Back in October 2023, the world of professional wrestling was very surprised and almost shocked to learn that superstar Katsuhiko Nakajima had decided to leave Pro Wrestling NOAH after being a mainstay with the promotion for 15 years. Nakajima stated that he left NOAH because he wanted to challenge himself as a professional wrestler. Nakajima became a freelancer on November 1st and bid farewell to NOAH on October 28th as he wrestled his last match for the promotion.
There was much speculation as to where Nakajima was going to end up. There were rumors that he would be joining the Just Five Guys faction lead by IWGP World Champion SANADA in New Japan Pro-Wrestling. Tony Khan had expressed interest in possibly bringing Nakajima to AEW. To a lesser extent, people were calling for IMPACT Wrestling to give Nakajima a shot. The rumor mill was really running hot as to where Nakajima would end up next. We got our answer to the Nakajima question on October 21st 2023 in Korakuen Hall.
On October 21st, Yuma Aoyagi has just successfully defended his All Japan Pro-Wrestling Triple Crown Title for the fifth time in a stellar match with Kento Miyahara at AJPW 51st Anniversary event. Following the match, Katsuhiko Nakajima appeared dressed in a suit and holding a bouquet of flowers. The flowers were meant for Miyahara which Nakajima would have presented to him if Miyahara had won the Triple Crown Title. Instead, Nakajima blasted Miyahara over the head with the flowers and left the arena. It was quite obvious Nakajima was there with his sights set on Miyahara. The two had a five star match back on July 15th for Pro Wrestling NOAH that was won by Nakajima. It seemed that their feud would be resuming in AJPW which had to excite just about every fan of professional wrestling in Japan and around the world.
The history between Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kento Miyahara goes back to 2008 when they were both in Kensuke Office Pro-Wrestling. Nakajima was Miyahara’s senior while they were in Kensuke Office Pro-Wrestling. The two faced each other for the first time in a singles match back on February 16th 2008 that was won by Nakajima. They both teamed numerous times between 2008-2012 before Miyahara joined AJPW. With their five star match (rated by Dave Meltzer) back on July 15th 2023 and Nakajima’s disrespectful flower attack on Miyahara, everything was in place for an epic rematch between the two superstars in an AJPW ring. But then AJPW decided to add an element to their match that was very questionable.
When Kento Miyahara decided to officially join the AJPW roster back in 2013, he had already established himself as a top star in the world of professional wrestling. He almost immediately became the face of AJPW. In 2023, when one thinks of AJPW, they also think of Kento Miyahara. Miyahara is well respected in the world of professional wrestling. He has the talent to go into any promotion and have incredible matches against their top stars. This has been proven time and time again. As Miyahara is 34 and won’t be around forever, AJPW needed to develop another top star within the promotion that would hopefully be able to reach the level of Kento Miyahara. They were on the verge of doing that with a talent that holds terrific potential and has shown he could quite possibly step into that role. His name is Yuma Aoyagi and he was riding a great wave of momentum. Unfortunately, AJPW decided it would be best to halt that momentum Aoyagi was enjoying.
After five successful title defenses of the Triple Crown Championship, Yuma Aoyagi’s sixth defense had been announced for November 5th 2023 and his challenger would be Katsuhiko Nakajima. This set up what could have been a perfect situation for AJPW. AJPW had the opportunity to really get their champion Yuma Aoyagi over here. A big win over Katsuhiko Nakajima by Aoyagi would have greatly elevated his status in the professional wrestling world. A win by Aoyagi over the former NOAH GHC Heavyweight Champion Nakajima would have made a huge statement that Yuma Aoyagi is a major player that represents AJPW. It would have shown that Kento Miyahara isn’t the only real force to be reckoned with in AJPW.
The Kento Miyahara/Katsuhiko Nakajima feud really could have taken off as well. AJPW could have had Miyahara appear with a bouquet of flowers as Nakajima had two weeks earlier and return the favor by blasting Nakajima over the head with them. A brawl could have ensued which would have led to the match for December 31 at AJPW MANIAx 2023. This would have been a perfect set up and scenario for AJPW. But it didn’t quite happen that way.
On November 5th, Katsuhiko Nakajima defeated Yuma Aoyagi for the AJPW Triple Crown Title in a terrific match up. It was the first Triple Crown Title reign for Nakajima. Nakajima called out Miyahara after his title win and declared that he will defend the championship against Miyahara on December 31st at AJPW MANIAx 2023. And that’s how it went down. Yuma Aoyagi who was on a great streak loses to a former Pro Wrestling NOAH star who in turns nominates Miyahara as his first challenger. It made Pro Wrestling NOAH appears strong and AJPW appear weak.
We have to remember that Katushiko Nakajima is a freelancer. He is not signed to AJPW. The plan is most likely have him drop the Triple Crown Title to Miyahara on December 31st and that will probably mark the end of Nakajima’s short run in AJPW. If Miyahara wins, it will be his 7th Triple Crown Title reign which is not as intriguing at this point than Yuma Aoyagi having a very successful first reign as champion. Yes, another Katsuhiko Nakajima/Kento Miyahara match will be an incredible one that should be viewed by all fans but they don’t need the AJPW Triple Crown Title involved. That title doesn’t make the Nakajima/Miyahara match any bigger than it already is.
There is no doubt in the author’s mind that Yuma Aoyagi should still be the AJPW Triple Crown Champion. There is no doubt in the author’s mind that AJPW MANIAx 2023 should have a double main event. The first main event being Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Kento Miyahara and the second being Yuma Aoyagi defending the AJPW Triple Crown Championship against a top star such as Minoru Suzuki or Shuji Ishikawa.
While it is well understood that Katsuhiko Nakajima winning the Triple Crown Title brought one or two days of media coverage and that’s what AJPW may have been shooting for, it is also understood that AJPW needs to consider their long term future and how vital it is to build major stars within the organization. Yuma Aoyagi is well on his way to being one of those major stars but AJPW decision regarding Nakajima has set him back and hopefully AJPW can get Aoyagi back on that wave of momentum very soon.
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