Ahh NOAH, where can I even begin with you? NOAH holds a special place in my heart and I even found some enjoyment in it in 2016, but we need to talk about how NOAH can come back to relevancy in the new year. NOAH was surprisingly purchased by a Japanese IT company called Estbee in October of last year, and we have already started feeling the changes of the purchase. Nakajima is heavyweight champ, some juniors are being promoted to heavyweight and Suzuki-Gun is gone which is a blessing to the highest degree. Despite Suzuki still having some high level matches in NOAH, he and the other 53 members of Suzuki-Gun being gone is ultimately the right decision, it makes NOAH feel like it is almost an entirely new company, and with NJPW seemingly at bay it might as well be one.
You may be wondering why I have a title focused on Katsuhiko Nakajima, well to be frank this whole operation relies on him now. Nakajima has the benefit of being only 28 years old and will be starting his 13th year as a pro this year. He desperately needs to undergo the Kento Miyahara transformation (yes I realize the irony in saying this) in the fact that he needs to become the ace of NOAH and therefore a draw for the brand for them to survive past this year. I am usually a strong proponent of “there are no true draws in wrestling anymore” but in NOAH’s case in order to start drawing good houses again Nakajima and the gang will need to make themselves must see attractions.
Now I’m not going to sit here and write how to make NOAH better, because honestly I don’t know and I’m not even completely positive that *they* know what to do at this point, but I do know two things. First off, every GHC Heavyweight Championship does not to be a forty minute affair, because nine times out of ten it makes the match so much worst than it has any right to be given the amount of talent involved. I think NOAH having a few great 15-25 title matches would be enough to at least get some people in the arenas they run.
Secondly, they absolutely need to bring in more outsiders from somewhere. Right now Nakajima’s title defense consist of Suzuki, Kitamiya and soon to be Sugiura. So assuming Nakajima wins (and please for all that is holy do not give Sugiura the title again so soon) he has three guys that have been pushed enough to challenge him, those being Maybach, Marufuji and Shiozaki. Bringing in some guys like Masato Tanaka or maybe even a couple of K-DOJO guys like Mashimo and Nagai (I have no idea what the contract situation for these guys are like especially given that they work All Japan and stuff which could throw a wrench into that but let me fantasy book please). Even the juniors moving up will be good challengers but you can’t blow through them too fast.
I want NOAH to succeed, I think we can all agree that more wrestling promotions running shows is always a good thing especially with some of the talent that is in NOAH. Guys like Nakajima, Kotoge, Kitamiya and Shiozaki will have to step up huge this year as well as your older vets like Sugiura and Marufuji also holding their own. It will be fun to revisit this in a year and see if NOAH has actually taken some of the steps necessary to come back to the forefront of puroresu or if they just squander and disappear entirely. If All Japan can come back from the brink of death, I have no doubt in my mind that NOAH can see a similar turnaround in 2017 and I look forward to seeing what they do.