December 25th, Christmas Day, is always a Bank Holiday in the west. It’s a day off work and time spent with the family to eat, drink and suffer arguments. In Japan, it’s a normal working day. They do celebrate Christmas but nowhere near to the extent that the West does. I was shocked in the mid 2000’s to see NOAH, Dragon Gate and New Japan all have shows on Christmas Day. But now it’s just normal to have shows around and on Christmas, not even with a Christmas theme.
So NOAH having their third and final show of their Man Crush tour on Saturday December 25th is not unusual.
Airing live on Wrestle Universe, the show starts at 5:30pm in Japan. That’s 8:30am in England, 3:30am East Coast USA and 12:30am West Coast USA.
It’s a six match card with the main event to determine the number one contenders to the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles as Momo No Seishun, Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge face Los Perros del Mal de Japon, Kotaro Suzuki & YO-HEY.
In one of their final matches before Nippon Budokan on January 1st, Champions and Challengers for the GHC Heavyweight Title and GHC National Title face off when the Kongo team of Katsuhiko Nakajima & Kenoh take on Go Shiozaki & Kaito Kiyomiya for the third time this month.
Plus you have GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion HAYATA facing his tag partner and opponent at the Budokan, Yoshinari Ogawa, in a singles match just one week before their title match.
So let’s get right into it!
MAIN EVENT – #1 Contendership For The GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title – Momo No Seishun (Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge) vs Los Perros del Mal de Japon (Kotaro Suzuki & YO-HEY)
These four have never faced each other in this combination. Sure, they’ve had GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title matches in various combinations with different partners. And GHC Junior Heavyweight Title matches against each other.
But this is the first time to see Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge vs Kotaro Suzuki & YO-HEY in that combination. Not even with a title on the line. This is the first time this tag match has ever happened.
A big part of the reason for that is because Suzuki & YO-HEY have only been part of the same stable since May this year. And Harada & YO-HEY officially joined NOAH during Suzuki’s 6 years away from NOAH. Kotoge only officially joined six months or so beforehand.
Although in saying that, back when Harada & Kotoge used to make sporadic appearances in NOAH while members of Osaka Pro, Momo No Seishun’s second ever shot at the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s happened in January 2012 when Suzuki & Atsushi Aoki were Champions.
Kotoge joined NOAH mid 2012. Suzuki left end of 2012. Harada joined May 2013. YO-HEY late 2016. And then Suzuki rejoined in late 2018.
And when Suzuki came back to NOAH, Kotoge was a heavyweight and Harada & YO-HEY were both part of RATEL’S. Suzuki would be a founding member of STINGER and would immediately feud with RATEL’S.
When Kotoge rejoined the juniors in mid 2019 he did so as a member of STINGER with Suzuki and they still feuded with RATEL’S.
We got Suzuki & Kotoge beating Harada & Tadasuke for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s in November 2019. And then we had YO-HEY & HAYATA beating them for the belts in March 2020.
Suzuki would win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship in April. HAYATA’s betrayal of RATEL’S and joining STINGER in May saw RATEL’S disbanded and Kotoge leaving STINGER to form FULL THROTTLE.
As part of Suzuki’s single reign we saw him beat Kotoge in June, YO-HEY in July and then lose the belt to Harada in November.
Harada didn’t defend the belt against any of these three before he lost it to Seiki Yoshioka at the Budokan in February. But Yoshioka lost it to Kotoge in March.
HAYATA is the current Champion after beating Kotoge in June and he’s since beaten YO-HEY, Suzuki and Harada. So all four are still very much in the mix for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship although YO-HEY is the only one not to hold that belt yet.
Everything comes back to HAYATA too. The winners of this match will face HAYATA & Yoshinari Ogawa for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles on a show after the Budokan on January 1st.
And both teams have history with HAYATA & Ogawa. Momo No Seishun dethroned them back in October but lost them back in November. Coincidentally Momo No Seishun only made one successful defense and it was over YO-HEY & Yoshioka.
