For someone who doesn’t often review NOAH, January 2023 has been a busy month. Completing the hat trick of NOAH THE NEW YEAR and Wrestle Kingdom 17 in Yokohama Arena: NJPW x NOAH, NOAH, and the world of pro wrestling as a whole say their final farewells to The Great Muta. After Wrestle Kingdom 17 yesterday in Yokohama Arena, NOAH held their second night at the venue with The Great Muta Final: “BYE-BYE.”
Japanese commentary was led by Shinichi Fujisawa and he was joined by Hikaru Inoue (Weekly Pro-Wrestling Magazine NOAH Specialist). The guest panel would also include Rina Matsuki (actress), Noah’s Akiyoshi Saito, and kickboxer/sports talent Takeru. Daisuke Harada also joined commentary for the opening match featuring the NOAH Juniors. 8,433 Fans were in attendance at Yokohama Arena for this momentous event.
The show opened with a fantastic video package highlighting the journey of The Great Muta, including many of his signature matches and opponents as well as how he appeared on AEW TV to rescue Sting leading to their teaming together in tonight’s main event. The pre-show also featured a corner for “If You’re New to NOAH” with a simple breakdown of the history of The Great Muta.
- Welcome to Bye-Bye: Opening the show with the NOAH Juniors – Worth a Watch
- Who is The Valkyrie?: Nearly 15 minutes of women’s wrestling in a NOAH ring?! – Worth a Watch
- BEST OF IRON MAN: Shorter than expected, but a ring psychology master class – Recommended
- This is Anarchy Time: The title says it all. It’s the NOAH Juniors. – Recommended
- Wrestling Battle Cry: The formal arrival of Good Looking Guys. Respectfully. – Recommended
- GHC Martial Arts Rules: For those wanting a nice palette cleanser – Worth a Watch
- To Rise Sky High: Ultimo Dragon returns to show the young’uns how it’s done – Recommended
- Semi-Final: Champions’ Night: No titles on the line, but lots of fun – Highly Recommended
- Main Event: End of the Nightmare: The Past, Present and Future in Face Paint – Highly Recommended
Welcome to Bye-Bye Tag: Hajime Ohara & Hi69 (Hiroki) defeated Atsushi Kotoge & Seiki Yoshioka (6:41) – with Hi69 pinning Yoshioka after a Diving Stuka Splash
Kotoge and Yoshioka are two of my personal favorites in the NOAH Juniors and they can make just about anything exciting. I liked seeing Hi69 in the mix today, though I wish Yoshioka’s losing streak would stop. I feel like the only time I’ve seen him win recently was in the NOAH/KONGO scramble shuffle tournament, where he was paired with Katsuhiko Nakajima and they won the entire tournament.
The match was short and sweet and Kotoge in particular can always be relied upon to organize the chaos of the NOAH Juniors. Daisuke Harada joined commentary for the match as he’s still out with injury.
Who is The Valkyrie? Tag: Saori Anou & Jungle Kyona defeated Sumire Natsu & Maya Yukihi (13:46) – with Jungle Kyona pinning Sumire Natsu after a Jungle Buster
On December 20, 2022, NOAH and Gurentai Tokyo co-produced ~Tokyo Dream Final~ Last Festival, which featured a single women’s tag match. The four members of NOMAD’S (an all-women’s freelancers event committee) Maya Yukihi & Miyuki Takase tagged together against Natsu Sumire and Rina Yamashita. While the participants in this match as well as today’s show are all freelancers, TJPW, GanbarePro, and NOAH have been featured together on the same card at CyberFight Festival.
I feel like it’s under exceptionally unique circumstances that women’s matches are happening in a NOAH. However, with Muta finally getting laid to rest, this was another rare exception. The match was a good way to showcase some of the biggest names on the women’s freelance scene, especially with Jungle Kyona finally returning to Japan after her four-month American excursion. This match really didn’t have any build-up or press conference participation, so I don’t know the extent or connection of the women participating in the match to The Great Muta or Keiji Muto. Maybe Muta just wanted a women’s match, or perhaps NOAH has something else in mind (see the next section about the backstage comments).
