February 23, 2022


Yasutaka Yano . . . shows to be one of the very few of the NOAH wrestlers that I actually wouldn’t mind getting to see more of.

Masakatzu Funaki . . . is in his fifties and still looks like he can take any member of the current NOAH roster, and hand them their ass on a platter without even breaking a sweat.

Go Shiozaki . . . looks like he’s picked up the mantle of Misawa, but he’s bypassed the legendary top-tier worker phase of his career and jumped right over to unmotivated ‘get my stuff in and get out of there’ phase.



So, I guess this is the next generation of the old-timer’s match, with Eigen and Momota having passed the mantle onto the likes of Yone, Inoue, and Saito. Truthfully, I’d probably prefer to see Inoue in this setting instead of clogging up space on the card with workers that I’d actually enjoy watching. There’s nothing overtly offensive about the match, although they probably ought to reevaluate their definition of comedy. Yone and Taniguchi tie up Inoue in the ropes and each put a foot to his ear, while Saito seems conflicted about whether or not to save him and hilarity ensues! Taniguchi bodyslams Saito and orders him to stay down so that he can slam Inoue on top of him, but Saito moves out of the way and Inoue takes the full brunt of the slam. The one cool moment comes when Saito gives a big series of knee strikes to Taniguchi, and he tries to surprise Saito with a powerslam, but almost loses the spot because of the effect of the knees. In short (too late!), it’s too long with too little in the amount of interesting work and too much unfunny nonsense.



This really isn’t so much of a bad match as it is an unremarkable one. Niho and Okada both seem to stay busy, but it just never really feels like they’re taking the match anyplace, and the few times that either of them does something that might do that, it just gets ignored. An example of this is with Okada’s kicks, he does a fairly nice job of using them to keep Niho at bay and wear him down. But when he fires off a shot at him, Niho catches the kick and drops Okada with an elbow to the leg. There are a few nice bits of selling from Niho, namely from the atomic drop, and also after Okada wears him down a bit from the Boston Crab. But after Niho goes back on offense, he doesn’t show any lingering effects, and Okada does a much better job of showing the impact of a Stuka splash than the guy who is supposed to have a worn-down midsection. It seemed like they wanted to show Okada as an underdog, but Niho wasn’t nearly as heelish as he could have been, and Okada didn’t do much of anything to seem all that sympathetic.



Doesn’t it figure that the first match that actually felt engaging and interesting was the shortest one by a decent margin. NOSAWA and Kotaro just can’t seem to stay on the same page, and any attempt at a double team, or even breaking up a pinfall, ends with NOSAWA hitting his partner. At first it seems like that could be chalked up to Ogawa showing his experience and causing them to make mistakes, but it’s the same story when the rookie is in. The wrestling itself isn’t anything amazing, but there are a few nice things, such as Suzuki’s refusal to give up wrist control on Ogawa, and Yano looked great holding his own against Suzuki. His execution was spot-on, and he broke out a fisherman suplex that would have made Curt Hennig proud. The finish just comes out of nowhere when Suzuki manages to catch Yano and plant him with a Tombstone for the win. But this could have easily gone for fifteen minutes to let the heels get things going and have some fun working over Yano and then build up to the kid making a big comeback.



Now we’re two-for-two for fun junior tag matches, and this one actually gets time to develop and has something of a payoff. The only member of the babyface team who really shows much as far as offense goes is Haoh, and he’s only in for a very short spell toward the end. The bulk of the match is the heel team working over Miyawaki and Fujimura, and it’s as fun to watch as you’d expect. Aleja stretches out Fujimura with a camel clutch, and Fujimura tries to start a comeback with a bodyslam. He does the move and then falls over, because of the time spent in the hold. Tadasuke also stretches out Miyawaki with a single leg crab and gets some decent crowd heat for it. Miyawaki and Fujimura don’t have much to show off on their end other than dropkicks, although they’re some great looking dropkicks. And when the babyface team had a chance to triple team Tadasuke and get some revenge, the best thing they had to offer was a triple dropkick. It would have been nice to see Fujimura get a short run of offense on Tadasuke before getting tapped out, similar to what Yano was given throughout the previous match. The way this plays out makes it more than obvious who was going over, so they could have done more to create some doubt and give the idea that the underdogs could pull off the upset.



I can only imagine that someone in NOAH saw some clips of Orange Cassidy’s antics in AEW and thought “This is exactly what we need!” When Ka Shin decides to put in something of an effort to wrestle, this is actually pretty damn watchable. And that very well could be the most shocking thing to happen in wrestling in the year 2022. Ka Shin shows that his mat skills haven’t diminished much by outwrestling Tanaka several times, and even catching him in a bow and arrow hold. When Tanaka tries to play to his own strengths, Ka Shin distracts the ref and fouls him to stay in control. The DCOR finish actually isn’t bad in theory, with the idea that Ka Shin got into Tanaka’s head and forced him to play his game. They could have even done a callback to the days of Brody and Abby with them just brawling and not paying attention. But the actual execution of it falls flat in a variety of ways.