STINGER would end up losing their belts to Harada & Hajima Ohara in May this year. And they didn’t regain them until the end of November.
Now HAYATA was a part of RATEL’S since it’s inception in early 2017 with Harada & YO-HEY. But his history with YO-HEY goes back even further than that as these two have known each other since 2012 and were partners from late 2013.
And if you want to talk history, Ogawa and Suzuki have known each other for over 20 years now. Suzuki was the first NOAH dojo graduate in December 2001. He was Ogawa’s first student of the NOAH days.
These two have lusted for each other’s blood for the better part of the past year now. Ever since Ogawa & HAYATA kicked Suzuki out of STINGER in late October last year, these two have been mortal enemies.
There’s a story to tell no matter which team wins. STINGER beat the Los Perros del Mal de Japon team of Eita & NOSAWA Rongai so Suzuki & YO-HEY will want to take the belts back to the stable.
And Momo No Seishun have both held those tag belts this year but not with each other. Harada & Ohara beat STINGER who in turn were beaten by Yoshioka & Susumu. Who were then beaten by Kotoge & Ohara.
So the original Momo No Seishun have not challenged for the belts since they lost them in November last year.
Either way, this is going to be a great tag match and I can’t wait to watch it.
Kongo (Kenoh & Katsuhiko Nakajima) vs Go Shiozaki & Kaito Kiyomiya
This is the third time this particular tag match has happened this month. December 5th, Go Shiozaki’s return match, Kaito Kiyomiya submitted Kenoh after over 35 minutes and then challenged the Kongo leader for the GHC National Title at the Budokan.
Just two days later the match took place again, this time at Korakuen Hall. This was the first time that Shiozaki had wrestled in Korakuen since the end of February. And it was a triumphant return for him as he pinned the GHC Heavyweight Champion Katsuhiko Nakajima after a Gowan Lariat.
Last year it was Shiozaki who was GHC Heavyweight Champion and Nakajima who was his challenger – November 22nd, great match. Now the roles are reversed as Shiozaki lost the belt at the Budokan to Keiji Muto in February – the place of their match on January 1st – and then had to take time off for shoulder surgery in March.
But their history goes back a lot further than last year. It goes all the way back to November 2005 and the Burning (Kenta Kobashi’s stable that included Shiozaki and KENTA at points) and Kensuke Office (Kensuke Sasaki trained Nakajima and others such as Kento Miyahara and Masa Kitamiya).
I wrote a very lengthy piece about Shiozaki and Nakajima’s back story last year which you can read here: https://nearfalls.com/shiozaki-vs-nakajima-a-history
That November 22nd match was their 6th singles match against each other. Shiozaki has won 4 (June 2009, June 2010, December 2019 and November 2020), Nakajima has won 1 (March 2017) and they went to a 20 minute draw (May 2011).
They’ve only faced each other for the GHC Heavyweight Championship twice before. March 2017 and November 2020. So they stand equal at one win apiece there.
Bit of a coincide here, the last time Shiozaki and Nakajima wrestled for the GHC Heavyweight Title, Kenoh was defending his GHC National Title against Kiyomiya.
And now at the Nippon Budokan, those exact same matches are the main and semi-main again. But while the roles are reversed for Shiozaki and Nakajima, it’s the exact same for Kenoh and Kiyomiya.
Kenoh may have lost the GHC National Title to Kazuyuki Fujita in March this year, but he regained it from Masaaki Mochizuki in November.
The history between these two isn’t as deep, but they’ve actually had more singles matches. This will be their 9th match against each other since June 2017. Kenoh has won 6 to Kiyomiya’s 2.
It seems like these two are tied together. Kenoh was Kiyomiya’s last match before he travelled to Canada and his first match back – for the GHC Heavyweight Title too. They’ve been tag partners. They’ve fought over the GHC Heavyweight and National Titles.
Since Kongo was formed they’ve largely been on opposite sides, although they have teamed together once when against a common enemy.
