Pro Wrestling NOAH return to Korakuen Hall for TWO shows this week! Thursday the 22nd and Friday the 23rd of July.
Thursday and Friday both have different start times. And neither is being aired on the same streaming service either to make it even more confusing!
Thursday starts at 18:30 in Japan (10:30 England, 05:30 East Coast USA & 02:30 West Coast USA). It’s airing on ABEMA. ABEMA is a Japanese streaming service but the majority of their previous shows have been available worldwide (although they have stopped repeats and it’s live viewing only).
Friday starts at 11:30 in Japan (03:30 England, 22:30 East Coast USA & 19:30 West Coast USA). It’s airing on Wrestle Universe which is a paid-for subscription service. At only £8 per calendar month, it’s a steal as you get NOAH, DDT & TJPW live & VOD shows every month.
If you can’t catch the Thursday show live it will move over to Wrestle Universe after a week too.
Both shows have 7 matches each. Thursday could be seen as the bigger show as two GHC titles are on the line as the Heavyweight Tag Team and Junior Heavyweight belts will be defended.
You’re getting a two-fer in this article as I’ll cover both shows! It’s going to be a lengthy one so let’s get right into it!
THURSDAY JULY 22ND
MAIN EVENT – GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championships – Kongo (Katsuhiko Nakajima & Manabu Soya) vs Masa Kitamiya & Kaito Kiyomiya
Both Nakajima and Kitamiya hold physical possession of each title belt after the break up of The Aggression. After they’d made their first successful title defense (and broke a cycle stemming from 2018 where they made no successful title defenses in their previous two reigns), Kitamiya dropped Nakajima with a Saito Suplex.
He explained his actions by saying that he’d always hated Nakajima. For the past decade, ever since he debuted back in 2011 as part of Kensuke Office, he has hated his senior in wrestling. You can read about the backstory between Nakajima and Kitamiya in an article I wrote just before their Steel Cage, Hair vs Hair match HERE
Kitamiya left the cage victorious. And after Kitamiya did half a job at shaving Nakajima’s hair, Kenoh had to step in and (almost) finish the job for his stablemate.
But their issue has not ended there. They still hadn’t resolved the matter of the ownership of the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles. At every show since then, Nakajima and Kitamiya have opposed each other in tag matches. Nakajima has selected his Kongo stablemate, Manabu Soya as his tag partner. Kitamiya found himself teaming with Kenoh’s love/hate rival, Kaito Kiyomiya, so he was selected.
It seems odd to say that Kitamiya & Kiyomiya may have more chemistry together despite only recently re-joining. At the beginning of Kiyomiya’s career, during the Suzuki-Gun era, the two would team together and Kitamiya would win the majority of their singles matches. After Suzuki-Gun and after Kiyomiya’s return from Canada, they found themselves on opposite sides more often.
The Aggression (Nakajima & Kitamiya) traded the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team belts with Kiyomiya & Go Shiozaki in early 2018. Kiyomiya made his second GHC Heavyweight Title defense against Kitamiya as he became the closest thing to a generational rival due to the NOAH dojo rarely producing talent at that time. This is despite Kitamiya being 4 years his wrestling senior in experience and 7 years his elder in age.
They’d been on opposite sides ever since Kongo was formed but Kitamiya found Kiyomiya to be a welcome and accepting partner since he left Kongo. Sometimes the best tag partners are the ones who have more history as opponents.
For Nakajima & Soya, they don’t have much history. Although I was surprised to discover that they did cross paths in All Japan in early 2008, back when Soya was still a young lion and before Kensuke Office jumped over to NOAH.
When Soya joined NOAH last year after the closure of Wrestle-1, he was introduced as the latest member of Kongo. Funnily enough he was part of a 12 Man Tag and Nakajima, then a member of AXIZ, was his opponent.
Nakajima and Soya have had one singles match. Soya won a one-night tournament (defeating Kitamiya in the final might I add) to earn the right to challenge for the GHC National Title the next day. However, Nakajima would retain his belt. That match can be watched in full and for free on NOAH’s YouTube here:
(Incidentally, NOAH is uploading more and more full matches from the past year or so, sometimes with English commentary – it’s well worth subscribing.)
Nakajima joined Kongo at the end of August but he and Soya did not come to team until the beginning of December. Usually, it was done as a powerhouse trio with Kitamiya. But then Nakajima & Kitamiya ended up teaming more, putting an end to a Soya/Kitamiya tag team that had been building up steam and replacing them with The Aggression.
Since the Cage match, Kitamiya/Kiyomiya and Nakajima/Soya have faced off in 5 tag team matches with various different partners and numbers. However, the Kongo team has won 4 of them.
