Pro Wrestling NOAH have a big month this April, and they present their second of four live shows on Sunday the 18th. Coming live from Korakuen Hall, the show will air for FREE on ABEMA.
Starting at 11:30am JST (03:30am GMT, 10:30pm EST and 07:30pm PST Saturday 17th April) the show features the first and only preview tag matches for the GHC Heavyweight and GHC National Title matches taking place on April 29th, along with Atsushi Kotoge’s first defense of the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship against Nioh.
We have 7 matches, so let’s get straight into the card!
MAIN EVENT – M’s Alliance (Keiji Mutoh & Naomichi Marufuji) vs Kongo (Masa Kitamiya & Kenoh)
Mutoh made his first defense of the GHC Heavyweight Championship over Kaito Kiyomiya on March 14th in a match which split opinions. His next challenger wasted no time in making himself known, as Masa Kitamiya stormed to the ring. Over the past year challenges have been made with stares and maybe a few words but here Kitamiya was not so polite. He slammed Mutoh down with a Saito suplex, and the title match was made official for April 29th.
M’s Alliance and Kongo have had rare interactions in the past. They had one six-man tag match in August, before another match 10 days later in August which was an eight-man tag. And then, finally, a tag match in January. M’s Alliance won them all.
That August 30th 2020 eight-man tag team match saw the M’s Alliance team of Mutoh, Marufuji, Mochizuki & Funaki beat Kenoh, Kitamiya, Soya & Inamura. Before this show, that was the only time that Mutoh and Kitamiya had a match together. After that match the only time Mutoh and Kitamiya had shared the ring together before now was when Kitamiya attacked Mutoh to make his challenge known.
So this is their one and only preview match before their GHC Heavyweight Title match on the 29th. Kitamiya choosing to attack Mutoh with the Saito suplex may have been a symbolic choice, as much as it was his finishing move. Masa Saito debuted in 1965. He was in New Japan when Mutoh debuted in 1984. While not listed as one of Mutoh’s trainers, he and Mutoh teamed infrequently through the years in Japan and America, so spent a lot of time together.
Masa Saito retired in 1999 but from 2005 until 2014 he became one of the trainers at Kensuke Office, later Diamond Ring. One of the wrestlers he trained with Kitamiya. Kitamiya originally debuted under his real name of Mitsuhiro in August 2011, but changed his first name to Masa in April 2016 to honour his trainer and began to wear gear close to what Saito used and took Saito’s moves as his own, including the Saito suplex.
Saito unfortunately passed away in 2018, so can only be there in spirit when one of his original, unofficial students faces one of his final students. This may not be Kitamiya’s first shot at the GHC Heavyweight Championship, but it is arguably his biggest.
Kenoh and Marufuji may be bit part players in this match as I imagine most of the focus will be on Mutoh and Kitamiya, but that does not mean they are going to get lost in the shuffle. Kenoh is only just coming off losing the GHC National Title to Kazuyuki Fujita on March 21st. He and Mutoh have only faced off in a tag match the once before now, the same eight-man tag match in August. He and Marufuji have a bit more history.
He was able to make his intentions known that he was eventually going to move from a junior to a heavyweight when he beat Marufuji in their first ever singles match in September 2014. They have very rarely teamed together. In fact, during the Suzuki-Gun invasion where all previous stables in NOAH had disbanded so that NOAH could be a united force against Suzuki-Gun, Kenoh and Marufuji never teamed. They are more commonly against each other, even if they are yet to have a big feud and be openly at war with one another.
For Marufuji, it seems that right now he is only in the main events when he is a supporting player. It did seem like at one point Marufuji was gearing up for another title challenge after coming up after falling short in his bids to become GHC Heavyweight and GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion last year. Kenoh and Marufuji have not had the big, epic singles match with a title on the line. So, I and many others assumed we would get Marufuji challenge Kenoh for the GHC National Title.
Well, Fujita beating Kenoh for the belt dashed those hopes. But the two against each other is still a big singles match that NOAH hasn’t pushed much and they have never had a singles match together with a belt or title opportunity on the line. I could see, maybe even this year, the two colliding again with something substantial on the line.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship – Atsushi Kotoge (c) vs Nioh
This is a first time ever singles match, and the first defence of Atsushi Kotoge’s third reign as GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. Kotoge won the belt from Seiki Yoshioka on March 14th in his first defence. Could the new champion suffer the same fate?
The two have had very different journeys to get to where they are today. Kotoge began his career in Osaka Pro. He stayed with them from his debut in April 2005 until he left to join NOAH in May 2012. Momo No Seishun had appeared in NOAH as Osaka Pro contracted wrestlers, but Kotoge was the first between him and Harada to leave and join NOAH.
Nioh’s journey to NOAH was a bit more complex than that. He debuted in January 2001 in Puerto Rico and has spent time in Michinoku Pro, All Japan, KAIENTAI-Dojo (from their first ever show), Big Japan, Apache Pro and FREEDOMS. He didn’t join NOAH until late 2016 but made his first appearance in the green ring in May 2005, just a month after Kotoge had even debuted! Whether you’ve known him as HIROKI or Hi69 or the Nioh he was repackaged as once he joined Kongo, he’s had a 20 year career.
