Match Point is an ongoing series at Last Word on Pro Wrestling, where we look at intriguing matchups in indie wrestling and beyond. They may be dream matches, first-time matchups, or hotly anticipated rematches. At NOAH THE NEW YEAR 2022, GHC Heavyweight Champion Katsuhiko Nakajima defends his title against Go Shiozaki.
Pro Wrestling NOAH is on the verge of their major event, NOAH THE NEW YEAR 2022. In this event, NOAH will return to what many consider one of its main homes. Nippon Budokan, where they weren’t seen in a few years until early 2021. Prior to this event, we will take a look at the GHC Heavyweight Championship match between defending champion Katsuhiko Nakajima and challenger Go Shiozaki. This match is one that’s been a year in the making.
「ABEMA presents NOAH“THE NEW YEAR”2022」
— プロレスリング・ノア ｜PROWRESTLING NOAH (@noah_ghc) December 17, 2021
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Go Shiozaki, NOAH THE NEW YEAR 2022
In The Beginning
Katsuhiko Nakajima and Go Shiozaki are considered by many as two of the top stars of Pro Wrestling NOAH. They are two of the breakout stars from the early 2000s under the mentorship of Kenta Kobashi and Kensuke Sasaki. Kobashi mentored Shiozaki, while Sasuke mentored Nakajima. Nakajima is known for his lethal kicks, while Shiozaki boasts a never-say-die attitude and the propensity to lariat people. As years went by, championship successes would be different for both men.
Go Shiozaki is a more dominant GHC Heavyweight Championship in reigns. Meanwhile, Katsuhiko Nakajima was relevant in the junior scene for years. Nakajima was one of the top stars of that scene, being a former 3x GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. As the career of Shiozaki would gradually dwindle in the early 2010s with occasional GHC title wins, the career of Nakajima revived when he won the GHC Heavyweight Championship, having an extremely successful reign. This, however, would mark a ceiling in the career of Katsuhiko Nakajima for a few years.
The Story of AXIZ
As late 2018 approached, they formed a tag team, AXIZ. They changed the game in NOAH’s tag team scene, being former 3x GHC Tag Team Champions. For most of 2019, this tag team was in a long-standing rivalry against Kazma Sakamoto and Takashi Sugiura. AXIZ became a fan favorite and towards the new decade, a new contender for Kaito Kiyomiya’s GHC Heavyweight Championship would have to be decided.
In a match not many know about, Go Shiozaki battled against Katsuhiko Nakajima in one of the last events of 2019. This match was extremely brutal, featuring brutal kicks and chops. Ultimately, Shiozaki won this encounter. Shiozaki would go into the New Year with a completely modern look and attitude. This change would be worth it, as he ended the reign of Kaito Kiyomiya, becoming the new GHC Heavyweight Champion.
The next night, Go Shiozaki and Katsuhiko Nakajima lost their GHC Heavyweight tag team titles. This was a blow for Shiozaki, but an even more devasting one for Nakajima, who was without a championship.
Before the AXIZ Split
As the pandemic was just beginning, Go Shiozaki was the reigning and defending GHC Heavyweight Championship. His reign lasted for over a year. In that year, the tag team AXIZ would receive another blow as they lost the Global Tag League Final. Still, it didn’t matter for Shiozaki; that wasn’t his focus. Katsuhiko Nakajima comprehended this and became a contender for the GHC National Championship in a tournament that was announced after Global Tag League. Ultimately, Nakajima secured both the tournament and title victory.
While Shiozaki was receiving the greats of NOAH, Katsuhiko Nakajima faced inadequate challengers. The match against Soya would start gaining the attention of KONGO’s leader, Kenoh. On the first night of Departure 2020, Katsuhiko Nakajima would be knocked out by Kenoh in a humiliating loss. Meanwhile, Shiozaki’s success continued as he retained his championship on Night Two of Departure.
Shiozaki would battle Kenoh at an upcoming show, battling in the first 60-minute time-limit draw in the GHC Heavyweight Championship’s history. After this match, new GHC Tag Team Champions would need to be crowned, which would ultimately lead to the turn of Katsuhiko Nakajima.
N-1 Victory 2020 & Shiozaki vs. Nakajima at The Chronicle Vol.4
Katsuhiko Nakajima turned on Go Shiozaki, affiliating himself with KONGO. Katsuhiko Nakajima went into the N-1 Victory with a more determined attitude and new fire. If this fire meant ending Go Shiozaki’s reign, so be it. With this, Nakajima won the tournament, almost heading to the finals against Go Shiozaki but Kaito Kiyomiya would defeat him in the previous show.
