PRO WRESTLING NOAH
STEP FORWARD 2022
FEBRUARY 9, 2022
Watch: Wrestle Universe
KAI FUJIMURA DEF. YASUTAKA YANO (5:59)
This was a nice little young boy match to open the show. Both guys are progressing nicely, especially Yano. Lots of good-looking arm drags in this. Fujimura got the win with a Crab Hold. ** ¾
FUNKY EXPRESS (MUHAMMED YONE, AKITOSHI SAITO & KING TANY) DEF. MASA KITAMIYA, YOSHIKI INAMURA & KINYA OKADA (9:58)
This was perfectly fine for the second match on the show. Funky Express did their schtick and were in control for most of the opening minutes. Inamura looked good here and was the standout, as he often is. My issue with this match was the result. Saito pinned Okada with the Sickle of Death. Okada and the rest of his team are above losing to Funky Express at this point. Inamura and Okada are both pushing 30 and really have yet to receive any kind of sustained pushes. Apart from Kaito Kiyomiya, Inamura and Okada, NOAH is actually thin on younger guys that have top-of-the-card potential. And with Keiji Muto out with an injury, that should be proof it’s time to push the young guys and not the senior citizens. ***
HAJIME OHARA & HAOH DEF. KONGO (NIOH & ALEJA) (8:31)
Haoh and Nioh wasted no time in laying into each other. This is a nice little undercard Jr. feud, something NOAH does not do a lot of. This was a back-and-forth faced paced match. Nioh had Haoh at a disadvantage but Haoh got a reversal into a Tornado Clutch for the win over Nioh. This feud will no doubt continue, and I’m looking forward to it. *** ¼
DAIKI INABA, KOTARO SUZUKI & SUPER CRAZY DEF. NAOMICHI MARUFUJI, ATSUSHI KOTOGE & JUNTA MIYAWAKI (11:54)
The Inaba vs. Marufuji sequences in this were very good. The last couple of minutes that saw Super Crazy against Miyawaki were not so good. Not actively bad, mind you, just kind of slow. Super Crazy pinned Miyawaki after a Moonsault. Miyawaki is another young guy in NOAH that deserves a higher push in the Jr. division. After the match, Inaba and Marufuji brawled until they were separated. This started off well, but alas, Super Crazy. ** ¾
KAITO KIYOMIYA DEF. HAYATA (12:01)
Well, I’ve been vocal in the past that HAYATA is one of my least favorite wrestlers, so let’s see what Kiyomiya can get out of him here. As it turned out, Kiyomiya is a miracle worker, because I thought this was pretty good. Kiyomiya looked great, and HAYATA, other than some arm work that was mostly uninteresting, did not manage to do a lot of bad stuff. Kiyomiya got the win with a Tiger Suplex Hold. Watching Kiyomiya work an opponent like HAYATA shows you how good he is at the little stuff and his ability to work with a limited opponent. He’s one of the best in the world now, it’s safe to say. *** ¼
PERROS DEL MAL DE JAPON (EITA, YO-HEY & NOSAWA RONGAI) DEF. STINGER (YOSHINARI OGAWA, SEIKI YOSHIOKA & YUYA SUSUMU) (7:57)
This was mostly just a lot of brawling to start. At one point, Ogawa hit Eita over the head with a cardboard box. Things got a little better towards the end when Yoshioka was in there. Susumu accidentally hit Yoshioka with an Enziguri which allowed YO-HEY to soon follow up with the Face G for the pin on Yoshioka. There was not much to this other than to keep the Perros vs. Stinger feud going. ** ¾
GHC JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
DAISUKE HARADA © DEF. TADASUKE (11:41)
Tadasuke might be the ex-RATELS guy that I dislike the least. This started at a pretty good pace, including Harada getting slammed on the apron early on. Apart from a few holds early on, they just kept going. Tadasuke controlled a lot of this match with Harada getting in some counters at big moments. After a pretty hot closing stretch, Harada got the pin with the DOKAAAN‼ for his first defense of the title.
This was pretty darn good, and further confirms my feelings about Tadasuke. There’s little that I love more than a match that is tight with little filler. After the match, Super Crazy came out to challenge Harada. I have a perverse desire to see that match just to see what Harada can get out of him. *** ¾
SUGUIRA-GUN (TAKASHI SUGIURA KAZUYUKI FUJITA & KENDO KASHIN) DEF. KONGO (KATSUHIKO NAKAJIMA, KENOH & MANABU SOYA) (20:55)
This started with a bunch of grappling between Fujita and Nakajima. It was not bad at all, just not the kind of tone I like set at the beginning of a six-man tag. Sugiura and Soya got in there and did some good stuff but then Kashin tagged in there and did his usual stalling. Kashin then got worked over by Congo for a while which did not help the excitement in this match.
Things did pick up later on with nice sequences between Nakajima and Sugiura. The final stretch of the match between Fujita and Nakajima was pretty good too, auguring well for their GHC Heavyweight title match on February 23. Fujita hit a Powerbomb and then a Punk Kick that the camera missed but made a sickening sound to pin Nakajima. Despite the shaky start, this redeemed itself in the end. *** ¼
MASATO TANAKA DEF. GO SHIOZAKI (20:12)
Of Shiozaki’s three match series on these Korakuen Hall shows, this is the match I was looking forward to the most. I love Tanaka. Watching him in ECW way back in 1999 was a major reason I got into puroresu. Now I get Tanaka can be a one-trick pony, and can get exposed in longer matches, but Shiozaki has the pure ability to overcome those weaknesses in his opponent.
Tanaka hit a Sliding D to Shiozaki’s right leg while the latter was standing on the apron. Once they got back in the ring, Tanaka then went to work on the leg. Shiozaki sold the leg for a good while, even while on offense, but as things picked up towards the climax, the leg selling got dropped. There were also, not surprisingly, some loud-ass chops from Shiozaki in this and some brutal-looking strike exchanges in the closing minutes.
Tanaka unleashed a flurry of forearms and Shiozaki tried to stand his ground and counter them, but Tanaka landed two more big ones that knocked Shiozaki over. Tanaka then followed that up with the Sliding D for the win.
This match turned into a real war by the end. Spotty selling aside, I really dug this and Shiozaki managed to covercome Tanaka’s tendency to run out of interesting things to do in a match. Check this one out. **** ¼
The first night of NOAH’s triple-header at Korakuen Hall turned out to be a good show. If you’re strapped for time, check out Kiyomiya Vs. HAYATA, the Jr. title match and the main event.
Shiozaki losing in the main event means that the storyline around his challenge series is going in a direction that few expected. It will be interesting to see just where it goes. NOAH booking gets more grief from some quarters than I think is warranted, so I’m reasonably confident that this story will turn out well.
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