Pro Wrestling NOAH
Great Voyage in Yokohama 2016
October 23, 2016
Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium – Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Muhammed Yone, Quiet Storm & Yoshinari Ogawa Def. Akitoshi Saito, Maybach Taniguchi & Shiro Tomoyose
What NOAH is doing with Taniguchi, I don’t know. He hasn’t changed his name despite having shed the persona, he’s been firmly planted in the undercard where he’s losing at least 90% of his matches, and he isn’t pushed like a guy who’s played somewhat of a major role in the feud between New Japan and NOAH. He’s had an odd year from a booking perspective, while you could argue he’s had one of his best years yet in terms of in-ring. He’s not great, but he’s no longer the unbearable bum he was for a while. He took it easy here, as did most of the other guys. Would you believe me if I told you Quiet Storm was the hardest worker in the match? **
Daisuke Harada & Hitoshi Kumano Def. El Desperado & Taichi
El Desperado is a guy I’ve always enjoyed. A guy I’ve always seen potential in, but a guy who, for the longest time, has just been a guy on the roster. He’s fine at what he does, but what he does isn’t anything special. He knows his role, he’s a guy who shows up to work at the same time every day, does what’s asked of him, does it as well as he can, is never Employee of the Month, but is a guy who will always serve a purpose. He’d do well if given something to sink his teeth into, he just hasn’t been. That’s El Desperado, and that will be El Desperado until someone decides to elevate him. Taichi, on the other hand, sucks, has sucked for a long time, showed a sliver of hope last year with a handful of decent performances but has slipped right back into his old ways. As for Harada and Kumano, I wouldn’t mind seeing them team up on a regular basis now that Kotoge is occupied with the junior title. And as for the match, it was a five-minute tag second from the bottom of the card. What more can I say? **1/2
Masa Kitamiya Def. Takashi Iizuka
This wasn’t a good match, it was a very bad one, the kind of match that makes you shake your head given how good Kitamiya is. Iizuka is somewhat tolerable in multi-mans, but if I never saw that man in a singles match ever again I’d be quite alright with that, to say the least. Here’s hoping Kitamiya finds himself in a better spot on the cards moving forward. DUD
Minoru Suzuki Def. Kaito Kiyomiya
The story of the grumpy old man thinking he could get off easy with the 20-year-old greenhorn but quickly realizing that wasn’t the case. The simplicity of the story they told here is what made it work. Kiyomiya put up a strong fight against Suzuki, showed a lot of heart, and showed an unwillingness to go down without making a statement. Nothing out of this world, just natural pro wrestling storytelling. The way this match was structured and the fact that the match happened in the first place was not a mistake and was not just used as filler. There was something behind this. Kiyomiya is still very green and shows no sign of charisma, but it’s clear NOAH sees a little something in him. There’s something to be said about a guy with less than a year of experience being given the opportunity to wrestle someone of Suzuki’s stature for eleven minutes on a major show. Kiyomiya looked the best he’s ever looked and this was probably the most I’ve enjoyed Suzuki in months. ***
GHC Junior Tag Team Championship
Gedo & Jado (c) Def. Hajime Ohara & Kenoh
In my mind, the idea behind Gedo and Jado winning these titles was to free up Kotoge for the junior title without having him and Harada lose to Ohara and Kenoh again, so the result of this match confused me a bit. I saw them more as transitional champions but it appears they may actually be having a legitimate run. Not that I have a problem with it, it’s just unlike them to win matches and put themselves over, being the unselfish bookers that they are.
