Pro Wrestling NOAH had a fantastic start to 2022, holding The New Year show in Nippon Budokan on January 1st. They ran shows on the 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, took part in New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 3: NJPW vs NOAH, and also held a show on the 10th.
On Sunday, January 16th, Pro Wrestling NOAH presents Bumper Crop 2022 In Sendai. Just fifteen days after the Budokan show and NOAH are putting on another big card with two GHC Title matches.
In the main event, Katsuhiko Nakajima makes his fourth defence of his GHC Heavyweight Title, his second of 2022. And it’s against another former partner who he has a lot of history with: Masa Kitamiya.
The GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles are also on the line, as M’s Alliance duo Keiji Muto & Naomichi Marufuji attempt to make their second defense against Kongo members Manabu Soya & GHC National Champion, Kenoh.
It’s a six match card starting at 3pm in Japan. That’s 6am in England, 1am East Coast USA and 10pm West Coast USA Saturday 15th January.
Airing live on Wrestle Universe, replays are available not long after the show has finished if you can’t watch it live. Mark Pickering & Stewart Fulton will be doing English commentary. For those who may not know, Wrestle Universe is a subscription service, costing under £8 per calendar month. Included in the cost is live shows from NOAH, DDT and TJPW. January alone will see eight live Pro Wrestling NOAH shows so it’s well worth the money.
The original card has been gutted due to a COVID outbreak which has caused 10 wrestlers to be pulled from the show. This is the biggest outbreak NOAH has had so far; we all send our best wishes to everyone affected.
Let’s get right into it!
MAIN EVENT – GHC Heavyweight Championship – Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) vs Masa Kitamiya
Katsuhiko Nakajima had to delve deep into his past on January 1st to defeat Go Shiozaki in the Nippon Budokan. He used the Northern Lights Bomb created by his adopted mom, Akira Hokuto – and also used by his adopted dad, Kensuke Sasaki. So it’s fitting that his next challenger should also have that connection with Kensuke Office. Kensuke Office has three graduates that are still active today. Nakajima himself. Kento Miyahara in All Japan where he is a former four-time Triple Crown Champion. And Masa Kitamiya.
Kitamiya was the final graduate from Kensuke Office. So by the time he debuted in September 2011 under his real name of Mitsuhiro Kitamiya, Nakajima already had over seven and a half year’s experience over him. Nakajima debuted in January 2004 so by the time Kitamiya joined the Kensuke Office dojo, Nakajima was a former AJPW World Junior Heavyweight and GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion.
They teamed several times in Kensuke Office, Diamond Ring (the rebranded Kensuke Office), NOAH and the KO boys even travelled to Mexico together. They did not have their first singles match until March 2013, where Nakajima beat Kitamiya. Their next meeting took place in March 2014, again in Diamond Ring. But this would end up being the main event of the last ever Diamond Ring show. With no new graduates since Kitamiya and Kensuke Sasaki having an unannounced retirement match the previous month, Diamond Ring was closing.
With Miyahara having jumped ship to AJPW and Satoshi Kajiwara having his last match on the show Sasaki retired, it was left to Nakajima and Kitamiya to close the final chapter of Kensuke Office/Diamond Ring. Nakajima once again won in a match that was unfortunately not taped.
Both were now full time members of the NOAH roster, even if neither had signed contracts. They continued a loose alliance and had a further two singles matches in October, with Nakajima winning both. In early 2015, the two found themselves in opposite stables. Nakajima had previously joined BRAVE but Kitamiya joined Cho Kibou-Gun. But another singles meeting in March saw the same result – Nakajima won.
All of NOAH’s stables were dissolved in mid-2015. The threat of Suzuki-Gun was too great for fighting within NOAH. Now all of NOAH had to unite as a single force against the invaders. So their next match took place in October during the Global League. Every single NOAH wrestler was fighting to win the tournament and be the one to take the GHC Heavyweight Title back from Minoru Suzuki. Nakajima would again win their match but it was Naomichi Marufuji who won the tournament and beat Suzuki.
The two started teaming together again in early 2016. And it’s here that they found themselves as partners without it being just because they were both in Kensuke Office. They had that shared history together, both were now heavyweights and they found each other to become tag partners. This would be the birth of The Aggression.
