NOAH “The New Year 2022” Report: Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Go Shiozaki
By: Mark Buckeldee
Welcome to this POST Wrestling report for Pro Wrestling NOAH’s NOAH the New Year Event. This is the first big wrestling show of 2021, although it was not the first show of 2021 as five other shows took place in Japan before this one started. Then again, this was the definition of a big show. It was NOAH coming back to Budokan Hall in Tokyo after their big return in February 2021, the first time that they had used the venue since 2013. The lineup looked strong, especially the top two matches, and NOAH wants to put its best foot forward. The attendance was announced as 3,181. In contrast, NOAH’s return to Budokan in March 2021 drew 4,196 fans.
This event is available on Wrestle Universe with English Commentary, making them one of the more accessible Japanese promotions after New Japan. This was a long show, with the video file running in at 4 hours 48 minutes. If you want to skip to the last five matches, then skip to 1:44:15.
- Junta Miyawaki & Kinya Okada vs Kai Fujimura & Yasutaka Yano – A decent trainee opener, pitting fire against experience
- Akitoshi Saito, King Tany & Mohammed Yone vs Manabu Soya, Nioh & Tadasuke – A decent but basic tag match, nothing of note here
- Seiki Yoshioka & Yuya Susumu vs Aleja & Haoh – A decent undercard match with some flashy moves and a good showing from Haoh
- Atsushi Kotoge, Daisuke Harada, Hajime Ohara & Ultimo Dragon vs Eita, Kotaro Suzuki, NOSAWA Rongai & YO-HEY – A decent match with Dragon showing off and a distinct lucharesu feel at times
- Kazuyuki Fujita & Kendo Kashin vs Ikuto Hidaka & Masakatsu Funaki – Slow and unengaging with Hidaka and Funaki not getting a lot
- GHC Junior Heavyweight Title Match: HAYATA (c) vs Yoshinari Ogawa – Ogawa had HAYATA’s number in a slow-paced, well-executed limb work match
- GHC Tag Team Title Match: Keiji Muto & Naomichi Marufuji (c) vs Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Tanaka – Despite some slow patches, a hard-hitting, action-packed, star-filled tag match – RECOMMENDED
- Kazushi Sakuraba, KENTA & Takashi Sugiura vs. Daiki Inaba, Masa Kitamiya & Yoshiki Inamura – A very good tag match centered around an intense, fiery Inamura taking it to KENTA – RECOMMENDED
- GHC National Title Match: Kenoh (c) vs. Kaito Kiyomiya – A great match. Lots of fast-paced action with Kiyomiya trying to overcome Kenoh’s violence – RECOMMENDED
- GHC Heavyweight Title Match: Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) vs. Go Shiozaki – A “dumb epic,” a great battle of attrition full of hard-hitting strikes. A great introduction to the NOAH main event style – RECOMMENDED
It was easy to tell that this was a NOAH show as the stage design included the company name in massive letters. The show started with a live musical performance.
Junta Miyawaki & Kinya Okada vs Kai Fujimura & Yasutaka Yano
These four are all NOAH trainees, although Miyawaki officially debuted back in 2017. Although Miyawaki and Okada were stronger and had the experience advantage, Fujimura and Yano used their fire and athleticism to look competitive. Fujimura earned multiple two counts before Miyawaki fought back with a Tornado DDT and an Ippon-Zeoi, finishing off Fujimura using a Falcon Arrow.
Junta Miyawaki pinned Kai Fujimura via Falcon Arrow (8:39)
This was a decent opener with good fire from Fujimura and Okada. A nice but simple showcase for these four, although Okada got less time. Miyawaki looked good and assured in the finishing stretch.
Akitoshi Saito, King Tany & Mohammed Yone vs Manabu Soya, Nioh & Tadasuke
Saito, Tany, and Yone are Funky Express, a fun-loving team of Disco lovers. Soya, Nioh, and Tadasuke are part of the Kongo stable, NOAH’s largest faction. Tadasuke and Nioh used a pair of dives early on to help isolate Tany, although he fought back with a trio of scoop slams. Kongo needed to stretch the rules to fight back against Saito, with Soya going toe to toe with him. After teamwork from both sides, Yone pinned Tadasuke with the Kinniku Buster.
Mohammed Yone pinned Tadasuke via Kinniku Buster (8:45)
A simple tag match designed to get people on the card. Fun but basic, decently executed but nothing of substance or note.