All four know each other so well. Shiozaki is trying to regain his title and his spot. He’d waited over 10 years from his first title reign in December 2009 before he got to truly have his reign reign last year. Nakajima is trying to prove himself as a real ace in his second reign. His first reign came during the darkest days of NOAH and it’s time he gets the reign and credit he deserves.
Kenoh hasn’t been GHC Heavyweight Champion since March 2018. He’s challenged many times since he lost it, the last two times he’s challenged he went to a 60 minute draw against Shiozaki in August and another 60 minutes against Nakajima last month. Side note, those are the only time draws in the GHC Heavyweight Title’s history.
And Kiyomiya had his one and only Title reign between December 2018 and January 2020. He’s the youngest ever GHC Heavyweight Champion. The won to win the belt quickest in his career – he debuted December 9th 2015 and won the belt on December 16th 2018. That kind of success so quickly is unheard of in Japan. But since he lost the belt, Kiyomiya has struggled to find his place without it.
This may be the third time you’ll have seen this match this month but it will be different each time as every man tries to establish their dominance before the Budokan.
HAYATA vs Yoshinari Ogawa
Yes, this is the GHC Junior Heavyweight Title match taking place on January 1st at the Budokan. Yes, HAYATA and Yoshinari Ogawa are tag partners and even hold the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles together.
But Ogawa felt that, for such a big match at the Budokan, HAYATA had to face the strongest challenger and that was him. And he sealed the challenge with an attack.
No, I don’t think the two are no longer in STINGER. The attack was simply to show how serious Ogawa was in his challenge. And it’s nothing that didn’t happen to him back when Ogawa was Champion in early 2020.
It is odd to see the exact same match take place just a week before the Title match. Especially for such a big match for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship.
But NOAH has had the tendency to book the match in the build up. We had Marufuji and Sugiura go to a 10 minute draw in July before their GHC Heavyweight Title match. HAYATA and Harada went to a 30 minute draw in October. And HAYATA again went to a 30 minute draw against NOSAWA Rongai in November.
So far it seems like it’s HAYATA’s deal to take his challenger to a draw before the big match itself. And, truthfully, that’s what I’d expect to see here too.
Ogawa is a master technician. There’s a reason why he has been the head trainer of the NOAH dojo ever since it’s inception (and AJPW’s dojo too before then). He’s had two great matches against Kiyomiya this year that showed just how good he is at a wrestler, even at 55 years old.
So if this is going to be a draw, they’ll do enough to keep you entertained and keep the match flowing. It will be interesting to see the power dynamic play out because while Ogawa is HAYATA’s senior, he’s not his trainer.
And, for context, these two have only had one match together for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship and Ogawa dethroned HAYATA to win the belt for the first time in his long career on January 4th 2020.
That was actually their first ever singles match against each other. And their second and so far final would take place just 3 weeks later as part of the Global Junior League 2020.
NOAH uploaded a clipped, single camera version only to their YouTube which you can watch below:
Ogawa would also win that match too. So Ogawa has won both of their matches to date. Could he make it three in a row? Or is this destined to be another draw?
Naomichi Marufuji, Takashi Sugiura & Funky Express (King Tany & Muhammad Yone) vs Masa Kitamiya, Daiki Inaba, Yoshiki Inamura & Kinya Okada
Masa Kitamiya, Daiki Inaba & Yoshiki Inamura will face Takashi Sugiura, Kazushi Sakuraba & KENTA at the Budokan. Naomichi Marufuji will defend the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s with Keiji Muto against Masato Tanaka & Masaaki Mochizuki there. Funky Express are in a six man tag team match against Kongo. And Kinya Okada is in a NOAH born tag team match.
So the only impact this match has on the Budokan is that Kitamiya, Inaba & Inamura get the chance to soften Sugiura up. Plus Sugiura will be pretty softened up the morning of the Budokan as he defends the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Title against former Champion, Tanaka.
