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‘PRO WRESTLING NOAH DESTINATION 2021: BACK TO BUDOKAN’ Recap + Review – Shiozaki vs. Muto, Harada vs. Yoshioka

DATE: February 12, 2021
VENUE: Nippon Budokan (Chiyoda City, Tokyo, Japan)
ENGLISH COMMENTARY: Stewart Fulton & Mark Pickering

After 11 years Pro Wrestling NOAH returns to the arena they used to call home with Destination 2021, featuring 58 year old Keiji Muto challenging Go Shiozaki for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. This is my first ever NOAH show and I did little to no research beforehand so enjoy while I butcher spellings and likely get wowed by things y’all are probably used to by now. 

CHAMPIONS

  • GHC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: Go Shiozaki
  • GHC JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPION: Daisuke Harada
  • GHC NATIONAL CHAMPION: Kenoh
  • GHC TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Sugiura-gun (Takashi Suguira & Kazushi Sakuraba)
  • GHC JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONS: Stinger (Hayata & Yoshinari Ogawa)

LINEUP

  • Kinya Okada vs. Akitoshi Saito (**3/4)
  • Yasutaka Yano, Atsushi Kotoge, & Daiki Inaba vs. YO-HEY, Hajime Ohara, & Kai Fujimura (***)
  • Muhammad Yone & Shuhei Taniguchi vs. Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Tanaka (**1/4)
  • Sugiura-gun vs. KONGOH in an Eight-Man Tag (***)
  • Stinger [c] vs. Kotaro Suzuki & Ikuto Hidaka for the GHC JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP (***)
  • Daisuke Harada [c] vs. Seiki Yoshioka for the GHC JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP (****)
  • Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura vs. Naomichi Marufuji & Jun Akiyama (***3/4)
  • Kenoh [c] vs. Masakatsu Funaki for the GHC NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (**1/2)
  • Go Shiozaki [c] vs. Keiji Muto for the GHC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP (****1/4)

*****

Kinya Okada vs. Akitoshi Saito

Okada sends Saito into the corner with a dropkick right at the bell, laying into him with a series of stiff kicks to the sternum. Okada’s offense is stymied with a spinning heel kick from the veteran Saito, who made his debut in 1990 and apparently has been with NOAH since its very beginning. That’s cool. Okada escapes a suplex and rolls Saito up with an O’Connor for a two-count. Okada connects with more kicks and brings Saito back to the canvas with a gutwrench suplex but can’t keep his shoulders down for the pin. Saito blocks a suplex and drops Okada with a standing lariat, more like a clubbing forearm if anything. Saito clotheslines Okada in the corner followed by a knee right to the face and a urinage for the 1…2…Okada kicks out. Saito drills Okada with three straight urinages and a Iron Claw faceslam. Saito yells at Okada to get back up, Okada shows some grit but Saito absorbs his attempts at offense and damn near knocks him out with an Inoki-style enzuigiri for the 1…2…3.

Akitoshi Saito defeated Kinya Okada via pinfall (5:12)

  • Match only went five minutes but goddamn they beat the hell out of each other. Okada turned Saito’s chest red with those thick-ass kicks and Saito damn near caved Okada’s head in with all manner of lariats. I dug it a lot. Quick match but got its sh*t in. I am absolutely LOVING Fulton & Pickering on commentary by the way; very energetic and filling in the blanks on who these NOAH guys are. I went into this show cold and I’m going to need all the help I can get. (**3/4)

Yasutaka Yano, Atsushi Kotoge, & “Mad Dog” Daiki Inaba vs. YO-HEY, Hajime Ohara, & Kai Fujimura

