I still struggle to comprehend they did this
To put it in perspective, this would have be equivalent to Scotty 2 Hotty catching Triple H with a flash roll up to win the title in 2000
The pop when he wins is something else I suppose. He had the thing for 5 months as well!
Takayama, the guy who finally beat him for it, lost the belt to Misawa something like 3 weeks later. You’ve reviewed those two matches in your best of 2002 Japan from a while back
But anyway, 2002 NOAH = weird
Not as weird as Inoki going bonkos for MMA guys shortly afterwards and putting the IWGP title on seemingly anything with a gi, but yeah, there was some strange stuff getting smoked in Japan at the time.