NOAH’s Heavyweight Tag division may be ever-changing in the past year but what hasn’t changed is the quality of the wrestling and I believe we are going to have a belter here. I hope Nakajima & Soya get the win personally. Nakajima has already been betrayed and lost his hair to Kitamiya. And Soya deserves a big win and championship gold in NOAH.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship – HAYATA (c) vs Ikuto Hidaka
HAYATA makes his first defense in his third reign as GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. Hidaka made the challenge to the new champion just 3 days after he had won the belt.
This is not their first singles match. During the 2018 Global Junior League, the two were in the same block and Hidaka won that non-televised match. Ultimately neither man reached the finals of their block, losing out to YO-HEY who in turn lost to Kotaro Suzuki.
They have clashed twice over the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles twice this year where STINGER (HAYATA & Yoshinari Ogawa) have beaten Hidaka with partners like the previously mentioned Suzuki and NOSAWA Rongai.
Ever since Hidaka returned to NOAH, as NOSAWA’s masked mystery man at the end of 2020, he has consistently been feuding with STINGER. NOSAWA’s junior heavyweight group seems to have splintered away from Sugiura Army and is now known as Los Perros del Mal de Japon.
The new groups’ members include NOSAWA, Hidaka, Suzuki, YO-HEY and Dragon Gate contracted wrestler, Eita. To establish themselves as the new top junior group in NOAH, Hidaka bringing the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship into the fold would be an amazing start.
Hidaka really has been a journeyman wrestler throughout his career. Starting in BattleArts with spells in DDT, Michinoku Pro, Big Japan, ECW (yes, THAT ECW to really age him), he finally found a semi-stable home in ZERO1. But he kept appearing in other promotions, making his ROH & NOAH debuts where he & Minoru Fujita are the third ever GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions. He’s wrestled for every Japanese promotion going almost including New Japan, All Japan, and Dragon Gate.
But when ZERO1 was forced to cut back financially on account of Covid-19, Hidaka and several others left the promotion. Fortunately, he seems to have found a new home in NOAH and part of Los Perros del Mal de Japon.
HAYATA has been a part of the NOAH roster since the end of 2016 and full-time in early 2017. Before that, he began his career in Wrestle Gate in 2006 but didn’t really get anywhere until he joined Osaka Pro in 2010. He hit the ground running in NOAH, quickly winning the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship in May 2017 but losing it in his first defense a month later.
He will rebound shortly afterward by winning the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title with YO-HEY as part of RATEL’S. A second reign with both belts would happen before he betrayed YO-HEY & RATEL’S to join STINGER in May 2020. He & Ogawa picked up the vacated tag belts in the aftermath the very next day and so began an almost dominant reign with a few months blip before finally losing them to Daisuke Harada & Hajima Ohara recently.
But HAYATA has shown himself to be ever-resilient and it didn’t take him long to win gold to hide behind, as he defeated Atsushi Kotoge within a month to claim the Junior Heavyweight belt for the third time.
He’s made some impressive victories in the past. Ohara to win the belt the first time. Minoru Tanaka to win it the second and Tanaka is a junior heavyweight legend in his own right. YO-HEY twice to keep it along with Chris Ridgeway. And now Kotoge.
Hidaka would be a challenge for any champion, no matter how experienced. But so soon into his title reign and with Los Perros del Mal de Japon so motivated, HAYATA will feel extra pressured to successfully defend.
STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa, Seiki Yoshioka & Yuya Susumu) vs Momo No Seishun (Daisuke Harada, Atsushi Kotoge & Hajima Ohara)
With HAYATA busy defending the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship, the rest of STINGER face Momo No Seishun (and I guess I’ll call them that until the group takes another name). Harada & Ohara have already made their first defense of the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles over the Kongo team of Tadasuke & Haoh.
Their next challengers are yet to be revealed. And Ogawa has been synonymous with those tag belts… However, I don’t see Ogawa challenging. At least not yet. But I do think a STINGER team will be the next to throw their hat in the ring – Yoshioka & Susumu.
The two do have a history dating back to Wrestle Gate (along with HAYATA). They were a team for a number of years before Yoshioka joined Wrestle-1, and even then Susumu made odd appearances in the promotion to team with his old friend.
It says a lot that the first time they faced each other in a NOAH ring, Yoshioka would discard FULL THROTTLE and join STINGER during the course of the match.
They’ve teamed just the once as a tag team since then and it showed a vicious side to each man they hadn’t really displayed in a NOAH ring up until this point. I could definitely see them making a challenge for the 1st of August.
