This has been a long time coming for Pro Wrestling NOAH: the return to Nippon Budokan. On Friday, February 12th, after over a decade, Pro Wrestling NOAH presents Destination 2021: Back To Budokan; with a stacked card and four GHC Title matches.
I wrote an article about the significance of the Budokan to NOAH, documenting the dominance of the Pillars and AJPW in the 90s, as well as the rise and decline of NOAH in the 2000s. Check that out here.
Ways to Watch
There are four options to view the show, one of which is only available in Japan. The Japanese exclusive option is to purchase the PPV through ABEMA, which allows you to view the entire card with Japanese commentary. However, even if you have a VPN, it might not work if you live outside of Japan so might not be worth risking it.
If you live outside of Japan, you can purchase the show through FITE TV for $19.99. There, you can view the entire show with English commentary and with unlimited replays.
If you are a Wrestle Universe subscriber (free for the first calendar month and under £9 after), you can watch the last five matches with English commentary as part of your subscription.
ABEMA are also airing a free viewing of the last five matches, but with Japanese commentary.
Changes to the Show Structure
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, NOAH is splitting the show into halves. The first half (matches 1 through 4) begins at 16:30 JST, 07:30 GMT, 02:30 EST & 23:30pm (Thursday) PST. Remember, this half has to be paid for to be seen on either ABEMA or FITE TV but may become available on Wrestle Universe at a later date.
The second half (matches 5 through 9, which is all the title matches and the NOAH generations tag match) begins at 17:45 JST, 08:45 GMT, 03:45 EST & 12:45am PST. So, late nights or early mornings, depending on where you live in the western world! This half is either part of your Wrestle Universe subscription or free on ABEMA.
Right, now that we’ve covered how you can watch, let’s get into the show itself!
MAIN EVENT – GHC Heavyweight Championship – Go Shiozaki (c) vs Keiji Mutoh
This was the biggest match that Pro Wrestling NOAH could put on for the GHC Heavyweight Title. Mutoh is a former 4-time IWGP Heavyweight Champion and 3-time Triple Crown Champion. Only two men have held the top titles in NOAH, NJPW & AJPW – Kensuke Sasaki and Yoshihiro Takayama. Mutoh aims to be the third.
The Divide Over a Potential Mutoh Win
There’s definitely opposing sides talking about this match. Some are excited to see Mutoh in a big title match, regardless of his 58 years of age, as he can work a smart match that does its best to hide his age and plays to his strengths. Others are disappointed to see him still in high profile matches at his age and his many knee surgeries, fearing the worst for this match.
And there are those who want to see Mutoh win the belt and become the third man to complete the trifecta. And then there are others who would be very irate to see Shiozaki’s fantastic run with the belt, and his first real extended run as the ace of NOAH, ended by someone who perhaps should not still be in the main event scene.
I can see both sides of the coin here. Mutoh is a legend, and him winning the belt may put more eyes on NOAH. But then you are ending the reign of a real NOAH original who spent over a decade in between his original run with the belt and his current reign where he was, arguably, the best champion to carry their promotion during the first year of the pandemic. Shiozaki’s first reign was born out of tragedy. His second and third didn’t cement him as a true ace. But this time, he is the man in NOAH and has proven it with fantastic title defences. Come February 12th, he will have held that belt almost as long as his previous three reigns combined.
A point was made in my article about NOAH’s history with the Budokan (and in general), how NOAH’s inability to create new stars boiled down to the belt eventually getting put back on tried and tested main eventers instead of on the younger generation. And I thought that someone may look at this match and tie it into that point. However, that was the first title reigns being ended six months or under. This is not the same. Shiozaki is in his fourth reign with the belt and has held it for over a year. A loss here to a legend like Mutoh won’t damage his career in any way.
History Between Champion & Challenger
A lot has been said about the destination of the match and which of the two will be leaving Budokan with the belt, instead of the journey here. Mutoh and Shiozaki do have their history. Back in 2012 Jun Akiyama, still contracted to NOAH, held the Triple Crown Title at the same time as the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team belts with Akitoshi Saito. Mutoh was to be his next challenger. But before that singles match, Mutoh came to NOAH to challenge for the tag belts on March 18th. His partner? Go Shiozaki.
