A few big developments this week. Some notable title changes, exciting announcements and tragically one very unfortunate passing.
New Japan Pro Wrestling:
Another slow week for New Japan in the lead up to their strong of Nee Beginning shows, but we did see some fun developments. Clark Connors and Drilla Moloney regained their IWGP Jr Tag Team Championships from Catch 22, and after winning the J5G vs LIJ 10-man elimination match, Yota Tsuji requested a stipulation be added to his match with Yuya Uemura at the New Beginning in Sapporo. For the first time in years, New Japan will be hosting a “cabellera contra cabellera” match, with both men putting their hair on the line for the sake of their rivalry. It’s also worth noting that former IWGP Heavyweight Champion, Satoshi Kojima, has begun his second reign as MLW Heavyweight Champion in America, defeating Alex Kane for the belt. He will make his first defence against Minoru Suzuki on February 29.
Pro Wrestling NOAH:
NOAH has also seen a rather notable title change. At Crossover 2024 in Sendai, El Hijo De Dr Wagner Jr became the first Mexican a wrestler and second ever Gaijin to win the GHC Heavyweight Championship. His first defence will come against Jake Lee on March 31st. After losing the belt to Wagner, it seems Kenoh has picked up a pupil. He has taken young rookie Yu Owada under his wing, a pairing fans hav already begun to christen as “Kenowada”. Tragically, the new team will not be involved in NOAH’s new tag team tournament. The company recently unveiled the lineup for the first ever Victory Challenge Tag League, with seven teams competing in round robin action to determine the next challengers for GLG’s tag belts. Speaking of GLG, following their successful defence against Los Golpeadores, Anthony Greene made a challenge for his partner’s National Championship. That match will take place on February 23. Also, Kaito Kiyomiya won a vacuum cleaner after beating Ryohei Oiwa.
All Japan Pro Wrestling:
Katsuhiko Nakajima nearly found himself in legal issues surrounding his new gimmick. During his All Japan run, Nakajima has been presenting a new side of himself, very heavily influenced by Antonio Inoki and his ideas of fighting spirit. It seems these references have been taken a bit too far, and now Nakajim has publicly apologised for doing so after receiving a warning from the Inoki Genome Federation, the group which manages the portrait rights to the late wrestling legend. It will be interesting to see how Nakajima adapts after this.
After a short reign as Champs, KANON and Daisuke Sasaki have dropped the KO-D Championships to the team of Tetsuya Endo and Yuki Inio. After the match, Endo made a call for anyone to come to the ring and that call was met by AJPW’s Ryuki Honda and Yuma Anzai. That match will seemingly take place at Judgement 2024, March 17th. Also scheduled for that show is Hideki Okatani vs Shunma Katsumata, the match finally being sanctioned for the Extreme belt after Okatani defeated MJ Paul in a number one contender’s match. And finally, to end the show, Yukio Sakaguchi had his last match as a professional wrestler, losing to HARASHIMA. He would then verbally pass the torch to HARASHIMA, leaving the future in his hands as he said one last goodbye to the DDT ring,
Pro Wrestling FREEDOMS:
Masashi Takeda made his first successful defence of the King of FREEDOM Championship against Takayuki Ueki in a barefoot fluorescent light and thumbtack match. This match was also for Ueki’s unofficial “Barefoot King Championship” but after winning and noting the state of his feet, Takeda willingly gave the belt back.
At Valentine Wave 2024, SAKI and Risa Sera won back the WAVE Tag Team Championships from Honoka and Kizuna Tanaka to begin their second reign. Unfortunately, this week in Joshi also carries some very tragic news. Earlier this week it was reported that Asahi of Actwres Girl’Z had passed away. She was only 21 years old. To see such a bright, young person taken at such an early stage of their life is truly cruel and unjust. We wish her family, friends and all who mourn her the utmost condolences. May she rest in peace.
World Wonder Ring Stardom:
After the events this week, we have two new match announcements to look forward to. After beating Saya Kamitani in the main event, Maika made the challenge to the returning Tam Nakano for her World of Stardom Championship, which the challenger seemed eager to accept. It was also announced that Mayu Iwatani would be defending her IWGP Women’s Championship against Mina Shirakawa at the New Beginning in Sapporo. The real buzz coming out of Stardom, however, is the matter of its founder and executive producer, Rossy Ogawa, being fired immediately. Stardom’s official statement reasoned that Ogawa had been attempting to poach talent from the company, which resulted in his immediate termination. Ogawa would later go on to clarify in an interview that he had notified Stardom of his intentions to leave the company and form his own promotion, which he believes is why they made the decision to remove him earlier. Giulia has announced her support of Ogawa, choosing to stay behind and assist him with his first few shows rather than pursue her immediate ventures in the West. Only time will tell how this plays out, but with many of Stardom’s wrestlers reportedly having close ties with Ogawa, it will be interesting to see if any of them wind up defecting to follow him out of the company.