This Sunday, September the 26th, we find out the four Block winners of Pro Wrestling NOAH’s N-1 Victory 2021. It’s directly between Keiji Muto and Kaito Kiyomiya for A Block. Kenoh, Masaaki Mochizuki and Kendo Kashin all stand a chance in B Block. Katsuhiko Nakajima, Masato Tanaka and Kazushi Sakuraba in C Block. And it’s only between Kazuyuki Fujita and Masakatsu Funaki in D Block.
The show starts at 6pm in Japan. That’s 10am UK, 5am East Coast USA and 2am West Coast USA. It airs live and live ONLY on ABEMA. ABEMA is a Japanese streaming service but there will be no replays until it’s moved over to Wrestle Universe a week later.
There are 8 matches, all singles and all to determine the final rankings in each of the four Blocks. There are only two matches that will have no drama other than placing last in each Block. Two matches outright determine the winners of their Blocks. Whereas depending on the results of four matches determines the winners of the other two Blocks.
Let’s get right into it!
Keiji Muto (3) vs Kaito Kiyomiya (4)
Most likely the main event. Their third match together. If Muto wins, he wins A Block. If Kiyomiya wins or they go to a draw, he wins A Block instead.
Muto main evented the first night of the N-1 Victory with a 30 minute draw against Takashi Sugiura. He then went on to beat Manabu Soya to bring him to 3 points. Kiyomiya began his N-1 Victory on the second night but debuted new gear and a new look. Gone was the bleached blonde to be replaced with black hair. And he’s started strong with back to back wins over Manabu Soya and Takashi Sugiura, eliminating both from contention.
Kiyomiya’s white whale has been Muto. He lost to him in August 2020 when nothing was on the line, tapping out to his figure four leglock. He lost to him again in March 2021, this time for the GHC Heavyweight Championship, tapping out to a surprising armbar. He was busted open by The Great Muta on August 1st this year and then hit by a people carrier vehicle driven (slowly) by The Great Muta on the 29th of that same month.
While he has had losses before, it’s always hit harder when it’s been Muto. That August 2020 loss triggered a downward spiral that he is only just coming out of the other side from.
He’s debuted his new ring gear. His new black hair. He’s undefeated in his first two Block matches. A win or a draw against Muto would place him first in A Block and straight into the semifinals on October 3rd. But Muto has had his number in those past two matches.
Those two matches went 27:07 and 32:07 respectively. All Block matches have a 30 minute time limit. We’ve already seen Muto and Sugiura go to the time limit. And Masato Tanaka and Kazushi Sakuraba do the same a few days later. If there’s going to be one final half hour draw during the Block stages then it’s very likely to be this match.
A draw would see Kiyomiya advance. But Kiyomiya has made it plain that he has to beat Muto. He needs to finally beat him. So that desperation could play into Muto’s hands. When you get desperate you are more likely to make mistakes and Muto will give Kiyomiya enough rope to hang himself.
If you didn’t like their first two matches then I don’t imagine you will like this one. Muto wrestles the one style of match now. Slow and methodical. Ground and wear down. Kiyomiya will likely be forced into wrestling Muto’s match. For better or worse.
Truthfully I liked their past two matches. And I enjoyed Muto vs Sugiura but I can completely appreciate why others wouldn’t. Muto is 58 years old. He’s been wrestling since 1984. The wear and tear on his body is obvious and he is limited in what he can do, although he does try to push his limits out every now and then in big matches.
He earned the nicknames of “Pro Wrestling Master” and “Pro Wrestling Genius” for A reason. He still commands an audience’s attention and is able to generate great sympathy and support as the audience understands that his time is short (even if his matches aren’t) and want the ageing legend to still pull off the big wins.
Honestly…. I can see another half hour draw. I know that sentence fills people with dread. Kiyomiya cannot afford another loss to Muto. He absolutely cannot. And he has to beat Muto. He will beat Muto. But… Just not here. Not yet.
