On Sunday the 7th of March, Pro Wrestling NOAH presents Great Voyage in Yokohama 2021. NOAH did not use the Great Voyage show title name at all in 2020 and have used it sparingly over the past few years, mainly at Yokohoma. So it is notable that this show and the week after, March 14th’s Great Voyage in Fukouka, have both brought back the show title. After a successful return to Budokan on February 12th, NOAH are being both nostalgic to their glory days while pushing forward into the future.
This show features two GHC Title matches as Kenoh will defend his GHC National Championship against Kendo Kashin and, in the main event, Takashi Sugiura and Kazushi Sakuraba will defend their GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championships against Katsuhiko Nakajima and Masa Kitamiya. There will also be a final preview six man tag match, as new GHC Heavyweight Champion, Keiji Mutoh will face his first challenger, Kaito Kiyomiya, just one week before their title match on March 14th.
The show will be airing live on ABEMA, Wrestle Universe and Fite TV. ABEMA is free and with Japanese commentary, while Wrestle Universe has English commentary (done by the excellent duo of Mark Pickering and Stewart Fulton) but is a subscription service. It works at under £8 per calendar month, with your first month completely free of charge. So join at the beginning of March and you’ll get this show and March 21st all live and for free. And the March 14th show, a week after it’s aired on ABEMA. All that, as well as live DDT & TJPW. So it’s well worth it!
Fite TV is a one off fee of $19.99 and has English commentary also with unlimited replays.
Bell time is 4pm in Japan. That’s 7am GMT, 2am EST and 11pm Saturday March 6th for PST. Late night or early morning for those who decide to watch live in the west then!
Right, let’s get on to the show.
MAIN EVENT – GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles – Sugiura Army (Takashi Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba) (c) vs The Aggression/Kongo (Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya)
Sugiura & Sakuraba won the vacant belts on August 30th 2020 against Nakajima and then partner, Go Shiozaki. The end of that match saw a massive shift in NOAH when Nakajima turned on Shiozaki, attacking him and joining Kongo. Sugiura & Sakuraba have made three successful defenses since then and won the Tokyo Sports award for Tag Team Of The Year in 2020.
I’ve spoke a lot about Nakajima and Kitamiya’s strained relationship. They are basically family, both being trained by Kensuke Sasaki as part of Kensuke Office even though there is a considerable gap in experience with Nakajima debuting in 2004 and Kitamiya’s debuting in 2011. Despite them being the same age, they do have an older/younger brother relationship with Nakajima being the senior. Family doesn’t always have to get along, but they do always end up gravitating back together.
That is exactly what happened when Nakajima joined Kongo, a stable that Kitamiya had been apart of since it’s formation in 2019. They had spent the majority of 2018 together as The Aggression and were GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions twice that year, but they lost the belts in their first defense on both occasions. Nakajima would drift away from Kitamiya in late 2018 and begin a team with former long term rival Shiozaki. This would bring Kitamiya closer to Kenoh and begin the origins of Kongo.
When Nakajima joined Kongo, Kitamiya was already in a team with Manabu Soya and they were the first to challenge and fall to Sugiura & Sakuraba. Even though they were in the same stable, Nakajima and Kitamiya did not immediately pick up where they had left off in 2018. They had a frosty relationship and barely interacted with one another despite their close proximity to each other. However, in December, things began to thaw between them. In tag matches they would work together to perform old team moves. They teamed for the first time as just a tag team at the Kongo produced Diamond 3 show and you could see the chemistry was still there.
It’s interesting to note that they are being billed as The Aggression again. Not Kongo. Or even Kongo’s The Aggression. But with their old team name, which existed before Kongo did. That’s for the conspiracy theorists out there who have noted that Nakajima wears a darker shade of red than the rest of Kongo and that he is not part of their military style, co-ordinated pose, instead sitting on the turnbuckle away from them. So now he is teaming with a former partner who he has history with outside of Kongo and Kenoh, so if there was to be a civil war in Kongo on account of Nakajima no longer wanting to be second in command…. This could be the beginning of something.
