Pro Wrestling NOAH’s history has been populated by a plethora of matches that defy reasonable expectations and reach the very pinnacle, which only the Gods of pro wrestling can achieve. Whether it be Kobashi vs. Misawa, KENTA vs. Marufuji, Kobashi vs. Takayama or Sasaki and Nakajima vs. Kobashi and Shiozaki. What do these matches have in common? They all took place in Tokyo’s historic colosseum of pro wrestling, Budokan Hall. The newest edition to a staggering list of matches: Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Go Shiozaki.
Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Go Shiozaki
In a Budokan Hall showdown many years in the making, NOAH’s two top stars dueled spectacularly for the coveted GHC Heavyweight Championship. Former tag team partners in AXIS, bitter rivals opposite the ring from one another, and perennially linked superpowers throughout their careers – they have an entangled story.
The setting of Budokan Hall was quite simply the only place for Shiozaki to challenge Nakajima; in the very same building that they teamed with Kenta Kobashi and Kensuke Sasaki respectfully while youthful prospects. It was almost a full circle moment for them, as they wrestled in the building where their historic careers saw their first acts.
NOAH’s 3rd Great Voyage 2005 (November 5), was the first time that Nakajima and Shiozaki shared a ring. Doing so with the legends, Kobashi and Sasaki – two of the greatest names in all of pro wrestling – was quite incredible. Their tutors guided them in creating history.
On January 1, 2022, Nakajima and Shiozaki created history of their own. They headlined the impressive Budokan Hall, on top of a card that delivered great excitement and intrigue. The match itself held much gravitas with it not only being a bout for the GHC Heavyweight Championship but a contest between the proudest of rivals.
The most intense of striking exchanges, the most brutal Machine Gun Chops, and the most vicious of kicks struck a powerful cord, as these made the match a truly dramatic affair. In the half-hour that Nakajima and Shiozaki wrestled they matched as equals, eventually one bested the one with a climactic shot. Though, not before taking a ranging flurry of immense punishment and retort.
Importantly, the match still harked back to the evergreen encounters of yesteryear from the likes of Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuhara Misawa. The thunderous moment when Shiozaki delivered a German Suplex from off the ramp to the Budokan floor will be forever etched in the annals of wrestling folklore. It resembled the Tiger Suplex which caused Kobashi to hit the very same floor courtesy of Misawa in 2004.
This was a stunning call back that assured this match was to be remembered. The clear relation of this match to the historic clash of Kobashi and Misawa 18 years (almost) prior, put it on the very same, lofty pedestal. Historic.
If Atlas Was Two Men
In current day pro wrestling, Nakajima and Shiozaki are two which stand out more than almost all. Nakajima’s striking is unrivaled, as each shot bellows around any arena as if it was a gunshot. Shiozaki wrestles with the grandeur that only the greats can muster, with every single second being possessed by meaning and importance.
When Shiozaki succumbed to a culmination of injuries and was forced to take time off for surgery, he was the Atlas of Pro Wrestling NOAH, holding the company up solely on his shoulder. However, since then the baton of responsibility fell to Katsuhiko Nakajima.
Now, with both men fit and healthy, at the pinnacle of NOAH, it’s clear that they both reside in the Atlas position. The company rests not on one of them, but on both.
Nakajima has taken to the primary role expertly, carrying out many a Match of the Year contender in 2021, before he started 2022 on exactly the same foot. Shiozaki has the chance to reach the pinnacle, and restore himself as the company’s singular Ace, in this year. Though, Nakajima stands in his way.
Their New Year’s Day bout is a stunning rendition of a tune they have sung before, and it will almost certainly be a song they sing again in future. Their history – and joint status as NOAH’s Atlas – is far from over.
Nakajima vs Shiozaki will be a match that could be talked about, written about, and thought about endlessly. Each time, there will be a different perspective or detail.
It was a match that flowed beautifully, like a symphony. Their most famed prior face-off, in 2020, carried much the same intensity and sheer quality as their most recent match, but the New Year’s Day clash held a staggering amount of importance and weight in a grander sense.
You could get lost in the intrinsic details of the match much like you could a forest of dense trees. However, even beyond the bell-to-bell match, Shiozaki and Nakajima provided stellar performances. The ring entrances just for starters – Shiozaki dressed in a robe (of emerald green) which befit the heroic Misawa, and Nakajima descending Budokan into a deep sea of red as he made his champion’s entrance.
Though the red of Kongo shone in Nakajima’s entrance, it was the green that symbolically rose through Shiozaki’s presentation that creates the most striking imagery. Green depicts NOAH perfectly, encapsulates the evergreen nature of the promotion.
Matches that happened in the 2000s have managed to live on unwaveringly in the memory of fans (and wrestlers, who continue to call back to their famed moments). Budokan is reserved to the joyous memories of the mind, as a history-defining main event comes with the territory of Budokan Hall shows.
To main event such a historic venue, in a historic match, for a historic title is no easy feat. Yet, without even a minimal stutter, Katsuhiko Nakajima and his challenger, Go Shiozaki, wrote another chapter in the book of Pro Wrestling NOAH. It’s already a book worth reading, but it’s far from a finished piece just yet.
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