Normally on a Sunday the atmosphere has that special buzz to it as fans throng the lobby, but today it was like a ghost town as due to the risk of infection people were discouraged from gathering as much as possible. Still, if the old atmosphere couldn't be outside the hall, it was certainly inside it. Fans have found ways to get around the "No cheering" rule, and not only by bringing signs to the venue - clapping is the new form of cheering, especially in place of counting along with the pinfalls, and it was an emotional afternoon at Korakuen Hall.
Today's show will be broadcast on G+ on the 26th July, the commentators taking their place on the balcony away from the crowd, which is a marked change to ABEMA yesterday. There was also no monitor, so no announcements were made.
Mohammed Yone vs Masao Inoue
Typical MASAOWORLD match, which started of civil enough with a handshake between Mohammed Yone and Masao Inoue. Then Yone began tormenting the poor old man with gout by bouncing him off the ropes repeatedly, Inoue became tired and put a stop to it as he couldn't stand, so Yone clapped him with the crowd before attacking him. Inoue however, wasn't going to go down without a fight (even if his wind up bird punch didn't work), and tried to take advantage of Referee Tsukakoshi who was supervising the match for the first time. It didn't work, he was having none of it.
WINNER: Mohammed Yone with the Kinniku Buster (9 minutes, 59 seconds)
Hitoshi Kumano's Farewell Match
Naomichi Marufuji & Kinya Okada vs Takashi Sugiura & Hitoshi Kumano
"I cannot say anything, but the voice in my heart is "Kumano"
Hitoshi Kumano is stepping away from the ring for now to have an eye operation Since he was a trainee he has suffered worsening vision in one of his eyes, and this has now gotten so bad that he is having double vision. He cannot say whether he will return afterwards, and so today was his farewell match.
Kumano came out wearing the two things that meant the most to him; blue trunks and with his hair dyed blue to represent Atsushi Aoki, and wearing a TMDK ("The Mighty Don't Kneel") t-shirt, who called him "Little Brother". He also teamed with someone who meant a lot to him, Takashi Sugiura. Originally the match was meant to be Kumano facing Sugiura, but this was changed due to Coronavirus cancelling the original match and the card could not be worked out like that again. Sugiura is Kumano's hero, and touchingly today Sugiura treated Kumano as if he was the senior, even holding the ropes open for him when they left the ring after the match, and cheering him on from the apron calling him "Kuma". If the fans couldn't cheer Kumano, then Sugi could.
Kumano and Marufuji started the match, Sugiura clapping along with the audience. This might have been Kumano's last match (for now), but Marufuji was not going to go easy on him, chopping him in and outside the ring, Kumano put him in the Argentine Backbreaker later. Kumano might be a junior, and therefore smaller than Marufuji, but like Tadasuke he has that heavyweight strength. Naturally when Sugiura and Marufuji faced off, they tore into each other. Kinya Okada was brave enough to take on Sugiura, and give him a dose of his classical style of wrestling.
WINNER: Naomichi Marufuji with the True Tiger King on Hitoshi Kumano (18 minutes, 22 seconds)
After the match Sugi said that Kumano fought as a trainee during Noah's darkest days when there really wasn't any light at the end of the tunnel, he has much Noah love. Maybe more than anyone else.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Championship Match
STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa & HAYATA) vs Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke
"I want you to show me a scenery beyond hatred"
The long running feud between STINGER and what had been RATELS, started off in the way all their matches did, with the usual brawl when Harada went for HAYATA. His intensity was through the roof, with one fan commenting that their heart was going insane watching it, and with no way to cheer. As it was put "everyone is clapping enough to tear the roof off". Yoshinari Ogawa was throwing elbows, which is rare.
It was a bitterly fought match, Tadasuke insane as usual, but showing how deep his inner core is when he had HAYATA in a Boston Crab from which he refused to let go, despite eye rakes from Ogawa, which got more and more vicious, until Tadasuke was forced to break the hold before his eyes were gouged out.
WINNER: HAYATA with Headache on Daisuke Harada (23 minutes, 11 seconds)
Tadasuke was watching from the apron, half on it and half off of it, as HAYATA and Ogawa posed with their belts (HAYATA hiding behind his), with their feet on the fallen Harada. Then HAYATA did something unusual for him, he went to the corner (not that unusual), stood in it (that is usually where he hides), and asked for a microphone (unusual as HAYATA doesn't usually speak unless spoken to). As ever his words were very brief and to the point, "Next is IPW".
