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NOAH THE REBORN
As a quick recap of the big Yokohama show, which you can read my full review of on the site, Katsuhiko Nakajima and Go Shiozaki had an excellent match for Nakajima’s GHC title, Hajime Ohara and Hitoshi Kumano had an excellent match for Ohara’s junior title, Hi69 and Taiji Ishimori had a an incredible spot fest with Daisuke Harada and Tadasuke for the junior tag titles, new heavyweight tag champions were crowned in Kenoh and Takashi Sugiura, and TNA stars Eddie Edwards, James Storm and Moose all made their debuts/returns, with all three having impressive showings.
The show drew just over 2,500 fans, which is right around what the show from last January drew with Sugiura vs. Marufuji on top and a few hundred up from the October show with Sugiura vs. Nakajima (as well as Shibata vs. Shiozaki, and Makabe, Honma and Marufuji in the semi-main). Considering NOAH burned this crowd a year ago when they had Sugiura beat Marufuji, the show was an obvious success and they’ll likely do even better the next time they come back.
As part of the Impact/Crash/NOAH partnership, Nakajima is making his way over to Mexico on April 5th as he teams with Cody Rhodes and Matt Sydal to take on Rey Mysterio, Rey Fénix and Penta El Zero M in what looks like an absolutely insane match on paper, while Robbie E and Bram make their way over to Japan for the Global Tag League. Other teams in the Tag League include champions Kenoh and Sugiura, Marufuji and Maybach Taniguchi, Yone and Akitoshi Saito, Kaito Kiyomiya and Big Japan’s Takuya Nomura, and then Cody Hall and Randy Reign. Will be interesting to see how Hall does in NOAH as a somewhat more featured guy than he was in New Japan. He has a big opportunity on April 14th in Korakuen as he faces Go Shiozaki in a singles match. April 22nd marks the start of the tournament while it wraps up on May 5th.
Two title matches taking place in the month of April with Marufuji and Taniguchi challenging Kenoh and Sugiura on the 14th and then Ohara and Kumano challenging Hi69 and Ishimori on the 22nd. Kenoh and Kitamiya headlined the March 25th Korakuen and drew 927 with a two out of three falls junior multi-man in the semi-main, and Eddie Edwards vs. Go Shiozaki and Akitoshi Saito vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima underneath. Not a bad crowd for a relatively weak card.
Another quiet month for All Japan as they get ready for the Champion Carnival. They drew 1,200 to Korakuen on the 12th with Kento Miyahara, Shuji Ishikawa and KAI vs. Zeus, The Bodyguard and Takao Omori in the main event and Keisuke Ishii vs. Koji Iwamoto for the junior title in the semi-main event, in which Iwamoto lost. Hikaru Sato is next in line for a shot as he takes on Ishii at the end of April.
The Carnival begins on April 16th with Zeus vs. KAI, Joe Doering vs. Daisuke Sekimoto and Kento Miyahara vs. Jake Lee in the three A Block matches and Naoya Nomura vs. Daichi Hashimoto, The Bodyguard vs. Kengo Mashimo and Suwama vs. Shuji Ishikawa in the three B Block matches. Doering would probably be the smartest choice to win considering All Japan needs a strong opponent for Miyahara at the Sumo Hall show in a few months. Zeus wouldn’t be the worst choice either but the thing with Zeus is that he doesn’t really need to win yet. I’d let him gain some more steam and then have him win next year. No need to rush these things. If you like round-robin tournaments (who doesn’t), strap in, because all eleven Carnival shows are making tape between the 16th and the 30th of April.
DDT & DNA
As a quick recap of DDT’s Saitama Super Arena show, which, again, you can read my review of on the site, Konosuke Takeshita defeated HARASHIMA for the KO-D Openweight title in an excellent main event, Daisuke Sasaki defeated Jun Kasai for the DDT Extreme title, and Masakatsu Funaki and Yukio Sakaguchi retained the KO-D tag titles over Tetsuya Endo and Shuji Ishikawa in the top three title matches. DDT also announced on that show that they’ll be running the Tokyo Dome some time down the line, obviously a huge piece of news and the company’s greatest accomplishment in their history. Sanshiro Takagi, the owner, has shown to be a very ambitious and very ballsy businessman over the years, and for that I have to commend him, because it’s nice to see someone show some guts for once. There’s a reason we don’t have as much of that in wrestling as it can do more harm than good if you’re not careful, but I like seeing a promotion try something different with their business, so I’m happy with this announcement and hope they do well. Are they selling the place out? Absolutely not, but if they put 20,000 people in there, which they very well could, that’s a very clear success.