I liked that this match had nearly fifteen minutes of time. Again, I don’t know if it is a one-off because of the event or if it could lead to something else in the future.
For everything about the Joshi wrestling scene, keep an eye out for Dream Slam Monthly coming out next weekend! For Jungle Kyona, this was her first match in Japan in over two years. She returned to wrestling in the autumn of 2022 with an extended excursion to the United States. Saori Anou, Natsu Sumire and Maya Yukihi are busy all over the place as freelancers, but I am hoping that this match is the start of the next rival for the NOMAD’S Freelance Summit!
GHC Women’s Championship?!
Before we get ahead of ourselves, it stems from Jungle Kyona’s backstage comments. She casually mentioned KAIRI being NJPW’s inaugural IWGP Women’s Champion and how it would be interesting if the GHC, NOAH’s governing committee (like the IWGP), would consider establishing their own’s women’s championship. Beyond that, nothing official has been clarified or confirmed by Pro-Wrestling NOAH. However…
女子プロレスラーの皆さん、ありがとうございました！#なんか面白い事言ってるね@junglekyona @yukihi_maya @SMR_sptmber_luv @anou_saori https://t.co/AqdLF3OUpY
— 丸藤 正道 (@noah_marufuji_) January 22, 2023
Naomichi Marufuji thanked Anou, Natsu, Yukihi & Jungle for participating on the show, but his hashtag suggests that Jungle Kyona’s appeal for a GHC Women’s Championship might be something worth considering… “You might be onto something…”
Much like NJPW and STARDOM having the same parent company with Bushiroad, NOAH, Tokyo Joshi Pro-Wrestling, and GanbarePro are under CyberFight. Much like STARDOM isn’t NJPW’s women’s division, TJPW/GanPro aren’t NOAH/DDT’s women’s divisions. I am curious to see if this develops beyond a fleeting backstage promo. This will be a large challenge because much like the acceptance of the IWGP Women’s Championship, there are very mixed reactions from the fans at the potential of a GHC Women’s Championship. It is an interesting idea, but the key will be its implementation and how or if TJPW and/or GanbarePro will be included in its presentation.
BEST OF IRON MAN Singles Match: Timothy Thatcher defeated Masaaki Mochizuki (8:44) – via submission with a Fujiwara Armbar
I always enjoy watching both Thatcher and Mochizuki wrestle because their styles are a bit different, but regardless of the situation or stipulation, I don’t recall seeing many bad matches from either of them. For those who love no-nonsense, technical wrestling, you’re in for not one, but two treats on this card. I particularly liked Thatcher using his own leg to intercept Mochizuki’s arm before he could force a rope break. Following it up with a roll back toward the dead center of the ring. It was *chefs kiss* delicious.
I was a little hesitant seeing the name IRON MAN in a match with this ambitious card but it was far shorter than expected. It was more of a sprint to destroy their opponent the fastest.
This is Anarchy Time 6-Man Tag: Junta Miyawaki, Alejandro & Yasutaka Yano defeated Yoshinari Ogawa, Eita & Nosawa Rongai (7:22) – via Disqualification by Eita removing Alejandro’s mask
I mean, the catch copy for the match explains it all. Anarchy Time = NOAH Juniors. This match went precisely long enough that it protected everyone, but helped further the stakes for Miyawaki/Alejandro in their quest for the GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. With Nosawa retiring next month, he has nothing to lose, so his grabbing a fistful of Junta Miyawaki’s hair and cutting it off, just feels like throwing gasoline on the fire.
Seeing Miyawaki and Alejandro chase their assailants out of the arena, even unmasked and covering his face, was exceptionally satisfying. Honestly, I wanted to fight Nosawa after he hacked off that bit of Miyawaki’s hair.
Jake Lee has been making waves since leaving AJPW and arriving in NOAH. It started with scouting Jack Morris and evolved into forming a trio with Anthone Greene. What better way to welcome your new friend at the airport after an international flight than by announcing your new unit name. Lee’s reasoning for inviting Greene to join the group: “It’s simple. He’s a good-looking guy!” I appreciate the simplicity of the naming, as well as their goal to scout people from around the world who fit well with the group and create a new wrestling landscape together.