A draw would see Kiyomiya win the Block but infuriate him further. Muto finishes on 1 win and 2 draws which should appease him. Kiyomiya may or may not win the N-1 Victory. He may or may not beat Naomichi Marufuji for the GHC Heavyweight Title. But he has to face AND beat Muto on January 1st in the Nippon Budokan.
I could be way off the mark and completely wrong. Kiyomiya may beat Muto here which would feel completely anticlimactic personally. But NOSAWA. Hell, Muto may even beat Kiyomiya again because NOSAWA. But I do hope Kiyomiya wins his Block even if he doesn’t beat Muto here. There’s still legs to his redemption story and a satisfying pay off on a big stage.
Takashi Sugiura (1) vs Manabu Soya (0)
There’s nothing on the line here but pride. Sugiura has a draw with Muto but a loss to Kiyomiya. Soya lost to both of them. This match will only settle who finishes dead last in their Block.
Soya made his NOAH singles debut with a loss to Sugiura. It was a Sugiura Army vs Kongo special event where the two teams faced off in randomly selected singles matches before a 12 man elimination tag team match main event.
In the final singles match before the main event, after over 16 minutes of hard hitting action, Sugiura beat Soya. Soya’s introduction into singles matches started with a loss. And unfortunately for Soya, not much has changed there.
I can talk about how NOAH have underutilised Soya until I am blue in the face. Daiki Inaba too for that matter. But it’s true. You have a guy here, hoss of a wrestler, looks the part, acts the part, fully committed but for some reason he is Kongo’s heavyweight loss post. If there’s a pin to be taken for his team, he’s expendable.
But Soya deserves so much more than that. I’m hoping him and Sugiura just beat the crap out of each other. Well, that much is to be expected. But what I’m hoping to be surprised by is if Soya beats Sugiura.
Sugiura holds both the GHC National Championship and the ZERO1 World Heavyweight Championship. He’s defended the National belt two times already in his second reign with the belt so he needs a new challenger. A shock Soya win here could set that up. And Sugiura would not lose anything by finishing last.
Either way this will be a hard hitting war. And these two are bound to have a great match together.
Masaaki Mochizuki (4) vs Kenoh (2)
Mochizuki wins this match, he goes undefeated and wins the Block. Kenoh wins and Kendo Kashin loses his match, Kenoh wins the Block.
Kenoh and Kashin both win, we have a three way tie. Kashin beat Kenoh. Mochizuki beat Kashin. So if Kenoh beats Mochizuki, all three would finish on 4 points without a clear winner. That would then result in a three way match on Sunday October 3rd to determine the B Block winner.
Hopefully things don’t get confusing. And we have a clear winner decided this Sunday.
But I can tell you now this match is going to be great. They’ve faced only the once before. N-1 Victory 2019. That match also took place at Korakuen Hall and after almost 17 minutes, Mochizuki beat Kenoh.
You can watch that match on YouTube right now from NOAH’s own channel. The match starts after One Hour 30 minutes in.
Despite the loss to Mochizuki, Kenoh would go onto win his Block. And he beat Takashi Sugiura in the final to win the tournament that year although he would fail to beat Kaito Kiyomiya for the GHC Heavyweight Title.
This time, if Kenoh loses he is out. This is win or die for him. And even beating Mochizuki isn’t a guaranteed victory if Kendo Kashin beats Daiki Inaba earlier in the night.
Honestly (and hopefully) I expect Inaba to beat Kashin. God I hope he does if there is any justice in this world. So this match is going to directly determine the B Block winner.
You want hard kicks? You’ll get them here. You want a 50 year old who can wrestle like he’s half his age? Mochizuki is your man. These two have already displayed great chemistry together in their one and only previous match.
I know already who I would like to see win this match and the Block. But you can’t go wrong with either man winning.
Kendo Kashin (2) vs Daiki Inaba (0)
I hoped and prayed that Inaba would be a dark horse in this tournament. That he would be a contender until the final day. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way.
