Tanaka. And Nagata made his second successful GHC title defense, beating Takashi Sugiura.
Taniguchi would be Nagata’s next challenger and on March 21st he, Morishima & Kenoh beat Nagata, Liger & Satoshi Kojima. He would fail to beat Nagata for the title though, unsuccessfully challenging on April 20th.
On May 17th, Nagata beat Yone to make it to V4. Marufuji would make his intentions known to challenge Nagata but the match wouldn’t happen straight away.
At the Mitsuharu Misawa Memorial show on June 13th, Takayama & Sugiura beat Nagata & Daisuke Sekimoto in a match that was as hard hitting as you would expect.
On July 5th, Hirooki Goto & Katsuyori Shibata beat Nakajima & Akitoshi Saito. Considering Goto had a GHC Heavyweight Title match against Sugiura in January 2010, this was his first – and so far last – appearance in a NOAH ring. For, Shibata he’d faced Taniguchi in December 2013, which I forgot to include in Part 3. But before that he hadn’t been in a NOAH ring since 2006, back when he and KENTA were a tag team.
Marufuji would be the man to dethrone Nagata on July 5th, bringing the GHC Heavyweight Title back into NOAH. This was only his second reign with the belt after holding it the first time all the way back in 2006.
For Marufuji, this was redemption. His first reign was considered a disappointment and was over a few short months after it began. After Misawa died in June 2009, he had to take a more senior role backstage.
He worked tirelessly behind the scenes during difficult and troubled times for NOAH. And while he flirted with the main event scene, it seemed like his days carrying NOAH would be from an administrative point of view.
So for him to be the man to beat Nagata, to beat the invading force, to reclaim the belt back into NOAH and become GHC Heavyweight Champion again meant a lot.
For the second year in a row, Liger & TM IV entered the Junior Heavyweight Tag Team League. And while they started off well, they failed to reach the finals.
The rest of the summer NOAH focused on rebuilding NOAH. They had several stables which were all feuding with each other.
NJPW didn’t return back to NOAH until October 12th. And it was a clean sweep for NJPW as Kojima & Hiroyoshi Tenzan beat Morishima & Taniguchi. And Nagata & Manabu Nakanishi beat Yone & Nakajima.
Global League 2013
The 2013 Global League winner, Nagata returned for the 2014 tournament but he wasn’t alone from NJPW as Kojima also joined him.
Nagata beat Chris Hero, lost to Mikey Nicholls, beat Quiet Storm, lost to Taniguchi, beat Masato Tanaka and Sugiura but a loss to Yone took him out of the finals.
Kojima lost to Shane Haste, beat Nakajima, Colt Cabana, Marufuji and Sekimoto but losses to Saito and Morishima also took him out of the finals.
December 6th Kojima beat Morishima to become number one contender to the GHC Heavyweight Title. That same show Liger & TM IV lost a GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title match to Kenoh & Hajima Ohara.
At the last show of the year on the 27th, Kojima, Nagata & Tenzan beat Marufuji, Yone & Nakajima. Marufuji vs Kojima for the GHC Heavyweight Championship was made official for January 10th, the first NOAH show of 2015.
And that brought an end to 2014. I said in Part 3 that NOAH was struggling and had to ask NJPW for help. Both in loaning names like Nagata, Liger, TM IV, Yano, Iizuka, Kojima, etc and financially – although that part is a bit murkier.
In booking NJPW talent they also had to accept Jado’s involvement in the booking itself of those NJPW names. Jado’s tag team partner Gedo was doing an incredible job booking NJPW (at that time!) so Jado must be just as good right….
Wrestle Kingdom 9
It had been three year’s since NOAH talent had appeared at a Wrestle Kingdom. A NOAH wrestler hadn’t been in a NJPW ring since Nakamura beat Marufuji to retain the IWGP Intercontinental Championship in October 2013.
Yano had been in a feud with Suzuki-Gun, in particular Minoru Suzuki, all the way through 2014. At Wrestle Kingdom 9, Yano was scheduled to face Suzuki-Gun in an eight man tag team match but his partners were a surprise on the night.
Suzuki was facing Kazushi Sakuraba later in the night so Yano had Iizuka, Shelton Benjamin, Davey Boy Smith Jr & Lance Archer to contend with.
