Issue #7: Three Count Fall
Fujita wins the GHC Title, AZM and SLK have a match for the ages, NJ Cup bracket is revealed, and GLEAT crowns a champion
ONE COUNT: Fujita, Nakajima, and what Pro Wrestling NOAH is in 2022
I really, desperately, want to like Pro Wrestling NOAH. They have an incredible core of heavyweight wrestlers in their athletic primes, industry-leading productions values, a top-notch English-language broadcast team, and are part of a diverse and wide-ranging streaming service that just launched a very user-friendly app.
On the surface, NOAH seems poised to step into the void being left for many fans by New Japan Pro Wrestling’s current and ongoing malaise (more on that later in this issue). The key to the increased curiosity has largely been the aforementioned core of top NOAH stars: Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kaito Kiyomiya, Kenoh, and Go Shiozaki. Ranging from 25 to 40 years old, all four bring something different to the table and are on the same level in terms of in-ring talent and charisma as NJPW’s top stars.
Understandably, many newer and/or younger fans see those four wrestlers as the foundation of NOAH. They see them—along with all the bells and whistles of NOAH broadcasts—and decide to invest their time, money, and emotional energy in it.
When Kazayuki Fujita defeated Katsuhiko Nakajima for the GHC Heavyweight Championship in Nagoya on Feb. 23rd, many of those same people expressed disappointment and shock. Disappointment? I get that. But shock? Not so much.
Having followed Japanese wrestling in real-time for the better part of three decades and having covered it for nearly 20 years, you start to see patterns and trends with the benefit of that wider lens.
The Pro Wrestling NOAH of 2022 is NOSAWA Rongai’s NOAH. Which is to say, NOAH is NOSAWA’s pro wrestling fantasy camp…his own e-Fed come to life, where he gets to hang out with the wrestlers he grew up idolizing (Muto, Fujita, Sakuraba, Funaki, Tanaka, etc.) and later befriended as he makes them the stars in his play, no matter how broken down or politically toxic they are. That’s Pro Wrestling NOAH right now—nothing more, and nothing less.
Wrestlers like Nakajima, Kiyomiya, Kenoh, and even Shiozaki are the guys who were already there when NOSAWA arrived and got the power he has now. He’ll use those guys in main event roles or as champions—and they are booked as the top stars on the house shows that NOSAWA’s guys don’t feel like working but the endgame is always going to be padding the resumes and legacies of the 50-and-over stars that he is friendbooking.
Shiozaki’s last GHC title reign ended with a loss to Muto. Kiyomiya’s “supernova” run was derailed multiple times by Muto and has never gotten back on track. Kenoh’s 2020-21 National title run was ended by Fujita. And now, Nakajima’s GHC title run has ended at the hands of Fujita.
If you are watching NOAH through the lens of Nakajima and Kenoh and Kiyomiya while thinking of them having “main character” energy, you are always going to be disappointed and even a little bit confused. They should be the centerpieces of the promotion, but they are not now and never will be under this regime. Those roles are reserved for the likes of Fujita and Muto—and it’s why most analyses of things like the Muto-Kiyomiya rivalry always feel so off.
When the Muto-Kiyomiya rivalry started, I was constantly told by readers on Twitter that Muto was there to do business. That he was there to make Kiyomiya look good, elevate him, and create NOAH (and Japan’s) next big star that would bring the company back to prominence. Even before Muto’s hip injury, that theory was proven patently false as Muto beat Kiyomiya time and time again, took him to a 30 minute draw in the N1 Victory tournament, and completely overshadowed and undermined him in the Wrestle Kingdom interpromotional tag team match with Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi last month.
NOSAWA isn’t booking Muto or Fujita in Pro Wrestling NOAH to have them help elevate the current/next generation of stars like Kiyomiya or Nakajima in order to lead the company going forward. He’s booking Kiyomiya and Nakajima to help elevate Muto and Fujita—to show the fans that the legends still have it and are the “real” stars. That is as counterproductive and unsustainable of a booking style as you will ever see, and it never works.
Maybe the most frustrating aspect of this is that we’ve all been here before with Pro Wrestling NOAH. More than 15 years ago, Mike Sempervive and I were covering in detail the beginning of the downfall of NOAH and it came down to one thing—the absolute refusal of the company to recognize the need to elevate the younger stars to the level of NOAH’s founding members and legends. By the time they finally did that in a substantive way, it was far too late and the damage was done.
