Pro Wrestling NOAH
NOAH Destination 2021
February 12, 2021
Nippon Budokan
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: FITE

NOAH Destination 2021 is arguably the most appropriately titled wrestling show this year. After nearly eight years NOAH returns to the Nippon Budokan, which had been the home of some of NOAH’s biggest shows and matches during its boom period in the 2000s. The last time NOAH ran a show in this legendary venue was back in May 2013 for Kenta Kobashi’s retirement show.

NOAH’s big era had already ended by that point but that show really marked the true end of an era with the retirement of an all-time great and one of the pillars that carried NOAH during its peak.

Since then numerous NOAH wrestlers have made it their mission to take the promotion back to the venue that saw it reach the highest of highs. Most notably Go Shiozaki and Kenoh have been very vocal about that being one of their main goals. Therefore, it makes a lot of sense to see both men being involved in major title matches on this show and it has to be personally vindicating for both of them to fulfill this goal.

Go Shiozaki is looking to continue his stellar run of title matches for which he has rightfully received a lot of acclaim in the past year. This will be his most challenging task though since he is up against a 58-year-old Keiji Muto who is on his third set of knees. If this were Muto from 20 years ago, I wouldn’t have any concerns for the quality of the match but this is obviously not going to be that. With that said there are reasons to be optimistic about the match. Muto’s last two singles matches against Shuhei Taniguchi and Kaito Kiyomia were both solid and Go’s matches against Kazuyuki Fujita and Akitoshi Saito, who are of a similar age to Muto, were very good as well. The result is somewhat in doubt as well as this will be Muto’s first GHC Heavyweight Title challenge and Kaito getting his win back by beating him for the title would make a lot of sense. On the other hand, Go has built a tremendous title reign and to have it end by putting over a nearly sixty-year-old man seems like a weird choice.

Kenoh meanwhile is continuing his shooter tour by wrestling former MMA fighters for his GHC National Title. This time against one of the originators of MMA in Masakatsu Motherfucking Funaki. Even at 51 years old Funaki can still go if properly motivated. Based on his performances in the tags in the lead-up to this match motivation should not be a concern for this match and this has the potential to be the match of the night.

The third big match on the show features the return of Jun Akiyama to the promotion. Now officially a freelancer after his All Japan contract expired a few weeks ago this could mean that we see Jun Akiyama return to being a regular for NOAH, which is something he hasn’t been since 2012. Though then again this might just be another one of his one-off appearances since he has been mostly working in DDT recently. But with NOAH and DDT being closely linked him showing up in NOAH more frequently is a very real possibility. He’ll be teaming with Marufuji to face Kaito and Yoshiki Inamura. Inamura has been picking up a lot of wins recently so the young guys have a chance to win this but on the other hand if Akiyama is becoming a regular a feud between him and Kaito would be great and for that he would have to win this match to kick it off.

With regards to the broadcasting options for this show, NOAH has decided to make it as complicated and weird as possible. The second half of the show, which has all of the title matches and matches of consequence will be available on Wrestle Universe and for free on Abema. However, the undercard will not be included in those broadcasts. One of the options to watch the whole show is to buy it on Abema PPV, which tends to be rather complicated for international viewers. The other and much easier option is to watch on with English commentary.

Even despite all of that weirdness and with the specter of this show happening during a state of emergency in Tokyo, NOAH has managed to build a good show with some intriguing matches. Obviously bringing the promotion back to a state where it can run this building is a huge achievement for all the guys that have been working tirelessly while the promotion reached some of its lowest points during the last decade. But now the future of NOAH is looking bright and it’s positioned to make a huge leap forward in the coming years and become one of the preeminent promotions in Japan once again.

NOAH Destination 2021 Card & Predictions

  • Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue def. Daiki Inaba & Kinya Okada
  • FULL THROTTLE (Hajime Ohara & YO-HEY) Kai Fujimura def. Atsushi Kotoge, Junta Miyawaki & Yasutaka Yano
  • M’s Alliance (Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Tanaka) def. Muhammad Yone Shuhei & Taniguchi
  • Kongo (Katsuhiko Nakajima, Masa Kitamiya, Manabu Soya, Nio & Tadasuke) def. Sugiura-gun (Takashi Sugiura, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kazuyuki Fujita, Kazunari Murakami, Kendo Kashin & NOSAWA Rongai)
  • GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Title Match Kotaro Suzuki & Ikuto Hidaka def. Stinger (Yoshinari Ogawa & HAYATA) (c) (Ogawa turns on HAYATA because why not)
  • GHC Junior Title Match Daisuke Harada (c) def. Seiki Yoshioka
  • Naomichi Marufuji & Jun Akiyama def. Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura
  • GHC National Title Match Masakatsu Funaki def. Kenoh (c)
  • GHC Heavyweight Title Match Go Shiozaki (c) def. Keiji Muto