Pro-Wrestling Noah
Great Voyage 2021 In Fukuoka
March 14, 2021
Fukuoka Kokusai Center
Fukuoka, Japan

Watch: FITE

Hello there, I have temporarily left the planes of the NJPW landscape to come over and review Pro Wrestling NOAH! I am admittedly new to the world of NOAH as I didn’t really start watching semi-regularly until late Fall thanks to the word of mouth about Go Shiozaki’s title reign. I have been hooked ever since. Alas, Go Shiozaki is not the champion going into this event. That would be Keiji Mutoh. Yes, that Keiji Mutoh. The one and the same. The man who hasn’t retired but his knees have pretty much bowed out. He’s approaching sixty, his body is a wreck, he is the GHC Heavyweight champion and the man who ended the year-long plus reign of Go Shiozaki. It goes without saying, there’s been a lot of back and forth and heated feelings among people on that.

Here we are though, all the same. We are at his first defense against Kaito Kiyomiya. This should be the night of Kaito Kiyomiya’s crowning but as I’ve learned in wrestling, you can’t always count every scenario out and it is a first defense Mutoh’s reign could potentially continue. I want the title change but above all else, I’m just hoping the match ends up being watchable. I was the high girl on the Shiozaki/Mutoh match. I thought it was surprisingly enjoyable, but can lightning strike twice? Something’s got to give, hopefully, it’s not Mutoh’s knees.

There is also a huge eight-man semi-main event and a junior title defense tonight. All and all things could end up being pretty fun as I find myself awake at extremely stupid o’clock for my enjoyment, and for your reviewing purposes. I promised myself I would expand beyond NJPW in my pro-wrestling watching and here I am keeping that promise. If you a Pro Wrestling NOAH regularly I hope my review is adequate, if you are new with me I hope we can be on this journey together and find new and fun wrestling to explore together!

So join me below in the review as I continue to learn, educate myself, and hopefully be entertained by the offerings of Pro Wrestling NOAH. Can’t wait to see what discoveries await!

Shuhei Taniguchi, Hajime Ohara & YO-HEY def. Yoshiki Inamura, Kinya Okada & Yasutaka Yano

Inamura is an incredible slab of beef. That is a compliment. As for the team he opposed they came out to “That’s the way (I like it)” which had me bobbing my head at 1:00 A.M and is appreciated. YO-HEY and his compadres brought personality and ‘style’ while the opposing team brought determination and a desire to prove themselves. This was a straightforward, simple, but fun opener.  I found myself enjoying Taniguchi and each of the rookies got a chance to have small showcases of what they can do. Yano in particular can throw a wicked dropkick. I can tell I need to watch more Inamura, he’s well built and has the ability to bowl people over. Hope he continues to develop and becomes quite the bruiser. Hear the end of the match Yano brought the fire and got a pretty darn good near fall from a cradle attempt but it was all for naught as YO-HEY would wind up getting the win. I have no complaints about this match, it achieved what I felt it set out to do. All three rookies definitely going to be people to look out for! ***

HAYATA def. Junta Miyawaki

Miyawaki took it right to HAYATA before the bell even run. Love it when young wrestlers are fired up immediately and ready to make an impact. My favorite moment in this match is Miyawaki hitting a beautiful off-the ropes DDT into a double wristlock. Miyawaki has sure-fire promise and I am excited to see him develop. He has fire, he has some good-looking moves, and I was impressed. HAYATA exists. That’s also a decent explanation of this match, it exists and credit to Miyawaki who’s fire and effort make it more worthwhile than it otherwise would’ve been with someone else opposite of HAYATA, Miyawaki expectedly succumbs in the end, but he exceeded at winning me over so I consider this match a success. Not a must-watch, but if you want to follow Miyawaki’s progress it’s not a bad viewing for what he brings to the ring. **1/2

 Muhammad Yone def. Akitoshi Saito

Dancing to disco and taking minimal bumps? Yone is living the life. Saito does not seem to be as joyful but maybe the power of funk will win over his grumpiness! I, don’t have much to say about this match. Didn’t grab me, didn’t excite me, didn’t entertain me. They did some stuff, Yone got the win with a lariat, and there was nothing more to it than that. Completely skippable. Funk reigns supreme. *3/4

HAYATA, Susumu def. Daisuke Harada, Kawei Fujimura

NOAH has made the decision we need more HAYATA in our lives. I dispute and question this decision, but it has been made. My interest in this match kept on slipping, slipping, slipping (into the future) until Harada got tagged in and brought much-needed energy and life into the proceedings. Things felt like they picked up immediately. Harada versus Susumu interactions looked good and felt fun honestly. Susumu at one point had Fujimura in a nasty-looking crossface which was another highlight. Fujimura got some hope flash pinfall attempts but would succumb to submission as should’ve been expected. Match felt longer than it was which is never a good sign. I didn’t hate this match, but in the end, I won’t remember much about it if anything at all. **1/4