So, the first time they shared the ring together, it was as partners. And this was Shiozaki just a few months after his second reign with the GHC Heavyweight Championship had been ended prematurely by Takeshi Morishima. Mutoh and Shiozaki were unsuccessful when Akiyama pinned Shiozaki.
The next time they were in the same ring was on an AJPW show in March 2013. Akiyama and Shiozaki (and others) had left NOAH at the very end of 2012, joining AJPW in January 2013. And there was a six-month window where Burning (the NOAH leavers) and Keiji Mutoh and his supporters were still in AJPW, before Mutoh was ousted from AJPW and took a lot of wrestlers with him to form Wrestle-1 (the second exodus from AJPW that gets nowhere near as much attention as the first that formed NOAH). Surprisingly, this match, a six-man tag of Mutoh, Takao Omori & Hiroshi Yamato against Go Shiozaki, Jun Akiyama & Atsushi Aoki was just a house show match and was not taped. Which feels like a huge miss when you consider who was in it.
Mutoh and Shiozaki were on opposite sides of the main event at Kenta Kobashi’s retirement show, the last time both men wrestled inside the Budokan. Kobashi had a legends tag team of himself, Mutoh, Akiyama & Sasaki as they faced a team made up of his protoges – Shiozaki, KENTA, Kanemaru & Taniguchi. But this match was all about the perfect send off for Kobashi, instead of any rivalries contained within it.
It took seven years for them to be in the ring together again. After Wrestle-1 closed, Mutoh made NOAH his new home promotion. Mutoh and Naomichi Marufuji created M’s Alliance, a stable consisting solely of wrestlers with an M at the beginning of their first or surnames. As Marufuji prepared to face Shiozaki for the GHC Title, Mutoh was readying himself for a match against the former champion, Kaito Kiyomiya. And in July 2020, their first meeting on an official NOAH show, Mutoh & Marufuji beat Shiozaki & Kiyomiya when Marufuji pinned Shiozaki.
Go would retain the belt against Marufuji, but Mutoh would beat Kiyomiya in August. It was after this that Mutoh then started to make his intentions known that he was interested in the GHC Heavyweight Championship but, at 57 years old, it wasn’t known whether he was 100% serious or just an old veteran trying to keep his name out there.
In October 2020, the M’s Alliance faced Shiozaki and a team of other unaffiliated NOAH wrestlers, where Mutoh beat Shuhei Taniguchi. This surprisingly set up Taniguchi for Mutoh’s next singles match where, unsurprisingly, Mutoh won. Talk was getting more serious about Mutoh challenging Shiozaki for the belt but when Shiozaki beat former tag team partner, Katsuhiko Nakajima in an incredible match, it was Takashi Sugiura who came out to challenge afterwards. However, when Shiozaki beat Sugiura in yet another fantastic match, Mutoh came out to officially challenge.
And not to just challenge at a random future show. But THE show. The Return To Budokan show that had only just been announced at the beginning of that night.
Since then, they have wrestled each other twice in six-man tag team matches to preview their match. On January 4th, the team of Shiozaki, Kiyomiya & Hiroshi Hase (an old former partner/rival of Mutoh) beat Mutoh, Marufuji & Masato Tanaka when Shiozaki pinned Mutoh after a moonsault. This was the move that Shiozaki inherited from Kenta Kobashi and a move commonly used by Mutoh to finish matches before his knee injuries. So it was almost psychological warfare for Shiozaki to pin Mutoh with that move.
However, Mutoh is also one to play mind games. On January 31st, the team of Mutoh, Marufuji & Seiki Yoshioka beat Shiozaki, Kiyomiya & Daisuke Harada after a referee stoppage, as Mutoh had Shiozaki trapped in a figure four leg lock. Mutoh had done a real number on Shiozaki’s knee and, too stubborn to give up but unable to break the hold, the referee was forced to call the match. Shiozaki, stubborn to the bitter end, even tried to refuse help being escorted from the ring to backstage, clutching his title belt tightly and slowly limping his way forward.
