Pro Wrestling NOAH
The New Year 2022
January 1, 2022
Nippon Budokan
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: Wrestle Universe

Junta Miyawaki & Kinya Okada def. Kai Fujimura & Yasutaka Yano

A great fiery opening tag match. These are four men that have something to prove and it showed. Junta and Okada are ready for bigger things and should get those opportunities in 2022 hopefully. Okada especially is at an age where NOAH needs to start pushing him now if they want to build him up for something bigger. Junta meanwhile is so talented that while he is still young, he should be getting pushed now because he could become a cornerstone of the company if handled correctly.

Funky Express (Akitoshi Saito, King Tany & Mohammed Yone) def. Kongo (Manabu Soya, Nioh & Tadasuke)

Funky Express is the perfect undercard gimmick. It gives its members something to do while they wind down their careers. You know you are in for a fun, if meaningless match once their music hits. The Kongo juniors are great foils for them as they can get tossed around by old men and take bumps for them. But hopefully Manabu Soya will have something more substantial to do at this show next year.

Kongo (Aleja & Haoh) def. Stinger (Seiki Yoshioka & Yuya Susumu)

A pretty standard undercard tag match. As a little aside, I do like that Aleja is so mysterious that he has no age, height or weight on the little info cards that Cyberfight does for all of its wrestlers. The NOAH junior division is in a much more stable position than it was a year ago when people would switch factions every other week. I still have my issues with some elements of the division, more on that later, but the influx of guys like Aleja have helped it. Yuya Susumu has also become a net positive after a bit of a shaky start.

Momo No Seishun Tag (Atsushi Kotoge, Daisuke Harada & Hajime Ohara) & Ultimo Dragon def. Los Perros del Mal de Japon (Eita, Kotaro Suzuki, NOSAWA Rongai & YO-HEY)

Easily the best match on the first half of the show. This was nonstop action and did not have a single dull moment. Momo No Seishun and Los Perros del Mal de Japan went in there with the father of the dragon system and decided to have a dragon system style match. It also helped that Eita was in the match who is obviously intimately familiar with the style. In general Eita has been a great addition to the NOAH junior division and hopefully he can stick around somewhat semi-regularly even after he becomes more prominent in his home promotion again. Still, the lack of any stakes in the match kept it from being great. Nevertheless, well worth a watch.

Sugiura-gun (Kazuyuki Fujita & Kendo Kashin) def. Ikuto Hidaka & Masakatsu Funaki

This match was the polar opposite of the previous match. The previous match was all action and this was no action. Fujita is at his best when he just batters his opponent in a match. Unfortunately, that is not what he did here. Instead, he opted to do a lot of boring holds. It got a little fun by the end when he tossed around Hidaka for the finish but nothing to see here otherwise. Meh.

GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship: HAYATA (c) def. Yoshinari Ogawa

Ogawa is just the coolest guy ever. You see him come out for this match and you know that this guy has it. He is 55 years old and still easily one of the best wrestlers in the world. As I mentioned earlier, there is a certain part of the NOAH junior division that I still have an issue with and that part is HAYATA. I just don’t understand HAYATA and why he is pushed so hard. There is nothing he offers that someone else on the roster couldn’t offer as well in a better form. He is one of the most boring wrestlers in the entire company and this match made the massive gulf in talent between him and Ogawa very apparent.

Everything Ogawa did was crisp and executed perfectly whereas everything HAYATA did was middling, sloppy and boring. In combination that creates a fairly unmemorable match that also went on for way too long at 20 minutes. I get giving a title match time on a major show, but under no circumstances should a HAYATA match go longer than 15 minutes. He’s out of ideas very quickly in a match that long and it was even worse here. It really is credit to Ogawa’s class that he managed to keep this match from falling apart. The best thing HAYATA did in the entire match was him using one of Ogawa’s tricks to beat him, so credit where it’s due I suppose.

After the match, Ogawa refused to shake HAYATA’s hand and left his half of the GHC Junior Tag Title belts in the ring. Hopefully this means the end of their team and that Ogawa is finally free of this anchor around his neck that has been weighing him down for far too long now.

GHC Tag Team Championship: M’s Alliance (Keiji Muto & Naomichi Marufuji) (c) def. M’s Alliance (Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Tanaka)

This match exceeded my expectations. Being in a tag team helps both Marufuji and Muto focus on their strengths and hides their weaknesses. On the other side, both Mochizuki and Tanaka are still great and two of the greatest tag team wrestlers in the history of wrestling. This made for a very entertaining match as Tanaka and Mochi bumped their asses off for their opponents and made them look great.

Tanaka’s performance is even greater when you consider that he was in a hard hitting 22-minute title match with Sugiura earlier that day. He very easily could have taken it easy in this match, but he is Masato Tanaka so of course he went all out here as well. This man is just an absolute monster and his ability to absorb punishment is unmatched. I would have preferred if he and Mochizuki had won the belts here as they have a ton of potentially great title matches with the rest of NOAH’s heavyweight scene. But I get why the titles stayed with Muto and Marufuji as the promotion is running a very ambitious schedule in 2022 and this way they can use their star power to draw. I also prefer them holding the tag belts rather than chase for singles titles.

