SPro Wrestling Noah have had a turbulent twenty years, knowing massive highs and depressing lows, and it is fitting that in their twenty year anniversary, the promotion once again enter unknown waters on their endless voyage.
On the 29th January 2020, out of the blue, LIDET announced that they had sold Noah to CyberAgent, who are a streaming company. This would mean that Noah became a subsidiary of CyberAgent, along with DDT. In a nutshell, Shinshiro Takagi (president of DDT), would become President of Noah; Naomichi Marufuji would once again be Vice President, and Akihiro Takeda (formerly Noah's president under LIDET), would be executive officer. LIDET will remain with Noah as their sponsors.
More can be read on the story here. It was also announced that DDT would stream Noah on both their official stream "DDT Universe", and on AbemaTV. I don't think they will be streaming every single show, but you can watch this event here. Noah also streamed the event through Periscope.
Naturally, fans were concerned when they came to Korakuen today, and there was an atmosphere of uncertainty mixed with excitement as the news had taken everyone by surprise. Sadly a knock on effect of the news is that we will most likely not see KENTA "come home" anytime soon, CyberAgent purchase of Noah changes the balance of power of Puro in Japan, and puts them into direct competition with New Japan. That said, it is Noah's 20th anniversary, and it is hoped he can still come back - even if it is just once.
The ring is still the same, using the black and white LIDET version today, and I would imagine that with all the effort and ceremony gone into the rebranding, Noah will continue to use it, especially as LIDET (as has been said), are their sponsors.
The two trainees were at ringside today, the taller one having shaved his head, which meant that I didn't recognise him at first (and I thought it was Cody Hall).
Noah only attracted 988 people to Korakuen Hall today, but I think this was probably a mixture of the weather (there has been snow and ice in parts of Tokyo), it being a Thursday night, the event being streamed, and probable uncertainty about what they would find. Despite the size (and Korakuen looked fuller in the pictures), the crowd was enthusiastic, and cheered loudly when the card was introduced, and louder for Ogawa vs Togo.
El Hijo de Dr Wagner Jnr vs Kinya Okada
Kinya Okada did not have an easy start to his career, debuting at the same time as Yoshiki Inamura, he suffered two injuries, and this has set him back. However, he seems to be overcoming his rough start, and today looked to have really bulked up. He may never be the ever growing tank that Yoshiki Inamura is fast on his way to becoming, but he is looking more and more compact, like a bullet. He also got a few streamers.
Despite the upgraded body, the cheers from the crowd, and the in ring technique which has suddenly blossomed, he is still to inexperienced to know that you don't ever trust a handshake offered in the ring, not even by your stablemate if he is your opponent.
El Hijo de Dr Wagner junior showed his sadistic side by ripping apart Okada's mouth, and making him bleed.
WINNER: El Hijo de Dr Wagner Jnr via Wagner Driver (6 minutes)
STINGER (Kotaro Suzuki, Atsushi Kotoge & Chris Ridgeway) vs RATELS (HAYATA, YO-HEY & Tadasuke)
RATELS came out to Tadasuke's music, and did the famous pose. When they gotten down and were waiting for the match to start after the referee had checked them, there were girls in tandem yelling "YO-HEY" together, the crowd reacted to this and went "woooo". Needless to say, YO-HEY was his usual exuberant self.
HAYATA'S cruel smile came to the fore at having beaten Kotoge up, and from outside the ring Chris Ridgeway then joined in after blindsiding HAYATA when he got too close to the STINGER corner, brawling with him (usual STINGER tactics).
Ridgeway had a smile of his own (sarcastic), when tying HAYATA in a knot. When HAYATA managed to get free, he crawled back to his corner to find YO-HEY and Tadasuke bouncing up and down on the apron encouraging him to get the tag (Tadasuke was also headbanging along with the claps of the crowd).
This was very much a fun match, with Atsushi Kotoge being booed for knocking down Crazy Tadasuke.