Yano and Fujimura open the match for their respective teams, the youngsters of the match, trading some holds back and forth. Kotoge tags in and Fujimura drops him with a running forearm, Ohara tags in and connects with a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker after Kotoge does a bunch of flips for…reasons. Kotoge responds with a leg lariat and tags out to Inaba, who connects with a headbutt and running basement crossbody for a two-count. Ohara rakes the eyes and connects with a dropkick, shooting Inaba into the corner, then follows up with a running forearm and kick. YO-HEY tags in and the crowd claps in excitement as he connects with a missile dropkick. YO-HEY shows off some flips and drops Inaba with a kick to the side of the head for the 1…2…not yet. YO-HEY hypes the crowd up, Inaba escapes a Twist of Fate and connects with a Blue Thunder Bomb. Yano tags in and rolls YO-HEY up with a sunset flip for the 1…2…almost. Yano connects with a pair of dropkicks then charges, YO-HEY damn near takes his head off with a flipping dropkick of his own. Hot damn. Fujimura tags in and dropkicks Yano in the corner, bringing him to the canvas for the 1…2…not yet. Fujimura with a vertical suplex and lateral press, Yano kicks out in the nick of time. Yano flips out Fujimura’s grasp and connects with a dropkick followed by a crossbody from the middle buckle. Kotoge gets the tag and connects with a series of corner clotheslines followed by a bulldog for the 1…2…not yet. Kotoge charges, YO-HEY catches him from the apron with a kick and Fujimura hits a backdrop suplex for the 1…2…Inaba intervenes. Inaba clotheslines Ohara & YO-HEY, Yano connects with a top rope splash on a whole mess of bodies on the floor. Back in the ring Kotoge hits a Side Effect followed by a running penalty kick for the 1…2…Fujimura kicks out! Fujimura hits a series of rapid-fire forearms, Kotoge absorbs them all and f*cking HEADBUTTS Fujimura followed by a top rope moonsault for the 1…2…3.

Yasutaka Yano, Atsushi Kotoge, & Daiki Inaba defeated YO-HEY, Hajime Ohara, & Kai Fujimura via pinfall (7:53)

  • Yasutaka Yano is apparently very new to NOAH but he’s already got my attention, that dude is a whole lot of fire to him. Fun match, had no slow moments, and Kotoge straight up headbutting Fujimura full force was DISGUSTING. You could hear the crack of the skulls. That sound is going to haunt me, no sleep for me tonight. (***)

“The Funky Weapon” Muhammad Yone & Shuhei Taniguchi vs. Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Tanaka

Yone has one of the best afros I have ever seen on a human being, my WORD. He and Mochizuki start the match off, the former bowling over the latter with a shoulderblock. Taniguchi tags in and repeatedly slams Mochizuki and Tanaka, including one on top of the other. Yona kicks Mochizuki from behind, Mochizuki sends Taniguchi into his own partner and sends him to the canvas with a series of kicks. Tanaka tags in and drills both Yone and Taniguchi with stiff clotheslines, Taniguchi surprises him with a powerslam and both men lay dazed momentarily. Yone gets the tag and powers through a boot from Tanaka to clothesline him in the corner. Yone seats Tanaka on the canvas and drills him in the chest with a kick. Tanaka asks for more and finally falls after the third, Taniguchi clears Mochizuki from the apron and they work Tanaka over with strikes and headbutts and a Polish Hammer for the 1…2…Mochizuki breaks up and gets sent back to the apron. Taniguchi holds him at bay as Yone drills Tanaka with a running lariat for the 1…2…NOT YET. Mochizuki saves Tanaka from a Muscle Buster, Taniguchi comes in and Mochizuki connects with a double dropkick. Tanaka and Mochizuki try a double team, Taniguchi drops ‘em both with a double clothesline. Mochizuki and Tanaka toss Taniguchi out after a kick/rolling elbow combo. Mochizuki hits a running knee on Yone, Tanaka follows up with a Frog Splash for the 1…2…Funky Weapon kicks out. Yone looks to be making a comeback but gets kicked down to one knee and finished off with double sliding knees from Mochizuki and Tanaka for the 1…2…3.

Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Tanaka defeated Muhammad Yone & Shuhei Taniguchi via pinfall (6:58)

  • Had a real “Leonard in One Upon a Time in Hollywood” moment when I saw Mochizuki and Tanaka make their way out, way too excited that I recognized a couple of people for the first time on this show. I honestly did not think Tanaka would still be wrestling in 2021 given the absolute HELL I saw him put himself through over the years, so more power to him. Match was pretty good, I appreciated most of the double team moves being countered repeatedly until the end by both teams. Yano’s fro is pretty great as stated earlier but commentary kept talking about how “fun” he was and stuff but honestly all that disco-ish stuff came off half-assed to me. (**1/4)

Sugiura-gun (Nosawa Rongai, Kendo Kashin, Kazunari Murakami, Kazuyuki Fujita, Kazushi Sakuraba, & Takashi Sugiura) vs. KONGOH (Haoh, Nioh, Tadasuke, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Masa Kitamiya, & Manabu Soya)

I don’t really know the guys in this match and it promises to be fast and frenetic so I am SWEATING at the idea of recapping this. That’s embarrassing and very idiot American of me but I own it. Feel free to shake your head.

