NOAH: Kazuyuki Fujita wins GHC title at ‘Gain Control in Nagoya’

Photo Courtesy: Pro Wrestling NOAH

By: Mark Buckeldee

Welcome to this POST Wrestling report for Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Gain Control 2022 in Nagoya. This was built around the main event of Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Kazuyuki Fujita. This event, from the Nagoya Congress Centre Event Hall, drew 643 fans.

This event is available on Wrestle Universe with English Commentary, provided by Stewart Fulton and Mark Pickering. The video started with Pickering and Fulton giving a brief primer and summary for some of the matches.

  1. Muhammad Yone & King Tany vs Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue – Goofy, plodding, and often wrestled at 60% speed. Skippable.
  2. Nioh vs Kinya Okada – A basic match, a little lackluster with decent fire from Okada.
  3. Yoshinari Ogawa & Yasutaka Yano vs NOSAWA Rongai & Kotaro Suzuki – A fun, basic, and quick match that flew by, with Yano getting some time to shine.
  4. Haoh, Junta Miyawaki & Kai Fujimura vs Tadasuke, Hajime Ohara & Aleja – A decent mid-card match with some good energy from the youngsters.
  5. Masato Tanaka vs Kendo Kashin – A Kendo Kashin match, full of grappling and oddness.
  6. Naomichi Marufuji & Takashi Sugiura vs Masa Kitamiya & Yoshiki Inamura – A very good but slightly disappointing heavyweight clash with lots of big strikes and slams – RECOMMENDED
  7. GHC Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Title: Atsuki Kotoge & YO-HEY vs HAYATA & Yuya Susumu – Long, listless and lackadaisical. Some good action near the end but it took a long time to get going.
  8. GHC Jr Heavyweight Title: Daisuke Harada (c) vs Super Crazy – A good match, although that was mostly down to Harada.
  9. Go Shiozaki, Kaito Kiyomiya & Daiki Inaba vs Kenoh, Masakatsu Funaki & Manabu Soya – A great heavyweight tag where everyone got time to shine, especially Kiyomiya – RECOMMENDED
  10. GHC Heavyweight Title: Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) vs. Kazuyuki Fujita – A good, slightly disappointing match with some great sequences and a dominant Fujita – RECOMMENDED (JUST)

Mohammed Yone & King Tany vs Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue

This was a match pitting the Funky Express against each other. Yone and Saito went toe to toe with striking. Tany repeatedly tried to slam Inoue onto Saito, only for Saito to refuse so Tany slammed Saito onto Inoue. After some gentle bullying Inoue tagged out after a falling shoulder tackle. Saito used a very diagonal stalling vertical suplex before eating an ugly powerslam. Inoue had some hope against Yone before Yone pinned him with the Kinniku Buster.

Muhammad Yone pinned Masao Inoue via Kinniku Buster (11:58)

A goofy, slightly plodding, lighthearted match. Large swathes of this were wrestled at 60% speed, to be expected considering the age of the wrestlers involved. It was fun at times but incredibly skippable.

Nioh vs Kinya Okada

Okada brought intensity and aggression, only for Nioh to ground Okada with submissions. A Lionsault by Nioh earned him a two count as Okada kept fighting back. An atomic drop of all things let Okada gain some control, forcing Nioh to rely on pinning combinations to get the win against his younger opponent. Nioh got near falls with the trance ray knee strike and a Michinoku Driver before winning with a Stuka Splash.

Nioh pinned Kinya Okada via Stuka Splash (9:58)

This was a basic match that was at its most entertaining when Okada was on the attack. He brought some good fire but ultimately this was often dull and unexciting.

Yoshinari Ogawa & Yasutaka Yano vs NOSAWA Rongai & Kotaro Suzuki

The match started with trickery from both Ogawa and NOSAWA. Suzuki and Ogawa grappled, with Suzuki refusing to let go of Ogawa’s wrist. Yano started with quick, flashy offense before things broke down with some miscommunication between Suzuki and NOSAWA. A Fisherman suplex earned Yano a two count but Suzuki easily got back in control with a Boston Crab.  The miscommunication continued and Yano nearly won with a victory roll, only for Suzuki to easily take down Yano with the Excalibur.