Yano had spent 2013 terrorising NOAH. So it was a genuine surprise when GHC Heavyweight Champion, Marufuji and GHC Heavyweight Champions, Haste & Nicholls were revealed as Yano’s partners.
The NOAH team and Yano made quick work of Suzuki-Gun. Marufuji pinning Iizuka after just 5 minutes.
If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch the match here: https://njpwworld.com/p/s_series_00248_1_6
This set into motion the storyline that would dominate NOAH for the next two years. Because after Marufuji had defeated Kojima to retain the GHC Heavyweight Title, all of Suzuki-Gun hit the ring to attack Marufuji.
TAKA Michinoku, Taichi, El Desperado, Iizuka, Benjamin, Archer, Smith Jr and Suzuki himself. Suzuki choked out Marufuji and hit him with a Gotch style piledriver. Archer & Smith Jr laid out TMDK, Haste & Nicholls when they tried to save Marufuji.
Suzuki-Gun had arrived in NOAH. For Suzuki himself and TAKA, they had both been in NOAH in the past. But this was the first time that the Suzuki-Gun stable had been in NOAH.
Truthfully the group was played out in NJPW. They’d done all they could do at that time. So them moving over to NOAH full time made sense as it gave them all something to do and, in theory, should have created a hot angle to keep NOAH warm.
I’m not going to go into every single Suzuki-Gun vs NOAH match otherwise I’d be writing this article into 2023. I’m just going to cover the big moments.
Like Taichi becoming number one contender to the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship when he beat Zack Sabre Jr on February 4th. Killer Elite Squad beating TMDK for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s on the 11th.
And then the clean sweep for Suzuki-Gun on March 15th. First TAKA & Desperado became the new GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions after beating Kenoh & Ohara and Daisuke Harada & Hirayangi in a three way match. Taichi beat Kotoge to become the new GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. KES made a successful defense in a rematch over TMDK. And Suzuki dethroned Marufuji to become GHC Heavyweight Champion.
They now held every single NOAH Title. And the group looked absolutely unstoppable.
NOAH later held a press conference to state that all former stables and groups had been abolished. It didn’t matter anymore if you had been BRAVE, NO MERCY or Cho Kibou-Gun. You were all NOAH and everyone had to do their part to beat Suzuki-Gun.
But NOAH’s troubles behind the scenes weren’t over. Former GHC Heavyweight Champion Morishima had to retire due to health reasons suddenly and unexpectedly in April. The big lad had poor physical and mental health that would only get worse until late 2018. Fortunately it is said he is doing better right now away from wrestling.
And the Suzuki-Gun invasion which wasn’t supposed to help NOAH bring in a new audience actually did the opposite. NOAH was a promotion of clean, straightforward wrestling. So all the interferences, DQ’s and cheap finishes actually turned off the fanbase they were struggling to keep hold of.
On April 11th TAKA & Desperado made their first defense over Kenoh & Ohara and Taichi made his first defense over Ishimori.
The Global Tag League was won by Dangan Yankees, Sugiura & Tanaka on May 4th. But they failed to beat them just six day’s later and KES made V2.
Also on May 10th TAKA & Desperado made their V2 over Yoshinari Ogawa & Sabre Jr. Taichi got his V2 in a rematch with Kotoge. And Suzuki made his first successful defense of the GHC Heavyweight Title in a rematch against Marufuji.
NOAH held an entire tour in June dedicated to Misawa’s Memorial. On the 13th TAKA & Desperado made V3 over Hirayangi & Hitoshi Kumano. And Taichi also made his V3 over Harada.
On the 15th Suzuki made his V2 over Taniguchi. And on the 19th KES made their V3 over Hero & Cabana. Not even on a tour in memory of the deceased NOAH founder could NOAH claw a single belt back. And that didn’t sit right with their fans.
The Global Junior Heavyweight League ran from July to August. Suzuki-Gun was represented by TAKA & Desperado. NJPW young lion Sho Tanaka (the future just SHO) had a place too.
And on the opening night Suzuki made his third GHC Heavyweight Title defense over former partner Takayama. This could have been a big match but due to the state of affairs NOAH was in it was only a Korakuen Hall main event. At least it was a full Korakuen Hall to witness Takayama bleed all over and the two beat seven shades of crap out of each other. The finish saw all of Suzuki-Gun get involved and displeased fans throw garbage into the ring.
