PRO WRESTLING NOAH
GRAND SQUARE 2021 IN OSAKA
OCTOBER 10, 2021
OSAKA EDION ARENA
Watch: Wrestle Universe
DAIKI INABA & KAI FUJIMURA DEF. KINYA OKADA & YASUTAKA YANO (11:17)
Poor Inaba. And people say Shotaro Ashino’s booking in All Japan is bad. Inaba has taken a lot of falls in NOAH and only got one victory in this year’s N-1, and that was against Kendo Kashin. Here, he’s doing opening match duty with some young boys. This only strengthens my hot take that All Japan gained the most of any promotion from the Wrestle-1 closure. But that’s a debate for another time.
This was unsurprisingly a basic opening match. Lots of matwork and holds, especially from Fujimura and Yano. As Stewart Fulton noted on commentary, those two are going to be generational rivals. The closing minutes featured some really good exchanges between Inaba and Okada before Inaba pinned Okada with a German Suplex Hold. Good opener. ***¼
FUNKY EXPRESS (KING TANY, MOHAMMED YONE & AKITOSHI SAITO) DEF. KONGO (TADASUKE, HAOH & NIOH) (9:39)
Hey, this was better than I thought it would be. Haoh got worked over a bunch, and then most of this match became Funky Express hitting big moves on Kongo with a few hope spots in between. Yone pinned Nioh with the Muscle Buster. Not just inoffensive, but good. ***¼
KONGO (MANABU SOYA & ALEJA) DEF. MASA KITAMIYA & JUNTA MIYAWAKI (13:47)
NOAH has been having this issue where certain guys in the upper midcard or main event kind of just spin their wheels for a while. That was Katsuhiko Nakajima from late last year until recently. Kitamiya, other than winning the GHC Heavyweight tag titles with Kaito Kiyomiya, seems to be in a similar aimless position since beating Nakajima in a hair vs. hair cage match. This match didn’t exactly convince me otherwise.
This was kind of slow to get going, the Jrs. didn’t even really do much fast-paced stuff early on. Eventually Kitamiya and Soya had a hot sequence of lots of shoulder blocks to finally turn up the pace. Aleja and Miyawaki had a hot closing sequence that saw Aleja hit the Flying Bullets on Miyawaki for the win. Another solid match, though they could have compressed it into a few minutes less. ***
LOS PERROS DEL MAL DE JAPON (YO-HEY & KOTARO SUZUKI) DEF. STINGER (YOSHINARI OGAWA & SEIKI YOSHIOKA) (6:54)
Stinger went to work right away on Suzuki’s left arm. That was basically the bulk of the match until Suzuki made a hot tag to YO-HEY. Yoshioka and YO-HEY did some chain wrestling then YO-HEY hit the YO-ROLL cradle for the win. This could have been pretty darn good if they had received more time, alas. **¾
M’S ALLIANCE (MASAKATSU FUNAKI, MASATO TANAKA & MASAAKI MOCHIZUKI) DEF. SUGIURA-GUN (TAKASHI SUGIURA, KAZUYUKI FUJITA & KENDO KASHIN) (18:19)
This started with a lot of grappling from multiple combinations of the participants. It soon settled into a more traditional multiman tag match, though I wouldn’t say there was anything too memorable in the first half. Kashin cheated of course using a bottle opener on foreheads and low blowed Funaki at one point. Things did pick up with some Sugiura vs. Tanaka sequences. The closing stretch with Mochizuki just wailing on Sugiura with kicks and punches and finishing Suigura with a Shin Saikyou high kick was great.