With Harada & Ohara riding high, Kotoge is still feeling the sting from losing the Junior Heavyweight belt. We all expected him to have a longer reign so him getting displaced by HAYATA came out of the left field. Due to how volatile the NOAH’s junior division has been over the past year-plus we should have seen it coming but still.
Either way, this promises to be a heated six-man tag team match which could very easily have ramifications for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team belts.
Kenoh vs Daisuke Nakamura
Interesting match. Kenoh spent the majority of his GHC National Title reign facing wrestlers with a fair amount of MMA experience, such as Kazushi Sakuraba, Kazunari Murakami, Kendo Kashin, and Kazuyuki Fujita (who proved to be his undoing).
This is the first time that he’ll face someone who has a LOT more MMA experience than he does wrestling. In fact, Daisuke has only had the one wrestling match, ever, and that was back in December last year. Nakamura made his wrestling debut as part of a 7 vs 7 elimination tag team match between Kongo and Sugiura Army.
Now he returns to the ring to face the leader of Kongo in a singles match. Nakamura made his MMA debut in July 2002 after being trained by Kiyoshi Tamura. Tamura himself was a student of Lou Thesz, Billy Robinson, and Akira Maeda and is one of the best shoot fighters of all time. His wrestling in UWF and UWF-I made a fan of Kenoh and he has made no secret of his admiration of Tamura and even attempted to initiate a match against him.
It looks unlikely that Kenoh will ever get a match against Tamura. However, that doesn’t mean that he can’t face one of Tamura’s proteges. And Kenoh immediately has the advantage. It’s a wrestling match, not an MMA contest. And it takes place in a NOAH ring so Kenoh has the home advantage there too.
Kenoh and Nakamura had brief interactions in that elimination match. Nakamura eliminated Tadasuke after an armbar which he made his MMA career by winning 14 out of his 30 victories with it. But Manabu Soya used his raw power to eliminate Nakamura just a minute later.
We know Kenoh can work MMA aspects into his wrestling. But Nakamura is still an unknown commodity. However, with his lineage, he could be like a duck to water.
M’s Alliance (Naomichi Marufuji & Yuko Miyamoto) vs Sugiura Army (Kazushi Sakuraba & Takashi Sugiura)
Marufuji made his first defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship over Sugiura on July 11th. But his next challenger didn’t wait to hang around and Sakuraba made his intentions known immediately after the match.
This is the first time that Sakuraba has challenged for the main title in any promotion. He has challenged Shinsuke Nakamura for the IWGP Intercontinental Championship and Kenoh and Takashi Sugiura both for the GHC National Championship but they are seen as a step below the IWGP and GHC Heavyweight Titles.
Also, this will be the first time Sakuraba and Marufuji will have shared a ring since Sakuraba made his challenge. They have faced each other before, most notably in a tag match for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team titles back in November last year. On that night Sakuraba & Sugiura retained over Marufuji & Masakatsu Funaki when Sakuraba made Marufuji submit to an Achilles Hold.
So the challenger has beaten the champion and even more so done it via submission. As an MMA legend, Sakuraba is dangerous on the mat and any submission hold applied by him is done with expert precision. Naomichi Marufuji may have dabbled in MMA and teamed and faced Minoru Suzuki in the past. But Sakuraba is in a league of his own.
Sugiura may be feeling like a third wheel in this match. He just lost to Marufuji which is obviously a blow, but he still holds on to the GHC National Title. And while the victor, Marufuji, had his next challenger step forward, no one came forth to challenge Sugiura in his moment of vulnerability.
I could see Sugiura defending his belt on either August 1st or on one of the Departure shows a few days later. August 1st is a Fite TV showing with English commentary so could end up being loaded with Title matches.
Would Miyamoto be a suitable challenger? Absolutely. Sugiura has said he would like to face opponents from outside NOAH and Miyamoto is a freelancer more commonly known for his deathmatch wrestling as part of Big Japan. But don’t let that fool you, Miyamoto is a heavy hitter and someone who could easily go toe to toe with Sugiura.
Who do I think steps up to challenge Sugiura? Well, I’m hoping it happens in the tag match the very next day…
Los Perros del Mal de Japon (Kotaro Suzuki, YO-HEY & NOSAWA Rongai) vs Kongo (Tadasuke, Haoh & Nioh)
While they will no doubt be cheering on Hidaka in the semi-main event, Los Perros del Mal de Japon is going to be occupied with the Kongo juniors earlier in the card.
