Outside, the deserted Tokyo Dome Village had late March snow which fell quietly on the cold cherry blossoms, while inside the arena was eerily quiet with only the sound from the canvas and the click and whirr of the cameras and the creaky opening and the banging shut of the steel gate at ringside to be heard. Noah also changed the entryway to a raised platform and steps, instead of having the wrestlers enter from the sides.
Noah have hinted that they may do a couple more empty arena shows due to the current conditions.
The event was streamed live on DDT Universe and Samurai TV, and started with Kaito Kiyomiya and Katsuhiko Nakajima shilling merchandise. Nakajima of course advertising the branded AXIZ merchandise. In these times it is vital that if we can, we support promotions by buying their merchandise, especially since wrestlers get a large amount of their income from sales.
Naomichi Marufuji came out before the event started and gave a small speed to the crowd (i.e. the viewers scattered like the cold cherry blossom petals all over the world), thanking everyone for tuning in. Later he was on commentary.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Championship
STINGER (Kotaro Suzuki & Atsushi Kotoge) vs RATELS (HAYATA & YO-HEY)
Kotaro Suzuki was announced as "the successor of Misawaism".
Noisy YO-HEY, who loves the crowd reaction that he gets (he is usually the only one out of RATELS to stare directly into the camera when fans take pictures), couldn't really get his head around that there was no one there as he out of habit tried to rouse the crowd, did "GETZ" and then when he realised that there was no one there, he did it to the camera which he followed up by Kotoge's "Revolutionary Cape" dance. Fortunately, Tadasuke was also at ringside to drum up support, although YO-HEY seemed to be enough of a one man band.
STINGER being STINGER were not focused on the invisible crowd (and at times it looked like YO-HEY'S showboating to the camera might cost RATELS the victory), but on HAYATA'S injured ribs. Noah have been selling this for the past few weeks with Kotoge at one point taking HAYATA into the empty benches to jump on them, and yes, you could hear YO-HEY cheering HAYATA on from across the hall - it was that quiet.
WINNER: HAYATA with the Headache on Atsushi Kotoge (22 minutes, 34 seconds)
As YO-HEY & HAYATA posed with the belts for the first time in about two years and two months (HAYATA trying to hide behind his, even though the arena was empty), Kotaro Suzuki who was looking thoughtfully at them, turned back and rolled Kotoge out of the ring. For both teams, tonight was going to be a night that marked a new beginning.
GHC National Championship
Takashi Sugiura vs Minoru Tanaka
Although they are the same age, Takashi Sugiura came to the ring, held the belt up and looked unimpressed, and gave Tanaka the same the same kind of look that he normally gives the upstart younger heavyweights when they take him on. This was the first ever battle for the belt between a heavyweight and a junior.
This match was a clash of two different styles, which worked surprisingly well; you had Tanaka's technicality and his speed as a junior, and Sugiura's brutality and brawling. Minoru Tanaka was straight away in with the submission move, he learnt from the pre-match that this is effective against Sugiura. That might have been all that was effective against him as the match was pretty much dominated by the heavyweight with kicks and elbows.
The finale of the match was a back and forth of reversals of submission moves, which ended with Takashi Sugiura getting the win, and Tanaka looking angry that this was one belt that he had not been able to collect just yet.
WINNER: Takashi Sugiura with the ankle hold (14 minutes, 35 seconds)
Noah are yet to set a date.
Trying to stick as much as normal to the usual format, Noah held a fifteen minute interval. This was started by Kaito Kiyomiya (who has a sniffle) coming out to the ring and giving a message of support and hope to Japan.
The 19th April Korakuen is shaping up to be an exciting one, as in addition to the mystery Kongoh member, Noah also announced the return of Keiji Mutoh, Osamu Nishimura and Kazushi Sakuraba.
GHC Junior Heavyweight
Yoshinari Ogawa vs Daisuke Harada
RATELS came out to second Harada, Kotaro Suzuki with Yoshinari Ogawa, but no Atsushi Kotoge though (in all fairness though he had done a headbutt, and taken the Headache).
Yoshinari Ogawa immediately started being difficult, complaining about putting his belt on the line when Harada had withdrawn the IPW Junior Heavyweight challenge, and refusing to start the match. Harada remained stubborn, and in the end the referee took the belt from Ogawa and started the match whether he liked it or not. Interestingly, Daisuke Harada came to the ring without the IPW belt, so hopefully this is the last we will hear about it, although Noah GHC did speculate on whether Harada was going to become a double champion or not. This stalling was a kind of eerie echo of what was going to happen in the main event, as was Daisuke Harada's hair sticking up towards the end, and the bleeding from the mouth, both of which would happen to Go Shiozaki.