And Kitamiya also decided to take the ring name of one of his trainers in Kensuke Office, Masa Saito. The former Mitsuhiro Kitamiya became Masa Kitamiya in order to honour Saito who had been battling Parkinson’s for many years – unfortunately passing away in 2018. Kitamiya adopted the Saito Suplex and Prison Lock as part of the name change.
It was not smooth sailing at the start. They only won three out of their six Global Tag League matches to miss qualifying for the finals. They did, however, beat the current GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, Marufuji & Toru Yano, during the block stage. They failed to beat them for the belts in a rematch on July 16th.
Both members of The Aggression would challenge for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. Kitamiya was first as he attacked Takahashi Sugiura after he’d defended his belt over Maybach Taniguchi on August 25th. But on September 23rd, in his first ever shot at the GHC Heavyweight Title (his first ever singles Title shot ever actually), Kitamiya fell to Sugiura after a top rope Olympic Slam.
Nakajima, on the other hand, would be the one to dethrone Sugiura on October 23rd. Unlike Kitamiya, this was his fourth shot at the GHC Heavyweight Title, after losses to KENTA in October 2013, Marufuji in July 2014 and Sugiura in March 2016. So finally becoming GHC Heavyweight Champion was a long time coming for him.
Global League 2016 would see them competing in separate groups. Nakajima in Block A and Kitamiya in Block B. Minoru Suzuki would win Block A but in a massive surprise, Kitamiya would win Block B. And he beat big names like Sugiura, Davey Boy Smith Jr and Marufuji to do so. However his upset run came to an end in the finals with a loss to Suzuki. It took over 35 minutes for the Suzuki-Gun leader to put Kitamiya away, but Kitamiya had done incredibly well and showed himself as a main player in NOAH going forward.
Nakajima would beat Suzuki in their GHC Heavyweight Title match on December 2nd. And the very next day Suzuki-Gun were gone from NOAH. Nakajima was the man who ended the Suzuki-Gun invasion. But his next challenge would happen soon and it would be close to home – Kitamiya. They were tag partners, but that didn’t mean that they couldn’t fight it out for the biggest prize in NOAH. They’d had six singles match and Nakajima had won them all. So despite Kitamiya being larger than Nakajima, he was the underdog in this match. Nakajima controlled and dominated the match with Kitamiya fighting from underneath. It was a valiant effort, it felt like all of Korakuen Hall was behind Kitamiya, but on December 24th 2016, Nakajima again beat Kitamiya to retain his GHC Heavyweight Title.
Their paths diverged briefly in 2017. Nakajima was GHC Heavyweight Champion so Kitamiya teamed with Kenoh on January 21st to win the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles. However the belts would be vacated on February 24th when Kenoh attacked Kitamiya during a random tag match to side with Sugiura.
So Nakajima & Kitamiya ended up teaming together again at the Global Tag League 2017. They won their first four matches but losses in the last three saw them fail to qualify for the finals. Again one of their victories came over the current GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi this time. And again in a title rematch, the champions retained in July 2017.
Eddie Edwards would take the GHC Heavyweight Championship from Nakajima on August 26th. And then neither man was able to win the Global League, again in separate groups.
On March 11th, 2018, The Aggression (finally now officially named) beat 50 Funky Powers, Muhammad Yone & Quiet Storm, for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles for the first time. But they would lose Global Tag League 2018 and then lose the belts in their first defence to the Global Tag League winners, Go Shiozaki & Kaito Kiyomiya.
The Aggression would win the belts back just a month later to the day. But would again lose them in their first defence, this time to Marufuji & Akitoshi Saito in July. This would set into motion the first defence curse of The Aggression.
Both would enter the Global League 2018, and this time would be in the same block for the first time since 2015. They would meet in the main event of the final night of the Block stage. Kitamiya was already eliminated after only winning two of his six matches. Nakajima had won four out of six. He and Marufuji were neck and neck but a win over Kitamiya would put him in the finals.