DDT returns to Korakuen after missing a month on April 29th with Endo challenging Takeshita in the main event and Yoshihiro Takayama and Danshoku Dino challenging Funaki and Sakaguchi in the semi-main event. Also running Korakuen is DNA on May 10th, headlined by Mike Bailey and either Kazusada Higuchi or Shunma Katsumata, depending on who wins their match on April 21st (Higuchi’s winning if we’re being realistic). Again, an ambitious move on DDT’s part, although I suspect they’ll do well with the smaller set-up and a strong main event by DNA standards.
DDT heel unit DAMNATION is running a produce show on April 14th in Shinjuku FACE. Announced matches so far include Daisuke Sekimoto and Kohei Sato vs. Shuji Ishikawa and Mad Paulie and Daisuke Sasaki vs. Dick Togo for the Extreme title.
Two Korakuens for Big Japan this month, both headlined by Daisuke Sekimoto and Hideki Suzuki for the Strong title as they went to a draw on the 5th and returned on the 30th, both shows drawing around 1,600 fans. Suzuki won the second time around, cementing my theory that Sekimoto was only a transitional champion. Suzuki’s been built up for a while now and has almost completely reinvented himself over the past several months to the point where he’s one of the most exciting wrestlers in the company, where as a year or two ago I wanted nothing to do with him. I don’t know if he’s any sort of draw as champion, we’ll have to see, he still feels like a bit of an outsider in Big Japan, but I’m in full support of it. Sekimoto’s in more of a gatekeeper role now and that’s exactly where he should be. Yuji Okabayashi will meet Daichi Hashimoto on April 9th to determine Suzuki’s next challenger.
Isami Kodaka, Jaki Numazawa, Masaya Takahashi and Kenji Fukimoto are the four remaining participants in the Deathmatch Survivor tournament, which comes to a head on April 8th. Fukimoto’s a guy to keep an eye on as he knocked out the company’s biggest deathmatch star Ryuji Ito to advance so could be a potential winner.
Shingo Takagi is making another rare appearance outside of Dragon Gate on the April 21st as he teams with his good buddy Yuji Okabayashi to take on Daichi Hashimoto and former Strong champion Hideyoshi Kamitani in Osaka.
A much more noteworthy month for WRESTLE-1 as they crowned several new champions and made some pretty big changes to their business. Kaz Hayashi has slid into Keiji Mutoh’s former role as president of the promotion while Mutoh has slid into a chairman role, with head booker Shuji Kondo serving as vice president and DDT’s Sanshiro Takagi serving as an adviser. Considering Mutoh is up there in age, has other things to worry about and hasn’t put full effort into WRESTLE-1, giving Hayashi his role as president is probably for the best, and I hope things improve because of it.
Shotaro Ashino defeated Masayuki Kono for the title on March 20th as the new guard of the promotion got their chance to shine against the old guard after several months of failure, with Seiki Yoshioka also defeating MAZADA for the cruiserweight title and Koji Doi and Kumagoro defeating Hayashi and Kondo for the tag titles. Ashino defends against Kondo on April 19th, and while I love Kondo, I fear he may win that match. Ashino’s a guy they could really make a big deal out of and build off of. He’s a good worker, has a marketable look, charismatic, and he’s probably WRESTLE-1’s best bet long-term, I just don’t know that they realize that yet. Along with that match is Yoshioka vs. Andy Wu for the cruiserweight title and Doi and Kumagoro vs. Daiki Inaba and Yusuke Kodama for the tag titles.
As suspected to happen at some point, Kairi Hojo has signed a three-year contract with WWE and is reporting to Orlando soon. Io Shirai will likely follow in her footsteps, and it’s also been said that 2017 will be Mayu Iwatani’s last year as a wrestler, so it would appear as though Stardom is in rough shape.
It sucks, but when you put so much stock into the same three people and focus on nothing but them, you’re risking a loss of money and a lack of stars should those people walk out. Stardom’s roster is very thin, with more than half of an already thin roster being under the age of 20 and the ones above the age of 20 not being built up on any sort of level outside of Yoko Bito and Jungle Kyona, who’s just begun to be elevated. People like Meiko Satomura and Hiroyo Matsumoto are available to them, but those aren’t long-term answers. We’ll have to see what happens. It’s not looking good at the moment though.
Io Shirai retained her title over Kagetsu on the 5th and then Hojo on the 20th in two excellent matches, while Hojo and Bito lost their tag titles to Matsumoto and Kyona.
