Noob Japan: Fermata in Holy Emerald Flood

When the ark set sail, it rained and it rained
As the floods covered the new world 
All life seemed to have perished with it
Rarely did it hang on
While the vessel stayed afloat
Noah had sent a dove to search for new lands
He waited and waited and waited
Nine years had passed and Noah died on the seas
Those that stayed on the ark waited for the dove
But it never came
Did it exist anymore? Did the world exist anymore?
Soon, it returned, but would not stay
Noah’s ark sails forevermore.


A new year is upon us, full of changes, hopes, and promises. In an arena of silent fans, hushed in fear of a quiet, airborne menace, they bore witness to spectacle. Spectacle the likes that heralded great tidings, but would they last? Would a golden new age be upon wrestling, as the ark set anchor on a promised land? 

The dove had not yet arrived, though. Beg for hallelujah, beg for catharsis, beg for the dove. See if those prayers are answered.

For tonight, a glimpse of a dove had been seen, but it was only a glimpse.

What I Know
January 1st, 2022, a clash between veterans of Pro-Wrestling NOAH at Budokan Hall for the GHC Heavyweight Championship: Go Shiozaki and Katsuhiko Nakajima, the latter as the reigning, defending champion. Former partners, they now stand as bastions of a bygone era.

The Match
Per a friend’s recommendation, I checked this match out. I was wanting to dip my toes into a promotion I hadn’t seen at all, rather than return to NJPW, just to see what new experiences I could gain. Allow me to discover what I had been missing out on.

Even without context, I feel a sense of nostalgia, and a mound of tension. There was a feeling that this was a destiny meant to be, but could it live up to the hype by this aura alone?

Go Shiozaki enters, looking super cool, and therefore I think he should win. He has a cool cape and his hair is awesome, he embodies the emerald I’ve come to associate with NOAH.

But what’s this? Piano music that gets my booty a-shaking? It’s a man hooded in crimson, carrying the GHC title. Katsuhiko Nakajima is here. He also looks cool, thus I am now conflicted. He has cool hair as well. I don’t know who I want to win. Without context, this is the merit I have to go by.

Credit: Pro Wrestling NOAH

To start off the match both men are locked in an intense staring contest, the crowd clapping, an apt response to maintaining deadly eye contact. I may sound like I’m prattling on like I am insulting this. I am not – I have genuine goosebumps as I type this. Even the camera work sells this like its life depended on it.

Nakajima charges and kicks Shiozaki who just wipes it off and slaps the red-garbed opponent right in the chest with a loud and resounding thud. He follows this up with a devastating German suplex. As Nakajima recovers outside the ring, grasping on the apron, Shiozaki grows weary with impatience and breaks him down, chipping away at the current golden boy. Nakajima, however, still breathes life and strikes back enough to knock Shiozaki down, and now it is his time to eat. He cockily sits on Shiozaki’s chest for the pin, knowing the count wouldn’t reach three. 

As I notice from this match, I see Go Shiozaki favors chest slaps while Katsuhiko Nakajima opts for a kick-based strategy, all part of a healthy, balanced breakfast. As affirmed earlier, I am not familiar with either men, but I have seen Nakajima’s pose on the ropes as he uses his legs to hold his competitors to the turnbuckles. It is a pose he strikes more times during this match.

Propping Nakajima up against the turnbuckles, Shiozaki turns the clocks back with chops to the chest, just like the Pillars before him. Afraid he didn’t give the turnbuckles on the opposite side the proper attention, Shiozaki whips Nakajima to that corner and again pelts his chest raw. He’s just annihilating Nakajima’s titties at this point. This brutal percussion rings like Jon Bonham performing Moby Dick. One would think that would get a three-count pin, but Nakajima said no to that.

An Irish whip by the dominant emerald man turns Nakajima into a weapon, who dive kicks Go’s legs to stagger him, then a drop kick to halt all momentum completely. Now the director, the red champion is calling the shots and a shot he does fire off, with a missile dropkick from the top turnbuckle. It’s his game now. Discarding Shiozaki out of the ring like trash, Nakajima kicks him back over, before swinging his opponent into the barricade and sending him further into it.