Sho would finish on 2 points. TAKA 6. Desperado fared better with 8. It was Harada who beat Kotoge in the Finals to book in a future Title shot against Taichi. On August 22nd TAKA & Desperado made V4 by beating Kenoh & Ohara again.
The Junior Heavyweight Tag League took place in September. But before the finals, NOAH had a big show on the 19th. Benjamin beat Nakajima. Taichi got to V4 over Harada. KES got their V4 over War Machine, Raymond Rowe & Hanson. And, in most likely the best match of Suzuki’s reign, he beat Sugiura to make it V4 also. If you only watch one match mentioned in this article, make it this one.
TAKA & Desperado would reach the finals but would be beaten by Harada & Kotoge on the 22nd. Harada & Kotoge would repeat that victory on October 4th to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s. Suzuki-Gun’s strangle hold on NOAH was beginning to slip.
Global League 2015 would see Benjamin, Smith Jr, Archer and Iizuka from Suzuki-Gun all enter. Plus Kojima return. However the Finals would come down to Benjamin and Marufuji.
Marufuji was the one in 2014 who defended NOAH when he won the belt back from Nagata. He was also the one who lost the belt to Suzuki in March and lost a rematch in May.
So he was fighting with everything he had to redeem himself. Benjamin when he was on and not being lazy was an incredible wrestler and he had moments where he brought it during his NOAH run. These two put on a great match together but it was Marufuji who won the Global League.
The Return Of The Ace That Never Was
Before we get to Destiny 2015 and Suzuki vs Marufuji III, I want to point out that on November 26th Go Shiozaki returned home to NOAH.
Shiozaki was the second ever NOAH dojo graduate in July 2004 and he played a part in the second NJPW vs NOAH war. He had a series of matches against Hiroshi Tanahashi. He challenged Togi Makabe for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. He entered the 2010 G1 Climax. And he had a trilogy of matches against Shinsuke Nakamura.
But he and several other important NOAH names left at the end of 2012 in protest of NOAH letting Kenta Kobashi and others go as part of cost cutting measures.
So Shiozaki returned back to NOAH when they were at their lowest. In storyline with the fight against Suzuki-Gun and in regards to financially and crowds. He was not welcomed back with open arms by the rest of the roster who had remained with the promotion.
Also, not a return but a debut. And a very important debut at that in the form of Kaito Kiyomiya on December 9th. The future Supernova made his professional wrestling debut with shaved head, bushy eyebrows and a loss to Kumano.
Now back to Destiny 2015. Taking place on December 23rd, Nakajima finally got the win over Benjamin on his third attempt. Harada & Kotoge beat TAKA & Desperado again to make their first defense. Ishimori beat Taichi to become the new GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion.
KES made V5 in a rematch with Hero & Cabana. But they would be the only Suzuki-Gun members to keep their Title’s as Suzuki would lose the GHC Heavyweight Championship to Marufuji in their third match.
It was the best match of their trilogy. Marufuji being the one to dethrone Suzuki as redemption for the March and May losses was absolutely the right call.
Post match NOAH celebrated. They’d won all but the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s back. However that celebration would turn sour when Sugiura gave Marufuji an Olympic Slam and kicked the trophy over.
Shiozaki ran to the ring to defend Marufuji and Sugiura escaped. But Sugiura then justified his actions by shaking Suzuki’s hand and putting on a Suzuki-Gun shirt. Sugiura had joined the enemy.
This… Did not sit right with the NOAH audience. They’d watched Suzuki-Gun dominate for the past year, interferences galore, cheap finishes and DQ’s and now one of their own had joined them?
I can understand the thought process behind the heel turn. Suzuki couldn’t spend forever at the top and there was no real second in command behind him to run with the belt instead.
But Sugiura? To many he was NOAH. Although not an official NOAH dojo graduate he was the very first wrestler to debut in a NOAH ring. We’d watch him grow as a wrestler, from junior heavyweight to heavyweight. He fought against NJPW in both 2002 to 2004 and 2009 to 2012. He’d had the longest and most important GHC Heavyweight Title reign since Kobashi.
So Sugiura turning heel and joining Suzuki-Gun left a bad taste in the mouths of many NOAH fans. Not the smartest move when NOAH had already been losing fans.