Since YO-HEY & Eita joined and NOSAWA’s group took on their new name, they were on quite the winning streak. However, that came to a screeching halt in July with two losses to STINGER. Los Perros will want to get back to winning ways and attempt to establish dominance in a chaotic junior division.
For Kongo, Nioh failed in his challenge for the Junior Heavyweight belt in April and Tadasuke & Haoh fared little better in their attempt for the Junior Heavyweight belts more recently.
There seems to be a state of flux around Kongo right now. The Heavyweight and Junior Heavyweight sides are both doing their own things more often than not. Kongo has lost both Inamura & Kitamiya in the past year. The addition of Nakajima was bound to cause friction (although no one suspected how deep Kitamiya resented him) as he seems too much of an alpha to play second fiddle to Kenoh.
But since Kenoh lost the GHC National Title and then unfortunately caught Coronavirus, when he returned there has been a shift in the power dynamic. Nakajima seems to have moved into the role of a leader and arranged an impromptu signing session at the end of the last show.
Anyway, none of that affects this match but it’s still worth mentioning. And much like how NOSAWA’s group has splintered away from Sugiura Army, I could see the Kongo juniors potentially doing the same.
Funky Express (King Tany, Muhammad Yone, Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue) vs Kinya Okada, Junta Miyawaki, Yasutaka Yone & Kai Fujimura
Ah NOAH. The place where promising youngsters get squashed by their seniors on the undercards for several years. Which is common in Japan, don’t get me wrong. But Miyawaki debuted almost 4 years ago. Okada almost 3. When you see the youth movement in other Japanese promotions like DDT, Dragon Gate, Big Japan and All Japan, it is depressing to think where their careers could be now somewhere else.
Definitely not getting beaten by Inoue I can tell you that. Inoue is the loveable (to some I guess….) underdog who always gets beaten by everyone. Except for these 4.
NOAH is doing something with Funky Express this year. From building up Tany and Yone as a credible tag team that may have pulled off an upset. Giving Saito even more reason to look surly. And Inoue to be on the card.
But I see a lot of future in Okada, Miyawaki, and Yone. Fujimura is deserving of an official spot on the NOAH roster too. So it is disheartening to see them in these matches knowing they are going to lose to a team that would not be hurt by putting the younger generation over. But oh well. It is what it is.
So that’s it for Thursday the 22nd of July show.
Now, take a break, get a drink, because we’re now about to move on to Friday the 23rd of July!
FRIDAY JULY 23RD
MAIN EVENT – Kongo (Kenoh, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Manabu Soya) vs Kaito Kiyomiya, Masa Kitamiya & X
Yesterday’s GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title match main event bleeds into today’s main event. We’ll have crowned new champions. Will Nakajima have kept hold of his belt and given the other to Soya? Will Kitamiya be the one to be keeping hold of his half and given the other to Kiyomiya? Who is going to be the X partnering Kitamiya & Kiyomiya???
One theory is that X will be Daiki Inaba. Inaba has been injured since February although his absence wasn’t well reported or publicized. As a former two Wrestle-1 Champion, he was brought into NOAH in a big way in June last year by challenging Kaito Kiyomiya right off the bat. Despite losing that match, the two struck up a partnership.
In my view, both Soya and Inaba have been underutilized since joining NOAH. I can understand not wanting to immediately push another companies talent right from the start (unless they are a legend *cough*Muto*cough*, sorry, tickle in my throat). But both have now spent over a year on the NOAH roster and have been assembled into the NOAH roster.
Reintroducing him in the main event would show that NOAH is behind Inaba in a big way. So….. It might not be Inaba.
The last X on a NOAH show in the main event was Yoshiaki Fujiwara. I doubt many saw the 72-year-old inventor of the Fujiwara armbar main eventing a NOAH show in 2021 but here we are.
Hiroshi Hase was an X at the start of this year. Tadasuke is teasing an X to join Kongo which is rumoured to be Shuji Kondo to continue the NOAH/Dragon Gate relationship, which, yes please!!!
X could be anyone. It could even be Kiyoshi Tamura at this rate to make Kenoh’s wet dreams come true.
But with Kenoh, Nakajima, Soya, Kitamiya & Kiyomiya involved you are bound to get a good match regardless of who X is. You’ve got the long-standing rivalry between Kenoh and Kiyomiya. The fire and hatred from Nakajima and Kitamiya. And then Soya doing hoss things and hossing it up.
M’s Alliance (Naomichi Marufuji & Masato Tanaka) vs Sugiura Army (Kazushi Sakuraba & Takashi Sugiura)
A rematch from the 27th of June. That was right before Sugiura challenged Marufuji and the M’s Alliance team won that night.
