N-1 Victory Finals 2020 Preview

N-1 Victory Finals 2020 Preview

The 2020 N1 Victory finals happen this Sunday, October 11th. Bell time is 4 pm Japan time – 8 am BST, 3 am EST and 12 am-midnight PST.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

It will air for free on ABEMA and be available afterwards for the next 7 days before moving over to Wrestle Universe

Wrestle Universe is a subscription service and charges from the first of the month to the last calender month. But regardless as to when you join, you pay for that first month. So it’s best to join towards the beginning of the month.

However, the first month is FREE! And not only do you get NOAH (predominantly 2020 with a few older shows) but you get access to DDT, TJPW, Ganbare Pro and BASARA. So it’s not a bad deal at all and if you have Chromecast you can cast to your TV.

N1 Victory 2020 Finalists

This year’s finalists are A Block winner, Kaito Kiyomiya and B Block winner, Katsuhiko Nakajima.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

Kaito Kiyomiya

Kiyomiya is the most recent former GHC Heavyweight Champion after losing the belt to Go Shiozaki back in January. Out of the two he had the toughest route to the final with a draw against Masaaki Mochizuki, loss to Masa Kitamita but then bounced back with victories over Kazushi Sakuraba, Manabu Soya and Go Shiozaki to win his block.

Nakajima on the other hand beat Kenoh, Takashi Sugiura, Yoshiki Inamura and Naomichi Marufuji with the one loss to Shuhei Taniguchi.

Kaito Kiyomiya, for those unaware, is 24 years old and debuted just under 5 years ago (December 9th, 2015 ). A product of the NOAH dojo and with Mitsuharu Misawa as his greatest inspiration. Like many young lions in Japan he spent the better part of the beginning of his career on the losing end. Showing that NOAH had great faith in his potential he was entered in to the 2016 Global League (the N-1 Victory precursor) just under a year from his debut and although he lost every match, in July 2017 he was sent on excursion to Canada.

Returning back to Japan in early 2018, he made an immediate impact, challenging Kenoh for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. 2018 was his break out year, as he and Go Shiozaki won the Global Tag League and dethroned Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team titles (although they would lose them back to the former champions a month later) and then won the Global League, defeating Katsuhiko Nakajima in the finals and then Takashi Sugiura for the GHC Heavyweight Championship on December 16th.

So, 3 years and 1 week from his debut he won the biggest honour in Pro Wrestling NOAH. And he carried that belt all through 2019 with defences over Kenoh, Kitamiya, Marufuji, Sugiura, Nakajima and Kenoh again before losing the belt to Go Shiozaki on the first show of 2020.

2020 started rough and continued that way for him. He failed to take the GHC National Championship from Sugiura and lost to Keiji Mutoh before the N-1 began.

To win a second Global League/N-1 Victory and then take back the GHC Heavyweight Championship from Go would be a great redemption story.

Katsuhiko Nakajima – A brief history

Katsuhiko Nakajima is 32 years old and debuted in January 2004. So he is 8 years Kaito’s senior and just under 12 years more wrestling experience. A protege of Kensuke Sasaki and first recruit to Kensuke Office, he wrestled Jushin Thunder Liger in the Tokyo Dome and entered the Best Of Super Juniors within his first six months of wrestling.

He won his first singles title, ZERO-1’s WWA World Junior Light Heavyweight title, in August 2005. And wherever Kensuke went, Nakajima followed. He ended up in All Japan for a lengthy period; winning the AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Championship from Shuji Kondo in February 2007.

Forgotten by many, Nakajima would actually challenge for ROH World Championship when it was held by Takeshi Morishima. Kensuke Office left AJPW and joined Pro Wrestling NOAH in 2008 and Nakajima has made it his home ever since.

Kensuke Office would enter into a feud with Burning (Kenta Kobashi, KENTA, Go Shiozaki, etc) and gave birth to one of NOAH’s most well-known rivalries in KENTA and Nakajima.