This is fun at times, with the Power vs. Technique/Experience story, although it’d have been nice if it seemed like Inamura had a chance of beating Sugiura before they went to the actual finish. He does a respectable job of bumping him around, including a nice overhead belly to belly, but he doesn’t even get a single near fall to give the impression that he might be able to win the match. Marufuji breaks up the Muso and Sugiura gets his chance to bump Inamura around and finishes him with the Olympic Slam. It’s certainly not the unexpected outcome, but they had the chance to create some excitement for the fans in seeing the big guys upset the longtime vets. The really fun part comes after Sugiura ole’s Inamura to the floor when he’s charging for a shoulder tackle, Marufuji sends him for a rail ride and then rams his head into the post before sending him back in. Sugiura tags out, and Marufuji finds ways to work him over that make the size difference negligible such as a top Triangle head scissors, and some dickish face rakes with his boots.


Where this loses steam is that, aside from Inamura’s flurry on Sugiura toward the end, and Kitamiya’s hot tag after Inamura gets worked over, they just don’t have much to do. If you’re a fan of lumpy heavyweights throwing a lot of lariats, chops, and forearm shots, then you’ll enjoy this, but they don’t do much to further the match. It also doesn’t help that after Kitamiya gets the tag the first thing that Marufuji and Sugiura do is try double teaming him, instead of letting him get his shots in and get the crowd excited. Even though the double team doesn’t work, resulting in him throwing them into opposite corners and alternating charging at them, there’s not much of a crowd response. The announcers also give a hard sell to Kitamiya’s senton, and he only does it (to a great crowd reaction) early in the match. Marufuji and Sugiura were solid enough performers when they needed to be, but neither Inamura nor Kitamiya really showed a whole lot. The forearm/lariat stuff would be a fine way to lead into them getting an extended run of offense on Marufuji or Sugiura, but that winds up being the bulk of what they have to offer here.


ATSUSHI KOTOGE/YO-HEY vs. HAYATA/YUYA SUSUMU (Decision Match for the vacant GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles)

Despite having quite a few appreciable moments, this comes off feeling more like a choreographed routine than a match with a life of its own. You can point to any number of spots or exchanges where any of them (although it’s mostly HAYATA and Susumu) overdo it and make their cooperation all too obvious. The most egregious is probably Susumu taking the tandem bulldog/DDT and taking the bump on one knee, and then bouncing back up and rolling over to land on his back. Aside from showing off the familiarity between YO-HEY and HAYATA, there’s not much of a story to be found. They do work in a few smart ideas to show how well they know each other, like YO-HEY being ready to counter the handspring back elbow, and HAYATA intercepting YO-HEY before he can give Susumu the Gamen G. YO-HEY getting busted open allows for HAYATA and Susumu to show a few heelish flairs to work the cut, but it never feels like he’s in danger of actually losing the match because of it, and that’s the only time that either HAYATA or Susumu shows any real personality.


It’d also have helped if they were working in front of a real crowd. Even some of their better moments come off flat because there’s no discernible reaction. Susumu and Kotoge do a great job with the kata-gatame, and Kotoge’s eventual rope break, but the actual hold, and the eventual break, plays to crickets. I don’t know if modern NOAH has done much of anything to condition the fans to submissions, but that was certainly a case where their effort deserved some sort of crowd heat. The follow up is also rather well done, with Kotoge still groggy from the time spent in the hold, and HAYATA hitting a Jon Woo-style dropkick to keep the advantage. HAYATA’s counter and escape from YO-HEY’s cravate was easily the best of their familiarity spots, and another one that really deserved to get a proper reaction. And for all their faults, they have quite a few nice touches, such as Kotoge running around the ring to hold both opponents in place for YO-HEY’s big dive. The finish is nice with HAYATA saving Susumu after YO-HEY hits the Gamen G, and Kotoge taking him out with the Kill Switch, complete with overdone bump from HAYATA. YO-HEY gives Susumu a second Gamen G, but he still has it in him to kick out, so YO-HEY ramps things up with a third one off the top rope and that’s finally enough to keep him down. If they’d just shown some real fire and intensity and did more to focus on telling a story, then this would have easily blown everything that came before it out of the water.


DAISUKE HARADA © vs. SUPER CRAZY (GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title)

If only Crazy had shown some sense of urgency, then this would have been at least good. Crazy singles out Harada’s midsection after a bodyslam on the floor and he busts out quite a bit of smart offense, including an abdominal stretch where he tries to stretch Harada out as much as possible, and the spinning bow and arrow. Crazy may look like his best days are behind him, especially with his Sayama-in-the-late-nineties physique, but the extra bulk makes that moonsault of his look even more effective. The problem was that Crazy just didn’t really seem like he was trying to genuinely win the title, it looked more like he was just doing what he needed to do in order to  keep the match moving. For all of his smart spots, his best moment is toward the end when he fouls Harada to prevent a German suplex, and a big part of that working so well was that Harada gave it the perfect sell job.