Wrestling Battle Cry 6-Man Tag: Good Looking Guys (Jake Lee, Jack Morris & Anthony Greene) defeated Masa Kitamiya, Yoshiki Inamura & Daiki Inaba (10:49) – with Lee pinning Inamura
While Lee indicates that GLG’s first opponents aren’t “good-looking enough,” beauty is purely in the eye of the beholder. Kitamiya, Inamura, and Inaba are three guys who should be on everyone’s radar in 2023. Morris and Greene made names for themselves last year in the N-1 Victory, and that is carrying over, with Morris’ upcoming GHC Championship match against Kaito Kiyomiya. While this match is nestled in the middle of the card, it really is one folks who are new to NOAH should mark for a sample of key talents who could be making big moves in NOAH in 2023. When the N-1 Victory comes around later in the summer, I could easily see any combination of the six in the conversation for tournament contenders.
Keiji Muto Grand Final Pro-Wrestling“Last” Love ~HOLD OUT~ Full Card Reveal
Midway through tonight’s show, NOAH revealed the finalized card for Keiji Muto’s retirement ceremony next month at the Tokyo Dome. Japanese commentary noted that tickets started flying away after last night’s announcement of Muto singling out NJPW’s Tetsuya Naito as his final opponent. The general consensus was with the full reveal of the card, tickets to this once-in-a-lifetime event could sell out quickly.
- Starting Love Tag Match: Masa Kitamiya & Daiki Inaba vs. Yoshiki Inamura & Yasutaka Yano
- TJPW Spark 8-Woman Tag: Miyu Yamashita, Yuka Sakazaki, Rika Tatsumi, Shoko Nakajima vs. Mizuki, Maki Itoh, Miu Watanabe & Yuki Arai
- World Warrior Battle 6-Man Tag: Sugiura-gun (Takashi Sugiura, Satoshi Kojima & Timothy Thatcher) vs. Good Looking Guys (Jake Lee, Jack Morris & Anthony Greene)
- New Explosion 10-Man Tag: Eita, Daga, Yoshinari Ogawa, HAYATA & Chris Ridgeway vs. Atsushi Kotoge, YO-HEY, Seiki Yoshioka, Alejandro & Junta Miyawaki
- Dramatic Dream Future 8-Man Tag (by DTT): Shunma Katsumata, MAO, Toui Kojima & Yuki Ueno vs. Tetsuya Endo, Hideki Okatani, Yuya Koroku & Takeshi Masada
- Dragon Gate vs. NOAH 6-Man Tag: DG (Shun Skywalker, KAI & Diamante) vs. NOAH (Naomichi Marufuji, Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. & Ninja Mack)
- AJPW vs. NOAH 6-Man Tag: AJPW (Kento Miyahara, Suwama & Yuma Aoyagi) vs. NOAH/KONGO (Kenoh, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Manabu Soya)
- Final de Lucha Tag: Gedo & Taiji Ishimori vs. NOSAWA Rongai & MAZADA – This will be Rongai’s retirement match.
- Singles Match Tokyo Tornado: Hiromu Takahashi vs. AMAKUSA
- Semi-Main Event: Shining Through: Kazuchika Okada vs. Kaito Kiyomiya
- Main Event: Pro-Wrestling “Last’ Love: Keiji Muto vs. Tetsuya Naito
What I like about this selection of matches is that it seems to highlight different chapters in Muto’s career as well as showcase NOAH’s sibling promotions. Some of my lingering questions from yesterday’s report like Hiromu/AMAKUSA and Kiyomiya/Okada were quickly answered, which was a relief. The inclusion of Dragon Gate, All Japan Pro-Wrestling and Tokyo Joshi Pro were pleasant surprises! The only thing I would have changed or added would have been the inclusion of Ganbare Pro as they were the only CyberFight group promotion not included on the card.
Keiji Muto Grand Final Pro-Wrestling “LAST” LOVE ~ HOLD OUT will emanate from the Tokyo Dome on Tuesday, February 21st starting at 5 PM (Japan local time). It will be a separately ticketed Pay-Per-View on Abema and Wrestle Universe. It will cost 5,000 yen (roughly $40 US), but Wrestle Universe subscribers will receive a 20% discount. PPV tickets on WU will be available starting on January 24th, and English commentary will also be available for this event.
