Pro Wrestling NOAH Higher Ground 2021 Preview

Pro Wrestling NOAH Higher Ground 2021 Preview

Pro Wrestling NOAH’s second show of 2021 takes place on Sunday the 10th of January. Like the first show it is being held at Korakuen Hall but unlike the first show which was a mystery card with the matches only being confirmed as the competitors came out, for this show the card is thankfully known in advance!

Beginning at 11:30am Japan time (3:30am GMT, 10:30pm Sat Night EST & 7:30pm Sat Night PST) the show will air live on Wrestle Universe.

The GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship is on the line, and we have an all stay heavyweight eight man tag team match in the main event, so on with the card!

Photo courtesy of Pro Wrestling NOAH

GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship – Daisuke Harada (c) vs Hajime Ohara

This is not the main event but to me and many others it does feel like it should be the main event so I’m talking about it first.

Harada and Ohara have such natural chemistry together. Both are technicians instead of the high flying you expect from junior heavyweight wrestling but they can fly and hit as and when the situation requires.

In televised singles matches between the two the current score is 6 victories to Harada with 2 for Ohara. Harada has won their last 3 matches with Ohara’s last victory coming close to four years ago when he successfully defended the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship against Harada on 21st January 2017.

That wasn’t their only encounter for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship, as on the 27th of January 2018, Harada successfully defended the belt he now owns against Ohara. January seems to be their month, as their last singles match before now was the Global Junior League 2020 semi-final. There, Harada beat Ohara; before beating Dick Togo in the finals.

Both can be seen as the leaders of their respective stables although Momo No Seishun (with Junta Miyawaki) is less of a stable and more of a loose alliance. FULL THROTTLE, on the other hand, feels like a genuine group; with Ohara officially being the leader of the group after beating both YO-HEY and Seiki Yoshioka.

I’m fully expecting this to be a great match and MOTN. As for a result? Well Harada keeps stating he’s going to bring in a “new” NOAH junior division but so far has not ushered in any change. And no one expected Momo No Seishun to lose the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles so soon after winning them. And Ohara fully deserves another run with the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship after only having a five month reign in 2017.

Photo credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

Go Shiozaki, Naomichi Marufuji, Takashi Sugiura & Kaito Kiyomiya vs Kongo (Kenoh, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Manabu Soya & Masa Kitamiya)

A random match on paper but an incredibly rare match when you think about it. We’ve never had four former (and the current) GHC Heavyweight Champions team together in the same match. The closest you would have gotten in the past is when veterans like Misawa, Kobashi & Taue would team up to face the young rising stars like Marufuji, KENTA & Morishima, etc.

In my head this is a match of the NOAH all stars teaming up to take on the threat of the military might of the heavyweight unit of Kongo. But I am fully aware that this is just my head making up a story to justify the match. Kongo haven’t really presented themselves as a major threat in NOAH as of yet. But they have shown they are a solid team with genuine team work.

Shiozaki is already confirmed to be facing Keiji Mutoh for the GHC Heavyweight Championship at NOAH’s return to the Budokan on February 12th; while Kenoh will face Kazunari Murakami on January 23rd for the National Championship. But this match could set up future title challengers.

Sugiura and Kitamiya apparently had a great face off against each other at the Sugiura Army show (which I’m hoping will come to Wrestle Universe soon) so I’m hoping for another encounter here. Shiozaki and Nakajima have such a great rivalry I want to see them tee off against each other again. Kenoh and Kiyomiya have a rivalry the same as Shiozaki/Nakajima, but I’m thinking maybe Marufuji will be the one facing Kenoh for the National belt in the future. And I guess that leaves Manabu Soya as a spare part. But the former Wrestle-1 and BJW Strong Heavyweight Champion deserves to be utilized more by NOAH.

I don’t think you’ll see these four team up again, with Shiozaki and Kiyomiya being unaffiliated and Sugiura leader of the Sugiura Army. I guess you’d call Marufuji, the leader of the M’s Alliance, the only NOAH contracted member. And it’s interesting to note that M’s Alliance introduced Masato Tanaka as their newest member on January 4th. For those unaware, Tanaka is a former tag partner of Takashi Sugiura. So there could be friction there.

