On Sunday July 11th, Pro Wrestling NOAH present Cross Over 2021 In Sendai. The GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles will be on the line when new champions, Daisuke Harada & Hajima Ohara defend against the Kongo team of Tadasuke & Haoh. And the new GHC Heavyweight Champion, Naomichi Marufuji, makes his first defense against Takashi Sugiura in what is sure to be a classic main event.
The show can be watched through either Fite TV or ABEMA and starts at 3pm in Japan. That’s 7am UK, 2am East Coast in the USA and 11pm (Saturday night) West Coast USA.
Fite TV is a single purchase for this show only at $19.99. English commentary will be handled by Mark Pickering and Stewart Fulton and once you have bought the show you can rewatch it as many times as you like.
ABEMA is a Japanese streaming service but shows have been available worldwide. The last ABEMA shows on June 26th & 27th were available in the West so I can only assume (and hope) this one will be too.
After a week it will move onto Wrestle Universe. Wrestle Universe on the other hand is a subscription service containing NOAH, DDT, TJPW and other promotions under the Cyber Fight umbrella. The first calendar month is free, and it’s under £8 per month after that.
Now on to the show!
MAIN EVENT – GHC Heavyweight Championship – Naomichi Marufuji (c) vs Takashi Sugiura
Marufuji, Sugiura & Go Shiozaki are all currently tied at 4 GHC Heavyweight Title reigns each. Marufuji was the first of the three to win the belt, with Sugiura being the last. However, Sugiura was the first to hold the belt 4 times and Marufuji has only just equaled that.
These two have a long and storied history. Marufuji debuted in All Japan Pro Wrestling in August 1998 and became a protégé of Mitsuharu Misawa. Sugiura joined the All Japan dojo but did not make his debut until after the All Japan/NOAH split so debuted in December 2000 in a NOAH ring.
Marufuji has been called the Heir To The Ark. He was Misawa’s protégé, and after Misawa’s passing he became the Vice President of NOAH. He has steadied the Ark over rocky waters and now, with NOAH in a healthy position, he deserves his run at the top.
Sugiura, while not an official NOAH dojo graduate, was still the first person to debut in a NOAH ring. Marufuji may have been the first person to have held the singles and tag belts for both GHC Junior and Heavyweights, but Sugiura has done the same and was the first (and current in his second reign) GHC National Champion. Meaning he is the only person to have held all the active GHC Title belts. You could make a convincing argument to call Takashi Sugiura “Mr GHC” and I am going to do so until it sticks.
They have had 15 singles matches against each other over the past 20 years. Their first occured November 2001 when they were both juniors and right before Marufuji won the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship so he beat his junior. They didn’t have their second match until November 2011, a full 10 years later to the day (the 27th) where Sugiura beat Marufuji.
It’s crazy to me that they spent so long on opposing sides from 2003 to 2005, yet they managed to go 10 years between their first and second matches and Marufuji was not an opponent for Sugiura during his 581 day, record breaking 14 successful title defenses, first reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion.
The statistics lie heavily in Sugiura’s favour. He has won 9 of those 15 matches. Marufuji has won 4 and they have drawn their most recent 2 matches (30 and 15 minute time limits respectively).
They have had 3 GHC Heavyweight Title matches before now. Marufuji retained against Sugiura during his second reign in December 2014. Marufuji lost the belt to Sugiura in the first defense of his third reign in January 2016. And Sugiura retained against Marufuji during his fourth reign in May 2018.
So Sugiura even leads the series there.
This is a big match to me. Especially so early in Marufuji’s reign. Sugiura is a dangerous challenger at the best of times, nevermind him having Marufuji’s number 60% of the time in their previous singles matches. And now he’s the GHC National Champion again, the first owner of the belt and the only person to hold it more than once.
I think a lot of us were surprised when Marufuji beat Keiji Muto on June 6th. At 44, it’s not like Marufuji’s career is done – not by any stretch of the imagination (especially by NOAH 2021 standards) but being such a trailblazer and innovator in the early 2000’s has put a lot of wear and tear on his body.
Since he lost the belt to Sugiura in January 2016, with each passing year it felt like he’d become a token challenger. He lost to Eddie Edwards in October 2017. Sugiura in May 2018. Kaito Kiyomiya in March 2019. And Go Shiozaki in August 2020.
When he challenged Muto, maybe it was just me, but it felt like another defense to pad Muto’s reign out. Both are in the same stable and there was no urgency in Marufuji’s challenge. That and I felt sure Muto would lose to a much younger man, but that’s on me.