STINGER had won the battle, but they were yet to win the war.
It was now going to be up to YO-HEY.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
Kotaro Suzuki vs YO-HEY
A fast paced match which was dominated by Kotaro Suzuki and a determined YO-HEY. From the start, Kotaro was throwing elbows which were audible in the hall, especially the crunch on impact and the moans that YO-HEY made when they hit him. Kotaro had his elbows, but YO-HEY had his chops, and Kotaro ended up with a chest as red as his ringwear.
Like Ogawa, Kotaro pulled out some of Misawa's moves using his second rope frog splash, and his rope dive. A hard fought, bitter and desperate match with so much history behind it, ended with Kotaro turning YO-HEY'S Canadian Destroyer into the Requiem.
RATELS had lost the war.
WINNER: Kotaro with Requiem (16 minutes, 48 seconds)
AXIZ (Go Shiozaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima), Kaito Kiyomiya, Shuhei Taniguchi & FULL THROTTLE (Atsushi Kotoge & Hajime Ohara) vs Kongoh (Kenoh, Masa Kitamiya, Yoshiki Inamura, Manabu Soya, Haoh and Nioh)
I think the start of this match was a little diluted due to the drama and emotion of the previous two matches. Had these been normal times (i.e. no Corona) then Noah probably would have had a longer card and an interval to allow everyone to recover, as it was the fans were still shellshocked in the opening stages.
Shuhei Taniguchi and Kaito Kiyomiya (from what I can tell), teamed together without incident, although they seemed to be keeping their distance from each other after Kiyomiya ditched Taniguchi for Inaba, although I'm not sure if there was a handshake at the end of the match. In any case Taniguchi seemed more interested in squaring up to Manabu Soya before the bell rang, and then facing off in the opening stages when it did.
Hajime Ohara was in one of his hyper moods (although he is too sensible to reach Kotoge levels), and was directing traffic in the ring today, especially when Kotoge was running the ropes to build up speed, and he was pointing in each direction that he should go. Kenoh, however, was not impressed with this and Kongoh stormed the ring soon after and beat down Kotoge. After that the match dissolved into chaos, so much so Kotoge went to tag someone in, and found no one was there. Everyone was too busy fighting on the outside.
Aside from the dynamics between Taniguchi and Soya (and even Taniguchi and Ohara), the big story of this match was Kenoh and Katsuhiko Nakajima. Nakajima loves winding people up, his favorites being Masa Kitamiya and Kenoh, and he got to do both today, Kenoh especially. Kenoh, notoriously prickly, did not appreciate being used for Nakajima's photo opportunity the "Shutter Chance" (complete with standard huge Nakajima big grin), and so he took it out on Kaito Kiyomiya, who played a smaller part in the match today compared to previous weeks of being in the spotlight. Kenoh is bitter about not being part of Kiyomiya's "NEW HOPE" events, when he knows full well that he and Kiyomiya have a complex love\hate relationship. When he did get a chance to square things with Nakajima, they had a kick war, and managed to knock each other down.
Yoshiki Inamura came very close to pinning Go Shiozaki (Noah are certainly teasing a big win for him), but suffered "ENDLESS LOVE", which hasn't been seen for quite a few months now as AXIZ have not been teaming that much together, but they were certainly back in black today. Inamura got a loud applause from Korakuen, especially with the beautiful bridge that he threw when throwing him across the ring.
WINNER: Go Shiozaki with the Gowan Lariat on Yoshiki Inamura (21 minutes, 5 seconds)
Go Shiozaki spoke on the microphone next and thanked everyone for coming and spoke of how happy he was to see everyone again. He then tried to get everyone to shout "WE ARE NOAH", but was stopped by Nakajima who reminded him that shouting and cheering was not allowed, and naturally this being Shiozaki, he started giggling.
Noah will return for the Kongoh produce on the 24th July.
With thanks to: PハヤシP, Kei, Abeshin, Metal Noah, Zukasan, Tobi, Fujiwara Armbar, Alanbou, Kazuaki, Maki, Asaga Yasutaka, Munehiro Hashimoto, TACK
Picture credits: Screenshots taken from stills from videos or pictures posted by Noah GHC Twitter