KONGOH attacks Sugiura-gun immediately and everyone pairs off around the ring as the bell sounds. Soya rolls Fujita into the ring and they run into each other with such force it SHAKES THE DAMN RING. Soya dumps Fujita on the back of his head with a Death Valley Driver-adjacent move, Fujita responds with a release German suplex and the bulls of their respective teams are dazed. KONGOH take turns dropping ‘bows on Nosawa and posing. Murakami, wrestling in a cool-ass leather suit, makes the save but Nakajima sends him to the floor with a kick. Sugiura levels Kitamya with a series of forearms, Kashin runs in and accidentally slaps his partner, Kitmaya flattens him with a senton but misses the one on Sugiura. Murakami and Nakajima tag in, latter catching the former with a spinkick. Nakajima steps on his face, posing for the cameras and crowd while Nosawa accidentally distracts the ref trying to run in. Murakami drops Nakajima with a punch rush and sends him into Sakuraba’s knee before tagging him in. 

Sakuraba allows Nakajima to get to his feet and they trade STIFF kicks and strikes. Some real MMA sh*t. Sakuraba goes for the choke sleeper, Nakajima rolls him off and sends him to the mat with a judo throw. Sakuraba and Nakajima kick each other right in the head and both crumple down. Kitamya and Sugiura both tag and TEE OFF with elbows in rapid-fire succession. Kitamiya drops Sugiura with a shoulderblock followed by a running senton. Sugiura battles back and connects with a superplex but a whole lot of folks run in to break it up. Kitamiya catches a knee strike attempt and muscles Sugiura up into a vertical suplex. Nioh tags in, Sugiura counters a top rope splash with a pair of knees. Kitamiya and Nakajima double strike Sugiura, Nioh rolls him up for the 1…2…not yet. Nioh charges, Sugiura knocks his head with a lariat and follows up with an Olympic Slam for the 1…2…3.

Sugiura-gun defeated KONGOH via pinfall (10:59)

  • Props to the English commentary once again for keeping me honest on who was who. The graphics helped as well but they are so LARGE and take up so much screen real estate that I kind of wish they didn’t happen as much. This was a fun match, especially Sugiura and Kitamiya trading bombs which I would like to see in a singles contest in the future. Maybe it’s already happened, I don’t know. I dug it. (***)

Stinger (HAYATA & Yoshinari Ogawa) [c] vs. Kotaro Suzuki & Ikuto Hidaka [w/ Nosawa Rongai] for the GHC JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP

Ogawa and Suzuki, former partners (the latter the former leader of Stinger before being kicked out), open the match trading holds back and forth as they feel each other out. Ogawa connects with a double stomp, Suzuki no-sells it and grabs a side headlock. Ogawa gets dropped with a shoulderblock, Suzuki steps on his face when he tries a dropdown. Suzuki flips through a snapmare, Ogawa dodges a corner splash and rolls Suzuki out of the corner followed by a headscissors takeover. Suzuki quickly escapes, Ogawa hits another headscissors takeover but Suzuki quickly kicks out and they stalemate. Ogawa is apparently 54 but he has more energy than I had in my entire 20s. HAYATA and Hidaka tag in, Hidaka connects with an “I’ll Be Back” spinning heel kick. Suzuki tags back in and steps on HAYATA, ref keeps Ogawa at bay which feels kinda rude. Suzuki belts HAYATA with a forearm for a two-count then immediately slaps on a rear chinlock (or “choke sleeper” according to the commentary). Hidaka tags in and traps HAYATA in a headscissors choke, controlling the arm on the way down to prevent any escape attempt. HAYATA pries his way out and grabs a side headlock but Hidaka QUICKLY counters back into a headscissors. Hidaka accidentally runs into Suzuki, HAYATA sends him out to the floor and follows up with a tope con hilo on both challengers. Aw yeah.