I watched that match live and I was absolutely losing my mind. I’d quickly gone from not thinking Marufuji stood a chance at the beginning of the match to hoping and praying that he won. That he was the man to dethrone Muto. And when that three count happened, I was absolutely elated. Marufuji had always been a favourite of mine and here he was beating a man, a legend of Puroresu in the main event of a large show.
But with Muto’s reign, I had a hope for where NOAH would go with it. With Marufuji…. It feels wide open.
He could have a Go Shiozaki 2020, long awaited ace reign as he only had an 8 month reign as his longest from July 2014 to March 2015 during his second reign.
He could be a transitional champion to drop the belt in his first defense like he did in 2016 (and to Sugiura too for that matter) and Sugiura would return to the top of the GHC mountain as the first 5 time champion.
He could lose it a later, to a former champion like Kaito Kiyomiya (and being part of his redemption arc), Kenoh or Katsuhiko Nakajima, guys who have had the one taste but are more than ready and deserving of a second shot.
Or he could lose it to a brand new champion like Masa Kitamiya or Yoshiki Inamura and help create a new legacy.
It could be someone outside of NOAH completely. The possibilities are endless!
I am happy to see Marufuji holding the belt again. For everything he has done for NOAH, both in NOAH and representing NOAH in other promotions, be they Japanese, European or American. For everything he has done outside of the ring, ensuring that Misawa’s legacy lives on and that there is still an Ark to be inherited by someone else after him.
Despite the wear and tear on his body, Marufuji is still an excellent wrestler with hopefully a good few years still ahead of him as a high performing wrestler.
Although if you want to talk about age being just a number, look at Takashi Sugiura. The man is 51 years old and still wrestles like he is half his age. I don’t know if it’s because he only debuted at 30 but the man has aged like a fine wine and gets better (and deadlier) each year.
I thought their 30 minute time limit draw during the N-1 Victory last year was great. I’ve enjoyed their three previous GHC Heavyweight Title matches and have every faith that this match will be up there for them.
The end result isn’t a lock either way, even with Sugiura’s GHC National Title not being on the line as NOAH’s booking has been… Erratic, to put it kindly lately. Sugiura could absolutely be the first person to hold the belt 5 times (and I’m sure he’ll try and hold it for 10 years to beat Muto’s current claim as oldest GHC Heavyweight Champion). And Marufuji could also hold it for a few months as the pieces move.
Keiji Muto & Yoshinari Ogawa vs Kaito Kiyomiya & Kotaro Suzuki
Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa together were known as The Untouchables. They held the All Japan All Asia, All Japan World Tag and GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles (twice!). Ogawa was always a large part of Misawa’s stables and often found himself his right hand man.
The team of Misawa & Ogawa even beat Muto and Taiyo Kea (Muto’s then right hand man and one of the few wrestlers who chose to stay with All Japan after the NOAH split for an extra little history wrinkle) in the Tokyo Dome in July 2004 at what was NOAH’s largest show as of that date.
Muto and Ogawa teamed for the first time in their long and storied careers in May this year. After the match, Muto had nothing but praise for Ogawa, stating that he could see why Misawa teamed for him for so long and that he could see himself and Ogawa teaming again the future, potentially to challenge for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles.
But those belts are currently held up and one quarter of the deciding match to take place on July 22nd is in this match. Kaito Kiyomiya has had a rough 2020 and rougher 2021. He lost the GHC Heavyweight Title to Go Shiozaki in January 2020. Lost to Keiji Muto in August. Lost to Katsuhiko Nakajima in the N-1 Victory finals in October. Lost to Kenoh for the GHC National Title in November. Lost to Keiji Muto again, but this time for the GHC Heavyweight Title in March 2021. Lost to Masato Tanaka in May. And then lost to Yoshinari Ogawa in June.
So, he is having a career slump. After the break up of The Aggression, Masa Kitamiya has picked Kiyomiya to be his partner. Katsuhiko Nakajima has picked Manabu Soya and the two teams will face off on July 22nd with the winning team the new GHC Heavyweight Champions. Was Kitamiya right to pick Kiyomiya? Well. him managing to beat Muto and Ogawa would go a long way to explain his choice.
As already mentioned, Muto and Ogawa have both bested Kaito. Muto holds those two victories. And while Ogawa made it a routine of beating Kiyomiya while he was a young boy, June was the first match they’d had since May 2016. They had an almost 40 minute match in which Kaito made the Master Technician work harder than he ever had in his entire career – it was by far the longest singles match he has ever had.
The veterans combined have 71 years ring experience (October 1984 for Muto, September 1985 for Ogawa) and have both been wrestling longer than before Kaito was born!
The wildcard in this match is Kotaro Suzuki.
