Shiozaki vs Sugiura: The Rivalry For The Belt

Shiozaki vs Sugiura: The Rivalry For The Belt

CREDIT – PRO WRESTLING NOAH

Go Shiozaki will defend his GHC Heavyweight Championship for the sixth time in his fourth reign against Takashi Sugiura on the 6th of December 2020.

Coincidentally, it was 11 years ago to the day that on the 6th of December 2009, Shiozaki and Sugiura first faced off with the GHC Heavyweight Championship on the line, with Sugiura able to dethrone the champion Shiozaki.

They have battled each other for that belt 5 more times since then. But before we get to that, here’s a summary of each competitor before the 2009 match.

Takashi Sugiura’s Background

Sugiura was the very first to make his wrestling debut on a NOAH show on the 23rd of December 2000. However, he is not technically considered a NOAH born graduate as he joined the All Japan dojo before the split into NOAH. Sugiura followed Misawa and the rest of the All Japan roster (bar two natives) to form Pro Wrestling NOAH.

Originally a junior heavyweight, Sugiura would become involved in the feud between Pro Wrestling NOAH and New Japan Pro Wrestling that spanned from 2002 until 2004. He entered NJPW’s Best Of Super Juniors 2003 and made it to the semi-finals, where he was eliminated by Koji Kanemoto.

That success in NJPW carried over to his home turf where he defeated Micheal Modest for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship in September 2003. He defended it against NJPW’s Gedo and future long term rival KENTA before losing to Jushin Thunder Liger in the Tokyo Dome on January 4th 2004.

He and Yoshinobu Kanemaru would dethrone the original GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions, Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA in June 2005 and then in June 2006 he would reclaim the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship from KENTA to become a double champion that year.

At the end of 2006/beginning of 2007, he would lose both junior belts and officially move up to heavyweight. He and Marufuji would beat D’Lo Brown & Bull Buchanan to become GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champions in October 2007. They held the belts until May 2008, where they lost them to Akitoshi Saito & Bison Smith.

He would challenge for the GHC Heavyweight Championship for the first time in June but would fall to Takeshi Morishima. But 2009 would become his year.

Returning to the Tokyo Dome for NJPW’s Wrestle Kingdom III on January 4th, he and Mitsuharu Misawa took on Shinsuke Nakamura & Hirooki Goto and kick-started the second NOAH vs NJPW war. He would be pinned by Nakamura but in March, Nakamura & Milano Collection A.T would come to NOAH.

The two invaders faced Sugiura and new partner, Go Shiozaki. The future opponents would take the win after Shiozaki pinned Milano. Sugiura would be the main representation for NOAH against NJPW, beating Goto on an NJPW show in June before losing an IWGP Heavyweight Championship match against Hiroshi Tanahashi in July.

Sugiura entered that year’s G1 Climax and would again reach a semi-final in NJPW, losing to eventual winner Togi Makabe. His hard work and defending of NOAH was rewarded with a GHC Heavyweight Championship match against new champion, Shiozaki, on the 6th of December 2009.

Go Shiozaki Background

Shiozaki was the second official Pro Wrestling NOAH dojo graduate (after Kotaro Suzuki) and he was their first heavyweight. Debuting July 24th 2004 in a tag match against Jun Akiyama, it was clear NOAH had high hopes for him. In fact, his second-ever match, his first singles match the day after his debut was an untelevised loss to Takashi Sugiura.

He began his trial match series in January 2005 (very quick for a rookie!) with matches against Akiyama, Misawa and Kobashi all happening in under a fortnight. Shiozaki would be Kobashi’s protege in a way, as he closely resembled his mentor.

It was that partnership with Kobashi that resulted in an incredible tag match against Kensuke Sasaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima in 2005 (And read all about Shiozaki’s rivalry with Nakajima HERE) and the pair travelling to Europe together a week after for another big main event in England against Akiyama & Doug Williams.

Shiozaki would return to Europe twice more in August 2006, making his Ring Of Honor debut, and then April 2007 where he competed in King Of Europe and wXw’s 16 Carat Gold. He faced former ROH World Champion Bryan Danielson at ROH’s Japanese debut show. Nigel McGuinness defended the ROH World Title against him on a Pro Wrestling NOAH show in January 2008.

