Pro Wrestling NOAH returns with the second edition of the N-1 Victory tournament, formerly known as Global League ! This year, the tournament will be held from September 18th to Otober 11th, day of the final between the two block winners.
In comparison to last year, no outsiders will be involved in this year’s field, and the GHC Heavyweight champion will compete.
Now then, without further ado, let’s dive straight into both blocks.
- Go Shiozaki, GHC Heavyweight Champion, 2nd entry
Kicking things off with the man with a target on his back : The Heavyweight champion Go Shiozaki. With the recent break-up of AXIZ, the champion is caught in quite the turmoil currently. Now, while this block can look tricky, expect Shiozaki to look strong, likely finishing in the upper half of this block.
Key match-ups : Kaito Kiyomiya, Masaaki Mochizuki, Kazushi Sakuraba.
- Manabu Soya, 1st entry
Next up is one of our few first time entrants in Kongo’s Manabu Soya. He is not the easiest entrant to look at in terms of what he can do in this tournament, yet one thing is rather certain : He also is someone you’d rather have looking strong in his outings. In that sense, the A block has more than one opportunity for him to do just that.
Key match-ups : Go Shiozaki, Kaito Kiyomiya, Masa Kitamiya.
- Kaito Kiyomiya, 1st entry
Third is a man who has been having an interesting, yet not filled with much success, 2020. NOAH’s Supernova does look like the big fish in the pond here, however, with the exception of Shiozaki. Kaito has yet to be truly prominent near any championship since the National title match against Takashi Sugiura, which could make one think he will look to win the block, and beat Shiozaki, to earn another shot at the title he lost last January.
Key match-ups : Go Shiozaki, Masaaki Mochizuki, Kazushi Sakuraba.
- Masaaki Mochizuki, 2nd entry
Moving on to the first member of the M’s Alliance in Masaaki Mochizuki. One of the tournament’s trump cards, so to speak. Someone who could ultimately beat everyone else, yet you also wouldn’t be too surprised if he ends up with more losses than wins. It’ll be most interesting who Mochi is costing points to, outside of the actual in-ring performances of course.
Key match-ups : Go Shiozaki, Kaito Kiyomiya, Kazushi Sakuraba.
- Masa Kitamiya, 2nd entry
Now let’s look at the other Kongo member in this block, Masa Kitamiya. Still looking for tangible singles success, I’d expect Kitamiya to get some big wins, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he were to be higher in the rankings than you might expect him to. Yet, due to the rather strong field, he might still suffer from it.
Key match-ups : Go Shiozaki, Kaito Kiyomiya, Manabu Soya.
- Kazushi Sakuraba, GHC Tag Team Champion, 1st entry
Last, but DEFINITELY not least, arguably the biggest trump card in the whole tournament in Sakuraba. The « I.Q wrestler », while not truly being expected to win the A block (you never know, though), absolutely is someone everybody else should, and will, be weary of. Even if Sakuraba only gets, let’s say, two wins, expect these two wins to matter A LOT when it’s time to decide who advances to the final.
Key match-ups : Go Shiozaki, Kaito Kiyomiya, Masaaki Mochizuki.
Key A block matches
- Kaito Kiyomiya vs Masaaki Mochizuki – September 18th
- Masaaki Mochizuki vs Kazushi Sakuraba – September 20th
- Masa Kitamiya vs Manabu Soya – September 20th
- Go Shiozaki vs Kazushi Sakuraba – September 22nd
- Go Shiozaki vs Masaaki Mochizuki – September 23rd (night show)
- Kaito Kiyomiya vs Kazushi Sakuraba – September 23rd (night show)
- Go Shiozaki vs Kaito Kiyomiya – October 4th
- Kenoh, GHC National Champion, 2019 winner, 2nd entry
Starting the B block section with the other man to have a target on his back, the National champion Kenoh. He also is someone caught in the turmoil caused by someone else here in the B block, as the leader of Kongo. Kind of like Shiozaki, expect him to look strong due to his status, while it is quite unlikely he makes back-to-back finals.
Interestingly enough, Kenoh will facing quite a lot of people he really, really dislikes.
Key-match-ups : Katsuhiko Nakajima, Naomichi Marufuji, Takashi Sugiura.
- Katsuhiko Nakajima, 2nd entry
Speaking of turmoil, here is the one at the center of it all. The Mad Wolf, former National Champion has remained quite blurry regarding his intentions, promising he’d make them clear in due time. However, one thing is pretty sure. Nakajima will be looking NOAH’s top tournament for the first time, and will be looking to reclaim the Heavyweight championship.