This turned into something really good, but again, too long. It’s funny because I often complain that midcard multiman tags with big names in All Japan often don’t get enough time. In NOAH, it’s the opposite issue. After the match, Mochizuki challenged Sugiura to a GHC National title match, and Sugiura accepted. That should be an incredible match. ***¼
GHC JR. HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
LOS PERROS DEL MAL DE JAPON (NOSAWA RONGAI & EITA) DEF. ATSUSHI KOTOGE & HAJIME OHARA © (4:04)
Kotoge and Ohara were smart and attacked Perros del Mal when they tried to shake the hands of the champs. This was a fun spring while it lasted, which as you can see was not long. NOSAWA while on the apron, distracted Ohara which allowed Eita to hit the Imperial Uno on Ohara for the win. Ohara, who seemed to get little love after NOSAWA became the booker, certainly felt like a chump here. I’m certainly not against a quick and shocking win here, especially to establish Eita in NOAH, but it’s hilarious that this also means NOSAWA becomes a Jr. tag champion. ***
GHC JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
HAYATA © DEF. DAISUKE HARADA (19:20)
Well, I’m on record as hating HAYATA, but I love Harada, so let’s see what we got here. Harada mostly dictated the pace of the match here, which was good. It was very solid work, but nothing that will blow you away. Mid-match, Harada had some cool reversals. The last four minutes or so saw some big moves, and near falls, but it didn’t quite feel like an epic closing stretch. HAYATA attacked Harada’s arm and got the tap out with a modified armlock. Harada looked tremendous here and really made this something good despite HAYATA’s limitations. After the match Perros del Mal came to the ring to confront HAYATA, and the champ chose NOASAWA as his next challenger. I think I’ll skip that match. ***½
KENOH & KAITO KIYOMIYA DEF. KEIJI MUTO & KAZUSHI SAKURABA (20:54)
Would you be shocked to hear that there was lots of grappling and matwork here to start? Crazy, I know. Kenoh and Sakuraba then had an extended sequence where they took turns kicking each other in the back. At one point, Kiyomiya did a Flashing Elbow to Muto which I was not a fan of. After failing to beat Muto thus far, beginning to pattern your looks and moves after him just makes Kiyomiya look like a big chump. Towards the end, there were some Kenoh and Muto sequences that were not bad at all, thanks to Kenoh of course. The finish was a bit silly as Sakuraba had Kiyomiya on his shoulders and Muto went up to the top rope to do a Shining Wizard Doomsday Device. They stood around for a bit before Kenoh got back in the ring and kicked Muto off the top. Kiyomiya then jumped down and pushed Sakuraba into the ropes for an O’Connor Roll for the win. Still, it was decent overall thanks to the team that wasn’t over 50 years old. ***¼
GHC HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
KATSUHIKO NAKAJIMA DEF. NAOMICHI MARUFUJI © (37:18)
Nakajima methodically dissected Marufuji in the opening minutes. But on a tumble to the outside, Nakajima injured his arm and then Marufuji went in for a dissection of his own. When they announced 15 minutes had gone by, I was shocked. Despite the methodical work from both men, the time really flew by. That’s a skill that a lot of wrestlers don’t have when it comes to long control periods of working someone over. Marufuji also played a subtle heel here at points, working over Nakajima’s arm using the barriers on the outside and grabbing the ears. It’s an interesting choice given Nakajima’s character, but I thought it worked because this match was really all about Nakajima finally ascending back to the top of the mountain after a lackluster first GHC Heavyweight title reign.
The match went through several phases, but wild striking battles were the constant. The finishing sequence ruled. After another crazy strike battle that Marufuji looked like he had won, Marufuji went for a knee strike and Nakajima grabbed him and lifted him up for a Diamond Bomb. Both men are down and Nakajima slowly gets up first and then hits an insane-looking roundhouse kick that looked like it decapitated Marufuji. Somehow, Marufuji kicked out at 2.9. Nakajima then hit the Vertical Spike Brainbuster for the win. The crowd made noise for the victory and you could see people in the crowd jumping up and waving at the result. A good sign for the new champion. Marufuji failed in his V3 defense. A very NOAH finishing sequence, and while they don’t always land with me, I loved this one. Marufuji, while not always consistent these days, still has some gas left in the tank. I thought this was one of his best performances in quite some time. After the match, Masato Motherfucking Tanaka came out to challenge Nakajima and we are headed to what will be an incredible first defense. This one is a must-see. ****½
This was a very good show thanks to the main event. There was nothing incredible on the undercard, but every match was at least solid. However, given the show went three and a half hours, some of those matches did feel like they dragged.
The booking of NOAH, always a contentious topic of debate, was very good here, though one can certainly criticize NOSAWA winning one title and then setting up a challenge for another. But after some concern that Nakajima felt directionless, he has finally gotten his due, and I have a strong feeling that his second GHC Heavyweight title reign, unlike his first one, will be a big success.