2016 started with another return as Yoshinobu Kanemaru, another man who had left at the end of 2012 as a protest at the firing of Kobashi.
No one in NOAH wanted to partner Shiozaki as he took the fight to Suzuki-Gun so the only person who would was Kanemaru. Therefore they spent all of January teaming together against Suzuki and different partners.
January 31st saw Kanemaru beat Desperado. Benjamin beat Mitsuhiro Kitamiya (to be renamed Masa later in the year). Taniguchi beat Iizuka. Harada & Kotoge beat TAKA & Taichi for their V2. And KES kept Suzuki-Gun in gold as they beat Yone & Nakajima.
And the top two matches were Shiozaki vs Suzuki. And Marufuji defending his newly won GHC Heavyweight Title against Sugiura.
Shiozaki had his match all but won against Suzuki. And he would have won had Kanemaru not attacked him, handing the victory to Suzuki on a silver platter as a result.
And Sugiura dethroned Marufuji in his first defense to become the new GHC Heavyweight Champion and take the belt back into Suzuki-Gun.
Kanemaru’s betrayal helped bring Shiozaki back into the fold and have the NOAH roster begin to accept him back and learn to trust him again. Side note but this is why Shiozaki’s “I Am NOAH” in 2020/21 is so impactful and has so much meaning behind it.
February 19th Harada & Kotoge made their third successful defense over Taichi and new Suzuki-Gun member Kanemaru. But on the 24th Kanemaru would beat Ishimori for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship.
That same night Nakajima would beat Suzuki and put himself first in line to challenge Sugiura. That match would take place on March 19th where Sugiura would make his first successful defense.
Kanemaru would also make his first defense in a rematch over Ishimori. And KES made their V7 over Shiozaki & Taniguchi.
Suzuki-Gun held an independent show entitled We Are Suzuki-Gun 2 on March 27th. The show was headlined by Suzuki & Sugiura vs Marufuji & Shiozaki.
If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch the match here: https://njpwworld.com/p/s_series_00383_1_08
Yano would return to NOAH to partner Marufuji during the Global Tag League. I guess that was his way of saying sorry for inadvertently causing the Suzuki-Gun NOAH invasion by asking Marufuji and TMDK partner him against Suzuki-Gun the previous year.
Harada & Kotoge had previously lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s to Kenoh & Ohara on March 19th but won them back on April 5th. They made their first defense in their new reign over TAKA & Desperado on April 30th.
Marufuji & Yano would win the Global Tag League on May 4th by beating KES in the Finals. Kanemaru made his second defense over Ohara that same night.
Lion’s Gate Project
The NJPW vs NOAH feud would be reignited on NJPW’s Lions Gate Project series. This was outside of both NJPW and NOAH’s main shows and was instead a series of shows to focus on NJPW’s youngsters and veterans.
The first Lions Gate Project show on February 25th featured Kiyomiya vs Ryusuke Taguchi, Ishimori vs David Finlay, Ogawa vs Jay White, Nakajima vs Juice Robinson and Kitamiya vs Nagata.
If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch all the matches here: https://njpwworld.com/pg/s_series_00376_1
Now you may be wondering why I’m only just bringing Lions Gate Project up now. Well the second show on May 19th was a lot bigger and definitely felt like more of a NJPW vs NOAH feud.
You had Ogawa vs Finlay, Marufuji vs White, Shiozaki vs Robinson and Nakajima, Kitamiya, Taniguchi & Quiet Storm vs Nagata, Kojima, Tenzan & Nakanishi.
NOAH vs The Third Generation had started in a NJPW ring and it would become a big match in August.
If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch all the matches here: https://njpwworld.com/pg/s_series_00391_1
On May 28th Kanemaru made another successful defense over Kumano. KES finally lost the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s after a 472 day reign (the second longest behind Saito & Bison Smith at 486 days) to Marufuji & Yano.
And Shiozaki, the man that should have been NOAH’s ace but it didn’t quite work out that way for him, beat Sugiura to hold the GHC Heavyweight Championship for the third time.
At NOAH’s next show on June 12th, Harada & Kotoge successfully defended against the Suzuki-Gun team of TAKA & Taichi and the NJPW team of Gedo & Jado. Marufuji & Yano made their first defense in a rematch over KES. And Shiozaki made his first defense over Benjamin.
