Pro Wrestling NOAH return to Nippon Budokan for the first time in over 11 years (December 5th 2010 was their last official show before the Kenta Kobashi retirement show on May 11th 2013) on Friday, February 12th. This is not just a return but a hopeful start to more shows held at the Budokan in the future as NOAH continue to rebuild themselves after sailing through some rocky seas.
But on the final stop on the way to Budokan, Pro Wrestling NOAH hits Korakuen Hall on Sunday, January 31st, with a packed card that previews for the GHC Heavyweight, National, Junior Heavyweight & Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title matches; as well as a potential confirmation of the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title match taking place at the Budokan.
So, Budokan is shaping up nicely; Korakuen will be the first taste! The show starts at 11:30am Japan time. That’s 02:30am UK time, 21:30pm EST and 18:30pm PST. It will air for FREE on ABEMA and stay up for 7 days after!
Now on to the show!
Go Shiozaki, Kaito Kiyomiya & Daisuke Harada vs Keiji Mutoh, Naomichi Marufuji & Seiki Yoshioka
Three Budokan previews in one match! Go Shiozaki defends the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Keiji Mutoh. Daisuke Harada defends the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship against Seiki Yoshioka. And Naomichi Marufuji teams with a returning NOAH original, Jun Akiyama to face the next generation team of Kaito Kiyomiya and Yoshiki Inamura.
Shiozaki and Kiyomiya have a loose alliance, neither a member of any factions together in NOAH so find themselves teaming up often and are former GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions together. Marufuji and Mutoh are founding members in the M’s Alliance and Yoshioka is a product and former Cruiserweight Champion in Mutoh’s previous promotion, Wrestle-1. So the challengers team have more of a familiarity with each other.
Shiozaki and Mutoh have met three times in tag matches over the past year. Mutoh & Marufuji beat Shiozaki & Kiyomiya when Mutoh beat Kiyomiya. Mutoh’s team beat Shiozaki’s team in an Eight man tag when Mutoh defeated Shuhei Taniguchi. But on January 4th, NOAH’s first show of 2021 also taking place at Korakuen Hall, Shiozaki himself was the one to pin Mutoh in a Six man tag match after a moonsault.
Say what you like about the GHC Heavyweight Championship match but it has people talking. Shiozaki has had a fantastic title reign, his first real run at the ace in NOAH since he won the belt over 11 years ago and people are disappointed at the thought of him losing to a 58 year old Mutoh. But Mutoh is still a veteran of wrestling with a keen mind and is still managing to have smartly worked matches even despite his advancing age and non-existent knees. I hope the two manage to perform a spectacle together in the Budokan that manages to entertain and deserves the main event.
Yoshioka, since joining NOAH in April last year after Wrestle-1’s closure, has already challenged for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship once in a loss to Kotaro Suzuki in what was a very good match. In the month before the Suzuki challenge, he and Harada had a fantastic 20 minute time limit draw which got lost in the no fans era back in July. So if you have Wrestle Universe (which is well worth the money by the way and Budokan will be live with optional English commentary) it deserves a watch before their Title match.
As a former three time and final Wrestle-1 Cruiserweight Champion, Yoshioka would be a great addition to the lineage of the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. But I doubt Harada will willingly give his belt up in his fourth reign and still claims that he will begin a new age for the Junior Heavyweight division in NOAH however with two defenses already in his belt he is yet to usher in that change. It bears mentioning that at the last NOAH Budokan show, the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship was the only belt to change hands….
Kaito Kiyomiya is definitely going to be the man to carry NOAH for years to come when it is his time again. He’s already the youngest GHC Heavyweight Champion, winning the belt at just 22 years old and only three years into his career. He held that belt for over a year and claimed impressive victories over Sugiura, Kenoh, Nakajima and yes even over his opponent in the Budokan tag match, Marufuji. But he’s never faced a main eventer from the All Japan pre-NOAH split days. And Jun Akiyama now is the closest thing to the Four Pillars of wrestling.
