The finals of Pro Wrestling NOAH’s N-1 Victory takes place this Sunday, the 3rd of October. A Block winner Kaito Kiyomiya takes on old rival, B Block winner Kenoh. And C Block winner Katsuhiko Nakajima faces D Block winner Masakatsu Funaki. The two winners will then head to the main event where we find out the N-1 Victory 2021 winner and the man to face Naomichi Marufuji on Sunday the 10th of October for the GHC Heavyweight Championship.
With a start time of 11:30am in Japan, that’s 3:30am in England, 10:30pm Saturday night East Coast USA and 7:30pm West Coast USA.
Now if this was ABEMA only, that would be a late night/early morning depending on where you are in the West. And as ABEMA is live only, it would have to be done.
However I have great news. Fantastic news. Wrestle Universe are going to air the show live and with English commentary. Wrestle Universe means it’ll be online not long after the show ends. But also the Wrestle Universe is being relaunched on October 1st to be more user friendly, easier to navigate, there will be better Chromecast use and, best news of all, Four months for the price of One!
I’m going to repeat that – 4 months for the price of 1.
It is technically going to be a new site so everyone has to (re)register. But you will get October, November and December for free, only paying from January 1st. Not quite coincidentally, NOAH have their second Nippon Budokan show on January 1st so you will get that as part of your first paid month.
With live shows from NOAH, DDT (including the D-Oh Grand Prix 2021 starting in November) and TJPW, plus VOD shows from all three promotions and the promise that old NOAH shows from Samurai TV will eventually be added (so 2000 to 2019) then you should get right on it and sign up straight away on October 1st!
But shill time over – I’m not on the payroll honest although I wish I was! – let’s get straight into the show!
N-1 Victory 2021 Semifinal – A Block winner vs B Block winner – Kaito Kiyomiya vs Kenoh
These two are destined to do this forever. This is their Eighth match together now since June 2017. Kenoh won their first Four matches. Kiyomiya won the next two. And last year, in November, Kenoh successfully defended the GHC National Championship over Kiyomiya. So Kenoh leads their series 5 to 2.
In my predictions piece of my N-1 Victory coverage, I thought this match was going to happen. But I thought this was going to be the Finals. So seeing it as the semifinals means thing’s are wide open for the eventual result.
Kiyomiya won his Block with two wins and a draw. He beat Manabu Soya and Takashi Sugiura but drew with Keiji Muto. He debuted a new look, long tights and dyed black hair and that change in appearance seemed to fuel a change deeper within and led him to victory in his Block.
Kenoh’s path was not as easy. He lost his opening match to Kendo Kashin but wins over Daiki Inaba and Masaaki Mochizuki saw him win his Block. That match against Mochizuki is my match of the tournament so far and well worth your time to watch.
I’m not surprised to see these two against each other. Especially at this crucial point in their careers. Kenoh has always been a bigger brother to Kiyomiya. And while bigger brothers can be supportive, they can also be massive pain in your necks and you hate their guts.
Kaito, despite being the youngest GHC Heavyweight Champion in the belts history and holding it for 384 days and all of 2019, still has a lot to grow, develop and learn. He will be NOAH’s ace for years to come and it’s crazy when you think how young he is and how much better he can be in the future.
But right now he was in a slump. That August 2020 loss to Muto really knocked his confidence. He reached the finals last year but was beaten by Katsuhiko Nakajima. He lost to Kenoh for the GHC National Title. He lost to Muto for the GHC Heavyweight Title. Masato Tanaka beat him. NOSAWA Rongai beat him through nefarious means. Yoshinari Ogawa beat him.
He has managed to bounce back a little, winning the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s with Masa Kitamiya. Taking Nakajima to a draw. Beating NOSAWA and making him pay for that May match. Debuting a brand new Kaito Kiyomiya with the change in tights and hair and going undefeated in his Block (although only drawing with Muto has to sting him more than a little).
To face Kenoh again at this point is to show that he is more than his little brother. He’s beaten him twice before and to do it again now further shows his growth and that he is coming out of the shadows of his seniors. And he’s won a Global League before, winning the 2018 tournament, the final Global League before it was rebranded to the N-1 Victory.
Kenoh on the other hand hasn’t just won one Global League. He won the Global League in 2017. And the first ever N-1 Victory in 2019. His 2017 win saw him beat Eddie Edwards for his first, and so far only, GHC Heavyweight Championship reign. But his 2019 win did not help him dethrone Kiyomiya in Kiyomiya’s last victory over Kenoh.
The new look of Kiyomiya won’t phase Kenoh. In his mind he most likely still sees Kiyomiya as younger and lesser than him. He’s beaten him 5 times including their last match. And Kiyomiya looks like he’s reached his teenage, angsty rebellion phase whereas Kenoh is an adult.. Who still lives in his angsty rebellion phase.