After the match, Suzuki and NOSAWA exchanged words but shook hands and made up (for now).

Kotaro Suzuki pinned Yasutaka Yano via Excalibur (6:42)

I enjoyed this. The pace and constant miscommunication meant that this flew by, and Yano had a good showing. It told a decent little story, with Yano getting some time to shine before getting squashed pretty quickly.

Haoh, Junta Miyawaki & Kai Fujimura vs Tadasuke, Hajime Ohara & Aleja

Ohara recently jumped ship to Kongoh, although he also made the news this week after information came to the eyes of English-speaking wrestling Twitter regarding the reason that he was fired by Wrestling New Classic.

The non Kongoh trio showed superior intensity and fire at the start, using a triple Plancha. A drop toe hold from Tadasuke let Kongoh use their signature combination elbow drops as they took control of Fujimura. Eventually, Fujimura hit a body slam and tagged in Miyawaki who repeatedly threw himself at Aleja. Miyawaki hit a Fisherman Buster, but Ohara came in and locked in a single leg Crab, only for Miyawaki to reach the ropes. Miyawaki fought back with a Tornado DDT, and it came down to Fujimura vs Tadasuke. Fujimura used a flurry of quick attacks and his team hit a triple dropkick before Fujimura hit a missile dropkick for a nearfall. Aleja hit a Tope con Hiro as Tadasuke locked on a stretch plum, forcing Fujimura to tap out.

Tadasuke submitted Kai Fujimura via Stretch Plum (14:42)

This was a decent match, which was the third consecutive match where the youngsters stole the show. Fujimura and Miyawaki showed good fire while the Kongoh trio played their parts well. While this was nothing special, it was good to see the NOAH youngsters fired up.

Masato Tanaka vs Kendo Kashin

Kashin started with some incredibly weak strikes, drawing Tanaka’s ire. Kashin used his trickery to try and keep Tanaka off balance. This was Tanaka’s no-nonsense vs Kashin’s 120% nonsense. Kashin used his technical skills (and the occasional kick to the takoyakis) to get him out of trouble. There was a count-out tease before things got back into the ring and Tanaka hit a Superfly splash, only for Kashin to get the knees up. The action ended up back outside and Kashin took Tanaka up to the balcony. Tanaka hit a Sliding D on the balcony and Kashin fell (a short way) off the balcony as the referee declared the match a double count-out.

Masato Tanaka vs Kendo Kashin was a double count-out (11:01)

There was some decent humor and some good grappling at times but ultimately this felt like an odd waste of time on a long show. Some people may enjoy this, but if you were hoping that this would be a good Masato Tanaka match then you will be disappointed.

Naomichi Marufuji & Takashi Sugiura vs Masa Kitamiya & Yoshiki Inamura

Surprisingly, Inamura relied on technique instead of strength as he started off against Marufuji. Kitamiya and Sugiura fought to a stalemate, running into each other, and engaging in a test of strength. Sugiura used his intelligence when Inamura tagged in, with Marufuji working over Inamura on the outside. After being worn down with submission holds and strikes, Inamura fought back with a spinning body slam and tagged out. Kitamiya took down both Marufuji and Sugiura, hitting a standing senton on both men. Marufuji unleashed a flurry of kicks, but Kitamiya kept absorbing them until a dropkick did enough to let Sugiura tag in. Kitamiya used a leapfrog to hit a spear and in came Inamura, who threw Sugiura around almost effortlessly. Inamura and Kitamiya double-teamed Sugiura but Sugiura countered a Muso with a front choke. That was not enough, and Inamura hit a belly-to-belly suplex. Marufuji saved Sugiura from another Muso, turning the tide in Sugiura’s favor. Despite Inamura seemingly winning a strike exchange, Sugiura fought back and hit a single Olympic Slam to win the match.