But singles gold in NOAH has alluded him thus far. He won the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship with Taiji Ishimori on their first attempt and XX held the belts for six months before losing them the first time. XX won them back six months later but then dropped them in their first defence. He and new partner Minoru Tanaka would win the belts and hold them for eight months before they lost them. Despite being a three time tag champion he has only had the one shot at the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship before now when he lost to Daisuke Harada in May 2018.
I feel like Nioh has been underrated in NOAH. He’s been loyal to NOAH for the past four plus years and while he has had the three runs as GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, this is only his second shot at singles gold. Being one of three juniors in Kongo. he can be overlooked behind the flashier Haoh and bruising Tadasuke, but Nioh has more than delivered in singles action. He and Haoh had an absolutely fantastic singles match at the Kongo produce show in December last year.
This has the potential to be a very good match. Stylistically, the two match up very well. They’ll be able to go hold for hold with each other. While neither are known for their high flying, they can as and when the situation requires. And, Korakuen Hall, title on the line… I can imagine that they will go all out.
I don’t see Kotoge losing the belt. I feel like something may be brewing between Momo No Seishun, as they have been frosty since they reformed and Harada did not seem too pleased that his partner won the belt that he had just lost to Yoshioka. But, then, I did not see Yoshioka losing the belt in his first defence so I would be very happy to see Nioh play spoiler and have a well deserved run with the belt.
Sugiura Army (Kazuyuki Fujita & Kendo Kashin) vs Sugiura Army (Takashi Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba)
A very rare stablemates vs stablemates match in NOAH. Kazuyuki Fujita defeated Kenoh to become the fourth GHC National Champion and bring the belt back to Sugiura Army. But the first challenger did not come externally, but from within. The inaugural, the very first ever GHC National Champion and the leader of Sugiura Army, Takashi Sugiura stepped up as Fujita’s first challenger.
Sugiura is as synonymous with NOAH as Marufuji and Go Shiozaki are. He was the first wrestler to debut in the emerald green ring as the final person to enter and graduate from the All Japan dojo pre-split. He was the second man to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight and Heavyweight singles and tag team belts. He and Shiozaki are tied at four time GHC Heavyweight Champions. He holds the record for the most defences of the Heavyweight belt in a single reign. And he was the very first ever GHC National Champion.
This will be his first attempt at reclaiming the belt since he lost it to Katsuhiko Nakajima in May. And it will definitely be a hoss fight. Sugiura and Fujita have clashed the once before. At the first Sugiura Army produce show, Sugiura and his partner for this show also, Sakuraba faced Fujita and Hideki Suzuki in the main event.
https://youtu.be/Jx80C9D4z6o (starts at 02:18:30)
After almost 20 minutes, Kongo consisting of Kenoh, Masa Kitamiya and Yoshiki Inamura attacked the Sugiura Army and they had an impromptu main event as Sugiura, Fujita and Suzuki beat the Kongo team.
In every single other time that Sugiura and Fujita shared the ring, it was always as team mates. This will be only their second match against each other meaning that their singles match on April 29th will be a first time ever.
Fujita has held belts in New Japan, Inoki Genome Federation, Real Japan and now NOAH. He is known for being unpredictable and hard hitting as his recent matches against Go Shiozaki and Kenoh have shown. Sugiura is always at his best when having hard hitting matches like he did against Shiozaki, Minoru Suzuki, Nakajima, Hirooki Goto, Taniguchi, Kitamiya and Yoshihiro Takayama.
I can’t imagine that their singles match will be anything less than Godzilla vs Kong; and a poster released for the match/show really conveys that vibe.
As for their partners, Sugiura and Sakuraba are former GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions and were voted Tokyo Sport’s Tag Team of 2020. They clearly have the advantage over Fujita and Kashin. However, the latter have teamed together often in multi-man tag team matches. Kashin is nothing if not sneaky so he does have that going for him.
STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa, HAYATA & Yuya Susumu) vs Kotaro Suzuki, Ikuto Hidaka & NOSAWA Rongai
On April 29th STINGER of Ogawa & HAYATA will defend their GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles against Hidaka & NOSAWA. The challenge was made on March 21st and this will be their fourth preview match since then.
In the first match, NOSAWA cheated HAYATA in under three minutes. In the second match Ogawa & Susumu were DQ’d against Suzuki & Hidaka. So, in retaliation, in the third match the next day, Suzuki & NOSAWA decimated Ogawa’s knee…. And then left the ring to lose by count out.
Not exactly the most emphatic statement to lose the match, despite all the damage done. They could have damaged Ogawa’s knee and then won the match due to that. But I digress.
That result has drawn the ire from NOAH fans. So hopefully this match will have a conclusion and not feature any unnecessary shenanigans.
But then NOSAWA is involved in this match. And all three previous matches were either short, saw a DQ and a nonsensical ending. So don’t get your hopes up about this match being a clean, fast paced junior heavyweight tag team match.
If left to their own devices Ogawa, HAYATA, Susumu, Suzuki and Hidaka are all great wrestlers. In fact, some of the best and underrated at what they do. NOSAWA, while not the best, can hold his own and be very entertaining at what he does.