Nakajima would win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship and would straddle that line between junior and heavyweight like Marufuji and KENTA before him but didn’t really move up to a full heavyweight until 2013.

It took three unsuccessful GHC Heavyweight Championship attempts (against KENTA, Marufuji and Sugiura) and 3 years before he finally became GHC Heavyweight Champion; beating Sugiura in October 2016.

He would defend the belt against Minoru Suzuki, Masa Kitamiya, Takashi Sugiura, Go Shiozaki, Mohammed Yone, Atsushi Kotoge and Brian Cage before losing the belt to Eddie Edwards in August 2017.

Nakajima would unsuccessfully challenge Sugiura for the belt again in 2018 and come up short against Kiyomiya in the Global League finals. But Nakajima had to wrestle a decider against Kenoh and Kohei Sato before he faced the fresh Kiyomiya later that night.

After that loss, he began to team with his old opponent Go Shiozaki and the two formed AXIZ. While Kiyomiya had an unbroken reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion, AXIZ would win and lose the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team titles 3 times, with the final loss to Naomichi Marufuji and Masaaki Mochizuki happening the day after Shiozaki beat Kiyomiya for the belt – January 5th, 2020.

Nakajima’s 2020

2020 would be a good year for Nakajima. He invaded rival promotion Wrestle-1 before it’s closure and became the second to last Wrestle-1 Champion. He beat Sugiura for the GHC National Championship in May before losing it to Kenoh in August. And then AXIZ would challenge for the vacant GHC Heavyweight Tag Team titles against Sugiura and Kazushi Sakuraba…

And after the loss, AXIZ split, with Nakajima attacking Shiozaki. Even more shockingly, Nakajima joined Kenoh’s faction, Kongoh.

Since joining Kongoh, Nakajima has truly embraced his darker side and won his block matches with brute force punishment with his kicks and new finishing move.

Beating Kiyomiya would mean his first N-1 Victory/Global League win and set him up for a title shot against his former partner and friend.

So regardless as to who wins this match, there is a ready made story for whoever takes on Shiozaki for the belt.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

Joining the main event you also have an eight-man tag match as Go Shiozaki, Shuhei Taniguchi, Daiki Inaba and Mohammed Yone take on Keiji Mutoh, Naomichi Marufuji, Masakatsu Funaki and Masaaki Mochizuki.

Potential Claimants to the GHC Heavyweight involved in this tag

Keiji Mutoh

Mutoh beat Kiyomiya back in August and was making a claim to become only the third person to hold the IWGP Heavyweight Championship, Triple Crown and GHC Heavyweight Championship after Kensuke Sasaki and Yoshihiro Takayama. Only Shiozaki’s GHC Heavyweight Championship eludes him and a direct victory over him would further strengthen his claim.

Masaaki Mochizuki

But also with a claim would be Masaaki Mochizuki. The former three time Open The Dream Gate Champion in Dragon Gate has a pinfall victory over Shiozaki in their one and only singles match. Mochizuki is spending more and more time in NOAH as part of M Alliance (all members have either a first name or surname beginning with M) so could have a future title shot.

Rounding out the M’s Alliance team is former three time GHC Heavyweight Champion and the first of only two men to hold the Junior titles in NOAH, NJPW and AJPW (the other being Minoru Tanaka), Naomichi Marufuji and the most recent addition to the NOAH roster, the former Triple Crown champion, former ZERO-1 Heavyweight Champion and co-founder (with Minoru Suzuki) of the MMA promotion, Pancrase, Masakatsu Funaki.

On the champions team you have Shuhei Taniguchi who actually formed a tag team with Shiozaki and they held the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team titles together. Daiki Inaba is another new addition to the NOAH roster since the closure of Wrestle-1 and was one of their young aces as a former Wrestle-1 Champion. And Mohammed Yone who celebrates his 25th anniversary this year.