We Are Suzuki-Gun 3 took place on June 18th. Nakajima & Kitamiya beat KES and Shiozaki & Taniguchi. And in the main event Suzuki, Sugiura & Iizuka beat Marufuji, Yano & Sakuraba.
If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch all the show here: https://njpwworld.com/pg/s_archive_06_01
July 5th, Harada, Ishimori & Kenoh won matches to qualify for NJPW’s Super J Cup. This was the first one NJPW had done since Marufuji won the past tournament in December 2009.
The GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s were also successfully defended by Marufuji & Yano that same night over Suzuki & Iizuka.
Super J Cup started on the 20th at Korakuen Hall. For NOAH, Kenoh beat Guruken Mask to advance to the next round. However Taguchi would beat Harada. And KUSHIDA would beat Ishimori leaving Kenoh as the only remaining NOAH wrestler left in the tournament.
If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch the show here: https://njpwworld.com/pg/s_series_00397_1
The Junior Heavyweight Tag Team League for NOAH also started in July. Ishimori & ACH would win the League for a future GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title match.
But the big news is that Sugiura regained the GHC Heavyweight Championship from Shiozaki in a Lumberjack match. Suzuki-Gun used the stipulation of the match to their full advantage to outweigh the odds against Shiozaki and put the belt back on Sugiura.
G1 Climax 2016
For the first time in four years, NOAH wrestlers took part in the G1 Climax. And I say wrestlers because, like how it should have been in 2010 if not for Marufuji’s injury, two NOAH wrestlers entered.
Marufuji made his second G1 appearance. And Nakajima returned to NJPW for the first time since May 2005. Nakajima made his NJPW debut in the Tokyo Dome against Liger in May 2004 at the age of 16 and only four months into his career. No pressure.
On the opening night on July 18th, Marufuji repeated his 2012 victory by pinning the IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Although this time the Champion was Kazuchika Okada. And Okada had come a long way since he was getting murdered by Sugiura, Shiozaki, Kobashi and Takayama as a young lion in 2009 through 2011. He was now widely regarded as one of the best wrestlers in the world so Marufuji beating him here was a big deal.
If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch the match here: https://njpwworld.com/p/s_series_00396_2_09
Marufuji then lost to Bad Luck Fale, beat Tenzan, lost to Tomohiro Ishii, beat Togi Makabe and SANADA, lost to Hiroshi Tanahashi, beat Tama Tonga and lost to Hirooki Goto to miss out on the finals.
I would very much recommend you watch the Ishii, Tanahashi and Goto matches. All of them are on NJPW World if you have a subscription.
Nakajima also missed out on the finals. He beat Yano, lost to Katsuyori Shibata, beat EVIL and Nagata, lost to YOSHI-HASHI and Naito, beat Honma, lost to Kenny Omega and beat Michael Elgin.
The Shibata, Nagata, Naito, Omega and Elgin matches are all must watch if you have a NJPW World subscription.
NJPW vs NOAH Again
But it was on the final day that the big NJPW vs NOAH match that had been insinuated from the Lion’s Gate Project finally took place.
Shiozaki, Nakajima, Kitamiya & Taniguchi beat Shibata, Nagata, Tenzan & Nakanishi. You may have already seen a clip from this match online.
It’s where Shibata headbutts Nakajima so hard it immediately busts himself open hardway. As blood runs down his face, Shibata looks to the audience with his gaze a mixture of “I don’t know where I am” and “I will kill every last person in this room”.
If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch the match here: https://njpwworld.com/p/s_series_00398_3_04
August wasn’t over yet as the Super J Cup finals took place on the 21st. Kenoh was eliminated in the second round by eventual winner KUSHIDA. KUSHIDA would beat Kanemaru in the Final.
It’s worth pointing out here that Shiozaki & Kanemaru both returned to NOAH, however Shiozaki signed a contract to come back to NOAH officially. Kanemaru remained a freelancer which helped with his outsider status as a member of Suzuki-Gun.
The Junior Heavyweight Tag Team League winners, Ishimori & ACH would challenge Harada & Kotoge for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s but they would do so on this show. So this would be the first time those belts were defended in a NJPW ring and it was between two NOAH teams. Harada & Kotoge would retain however.
