We’ve had two Great Voyage shows in March, but now Pro Wrestling NOAH will close out the month on Sunday, March 21st, with NOAH The Infinity.
The GHC Heavyweight Championship was successfully defended on March 14th, the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship changed hands on March 14th, the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championships changed hands on March 7th and the GHC National Title was successfully defended on March 7th. The GHC National Title will be defended for the second time this month, along with the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships on March 21st.
The show starts at 11:30am in Japan. That’s 2:30am GMT, 10:30pm EST and 7:30pm PST on Saturday March 20th. The show will be streamed live on Wrestle Universe. Wrestle Universe is a subscription service which costs under £8 per calendar month. However the first calendar month is FREE, although you will have to pay from the 1st of the next month.
Taking place at Korakuen Hall, we’ve got 7 matches to cover, so let’s get right into it!
MAIN EVENT – GHC National Championship – Kenoh (c) vs Kazuyuki Fujita
It was March 29th 2020 where Kazuyuki Fujita made wrestling headlines across the world after an infamous GHC Heavyweight Championship match against Go Shiozaki. It was not only one of the first empty arena shows to take place at Korakuen Hall at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, but Shiozaki and Fujita almost went 60 minutes… Mainly because they spent over 30 minutes staring at each other and barely moving.
It was a wild gamble, and something they were only able to do realistically without the need to entertain a live audience. And then they used the lack of fans to brawl around an empty Korakuen Hall, in something which was definitely a visual not to be forgotten. The match itself is like marmite, you either love that they went all out for it, or you absolutely hate it.
But that match is the one exception in Fujita’s entire career. You could fit his entire undefeated G1 Climax 2005 run and the finals in which he lost to Masahiro Chono in the Shiozaki match length. His longest IWGP Heavyweight Title match went 1 second short of 14 minutes, and he was a three time champion. He had to vacate the belt once, lost it controversially in a match where he basically pinned himself in under 2 and a half minutes; and lost it the third and final time in a match where he did not lose the fall.
There are not that many wrestlers with the reputation of Kazuyuki Fujita. Much like the Shiozaki match itself, you either have people who love him or hate him. At least if you hate him, Fujita is not paid by the hour so this match will most likely be under 15 minutes long. Providing they don’t give each other unblinking, unflinching, hate-filled stares.
Kenoh has been on a run of beating wrestlers with an MMA background. It started with Kazushi Sakuraba, then Kazunari Murakami, then Minoru Tanaka and then most recently Kendo Kashin. Sakuraba and Tanaka are equally as famous for MMA and wrestling. Murakami has the wild, chaotic aura about him. Kashin is not afraid to play dirty and bend the rules to his advantage. All are accomplished in both wrestling and MMA.
Fujita is a different beast. He was a product of Inoki-ism and was able to succeed in NJPW and reach the top several times due to his MMA career. He has that wild, chaotic aura about him but was able to channel that into more victories than Murakami. He, rightly or wrongly, is more known for the few times he has been beaten in the past 20 years. He has only lost 8 singles matches since he won his first IWGP Heavyweight Title on the 9th of April 2001. He has won 41 singles matches since that time with his most recent victory over Kenoh’s Kongo team mate, Manabu Soya.
Kenoh, since winning the GHC National Title, has also been favouring short matches in the past few months. So it’s unclear who would have the advantage here. He has not faced anyone with an MMA background who has a size and power advantage in the way that Fujita has over him. Kenoh’s sleeper has gotten him victories in the past, so this may be his key to victory.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know how this match will finish. Kenoh has been a fantastic GHC National Champion and realistically I think when the time comes for him to lose the belt, it should be to someone who needs the belt to elevate them. The current and former champions all held the GHC Heavyweight Championship before the National Title even existed so Sugiura, Nakajima and Kenoh have all put prestige on the belt. Fujita obviously does not need the belt at all. But with how rarely he loses… Is this how Kenoh loses the belt?
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championships – STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa & HAYATA) (c) vs Daisuke Harada & Junta Miyawaki
Daisuke Harada’s Momo No Seishun tag partner, Atsushi Kotoge, beat Seiki Yoshioka on March 14th to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship for the third time. With Kotoge already pre-disposed and STINGER requiring a challenge, Junta Miyawaki stepped up to partner Harada.
This is Miyawaki’s first ever title match. Debuting in 2017, he’s had to take time out due to injuries; which did stall his progress, but since he returned in September 2020 he went straight into a connection with the newly reformed Momo No Seishun. As part of that alliance he has feuded with FULL THROTTLE, Kongo and STINGER with the entire NOAH junior division in chaos and fighting all the time.
Miyawaki was scheduled to have a singles match against Ogawa on March 14th, but due to Ogawa running a fever – completely unrelated to Covid as he does tend to get sick in the spring – he was replaced by HAYATA. I think it’s fair to assume that the outcome of an Ogawa singles match would be him beating Miyawaki as he has done 8 times in the past and HAYATA was also able to beat Miyawaki.