Takashi Sugiura pinned Yoshiki Inamura via Olympic Slam (20:22)

This was a good match, the best match so far, but slightly below what I had expected. Inamura looked good and they protected the Muso well, but I felt that Inamura deserved to have more time on the attack. The action that we got was very good and Kitamiya was in good form, although the finish was a bit too sudden and made Inamura look a little weak.

There was a brief video package with Hideki Suzuki, the former Hachiman in NXT’s Diamond Mine. He stood outside a UPS store, saying that he will be Takashi Sugiura’s mystery partner in the GHC Heavyweight tag team tournament. They are set to face Kenoh and Masakatsu Funaki at Great Voyage 2022 in Yokohama on March 13th.

GHC Jr Heavyweight Tag Team Title: Atsuki Kotoge & YO-HEY vs HAYATA & Yuya Susumu

The opening exchanges focused on quick, basic holds between every combination of these two teams. HAYATA threw YO-HEY around the outside as YO-HEY was isolated, repeatedly getting DDTed until a pinpoint dropkick let him make the hot tag. Kotoge took out both of his opponents and hit Susumu with corner clotheslines and a bulldog. Susumu fought back and locked in a head and arm choke, forcing Kotoge to reach the ropes. HAYATA got near falls with a second rope Moonsault and a reverse DDT. Kotoge used the Maxim cutter and a big knee to overcome HAYATA and tag in his partner. YO-HEY hit a missile dropkick and some tricky counters, earning a two count with a reverse neckbreaker. HAYATA fought back but YO-HEY came back with a tope con Hilo. Susumu used his trickery to lock in a crossface, dragging YO-HEY to the center of the ring but Kotoge made the save. YO-HEY nearly won with a Somato before Kotoge took out HAYATA with a Kill switch. Susumu kicked out of a Ganmen G before YO-HEY hit a top rope Ganmen G to win the tag team titles.

After the match, NOSAWA Rongai and Kotaro Suzuki challenged for the titles

YO-HEY pinned Yuya Susumu via top rope Ganmen G (26:58)

The match was not bad, but it felt listless and lackadaisical, with even Kotoge’s hot tag feeling pedestrian. The opening ten minutes felt pointless and there were a lot of DDT’s that felt utterly inconsequential. There was lots of fast action and moves in the final stretch, but the match went way too long. It was a very forgettable match and an example of filling time aimlessly. Some people will enjoy the action, but it felt dull and directionless despite a lot of stuff happening.

GHC Jr Heavyweight Title: Daisuke Harada (c) vs Super Crazy

The 47-year-old Super Crazy lost a match for the All-Japan Jr Heavyweight title on January 3rd. Harada was fired up as he fought back against Super Crazy, with the younger man relying on his agility and his grappling technique to keep in control. The aging Super Crazy used his size to his advantage, but Harada was firmly in control thanks to his superior grappling. Super Crazy used body slams on the floor to weaken Harada. Back in the ring, Super Crazy’s offense was ugly but effective. A stalling suplex earned Super Crazy a nearfall and his size made it easier for him to absorb Harada’s comebacks.

Harada fought back with an overhead belly-to-belly suplex and a flurry of running forearms. The champion powered up Super Crazy and hit a DVD for a nearfall. Super Crazy used a Gory special and a sneaky low blow. A second rope Moonsault earned Super Crazy a two count, but Harada dodged a top rope Moonsault. Harada nearly fell victim to a prawn hold, before getting a nearfall of his own with a forearm to the liver. Super Crazy caught him with a Lariat, but Harada unleashed a flurry off offense and won the match with a Hurracanrana.

Daisuke Harada pinned Super Crazy via Hurracanrana (18:57)

This was another good match but most of the good things about it were pretty one-sided. Except for some crisp Moonsaults, Super Crazy did not bring much to this match. Instead, it revolved about Harada showing just how good he is, both on attack and with his selling. Harada’s final flurries were surprisingly brief, possibly due to Super Crazy’s size or limitations. Although this was good, it would have been much better with a different opponent for Harada, who will have many matches better than this one in 2022.