This was their seventh match and Nakajima had won the first six. Despite being the same age, Nakajima had over seven and a half year’s experience on Kitamiya. It had been almost two years since their last match and Kitamiya still hadn’t tasted singles gold. But on this night Kitamiya did what we didn’t think was possible – he beat Nakajima. It took over five and a half years. It took their seventh match together. Kitamiya had nothing left to lose so he decided to go For broke and he beat Nakajima.
That loss should have eliminated Nakajima from the finals, but Marufuji ended up injured and had to withdraw. Nakajima, Kenoh and Kohei Sato would have a three-way to determine who would face Kaito Kiyomiya in the Final. Nakajima won that match, but would lose to Kiyomiya.
After that loss it wasn’t Kitamiya who was there for Nakajima. It was Shiozaki, who had been Nakajima’s generational rival as they debuted the same year. That action would give birth to the team of AXIZ, Nakajima & Shiozaki. And just two weeks later AXIZ beat a reunited Kitamiya & Kenoh for the vacant GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s.
From there AXIZ dominated the tag team scene in 2019. Even if they weren’t dominant champions as they won and lost the belts three times over a 13 month period. And 2019 saw the birth of Kongo, a new stable created by Kenoh, Kitamiya, Yoshiki Inamura & Atsushi Kotoge.
Nakajima and Kitamiya were on opposite sides all year, Kitamiya twice challenging AXIZ for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles with different partners (Eddie Edwards in March, Inamura in November). And that continued into 2020. However, in August that year, there was a big shift – Nakajima joined Kongo. On August 30th, after AXIZ failed to win back the vacant GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles against Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba, Nakajima attacked Shiozaki to effectively end their team. Shiozaki was the current GHC Heavyweight Champion, so maybe it was jealousy. Nakajima had just lost the GHC National Title so perhaps that is what caused him to attack Shiozaki.
But more shockingly, Nakajima joined Kongo. He joined the unit led by the man who had only just taken the GHC National Championship from him: Kenoh. The unit he had spent the past year fighting against. And the unit that contained his former partner, Kitamiya.
It took until December for the two to be in the same tag match. Three months in the same stable without interacting at all. And things weren’t easy at first. They just happened to be in the same match at the same time and on the same side. But little by little they began interacting together again. Wordlessly they used old tandem moves, the ones that they did back when they were The Aggression.
In January, they finally acknowledged the team work between themselves. Sugiura & Sakuraba still held the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles and a match between the two teams seemed inevitable. It took a while but the match finally happened on March 7th. And, interestingly enough, they were announced as The Aggression for the match. Not Kongo. Not Kongo’s The Aggression. But The Aggression.
And they would beat Sugiura & Sakuraba for the belts and bring them into Kongo. Funky Express of King Tany & Muhammad Yone stepped up to be their first challengers. That match would take place on May 31st at the Mitsuharu Misawa Memorial show. And The Aggression beat the first defence curse! They beat Funky Express to make their first ever successful defence in their third reign together!
And then Kitamiya laid out Nakajima with a Saito Suplex. To the shock of Kongo and the fans (the fans who expected that if the team were to break up, Nakajima would be the one responsible), Kitamiya took the mic to say that he hated Nakajima and always had. He thanked Kenoh for his time in Kongo but was leaving to forge his own way. And then he took physical possession of his half of the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles and left.
This would lead to NOAH’s first ever steel cage match on June 26th between the two. It wouldn’t be a simple steel cage match, either, as a stipulation was added – the loser would also have their head shaved. And neither of these two wanted to lose this match.
NOAH have uploaded this match below:
They went to war for well over 30 minutes. Nakajima was again pretty confident despite losing their last match seen as he’d beaten Kitamiya six times already. In a highlight reel moment that NOAH could play for years to come, Kitamiya was on top of the steel cage and went to come crashing down onto Nakajima with a Senton but Nakajima rolled out of the way. That may have actually saved Nakajima from lasting damage as Kitamiya cracked two of the ring boards from the impact of his body. Kitamiya however was absolutely fine and continued the match with no issues! Go For Broke indeed!
And Kitamiya would be able to power through and beat Nakajima for only the second time in his career. It had been over two and a half years since their last match. Over four and a half years since their biggest match for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. And for the second time in a row, Kitamiya pinned Nakajima.
