Pro Wrestling NOAH
N1 Victory 2020 Night 2
September 20, 2020
New Sunpai Takasaki
Takasaki, Gunma

Watch: Wrestle Universe

After a very successful first night in Nagoya, the N1 marches on to Takasaki with a smaller crowd, a single camera, a house show vibe and a slate of matches that seem to take this all into account. The show’s entire runtime is just about two hours so let us give our thanks to the merciful ark and get into it. Here are the non-tournament results:

  • Nioh def. Kinya Okada
  • Daisuke Harada, YO-HEY, Go Shiozaki, Kaito Kiyomiya def. Hao, Tadasuke, Kenoh, Katsuhiko Nakajima

It should be noted that even with all these deliciously pinnacle juniors, Shiozaki gets the fall over Nakajima here. After, the two are joined by Kenoh and Kiyomiya for a series of post-match promos where the four talk a whole bunch of shit at one another. 

N1 Victory 2020 B Block
Naomichi Marufuji (2) def. Yoshino Inamura (0)

Everyone’s got a wrestler or two they can’t help but view with rose-tinted glasses. Mine is Naomichi Marufuji. Even at his slowest, sleepiest and night-off-iest, all he has to do is run through a few of his signature spots and you’ll find me in your favorite Discord saying, “I don’t know guys, I thought that match was pretty good.” Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, I thought this match was pretty good. 

The first chunk of the match is built on Marufuji working Inamura’s arm. The arm stuff never goes anywhere, every so often Inamura remembers to shake it a little, but it doesn’t really need to. It’s just a starting point for Maru to break down this young, beefy lunkhead across from him. Throughout, it’s clear that Inamura is outmatched by his veteran opponent in terms of ability, but has no shortage of pure strength and fire to draw from. It’s a story they tell well in a simple match. Inamura is great for a screaming comeback and hard strike exchange, and he’s got a big ol’ resonant ass chest for Marufuji’s chops. Maru takes control with all the knees and kick combos I’m a sucker for and wraps things up with a Wrist Clutch Ko-oh that looks like total murder. ***¼ 

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N1 Victory 2020 A Block
Manabu Soya (2) def. Masa Kitamiya (0)

I’m a sucker for hoss fights. I’ve said in the past that you could play me a series of unrelated clips of big dudes chopping and dropping each other on their heads and I’d probably give it four-and-a-half stars. But for some reason, the NOAH hoss contingent never really clicks that hard with me. I enjoy them as foils for smaller guys on the roster to overcome (not unlike the previous Marufuji/Inamura bout) but against one another I never get that degree of totally ignorant violence I shamefully crave. The same holds true for this match – they’re doing all my favorite hoss-y things, but it never becomes something I can really sink my teeth into as much as I’d like to. 

After returning from some outside brawling Soya has control in the ring. Kitamiya reverses an apron piledriver attempt and drops Soya on his knee, and from there takes the reins with a series of attacks to the leg. It doesn’t last though, the two get back to punishing one another in a manner more befitting of their size, well-groomed facial hair and okay dye jobs. They start charging each other like angry rams and get the crowd behind them a pretty good deal before Soya taps Kiyamiya with a can opener-type neckhold. It turns out to be a pretty fun twelve minutes. ***

N1 Victory 2020 A Block
Kazushi Sakuraba (2) def. Masaoka Mochizuki (1)

Most Masaaki Mochizuki matches would present an (always welcome) excuse to marvel at how he remains one of the best professional wrestlers on the planet at the age of fifty. (See his thirty minute draw with Kaito Kiyomiya on Night One) Here though, he finds himself up against fellow M’s Alliance member Kazushi Sakuraba, his elder by a slight margin. Sakuraba’s MMA-style grappling is a departure from the rest of the tournament lineup. In recent multiman tags I’ve found he’s often guilty of bringing matches to a painful, grinding halt, but I’ve always had a soft spot for him, and I’ve been very curious about what his singles matches would look like in the context of a round-robin tournament.

The match begins with a series of grappling exchanges. Sakuraba dominates on the mat, but Mochizuki is a very able dance partner and keeps things compelling enough through the opening minutes. Mochizuki spends the match attempting to make space for his signature kicks, struggling under smothering pressure from Saku. He eventually succeeds, and a slew of stiff strikes culminate with a headkick that completely levels his opponent. We’re teased with a knockout, but Saku makes it to his feet before the 10 count. Mochizuki tries to put him down for good with the Twister, but the ol’ Grace Killer is able to trap an arm and lock in a kimura the tap. These two told a clean and easy story with a tense closing stretch in eight minutes or so, and I liked it a lot. It especially worked well with the small show/hard cam presentation. If this is the kind of variety Sakuraba’s matches can bring to the tournament, I’m cautiously optimistic for what’s to come. ***¼ 



N1 Victory 2020 B Block
Takashi Sugiura (4) def. Shuhei Taniguchi (0)

From the opening bell, these two take on a pace that tells you we’re going a little longer for the main event. It’s a risky decision given the atmosphere on this show, and at times conjures up the dreary haunted house vibes I’d get during NOAH’s run of empty arena shows. To its credit though, it plays into the narrative these two are working toward. Sugiura does not take Taniguchi seriously, bullying him around the ring and quickly snuffing out any inklings of a comeback. He keeps prodding at Taniguchi like he’s trying to will something more out of him. With an open palm slap to the face late in the match, that cracks through the arena and drops the former Maybach to a knee, he finally succeeds.

While keeping up his standard sleepy, melancholy expression, Taniguchi proceeds to kick the holy hell out of Sugiura, nearly powerbombing him through the mat, ruthlessly pummeling him with headbutts in the corner. Just as it seems a major upset was coming, Sugiura escapes by the skin of his teeth with a Frankensteiner for the pin. While this all may sound exciting, and it was, it doesn’t quite undo a lot of the first half’s meandering. It doesn’t help that a stretch of the match took place on the far side of the ring from the hard cam, obscuring much of the action from the viewer. ***

Final Thoughts

There’s nothing you need to go out of your way for on Night 2 of the N1, but if you’re doing the completionist thing these four block matches certainly won’t hurt you. And I don’t know man, that Marufuji match was pretty good. 

Standings

Block A

  • Go Shiozaki – 2
  • Manabu Soya – 2
  • Kazushi Sakuraba – 2
  • Kaito Kiyomiya – 1
  • Masaaki Mochizuki – 1
  • Masa Kitamiya – 0

Block B

  • Takashi Sugiura – 4
  • Katsuhiko Nakajima – 2
  • Naomichi Marufuji – 2
  • Kenoh – 0
  • Shuhei Taniguchi – 0
  • Yoshiki Inamura – 0