One of the wrestlers most damaged by that failure to replenish the pipeline of stars was Naomichi Marufuji—he, along with KENTA, was poised to be the next leader of of Pro Wrestling NOAH’s main event scene. The company found every reason (a few with a modicum of merit, most with none whatsoever) to not pull the trigger on them in a bold and meaningful way when it would’ve mattered…and they never recovered. It’s extraordinarily frustrating to see history repeating itself today with that same Marufuji in a position of power in the company.
The worst part of Fujita winning the title wasn’t even the result itself—it was the way it happened. He largely dominated the otherwise dominant champion throughout the match. When Nakajima finally had Fujita in danger with a couple of devastating punt kicks, Fujita largely no-sold the damage. He went on to hit a Beast Bomb and a punt kick to the face (which is the likely cause of the the perforated eardrum that will keep Nakajima out of action for an undetermined period of time), then pulled Nakajima up from a one-knee pin attempt and hit a second Beast Bomb for the victory. It was classic Fujita bigfooting (and very similar to the way he defeated Kenoh for the National Title in 2020), using his status and power to make someone look weak for no good business reason.
The post-match scene and press conference was a veneration of Fujita as the new champion, complete with the announcement that the NOAH tracksuit-clad Fujita had signed with the company.
Nakajima was somehow able to avoid the black hole that enveloped the rest of the roster during Keiji Muto’s run pre-injury, but he couldn't do the same with Fujita. And now he's just like Shiozaki, Kenoh, Kiyomiya, Kitamiya, Inamura, and the rest of the roster...put in his place by the “real” stars. A guy to put over the legend and main event the spot shows they can’t be bothered to work.
Much like with Muto last year, do not expect this Fujita title reign to lead to any sort of elevation for anyone else on the roster. The only somewhat logical way to justify him winning the title would be to have him drop the title to Yoshiki Inamura to finally elevate him, but Inamura is still on his four-years-and-counting treadmill of dropping direct pinfalls in midcard tag team matches.
There is no "young guys overcoming the odds to beat the legends" story coming in Pro Wrestling NOAH under this regime. None of this is building to anything. It wasn't happening with Muto and it's not happening with Fujita. If that's fine with you, feel free to enjoy what NOAH is doing—but don't kid yourself into thinking that it’s something that it’s not.
Fujita’s first defense will be against Masato Tanaka next month, and one would expect that it will likely be someone like Tanaka or Takashi Sugiura that Fujita will drop the championship too.
I have written in the past about how the narrative surrounding Muto’s run in NOAH doesn’t match the facts. After he won the championship from Shiozaki, attendance did not spike—it actually dropped year-over-year for the promotion’s Budokan Hall show. Fujita’s title challenge in Nagoya drew just 643 fans, which is less than Dragon Gate drew in that same building a few months prior for a show with a far less marquee main event. There is not a groundswell of interest for this version of Pro Wrestling NOAH with 50+ year old champions, regardless of the company’s breathless tweeting about “trending #3 on Twitter.”
In a vacuum, having legends on your show is obviously not an inherent negative. It’s not even necessarily a negative to have one of them occasionally hold a championship—Masakatsu Funaki’s run in NOAH so far and his GHC National Championship reign is evidence of that. Taken in conjunction with everything else, though, it’s a part of pattern that shows what the promotion clearly is and isn’t at this point.
As NOAH’s Feb. 23rd show ended, I couldn’t help but think back to Oct. 9th, 2004. On that date, then-IWGP Champion Kazayuki Fujita dropped the championship to Kensuke Sasaki (the man who would be a then-15 year old Katsuhiko Nakajima’s mentor and father figure) in less than 3 minutes as he pinned himself while holding onto a rear naked choke. It was a finish that seemed disastrous on paper and came off cataclysmically bad when I saw it weeks later—arguably the lowest point in the history of the IWGP title during NJPW’s darkest days, making the belt seem utterly insignificant and absolutely cutting off the credibility of Sasaki’s ensuing reign. Almost 18 years later, it’s hard not wonder what the next few months will be bring in Pro Wrestling NOAH and just how much damage will be done this time around.
TWO COUNT: Stardom delivers again with a “smaller” PPV that showcases their main event depth
On the surface, Stardom’s Feb. 23rd PPV event in Nagaoka seemed like a less important show than some of the other major events they have held in recent years. The World of Stardom (Red Belt) Championship was not being defended and none of the companies most established main event stars—Syuri, Giulia, Tam Nakano, Utami Hayashishita, Mayu Iwatani, etc.—were in featured matches as the top of the card.