When he first won the GHC Heavyweight Championship in late 2017, Kenoh said that his goal was to return NOAH to the Budokan with himself as Champion. Well he lost the belt to Takashi Sugiura in March 2018 after only holding the belt for 79 days with only two successful defenses (one of which was against Kiyomiya).
It was the joint effort of men like Kenoh, Go Shiozaki, Marufuji, Sugiura, Nakajima, Kiyomiya, etc, special attractions like Keiji Muto (before he signed with NOAH), Jun Akiyama’s NOAH return and the hard work of Cyber Fight that saw NOAH return back to the Budokan. Not just the singular efforts of Kenoh.
He got to semi main event that show (against fellow N-1 Victory semifinalist Masakatsu Funaki) but it had to sting him a little to see Muto win the belt from Shiozaki in the main event. Kenoh has made it known that he wants to win the N-1 Victory, beat Marufuji to become GHC Heavyweight Champion for the second time and enter Nippon Budokan in the main event with the belt.
Both men are one time GHC Heavyweight Champions. Kiyomiya the most recent and he held it almost 5 times as long as Kenoh did. Both men deserve a second reign with that belt. Both men deserve to headline Nippon Budokan. I can’t help but feel Kiyomiya’s redemption story is not over yet, which means I’m going to give Kenoh the nod.
N-1 Victory 2021 Semifinal – C Block winner vs D Block winner – Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Masakatsu Funaki
While the other semifinal is a tried and tested match in NOAH, this however is a first time ever match. They’ve only shared a ring just the once when M’s Alliance of Funaki, Muto & Marufuji beat the Kongo team of Nakajima, Kenoh & Manabu Soya.
Nakajima started his Block with a loss to Masato Tanaka but victories over Kotaro Suzuki and Kazushi Sakuraba saw him through. Funaki on the other hand went completely undefeated and was the only man in all four Blocks to win all three of their matches.
I can see this match being similar to Nakajima vs Sakuraba. And Funaki vs Kenoh. A hard kicker vs someone well adapted to MMA, shoot-style pro wrestling. And you have two of the very best at their style of wrestling against each other here.
In my preview piece for the last N-1 Victory with Nakajima vs Sakuraba, I made mention that the two were very alike. And that if Nakajima had been born 10-15 years earlier he would have transitioned from pro wrestling to MMA at its infancy.
Well, Sakuraba followed others to shoot style wrestling promotions that had already been formed before making the leap over to MMA completely. Funaki, debuting in New Japan in 1985 (and in the same class as Keiji Muto, Shinya Hashimoto, Masahiro Chono, Jushin Thunder Liger and Minoru Suzuki!) he was even the first person Liger performed his Shooting Star Press on.
When Akira Maeda left New Japan (breaking Riki Choshu’s eye socket on his way out), he formed UWF and Funaki became a top star in that promotion due to his natural abilities as a submission wrestler. He and Minoru Suzuki would co-found Pancrase in 1993 which was an MMA promotion and created the same year that UFC was.
Funaki would have a very successful MMA career with 39 wins, 13 losses and 2 draws. You could definitely consider him to be one of the greatest Japanese fighters in MMA and maybe not exclusive to just being Japanese.
Nakajima, at just 15 years old, had his first and only MMA fight just a few months before he made his professional wrestling debut. He won in just under 90 seconds. He was an absolute wrestling prodigy and made great strides in making his name known as a junior heavyweight.
But imagine if Nakajima had pursued MMA instead? His run in MMA could be as legendary as Funaki and Sakuraba’s were. He was a wrestling prodigy, he could have been an MMA prodigy too.
I for one am glad Nakajima stuck with pro wrestling as Pro Wrestling NOAH would be a lot worse without him. Professional wrestling as a whole is better for him being a part of it.
He’s already beaten the other co-founder of Pancrase when he beat Minoru Suzuki in one of Suzuki’s final NOAH matches before he and the rest of Suzuki-Gun was kicked out of NOAH. Now he gets to face the other.
I am so excited for this match. Both are heavy kickers. Both are capable of throwing bombs. Will it be a long match? Not likely. Funaki’s matches got shorter as the tournament progressed. He’s not getting paid by the hour and with another match yet to wrestle that same night, Funaki will not want to have to wrestle two long matches so it’s in his best interests to try and end this one early. And I’m sure Nakajima will be on the same wavelength.
N-1 Victory 2021 Final – A/B Block winner vs C/D Block winner – Kaito Kiyomiya/Kenoh vs Katsuhiko Nakajima/Masakatsu Funaki
When I wrote my preview piece before the N-1 Victory started, I predicted that Kiyomiya, Kenoh, Nakajima and Masa Kitamiya would all win their Blocks. Well 3 out of 4 wasn’t bad.