Seiki Yoshioka & Yuya Susumu vs Aleja & Haoh
This was a junior heavyweight tag team match, pitching the Stinger duo of Yoshioka and Susumu against Kongo’s Aleja and Haoh. Aleja debuted in the now-defunct Wrestle-1 whereas Haoh, Yoshioka, and Susumu were all products of the Japanese indie scene.
It started quickly, with fast rope running and fake dives. Yoshioka and Susumu slowed down and isolated Haoh, who eventually used some trickery to escape. Aleja tagged in and upped the pace with dives and aerial maneuvers. Haoh came close with a Frankensteiner, and a leg-trapped German suplex on Yoshioka before winning with a 450 splash.
Haoh pinned Yoshioka via 450 Splash (11:44)
Another decent tag match that picked up when Haoh was in the ring but again nothing memorable. Aleja was flashier but sometimes overstretched himself while Haoh was much more assured.
Atsushi Kotoge, Daisuke Harada, Hajime Ohara & Ultimo Dragon vs Eita, Kotaro Suzuki, NOSAWA Rongai & YO-HEY
Another junior heavyweight tag match, this was a rare NOAH appearance for Ultimo Dragon. He teamed with the regular trio of Harada, Kotoge, and Ohara as they faced the Los Perros del Mal de Japon quartet. This group is a Japanese spin-off of the long-standing Mexican stable Los Perros del Mal.
Dragon started this with a display of his trademark offense. Kotoge and Harada used their slick double teams to get things in their favor, while Perros relied on dirty tactics. Harada cleaned house with authority, looking strong before tagging in Dragon. Ohara helped his trainer Dragon and Kotoge saved Dragon from being unmasked by Rongai. After Kotoge took out everyone with a dive, Dragon pinned Rongai with La Magistral.
Ultimo Dragon pinned NOSAWA Rongai via La Magistral (13:51)
Another decent tag match with a nice lucharesu flavor. Dragon got to shine while Ohara and Harada showed their quality. So far this was a traditional Japanese big show undercard, lots of solid matches designed to slowly build up the quality and get people on the card.
Kazuyuki Fujita & Kendo Kashin vs Ikuto Hidaka & Masakatsu Funaki
There was over one hundred years of experience in this match, with Hidaka being the only one under the age of fifty. Hidaka was forty-nine. With the combination of Funaki and Fujita feeling each other out, Hidaka and Funaki’s submission attempts, and Kashin being Kashin, this had a slow pace. Funaki escaped Fujita’s clutches with a dropkick, but Hidaka didn’t fare any better. After a brief flurry by Hidaka, Fujita reversed the Shawn Capture into a suplex and pinned Hidaka with a Beast Bomb.
Kazuyuki Fujita pinned Ikuto Hidaka via Beast Bomb (12:17)
A slower-paced match with Fujita controlling most of the match. There were some nice technical touches however this was slow and unengaging as Hidaka and Funaki felt like they got few chances to shine.
NOAH announced the dates for big shows, including shows at Ryogoku Kokugikan on 4/29 and 4/30, Nippon Budokan on 7/16, and another Nippon Budokan show on 1/1/2023. NOAH making this date a Budokan tradition is a good idea and shows their ambition. Now that is a Budokan do attitude.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Title Match: HAYATA (c) vs Yoshinari Ogawa
This was HAYATA’s 8th title defense. While Ogawa is NOAH’s Jr veteran and another wrestler in his fifties, he has only held the Jr title once, and that was in 2020. These two are the current Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.
HAYATA used speed and high flying to keep Ogawa off balance. He tried one too many flashy moves and Ogawa took advantage, using the ring post to start working on the arm. Ogawa was relentless as he targeted the arm using holds, hip tosses and arm drags. The 36-year-old veteran relied on short arm scissors, as HAYATA struggled to escape Ogawa’s grasp. Ogawa kept anticipating his partner’s moves and cutting him off repeatedly before HAYATA finally mounted a comeback with an Enziguri and a second rope Moonsault. HAYATA tried for a handspring elbow, but his arm was too weak, letting Ogawa apply the London Dungeon (an old favorite of Nigel McGuinness). Ogawa used multiple backdrop suplexes, only for HAYATO to cut off Ogawa’s momentum with a clunky Lariat. A Moonsault by HAYATA was countered when Ogawa got the knees up. Ogawa blocked the Headache, but HAYATA stole the win with a surprise wrist clutch pinning combination. After the match Ogawa refused to shake HAYATA’s hand, throwing down his junior tag title belt.
