Pro Wrestling NOAH The Gift Preview

Pro Wrestling NOAH The Gift Preview

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

Pro Wrestling NOAH have confirmed that their last official show of 2020 will air live on Wrestle Universe on Saturday the 19th of December. I say last official show as there are two more events that are produced by Kongoh and Sugiura Army respectively before 2020 ends, but The Gift will be NOAH’s last show of the year.

The show starts at 5pm in Japan. 8am UK. 3am EST and 12am PST. Wrestle Universe is only £8 a month and you get practically all of NOAH’s 2020 and a hefty back catalogue of DDT so it is well worth the cost.

The Gift is headlined by two GHC Title matches as both GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles and GHC Junior Heavyweight Title are on the line. And you also have a grudge match as two former partners collide! So Korakuen Hall could be seeing some fireworks this Saturday.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championships – Sugiura Army (Takashi Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba) (c) vs Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura

Fresh off a surprising Tokyo Sports Award for Best Tag Team 2020, Sugiura & Sakuraba put their belts on the line for a third time. I say surprising because while they have been great Champions since the won the vacant belts at the end of August, I fully expected Dangerous Tekkers to have won that award.

They beat AXIZ (Shiozaki & Nakajima) in their final match together and have beaten the Kongoh heavyweights of Manabu Soya & Masa Kitamiya and the M’s Alliance team of Naomichi Marufuji & Masakatsu Funaki. They have beaten teams who, individually, have a lot more experience than their next challengers.

This will be one of the biggest matches of Yoshiki Inamura’s career. Debuting in September 2018 he challenged for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles once before with Masa Kitamiya in November 2019 where they fell to then Champions, AXIZ. Now over a year later with more experience under his belt and a new partnership, Inamura is a different competitor from where he was back then.

He made the decision to leave Kongoh after going win-less in his first N-1 Victory. Inamura felt like he could learn and grow more outside of the shadow of being the least experienced in Kongoh so left and has found a partnership with the other unaffiliated (stable less) wrestlers in NOAH, namely Kaito Kiyomiya.

Kiyomiya himself is a former GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion with Go Shiozaki in 2018 although their reign was brief. There he was the rookie not long since returned from excursion partnering with a senior for success in the Global Tag League and then winning the belts. Now he finds himself a senior with Inamura as his rookie as he attempts to recapture the magic that saw him crowned a Champion before.

So far Inamura and Kiyomiya are undefeated whenever they have tagged together but that has only been in Six and Eight Man tags. Never two on two. But Inamura did get the biggest result of his young career so far when he pinned Yuko Miyamoto on the last NOAH show. That was the first time that he was responsible for the deciding pinfall against one of his seniors.

While Inamura and Kiyomiya saw success on December 6th, it was a different story for Sakuraba and Sugiura. Sakuraba was beaten by Kenoh in their GHC National Championship match when Kenoh reversed a submission into a pinfall. And Sugiura lost a 52 minute war to Go Shiozaki for the GHC Heavyweight Championship in a match that was given 5 Stars by the Wrestling Observer Newsletter if you care about that sort of thing. With singles losses so recent and now being named Tokyo Sport’s Best Tag Team Of 2020 they are not going to want to lose their belts before 2020 ends.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship – Daisuke Harada (c) vs Tadasuke

Former team mates turned bitter enemies. You can trace their history all the way back to their original promotion, Osaka Pro Wrestling and Tadasuke’s wrestling debut in April 2007. In only his third match ever he lost a singles match to Daisuke Harada. Harada, debuting in August 2006, was Tadasuke’s senior so beat him in their first 15 singles matches from May 2007 to March 2009.

Out of 25 singles matches, Harada has won 21 of them. Including a previous GHC Junior Heavyweight Title match in November 2017.

But that’s their history as opponents. Like I said, they were team mates more than once. They were members of Blood And Guts in Osaka Pro. Harada joined NOAH in May 2013 but Tadasuke remained with Osaka Pro until 2014 and freelanced thereafter before joining Harada, HAYATA and YO-HEY in NOAH and forming RATEL’S. And RATEL’S was one of the most successful junior stables in NOAH lasting from 2017 until May 2020.

