The Fall And Revival Of Pro Wrestling NOAH

Added by MC Lee


The high seas is a long, harsh and dangerous place to be. The twists and turns it can take you is a place where you either find stability or sink into oblivion. Without the proper tools, even the best ships can fall with no end in sight, never to return to the light but sometimes, the darkest times can be a doorway to the promised land. Can lead to redemption, to absolution, to a revival. Pro Wrestling NOAH is a perfect example of this. A company once revered to many as a wrestling promotion of the highest quality. Once of the biggest wrestling promotions in Japan, crumbled into blackness and just when all seems lost, a beacon of hope was found and they fought and scratched their way to a place where they can be proud of.

The Fall

Pro Wrestling NOAH was founded in 2000 by Mitsuharu Misawa after he left All Japan Pro Wrestling, all long with the majority of the roster. After 5 good years, problems quickly arose. One of their biggest stars, former GHC Heavyweight Champion Kenta Kobashi was sidelined in 2006 with cancer. Mixed with injuries to other top stars such as Jun Akiyama and the founder of Pro Wrestling NOAH, Mitsuharu Misawa, new stars were desperately needed needed.

But however, with every attempt to push new stars like Naomichi Marufuji, Takeshi Rikio and Takeshi Morishima failing, the popularity of NOAH began to fall. New stars were needed to replace the older guard but no one was working.The fans weren’t interested in the new younger stars. With interest and crowd decreasing as well as Japan economy going into recession, Nippon TV cancelled Pro Wrestling NOAH. Without a TV deal, Pro Wrestling Noah’s business fell even further. With enormous amounts of pressure felt by Misawa, he continued to wrestle despite overwhelming amounts of injuries, in order to keep the company afloat.

Until June 13th 2009. On this sad day, Misawa teaming Go Shiozaki, a touted future star by Misawa, faced Bison Smith & Akitoshi Saito in a tag team match. During the match, Saito hit a belly to back suplex on Misawa who fell unconscious after taking the move and died later that night. After the death of NOAH’s founder, the company felt started to decline at a much faster rate. Kenta Kobashi returned in 2007 after recovering from cancer but however, he soon was gone from NOAH due to a nerve injury which sidelined him for almost 20 months. Their top star was once again gone. Who was left to save Noah?

Noah was now in serious decline. NOAH was now a shadow of their former self. Things then took a turn to the worse when in 2012, Noah was filled with controversy being tied with the Yakuza. The Yakuza was revealed by Jun Izumida (a former employee released due to contract ties) in a book he released stating how they helped NOAH sell tickets to their events. NOAH’s reputation was now in tatters, with Yakuza ties gaining a TV deal would now be extremely difficult to obtain.

Later that year, Pro Wrestling NOAH announced the release of Kenta Kobashi. This sent shock waves throughout the wrestling world. In protest, fellow pro wrestler such as Jun Akiyama, Atsushi Aoki, Go Shiozaki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Kotaro Suzuki all announced that they weren’t going to renew their contracts. A mini exodus at the worst time for Noah would devastating. NOAH and Kobashi then came to an agreement where Kenta Kobashi would retire instead of being released but despite this, the mini exodus continues. All hope was lost. Kenta Kobashi’s retirement show, Final Burning at Budokan which would be held on the 11th of May, is a key part of NOAH history as it was the last Pro Wrestling NOAH held in the famous Nippon Budokan.

The next day after the announcement, Pro Wrestling NOAH signed Daisuke Harada, Mikey Nicholls and Shane Haste to full time deals trying to youthen the roster. Pro Wrestling NOAH additionally gave the GHC Heavyweight Title to a long time fan favorite KENTA. KENTA beat Takeshi Morishima at Great Voyage 2013. Despite KENTA not being as well received by the fans like was once, this was a desperate need for change for Noah but this time, it was a positive change. KENTA held the GHC Heavyweight Title for over a year before losing it back to Takeshi Morishima on the New Year Navigation 2014 Show held on 5th of January. But on the 30th of April, KENTA announced his resignation from Pro Wrestling NOAH and soon joined WWE. Any other star was now gone.

Then in 2015, NOAH lost yet another star, Takeshi Morishima who had to retire due to blood problems. In addition, Pro Wrestling Noah create a partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling and as a result gained Jado, from New Japan Pro Wrestling as the Head Booker of the promotion. Jado then brought along Suzuki-Gun. Suzuki-Gun was made up of Minoru Suzuki, Taichi, Taka Michinoku, Lance Archer, Davey Boy Smith Jr, Shelton Benjamin, Takashi Iizuka and El Desperado. Jado booked Suzuki-Gun strong. Including Minoru Suzuki winning the GHC Heavyweight Champion off NOAH’s top star, Naomichi Marufuji for the title.