Not that Tadasuke cared, he got to his feet and did it again.
The match ended with Kotoge going for the Bisontennial (a move used by Golden Era gaijin Bison Smith, which Kotoge used in his last match), HAYATA kicked him, and YO-HEY reversed the move and got the pin.
WINNER: YO-HEY via HAYATA assist with a kick to Atsushi Kotoge (10 minutes, 31 seconds)
Afterwards, YO-HEY made a challenge for the belts, by indicating a title challenge by doing the belt motions at the waist. He didn't say anything, but HAYATA agreed with him.
Chris Ridgeway will now return to the UK for the time being.
Quiet Storm's last Noah match
50 Funky Powers (Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm) vs The Anti Wrestlers Alliance (Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue)
The crowd watched as Masao Inoue (who had been described by Akitoshi Saito of being "like a weevil in a biscuit" or a "cockroach in a freezer", had the traditional fight with his red t-shirt as 50 Funky Powers (both carrying flowers) made their last ever entrance. There were lots of streamers for Quiet Storm.
The match was a mixture of comedy and stiff work; comedy with Inoue (i.e. poking Yone in the eyes), and an opener of Quiet Storm and Akitoshi Saito bashing into each other, and Yone's stiff punches on Saito. Soon after this, Saito warned Yone that he was in for it now, lightning tagged in Inoue, and left the ring quickly.
Yone, soon dealt with Inoue.
Inoue later came up against Quiet Storm, who menaced him, backing him into the corner. Inoue burst into tears and kicked the bottom turnbuckle after being chopped. Masao Inoue had a kind of revenge; he is a man who suffers gout and gets teased for it by the roster (mainly Takashi Sugiura), and because of this in the ring he stamps on their toes. However, it had no affect on Quiet Storm as he decided he had had enough, the armband came off, as did Inoue's head almost.
WINNER: Quiet Storm via Funky Buster Bomb (11 minutes, 35 seconds)
Backstage, Naomichi Marufuji had been standing watching the match.
Now it was on to the semi finals of Junior Global League 2020, with the two winners of each match meeting in the finals in the main event tonight.
Global Junior League 2020 Semifinals
Hajime Ohara vs Daisuke Harada
Daisuke Harada vs Hajime Ohara is eternally a highly anticipated match, Noah run it very rarely and save it for special occasions such as leagues and title matches. It never disappoints, the matches are technical and psychological, and as they know each other so well the challenge is to come up with something the other does not know, such as today when Ohara caught Harada and turned it into an Emerald Flowsion, and as time ticked down, Harada used a Tombstone piledriver. The crowd themselves rose to fever pitch, especially when Ohara had Harada in the Mui Bien. Harada also broke out a massive lariat.
Several fans commented that Hajime Ohara has really bulked up, and I have to agree with them. He looked ripped. As popular as Harada is, the crowd were very much behind Ohara. There was amazing mat wrestling at the opening stages of the match.
The referee Shu Nishinaga was caught in a botch and made to bleed. He seemed somewhat groggy and spaced out during the match, even missing counting the pin for a few seconds at the end.
WINNER: Daisuke Harada with the Katayama German Suplex (15 minutes, 45 seconds)
Daisuke Harada now goes through to the next round. YO-HEY was exuberant about the win, and even HAYATA was seen to smile.
Hajime Ohara spoke on his blog about his disappointment at losing, and how much he enjoys being in matches with Harada and he wants to do it again and again and again.
Global Junior League 2020 Semifinals
Yoshinari Ogawa vs Dick Togo
If you like technical matches, submission holds, clever reversals and mat wrestling, then this is a match for you. Both Ogawa and Togo (despite looking like your cool uncles who go to rock concerts), went at it, and both are in their 50s.
Despite how worrying to see Ogawa's arm so taped, this didn't stop him torturing Togo in usual merciless style (fans love it when Ogawa is at his most sadistic), but was Togo who did the unthinkable...