One of many things I love about Gedo (and Jado, but moreso Gedo), is the sense of desperation you get from him. No one cares about winning more than Gedo cares about winning, therefore I care about Gedo winning. He was great in this match, as he is in just about every match. This wasn’t quite as good as some of the other junior tag stuff from this year, but once it got going it was good time. ***1/2
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship
Atsushi Kotoge (c) Def. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
Say what you will about Kanemaru, but he’s a guy I’ve always enjoyed and I guy I still think can go when it matters. He clearly lacks motivation a majority of the time and he clearly isn’t the worker he was a decade ago, but when he’s in there with the right guy in the right spot, he can have a good match, and he’s had good matches this year. This was not one of his best by any means, in fact, I wasn’t even that big on it, but it was certainly different from his other matches. This one didn’t contain all the stuff a lot of people aren’t fans of and was very much just a match. I’m not sure I like Kotoge as champion, as I personally prefer him as a tag guy and would much rather have Harada (Kotoge’s next challenger) as champ, but I can’t say it really matters in terms of booking. A nice, definitive win is always nice to see.. ***1/4
Katsuyori Shibata Def. Go Shiozaki
This was smug prick Shibata at his finest, and there’s nothing I love more than smug prick Shibata. He felt like an invader, he felt like he didn’t belong, exactly how Shiozaki has felt in New Japan. This wasn’t his company, these weren’t his fans, he was invading their territory, and they treated him like such. He was a complete asshole from the moment he walked through the curtain. He waltzed into NOAH and he embarrassed Go Shiozaki in his own company in front of his own fans and he did it without even breaking a sweat. Shiozaki is a good fighter, some would call him a great fighter, it just didn’t matter because he’s still no Katsuyori Shibata. He wasn’t on Shibata’s level and it was put on display for everyone to see as Shibata played him like a fiddle for eighteen minutes. What this means for Shiozaki in New Japan moving forward, I don’t know, but if there’s one thing I took away from this match, it’s that I want another between these two, and I want it on an even bigger stage with even higher stakes. This isn’t over yet. ****
GHC Tag Team Championship
Naomichi Marufuji & Toru Yano (c) Def. Togi Makabe & Tomoaki Honma
Yano is one of, if not my least favorite wrestler in the world. Like Iizuka, I tolerate him in undercard multi-mans but would be a much happier man if I never had to watch him in a big match ever again. This, like most of their defenses, didn’t feel like a semi-main event title match but instead a match used to fill the gap between Shibata vs. Shiozaki and the main event. It wasn’t bad, nor was it all that good. Yano, again, stood out in the worst way possible with his goofy comedy while the other three had an otherwise serious match. I thought the wrong guys won, I thought if they were going to have Shibata beat Shiozaki, which was the right result, they should have had Marufuji and Yano lose. Makabe and Honma aren’t doing anything in New Japan, haven’t been for a while, and maybe giving them something to do here would benefit them. That doesn’t mean they need to take a break from New Japan, there’s no reason they can’t work a normal schedule and show up in NOAH for a few matches like Gedo does. Ah well. Marufuji and Yano are still champs. Hopefully not for too much longer. ***1/4
GHC Heavyweight Championship
Katsuhiko Nakajima Def. Takashi Sugiura (c)
And so we meet the end.
It’s been nearly two years since Suzuki-gun made the jump. Time is a weird thing, isn’t it? Two years isn’t all that much time, yet two years in NOAH somehow feels like an eternity. It feels like this Suzuki-gun thing has been going on forever. It’s been two long years. It’s easy to forget that Takashi Sugiura wasn’t even apart of Suzuki-gun until December, it feels like he’s always been apart of them. Sugiura was a mid-card tag wrestler when they made the jump, had no part of this war until he took on Suzuki in September, lost, and decided to join him three months later. Nakajima was even lower on the totem pole, almost a complete non-entity. Sugiura has been champ for a majority of the year up until this point, and a rather dominant one at that. He ran through the biggest dog in the yard in Marufuji and stripped him of his pride, he fell to Shiozaki but almost immediately got him back, he ran through Taniguchi and sent him into obscurity, and just one month before he met Nakajima, he ran through Nakajima’s best friend, proving the young Kitamiya wasn’t quite ready. Nakajima was only man left, the only man standing in his way, the man he defeated earlier in the year but was now stronger, faster and smarter than he was before.
There were no shenanigans here, there was no bullshit, Sugiura’s good, Sugiura was a strong champion, but on this night, the 28-year-old was simply better than he was. People have posed the question for two years now, from the moment Suzuki-gun stepped foot through the door. It’s become a joke since then, but it was always rooted in reality, and it was always a question worth asking. “Who is NOAH’s savior?” It could change at the drop of a dime, but as it looks, Katsuhiko Nakajima is NOAH’s savior.
This was not Sugiura’s best defense and was not quite as good as the match the two had in March, which, let’s face it, was going to be hard to top in the first place. The crowd wasn’t as into it as you’d think they’d be, the work was a bit slow and a bit lethargic for the first several minutes, and the finish almost came out of nowhere, but once it got going it was still a very, very good match. There was something that felt significant about what happened afterwards, and something that was touched on greatly by Joe and Rich on their podcast.
Something felt significant about Masa Kitamiya celebrating with Nakajima, strapping the title around his friend’s waist while on the verge of tears. In this context, it didn’t mean anything. It was two friends celebrating over something one of them achieved, nothing more, nothing less. However, I couldn’t help but feel like we may look back on this match and on that visual of Kitamiya strapping the belt to Nakajima’s waist when these two are on top of the world in a few years time. Sugiura is an old man, who knows how much longer he’ll be around. Marufuji’s inching towards 40, who knows how much longer he’ll be in the position he’s in. If NOAH does it right, these two young men, Kitamiya and Nakajima, will be ruling this promotion come 2020. And we’ll look back on that visual of these two friends celebrating after this match and we’ll say “this is where it began.” ***3/4
There were only two matches on this show I’d recommend going out of your way to see, one if you’re not a fan of long GHC title matches. While nothing on the show aside from the Iizuka walk-and-brawl was outwardly bad, it wasn’t the best major show NOAH has put on this year. It was good, but I wouldn’t call it great. Thumbs up. Just one thumb though.