HAYATA slams Hidaka and connects with a middle buckle moonsault for the 1…2…not yet. Perfectly executed though, goddamn. Ogawa hits Hidaka from behind, Hidaka sends Stinger into one another and drills HAYATA with a tornado DDT. Ogawa kicks Hidaka off of HAYATA, Suzuki tags in and connects with a corner knee followed by a driving knee from the buckles for the 1…2…not yet. HAYATA ducks a 619 (Tiger Feint?) and catches Suzuki with a kick, Ogawa gets the tag and eats a BIG uppercut from Suzuki. Ogawa sends Suzuki into the post and connects with a DDT for the 1…2…Suzuki kicks out. Ogawa hits a backdrop suplex, Suzuki once again kicks out of the lateral press. Ogawa throws Suzuki back into the post, Hidaka runs in as does HAYATA. Hidaka gets tossed out, Suzuki connects with a double back handspring elbow on both members of Stinger. Suzuki drops Ogawa with a flying forearm for the 1…2…Ogawa kicks out! Suzuki rolls through a backslide attempt, HAYATA saves his partner from a Tiger Driver. Suzuki drills Ogawa with a punch to the beef and cracks off a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker on HAYATA. Suzuki drops Ogawa with a rolling elbow but can’t get the pin. Hidaka/Suzuki hit a kick/forearm combo, Suzuki connects with a hangman’s neckbreaker and Hidaka drills him with a superkick for the 1…2…Ogawa breaks it up. Suzuki hits a series of rolling elbows for the 1…2…Ogawa kicks out! Suzuki traps the arm and brings Ogawa to the mat, drilling him with a forearm for the 1…2…HAYATA breaks it up. HAYATA sends Hidaka to the floor, Hidaka pulls him out and Ogawa surprises Suzuki with a headscissors roll-up for the 1…2…3!

Stinger [c] defeated Kotaro Suzuki & Ikuto Hidaka via pinfall to retain the GHC JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP (13:06)

  • Good match. Don’t really have a lot to say about it other than competently wrestled and Ogawa being that lively at 54 gives me something to shoot for as I slide further and further into the late stages of life. This got weirdly dark. (***)

Daisuke Harada [c] [w/ Atsushi Kotoge] vs. Seiki Yoshioka [w/ YO-HEY & Haijme Ohara of Full Throttle] for the GHC JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP

Bell rings and the crowd is already clapping in anticipation, that’s a good sign. Both men go the speed of light running into each other, Yoshioka gets sent to the floor but bails before Harada can follow up with a splash. Harada grabs a side headlock, Yoshioka counters into a top wristlock, Harada USES THE REF to flip out and counter into a side headlock takeover. Ref caught a kick to the head too, poor guy. Yoshioka bails to the corner, Harada connects with a pair of running strikes, Yoshioka stuns Harada and connects with a scissor kick that was both rapid-fire and LOUD. Goddamn. Yoshioka connects with a corner knee and kick, then a dropkick that sends him BACK into the corner. Harada escapes a suplex and hip tosses himself and his opponent to the floor. They battle on the apron, Yoshioka hooks the ropes to escape a fireman’s carry and sends Harada to the floor with a superkick, following up with a moonsault from the top turnbuckle. He hit mostly arm but it was still a beaut of a mooner. 

