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NOAH’s Greatest Curse: Does the GHC Heavyweight Title Still Hold its Value?

1 year ago

NOAH’s Greatest Curse: Does the GHC Heavyweight Title Still Hold its Value?

Let’s See Pro-Wrestling NOAH Back at the Top of its Game

by R. Faliani

Wrestling, like the human race, has to evolve constantly to stay alive, and what we consider evolution in this discipline can be understood as new stars, new championships and new concepts. If wrestling does not evolve, it is destined to die, and one of the companies that failed to understand this universal rule was Pro Wrestling NOAH. Talking about NOAH today is like talking about an alcoholic who recovered, but fell back into the clutches of addiction. His fall upsets you, but more importantly, it really stings you that for a while he was redeeming himself, and then threw it all away. In 2020 and 2021, NOAH was reborn from the ashes, and the quality of work and talent grew more than other larger companies.

Go Shiozaki’s stellar reign with the GHC Heavyweight Championship breathed new life into a promotion that seemed doomed to fade into obscurity, and also helped people see the new talent that was coming up. After his injury, his former partner Katsuhiko Nakajima won the GHC Championship and elevated it to heights no one could have imagined, putting on the best wrestling matches of the year on a monthly basis. In a year where wrestling was enjoying a renaissance of sorts, companies were determined to show the potential of puroresu, and what the future had in store for it. In this context, NOAH was back, and quickly positioned itself as one of the best, if not the best company in the world.

The Hot Potato of Championships

When Shiozaki returned from injury and confronted Nakajima, challenging him to a championship match at the Nippon Budokan to kick off the new year, we all thought NOAH would enter a golden age. With the ideological conflict of “Who is NOAH?” and Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” as the soundtrack to a historic final battle, Shiozaki and Nakajima gave the best match of the year, which had just begun. The GHC champion managed to overcome his greatest rival and posing as a definitive member of Kongo. Nakajima took control of the Ark. But then he lost to Kazuyuki Fujita.

When Fujita won the championship international fans were not happy. Nakajima, fresh off of his biggest win to date, needed an opponent who could actually take the championship from him without looking weak. The title change spurred controversy, and followed by a debacle with the way the GHC Championship and NOAH in general were managed. The championship began to bounce around, and champions would have two defenses before losing the title and sometimes didn’t even make it to the first defense.

Fans of NOAH are often critical of vets’ political power, although we see signs of a changing of the guard

Even though some matches were good, the results were questionable. For example, at CyberFight Festival, when Shiozaki lost against Satoshi Kojima, people were upset because the “Ace” had lost against the latest GHC hot shot. This, along with multiple unpopular decisions throughout the year, started generating critique of the promotion. Nakajima’s series of shoot-kick knockouts, apparent clashes of egos, unverified rumors, big moments that left us wanting more – the booking of some factions defining this new NOAH, really leaves us scratching our heads. As more and more events came to pass, NOAH’s online buzz started to fizzle.

A Leaderless Ark?

No one wants to discredit Kaito Kiyomiya as champion – his stock is only set to rise with every big bout, and new title run – but the NOAH of 2022, his GHC title run is in the shadows of a veteran-heavy booking approach. It’s also obvious that NOAH can cater to their hardcore and international fans more frequently – they have Masa Kitamiya, an excellent powerhouse quizzically on the undercard, with main event dreams and the capability to headline. They have Nakajima, who is looking to redeem himself for the injuries suffered at the foot of his boot… and of course, they have Kiyomiya, who wants to be the new Ace but somehow isn’t given the spotlight he deserves.

We think NOAH should be considered one of the best wrestling companies of all time and, like all critiques, we have to mention the good things and the bad things. It’s great to see that NOAH is returning to the Tokyo Dome, it’s great to see that NOAH is betting on other talents in the GHC Junior division like Ninja Mack, nevertheless it’s not hard to think about what could have been.

READ: Our Wide-Ranging Q&A with NOAH Star Ninja Mack

We hope for a brighter future in NOAH. So we posit the question: What happened to the GHC Heavyweight Title scene? In a universe where NOAH is hard to follow, fans of puroresu have DDT, Ganbare, TJPW and other matches on Wrestle Universe exciting to explore. It is also unfortunate that with the insane talent at NOAH’s disposal, the booking committee cannot commit to a proper champion. And at the end of the day, Pro-Wrestling NOAH has a lot to prove to fans in the West. As a company, the Ark is not in a bad place right now, but we want to see them trust their young talent, listen to the fans, and evolve.

Photo c/o Masahiro Kubota



Written by:

Hello, I'm from Argentina. I see wrestling with a different perspective thanks to the many content creators in my community. Everything changed when I first watched Go Shiozaki vs Kazuyuki Fujita in 2020. The unsettling nature of the match clicked with me, and it inspired my first video essay. That match made me understand something: I was a content creator –Gyro - and I want to broadcast different ideas: the battles of wrestling ideologies, the importance of Joshi & Puroresu and the dramatic stories surrounding it. I love Puroresu with such passion, I love how it gives me an empty canvas and tells me to draw my idea about it. I have not yet finished high school as a 17-year-old, but am currently preparing to venture into college. I actually learned English by watching wrestling and talking to different people over the years. I am still perfecting the language, and these experiences will help me even more.