Instead, the show was headlined by Wonder of Stardom (White Belt) and High Speef Championship matches featuring some of the top young and/or up-and-coming stars of the promotion. The end result was two great matches that showcased Stardom’s incredible depth of high-end wrestlers.
The High Speed Championship match between Starlight Kid and AZM looked to be a can’t-miss match on paper. They are generational rivals who began in Stardom in their early teens and have grown into two of the most exciting and dynamic wrestlers in the world—with plenty of room to grow into even stronger performers. Their match from Oct 3rd, 2020, was an absolute masterclass at how to open a major show with an all-action high-speed contest and set the tone for the company’s PPV era.
Fast forward to 2022 and each has grown into their roles bumping up against the main event scene in Stardom; AZM as part of Queen’s Quest, Starlight Kid as the de facto leader of Oedo Tai.
Everything has come together for Starlight Kid in recent months. As much as turning her heel felt like a risk given how natural she was as a high-flying underdog babyface, the Darkside version of SLK has unlocked a different level of charisma and legitimate star presence in here.
While it’s never a one-to-one comparison between wrestlers, there is so much of prime Jushin “Thunder” Liger in SLK’s movement and physical charisma behind a mask—and that’s as strong of a compliment as I can give any wrestler. A lesser wrestler’s expressiveness could be swallowed up by wearing a mask, but Starlight Kid—like Liger before her—has such a unique way of moving in the ring and such a compelling physical charisma that creates an expressiveness unmatched amongst her peers. The entire presentation just screams “top star”—from the entrance music, to the entrance robe adorned with the masks she puts on each opponent after successful title defenses, to the way she carries herself all way down the ramp and into the ring.
This match was happening against the backdrop of the announcement that Starlight Kid will be KAIRI’s first singles match in her return to Stardom next month. With that in mind, but also given the fact that SLK just defeated AZM in a three-way High Speed Title match with Koguma last December, the result was up in the air without an obvious winner heading into the show.
What most often sets High Speed Title matches apart is the breakneck pace from the opening bell, with speed that doesn’t let up until the match ends. Starlight Kid’s last defense against Natsupoi eschewed that formula and suffered for it by going the full 30 minute time limit. There were no such issues here.
Given that the match went nearly 18 minutes, it’s remarkable that they Starlight Kid and AZM were able to keep up such a torrid pace throughout. The match began with another one of their trademark opening series of moves, countermoves, pin attempts, and high flying action into an early standoff. From there, the match took and never let up, somehow maintaining the high speed ethos while also featuring AZM working over SLK’s arm and great character work from both.
As worthy as all of the praise is for SLK, the star of this match just may have been AZM. Her ability to effortlessly string together moves, quickly scale the ropes in the corner, and improvise when things go slightly wrong are all at “best in the world level.” It’s not a perfect comparison because she uses a more angular attack, but there is a lot of Rey Misterio, Jr. in AZM’s offense and countermoves.
The finish came via a dramatic submission, with AZM returning to the arm she had targeted throughout the match and Starlight Kid being excellent in selling the pain of the hold before submitting. Hayashishita’s reaction to the finish at ringside on commentary only added to the scene. Everything about this match built so organically to that submission finish and it happened at exactly the right time—this was in so many ways a singles version of those classic Dragon Gate six man tag teams matches of years gone by.
Starlight Kid is such a strong character with a legitimate star aura at this point that the loss doesn’t hurt her at all—instead, it serves as a graduation of sorts for her as she moves onto the main event scene with the match against KAIRI at Ryogoku in March. For AZM, this gives her the opportunity to have one more landmark High Speed Title reign before she does the same, with the begrudging fist post-match fist bump from SLK serving as both of badge of honor and a hint of things to come.
Having won the fan voting to determine the main event of the show, Saya Kamitani and Natsupoi had the daunting task of immediately following what was arguably the match of the year (it’s my choice so far) and one of the best matches in Stardom history.
Kamitani is the most aggressively pushed wrestler in the company right now. She won the 2022 Cinderella Tournament, ended Tam Nakano’s acclaimed run with the White Belt, appeared in victorious fashion in multiple Stardom showcase matches on major New Japan Pro Wrestling events, and was prominently featured in the run-up to KAIRI’s return to the company. She is still a work in progress with some holes to fill in her game, but her level of improvement is startling when you look at where she was two years ago just prior to pandemic’s onset.