So when it was time for Go to make his lengthy foreign excursion he was sent to America to work for ROH and Full Impact Pro in early 2008. Shiozaki would go back and forth between America and Japan (as well as being in the main event of NOAH’s European Navigation in England, their first show outside of Japan) and would challenge Nigel again unsuccessfully but would win the FIP World Heavyweight Championship from Erick Stevens in August.

He would work all of ROH, FIP and NOAH until he lost the FIP belt to Tyler Black (now Seth Rollins) in December and return to Japan in January 2009. He partnered Sugiura as they beat the NJPW team of Nakamura & Milano as mentioned in Sugiura’s background.

Shiozaki & Mitsuharu Misawa partnered up for the 2009 Global Tag League where he pinned current GHC Heavyweight Champion Jun Akiyama on the first night and received his first shot at the belt just over a week later. Akiyama would retain. Go and Misawa would go on to win the tag league.

Tragedy struck when Misawa would pass away in their GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title shot against Saito & Smith. Akiyama, wrestling through his own injuries, would view Misawa’s death as a wake-up call and vacate the GHC Heavyweight Championship. The very next night, Shiozaki defeated Takeshi Rikio to win the belt.

I know I covered this already in the Shiozaki/Nakajima article, but this is incredibly important to note in Shiozaki’s career. He was primed to be Champion. There was already a plan in motion. But that went all out of the window and his first championship was born out of tragedy.

He would take the GHC Title to New Japan where he defeated young lion Kazuchika Okada on the same show Sugiura lost to Tanahashi. He and KENTA beat Sasaki & Nakajima in an amazing match and then beat Nakajima in a single match a week later. Shiozaki and KENTA beat the crap out of each other in a legitimate randomly selected match which saw the two GHC Champions face off.

At the Mitsuharu Misawa memorial show, Shiozaki would make his one and only successful title defence against Akitoshi Saito in a deeply emotional match. And then his second title match was set against Takashi Sugiura for the 6th of December 2009.

December 6th 2009

What can I say other than I love this match? It was absolutely incredible; I still love it as much as I did the first time I watched it. This remains one of my favourite GHC Heavyweight Title changes (yes I am aware of Misawa vs Kobashi),

Everything about this match feels big. You’ve got the big entranceway and stage at Nippon Budokan, as well as the flag banners for each wrestler. In fact, this is the first time a NOAH Budokan show is headlined by two wrestlers who debuted after NOAH was formed.

Sugiura starts with a slap and the two quickly come to blows. It’s a battle of chops, elbows and kicks. This truly is a fight and the crowd respond accordingly. The battle spills outside the ring and Shiozaki slingshots Sugiura into the turnbuckle.

I really miss that long entrance ramp but I imagine Sugiura doesn’t with the memory of him getting suplexed on it. Shiozaki attempts to follow through with a diving body press over the top rope onto Sugiura on the ramp but gets caught and hung up to dry which is turned into a neck breaker.

It seems that Sugiura tends to have an answer for Shiozaki’s offence and makes the champ pay any time he goes for something predictable. But Shiozaki, to his credit, is wrestling a “perfect” match, the only problem is Sugiura refuses to go down.

Shiozaki hits a moonsault that is mainly knees to the chest but Sugiura kicks out. Later in the match, he hits a lariat but TAKASHI SUGIURA KICKS OUT AT ONE! Shiozaki pummels him with chops to the face and a short-arm lariat but again Sugiura kicks out. Go performs a perfect looking Flasher but SUGIURA KICKS OUT AGAIN!

The crowd can feel it. You hear them getting louder and louder as Sugiura fights back. The two exchange hard slaps to the face and Sugiura grabs Go’s head and brings him face down in to his rising knee. Sugiura hits the Olympic Slam but GO NOW KICKS OUT!

