Pro Wrestling NOAH’s N-1 Victory 2021 begins on Sunday the 12th of September live from Korakuen Hall. We have singles matches from all four blocks plus two juniors matches including a GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title match.
The show starts at 11:30am in Japan. That’s 3:30am England, 10:30pm the Saturday night East Coast USA and 7:30pm West Coast USA.
It will air live and for FREE through ABEMA. Now ABEMA is a Japanese streaming App that you can download. They used to have the shows available for replays but it’s been live only for a few months now.
The good news is that the show will be moved on to Wrestle Universe with a week delay. And NOAH now have an English Twitter account so ask them if we can get replays! @noah_ghc_en
I’ve written three preview articles about the N-1 Victory before it begins:
But back to the opening show, there’s an absolutely massive main event as for the first time ever Keiji Muto faces Takashi Sugiura as part of A Block. Katsuhiko Nakajima takes on Masato Tanaka in C Block. Two big dudes will clubber each other when Masa Kitamiya collides with Kazuyuki Fujita for D Block. And STINGER, Seiki Yoshioka and Yuya Susumu defend the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team belts against Atsushi Kotoge and Hajima Ohara.
Let’s get right into it!
MAIN EVENT – N-1 Victory 2021 A Block – Keiji Muto vs Takashi Sugiura
This is Muto’s seventh singles match in a NOAH ring (eight if you include The Great Muta). It’s Keiji Muto’s first singles match since he lost the GHC Heavyweight Title to Naomichi Marufuji. He’s beaten Kaito Kiyomiya, Shuhei Taniguchi, Go Shiozaki, Kiyomiya (again), and Masa Kitamiya.
It’s his first singles match in Korakuen Hall since June 2016 (as The Great Muta. June 2015 for Keiji Muto). His first singles main event in Korakuen Hall since he lost the Wrestle-1 Championship to KAI in March 2015. His Korakuen Hall debut happened in January 1985 where he lost to Naoki Sano. His first singles victory victory in Korakuen Hall was on March that same year over Masahiro Chono.
Muto has only had 6 singles in the past year. And now he’s about to have 3 singles matches in under a month. Further more this is his first round robin singles tournament he has entered since All Japan’s Champion Carnival in 2009. How much more does the 58 year old have left in the tank?
But then, didn’t we say that ahead of his title match against Shiozaki? His defense against Kiyomiya? Against Kitamiya? The big main event of the Cyber Fight Festival in his title loss to Marufuji?
He knows his limitations. And, other than a blip here and there, he wrestles to them. His defeat to Marufuji came about because he over-extended his limitations and when Marufuji kicked out of the Moonsault, Muto had nothing left in reserve.
Say what you want about Old Man Muto, but he is still the “Pro Wrestling Master”. The “Pro Wrestling Genius”. Yes, his matches are slower and more methodical. But you can’t say that he doesn’t give it his all, whether you appreciate his matches or not.
He’s won the one G1 Climax and three Champion Carnivals. Muto has gone on record to say he wants to win the N-1 Victory to be the first man to win all three. But he has a tough Block to do it in. He’s beaten Kiyomiya twice before, so Kaito is desperate for it not to happen a third time. Soya is a former student as an All Japan graduate and Muto has won every match against him so far.
And then there’s this man. Takashi Sugiura. The current ZERO1 World Heavyweight Champion and GHC National Champion. You might look at his age on paper and think that at 51 years old, he can’t be far off Muto at 58. But nothing could be further from the truth.
Even at 51 years old, Sugiura is a killing machine. He is a force of nature. It may be because he didn’t debut in wrestling until he was 30 years old. It may be because of his amateur wrestling background. It may be because Sugiura has found the fountain of youth. But a 51 year old doesn’t hit like Sugiura does. A 51 year old shouldn’t be able to move like he does. Sugiura is one of the toughest, meanest men in not just NOAH but pro wrestling in general. And he is anything but his age.
Sugiura has won a Global League/N-1 Victory before. 2014 when he beat Daisuke Sekimoto in the finals but was unable to dethrone Marufuji for the GHC Heavyweight Title. And he’s reached the finals twice before, 2012 and 2019, losing to KENTA and Kenoh respectively.
All of his success as a heavyweight has come after Muto last competed in a round robin tournament. He won the GHC Heavyweight Title for the first time in December 2009 and had the second longest individual reign with the belt and made the most defenses in a single reign, beating Kenta Kobashi’s reign. He was the first man to hold that belt four times. The first man to hold the GHC National Title and the first to have held it twice. There is not a GHC Title belt active today that Sugiura has not had multiple reigns with.
