Cum sociis natoque penatibus et magnis

Error: Contact form not found.

Subscribe elementum semper nisi. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus. Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat vitae eleifend ac, enim. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus.

Error: Contact form not found.

Subscribe elementum semper nisi. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus. Aenean leo ligula, porttitor eu, consequat vitae eleifend ac, enim. Aenean vulputate eleifend tellus.

Error: Contact form not found.

Go Shiozaki was Never Supposed to be Here. Now He’s a Legend.

3 years ago

Go Shiozaki was Never Supposed to be Here. Now He’s a Legend.

By: Steven Jackson

Everyone can feel it: Pro-Wrestling NOAH is on the cusp of something special. Their breakout 2020 campaign saw the headwinds of change flow across the company, dovetailing with the long overdue rise of “Ace” Go Shiozaki.

In true “fighting spirit” fashion, NOAH made an underdog comeback, building up to a fresh start in 2020 with a hungry roster. It was the chance Shiozaki had been waiting for. On January 4th, the same night Tetsuya Naito was finding his destiny at the Tokyo Dome, Shiozaki captured the GHC Heavyweight Championship with a resounding win over promising young superstar Kaito Kiyomiya. At New Sunrise, Shiozaki was the bringer of light.

It’s hard to believe he debuted way back in 2004. Trained by former multi-time NWA World Champion Harley Race and Kenta Kobashi – one quarter of the historic “Four Pillars of Heaven” in All Japan Pro Wrestling – Shiozaki had the foundation for greatness, but it always appeared to be out of reach. Training never came easy for the 39-year-old Shiozaki and tested his limits. But, Shiozaki took all the opportunities given to him and made a point of studying all aspects of the business. “Learn something of the old style, and something of the new style,” he said, in reference to what his trainer Harley Race said, while Shiozaki was training in the United States.

Thus began his fourth (and most important) reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion. It was the dawn of a tide turning for everyone on the Ark. They would attach their fortunes to Shiozaki during NOAH’s most vulnerable year since Misawa’s untimely passing. He responded by quite literally sacrificing his shoulders to carry them throughout the global pandemic. After defeating Kazuyuki Fujita and Akitoshi Saito, Shiozaki’s reign began gaining momentum. His run faced its first test in August at Departure 2020.

His excursion to America led to matches in Ring of Honor and Full Impact Pro, where he developed his style and technique with some big name opponents: Bryan Danielson, Roderick Strong, and Nigel McGuinness to name a few. The Shiozaki signature “Go Flasher” led him to the finals of the “Eye of the Storm” Number 1 Contender’s Tournament in ROH, but he couldn’t defeat Kevin Steen.

But, he didn’t quit. Shiozaki successfully captured the FIP World Championship at Heatstroke 2008, and he bested archrival Kevin Steen at the ROH Glory by Honor VII for the FIP World Title.

He may have lost the FIP World Championship to Tyler Black and suffered a broken jaw at the hands of KENTA, but they couldn’t keep him down!

Still, he couldn’t escape the shadows of NOAH stars like Takeshi Morishima, Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA – some of the names responsible for NOAH’s mid-late ‘00s prominence. A decade would pass before his most important shot at carrying the GHC Heavyweight Championship would arrive.

Ironically, his personal story is a reflection of NOAH’s own ups-and-downs. After the tragic death of Mitsuharu Misawa in 2009, the Ark began losing popularity as fans withdrew their support and found refuge in arenas where the ghost of Misawa wasn’t lurking. For some time, NOAH’s identity and character seemed to have died along with him.

Go Shiozaki on the microphone, with the GHC Heavyweight Championship, in Pro Wrestling NOAH

Photo Credit: Twitter/taigaPhoto_PW

Shiozaki was set to defend the GHC Heavyweight Championship against former Champion and fellow NOAH standout Naomichi Marufuji was a huge moment for Shiozaki to prove himself as champion. While both men’s careers had run parallel to one another, Marufuji always had an edge over Shiozaki. This was an opportunity to prove all the detractors wrong and prove to Marufuji that he was the new face of NOAH!