As a result of the stipulation, Nakajima sat in a chair in the middle of the ring, defiantly, as Kitamiya took a razor to his curls. Kitamiya only did a half-assed job so Kenoh had to step in and help complete the shaving of his Kongo team mate. With them both still holding one half of the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles each, on July 22nd they faced off with new tag partners to determine the new champions. And the team of Kitamiya & Kiyomiya beat Nakajima & Manabu Soya. Kiyomiya pinned Soya but for the second month in a row, Kitamiya beat Nakajima in a big match.
They only had less than a handful of tag matches after that, and since the N-1 Victory 2021 they were on completely different paths. Despite a strong start to 2021 and a lot of momentum, Kitamiya would only win one out of his three matches; failing to win his Block. Nakajima would win two out of his three matches so won his block. Nakajima beat Masakatsu Funaki, the winner of Kitamiya’s block in the semi-finals. And then Kenoh in the Finals.
On October 10th, Nakajima defeated Naomichi Marufuji to win the GHC Heavyweight Championship for the second time in his career. On October 30th, he beat Masato Tanaka to make his first defence. And on November 28th, he and Kenoh went to a 60 minute draw in a double title match – Kenoh’s GHC National was put up alongside Nakajima’s GHC Heavyweight. And most recently, on January 1st, in the Nippon Budokan, he beat his generational rival Go Shiozaki.
Kitamiya had a more lacklustre 2021 into 2022. He spent his time lower down the card and struggled to regain any of that momentum he once had before his failure in the N-1 Victory. At the Budokan he was in a six man tag team match against the returning KENTA but it was Inamura who got all the praise for his performance during the match.
However things picked up for Kitamiya in a big way on January 4th. It was Kitamiya, Marufuji, Inamura, Daisuke Harada & Hajima Ohara vs the Kongo team of Nakajima, Kenoh, Soya, Tadasuke & Aleja. The Kongo team was practicing for Los Ingobernables de Japon just four days later on the big NJPW vs NOAH show, but they got off to a poor start with a loss to Kitamiya’s team.
And, even more shockingly, it was Nakajima who was pinned. By Kitamiya. It may have taken three Saito Suplexes in a row, but it got the job done. Kitamiya had pinned his former big brother and current GHC Heavyweight Champion. So when he took the mic to challenge for the belt, it was a no brainer. However, the announcement that the match would be happening just twelve days later on Sunday, January 16th, was a surprise.
Kitamiya wants to strike while the iron is hot. Nakajima will have had a tough match just over two weeks before from the Shiozaki challenge. And just the week before this match, Kongo were on the losing side against LIJ. So there’s no time like the present to go for broke.
Nakajima made it to 307 days and seven successful title defences in his first GHC Heavyweight Title reign. He’ll want to beat that. This is only his fourth match in this reign so he won’t want to lose it here. And it was Kitamiya who betrayed him last year and took his hair and his GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title. He will not want to lose the GHC Heavyweight Title to him too.
Like all matches where the two opponents grew up against each other, even despite the experience difference, Nakajima will still have grown into being a heavyweight at the same time that Kitamiya did. They’ll know each other very well. And “Brothers” can fight against each other with the best of them. I don’t truly believe that Kitamiya hates Nakajima. But I do believe he’ll have the match of his life trying to win the GHC Heavyweight Championship from him.
GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship – M’s Alliance (Keiji Muto & Naomichi Marufuji) (c) vs Kongo (Kenoh & Manabu Soya)
Keiji Muto & Naomichi Marufuji made their first successful defense of their GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s at the Nippon Budokan on January 1st over fellow M’s Alliance members, Masato Tanaka & Masaaki Mochizuki.
On January 4th, Marufuji and Manabu Soya rekindled their little feud they’ve been having ever since Soya joined the NOAH roster in April 2020. Every time these two have shared the ring they’ve managed to gravitate towards each other and wail on one another.
When Masa Kitamiya pinned Katsuhiko Nakajima and challenged for the GHC Heavyweight Title, Soya also took advantage of Marufuji being in the match and challenged him and absent partner, Muto. Soya has challenged for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s twice before.