HAYATA pinned Yoshinari Ogawa via pinning combination (20:54)
This was a good match with some great arm work by Ogawa. The veteran was in great form and HAYATA deserved credit for his selling. I liked the story, but this match would have been improved by being a little shorter and tighter. Not everyone will like a slow-paced limb work match in the middle of a long show but in a vacuum, this was fairly good and reminded you of how good Ogawa is. Ogawa had HAYATA’s number and HAYATA narrowly survived. As such it had a sudden finish, which would not be to everyone’s tastes.
GHC Tag Team Title Match: Keiji Muto & Naomichi Marufuji (c) vs Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Tanaka
Amazingly, Tanaka is only forty-eight. Yes, the man who had fabled battles against Mike Awesome in ECW is only 48 and he still moves well. That is not a phrase that you can use to describe Keiji Mutoh, who looks every bit of his 59 years. This was Tanaka’s second match of the day, having fought Sugiura at a Zero-1 show earlier. All four are members of the M’s Alliance group.
This started with grappling from Mochizuki and Mutoh before Tanaka and Marufuji upped the pace and showed off their familiarity with each other. After Mutoh worked over Mochizuki’s leg, Tanaka targeted Mutoh’s knee. Understandably, things sped up when Marufuji tagged in. Marufuji and Mochizuki traded heavy, thudding strikes before Tanaka tagged in and used his vicious elbows, including a Sliding D off the apron. Tanaka’s Superfly splash missed but Tanaka got near falls with a Brainbuster and a wrist clutch Sliding D. Marufuji used a series of crafty kicks, but Tanaka cut him off with an unexpected spinning back fist.
Mutoh and Mochizuki came in with Mutoh using his trademark offense only for Mochizuki to fight back with a Shining Wizard of his own. Marufuji made a save after Mochizuki kicked Mutoh in the head. Mochizuki and Tanaka used double teams, but Marufuji fought back and allowed Mutoh to hit a Shining Wizard. Mutoh used Dragon Screws on both opponents before a knee strike Shining Wizard combo. Mochizuki fought back, kicking out of that and another Shining Wizard before Mutoh locked in a Figure Four Leg Lock, making Mochizuki tap out.
Keiji Mutoh submitted Masaaki Mochizuki via Figure Four Leg Lock (20:50)
This was a particularly good, action-packed match. While it did slow down when Mutoh was involved, this was full of hard-hitting action and heavy strikes, although again it could have done with being a little shorter. Marufuji had good chemistry with both opponents and the finishing stretch was good frantic fun. As good as you could expect from these four, just beloved stars doing what they do best.
Kazushi Sakuraba, KENTA & Takashi Sugiura vs. Daiki Inaba, Masa Kitamiya & Yoshiki Inamura
This was KENTA’s first match in NOAH since he returned for a Naomichi Marufuji anniversary show back in 2018. Inaba is another Wrestle-1 product while Kitamiya and Inamura are NOAH true borns.
KENTA stuck to his modern tactics by sliding out of the ring and stalling against Kitamiya. Eventually, they slugged it out, with Kitamiya eventually hitting his big senton. Inaba grappled with Sakuraba before tagging in Inamura. Sugiura and Inamura faced off, but Inamura seized multiple opportunities to attack KENTA.
Inaba tried to take on Sugiura with intensity, which unsurprisingly backfired. As things broke down, Inamura continued his attack on KENTA. Eventually, KENTA downed Inamura with a slap. Sugiura’s team isolated Inaba. KENTA lackadaisically attacked Inaba, avoiding another attack by Inamura. Inaba tagged out after an STO and Kitamiya ran wild on Sugiura. Kitamiya locked in the prison lock and Inamura stared down KENTA, only to get knocked down with another slap. KENTA’s kicks couldn’t stop Kitamiya but they allowed Sugiura to fight back with a superplex.
