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TNA & NOAH the REBORN
TNA is sending various pieces of talent to NOAH next month for their big Yokohama show as part of a new partnership they’ve formed with Masayuki Uchida, who played a big part in the partnership between them and WRESTLE-1 a few years back.
The announced matches are James Storm vs. Kaito Kiyomiya, Moose and KAZMA SAKAMOTO vs. Naomichi Marufuji and Keiji Mutoh (whoever’s booking NOAH might be a Fire Pro fan), and Eddie Edwards vs. Atsushi Kotoge. Nothing extraordinary in terms of talent, but some extra names never hurt. If anything, this partnership will likely benefit NOAH more than it’ll benefit TNA, though I’m not sure what the plans are and if any NOAH talent will be making their way over to Orlando.
Even if that is the case, NOAH is going to benefit more by having these guys, not because they’re huge names that are going to draw serious cash, but because they’re bodies, and I’ve been saying it for months now, NOAH needs more bodies. It gives the TNA dudes some extra work too, which is never a bad thing.
The rest of said Yokohama show sees Katsuhiko Nakajima defend his title against Go Shiozaki in the main event, Hajime Ohara defend his junior title against Hitoshi Kumano, Takashi Sugiura and Kenoh square off against Masa Kitamiya, who Kenoh turned on at the end of the month, and Muhammad Yone for the vacant tag titles, and newly crowned junior tag champions Taiji Ishimori and Hi69 defend against Daisuke Harada and Tadasuke. Far from NOAH’s strongest big show card, but I suspect it’ll do alright with a good main event, Mutoh teaming with Marufuji, and it being the first Yokohama show without Suzuki-gun. March 12th is the date, we’ll see what happens when we get there.
As for what actually happened this month, not a whole lot as far as the big stuff goes, but another great in-ring month for ol’ NOAH the REBORN. Every show, and I watch all of them, is great from top to bottom, it’s amazing how much better the promotion is without Suzuki-gun and with new ownership. Everything is fresh, everything has juice, everyone is motivated, there’s nothing on any of the shows I would even consider below average. Everything’s at least solid. Akitoshi Saito kills it every time out, and that right there should be enough to show you that things are different now, because who was more dull than Akitoshi Saito in NOAH before 2017? The February 14th show had a number of great matches between Marufuji and Kumano vs. Sugiura and Kiyomiya, Harada vs. Kotoge, Kenoh vs. Ohara and the main event of Nakajima and Kitamiya vs. Shiozaki and Taniguchi. Same thing with the February 18th Hakata show, where Ishimori and Hi69 defeated YO-HEY and HAYATA for the junior tag titles. A number of great matches on that one too. You’re making a mistake if you haven’t watched any NOAH in 2017, and I wouldn’t have believed you if you told me I’d be saying this a year ago.
All Japan Pro Wrestling
Kento Miyahara successfully defended his Triple Crown title against The Bodyguard in Osaka, in what was one of the better matches of the year thus far.
I touched on a lot of stuff in my review of the show that match took place on, so read that for more in-depth thoughts both on the Triple Crown match and the Junior Battle of Glory, which was a big part of All Japan’s February. Beyond that, they drew 1,138 fans to Korakuen for the first show of the tournament on the 17th, main evented by a tag title match between champions Zeus and Bodyguard and challengers Miyahara and Jake Lee, one of the better tag matches of 2017.
The blocks for the Champion Carnival were announced, and of course, they’re absolutely stacked.
The A Block consists of Triple Crown champion Kento Miyahara, 2016 winner Daisuke Sekimoto, Joe Doering, KAI, Jake Lee, Zeus and Ryouji Sai while the B Block consists of Suwama, Shuji Ishikawa, Kengo Mashimo, Daichi Hashimoto, The Bodyguard, Takao Omori and Naoya Nomura. The tournament isn’t for another month and a half, but if I were a betting man, I’d put my money on either Zeus or Joe Doering. Too soon for Carnival talk though. If you’ll notice, Jun Akiyama isn’t listed in there, and has quite possibly worked his last Carnival as he’s stated that he no longer wants to take up space in such a tournament. Instead, Akiyama’s focus has been temporarily shifted towards the GAORA TV title as he challenges KENSO for the strap Jiro Kuroshio had to vacate due to injury on March 12th. And good for him, if he wants to try and carry his opponent KENSO to a decent match, that’s his prerogative.