The first time was him and Kitamiya losing to Takashi Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba in October 2020. The second was him and Nakajima losing to Kitamiya & Kaito Kiyomiya in July 2021. So he’s 0-2 in tag team Title matches and also lost his one and only shot for the GHC National Title against Nakajima in June 2020.
Kenoh on the other hand does have experience as a GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. He’s held those belts twice before. January 2017 him and Kitamiya won them but vacated then in February after Kenoh attacked Kitamiya to side with Sugiura. Kenoh & Sugiura won the vacated belts in March over Kitamiya & Muhammad Yone however they lost the belts in their first defense to Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi.
So he’s not held the belts in almost five years. And he never managed to make the one successful defense. Plus him and Soya have only teamed together as just a tag team only twice before. A loss to Masakatsu Funaki & Masato Tanaka in January 2021 (very underrated match, might be worth revisiting it before Kenoh vs Funaki II on January 22nd). And a win over King Tany & Muhammad Yone in October.
They are 50/50 in tag matches. And, for the first time, the champions have actually teamed more than their challengers. Because, for Muto & Marufuji, this is only the sixth time they’ve teamed as just a tag team. So far it’s been a rarity for the champions to have the team work advantage.
And while they may not have teamed much, they both have tag team title pedigree. Muto is a six time IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. Five time AJPW World Tag Team Champion. Even a WCW World Tag Team Champion for a day which I didn’t know! And Marufuji is in his eighth reign as GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. Plus he’s the longest reigning GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion and has a reign as a DDT K-OD Tag Team Champion.
Kenoh & Soya cannot compete with that prior success either. So they are absolutely the underdogs here. Soya debuted during the LOVE era of All Japan under Muto and even followed him to Wrestle-1. And the two times Soya has faced Muto in singles matches, he’s lost both. January 2015 for the Wrestle-1 Championship. And September 2021 during the N-1 Victory. Soya going completely winless in that Block.
They’ve not had that many title matches against each other. Soya has the prior mentioned Wrestle-1 Championship match against Muto in January 2015 and an F-1 Tag Team Title match where Muto & Kannazuki beat Soya & Sugichan to win the vacant belts in October 2015. Those belts don’t even have a Cagematch page, so read into that what you will. And Kenoh, also as already mentioned, lost the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles to Marufuji in April 2017.
Kenoh is also the GHC National Champion in his second reign. He’s making his fourth defense of that belt against Masakatsu Funaki, a rematch of their February 2020 Nippon Budokan match, on January 22nd. But if he does manage to successfully defend against Funaki, I have a feeling that he’ll have a challenge from another M’s Alliance member – Muto.
Muto made it known at the end of last year, after winning the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s with Marufuji, that he was interested in the red belt that is the GHC National Championship. This will actually only be the fourth time that Kenoh and Muto have crossed paths in the ring. M’s Alliance beat Kongo in an eight man tag team match in August 2020. Then M’s Alliance beat Kongo in a six man tag team match in August 2021. And then in November, Kenoh & Kiyomiya beat Muto & Kazushi Sakuraba.
Of course there was also The Great Muta beating Kenoh in a singles match in June 2021. Kenoh even lit his shinpad on fire to deliver a flaming kick to Muta’s face – yes, that genuinely, really happened – but it still wasn’t enough to put away Muta. But The Great Muta is a different beast entirely to Keiji Muto. Muta is chaos. Muto is more deliberate and methodical.
It may not happen. Muto may have just said it off handedly. However the result of this match may be an indication for the future. I mean, Kenoh & Soya could win to finally give Soya his first Title win in a NOAH ring and make Kenoh a double champion. Or Muto & Marufuji could win and Muto makes his move. Although this is also on the assumption that Kenoh’s reign survives Funaki a second time.
Sugiura Army (Takashi Sugiura, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kazuyuki Fujita & Kendo Kashin) vs Go Shiozaki, Masakatsu Funaki & Funky Express (King Tany & Muhammad Yone)
On Friday the 14th of January it was announced that Go Shiozaki’s original partners of Kaito Kiyomiya, Daiki Inaba & Yoshiki Inamura were removed from this show due to either testing positive for Covid-19 or being in close contact with someone who had.