Yoshioka catches a charging Harada with a series of quick kicks and a Yakuza Kick for the 1…2…Harada kicks out. Harada ducks the P.K. and catches Yoshioka with a Victory Roll for the 1…2…challenger kicks out and rolls Harada up with a crucifix for the 1…2…champ kicks out. Harada and Yoshioka duck quick shots and stare one another down, crowd starts clapping in unison in enjoyment. Harada crumples Yoshioka to the canvas with a forearm to the midsection, Yoshioka escapes a power bomb but eats a release German suplex, Yoshioka absorbs a knee and gets sent into the buckles with a release belly-to-belly suplex. Harada connects with a Splash Mountain into a knee strike for the 1…2…Yoshioka kicks out and Harada screams in frustration. Yoshioka brings Harada to the canvas with a tllt-a-whirl armscissors and immediately connects with a stiff kick but can’t get the win, Harada catches the challenger with a lariat and the crowd is…going as wild as they’re allowed to in pandemic times. Yoshioka lays into Harada with the stiffest of kicks but Harada absorbs them as best he can to show how tough he is, eventually falling to one knee. Yoshioka keeps the kicks coming, Harada staying on one knee in defiance. Yoshioka takes a second to catch his breath and goes back to kicking, Harada finally crumples down. Harada escapes a piledriver and cartwheels into a rollup, Yoshioka escapes and connects with back-to-back kicks to the head for the 1…2…Harada kick out! Yoshioka immediately follows with a package driver that looked INSANE for the 1…2…Harada kicks out again! Yoshioka refuses to ease off the gas and immediately connects with the Crash Driver for the 1…2…3! NEW CHAMP!

Seiki Yoshioka defeated Daisuke Harada [c] via pinfall to win the GHC JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP (10:58)

  • This was f*cking great. Yoshioka and Harada worked at breakneck speed for most of the contest, including some exchanges I think I missed due to the cardinal sin of needing to blink. Yoshioka essentially kicking the life out of Harada for like a minute and change was tremendous as was the closing stretch, although to be honest I think that package driver he used before the Crash Driver looked WAY MORE devastating and should have been the actual finish. Great match, new champ, NOAH is doing a great job on this show keeping the match times short but not wasting a minute of it. (****)

Atsushi Kotoge immediately challenges Yoshioka for the title, barely giving him a chance to celebrate. Yoshioka goes nose to nose with him, holding the title high, and walks off, the challenge apparently accepted. I wish job promotions and interviews worked like that in real life. I’d square up for a raise.

Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura vs. Naomichi Marufuji & Jun Akiyama

Marufuji & Akiyama are some of NOAH’s longest-tenured wrestlers, both former GHC Heavyweight Champions multiple times over (Akiyama is also a former multi-time AJPW Triple Crown Champion). They’re the “old guard” taking on the newer guard of former GHC Champ Kitomiya and Inamura, who I don’t know a lot about but he reminds me of King Kong Bundy for some reason (okay it’s the body shape and singlet) so he’s my favorite in this match.  Fulton calls Inamura an “aggressive refrigerator” which is the f*cking best. I’ve said it a bunch already in this recap but I love this commentary team.

Inamura clubs Akiyama with a forearm and it does absolutely nothing, so they lock up instead. That was…weird. Inamura backs Akiyama into the ropes and clubs him in the chest again, Akiyama doesn’t react whatsoever. Akiyama wrestles Inamura to the canvas and applies a top wristlock. Inamaura gets to his feet, Akiyama transitions into a side headlock to bring him to one knee. Inamura escapes and they collide into one another, neither refusing to budge until Inamura repeatedly rams into him and finally the former GHC Champ goes down as the crowd claps in approval. That was a fun moment. Kiyomiya tags in which the crowd is REAL into. Apparently he’s only 24, so he’s definitely one of the younger guys I’ve seen on this show. Glad NOAH has some young blood. Kiyomiya grabs a leg to take Akiyama to the mat, transitioning into a front chancery, Akiyama escapes and puts him on his back (side mount according to commentary, I don’t watch a lot of MMA), Kiyomiya gets to the ropes but Akiyama cinches in a double wristlock anyway and almost gets DQed. Kiyomiya and Akiyama go head to head, Kiyomiya delivers a series of forearms and they wrap up in the ropes, forcing the ref to separate the two. Kiyomiya charges, Akiyama drops him with a big boot and connects with a series of kicks until he rolls out to the ramp. Marufuji tags in for the first time and distracts the ref as Akiyama slams the arm across the side of the ramp. Marufuji works said wrist and arm over, launching off the apron and slamming it across the guardrail. Inamura tries to help but distracts the ref and Akiyama sends Kiyomiya shoulder-first into the post, the NOAH legends continuing their reign of terror. 

