Pro Wrestling NOAH presents one of their biggest shows of 2020 on Sunday the 22nd of November at Yokohama Budokan. Four out of the five GHC Titles will be on the line and the show is main-evented by GHC Heavyweight Champion, Go Shiozaki against challenger, Katsuhiko Nakajima.
The show will air for FREE, live on ABEMA TV. And if you can’t watch it live unfortunately there are no replays like usual until it moves over to Wrestle Universe which is a paid subscription service offering NOAH since 2020 and a hefty back catalogue of DDT.
Things kick off at 4 pm in Tokyo (7 am GMT, 2 am EST, 11 pm PST)
GHC Heavyweight Championship – Go Shiozaki (c) vs Katsuhiko Nakajima
Since the break up of AXIZ, the champion and his challenger have met in six tag team matches. Shiozaki directly pinned Nakajima in the second match, before Nakajima returned the favour by pinning Shiozaki in the fifth match.
This has been a trying year for the champion. Each match, he can be seen wearing more and more tape around his shoulders and arms. Nakajima has punished and brutalized the champion in every single match. It’s been common for him to drag Shiozaki out of the ring and attack him without mercy.
He said in an interview recently that he had “shredded” Shiozaki’s arm and it’s hard not to agree with that assessment. The champion is more wounded, more beat up and more torn down than he ever has been. This has been Shiozaki’s longest reign with the GHC Heavyweight Championship. His first reign was born out of tragedy and lasted 175 days with only one successful defence.
His second reign was more successful with three defences but only lasted 196 days. And his third reign had one successful defence and only lasted 63 days. The match with Nakajima will happen on day 323 of his current reign and could be his fourth successful defence, breaking his old record.
Nakajima, on the other hand, has had only one reign with the GHC Heavyweight Title, making seven successful title defenses over 307 days. One of those defences was against Go. Katsuhiko managed an “ace” reign that it took Shiozaki years to get to; and there are many that believe Nakajima should have another reign with the belt, including Nakajima himself.
But Shiozaki is a defiant champion. He told Nakajima that even if he takes his right arm off, he will not give him the belt. He is battered, bruised but not beaten. Shiozaki is not going to go down without a fight.
This is two former partners. Two former friends. Two generational rivals in the fight of their lives for the biggest prize in Pro Wrestling NOAH. You do not want to miss this!
GHC National Championship – Kenoh (c) vs Kaito Kiyomiya
This will be their seventh singles match over the past three and a half years and their first in just over a year. Kenoh won their first four matches, but Kaito has won their last two.
I once incorrectly stated that they have a love/hate relationship in that Kenoh loves to hate Kiyomiya but that isn’t true. Kenoh, in his paranoid, deluded mind, sees Kiyomiya as a younger brother and is protective of him as such. But he’s the older brother who is better, and the younger brother should therefore follow his lead and do what he wants.
Kaito wants to be his own person. He wants to make his own decisions and live his own life and as the youngest GHC Heavyweight Champion in history, he’s earned that right. Kenoh on the other hand feels that Kiyomiya is being “controlled” by NOAH’s owners LIDET. He feels that his actions are not his own and he is being used as a puppet, the company man so to speak. But Kaito is adamant that his choices are his own.
The two have natural chemistry in the ring despite their different backgrounds. Kenoh is a product of Michinoku Pro and debuted in December 2007, a full 8 years before Kiyomiya. Despite debuting with Michinoku Pro, he spent well over 2 and a half years with Okinawa Pro before returning to Michinoku Pro and winning their main belt, the Tohuko Junior Heavyweight Title, in his first match back.
Kenoh made his NOAH debut in 2011 (with fellow Michinoku Pro wrestler and now NOAH wrestler as part of Kongoh, Hao) but didn’t join the roster full time until early 2014 (vacating the Tohuko Junior Heavyweight Championship in the process). Initially a junior heavyweight he didn’t move up to the heavyweight ranks until 2017.