The ref is all over checking if Go can continue and he fights back with some superkicks until Sugiura German suplexes him into the turnbuckle. Now Shiozaki is cornered, trapped, desperately fighting not just to keep his belt but to survive. Sugiura is merciless with his elbows, places Go on the top rope and delivers a massive Olympic Slam, and marks the end of Shiozaki’s championship run.

It’s hard to argue with Sugiura winning the belt here, not just for his performance in this match but his 2009 as a whole. For me there was no better wrestler in 2009 than Takashi Sugiura. Japan and the World.

Sugiura has a fantastic reign after that. He defended the GHC Heavyweight Championship against Hirooki Goto at Wrestle Kingdom IV. And then against Togi Makabe on a NOAH show, to avenge the G1 the year before. And two former GHC Heavyweight Champions back to back, in Yoshihiro Takayama and Jun Akiyama. So he’s just over 9 months in, 4 successful title defenses but now here’s a familiar face.

Go, on the other hand, has had a rough time since losing the belt. He lost to Hiroshi Tanahashi at Wrestle Kingdom IV. He got injured shortly afterwards and was out until April. He was drafted in as a last-minute replacement for Takeshi Rikio to face Togi Makabe for the IWGP Heavyweight Championship in June, but he lost that match too.

He showed signs of bouncing back with victories over Nakajima and Tanahashi in a rematch on NOAH turf. But then lost his one and only singles match against Kensuke Sasaki.

Entering the 2010 G1 Climax, like Sugiura the year before to represent NOAH against NJPW, a draw on the final day to Shinsuke Nakamura would see him narrowly miss the finals (they had done away with the semi’s from this point onwards). He did manage to beat Nakamura on a NOAH show in mid/late August and got himself a future GHC Heavyweight Title shot.

September 26th 2010

I could unfortunately only find a video of this match that is joined in progress and is only the last 11 minutes.

Shiozaki feels more like the underdog already in this match. Sugiura is hitting harder and whenever they exchange strikes, Sugiura is winning. Sugiura hits an Olympic Slam but Shiozaki kicks out at two. He puts Go on the top rope in an effort to repeat the move that won him the belt but Shiozaki fights back and lariats Sugiura down with such force that even he loses his balance off the top rope and comes crashing down.

The momentum seems to be shifting in Shiozaki’s favour but no matter what he tries, Sugiura keeps kicking out! They go back to trading elbows and strikes but just when it looks like Sugiura is weakened and Shiozaki goes to press the advantage, Sugiura responds with a flurry of strikes to put the challenger down.

Sugiura sits on top of Shiozaki’s body and rains down elbows to his head as the referee desperately tries to check Shiozaki’s condition but Sugiura keeps hammering those elbows. The ref eventually breaks them up and Shiozaki has to be conscious enough to express his desire to continue but then Sugiura responds with a hard kick directly to the back of his head! BUT GO KICKS OUT!

Unfortunately for Shiozaki, Sugiura drags him to his feet and delivers one final Olympic Slam to retain the belt.

If you imagine NOAH as a video game, Sugiura in this match was that final boss that you lost to more times than you would want to admit and made you want to rage quit in protest. There was no stopping Sugiura here.

Takashi Sugiura would go on to cement himself as the ace of Pro Wrestling NOAH. He defended the belt in Mexico against Chessman. He beat Morishima to end 2010. Bison Smith in early 2011. Giant Bernard early March as part of the NOAH vs NJPW feud. Trevor Murdoch in late March. And Minoru Suzuki in early May 2011.

Sugiura sat at 11 successful title defenses against Kenta Kobashi’s record of 13. He then did something unprecedented as he defended the GHC Heavyweight Championship on back to back nights, Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Europe. Dave Mastiff and then Kotaro Suzuki in England to match Kobashi’s record. And then Claudio Castagnoli (Cesaro) in Germany to break it and stand at 14.

Shiozaki would begin 2011 by losing to Shinsuke Nakamura at Wrestle Kingdom V. He would return to Germany for the wXw 16 Carat Gold tournament but lose in the semi-finals to WALTER. His fortunes would change in June when he beat Morishima in a number one contendership match for the GHC Heavyweight Championship.