Kiyomiya tries to fight back with forearms but Akiyama fells none of it and drops him with ease before tossing him back in the ring. Marufuji locks Kiyomiya with a step over top wristlock, wrenching it in an unnatural position. Akiyama tags in, Kiyomiya catches him charging with a dropkick and tries to go for a tag but Marufuji kicks Inamura off the apron to prevent the tag. Kiyomiya surprises Marufuji and Akiyama with a double dropkick and FINALLY Inamura gets the hot tag. Corner splashes and shoulderblocks to Akiyama and Marufuji as Fulton LOSES HIS MIND on commentary. Inamura and Akiyama battle over suplex supremacy, which Inamura finally wins (“BIG BOY STUFF ” according to Fulton), following up with a flying shoulderblock for the 1…2…Akiyama kicks out. Inamura escapes a waistlock, Akiyama drops him with a lariat and tags out to Marufuji. He and Inamura trade stiff blows, Marufuji asks for his best shot and Inamura drives him to the mat with a CLUBBING forearm. Absolute meat slappin’. Kiyomiya tags in, connecting with a springboard elbow/forearm smash (they keep saying elbows but it always looks like forearms to me). Kiyomiya follows up with a missile dropkick for the 1…2…Marufuji kicks out in the nick of time. Marufuji traps Kiyomiya’s bad arm in a hammerlock and combines with a backstabber, prompting a “JESUS WEPT” call from commentary. They are ON POINT in this match. Inamura gets sent into the guardrail, Akiyama hits Kiyomiya with a hook kick followed by an Exploder, Marufuji covers for the 1…2…Inamura makes the save! Marufuji connects with a Sliced Bread #2 for the 1…2…Kiyomiya kicks out. Inamura sends Akiyama into the guardrail on the floor, Marufuji turns a sitout bomb into an amazing-looking key lock. Inamura kicks Marufuji off of his partner, Marufuji kicks him and Inamura shoves him right into a bridging German suplex from Kiyomiya for the 1…2…KICK OUT. Marufuji catches Kiyomiya with alternating hook kicks and knees, Kiyomiya responds with a jumping headbutt and both men are out of it. Kiyomiya connects with a bridging German suplex for the 1…2….MARUFUJI KICKS OUT. Kiyomiya wraps up the arms and connects with a Dragon Suplex for the 1…2…3!

Kaito Kiyamiya & Yoshiki Inamura defeated Jun Akiyama & Naomichi Marufuji via pinfall (18:13)

  • Great battle of the generations tag team match made even better by the spirited commentary from Pickering and Fulton. Fulton especially made Inamura seem like the BIGGEST deal and I really liked that. Akiyama and Marufuji are legendary names I hear a lot about on the internet and I guess their better years are behind them but I got to see glimpses of what made them big stars here. Glad the younger duo won though, especially Kitamiya who seems to be at the top of NOAH’s young blood food chain. (***3/4)

Akiyama shows respect to both Kiyamiya and Inamura inaudibly, but the youngsters are visibly moved. THEIR FATHER IS FINALLY PROUD OF THEM.

Kenoh [c] vs. Masakatsu Funaki for the GHC NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP

Funaki brings Kenoh to the mat, Kenoh gets to the ropes immediately to prevent any follow-up. Kenoh throws bombs, Funaki drives him to the canvas and gets in some sort of MMA mount. Kenoh works from the guard position as they both jockey for position. Kenoh escapes, Funaki goes for the back and Kenoh gets his feet under the rope for the escape. Back to the canvas we go, Funaki on top with heavy slaps to the side of the head barely expelling any energy and suddenly going for the cross armbreaker before Kenoh gets another rope escape. Funaki almost gets a pin off a knee strike but Kenoh kicks out so he goes for a cross face chicken wing-looking thing. Kenoh escapes his grasp and grabs a rear-naked choke, Funaki counters out with a snap suplex but can’t get the pin off the lateral press. They slap one another, Kenoh rolls through an armbar attempt and connects with a release German suplex. Kenoh connects with a P.K. but only get a one-count. Funaki drops Kenoh with a well-placed knee and hits a Hybrid Blaster, but instead of going for the pin he locks in a sleeper but Kenoh is too close to the ropes. Funaki and Kenoh lay into each other with slaps, Kenoh catches him with a kick to the head followed by a bridging Dragon Suplex for the 1…2…3!

