N-1 VICTORY 2021 Semifinals and Finals
OCTOBER 3, 2021

Watch: Wrestle Universe


Jon Hernandez: Hey, look. Sometimes you hop online to wind down before going to bed and end up signing yourself up to review a NOAH show in the middle of the night. You get it, right? So why doesn’t Jon’s girlfriend? Follow him on Twitter at @OldJonHernandez

Gerard Di Trolio: Gerard didn’t love the N-1 this year as a whole, but thinks that this finals show has a ton of potential to be very memorable. Will it? Well, read some more of this review to find out! Gerard is on Twitter at @GerardDiTrolio 


Jon: The first of two consolation tags for N1 competitors who didn’t make the semis. All in all a harmless tag, each contributor getting some shine. I was happy to see a fired-up Daiki Inaba in the closing stretch against Manabu Soya. Inaba’s stock rose big-time for me over the course of the tournament — he was the MVP of the no-crowd shows. He brought a similar intensity here.

Kendo Kashin, on the other hand, was a total bummer in the tournament, and appeared to be hinting at a feud with Manabu Soya after the match. Good luck with that one, fellas. **3/4

Gerard: This was your standard opening match fare. Everybody looked good, including Saito, except for Kashin who did his cheating spots. Inaba ate a nasty looking Lariat from Soya to end the match, because for some weird reason they couldn’t have Saito or even Kashin take the fall here. Strange booking, but this was what you want from an opener. *** 


Jon: I’ve been thrilled for this match. The chemistry between these two is killer, and their most recent matchup at 2020’s The Chronicle Vol. 4 (sadly overshadowed by the Shiozaki/Nakajima classic that followed it) was their best yet. Kiyomiya came out the gate firing at a pace that belied his ordinarily measured, technically sound approach. When the ten minute call came, it felt like three or four had passed. Kenoh lured Kiyomiya into a firefight, the type of bomb-trading that Kenoh excels at, and Kiyomiya took the bait. Shortly after the fifteen-minute mark, Kenoh scored a win from out of nowhere reversing an O’Connor Roll. I was waiting for Kiyomiya to cash in on the damage he was slowly accumulating on Kenoh’s left leg, and was genuinely shocked at the finish. The booking here is going to rub some people the wrong way, but I’m not going to get mad at a real good wrestling match. ***¾

Gerard: Look, I know clap crowds are what they are and analysis of them may be a fool’s errand, but the crowd seemed to perk up when Kiyomiya made his entrance here. The match started at a frenetic pace but settled into Kiyomiya working over Kenoh’s left leg. There was a sequence of trading holds that was kind of dry, but things really escalated soon after. I think Kenoh is Kiyomiya’s best opponent and this match showed why. I was loving this a lot until Kenoh got the surprise win with an O’Connor Roll reversal. Kiyomiya looks like a dope after going to a draw with Keiji Muto and not winning this tournament. Even when things in the ring go excellently for NOAH, the booking often keeps the company from being truly great. They need to be careful on how they keep booking Kiyomiya, he is getting to the point where he might have a better chance of becoming a huge star if he went to the WWE main roster. ***½ 


Jon: While NOAH’s affinity for aging shoot-style fighters grates pretty hard on me, I’ve really enjoyed Funaki’s recent run. Nakajima is a dream opponent, with all the requisite mat skills and a proclivity for giving those kick pads a workout. This match was MEAN. The grappling exchanges were sharp and both men whacked the shit out of each other hard enough to echo through Korakuen. It just felt like two tough guys trying to out-tough guy each other. Eventually, Nakajima flattened Funaki with a flush kick to the head. From there, the brainbuster and pin was academic. If you looked at these two names and got hyped, then fear not, they delivered exactly what you wanted, all in under 10 minutes. ****

Gerard: This ruled while it lasted. After some quick matwork to start they proceeded to just strike the shit out of each other. Nakajima landed a big kick to the head and then got the Vertical Spike Brainbuster for the win. On one hand, I wish that this went longer, on the other, Nakajima hadn’t looked this dominant in quite some time which is something he needs after spinning his wheels for a few months now. ***½ 


 Jon:  I didn’t even know this match was happening, so this is a lovely surprise. I love Eita. His work in Dragongate often takes a backseat to interference from his R.E.D. squadmates, but, when given the greenlight, Eita is such a bell-to-bell monster. He spent the early portion bullying Kotoge around the ring, with his typically gnarly-looking knees and strikes. There were just enough heel antics to firmly establish him as a Grade-A Shithead to a new audience, and to heat up the crowd for Kotoge’s return flourishes. Those were brief, though, and Eita wrapped things up with the Imperial Uno and a Hidalgo. This match didn’t aim high; the objective was to set up Eita. In that regard, a home run. He followed up by cutting a real fun promo, standing over a catatonic Kotoge. Hey, I’m a Dragongate guy, I had a blast. I’m very excited to watch more Eita in Perros Del Mar De Japon, far away from all his protein powder and storage bins. ***¼

