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Katsuhiko Nakajima

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Katsuhiko Nakajima
Katsuhiko Nakajima 2016.jpg
Nakajima in August 2016
Born (1988-03-11) March 11, 1988 (age 29)[1]
Fukuoka, Fukuoka, Japan[1]
Professional wrestling career
Ring name(s) Katsuhiko Nakajima
Billed height 1.75 m (5 ft 9 in)[1][2]
Billed weight 95 kg (209 lb)[1][2]
Trained by Riki Choshu
Kensuke Sasaki
Masa Saito
Debut September 6, 2003[1]

Katsuhiko Nakajima (中嶋 勝彦, Nakajima Katsuhiko, born March 11, 1988) is a Japanese professional wrestler, signed to Pro Wrestling Noah, where he is the current GHC Heavyweight Champion in his first reign. He started his career in Kensuke Sasaki's Kensuke Office/Diamond Ring dojo and agency. He has also wrestled for All Japan Pro Wrestling, where he is a former World Junior Heavyweight Champion. An accomplished karateka, his style is based upon strong, fast kicks and strikes.

Having made his professional debut aged 15 in a mixed martial arts contest,[3] Nakajima has already made a significant impact on puroresu, earning the nickname "Supernova" and facing Hall of Famers[4] such as Kenta Kobashi,[5] Satoru Sayama,[6] Jushin Thunder Liger,[7] and Tatsumi Fujinami.[8] He has competed in several notable Japanese promotions, including New Japan Pro Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling, Inoki Genome Federation, Pro Wrestling Zero1, Michinoku Pro, Dragon Gate, and currently, Pro Wrestling Noah.

He has set several age records over his short career, including being the youngest wrestler to compete in AJPW's Champion Carnival tournament[9] and the youngest to hold the World Junior Heavyweight Championship. He won the Tokyo Sports "Rookie of the Year" award in 2004 and the "Fighting Spirit" award in 2005.[10] Having worked for Noah for most of his career, both as a representative of Diamond Ring and as a freelancer, he officially signed with the promotion in December 2015.

Professional wrestling career[edit]

2002–2004[edit]

An accomplished karateka, Nakajima was hired by Riki Choshu's World Japan promotion in December 2002 at the age of 14. He debuted for World Japan (WJ) in September 2003, facing American fighter Jason Leigh in an MMA fight, winning via knockout in one minute and thirty-five seconds.[3] His true professional wrestling debut came on the main event of World Japan's "RESOLUTION" card on January 5, 2004, losing via submission to Tomohiro Ishii.[6]

Nakajima continued to wrestle for WJ for a short time, even wrestling the original Tiger Mask Satoru Sayama[6] before signing with Kensuke Office in April.[11] This led to his debut with New Japan Pro Wrestling, facing legendary junior heavyweight Jushin Thunder Liger in the Tokyo Dome on May 3, 2004.[7] He made his debut with All Japan Pro Wrestling the next day, successfully teaming with Toshiaki Kawada in a six-man tag team match.[12] He continued to wrestle for both promotions extensively throughout 2004, even competing in Block B of NJPW's Best of the Super Juniors tournament, finishing with two points by defeating Curry Man[13] and reaching the finals of the Young Lion Toukon (fighting spirit) tournament, losing to Ryusuke Taguchi.[7]

On June 12, 2004 in AJPW, Nakajima received the first championship match of his career, teaming with Kensuke Sasaki to unsuccessfully challenge Masanobu Fuchi & Genichiro Tenryu for the All Asia Tag Team Championship.[14] On September 17, 2004, Nakajima made his debut in Dragon Gate on their pay-per-view Gate of Sanctuary, losing to Masaaki Mochizuki.[15] The following month, Nakajima entered the Osaka Pro Tenno-zan single-elimination tournament, losing to eventual winner Big Boss MA-G-MA in the first round.[16] Nakajima and Sasaki teamed up in the World's Strongest Tag Determination League in November and December 2004, finishing with four points in Block B.[17]

2005[edit]

Nakajima received his first opportunity at a singles championship on April 20, 2005, losing to World Junior Heavyweight Champion Taka Michinoku.[18] His appearances in NJPW became much more sporadic around this time, with his final match to date taking place on April 24, 2005, a loss to 6-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion Tatsumi Fujinami.[8]