— 新日本プロレスリング株式会社 (@njpw1972) January 22, 2023
Meanwhile, over in Nagoya, Kazuchika Okada doesn’t think he should be forced to wrestle against Kaito Kiyomiya next month, despite the company agreeing to the match on his behalf. He literally has cuts from Kiyomiya’s boot laces on his forehead, and he’s still thinking he wants to sit the match out. His violent meltdown mid-match that lead to their no-contest, honestly was the most interesting side of Okada I’ve seen in some time. He’s usually so aloof and indifferent about many things, it was nice to see a return of chaotic Balloon Okada.
We’ll also need to see if Okada walks into the Tokyo Dome still the IWGP World Heavyweight Champion, as he could have two potential title defenses between now and then. One against Shingo Takagi at New Beginning in Osaka on February 11th with the winner defending at Battle in the Valley (San Jose, California) a week later on February 18th.
GHC Martial Arts Rules Singles’ Match: Kazushi Sakuraba defeated Hideki Suzuki (10:37) – via Referee Stoppage; Triangle Choke
Rules: Wins are by submission, technical knockout (TKO), or knockout (KO). Yellow cards are issued for biting, low blows, eye gouging, or ring escapes. Three yellow cards result in an automatic loss. There are no knockdown counts, no rope escapes or three counts.
Much like Thatcher/Mochizuki earlier in the night, Sakuraba/Suzuki is another no-frills in a good way match. While I am not all that familiar with the GHC Martial Arts rules, I think it’s been a while since they’ve last had this format in a match. With the popularity of UWFi rules, especially over in GLEAT, it was great to see Sakuraba back in his element again. The referee stopped the match, but I am not the least bit mad about it. Honestly, I would like to see an uptick in frequency.
To Rise Sky High 6-Man Tag: AMAKUSA, Ultimo Dragon (with Sonny Ohno) & Ninja Mack defeated YO-HEY, KZY & Dante Leon (11:41) – with Ninja Mack pinning YO-HEY after a Ninja Bomb
Bless YO-HEY and KZY for teaching Dante Leon part of their dance. This was another entertaining and fast-fasted junior heavyweight match. There was plenty of excitement and you are a connoisseur of all the daredevil things in lucha libre, you are in for plenty of treats. I laughed so hard when Ultimo Dragon teased joining everyone in their topes to the outside of the ring. Instead, he gingerly stepped through the ropes, and when he teased an Asai Moonsault, KZY just pulled him off the ring apron.
This was another mix of nostalgia for the past with plenty of glimmers of a brilliant future. After his loss to El Desperado yesterday, I was hoping YO-HEY would get back the win, but this was another spotlight on Ninja Mack.
Semi-Final: Champions’ Night 8-Man Tag: Kaito Kiyomiya, El Hijo de Dr. Wagner, Jr, Takashi Sugiura & Satoshi Kojima defeated KENOH, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Masakatsu Funaki and Manabu Soya (18:36) – with HdDr. Wagner Jr. pinning Soya after a Moonsault Press
This match gave the fans potential dream matchups and challenges for the future, especially those in the KONGO ALL BELTS camp. With KENOH and Nakajima both being previous GHC Tag Team Champions, GHC National Champions, AND GHC Heavyweight Champions, they will continually be names hovering around the main event picture in NOAH. Funaki is also a former GHC National Champion, so the only outlier for now… is Manabu Soya, who was rather decorated prior to his joining NOAH.
After the heated knock-down-drag-out-brawl between Kiyomiya and Okada yesterday, The Supernova was all smiles today, especially after the announcement that his match with The Rainmaker has been set for the Tokyo Dome. Sugiura and Kojima as well as Hijo de Dr. Wagner, Jr. were all in high spirits as well. This match was a great way to showcase the titles and possibly give the audience something to look forward to during the company’s next tour, and beyond Muto’s retirement on February 21st.
Full marks to KENOH for muzzling Kojima as he tried to do his Icchauzo call to the full cheering crowd. KENOH managed to stop Kojima, but not the crowd who finished the sentence for him.
