Wrestle Kingdom 16 Report: NJPW vs. NOAH from Yokohama Arena
By: Mark Buckeldee
Welcome to this POST Wrestling report for New Japan Pro Wrestling’s Wrestle Kingdom 16 – New Japan vs NOAH event. 2022 is New Japan’s 50th anniversary year and part of the celebrations will involve working with other Japanese wrestling promotions. This was the first of these events, with New Japan taking on Pro Wrestling NOAH. The show was held in Yokohama Budokan with an announced attendance of 7,077 fans.
This was a controversial show, where the positivity of the idea was quickly tarnished in the eyes of many by the reality. From a financial standpoint, it was only available live as a PPV purchased through Abema TV and cost the equivalent of almost 4 months of New Japan World. In terms of the in-ring aspect, the show is predominantly tag matches, with none of the big singles matches that were hinted at by the promotional material. Despite that, the show has sold out, so the domestic Japanese audience was still enamored by this idea.
To help readers unfamiliar with either the New Japan or NOAH rosters, the names before vs represent New Japan and the names after vs represent NOAH. Due to copyright issues, all of the entrance themes were muted on the live stream.
A Kosei Fujita vs Yasutaka Yano – Great by Young Lion standards; well-executed, passionate, and fiery – RECOMMENDED
B Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata vs Akitoshi Saito, King Tany & Mohammed Yone – A basic match, nothing special
1 Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Daiki Inaba, Daisuke Harada, Hajime Ohara, Kinya Okada & Yoshiki Inamura – Some good interactions between Ishii and Inamura in a basic match hampered by streaming issues
2 SHO vs Atsushi Kotoge – A basic, interference heavy match
3 Gedo & Taiji Ishimori vs HAYATA & Seiki Yoshioka – A basic southern tag with Yoshioka making a good impression
4 DOUKI & El Desperado vs NOSAWA Rongai & YO-HEY – Another basic heel vs face tag match with some fun dives
5 Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku vs Kazushi Sakuraba, Takashi Sugiura & X – A basic match that was greatly improved whenever Sugiura and Suzuki faced off, as they brought the hate and violence
6 Dick Togo & EVIL vs Go Shiozaki & Masa Kitamiya – A satisfying House of Torture formula match thanks to Kitamiya’s fire and Shiozaki’s class
7 Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Zack Sabre Jr. vs Naomichi Marufuji & Yoshinari Ogawa – A very good match playing off of Kanemaru & Sabre Jr’s time in NOAH – RECOMMENDED
8 BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito vs Aleja, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kenoh, Manabu Soya & Tadasuke – A great multi-man tag with lots of pride and fire, constant action, and great teamwork – RECOMMENDED
9 Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada vs. Kaito Kiyomiya & Keiji Muto – A great main event where Kiyomiya looked like a star, stealing the show with his fire and energy – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Kosei Fujita vs Yasutaka Yano
This was a battle of rookies, although NOAH’s Yano had wrestled twice as many matches as Fujita. This started with a strong, well-executed grappling exchange with Yano showing a tendency for slightly flashier techniques. Yano gained control using forearms and had opportunities with a double wrist lock and a top rope crossbody. Fujita fought back with a pair of precise dropkicks, although Yano countered a Boston Crab into a prawn hold. A well-applied Boston Crab forced Yano to crawl to the ropes. After an intense forearm exchange, Fujita hit another dropkick and again locked in the Boston Crab, with the time limit expiring while Yano was still in a hold
Kosei Fujita vs Yasutaka Yano went to a time limit draw (10:00)
Show scoreboard – 0 (NJ) -0 (NOAH) -1 (Draw)
This was a great Young Lion match, with a lot of good fire and execution that helped put this match over the edge. You could see Fujita’s restrictions with his much more basic move set, but I was really impressed, especially with the Boston Crab sequences. This had the passion and fire that you wanted
Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata vs Akitoshi Saito, King Tany & Mohammed Yone
This was a middle-aged clash between the New Japan Dads and the disco-loving Funky Express. Saito and Nagata traded strikes, ending when they traded spinning wheel kicks. Tenzan and Kojima tried to use their double teams to take down Tany, only for him to slam both Kojima and Nagata onto Tenzan. The action, while sometimes slow and clunky, had some nice intensity. After Nagata hit an exploder suplex on Tany, Kojima ran wild. Tany countered a Lariat into a Chokeslam for a nearfall before running into a Lariat from Kojima, allowing New Japan to get their first win.
