"This day really came..."
The Onion dome on the top of The Nippon Budokan was sparkling against the blue spring skies as the fans made their way through the gateway of the old Edo castle towards a venue where Noah had not been for eleven years, and today were making their triumphant return to after turbulent years of stagnation. Fans, whether this was their first time in seeing Noah at The Budokan or else who had known Noah during their "Golden Era", where excited to be back.
Noah had that afternoon unveiled their new logo, which stood proudly on the mat at The Budokan. The apron was trimmed in blue, and the venue was bathed in green which gave it a feeling of summertime on a February day. Just like old times. Old times, but with a new feel. You could tell the roster were loving this, and were going to give it their all, after all, both they and the fans had worked very hard to reach this point. Not one person was going to throw it away.
On commentary was Akira Taue (looking a lot better than he has been in years), Kenta Kobashi and Genichiro Tenryu. Tenryu of course is the senior of both Taue and Kobashi, and that of Jun Akiyama and Yoshinari Ogawa. Half the time the veterans didn't look like they wanted to speak to each other.
Today's event was streamed live on FITETV and ABEMA WRESTLEUNIVERSE and ABEMA made part 2 (the title and Noah generational tag matches) free. This will be available for seven days, after that you will need to subscribe to WrestleUniverse. As Noah put it, "Whether are you at the venue, watching on your TV or in front of a computer screen, please take your seat and wait for the bell."
Akitoshi Saito vs Kinya Okada
Akitoshi Saito came out dressed in black and waving his flag, he was barely in the ring when Kinya Okada attacked right away, and I mean right away. He blocked Saito's attacks and kicked him back into the corner. Saito was not going to be outdone by this kid, although this kid often during the match did outdo him.
This was an older style opener, suitable for Noah's history at The Budokan, with Saito using a series of chokeslams. Okada, however, clambered up each time and fought back, until he could fight no more.
WINNER: Akitoshi Saito with the Suikurudesu (5 minutes, 10 seconds)
Akitoshi Saito, Yasutaka Yano & Daiki Inaba vs Hajime Ohara, YO-HEY & Kai Fujimura
The two young boys (Kai Fujimura Yasutaka Yano) came running to the ring, Yano somehow looking like he had jumped up the stairs as he kind of popped up. YO-HEY was naturally overexcited, Hajime Ohara was naturally controlled, and Atsushi Kotoge looks a lot happier when he doesn't have to be around Daisuke Harada. So with one sensible person, one wired person and one excited young boy, the two teams were evenly matched.
The two rookies put on a technical match, while their seniors looked on (Hajime Ohara was seen to clap). This was again another classic Budokan booked match, have a veterans match first, and then a rookie match second. The energetic match ended when Kotoge headbutted Fujimura, and followed it up with a moonsault for the win.
WINNER: Atsushi Kotoge with the moonsault on Kai Fujimura (7 minutes, 52 seconds)
Mohammed Yone & Shuhei Taniguchi vs The M's Alliance (Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Tanaka)
Masaaki Mochizuki let out what seemed to be a sigh at Mohammed Yone's funky disco rope break, Yone nodded as if to say, "Yeah, that's right". Despite his Disco, Yone was on form, especially in his interactions with Masato Tanaka, when he gave him several stiff kicks which Tanaka braced himself against, but eventually succumbed to.
Monster Taniguchi emerged, slamming his opponents constantly and in succession, but then rather than do anything that Kenta Kobashi had suggested when he had publicly told him off for being sluggish and for losing to Mutoh without knowing how, he started dancing. I can only imagine just what Kenta Kobashi thought about it...or Tenryu or Taue...
WINNER: Masato Tanaka with The Sliding D on Mohammed Yone (6 minutes, 58 seconds)
The dominance of The M's Alliance continued with their first win tonight at The Budokan. Yuko Miyamoto got into the ring (he had been at ringside) to celebrate with his unit. Sadly, the team of Mohammed Yone and Shuhei Taniguchi had both failed to deliver, and connect with the fans who remain indifferent to them.
The Sugiura Army (Takashi Sugiura, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kazuyuki Fujita, Kazunari Murakami, Kendo Kashin & NOSAWA Rongai vs Kongoh (Katsuhiko Nakajima, Masa Kitamiya, Manabu Soya, Haoh, Nioh & Tadasuke)
Rockstar Tadasuke led Kongoh in a Spartan like angry march to the ring (he soon became Crazy Tadasuke, but after he had arranged his hair and glasses by looking directly into the ringpost camera), and kind of took control of the unit, which is odd considering that he's a junior. There was also something ironic about Katsuhiko Nakajima walking out of a red vortex.
The Sugiura Army are a little less disciplined than Kongoh, and made a more shambolic entry, with the referee immediately having to argue with Kendo Kashin over some misbehaviour. The referee soon had other things to think about as a melee brawl broke out, with Katsuhiko Nakajima attacking Kazushi Sakuraba, who he kicked over the barrier with the belt falling off from around his neck and over his head. Kazuyuki Fujita fought Manabu Soya (which is a match that fans really want to see), and poor little 5'4 Haoh found himself fighting 6'1 Kazunari Murakami. When the fight went back into the ring, there where hoss fight shoulder tackles between Kazuyuki Fujita and Manabu Soya.