Main Event: End of The Nightmare 6-Man Tag : The Great Muta, Sting & Darby Allin defeated Hakushi, AKIRA & Naomichi Marufuji (22:23) – The Great Muta pinning Hakushi after a Shining Wizard
“For my son’s sake, let’s go from the demon world.” – The Great Kabuki (about The Great Muta)
The pageantry of the main event was over the top, with everyone receiving their own music, including the arrival of The Father of the Great Muta, the spry 74-year-old Great Kabuki! If you are a fiend for dramatic entrances and plenty of them, this is your jam. After nearly four hours of show, these individual entrances, while appreciated, made a full, 6-person LIJ entrance with individual songs feel like a Young Lion sprint to the ring. I loved seeing everyone’s makeup and costuming, and while all eyes were on The Great Muta with BYE-BYE scrawled across his mask, the airbrush body paint on Marufuji was outstanding. It reminded me of when Finn Balor would get his body painting done for big matches.
Compared to the other matches on this card, the main event was deliberately slower-paced but did not lack daredevil moves or blood. Seeing that Darby was the youngest at 30, and Marufuji the second youngest at 43, and the remaining participants over fifty with decades in the industry apiece, for everyone’s safety the match moved at a slower pace. That being said there were tables, chairs, skateboards, and even top rope hijinks.
Allin was heavily featured on the Muta/Sting side of the ring, especially since it was his first time wrestling in Japan. The TNT Champion took particular interest in Naomichi Marufuji, which I am sure could be an enticing matchup for anyone putting together show cards in the future. Marufuji is preparing to celebrate his 25th anniversary later this year, so it makes me wonder how far he will go to put together a memorable event.
Hakushi bled throughout the match, but the visual of these two men finally laying their rivalry to rest felt exceptionally final. Muta writing “The End” (完; Fin) in Hakushi’s own blood was a bit much, but rather poetic.
SUNNY VOYAGE 2023 (2/4) – Nippon Totor Green Dome Maebashi, Gunma Prefecture
- Singles Match: Shuhei Taniguchi vs. Taishi Ozawa
- 6-Man Tag: Atsushi Kotoge, YO-HEY & Seiki Yoshioka vs. Tadasuke, Hajime Ohara & Hi69
- 6-Man Tag: Satoshi Kojima, Naomichi Marufuji & Ninja Mack vs. Masa Kitamiya, Daiki Inaba & Super Crazy
- Singles Match: Mohammed Yone vs. Anthony Greene
- 6-Man Tag: Takashi Sugiura, El Hijo de Dr. Wagner, Jr & Timothy Thatcher vs. KENOH, Katsuhiko Nakajima & Manabu Soya
- 6-Man Tag: AMAKUSA, Junta Miyawaki & Alejandro vs. Yoshinari Ogawa, Chris Ridgeway & Yasutaka Yano
- Tag Match: Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura vs. Jake Lee & Jack Morris
GREAT VOYAGE in OSAKA (2/12) – Edion Arena Main Gymnasium
- 6-Man Tag: Kinya Okada, Yasutaka Yano & Taishi Ozawa vs. Mohammed Yone, Akitoshi Saito & Super Crazy
- Tag Match: Chris Ridgeway & Daga vs. Tadasuke & Hajime Ohara
- 6-Man Tag: Kazuyuki Fujita, Hideki Suzuki & Timothy Thatcher vs. Masato Tanaka, Masaaki Mochizuki and Yoshiki Inamura
- 8-Man Tag: Naomichi Marufuji, El Hijo de Dr. Wagner, Jr, AMAKUSA & Ninja Mack vs. Masakatsu Funaki, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Shuji Kondo & Hi69
- Tag Match: El Desperado & Nosawa Rongai vs. YO-HEY & Seiki Yoshioka
- Tag Match: KENOH & Manabu Soya vs. Jake Lee and Anthony Greene
- Singles Match: Atsushi Kotoge vs. Dralistico
- GHC Tag Team Championship: Takashi Sugiura & Satoshi Kojima © vs. Masa Kitamiya & Daiki Inaba
- GHC Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Yoshinari Ogawa & Eita © vs. Junta Miyawaki & Alejandro
- GHC Heavyweight Championship: Kaito Kiyomiya © vs. Jack Morris