Pro Wrestling NOAH’s N-1 Victory 2021 begins on Sunday the 12th of September and will run for Six shows with the finals taking place on Sunday the 3rd of October.
Unlike previous years, there will be Four Blocks consisting of Four wrestlers each. The four wrestlers in each block will compete in a round robin tournament format and the the four block winners will face off in a single elimination tournament format.
I am going to write three articles for this year’s N-1 Victory.
This first one will cover the history of the N-1 Victory and the Global League as it was originally known.
The second will cover the 16 wrestlers involved.
And then the third will talk about the individual matches, when they take place, how to watch them and my predictions to see how horribly wrong I get it!
So let’s make a start!
N-1 VICTORY HISTORY
Japanese wrestling promotions are fully behind round robin format for their tournaments. All Japan Pro Wrestling are known for the Champion’s Carnival which usually takes place between March and April and began in 1973; with the current round robin format starting in 1978. New Japan Pro Wrestling has the G1 Climax which usually takes place in July and August (in non-Covid-19 and Olympic Games years!) and started in 1974. It was renamed to the G1 Climax in 1991.
And that’s just round robin tournaments for the heavyweights in singles competition. You have junior heavyweight tournaments like Best Of The Super Juniors in New Japan. Then there’s the tag team round robin tournaments for both weight divisions in most Japanese promotions (or single weight for promotions like Dragon Gate and Michinoku Pro).
With that in mind you’d expect Pro Wrestling NOAH, the promotion that was created by over 90% of All Japan wrestlers in August 2000, to have introduced a heavyweight round robin tournament not that long into their creation right?
They’d had mini round robin tournaments for heavyweights in the past, mainly to determine new challengers for the GHC Heavyweight Title. And they started a Junior Heavyweight Tag League in July 2007 with the heavyweight Global Tag League beginning in May 2009.
GLOBAL LEAGUE 2010
But the first Global League didn’t take place until March 28th 2010 and ran until May 2nd. NOAH had waited almost 10 years before introducing their version of the Champion’s Carnival or G1 Climax.
And all those remnants of All Japan had almost all gone. Mitsuharu Misawa had passed away in May 2009. Akira Taue and Kenta Kobashi were incapable of singles matches to that level.
It’s not as if all traces of All Japan had been removed. Jun Akiyama, who had made his wrestling debut in All Japan in September 1992 and entered his first Champion Carnival in 1994, reaching the finals in 1998, was involved. Yoshihiro Takayama joined All Japan full time in February 1998, entering his first Champion Carnival in 1999.
And, after Misawa’s passing, Toshiaki Kawada returned to a NOAH ring to honour his former friend and rival by taking part in the first Global League. Kawada had competed in 8 Champion Carnival’s between 1991 and 2000 before the NOAH split and had won it in 1994 and 1997.
So their presence added a legitimacy to this new tournament along with the likes of Kensuke Sasaki, Takashi Sugiura, Takeshi Morishima, Naomichi Marufuji, Takeshi Rikio, Akitoshi Saito, Bison Smith, Muhammad Yone & Takuma Sano.
There was a field of 12. 6 wrestlers in each block. Akiyama would pip Sasaki to the post to win A Block. Takayama was ahead of Kawada to win B Block. And in the finals Takayama beat Akiyama to win the inaugural Global League.
From the very start the winner had a guaranteed Title shot against the GHC Heavyweight Champion. However Takayama would lose to Sugiura in their title match.
GLOBAL LEAGUE 2011
The Global League would return the very next year, but now it would take place towards the end of the year. Following Global League/N-1 Victory’s would all take place at the back end of the year but the 2011 version would happen in November.
This year, there were 18 wrestlers split across two blocks of 9. And, for the first time, entry was openweight, as junior heavyweights like Kotaro Suzuki, Bobby Fish, Kento Miyahara (yes, back then he was still considered a junior), Yoshinobu Kanemaru and KENTA were included.
Saito, Smith, Akiyama, Sasaki, Yone, Sugiura, Sano and Takayama all returned from the 2010 Global League. Go Shiozaki, Shuhei Taniguchi, Trevor Murdoch (yep, the one formerly from WWE) and Yutaku Yoshie all made their debuts.
