Welcome to the second CKNF monthly match rundown! Each month, members of the team will provide their favourite matches from around the world, alongside a short explanation.
February was, on paper, a good month for wrestling. NOAH’s return to Nippon Budokan, shows from WWE, New Japan, AEW and everywhere in between. Of course, some things didn’t deliver. Other things, however, did deliver. In a big way. Let’s take a look.
Conrad J Newton
Keiji Mutoh vs Go Shiozaki – GHC Heavyweight Title Match – NOAH Destination 2021 ~ Back to Budokan (12.2.21) – Relatively far from the unequaled quality of Shiozaki’s 2020 title defences from an in ring standpoint, but this made up for it with bucketloads of emotional stakes and a shock finish. Of course, many expected the title change after the toll taken on Shiozaki’s body over his year-long plus run on top, but nobody could’ve predicted just how the finish would go down. An overconfident Go ready to finish the job with an emphatic lariat was countered with a flash pinfall from a frankensteiner. In an instant, the best reign of the last 5 years ended. In a time where predictable outcomes significantly reduce the investment in a match, this match caused an insane amount of outrage and upset – a real testament to the ability of Go Shiozaki and the excellence of Pro Wrestling NOAH. (****¾)
Nanae Takahashi & Arisa Nakajima vs Saya Iida & Momo Watanabe – SEAdLINNNG Beyond the Sea Tag Title Match – SEAdLINNNG Shin-Kiba NIGHT (10.2.2021)
VENY vs Emi Sakura – AEW Women’s Eliminator Tournament (Japan Bracket) – Round 1 (15.2.2021)
Miu Watanabe vs Rika Tatsumi – TJPW Positive Chain (11.2.2021)
I am a sucker for a good partner vs partner match. And this was great. This was Watanabe’s first Princess of Princess championship challenge and first Korakuen hall singles match main event. So she would have been eager to impress. For Rika Tatsumi it was her first defence of her newly won championship. So she would also be eager to impress. What followed might be my favourite match of the year so far. Rika Tatsumi attacked the leg of Watanabe trying to neutralize her power game and signature moves.
Also playing into the figure 4 leg lock that she beat Yuka Sakazaki with the month prior. Watanabe powers through the pain to hit the giant swing and teardrop. But its not enough. She even hit a top rope Canadian backbreaker, only for Tatsumi just to kick out.
Watanabe had emptied her arsenal and it wasn’t enough.
Tatsumi still had some moves left to break out. In the end the flying Hip attack from the top rope was enough to put away Watanabe.
This wasn’t a case of Watanabe not being strong enough, it was more about Tatsumi just being stronger. Both women stepped up massively and silenced some sceptics with this great match.
Naomichi Marufuji & Jun Akiyama vs Yoshiki Inamura & Kaito Kiyomiya – NOAH Destination 2021 ~ Back To Budokan (12.2.,2021)
NOAH’s old and new generation go at it here in the aptly named generational tag.
The older generation performed at the Budokan many times. The first time for the younger generation.
Akiyama and Marufuji destroy Kiyomiya’s arm for most of the match. Keeping the bigger and explosive Inamura out of the match.
When he does get in he comes out swinging and uses all his power. The old generation was the perfect foil for both Inamura and Kiyomiya.
In the end it was the younger generation winning.
They seemed to earn Akiyama’s respect after the match, which was a nice moment.
Daisuke Harada vs Seiki Yoshioka – NOAH Destination 2021 ~ Back To Budokan (12.2.2021)
A fast paced hard hitting junior match wrapped up in a 11 minute package. This so far is probably my favourite junior heavyweight match this year. No wasted motion from either man. Going full throttle(wink wink) from the get go. Never outstayed its welcome, lots of cool moves. All the ups from me.
Yuki Kamifuku (Kamiyu) vs Mirai Maiumi – TJPW Positive Chain (11.2.2021)
Another match which was action packed and wrapped up in a small match length package was the recent International Princess Championship match. Great character work from Kamiyu at the early stages using Maiumi’s own briefcase against her. Maiumi would use her technical and power advantage against Kamiyu. Attacking the arm and looking for the Miramare. We got some hard hitting exchanges, technical stuff and some good sequences. Kamiyu’s character stuff added a nice wrinkle to the match. At just under 10 minutes I would say its a must seek out match.
HARASHIMA & Yuji Okabayashi vs. Kazusada Higuchi & Yukio Naya – DDT Kawasaki Strong 2021 (14.2.21)
Some big boy stuff in here. Naya continues to improve and it shows here. I think he held his own here against some of the best wrestlers in the world. The highlights for me was the Higuchi vs Okabayashi stuff which is extremely my jam. Just big boy stuff. The ending stretch between Naya and HARASHIMA was really good. A great tag team match which may go under the radar due to how stacked the actual show was.
Serena Deeb vs Riho (AEW Dynamite, 17/2/21)
An almost master class in selling from Deeb here (owing to her position on my top wrestlers of this month as well), she convinced several different analysts that there was a legitimate injury to her knee over the course of the match. Adding to that, the in match strategy/story detail of trying to even the score, by damaging the same leg of Riho, but to no avail. Some brutal looking dragon screws and an as usual firey comeback from the former AEW Women’s Champion, this match was simply enjoyable to watch, while also being grounded in the realism of wrestling.
Veny vs Emi Sakura (AEW Women’s Eliminator Tournament, 15/2/21)
Maki Itoh & Miyu Yaashita vs Neo-Bishiki Gun (TJPW Positive Chain, 10/2/21)
MSK vs Grizzled Young Veterans (WWE NXT TakeOver Vengeance Day, 14/2/21)
Jun Akiyama & Naomichi Marufuji vs Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura (NOAH Destination 2021, 12/2/21)