Pro Wrestling NOAH
Great Voyage in Yokohama 2017
March 12, 2017
Yokohama, Kanagawa, Japan
Yokohama Bunka Gymnasium (Attendance: 2,504)
Akitoshi Saito, Maybach Taniguchi & Yoshinari Ogawa Def. YO-HEY, HAYATA & Rionne Fujiwara
I’ve enjoyed all of the indie dudes to come through NOAH this year, and the three dads have all done a very nice job since January in their own right. Saito, a guy I could not stand for the longest time, busts his ass every time out and is consistently fun to watch. YO-HEY, HAYATA and Fujiwara have done such wonders for these otherwise meaningless undercards, and the extra energy guys like Saito and Taniguchi have been exerting certainly helps too. As good a multi-man opener as you could ask for out of the six. **3/4
GHC Junior Tag Team Championship
Hi69 & Taiji Ishimori Def. Tadasuke & Daisuke Harada
Hi69, the epitome of Japanese indepedent wrestling, has also been a marvelous addition to this roster. I couldn’t stand the guy a year ago, he was an instant skip when I’d watch my K-DOJO and my wrestler produce shows, but man have I turned the corner on him these past few months. He always works hard, always brings energy to these matches, always shows some guts, and this team with Ishimori is absolutely tremendous, despite the head-scratching Bullet Club Hunter-esque gear. It gives Ishimori something to do, which is good since he’s been a bit stagnant in the booking for quite a while now, and the two have shockingly great chemistry together. Hi69 did all sorts of crazy stunts here and was the clear highlight, closely followed by Tadasuke who hasn’t done a whole lot to impress since coming in but busted his ass in this match. When talking wacky, balls-to-the-wall junior tag sprints, it doesn’t get much better this. Ishimori and Hi69 overcame the Osaka crew and will now move on to their next challenge in the form of Hajime Ohara and Hitoshi Kumano. ***1/2
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship
Hajime Ohara (c) Def. Hitoshi Kumano
I consider myself to be a fair man. I’m willing to admit my wrongs. I’m willing to admit that I’m not always right. I’m willing to take the L every now and again, and I’m willing to take the L on Hitoshi Kumano. I’ve been saying for years that I don’t see any sort of potential in Kumano, that I see him as a prelim guy and nothing else. He spent years as a young boy and was very stagnant in his progression as a worker. His look bothered me. He lacked charisma and personality. He lacked that extra something that makes you care about someone beyond what they can do from bell-to-bell. And he proved me wrong. Kumano is the junior they need to build around long term. He lost to Kanemaru last year in his breakout performance and he lost to Ohara here, and if I were booking NOAH, I’d have him keep losing. Keep building up that reputation of him not being able to win the title but coming into each match with something different about him. He went into the Kanemaru match a young kid and he showed a lot of heart despite not being able to get the job done. He came into this match with new gear and a new attitude to show that he’s not still the same guy, and again he showed a lot of heart despite not being able to get the job done. Keep building him up, let people invest in him, and then pull the trigger.
Hajime Ohara is not only the best babyface on the roster, but he’s one of the best overall wrestlers on the roster and I can’t believe it’s taken so long for NOAH to give him a serious push. It’s clear Jado and the previous booker had a liking for Harada and Kotoge as they were the hardest pushed juniors in the company for several years, and it’s clear that whoever the new NOAH booker is, does not share the same views. Kotoge’s a heavyweight, Harada’s playing around with the indie geeks, and Ohara is by far the hardest pushed junior on the roster, and this was another great defense to put under his belt. ****
James Storm Def. Kaito Kiyomiya
While James Storm doesn’t exactly do a whole lot for me, I have no problem with NOAH bringing in these TNA guys to work the undercards. It gives them some work and it gives their guys some work. Good opportunity for Kiyomiya to wrestle someone from another country here too since he’s never had the chance to do so in his short career. Predictably, Storm controlled most of the match but Kiyomiya fought like hell to survive, only to eat the pin in about eight minutes. Kiyomiya is always fun to watch and Storm looked happy to be in Japan so it ended up being a pretty solid match. ***
Eddie Edwards Def. Atsushi Kotoge
Despite being heavily pushed in Ring of Honor, it seems Eddie Edwards never really gets the love he deserves. I’m comfortable calling him one of the most underrated pro wrestlers of the past decade at this point, because he really does deserve to be talked about a lot more. I was a big fan of his original NOAH run from 2005 to 2013, so seeing him back is something I’m obviously very excited about, and seeing him in there with Kotoge, someone I’ve really enjoyed this year, is also something I was very excited about.