Akiyama left NOAH at the end of 2012 in a mini-exodus that also contained Shiozaki, Suzuki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Atsushi Aoki in protest of an inactive Kenta Kobashi getting released from his contract. Since that time he has only returned to a NOAH ring three times. Final Burning as part of Kobashi’s retirement match in 2013, Marufuji’s 20 Year Anniversary show in 2018 and a tag match in 2019 where he partnered with future opponent Kiyomiya. This will be Akiyama’s first time in the Budokan since the Kobashi show after making his first appearance there in October 1992, just one month after his debut.
Marufuji, after appearing in – and winning! – AJPW’s Champion Carnival in 2018 made the promise to Akiyama that they would team together one day. And Budokan is going to be that day when Marufuji and Akiyama make their glorious returns and Kiyomiya and Inamura (and plenty of other NOAH stars) make their first appearances on that mecca of wrestling.
Kongo (Kenoh & Manabu Soya) vs Sugiura Army (Masakatsu Funaki & Masato Tanaka)
I’m not going to lie, when this match got announced I got VERY excited! Kenoh defends his GHC National Championship against Funaki and that to me is a massive match. Kenoh has already faced MMA/wrestling hybrid matches like Kazushi Sakuraba and Kazunari Murakami and successfully defended his belts but Funaki is his first challenger of that same mold who has championship pedigree as he is a former AJPW Triple Crown Champion and ZERO1 World Heavyweight Champion. Funaki has only lost two singles matches in the past three years! But fortunately for Kenoh, all of them were Title matches at least.
And it’s not just Kenoh vs Funaki that gets me excited. Masato Tanaka is a fantastic addition to be brought back to the NOAH roster. He has history with Takashi Sugiura as former(?) partners but upon his return to NOAH he joined M’s Alliance. Tanaka hadn’t appeared in a NOAH ring since the green changed to white and he and Kenoh have had three matches which all took place in 2017. Tanaka beat Kenoh in the ZERO1 Fire Festival on his way to winning it. They went to a time limit draw for the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship. And then Kenoh beat Tanaka in the NOAH Global League on his way to winning it.
Plus you also have Manabu Soya in the mix. The Kongo bruiser does have brief history with both of his opponents. He lost his one and only singles match to Tanaka in 2015. And his one and only challenge for the Triple Crown was a loss to Funaki in 2012. If you want hard hitting, you are going to get it in this match!
STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa, HAYATA & Yuya Susumu) vs Kotaro Suzuki, Ikuto Hidaka & NOSAWA Rongai
STINGER, Ogawa and HAYATA, will defend their GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s against former STINGER member, Suzuki and his new partner Idaka. This will be Suzuki’s second shot at his former partners and their belts after previous partner Susumu betrayed him and joined STINGER.
2020 was chaotic for the NOAH juniors to say the least and it could be argued that STINGER was front and center of it for a good part. The issue between Suzuki and his former partners has raged since he was forcibly kicked out of STINGER at the end of October, right before he lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship.
He wants to hurt Ogawa and HAYATA – especially Ogawa – and the quickest way to do that would be to take the GHC Junior Heavyweight Title’s from them. His former partner betrayed him, but Susumu used Suzuki to bring him into NOAH and with his end goal achieved, Susumu had ties to HAYATA so made the decision to join him. Ikuto Hidaka on the other hand is a well accomplished and travelled wrestler who would have got into NOAH without NOSAWA; as he is a former GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion from all the way back in 2006.
Sugiura Army (Takashi Sugiura & Kendo Kashin) vs Kongo (Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya)
This to me is where the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title match for Budokan will be made official. Nakajima & Kitamiya, formerly known as The Aggression are former two time GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions back in 2018. However both title reigns ended in their first defense’s. Their partnership would come to an end in late 2018 when the foundations of Kongo would begin to take shape.