July 10th 2011

Shiozaki is 0 and 2 to Sugiura in title matches. In fact, he is 0 and 5 to Sugiura in singles matches overall. He has never beaten him. And he’s in a must-win situation here. Three losses in a row would establish him as well below Sugiura – who could take him seriously as a main eventer going forward? He is the first person to challenge Sugiura twice for the belt in his current reign.

This feels like a continuation of the 2010 match in that Shiozaki is the underdog and Sugiura is this massive obstacle for him to overcome. It’s still a battle of chops, kicks, elbows and slaps and Sugiura always manages to rock Shiozaki the hardest. You can see Masao Inoue watching from ringside with a constant grimace on his face as the two trade strikes.

Sugiura damn near kills Shiozaki by doing his release forward suplex on to the ring ropes and Shiozaki barely has enough of a bounce back not to land directly on his head. Shiozaki gets his payback however by lifting Sugiura over the top rope and just letting him fall face first on to the ring apron.

Finally in control Shiozaki follows that up with his diving body press over the top rope, a running knee to Sugiura’s head while draped on the ring apron and a spike fisherman buster but Sugiura will not stay down. He manages to forcefully bring himself back into the match by spearing Shiozaki through the ropes while he was stood on the apron, Shiozaki flying back hard into the guard rail.

An Olympic Slam can’t keep Shiozaki down. A massive moonsault from Shiozaki to Sugiura only gets a count of ONE! Sugiura places Shiozaki on the top rope and GERMAN SUPLEXES HIM ONTO HIS FACE! Yes, that’s right, Shiozaki lands face first before the rest of his body catches up and hits the mat. But the challenger somehow kicks out.

The two go back to trading hard strikes and it has to be pointed out that Shiozaki is a master at selling. He is woozy, he is staggering, he is half-conscious but he’s still fighting back. Well either he’s good at selling or legitimately getting the piss knocked out of him!

Shiozaki hits a lariat but gets elbowed by an unflinching Sugiura. Lariat, elbow. Lariat, elbow. Then it’s lariat, slap. Lariat, slap. Lariat and slap! Something eventually has to give and fortunately for Shiozaki, it’s Sugiura who finally goes down.

The crowd, while not as loud as they were at Budokan for their first match, start to come alive with yelling as it finally looks like Shiozaki has a chance at winning. Shiozaki has to dig deep and debut a new version of his Limit Break in order to put Sugiura down for the three count.

This would be their last GHC Heavyweight Championship match together for almost five years.

Shiozaki would defend the belt against Akiyama. He entered All Together (the joint NOAH/NJPW/AJPW fundraising show after an earthquake devastated Japan earlier in the year) as GHC Heavyweight Champion to team with the IWGP Heavyweight and Triple Crown Champions for the first time in history.

He then beat Takayama and Global League 2011 winner KENTA. But then lost the belt to Morishima in January 2011. Which, Sugiura held the belt for over a year and a half so it wasn’t likely for Shiozaki to have a reign that long so soon after Sugiura but it still didn’t feel like Shiozaki got the reign he deserved. So by All Together 2, he was on the “challenger” team instead of the “champions” like he was six months prior.

He would lose a rematch to Morishima in July and would leave NOAH (along with Akiyama, Kanemaru, Suzuki and Aoki) in late 2012 in protest of NOAH releasing Kenta Kobashi and other inactive senior members of the roster in order to save money. His second to last match in NOAH at that time was a singles loss to Sugiura.

Sugiura would take a step back from the main event scene after the end of his 581 day reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion. He would lose a number one contendership match to KENTA at the end of 2011. And would lose to KENTA again in the finals of the Global League 2012.

I’m going to gloss over 2013 to the end of 2015. Basically, Shiozaki joined All Japan Pro Wrestling and lost several matches for the Triple Crown against Suwama, Akebono and Joe Doering before he finally beat Doering for the belt in January 2015. He would make two defences against Zeus and Kento Miyahara before he lost the belt to Akebono in July. He would leave AJPW in October and rejoin the Pro Wrestling NOAH roster in November.

Sugiura would fail to regain the GHC Heavyweight Championship from KENTA, Marufuji, Yuji Nagata and Minoru Suzuki during Shiozaki’s time away from NOAH.