Sugiura Army and Kongo have been at odds for quite some time. Mainly fuelled by Kenoh’s paranoia and natural distaste to Sugiura and his friends laid back and relaxed attitude. It completely contradicts Kongo’s military precision and Kenoh’s controlling nature. But that is just Kenoh. However Nakajima has a long history with Sugiura over the GHC Heavyweight and GHC National Titles as he beat him to win both of them. Kitamiya has had several heated clashes with Sugiura over the past few months, notably head-butting Sugiura so hard that he busted himself open with the blood running down his face in a horrifying visual (and sound of the thud!).
In the preview matches, Sugiura Army have had the better of The Aggression. Sugiura pinned Kitamiya to win a 14 man Elimination tag team match between Sugiura Army and Kongo on December 29th. At the Budokan on 12th of February, Sugiura Army again beat Kongo in a 12 man tag team match. And at the last NOAH show at Korakuen Hall on the 24th of February, Sugiura Army beat Kongo in an 8 man tag team match when Sakuraba directly submitted Nakajima.
A lot of us expected this match to happen at the Budokan, but truthfully this is better. That match would have gotten lost in the shuffle of the massive Budokan card. Here, it is a worthy main event, and will be allowed time to come alive in it’s brutality; as you have three heavy hitters and one MMA legend proficient in submissions.
M’s Alliance (Keiji Mutoh, Naomichi Marufuji & Masato Tanaka) vs Kaito Kiyomiya, Go Shiozaki & Yoshiki Inamura
The final preview match before the GHC Heavyweight Championship match on March 14th between champion Keiji Mutoh and challenger Kaito Kiyomiya. It’s also a rematch of the February 24th Korakuen Hall main event, with the M’s Alliance team unchanged and Yoshiki Inamura replacing Daiki Inaba, the man whom Mutoh pinned to win that match.
Inamura will bring a different element to this match as his size and power will be unmatched. Tanaka will have to use his powerful elbows to keep the big man down. Marufuji will have to use his speed and inventive offense to stay on top of him. And Mutoh will need to use his years’ worth of experience and technical skills to counteract Inamura’s explosive power.
Korakuen ended with a stalemate between champion and challenger as neither was able to defeat the other. The match ended with Mutoh standing tall, but Kiyomiya angrily staring him down, much like at the close of the Budokan show. This will be their last opportunity to hold a win directly over one another before their big title match in Fukouka. Mutoh already holds the one singles victory over Kiyomiya via submission in August, so Kaito is determined to beat Mutoh and reclaim the GHC Heavyweight Championship in the process.
Former GHC Heavyweight Champion, Go Shiozaki, seems to be getting positioned into a feud with Masato Tanaka. This will be their third time facing each other in six man tags since Tanaka re-joined the NOAH roster as part of the M’s Alliance on January 4th. Shiozaki and Tanaka do have their history together, as they have had the one singles match together, the finals of the ZERO1 Fire Festival in 2012 which Tanaka won. Tanaka is the current ZERO1 World Heavyweight Champion for the fifth time, after beating Tamura Hayato on January 1st. So there is discussion if a singles rematch would take place between the two whether it would be in a NOAH or ZERO1 ring and if Tanaka’s newly won belt could be on the line.
Marufuji has made overtures towards challenging for a belt again but he failed in his title match against Shiozaki and he and Masakatsu Funaki were unsuccessful against Sugiura & Sakuraba. The only belt in NOAH that he is yet to challenge for is – and hold as he’s won every GHC Title outside of – the National Title currently held by Kenoh and will be defended by him against Kendo Kashin in the match before this one.
There is some expectation that Marufuji will challenge for the GHC National Championship this year. But then Yoshiki Inamura is poised to have a break out year and make 2021 his own. He already got the Generation Tag Team match at Budokan as he and Kiyomiya beat Marufuji and Jun Akiyama. And Inamura has his own history with Kenoh as a former member of Kongo, in fact one of the original members and the only (or first…?) member to leave. So if Inamura was built up to challenge a Kenoh that still holds the National belt, there is a story there.