The trio hasn’t had the best of results lately. Them and Okada lost to Sugiura Army (Sugiura, Sakuraba, Kazuyuki Fujita & Kendo Kashin) on December 7th. They lost a six man tag to Sugiura, Sakuraba & Fujita on the 5th. They even lost to Funky Express (Tany, Yone & Akitoshi Saito) in a six man tag team match on November 28th.
Inamura returned from injury at the beginning of November, having to take four months off. Inaba too returned from an injury in July after taking five months off. Neither have been able to build up much momentum since returning. And with the new year looming, the Nippon Budokan and the NJPW vs NOAH show soon after, they need to start getting wins.
The team of Kiyomiya, Kitamiya, Inaba & Inamura did beat this exact same Quartet on November 23rd (Inamura’s only win since returning). But, and this is no disrespect to Okada, he is a downgrade from Kiyomiya. Now having officially celebrated his third year anniversary as a wrestler, Okada is still yet to get any meaningful victory over any of his seniors.
He’s not even managed to beat Inamura who only debuted four months before him. I will continue to hold out hope that 2022 may eventually be his year. Just keep that fighting spirit burning until it’s your time kid.
Funky Express have spent more of 2021 being beaten than they have had with their hands raised. At least here Tany and Yone can try to close out the year with a win (discounting the Sugiura Army show on the 27th which as it stands right now will be on ABEMA but does not appear to be free to view or available outside of Japan).
Seiki Yoshioka vs Haoh
This could absolutely be sleeper of the night. Seiki Yoshioka, HAOH and YO-HEY are the fastest wrestlers on the NOAH roster.
So fast in fact their last match was just under 5 minutes long and filled to the brim with action. And that was their third match together. Yoshioka now leads 2 victories to 1 for Haoh.
Neither have much direction right now truth be told. At the Budokan they will face each other again, this time in a tag team match as Yoshioka has his long time tag partner Yuya Susumu and Haoh is partnered by Aleja.
Yoshioka & Susumu have slipped further away from the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s since they lost them in September. They’ve in every tag match since.
And Haoh and Aleja have both lost GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title matches this year, both of them partnering with Tadasuke at the time. Haoh & Tadasuke lost to Harada & Ohara. Aleja & Tadasuke lost to Yoshioka & Susumu.
With this being so early on the card, it’s not going to last long. Hopefully it’s over 10 minutes like their first two matches last year instead of the 4 minutes 50 from May.
Kongo (Manabu Soya, Tadasuke, Aleja & Nioh) vs Akitoshi Saito, Hajima Ohara, Kai Fujimura & Yasutaka Yano
Another opening match for Kongo. Manabu Soya and Akitoshi Saito will clash as the heavyweights on each team. And then you have three junior heavyweights against each other.
The Kongo team will have the advantage there. Kai Fujimura only debuted in 2019. Yasutaka Yano October 2020. They, until the next set of rookies (or rookie as NOAH has not had more than one wrestler debut at the same time in 16 years, December 2005 being the one and only time) debut, are the least experienced members of the NOAH roster.
So expect the Kongo juniors to bully and push around the two rookies while they try their best, showing their heart and determination. Tadasuke, Aleja and Nioh have all lost GHC Junior Heavyweight Title matches this year so are all not likely to be able to challenge again until they leave the opening matches.
Soya and Saito have not yet had a singles match against each other. All their interactions have been in tag matches so far. And they are at different points in their careers. Soya is where Saito was a few years ago – A credible challenger but doesn’t seem likely to win any singles Title’s.
But now Saito is far removed from the title scene, unless there’s an emotional reason for the challenge. Will that be Soya’s fate too? I’m hoping 2022 holds better for him.
And that’s your lot.
2021 has been a good year of progress for NOAH, albeit not a perfect year, not in the slightest. But with Cyber Agent behind them, Wrestle Universe airing most shows live, a second return to Budokan in a few weeks and the NJPW vs NOAH show coming up, 2022 could be a great year for them.
As always thank you so much for reading this. I hope you’ve enjoyed it but hope you enjoy the show more.
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