Pro Wrestling NOAH
Destiny 2015
December 23, 2015
Ota Ward Gymnasium – Tokyo, Japan

An interesting year for Pro Wrestling NOAH comes to end. Highlight of the year included Takeshi Morishima closing up shop, Suzuki-gun making the jump from New Japan Pro Wrestling, new stars being pushed for a month and then being shoved back down the card. It’s been an interesting year indeed. It all comes to a conclusion in the Ota Ward Gymasium on December 23.

Yoshihiro Takayama & Hitoshi Kumano vs. Yoshinari Ogawa & Kaito Kiyomiya

Kumano is no Yohei Komatsu or Sho Tanaka by any means. He’s a fine worker, but unlike the New Japan young lions, and even some of the DDT and Dragon Gate young boys, you can tell he’s never going to be anything more than just a fine worker on the roster. He has zero star potential and unfortunately what he’s doing here is exactly what he’s going to be doing five years from now — regardless of the promotion he’s wrestling in. Kiyomiya made his debut not long ago and is super green, but I’ve enjoyed watching his matches, seeing him go through the motions and slowly but surely learn the ropes. **¼

Akitoshi Saito, Muhammed Yone & Mitsuhiro Kitamiya vs. Captain NOAH, Genba Hirayanagi & Quiet Storm

A meaningless match at the bottom of the show. The wrestling was clean but there were some major issues intertwined that I touch on later on in the review as they go much deeper than the actual match at hand.

Kenoh vs. Hajime Ohara

I’m a huge fan of both guys — they are around the same age and have been wrestling for roughly the same amount of time. Ohara worked in Mexico for much of his career while Kenoh worked mostly in Okinawa Pro and Michinoku Pro, where he was a relatively big star. They’ve been teaming in NOAH for some time and have impeccable chemistry both as a team and as opponents, as shown here. Save for one or two rest holds, this was a complete sprint and was everything you could’ve asked for out of these two. The crowd was hot, and the commentators sounded like they were having a stroke, which added to the match a ton. It wasn’t a set stipulation, but you kind of assumed that the winner was getting a shot at the juniors strap down the line. And that being said, Kenoh winning was the right choice. ***½

Go Shiozaki vs. Maybach Taniguchi

Shiozaki has been going through the NOAH roster since he made his return in late November. Not many of his matches have made tape, but the ones that have, have been enjoyable. Maybach is kind of a gatekeeper at this point in the sense that he’s not that big a deal, but at the same time he is as he’s the bridge between the midcard and the main event. And not only that, he and Shiozaki were tag partners a few years back, so in a way, this was an important match. I’ve never been huge on Taniguchi but in the right environment, against the right opponent, he’s more than tolerable. Shiozaki did a good amount of selling which took me by surprise. I expected him to beat the hell out of Taniguchi and move on, but that wasn’t the case. Everything ended up working out in the end, so there was nothing here to complain about. ***¼

Takashi Sugiura vs. Takashi Iizuka

This was more of an Iizuka match than a Sugiura match, which was exactly what I expected. Iizuka did all his typical shtick from knocking out the referee, to trying to choke out Sugiura, to using his iron finger and everything else. An inoffensive match for the most part but nothing you need to go out of your way to see. Was more than likely put together because of what would happen later on in the show. **¾

Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Shelton Benjamin

It’s really telling that a 40-year-old gaijin is the guy that’s been booked the best out of such a talented roster. Shelton Benjamin not only lives the gimmick of the grumpy asshole, but NOAH believes in him as that guy. He isn’t the top dog, but he doesn’t need to be. He needs to be a step or two below the top dog, and that’s exactly what he is. Nakajima has been all over the place for the better part of the past decade, he’s meant absolutely nothing to NOAH, and I truly believe that Shelton Benjamin has revived some of his career. I’m not saying Nakajima is going to be the next ace of the promotion, there’s no chance he’d succeed in that role, but there’s something there for him now. A door has been opened a door where no door seemed to exist, and having him get the clean win will hopefully lead him to bigger and dare I say better things in 2016 and the years to come.