While this match is mainly about Mutoh vs Kiyomiya, you do have a potential Shiozaki vs Tanaka issue to emerge and the continuing break out of Inamura and Marufuji trying to find his role in NOAH in 2021. So there are moving parts in this match that could set up future stories.
GHC National Title – Kenoh (c) vs Kendo Kashin
This is Kenoh’s sixth defense of the belt after going to an hour draw with GHC Heavyweight Champion, Go Shiozaki, in a Title vs Title match. And victories over Kiyomiya, Sakuraba, Kazunari Murakami and Masakatsu Funaki. His last 3 matches have been against MMA/wrestler hybrids and it was wondered where he would go next after taking out big names like Sakuraba and Funaki. I personally was hoping for rarely seen and undefeated in NOAH singles matches, and member of Sugiura Army, Hideki Suzuki. However, while his next challenger is from Sugiura Army, the name blindsided us all.
After beating Funaki at Budokan, Kenoh was confronted by Kendo Kashin backstage, who demanded a title shot. Kashin does fit the MO of Kenoh’s recent challengers of wrestlers who have dabbled in MMA. However, he has many losses as he does wins. He is the winner of the 1999 NJPW Best Of Super Juniors and is a two time IWGP Junior Heavyweight Champion and All Japan World Junior Heavyweight Champion. He will also be only the second junior to challenge for the belt after Minoru Tanaka in March last year which would be a promising move for the belt to become more openweight.
Kashin is not a straight wrestling/MMA hybrid. Truthfully, he would rather distract the referee, kick his opponent between the legs and get the victory that way. Or attack his opponent when his back is turned and make cheap shot after cheap shot. In a straight up wrestling match, Kenoh would dominate him. So since the match was made official, Kashin has played mind games with Kenoh. He wore a disguise to attack Kenoh after his match with Hajima Ohara and claimed the man was Sugiura. He planted someone wearing his mask in the front row at another show to distract Kenoh and allow him to attack him again, wearing yet another disguise and this time claiming it was Sakuraba who did it.
In their one and only pre-match, an eight man tag match, Kashin attacked Kenoh from behind before the match started. And he only wanted to be in the ring at the same time as Kenoh if he had an unfair advantage at the time. When Kenoh made a comeback and started tearing into Kashin with those high impact kicks of his, Kashin could only do his best to defend himself until he was able to kick Kenoh low when the referees back was turned.
This will be harder for him to do in a singles match without the chaos and confusion of all the other bodies in play. However, if he wants to hold his own against Kenoh and – dear God – win, then he’ll have to use every dirty trick in his book. And, even more surprisingly, will have to wrestle like he did in his early days, before he got involved in MMA. It will be interesting to see if Kashin is forced into wrestling. Or, more likely, if he can wind Kenoh up enough to distract him and be able to take advantage.
I can tell you now, this match won’t be like any of Kenoh’s other defenses, for better or for worse!
STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa, HAYATA & Yuya Susumu) vs Momo No Seishun (Daisuke Harada & Atsushi Kotoge) & Junta Miyawaki
I said in my preview for the February 24th show that I expected a third encounter between STINGER and Momo No Seishun, but wondered how that would work with Atsushi Kotoge already having a GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship match lined up on March 14th. I got my answer when after HAYATA had gotten the win for STINGER by pinning Kinya Okada. STINGER and Momo No Seishun got into a confrontation after the match and Junta Miyawaki, closely aligned with Momo and returning from acute appendicitis, hit the ring to play peacemaker but then it became obvious that Harada and Miyawaki will be STINGER’s next challengers.