Over on the junior side, if you should never accept a handshake when offered by Tadasuke, then equally you should never accept one from NOSAWA Rongai. NOSAWA was insistent that Haoh should shake his hand, even after Haoh had kicked it away. NOSAWA was insistent, and Haoh for some reason trusted him. You would have thought that teaming with Tadasuke would have taught him better.
Kendo Kashin had managed to behave himself until he decided that he wanted in while Sugiura was fighting Kitamiya, it ended up with Kashin attacking Sugiura.
Although this was a pre-match in some respects between The Aggression (Nakajima & Kitamiya) and The Sugiura Army (Sugiura & Sakuraba), Nakajima still had a score to settle with Murakami, and as he loves the camera, he loved more than ever doing his shutter chance at The Budokan. Kashin could not stay out of this, and did his own on Nakajima, forming chain. Murakami looked the most unappreciative out of everyone that Nakajima has ever done this on.
Winner: Takashi Sugiura with the Olympic Slam on Nioh (10 minutes, 58 seconds)
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Title
STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa & HAYATA) vs Kotaro Suzuki & Ikuto Hidaka
Kotaro Suzuki had dispensed with the usual red, and changed into a black outfit. Yoshinari Ogawa, whether it was the sight of Kotaro, his new outfit, or just both, naturally started to complain and point.
NOSAWA, who had accompanied his "side project away from The Sugiura Army", had to get involved, but fortunately this was only minor, and Ogawa kicked him off the apron.
Kotaro can be just as nasty as Ogawa. He's known him the longest out of anyone in the ring, and any other Noah juniors, and repaid his moves by almost going toe to toe with him. Ikuto Hidaka, while not as nasty, could also be just as clever and fooled HAYATA into thinking he had fallen outside the ring, so when HAYATA turned his back, he ambushed him. On the whole it was a very clever match, which was emphasized by the bitter feelings between Kotaro and Ogawa. This was no ordinary title match, and throughout it, Kotaro knew he was getting to him and if there is one thing that Ogawa can't stand, then it's someone getting anything over him and none more so if that someone is Kotaro.
WINNER: Yoshinari Ogawa with the Head Scissors Hold on Kotaro Suzuki (13 minutes, 5 seconds)
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship
Daisuke Harada vs Seiki Yoshioka
Daisuke Harada came out to (as Abeshin put it) a "big match version" of his music. In the ring, because they are Noah Juniors, they were like two magnets drawn to each other, and there was an immediate stare down between Harada and Seiki Yoshioka. Outside the ring, Atsushi Kotoge (now looking miserable), was seconding Harada. Yoshioka was more fortunate, as he had more warm support in Hajime Ohara and YO-HEY.
As Noah Juniors they have their own pride to uphold, pride in their chaotic division, pride as Noah juniors individually, and pride in not being outdone by any of their division or by the hated heavyweights. It was a fast paced junior match with incredible technique from the pair, Harada used the ref to perform a technique (a flip), and Yoshioka did one of his famous flips...and it was probably best he didn't land on the commentary desk. Yoshioka using his lightning quick kicks to good effect, kicking Harada and managing to get him to his knees, Harada had his shark face on, and refused to go down to them, but he was worn down in the end, as was Yoshioka. It would be up to one of them to capitalize on this.
WINNER: Seiki Yoshioka with the Crash Driver (10 minutes, 58 seconds)
Atsushi Kotoge got into the ring, ripped his mask away and challenged the new champion for the belt. Then he and Yoshioka got in each others faces. Backstage, Kotoge couldn't leave it alone either, confronting Yoshioka and saying that although he was going to never match what had happened at the Budokan, he was going to take the belt in one go.
Noah generations match
Naomichi Marufuji & Jun Akiyama vs Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura
You could tell just by looking at him that Kaito Kiyomiya was loving his first Budokan experience. It was soon to become very memorable for him.
Naomichi Marufuji walked down the ramp for the first time in eleven years, wearing new chrome gear, and there was the excitement of Jun Akiyama's homecoming.
Jun Akiyama is Naomichi Marufuji's senior, and as such comes from the "Misawa\Baba generation" above him, therefore he is the closest that both Kiyomiya and Yoshiki Inamura will ever come to wrestling any of The Four Pillars. Inamura was the one who started off against him, and looking stern as if he was back in the classroom at Differ Ariake, Akiyama no sold his chops and circled him. Inamura, however, did manage to knock him down with a shoulder tackle. When it was Kiyomiya's turn, he threw him aside. Naomichi Marufuji watched intently as the two Noah born fought with a first generation of Noah. He did laugh when Kiyomiya had one of his desperation moments, as he probably
remembered his own against Akiyama, and how well that went. Makoto Hashi (Akiyama's trainee) was outside the ring, probably having flashbacks of his own. The two youngsters were both going to have their moments of this.