Satoshi Kojima vs King Tany via Lariat (12:18)
Show scoreboard – 1 (NJ) -0 (NOAH) -1 (Draw)
This was a basic, decent match with some enjoyable action and intensity but nothing more than some fun interactions and trademark offense.
Hirooki Goto, Tomohiro Ishii, YOSHI-HASHI, Master Wato & Ryusuke Taguchi vs Daiki Inaba, Daisuke Harada, Hajime Ohara, Kinya Okada & Yoshiki Inamura
It was at this point that the stream crashed due to a power cut at the venue. The picture returned around the five-minute mark, with Ishii and Inamura running into each other. Ishii and Inamura traded vertical suplexes before Ishii tagged in YOSHI-HASHI. NOAH’s Okada looked strong against YOSHI-HASHI before all the juniors engaged in a dive sequence. Inamura just ran through Ishii and YOSHI-HASHI with a double clothesline. Okada got a nearfall after repeated kicks, but YOSHI-HASHI fought back with a thrust kick and a Boston Crab, forcing Okada to tap out. After the match, Inamura and Ishii had to be separated.
Yoshi-Hashi submitted Kinya Okada via Boston Crab (11:42)
Show scoreboard – 2 (NJ) -0 (NOAH) -1 (Draw)
Understandably it is hard to judge a match when half of it was unavailable due to streaming issues. The finishing stretch and the dive sequence was fun, but the best part was when Ishii and Inamura locked up, due to the fire from those two. I hope that those two meet again in the future.
SHO vs Atsushi Kotoge
SHO started by using dirty tricks, attacking one of NOAH’s rookies at ringside. Kotoge fought back with forearms and leg lariats before hitting a tope con Hilo. SHO used the referee as a distraction and hit a spear. When Kotoge went for a Moonsault, SHO used the referee to crotch Kotoge. SHO then hit Kotoge with a wrench and pinned him to win the match.
SHO pinned Atsushi Kotoge via wrench attack (8:20)
Show scoreboard – 3 (NJ) -0 (NOAH) -1 (Draw)
This match lacked a lot of fire and was another House of Torture special. This was a nothing match and Kotoge gained little. I am already tired of SHO’s EVILcito gimmick.
Gedo & Taiji Ishimori vs HAYATA & Seiki Yoshioka
Yoshioka showed off his speed against Ishimori, only for Ishimori to fight back. Gedo took the opportunity to whip Yoshioka with a belt. The Bullet Club isolated Yoshioka, cutting off an attempt at a hot tag. HAYATA came in but Gedo used his questionable tactics to cut off HAYATA. Yoshioka made the save and took out Ishimori with an Asai Moonsault, letting HAYATA pin Gedo with the Headache.
HAYATA pinned Gedo via Headache (5:59)
Show scoreboard – 3 (NJ) -1 (NOAH) -1 (Draw)
A short, simple match, with Yoshioka getting a chance to look good. This was a southern tag structure, although HAYATA’s hot tag felt muted and cold. Yoshioka was the highlight here.
DOUKI & El Desperado vs NOSAWA Rongai & YO-HEY
The NOAH Jr duo jumped their opponents and disrespected the IWGP Junior Heavyweight title. NOSAWA used dirty tricks to constantly cut off their opponents and control the match. Desperado got the hot tag and quickly locked in the Numero Dos on YO-HEY. YO-HEY hit multiple dropkicks and wiped-out Desperado with a tope con Hilo. Douki hit an Asai Moonsault before NOSAWA tried to remove Desperado’s mask. After some roll-up attempts, Desperado pinned NOSAWA with the Pinche Loco. YO-HEY and Desperado traded trash talk afterward.
El Desperado pinned NOASWA Rongai via Pinche Loco (9:09)
Show scoreboard – 4 (NJ) -1 (NOAH) -1 (Draw)
There was some decent action and some fun dives, but this was another match full of cheating. Like the last few matches, there was a clear heel vs face story, but it lacked the fire and hate that make Inter-promotional matches great.
Minoru Suzuki, Taichi & TAKA Michinoku vs Kazushi Sakuraba, Takashi Sugiura & X
This match originally had KENTA on the NOAH team, but he had to pull out after falling off a ladder at the Tokyo Dome and suffering multiple injuries. The Suzuki-gun trio all wrestled in NOAH during the stable’s two-year run in NOAH. Many see that period as the worst period in NOAH history. X was Toru Yano.