Shiozaki & King Tany were once GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. However, Masakatsu Funaki has not once teamed with his partners. And he recently lost to Takashi Sugiura at the Sugiura Army produced show at the end of December. That main event was a great example of not taking a lot of time but using that time well.
Things look a lot better for the Sugiura Army team. Takashi Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba who, with the addition of Toru Yano, beat the Suzuki-Gun team of Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku at the NJPW vs NOAH show last week.
Kazuyuki Fujita & Kendo Kashin were both not involved in the NJPW vs NOAH show despite their histories with NJPW. Fujita is a former three time IWGP Heavyweight Champion. Kashin a former two time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and Best Of The Super Juniors winner in 1999. Their absence on the show may be because they represented the Inoki-ism days of NJPW. Or it may just be because there was no room and no clear space on the card for them. Who knows.
Shiozaki, Kiyomiya, Inamura, Inaba & Masa Kitamiya beat Sugiura, Fujita, Keiji Muto, Naomichi Marufuji & Masato Tanaka on January 5th. Shiozaki and Fujita attempted to repeat their staring contest. Fortunately they were stopped before going another 30 minutes. With so many wrestlers off due to Covid and the card reduced from seven matches down to six, hopefully they are stopped from death staring at each other for half an hour to fill up time.
On paper, Sugiura Army have the advantage here. They are a unit whereas their opponents are a loose alliance of people not in an official group/stable. Kashin may be a wrestler relying on cheating tactics to win matches but he’s used those tactics to beat King Tany before.
Funky Express, despite their abysmal win/loss record, will still try their best. King Tany & Muhammad Yone can hit hard and take a beating. Even if they are more often the ones taking a beating. Every Funky dog can have it’s day and they can pull off a surprise victory here and there.
Shiozaki also needs momentum. He lost in the Nippon Budokan in his GHC Heavyweight Title match against Katsuhiko Nakajima so can no longer say “I Am NOAH”. And then just three days later he lost in a singles match to Kiyomiya. He may have gotten some movement with the win at the NJPW show but he needs to keep it going.
January 1st and 8th was successful for Sugiura. He retained his ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship in the morning and then wrestled the six man with KENTA just a few hours later. And then Sugiura & Sakuraba still managed to beat the Suzuki-Gun team, even with Yano as a last minute replacement for KENTA. What the future holds for him in 2022 is unknown but I’d love to see him challenge either Nakajima or Kenoh this year.
Sakuraba, Fujita & Kashin are having the time of their lives right now. No one saw any of them joining NOAH at this stage of their careers with all of them only wrestling sporadically before NOAH. Sakuraba even won his first Title in professional wrestling in a NOAH ring and challenged for a Heavyweight Title for the first time. Fujita even held the GHC National Title for a month last year.
Daisuke Harada vs Seiki Yoshioka
STINGER (HAYATA & Yuya Susumu) vs Atsushi Kotoge & Hajima Ohara
This was originally supposed to be an eight man tag team match, but Yoshinari Ogawa and Junta Miyawaki have been pulled from the card following the COVID outbreak.
Daisuke Harada surprised everyone when he beat HAYATA for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship on January 10th. HAYATA failed in his ninth defense so will not be beating Taiji Ishimori’s record – at least not yet.
Harada is now in his fifth reign as GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. This puts him in second to Yoshinobu Kanemaru’s seven reigns. This has to have helped give Atsushi Kotoge & Hajima Ohara even more confidence for when they challenge Yoshinari Ogawa & HAYATA for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles on Saturday, January 22nd.
However that match is not assured. Maybe. Due to the card changes for this show, that could be up in the air.
On the 10th, Kotoge & Ohara wrestled to a twenty minute draw against Seiki Yoshioka & Yuya Susumu. As a result, Yoshioka & Susumu then made a stipulation to this match – If STINGER beat Momo No Seishun and friends in what was supposed to be the eight man tag team match, Yoshioka & Susumu become the new number one contenders for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles and will face their teammates on January 22nd instead.
Fighting for titles within a stable is nothing new. HAYATA and Ogawa faced each other at the Nippon Budokan on January 1st for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. HAYATA would win that match and it seems like he and Ogawa are fine now…. Maybe. I’m sure they’ll either work things out or feud on and off for well over a year like Ogawa and former STINGER member Kotaro Suzuki have.