That match has been made official for March 21st and will be Junta’s first ever title shot of any kind. Miyawaki debuted in December 2016 but only wrestled in five Battle Royals, just to pad out the numbers between then and February 2017. He didn’t make his “official” NOAH debut until August 2017. As is customary for young lions, he didn’t get his first singles victory until Kinya Okada graduated out of the dojo and so far has only beaten Okada and Yasutaka Yano in singles. He was injured in February 2020 and had to spend seven months on the shelf until he returned as a friend of the newly reformed Momo No Seishun. Since then he even managed to pin Yoshinari Ogawa in a tag match, although it does have to be pointed out that special guest referee Kotaro Suzuki did make a fast count just to embarrass Ogawa.
There will be no special guest referee or fast counts in this match. So if Junta wants to win gold in his first ever opportunity, he’ll have to make a career performance. He’s not had the meteoric rise that Kaito Kiyomiya achieved, winning the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team and GHC Heavyweight Championship all within three years. Or even comparable to the rise of Yoshiki Inamura who has challenged for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s twice and looks to have a big 2021 within the first three years of his career. Junta Miyawaki will have been wrestling for four years this year and he is still the loss post in many matches.
I’ll be honest, when Junta returned from injury, I didn’t see much in him. It seemed like Inamura and Okada had already passed him by in potential. And when Yano debuted a month after Junta had returned, it seemed like Yano was already showing more promise and that Junta had plateaued early. However in the past few months, Junta has really shown some fire and passion that was lacking earlier. He had a singles match against Nakajima towards the end of January that was really good and finally showed what he was capable of. Unfortunately he would get sidelined with acute appendicitis and miss out on being part of NOAH’s big return to the Budokan.
So he does deserve this title opportunity. And he returned to NOAH to partner Momo No Seishun against STINGER, so it’s happenstance that his first title shot is partnering with Harada against STINGER. Harada and his issue with STINGER is long standing and goes all the way back to his former stable, RATEL’S. In the first official tag match back for the reformed Momo No Seishun they would take the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team titles from STINGER on the 11th of October. However they would lose the belts back to them on the 22nd of November.
STINGER have held the belts since that time and the inclusion of Miyawaki makes it a different dynamic as the challengers will be at a disadvantage. However, in this preview tag match they are on equal footing as you have both Atsushi Kotoge and Yuya Susumu in the mix. Kotoge is only a week away from challenging Seiki Yoshioka for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship, so will want to build momentum going into that match. Susumu is yet to really stand out as part of STINGER so could do with having a strong performance here.
Kazuyuki Fujita vs Manabu Soya
A first time singles encounter between two brutes. They have collided in several multi man tag matches since October. And when I say collided, I mean that quite literally, as every single time they hit shoulder tackles off each other in the attempt to knock the other down.
Both have had championship success. Fujita is a three time IWGP Heavyweight Champion, IGF Champion and RJPW Champion. Soya is a two time Wrestle-1 Champion and Big Japan Strong World Heavyweight Champion. They are almost matched in size and weight with Fujita only having a slight advantage in both. Soya is definitely the younger of the two at 36 compared to Fujita’s 50. So if stamina becomes a factor, Soya has the advantage there.
Truthfully, I wouldn’t expect this to last long. Fujita’s match against Shiozaki lasting almost an hour was the exception in his career and over half of that match was a hate filled stare down. You’d be lucky for a Fujita match to be 15 minutes and that was for title matches! But then less could be more when it comes to these two. You just want them to batter each other for 10-15 minutes and just have a big heavyweight battle.
I make it no secret that I am a big fan of Manabu Soya. I have been since the early 2010’s as he teamed with SANADA in All Japan. I think he’s a great fit for NOAH and for Kongo and he can have a lot to offer if used correctly. He’s had great singles matches against Sugiura, Nakajima, Taniguchi, Shiozaki, Kiyomiya, Mochizuki and Inaba. The problem is that he’s lost them all. He’s a big imposing lad who could be a contender for the GHC Heavyweight Championship and a GHC National Champion. But keep losing big singles matches like that and he will not be seen as a credible contender.
Fujita is notorious for rarely losing. Since he won his first IWGP Heavyweight Championship, he has only lost 8 singles matches. His singles victories during that time? 40. Beating Fujita is and should be a big deal.