Sugiura-gun (Kazushi Sakuraba & Takashi Sugiura) & KENTA def. Daiki Inaba, Masa Kitamiya & Yoshiki Inamura

KENTA returns to his former home promotion for the first time since 2018 and for the first time since he became free from his WWE shackles. The last time he wrestled for NOAH was on Marufuji’s 20th anniversary show when he was still known as Hideo Itami. That match happened at a time when it seemed plausible that NOAH could go out of business very soon and him coming in for that show in Sumo Hall and drawing a big house could have given NOAH just enough juice to hold on until they were saved by Abema. Now he’s back as part of the promotional push for NOAH’s joint show with New Japan on January 8th.

He got into a heated exchange with Yoshiki Inamura right away and it was clear that Inamura was the focal point of this match. He overpowered his opponents easily and is in a prime position for a big 2022. I wouldn’t mind a singles match between KENTA and Inamura as their exchanges were the most entertaining part of the match, especially the spot where Inamura comes charging from off screen and just annihilates KENTA with a pounce. He lost nothing by getting beat by KENTA here as he survived an absolute onslaught where KENTA used literally all of his finishers on him before finally putting him down with an impressive Go 2 Sleep.

Inaba played the underdog role very well in this match as he spent the majority of it getting destroyed by Sakuraba and Sugiura. Kitamiya felt like a bit of an afterthought and is in a very weird spot career wise right now. He had a GHC Title match with Muto and the big feud with Nakajima after their team broke up and even got to take his hair. But since then he has basically done nothing and was a complete afterthought in the N-1.

Overall this was a great tag match that was helped by the heat between KENTA and Inamura. Hopefully they will build on that in some way in the future. If every match on the joint show with New Japan is half as heated as this one that show will actually be great despite it being almost all tag matches. ****

GHC National Championship: Kenoh (c) def. Kaito Kiyomiya

There is a long history of great matches between these two and this was no exception. Kenoh is the perfect foil for someone like Kiyomiya. He has a massive chip on his shoulder as he worked his way up through Michinoku Pro and Okinawa Wrestling to get where he is now, whereas Kaito was pegged for greatness the moment he made his debut. This dynamic comes out every time they face off as Kenoh has seemingly made it his mission to keep Kaito down by any means necessary.

Kenoh hit his opponent with some heavy stuff like a gnarly German Suplex onto the ramp followed by a top rope double foot stomp. Kaito took everything Kenoh had to offer and still kept coming back. He has become one of the best at the deep deep 2.9 kickout where you don’t expect it.

In a way this match felt like a reset for Kiyomiya, who lost to Kenoh in the same way he did back in January 2018. He has changed up his look and some of his offense, but he’s back on the same level he was at four years ago. I am not sure where he goes from here. Maybe this is finally the start of his redemption arc back to the top of the promotion, but then we’ve been saying that for over a year now. I am not sure if the current regime sees Kaito on that same level as previous ones, or if they see him as a guy that is just below the top level of the promotion.

Regardless of any booking concerns this was a great match. Hard hitting action all throughout and I am sure this wasn’t the last time these two have a big singles match. ****

GHC Heavyweight Championship: Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) def. Go Shiozaki

This is Pro Wrestling! Between the promo package set to Ode An die Freude, the visual representation of both men, to the wrestling itself, this was wrestling distilled down to its purest form.

Go came out with a new cape that made him look like a knight from a medieval heroic tale. Nakajima on the other hand looked like the devil himself sitting on the top rope with his hood pulled low. You could drop into this not having watched a single second of NOAH and you would immediately know who the good guy and who the bad guy in the match is.

The match itself was excellent as expected between these two. They had my match of the year in 2020 and while this match didn’t quite reach that height it was still awesome. These two give me exactly what I want out wrestling. They hit each other very hard and give you plenty of opportunity to suspend your disbelief for just that all important brief second. They have an uncanny ability to just suck you into the story of the match and make you pay attention the entire way. Go has also benefited from getting some time off. His chops were always some of the hardest in wrestling, but now they sound downright disgusting. They were just echoing all throughout the arena and it sounded at times like Nakajima’s chest was about to cave in. Nakajima also took a disgusting front bump from the ramp to the floor on a release German Suplex. Nevertheless, he still played the asshole dickhead to perfection as he just antagonized his opponent, the crowd and the commentators.

The only negative of the match was the finish, which seemed to come out of nowhere. The crowd was clearly hungry for more, but this match also seemed more like the beginning of the feud rather than the end of it. Even though it has been nearly a year and a half since Nakajima turned on Go, there is still plenty of juice left in this rivalry and NOAH could build the whole year around it. These two have that special kind of chemistry that only a select few wrestlers have with each other. Nakajima should also continue to hold this belt for a long time as he is at the height of his peak right now and is the right man to carry the promotion for what is going to be a pivotal year. ****3/4

Overall Thoughts

A great show from NOAH. The top three matches were all excellent and most of the rest of the card delivered. This was a strong start to 2022 for the promotion that the rest of Japanese wrestling will have to live up to.