Losing to both Mochizuki and Kenoh has already eliminated him. If NOAH has any plans with Inaba, they are not going to be realised just yet. As a former two time Wrestle-1 Champion who is 33 years old, he still has time on his side. But sooner rather than later hopefully.
We all suspected Kashin would play spoiler. He did so on the first night when he beat Kenoh. He tried the same tactics with Mochizuki but Mochizuki was able to outsmart Kashin to beat him.
Hopefully Inaba has been studying and learned Kashin’s tricks so that he won’t have to suffer yet another loss and end his first N-1 Victory winless.
If there is any justice in this world then Inaba will beat Kashin. Yes Kashin will do his standard match. He’ll cheat. He’ll use the plexiglass shield and any other weapons he can get his hands on. But with any luck Inaba will beat him.
Kazushi Sakuraba (3) vs Katsuhiko Nakajima (2)
Sakuraba beats Nakajima or draws with him and Masato Tanaka loses, Sakuraba wins the Block. Tanaka wins or draws and Sakuraba loses, Tanaka wins the Block. Sakuraba and Tanaka both win, a rematch is required. Nakajima wins, Tanaka loses, Nakajima wins the Block.
So much to fight for! This is an exciting match before even taking into account the Block stage drama. It’s a first time match between these two and I have high hopes for the chemistry they will have together. They have faced each other in tag matches, The Aggression notably taking the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s from Sakuraba & Sugiura in March this year.
Before Nakajima even made his professional wrestling debut (at 15 just in case you didn’t know) he fought in an MMA ring (also at 15) and mauled his opponent. Legit, it was scary viewing. He knocked his opponent out within 90 seconds.
Fortunately for Pro Wrestling (and the MMA world) Nakajima decided that he would be a pro wrestler only and that decision has lead him to the success he has enjoyed so far.
But if Nakajima was maybe 10-15 years older, what’s to say his career might not have shaped the same way that Sakuraba’s did? Start in pro wrestling and then transition into MMA.
The mid 1990’s were a different breed. Before Inoki went full Inoki-ism, before MMA became the massive business that it is today, wrestling and MMA were closely tied together in promotions like UWF and then UWF-I. It was in UWF-I that Sakuraba got his start in pro wrestling but fate saw him make his official MMA debut and… The man was meant for it.
There have been few wrestlers who have adapted to both MMA and wrestling as well as Sakuraba did. But while he had success in MMA, he wore his love for pro wrestling on his sleeve.
When the Blocks were announced, this match was the one that got the most interest. Or at least one of them. We’d already seen Nakajima face Tanaka. But Nakajima vs Sakuraba is that rare kind of match where all the stars have to align in order for it to happen.
Sakuraba just wrestled the longest match of his career when he and Tanaka took each other to a half hour draw. So if there’s one thing that Nakajima can take advantage of it’s that Sakuraba may not be able to handle two hard hitting matches so close to each other and that draw will have taken it out of him. But Sakuraba never intends to go long and could easily catch Nakajima off guard.
Masato Tanaka (3) vs Kotaro Suzuki (0)
Poor Suzuki. He was unable to beat HAYATA for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship on September 3rd. He’s gone 0 for 2 in his matches against Sakuraba and Nakajima. And now he has one of the toughest, hardest hitters in wrestling to contend with.
First time singles match. On paper, Tanaka’s got this. He’s got more experience. He’s a heavyweight. There are few Japanese promotions he’s wrestled in and not won gold, be it singles or tag.
But I can’t help but hope that things aren’t going to be as simple as they are on paper. Kotaro Suzuki is severely underrated. I’d argue that his 2011 run with the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship was one of the best reigns of anyone who held that belt.
It’s a shame that he never wrestled in America back when NOAH and ROH were at their peaks. That NOAH waited so long before finally giving him an ace reign with the junior belt, after Misawa passed and interest in the promotion was at a decline. Because Suzuki was and is one of the best junior heavyweights in the world.
