Pro Wrestling NOAH
NOAH Step Forward 2022 – Night 3
February 11, 2022
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: Wrestle Universe

Daisuke Harada & Hao def. Kongo (Aleja & Nio)

I love the continued heat between Hao and Nio as it adds additional weight to their matches. It is also building up storylines for N-Innovation, which is needed for drawing. Running an all juniors show in Sumo Hall is very ambitious and NOAH needs to set up some feuds that they can pay off at the show to entice people to buy tickets.

Hao is a great babyface in peril and while he was entertaining in Kongo it almost feels overdue that he turned face. Harada dominates by the two Kongo guys by himself and looks like a strong champion who is a level above the rest of the people in the match. However, it is Hao that ends up getting the pin on Aleja. A fun fast-paced opener and a nice win for Hao.

Hajime Ohara, Kazushi Sakuraba & Mohammed Yone def. Junta Miyawaki, King Tany & Takashi Sugiura

The Funky Express explodes as does Sugiura-gun. The match is built around the guys that would normally be partners facing off against each other. This led to some fun interactions between Sakuraba and Sugiura. Not a very serious match though and ultimately not something that will lead to anything as there was no animosity between the participants in the past match. Miyawaki gets tapped out by Sakuraba for the finish.

Atsushi Kotoge def. Tadasuke

Weakest of the junior singles matches on this tour. The match was ok but nothing special. Kotoge and Tadasuke can have good matches against the right opponent but that’s not each other. Solid win for Kotoge and Tadasuke was visibly frustrated after losing. Kotoge has been getting wins lately and might be challenging his Momo No Seishun tag partner Harada for the Junior title soon.

Kongo (Katsuhiko Nakajima & Manabu Soya) def. Kinya Okada & Yoshiki Inamura

The match starts off with the two big power guys facing off which is always welcome in my book. Back when Kongo still had Inamura, Kitamiya and Soya, Inamura would be the in kayfabe weakest of the three. Now he’s the one that overpowers Soya, which nicely shows his progression.

From there on the match shifts to Kongo beating up Okada. Despite making their debuts within three months of each other and being the same age Inamura and Okada are at different points of their respective careers. Inamura is someone that feels like he’s on the verge of breaking out, whereas Okada is still mostly stuck in opening match duty. He got barely any offense here and got absolutely annihilated with kicks by Nakajima before getting pinned. In a way he feels like All Japan’s Yuma Aoyagi about three years ago where all he’s allowed to do is taking the heat with very limited bursts of offense. The difference being that Okada is 29 whereas Yuma was 22 then.

Stinger (HAYATA, Yoshinari Ogawa & Yuya Susumu) & Yasutaka Yano def. Los Perros del Mal de Japon (Kotaro Suzuki, NOSAWA Rongai, Super Crazy & YO-HEY)

The image of a clean-cut young boy babyface Yano in his blue trunks next to the grime of Stinger is very funny. The match quickly breaks down with all of Perros beating down Yano. There were repeated miscommunications between NOSAWA and YO-HEY, which led to the finish when Yano rolled up NOSAWA. The match was secondary and really just a vehicle to get to the angle afterward.

NOSAWA has had enough of YO-HEY and he kicks him out of the stable with an emphatic statement. NOSAWA absolutely wallops him with a chair and busts the back of his head open. He’s bleeding quite a bit as his former Full Throttle stable mate Kotogo runs out for the save. With that, another person joins the NOAH junior home army, which another former Full Throttle member Hajime Ohara seems less than thrilled about. This sets up another storyline for N-Innovation as YO-HEY will now be gunning for revenge against NOSAWA. Either that or the tension between him and Ohara will come to a head in time for the big Sumo Hall show.

M’s Alliance (Masaaki Mochizuki, Masato Tanaka & Naomichi Marufuji) def. Daiki Inaba, Kaito Kiyomiya & Masa Kitamiya

Not sure what Inaba has done to Marufuji but whenever these two are in a match Marufuji makes it his personal mission to inflict as much pain as possible on Inaba. With Muto now gone Marufuji has now assumed leadership of the M’s Alliance stable. He’s vowed to bolster their ranks by calling Yuko Miyamoto back to NOAH and has floated the idea of bringing in Akira Maeda.

The match itself took a bit to get going but had a great closing stretch. Mochizuki is an absolute beast going full speed after his hard-hitting GHC National title match just one day prior. He and Inaba had some great exchanges at the end before Mochi picked up the win for his team. Even without their former leader M’s Alliance is still going strong.

Kenoh def. Go Shiozaki

Before this match, there was a lot of buzz around Kenoh being the only one to lose to Go Shiozaki during the latter’s challenge series and that being used as fuel for a potential Kongo break up. Instead, Go loses all matches of his challenge series and has now dug himself into a deep hole that he will have to work hard to get out of.

However, while he did lose on all three Korakuen shows and against Sugiura last week, he brought us great enjoyment as they were all excellent matches with this being no exception. The chops he laid on Kenoh sounded absolutely hellish. The same goes for Kenoh’s kicks as both men were intent to invent a new shade of red using each others chests as canvases. Go looked dominant for long stretches of this match but just never managed to put Kenoh down decisively and his moonsault kept firing back on him like it has in previous challenge series matches. Then Kenoh just finishes Go off with two consecutive top rope double footstomps.

The rest of Go’s year will be very interesting going forward as he obviously will have to stay out of the title picture for quite a while after this massive string of losses. But it also shows a clear path for him back to the top by avenging all of these losses over the course of the year. ****

Final Thoughts

A great main event and an overall strong show caps of an excellent three-night run in Korakuen for NOAH. The end of the Go Shiozaki challenge series sets up his redemption arc and we got a big angle with YO-HEY getting kicked out of Los Perros del Mal de Japon. I can recommend all three shows to everyone as they are all good shows with great matches.

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