Minoru Suzuki and his Suzuki-Gun stable had invaded Pro Wrestling NOAH from New Japan and taken all of the GHC Titles. Marufuji was able to beat Suzuki to take the belt back into NOAH but then the unthinkable happened and Sugiura attacked Marufuji after he had won and revealed himself as the newest member if Suzuki-Gun. He would go on to beat Marufuji and begin his second reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion in late January 2016.

Go Shiozaki did not have the red carpet rolled out for him on his return to NOAH. There were many who still harboured a grudge for him leaving NOAH during their time of need. He spent the first month of his return in singles matches, away from the NOAH vs Suzuki-Gun feud as nobody trusted him.

It took Yoshinobu Kanemaru returning to NOAH for Shiozaki to find himself a partner for a two man mission against Suzuki-Gun. However it was all a ruse as when Shiozaki faced Suzuki in a singles match, Kanemaru turned on Shiozaki, attacking him and giving the victory to Suzuki on a silver platter.

Now Shiozaki had earned some trust back from the NOAH roster and he was eventually granted a shot at the GHC Heavyweight Championship to take it away from Sugiura and Suzuki-Gun.

28th May 2016

This is their first ever match with a clear face/heel divide. Sugiura, as part of Suzuki-Gun does not even use U2’s “When Love Comes To Town” to show how bad he is now. He’s not just a heel, he’s a monster!

It’s well worth your time to watch the video package before the match as it shows Shiozaki’s return to NOAH and there are people audibly booing him! So it goes to show how far along he’s come now to be in the main event and have the NOAH fans supporting him again.

And speaking of how far along he’s come, this doesn’t feel like the same Shiozaki we saw five years ago. He is standing his ground and chopping the life out of Sugiura! Sugiura’s chest is bleeding in the first few minutes! Shiozaki is dominating him and the champion does not have a response.

Their first matches were about the competitive rivalry over the GHC Heavyweight Championship and being the MAN in Pro Wrestling NOAH. This is about Shiozaki, the man who left NOAH but came back, defending the company against a man who has recently turned his back on them. And there’s a deeper irony in that 7 years ago when Sugiura beat Shiozaki for the belt, it was off the back of Sugiura being the main man representing Pro Wrestling NOAH against New Japan.

Sugiura is able to claw his way back into the match when they brawl around ringside and he sends Shiozaki into the guard rail. From there Sugiura focuses all his energy on the back, clubbing forearms, elbows and even a Boston Crab. Sugiura is wearing his Killing Machine tights and you have to agree with them.

Shiozaki keeps battling his way back into the match and keeps troubling the champion. With Sugiura perched on the top rope, Shiozaki nails him with a picture perfect dropkick that he must have only just busted out from his rookie years! Shiozaki goes for his diving body press over the top rope, gets a little bit of Sugiura on his way down but practically goes face first in to the bottom of the guard rail.

He keeps the pressure on Sugiura and Suzuki-Gun must recognize the danger their champion is in as TAKA Michinoku attempts to invade the ring and is held back by several NOAH roster members. However it was all a ruse as Minoru Suzuki distracts Shiozaki, Shelton Benjamin then nails him with a superkick and Sugiura absolutely levels him with a chair shot. BUT SHIOZAKI KICKS OUT!

The match continues and the two trade strikes, mainly chops and elbows. Sugiura slaps Shiozaki in the face so hard a sheen of sweat flies off in every direction. Sugiura keeps slapping him and the impact is so very visual in how the sweat flies. Sugiura goes for a punch but the referee stops him.

That momentary distraction is all Shiozaki needs to level Sugiura with a larait. Limit Break!!! WE HAVE A NEW GHC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION!!!

HOLY CRAP! THAT MATCH WAS INCREDIBLE!!! I feel like I didn’t do much of a play by play for it, but this was an absolute war. It’s two guys, arguably in their prime, beating the hell out of each other. You have the action. You have the drama. You have the story and the backstory if you delve that far back. WATCH THIS MATCH!!!