Of course, this is the KENTA that was finally moving up to heavyweight. And you’d be forgiven for thinking KENTA won the Global League that year as he was Shiozaki’s challenger at the end of November. However, he only made it to the finals, where he lost to Takeshi Morishima.
Morishima beat Shiozaki and Akiyama to win A Block. KENTA beat Sasaki and Sugiura to win B Block. And in the finals, the monster Morishima beat KENTA.
In January 2012 Morishima beat Shiozaki to win the GHC Heavyweight Championship for the second time and start what was a 371 day reign with that belt.
So, in only the second Global League, it was proven that the winner could go on and claim the GHC Heavyweight Championship.
GLOBAL LEAGUE 2012
For the second year in a row the Global League took place in November. But the field was slightly reduced down to 16 over the two Blocks. So 8 wrestlers in each.
Saito, Akiyama, Yone, Sugiura & Morishima would make it 3 years in a row. Shiozaki, KENTA, Miyahara, Taniguchi & Marufuji would make their second appearances. Katsuhiko Nakajima, Mikey Nicholls, Shane Haste and Yuji Nagata would make their Global League debuts.
2012 would be KENTA’s year. He beat Morishima and Nagata to win his Block. Sugiura beat Taniguchi to win his Block. And then KENTA beat Sugiura in the finals.
KENTA would beat Morishima in January 2013 to become GHC Heavyweight Champion for the first (and last?) time. And his reign would last for 343 days.
Two out of three Global League winners have now gone on to win the GHC Heavyweight belt.
GLOBAL LEAGUE 2013
There was a big shift in NOAH at the end of 2012. Due to financial difficulties, NOAH released some of their older members of their roster. Kenta Kobashi was among them. In protest, Akiyama, Shiozaki, Kanemaru, Suzuki & Atsushi Aoki all left the promotion at the end of the year and would all join All Japan together in early 2013.
The 2013 version took place between October and November. The field was again reduced, this time down to 14. 7 wrestlers in each block.
Saito, Yone, Sugiura and Morishima made it 4 for 4. KENTA, Taniguchi and Marufuji made their 3rd. Nagata, Nakajima, Nicholls and Haste their seconds. And the Global League debuts of Daisuke Sekimoto, Eddie Edwards and Ryouji Sai.
For the first time, the Global League was won by an outsider as New Japan’s Yuji Nagata won the tournament. Morishima won his tightly contested Block over KENTA, Nakajima & Sekimoto. Nagata won his Block over Marufuji. And then Nagata beat Morishima in the finals.
Nagata would actually lose his GHC Heavyweight Title match against KENTA. But Morishima would challenge KENTA on account of beating him during the Global League and would become a three time GHC Heavyweight Champion in January 2014. However Nagata had also beaten Morishima during the Global League. And in February would take the belt from Morishima in his first defense.
So in a roundabout way, he did become GHC Heavyweight Champion. Just not directly from winning the Global League. So, 2 out of 4 so far.
GLOBAL LEAGUE 2014
Again taking place between October and November, the field was moved back up to 16 with 8 wrestlers split over two Blocks.
Saito, Yone, Sugiura and Morishima are still the only wrestlers making it 5 out of 5. Taniguchi and Marufuji made their 4th. Nakajima, Nicholls, Haste and Nagata all made their 3rd appearances, while Sekimoto returns for his 2nd. Chris Hero, Colt Cabana, Masato Tanaka, Quiet Storm and Satoshi Kojima all make their Global League debuts.
Sekimoto would win his Block over Nakajima, Marufuji & Kojima, while Sugiura would win his Block over Hero, Tanaka, Nagata & Taniguchi. And Sugiura would beat Sekimoto to finally win the Global League in his fifth attempt.
However, he would fail in his challenge for Marufuji’s GHC Heavyweight Championship. Two out of five success rate now.
GLOBAL LEAGUE 2015
October to November again. 16 wrestlers split over two Blocks again. However, NOAH was in the middle of the Suzuki-Gun invasion. Minoru Suzuki beat Marufuji to win the GHC Heavyweight Title in March 2015 and now the majority of the GHC belts were held by Suzuki-Gun.
