Pro Wrestling NOAH
N1 Victory 2020 Night 3
September 22, 2020
Watch: Wrestle Universe
After a well-received first two nights, NOAH’s N-1 Victory traveled to historic Korakuen Hall for night three of the N-1 Victory!
- Kongoh (Manabu Soya & Yoshiki Inamura) def. Muhammad Yone & Kinya Okada in 9:29 when Soya pinned Okada with the Ballistic (Crooked arm lariat)
- Stinger (Kotaro Suzuki, Yoshinari Ogawa, & HAYATA) def Kongoh (Hao, Nio, & Tadasuke) in 21:02 when the referee stopped the match following Suzuki hitting Hao with the Javelin (Elbow smash)
N1 Victory 2020 B Block
Kenoh  def. Shuhei Taniguchi 
Both of these two came into this one on their back leg. For Kenoh, it was a night one main event loss to former (?) rival, now stable-mate Katsuhiko Nakajima. For Taniguchi, the powerful striker came up short in the night two main event to the dangerous Takashi Sugiura. This was what you would expect, with both men throwing powerful strikes at the other. I’m a big fan of Kenoh, I’ve made that clear, and his incredible speed and dynamic striking ability were a joy to watch here, and Taniguchi’s more brute force head-butts and punts made for a nice styles clash. A chokeslam for Taniguchi got two for the first big near fall of the match, but it seemed any time Taniguchi could string together some momentum, Kenoh would change the tide of the battle with a quick counter. That’s how the matched ended, as Kenoh countered a Taniguchi lariat into a float over body scissors, and transitioned into a rear-naked choke for the win in an awesome opener. ***3/4
N1 Victory 2020 A Block
Masa Kitamiya  def. Kaito Kiyomiya  (14:32)
The second block match of the evening was another featuring two men looking for their first victory of the tournament. Kitamiya opened his N-1 with a loss to Manabu Soya, while Kaito Kiyomiya drew with Masaaki Mochizuki in a controversial (but in my opinion excellent) match on the tournament’s opening show. From the early stages of this one, Kitamiya worked over Kaito’s right knee, wrenching on it and brutalizing it with stomps. This, of course, was a callback to the first night, during which Mochizuki attacked the same body part, and I’d expect this to be a story throughout the tournament for Kaito.
Midway through the match, however, the tide was reversed as Kitamiya stumbled after Irish-whipping Kaito into the corner and instantly grasped his knee. Either this wasn’t a work or Kitamiya is a much better seller than I thought, because he truly looked in pain. We moved into the finishing stretch with both men hitting suplexes and pin combinations on the other. Kitamiya nailed Kaito with a Saito Suplex, then another, then, defying every trope in wrestling, hit his finisher for the third time, and pinned the former GHC champion clean in the middle. If Kaito is going to win this tournament, he’s doing it from behind. A very enjoyable match. ***1/2
N1 Victory 2020 A Block
Go Shiozaki  def. Kazushi Sakuraba  (8:35)
Sakuraba came into this one hot, submitting Go on NOAH’s Korakuen show a few weeks ago, and tapping out Masaaki Mochizuki on the last N1 show. The story of this was clear, Sakuraba was going to do whatever it took to brutalize the taped-up arm of the GHC Champion, Go Shiozaki. He trapped it in the guardrail, brutalized it with kicks, and locked it in dangerous-looking holds. Go fought back, but Sakuraba controlled the vast portion of this match. However, the GHC champ fired up, as Go hit a clothesline with the injured arm in what was a big turning point. The champ then fought out of a last-gasp Kimura attempt, and nailed another lariat to pick up the win. Sakuraba, who is 51, is still very good at times, especially in tags, but the two didn’t really mesh here, and Go’s comeback felt way too quick. **1/2
N1 Victory 2020 B Block
Naomichi Marufuji  vs. Takashi Sugiura  finished in a time limit draw (30:00)
Two wrestlers synonymous with Pro Wrestling NOAH – Takashi Sugiura and Naomichi Marufuji – capped off the first night in Korakuen Hall for the N-1. Both of these two are among my favorites of all time, but both are up there in age. Marufuji is 40, Sugiura is, shockingly, 50, yet still rates out as a top 20 or so wrestler of the year for me this year. Sugiura’s continued brilliance into his late 40s catapulted him up my greatest ever list, and I think he’s one of only a handful of guys that could challenge Hiroshi Tanahashi or Kazuchika Okada as the best wrestlers of the past decade.
This match was technically very good in the early stages. We saw strong strikes, some nice reversals, and the like, but it didn’t get out and grab you because of the slow pace. At the time, I thought the reason behind the speed was the age of both men, but in hindsight, I realize it might have been because of the result they were wrestling towards. This was also the first time during the night I truly noticed the clap-only crowd, I’ve gotten so used to it over the past few weeks that it normally doesn’t stick out to me, but it did here for whatever reason. Again, the work here was good, maybe even great, but you could tell that some of the magic was missing from these two’s clashes of old.
Sugiura fired off forearm after forearm on the former junior, but Marufuji was able to power through it and hit a Shirunai for a nearfall at the 25-minute mark. Marufuji went for a kick combo, but Sugiura caught Marufuji with a German and hit two running knees followed by the Olympic Yosen Slam for a close two! Sugiura then went to the top looking for the top rope Olympic Yosen Slam, but Maru countered and took advantage of his position, hitting a Shirunai from the top. Ko-oh from Marufuji only gets two. Another ko-oh got a very close two, but Sugiura locked on his dangerous front facelock choke. Marufuji countered into a modified armbar, but Sugiura rolled through into another choke! At this point, it looked like Marufuji was going out, as so many have to the choke in recent years, but he was saved by the bell to give us our second time limit draw of the tournament. For a company that often gets made fun of for their match length, I’m not sure having 17% of your tournament matches going to time-limit draws through three nights would’ve been my call, but nevertheless. The finishing stretch was epic, but the bulk of the match was too slow to go too high on this match. These two showed in that stretch, however, that without the constraints of needing to go 30, I’d wager this would’ve been an even better match. ***1/2
1) Go Shiozaki (2-0), four points
2) Kazushi Sakuraba, Masa Kitamiya, Manabu Soya (1-1), two points
T5) Kaito Kiyomiya, Masaaki Mochizuki (0-1-1), one point
1) Takashi Sugiura (2-0-1), five points
2) Naomichi Marufuji (1-0-1), three points
3) Katsuhiko Nakajima (1-0), two points
4) Kenoh (1-1), two points
T5) Shuhei Taniguchi, Yoshiki Inamura (0-2), zero points
This was a very good show that keeps the pace for what has been a very good tournament so far. We should have a much clearer picture of the standings after tomorrow’s double-header. You can catch me talking those two shows along with night three of the G1 Climax on the Wrestling Omakase Patreon, and I’ll probably be reviewing at least one of those shows here on the written side as well.