Photo courtesy of Pro Wrestling NOAH

STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa, HAYATA & Yuya Susumu) vs Kongo (Tadasuke, Haoh & Nioh)

The other half of Kongo, the junior side, face off with STINGER. At the January 4th show, the team of Haoh & Nioh beat HAYATA & Susumu and made a challenge for the GHC Junior Tag Team Titles, held by Ogawa & HAYATA. That match will take place on January 23rd.

So, this is a prelude to that title match. Haoh & Nioh had their own little drama which was resolved(?) when Nioh beat Haoh at the Kongo produced show on December 26th. Their bond together seems to have been strengthened, as they beat HAYATA & Susumu. They haven’t challenged for the tag belts since January 2020; so after a chaotic year in the junior division they do deserve a title shot.

Ogawa & HAYATA have only defended the belts once since they reclaimed them, and that was the match that Susumu ditched his Salvaje de Oriente masquerade and betrayed Kotaro Suzuki to join STINGER. This will be their first title challenge where a member of the other team won’t betray their partner and join STINGER…. Right?

Photo courtesy of Pro Wrestling NOAH

Daiki Inaba, Atsushi Kotoge & Junta Miyawaki vs Kotaro Suzuki, Ikuto Hidaka & NOSAWA Rongai

I am delighted to see Hidaka in a NOAH ring! (And happy to see the mask is gone, but enough about that…) After leaving ZERO1, there was a wonder about where Hidaka would go next, and I hope he sticks around in NOAH for matches against Harada, Ohara, Suzuki, Haoh and Yoshioka.

This is his first official match in NOAH, and it is completely random. Neither team have a squabble against each other so this will be an opportunity to showcase the new trio of Suzuki, Hidaka & Rongai.

I’m hoping 2021 will see Inaba have his singles match against Marufuji and his rematch against Nakajima. A former two-time Wrestle-1 Champion and only 32 years old, he could slot into the NOAH main event scene, which I really hope happens. He and Suzuki have had some tag matches in Wrestle-1, so I hope to see the two share the ring again here too.

Photo Courtesy of Pro Wrestling NOAH

Shuhei Taniguchi & Muhammad Yone vs Yoshiki Inamura & Kinya Okada

I really want to see Inamura & Okada team more in 2021. They debuted within months of each other in 2018, meaning they are generational rivals. But I see great potential in them teaming together before feuding with each other.

He and Kiyomiya did challenge for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles in the main event on December 19th in what was a break out performance for Inamura. I hope Okada gets an opportunity like that this year.

Taniguchi & Yone decided to team up together at the last show of 2020 but 2021 started with a loss for them in their first match together. That has to sting, and I know they’ll be hoping to rebound with a win here. Truthfully I’m hoping that the youngsters get the win. Sorry, Funky & Bland!

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

FULL THROTTLE (YO-HEY & Seiki Yoshioka) vs Yasutaka Yano & Kai Fujimura

With their leader in the semi-main event, FULL THROTTLE get to open the show against NOAH’s latest debut and their most recent addition to shows who may end up becoming a future roster member.

Yano debuted October 28th and is showing potential. I hope that keeps going, as NOAH desperately needs fresh and young blood. Speaking of fresh blood, Fujimura is only 25 years old and debuted July 2019 as part of Wrestle-1. He is now looking for a new home promotion; which he may have found in NOAH.

Yes FULL THROTTLE are going to win. But it’s the journey, not the destination and another opportunity for Yano & Fujimura to show their growth as their careers progress. And it’s always fun to see the young lions improve before your eyes.

Well, that’s the full card for NOAH’s Higher Ground 2021.

I hope you enjoy the show, whether you watch live or on demand. I also hope you continue to support Pro Wrestling NOAH and pro wrestling in general as we move forward.

Times are tough right now. I hope you can find an escape and happiness in pro wrestling.

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