Pro Wrestling Noah’s first event of 2022 marks both its return to the renowned Nippon Budokan, and the return of one of its biggest stars.
Kenta, 40, steps into the emerald green ring for the first time since 2014 as part of a 10-match card at Noah The New Year.
Noah was established in 2000 with Kenta wrestling on the promotion’s second-ever event.
While Japanese fans were initially drawn to Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa among others, who had made their name in All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) during the 1990s, Kenta quickly became a highlight of Noah cards.
His popularity grew stateside with a series of appearances in Ring of Honor (ROH) during the mid-2000s where his influence on Bryan Danielson and CM Punk was clear.
Back in Noah, Kenta would go on to capture every available GHC Championship—in both the junior heavyweight and then heavyweight divisions—and fill the gap left by the death of Misawa and the retirement of Kobashi.
Kenta’s decision to leave Japan in 2014, headed to WWE NXT, came as a shock to the puroresu landscape. The Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer noted Kenta was the “first genuine top star … to leave his company to join an American promotion”.
After leaving WWE NXT, Kenta signed with New Japan Pro-Wrestling (NJPW).
January 1, 2022 will be the first match Kenta has wrestled for Noah in more than seven years (as Kenta; Hideo Itami headlined partner-turned-rival Naomichi Marufuji’s 20th anniversary celebration in 2018).
“I’m interested to see a new Kenta,” Marufuji told Mark Pickering for noah.co.jp. “He will probably be different from the past, from what Noah fans remember. I encountered him once as Hideo Itami, but now he’s someone new and he has my attention.”
Kenta will be part of a six-man tag team bout at The New Year, teaming with fellow Noah stalwarts Kazushi Sakuraba and Takashi Sugiura.
Noah The New Year streams live, with English commentary, on Saturday, January 1, from 8pm (NZDT) on Wrestle Universe. A one month subscription costs ¥900 (approximately $12 NZD).
Noah The New Year Card:
- GHC Heavyweight Championship:
Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) vs. Go Shiozaki
- GHC National Championship:
Kenoh (c) vs Kaito Kiyomiya
- Daiki Inaba, Masa Kitamiya & Yoshiki Inamura vs. Kazushi Sakuraba, Kenta & Takashi Sugiura
- GHC Tag Team Championship:
Keiji Muto & Naomichi Marufuji (c) vs. Masato Tanaka & Nariaki Mochizuki
- GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship:
Hayata (c) vs. Yoshinari Ogawa
- Ikuto Hidaka & Masakatsu Funaki vs. Kendo Kashin & Kazuyuki Fujita
- Atsushi Kotoge, Daisuke Harada, Hajime Ohara & Ultimo Dragon vs. Eita, Kotaro Suzuki, Nosawa Rongai & Yo-Hey
- Aleja & Haoh vs. Seiki Yoshioka & Yuya Susumu
- Akitoshi Saito, King Tany & Muhammad Yone vs. Manabu Soya, Nioh & Tadasuke
- Junta Miyawaki & Kinya Okada vs. Kai Fujimura & Yasutaka Yano