The match was an incredibly violent affair featuring furious chop and knee exchanges, as well as an terrifying piledriver from Marufuji onto the apron to Shiozaki. Shiozaki would come out the victor with a beautiful moonsault straight out of the playbook of his trainer Kenta Kobashi. Following Shiozaki’s defence, Marufuji would hand the GHC Title over to Shiozaki, symbolically passing the torch and solidifying Shiozaki as one of NOAH’s greats. Now a part of CyberFight and featured prominently on the WrestleUniverse streaming service, Shiozaki doubled down on his appearance as international audiences started tuning in. He sported his signature beautiful green robe while dying his hair blonde. Although in his late 30s, renewed focus on strength and conditioning put Shiozaki in some of the best shape of his career. One of his biggest hurdles came last November with the challenge by N-1 Victory tournament winner, Katsuhiko Nakajima. His former tag-team partner was noticeably confident heading into the match against the current GHC Heavyweight Champion after winning all but one of his matches in the N-1 Victory Tournament.

The last time Nakajima held the GHC Heavyweight Title, he had defended the belt against then challenger Shiozaki. This led many fans to feel that at the NOAH 20th Anniversary Show a new champion was going to be crowned. Shiozaki had everything to lose. The match between Shiozaki and Nakajima did not conform to typical strong style – it was a rollercoaster of hard-hitting strikes, beautiful technical wrestling, and layered psychological storytelling. It was one of the best matches of the year. Simply a masterpiece!

In the weeks and months that followed, it became clear Shiozaki had brought NOAH into a new era, one defined primarily by his presence as the real “Man of the Hour.” At the time of his win over Nakajima, Go Shiozaki was considered by many the best wrestler of 2020 for his consistently high performances and epic battles. Even his critics conceded that Shiozaki had earned the right to use the phrase “I AM NOAH!”.

His rallying cry started with a big win over Takashi Sugiura at Final Chronicle in December, which garnered the first 5-star rating in a NOAH match from Wrestling Observer Newsletter in more than 15 years. Spectacularly, a new challenger approached – an outsider with an outsized presence: Keiji Mutoh. His history in Puroresu is nearly unmatched, having held every major title in every major organization. Come to think of it, Mutoh was just missing one belt from his collection – but Shiozaki was not going to just hand it over. The historical complexity of this match cannot be understated: It would be the first time NOAH ran a show at Nippon Budokan since 2013, Final Burning, where Shiozaki’s trainer Kenta Kobashi had his retirement match in an 8-man mixed tag bout pitting Puroresu’s past against Puroresu’s future. Shiozaki and Mutoh were opponents at this show, and they were about to square off again, only this time, the GHC Heavyweight Championship was on the line.

Their title match was arguably the most anticipated match in NOAH history. Shiozaki knew that his wrestling ability alone was not going to win this match. As Shiozaki put it, he had to “break the emotions of Keiji Mutoh, because he couldn’t win otherwise.” Shiozaki took exception to Mutoh’s age and condition saying that Mutoh’s condition was going to be his greatest downfall. However, that’s not how things would play out. At the Nippon Budokan, Mutoh shocked the world and thanks to numerous hurricanranas, and was able to pin Shiozaki ending the legendary 405 day GHC Championship reign.

Now that he’s sidelined for six months following surgery on his overburdened shoulders, Shiozaki can recover knowing he sailed NOAH to an exciting time that will forge entire new currents of stars and give the veterans an opportunity to shine in the twilight of their careers. His title reign may be over, but it’s just the beginning of Shiozaki’s status as a living legend.

This article first appeared in Monthly Puroresu Issue #4


Written by:

20+ Year wrestling fan living in the North of the UK. Write for Monthly Puroresu, as well as The Wrestling Estate, and also podcast with BBGWrestling. Active on Twitter and LinkedIn, sharing my love with other fans. Hope you enjoy my articles and content.