If Go Shiozaki is NOAH then Takashi Sugiura is Mr GHC. He has made his mark on every single active title belt in NOAH and if anyone is going to become a Five time GHC Heavyweight Champion, it’s him. He may have been Shiozaki’s final title defense before he lost it to Muto. And he may have been Marufuji’s first title defense after he won the belt from Muto. But Sugiura is always a constant threat and he has already proclaimed that holding two belts at the same time is not enough for him.
Both have the tendency to have long, big matches. But for completely different reasons. Muto makes his matches longer to ground and wear down his younger opponents. Sugiura has longer matches just to spend more time dishing out the punishment. His stamina means that Muto is going to struggle to keep him down.
There’s a 30 minute time limit on each Block match in the N-1 Victory. Meaning I feel there’s only going to be two outcomes here. Either the two are going to have a half hour draw, which is very likely. Or if they go under, I think Sugiura has the much better odds of winning.
This is a first time singles match. Muto has faced Shiozaki and Marufuji in singles who are of a similar generation, but he’s never faced Sugiura. Sugiura only got to face Akira Taue in singles while he was a junior with a couple against Misawa while he was a junior and just the one as a heavyweight. He was never fortunate enough to wrestle Kobashi in singles.
So this is Sugiura’s first test against a Four Pillar/Three Musketeer since that loss to Misawa in March 2007. 14 and a half years where Sugiura has been unable to test himself against his elder generation. These two are definitely going to have a worthy main event that may surprise you.
N-1 Victory C Block – Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Masato Tanaka
It was in mid-2012 when Nakajima had lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight Title that he really began to make moves to push himself up to heavyweight. So end of September, a Diamond Ring show, he faced Masato Tanaka for the first time.
Now he’d faced heavyweights before. Yeah, he often lost but there were times that he was able to hold his own and not look out of place against the wrestlers that were bigger than him. But it was in this match against Tanaka that he was able to look every bit the equal with a heavyweight wrestler.
After over 20 minutes of hard hitting wrestling it was a Sliding D that saw Tanaka beat Nakajima. I’m not saying it was this match that opened up doors that Nakajima wasn’t already kicking down himself. But he was entered into the Global League for the first time ever not that long after.
A rematch took five years and it happened during Global League 2017. In an untelevised match (seriously, we don’t appreciate how lucky we are now that most if not all shows are aired live or on a delay) Tanaka again beat Nakajima but it only took just over 13 minutes.
I really wish that had been taped. Because 2017 Nakajima was a different beast to him in 2012. He’d only just lost the GHC Heavyweight Title a few months beforehand to Eddie Edwards. He had an underrated run with the belt that showed he could be an Ace if only he got another chance.
But 2017 Nakajima is as different to 2021 Nakajima. It took until 2018 for him to really tap into his more sadistic side. Yeah, he always had potential to have a mean streak. But this is where it came out to the forefront. And then in 2020, when he betrayed Go Shiozaki and joined Kongo, he truly embraced the evil within.
Now I’ve talked about how Nakajima has grown and developed over the past 9 years. Tanaka in 2021 is the same as he was in 2017. And 2012. And 2007. And 2002 even for that matter. If there’s one wrestler who has remained consistent over the past two decades, it’s Masato Tanaka.
He’s still the same no nonsense, hard hitting wrestler who can get hit as hard as he can hit, that he always was. Before that first Nakajima match he was already a former FMW Double Champion, ECW World Heavyweight Champion, two time ZERO1 World Heavyweight Champion and IWGP Intercontinental Champion.
Since then he’s added the NEVER Openweight Championship, the DDT KO-D Openweight Championship and three more reigns as ZERO1 World Heavyweight Champion. And he shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. Tanaka recently had a MOTYC against Sugiura that shows that when it comes to matches that make you wince on account of big strikes and bigger bombs, he is still a master at it.
These two, on paper, are bound to have a good to great match. You have Tanaka’s elbows against Nakajima’s kicks. The Sliding D vs a Spinning Heel Kick. They are incapable of having a bad match when against someone who is exactly like them. Someone who is not afraid to have a very physical, very violent wrestling match against them.
Before Covid-19, this match would have had Korakuen Hall rocking. The loud gasps and cheers at each strike. The stamping of feet and shouting as they willed their favourite onto victory. However a quiter, clap-only crowd does mean one thing – Those strikes are going to hit even harder. Those thuds are going to echo around the Hall.