Akiyama was merciless to the two youngsters, who were run ragged by their seniors. Marufuji marginally the easier of the two though, although he did almost pull Kiyomiya's arm from his socket when he leapt of the ring apron, pulling Kiyomiya with him and wrapped it around the steel barrier, and when he caught him in the Perfect Key Hold. Fortunately, Inamura came to break it up.
Inamura and Kiyomiya were not totally helpless against their seniors though, and displayed some clever spots, such as Inamura pushing Marufuji into Kiyomiya, who did a suplex and almost got the pin. He might not have gotten it then, but it was going to be the youngsters who were triumphant, and with this big match out of the way, an opportunity was going to open up for Kiyomiya.
WINNER: Kaito Kiyomiya with the Tiger Suplex Hold on Naomichi Marufuji (18 minutes, 12 seconds)
GHC NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Kenoh vs Masakatsu Funaki
Kenoh knew from being choked until he turned purple in the pre-match, that he was going to have to find a way to overcome Masakatsu Funaki, or else his Budokan dream was going to turn into a humiliating nightmare. The match, combining both Funaki's skill and Kenoh's background in Nippon Kempo, was very MMA style, lots of holds, lots of chokes, especially the lock up. Funaki was not give up with chokes, and he remained very much dominant, grinding Kenoh down. Kenoh took a slightly different tactic to his other opponents, by not choking him out, but taking him by surprise. It was a swift match with a surprise victory, but not one that could have gone on for very long.
WINNER: Kenoh with the Dragon Suplex Hold (10 minutes, 10 seconds)
Kenoh then spoke on the microphone, Budokan was his dream, and here he was. Kenoh, not ever one to mince his words or temper his language (Misawa would never have allowed it, and Baba would probably have choked on his cigar), thanked all the "assholes for gathering here today" and enabling him to win. Kenoh said he had prayed for this moment, chanted sutra and dreamed about it, but now he had another goal or two - he wanted to come back to the Budokan for the 2nd time, and again and again.
Backstage, Kenoh found that he had another challenger, hot on the tails of the first. No one from The M's Alliance this time, it was a Sugiura Army member, Kendo Kashin. Kashin (with his ability to upend reality...something common among Noah juniors), said that he had wanted to challenge for the GHC National belt since he entered wrestling. It should be noted that Kashin entered wrestling in 1993. The GHC National belt was created in 2019.
GHC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP MATCH
Go Shiozaki vs Keiji Mutoh
Go Shiozaki knew that this is was the biggest stage he was wrestling on during this title run, and with Kenta Kobashi (along with Akira Taue and Noah's step-grandfather, Genichiro Tenryu looking on), he had to rise to the occasion.
Go Shiozaki started the match by mat wrestling Keiji Mutoh and aiming to take him down as best he could. Mutoh had a plan of his own, and worked on Shiozaki's ragged shoulders and then his knees and legs, his aim was to exhaust him, but in a different way.
As per Budokan tradition, the main event fight usually goes to the ramp, Mutoh punched Shiozaki down it, and as per Budokan tradition, the two main eventers must pull off either an apron or a ramp spot. This didn't happen here, not because Shiozaki isn't capable (he'd willingly do it), but because Mutoh is not physically capable anymore, as we would see later when he was going to go for a moonsault, and then halfway through thought the better of it, which led to a botched spot when Shiozaki attempted a top rope move. Mutoh also seemed not really able to stand up to the machine gun chops, but I think that this may have been part of his plan to lure Shiozaki into thinking he was an old man who was past it and was in over his head.
It wasn't going to be any form of submission that caused Shiozaki to lose the match, and Mutoh locked in the leglock four times, causing Shiozaki each time to drag himself (and Mutoh) to the ropes. Shiozaki showed how well he could sell, by dragging himself to his feet the second time and having a wobbly leg. When submission moves were no good, it was time to resort to finishers. The Go Flasher, the Gowan Lariat, the Moonsault were no good, and even Mutoh's own Shining Wizard failed to bring an end to the match, which in the end, Mutoh did what Kenoh had done when facing an impossible situation, and won by catching his opponent off guard with a sudden strike.
WINNER: Keiji Mutoh with the Frankensteiner (29 minutes, 32 seconds)
Shiozaki was furious with himself, with the ref, with Mutoh and refused to be mollified. However, Mutoh didn't have long to enjoy his win as Kaito Kiyomiya appeared, running down the ramp and into the ring. No words were exchanged between the two, but it was obvious to all what Kiyomiya wanted.
The GHC Heavyweight.
GIFS taken from WRESTLEUNIVERSE
Picture Credit: BBM
WITH THANKS TO: Metal-Noah, FUJI_error, Abeshin, Miriam (for gifting me a FITETV code)
Noah's next event: Sunday, February 21st (Sendai PIT)