Keiji Muto made his first defense of the GHC Championship on Sunday facing former champion Kaito Kiyomiya in Fukuoka.
After the historic title win by 58-year old Muto last month, ending Go Shiozaki’s year-plus reign, Kiyomiya confronted the new champion. The two met last August with Muto prevailing in that contest.
Sunday’s rematch for the title headlined Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Great Voyage in Fukuoka event that drew an announced crowd of 1,236.
The match began with a lot of groundwork as they paced themselves to go long. The story was Kiyomiya had improved his grappling by training with Kazushi Sakuraba. It was slow by methodical as each fought for control reverting to headlocks and various submissions.
Muto knows every trick in the book, realizing that he can do fewer things but maximize their reaction and that will be how his matches are judged. He built up to a step-up knee and hit a top-rope Frankensteiner while yelling, “Motherfucker” for the added effect.
Then, the match slowed do dramatically where it relied on Muto selling and taking bumps for Kiyomiya. Watching Muto take basic back bumps is tough and displays the limitations he is working with.
It was essentially Kiyomiya having a match with himself for the heat hitting an Emerald Flowsion, and attempted the Tiger Suplex multiple times and finally hit it on the third try for a kick-out.
Muto made his comeback and that did bring the match back up. He hit the Frankensteiner, which is how he beat Go Shiozaki, and Kiyomiya kicked out and proceeded with dragon screws and landed four shining wizards. To his credit, he is so great at maximizing these simple moves to mean a lot and you can’t deny his ability as a worker even if athletically, the realities of being 58 are being thrown in your face.
After a fifth shining wizard, Kiyomiya kicked out and was put into an armbar that Muto had attacked with all match long, and finally, Kiyomiya submitted after 32 minutes and 7 seconds.
It seems way too ambitious to regularly send Muto out for the 30+ minute epic title match and this one did feel tough in the middle stages. However, a good beginning and a strong end compensated.
The Muto run is going to be polarizing. If you want hot matches and the high-end quality that Shiozaki provided over the past years, this isn’t it. It is heavy in the story of the aging legend defying father-time against the younger generation. It worked big last month at Budokan Hall with a smaller impact this month.
Long-term, it’s clearly setting the table for NOAH’s next big star to unseat the legend and perhaps it will be Kiyomiya as he inches closer and closer and finally gets the win.
After the match, GHC tag champion Masa Kitamiya confronted Muto and hit him with a suplex to set up the next championship match.
On the undercard, Seiki Yoshioka lost the GHC junior heavyweight title in his first defense with Atsushi Kotoge winning the title.
Here are the results from Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Great Voyage card:
*GHC Championship Match: Keiji Muto (champion) over Kaito Kiyomiya
*Go Shiozaki, Naomichi Marufuji, Takashi Sugiura & Kotaro Suzuki over Katsuhiko Nakajima, Masa Kitamiya, Manabu Soya & Tadasuke
*GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship Match: Atsushi Kotoge over Seiki Yoshioka (champion)
*Kazuyuki Fujita, Kendo Kashin & NOSAWA Rongai over Kenoh, Haoh & Nioh
*Yuya Susumu & HAYATA over Daisuke Harada & Kai Fujimura
*Mohammed Yone over Aktoshi Saito
*HAYATA over Junta Miyawaki
*Shuhei Taniguchi, Hajime Ohara & YO-HEY over Yoshiki Inamura, Kinya Okada & Yasutaka Yana