Natsupoi, meanwhile, has emerged as one of Stardom’s most impressive and important supporting cast members since joining the company full time more than a year ago. Her White Belt challenge against Nakano last April was her biggest moment yet, but that was with a completely different and more well-rounded opponent than she had here in Nagaoka.
In the end, they more than delivered.
While Kamitani is clearly the chosen one to fill the long absent Io Shirai role in the company, it was Natsupoi that stole the show in this match. She more than matched Kamitani’s athleticism and brought with a real sense of emotion, fire, and struggle. Poi’s selling in moments where she was either trying to recover from moves or trying to execute them late in the match were as strong as anything I’ve seen in a long time and did so much to pull you into the action as a viewer. She has everything necessary to be a top star on a KAIRI level and she put it all together here—a real “you could build a company around this person” type of performance.
Following the match, both Hayashishita and Nakano appeared to challenge Kamitani for the Wonder of Stardom championship on successive nights at Ryogoku. The announced matches for those shows are as follows, with much more (including DDM vs Prominence) to be solidified in the coming weeks:
March 26th @ Ryogoku:
World of Stardom Championship: Syuri vs. Giulia
Wonder of Stardom Championship: Saya Kamitani vs. Utami Hayashishita
KAIRI & Mayu Iwatani vs. Tam Nakano & Unagi Sayaka
Future of Stardom Championship: Hanan vs. Rina
March 27th @ Ryogoku:
World of Stardom Championship: Syuri or Giulia vs. Mayu Iwatani (STARS)
Wonder of Stardom Championship: Kamitani or Hayashishita vs. Tam Nakano
KAIRI vs. Starlight Kid
World of Stardom Championship: Hanan or Rina vs. Mai Sakurai
THREE COUNT: NJPW heads into New Japan Cup after two great title matches in Sapporo
An uneven 2022 continued for New Japan Pro Wrestling, with two two high-end championship main events in Sapporo and the announcement of a puzzling New Japan Cup bracket.
In last week’s issue I wrote about the issues in New Japan’s main event scene, questioning how long an aging and physically ailing Hiroshi Tanahashi and Tetsuya Naito could continue wrestling at the level required to headline the company’s major shows. If Feb19th and 20th were any indication, the answer is “at least a little longer.”
In many ways, SANADA is the perfect opponent for Tanahashi at this stage of his career. He’s effortlessly athletic, more than capable in chain wrestling sequences, and wrestles a relatively low-impact style that isn’t overly taxing for an opponent. Likewise, Tanahashi’s ability to work to—and accentuate—his opponent’s strengths is a perfect fit for a match designed to give SANADA a breakthrough win in his NJPW singles career.
In the end, that’s exactly what we saw in their United State Championship main event on Feb 19th. Yet again, Tanahashi was able to dial back the hands of time in a significant match (after looking nearly immobile on the “Road To” shows) to give a remarkable performance that served one purpose—give SANADA the biggest win of his career and elevate his status in the company.
SANADA, on the other hand, is a vexing wrestler for many. More than maybe any other modern wrestler, opinions on SANADA seem to be highly polarized with no middle ground. People either see him as a great technical wrestler with a quiet charisma that adds up to a top star waiting to happen, while others contend that he is a boring and charisma-less wrestler undeserving of even a midcard spot. If you follow me @AdamOfTheBAN or are a listener of the Adam & Mike Big Audio Nightmare, you know that I definitely fall into the former category. I’ve long contended that SANADA’s charisma and connection with the Japanese crowds is one of those things that Western fans don’t quite grasp, almost like an updated version of Mitsuharu Misawa in that the stoicism is seen as a positive rather than a negative.
It was a classic match in the true sense of the word, with little in the way of excess or complicated high spots. Chain wrestling and matwork was plentiful, again playing into what SANADA does best while minimizing the things that give the 45 year-old Tanahashi trouble at this stage of his career. With all of that said, it’s remarkable to see this version of Tanahashi still able to hit the “Aces High” top rope cross body press to the floor with as much height and force as he did here.
SANADA was eventually able to beat Tanahashi at his own game, evading a High Fly Flow attempt and transitioning into a rolling clutch to get the victory and his first singles championship under the IWGP banner. While it isn’t the IWGP World Title and he has always been reluctant to fully commit to New Japan, this felt like the most significant win of SANADA’s career and a watershed moment in his career. The English-language commentary pushed this as SANADA finally winning “the big one” and speculated that he could defend the title against former United States champions in Japan and the U.S.