Suzuki and Ogawa have long had their issues as written in plenty of write ups by myself since Suzuki was kicked out of STINGER in September. If there is one man that can wind Ogawa up and truly get under his skin, it’s Suzuki.
If Suzuki can distract and throw Ogawa off his game, then the super team may not click enough to become a cohesive unit. Suzuki and Kiyomiya have not exactly teamed much or even often opposed each other since Suzuki re-joined the NOAH roster in 2018. And while 14 years may separate their NOAH dojo experiences, Ogawa will be a common thread between them.
Kaito debuted during the dark years of NOAH, while Muto lived through the glory years of 90’s New Japan, Ogawa lived through the glory years of 90’s All Japan and Suzuki lived through the glory years of 00’s NOAH. I can’t but hope that the 20’s will see glory days again for NOAH and Kiyomiya will be a big part of that.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships – Daisuke Harada & Hajima Ohara (c) vs Kongo (Tadasuke & Haoh)
STINGER’s (Ogawa & HAYATA) 190 day reign (and 154 days shortly before that) came to an end from the makeshift team of Harada & Ohara on the 31st of May.
It was only earlier in that same month that FULL THROTTLE came crumbling down, as Seiki Yoshioka left to join STINGER and YO-HEY joined what would become Los Perros del Mal de Japon. Ohara, alone, found acceptance from Momo No Seishun.
Harada and Ohara have been such fantastic opponents in the past that their chemistry as a team was going to be evident. They had to weather the storm of STINGER and eventually outlasted them and were able to become the brand new champions.
And where there are new champions there are new challengers. Tadasuke and Haoh are not usual tag partners. It’s ordinarily Haoh & Nioh and the three teaming as a trio. But these two have teamed a lot more than the champions have.
Tadasuke & Haoh are a completely different dynamic than Haoh & Nioh. Haoh is a fast paced, junior heavyweight flyer. Tadasuke may officially be a junior heavyweight but he is straddling that line between junior and heavyweight. He has the bulk. He has the power. Harada has powerful elbows but even he would lose a battle of raw power against Tadasuke.
This should realistically be a successful first defense for Harada & Ohara. No disrespect intended to Tadasuke & Haoh who are two very talented wrestlers but their team and challenge came out of left field.
Then again… You could have said the same when Harada & Ohara challenged STINGER. But then the time felt right for a title change after STINGER had controlled the tag belts for so long.
Kongo (Kenoh, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Manabu Soya) vs Masa Kitamiya, Yoshiki Inamura & Atsushi Kotoge
With Kiyomiya in another match before the July 22nd GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title match, Masa Kitamiya finds himself with odd tag partners as he takes on a united Kongo.
Nobody saw the break up of The Aggression coming. Nobody realized the hatred that Kitamiya had harboured for Nakajima over the past decade. And since Kitamiya dropped Nakajima with that Saito Suplex, vacated the tag belts and left Kongo, there has been nothing but hate from Kitamiya and a cool, simmering fire from Nakajima.
The very first steel cage match in NOAH’s almost 21 year history was chosen for their abrupt grudge match and Kitamiya left the cage victorious while Nakajima left with half a shaved head. It will take some time to get used to Nakajima without those glorious curls of his, but he has fully embraced his new hairstyle with is already growing back into a buzzcut.
They have met in three tag matches since the cage match. Nakajima’s team won an 8 man tag. The trio of Kitamiya, Kiyomiya & Inamura beat the Kongo team of Kitamiya, Kenoh & Soya and the tag partners for July 22nd were decided. And then the same foursome for Nakajima again beat Kitamiya’s team showing that there is strength in numbers when it comes to Kongo.
This will only be the second time that Kenoh has been in the ring with Kitamiya since he left Kongo. Kitamiya thanked Kenoh on his exit so there does not need to be any bad blood. His issue is solely with the presence of Nakajima in the unit. But, after watching how much Inamura has grown and progressed since leaving Kongo, Kitamiya must feel like he has to follow a similar path.
I said odd partners because Kotoge is a junior heavyweight and part of Momo No Seishun, however there is a common thread between the trio – They have all left Kongo.
It’s easy to forget that the original members of Kongo were Kenoh, Kitamiya, Inamura…. And Kotoge.
Kotoge’s inclusion in the stable did not last long. When Kotoge made the decision to re-join the junior heavyweight division he also decided to leave Kongo at the same time.
So when you think of the “base”, the origins of Kongo a lot of people mainly thought of the trio of Kenoh, Kitamiya & Inamura. And of course Kongo was soon padded out by Haoh & Nioh in one fell swoop, Manabu Soya after the closure of Wrestle-1, Tadasuke after he betrayed the former RATEL’s and then finally Nakajima after the break up of AXIZ.
