Since forming an alliance late last year and holding the GHC Tag Team championships the titles for a total of 7 days, the duo of Katsuhiko Nakajima and Go Shiozaki has now regained the championships from 50 Funky Powers around two weeks ago. With NOAH entering a new era, how does the tag team division follows the rest of the divisions ? Let’s try to find out.
The first and main thing that needs to be addressed, of course, is the reigning team, AXIZ. After losing the championships to the now disbanded Hooligans, the team came back in full force, earning themselves a challenge against Yone & Storm, the now former champs, and beating them a second time to claim the belts, in a match where the two teams looked very strong, which is something I will come back to. Not only Nakajima and Shiozaki would unveil their new team name during their post-match interview, but Nakajima has made quite clear that this time, the titles are staying right where they currently are.
Hence the title of this article, because if we take a look at the GHC Tag Team championship recent history, there is one thing to point out. No team has managed to hold on to the titles for at least six months since Killer Elite Squad’s first reign, which lasted throughout 2015 and 2016, for a total of 472 days. The pairing of Naomichi Marufuji and Toru Yano held the titles for 179 days afterwards, which is just approaching the six months line I just drew. Since then, only three teams have had a reign lasting longer than the 100 days mark. The point here is that I believe NOAH would benefit from having one team enjoying a dominant, convincing run as champions, to help launching NOAH to new heights, as we are entering this new era of the promotion.
The duo of Nakajima and Shiozaki (respectively holding the belts for the 4th and 6th times) currently are in a good position to be that team. Both men are by now very familiar with tag team competition, as not only both are now multi-time champions, they have a history of performing well during NOAH’s Global Tag League, as Nakajima made several appearances in the finals over the years, while Shiozaki was in the finals the last two years, winning last year’s edition alongside Kaito Kiyomiya.
After winning the belts back in a great fashion against Yone and Storm (if anyone reading this article has not watched that match yet, please go ahead and do just that), AXIZ has received their first challenge. Masa Kitamiya, Nakajima’s former tag team partner in The Aggression came to the ring, but not alone. A returning Eddie Edwards accompanied Kitamiya, and both men issued their challenge to the new crowned champions, who accepted.
Let’s take a moment to discuss this match, which will happen this sunday at Great Voyage in Yokohama. For Nakajima especially, this match means a lot. Not only he faces his former partner, which is always something special, he also faces the man who ended his sole reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion in 2017, which Nakajima eluded to, by saying he wouldn’t lose to Eddie this time around.
For a first defense, having these little bits of drama can help make what will likely be a very good match become a great match, and this is something I believe will be needed to spice things up in the future.
Now, while I can’t say for sure which team will walk out of Yokohama as Tag Team champions, as I made this point the focus of this article, I believe that AXIZ should be retaining the belts. Two of the biggest NOAH stars in Nakajima and Shiozaki are holding the titles, giving them the possibility to elevate them to a level they haven’t reached in a while. For that to happen, it is only needed for them to enjoy a decently long run, preferably going at least six months, so enough time is given for the champions to have several good defenses under their belts, solidifying themselves in the process.
Talking about solidifying, let’s quickly touch on that. I said that the match between AXIZ and 50 Funky Powers ended with both teams looking strong, which is of course my opinion, but I like to believe you will agree with me if you watched the match. Back to the point, the idea is that, at the moment these lines are written, we have two very credible teams in front of the division, in the current and former champions, partially thanks to this match. Depending on how Great Voyage in Yokohama turns out, we could add the team of Masa Kitamiya and Eddie Edwards to that list. Why am I talking about credible teams ? Because in May, the Global Tag League will occur and now is the perfect time to build up some duos to appear as strong candidates to win the tournament this year. It is of course way too early to make predictions, but one thing is certain : AXIZ will, and needs to, look strong in this year’s Global Tag League. I wouldn’t be surprised if they even win the tournament (We did see the current champions Marufuji and Taniguchi win the tournament back in 2017), but let’s not go too far, too soon.
With Pro Wrestling NOAH facing a turning point in its history, the tag team division’s future is in the hands of Katsuhiko Nakajima and Go Shiozaki. Will AXIZ remain at the center of the division’s evolution going forward, remaining the team to help lead NOAH into a new age ?