Go Shiozaki and KENTA vs. Kensuke Office (Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kensuke Sasaki)
June 22, 2009
NOAH Southern Navigation 2009

When I was initially sent this match, I saw a couple of the names and my sleep deprived brain defaulted to believing it was the Kensuke Office versus Kobashi/Shiozaki match that was highly touted many years ago (and a match I have seen). Therefore, I was pleasantly surprised when I noticed it was something I hadn’t seen before and involving four wrestlers that shouldn’t (couldn’t?) go wrong.

This is actually four years after the aforementioned match, meaning that Katsuhiko Nakajima and Go Shiozaki have four more years under their belts, four more years of seasoning off the back of what had already been a pretty high bar in their first year or so in the business. Only eight days before this, Shiozaki won the GHC Heavyweight Title by defeating Takeshi Rikio, whilst KENTA is the reigning GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. The stakes therefore are clear : Sasaki could put himself in the Heavyweight Title picture with a win over Shiozaki, whilst a Nakajima pin over either man could catapult him to the front of the queue for a shot at the gold.

It was the two younger members of the team that first get the match really going with Shiozaki in particular catching Nakajima with some stiff chops in the midst of a strike exchange. Moments later, it becomes a case of ‘anything you can do’ as KENTA’s first involvement in the match sees him trading with Sasaki and actually coming out on top against the bigger man, albeit briefly. The pluckiness of Nakajima was on show early in the contest, highlighted by a spirited kick exchange with KENTA, one that has Nakajima down on the mat a couple of times only to bounce up and eventually drop his opponent with a brutal kick to the chest. Later on, it was Shiozaki’s turn in the spotlight as he was able to take the fight to Sasaki – a challenge for most mere mortals.

I’ve always had a soft spot for Sasaki ever since I watched him as Power Warrior on the New Japan wrestling that was shown on Eurosport. I particularly enjoyed the work I’ve seen when he left New Japan, both in Dragongate and NOAH. At times in this match, he was just a wrecking ball, smashing through KENTA and Shiozaki with relative ease. Ultimately, his involvement does feel largely secondary to Nakajima’s – whether almost getting a submission on KENTA or needing to be saved by Sasaki after a strike sandwich, it is Nakajima who feels like the pivotal worker in the match. It becomes a question as to whether he can grab a victory before he gets overwhelmed.

The answer to that was a resounding no, though it takes Shiozaki several attempts to keep the plucky youngster down. A suplex into a clothesline/elbow type move (I don’t know names and it is the best way to describe it) finally did for Nakajima, putting the newly crowned GHC Heavyweight Champion over in an effective manner whilst still keeping Kensuke Office looking strong. An excellent match that, after a slow start, took off and never really let up until the end.

If I had to guess, I’d say that this is Kevin Hare’s work. Off of the back of his involvement with Wrestling 101 and the Sasaki/Kobashi match being listed, I feel that it is entirely possible that it sparked a remembrance for this contest, thus ending up as a Secret Santa gift. Whomever it was, much appreciated.