Go Shiozaki’s team may not have the pedigree of his opponents but he himself is the current GHC Heavyweight Champion in his fourth reign and is also a former Triple Crown Champion after a few years spent in AJPW after NOAH released his mentor, Kenta Kobashi, but he eventually found his way back to the ark. He had a somewhat successful N-1 with three wins and two stumbles to Mochizuki and Kiyomiya so will be looking to regain some momentum going into his next challenge.

The GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles will be on the line as the 40th Champions, Yoshinari Ogawa & HAYATA faced the reformed Momo No Seishun, Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge.

The main talking point about this match is the reunion of Harada and Kotoge. Both began their careers and team together in Osaka Pro before moving over to NOAH back in 2012 for Kotoge and 2013 for Harada. Trying to prove that one could exist without the other they first chased singles gold with Harada claiming the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship first but ultimately losing it to Kotoge.

With the threat of Suzuki-Gun taking over NOAH, Harada & Kotoge reformed their tag team to take the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles from El Desperado and TAKA Michinoku in October 2015, the first NOAH team to take a title from the then dominant Suzuki-Gun.

Momo No Seishun would be three time GHC Junior Heavyweight Champions but the team would come to an end when Kotoge made the decision to move up to heavyweight at the end of 2016. Not only would he relinquish the tag belts with Harada but he was also the GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion at that time, a belt the two partners were still willing to go to war over, so he would give that up at the same time.

Kotoge would find some success as a heavyweight, winning the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team titles with Go Shiozaki and challenge for the GHC Heavyweight Championship twice, but in 2019 decided he would move back to being a junior heavyweight.

Harada would challenge for both belts Kotoge relinquished in early 2017 but came up short. However he formed RATEL’s with former Osaka Pro wrestler, Tadasuke and two new NOAH recruits from the DOVE promotion, HAYATA and YO-HEY.

RATEL’s would become very popular and successful and as part of that success, Harada would hold the GHC Junior title from October 2017 to October 2018, the third longest reign with that belt.

So when Kotoge moved back to the juniors in 2019, he joined his former partner in RATEL’s right? Wrong. He would join RATEL’s rival faction, STINGER. And then join in the feud against his former partners stable.

Why didn’t he join his former partner? The two split pretty amicably due to a decision Kotoge made. But whatever the reason, he was now once more against Harada.

2020 – a volatile year for the NOAH junior division

2020 has been a crazy year for the juniors in NOAH. Let me see if I can hit the high notes.

-HAYATA turned on RATEL’s and joined STINGER. All while he held the GHC Junior Tag belts with YO-HEY and eventually became new champions with Yoshinari Ogawa. Harada then basically said RATEL’s was no more but still kept close with YO-HEY and Tadasuke.

-Kotoge left STINGER and formed Full Throttle with Hajime Ohara and Seiki Yoshioka. There was a debate about who the “leader” of the group was and Kotoge ended up winning a round robin against the other two.

-Tadasuke attacked YO-HEY and joined Kongoh.

-YO-HEY attacked Harada and sparked a mass brawl between all the juniors in NOAH. Kotoge came out to save Harada but that didn’t sit well with Ohara & Yoshioka who kicked Kotoge out of Full Throttle and YO-HEY became their new member.

All make sense?

So now Harada and Kotoge, factionless and friendship renewed now face HAYATA and Ogawa for the tag belts.

HAYATA who indirectly set off the spark that threw the NOAH juniors in to turmoil. And Ogawa who is a former GHC Heavyweight, GHC Heavyweight Tag, GHC Junior Heavyweight and GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Champion. So while the story is on Momo No Seishun reforming, don’t expect it to have a smooth start.

The GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship will also be on the line as Kotaro Suzuki faces the challenger, Hao. Hao may be slightly more known under his former name of Kenbai where he was a masked wrestler and former Michinoku Pro Tohoku Junior Heavyweight Champion.

Hao first wrestled for NOAH all the way back in 2010 back when he was still Kenbai and he and The Great Sasuke entered Junior Heavyweight Tag League. He would return in the 2011 with Kenoh as his tag partner. In fact that team would challenge Kotaro Suzuki and the late Atsushi Aoki for the GHC Junior Heavyweight tag belts later in that same year.