Go Shiozaki, Kaito Kiyomiya & Daiki Inaba vs Kenoh, Masakatsu Funaki & Manabu Soya

Inaba insisted on starting against GHC National Champion Funaki. The veteran Funaki used his superior grappling abilities to control Inaba. After a couple of wild swings, Shiozaki and Soya tagged in and engaged in simple but engaging wrestling based around headlocks, shoulder tackles and chops. Lots of chops. Shiozaki clearly had the power edge in the chop battle, so Soya compensated using grit and brute force. Kenoh and Kiyomiya started at a ridiculously quick pace, with Kenoh using a big kick to halt Kiyomiya’s momentum.

Funaki grounded Kiyomiya with submission attempts and Kiyomiya showed great fire even as he was beaten down by Kongoh. Soya controlled Kiyomiya with simple power moves while Kenoh spent most of his time mocking his opponents. Kiyomiya fought back with a flying forearm, and he tagged in Inaba, who was all fired up. Inaba used his speed to keep Kenoh off guard, getting a two-count with a Blue Thunder Bomb. Kenoh eventually fought back with an Enziguri, and Funaki laid into Inaba with stiff middle kicks. Inaba used a surprise short-range Lariat to tag in Shiozaki, who unleashed the machine gun chops on Funaki. Shiozaki and Funaki traded hard chops and slaps before Funaki thought better of it and decided to use kicks. After some slightly awkward big strikes, Funaki hit and Abesigiri that let both Soya and Kiyomiya tag in.

A confident Kiyomiya used his speed and aggression to takes down Soya, who fought back with a deadlift suplex for a nearfall. Inaba and Kiyomiya worked together to take on Soya, with a Kiyomiya German suplex getting a nearfall. Soya fought off a Tiger suplex before Funaki and Kenou softer Kiyomiya with kicks, only for Shiozaki to save Kiyomiya after Soya hit a DVD. Soya shrugged off Kiyomiya’s dropkick and flattened him with a Lariat, only for Kiyomiya to hit a jumping knee and lock in the Cattle Mutilation to make Soya tap out.

Kaito Kiyomiya submitted Manabu Soya via Cattle Mutilation (21:21)

This was a great six-man tag. While it did not go all out, everyone involved came out of this looking good. Kiyomiya showed his speed and intensity, getting another win with the Cattle Mutilation. It’s a lazy comparison, but Kiyomiya’s blindingly fast speed is reminiscent of early Rainmaker era Kazuchika Okada. Kenoh’s personality lets him look strong even when he doesn’t get much time. Soya reminded you that he is a very good wrestler, a solid hand who always looks tough and believable in matches like this. Shiozaki showed off his brutal chops while Funaki got to showcase his phenomenal grappling skills without having to wrestle for a long time. Inaba also got a fair bit of time to shine, as this match was designed to build up to the GHC Heavyweight Tag Title tournament on March 13th. This won’t be a match that people are remembering when it comes to MOTY season, but it was a great example of NOAH’s heavyweight scene and is probably a good taster for newer NOAH fans. It was just 20 minutes of very good wrestling.

GHC Heavyweight Title: Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) vs. Kazuyuki Fujita

In the press conference for this match, Nakajima poured a pint of beer over Fujita’s head, and Fujita no-sold it. It was good to see that Fujita sells as much in press conferences as he does in his matches. For newer fans, the 51-year-old Fujita was a three-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion in the early 2000s, coming to prominence at a time when Antonio Inoki wanted his top wrestlers to look like rivals to the MMA stars of the time. He found success in Pride FC, which was partly why he won the IWGP Heavyweight title. Fujita joined NOAH in 2019 and developed a reputation of being mean, surly, vicious, and a little excessive.

Fujita controlled Nakajima in the initial grappling, although Nakajima did get some success in the grappling. Nakajima hit a vicious high kick early on, stunning Fujita. The Champion capitalized on this, throwing Fujita around at ringside only for Fujita to shake off the cobwebs and fight back. Fujita locked in a single-leg crab, dragging Nakajima away from the ropes and keeping Nakajima trapped in the center of the ring with a prison lock. Nakajima absorbed Fujita’s strikes and they traded slaps while Nakajima was trapped on the mat. Fujita then locked in a Figure Four leg lock, forcing Nakajima to reach the ropes.