On May 7, 2005, Katsuhiko participated in the 2005 Differ Cup, a biennial cross-promotional junior heavyweight tag team tournament, teaming with Osaka Pro's Takehiro Murahama; the two lost to Super Shisa and Tiger Emperor in the first round.[19] He also teamed with Tomoaki Honma in a tournament throughout June 2005 to decide the vacant All Asia Tag Team Championship, making it to the finals before losing to Shuji Kondo & "brother" YASSHI.[20] Just over one month later on July 26, 2005, Nakajima and Kensuke Sasaki defeated Kondo and YASSHI for the titles in their second defense, giving Nakajima his first championship.[21] They would continue to defend the titles through 2005, against such teams as Arashi & Ryuji Hijikata[22] and Buchanan & D'Lo Brown.[23]

On July 18, 2005, Nakajima made his debut in Pro Wrestling Noah, wrestling in a six-man tag team match in the Tokyo Dome. He would continue by teaming with Kensuke Sasaki against Kenta Kobashi and his own protégé Go Shiozaki in an inter-generation tag team match on November 5, 2005, with Sasaki pinning Shiozaki after a lariat.[5] This match was rated 434 out of 5 stars by wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer, one of only eight NOAH matches to receive that or a higher rating.[24]

Nakajima made his debut for Pro Wrestling ZERO1-MAX on July 9, 2005, winning a six-man junior tag team match.[25] He went on to defeat Osamu Namiguchi on August 31 for his first singles title, the WWA World Junior Light Heavyweight Championship, though whether this can be considered part of the title's official lineage is disputed.[26] He held it until June 24, 2006, losing the title to premier ZERO1-MAX junior Tatsuhito Takaiwa.[27] This is to date Nakajima's last appearance with the promotion.

2006[edit]

On February 11, 2006 at a Kensuke Office show celebrating Kensuke Sasaki's 20th career anniversary, Nakajima teamed with Genichiro Tenryu against the "dream team" of Kenta Kobashi and Kensuke Sasaki, falling to a Sasaki lariat.[28] On March 21, 2006, Nakajima won a three-way elimination match in AJPW, defeating both Tomoaki Honma and NOSAWA Rongai to earn a spot in Block B of the prestigious 2006 Champion Carnival,[29] becoming the youngest man to participate in the tournament.[9] Nakajima finished in last place in the block with two points by defeating D'Lo Brown. On April 19, 2006, Nakajima entered Big Mouth Loud (BML), losing to company ace Katsuyori Shibata.[30] The following month, Nakajima and Kensuke Sasaki battled in Big Japan Pro Wrestling (BJW), defeating Big Japan's Daisuke Sekimoto and Dramatic Dream Team's (DDT) Daichi Kakimoto in a tag team match when Nakajima pinned Kakimoto.[31]

Nakajima then participated in the 2006 Junior League tournament from June 25, 2006 to July 3, 2006, to decide a challenger for the Junior Heavyweight Championship; Katsuhiko won his block with five points, before losing in the final to Kaz Hayashi.[32] On July 2, 2006, Nakajima's partner Kensuke Sasaki suffered a left eye fracture in a match against Katsuyori Shibata in BML, taking him out of action for the foreseeable future and forcing the team to vacate the All Asia Tag Team Championship on October 29, 2006 after holding the titles since July 2005.[33]

On October 15, 2006, Katsuhiko Nakajima and Kaz Hayashi were announced as one of seven teams in the 2006 World's Strongest Tag Determination League, to take place in December 2006. They had a strong showing in the tournament, defeating such teams as NOSAWA Rongai & Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion Minoru Suzuki and RO'Z & Suwama and drawing with Taiyō Kea & TAKA Michinoku, finishing with 5 points overall.[34] On November 14, 2006, Nakajima wrestled in the main event of the debut show of the Global Professional Wrestling Alliance, a cooperation of several different promotions, teaming with NOAH's Go Shiozaki and El Dorado's Takuya Sugawara to defeat ZERO1-MAX's Ryouji Sai, Dramatic Dream Team's HARASHIMA and Kaientai Dojo's KAZMA.[35]

2007[edit]

Nakajima (left) and Chris Sabin (right) after Nakajima had defeated Sabin to retain the World Junior Heavyweight Championship.