Hanako Nakamori defended her JWP title against Tsubasa Kuragaki on April 2nd in Korakuen. This is the company’s last show until August when they’ll return completely repackaged. Sendai Girls also returns to Korakuen on the 6th with Chihiro Hashimoto vs. Aja Kong for the title, while OZ Academy returns on the 12th with Kagetsu vs. Hiroyo Matsumoto.
And lastly, Manami Toyota, one of the greatest wrestlers in history, announced that she’ll be retiring in November. A sad but imminent piece of news. It had to happen sooner or later.
Odds & Ends
A lot of odds and ends this month. Here are the key bullet points:
- ZERO1’s annual Tenkaichi Junior League will take place between April 4th and April 26th, with Takuya Sugawara, Shinjiro Otani, Minoru Tanaka, Hayato Fujita and Sean Guinness making up the A Block and Kotaro Suzuki, Ikuto Hidaka, Koji Kanemoto, Tatsuhito Takaiwa and Takumi Tsukamoto making up the B Block.
- Masato Tanaka defends the ZERO1 title he defeated Kohei Sato for against James Raideen on April 26th.
- Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs. Shinya Aoki, Masakatsu Funaki vs. Mitsuyoshi Nakai, Minowman vs. Minoru Tanaka, and Josh Barnett vs. Shinichi Suzukawa are some of the key matches taking place at the NEW debut show on April 5th.
- Manabu Soya, NOSAWA Rongai and Masaaki Mochizuki vs. Masayuki Kono, Kaz Hayashi and Kendo Kashin is the main event of the April 4th Tokyo Gurentai show.
- Ryota Nakatsu is challenging Trans Am Ryuichi for the UNION MAX title on April 29th at BASARA’s second ever Korakuen event.
- Tatsumi Fujinami’s promotion DRADITION is running three shows at the end of April as part of Fujinami’s 45th anniversary as he teams with Riki Chosu and Shiro Koshinaka to take on Vader, Keiji Mutoh and AKIRA on the 20th, Koshinaka and Kanemoto to take on Vader, Fujiwara and Takuma Sano on the 22nd and then Chosu and Vader to take on Fujiwara, Koshinaka and Sano on the 23rd.
- Kenta Kobashi will be holding a Fortune Dream show in Korakuen on June 14th for the second year in a row.
- Mr. Gannosuke appeared in FMW for the anniversary of his former best friend/bitter rival Hayabusa’s death as he took on Atsushi Onita in a multi-man also involving Hideki Hosaka, Ricky Fuji, Mammoth Sasaki, Tetsuhiro Kuroda, Ichiro Yaguchi and Tomohiko Hashimoto.
- FREEDOMS drew 738 to Korakuen on March 23rd for Daisuke Masaoka vs. Masashi Takeda and GENTARO vs. Yuko Miyamoto.
Recommended Matches (****+)
- Atsushi Kotoge vs. Naomichi Marufuji – NOAH The Second Navigation – February 24th (****)
- Hitoshi Kumano & Go Shiozaki vs. Hajime Ohara & Katsuhiko Nakajima – NOAH The Second Navigation – February 24th (****)
- Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Hideki Suzuki – BJW Deathmatch Survivor – March 5th (****)
- Io Shirai vs. Kagetsu – Stardom Champions Around the World in Nagoya – March 5th (****)
- Yoko Bito & Kairi Hojo vs. Jungle Kyona & Hiroyo Matsumoto – Stardom Champions Around the World in Nagoya – March 5th (****1/4)
- Hajime Ohara vs. Hitoshi Kumano – NOAH Great Voyage in Yokohama – March 12th (****)
- Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Go Shiozaki – NOAH Great Voyage in Yokohama – March 12th (****1/4)
- MAZADA vs. Seiki Yoshioka – WRESTLE-1 Tour 2017 Trans Magic – March 20th (****)
- Shigehiro Irie vs. Mike Bailey – DDT Judgement – March 20th (****)
- Masakatsu Funaki & Yukio Sakaguchi vs. Tetsuya Endo & Shuji Ishikawa – DDT Judgement – March 20th (****)
- Kota Ibushi, Daisuke Sekimoto & Jun Akiyama vs. Sanshiro Takagi, Isami Kodaka & Keiji Mutoh – DDT Judgement – March 20th (****)
- HARASHIMA vs. Konosuke Takeshita – DDT Judgement – March 20th (****1/2)
- Akitoshi Saito vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima – NOAH Spring Navigation – March 25th (****)
- Eddie Edwards vs. Go Shiozaki – NOAH Spring Navigation – March 25th (****)