It’s too bad too because Harada may not perform on the level of a Lyger in the mid 90’s or even an early 2000’s Kikuchi, but he puts on a fine performance. His early headlocks aren’t much more than filler, but it’s fun filler to watch, and while nobody thinks that a headlock is going to be of great importance, it works in the vein of showing that he’s able to control Crazy. Harada does some very nice selling while Crazy is working over the midsection, and one of their best moments was when Harada surprised Crazy with the overhead suplex and Crazy recovers and gets to his feet first because Harada is still selling the body work. It’s somewhat disappointing, although not really surprising, that after Crazy misses the moonsault and Harada starts his comeback that he foregoes selling the midsection, but he also doesn’t do anything silly to completely blow it off either. The German suplex sequence where Harada can’t do it under his own power, and only gets it after Crazy gives him an unintentional assist was a nice touch, but it would have been nice if Harada remembered to sell afterwards. Harada using body shots on Crazy seems a bit backwards, but it works for the idea of Harada doing it to Crazy before Crazy can do it to him. Between the body shots to Crazy, the surprise nature of the rana that Harada uses to get the win, and Crazy’s apparent lack of conditioning, the fluke pin that Harada gets on Crazy really doesn’t seem like that much of a fluke. With a better performance from Crazy, this would have been match of the night in a walk. It’s not a bad match, but it’s really only good enough to stand out on a card as mediocre as this one.



Watching this in a vacuum, without fully knowing the hierarchal standings of everyone involved (although it’s made known that Kenoh/Funaki and Kiyomiya/Inaba are both involved in the upcoming GHC Tag Titles Tournament), makes this seem like a fun trios match. The work is solid, the match doesn’t overstay its welcome by being dragged out needlessly, and everyone seems to do their bit without anyone overreaching. It’s fitting to see that Shiozaki is now wearing emerald-colored tights, since he works this the way that one might imagine that Misawa would have worked a match like this. He makes a couple of cameos to work in some of his familiar stuff, but he doesn’t play any major role in the match. Shiozaki is the only one who really looks good against Funaki, taking some of his best shots and firing back, while his partners were basically at his mercy. Well, Inaba gets a surprise reversal and lariat on Funaki that allows him to tag Shiozaki in, but it worked more due to the surprise nature of it rather than anything else. The heat segment with Kiyomiya getting worked over was fun, but it was mostly Funaki stiffing the piss out of him, and then Soya getting in a few spots before Inaba gets tagged in. It was also nice to see Soya get a certain amount of respect before he ultimately loses the match. The power versus speed story that Soya and Kiyomiya work comes off fine, and after Soya gets the advantage by reversing a vertical suplex and then giving him a deadlift into a second suplex, Inaba has to come in and double team with Kiyomiya in order to keep them in the match. Even the finishing stretch, and the submission loss, doesn’t really make Soya look bad. Soya wants to hit the Wild Bomber, and Kiyomiya avoids it and hits the outstretched arm with a flying knee, and then goes right into a Cattle Mutilation. Soya lingers and struggles for a bit, and only gives it up when it’s clear that he’s trapped in it and his partners can’t help him out. This isn’t perfect by any stretch, and it’s easy to see any number of ways that this could have been improved, but it’s perfectly solid for what it is.



The booking here is about as awful as it gets, with there being plenty of evidence over Fujita’s three runs with the IWGP Title from 2001-05 of why he’s one of the worst possible choices of someone to hold a major title. And the way that this match plays out doesn’t give one hope that he’s turned over some sort of new leaf in the sixteen years since his last run with the IWGP. This isn’t a squash of Nakajima, although it might as well have been. The only way Nakajima has any measure of success is by pelting Fujita with absurdly stiff slaps and kicks. Not only is Fujita able to return fire on those shots, but he also makes sure to outwrestle and thoroughly dominate Nakajima on the mat. Fujita can’t even be bothered to go along with Nakajima pushing him off a headlock, he just sits in the ropes to make the ref force a break. The only time it even remotely looks like Nakajima can win is after he hits a vicious running kick and some mounted elbows. It was the perfect chance to tease a referee stoppage or even have the ref administer a ten count to see if Fujita can answer it. But instead, Nakajima picks him up for a vertical suplex so that Fujita can escape and then drop him with a lariat and proceed to finish him off with a powerbomb his own running kick, and then another powerbomb for the pin. With how Fujita seemed to easily dispatch the reigning champion, why would anyone else on this roster seem like any sort of threat to him, aside from Ka Shin clowning his way into a title run with a count out.


Conclusion: There’s nothing, aside from Fujita’s continued existence and employment, that’s outright insulting, but at the same time there isn’t anything outstanding. There are a few names that I wouldn’t mind seeing more of, but this is in no way a good wrestling show. And if this is an indicative offering from NOAH in the year 2022, I’ll be perfectly happy not seeing any more of it.