Welcome back to Champion’s Corner, the series where we talk about champions in different promotions. We talk about some of the defences, what is going right in their reign, what is difficult about their reign and more. Today I am talking about the current reign of GHC National champion Kenoh.
Kenoh began his first reign as National Champion when he beat Katsuhiko Nakajima on August 4th in a hard-hitting affair.
As of writing, Kenoh has defended the National Championship against
- Go Shiozaki
- Kaito Kiyomiya
- Kazushi Sakuraba
- Kazunari Murakami
Defence 1 – Go Shiozaki
On August 5th, a day after his GHC National Championship win, Kenoh came to the ring after the main event. Said the main event was Go Shiozaki vs Naomichi Marufuji for the GHC Heavyweight Championship.
After Marufuji cleared the ring, Kenoh grabbed a mic and challenged Go Shiozaki for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. Kenoh would also put his newly won GHC National Championship on the line. Saying there’s only room for one strong champion in NOAH.
The match was set for the 10th of August.
Most title matches have a 60-minute time limit and this match was no different. Not only was the time limit set for 60 minutes that’s how long they went. They wrestled for a full hour in search of becoming the first man to hold both the GHC Heavyweight and National championships.
Both men gave it they’re all. Shiozaki throw machine gun chops, Kenoh countered with Machine gun kicks. Kenoh hit multiple PFS (his finisher) even one to the outside on a prone Shiozaki. Kenoh also hit a suplex off the ramp to the floor. They even played Kenoh’s last match into it. Kenoh knocked out Nakajima with a big head kick, and he almost did it again in this match.
Shiozaki had to go deep into his arsenal of moves, even using some that he hasn’t used for years.
In the end, Shiozaki hit a moonsault but the damage to the arm was too much – he had to roll off Kenoh and the time limit expired.
Defence 2 – Kaito Kiyomiya
After the Shiozaki defence, Kenoh’s attention turned to the N1 Victory, meaning there was no defence. It would be on the 28th of October show that Kenoh would finally have a challenger. That challenger would be long time rival Kaito Kiyomiya.
When Kiyomiya challenged he said he challenged for his view of the new NOAH.
During the build-up, we saw Kenoh get angrier and angrier towards Kiyomiya.
Kenoh is very paranoid, and thinks Kiyomiya is being used by Cyberfight and that he is superficial.
The match was made for the Yokohama Budokan on the 22nd of November.
The match was another good match in the rivalry of these two. Starting slow and building as the match went on. Kiyomiya even pulled out a new move with a dive over the top rope onto Kenoh. Both showed great familiarity with each other which lead to some good counters and sequences between the two.
Things started to ramp up in the end with both men throwing their best shots and each other.
In the end, surprisingly Kenoh managed to catch Kiyomiya in a rear-naked choke. This was enough for Kenoh to secure the victory and his second defence of the GHC National Championship.
Defence 3 – Kazushi Sakuraba
On the same show he made his defence, Kenoh would come face to face with his next opponent. After the Go Shiozaki defended the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Katsuhiko Nakajima., Kenoh would go to the ring to check on his stablemate. Then out came the GHC Tag Team Champions, Takashi Sugiura and Kazushi Sakuraba.
Sugiura was out to challenge Shiozaki. Sugiura and Kenoh had an exchange of words. Kenoh got angry and came stomping over only for Sakuraba to stand in between them. Kenoh took this as a title challenge.
The match was set for the 6th of December.
At the contract signing. Sakuraba was winding Kenoh up. Kenoh, in Kenoh fashion, got angry. He hit Sakaurba with the GHC National Championship before climbing on the table and hitting Sakaurba with a foot stomp; leaving him laid out.
The match itself was different from what Kenoh is used to. Kenoh, who has a background in Kempo, was forced to grapple with the legendary Gracie Hunter. Kenoh was on the ropes instantly when Sakuraba hit him with a barrage of strikes, sending him to the outside.