But RATEL’S were the first victim of NOAH’s chaotic junior division in 2020. HAYATA betrayed his team mates to join STINGER so RATEL’S officially broke up but Harada, Tadasuke and YO-HEY remained teaming together until Tadasuke attacked YO-HEY in August 2020 and joined Kongoh.

He would beat YO-HEY on the 20th of August and be DQ’d in a match against Harada on the 22nd. Harada, after the betrayal, referred to Tadasuke as “Fourth”. As in the fourth best member of RATEL’S so effectively the least member of their former group. Tadasuke in turn, after pinning Harada after a sliding lariat into a pin combination then called Harada “Eighteenth”. There are 18 members of the NOAH junior division so he was calling the champ dead last. However in Baseball in Japan the number 18 is the number of an Ace so that is how Harada has taken it.

This will not be a high flying junior heavyweight contest. Tadasuke is more of a mini-heavyweight preferring brute power and force. Harada is more of a technician and a lot of people feel he could make the transition to heavyweight one day if he so decides. But Harada has said he wants to create a “new” junior division in NOAH so in order to achieve that he needs to hold the title.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

Kongoh (Kenoh, Hao & Nioh) vs Naomichi Marufuji & FULL THROTTLE (Seiki Yoshioka & YO-HEY)

A seemingly random match on paper but maybe there are title implications here. Kenoh defended his GHC National Championship against Sakuraba but no next challenger immediately stepped up. Marufuji has yet to challenge for the GHC National Championship in it’s short life span as remember it was only created on the 2nd of November 2019.

Kenoh also beat Marufuji during the N-1 Victory this year. He made talk of returning NOAH to the Budokan for the past two years and now that it is finally about to happen, he wants the main event spot. Would Kenoh vs Marufuji be bigger than Shiozaki vs Mutoh? Truthfully no even though it would be the better match. But if they’re going to give Kenoh and his next challenger a big build, it might be worth starting here and now.

The junior heavyweights supporting them are bound to have a good match together. Yoshioka and YO-HEY recently challenged for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles so will want to get themselves back into contention. Hao and Nioh have not challenged since 4th of January this year so they are long over due a title shot. This match could help either team’s case.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

Kotaro Suzuki vs Yuya Susumu

I said already that Harada vs Tadasuke was former partners turned bitter enemies. However while they had history stretching years, Suzuki and Susumu only had months together.

On the 22nd of November, Suzuki introduced a masked mystery wrestler by the name of Salvaje de Oriente to back him up in his war against STINGER. Eagle eyed viewers were able to identify de Oriente as FREEDOMS wrestler Yuya Susumu.

The two were given a title shot against STINGER, Yoshinari Ogawa and HAYATA but towards the end of the match de Oriente turned on Suzuki and allowed STINGER to retain. Post match HAYATA helped to unmask him and he was finally confirmed to indeed be Susumu.

In an interview afterwards, Susumu admitted he went on with the masked gimmick in order for Suzuki to be able to bring him into NOAH but that he’d had such strong connections with HAYATA (and others now on the NOAH roster such as Yoshioka and Nioh) so he felt he would be a better fit in STINGER.

I guess we should be used to shock betrayals by now. I mean, can you even call them a shock anymore in the 2020 NOAH junior division?

But now Suzuki wants revenge against his former partner. He is the one who brought him in to NOAH so now Susumu will have his first official singles match as himself in a NOAH ring against Suzuki. So now that the gloves are off I can’t wait to see what Yuya Susumu will bring to the NOAH junior division.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

Go Shiozaki & Kinya Okada vs Shuhei Taniguchi & Muhammad Yone

I am most excited to see what Kinya Okada brings to this match. His generational rival is in the main event challenging for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team belts but here Okada has an opportunity to team with the GHC Heavyweight Champion.

Okada has only just passed two years since his debut and at the back end of this year only just started achieving singles victories over NOAH’s newest graduate, Yasutaka Yone, and took Inamura to a time limit draw. But where Inamura looks to have a bright 2021 ahead of him, win, lose or draw in the main event, Okada has been firmly left behind. I want Okada to break out and break out in a big way next year so I hope that this is his chance and a win over a senior wrestler would cement that.