Suzuki-gun jumped their opponents before the bell, with Suzuki and Sugiura squaring off while Taichi worked attacked Sakuraba in the ring. Sakuraba quickly locked in a heel hook, forcing Taichi to get a rope break. The match broke down, with Sugiura and Suzuki again trading strikes on the outside. Suzuki-gun worked over Yano before he tagged in Sugiura. We got a great, aggressive exchange between Sugiura and Suzuki, full of aggression and hard strikes. They traded stiff forearms, with Sugiura refusing to stay down after a Penalty Kick. Sugiura avoided the Gotch Style Piledriver but ran into a dropkick before Suzuki tagged in Michinoku. After a series of pin attempts by Michinoku, Sugiura flattened his opponent with a Lariat and pinned him with an Olympic Slam. Suzuki and Sugiura engaged in trash talk afterward.
Takashi Sugiura pinned Taka Michinoku via Olympic Slam (9:37)
Show scoreboard – 4 (NJ) – 2 (NOAH) – 1 (Draw)
This was more like it, with Suzuki and Sugiura doing their best to bring the hatred and aggression. While this was another basic match, the interactions between Sugiura and Suzuki were up there with Ishii vs Inamura and the rookies match as my favorite things on the card up to this point. They delivered the kind of stiff aggression that I was expecting.
Dick Togo & EVIL vs Go Shiozaki & Masa Kitamiya
Shiozaki fought back from a HoT ambush by using big chops. EVIL raked the eyes after taking some machine gun chops. The questionable tactics continued as Shiozaki was rammed into the New Japan ring announcer. EVIL used more cheating before Shiozaki tagged out after a suplex. Kitamiya took out both EVIL and Togo with Samoan Drops and sentons. EVIL fought back with more dodgy tactics before tagging in Togo. Kitamiya flattened Togo and Shiozaki took out his frustrations on Togo’s chest with vicious chops. EVIL distracted the referee, and we got a low blow, a ref bump, and interference from Sho and Yujiro. Kitamiya single-handedly took out the House of Torture with spears to let Shiozaki hit Togo with a Fisherman buster. EVIL broke up the pin, but Kitamiya trapped EVIL in a Prison lock to let Shiozaki pin Togo with a Lariat.
Go Shiozaki pinned Dick Togo via Lariat (9:53)
Show scoreboard – 4 (NJ) – 3 (NOAH) – 1 (Draw)
As much as the House of Torture shtick annoys me, I really appreciated how strong they made Kitamiya look here. The NOAH guys brought the aggression here, and the performance from Kitamiya was what I want from an inter-promotional match. So, while this was a House of Torture special with all the problems that those matches have, this was the best NOAH vs HoT match that we could have realistically got.
Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Zack Sabre Jr. vs Naomichi Marufuji & Yoshinari Ogawa
Both New Japan wrestlers had strong NOAH links. Kanemaru still holds most of the records for NOAH’s GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. Sabre Jr spent four years in NOAH, where he regularly teamed with Ogawa.
Ogawa and Sabre Jr started, which got an audible reaction. They used a Japanese stranglehold sequence before exchanging other holds. Marufuji and Kanemaru tagged in, upping the pace, with Kanemaru initially looking very motivated. Kanemaru and Sabre Jr targeted Marufuji’s left leg. When Ogawa tried to save Marufuji, Sabre Jr locked both men in a submission hold. The New Japan team continued to isolate Marufuji until Marufuji hit a dropkick and made the hot tag. Ogawa cleaned house with back elbows and hip tosses.
Sabre Jr fought back by attacking multiple limbs. Ogawa used his traditional low blow on Kanemaru, with Kanemaru replying using a mule kick. Marufuji tagged in, using his speed only for Kanemaru to go back to the knee. Kanemaru applied a Figure Four leg lock on Marufuji, but Ogawa broke it up. Marufuji fought back but Kanemaru caused a ref bump to avoid the Shiranui. Kanemaru tried to use the whisky mist, but Marufuji blocked it and hit a flurry of thrust kicks. Marufuji was nearly caught with a Samson Clutch before he defeated Kanemaru with the Shiranui. Sabre Jr traded trash talk after the match with both Marufuji and Ogawa.