While Tetsuya Naito is five years younger than Hiroshi Tanahashi and not quite as physically damaged, one of the key storylines in NJPW right now seems to be that Naito knows he only has a short time left in his career and is desperately trying find a way into the Wrestle Kingdom 17 main event.
Naito’s IWGP World Championship challenge against Kazuchika Okada on Feb. 20th in Sapporo, which drew a sellout crowd with 50 percent capacity restrictions, was positioned as a means to that end. The story leading up to this final show of the Golden Series tour was that Naito and Los Ingobernobles de Japon had defeated Okada and various partners on every show of the tour leading to the title match between the two.
The other story throughout the tour was Naito attacking Okada’s knees and neck, often after the matches concluded. This paid off very well in the championship match itself, as the work Naito did on those body parts early felt more consequential and connected to the customarily incredible finishing stretch of this Okada defense.
The other noteworthy thing here was just how casually great the action was. Not that Naito or Okada weren’t working hard—quite the opposite, actually. They are so well-suited to each other and have worked together at such a high-level for so long that they can pull out a legitimate Match of the Year contender like this at any time.
To that end, I would make the argument that this was the most efficient title match they have had with each other. Their Wrestle Kingdom encounters have had the advantage of rabid crowd noise and the atmosphere of being on the biggest stage possible. Their March 2012 championship match featured their younger selves at their athletic peaks serving notice that the next generation of New Japan’s main event stars had arrived. Here, it was the two biggest stars of the biggest promotion in the country going out and having a match that showcased everything they had learned, perfected, and mastered in the intervening decade.
Following the conclusion of the Golden Series tour, NJPW announced the card for their 50th Anniversary Show as well as the brackets for the New Japan Cup.
Unlike recent years, the 50th Anniversary show on March 1st at the Budokan does not feature the customary heavyweight vs junior heavyweight championship main event (that is being saved for the following night’s New Japan Cup opener in the same building) but will see the return of several New Japan legends as well as the debut of the StrongHearts group.
NJPW 50th Anniversary Show - March 1st
Kazuchika Okada, Hiroshi Tanahashi & Tatsumi Fujinami vs. Minoru Suzuki, Zack Sabre Jr. & Yoshiaki Fujiwara
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Hirooki Goto & YOSHI-HASHI vs. IWGP Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions Ryusuke Taguchi & Master Wato
Togi Makabe, Tomoaki Honma, Tomohiro Ishii, Toru Yano & Shiro Koshinaka vs. Tetsuya Naito, SANADA, Shingo Takagi, Hiromu Takahashi & BUSHI
Kota Ibushi, Hiroyoshi Tenzan, Satoshi Kojima & Yuji Nagata vs. Will Ospreay, Great-O-Khan, Jeff Cobb & Aaron Henare
STRONGHEARTS (CIMA, T-Hawk & El Lindaman) vs. El Desperado, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & DOUKI
Taichi, TAKA Michinoku & Minoru Tanaka vs. Bad Luck Fale, Taiji Ishimori & El Phantasmo
Tiger Mask, YOH & Ryohei Oiwa vs. EVIL, Yujiro Takahashi & SHO
The announcement of a 48-man bracket for the New Japan Cup tournament led to a great deal of speculation that outsiders from any number of promotions (Pro Wrestling NOAH, GLEAT, New Japan STRONG, or even AEW) would fill out a tournament that seemed to be short on wrestlers from a pure math perspective.
In the end, only CIMA of StrongHearts/GLEAT was announced as a participating outsider. The rest of the tournament will be filled out with several returning foreigners, all champions, and wrestlers from both weight classes.
The most puzzling aspect of the tournament, from a logic standpoint, is the fact that undercard wrestlers (like Gedo, Douki, and Koesi Fujita) have received byes to the second round while champions (Okada, El Desperado, and EVIL) and stars (like Will Ospreay, Shingo Takagi, and Tetsuya Naito) are booked in competitive first round matches.
To be clear, the latter is common in the New Japan Cup—we regularly see first round matches that could theoretically be semifinals or the final, from a star power standpoint. That is necessitated by the fact that you need marquee main events to sell tickets to the first round shows. Having wrestlers with terrible records receive byes to the second round with no storyline explanation—even saying it was a random draw would have been acceptable!—while champions and stars compete in the first round just feels like a bridge too far in a company that tries to present tournaments in at least a somewhat sporting fashion (in between House of Torture matches and KOPW stipulations).