It has to be mentioned that the past 13 months have been rough on Shiozaki. Like Misawa and Kobashi before him, carrying that title belt has come with a heavy toll on his body, as he has had lengthy and hard hitting matches against Kenoh, Nakajima and Sugiura where it felt like he had to dig down incredibly deep in order to pull out the victories. As each month passed, it felt like Shiozaki’s arms were covered in more and more tape and supports, from his shoulders down to his elbows.
All of his previous opponents have focused their strategies on this obvious weakness. Mutoh, however, played to his own strengths and attacked the knees and got the victory over Shiozaki with his trademark figure four leg lock, a move that has given him plenty of victories in the past.
Both have direct victories over each other. It’s worth noting that this is still Shiozaki’s biggest ever match. He never got to face one of the legends of 90’s Puroresu, be it one of the four pillars of AJPW or three musketeers of NJPW with a singles title on the line. Misawa’s death was a big reason Go got his original reign in the first place. Kobashi, Taue and Chono were all long past singles title matches by 2009. Kawada would only join NOAH for a brief time, after Shiozaki had already lost the belt, and quietly retire soon afterwards. Mutoh is the only one out of the four pillars and three musketeers to still be active and capable of a main event match.
I know I’ve written a lot about this match, but please believe me, I wouldn’t have gone on to such lengths if I didn’t think they weren’t going to have a spectacle of a match that is worthy of headlining the Budokan.
Yes, they could have done a lot more smoke and mirrors and had a potentially shorter match if Mutoh was wrestling as The Great Muta instead. But I enjoyed his match with Kaito Kiyomiya, even with the almost half hour length. I trust Shiozaki to bring the drama. What he really learned from Kobashi, beyond the chops and moonsault, was the art of selling and drama.
GHC NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP – Kenoh (c) vs Masakatsu Funaki
The GHC National Championship was only created in November 2019, long after the Budokan days. This will be the first time it is defended in this venue. Not only that, this will be Kenoh’s first time in the Budokan. It was he in 2017 into 2018 that wanted to bring Pro Wrestling NOAH back to the Budokan. Three years later, it’s happened, but Kenoh is slightly p*ssed off that he wasn’t single-handedly responsible. I say slightly, but like in all things, he is irate. Or, he’s usually irate. But curiously, he’s offering his Budokan opponent, Masakatsu Funaki, a lot of respect.
Kenoh has come after original champion Takashi Sugiura and Katsuhiko Nakajima to be the third National Champion. But since his first two defences (an hour draw against Shiozaki in a title vs title match and then long term rival Kaito Kiyomiya), all of his defences since then have been against wrestler/MMA hybrids. He beat Kazushi Sakuraba and Kazunari Murakami in December and January respectively. Sakuraba and Murakami both have experience in MMA, Sakuraba being the more successful of the two. However neither have held singles gold in wrestling.
Funaki, on the other hand, has. After returning to wrestling in 2010, he beat Jun Akiyama in August 2012 (in under five minutes) to win the Triple Crown, holding it for seven months. He defeated Suwama, Takao Omori, Manabu Soya and Akebono before losing it to Suwama in March 2013. He also, while a Wrestle-1 member, defeated Kohei Sato on a Wrestle-1 show to win the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship, retaining it against Shinjiro Ohtani at a Wrestle-1 show before losing the belt back to Sato on a ZERO1 show after holding it for just over two months.
So, he has experience in winning and holding singles titles. He has championship pedigree already. And in their one and only preview tag match, Funaki hit Kenoh with the Hybrid Blaster (underhook tombstone piledriver) and then brought his head right back up to choke him out for the victory. Kenoh has not had a good time at getting choked out as that’s exactly what Murakami was able to do to them in their preview tag match, but he was able to fight off the choke in their title match. Funaki on the other hand put him down with the Hybrid Blaster that has finished many title matches. The choke was the exclamation point on top.