Kenoh [c] defeated Masakatsu Funaki via pinfall to retain the GHC NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP (10:10)

  • MMA dudes doing faux-MMA in pro wrestling is very much NOT FOR ME so a lot of this match had me looking at my watch. The last few minutes were pretty good though and I liked Kenoh surprising Funaki with a series of stiff shots and that Dragon Suplex to get the surprise victory. Wish they did a little more rasslin’ and less mixed martial artin’. (**1/2)

Kenoh gets on the mic after and puts over the strength of Funaki, the stature of a real pro wrestler. Kenoh says he has dreamed of being back at the Budokon for three years and if you chase your dreams you can make them come true. Kenoh vows to keep going and says NOAH will continue to represent at the Nippon Budokan. Kenoh tells any “asshole” watching to bring it.

Go Shiozaki [c] vs. Keiji Muto for the GHC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP

Muto aka The Great Muta is one of my favorite professional wrestlers of all-time; I thought Muta was the coolest motherf*cker on the planet as a kid and that has never wavered, and when I heard he was challenging for a major championship in 2021 I decided to impulse buy the show, leading to…all the words I’ve typed up so far. Whether a man who’s 58 with fake knees should be main eventing is up for debate but it got me to finally give NOAH a chance so that’s 20 bucks they didn’t have before. I’ve read that Shiozaki has had a helluva run as champ over the past year and change and I’m excited to see him in action; unless he was on a random TNA show in the 2000s I doubt I have before.

Feeling out process to start, as the opening lockups continually end in stalemates. Muto brings Shiozaki to the canvas with a Judo throw and works to keep the champ’s shoulders down for a pinfall attempt. Shiozaki rolls to take the full mount, Muto immediately gets to the bottom rope. Shiozaki brings Muto down to a seated position, like a baby falling on its ass, and grabs a chinlock before transitioning into a side headlock after briefly working the wrist. Muto rolls through and counters into a side headlock of his own, shoving Shiozaki’s legs off when he attempts a headscissors. Shiozaki grabs a waistlock, controlling Muto as he transitions into various other holds, Muto counters and grabs a leglock but Shiozaki once again gets a quick rope break. Muto drops an elbow and takes control of the wrist. Shiozaki tries to escape but Muto wrenches down, hurting his already taped-up arm, so he gets another rope break and bails to the floor to create a little separation. Muto tries to attack, Shiozaki hangs him across the middle rope and delivers a running knee strike to the side of the face, doing so again after hanging his challenger across the apron. 

Shiosaki chops Muto down and wrenches in a rear-chinlock to the point where you can almost hear the bone grinding against bone. Shiozaki drops a knee across the back of the head and applies a neck crank while also grapevining the arm, Muto gets his foot on the bottom rope.  Shiozaki spikes Muto with a DDT and connects with a chop, Muto responds with a spinkick to the midsection and a…rolling something? It didn’t seem like he hit anything but Shiozaki gets sent to the ramp. Commentators don’t even acknowledge it, the pros. The two battle on the ramp, Shiozaki drills Muto with a DDT and connects with a charging chop. Shiozaki tries to suplex Muto to the floor but Muto blocks it so he settles for a headbutt instead and tosses the challenger back into the ring. Muto catches Shiozaki with a Shining Wizard followed by a Dragon Screw legwhip that bends his knee into very bad positions. Muto connects with another and settles into an Achilles Lock. Shiozaki gets to the ropes, Muto goes for a Figure Four but gets chopped away. Shiozaki comes charging off the ropes with a diving shoulderblock followed by a series of Machine Gun chops in the corner. Goddamn. Shiozaki hits a Mongolian Chop and drills Muto with a fisherman’s buster for the 1…2…Muto kicks out. Shiozaki charges, Muto dropkicks him right in the knee to take the wind out of his sails (or his leg out of his leg) and goes from another Dragon Screw into a Figure Four Leglock. Shiozaki fights through the pain, Muto wrenching down on the canvas to increase pressure, and pulls himself to the ropes, staring a shocked Muto down the entire time.