This should be Match Of The Night. Hell, it could be Match Of The Tournament in my eyes. And I really can’t wait for it.
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles – STINGER (Seiki Yoshioka & Yuya Susumu) vs Atsushi Kotoge & Hajima Ohara
I knew that a pairing from Momo No Seishun would end up challenging for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team belts as soon as I saw that six man tag team match announced for September 3rd. Although I was wrong by thinking that it would be Ohara and Junta Miyawaki.
My thought process was that Miyawaki deserved another title match after how well he did back in March. But Ohara & Miyawaki odds are would have been another successful title defense for STINGER. Ohara & Kotoge on the other hand, it’s not so cut and dry.
Kotoge is a 7 time GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champion. 3 time GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion. A GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Champion too. And he has more history with Ohara than Ohara would with Miyawaki. Just last year the two were a part of FULL THROTTLE together.
Before that the two have traded these very same tag belts between themselves back when they had different partners. They even teamed together last year while part of FULL THROTTLE to lose to the STINGER team of Yoshinari Ogawa & HAYATA for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s.
They’ve had a rocky past year. Ohara & Yoshioka kicked Kotoge out of FULL THROTTLE to replace him with YO-HEY in September 2020. Yoshioka betrayed YO-HEY & Ohara both in May 2021 to join STINGER and officially disband FULL THROTTLE. YO-HEY immediately found himself a new home with Los Perros del Mal de Japon. And Ohara found kinship from an unlikely source, from the same person he had booted out the year prior. Ohara joined Kotoge, Harada and Miyawaki in Momo No Seishun (I’m still using the Harada/Kotoge tag team name because their stable hasn’t been named anything else).
While these teams have faced other in multi-man tag team matches, this will be a first time ever straight up tag match between the four. But it’s not the first time a title has been on the line between parts of them.
Yoshioka lost the GHC Junior Heavyweight Title to Kotoge on March 14th. Kotoge made his second successful defense of that belt over Susumu on May 31st. So in singles matches with a title on the line, Kotoge has the better of his opponents.
But an individual advantage isn’t always enough in a tag team setting. Ohara & Kotoge had been in NOAH together for over 8 years now and they only started teaming together last year for a few months and are now together again. Yoshioka & Susumu have been teaming together for over a decade and even travelled to different promotions to team together there.
They were teaming more infrequently during Yoshioka’s days in Wrestle-1 but since he joined STINGER in order to reunite with Susumu, they’ve been inseparable again ever since.
There’s a kind of chemistry that can only be achieved through teaming for years upon years. Where you begin to think alike. Work alike. Hell, they are even looking and dressing alike right now too. Yoshioka & Susumu are absolutely on the same page.
Ohara & Kotoge do not have that luxury of experience. If it was the original Momo No Seishun, Harada & Kotoge, absolutely. But not these two. However…. Ohara & Harada were able to catch lightning in a bottle with their all too brief team. They were able to dethrone the STINGER team of Ogawa & HAYATA and made the one defense before they lost the belts to Yoshioka & Susumu.
Harada & Ohara had a lot more in common than Kotoge & Ohara do however. They are two very similar wrestlers. But then Harada & Kotoge made their team work and work successfully for years. Ohara is similar enough to Harada to the point he may just slot into Harada’s role as the technician in the tag matches.
If not for Nakajima/Tanaka, I’d say this was going to be Match Of The Night. But it’s absolutely going to give it a run for it’s money.
N-1 Victory D Block – Masa Kitamiya vs Kazuyuki Fujita
Hoss fight. Two absolute beasts going to town on each other. Fujita vs Sugiura was billed as Godzilla vs King Kong. This is more like Godzilla vs King Ghidorah. Two monsters who will destroy Korakuen Hall if it was the price of victory against the other.
This is a first time singles match between the two but they have faced off in six multi-man tag team matches between Kongo and Sugiura Army from December 2019 to February 2021. Fujita and his Sugiura Army team mates have won all of them.
Fujita has had 8 singles matches since he joined NOAH. He’s won 6 of them. His only losses are to Go Shiozaki for the GHC Heavyweight Title in March 2020 and Takashi Sugiura for the GHC National Title in April 2021. His wins are Inamura, Taniguchi, Inoue, Soya twice and Kenoh for when he won the GHC National in March 2021.