Clearly, Funaki has researched his opponent. But Kenoh is nothing if not a student of the game and enjoys the wrestling/MMA hybrid wrestling you would have found in UWF and UWFi. He was a part of the very first GLEAT show, which is a promotion trying to continue the shoot style of pro wrestling legacy. This is definitely going to be a contender for match of the night; as in that one tag match, Kenoh and Funaki showed that they understood each other and their styles meshed well.
Kenoh wanted nothing more than to bring NOAH back to the Budokan and will not want to leave empty-handed. Funaki first graced the Budokan on a UWF show in May 1990 and only wrestled there once more as part of ALL TOGETHER in August 2011. So this is a battle of two similar wrestlers, and it may come down to youth vs experience.
NOAH GENERATION TAG TEAM MATCH – Naomichi Marufuji & Jun Akiyama vs Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura
Since Akiyama left NOAH in 2012 he has only returned three times before now. The Kenta Kobashi retirement show in May 2013. Marufuji’s 20th Anniversary show in September 2018. And September 2019 where he teamed with his Budokan opponent Kiyomiya and Keiji Mutoh to beat Marufuji, Masaaki Mochizuki and Shuhei Taniguchi.
This will be the first time Akiyama and Marufuji have teamed together since March 2011. They have a long history with one another, both being graduates from the AJPW dojo but at different eras. Akiyama debuted in September 1992 to Marufuji’s August 1998 and there was the weight difference between them. Marufuji has gone on record to say that Akiyama can be a very scary individual, especially to the generations that came after him.
And that’s because he’s the direct descendant of the four pillars. He was one of the most prodigious graduates to come out of the AJPW dojo and he came right after the four pillars. His debut match was against Kenta Kobashi and he had an incredible rookie year where he mixed it up with all of the four pillars, Jumbo Tsuruta and Giant Baba. Akiyama learned everything he could from the names responsible for AJPW’s foundation, rise and growth. And at times it was a harsh lesson that he made sure to pass on to the wrestlers that came after him. At 51 years of age and his 30th Anniversary coming up next year, Akiyama is still in prime condition and two days after this show he will challenge Tetsuya Endo for DDT’s KO-D Openweight Championship.
Neither Kiyomiya nor Inamura have stepped foot inside the Budokan as wrestlers. Both joined the NOAH dojo long after the days of the Budokan were over, and after Akiyama had left. Kiyomiya teamed with Akiyama on that one occasion but has never been on the other side of the ring against him. Inamura has never shared a ring with Akiyama before now. Both are pegged for future greatness and it could be argued that Kiyomiya has more than reached his potential as he became the youngest GHC Heavyweight Champion of all time, just under three years into his career, and held that belt for over a year. Longer than any of Akiyama and Marufuji’s individual reigns with the belt.
Inamura is definitely showing that he will be a future champion in NOAH. He is the size of a Rikio or Morishima and has slowly built up momentum over the past two and a half years since his debut. Joining Kongo and then ultimately leaving Kongo has been great for his growth and learning. And facing the closest thing to the four pillars will be a great experience for him…. If not painful.
Marufuji, as NOAH’s Vice President, has now found himself moved into more of a gatekeeper role. He hasn’t held the GHC Heavyweight Championship for over five years and has been unsuccessful in challenging Eddie Edwards, Takashi Sugiura, Kaito Kiyomiya and Go Shiozaki over the past three years. But that does not mean that he’s ready to step down and let the younger generation pass him by. Marufuji is still willing and ready to take the fight to the youngsters and let them know that they would be lucky to beat him and not for them to expect an easy victory.
One of the most innovative wrestlers of his generation he is synonymous with NOAH. He went to America as part of NOAH’s partnership with Ring Of Honor but he did it to help promote his home promotion internationally and was the first person to defend the GHC Heavyweight Championship outside of Japan. He has gone to AJPW and NJPW to win their Junior Titles and all to promote NOAH. He has challenged for the Triple Crown and IWGP Heavyweight Title’s all while proudly flying the flag for NOAH. Today he even cross promotes with DDT and continues to represent NOAH. So if Kiyomiya and Inamura want to be the future of NOAH, Marufuji is still there to test their resolve.