WINNER: Dick Togo via Cross Face Lock (8 minutes, 31 seconds).
Yoshinari Ogawa is going to remember this, or not, if anyone brings it up and he doesn't want to be reminded of it.
THE TOUGH vs Daisuke Sekimoto & Ryūichi Kawakami (16th February at Korakuen Hall)
Akitoshi Saito's 30th anniversary match (Akitoshi Saito, Masao Inoue, Shiro Koshinaka & Masashi Aoyagi vs KONGOH - Kenoh, Masa Kitamiya, Yoshiki Inamura, Hao and Nio. 24th February, Nagoya)
Noah return to Kultz Kawasaki on 30th August, Hajime Ohara will be involved in the production again
Kazushi Sakuraba will be back in Noah on the 24th February
Great Muta is coming back to Noah on 8th March
Naomichi Marufuji, Kaito Kiyomiya, Minoru Tanaka, Hitoshi Kumano & Junta Miyawaki vs Kongoh (Kenoh, Masa Kitamiya, Yoshiki Inamura, Haoh and Nioh)
Kongoh came out first, with Yoshiki Inamura's sumo entry (which is a tribute to his background). The streamers also got caught on his Mohawk!
As no one wanted to be in the ring with Kongoh alone, there was a strength in numbers as Minoru Tanaka, Hitoshi Kumano, Junta Miyawaki and Kaito Kiyomiya all came out together to Kiyomiya's music. Even though he has no belt, Kiyomiya still got in Kenoh's face - and in the middle of mouthing off at him, Kenoh snapped a green streamer in half.
Naomichi Marufuji entered separately, and squared up to Kongoh when he got in the ring, in particular Haoh. It is said that Marufuji is Haoh's best teacher for learning how to do the Noah style, although he spent most of the match bullying him.
Knowing that given half the chance, the next thirty minutes would be spent in a mass brawl, and with the Ref wanting to avoid a melee the moment the bell rings, told both sides to chose one person as everyone was growing threatening. So it was Tanaka and Nioh who started the match.
Naturally Kenoh and Kiyomiya fought both inside and outside of the ring and they know each other too well, Kumano vs Inamura was very good, and Marufuji wound up Kongoh by pretending to run at them to knock them off the apron.
Masa Kitamiya no sold Marufuji, even when he kicked him in the face via hook kick.
Kaito Kiyomiya continues his evolution, he is learning to play up to the crowd with more confidence.
Although he was the one that got pinned, Junta Miyawaki (still with a taped shoulder), stood up to Kenoh, managing to knock him down, and he got the two count. When Kenoh got the advantage, Miyawaki kicked out at two, Kenoh struck again and pinned him following a kick, Miyawaki kicked out again at two, so Kenoh went for the diving footstamp, that ended it.
WINNER: Kenoh via PFS (19 minutes, 14 seconds)
As everyone milled around in the ring, the fans waited to see what Kenoh was going to do, would Kongoh make a title challenge? Would Kenoh challenge Sugiura?
He thanked LIDET.
LIDET his mortal enemies.
Kenoh, however, had a reason to thank them, and he acknowledged everything that had done for Noah - the rebranding, the promotion, Sumo Hall, the produce shows. They had protected Noah.
Kongoh then all bowed to the LIDET sponsorship logo which was up on the wall next to THE LEAVE, before leaving the ring.
AXIZ (Go Shiozaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima) & Shuhei Taniguchi vs The Sugiura Army (Takashi Sugiura, Kazuyuki Fujita & Hideki Suzuki)
NOSAWA Rongai, who was not on today's card, came out to second the Sugiura Army, wearing a LIDET t-shirt and with no make up. Speaking of t-shirts, Kazuyuki Fujita (whose entry theme sounds like something you would have heard in All Japan in the early 90s) is still refusing to wear a "Company Dog". NOSAWA behaved himself today and cheered on his team, ignoring the fights going on around him.