Kazuyuki Fujita, Kendo Kashin, NOSAWA def. Kenoh, Haoh, Nioh

Kenoh and Fujita had a staredown. They stared longingly, deeply, maddening… sorry slipped into a completely different and horrible mindset. Please ignore that. They stared for quite a while. Not to the same extended level of the famous/infamous stare off Fujita had with Go thankfully. Crowd clapped along so I guess that’s a positive.  Fujita isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. He’s not even a cup of tea. He’s that beer in the back of the fridge you forgot about but then you discover and open it because you are too lazy to make a beer run. You sip it and feel instantly with regret but keep drinking it and try to convince yourself it’s still good because you’ve already made your choice and are too stubborn to back down. What I’m saying is I don’t understand the love Fujita gets in some circles, I just don’t.

Lots of outside brawling in the early portion of this match and none of it is really that interesting. In fact, that ended it all. With Fujita, Kashin, NOSAWA reigning abuse down the twenty counts happens and we end in a draw within minutes of the match…I guess I’ll have to rate this…

Nope, Kenoh refuses for the match to end this way and it starts back up. As the bell rings to restart the shenanigans I appreciated that Kenoh at least seemed interested in being fired up now. This match needs energy, fire, and getting me to care one bit. I wish this match was 2 A.M on daylight saving time so we could skip it honestly. That cynicism and cheap shot typed out, things did pick up on the restart. Kongo did their best to will/force this match into positive rating territory. They didn’t succeed but bless them for trying, and Fujita gets the win for his team. Kenoh and Fajita are happening in one week. Yay. That said Fujita seemed to click with Kenoh so despite my Fujita cynicism…. it could work?  **1/4

GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship
Atsushi Kotoge def. Seiki Yoshioka (C)

The first defense for Yoshioka, hopefully, it’s a good to great one. This show needs it. The fact they got right down to business was a good sign this match was going to give me the wake-up call my coffee was failing at. Hell, this was fun. I had an entertaining time watching it. Hard hits, good work, they clicked with each other and put on an entertaining bout that shot some adrenaline to keep a slow dying slow alive a little longer. The match had little slow downtime, no stalling, all business. I don’t pretend to be knowledgeable about Yoshioka or Kotoge, but if this was your first time ever sampling them you’d definitely be coming back for seconds and more beyond this. Despite being the first defense the match was presented competitively enough I could’ve bought either a title change or a successful title defense. That inability to immediately know who was going to win enhanced my enjoyment in this match.

There was a kick-ass spot where Kotoge hit a missile dropkick on Kotoge standing on the apron. Not quite a “holy shit” moment but definitely an “Oh, damn” one. This was soon followed by a beautiful exchange of attempting to hit each other with an offense that ended in Yoshioka getting Kotoge in a backslide set up and turning him around to knee him in the face. I’m always about knees to the face. We are now into “This match rules” territory at this point in time of watching it. Both men brought the energy and effort that was missing from others in this show. They must have stolen it from them to use in this match. I started biting into near falls from Yohioka near the end of this match. He hit some vicious sound kicks. Kotoge made me buy a pinfall attempt by hitting a higgggghhhhhh moonsault. KOTOGE THEN HITS A NASTY KILL SWITCH TO WIN THE TITLE! Yoshioka just lands on the top of his head. This ruled. This was really appreciated after sitting through the rest of the undercard. Great match, a great one, and done title defense. The whole match was good but the closing stretches were great and had me leaning forward waiting to see who would end up with the victory. This is easy four-star territory and so far the best damn thing on a show that needed something worth watching. ****1/4

Go Shiozaki, Naomichi Marafuji, Takshi Sugiura & Kotaro Suzuki def. Ketsuhiko Nakajima, Masa Kitamiya, Manabu Soya & Tadasuke

Whew, we got to move on. This is the semi-final and I hope it can also deliver as the last match did. Am I allowed to thirst over Nakajima in these reviews? Probably for the best I don’t, but it does exist. I also will shout out to Go Shiozaki in this match because it was his title reign that hooked me and got me into watching more Noah. I’ll always root for him because of this. Onto the actual match review. After some pairing off actions between the various wrestlers, Tadasuke spent the first portion of this match as the ‘punching bag’ with Go Shiozaki’s team all getting their shots in. Then in the interest of fair play, Kotaro Suzuki graciously offered himself up as the punching bag for his team. It was after this when Shoiozaki and Nakajima got to go at each other that things picked up in a big way. I can watch these two interact all day and all night. They had a chop/kick-off and the sound echoing off their bodies, just damn. It ruled, it ruled hard.

