There was a birthday party atmosphere at Korakuen Hall today as fans came to the venue for the first night of the two day Noah 20th anniversary events (Noah actually will celebrate the 20 years since its first show on the 5th August); the Noah shop was running and had new products on sale (Kotaro Suzuki also set up shop).
Fans were seated one seat apart instead of two, as Noah wanted to get in as many people as possible, but in the safest way possible. The hall itself was hot, and it was about to get hotter...not least because for the female fans, as HAYATA was in the ring with Ogawa who was teaching a class (it's also his 33rd birthday), which caused something of a stampede as soon as word got around.
Akitoshi Saito vs Masa Kitamiya
This was a half a classic style match from the Showa era which was when Akitoshi Saito trained, and which is Masa Kitamiya's general style, and half a beast fight as the match got going with shoulder tackles, in which Kitamiya knocked Saito down with. Outside the ring, one of the trainees also went flying when Saito threw Kitamiya into the railings. You could tell by the cold smile on his face, just how much Saito was loving this match.
This being Noah's 20th anniversary, Saito had a small tribute of his own to the man who was a big part of Noah's early days, until his sudden death in November 2011 in Puerto Rico. This man of course, was Bison Smith, who Saito paid tribute to by using the Iron Claw Slam.
WINNER: Masa Kitamiya with a Spear (9 minutes, 14 seconds)
HAYATA & Kinya Okada vs Kongoh (Haoh and Nioh)
This was a match that no one really knew what to expect from, and they didn't really get much from it, being probably the weakest card on the show; to be honest I think it was put together because without Ogawa with HAYATA, it doesn't really make any sense for Haoh and Nioh to challenge for the titles (which is what everyone was expecting them to do), and Kinya Okada didn't really have any reason to be in the ring with any of the Noah juniors. That being said, he completely dwarfed HAYATA and Haoh with his size (but not really Nioh), and it's not until you see him with the juniors, that you realise just how big he has become.
Haoh vs HAYATA showed potential though, Haoh managing to out wrestle him at times. HAYATA had his sadistic smile on. Aside from this, there isn't really much to say about it.
WINNER: HAYATA with the Crossfix on Nioh (10 minutes, 32 seconds)
Shuhei Taniguchi vs Mohammed Yone vs Kongoh (Manabu Soya & Yoshiki Inamura)
This was the first tag ever between Manabu Soya and Yoshiki Inamura, and had this match gone on for any longer than it did, the roof probably would have caved in at Korakuen.
Mohammed Yone and Shuhei Taniguchi came out to Taniguchi's music, which isn't disco, but this didn't stop Yone from striking a disco pose. Taniguchi (wearing new blue trunks) immediately had a stare down square up with Manabu Soya. They started the match to loud applause from the fans, with the traditional Hoss fight shoulder tackles going into a rapid punch battle after both failed to knock each other down. Soya kept true to his Kongoh roots by yelling that Yone was a "stupid bastard" before knocking him down.
With the ban on cheering at Korakuen due to the possibility of transmission of airborne fluids, sounds are amplified, and you could hear the announcers (probably not Kobashi though), cringing at the sound of Yone hitting Inamura. The crowd were on fire for Inamura, with big expectations or him in this match, and he came very close to it. The fans are desperate for an Inamura big win, and so the atmosphere and the sound that they were generating by clapping, was at fever pitch. You could almost hear everyone's hearts beating in anticipation each time he went for a pin.
Sadly, today it was not meant to be.
WINNER: Shuhei Taniguchi with the facial kicks on Yoshiki Inamura (13 minutes, 30 seconds. Note: Taniguchi had do this three times or so before Inamura was knocked down)
FULL THROTTLE (Atsushi Kotoge, Hajime Ohara & Seiki Yoshioka) vs Daisuke Harada, Tadasuke & YO-HEY
Well, every unbirthday needs either a mad March Hare (it's not March) or a Mad Hatter (apt), and Atsushi Kotoge filled that role today (if you think about it this match had three insane people in it, and three who had to keep order). With Hajime Ohara and Seiki Yoshioka following sedately on behind, Kotoge raced into the hall wearing a pink t-shirt that proclaimed to the audience, "THE LEADER". He then almost trampled a couple of the photographers to get to the ring. His spirits were slightly dampened later in the match, when Yoshioka tagged in Ohara instead of himself.
After the usual beauty which is Hajime Ohara vs Daisuke Harada, there was the usual crazy lock up between YO-HEY and Kotoge, which Kotoge went along with until YO-HEY kicked him. YO-HEY is loving having the crowd back for a big event, especially as everyone saw him making fun of Kotoge's "FULL THROTTLE" motion, that was until FULL THROTTLE got their revenge and then YO-HEY didn't find it so funny.
Crazy Tadasuke was back, storming the ring, knocking FULL THROTTLE DOWN. He and YO-HEY teased the Coronavirus restrictions, with YO-HEY telling Kotoge he slid out of the ring due to "social distancing" and Tadasuke putting his hand over his mouth when he went for his Kodo Fuyuki lariat.