HAYATA didn’t just beat Miyawaki on that show, he pulled double duty and he and the other STINGER member, Yuya Susumu, beat Daisuke Harada and Kai Fujimura. HAYATA performed a clean sweep over both his challengers, pinning Miyawaki directly but the tag match ended with Susumu submitting Fujimura. But Harada was able to take advantage of a tired HAYATA and work his wrist over which could play a factor in to this match.
Harada and HAYATA have history going back to Osaka Pro 11 years ago when they first crossed paths. They have extensive history in NOAH as they were founding members of RATEL’S in early 2017, not that long after HAYATA had joined NOAH. Harada, HAYATA, YO-HEY & Tadasuke stayed together for the better part of 3 years but HAYATA was the first one to betray and abandoned the group in early 2020 to join STINGER. RATEL’S officially disbanded after HAYATA’s exit and by the end of 2020 both Tadasuke and YO-HEY had betrayed and deserted Harada.
These actions enabled Harada to reconnect with former partner Atsushi Kotoge and the reformed Momo No Seishun, with Junta Miyawaki a close associate, were able to provide Harada some retribution when they beat STINGER, HAYATA & Ogawa, for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team belts on October 11th. However their reign was short and STINGER won the belts back on November 22nd.
STINGER have held the belts since that night and have made three successful title defenses before this match. On paper this should be an easy victory for them with Harada and Miyawaki’s inexperience as a tag team and this being Junta’s first time in a high pressure situation like this.
Stranger things have happened however than Harada and Miyawaki getting a shock victory. I don’t think many people saw Kotoge dethroning Yoshioka in his first defense last week. And if Harada and Miyawaki were to win the tag belts, Momo No Seishun would hold all the junior gold in NOAH. And this may be needed as Harada was a touch frosty to congratulate Kotoge on winning the belt he had only just lost himself a month before.
I am excited to see how Miyawaki steps up and performs in this match. This is his first ever title opportunity and over the past few months he has really shown his growth and is coming into his own as a wrestler. He has improved a lot recently and this title shot is well deserved. Regardless as to the outcome, I hope he gets to shine in this match.
Kongo (Katsuhiko Nakajima, Masa Kitamiya & Manabu Soya) vs Osamu Nishimura, Yoshiki Inamura & Kinya Okada
A weird match on paper, and not one you’d expect to see so high up the card. But there is one obvious reason for it and one result I’m hoping for at the end of it.
Masa Kitamiya has had a big few months, almost on par with his run in the 2016 Global League where he reached the finals only to lose to Minoru Suzuki. At the end of December he and Takashi Sugiura were the final two alive in a big unit elimination match and he made the first scary headbutt to Sugiura. He and Katsuhiko Nakajima reformed their previous tag team, The Aggression, and they won the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team belts on March 7th after another scary headbutt knocked Sugiura out. And on March 14th, Kitamiya came out to challenge Keiji Mutoh for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. He made an exclamation on that challenge when he laid Mutoh out with a Saito Slam. That title match has been made official for April 29th.
With Mutoh not on today’s card, Kitamiya instead faces one of Mutoh’s old friends and allies from New Japan, Osamu Nishimura. Mutoh and Nishimura have teamed together in New Japan and All Japan and Nishimura is currently a part-timer in AJPW. This will be Nishimura’s sixth appearance in a NOAH ring since 2002 and his most recent was back in January beating tonight’s tag team partner in Kinya Okada.
So on the surface there is a connection between Kitamiya and his upcoming title challenge against Mutoh. But for me I am hoping for a different outcome. Kitamiya and Nakajima will need challengers for their GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles. Yoshiki Inamura is going to have a big 2021, of that I have no doubt. However Kinya Okada, who only debuted a few months after Inamura, also deserves to have a big 2021. NOAH need to have more than one iron in the fire in order to bolster up their heavyweight division and future proof themselves.
So I’m hoping to see Inamura and Okada make a big impression in this match. A big enough impression to challenge The Aggression for the tag belts. Inamura has already had two title shots for those same belts but Okada is yet to challenge for any title belts. I would not expect Inamura & Okada to dethrone The Aggression, not by a long shot, but I am hoping the title challenge would elevate them, Okada especially.
Manabu Soya suffered a disappointing defeat to Kazuyuki Fujita on March 7th which now makes sense due to the GHC National Title match on this show. And then he was the one pinned as Kongo lost an Eight man tag to a NOAH all star team. So while I would like team of Inamura & Okada to get the victory, I hope it’s not at Soya’s expense. Although I shouldn’t get my hopes up too high, odds are it’s Okada getting pinned.