Katsuhiko Nakajima faced off against Go Shiozaki at NOAH’s The Chronicle Vol.4. This was a heavily emotional match, showcasing Shiozaki at almost his peak as the leading champion in NOAH, experiencing the onslaught of his challengers. Meanwhile, he was still able to hold onto his championship when it truly counted. Following a grueling 44 minutes, while Shiozaki retained his championship in an incredible match. As the rest of the year went by, Katsuhiko Nakajima’s status in Kongo remained as just a significant name. It would take until Shiozaki’s departure that Nakajima proved himself an immensely valuable asset to KONGO.
The Fall of Go Shiozaki and the Rise of Katsuhiko Nakajima
As the New Year approached, Go Shiozaki just defeated Takashi Sugiura to retain his championship and Keiji Mutoh was the first challenger for the new year. In February, Shiozaki’s reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion would come to an end by Mutoh. Shortly after losing the title, Shiozaki left Pro Wrestling NOAH to nurse some ongoing injuries, rendering him inactive for eight months. But after this, the rise of Katsuhiko Nakajima would begin.
At NOAH’s Great Voyage Yokohama, Katsuhiko Nakajima reformed his tag team, The Aggression, reuniting with Masa Kitamiya. While Shiozaki would leave soon after March, Nakajima and Kitamiya won the GHC Tag Team Championship. Their reign was short-lived, with Kitamiya turning on his partner shortly after. They would have a blowoff match at Cage War 2021, facing off in a grueling cage match, the loser losing their hair. Kitamiya would defeat Nakajima, who had his head shaved.
As the months of 2021 went by, Nakajima remained embroiled with Kitamiya in tag and trios action. The GHC Heavyweight tag team titles were rendered vacant and two separate teams would face-off, with Kitamiya and Kiyomiya winning the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Katsuhiko Nakajima would stay relatively inactive in the singles scene until September’s N-1 Victory.
N-1 Victory 2021 and Katsuhiko Nakajima’s Second Reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion
Katsuhiko Nakajima would go into his block a heavy favorite to succeed in it. Nakajima had notable matches with the likes of Kazushi Sakuraba, Masato Tanaka, and Kotaro Suzuki to name a few. Nakajima would receive one loss in that tournament. However, he went on to the finals, defeating Masakatsu Funaki and eventually Kenoh to win the N-1 Victory for the second time in a row. The man that emerged victorious felt like a completely new Nakajima. The blonde-streaked victor challenged Naomichi Marufuji for the GHC Heavyweight Championship.
In this match, Katsuhiko Nakajima and Naomichi Marufuji put on a very impactful match that saw Nakajima capture the GHC Heavyweight Championship. After defeating Marufuji, Nakajima would successfully defend his championship against Masato Tanaka. Nakajima would then regain the attention of Kenoh. In the battle of KONGO, Kenoh and Katsuhiko Nakajima battled for an opportunity to become the first GHC National and GHC Heavyweight Champion at the same time.
In one of the most brutal matches of the year, Nakajima and Kenoh went the distance of 60 minutes, the second time-limit-draw in the GHC Heavyweight Championship’s history. It was after this match, however, that an unknown challenger approached.
The Return of Go Shiozaki & Where We Are Now
After the time limit draw, Go Shiozaki would make his return to Pro Wrestling NOAH, challenging Katsuhiko Nakajima. This was their battle to decide the true personification of NOAH. In December, Shiozaki made his in-ring return in a tag match with Kaito Kiyomiya against Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kenoh. Since Shiozaki returned, he and Kaito have been facing Kenoh and Nakajima at multiple events.
Two of the major tag matches were won by Shiozaki and Kiyomiya, while one tag match was won by Kenoh and Nakajima. However, KONGO remained dominant in other matches until the end of the year. This placed both wrestlers on equal footing going into their upcoming title match. That is where we are presently in the story between Katsuhiko Nakajima and Go Shiozaki.
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Go Shiozaki – In Closing
Let’s talk about the stipulations of this match. This is not only for the GHC Heavyweight Championship; this match is also for the right to say “I am NOAH.” This catchphrase was held by Go Shiozaki before being lifted by Katsuhiko Nakajima in his first reign. These aren’t the only stipulations, as if Shiozaki wins, AXIZ would reform. Nakajima felt extremely reluctant but accepted the terms.
If Go Shiozaki wins, he holds the GHC Heavyweight Champion, AXIZ would reform, and KONGOH would receive a major blow all at once. If Katsuhiko Nakajima wins, he will conquer one of his biggest nightmares. He would also retain his GHC Heavyweight Championship and establish higher ambitions as champion. It’s one of those matches that is quite hard to call. It’s also one of the biggest in both of their careers.
Will Go Shiozaki regain his GHC Heavyweight Championship, or will Katsuhiko Nakajima prove he’s the personification of NOAH by conquering one of his biggest demons? We will find out the answer to that question at NOAH “THE NEW YEAR” on January 1st, 2022.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world. You can watch Pro Wrestling NOAH as well as DDT, TJPW, and more on Wrestle Universe.