Sakuraba tagged in but his senton’s did not phase Kitamiya. Inaba came in, trading strikes with Sakuraba and hitting a backdrop suplex before being downed by Sakuraba’s jumping knee. Inamura and KENTA tagged in, and Inamura unloaded on KENTA, who had to use an eye rake to turn the tide. Big Inamura took out all three of his opponents, earning a near fall with a stampede style Powerslam. KENTA locked in the GAME OVER on Inamura, with Inamura’s partners trapped in submissions. Despite that, Inamura still reached the ropes. Inamura fought back with power moves, but KENTA blocked the Muso and hit a Powerslam of his own. Inaba made the save after KENTA hit a double-foot stomp. KENTA used a vicious flurry of open hand palm strikes for a near fall before pinning Inamura with the Go to Sleep.
After the match, Sugiura talked to KENTA about their match on January 8th. KENTA asked who the big guy was, and KENTA said that the future of NOAH is bright with Inamura. Sakuraba channeled Jumbo Tsuruta. KENTA was humble and gracious here.
KENTA pinned Yoshiki Inamura via Go to Sleep (25:46)
Now that was what I wanted from this match. The core of this was Inamura defending NOAH’s honor against KENTA. Their interactions were the highlight of this match, with KENTA’s viciousness and cockiness meshing perfectly with Inamura’s fire and intensity. This was a great showing from Inamura and the best use of KENTA. This was my favorite KENTA match for a while, as he brought his (current) A game. This was just a good heavyweight 6-man tag with everyone playing their part. A great introduction to Inamura for newer fans.
GHC National Title Match: Kenoh (c) vs. Kaito Kiyomiya
Kenoh leads the Kongo stable and has been synonymous with the National title, which is NOAH’s secondary title. Kiyomiya was seen as a potential future Ace for NOAH before he was derailed in 2021 after to constantly losing to Mutoh.
Kiyomiya used quick bursts of speed to get Kenoh off-balance, controlling the early goings and quickly coming back with forearms when Kenoh fought back. Kenoh stopped him by sending Kiyomiya to the outside, whipping him over a guard rail and hitting a suplex on the floor.
Kenoh urged Kiyomiya to bring it after he had damaged Kiyomiya’s back. Kiyomiya hit a desperate flying forearm and a flurry of different forearms and elbows. After a dropkick, Kiyomiya used a tope con Hilo. A German suplex earned Kiyomiya a two count before he locked in a modified face lock. Kenoh escaped a Tiger Suplex and fought back with hard kicks, hitting a Dragon Suplex after an unexpected kick. Kiyomiya’s dropkick was reversed into an ankle lock, with Kenoh hitting a vicious kick to the ribs and a Penalty Kick that earned him a near-fall.
Kenoh used a German suplex on the entrance ramp and then hit a double stomp on the ramp for another near fall. Kiyomiya fought back with a lifting reverse DDT off the top turnbuckle. A vertical drop Emerald Frosion type move earned Kiyomiya a near fall, as did a flying shoulder tackle. Kiyomiya went for the Tiger Suplex, but Kenoh blocked it and applied a desperate Doujime Sleeper. Kenoh and Kiyomiya blocked big attacks before Kenoh went back to the Doujime Sleeper. Kiyomiya just about grabbed the ropes and Kenoh hit a double stomp for a big near-fall. After a surprise roll-up, Kiyomiya nearly won with a Tiger Suplex. Kenoh fired back with big slaps and Kiyomiya tried to fight through it before Kenoh hit a high kick and the referee called for a stoppage.
Kenoh defeated Kaito Kiyomiya via stoppage (roundhouse high kick) (24:42)
This was another very good match. It was designed to make Kiyomiya look strong while the shocking finish got over how dangerous Kenoh is, able to win almost at will. This had a big match feel, possibly falling into “forced epic” territory at times. They again, this had a lot of excitement, big moves, and good execution. It was a good showing from Kiyomiya, but it also felt like another big loss for someone who already felt like he has lost too many times in the last year.
GHC Heavyweight Title Match: Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) vs. Go Shiozaki
This was arguably the biggest match that NOAH could put on. It is also fitting as Shiozaki was in the last two NOAH Budokan Hall main events. Shiozaki had a well-received title reign in 2019 that brought a lot of eyes back to NOAH. Nakajima turned on Shiozaki during this title run, with these two having a great match for the title. Shiozaki was injured for most of 2021, returning in December and challenging Nakajima. I say challenging because Nakajima won the GHC Heavyweight title in October 2021. This is Nakajima’s second title reign, and it feels like he is now the finished article who can comfortably fill the role as NOAH’s Champion. There are added stakes here. If Shiozaki wins then Nakajima must leave his stable Kongo and reform Axis with Shiozaki.