Seiki Yoshioka hasn't yet got the hang of judging the distance between the ropes and the steel barrier. Today there was no announcers to scare at ringside (they were up in the balcony, which would probably have gotten him chopped by Kenta Kobashi had it happened to him), so he went flying into the crowd and almost ended up falling on some people. Fast paced junior match, in which everyone pretty much knew that RATELS somehow, aren't over yet.
WINNER: Daisuke Harada with small package on Atsushi Kotoge (14 minutes, 55 seconds)
Pro Wrestling Noah 20th anniversary match
Naomichi Marufuji, Takashi Sugiura & Yoshinari Ogawa vs Go Shiozaki, Kaito Kiyomiya & Kotaro Suzuki
This match was half a pre match and a half an anniversary match as it not only set Naomichi Marufuji against Go Shiozaki for the last time until the GHC Heavyweight title match on the 5th August, it also set the last three remaining in Noah, and who have been with Noah for twenty years, who walked out of All Japan in 2000 with Mitsuharu Misawa, against three Noah born; Kotaro Suzuki (Noah's first born), Go Shiozaki (Noah's symbol and the current GHC Heavyweight champion) and Kaito Kiyomiya (Noah's Ace).
Yoshinari Ogawa, the most senior man in Noah and in this match, came out first. He bought up the three Noah born, if not exactly Marufuji and Sugiura, who still go to him for advice despite being veterans. Takashi Sugiura (who Kenta Kobashi said was from All Japan, but is in a grey area as he trained in All Japan but debuted in Noah), came out next, with Noah's vice president, GHC Heavyweight challenger and Heir to The Ark, Naomichi Marufuji coming out last. He and Kotaro Suzuki entered the ring in the same way, just as Misawa had used to, by jumping over the ropes.
Kotaro had Yoshinari Ogawa square up to him, hands on hips, to basically say that although they were in the same unit (STINGER), he wasn't going to go easy on him (he didn't, he beat the hell out of him despite a taped shoulder which made him look as if he was moving stiffly at times), and naturally Marufuji and Go Shiozaki faced off as the crowd went into a frenzy.
The chop battle between Shiozaki and Marufuji was intense as expected; Shiozaki at first no selling Marufuji, and managing to bring him to his knees, Marufuji chopping Shiozaki so hard it was like the sound of a whip cracking, Shiozaki with a shorter version of the machine gun chops (I think Shiozaki, for the sake of his arms, is saving this for the title match), and the one arm chop with the left hands held, Marufuji refused to let go when Shiozaki pulled a little, but it was he who fell in the end.
Kotaro really got it in this match from his seniors. Ogawa knew him well, but as ever, Kotaro found it hard to sometimes predict what Ogawa is going to do, and Sugiura almost broke him in half with a spear.
As for Kaito Kiyomiya, he knew that he would have his time in the sun in Yokohama, so he took a quieter role, letting Shiozaki and Marufuji fight, and then Kotaro as the eldest Noah born, fight against those he has been since he debuted. Kiyomiya himself got a taste of his seniors, who took him down.
WINNER: Naomichi Marufuji with the Perfect Key Lock submission on Go Shiozaki (27 minutes, 45 seconds)
GHC National Championship
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Kenoh
"The kick fight FROM HELL"
Kenoh came out seconded by ALL of Kongoh, except Yoshiki Inamura. Katsuhiko Nakajima came sauntering out, in usual fashion, part Velociraptor, part Cheshire Cat, reaching new heights of cockiness as he got on the apron near to Kenoh's corner to do his pose, Kenoh stared straight ahead angrily ignoring him.
After the bell rang in the tense silence of Korakuen, Kenoh and Nakajima circled each other. It was a very tense atmosphere which the intense Kenoh and the cocksure Nakajima had created skillfully between them, and it was going to serve them well for the title match.
Although the crowd had to remain silent, they could not help quietly groaning at the kicks that went on between Nakajima and Kenoh, which ranged a full spectrum from dull thuds to whip cracks to rifle shots. The Soccer Ball kicks volley, sounded even worse, as did the periodic slap war which sounded like lightning strikes.
If Katsuhiko Nakajima has a failing when it comes to title matches, it is that sooner or later he gets cocky, and it costs him. It also cost him today. Going for the cocky pin, it gave Kenoh time to get the wind in his sails back. Kenoh, half dazed, refused to be pinned that way, and rallied, fighting back with a top rope Dragon Suplex (I am of the belief that if Kiyomiya has the Tiger Suplex, then Kenoh will have the Dragon Suplex), and a massive PSF which Nakajima kicked out of.
Kicks from hell, lightning strike slaps, this match was only ever going to end one way...
WINNER: Kenoh via a referee stop due to a TKO following a high kick (24 minutes and 45 seconds)
Ever gracious in victory or defeat, Kenoh decided to go over to Nakajima, pull his head up and yell at him while he lay on the mat. After Nakajima was rolled out and taken backstage, Kenoh then spoke on the microphone telling everyone that at last he had a belt which he had bought home to Kongoh, and for all you assholes to follow him and follow Kongoh as they made Noah's ring shine like a diamond.
WITH THANKS TO: Gong Ex, Shū, Abeshin, Metal-Noah
GIF'S taken from G+