Baring in mind it took Yoshinobu Kanemaru five years from his debut and winning the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship, being the first ever to hold that belt, before he was able to beat any of his senior wrestlers who had debuted before him. So I hope Kinya Okada and Yoshiki Inamura alike don’t have to suffer that fate.

Shiozaki recently retained his belt in a 52 minute war against Takashi Sugiura that was awarded 5 Stars by the WON. And post match Keiji Mutoh came out to officially challenge him and that match has been confirmed to take place at NOAH’s return to the Nippon Budokan on February 12th. I know a lot of people are unhappy about this match but I can at least understand the logic in it. But seen as Mutoh is unlikely to be on any shows outside of January 4th and 31st, Go will have to keep himself occupied between now and then.

However do not let that take away from how incredible Go has been this year. The matches against Kiyomiya, Fujita, Marufuji and Kenoh, the story and drama over the death of AXIS, his fantastic performance in the N-1 Victory and his last two amazing matches against Nakajima and Sugiura. He may have been snubbed by Tokyo Sport for the MVP award and instead given the Outstanding Performance award, however he is without shadow of a doubt mine and many other’s Wrestler Of The Year for 2020.

This match isn’t all about Shiozaki and Okada. Taniguchi, like always, has had a solid year but the big victories continue to allude him. Yone hasn’t challenged for a singles title in over three and a half years and now finds himself in a gatekeeper position where he is lower down the card. But a win for either of them against Shiozaki might give them one last chance to break in to the main event scene again.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

Kongoh (Katsuhiko Nakajima, Manabu Soya & Masa Kitamiya) vs Akitoshi Saito, Masao Inoue & Masashi Aoyagi

Honestly expect this to be a bit of an extended squash with maybe a few hope spots for the Kongoh team….

I am obviously joking as the Kongoh heavies are going to crush, kill and destroy. Saito can still go but is hopelessly outmatched by his opponents. Inoue is NOAH’s loveable loss post but maybe not as beloved by the western audience. And Aoyagi at 63 years old is in the twilight of his career and has not had a far reaching impact in his career.

But we all love an underdog right? Or we all love seeing the young crush the weak. You’ll get what you want out of this match if your expectations are not high.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa & HAYATA) vs Atsushi Kotoge & Junta Miyawaki

The GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions gained a new ally in Yuya Susumu but they continue an old rivalry with Kotoge and Miyawaki.

This same team beat STINGER on the 8th of November… Via DQ. Miyawaki also pinned Ogawa on the 14th of November but you should give a big assist to the special guest referee Kotaro Suzuki who may or may not have counted that three count a little fast.

With everything that’s happened this year, could we see a third and final STINGER vs Momo No Seishun tag title match take place in 2021? I wouldn’t rule it out and a victory for Kotoge and Miyawaki would help set that up. And hopefully will lead to bigger things for Miyawaki next year too as with Inamura, Okada and Yone all debuting after him, he could get lost in the shuffle.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

Hajima Ohara vs Yasutaka Yano

Yano has shown promise since his debut on October 28th. As the 15th graduate of the NOAH dojo he has a lot resting on him to add fresh blood to NOAH. Let’s be honest, NOAH has had a fantastic 2020 but with an ageing roster and reliance on freelancers, it’s not sustainable and that bubble will come crashing down.

This will be Yano’s last chance to impress in 2020 against the man who beat him in his second ever match and is a former GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. Ohara has a great technical style of wrestling that he learned early in his career from Ultimo Dragon and Toryumon Mexico. He would fit in perfectly in Dragon Gate with his lucharesu being as good as any of Ultimo’s former students and would have ended up in Dragon Gate if he had started his career just a little earlier.

So that is why this rematch will be such a good learning experience for Yano, even if the result is not in doubt.

Credit – Pro Wrestling NOAH

And that’s the card for this Saturday’s show.

And if you sign up in December you will also get the Kongoh produced show airing live on Saturday December 26th.

The last NOAH involved show is the Sugiura Army produced show on Tuesday 29th December. It’s currently unknown as to whether it will be airing for free and worldwide so follow @Hi5ame to keep an eye on that.

Thank you for reading this and if you’ve read any of my other NOAH preview pieces and feud articles. I really appreciate you taking the time to read it and I hope you enjoy the show!

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