Every time Fujita has faced a heavyweight from Kongo (or formerly from), he has beaten them. Inamura, Soya and the leader himself, Kenoh. There is only Kitamiya left who was a heavyweight wrestler in Kongo left.
But Kitamiya has made great strides this year. Both as a Kongo member and since leaving. He and Nakajima won the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s from the Sugiura Army generals, Sugiura & Sakuraba, in March. He had the biggest match of his life with a loss to Keiji Muto for the GHC Heavyweight Title in April.
While they still held the tag belts, he turned on Nakajima in May and amicably left Kongo. He beat Nakajima in NOAH’s first ever steel cage match and as a result Nakajima had to have his head shaved. And then him and Kiyomiya beat Nakajima & Soya to fully claim the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Title’s.
His only blip was a loss to Kenoh in July but other than that he’s had a successful year and one of big progress towards becoming the main eventer and champion we all know he can be. However he needs something big. He reached the finals in 2016 so he needs to go one better and win the full thing this year.
Block D is a death block. It is a block of heavy hitters and monsters with Kitamiya, Fujita and Saito. If Kitamiya is to win his block it will take a Herculean effort. Because Fujita is a mean, nasty old man. Don’t let his penchant for staring fool you. The man is a three time IWGP Heavyweight Champion with a successful run in MMA for a reason.
N-1 Victory B Block – Kenoh vs Kendo Kashin
I may as well keep this brief in the hopes that the match will be too. A rematch from their March 2021 encounter, Kenoh’s final successful defense of the GHC National Title just a few weeks before he lost it to Fujita.
Kenoh had an amazing run as champion. His title victory over Nakajima. His first defense over old rival Kiyomiya. Deciding to take on MMA legends with UWF-I inspired matches against Sakuraba, Murakami and Masakatsu Funaki. And then that war against Fujita in which he lost the belt.
And then there was his match against Kashin. Was it a bad, horrible, absolutely irredeemable match? No. Was it as good as his other matches? Oh God no. It felt like a waste of Kenoh. Kashin is only capable of having the one match now and that’s one with brawling outside the ring, the plexiglass shields being used, low blows and every heel short cut in the book.
Kashin wasn’t originally supposed to be in the N-1. It was supposed to be Murakami so Kenoh would have had a rematch of a much better match. But Murakami is having to take time off due to a sciatic nerve condition. We could have had King Tany. But no, Kashin won that replacement match and now he’s going to play spoiler.
I have a horrible sinking feeling that Kashin is going to win this match. To get the win back from March and put drama on to whether Kenoh will be able to win his block after starting with a loss. I really hope I’m wrong but unfortunately I can see it happening.
If you want brawling, you’ll get it. If you want low blows and cheap heel tactics, odds are you’ll get them too. If you want to watch Kenoh kick Kashin so hard his soul leaves his body, God I hope we get that. If you want Kashin to win, you are a sick, twisted individual and I hope you don’t get what you want. But you might. So enjoy my bitter salty tears.
Kongo (Tadasuke, Haoh & Aleja) vs Junta Miyawaki, Yasutaka Yano & Kai Fujimura
The juniors get to open the show, and I imagine it’ll be quick. Junta Miyawaki may even enter this match as the new ZERO1 International Junior Heavyweight Champion.
ZERO1 stripped El Lindaman of the belt – due to dodgy politics with GLEAT – so the winner of the Tenka-Ichi Junior tournament will be crowned the new champion. Miyawaki is in the semi-finals – the semi-finals and finals take place on Thursday the 9th of September.
I hope he at least reaches the finals as he deserves it with how he’s performed since returning from injury late last year.
Miyawaki has had a big year. Yano and Fujimura are continuing their growth. But for the Kongo team, they have had nothing but set backs this year. Tadasuke & Aleja recently failed in their challenge to become GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Champions.
The Kongo team have the experience advantage and then some. They have the weight and strength advantage with Tadasuke. They have the speed and high flying advantage with Haoh & Aleja.
So what do the NOAH borns (and adopted in the case of Fujimura. I hope they give that boy a contract soon) have? Heart and determination. Yeah, they’re going to lose. But they’ll make the Kongo team work for it.
And that’s your lot.
Nakajima vs Tanaka is going to be great. The GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team match has potential to be great too. And I doubt we’ll ever see Muto vs Sugiura in a singles match after this show either.
Thank you so much for reading this. I really do greatly appreciate anyone who takes the time to do so. I hope you are as excited for this show as I am! (Without Kashin potentially beating Kenoh. FFS!)
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