He won the Global League that year and beat Eddie Edwards for the GHC Heavyweight Championship before the close of the year. But he only held the belt for three months before losing it. Forming what would become the basis of Kongoh in mid-2019, they became a dominant force in NOAH and Kenoh would become GHC National Champion in August this year.
Kiyomiya is a graduate of the Pro Wrestling NOAH dojo and debuted in 2015. He was no different from any other rookie, namely losing the majority of his matches in his first year, but Kiyomiya was the first NOAH graduate to go on a foreign excursion in some time. In fact, his last match before going to Canada was against Kenoh. And when he returned back to Japan in early 2018 he challenged Kenoh for his newly won GHC Heavyweight Championship.
Kiyomiya would go on to have an incredible 2018. He won the Global Tag League, won the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles and lost those belts with Go Shiozaki. Then he won the Global League and beat Takashi Sugiura (the man who beat Kenoh) for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. Kaito is only the third NOAH graduate to win that belt but he achieved it in the shortest amount of time and is the youngest Champion of that belt.
As already noted, Kiyomiya has beaten Kenoh in their last two matches. The first was his first title defence in early 2019, mirroring how Kiyomiya was the first to challenge Kenoh the year prior. The two even began teaming together afterwards, participating in the Global Tag League together but their partnership would come to an end when Kenoh formed Kongoh.
Kaito would not take part in the first N-1 Victory, the new name of the Global League, and Kenoh would go on to win the tournament for a second time. However this time he would not be able to dethrone the reigning champion and fell to Kiyomiya for a second time.
They have been closely linked these past few years and their dynamic has shifted a lot since their early days. Kiyomiya stepped up as a true ace, a real supernova as he exploded into the main event scene of NOAH, won the GHC Heavyweight Championship in 3 years of debuting and spent over a year as champion. He may not have Kenoh’s age or experience but he has shown himself as a real prodigy and NOAH’s future ace.
The GHC National Championship has already had strong champions and challengers in it’s less than a year old history. This match, on any other night, is the main event.
GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championships – Sugiura Army (Takashi Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba) (c) vs M’s Alliance (Naomichi Marufuji & Masakatsu Funaki)
The death of AXIZ saw newly crowned GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions in Sugiura and Sakuraba. This is the first-ever title belt Sakuraba has ever held in his wrestling career.
Sakuraba and Masakatsu Funaki are both more well known for their MMA careers, with Sakuraba winning 26 and losing 17 and Funaki holding an impressive record of 40 wins to 13 losses. They had one MMA fight against each other, which Funaki won just under 6 and a half minutes into Round 1. They’ve only faced once in a wrestling ring before (Wrestle-1’s first-ever show in September 2013) where Laughter7, Sakuraba’s team with Katsuyori Shibata beat Funaki and Masayuki Kono.
Marufuji on the other hand requested this because 1: He will want to be a tag champion again. And 2: he wants to see Funaki against Sugiura. We had a taste of that match when the challengers faced Sugiura and NOSAWA Rongai. With such an obvious loss post, one of Marufuji or Funaki beat NOSAWA, right? Wrong. Funaki choked out Sugiura.
That doesn’t happen often. And that was in Funaki’s third match in NOAH since he joined the roster on the same day that Sugiura and Sakuraba won the belts. He made his wrestling debut in 1985 with New Japan. But much like Sakuraba (1993 debut) he found his passion in shoot-style wrestling so left to join UWF in 1989 but left pro wrestling completely at the end of 1992 and went into MMA.
He wouldn’t return to wrestling until 2009 but as part of All Japan due to his friendship with Keiji Mutoh. They won the Real World Tag League 09 and the AJPW World Tag Team Titles in January 2010. He had a famous Cage Match against Minoru Suzuki and then lost the 2010 Champions Carnival against him a month later. Funaki would invade New Japan and the Tokyo Dome for a very heated inter-promotional match with Kono against Yuji Nagata and Wataru Inoue. So heated that it put Funaki on the shelf for 5 months and his team won!