Sugiura and Yone are the only 2 wrestlers to have made it to 6 out of 6. Morishima had to retire due to health issues, while Saito was moving down the card. Taniguchi and Marufuji made their 5th appearances, while Nakajima made it to 4 and Hero, Cabana, Tanaka and Storm all made their 2nd. And all of Suzuki-Gun – Minoru Suzuki, Shelton Benjamin, Davey Boy Smith Jnr, Lance Archer and Takashi Iizuka – made their Global League debuts along, with Masa Kitamiya.
Marufuji won his Block over Kojima, Hero, Tanaka and Sugiura. Benjamin won his Block over Suzuki. And Marufuji was able to take the victory for NOAH by beating Benjamin in the finals.
NOAH were able to push back further when Marufuji beat Suzuki to reclaim the GHC Heavyweight Title. Three out of six Global League winners now went on to win the belt.
However Sugiura would turn his back on NOAH, join Suzuki-Gun and then take the GHC Heavyweight belt from Marufuji in early 2016.
GLOBAL LEAGUE 2016
Still in the dark days of the Suzuki-Gun invasion, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Nakajima had beaten Sugiura to win the GHC Heavyweight Title in October. Now the Global League was Suzuki-Gun’s desperate attempt to win the belt back.
Taking place entirely within November, there were another 16 wrestlers split over two Blocks.
Sugiura and Yone are the only wrestlers to appear in all 7 tournaments to date, while Taniguchi, Marufuji and a returning Saito all enter their 6th tournaments. Nakajima makes his 5th appearance, while Storm and a returning Shiozaki make it to 3. Suzuki, Smith Jnr, Archer, Iizuki and Kitamiya make it to 2; and Alejandro Saez, Kaito Kiyomiya and Toru Yano all made their Global League debuts.
Suzuki beat Nakajima and Yano to win his Block. But in the biggest shocker in the Global League at that time, Kitamiya beat Shiozaki, Marufuji, Sugiura, Yone and Smith Jnr to win that block. That was the biggest victory in his career at that point.
Unfortunately Kitamiya could not follow through and Suzuki beat him in the finals. Suzuki would challenge Nakajima but come up short. That loss was the catalyst for Sugiura to re-join NOAH and Suzuki-Gun was kicked out by the end of 2016.
Three out seven winners for the success rate at that time.
GLOBAL LEAGUE 2017
After the end of the Suzuki-Gun invasion, 2017 was a year of slow rebuilding. Nakajima held the belt until August 2017 when he lost it to Eddie Edwards.
October to November again. 16 wrestlers over two blocks.
Yone is now the only wrestler to make it 8 out of 8 due to Sugiura’s brief hiatus, which was taken as a result of a heart condition. Saito, Taniguchi & Marufuji make it to 7. Nakajima 6. Shiozaki and Storm 4. Kitamiya and a returning Tanaka 3. And debuts from Atsushi Kotoge, Cody Hall, KAZMA SAKAMOTO, Kenoh, Mitsuya Nagai, Yuji Okabayashi & Yuko Miyamoto.
For the first time since the very first Global League in 2010, a wrestler won it in their first attempt.
Shiozaki beat Kitamiya to win his Block. Kenoh beat Tanaka to win his Block. And then Kenoh beat Shiozaki in the finals.
Kenoh would go on to beat Eddie Edwards and become GHC Heavyweight Champion for the very first time.
Four out of eight makes a 50% success rate.
GLOBAL LEAGUE 2018
The very last Global League as it was renamed to the N-1 Victory in 2019. But again, the tournament was scheduled between October to November, with 16 wrestlers over two Blocks.
Yone made it 9 for 9. Saito, Taniguchi, Marufuji and the returning Sugiura make it to 8. Nakajima 7. Shiozaki and Storm 5. Kitamiya 4. Kotoge, Hall, Kenoh, Nagai and a returning Kiyomiya 2. And Global League debuts from Kazusada Huguchi and Kohei Sato.
And this was the year of the Supernova, Kaito Kiyomiya. He’d returned from a foreign excursion in early 2018 and won the Global Tag League with Go Shiozaki and the two had a brief run with the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s.
