This matchup between two of the best in Pro Wrestling NOAH, and Japan for that matter, peaked my interest as soon as it was announced. What should have been a battle for the GHC Heavyweight title turned into a non-title matchup booked in December for one of the first Korakuen Hall shows of the year. The gimmick lately has been that all of these shows are strictly singles matches. I don’t think it’s a bad idea–because it gave us THIS (and Hi69 and Taiji Ishimori most likely putting on what was at least a good match). Some of you may be familiar with Nakajima pending on if you’ve seen the G1, watch(d) NOAH, etc. Kenou is one of the most underrated wrestlers on the planet in my humble opinion. He’s so slick, fast, stiff, he’s everything you want compacted into a junior wrestler, now turned heavyweight in NOAH. The hype was sure real, and is for many more matches to come for Kenoh. It’s non-title.
Katsuhiko Nakajima def. KenouFrom The First Navigation, Show 3
The match went roughly 20 minutes and breezed by. There was never a point in the match where the length felt annoying. It felt well paced, with the feeling out process being trumped quickly by GUN SHOT, and I mean VERY LOUD kick exchanges that would grow bigger plus louder as the match progressed. Little things like Nakajima concentrating all his energy on a headlock, staring into the ground with his stoic “I need to harness all I’ve got, here” expression kept me more invested than say: a sports entertainment look at the camera before the hulk up, one. Although this is the weirdest Korakuen Hall has ever looked on camera to me, with empty seats facing the hard-cam, the two got a good enough audience reaction, captivating whoever you are, wherever you’re watching from with those damn kicks. That was the theme of the match, where everything came secondary to the exchanges. We’d get some neat counters, that energy headlock, a cool down break in-between–but it was a showcase of the two and how batshit insane they can be. There was also a little bit of limbwork which everyone knows, pops me. Kenoh’s leg was affected for a little while, but it never played into the finishes or exchanges much. It isn’t annoying because the pain slowly went away. He’d still check it. Nakajima sold the mid-section in suburb ways, when he was kicked, or hit in the gut in general. It’d be like mini “here we go again” heartburn, releasing all his energy into trying to ignore it, but just having to grab upon the area to make sure everything was okay. The escalation felt a little flat/odd because of the all out exchanges that would happen all over the place (which I loved), but nothing could top that, so we got some penalty kicks from both leading to kickouts that saw both literally shoot up vertically. Head to the ground, legs kicked all the way up, type kickouts. Eventually Kenoh was put away with the brainbuster for a Nakajima victory. A big success as a match, having Kenoh hang with the ace for 20 minutes plus, never looking like less of a wrestler. He just isn’t ready yet, having burned out, being beaten further, then being stomped out of the match with a brainbuster.
KATSUHIKO NAKAJIMA VS. KENOH - NOAH JANUARY 9
Overall this gets ***3/4. A great outing for Kenoh to kickoff the new year as a serious contender in the GHC Heavyweight title picture, rather than lingering in the junior undercard pumping out bangers that aren't *as* important. Nakajima remains the ace, obviously, as this was a non-title main event. 2017 will be the year of me pimping as much Kenoh, Nakajima, great new NOAH as possible. How much will that be? Who knows.