Gerard: The first few minutes of Eita heeling it up and working over Kotoge didn’t do much for me. Things picked up when Kotoge got back on offense and they started trading bombs. Eita then got the upper hand again and won with the Hidalgo. Again, another case of a match that could have gone longer and been even wilder, but the point was to establish Eita as a dominant force in NOAH. According to Stewart Fulton on commentary, Eita in his post-match promo called Eita a garbage wrestler (as in being bad, not hardcore wrestling) which got a laugh from me. This was a nice setup for Eita and NOSAWA Rongai challenging Kotoge and Hajime Ohara for the GHC Jr. tag titles on October 10. ***¼   


Jon: I don’t hate HAYATA as much as Gerard does, but after the three killer matches that preceded it, it was difficult not to initially see this match as a piss break – even if the other guy was Daisuke Harada. And that’s the thing, this “tag match,” even before the draw and overtime period, was essentially a singles match between HAYATA and Harada with two other dudes just hanging out. It did a good enough job setting up their future title clash, but I was honestly most excited for developing Miyawaki to get some time with Ogawa. Instead, I got whatever this was, and I never even took that piss. **¼

Gerard: I happen to think that HAYATA is one of the worst wrestlers in a major men’s promotion in Japan, so I was not looking forward to this. That being said, I thought this was decent while it lasted because Harada and Miyawaki controlled most of the match. The finish”was silly. It did not really look like a situation where Harada would be unaware that his shoulders were down. The alleged singles match between Harada and HAYATA was also silly too, with HAYATA walking to the back for the countout. This was a lot of convoluted booking to build to the Harada vs. HAYATA GHC Jr. title match. What a mess. I’m probably being generous with my rating here given the booking, but I liked what I saw until the finish. **¾ 


Jon: The combined age of the participants in this, the second N1 consolation tag, was over 300 years old. Still, Tanaka is, in my eyes, NOAH’s in-ring MVP this year, while Masaaki Mochizuki and Takashi Sugiura simply refuse to age. Predictably, those three were fantastic in this match. Sugiura had an extended stretch with Tanaka (just as killer as their August singles match) before closing things out with Mochizuki. These six are such smart veterans though, and everyone was put in a position to look good. Particular credit should go to Muto and Fujita, who paired off in two explosive sequences where the 58-year-old Muto was willing to get dumped right on his head by a couple German suplexes from Ironhead. Hell yeah. Really fun stuff to set the table before our main event. ***1/2

Gerard: Hey, Fujita and Muto had a fun little sequence to start this thing off. There was a slow part in the middle where Muto had Fujita in a Figure Four then Sakuraba worked over Muto. But leave it to Sugiura and Tanaka to pick up the pace with some incredible sequences. Mochizuki, unsurprisingly, was also great here. Sugiura leveled Mochizuki with a brutal looking closed-fist punch to the face then got the pin with the Olympic Slam. My first reaction to this was that we need to see Sugiura vs. Mochizuki in a singles match. ***½ 


Jon: I said something similar about the Nakajima/Funaki match earlier, but I have to note the volume of each strike between these two. The sound they consistently created with each kick, slap and forearm gave this match such a visceral quality. And it really suited not only the environment —  filling in for all the noise that clap crowds cannot provide — but also the growing, palpable tension between these two ever since Nakajima joined KONGOH. When they downed each other with simultaneous head kicks, the crowd came alive like they’d finally been afforded a second to breathe. Things would ramp up, and up, and up again, until both men were open-hand striking each other as hard and quickly as they possibly could. This match was all fireworks, but its finale literally sounded like them. It was tough not to wince. 

There were some issues here; the recurring strike faceoffs, at times, felt like they were impeding the flow of the match. Still, I was practically breathless by the time Nakajima scored the pin. After all that violence, the two couldn’t help but finally show some mutual respect. You know, when you see similar-minded opponents like Kenoh and Nakajima face off for the umpteenth time you might wonder to yourself, “What more can these dudes possibly do to each other?” The answer, it turns out, was the closing stretch of this bout. I feel like I’ll remember this one.  ****1/2

Gerard: KONGOH explodes! But seriously, it’s always fun to watch Nakajima in a big match. I have followed his entire career (yes, I did in fact pay money for tapes of World Japan shows back in the day). He has gone through many different phases (some more successful than others), but has always been a wrestler I’ve made sure to check out. This match started off well and was very good throughout. But it didn’t quite feel epic in the first half of the match. It did begin to feel that way when they absolutely brutalized each other with kicks and slaps in the closing minutes. It was a very modern day NOAH finish with Nakajima just beating the shit out of Kenoh then hitting the Diamond Bomb for the win. 

It was a nice touch to have Kenoh and Nakajima have an embrace after the match. Kenoh also put on some great performances this evening, and I’ve always been puzzled that he gets as much hate as he does from some quarters. Do I think Nakajima should win the GHC Heavyweight title against Marufuji on October 10 in Osaka? Yeah. After seemingly doing nothing for several months, Nakajima has been reenergized as a top guy. But you can never tell with the booking in this company and given that Kiyomiya didn’t win the tournament, I am not sure of their direction for the Nippon Budokan show on January 1, 2022. ****¼