The rebirth of New Japan Pro-Wrestling and Pro Wrestling NOAH’s relationship in the back end of 2021 posed a great prospect. Their shared Wrestle Kingdom 16 in Yokohama Arena show was set up to be the defining moment in what could evolve to be a treasured alliance. While the show didn’t live up to admittedly lofty standards, the same grand prospects regarding NJPW vs NOAH remain.
I’ve been contemplating whether or not to write about the New Japan and NOAH joint, supposed “supershow” card on January 8th since it happened. Billed under the lauded Wrestle Kingdom banner, the show promised to be a card fitting of being called a “supershow”, but instead, we were royally underwhelmed.
No doubt, the future of NJPW and NOAH is in very safe hands, as Kosei Fujita and Yasutaka Yano showed this weekend!— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) January 10, 2022
Watch the #prowrestlingpower replay and help support Japanese Red Cross!
(English commentary)https://t.co/QRefrXH41E pic.twitter.com/AF1VJo5prr
NJPW vs NOAH – The Road Ahead
Following the Announced Supercard
When the initial announcement was made, I wrote very excitedly about the dream match potential and world-beating possibilities of an alliance revived between Japan’s two most premier promotions. However, that whirlwind of excitement didn’t withstand the disappointing thud of the card being presented to us. Instead of a flurry of singles matches topping an undercard of tag matches, the card saw tag team matches top to bottom; not quite how it was built before the card became realized.
This is where the overwhelming disappointment stemmed from, as the build was dominated by singles pairings – Shingo Takagi vs Katsuhiko Nakajima, Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Keiji Muto, Kazuchika Okada vs Kaito Kiyomiya. Even though we got to see these pairings in tag team form, it was fundamentally an underwhelming announcement when these came to fruition outside of one-on-one battles. The drama and specialty that important, main-event level singles matches give can’t quite be matched by multi-man tags, which is essentially the problem of the NJPW vs NOAH Wrestle Kingdom 16 show.
It wasn’t a “supershow” level card by any means, as dream matches were nowhere to be seen. Instead, we sat through bizarre combinations in inconsequential tag matches before eventually reaping rewards for our investment in the top 3 matches.
The Top Matches of NJPW vs NOAH Event
First, Zack Sabre Jr. and Yoshinobu Kanemura’s historically influenced limb-work war with Naomichi Marufuji and Yoshinari Ogawa took place. Afterward, fans saw the chaotically fun Los Ingobernables de Japon and KONGO clash, before Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi rounded out the show against Keiji Muto and Kaito Kiyomiya (a truly star-defining performance for Kiyomiya).
The trudging undercard gave the headline matches a true uphill battle if they were to pull off a rescue job, but at least in part, the key matches left a lasting impression. It was the co-main events of LIJ vs KONGO and the star-studded show closer that proposed the most promising signs of more exciting things to come from the alliance. Despite the mostly underwhelming nature of the card, it did promise more noteworthy crossover to come.
The essence of this article is to look at where we go from here. The fiery announcement followed by the uninspired card and inconsistent show means the revived alliance hasn’t quite lived up to expectations. However, we must remember, it isn’t over yet.
The seeds have been sown, now we have to see them grow.
LIJ victorious over Kongo as the struggle for #prowrestlingpower between Kenoh, Nakajima, Naito and Takagi take center stage— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) January 9, 2022
Watch the replay now!
https://t.co/QRefrXH41E …#njpw #noah_ghc pic.twitter.com/yQOlx0Fhzm
Where Do We Go From Here?
The tussles at the crossover show between the headliners, such as Katsuhiko Nakajima and Tetsuya Naito’s ‘tranquilo’ one-upmanship or Muto and Tanhashi’s legendary faceoff, whetted the appetite for more. We all want to see the huge singles matches that this alliance can bring.
The sell-out crowd (which came before the matches were announced, might I add), novelty factor, and mouth-watering faceoffs made the glance through the looking glass of what this alliance could breed. The fans reveled in the action – audibly at points, unable to resist bending the stringent rules on verbal noise.
Clearly, the desire is high for further crossover between the two companies. Both domestically and internationally, it has to be said.
It seems as if the Wrestle Kingdom show was the kickstarter for more interesting and anticipated matches down the line, rather than being the house of these encounters as we first thought. It seems inherently reasonable to expect Kaito Kiyomiya to feature in NJPW again, sometime soon. Kazuchika Okada looks to be the opponent. Surely?
The Main Event Aftermath
The striking visual of Kiyomiya walking away from the ring, unable to raise his head with tears leaking from eyes, while Muto held his arm around the young star will stick with me. Kiyomiya had finally earned the respect of Keiji Muto, the living legend telling him not to cry as he helped him away from ringside was a symbol of Muto finally taking Kiyomiya under his wing.
The image of Muto helping a crestfallen Kiyomiya away from the ring was reminiscent of that of Kazuchika Okada breaking down as Gedo comforted him after main event defeat at Wrestle Kingdom 10.
The comparison was deliberate.
Okada and Kiyomiya will cross paths again, with the NJPW-NOAH partnership being the perfect environment for this tantalizing battle of current versus future. They shouldn’t be the only ones to cross paths again, as if the two promotions are to truly capitalize on the relationship then more crossover should come.
The Wrestle Kingdom showdown teased Tomohiro Ishii and Yoshiki Inamura doing battle (something I’ve already covered more extensively, here), as well as the LIJ and KONGO headliners going to intense, personal war. Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Shingo Takagi stands out quite amazingly, but a match between respective leaders, Kenoh and Tetsuya Naito, would be utterly spellbinding too.
The Dream Team of Hiroshi Tanahashi and Kazuchika Okada ruled the roost against NOAH on January 8.— NJPW Global (@njpwglobal) January 13, 2022
Will they have similar success against future challengers SANADA and Tetsuya Naito 2/13?
Live in English on @njpwworld!https://t.co/oBFs5RSYXK#njpw #njgolden pic.twitter.com/kdHPK3wABR
NJPW vs NOAH – In Closing
The possibilities are immense – I said all this before. When the opening announcement was made, fantasy booking dream matches was the only thing to do, but now that time has passed, a more reasoned expectation has built.
No one knows what is to come from the NJPW-NOAH relationship except those leading it. Although, if the third night of Wrestle Kingdom 16 was the litmus test, then it seems wholly likely that an upping of the alliance will come
Singles matches are what we want; Let’s hope we get them. The revived NJPW-NOAH alliance is one of the most exciting propositions in pro wrestling, so we wait with bated breath for what’s to come.
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