If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch the show here: https://njpwworld.com/pg/s_series_00397_5
Back in NOAH on the 25th, Kanemaru made his fourth defense of the GHC Junior Heavyweight Title over Kenoh. And Sugiura made his first defense in his new reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion over Taniguchi.
Lion’s Gate Project returned with their third show on September 1st. And it was NJPW vs NOAH again as Shibata, Nagata, Kojima, Tenzan & Nakanishi beat Shiozaki, Nakajima, Kitamiya, Taniguchi & Kiyomiya.
If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch the match here: https://njpwworld.com/p/s_series_00400_1_08
September 23rd Kotoge became a double Champion when he beat Kanemaru for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. But Suzuki-Gun kept hold of the GHC Heavyweight Title when he beat Kitamiya.
Two days later Marufuji was officially going to challenge Okada for the IWGP Heavyweight Title on October 10th. But Okada would also challenge Marufuji for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s on the 8th.
Therefore on September 25th, Okada, YOSHI-HASHI, Gedo & Jado beat Marufuji, Yano, Harada & Kotoge. This victory would see Gedo & Jado challenge Harada & Kotoge for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s.
And on October 8th, Kotoge’s reign as a double Champion came to an end when Gedo & Jado became the new GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, with Jado submitting Kotoge.
But Marufuji & Yano were able to retain the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s over Okada & YOSHI-HASHI when Marufuji pinned YOSHI-HASHI. Despite taking place in a NOAH ring, you can watch the match here if you have an NJPW World subscription.
King Of Pro Wrestling on the 10th saw the last NJPW appearances to date of Shiozaki, Nakajima, Kitamiya & Taniguchi when they beat Nagata, Kojima, Tenzan & Nakanishi. If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch the match here.
And Marufuji made his final NJPW appearance to date when he lost his IWGP Heavyweight Championship match against Okada. This was the better of their two matches even if the outcome was never in doubt. If you have a NJPW World subscription you can watch the match here.
The End Of NJPW vs NOAH
The two promotions weren’t done working together just yet. Suzuki-Gun was still a big part of NOAH, and NJPW’s Super Junior Tag tournament began in October with Ishimori & ACH taking part.
On October 23rd, Gedo & Jado made their first successful defense over Kenoh & Ohara. While they were outsiders, at least they weren’t Suzuki-Gun. Kotoge made his first defense in a rematch over Kanemaru.
Shibata beat Shiozaki in a special singles match. They’d clashed in NJPW vs NOAH tag matches over the summer but also had history going back to 2005. Definitely recommend that you find and watch this match.
Marufuji & Yano made their sixth defence of the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles, beating Makabe & Honma. And, in the main event, Nakajima was the one to dethrone Sugiura and become GHC Heavyweight Champion for the first time in his career.
This was well deserved for Nakajima. He’d been a permanent fixture of the NOAH roster since 2008 even though he was technically a freelancer with Kensuke Office/Diamond Ring. His matches against KENTA & Shiozaki are all legendary and he’d been a heavyweight for almost four years at that time so was over due to be given the chance to be the man in NOAH.
In NJPW, Ishimori & ACH made it to the finals of the Super Junior Tag tournament, beating The Young Bucks and Ricochet & Finlay on the way but were beaten by Rocky Romero & Trent Baretta. All three of those matches are on NJPW World if you have a subscription.
That would be the last time a NOAH wrestler would appear in a NJPW ring. I’ll get to why that was in a little bit.
The Dying Days Of Suzuki-Gun
Suzuki-Gun were desperate during the Global League. None of them held any GHC Title’s anymore. It seemed like their time was almost at an end.
Suzuki, Sugiura, Smith Jr, Archer and Iizuka all entered the Global League. As did Yano.
The finals would come down to Suzuki and Kitamiya. Even though Kitamiya had a GHC Heavyweight Title shot against Sugiura in September, him making it to the finals by beating such names as Sugiura, Kiyomiya, Smith Jr and Marufuji was a surprise.
The surprise came to an end when Suzuki beat Kitamiya. And Suzuki-Gun were also able to regain the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles as KES beat Marufuji & Yano that same night. But things began crumbling quickly just the next week. On December 2nd, Kotoge beat Taichi to retain the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. And Nakajima beat Suzuki to make his first GHC Heavyweight Title defense.