M’s Alliance (Naomichi Marufuji & Yuko Miyamoto) vs Sugiura Army (Takashi Sugiura & Kendo Kashin)
A match in which you wonder what direction NOAH are going in if this match means anything. M’s Alliance and Sugiura Army haven’t clashed since Marufuji & Masakatsu Funaki challenged Sugiura and Kazushi Sakuraba back when they held the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team belts. Marufuji and Sugiura went to a 30 minute draw in last year’s N-1 Victory. And since the start of this year they’ve teamed more as a part of the NOAH all stars, NOAH-Ism then they have been opponents.
This feels like a filler match in all honesty. Just an opportunity for the Korakuen Hall crowd and the viewers watching at home to see Marufuji and Sugiura face off. Two of NOAH’s top stars and two men that symbolise NOAH. Marufuji is the vice-president and has appeared in wrestling promotions across the world representing Pro Wrestling NOAH. Sugiura is the only man to have held all the singles (GHC Heavyweight, Junior Heavyweight & National) and tag (GHC Heavyweight Tag & Junior Heavyweight Tag) titles in NOAH. And he and Go Shiozaki are tied with the most Heavyweight title reigns with four each. So this just feels like a treat to see them wrestle each other.
Yuko Miyamoto is still a Big Japan deathmatch wrestler at heart and he’s not been seen in NOAH since Yoshiki Inamura gained the biggest victory of his career by pinning him in a multi-man tag match at the beginning of December. Kashin recently lost a GHC National Title match to Kenoh. Stylistically the two don’t match up at all so it will be interesting to see the hard hitting, deathmatch heavyweight against the wrestling/MMA hybrid wrestler… Who would rather be lazy and cheat his way to victory.
FULL THROTTLE (Hajima Ohara, Seiki Yoshioka & YO-HEY) vs Kotaro Suzuki, Ikuto Hidaka & NOSAWA Rongai
I was shocked when Yoshioka lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship to Kotoge last week. Not like Kotoge doesn’t deserve the belt but I felt like Yoshioka deserved a longer reign. With him signing a one year contract with NOAH not that long back, I thought that would mean he’d get a longer reign.
And I also expected, if Yoshioka was to have retained, that Kotaro Suzuki would have been his next challenger. Well at least that pairing has continued and you’ll have all of FULL THROTTLE along with Suzuki and Ikuto Hidaka in the race to challenge the new champion.
This will be another great example of the NOAH juniors in action, even if NOSAWA is not going to be as fast as the rest of them. The division doesn’t seem as chaotic this year as it did last as NOSAWA and Tadasuke have already resolved their issues. So now there should be a focus on the junior titles and the majority of people in this match could challenge for either junior title in the near future.
Funky Express (Muhammad Yone & Shuhei Taniguchi) vs Anti-Wrestlers Alliance (Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue)
And now for something completely different. The newly branded Funky Express would lose their first match as a team to the Anti-Wrestlers Alliance. This loss was not taken well and backstage they made a rematch with the wager that the losing team would have to wear the winning team’s outfit. Harmless enough.
Yone and Saito faced each other in a singles match last week in which Yone stole the win. Talk got a bit more heated and, this could be an error in translation, but it seems it was suggested that the losing team also has to join the winning team on top of having to wear the winners outfits?
I am not 100% certain but it’s been insinuated that the losing team will no longer exist after this match. So something a bit more serious than you would expect on a lower card match. However whether this match will be that dramatic is another matter. Korakuen can come alive supporting an underdog (Inoue) but not so much in the era of clapping only. So this match may not be as serious as the stipulation would suggest.
Kongo (Tadasuke, Haoh & Nioh) vs Atsushi Kotoge, Yasutaka Yano & Kai Fujimura
The new GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion is on opening match duty much like how Yoshioka was on his first match after winning the belt. And he’s partnering the two least experienced members of the NOAH roster which could spell bad news for him as he faces the most cohesive and militaristic of the NOAH junior division in Kongo.
Kotoge and Tadasuke have their history as they were both members of Osaka Pro before they joined NOAH at different times in their careers. They have been partners and opponents many times across both promotions.
But Tadasuke isn’t the only one Kotoge will have to worry about. With that new belt around his waist both Haoh and Nioh will target the champion in order to try and secure themselves a title shot. Kotoge is really going to have eyes in the back of his head during this match.
And it’s not like he’s in there by himself. What Yano and Fujimura may lack in experience they make up for in heart and determination. Both could potentially be future fuxtures of the NOAH junior division if Fujimura does eventually sign with them and Yano continues to progress at the rate he has been since he debuted under six months ago.
And there you have it, that’s the card.
After this show NOAH have a light schedule in April with the big event happening on April 29th where Mutoh will defend the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Masa Kitamiya.
Thank you very much for reading this. I do genuinely appreciate every time someone is kind enough to read my long preview pieces. I hope you enjoy the show!