Masa Kitamiya got some shine in by taking out all four members of Shiozaki’s team and he and Sugiura went toe to toe with each other with forearms a flying. I wasn’t into that as I was the Nakajima/Go back and forth but it was still good. Things bring down and everyone got shots and moves on each other and the match got more fun as it goes on. Marafuji and Soya end up in the ring and Marafuji put him down to get the win. Match took way too long to get going but once it got into gear it turned into a good match. I wish the two control portions that took up a chunk of the match were more interesting, but it is what it is. All that said ultimately I would say this was really good and another notch for this show that was lacking in notches for the first five matches. These past two matches have helped this show out considerably and all eight men deserve credit for the effort they put into this match. It turned out to be a very good match. ***3/4

GHC Heavyweight Championship Match
Keiji Mutoh (C) def. Kaito Kyomiya

In the year of our lord (Karl Gotch) 2021, I woke up before 1 A.M to watch a Keiji Mutoh title defense. Life is about choices, and I made mine. I don’t regret it. There’s a legit curiosity mixed with a general interest in this match playing out. There’s a lot of ways this match can go. Personally, I hope Mutoh has one more good to a great match in him and that we get a title change for Kyomiya. I have foot-tapping anxiety going in. Anxious about Mutoh’s health, anxious about match quality, anxious about match result. My anxiety for this match may not be turned on for all the positive reasons, but it never-the-less draws and increases my interest and intrigue. I would not be shocked if Mutoh retained although I would root against it.

Keiji Mutoh ends up winning this match by submission finally catching Kyomiya with a cross-arm breaker after applying it several times throughout the match doing more and more damage to Kyomiya’s arm. Kaito had to work with and against Mutoh’s limitations and weaknesses that come with body his age and condition and in the end, it worked? I think the main event worked! I will warn you if you don’t like mat wrestling or long headlock sequences the first portion of this match will do nothing for you. For me, I don’t mind said things as long as the work and effort are behind it and it doesn’t come off as just resting. Kaito could never be accused of resting in this match. Kaito worked his ass off to have a good match with Mutoh here and make the main event worthy of viewing. Not just Kaito’s offense, but his selling, body language, screaming in pain. He successfully did all he could possibly to do put Mutoh over as a champion worthy of respect and as a threat that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Kaito threw everything he could at Mutoh in the end but more and more it was not enough, not able to put him away. This match thanks to it’s pacing and layout is able to go over thirty minutes. Yes, a thirty-minute Mutoh title defense in 2021, and for the most part, I was drawn in. Were some of this being drawn in for the wrong reasons? Absolutely. But it was not a train wreck, it was not a disaster, and their rematch delivered. Hell, it was as great as I think it could’ve achieved. As great of a Mutoh match as you are going to get into 2021 and while Mutoh worked hard and did his best, this was mainly a testament to the greatness of Kaito Kyomiya who did everything physically, emotionally, mentally to make this a great maint event. This is not a match you are going to see a lot of moves, breakneck speed, or innovation. This was a slow, long, well build match in which the positives were insinuating and the negatives were either avoided or played into to enhance things.

I desperately wanted Kaito to win, and as we got to the closing stretch with Mutoh hitting shinning wizard after shining wizard, targetting Kaito’s poor arm, Kaito screaming in pain, desperately kicking out after each pin attempt, trying to show this legend, this icon, this God that he still had fight left in him. I knew the ax would soon fall, my heart would break, and Kaito, young talented amazing Kaito, would have to get his title win another day. Both as a reviewer and as a fan I don’t like it. I feel my novelty and admitted blinders on watching Mutoh matches in 2021 will evaporate. I definitely forgive and overlook more than most. I wanted Kaito so desperately to get his title victory, but he’s only twenty-four, his day in the sun is coming. Meanwhile, Mutoh, aging, breaking, clinging to that one final moment of glory, limps on as champion once more. We do not like it, but he does not care. Gods do not concern themselves with the opinion of mortals. One day though, someone is going to make this God bleed, make this God hurt, knock him off his throne, and I’ll nervously anticipate when that moment comes. I’m going with a solid four. I don’t blame anyone who wishes/thinks this deserves to be lower. This is as good a Mutoh title defense we’re probably going to get so if it didn’t do anything for you brace yourself. The four belongs to Kaito though, he came short, as we all eventually do, but he’ll rise again, and when he finally has that title around his waist, it’s going to be a beautiful day. ****

Final Thoughts

The first five matches are skippable, avoidable, not worth your time or effort. The final three matches were good to great in various degrees. I was hoping this was the crowning of Kaito, but Mutoh continues on. Everything comes to an end though, and Mutoh will fall, it’s just a matter of who will aim their best shot, pull the trigger, and put him down.