Kensuke Sasaki made his return from injury on January 2, 2007, teaming with Nakajima to defeat TARU & "brother" YASSHI. The following day Nakajima faced YASSHI in a match to determine Shuji Kondo's next challenger for the Junior Heavyweight Championship, winning via disqualification when Kondo himself interfered.[34] He made his challenge on February 17, 2007, defeating Kondo to end his 16-month reign, and becoming the youngest junior heavyweight champion in history.[36] Nakajima made his first defense of the title on April 30, 2007, defeating Kondo's Voodoo Murders partner "brother" YASSHI,[37] as well as Ryuji Hijikata on May 27, 2007.[38]

Nakajima once again participated in the Junior League in June 2007, finishing in third place for his block with four points, behind Hijikata and Kondo.[39] The league was won by American wrestler Chris Sabin,[40] setting up a title match between Sabin and Nakajima on August 26, 2007, in which Nakajima was victorious.[41] On September 1, 2007, Nakajima challenged Pro Wrestling Noah's Takeshi Morishima for his ROH World Championship in the main event of a Kensuke Office show, putting up a good fight but losing in the end.[42] On September 19, 2007, Nakajima was pinned in a tag team match by visiting luchador Silver King,[43] who then challenged Nakajima to a future junior heavyweight title match. The match was made official for October 18, 2007 at All Japan's 35th anniversary show; on October 8, 2007, Nakajima suffered a fractured navicular bone in his right hand, forcing him off of several shows on the tour, though he defended the title as scheduled. When the match came, Nakajima and Silver King fought to a no contest, forcing PWF commissioner Hiroshi Hase to hold up the title belt, although Nakajima remained the official champion.[44] Katsuhiko then took time off to nurse his injured hand.

2008[edit]

Nakajima returned from injury on February 11, 2008 at Kensuke Office's first anniversary show, defeating fellow Kensuke Sasaki protégé Ryuji Yamaguchi; he would follow this up with victories over two more Kensuke trainees in Kento Miyahara and Takashi Okita on February 16, 2008 and March 9, 2008 respectively, held in the Kensuke Office exercise hall.[45] On March 1, 2008, in a rematch from their October encounter, Nakajima lost to Silver King in a match to decide the vacant junior heavyweight title.[46] Later that month, Nakajima teamed with Ryuji Hijikata to participate in the six-team Junior Tag League, winning the tournament with six points by defeating the teams of Silver King and Shuji Kondo, MAZADA and NOSAWA Rongai, and T28 and KUSHIDA, as well as Kaz Hayashi and El Samurai in the final, who had defeated them in the group stage.[47] On March 28, 2008, Nakajima faced and defeated Osaka Pro and Dragon Gate wrestler Magnitude Kishiwada on Kensuke Office's first event in the Fukuoka region.[45]

In March and April 2008, Nakajima and Sasaki participated in Pro Wrestling Noah's Global Tag League, a 9-team round-robin tag team tournament. The two finished tied in 5th place with 8 points, defeating the teams of Jun Akiyama and Takeshi Rikio, D'Lo Brown and Buchanan, and Go Shiozaki and Akira Taue, and drawing with Takeshi Morishima and Muhammad Yone, and GHC Tag Team Champions Naomichi Marufuji and Takashi Sugiura.[48] On May 25, 2008 in AJPW, Nakajima and Sasaki lost to Taiyō Kea and Minoru Suzuki in a match to determine the #1 contenders to the World Tag Team Championship.[49] On June 13, 2008 at Kensuke Office's "Take the Dream Vol. 5", Nakajima faced NOAH's Kenta, losing the contest after 27 minutes.[45] The following night in NOAH, Sasaki and Nakajima faced Kenta Kobashi and Kenta, wrestling to a 30-minute time limit draw.[50] On June 29, 2008, Nakajima wrestled what would be his last match in AJPW for the time being, teaming with Kaz Hayashi to defeat Ryuji Hijikata and T28.[51] Nakajima began to wrestle consistently with NOAH starting July 2, 2008, and it was announced the following week that he and the rest of Kensuke Office would be lending their support to NOAH instead of All Japan for the foreseeable future. Among Nakajima's first matches in NOAH were singles contests against former GHC Heavyweight Champions Jun Akiyama and Mitsuharu Misawa on July 5, 2008 and July 13, 2008 respectively, losing both matches.[52]

In August and September 2008, Nakajima entered NOAH's annual NTV Cup junior heavyweight tag team league, teaming with DDT's Kota Ibushi in the 8-team tournament. The two finished in fifth place with eight points, including a victory over 2007 winners, as well as the eventual 2008 winners, Kenta and Taiji Ishimori.[53] Nakajima and Ibushi would team once more on September 8, 2008 on a co-production between DDT and SEM, NOAH's offshoot promotion for younger wrestlers, against DDT's HARASHIMA and Antonio Honda. The match originally went to a 20-minute time limit draw, but was restarted and Nakajima pinned Honda shortly thereafter. On September 14, 2008, Nakajima participated in American promotion Ring of Honor's second tour of Japan, teaming with Naomichi Marufuji against Kenta and Kota Ibushi in a special tag match. The two teams went to a 30-minute time limit draw; the match was restarted, but ended once more in a draw after an additional five minutes expired.[54] The following week on September 20, Nakajima wrestled his first match in the United States, challenging GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion Bryan Danielson at ROH's Glory by Honor VII. Danielson would retain his title, making Nakajima submit to the Cattle Mutilation.