But they hadn’t yet confirmed how the semifinals would fall. So I went with Kiyomiya vs Kitamiya and Kenoh vs Nakajima. I enjoyed the thought of tag partners/stable mates against each other in the semifinals. Also meaning as semifinals there’s less pressure on those matches if they are ever repeated on a grander scale.
I thought Kenoh vs Nakajima and then Kenoh vs Kiyomiya finals. We’re getting Kenoh vs Kiyomiya in the semifinals. I think it’s going to be Kenoh vs Nakajima in the finals.
I don’t want to write too much about this. Odds are I’m massively wrong and it’s Kiyomiya vs Funaki. But I just have a hope we get Kenoh vs Nakajima.
It’s a big match. Both are still part of Kongo and this could be the catalyst for something bigger and larger. The match happened twice last year. August when Kenoh took the GHC National Title from Nakajima before the latter joined Kongo.
The rematch happened the month after Nakajima had joined Kongo. It was the main event of the first night of last year’s N-1 Victory and Nakajima beat the Kongo leader.
I like the thought of last year’s first main event being the finals this year. I think every NOAH fan is itching for the day that Nakajima splits from Kongo or removes Kenoh from the group he created to become the new leader.
I would love this to go one of two ways. Kenoh wins here, beats Marufuji for the GHC Heavyweight Title and then defends in the main event at Nippon Budokan against Nakajima after some Kongo turmoil. Or Nakajima wins here, fails to beat Marufuji, Kenoh takes the belt Marufuji at Nippon Budokan and that eventual match between Kenoh and Nakajima happens at another Budokan show, 6/9 months down the line.
But then if Kiyomiya makes the final I could see him win, beat Marufuji for the belt and then finally beat Muto at the Budokan. Who knows with NOSAWA.
M’s Alliance (Keiji Muto, Masato Tanaka & Masaaki Mochizuki) vs Sugiura Army (Takashi Sugiura, Kazushi Sakuraba & Kazuyuki Fujita)
Tanaka at 48 is the youngest man in this match. Muto is 58. Sakuraba 52. Sugiura 51. Mochizuki 51. Fujita 50. The average age of this match is over 51 and a half.
But do not let that fool you. Tanaka, Sugiura and Mochizuki are still three of the best wrestlers in the world right now, regardless of their age. Sakuraba brings that MMA background that few can offer as good as he is. Fujita may not be agile but he can hit hard. Very hard. And Muto, despite his advancing years and limitations can still wrestle a match that captures the audiences attention.
Tanaka and Sugiura had their classic back in August where Sugiura won to add the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Title to his GHC National Title. Sugiura and Muto went to a half hour draw on the opening night of this year’s N-1 Victory. Sakuraba and Tanaka also went to a half hour draw in their match.
All Six did relatively well in their Blocks. Muto with 1 win and 2 draws. Tanaka had 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss. Mochizuki had 2 wins and a loss. Sugiura had 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss. Sakuraba had 1 win, 1 draw and 1 loss. And Fujita finished with 2 wins and a loss.
Muto is undefeated since he lost the GHC Heavyweight Title to Marufuji in June and it feels like there has to be an inevitable fourth match against Kiyomiya. Sugiura holds two titles and is yet to defend or be challenged for either, NOAH or ZERO1.
I have a feeling we could see a challenger emerge from this match. Sugiura beat Funaki to win the GHC National Title for the second time and made his first two defenses against Sakuraba and Tanaka respectively. Muto will likely still be a GHC Heavyweight Title challenger again in the future. So that leaves….
Masaaki Mochizuki. Dear God, please let Mochizuki challenge Sugiura. They’ve had two tag matches against each other this year, May and August, and I have a feeling that their chemistry is going to be unreal. Sugiura works great against kickers like he has with Nakajima and Kenoh. Mochizuki equally works great against big power houses that he has to kick down such as Shingo Takagi.
I really, really hope Mochizuki is Sugiura’s next challenger. But there’s enough in this match to make it interesting. Tanaka has rematches against Sugiura and Sakuraba. Muto has a rematch against Sugiura. Muto and Funaki haven’t shared a ring since 1999 and the two former IWGP Heavyweight Champions have never had a singles match together.
Fujita against any of his three opponents could be great. Tanaka and Fujita trading elbows. Mochizuki chopping Fujita down only for ol’ Ironhead to fire back up. Sakuraba catching Muto on the mat to put a Pro Wrestling Master against an MMA Master.
Yeah this match will end up surprising people and be a worthy semi main event before the N-1 Victory Final.