The match mainly consisted of submissions and grappling after the barrage with great technique being shown by Sakuraba.
Kenoh, however, was able to survive the Sakuraba grappling clinic. He managed to reverse one of Sakaurabas move’s into a pin to get the 3.
Defence 4 – Kazunari Murakami
At the Kongoh produce show, Nosawa introduced a returning Kazunari Murakami to members of Kongoh. Murakami had previously appeared in NOAH in 2006, 2007 and 2010.
At the Sugiura-gun produce show in a 7 v 7 elimination match Kenoh eliminated Murakami the first time they had interacted. On January 4th Kenoh and Murakami would again stand on opposite teams. This time Murakami got his revenge when he choked out Kenoh to win the match. Even after the bell rang, Murakami had to be pulled off of Kenoh.
Backstage Murakami made a title challenge. The match was set for the 23rd of January.
The match its self started kind of like an MMA match. With both men implying quick jabs and kicks. Murakami tried exchanging kicks with Kenoh which was a bad idea on his part. Kenoh with his Kempo background was able to block these leaving Murakami tired.
In the end, Kenoh used his smaller size and managed to get on Murakami’s back and lock in a sleeper hold. Just like he did with Kiyomiya.
Murakami refused to tap out and Kenoh refused to let go. In the end, the referee stopped the match. Even after that Kenoh had to be pulled off of Murakami.
What has gone well in the reign?
There have been a couple of good things to come out of this reign so far. Firstly Kongoh finally got some championship gold and with its leader being the current holder of the second top belt in NOAH. It finally seems like Kenoh has ushered in a more successful period for his faction.
We have also seen different type of challengers for singles championship. I wouldn’t expect Murakami or Sakauraba to challenge for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. So to see them challenge here was pretty cool.
The match quality has been good too. The Shiozaki vs Kenoh match was great despite the length. Kenoh vs Kiyomiya might be my favourite match between the two. The MMA style matches were alright. Not my bag but I could see people enjoying them.
The match lengths have been refreshing as well. NOAH have a reputation for having their main events go long. That was the case for most GHC Heavyweight title matches last year. Minus the Shiozaki match none of Kenoh’s championship defences has gone over 20 minutes. And the last two being under 15.
What can have been done better?
So far, not much. Kenoh’s reign has been good so far. The only thing that comes to my head is more a gripe about the National Championship in general.
Which is it was supposed to be an openweight championship. Both Sugiura and Nakajima (the two former champions) stated as such. Thus far, only one junior has challenged for the title. Right now it seems like something for the main eventers or people coming in to challenge for.
I hope if Kenoh retains he will give opportunities to some juniors and some of the younger members of the roster. I do think the two big young boys in Inamura and Okada are ready to challenge for the title. So I hope that’s the route Kenoh takes after the Budokan show.
What comes next?
As of writing, Kenoh’s next challenger is Masakatsu Funaki. Funaki challenged right after Kenoh’s defence against Murakami. They have had one preview match which was the event right before the Budokan show. In the match, Kenoh was choked out by Funaki.
Predictions for the rest of the reign
I think Kenoh will hold the National Championship until the early summer of 2021. That will be just a few months shy of holding the championship for a full year. by the time he gets to the Budokan show, he will be the longest-reigning champion in the belts history.
My predictions for his challengers are (not in any particular order):
- Kinya Okada
- Daiki Inaba
As for who takes the belt off of Kenoh, I have two people – the first being Naomichi Marufuji. Marufuji loves to wind Kenoh up. Plus, Marufuji would have a reason to go for the title. If Marufuji wins he would become a grand slam champion (he would be a true one if we are counting the now-defunct GHC Hardcore Openweight Championship).
The next would be Kenoh’s former stablemate Yoshiki Inamura. Inamura was part of the original 4 in Kongoh. Inamura has progressed a whole lot since then. I think he is ready to move up, and beating a former stablemate to make a big splash would be a hell of a way to do it.