2009[edit]

Nakajima (right) with Kenta (far left) and Samoa Joe in 2009

Nakajima went to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship from Kenta using his Death Roll at the February 11th Kensuke Office event. A notable fact is that this was the second time Nakajima and Sasaki held the Jr. Heavyweight and Heavyweight titles of the same promotion at the same time, the first being All Japan.

He would then lose the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship back to Kenta via a Go 2 Sleep at the March 1st Pro Wrestling Noah event; coincidentally, Sasaki would lose the GHC Heavyweight Title later that night.

On Nov. 13 Nakajima made his return to Ring of Honor in Novi, Michigan in a losing effort against Kenny Omega. The next night in Mississauga Ontario he was victorious against El Generico in a match that was hard hitting and fast paced. The fans in turn gave Nakajima the "please come back" chant.

2011–present[edit]

Nakajima wrestling Zack Sabre Jr. in 2011

On September 23, 2011, Nakajima defeated Kotaro Suzuki to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship for the second time. However, he was forced to vacate the title just nine days later, after undergoing surgery for acute appendicitis. Nakajima returned on November 27 and defeated Ricky Marvin in a decision match to regain the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. On May 9, 2012, Nakajima lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship to Yoshinobu Kanemaru, ending his third reign at 164 days. Nakajima along with his mentor Kensuke Sasaki reached the Pro Wrestling Noah Global Tag League final in 2013, but lost to the team of KENTA and Yoshihiro Takayama. Nakajima then took part in a brief feud with Maybach Taniguchi which culminated at the NOAH "GREAT VOYAGE 2013 IN TOKYO" event. Also at the event Naomichi Marufuji recruited Nakajima into his faction "Brave". On February 11, 2014, Nakajima earned his first win over his mentor Kensuke Sasaki in the main event of a show celebrating his tenth anniversary in professional wrestling.[55] The match turned out to be Sasaki's retirement match.[56]

On July 31, 2015, Nakajima left Diamond Ring. On December 24, 2015, Noah held a press conference announcing that Nakajima would be ending his days as a freelancer and officially joining the promotion on January 1, 2016.[57] On February 24, 2016, Nakajima picked up the biggest win of his career by defeating Minoru Suzuki in the main event of Noah's show in Korakuen Hall.[58] As a result, Nakajima was granted a shot at the GHC Heavyweight Championship, but was defeated by Takashi Sugiura on March 19.[59]

From July 22 to August 13, 2016, Nakajima took part in NJPW's 2016 G1 Climax, where he finished tied third in his block with a record of five wins and four losses, failing to advance to the finals.[60] On October 23, Nakajima defeated Takashi Sugiura to win the GHC Heavyweight Championship for the first time.[61] Nakajima made his first title defense in a match against the 2016 Global League Tournament winner, Minoru Suzuki, at One Night Cruise in Korakuen on December 2.[62] Nakajima's second title defense was on December 24 as a part the Winter Navigation tour where he defended his title against his ally and occasional tag team partner, Masa Kitamiya. Following the match, Sugiura challenged Nakajima to a rematch for the title.[63] This rematch would take place on January 7, 2017, which was the first show of Noah's first tour of 2017 "The First Navigation." Nakajima ultimately defeated Sugiura thus marking his third title defense.[64] Nakajima defeated Go Shiozaki at "Great Voyage in Yokohama" on March 12, 2017, marking his fourth title defense.[65] On June 4, 2017 at "Navigation with Breeze", Nakajima made his fifth title defense against Muhammad Yone.[66] He followed it up with his sixth successful defense against Atsushi Kotoge on June 25, 2017.[67]

In wrestling[edit]

  • Finishing moves
  • Signature moves
  • "Young Volcano"
  • "Kats"
  • "The Aggression"[73]

Championships and accomplishments[edit]

  • PWI ranked him #49 of the 500 best singles wrestlers in the PWI 500 in 2006[78]
  • Tenryu Project

References[edit]

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