But that time off injured gave him the drive that when he returned he beat Nagata in a grudge singles match and then beat Jun Akiyama for the AJPW Triple Crown. In a main event match that lasted less than 5 minutes! Masakatsu Funaki was not here to play around. After he lost the belt it was only a few months later that Mutoh left AJPW and formed Wrestle-1 so Funaki (and many others, almost like a second exodus) followed.
Funaki has held the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Title and Real Japan Legends Title since that time. He is still a credible threat today with his kicks and Hybrid Blaster. This one is going to be a scrap!
I would also be remiss to forget to mention that Masahiro Chono will also be in attendance. Sugiura has been copying Chono’s pose and catchphrase (“I am Chono” in response to Shiozaki stating “I am NOAH”) so Chono will be making an appearance to address both Sugiura Army and Mutoh.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships – Momo No Seishun (Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge) (c) vs STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa & HAYATA)
A rematch from October 11th where STINGER lost the belts to Momo No Seishun. Since then Harada gained another belt as he also won the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. But STINGER lost a partner when they kicked Kotaro Suzuki out, and that was before he lost the belt to Harada.
The junior heavyweight scene is the most violatile in NOAH (if not all of the Japanese promotions) and it’s had these four involved at many points. STINGER feels like it’s almost done. The original group was Ogawa, Suzuki, Chris Ridgeway and Kotoge. They were involved in a feud with RATEL’s which consisted of Daisuke Harada, HAYATA, YO-HEY and Tadasuke. Kotoge was the first to leave STINGER but HAYATA jumped ship over shortly afterwards. RATEL’s disbanded after HAYATA’s defection but they kept a loose alliance until Tadasuke and then YO-HEY both turned on Harada.
Considering everything Daisuke lost this year before August, he has managed to turn things around quite spectacularly. The YO-HEY betrayal resulted in him and Kotoge reuniting their tag team. In their first match as a team since late 2016, Momo No Seishun won the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles to become four time champions. And on November 8th he beat Kotaro Suzuki to become GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion for the fourth time and became the fifth person to hold the junior belts at the same time after Kanemaru, Sugiura, Suzuki and Kotoge.
But STINGER have been weakened with the loss of Suzuki. Ogawa is the only original member left and it is unknown when Ridgeway will return. Plus, would he return to STINGER or would he show allegiance to Suzuki as there’s rumours he could be Suzuki’s mystery partner earlier in the night. They NEED this win and they need it desperately. They did not issue a challenge as former champions. They immediately made it personal by attacking the current champions after they had made their first successful defense against FULL THROTTLE.
For the Champions, they don’t want their reign to end so quickly. They don’t want to lose to the same team that they beat in the first place and put that victory in to dispute. If they lost in the rematch, were they not just lucky to have won the first time? But if they were to win again, they definitively show themselves at the top of the chain of the NOAH junior division.
Keiji Mutoh vs Shuhei Taniguchi
Let’s be honest here, I don’t think many fancy Taniguchi’s chances. Mutoh is a four-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and three-time Triple Crown Champion. One of the most recognizable stars in Puroresu, whether as himself or his alter-ego The Great Muta, it could be argued that he defined Japanese wrestling for a whole generation. And at 57 years old (turning 58 next month) he is still heavily involved in the main event scene, bearing Kiyomiya in August and making known his intent to be the third person to win the major heavyweight belts in New Japan, All Japan and NOAH.
Shuhei debuted in December 2005 and while he has had five reigns as GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion, all with different partners, he has failed in all six of his matches for the GHC Heavyweight Championship and one match for the GHC National Championship. He had a poor record in this year’s N-1 Victory with just two wins and four losses. On paper, this is a massive mismatch as Taniguchi doesn’t stand a chance.
Kongoh (Masa Kitamiya, Manabu Soya & Nioh) vs Sugiura Army (Kazuyuki Fujita, Kendo Kashin & NOSAWA Rongai)
Kitamiya and Nio are the longest-serving NOAH roster members out of the entire lot, by quite a large margin. Masa joined the NOAH roster in 2013 while early into his career and Nio, formerly HI69 joined in late 2016 after being a journeyman wrestler for quite some time beforehand. Soya came to NOAH earlier this year after the closure of Wrestle-1.
