After defeating Naomichi Marufuji in Yokohama, Kaito Kiyomiya has made a huge step in solidifying his status of new Ace of Pro Wrestling NOAH. As NOAH’s New Generation seems to have taken the lead of the Ark, the new Ace has yet to find himself the man who can be considered his nemesis for the future… Or has he found him in Katsuhiko Nakajima ?
The first thing I want you to do is to think of your favourite Wrestling promotion. Think of your favourite era in that promotion. Now, think about the, or some of the biggest rivalries to happen in that era, the one or the ones you consider to be the most memorable of that period. You may wonder the purpose of this, I will explain.
In Pro Wrestling, in any era of any promotion, there has always been at least one rivalry to incarnate the era said rivalry took place in. Whether it was representative of the wrestling style, a global idea of wrestling or simply wrestlers having such great matches they greatly helped making a specific time period in Wrestling history as memorable as it can be. As Pro Wrestling NOAH has now entered a new era, it is only a matter of time until we find out which rivalry will help elevate NOAH, making this new era as great as it has the potential to be, at least from a pure Wrestling standpoint, even though the goal lies far beyond that, for the promotion itself and its new owners.
As you may have guess just by reading the title, the rivalry I want to focus on concerns the Emerald Star and rising Ace of NOAH, Kaito Kiyomiya, and the Genius Of The Kick who previously had a shot at becoming the new Ace of NOAH, Katsuhiko Nakajima.
Why these two men, you might ask ?
Well, first, let’s go back to last November, at NOAH’s Global League finals. Nakajima and Kiyomiya already had faced before in Tag Team matches before, notably when the latter, teaming up with Go Shiozaki, claimed the GHC Tag Team championships from Nakajima and his former partner Masa Kitamiya. However, this was only their second singles match, and Nakajima won the first one.
As we know, Kiyomiya managed to grab the win, but it wasn’t without Nakajima dominating his younger opponent for most of the match, leaving a feeling that Kiyomiya, while not actually escaping with winning Global League, still had some way to go before actually reaching the level he was aiming at. As Kiyomiya then claimed the Heavyweight championship from Takashi Sugiura, and went on to retain it against Kenoh, Masa Kitamiya and Naomichi Marufuji, facing the latter in the most important match of his career. Kiyomiya has now really started to feel like the future Ace, way more than when he and Nakajima first squared off. As much as the dynamic between both men during that first match was great, the more Kiyomiya grows, the more this dynamic can become even better for future encounters. Keep that in mind.
The second big occurence to look back at is Great Voyage in Yokohama, which occured on March 10th. There, the team of Katsuhiko Nakajima and Go Shiozaki, AXIZ, retained the GHC Tag Team championships, further establishing their dominance over NOAH’s tag team division.
In the main event, Kaito Kiyomiya not only retained the GHC Heavyweight championship, but him and Kenoh formed an alliance, as both share the wish of bringing back NOAH to its glory days, and they intend on doing it together so far. Since then, AXIZ and the team of Kenoh and Kiyomiya have been facing each other in 6 man tag matches, where the intensity between both teams only kept growing, as Nakajima and Shiozaki were declared a “wanted team” by their opponents and likely main foes when it comes to Global League.
As I now have covered the past chronology, let’s look ahead. The Global Tag League will likely give us more answers compared to what elements we have at the moment, but considering how prominent the feud between AXIZ and Kenoh & Kaito is, I think we can expect this feud to go further than Tag Team competition. After all, the GHC Heavyweight champion is involved, so a golden opportunity to earn a championship match against Kiyomiya presents itself for both either Nakajima or Shiozaki, but let’s keep the focus on Nakajima right now.
I have mainly spoke of Kiyomiya and talked about how he keeps growing, but for Nakajima, he already feels like the perfect opponent to put in front of an Ace in need of a nemesis, as the Global League finals match from last year showed. (Watch if you haven’t, or go back and watch it !)
What makes the possibility of both of them fully entering into a rivalry even more believable to me, is actually pretty simple. Nakajima hasn’t held the GHC Heavyweight championship since August 2017, which will mark two years in a few months. He also took part in only one Heavyweight championship match since losing the title, a losing effort during Takashi Sugiura’s dominant reign last year.
Now, the current situation seems to make things a bit tricky, since AXIZ currently hold the tag titles, but with both AXIZ and Kiyomiya needing to hold on their respective championships for another while to keep establishing themselves, I think we can jump straight to Global League, which will be occurring this fall. Nakajima has never won this tournament, has failed in the finals last year against Kiyomiya after getting a second chance thanks to Marufuji’s injury. It does sound like the perfect time to win NOAH’s biggest tournament, and earn a chance to face Kiyomiya again, setting up the final piece for what could be NOAH’s biggest rivalry of this newly born era. With their previous Global League encounter, the current events surrounding Global Tag League and Nakajima being a, if not the early favourite to win NOAH’s biggest tournament this year, it does feel like the script is writing itself, at least for this year, as possible indicator for what we will be in for in the years to come.
Finally, I want to quickly touch on Kenoh, who is also likely to reappear around the Heavyweight title picture, at some point. If I didn’t went with him, it is because he is not exactly what I think Kiyomiya needs right now as the Ace. Unless he turns on Kaito (which would ultimately bring a new dynamic), he is currently no nemesis to the young Ace, but more of a friendly rival, which again, isn’t the type of opponent Kiyomiya will eventually have to come across. Also, Kenoh has already been defeated by his current partner this year for the championship, so while he will eventually challenge again, it might not be until Nakajima, or someone else, actually takes the belt away from Kaito.