Nakajima proceeds to clap in applause in front of a commentator behind the barricade, which prompts him to applaud back. Both men seem happy. This is wholesome content right here, right in the heat of battle. The challenger is now the toy of the title holder.

It takes a strong person to dig deep inside yourself and stand back up after insurmountable odds chip away at you until you are a husk. That is fighting spirit, and in this moment, Go Shiozaki finds it in his soul to not give up and not stand for any more abuse.

Akin to a scene in an old western film, the two have a stand-off. It is a conflict of endurance. Go’s chops and Nakajima’s kicks, the latter turning the tide back to his side once more, but only fleetingly so. 

There is a new battle, one to suplex the other off of the ramp onto the hard floor below. The green overpowers the red in this, the referee counts slowly while Shiozaki rises to his feet to claim his opponent’s exhausted body off the floor he sent him to and back into the ring. With the speed of sound, Shiozaki sends strike after strike of various measures to keep Nakajima down, but the champ still has some fight left in him. 

Another duel for the fate of the GHC title ensues, each opponent’s weapon of choice traded onto the other’s bosom until it is battered and pink. This continues for an uncomfortable amount. The sting becomes all the more evident, but there’s no time to quit – there’s a hefty prize on the line. That desperation booms in the arena with each hit to the chest. 

Exhaustion once again holds dominion over the competitors, and no matter how hard they fight, they collapse. The crackling claps from the crowd chants them back to life, both men arise and use their strengths against the other, but Nakajima is the one who survives and he slams Shiozaki for a two-count.

After a bitter exchange on the top turnbuckle, Shiozaki delivers Nakajima onto the mat, buying him some time to recuperate. This is time desperately needed, for this is survival – may the fittest claim that prize. Two lariats in a row from Shiozaki still isn’t enough to seal the deal, enraging the jade superhero, and that frustration leads him to a failed moonsault as Nakajima rolled out of harm’s grasp. Once again in fate’s favor, Nakajima kicks Shiozaki back down for a near-fall, before gaining another one as Shiozaki is slammed onto the ground. Shiozaki is too alive to give up. 

Credit: Pro Wrestling NOAH

It’s moments like this that inspire tenacity – no matter how bad things may get, you don’t give up on yourself when the fight in you rages like a forest fire, engulfing all the self-doubt and opposition, even if the odds are not in your favor and you lose all that you have fought for.

Shiozaki climbs Nakajima, who shouts his jade-laden rival’s name, before slamming him down on the mat, and finally, victory is Nakajima’s.

The title is retained, the war is over. The dove has flown away from the ark.

My Thoughts
This match was executed so well. It draws you in, and swallows you up. Every success and failure is vicariously breathed within you as Nakajima and Shiozaki fight even when their souls beg for them not to. 

This match was worth the hype, and in retrospect, it still is. As it stands, Pro-Wrestling NOAH is in a hard spot right now with some dodgy booking decisions, from my understanding.

From having aging legend Keiji Mutoh become champion to wrestlers with allegations appearing on their product, the good graces NOAH had built up with fans has come crashing down, many lamenting the state the company was heading in.

Eventually, Nakajima lost the belt in February to Kazuyuki Fajita, another veteran, who would then vacate the belt two months later. Go Shiozaki would finally win the belt for his fifth reign before losing it in June to NJPW’s Satoshi Kojima – thus making him not only a former IWGP Heavyweight Champion as well as a former Triple Crown Champion for AJPW, but now a GHC Heavyweight Champion.

While Kojima’s newest accolade is great and all, Shiozaki is a talent you absolutely maximize and prioritize in your brand. He looks like a star and has shown he is well-deserving of holding the gold for more than just a few mere months.

Pro-Wrestling NOAH is an exciting promotion with a plethora of endearing and incredible wrestlers. But the booking has divided the fanbase, who are ready to see the present and the future lead the ark to new land.

As with any wrestling company during times of mistakes and stagnation, there is still so much to love though, as this match has clearly shown.  NOAH is great, we know it’s great. Fans would just appreciate having the promotion built on pillars of greatness to reflect that.

But will we ever have that promised land come back to us? Will we escape the floods?

Maybe, maybe we’ll find out, once the dove flaps its white wings and brings to us that olive leaf to let us know that there is life ahead.

But this will not be the only trip I will take aboard the ark, I am confident of that much.