30th July 2016

Shiozaki would go on to retain his newly won belt against the man who attacked him, Shelton Benjamin. And then a rematch was booked straight away between Shiozaki and Sugiura to take place at Korakuen Hall.

But not just a standard singles match. A Lumberjack match with Suzuki-Gun and NOAH roster members around the ring. Sugiura has Suzuki himself, El Desperado, Taichi and Takashi Iizuka. Shiozaki has Muhammed Yone, Shuhei Taniguchi, Masa Kitamiya and a very young, very fresh faced Kaito Kiyomiya in his corner.

Shiozaki’s confidence and growth shown in the match two months prior is again shown but now has to contend with cheaters and rule breakers surrounding ringside. When Shiozaki and Sugiura are both thrown out towards the NOAH roster, they are helped back in with nothing underhanded. When Shiozaki is thrown out towards Suzuki-Gun, he is pounced on and attacked.

You get pockets of fighting breaking out around ringside while Shiozaki and Sugiura battle in the ring. Taniguchi even tries to attack Sugiura outside the ring to show that even NOAH are willing to bend the rules but he gets attacked by Suzuki-Gun for his trouble and Iizuka uses that distraction to continue the assault on Shiozaki.

By now you know what you are getting with these two in the ring and they throw heavy chops, elbows, kicks and slaps. But if you hate constant interference and the referees getting treat like dirt, you may not get on with this match. At least Suzuki-Gun were mainly the only ones doing it in NOAH at that time, but I know a lot of people have soured on NJPW in 2020 due to reasons on full display in this match.

Suzuki knocks the ref into Shiozaki to take him out and all of Suzuki-Gun hit the ring to attack. The NOAH loyalists return the favour and you have fighting all over the place and Sugiura wallops Shiozaki with a chair again. Shiozaki manages to kick out and stay alive for a while but it never feels like he has the chance to retain, especially when Sugiura kicks out of the Limit Break at ONE! this time.

The two trade chops and elbows with Sugiura rocking Shiozaki and then an Olympic Slam with Sugiura climbing on top of Shiozaki for three count. The belt goes back to Suzuki-Gun!

Truthfully their weakest match but through no fault of their own with how much effort they put into this match. Korakuen Hall was rocking. It had a big fight feel with Suzuki-Gun vs NOAH. But a Lumberjack match is always going to feature outside interference and drama outside the ring. And if you don’t care for that, this match will already be at a disadvantage.

They would not face each other with the belt on the line for more than two years.

Sugiura would eventually lose the belt to Katsuhiko Nakajima. Nakajima would not only beat Sugiura in a rematch but go on to beat Shiozaki in his next defense afterwards.

Nakajima would lose the belt to Eddie Edwards who would then lose the belt to Kenoh. Kenoh would lose the belt to Sugiura in March 2018 to begin his fourth reign with the GHC Heavyweight Championship.

Sugiura made defenses over Atsushi Kotoge, Marufuji and Kenoh. But on the 10th of June, NOAH would put on a special tag match to honour Mitsuharu Misawa with odd tag partners as Sugiura teamed with Marufuji to take on Shiozaki and Nakajima. And Shiozaki pinned Sugiura to win that match and set up a title shot.

18th August 2018

These two just know each other so well by now that when Sugiura makes a mistake after hanging Shiozaki up on the ring apron and goes for his routine running boot, Shiozaki is able to dodge it and take control of the match.

He remains in full control until he also gets too predictable, going for his diving shoulder tackle but goes jaw first right down on to Sugiura’s knee – Ouch! Sugiura makes him pay for earlier by then hanging him up on the ring apron and fully connecting with that running big boot which sends Shiozaki flying back first into the guard rail.

There is an ebb and flow to this match as the two trade strikes and control of the match and it can’t be better examplified by Shiozaki doing the Kobashi machine gun chops to Sugiura in the corner, Sugiura grabbing Shiozaki to throw him against the turnbuckle and throw rapid fire elbows, to Shiozaki then going back to the chops.