Naomichi Marufuji pinned Yoshinobu Kanemaru via Shiranui (15:20)
Show scoreboard – 4 (NJ) – 4 (NOAH) – 1 (Draw)
You could feel the crowd’s investment in this match at the start. This was a very good nostalgia match, with some great interactions between Ogawa and Sabre Jr. Despite that, this was a little underwhelming thanks to a muted finishing stretch. I would have much preferred more Sabre Jr and Ogawa near the end. Aside from this, it was the second-best match on the show up to this point (aside from the rookies’ match) and felt special due to Kanemaru and Sabre Jr’s history with NOAH.
BUSHI, Hiromu Takahashi, SANADA, Shingo Takagi & Tetsuya Naito vs Aleja, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kenoh, Manabu Soya & Tadasuke
There was a great juxtaposition between the uniformity of Kongoh and the individuality of LIJ. The crowd was very audible when they realized that this was starting with Nakajima and Naito. The match immediately broke down into a brawl on the outside. Naito did the Tranquilo pose, only to be attacked by Kongoh. Takahashi and Aleja traded chops before a fast-paced sequence ended with Takahashi attacking Kongoh’s HAOH on the outside. LIJ used their trademark teamwork to take down Aleja and tag in Takagi.
Takagi isolated Aleja before attacking Kenoh, who let his anger get the better of him. Kongoh used a series of elbow drops on BUSHI, while Tadasuke tore off BUSHI’s shirt. SANADA got the hot tag, fighting off Nakajima and Kenoh before hitting Soya (SANADA’s tag partner from his All-Japan days) with a Plancha. These two had a good sequence, with Soya countering the skull end into a vertical suplex. Naito and Kenoh tagged in, bringing a lot of intensity with Kenoh almost ignoring Takahashi’s attempts save Naito from a beating. Naito caught Kenoh with a submission hold, forcing him to reach the ropes. Kenoh struggled to escape Naito’s forearms, but he did escape Gloria. The pace and intensity increased as they engaged in an energetic exchange.
Nakajima tagged in, downing Naito, BUSHI, and Takahashi with big middle kicks. Naito fought back thanks to BUSHI helping out with a double team. Takagi came in to take on Nakajima, with LIJ using the numbers game to help Takagi stay in control. Nakajima used his kicks to avoid a Pumping Bomber and hit a backdrop suplex to tag in Tadasuke. Kongoh worked together and used big moves on Takagi, but Tadasuke got caught with the Yukon DDT. Kenoh saved Takagi from the Last of the Dragon and the match broke down into a parade of moves, leaving us with Takagi and Tadasuke. Somehow Tadasuke got a nearfall with a Lariat before Takagi hit a Lariat of his own. Tadasuke kicked out of a Pumping Bomber, but he could not kick out of the Last of the Dragon. After the match, Kenoh stared down Naito and LIJ posed in the ring.
Shingo Takagi pinned Tadasuke via Last of the Dragon (26:33)
Show scoreboard – 5 (NJ) – 4 (NOAH) – 1 (Draw)
This was easily the best match on the card. These units worked so well together. There was the usual great teamwork from both sides, but the strong personalities, aggression, and pride involved made this feel big and engaging. Everyone looked good in their role, even Soya and SANADA had an enjoyable sequence. The interactions involving any combination of Takagi, Naito, Nakajima, and Kenoh were great. This was really enjoyable, and I would love a rematch under five on five Gauntlet rules if that would be possible. The match of the night so far.
Hiroshi Tanahashi & Kazuchika Okada vs. Kaito Kiyomiya & Keiji Muto
Kiyomiya had a strong start after relying on his speed, only for Okada to turn the tables. Tanahashi’s experience gave him the edge, but Kiyomiya took advantage of Tanahashi’s overconfidence to take down Tanahashi and tag in Muto. Mutoh targets Tanahashi’s knee on the mat. Okada tagged in, with Mutoh using the Flashing elbow and the STF before tagging in Kiyomiya, who again upped the pace. Kiyomiya got caught with a Flapjack, which let Okada regain the momentum.