After the match, Sugiura attached Suzuki, effectively ending his tenure in Suzuki-Gun and re-joining NOAH, although he had some work to do there.
The very next day, KES lost the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles to Shiozaki & Taniguchi in their first defense. And Suzuki beat Sugiura in a singles match main event to expel Suzuki-Gun from NOAH.
And so ended the Suzuki-Gun invasion. It started on January 10th 2015, and ended on December 3rd 2016, lasting almost two years. Suzuki-Gun held every single GHC Title during their time in NOAH and they completely dominated every single story and angle over those two years.
The last NJPW vs NOAH match took place on the 24th, when Gedo & Jado lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles back to Harada & Kotoge. Now every single GHC Title was back in NOAH.
What Caused The Break Up?
It’s fair to say that Suzuki-Gun had done everything they could in NOAH. They got brought in to keep them away from NJPW so they would be fresh upon their return and when that happened on January 5th 2017, Suzuki-Gun had a renewed purpose and felt like a threat to the main event scene.
So you can understand why Suzuki-Gun was done in NOAH. But why did the relationship between NJPW and NOAH completely break down? Why would they not have anything to do with each other for the next five years?
Well, money is a big reason. NJPW, as I said, had not only been lending NOAH their wrestlers, they had also been supporting them financially.
Whether the intent was for NJPW’s owners Bushiroad to also purchase NOAH, I guess we’ll never know. But in late 2016 the ownership of NOAH was sold to another company.
The news of the sale actually blindsided NJPW, who had no knowledge and had been helping support NOAH for the past few years.
So while the Suzuki-Gun angle was all played out and had gone on longer than it should have in all honesty, angles involving Shibata, the Third Generation, Gedo & Jado and Yano could have all had more stories left in them.
But NJPW severed ties with NOAH and no longer had any dealings with them. Which, honestly, if you’d been helping your friend with your own time, effort and money and they then sold on that thing you were helping them with, without them once mentioning they were going to do that? Yeah, you’d be annoyed too.
What’s Happened Since 2017?
NOAH struggled to rebuild themselves. Nakajima had the unenviable task of leading NOAH during their darkest times, but he did have a fantastic title reign.
Skipping forward a lot, but Cyber Agent purchasing NOAH to add them alongside DDT and TJPW has helped them out massively.
They began to reap the benefits over everything that had built over the past few years, Nakajima as champion, Kenoh moving up to the main event scene, the incredible rise of Kiyomiya, etc.
And now they have worldwide streaming through Wrestle Universe, where practically every single show is recorded. This, as well as the fact that the big shows have had English commentary for the past year, has helped them expand in the west.
NJPW were a force to be reckoned with in 2017. They’d already got worldwide streaming and English commentary with NJPW World. Okada is a once in lifetime talent. And the Bullet Club, for better or worse, was absolutely influential for their rise in the west.
Last year during the pandemic saw attention in the West for NJPW began to wane. The booking was hit and miss, even if the talent behind it was there. They lost several big players that helped with their western expansion, whether you like to admit that or not. People being down on NJPW but still wanting Japanese wrestling couldn’t have come at a better time for NOAH, who had a banger of a year in-ring due to Shiozaki’s incredible title reign that finally gave him the Ace reign he had been denied 11 years prior.
NOAH has had hit and miss booking too this past year if we’re being honest. But both promotions have had great matches this year if you pick and choose.
The two promotions working together again is pretty special. And it opens up several great stories if they decide to do them. KENTA, Ishimori, Kanemaru and Sabre Jr are all now signed to NJPW after making their names in NOAH. Ibushi spent time freelancing in NOAH before he signed with NJPW.
Muto is now a NOAH wrestler. As are Kazuyuki Fujita and Kazushi Sakuraba.
Nakajima was the GHC Heavyweight Champion when the last NJPW vs NOAH war ended, and providing he beats Shiozaki at the Budokan on January 1st, could be champion on January 8th too.
I genuinely can’t wait for this show. I’ve been a fan of NOAH since 2006. NJPW since 2009. Despite the three wars they’ve had, there has never been a full show dedicated to NJPW vs NOAH until now.
Thank you very much for reading this. Hopefully the entire series. I really do hope you enjoyed reading them and, if nothing else, I’ve linked you to some great matches.