The Suzuki-Gun did bring an increase for Pro Wrestling NOAH but however, the angle ran its course and the match became increasingly stale and tiresome. The Suzuki-Gun angle soon caused Noah’s business to decrease once again. The product was the worst it’s ever been. The talent was old, stale and never gained any notice from fans. The partnership with New Japan Pro Wrestling had so far given Pro Wrestling Noah little shorter success but long term was a bigger failure.

Then on November 1st, Pro Wrestling Noah was sold to Estbee, Co, Ltd. and IT Development company. And a new president was announced. Masayuki Uchida took over as President from Akira Taue who was given an advisory role within the company. As a result, Pro Wrestling Noah and New Japan’s relationship become unstable and New Japan pulled it’s wrestlers from Noah events, including Suzuki Gun.

The Revival

This left Pro Wrestling Noah with a small roster but however Noah soon brought in YO-HEY, HAYATA and Hi69, freelancers to help rebuild to company. Also, a new GHC Heavyweight Champion was crowned, Katsuhiko Nakajima. Nakajima who was singed full time for Noah a new prior was positioned to be the ace of the promotion and a new era for Noah was said to be formed. NOAH REBORN.

With this new moniker, the product as a whole changed almost instantly. The philosophy of the promotion had changed. The matches, the structure, the booking and the presentation of the promotion was a completely new and fresh. The promotion showed potential that he hasn’t showered in years. But however, Pro Wrestling Noah’s business was still at a low for many months into 2017. Despite NOAH’s promising start, something was still missing, Nakajima who was at the helm was missing a spark. Katsuhiko Nakajima is a fantastic pro wrestler but he was lacking the connection with the crowd needed to be a successful ace. It’s wasn’t his fault necessarily but he wasn’t the right guy for the role. Attendance was up from previous years but it still wasn’t enough. Sadly, NOAH was still drifting.

In February that year, NOAH announced a partnership with Impact Wrestling as well as AAA and The Crash. This lead to the return of Eddie Edwards. Eddie Edwards is considered a NOAH boy, training under NOAH in every tour he participated in, adapting some of his offence off NOAH legends like Misawa. In his return, Eddie Edwards shocked the world when he BEAT Katsuhiko Nakajima to become the first ever gaijin (foreigner) to win the GHC Heavyweight Champion. At the time, it was thought to be a terrible decisions by Noah. Yet another example of extremely poor booking. Especially when he was unable to compete in the Global League. Whilst, it wasn’t the best booking, it didn’t affect NOAH negatively at all. It was quickly recognized that Edwards was a transitional champion. This allowed NOAH to focus on building a challenger rather than a champion. Someone who can take the reins and lead NOAH for the future, someone like Kenoh.

Kenoh’s rise within NOAH wasn’t very noticeable until the Global League came along. At the beginning of the year, Kenoh was a recently tuned heavyweight and became a tag team partner of Masa Kitamiya and claimed tag team gold, winning the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles until he turned on him to joined Takashi Sugiura winning the GHC Heavyweight tag titles with him as well. Then suddenly, Kenoh won the Global League, beating Go Shiozaki in the finals of the Global League.

Around this time, Kenoh had been focusing on NOAH and its history saying that NOAH should move away from the past and rebuild. Stating that he will take NOAH back to Budokan Hall. Keno’s attitude stood out, starting gaining more and more interest from fans. Kenoh goes on to beat Eddie Edwards for the GHC Heavyweight title at the December 22 Winter Navigation event which was highly acclaimed for its high quality matches. But it was not only Kenoh being praised, the GHC Heavyweight Champion, RATEL’S member Daisuke Harada as well.

Under Kenoh and NOAH’s new approach, business has been doing much better with Korakuen Hall shows gaining much better attendance then they were only a year before. Whilst they aren’t at their highest, it’s a sign of improvement and a sign of much better business going forward. With Kaito Kiyomiya returning from excursion, going into the main event scene as a rival for the new Champion. RATEL’S member like Harada, YO-HEY, HAYATA and Tadasuke making the undercards a must watch spectacle, Taiji Ishimori, Atsushi Kotoge also. With older talent helping the rooster being revitalized under the new regime like Marufuji, Muhammad Yone and Maybach Taniguchi. NOAH’s future looks bright. There is still so much work yet to be done but the ark is back on track and with someone like Kenoh and others steering the sheep in the right direction, maybe Noah will return to Budokan Hall and complete their revival.