Kongo perform like a military unit. Tactical and with precision as each piece is a moving part within the framework of the group. And they were quick to adapt without Inamura and I am sure they will do the same without Kitamiya.
There has been no bad blood from anyone leaving Kongo. It’s always been the individuals choice and their former team mates usually wish them the best (although I doubt Nakajima will do so for Kitamiya after everything that’s happened).
This match is going to be all about Kitamiya vs Nakajima (and Soya) and building up to the July 22nd match.
Funky Express (King Tany, Akitoshi Saito & Muhammad Yone) vs Sugiura Army (Kazushi Sakuraba, Kazuyuki Fujita & Kendo Kashin)
Funky Express, Taniguchi & Yone, failed in their bid to become the new GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions in the match in which the champions imploded afterwards. They knew they needed someone to take charge (because that worked so well for FULL THROTTLE…) so they had a four-way elimination match where the winner would be crowned leader.
Shuhei Taniguchi won that match, and he took the crowning literally, as he has re-christened himself as King Tany.
And now Funky Express are here for a good time, not a long time. Although whether they will have a good time is another matter against Sugiura Army but their opponents, notably Kazuyuki Fujita, will be in agreement about it not being for a long time.
Fujita has won and lost the GHC National Title this year. And both Kashin and Sakuraba have challenged for the belt, before and after Fujita. So, with defeats so recent, Sugiura Army may want someone to pay.
With no Masao Inoue there’s no obvious loss post either. But I don’t see either team gaining much from a win or even losing anything from a loss.
STINGER (HAYATA, Seiki Yoshioka & Yuya Susumu) vs Los Perros del Mal de Japon (Ikuto Hidaka, YO-HEY & NOSAWA Rongai)
HAYATA rebounded back nicely from losing the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles by beating Atsushi Kotoge on 27th of June. This is his third reign with the belt and he’ll want to try and better his first two. In his first reign, he lost the belt in his first defence, after only 29 days. His second was a fair bit better, at 5 months and 3 defences, but he’ll want to improve on that.
The GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship has been a hot potato this year. Harada began 2021 as champ but lost it in his second defense. Yoshioka lost it in his first. Kotoge lost it in his second. HAYATA is hoping to bring stability to the belt after a rocky start to the year.
However, he has a tough test ahead of him, as Ikuto Hidaka stepped up as first challenger. Hidaka is, in my eyes, an underrated junior heavyweight legend. There are few Japanese promotions that he has not wrestled for and now he’s found himself a new home in Pro Wrestling NOAH and as part of Los Perros del Mal de Japon.
Taking out NOSAWA, you’ve got five great junior heavyweight wrestlers involved in this match. NOSAWA is the wildcard in this match in that he’s not afraid to get down and dirty and do anything to get the win.
M’s Alliance (Masato Tanaka & Masaaki Mochizuki) vs Kinya Okada & Junta Miyawaki
Okay, so the NOAH boys don’t stand a chance. But give me some fire. Give me some fighting spirit. And I’ll be more than happy.
I’ve made it no secret that I think Kinya Okada deserves to be in a higher position than where he’s at. After almost 3 years, he should, by rights, be in a midcard position and getting wins over those moving down the card. But unfortunately, that’s not how it works in NOAH.
Tanaka & Mochizuki are two high performing veterans who are fully deserving to main event in any promotion on any given day. Tanaka is the current ZERO1 World Heavyweight Champion. Mochizuki could challenge for (and win) the Dragon Gate Open The Dream Gate Championship no matter who holds the belt.
So I’m excited that Okada & Miyawaki get the chance to wrestle these two legends. It sucks that it’s lower down the card and probably won’t last that long. But let the two young boys show their hearts and I’ll be happy.
Nioh vs Yasutaka Yano
The opening match and another opportunity for Yano to show his growth as he approaches 9 months into his career.
Honestly those 9 months have flown by and Yano wrestles like someone with a lot more experience. It’s been a joy so far to watch his career progress and I’m sure he will be a cornerstone of the Pro Wrestling NOAH junior division in a few years time.
Nioh is definitely going to put him through his paces. Like the tag match after this, there’s no chance of the NOAH dojo graduates winning. But sometimes it’s all about the journey and not the destination.
And that’s your lot.
8 matches. 2 title matches. 2 preview matches of future title matches. And the first time Muto & Ogawa will team together.
Whether you watch the show through Fite TV or ABEMA, I hope that you enjoy the show and continue watching Pro Wrestling NOAH!