Tanahashi applied the Texas Cloverhold, but Kiyomiya reached the ropes. Okada hit Kiyomiya with a DDT on the outside before trash-talking him. Kiyomiya showed great fire taking it to Okada, which made Okada fire back with aggressive forearms. The NOAH Supernova took down Tanahashi with a flying forearm and tagged in Mutoh, who went back to Tanahashi’s knee with dropkicks and Dragon Screws before locking in the Figure Four leg lock. Tanahashi escaped and he eventually hit a Dragon Screw on Muto. Okada tagged in, hitting the diving elbow drop and a Mutoh-esque Rainmaker pose. Muto fought back with a dropkick to the knee and the Shining Wizard before tagging in Kiyomiya.
Kiyomiya was aggressive and fired up, unloading on Okada in the corner. When Okada tried to fight back, Kiyomiya had an answer, hitting a beautiful missile dropkick for a nearfall. An Okada Tombstone Piledriver was countered with a big jumping knee before Tanahashi saved Okada from a Tiger suplex. All four wrestlers were left laying on the mat.
Okada and Kiyomiya traded forearms and European uppercuts, with Okada winning the exchange and hitting the Backslide Rainmaker. Kiyomiya again looked for the Tiger Suplex, but Okada hit the spinning Tombstone. Kiyomiya avoided a Rainmaker and a Muto Shining Wizard let Kiyomiya hit a big German suplex for a Nearfall. Tanahashi saved Okada when Kiyomiya landed the Tiger Suplex. Okada took Kiyomiya down with a dropkick, before using the Sit out Tombstone and Rainmaker combination to pin Kiyomiya.
Kiyomiya cried after the match, upset at not being able to beat Okada and feeling that he let NOAH down. Comparisons were made between this and Okada crying after losing to Tanahashi at the Tokyo Dome.
Kazuchika Okada pinned Kaito Kiyomiya via Rainmaker (24:34)
Show scoreboard – 6 (NJ) – 4 (NOAH) – 1 (Draw)
This was the clear match of the night. Mutoh looked decent and the match was well structured, hiding his weaknesses. The clear star was Kiyomiya, who had the best performance on the show. His speed was reminiscent of early Rainmaker Okada, but it was Kiyomiya’s fire and aggression that really impressed me. He constantly took it to Okada and looked fantastic as the fiery youngster trying to prove himself against a Champion. This forced Okada to bring out his aggressive side. Okada has added more aggressive striking in recent months, and it was perfectly used in this match. Tanahashi was good in his role, but this was the Kiyomiya and Okada show. While many were disappointed that Kiyomiya lost with relatively few counters, Okada did use his big match finishing sequence. Kiyomiya’s fire, execution, and the emotion that he showed after the match has sold me on Kiyomiya. Even though Kiyomiya lost as everyone expected, I am now even more invested in him. If you only watch one match from this show, it needs to be this one.
This show had quite a few problems. Firstly, there was the combination of the price, no entrance music, and the streaming issues that left a bad impression. Many of the undercard matches lacked any sense of fire, pride, or aggression, which are the elements that drive the best inter-promotional matches. Having this show under normal crowd circumstances would have helped that. Also, you could easily argue that the Sabre Jr & Kanemaru tag match was a little underwhelming. Based on this, I cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone buy this show from ABEMA TV. Instead, I recommend watching it on either New Japan World or Wrestle Universe and cherry-picking what you watch.
On the plus side, the likes of Fujita, NOAH’s Yano, Inamura, Ishii, Sugiura, Suzuki, and Kitamiya all deserve praise for their performances. NOAH’s Kitamiya, Yano, and Inamura in particular brought the fire that I wanted to see from the NOAH roster. The rookie’s match is legitimately worth a watch, and probably the only thing from the first 8 matches that I would recommend. The Kongoh vs LIJ match was great considering that it was a 10-man tag match, whetting the appetite for the possibility of any matches involving either of Kongoh or LIJ’s top two. Ultimately, the main event was the thing that carried this show. It felt like a big-time performance from Kiyomiya. While it may not be a star-making performance, he would have made a big impression on the New Japan fans, and I am very confident that he can turn things around after a poor 2021.
While I would not call this show a failure, it definitely did not live up to some people’s initial expectations. Then again, I would say that the main event exceeded my expectations. If this was a one-off, then this will be a slightly disappointing and overpriced show remembered for Kiyomiya’s interactions with Okada. If New Japan and NOAH continue to work together then this was a good starting point as lots of seeds were sown. It just depends on whether the companies involved decide to water those seeds.