GHC JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP – Daisuke Harada (c) vs Seiki Yoshioka
Both men started their careers outside NOAH. I have to be honest I thought Seiki Yoshioka was a graduate from Wrestle-1 but it turns out he originally debuted back in 2008 and spent time on the smaller Japanese promotions before joining Wrestle-1 at it’s formation and officially debuting with them at their second show.
Yoshioka is a former three time and final Wrestle-1 Cruiserweight Champion. With the closure of Wrestle-1 in April 2020, Yoshioka immediately found a new home in NOAH, joining on the 18th of that same month. He was thrust straight into the chaos of the NOAH junior division as he and Hajima Ohara were originally part of Sugiura Army. But when Atsushi Kotoge left STINGER in May he recruited Ohara and Yoshioka to join him and form FULL THROTTLE.
He’s been a member of FULL THROTTLE ever since although Kotoge was kicked out and replaced by YO-HEY, and Ohara has been established as their new leader. Yoshioka has challenged for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship the once before but was beaten by Koraro Suzuki at the end of August. Before that match however, in July, he and Harada wrestled to a 20 minute time limit draw which was absolutely fantastic and it’s a shame it happened while there was no live audience as a lot of good wrestling from that time has been forgotten about.
Harada has been a member of the NOAH roster since May 2013. He joined NOAH full time the day after the Kenta Kobashi retirement show so neither he nor Yoshioka have wrestled inside the Budokan. In his fourth reign with the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship he has already defeated Tadasuke and Ohara and it was after that victory over Ohara that Yoshioka came out to challenge him. Harada has said that he’s going to bring forth a new junior division to NOAH but so far he’s not brought anything forward to implement that.
If there time limit draw back in July was anything to go by, this will be another contender for match of the night. Both can wrestle on the mat but Yoshioka has the high flying advantage where Harada has the power advantage. They definitely have great chemistry together so will try their best to put on a show.
It’s interesting to note that all the challengers on this show for the GHC singles titles have a history with Wrestle-1. Mutoh formed it and was a Wrestle-1 Heavyweight Champion. Funaki left AJPW with Mutoh and the others and was there from the very beginning, winning the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship during an interpromotional feud. And Yoshioka was there from the start too and he and Andy Wu are tied as three time Wrestle-1 Cruiserweight Champions. Just something I realized when thinking about the show.
GHC JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS: STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa & HAYATA) (c) vs Kotaro Suzuki & Ikuto Hidaka
HAYATA is the only one making his Budokan debut in this match. Funnily enough all of the other three have wrestled inside in a NOAH ring in the Budokan. All four have previously held the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s with Hidaka the first out of the four to do so in March 2006. He and Minoru Fujita, two ZERO1 contracted wrestlers, beat Sugiura and Kanemaru, in the Budokan to become the third ever champions although they lost them back to the former champions a few months later.
Suzuki would be next, winning the tag belts with Ricky Marvin in January 2007. He would held the belts two more times with Kanemaru and Atsushi Aoki until he left NOAH in December 2012. Ogawa would hold the tag belts twice with Zack Sabre Jnr from late 2013 until mid 2014. HAYATA would win the belts with YO-HEY in August 2017, after only joining the promotion in December 2016 and already having a brief reign with the GHC Junior Heavyweight Title.
Kotaro Suzuki has been closely aligned with Yoshinari Ogawa ever since he debuted as the first graduate of the NOAH dojo in December 2001. With Suzuki their first, Misawa took a keen interest in the young junior heavyweight so often teamed with him and his second-in-command, Ogawa. When Suzuki returned to NOAH in September 2018, Ogawa was the first original NOAH roster member to welcome him back with understanding and forgiving arms.
They held these tag belts together, winning them in February 2019, winning the Global Junior Tag League in June, and they held the belts until November. The two of them are original members of STINGER. So what happened? Well, like it did to a lot of things, 2020 happened.