So maybe they’ll have a good match. Maybe it will just be a brawl as all heated junior matches have potential to turn into when they are apart of one of the most chaotic junior divisions in the world.
Kongo (Katsuhiko Nakajima & Manabu Soya) vs Funky Express (Mohammed Yone & Shuhei Taniguchi)
It seems like everyone is expecting Funky Express to be The Aggression’s first challengers. And I can totally see it. Funky Express were given a storyline to form and become a cohesive (to a point team). Their win/loss record may not be the best but they’ve got crowd support built up over the years individually. And they had the mini “feud” with the Anti-Wrestlers Alliance which saw them absorbed into Funky Express.
The Aggression for their part were hinting at wanting a young team of challengers. Funky Express are anything but. However Nakajima’s one and only loss in last year’s N-1 was to Taniguchi. The Aggression’s last title reign before this one was ended by Akitoshi Saito and Marufuji, Saito now a part of the Funky Express.
It’s not a big leap to see that match get made official. Especially if Funky Express can get the win here. On the 4th of April a Kongo trio of Nakajima, Kitamiya & Soya beat the Funky Express trio of Yone, Taniguchi & Saito. So I would not be surprised to see Funky Express pick up the win. Regrettably most likely at the expense of Soya.
But all four guys can land big moves. All four guys are good to great singles wrestlers in their own rights. All four have plenty of success as tag team wrestlers but not with the same partners as this match. I didn’t get to see much of the Yone & Quiet Storm tag team, 50 Funky Powers, but they were well liked by audiences. Funky Express could be the successor to that team and I’ve always had a soft spot for Taniguchi, lack of personality or not.
As only the third match on the card, don’t expect the feel of a title match. But hopefully they will hopefully throw a few bombs and strikes to make it interesting and worthwhile.
Kaito Kiyomiya, Kinya Okada, Daisuke Harada & Junta Miyawaki vs Yoshiki Inamura & FULL THROTTLE (Hajima Ohara, Seiki Yoshioka & YO-HEY)
On the one hand, Kiyomiya’s team has two heavyweights (Okada is on the borderline and deserves the move up), so should have the advantage. However, Inamura is teaming with an established junior trio so that team work may give them the edge.
Since Inamura left Kongo, he and Kiyomiya have been team mates instead of opponents. They recently faced off on a ZERO1 show, where the NOAH guest match saw Inamura & Okada beat Kiyomiya & Miyawaki. This is an opportunity for Inamura to show his growth in a NOAH ring since the last time he faced Kiyomiya, his growth since leaving Kongo.
I’m hoping Okada finally gets chance to step up and be seen as a bigger deal in NOAH. Yes Inamura is the break out star of 2021 but that does not mean Okada can’t also step up at the same time. And Okada needs to firmly move from the junior into heavyweight as right now he is only a supporting player in victories or the one getting pinned in losses.
Yoshioka beat Harada in the Budokan to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship but lost it in his first defense to Atsushi Kotoge. He’s not had the best of results since that loss so he needs to prove that victory over Harada was not a fluke. Ohara lost to Harada the month before Yoshioka won the belt so will want to prove himself and prove himself as the leader of FULL THROTTLE.
Miyawaki had his first ever title shot on March 21st, when he and Harada lost to Ogawa & HAYATA. He had a great performance in that match, so will want to continue that momentum with the intent for it to eventually result in victories. Harada has lost both his GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship and the chance to become tag team champion again so he’s having a rough few months and needs the victory.
Despite being the second match on the card, it feels like there’s a lot at stake here. Kiyomiya is rising up the ranks after the defeat to Mutoh. Inamura is a matter of when he’s going to be a champion, not if. Okada deserves to have a rise in the same way that Inamura did. Miyawaki could end up being a player in the junior division. Yoshioka definitely deserves another reign. And Harada, Ohara and YO-HEY should be pillars of the junior division.
This could end up being a very exciting match if it gets the time and lives up to its potential.
Kongo (Tadasuke & Haoh) vs Yasutaka Yano & Kai Fujimura
With Nioh busy challenging for the junior belt later in the show, his Kongo junior compatriots will open the show by brutalising two young rookies.
Fujimura debuted in Wrestle-1 in 2019, Yano in NOAH October 2020. Both have potential to be the future of NOAH’s junior division, especially if Fujimura signs with them.
But they are going to get steamrolled here. Tadasuke is a junior with a heavyweight brute attitude and moves from Jumbo Tsuruta. Haoh is a fantastic fast paced junior heavyweight. Both are far above where their opponents are.
That’s not to say Yano and Fujimura won’t get chance to look good in defeat. Great choice of an opener with two promising young rookies against two very different wrestlers who will work well as a team.
And that’s the card.
NOAH have two more shows in April. Saturday April 24th they are live on Wrestle Universe. Thursday April 29th they are live with English commentary on Wrestle Universe and Fite TV with Mutoh vs Kitamiya, Fujita vs Sugiura and Ogawa/HAYATA vs Hidaka/NOSAWA.
I hope you enjoy the show this Sunday!