Kiyomiya beat Sugiura and Shiozaki to win his Block. Marufuji won his Block however had to pull out of the finals due to injury. Nakajima beat Kenoh and Saito in a three-way decision match as they were tied on points. But the very same night he also had to wrestle Kiyomiya and the young Supernova was able to beat him.
His amazing year was concluded by beating Sugiura to win the GHC Heavyweight Championship for the very first time.
Five out of nine success rate.
N-1 VICTORY 2019
In March 2019 Pro Wrestling NOAH underwent a re-branding. They had a hot, young star as their champion. They needed to move away from the dark days of the Suzuki-Gun invasion. So they changed the colour of the ring mats to move beyond and away from Misawa’s emerald green. And their logo was updated.
To that end they also re-branded the Global League to the N-1 Victory. Taking place between August and September it was the smallest field in it’s history as only 10 wrestlers were split over two Blocks. The current GHC Heavyweight Champion, Kiyomiya, deliberately decided not to enter.
Marufuji, Taniguchi and Sugiura all made their 9th entries. Yone has now been phased out. Nakajima made his 8th. Shiozaki 6th. Kitamiya 5th. Kenoh 3rd. And debuts from Alexander Hammerstone, El Hijo del Wagner Jnr and Masaaki Mochizuki.
Sugiura comfortably won his Block. Kenoh beat Taniguchi to win his Block. Meaning that for the first time ever we would have a two time winner of the Global League/N-1 Victory.
Kenoh beat Sugiura and was the one to win that honour. However he was unable to dethrone Kiyomiya and the Supernova’s reign continued.
Five out of ten.
N-1 VICTORY 2020
Let’s be honest, we were glad to get any wrestling last year. But NOAH, despite the global pandemic, had a very strong year in 2020.
Go Shiozaki would win the belt from Kaito Kiyomiya on January 4th and look to finally have that ace reign that he should have had 11 years prior.
Banged up and betrayed by Nakajima prior to the start of the N-1 Victory, it took place September to October and had a slight increase to 12 wrestlers split across two Blocks.
Marufuji, Taniguchi and Sugiura continued on to 10. Nakajima 9. Shiozaki 7. Kitamiya 6. Kenoh 4. Kiyomiya 3. Mochizuki 2. And Global League debuts from Kazushi Sakuraba, Manabu Soya and Yoshiki Inamura.
Kiyomiya beat Shiozaki to win his Block. Nakajima beat Sugiura to win his Block. But in the finals it was Nakajima who beat Kiyomiya and won his first Global League/N-1 Victory on his 9th attempt.
But Nakajima was beaten by his former partner and Shiozaki retained the GHC Heavyweight Championship. It was a fantastic match. Absolutely incredible and totally up there with the Sugiura defense in my eyes.
Five out of eleven.
And that’s all of the previous Global League’s and N-1 Victory’s.
11 tournaments. 15 finalists. 10 winners.
5 new GHC Heavyweight Champions.
While it doesn’t have the prestige of a Champion’s Carnival or G1 Climax, it has produced plenty of great moments.
Toshiaki Kawada being back in a NOAH ring before his retirement.
Go Shiozaki as GHC Heavyweight Champion facing Jun Akiyama vs All Japan Triple Crown Champion.
KENTA winning the 2012 Global League and winning the GHC Heavyweight Title.
Yuji Nagata’s fantastic anti-NOAH run.
Takashi Sugiura against Daisuke Sekimoto in the 2014 finals.
Naomichi Marufuji’s redemption of NOAH against Suzuki-Gun.
The miracle run of Masa Kitamiya in 2016.
Kenoh fully moving up to a heavyweight.
Kaito Kiyomiya’s Supernova ascension.
Kenoh avenging his GHC Heavyweight Title loss to Takashi Sugiura in the 2019 finals.
The battered and bruised ace Shiozaki soldering on in 2020 and evil Nakajima.
I am fully expecting the 2021 N-1 Victory to be capable of producing those calibre of moments.
My next piece will cover the 16 wrestlers taking part in this year’s N-1 Victory as we have Four Blocks for the first time in this tournament’s history.
And then my final piece will cover those 24 matches taking place over the 5 shows and my (most likely wrong) predictions for the Finals on October 3rd.
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