STINGER (HAYATA & Yoshinari Ogawa) vs Daisuke Harada & Junta Miyawaki
On October 10th, HAYATA defends the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship against Harada. This will be HAYATA’s fourth defense after he’s beaten Ikuto Hidaka, YO-HEY and Kotaro Suzuki.
But Harada and Suzuki are tied at the most reigns with the belt out of anyone on the current NOAH roster. Four times he has been GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion and he most recently lost the belt at the first Budokan return in February this year.
He has held the belt for a combined 847 days with 14 successful defenses across those four reigns. That’s more than anyone else active on the NOAH roster.
During his last title reign, Harada said that he was going to bring in a new age for the junior heavyweight division in NOAH. Well I see no evidence that suggests he achieved his goals. In fact, I have no idea what his goals were. He never said what he was going to do in order to bring about this new age.
HAYATA and Harada have their history together as part of RATEL’S. I’ll get more into that in my preview piece for October 10th. But suffice to say they have their drama together and they’ll be adding another chapter to their story come their title match.
This is a straight rematch of a GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title match from March this year. On that night the STINGER team retained their belts. But that match acted as Miyawaki’s big break out. It remains his one and only Title match that Miyawaki has had in his little more than four year career.
That was a fantastic match. I don’t think this match will hit the highs of the March match. That was the semi main and went over 25 minutes. This match is just a prelude to HAYATA defending his belt against Harada and it’s much lower down the card.
But they keep it tight. They try and recreate some of the drama from March. You can have HAYATA and Harada carry the match but Ogawa and Miyawaki are fantastic supporting players.
Eita vs Atsushi Kotoge
Former Open The Dream Gate Champion, Eita made his NOAH debut back in Japan. Him and Masaaki Mochizuki are two Dragon Gate contracted wrestlers who have popped up in a NOAH ring. Mochizuki is aligned with M’s Alliance. Eita has joined Los Perros del Mal de Japon.
The latter stable is junior heavyweight specific. After Kotoge and Hajima Ohara won the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team belts from Seiki Yoshioka and Yuta Susumu, Eita and NOSAWA Rongai stepped forward to be their first challengers.
This will be Eita’s first singles match in a NOAH ring. And it’s against a three time GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. And winning the junior tag belts with Ohara is the Eighth time Kotoge has held these belts.
These two are similar in ways you wouldn’t think of. Kotoge was trained and debuted in Osaka Pro Wrestling. Eita was trained and debuted in Dragon Gate. Both promotions blend Lucha Libre and Puroresu. Lucharesu as it’s known. Although Kotoge has six years on Eita, debuting in April 2005 to Eita’s May 2011.
Neither are your typical junior heavyweights. Both are more grounded and more likely to throw strikes than high flying moves.
I could see this match being similar to Kotoge’s GHC Junior Heavyweight Title match against Nioh. Both decided to beat the hell out of each other in April. That really was a great, underrated match that is well worth a revisit.
Unfortunately, like the tag match above, it will be much shorter. And as it’s lower down the card, it won’t get too much time. But I imagine these two could pack a very decent match in 10-15 minutes.
Masa Kitamiya, Daiki Inaba & Kotaro Suzuki vs Manabu Soya, Akitoshi Saito & Kendo Kashin
A very odd match on paper. Very odd. But these 6 are the last remaining of the 16 wrestlers involved in the N-1 Victory. Kitamiya and Inaba are aligned in the unaffiliated, not belonging to a stable in NOAH but supporting each other. Suzuki is a part of Los Perros del Mal de Japon.
But the opposing team is where the oddness lies. Soya is a member of Kongo. Saito a member of Funky Express. And Kashin is a member of Sugiura Army.
All three stables are worlds apart. Kongo is way too serious to work with anyone else. Funky Express is way too aloof to work with anyone serious. And I’d say Sugiura Army is serious too but Kashin is an oddity and too problematic to work well with anyone.
Kitamiya, Inaba & Suzuki have the advantage just on the fact that they have more in common with each other. Kitamiya and Inaba have teamed together with Kiyomiya. Kitamiya beat Saito in their Block match. Inaba beat Kashin. Suzuki and Soya were in completely separate Blocks but Soya went completely winless in his Block, same with Saito.
As opening match, this most likely will breeze by and not overstay it’s welcome. Hopefully Inaba gets another win and NOAH moves him up the card in 2022.
And that’s your lot.
Please sign up to Wrestle Universe. You get 4 months for the price of 1! And NOAH will be putting on more great shows between now and the end of the year. All leading up to yet another return to Nippon Budokan on January 1st, 2022.
Thank you so much for reading this and I hope you enjoy the show!