Their history goes back a lot further than 2018. Both were trained by Kensuke Sasaki and raised in Kensuke Office. Nakajima is Kitamiya’s senior, debuting seven full years before him, despite them being the same age. Kitamiya made his NOAH debut February 2012 as Nakajima’s tag partner. But as with all families, brothers don’t necessarily have to get along with each other. And the two have displayed a familiarity which makes them a good team, even if they have a strained relationship outside of the ring (kind of like Momo No Seishun).
Sugiura and Kazushi Sakuraba have been Tag Champions since the end of August and have had made three successful defenses so far over Kitamiya/Soya, Marufuji/Funaki and Kiyomiya/Inaba. They won Tokyo Sports Tag Team Of The Year for 2020 and I’m sure both will want to defend their belts on NOAH’s biggest show in quite some time. And the issue with Nakajima and Kitamiya has been bubbling since the Sugiura Army PPV show at the end of December where Sugiura and Kitamiya were the final two standing in a faction elimination match and Kitamiya headbutted Sugiura so hard it busted himself open. He had a line of blood trickling down his face, exactly like Shibata.
I want to see Sugiura/Sakuraba vs Nakajima/Kitamiya happen at the Budokan. But then, I am also scared to what lengths they would go to in order for the challengers to try and beat the champions. I’m also worried about what the champions will need to do in order to keep their belts.
Muhammad Yone, Shuhei Taniguchi & YO-HEY vs Daiki Inaba, Yoshiki Inamura & Atsushi Kotoge
The top four matches all have ramifications for the Budokan, whereas the opening two matches currently have no bearing on the big show. Inamura is the only one out of the six to have a match confirmed; the tag match with Kiyomiya against Marufuji and Akiyama. Yone and Taniguchi both have experience facing Akiyama, so Inamura can prepare for his Budokan match in a way here.
Yone and Taniguchi recently started teaming – I’m trademarking Funky & Bland – and have had a mixed bag so far. Budokan will likely see them in an inconsequential tag match in the lower half of the card, so they can only hope their stock rises as 2021 progresses. Kotoge and YO-HEY both see their partners/stable mates face off for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship so their own positions on the card are lower down. Both unsuccessfully challenged Kotaro Suzuki for the belt last year, so I’m sure both are itching for another shot.
Kongo (Tadasuke, Haoh & Nioh) vs Kinya Okada, Junta Miyawaki & Yasutaka Yone
Opening match as the Kongo juniors face off with three NOAH born. The Kongo juniors have not had a good time as of late. Tadasuke was unsuccessful in beating Harada for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship in December. Haoh & Nioh were unsuccessful in beating STINGER for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles in January. It will be hard for the three of them to find themselves in title contention any time soon. Hard but not impossible so they need to show their strength as a unit.
All three of the NOAH born debuted long after NOAH’s last show at the Budokan (Miyawaki 2017, Okada 2018 and Yone 2020). Okada, the oldest of the three, was only 18 when NOAH were last there in December 2010. Budokan will be a new experience for all three. And a promise that will be hard for all three to live upto as their futures will be tied into NOAH’s growth and potential to run more and more shows there.
And there we have it – plenty to get us all hyped for the big Budokan return in just under 2 weeks.
NOAH had a great 2020. Shiozaki carried the GHC Heavyweight Championship and the company so admirably on his back, even if the weight of it did take its toil.
The GHC National Championship has had a great first year with Sugiura, Nakajima and Kenoh all being excellent champions.
The junior division has been wild and unpredictable, but Harada and STINGER have held their respective belts for a little while as the rest of the division fights around them.
And with Global Tag League only a few months away (it usually begins around April) the tag division has been gradually built back up with established tag teams that can take part and challenge for the heavyweight tag belts.
2021 is shaping up to another big year for Pro Wrestling NOAH; so what better time to jump aboard the Ark than now? As I mentioned, this show is free to watch for 7 days, while Wrestle Universe offers a free 30-day period for new users. If you join Wrestle Universe on Feb 1st, you’ll have access to the Budokan show (with optional English commentary), as well as DDT’s show on February 14th – completely free of charge. The latter sees Jun Akiyama challenging Tetsuya Endo for the KO-D Title.
Thank you for reading and enjoy the show!