NOAH Destination 2021 ~ Back To Budokan ~
February 12, 2021
Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan
Tenryu, Akira Taue, and Kenta Kobashi all present doing commentary. After their matches, Akiyama and Sugiura joined.
Akitoshi Saito vs. Kinya Okada - 4.5/10
Ok opener, old timer vs young boy. Solid wrestling but nothing special. Saito won with a Death Scythe.
Atsushi Kotoge, Daiki Inaba & Yasutaka Yano vs. FULL THROTTLE (Hajime Ohara & YO-HEY) & Kai Fujimura - 5/10
Fun stuff. Fujimura and Yano saved this match, their stuff was the better, but the rest were ok. Kotoge was technically wrestling against two of three members of FULL THROTTLE, the team he helped create along with Ohara and Yoshioka.
Mohammed Yone & Shuhei Taniguchi vs. M's Alliance (Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Tanaka) - 6.5/10
I really enjoyed seeing Tanaka and Mochizuki together and their work, but Taniguchi and Yano were not that strong of opponents. This also happens to be a match with two teams of two older men, so even as good as Tanaka and Mochizuki still are, it's not the same if you're sharing the ring with another veteran team.
Match saw Yona and Mochizuki pair up for strikes. Tanaka and Taniguchi saw the former cut off the later. At the end, Mochi took out Yano with a Sliding D for the win.
Sugiura-gun (Kazunari Murakami, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kazuyuki Fujita, Kendo Kashin, NOSAWA Rongai & Takashi Sugiura) vs. Kongo (Hao, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Manabu Soya, Masa Kitamiya, Nioh & Tadasuke) - 6/10
Ten minutes for 12 men is not enough to really showcase, guys like Fujita straight up only worked for about 30 seconds. I wouldn't mind this for guys like Fujita or NOSAWA, but I felt that guys like Sugiura and Nakajima deserved a better showcase at the big return to Budokan.
Having said that, they did use the time as well as they could, the pair ups were good, and they manage to extend some rivalries that we've seen worked on lately. We saw Fujita and Soya butt heads, we saw Nakajima and Murakami fight each other, Kashin kept failing at everything he did, and they kept building the Nakajima/Kitamiya vs Sakuraba/Sugiura rivalry that soon should come to blows for the title. At the end, it was Sugiura pinned Nioh with the Olympic Slam.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match
Stinger (HAYATA & Yoshinari Ogawa) (c) (w/Yuya Susumu) vs. Ikuto Hidaka & Kotaro Suzuki (w/NOSAWA Rongai) - 7/10
Good match, but I just tend to get bored by Ogawa now a days, and him pinning Suzuki just felt like NOSAWA putting old people over as usual. I totally accept that Ogawa can still go and that a lot of people find him amazing, I just happened to think that this division is stuck, not wanting to have Ogawa put people over, and just look at this match, he's the oldest in the match, and that is a match with an almost 50 yr old Hidaka and Suzuki who is in his 40's. HAYATA is 33, why isn't he the one getting the pin in the match? Why is the story between Suzuki and Ogawa and not HAYATA growing as the face of the team? Ok, done ranting, match was good, Suzuki and HAYATA were great, and at the end Ogawa pinned Suzuki with leg-scissors.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Title Match
Daisuke Harada (c) vs. Seiki Yoshioka - 8.5/10
Is this the compromise from NOSAWA to pushing his (literally) old buddies? I'll take it, Yoshioka defeated Harada to win the title and it the match was great! Match was back and forward, all action, a LOT of kicking from both men. The match was a bit of a spring and the only went 10 minutes or so, so there wasn't really much further to take it other than going all out and closing it down with a German from Yoshioka for the win. Always good to see a sprint that doesn't feel like a spot match.
Post-match - Atsushi Kotoge challenged Yoshioka for the title. Not even a minute of champion, and Kotoge is already out there challenging.
Jun Akiyama & Naomichi Marufuji vs. Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura - 8.5/10
This was great, I loved the idea behind the match and the right team won, but I did feel that it could had done with 5 more minutes to explore a stronger layout. Match started with Akiyama straight up schooling both guys with mat work, where he started to focus on Kiyomiya's left arm. Marufuji continued the work on that arm until Inamura got the hot tag and ran wild for a bit. At the end, it came down to Marufuji and Kiyomiya, they traded strikes for a while until Kiyomiya got the win.
Personally, I would have had 5 more minutes so that before Marufuji and Kiyomiya went to end the match, to have a similar dynamic with Marufuji and the youth, but in terms of striking. Have them get schooled a bit in both technical and striking styles before you have the young guys make their comeback and take it home.
Post-match - Akiyama had some words with the youth, shook their hands.