June was a great match and I have no doubt that this one will be too. I mean just look at who’s involved! There is not a single bad combination in there.
You have another preview match between Marufuji and Sakuraba before their GHC Heavyweight Title match on August 1st. Sugiura can try and get revenge on Marufuji after their title match on July 11th. Tanaka and Sakuraba have rarely tangled, this will only be their 3rd time in the ring together.
And of course, you have Sugiura against Tanaka. Two mad old bastards who have no problems beating seven shades of shit out of each other. And they were tag partners! Friends! For many years. The team of Dangan Yankees has had many great matches over the years.
But I am always happy to see them face each other instead. I doubt this will happen with Tanaka as ZERO1 World Heavyweight Champion currently. But can you imagine Sugiura vs Tanaka as a GHC National Title match???
That is what I’m hoping gets set up in this match. Or, if Masaaki Mochizuki is available… But with Dragon Gate having a show on the 1st of August, maybe not.
STINGER (HAYATA, Yoshinari Ogawa & Seiki Yoshioka) vs Los Perros del Mal de Japon (Ikuto Hidaka, Kotaro Suzuki & YO-HEY)
And yesterday’s GHC Junior Heavyweight Title match continues here. Whether HAYATA retains or Hidaka becomes the new champion, they have to face each other again.
As I noted earlier, all of Los Perros del Mal de Japon’s losses have been against STINGER. So far that team has had their number in tag matches but it could all change here.
You have HAYATA vs Hidaka. The never-ending feud between Ogawa and Suzuki. And Yoshioka against the man he betrayed midmatch to put an end to FULL THROTTLE, YO-HEY.
This one could get heated and heated real fast.
Masaaki Mochizuki vs Muhammad Yone
We shall have kicks and kicks aplenty! Honestly, this is not a match I would have ever thought I’d want to see if I was told to fantasy book a Dragon Gate vs NOAH singles match.
But Mochizuki is the man that age forgot. He can wrestle just as good as he did 10, 15, even 20 years ago. If anything he’s able to work a lot smarter due to the amount of ring experience he has. He was great in previous N-1 Victory matches and can still have bangers in Dragon Gate.
Yone rarely gets singles matches but when he does he’s more than capable of holding his own against any opponent. Whether he’s the surly veteran or working from underneath. With him having the size and power advantage over Mochizuki, I could see him being the aggressor.
Mochizuki has been booked very well and kept strong in NOAH. Hopefully, this is building him towards a future title match, maybe even against Takashi Sugiura for the GHC National!
Momo No Seishun (Atsushi Kotoge, Hajima Ohara & Junta Miyawaki) vs Kongo (Tadasuke, Haoh & Nioh)
The Kongo juniors have another six-man tag team match and their team remains unchanged. Momo No Seishun has a change as Harada is replaced by Miyawaki.
Tadasuke & Haoh could get retribution for their tag team title loss over Ohara. Nioh could get payback over Kotoge from their junior heavyweight title match.
Miyawaki brings some young blood to this match as he looks to continue his great 2021 as he comes further into himself as a wrestler and attempts to move up the card.
Daisuke Harada vs Yuya Susumu
Another reason why I assume that Susumu & Yoshioka will challenge for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles.
Susumu took a while to find his feet in a NOAH ring but after a singles match against Harada’s tag champion partner, Ohara, it all started to click for him.
I’m hoping this match will be as good as that Susumu vs Ohara contest as it was quite underrated and didn’t really get the praise it deserved. Especially not for a just over 10-minute match that did everything it needed to and made Susumu look a lot better than the previous few months of tag matches ever did.
Don’t sleep on this one as Harada is a great junior heavyweight and these two will have a very good match together as long as Susumu taps into that more vicious side of himself.
Funky Express (King Tany & Akitoshi Saito) vs Kinya Okada & Yasutaka Yano
Okada & Yano get a second chance to topple team Funky. Odds are it’ll go just as well as the night before did.
To put it in perspective, Saito debuted in December 1990. He’s wrestled more years than both his opponents have been alive.
Saito beat Okada in the Budokan back in February so, outside of a massive miscommunication between Saito & Tany, I don’t see the NOAH born standing a chance.
Sorry lads but show your fire and your hearts. Big things are coming your way. I have every hope that Okada & Yano will be big deals in NOAH’s future.
And that’s it!
Two shows! That was a lot of words.
Thank you so much if you stuck it through and read both. Or even skimmed through it because God, do I waffle on.
I hope you enjoy both shows and keep supporting Pro Wrestling NOAH!