He’s tangled with heavyweights in the past, of course. It has very rarely gone well for him. We were all shocked when he beat Akitoshi Saito before the N-1 Victory began. And it’s not like this is his first rodeo in a heavyweight tournament. He was in the Global League 2011, the second ever, and he beat Kento Miyahara (before he became the ace of All Japan) and Yutaku Yoshie (big lad, Morishima size).
It would be the upset of the tournament if Suzuki were to beat Tanaka. Both throw mean elbows. The two could end up having surprising chemistry together and work a smart match where it’s believable for Suzuki to have won.
But then this is because I hope Nakajima wins C Block. Realistically it will be Tanaka. He’s never challenged for the GHC Heavyweight Championship or made the finals in any of the previous N-1 Victory/Global League he took part in. He’s never challenged for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. And him against Marufuji is a match I never knew I needed until now.
Kazuyuki Fujita (4) vs Masakatsu Funaki (4)
The winner of this match automatically wins D Block. Both are unbeaten in the Block so far with both holding victories over Masa Kitamiya and Akitoshi Saito.
This is not a first time singles match. Back in December 2019 Kazuyuki Fujita was the Real Japan Legend Champion. And he defended that belt against Masakatsu Funaki. On that night it took Fujita less than 10 minutes to beat Funaki and retain his belt.
Unfortunately Real Japan is rarely taped. Especially these days. So despite it taking place in Korakuen Hall and a Title match, it does not appear to have been taped. Meaning that this will be their first televised match.
Will it go longer than 10 minutes? Honestly it might not. It most likely won’t need to. These are two heavy hitters. And when I say heavy hitters I mean HEAVY hitters.
Fujita has had the most success in a wrestling ring as a three time IWGP Heavyweight Champion. But Funaki is no slouch himself either as a Triple Crown Champion.
If you want a physical match, you’ll get it here. Who do I think will win? If it was me it would be Funaki. But it will probably be Fujita as his only two losses in a NOAH ring were Title matches against Go Shiozaki and Takashi Sugiura. If Fujita is going to lose, it could be a semi or even finals match. Kenoh getting his win back maybe….
Masa Kitamiya (0) vs Akitoshi Saito (0)
The battle for last place. Or to avoid last place more specifically. Neither man was able to beat Fujita or Funaki. And I was shocked that Kitamiya lost to both. I expected Kitamiya to actually win his Block so him being potentially dead last was surprising to me.
I thought this was Kitamiya’s year. Maybe not to win but at least look dominant in his Block with big wins over legends like Fujita and Funaki and reaching the semifinals. But it wasn’t to be. It’s a big missed opportunity and could have been a star making move. But NOSAWA gonna NOSAWA.
What we are now left with is two big guys chucking bombs at each other. Which is not a bad thing. I just wish the stakes were a lot higher than last place.
Both men are going to be absolutely desperate in this match. No one wants to finish in last place. And both are at different stages of their careers. Kitamiya should be the young(ish) rising star who unfortunately suffered a heavy setback. Saito is the ageing veteran who is trying not to slide down the card again to the point that he won’t ever get back up again.
And it’s happened to Saito before. He was in all Nine of the Global League’s from 2010 to 2018. But when the Global League was rebranded into the N-1 Victory, Saito was no longer a participant. He’d been phased out, whether he wanted it or not. So his reintroduction into this year’s N-1 Victory came as a surprise.
But he’s not had the best return. He’s gone completely winless. If he loses to Kitamiya here, he will be 0 for 3. Saito will do whatever he can to avoid that and will be more frantic, more desperate for the win.
Unfortunately one of these two men is going to finish last in their Block. And I’m sorry to Saito-san but I hope it’s not Kitamiya.
And that’s it. All 8 matches and 16 competitors in this year’s N-1 Victory and the potential that all four Block winners will be revealed. A and D Block winners are guaranteed to be determined. B and C Blocks are trickier but could be found out on the night.
Thank you for reading this. And thank you for checking out Pro Wrestling NOAH. Make sure to follow their English twitter account at @noahglobal.