Kotoge’s almost been presented like a pre-2016 Tomoaki Honma since his jump to the heavyweight division in the sense that he shows so much heart in his matches and throws everything he has at his opponents yet can never come out victorious. He’s beaten the juniors, he’s proven that they’re not on his level, but he hasn’t quite proven that he’s on the same level as his heavyweight peers either. He couldn’t beat Go Shiozaki on January 9th, he couldn’t beat Takashi Sugiura on January 11th, he couldn’t beat Katsuhiko Nakajima on January 21st, he couldn’t beat Masa Kitamiya on February 18th, he couldn’t beat Naomichi Marufuji on February 24th, and he couldn’t beat Eddie Edwards here. He’s able to hang in there with them and carry his own weight, but when push comes to shove, he’s been unable to overcome any of them, and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Like I said with Kumano, let people get behind the guy, let him bust his ass and show that he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win, let him lose some more, that way when he does win it means something. Not exactly a barn-burner, but some good, clean professional wrestling. ***1/2
Naomichi Marufuji & Keiji Mutoh Def. Moose & KAZMA SAKAMOTO
If NOAH doesn’t use Moose on a regular basis from here on out, I am going to be very upset. Him and Marufuji absolutely killed it here and made me desperate to see a singles match between the two. Moose, to the surprise of no one, was over like crazy. Japan loves them a big foreigner who throws people around, does moonsaults and has a catchy theme song. KAZMA didn’t do a whole lot and was probably just there to help Moose since he speaks English, although he did do a Marty Scurll spot at one point, which I found funny. Mutoh’s body continues to fall apart and I continue to worry about him every time he steps foot in a ring, yet he still manages to look pretty decent for a 54-year-old man with no knees. Again, not exactly a barn-burner, but a fun spectacle of a match where two of the guys involved looked fantastic. ***1/2
GHC Tag Team Championship
Kenoh & Takashi Sugiura Def. Masa Kitamiya & Muhammad Yone
It should have been obvious right from the jump that Kenoh would be apart of Sugiura’s crew. It should have been obvious that him peaking through the curtain during Sugiura’s match with Marufuji on Christmas Eve and the fact that his partner Kitamiya was teaming with Nakajima on the side was leading to a turn. Kenoh and Kitamiya had great chemistry together and seemed to be pretty stable since the Sugiura thing was almost completely forgotten about, although that was exactly the point. NOAH let everyone forget that they planted the seeds on Christmas Eve, they made it seem as though it didn’t mean anything, and that’s when they turned him. I enjoy when bookers don’t treat the viewers like they’re stupid. It made perfect sense that Kenoh would turn on Kitamiya, yet it still came as somewhat of a surprise.
Certainly not the best GHC tag title match this year since they’ve all been pretty damn great, but this was very good. All four looked awesome, with Yone having the least to do but still stepping it up like he always does in the big spot. Kitamiya was the one who took the pin here, and considering how hard he’s been pushed, that’s something worth noting. Marufuji and Maybach challenged Sugiura and Kenoh afterward and will get their shot on April 14th in Korakuen. ***3/4
GHC Heavyweight Championship
Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) Def. Go Shiozaki
For as much criticism as he gets for failing as the top star when pushed as such, Go Shiozaki really is a great professional wrestler and always delivers from bell-to-bell. He may not be the guy NOAH expected him to be, he may not have had the upside KENTA or Marufuji had or Nakajima currently has, he may not be a star, but Shiozaki is one of the best wrestlers in the world when he’s at his best, and is still pretty great when he’s not. Matches like these and matches like he had with Sugiura last year really make me appreciate him for what he is, a guy that doesn’t need to be pushed as a star but a guy that can deliver big when put in the position once or twice a year. Nakajima has been the best GHC champion of the past several years, and I’m someone who enjoyed Sugiura’s run a lot. Nakajima feels like a champion and like a top star, unlike Suzuki or Sugiura. He feels like an ace, which they’ve been in desperate need of for a long time.
Brutal, heated, action-packed, this match resembled everything the company has been this year, and the best part? No interference, no shenanigans, just two great pro wrestlers having a straight up, no nonsense main event on a big show. It’s amazing what happens when you cut all the bullshit and let these guys do what they do best. NOAH burned this crowd a year ago when they had Marufuji lose to Sugiura, a year later they return without Suzuki-gun and they’re as invested as ever. Give people what they want, give people a reason to care, and you get a good crowd. It’s not that hard. It was smart of them to keep the title on Nakajima, as he now moves on to I’m assuming Marufuji at the next Great Voyage show. ****1/4
While there were only two matches I’d consider great, all eight matches on this show were good at minimum. NOAH hasn’t been this good in years. Every show delivers. It’s no longer a chore to sit through the undercards, in fact it’s the exact opposite. I thoroughly enjoyed myself while watching this show. NOAH is my favorite promotion in the world right now and if you’re not following along, you’re missing out big time.