In any field whether or not someone succeeds is a real toss up. In professional wrestling success is neither promised nor guaranteed. It can be a harsh and highly competitive world with very limited room at the top.
In this world, a wrestler’s success can be a matter of taking the right chance at the right time. One of this year’s best examples of this has been reigning GHC Heavyweight Champion Jake Lee. When his contract with All Japan Pro Wrestling expired at the end of 2022, he chose to not renew and signed with Pro Wrestling NOAH instead. It was a risky move, but it’s paying off in incredible ways right now.
When it was announced that Jake Lee was leaving All Japan Pro Wrestling, it caused quite the stir. He had one of if not the biggest fanbase in AJPW, and many were left wondering. How would his departure affect the promotion. Where would we go? Could this be the beginning of a mass exodus like the one that led to the formation of Pro Wrestling NOAH in 2000?
Where Did Jake Lee Go?
The answer came on New Years day 2023 at The New Year. The show was in full swing. After a great showing against Timothy Thatcher, Jack Morris was just about to leave the ring when something or rather someone caught his attention. To the surprise of everyone watching, the handsome man in black now walking down the entrance ramp was none other than former All Japan Pro Wrestling star Jake Lee.
The two time Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion congratulated the talented Scotsman on his win, marking the beginning of an intriguing new partnership. Over the next few weeks that partnership would result in the formation of a new faction in NOAH, the Good Looking Guys. The group includes American indy star Anthony Greene, as well as Tadasuke and Yo-Hey who had previously been part of Ratel’s were both staples of NOAH’s junior division. It didn’t take long at all for the Good Looking Guys to make their presence known. With a strong group of allies behind him, Jake Lee’s sights were now set on NOAH’s top prize, the Global Honored Crown.
On Febraury 12, he challenged then champion Kaito Kiyomiya. The following month on March 17 at the Great Muta Final Bye Bye, it was time for the Good Looking Emperor to go head to head with NOAH’s new hope. That day Lee Unseated Kiyomiya and made history as the first Zainichi wrestler to win the GHC Heavyweight Championship.
Jake Lee’s GCW Heavyweight Reign Begins
The new champion had his first title defense on April 16. That defense was a highly anticipated bout that was a dream match against one of NOAH’s heaviest hitters, the Genius Of Kick, Katsuhiko Nakajima. The match more than lived up to the hype surrounding it. Both known for their devastating kicks, the champion and challenger matched each other move for move, giving fans an absolute barn burner of a match. Their similar backgrounds in mixed martial arts really helped make it so good. Lee got the win after debuting his new finisher the FBS, the face break shot, and his first reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion was off to a great start.
His next opponent did not hesitate to step up. It was the Genius Of the Ark, Naomichi Marufuji. Neither competitor minced words in their interviews leading up to the match. When the two faced off at Majestic on May 4, Lee and Marufuji did not dispappoint. The pacing of the match was incredible, and both men definitely brought their A-game. It was another successful defense for Jake Lee, further cemeting his reign.
For his next defense, the champion knew exactly who he wanted to face. After a multi-man tag match, Lee called out another NOAH staulwart, Takashi Sugiura. Sugiura responded brilliantly to the call out, accepting Lee’s challenge with a mix of genuine respect, quiet warning, and maybe just a little hint of shade.
Their match at Green Journey on June 17 was a hard hitting fight that also did a great job of showcasing how technically sound both men really are. Lee and Sugiura compliment each other wonderfully when it comes to in ring style.
Jake Lee’s N-1 Victory Ambition
By this point, it was clear that Jake Lee was truly on a roll when he got the the three count at the end of the match. While addressing the crowd afterward, he made it known that he wanted to become the first wrestler to go undefeated in the N-1 Victory on his first try and win as GHC Heavyweight Champion.
Although he fell just a little bit short of his goal, Lee had a rock solid showing in NOAH’s equivalent to the prestigious G-1 CLIMAX. He finished with a record of four wins, two draws, and one loss. That loss to Kenoh did end up costing him a spot in the tournament finals.
Now we come to defense number four which took place on Sept. 24 at Grand Ship in Nagoya. That day, Lee faced arguably the biggest threat to his reign yet in the form of the Emerald Ace Go Shiozaki.
Shiozaki is the closest that NOAH has to Lee right now in terms of size and power. For years he has been regrarded by many as the true heart of the promotion. Much Like Lee’s experience with Marufuji, some choice words were exchanged, and the match really took fans on a ride with Lee using the pinpoint accuracy of the FBS to successfully retain the title. There’s so much potential as to where this rivalry could go.
What’s Next For Jake Lee?
Defense number 5 will be against Kenoh who as usual made his feelings known in his typically colorful fashion while doing guest commentary for the match. Kenoh did the same when Lee nominated him to be his next challenger. Champion and challenger will face off in Fukuoka on October 28. This match along with the other previous defenses are vital to the story of Jake Lee’s arrival in Pro Wrestling NOAH.
The perceived outsider, Jake Lee left his home promotion to make a fresh start of things in NOAH. Within just 77 days, he captured the company’s top prize and successfully defended it against each of NOAH’s chief gatekeepers. If his time in NOAH so far is anything to go by, Jake Lee really is destined for great things in his career.
What Makes Jake Lee Shine?
6’4” with a look that could easily rival that of any male lead in a love story and a level of talent and passion that has earned him the respect of fans around the world, he knows how to play to his strengths so well. He also has this understated cool factor that fits him to perfection.
It honestly wouldn’t be surprising to see him achieve similar success to that of his original trainer Keiji Mutoh and other indutry icons like Kensuke Sasaki. Those may be big shoes to fill, but Jake Lee defintely appears to be up to the challenge. Looking at how things have panned out for him so far, there are two big takeaways. One of them is the importance of knowing when and how to bet on yourself. Lee did just that, and it paid off. Not a bad outcome for a Zainichi kid from a small town in Hokkaido. The other big takeaway is the importance of being brave enough to try in the first place because in the end, that’s where it all begins.