Daisuke Sekimoto took the month to himself and returns to Big Japan on March 3rd, two days before he defends his title against Hideki Suzuki in Korakuen, Suzuki earning the right to challenge by defeating Ryuichi Kawakami on February 10th. March 5th also marks the beginning of the Deathmatch Survivor tournament, which then wraps up on April 8th. In the A Block of said tournament is Ryuji Ito, Isami Kodaka, Kenji Fukimoto, Takayuki Ueki, Toshiyuki Sakuda and Takumi Tsukamoto. In the B Block is Jaki Numazawa, Yuko Miyamoto, Masashi Takeda, Kankuro Hoshino, Ryuichi Sekine and Masaya Takahashi. Certainly not everyone’s thing, certainly not my thing, but if you’re into it, there’s no shortage of content.
As for something that is my thing, Sekimoto and Yuji Okabayashi defend their tag titles against Daichi Hashimoto and Hideyoshi Kamitani on March 12th.
DDT & DNA
Some more matches were announced for the big March 20th Saitama Super Arena show as Shuji Ishikawa and Tetsuya Endo challenge Masakatsu Funaki for the tag titles, Yoshihiro Takayama and Dick Togo take on KUDO and Shungo Oyama, and KO-D trios champions Kazusada Higuchi, Kouki Iwasaki and Mizuki Watase defend against unannounced challengers. Some nice additions to an already good card. As a prelude to the main event of that card, Konosuke Takeshita went head to head with HARASHIMA in the main event of the February 19th Korakuen show as he and Dick Togo fell to HARASHIMA and KUDO in another very, very good tag match where everyone busted their ass and looked great.
Akebono and Kazusada Higuchi defeated Yuji Okabayashi and newcomer Naomi Yoshimura in the main event of DNA 30, DNA’s biggest show to date. I’d imagine Yoshimura will be the star of the brand here soon, and he delivered in what was a pretty big spot for a guy who’s not even three months into his career. For as much as I bang on them, DDT really does a nice job with these young guys. They’re pumping them out at the same rate a company like Dragon Gate is, and Dragon Gate’s famous for pumping out incredible rookies like it’s nothing. Yoshimura clearly has something, and they clearly realize that. Kotaro Suzuki also worked that show and is returning next month to team with Shunma Katsumata against Higuchi and Mike Bailey on the 14th.
The only news coming out of WRESTLE-1this month is that there was an incredible lack of news.
No big matches, no news, no notable announcements, there’s quite literally nothing going on. Koji Doi won their rookie title on the 22nd, Keiji Mutoh ran his own little show in Korakuen on the 8th, which shouldn’t have interfered with WRESTLE-1’s schedule, and that’s about it. They ran two shows this month and one rookie show, and they don’t look to be doing much more in March. They’re running Korakuen on the 20th with Masayuki Kono vs. Shotaro Ashino on top as announced last month. That’s all they have lined up for the most part. It’s amazing looking back on how well this promotion was doing a year ago. Now they’re right back to where they were before, maybe even worse.
The February 3rd Korakuen saw two title changes as Akebono and Shogun Okamoto defeated TARU and Hartley Jackson for the tag titles while Kotaro Suzuki defeated Shinjiro Otani for the junior title. KAI failed to capture the heavyweight strap in the main event as he and champion Kohei Sato went to a draw, though he’ll have yet another chance to win some gold on March 2nd on the same building as he and Yusaku Obata challenge Akebono and Okamoto in what will presumably be the main event. Sato’s not defending on that show and will instead be in an undercard tag match with Hideki Suzuki, Yuji Okabayashi and James Raideen. Other matches on that show include Isami Kodaka and Takumi Tsukamoto vs. Minoru Tanaka and Koji Kanemoto for Kodaka and Tsukamoto’s junior tag titles, Hartley Jackson vs. Sean Guinness for Jackson’s United National title, Otani and Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs. Kotaro Suzuki and Takuya Sugawara, and Chris Orndorff vs. Takuya Nomura.
The top two matches from the February 22nd Stardom show in Kairi Hoji vs. Jungle Kyona for the Wonder of Stardom title and Io Shirai vs. Shanya Baszler for the World of Stardom title were both excellent and what I would consider must-watch. Stardom has been very stagnant lately, most of their shows have been extremely dull, but when they hit, they hit hard, and those matches hit hard. Both champions came out on top while Mayu Iwatani, who was champion for well over a year, lost her High Speed title to Kris Wolf in a three-way, which also involved Wolf’s stablemate Kagetsu.
In a pretty major piece of news when it comes to joshi, JWP announced that they’ll be changing their name after their April 2nd show and taking a hiatus until August 11th, when they’ll return as an entirely new entity.