Nakajima got caught with a sleeper hold, with Nakajima again needing a rope break to escape. The Champion unleashed a series of slaps in the ropes to stop Fujita from reapplying a sleeper hold. Fujita fired back and floored Nakajima with big slaps of his own. Nakajima fought back by with a variety of kicks and used a missile dropkick before following up with forearms and Nakajima’s signature foot chokes in the corner. Fujita fought back with big forearms, only for Nakajima to hit a backdrop suplex and hit a flurry of hard kicks to the back and chest. They traded forearms, with Nakajima switching to kicks and slaps only for Fujita to overpower him and lock in another choke sleeper. Nakajima fought it off and escaped a Beast Bomb attempt, throwing a series of brutal kicks including two punts to the head.

Nakajima used a series of mounted forearms and went for the Vertical spike Brainbuster, only for Fujita to wiggle free and hit a Lariat, the Beast bomb, and a punt to the head. Fujita pulled Nakajima up at two and hit a second Beast Bomb, pinning Nakajima for the three count, and drawing a loud audible gasp from the crowd.

After the match, Masato Tanaka challenged Fujita for the title, in a match booked for Great Voyage 2022 in Fukuoka on March 21st.

Kazuyuki Fujita pinned Katsuhiko Nakajima via Beast Bomb (21:11)

This was a shocking result for many fans, who expected another Nakajima title win. It was definitely not one of the best matches from Nakajima’s second GHC Heavyweight Title run. The match had a slower pace than Nakajima’s other matches and lacked energy in the closing stretch. There was explosiveness, especially in Fujita’s closing stretch. My main problem with the match was how Fujita dominated so much of the match. Sudden and shocking finishes are a staple of the modern NOAH main event style, but Fujita handily overcame Nakajima in the final minute. While Nakajima had times on top, and his last big offensive flurry was great, it felt like Fujita had Nakajima’s number so often that the Champion came across as looking a little weak. There were good moments, like Nakajima’s last offensive flurry and the sequence with Fujita trapping Nakajima in the center of the ring but ultimately this felt like a disappointing way for Nakajima to lose the title.

Show Summary

This show had some decent matches and two very good heavyweight tag team matches. However, for most people, this show was about the main event. Aside from the shocking result, the main event felt a little underwhelming for me. Nakajima came out of it feeling diminished and there were periods where the match dragged. While there were two great tag matches, the other title matches also felt lackluster. Super Crazy was a poor opponent for Harada, especially if NOAH is building up interest to an all-Junior Sumo Hall show in April. I’ve already talked at length about the Jr tag team title match, which never clicked for me. All in all, this is probably not the best NOAH show to parachute into. There were signs of promise, but if you are a newer NOAH fan, I suggest cherry-picking the big tag matches and spending your time on other NOAH shows instead.

People expected this Nakajima title reign to be a long, establishing run to cement Nakajima as the top star of NOAH. Instead, this reign lasted 10 days less than Naomichi Marufuji’s “transitional” title run. While Nakajima packed in the title defenses, with this being his fifth, this felt like another promising title run cut short in order to put the title on a more established veteran. This is a common booking trope in NOAH, and in the past, it was a reason why NOAH struggled to create stars who could take over from the likes of Misawa and Kobashi. If Fujita loses the title to a newer star in order to give someone like Kiyomiya the rub, then that is fine. Then again, people were saying that about Mutoh’s run with the title and NOAH had to use Marufuji to get the belt off of Mutoh. Time will tell if Fujita’s title run has a more productive ending, but many fans fear that lightning will strike twice, leaving them burned yet again.

About Mark Buckeldee 61 Articles
Hailing from Oxfordshire in the UK, Mark Buckeldee writes show reports for POST Wrestling.