Kenoh would join NOAH in 2014, but Hao would wait until late 2019 when Kenoh introduced him as the newest member of Kongoh.

This will be Hao’s first attempt at the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. But for the champion, Suzuki, this will be his fifth defense in his fourth reign as Champion.

A graduate of the NOAH dojo in late 2001, Suzuki didn’t taste gold until claiming the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles in January 2007 with Ricky Marvin and then in April 2007, as his masked alter-ego Mushiking Terry he won the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship to become a dual title holder.

Suzuki would hold the Junior belt one more time and Junior Tag belts two more times until he, Shiozaki, Atsushi Aoki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Jun Akiyama all left NOAH after Kenta Kobashi was fired and they all joined All Japan.

Tasting success as a junior in AJPW, ZERO-1 and Wrestle-1, like Go Shiozaki he eventually found his way back to the ark in late 2018. Winning the Global Junior League upon his return he then took the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship from Harada.

Suzuki would reclaim the belt from STINGER partner Ogawa earlier this year and has been a dominant champion so far. Hao was only granted this title shot by attacking Suzuki and then scoring a pinfall over him with Kongoh’s help.

Another eight-man tag on the card sees the Kongoh team of Kenoh, Manabu Soya, Masa Kitamiya and Yoshiki Inamura take on Sugiura Army of Takashi Sugiura, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kazuyuki Fujita and Kendo Kashin.

Kenoh is the current GHC National Heavyweight Champion and has yet to have his next defense set up although Sugiura did beat him during the N-1 Victory.

Sugiura and Sakuraba are the current GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions although Soya and Kitamiya stepped up as first challenges. Soya may have strengthened that claim by beating Sakuraba during the N-1 although Sakuraba did beat Kitamiya in their singles.

Kazuyuki Fujita did make some talk earlier this year where he challenged Go Shiozaki for the GHC Heavyweight Champiinship in a match that went close to an hour… And he spent the first half of that barely moving and staring a hole deep into Shiozaki’s soul.

The former three time IWGP Heavyweight Champion is perhaps unfairly viewed as a product of Antonio Inoki’s Inokism as Fujita had success in MMA which saw his success in a New Japan ring. But unlike other examples, Fujita was someone who had risen up through the ranks in NJPW from his debut in 1996 until his eventual title win in 2001.

And his three reigns weren’t bad at all, he always brought a big fight feel. Although he may always be remembered as the man who lost the IWGP Title to Brock Lesnar in his last NJPW match (but that was a three way match in which Lesnar pinned Masahiro Chono).

Having not wrestled in NOAH since that infamous Shiozaki match, you have to wonder what’s next for Fujita. And with Fujita, Sakuraba and Hideki Suzuki all part of NOAH, we could have some intense MMA inspired match up’s in the future.

Finishing off the beginning of the card are two tag matches in Akitoshi Saito and Masao Inoue taking on the Kongoh team of Tadasuke and Nio and the opening match of Full Throttle, Ohara, Yoshioka and YO-HEY taking on Seiya Morohashi, Kinya Okada and Junta Miyawaki.

Saito/Inoue against the Kongoh juniors will be interesting as you always expect the juniors to lose to the heavyweights, especially in NOAH, but Tadasuke is pretty beefy for a junior and this could be his transition to moving up to heavyweight.

The new Full Throttle were victorious in their first match as a trio so will want to keep that momentum going. However Junta Mitakawi has only just returned from injury and has alligned himself with Momo No Seishun and seems to have taken YO-HEY’s betrayal to heart.

If you want to follow Pro Wrestling NOAH, their Twitter handle is – www.twitter.com/noah_ghc

However as that is all in Japanese, there is an unofficial NOAH twitter ran by Hisame who has been a fantastic source for NOAH fans who speak English (listen to the unofficial NOAH English Podcast HERE)

Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the show!

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