This started with a kick from Nakajima and a chop from Shiozaki, immediately setting out the theme of this match. Shiozaki hit a running knee strike on the outside. Back in the ring, Nakajima got Shiozaki into position for a kick to the face before a kick to the back and an overconfident cover. Shiozaki fought back with a Lariat before unloading with heavy chops. Even early on Shiozaki tried to beat Shiozaki by brute force and attrition, forcing Nakajima to use a dropkick to the knee to halt Shiozaki’s momentum.
Nakajima was now in control, using a missile dropkick and a penalty kick from the apron. Nakajima kicked Shiozaki so hard on the outside that he took out a commentator’s Perspex screen. They ended up trading hard strikes on the ramp, with Nakajima ending it with a DVD on the ramp. That was followed by a penalty kick from Nakajima, who teased a Brainbuster off the ramp. Shiozaki escaped and German suplexed Nakajima off the ramp and onto the floor.
Back in the ring, Shiozaki got a near fall with a backdrop suplex. Nakajima fired back and Shiozaki worked his jaw as we got another big, vicious strike exchange. Shiozaki and Nakajima’s expressions and selling was great here. Nakajima won with a flurry of kicks before hitting a backdrop suplex, but Shiozaki kept fighting back. The Champion was vicious, punishing his opponent and unleashing a flurry of kicks to the back and chest for a near fall.
Shiozaki fought back with a desperate Go Flasher, but he was unable to follow up due to the damage from Nakajima’s kicks. Nakajima blocked a Lariat with a kick and floored Shiozaki with a head kick. A Vertical Spike from Nakajima earned him a near fall and Nakajima posed cockily as Shiozaki shook off the cobwebs. Shiozaki dodged a punt kick but could not get back to his feet, clearly discombobulated
Nakajima went for a Frankensteiner, however, Shiozaki blocked it and hit an unorthodox superplex. A Lariat by Shiozaki turned Nakajima inside out but the Champion kicked out. A short-range Gowan Lariat earned Shiozaki another near fall. A frustrated Shiozaki hit a body slam, but Nakajima rolled out of the way of Shiozaki’s Moonsault and Nakajima hit a punt kick. Shiozaki flopped his arm across to raise his shoulder and avoid the three count. Nakajima hit a delayed Vertical Spike and yet Shiozaki still kicked out, drawing a loud audible gasp. Shiozaki tried to climb up Nakajima to get to his feet, but Nakajima used the Northern Lights Bomb, synonymous with his mentor’s Kensuke Sasaki and Akira Hokuto, to successfully pin Shiozaki.
After the match, Kenoh and Nakajima said that they want to show the strength of NOAH and hyped up the New Japan vs NOAH show on January 8th. Kenoh said that the difference would be like Olympic vs junior high school level. He said that New Japan was in trouble so they were relying on NOAH’s power, saying that they could take on any of the top names in New Japan. Nakajima ended the show by saying that “We (Kongo) are NOAH.”
Katsuhiko Nakajima pinned Go Shiozaki via Northern Lights Bomb (30:10)
Someone on Twitter described this as a “dumb epic” and that is a perfect way to describe this. It was a hard-hitting battle of attrition, full of ridiculously stiff strikes. It had many of those big NOAH epic tropes, like long strike exchanges, ramp spots, and big kick-outs. It felt more compact than other NOAH main events, a condensed epic as it were. A lot of the execution, selling and character work was excellent here. Shiozaki felt like a flag bearer for NOAH while Nakajima felt like a charismatic main event star. I can see some fans being a little disappointed here, a sense that extremely high expectations were not quite met. Despite that, this was well worth a watch. This was a great match and a great start to 2022 for both NOAH and Pro Wrestling. It was a great introduction to the NOAH main event style, and Katsuhiko Nakajima, for new fans.
This was designed to be a showcase for NOAH. Like most big Japanese shows, this was awfully long and most of the matches needed to be five minutes shorter. Four consecutive twenty-minute matches and a thirty-minute final felt a little draining at times. You do not need to see the first five matches; you can easily jump to the second half. Everything felt worth your time and each match in the second half felt different. The main event may not have met people’s lofty expectations, but it was a worthy main event. My personal highlight was the six-man tag with Inamura and KENTA, with KENTA exceeding my expectations and doing an excellent job with Inamura, who stood out. Overall, this was a good introduction to NOAH and worth your time, although you may want to be selective with what you watch.