Another picture perfect dropkick from Shiozaki to s Sugiura perched on the top rope and Shiozaki follows it up with his diving body press to the outside again (fortunately not going into the guard rail this time. Shiozaki powerbombs Sugiura into the turnbuckle in a move that you would expect more out of Sugiura and unleashes a gut wrench razors edge powerbomb-esque move that only gets a two!

Sugiura remedies the slight from earlier with a German suplex into the bottom turnbuckle and kneels down to unleash some hellacious elbows to Shiozaki’s head and you can really hear the thuds with each blow. A running knee to Shiozaki’s face later and you can see the lights are on but no one’s home.

The Champion is ruthless in his assault from then on out. BUT SHIOZAKI KICKS OUT OF THE OLYMPIC SLAM! Sugiura puts him up on the top rope to repeat his 2009 victory but Shiozaki fights back with a SCARY top rope Limit Break!

Lariat. Go Flasher… SUGIURA KICKS OUT! Go tries to cave Sugiura’s chest in with chops but the Gowan Larait can’t keep the champion down either. Going for the moonsault proves to be a mistake as Sugiura gets his knees up. They trade chops and elbows and even I hurt watching them!

Go is a man possessed as he invites Sugiura to hit him and then the two trade headbutts. I am not kidding when I tell you that Shiozaki dishes out a headbutt with a THUD so loud it travelled around the arena and got a yelp from me and my wife watching at home. Nasty, nasty, nasty. Jesus this was AFTER Shibata too.

Minutes later Shiozaki is lifted off his feet by a rising knee to the face but a regular Olympic Slam only gets two. A super massive top rope Olympic Slam seals the deal however much like 2009 and Sugiura retains the GHC Heavyweight Championship. WHAT A MATCH!!!

I can’t help but feel that this match (and the 2017 title match against Nakajima) made the NOAH office know that they were eventually going to give Shiozaki another reign with the belt and finally give him that ace reign but he had to wait until they had firmly established rising star Kaito Kiyomiya.

If you can only watch three matches before their next one on December 6th I would recommend 2009, May 2016 and this one. All are able to stand out in their own way and all are absolutely fantastic.

Sugiura would go on to lose the belt to Kaito Kiyomiya, ending his fourth reign at 280 days and six successful title defenses. Kiyomiya would defend the belt against Sugiura in a rematch and hold it for well over a year before losing it to Go Shiozaki.

And there you have it.

11 years and this will be their seventh GHC Heavyweight Title match against each other.

Sugiura has won four of them. Shiozaki two. But Shiozaki has never retained the belt against Sugiura. He lost it to him in 2009 and 2016. Sugiura on the other hand managed to successfully defend his belt against Shiozaki in 2010 and 2018.

And we’re only two weeks removed from Shiozaki’s incredible title defence against Nakajima. This is Shiozaki’s longest reign to date, holding the belt since January 4th 2020 and treating every singles match since as a title match.

He’s beaten Kazuyuki Fujita, Akitoshi Saito, Naomichi Marufuji, went to a 60-minute draw against Kenoh (the first in the history of the GHC Heavyweight Title) and the win over Nakajima.

But his title reign has taken its toll on his body. His body appears to be more and more broken down each match. More and more tape covers his shoulders and arms each time we see him.

However, he is a defiant champion. It took almost 11 years for him to finally get his ace reign and he’s not ready to let it go so easily. He told Nakajima that he could shred his arm – And watch the match and you’ll agree that Nakajima damn well tried his best to do just that! – but that he still would not lose control of his belt.

Takashi Sugiura is probably the worst opponent you could face if you are already hurting and showing weakness. He has a smash mouth style that really brutalizes and punishes his opponents. Plus he has already beaten Shiozaki to begin his title reign twice and Shiozaki has never walked in and out as champion in a match against Sugiura.

Whatever the end result you are guaranteed a hard-hitting match between these two on December 6th 2020 and I can’t wait to watch it!

The show will air live and for FREE on ABEMA TV.

Pro Wrestling NOAH have had a fantastic 2020 and whether you’re a new fan or you’ve been aboard the Ark for many years, I hope you enjoy what you see and keep checking out NOAH.

As Shiozaki said at Yokohama Budokan – WE ARE NOAH!

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