Muto brings Shiozaki back to the center of the ring and reapplies the Figure Four, crowd cheering Shiozaki on as he pulls on the referee and tries to find an escape. Once again he makes it, once again a frustrated Muto is forced to relinquish the hold. Muto hits corner Shining Wizard, Shiozaki responds with a Golden Lariat and both men are down. Muto blocks a strike, kicks the knee, and hits a Shining Wizard, Shiozaki immediately hits a release German suplex, Muto immediately recovers and hits another Shining Wizard! Shiozaki lights Muto up with a trio of chops and the GO FLASHER for the 1…2…Muto kicks out! Shiozaki f*cks Muto’s sh*t up with a series of elbow jabs and goes for a back suplex but Muto deadweights him so Shiozaki ties him up and connects with the Limit Break (?) for the 1…2…MUTO KICKS OUT AGAIN. Shiozaki drills Muto with a Golden Lariat for the 1…2…MUTO KICKS OUT A THIRD TIME. Shiozaki misses a moonsault (eyyy) and Muto follows up with a Shining Wizard to the front and to the back of the champ’s head. Shiozaki FIRES UP, Muto fires off a third Shining Wizard for the 1…2…SHIOZAKI KICKS OUUUUUT! Muto goes for a slam but can’t get him up, and instead hits an Emerald Flosion that DAMN NEAR F*CKING KILLS SHIOZAKI JESUS CHRIST for the 1…2…SHIOZAKI KICKS OUT. Muto slams Shiozaki and struggles to get to the top for a possible Moonsault (!!!) but thinks better of it (NOOOO). Shiozaki picks Muto up on the middle buckle and THEY SLIP AND FALL INTO WHAT LOOKS LIKE A DRIVER OF SOME SORT for the 1…2…Muto kicks out again! Shiozaki connects with a rolling elbow and standing Golden Lariat for the 1…2…MUTO KICKS OUT. Shiozaki slams Muto and CONNECTS WITH A MOONSAULT for the 1…2…MUTO KIIIICKS OOOOUT. Shiozaki measures Muto and hits a Golden Lariat then charges in and MUTO CATCHES HIM WITH THE UGLIEST F*CKING FRANKENSTEINER EVER FOR THE 1…2…3!!!!

Keiji Muto defeated Go Shiozaki [c] via pinfall to win the GHC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP (29:32)

  • I’ve heard mixed reviews about this match going in so I didn’t really know what to expect. I was ready to call it when it started off slow but then it built and built and by the last few minutes I was pretty much SCREAMING at the screen during every nearfall. It can be hard to keep my attention when a match goes longer than 20 minutes but these guys did it and I commend them for it. I can see why a lot of people were not happy with Muto ending Shiozaki’s storied reign, especially with that weak-ass finish, but as someone new to NOAH and this being my first show I didn’t have a lot of that baggage going in; to me it was one of my favorite wrestlers growing up still somehow managing to have good matches despite being almost 60 and no longer having real knees. (****1/4)

The ref puts the GHC Heavyweight Championship around Muto and the new champ is immediately interrupted by Kaito Kiyomiya who essentially asks for the first shot at the title by staring him down. Muto leaves the ring and hobbles his way to the back. And that’s…that?

*****

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is my first foray into watching a full Pro Wrestling NOAH show and they’ve got me on the hook for at least a few more events. I really enjoyed myself, getting to see some wrestlers I’d never seen compete before for a company I’d always heard about but had never taken the plunge on checking out for one reason or another. The English commentary was WONDERFUL about getting me up to speed and hyping me up at the right moments, sweetening up an already great show wrestling-wise. My only real complaint about the presentation is the MASSIVE GRAPHICS taking up so much screen real estate, making me feel like I’m watching the show on QVC or something. I’m sure they were informative but for me they just got in the way. Overall though this is a great show that has created a new NOAH fan, and I’m excited to continue my watch as the year goes on. Your mileage may vary depending on how into Muto as GHC Champion you are.

  • FAVORITE MATCH: Go Shiozaki vs. Keiji Muto
  • FAVORITE MOMENT: Fulton’s entire call of the Inamura/Kiyomia vs. Akiyama/Marufuji match. Such energy and gold (JESUS WEPT being my favorite line). I f*cking love this commentary team.

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