AXIZ emerged, Nakajima still refusing to bring the W-1 belt, or even acknowledge that he is their champion. The crowd were desperate for Shiozaki and Fujita to start, which they did.
The match had a slow beginning as Fujita and Shiozaki built up the drama, which was unleashed when a slap war broke out, with Fujita leaving welts on Shiozaki that stretched from his hairline to his jaw. Then Takashi Sugiura got in the ring, and not wanting to go "Golden Era" after that, Shiozaki tagged in Taniguchi, but Fujita didn't let him off that easily, and they fought outside of the ring with Fujita using the belt on Shiozaki.
Back in the ring, Sugiura and Taniguchi were going at it, and Nakajima would later really lay his choke on Hideki Suzuki.
WINNER: Kazuyuki Fujita with the sleeper hold on Shuhei Taniguchi (18 minutes, 55 seconds)
Shiozaki and Fujita continued fighting after the bell, until they were seperated. After that Nakajima sat and watched the proceedings from the corner, as Shiozaki got on the microphone and did what everyone had been waiting for - he made Fujita his challenger for the belt. Title has been set for 8th March in Yokohama.
Suzuki then got on the microphone and said that he couldn't challenge Shiozaki, but he could challenge Nakajima to a singles match. He left before Nakajima could respond, but Nakajima had the look on his face similar to the Velociraptors did when being fooled by the kids in the kitchen in Jurassic Park.
Then the crowd screamed, as Kaito Kiyomiya got in the ring, and called Sugiura back. Kiyomiya challenged for the GHC National, with Sugiura telling him that he had seen 20 years of Noah, he had seen the good, the bad...and some things that Kiyomiya should be grateful that he never had seen, and yes he would give him his title match, on the 25th February in his hometown of Nagoya.
Kiyomiya later posted on Twitter that Sugiura was an "ogre", and that he would win the belt and make his new scenery. Sugiura didn't like it? Tough. He would be absorbed into it.
Global Junior League finals
Daisuke Harada vs Dick Togo
Daisuke Harada came out seconded by RATELS, with the crowd behind him. Maybe not Noah born, but Harada represented Noah in this match and with the exception of Chris Ridgeway (who has fitted in like a glove), the Noah juniors do not usually like outsiders, especially those who come in to win leagues or belts. Speaking of belts, he was also introduced as the "IPW Junior Champion."
This is their first singles match ever, having last wrestled in tags in 2009 and 2010.
This was not a technical match like earlier with mat wrestling, but more a test of endurance, stiff punches, chops and kicks, and submission moves (Togo on Harada's knee). At times it threatened to turn into a brawl, as Togo went to use a chair on Harada.
During the match, Togo baited Harada, doing the "come on and hit me, right here" and then ducking him. Togo, who is 50, kept pace with the 33 year old Harada, who had last met as a 22\23 year old. He also used his amazing through the rope somersault. YO-HEY was on hand to hold the barrier, and check Harada was okay.
WINNER: Daisuke Harada via Katayama German Suplex (19 minutes, 43 seconds)
The President of THE LEAVE (long term sponsors who do property rental, sponsor the Noah trophies) and presented Harada with his prize. YO-HEY was very sweet with Harada, bringing him the microphone, and Okasan (Tadasuke) helped him up
Harada gave a winners speech, thanking everyone, speaking of his title challenge. He later said that this win was for the Noah juniors, not just him alone.
Unless they are squabbling over a belt, a RATELS win is a win for all of them. RATELS all posed together after Harada had the official pictures taken (unlike last years winner he didn't look like he was about to run off any moment). RATELS crouched by the title in a huddle, and did their arm tie. YO-HEY looking the happiest, with everyone staring into the cameras, except HAYATA.
WITH THANKS TO: Metal Noah, Abeshin
PICTURE CREDIT: Noah GHC, PKDX
NOAH'S NEXT SHOW: Higher Ground 2020, 7th February 2020