Odds & Ends
- Josh Barnett vs. Shinichi Suzukawa was announced for the April 5th IGF show.
- Taishi Takizawa lost to Kengo Mashimo in a match for the K-DOJO title on February 26th.
- Kota Ibushi was announced for the April 23rd K-DOJO Korakuen show.
- Ryouji Sai brings LAND’S END to Shinkiba 1st Ring on March 1st with a main event of himself, Rikiya Fudo and SUSHI vs. KAZMA SAKAMOTO, Ishikiri and Masakado.
- FUJITA vs. Yusuke Kodama, Takuya Kai and Hikaru Sato vs. Rocky Kawamura and Shinjuku Shark, and Hideki Suzuki and Shogun Okamoto vs. Daiki Inaba and Kumagoro are some matches taking place on the April 4th Tokyo Gurentai show. Names also announced but not yet in a match include NOSAWA Rongai and Manabu Soya.
- Mr. Gannosuke is running one of his wonderful produce shows on March 7th as he takes on Isami Kodaka in the main event, Yuko Miyamoto takes on Buffalo in the semi-main event, Jun Kasai takes on Magnitude Kishiwada, Atsushi Maruyama takes on KAI and Yasu Urano takes on Konaka.
- Tatsumi Fujinami, Riki Choshu and Shiro Koshinaka vs. Big Van Vader, Keiji Mutoh and AKIRA is the main event of Tatsumi Fujinami’s 45th anniversary show on April 20th.
Recommended Matches (****+)
- Yuu vs. Shoko Nakajima – Tokyo Joshi Pro – January 4th (****)
- Konosuke Takeshita vs. Kazusada Higuchi – DDT Saitama Slam – January 7th (****)
- Tetsuya Endo vs. KUDO – DDT Road to Super Arena in Nagoya – January 8th (****)
- Hiroyo Matsumoto & Misaki Ohata vs. AKINO & Io Shirai – Kyoko Kimura Retirement Show – January 22nd (****)
- ISAO, Kyoko Kimura & Hana Kimura vs. Minoru Suzuki, Aja Kong & Meiko Satomura – Kyoko Kimura Retirement Show – January 22nd (****1/4)
- CHANGO, Guts Ishijima, Michio Kageyama & Mr. Gannosuke vs. Amigo Suzuki, Dick Togo, Masao Orihara & Ryan Upin – GUTS World New Year Super GUTS World – January 24th (****)
- Syuri & Hikaru Shida vs. Kagetsu & Hiroyo Matsumoto – OZ Academy Wizard of OZ – January 25th (****)
- Arisa Nakajima vs. Nanae Takahashi – SEAdLINNNG Integral-d – January 26th (****)
- HZK & Io Shirai vs. Yoko Bito & Kairi Hojo – Stardom Kyoto Stars – February 4th (****)
- Masakatsu Funaki & Yukio Sakaguchi vs. HARASHIMA & KUDO – DDT Nerima The Fighter – February 14th (****)
- Hitoshi Kumano & Naomichi Marufuji vs. Kaito Kiyomiya – NOAH The Second Navigation – February 14th (****)
- Masa Kitamiya & Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Go Shiozaki & Maybach Taniguchi – NOAH The Second Navigation – February 14th (****)
- Minoru Tanaka vs. Keisuke Ishii – AJPW Excite Series – February 17th (****)
- Zeus & The Bodyguard vs. Jake Lee & Kento Miyahara – AJPW Excite Series – February 17th (****1/4)
- Masa Kitamiya vs. Atsushi Kotoge – NOAH The Second Navigation – February 18th (****)
- Takashi Sugiura vs. Kenoh – NOAH The Second Navigation – February 18th (****)
- Go Shiozaki & Maybach Taniguchi vs. Naomichi Marufuji & Katsuhiko Nakajima – NOAH The Second Navigation – February 18th (****1/4)
- Jake Lee, Kento Miyahara, Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi vs. Zeus, The Bodyguard, Koji Iwamoto & Minoru Tanaka – AJPW Excite Series – February 19th (****)
- Dick Togo & Konosuke Takeshita vs. Akito & HARASHIMA – DDT Into The Fight – February 19th (****)
- Kairi Hojo vs. Jungle Kyona – Stardom Stardom of Champions – February 23rd (****)
- Io Shirai vs. Shanya Baszler – Stardom Stardom of Champions – February 23rd (****1/4)
- Koji Iwamoto vs. Hikaru Sato – AJPW Excite Series – February 26th (****)
- Kento Miyahara vs. The Bodyguard – AJPW Excite Series – February 26th (****1/2)