GHC National Title Match
Kenoh (c) vs. Masakatsu Funaki - 7.5/10
This started as a worked MMA match, Funaki's offense is mostly mat work or striking, so he quickly took down Kenoh got to his feet and started trading strikes with Funaki, he landed a couple that buckled Funaki, swept in with a Dragon Suplex, help the bridge and pinned Funake to retain. This was quite short considering the position in the card, but if they were gonna go for Pancrase, it was best to finish it early.
Post-match - Funaki accepted his loss and offered to shake Kenoh's hand, Kenoh didn't, and so Funaki vowed and left the ring. Afterwards, Kenoh cut a promo about how he hoped to one day return to Budokan and he had finally achieved it, and he did it retaining this championship. He said that they'd be back at Budokan.
GHC Heavyweight Title Match
Go Shiozaki (c) vs. Keiji Muto - 9/10
The story here is that as legendary that he is, as good as he has been lately in physical terms, even if he's a genius, Keiji Mutoh is coming in as the underdog to this match, because he is going against one of the strongest champions that NOAH has seen, Shiozaki is on an unstoppable run. Mutoh is the oldest challenger for the GHC title history, and this is also the the title that he has never won, he has the chance to be part of a short list of men that have captured all three big titles of Japan, including the IWGP Heavyweight and Triple Crown Championship.
Now, because of this run of late from Shiozaki, his body is broken, it has taken a lot out of him to defend the title, his shoulders are all bandaged, his leg is hurting after Mutoh started working on it in the build up to this match, and so Mutoh has options to pick from. Shiozaki wears the mark of a warrior that is willing to let his opponent break his bones rather than tap out.
Match was slow paced, methodical. Mutoh went after Shiozaki's legs, chasing the Figure 4, but also took every opportunity to hurt Shiozaki's already injured shoulders, and a couple of head shots towards the Shinning Wizard. Shiozaki mostly clobbered Mutoh, he's been winning with Lariats and moonsaults, so he knew he just need to burn down Mutoh's energy enough. As the match went on, Shiozaki was too injured and Mutoh too tired, so we started to see a couple of moves that by all means could had been botches, but they looked appropriate for the match and with both men selling, something like Mutoh not being able to get Go up for a move seemed more like tiredness and nothing else. In a move that really cemented the idea that Mutoh is older and still the underdog, he went for a moonsault and midway up, he decided against it, he knew he probably just kill himself or land so bad that Go would capitalize.
At the end came the finish, that I think it was the best way to do this title change that anyone with any sense of NOAH, knew was happening, and that was by having Shiozaki go for a Lariat, and Mutoh reverse it with a rana and into a pin for the upset win. The pin looked weak as fuck, but a fluke win is better than Mutoh actually taking out Shiozaki.
This match at the end, feels like a big celebration for Mutoh fans and NOAH historians. Him doing moves like the Emerald Flowsion and going for one last moonsault totally got gasps out of the fans.
Kensuke Sazaki, Yoshihiro Takayama, and now Keiji Mutoh, the only man to win the IWGP/GHC/Triple Crown championships.
Post-match - Mutoh tried to shake Shiozaki's hand, but Go slapped it away, he's not done with him, he knows he lost on a fluke. Before Mutoh can properly celebrate, Kiyomiya jumped in the ring and got in Mutoh's face. Mutoh walked away and instead posed on the ramp. Kiyomiya was the obvious challenger, so no surprises here.
Pretty underwhelming to end the show this way. Kiyomiya could have waited for the next show, or the post match interview, and just let Mutoh celebrate the achievement there in the ring, we know it was to feed his career and the love the fans have for him, so just go full with it. Kiyomiya doesn't really get anything from going out there for two minutes to get ignored by Mutoh anyway.
A good show for the most part, some of the first half matches were nothing huge, but they we ok. The last couple of matches felt like a big deal, and talk about Mutoh in 2021, but him going for a title got them 4K+ people during a pandemic. The one problem that I won't be able to escape with NOAH and NOSAWA, is the heavy focus on veterans. I don't think that every promotion should just focus on youth, but there needs to be a better balance that keeps you entertained throughout the show, and I don't know if having veterans in every match is the way to go.
If feels like every other two years or so, NOAH has an identity crisis. They want to go with young guys and change the logo to something fresh, and then people complain about history and Misawa Green, and then NOAH has another crisis and completely goes with older people and change the logo to something shitty, and then they wanna suddenly bring a ton of foreigners and put them over, and so on and on. Mutoh is a transitional champion to crown Kiyomiya like Mutoh crowned Tanahashi many years ago, but it's 2021 now, is Mutoh really the right choice for that move? Wouldn't breaking Shiozaki's super reign be a bigger deal for Kiyomiya than beating old timer Mutoh?
NOSAWA has been telling interesting stories and they happened to land on an amazing champion with Shiozaki, so let's see how well he had planned the aftermath of such reign.
NJPW, PROGRESS, RevPro, CMLL, etc
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