So perhaps the champions would welcome a title shot from within their ranks. After all, HAYATA has years of experience working with Yoshioka & Susumu from outside of Pro Wrestling NOAH, before they all joined. And Ogawa had absolutely no dealings with any of these three before they joined NOAH and now are all in the same stable together. But this could all be a moot point. Kotoge & Ohara are facing one half of the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions in HAYATA in their match; and we don’t even know if Ogawa will be fit enough to defend the belts next week.
Harada will want a strong first showing as the new GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. And now he has an unexpected singles rematch against the man who he lost that same belt to in the Nippon Budokan last February. That match was great and largely forgotten due to Yoshioka losing the belt so quickly so I’m glad to see him have another match against Harada.
Los Perros del Mal de Japon (Kotaro Suzuki, YO-HEY & NOSAWA Rongai) vs Kongo (Haoh, Nioh & Aleja)
Originally, this match would have included Super Crazy for Los Perros del Mal de Japon and Tadasuke for Kongo. But both have unfortunately been pulled due to the COVID outbreak.
January 5th was NOAH’s unannounced show. It’s become a tradition that NOAH hold a card without any of the wrestlers or matches announced in advance. Ultimo Dragon made another appearance in NOAH after his return at the Budokan, bringing Dragon Kid, who hadn’t appeared in a NOAH ring since 2007, with him.
Another big return was Super Crazy. Crazy hadn’t been a full time roster member since the end of November 2015. And he’d spent three years as a roster member and was a former GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion with Ricky Marvin. Before joining NOAH, he was/is a member of the original Los Perros del Mal in Mexico. So him rejoining NOAH as a member of Los Perros Del Mal de Japon made sense.
Los Perros del Mal de Japon is one of the most eclectic groups in the NOAH junior division. NOSAWA Rongai is the leader (I guess) and he was to arrange with the original Mexican stable to bring the stable name to Japan, always saying that he intended to bring the Mexican members to Japan and Pro Wrestling NOAH.
Not in this match, but the second member of the group was Ikuto Hidaka. Hidaka was masked for several months before his identity was revealed. Kotaro Suzuki was the third. The very first ever NOAH dojo graduate, Suzuki is definitely a NOAH born but he did have experience as a heel in Disobey back in 2009. YO-HEY was the fourth after he found his old unit FULL THROTTLE dissolved. Eita, again not in this match, is officially a Dragon Gate roster member who cross-promotes to be a part of Los Perros Del Mal de Japon. And, Dragon Gate spoiler here, this is the only stable he’s in now after he was kicked out of R.E.D.
So adding Super Crazy to the stable shows that there’s no theme to membership. All are now aligned under the one banner to be the bad guys in the NOAH junior division. The rudos. Los Perros del Mal are the rule breakers, the Devil Dogs – NOSAWA & Eita are certainly living up to that so far.
Every member of Kongo has a different background, but strangely they feel more like matches. Hi69 was already a member of the NOAH roster but felt like he needed a change after a year of being directionless after Taiji Ishimori had left to break up their team. So he joined Kongo, took the red and changed his name to Nioh.
The same show that Nioh was born, Kenbai (Yuki Sato) from Michinoku Pro Wrestling joined the NOAH roster. Kenbai was a masked wrestler and incredibly underrated. He still is, even now. So he took the red and renamed himself Haoh. Tadasuke joined Kongo in August 2020 after being a member of RATEL’S from the moment he joined NOAH in early 2017. No renaming or really changing who he was, he just started wearing a red leather jacket to take the red theme that Kongo had.
Aleja was the last to join. He joined the NOAH roster as a Kongo member in July 2021. Originally debuting in Wrestle-1 in 2016, it took him over a year from Wrestle-1’s closure before he found his new home in Pro Wrestling NOAH. And like everyone else in Kongo, he took the red.
As the new opening match of this show it will be a fast paced affair as each stable in the junior heavyweight division fights for dominance.
And that’s your lot.
Fortunately the card’s were changed at quite literally the same time I finished my preview piece so I did my best to move thing’s around and edit stuff.
As always thank you for taking the time to read this, it is always greatly appreciated.