NOSAWA and Fujita both joined NOAH last year and Kashin this year. Kongoh and Sugiura Army have recently clashed over the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles recently with Soya and Kitamiya coming up short. Before that match, they had an eight-man tag match where Fujita was able to pin Inamura after a (nasty) powerbomb. Kongoh will want to avenge that loss and build themselves up towards another title shot.
Kongoh (Tadasuke & Hao) vs Kotaro Suzuki & X
I said in my write up for the November 8th show that without STINGER and the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship, who is Kotaro Suzuki? I honestly was not expecting Suzuki to lose to Harada. I did not see it coming.
Now where does Suzuki go from here? NOSAWA made a direct appeal for Suzuki to join Sugiura Army but was turned down. Emphatically. And repeatedly. Suzuki advised that he had already found a partner. Several names have been thrown around. Chris Ridgeway was a partner in STINGER but whether he was allowed to leave the UK is another matter. Minoru Tanaka has been in NOAH several times over the past few years. Koji Kanemoto too if we’re including former 90’s New Japan names who have stayed loyal to Mutoh. Or it could be a brand new addition to NOAH entirely.
For the Kongoh team, Tadasuke was the last person to pin Suzuki before he lost the belt. He also holds a direct pinfall victory over Harada after he’d turned on him in August. Tadasuke has a GHC Junior Heavyweight Title shot in his back pocket which you know he will be using before the end of the year.
FULL THROTTLE (YO-HEY, Hajima Ohara & Seiki Yoshioka) & Muhammed Yone vs Yoshiki Inamura, Junta Miyawaki, Kinya Okada & Yasutaka Yone
The NOAH born unite! In the past 20 years the NOAH dojo has only graduated fifteen wrestlers. Kotaro Suzuki. Go Shiozaki. Shuhei Taniguchi. Atsushi Aoki. Ippei Ota. Genba Hirayangi. Akihiko Ito. Hitoshi Kumano. Shiro Tomoyose. Kaito Kiyomiya. Junta Miyawaki. Yoshiki Inamura. Kinya Okada. Yasutaka Yone.
And the last four graduates will all team together for the first time. You hear stories about how Suzuki and Shiozaki were the only ones to graduate out of their entire classes and I used to think, holy crap, how tough are these two to have survived that! Now with only 15 graduates to show over 20 years and with four of them having to retire or step away, while New Japan, All Japan, Dragon Gate, DDT, Big Japan, etc etc have all produced such fantastic talent… You do have to wonder where NOAH would be if they had not been so ridiculously strict.
But we are where we are right now. And there is still potential for the future. Inamura is currently the only heavyweight out of the four. A former member of Kongoh, Inamura made the decision to leave in order to progress forward as a wrestler and has since joined up with Kiyomiya (which has got to have greatly annoyed Kenoh). Okada definitely has the potential to bulk up to become a heavyweight in the (near) future. Miyawaki is the most experienced out of the four debuting in 2017 but is no closer to gold than any of the rest. And Yano made his debut on the 28th of October this year.
FULL THROTTLE has existed in its current formation since the end of September. And they have been successful as a trio since YO-HEY replaced Kotoge although he and Yoshioka did fall short in their GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Title challenge. Yone has settled into a role as one of the veterans on the NOAH roster helping face the younger roster to help them develop and grow. Except he’s hardly about to let them beat him however and will still push them in order to challenge them.
And there we have it, that’s the full card.
Since I started this article, NOAH has announced that the show will air on FITE TV with English commentary. It will be $19.99 with unlimited replays. I guess this explains why ABEMA is live only, with no replays.
I did not watch the last NOAH show aired on FITE TV and heard a fair few negative comments on the quality of that English commentary. Hopefully either the existing team do their research this time or they have found a new team who are passionate and knowledgeable about NOAH.
I am really excited for this show. I would not have written so much if I wasn’t and I’m even willing to get up before 7am on a Sunday morning in order to watch it!
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this, and hope you enjoy the show.