FIVE MORE MINUTES: GLEAT passes a major test as they crown a champion
As GLEAT continues to establish itself in the Japanese pro wrestling landscape, there are a variety of pitfalls they’ve needed to avoid. The scene is littered with promotions that started with fanfare and almost immediately failed (Wrestle-1), companies that were once industry leaders and are now shells of their former selves (AJPW), or places that have gone through so many ownership changes and incarnations that they are now largely irrelevant (ZERO-ONE in its many forms over the years).
The goal for GLEAT has been to not suffer any of those fates. As I have written about previously, they have solid financial backing (LIDET), an interesting and unique mix of wrestling presentations (traditional pro wrestling, UWF rules, and a bit of joshi), a core of veterans (CIMA, Kaz Hayashi, and Minoru Tanaka) who can still perform at a high level while understanding their roles, and a group of highly skilled young wrestlers (Takanori Ito, Yu Iizuka, Soma Watanabe, Hayato Tamura, and Issei Onnitsuka) with diverse styles who are being positioned to lead the company.
With all that in mind, GLEAT’s G-Pro Wrestling side held their first proper Korakuen Hall event (the company held a V.0 show there in 2020) on Feb. 22nd. Featuring the semifinals and final of the G-REX Tournament to crown the company’s first champion at one of the most venerated pro wrestling buildings in the world, this show needed to be a statement of purpose for GLEAT.
By night’s end GLEAT had passed all necessary tests. While not a sellout, the attendance (462 fans) was comparable to recent shows from NJPW, Pro Wrestling NOAH, and other promotions at the same building. All three tournament matches delivered at a high level in different ways. Young stars were the focal point of the show, and they made a bold but absolutely correct choice for first champion.
StrongHearts stablemates T-Hawk and El Lindaman opened the show with what would be the match of the night—an incredible crisp and exciting match that highlighted both men’s strong points and saw the junior heavyweight Lindaman defeat one of the pre-tournament favorites. It’s also notable that T-Hawk, who has not exactly been lauded for his ability to connect with crowds, showed more fire and intensity in this match (and his quarterfinal with Tanaka) than we’ve seen so far in his career. Of course, there are no such worries with Lindaman—he is one of the best wrestlers in the world, combining speed and power with a presence and charisma that rivals that of prime Shinsuke Nakamura or Hiromu Takahashi. Lindaman got the win over T-Hawk in just under 12 minutes with a Tiger Suplex Hold.
The second semifinal was completely different from the first, with Takanori Ito and Hayato Tamura engaging in an all-out war. Neither man is the finished product they will be in a few years; Ito is in some ways a mix between Shibata and Ishii still figuring out which to lean into harder, while Tamura is an all-action power fighter still finding his way to the connective tissue between those massive exchanges in a match. That said, they absolutely killed each other here in the most entertaining way possible in match that will help each get to where they will ultimately end up as wrestlers. Tamura defeated Ito with a running Muscle Buster out of the corner to advance.
That led to the main event and tournament final to crown the first G-REX champion—El Lindaman vs Hayato Tamura. This was another great match and again, completely different from the two semifinals. It was also another remarkable performance by Lindaman, who is top-tier at every element of the game. So good, in fact, that he is somehow able to come off as the smaller underdog babyface and the toe-to-toe tough guy who wrestles bigger than he is…in the same match.
Lindaman survived everything Tamura threw his way, including several absolutely brutal lariats, before landing a beautiful Tiger Suplex hold to win the match, tournament and championship. Most importantly, there was NO INTERFERENCE from Bulk Orchestra or StrongHearts even though both were ringside. It would have been very easy to fall into that trope and it is a very good sign that GLEAT resisted doing so in such an important match for the company. It should also be noted that GLEAT seems to have a good eye for long term booking, as it was Lindaman that pinned Tamura in the StrongHearts vs Bulk Orchestra elimination match last Dec. 30th that led to Tamura having his head shaved.
The post-match scene is also worth going out of your way to watch, if only to see the reaction Lindaman has to being presented the championship belt by Kenta Kobashi.
GLEAT’s next show on March 5th is under the LIDET UWF banner and features a main event that has legitimate MOTYC written all over it, as Yu Iizuka faces Tetsuya Izuchi in a UWF-rules match. Izuchi, like Iizuka, has all the tools to be the top shoot style wrestler in the world. He joined GLEAT and promptly turned on Iizuka at the Feb. 22nd event, setting up this match.