The NOAH junior division reflected the state of the world around it as it was absolute chaos. Suzuki beat his stablemate Ogawa to win the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship. HAYATA betrayed RATEL’S and joined STINGER and he and Ogawa won the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles. Kotoge left STINGER to form FULL THROTTLE. Tadasuke and eventually YO-HEY both betrayed Harada which put the final nails in any hope of RATEL’S reforming. Mass brawls happened at the drop of a hat. Kotoge went to save his former partner, Harada, but was kicked out of FULL THROTTLE and replaced by YO-HEY. STINGER seemed stable but then….
Ogawa & HAYATA lost the tag belts to the reformed Momo No Seishun. Things in STINGER were tense as Suzuki still held the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship and Harada was his next opponent. STINGER had a six-man tag team match against the Kongo juniors of Tadasuke, Haoh & Nioh and an errant superkick from HAYATA connected with Suzuki allowing Tadasuke to roll him up for the win. Suzuki was hot with HAYATA and when Ogawa tried to intervene, Suzuki let emotions get the better of him and he hit Ogawa.
HAYATA attacked Suzuki and Ogawa, wounded from the strike, joined in. The two together attacked their now former partner and left him laying in the ring after a tandem powerbomb. Suzuki then recruited an outsider to join NOAH, a masked wrestler with the name of Salvaje De Oriente that had no trace in any other promotions. Suzuki also had unwanted help as NOSAWA Rongai and another masked wrestler, this one with no name, tried to recruit Suzuki and De Oriente into joining them against STINGER.
On December 6th, Suzuki and De Oriente challenged Ogawa & HAYATA for the tag belts they had only just won back from Momo No Seishun but during the title match, De Oriente attacked Suzuki to allow the champions to retain. He was then unmasked to reveal himself as Yuya Susumu, a man who had deep connections to HAYATA so now that he had used Suzuki to get into NOAH, he no longer had any need for him so joined HAYATA in STINGER. NOSAWA and his masked friend helped run the new STINGER off and Suzuki begrudgingly agreed to join forces with them.
The biggest shock of all came on January 4th when NOSAWA’s masked friend was unmasked and was revealed to be Ikuto Hidaka. Susumu was someone who’d spent a lot of time in FREEDOMS and other smaller Japanese promotions so him being brought into NOAH so dramatically helped bring him into the limelight in a big way. Hidaka on the other hand has had a storied career, debuting in BattleArts in 1997 with appearances in Michinoku Pro, DDT, Big Japan and ECW before the year 2000. He would make ZERO1 his home in 2001 and continue to make guest appearances in other promotions which lead to the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title reign previously mentioned.
Gabe Sapolsky has been a big fan from his brief ECW tour and Hidaka was brought in to main event the second ever EVOLVE show with a victory over Chris Hero in 2010. He would make returns to NOAH in 2012 and 2018 to partner Daichi Hashimoto and Takuya Sugawara respectively in those years Global Junior Heavyweight Tag Team leagues and he would also take part in the singles Global Junior League 2018. ZERO1 entered financial difficulties in 2020 so Hidaka and others left the promotion to freelance. He appeared as part of Muhammad Yone’s 25 Anniversary on a NOAH show in October but that still could not have predicted the shock when he was unveiled as NOSAWA’s masked mystery friend a few months later.
So you have a very heated personal issue between Ogawa & HAYATA against Suzuki, especially Ogawa and Suzuki, and an underrated junior heavyweight who has a great career and can still go all in the mix for this tag team title match. Ogawa & HAYATA have great chemistry together so if Suzuki & Hidaka manage to click, this match will be great.
This ends the portion of the show you can watch through either Wrestle Universe or free through ABEMA.
The next half, the undercard can only be viewed currently through purchasing through FITE TV, with English commentary, available worldwide outside of Japan as ABEMA are offering the full show on PPV but in Japan only.
Sugiura Army (Takashi Sugiura, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kazuyuki Fujita, Kazunari Murakami, Kendo Kashin & NOSAWA Rongai) vs Kongo (Katsuhiko Nakajima, Masa Kitamiya, Manabu Soya, Tadasuke, Haoh & Nioh)
I, like many others, expected to see Nakajima & Kitamiya, formerly known as The Aggression, to challenge Sugiura & Sakuraba for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s and for the match to take place at Budokan. Well the challenge happened but the title match was sent for March 7th. Instead a Twelve man tag team match was set.