The other story, of course is what will happen with Kenoh.
Key-match-ups : Kenoh, Naomichi Marufuji, Takashi Sugiura.
- Naomichi Marufuji, 2nd appearance
Moving on to someone with retribution in mind regarding this tournament in Marufuji. After finishing at the bottom of the A block last year with no points scored, Marufuji most likely will be looking to do much better in this stacked B block. In such a block, more than a potential favourite to reach the final, Marufuji may look like someone who may cost one of his opponents two very important in the tournament.
Key match-ups : Kenoh, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Takashi Sugiura.
- Shuhei Taniguchi, 2nd entry
Speaking of people who could cost important points, here is last year’s B block runner-up and NOAH’s resident Frankeinstein Monster. This field is filled with opportunities for Taniguchi to leave a mark, and while he may not finish second again this year, you absolutely should expect him to gain some big wins, especially given there is the National champion in this block, as well as Takashi Sugiura, who Taniguchi failed to beat last year for that same title.
Key match-ups : Kenoh, Takashi Sugiura, Yoshiki Inamura.
- Takashi Sugiura, 2019 finalist, GHC Tag Team Champion, 2nd entry
Speaking of the devil, here he is. Someone else who will most likely cost someone else in this block points, Sugiura simply isn’t someone you can leave out when discussing potential block winners. However, he already reached the final last year, just won the tag belts, so this may be a year were Sugi doesn’t exactly dominate his block like he did last year. Now, as said prior, expect him to be a real hurdle for anybody looking to win the whole thing.
Key match-ups : Kenoh, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Naomichi Marufuji, Shuhei Taniguchi.
- Yoshiki Inamura, 1st entry
Lastly, NOAH’s tank and Super Rookie Yoshiki Inamura makes his first singles tournament appearance in his home promotion (he took part in BJW’s Strong Climb earlier this year). This block is way too stacked to expect much from Inamura in terms of points, however, for him to make progress, this probably is the best way to go. Inamura will take quite a few beatings and surely won’t win a lot, however, let’s not exclude one big Inamura win. When no one truly looks at you as a threat, this may be your best chance to create an upset.
Key match-ups : Naomichi Marufuji, Shuhei Taniguchi, Takashi Sugiura.
Key B block matches
- Kenoh vs Katsuhiko Nakajima – September 18th
- Takashi Sugiura vs Shuhei Taniguchi – September 20th
- Naomichi Marufuji vs Yoshiki Inamura – September 20th
- Naomichi Marufuji vs Takashi Sugiura – September 22nd
- Takashi Sugiura vs Katsuhiko Nakajima – September 23rd (night show)
- Naomichi Marufuji vs Kenoh – September 23rd (night show)
- Naomichi Marufuji vs Katsuhiko Nakajima – October 4th
- Takashi Sugiura vs Kenoh – October 4th
Val’s final prediction : Kaito Kiyomiya vs Katsuhiko Nakajima
This final is a rematch from the 2018 Global League, in terms of tournament set-up. Two years ago, Nakajima snuck in the final due to Naomichi Marufuji’s inability to compete due to injury, winning a three-way match also featuring Kohei Sato and Kenoh, who also were in contention to win the block. Kiyomiya won the B block, having the tiebreaker over Go Shiozaki, Takashi Sugiura and Maybach (now Shuhei) Taniguchi.
Two years ago, Nakajima came close, really close of winning the tournament. He had Kiyomiya down for good, but his demeanor led him to lose. So, while you could see this match as Kiyomiya returning near top title contention after months of chasing Keiji Mutoh while starting a group of his own with Daiki Inaba and Shuhei Taniguchi, one could argue you the story here wouldn’t be about him, but about his opponent. Not only did Nakajima lost to Kiyomiya two years ago in the same set-up (as well as last year for the Heavyweight title), he also is the one man everyone has eyes on. Breaking AXIZ up only to join Kongo, added to his demeanor which can only make you think that he has something up his sleeve, Nakajima has a plan and it’s hard to imagine that plan not including him winning NOAH’s biggest tournament. After all, it has been three years since he last held the Heavyweight championship, and his National title reign was short-lived. Surely, there must be a reason as to why it was.
Lastly, with AXIZ breaking up, which match just skyrocketed straight up as NOAH’s most anticipated match, if not Shiozaki vs Nakajima for the promotion’s biggest prize ? A match which hasn’t happened in more than three years ?