Honestly I think Soya needs this win. But then it most likely isn’t going to happen. At best, with March 14th only having three matches confirmed, maybe this match would go to a no contest or double countout of some kind in order to book a rematch for Fukouka. Fujita only loses in big matches – title matches and the G1 climax finals. Maybe a rematch would be enough to give Soya his endorsement and put him over.
Kongo (Tadasuke, Haoh & Nioh) vs Kotaro Suzuki, Ikuto Hidaka & NOSAWA Rongai
If Kenoh vs Kendo Kashin isn’t NOAH’s weirdest feud at the moment, then Tadasuke against NOSAWA Rongai is – feud entirely based around dyed blonde hair and wearing sunglasses indoors. NOSAWA, for some reason, believes that Tadasuke is copying him.
Regardless of the reason for the match – and let’s face it, the NOAH juniors don’t need much of a reason to break into chaos against each other – I am happy to see this match booked.
Suzuki & Hidaka will have great chemistry together against Haoh & Nioh. If either of those teams had beaten STINGER for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team belts then I could have seen these two teams face off with the belts on the line.
Expect brawling and chaos from Tadasuke and NOSAWA while Suzuki/Hidaka & Haoh/Nioh put on some great junior heavyweight wrestling. With the right time this could end up being a great match.
Muhammad Yone & Shuhei Taniguchi vs Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue
Two things are going to be notable about this match. The first is that Yone has promised he’ll have Taniguchi a new outfit to match their new team. So we’ll have Taniguchi fully embrace his funky side. And the second is that this is Inoue’s return to NOAH after a positive Covid-19 test that saw him miss the Budokan.
You’re going to get exactly what you expect from this match. Yone will be funky. Taniguchi will try. Saito will try to be serious while secretly happy to witness Inoue get beaten up. And Inoue will play it for laughs and try to avoid getting beaten up.
I guess Funky & Bland will get the win here. Individually they can be good wrestlers who can take a beating and dish one out themselves. If they are going to do anything as a team it’ll be during Global Tag League which usually begins around April.
FULL THROTTLE (Hajima Ohara, Seiki Yoshioka & YO-HEY) vs Kinya Okada, Kai Fujimura & Yasutaka Yone
The new GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion can’t escape the opening match. But then FULL THROTTLE as a unit are always a blast to watch as they are lively and energetic.
Yone has had a lot of teachings from Ohara since he debuted at the end of October. Mainly backbreakers and submissions. So it’s only right that this mini feud continues.
Surprisingly Fujimura has yet to sign a contract with NOAH. The former Wrestle-1 trainee who debuted in 2019 has been exclusive to NOAH since the end of November and he could be a great rival for Yano in the future and be part of the future of the junior division in NOAH.
I genuinely believe Kinya Okada could prove to be a break out star for NOAH. Unfortunately he still remains the designated fall guy in tag matches against his seniors while his generation rival Yoshiki Inamura is getting pushed to the absolute moon. Keep your eye on Okada as I am hopeful that big things are in store for him.
And that’s the card.
March is going to be a busy month for NOAH. This show will air live on ABEMA, Wrestle Universe and Fite TV. FULL THROTTLE are holding a show the day before, Saturday the 6th which will air on delay on Wrestle Universe, date to be confirmed.
Sunday the 14th will be live on ABEMA (and maybe Fite TV as the 7th did get announced late) and features Mutoh vs Kiyomiya and Yoshioka vs Kotoge. And Sunday the 21st from Korakuen Hall will be live on Wrestle Universe featuring STINGER vs Harada & Miyawaki.
2021 is going to be a big year for NOAH. They’ve already returned to the Budokan. The Great Voyage show titles are seemingly back. And, just announced, Cyber Fight the owners of NOAH, DDT & TJPW are producing a supershow on June 6th that will have interpromotional matches and all three top belts on the line. So it really is a good time to join the Ark!
Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy the show.