As for the actual match, everything you would have expected and more. Clean, solid wrestling, a hot crowd, and a great story. Can’t ask for much more, now can you? ****

GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge (c) vs. TAKA Michinoku & El Desperado

All four of these guys have had good years, both as teams and individually. Harada and Kotoge won these belts from Michinoku and Desperado back in October, and though this wasn’t as good as the match they had then, all four of them worked extremely hard. Harada and Kotoge ended up retaining and now look to defend against Michinoku and Taichi on January 31. The Suzuki-gun vs. NOAH feud seems to be boiling over into 2016 as a whole, so I guess Suzuki-gun is going to have to lose to the NOAH juniors three times in a row. ***¾

GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship
Taichi (c) vs. Taiji Ishimori

Taichi has had a sneaky fantastic year. I couldn’t stand him in New Japan, but since jumping over to NOAH earlier in the year, he’s improved a ton both as a character and as an in-ring worker. This wasn’t his best defense by any means, but was an easy four-star match because of all the subtleties and emotion, accompanied by some great wrestling and the perfect ending to a year-long feud. I thought Harada was going to be the one to dethrone Taichi back in September, but I’m more than happy that Ishimori was the guy they chose. He isn’t as over as Harada from what I can tell, but that doesn’t matter in this case as they just needed someone to dethrone Taichi. All NOAH guys are equal when put up against Suzuki-gun at this point. Harada being as over as he is is just a plus, not a deciding factor. Ishimori now goes on to defend against Kenoh on January 31, which I’m sure will be another fantastic sprint. Totally recommend checking this match out. ****

GHC Tag Team Championship
Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) (c) vs. Chris Hero & Colt Cabana

KES have had a great year as well and have improved a ton, especially Davey, who I’ve always had trouble getting into. I feel like he’s always been this big dude that didn’t exactly know what he was supposed to be doing. He’s made some clear adjustments to the way he works these past few months. Cabana on the other hand is 95% light-hearted comedy but for some reason decided to go back eleven years and actually wrestle in this match, which he was exceptionally good at. Hero and Archer were obviously the two best workers, but Davey Boy and Cabana were great as those sort of secondary guys.

I had all my money on Hero and Cabana, but I understand the logic behind KES retaining. They now look to defend against Yone and Nakajima in the near future.

Everyone worked hard here and played their role the best way they knew how, and for that, I enjoyed this match a ton. ****¼

GHC Heavyweight Championship
Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Naomichi Marufuji

A solid main event but didn’t exactly peak to the point where I’d consider this anything more than solid, which is a total bummer being that I’ve loved all of Suzuki’s matches this year and expected so much more out of this. I don’t hate Marufuji as much as some do, but he does have some very clear flaws. His biggest in my eyes being that he can’t work long form matches that require a ton of emotion to be anything even close to memorable. This was one of those matches. It felt like a big deal before and after the match, not from bell to bell. Who’s to blame? I don’t know, something just didn’t click. There were some cool sequences but aside from that, this was a 34 minute drag. ***½

Marufuji got the win and thus conquered the invader. Sugiura then slid into the ring, raised his hand and gave him an Olympic Slam, indicating that he is no longer Team NOAH, and that is indeed Team Suzuki-gun.

Go Shiozaki tried extending his hand to Marufuji, but Marufuji brushed him away. Shiozaki slowly walked out of the arena looking into his hand, realizing that the NOAH roster isn’t willing to accept him. Not to worry though, he has his own group of buddies. I’m sure we’ll be getting to see them sooner or later.

In a weird way, I’m going miss Suzuki on top. We’re back to where we began. Back to square one. Just a year later, and a year older. What’s changed? Takashi Sugiura is a bad guy, and Go Shiozaki is back from All Japan. That’s all good and dandy, but NOAH is suffering from the same problem a number of promotions have suffered from in the past, which is their lack of building new stars. I’m not worried about the guy that’s going to conquer Suzuki and the rest of his crew. I’m not worried about who NOAH’s temporary savior is. That was never the issue. I want to know who’s going to dethrone Suzuki’s conqueror and the champions to come. NOAH doesn’t need to build someone that’ll headline six months from now, they need to build someone that’ll headline six years from now.

The guy they’ve been putting in meaningless six-man tags at the very bottom of the card, is the guy that could end up meaning the most when all is said and done, because at the end of the day, the last guy at the bar is the one who has the best chance of getting laid. He may not be the best dressed, the most charismatic or the one who has the most game, but he does have staying power, and he is worth settling for.

Now’s the time to start grooming this guy, because in time, you won’t be able to run back to your top dogs. Now’s the time to take advantage, NOAH. Now’s the time to take advantage. You need to make sure this ship doesn’t sail away.