This is somewhat of a rematch from a Fourteen man Elimination tag team match that took place on the Sugiura Army PPV show at the end of December. Kongo is the exact same minus their leader Kenoh. Sugiura Army has Sugiura, Sakuraba, Murakami, Kashin and Rongai return from that match with the addition of Fujita.
It won’t go anywhere near as long as the elimination match and will be mainly to build the tag title match. But Fujita and Soya have had a few run in’s over the past few months to the point I was expecting a singles match between the two to be announcer. And Murakami has history with both Nakajima and Kitamiya dating back to the early 2010’s from Kensuke Office so there could be something set up there for outside of the tag title match.
There’s going to be a lot of bodies in this, a lot of clashing styles and a lot of chaos. That and with it being on the undercard means it may not get much time either. So this could potentially turn into a wild brawl that is over before you know it.
M’s Alliance (Masato Tanaka & Masaaki Mochizuki) vs Muhammad Yone & Shuhei Taniguchi
Yone & Taniguchi have teamed since the beginning of this year to mixed success. They haven’t even got a team name yet so I’m calling them Funky & Bland until they do so. Yone joined NOAH just after the first Budokan and Tanuguchi debuted from the NOAH dojo in 2005. So both are very familiar with wrestling there.
Tanaka & Mochizuki are a dream tag team on paper. Both could be considered in GOAT polls due to the strength of their matches and how consistent they have been over their lengthy careers. Neither man has wrestled in the Budokan since the mid-2000’s. It feels selfish to say that I’m looking forward to seeing the two team together but wish it were different opponents.
Honestly all four can go and can have hard hitting, intense quick matches. And this will be exactly that. It’s not going to be a bad match and will realistically be good. But for the dream tag team of Tanaka & Mochizuki you’d hope for it to be higher up the card and more important.
Daiki Inaba, Atsushi Kotoge & Yasutaka Yone vs FULL THROTTLE (Hajima Ohara & YO-HEY) & Kai Fujimura
With Harada and Yoshioka busy on the top half of the card, Kotoge faces off with the other two/thirds of FULL THROTTLE. Kotoge is the only one out of the six to have wrestled at the Budokan before.
This is actually a change to the originally announced card as Daiki Inaba was intended to partner Kinya Okada against Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue in the opener. But Inoue unfortunately tested positive for Coronavirus so was pulled from the show. Fortunately he is the only one to have tested positive. And Junta Miyawaki was originally supposed to be in this match but he required surgery for acute appendicitis. So Inaba took his place in this match and Okada will face Saito in a singles match on the opener instead.
This will likely be a quick match as NOAH blitz through the undercard to get to the meaty second half. But that doesn’t mean it will be a bad match at all. Yano and Fujimura will get valuable big show experience wrestling in the Budokan. Ohara makes his return to the ring after a false positive pulled him from a few shows and he has had a few matches with Yano as the latest NOAH graduate and that continues in this match. Inaba, as a former two time Wrestle-1 Champion deserves to be used more prominently by NOAH in 2021 so hopefully that happens.
Akitoshi Saito vs Kinya Okada
On the one hand I am glad the card re-shuffling has seen Okada get opportunity to open the Budokan in a singles match. On the other hand this singles match guarantees a loss as Saito will no doubt beat Okada. But as I’ve said before, sometimes it’s the journey and not the destination.
This is a big match for Okada. I do genuinely believe his 2021 deserves to be as big as generational rival, Yoshiki Inamura. But obviously Inamura has a much bigger head start over him. Okada can be a dark horse for a breakout year in 2021. This match may end up being a loss for Okada. But a good showing here against Saito will put him in good standing going forward.
And that’s the full card.
I know I’ve written a lot – most likely a little too much – but I am really excited for this show. I’m really happy to see NOAH return to where they belong, back to Budokan. And while you could argue it’s not a show filled with banger after banger, it is a well built card that shows NOAH where it is right now and can only build for the future.
Thank you for taking the time to read this, I hope you enjoy the show this Friday!