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Suzuki-gun’s Invasion of NOAH

2 years ago

Suzuki-gun’s Invasion of NOAH

Recounting NOAH x NJPW’s Wounded Relationship

By: Jeremy Peeples

Pro Wrestling NOAH is getting ready to embark on a new voyage for 2022 – an alliance with New Japan Pro Wrestling. For the first time since Estbee bought the company while New Japan was helping fund it and supplying talent, the two groups will work together on January 8 at Wrestle Kingdom. In the half-decade since the Estbee fallout, New Japan had a massive boom period followed by a weaker two years due to COVID-19, while NOAH has seen a resurgence thanks to its purchase by CyberAgent. This run has been defined by the rise of KENOH and the usage of Keiji Mutoh in a prominent role, giving them the most buzz they’ve had since the Suzuki-gun faction ran roughshod over the promotion in 2015.

Wrestle Kingdom 9 was one of New Japan’s most-revered events – but it also shined a light on just how bloated their roster was. There were too many main event-level acts available to push as main eventers and it hurt the company’s presentation a bit. People were clamoring to see acts like Minoru Suzuki being used as a main event-level and New Japan basically needed a whole second company to feature them. While they didn’t have that exactly, they did help NOAH with funding, supplying Jado as the booker, and giving them a hot act in Suzuki-gun to build around. Minoru Suzuki immediately declared war on NOAH and took out Marafuji with the Gotch piledriver on January 10. This set the MMA pioneer up to be in the main event scene.

Sinking in the Teeth

Suzuki-gun destroyed TMDK and claimed their first piece of NOAH gold on February 11 when the Killer Elite Squad beat Shane Haste and Mikey Nicholls to win the GHC Tag Team Title. This gave Archer and Smith a bit more credibility as a world-beating tag team now having dominated New Japan’s tag team scene for years and giving NOAH a bigger-league team as their champions.

One big piece to the puzzle for the members of Suzuki-gun is that it gave them a chance to be main event-level players. They went from being a B-story in New Japan to the A-story in NOAH while still playing the same role. It let everyone involved raise their game up.

For TMDK, Haste and Nicholls got the chance to cut more promos and sink their teeth into this us-versus-them narrative. It enabled them to at least attempt to shed the belief that they could do everything but cut promos. Within the framework of the feud, they were able to be intense while still being respectful to some degree and honoring a sporting contest where they wanted to prove they were the best. Lance Archer truly shined when given the main event spotlight. He dialed back his ranting and raving promos as the American Psycho into being more believably menacing. There was more substance to what he said and he felt like a main event-level act who could carry a company if needed or be featured as the main event player more often.

However, the real beneficiary of the NOAH invasion was the leader of Suzuki-gun himself. Minoru Suzuki beat Naomichi Marafuji to win the GHC Heavyweight Title on March 15. On this same day, we saw KES defend its title against TMDK. The group captured both junior heavyweight and junior tag titles. For Suzuki, it was a chance to show that he could carry a promotion as the top act – something that he hadn’t done in nearly a decade after holding the All Japan Triple-Crown Championship.

Biting Off Too Much, Too Soon

There were twists and turns for NOAH’s own stables due to the group. All factions banded together to try and take out Suzuki-gun, while Yoshihiro Takayama swore allegiance to NOAH in March of 2015 and left Suzuki-gun. He wanted to capture the GHC Heavyweight Title once again and was willing to go through Suzuki to do so. Despite the motivation, Suzuki’s reign continued as he defeated Takayama at NOAH’s 15th anniversary show in what would be one of Takayama’s big matches before his paralysis. Takayama gave it his all in a match that would have served as a fine retirement match – coming close to a win with an Everest German before a Suzuki-gun run-in helped Minoru retain his title after a series of sickening Iizuka chairshots to the skull and a Gotch piledriver. 

Shelton Benjamin’s loss earlier in the evening setup Takashi Sugiura as his next challenger. The NOAH stalwart did what he could but wasn’t able to unseat Suzuki. This led to a high-stakes battle with Noamichi Marafuji demanding a shot and Suzuki agreeing on one condition – if Suzuki prevailed once again, then NOAH would be dissolved. Marafuji’s bold claim united NOAH’s roster and led to TAKA Michinoku and El Desperado losing the Junior Heavyweight tag titles and Marafuji once again beating Shelton – only this time, in the finals of the 2015 Global League. Marafuji’s momentum carried through as he beat Suzuki in an epic battle at Destiny 2015 that saw Suzuki felled by four pumping knee strikes alongside a Pole Shift Flowsion.

This win gave NOAH what they needed – but it was short-lived as Takashi Sugiura attacked him during his celebration to join Suzuki-gun and ended his reign five weeks later. Suzuki lost the title but his time as a puppet master continued. Yoshinobu Kanemaru, another traitor within NOAH, joined Suzuki-gun and used the group’s power to take the Junior Heavyweight Title. With Sugiura as the GHC Heavyweight Champion and Kanamaru as Junior Champion, this enabled the “Suzuki-gun” group to have the power with NOAH mainstays instead of New Japan wrestlers. 

Change of Flavor 

The spring of 2016 saw the downfall of Suzuki-gun as KES lost their titles on May 28, while Sugiura lost the GHC Heavyweight title to Go Shiozaki at the same event.

However, the title loss was used as a means to set up the first lumberjack match in NOAH where he would regain it two months later. Suzuki-gun would slowly work its way back into New Japan, with Taichi and Kanemaru entering the Super J-Cup. Integrating NOAH stars into Suzuki-gun was a smart move. It elevated talent in the group and in doing so, helped make NOAH talent seem on-par with New Japan. This was at a time when the company needed a boost. The group dominated NOAH for over a year and the company did gain a bit more traction. They felt more major league with the talent influx – but it didn’t massively help attendance or be the rising tide that lifted up all of its ships. 

The buzz they gained propped them up a bit, but there wasn’t long-term aid for NOAH until CyberAgent bought the company and gave it firm financial footing to stand on. That allowed NOAH to rebuild with risky angles, like giving Keiji Mutoh a run at the top of the promotion in his late 50s to have his star power rub off on a younger generation. This was similar to what New Japan did when they put Tanahashi over him at Wrestle Kingdom III in 2009. 

Giving it Another Go

With NOAH and New Japan working together in 2022, perhaps we’ll see the return of Suzuki-gun with stronger results due to NOAH having more buzz than they had in 2015. 2022 is shaping up to be an exciting year for puro and NOAH is poised to start it off strong on January 8.

Written by:

A native of Virginia, I've written for Web for more than fifteen years, mostly in the video game space. My first print byline came in Hardcore Gamer Magazine, where I was published for five years until it went dormant in 2010. I currently write for a number of publications, including Monthly Puroresu, where I've done live event coverage and longform features since 2021.