This was a very technical match, Ogawa tortured Harada's arm and elbow, waiting behind every corner that Harada walked around, and even a kick to the face did not stop him. At one point he even went to the RATELS corner and did it right in front of them.
As well as Ogawa knew Harada, Harada knew Ogawa too, and this didn't stop him getting out of an Ogawa hold by using the ref to do a flip, something which he was told off for.
Ogawa had made the comment prior to the match that he might "destroy STINGER and RATELS", and it seemed that the first sign of that came when he used Kotaro Suzuki as a human shield to prevent Harada from jumping through the ropes at him. Harada for some reason stopped, although he cares little to nothing for Suzuki, but Suzuki wasn't impressed by Ogawa using him in this way. Later Harada took them both out with a dive.
WINNER: Yoshinari Ogawa with sneak pin following footstamp (26 minutes, 39 seconds)
Kotaro Suzuki then made his move and attacked Ogawa. It turned out that it wasn't going to be Ogawa who destroyed STINGER, no, it was going to be Suzuki.
Getting on the microphone, Suzuki said simply he was challenging him for the GHC Junior, and after laying the belt over him, he walked off.
Backstage, Yoshinari Ogawa announced that due to Kotaro's actions, STINGER were finished. Suzuki, showing little remorse for what he had done, said that ever since he had returned to Noah he had two goals in mind; to challenge Yoshinari Ogawa for a belt, and to challenge Naomichi Marufuji. There are reasons why he has chosen these two specifically; Yoshinari Ogawa helped train him, and indeed no one has passed through the Noah dojo without his input, he is also the most senior man on the roster. Naomichi Marufuji is his "older brother" (which he has addressed him as in the past), being Mitsuharu Misawa's senior student.
Go Shiozaki vs Kazuyuki Fujita
The whole of the Sugiura Army (including Rene Dupre who today made his Noah debut, but not in ring) came out in force to support Kazuyuki Fujita. Go Shiozaki, the champion, had only Katsuhiko Nakajima.
This was going to be a very different style match from a Noah one. Kazuyuki Fujita had said that one of the benefits of having no audience was being able to do something you wouldn't normally show the live public.
The match started with complete silence, with only the whirr of the cameras as they faced each other. Shiozaki took a few steps. No one moved for a few minutes, and the tension rose. Nishinaga tried to get them going, but they continued staring at each other. They even got a time warning.
The match got to ten minutes, they still hadn't moved.
Fujita eventually broke the deadlock by moving to the other side of the ring, but they continued to stare at each other. Fifteen minutes had now passed, and another fifteen would follow before Fujita finally broke and the pounced after thirty minutes.
Yes, they had spent thirty minutes cranking up the tension by staring at each other in an arena in which you could have heard a pin drop and it would have echoed like thunder.
The match began with a mat based style takedown to begin with, not usual Shiozaki or Noah style. Fujita started taunting Shiozaki and telling him that the ropes are there, why can't he reach them? However, as soon as Shiozaki was on his feet this later became more Noah as the chops, kicks and lariats began. He also, like Harada, began bleeding from the mouth.
The match then took on another not typically Noah style turn when the fight went outside the ring, and Fujita went to hit Shiozaki with the GHC, which fortunately NOSAWA Rongai removed from him. Fujita then took a big bottle of hand sanitizer which was sitting near the ringside doctor, swigged from it, and spat it out on Shiozaki. Take it from someone who works in a hospital, his mouth is probably still tasting of chemicals.
Shiozaki limped back with his Kobashi face on. It was on now more than ever before.
Fujita locked in a submission soon after Shiozaki was back in the ring, Nakajima could be heard yelling for him to get to the ropes. I say "heard" because although there was not a Korakuen crowd, the arena somehow seemed alive with people, there seemed to be so much more noise than a small crowd could make.
After getting to the ropes, Fujita followed this up with stiff kicks to Shiozaki's head (it's probably fortunate here that Shiozaki is used to being kicked, having KENTA as Kobashi's senior student and therefore his "older brother"). Shiozaki (hair standing on end) went mad with lariats and got the win.
WINNER: Go Shiozaki with the Gowan Lariat (57 minutes, 47 seconds)
Go Shiozaki gave a short speech afterwards, I think he was too dazed to do more than thank everyone and say "I am Noah", but he seemed a little more coherent backstage, although he had to lean back against the wall. No challenger has come forward yet, however.
Noah's next event will be the 4th April at the Osaka Edion Arena 2nd Stadium where they will open Global Tag League. The way things are looking, and judging by what Noah have said, we could well see another empty arena match and with it, perhaps more matches that you can't do for an audience.
Picture credit: Tadasuke
GIF credit: Samurai TV