The beautiful violence covered every inch of the cage surrounded ring, as Masa Kitamiya and Katsuhiko Nakajima engaged in ferocious war. Their tag team, factional ties, and brotherly relationship may be well and truly over, but the subsequent feud is far from it. In fact it’s the complete opposite – only just beginning.
When Kitamiya stabbed his long-term tag team partner in the back, in the form of a shocking Saito Suplex, he made a bold choice. One that turned his back on Kongo. One that turned his back on the Aggression. One that turned his back on Katsuhiko Nakajima.
Kitamiya decided to go it alone, as he could no longer trust Nakajima. He challenged the former GHC Heavyweight Champion to a Cage Match (coincidentally the first in Pro Wrestling NOAH’s well-documented history), in which the loser would have their head clean shaven. Clearly a historic and fitting stipulation for such a “blood feud” match.
Following battles of words (and fists) in press conferences, Kitamiya and Nakajima entered the cage on Saturday 26th June 2021. Main eventing the simply titled ‘Cage War’ show, the pair put on an emotive, physical, and brutal fight.
This isn’t a blow by blow account of the match, but instead a look at the overall story and what it means for the future and in the greater context of NOAH as a promotion.
The match had a slow and tempered start, but the ferocity built throughout until the match’s superb crescendo. This was important as it painted the picture of amassing animosity between the two. Nakajima remained his charming, charismatic, cocky self, yet the intense anger he holds towards his betrayer was shown perfectly too.
Both men went to lengths they wouldn’t usually go to: whether it be Nakajima’s missile drop kick from atop the cage or Kitamiya’s failed senton from the same height. These two spots were real punctuation points of the encounter. They offered great marks of disdain between the two, as these were lengths neither had gone to before.
The cage stipulation was added here. It wasn’t overbearing (as it can be in many cage-style matches), but instead served a couple of purposes. One, to prohibit the other Kongo members from getting involved. Two, to keep Kitamiya and Nakajima locked inside.
I think it was to the match’s benefit that the cage was only used on a handful of occasions, therefore was more meaningful when it did happen. Nakajima mercilessly rammed Kitamiya into the cage multiple times in the early goings, with the two high-spots from off the cage top being the only other involvements of the cage.
The cage was there to stop interferences and provide a definite winner. And it sure did that.
The symbolic nature of Kongo leader Kenoh (dressed in a glorious, and I mean GLORIOUS, red suit) locking both men inside the cage was utterly admissible. He made it clear that he wants his allies to fight it out. Mano a mano, “may the best man win”, etc.
The match itself was rich in symbolism, as the feuding pair butted heads, literally and figuratively, like bulls charging with their horns locked.
Kitamiya drove multiple headbutts into Nakajima, busting both their heads wide open. The crimson coating of both men’s faces was a perfect representation of their disdain and animosity for one another. As Nakajima’s blood dripped onto the canvas, their shared hatred was visible for all to see.
The blood may have been a fuel for this match, as the beautiful violence added the much needed intensity and fire between the two. Nakajima hit back at Kitamiya with headbutts of his own, showing the great lengths they were both willing to go to.
After a 30 minute war, Masa Kitamiya finally landed a duo of suplexs named after his mentor and namesake Masa Saito for a decisive victory. He had betrayed Nakajima. He had challenged him to a match. And he had now rightfully defeated him.
It was over, and Masa Kitamiya stood tall. Pro Wrestling NOAH’s booking decisions may often be a whirlwind of oddity, but the decision to have Kitamiya defeat his former tag team partner is the right one. It’s purely sensical to expect an elevation for him on the back of this career-highlight victory, because now NOAH’s big-man has distinct credibility.
The picture that spoke a thousand words was that of Nakajima having his head shaved by his former brother. Maybe a beaten and bruised man, but the ‘Supernova’ struck a defiant figure as he sat arms folded receiving his punishment. Kitamiya didn’t take enormous pleasure in shaving his foes luscious locks, but it was vindication for his bold move away from Kongo; it was the business he had to carry out.
He rid Nakajima of his hair and then strode out of the cage structure without as much as a glance at Kenoh or even his beaten opponent.
Kenoh is usually the ultimate figure of stoicism, but even he shot a disgusted grimace as he watched Kitamiya cut Nakajima’s hair from off his scalp. The victor left without his spoils as it were, so a tentative Kenoh finished the stipulation, and shaved the remainder of his stable-mate’s head.
Nakajima sat bloody, beaten, and bald.
His trademark smirk still managed to withstand the pain, but he had been truly beaten. Once the closest of tag team partners, now the bitterest of rivals – an emotional scene was laid down as Nakajima trudged away from the cage.
Kitamiya is to Nakajima what Brutus was to Caesar. The betrayal that hurts the most. No matter what happens to Katsuhiko Nakajima, the stinging betrayal of his once brother will be forever etched in his mind. Masa Kitamiya is truly elevated in the wake of his victory, but no one involved will ever be the same again.
The Cage War may be over, but their story never dies. Masa Kitamiya and Katsuhiko Nakajima; forever locked together.