Originally published at CyberFight Festival Report: Naomichi Marufuji wins GHC Championship
CyberFight Festival 2021 review
By: Mark Buckeldee
In 2017, DDT was bought by the marketing company CyberAgent. This included all of DDT’s sub-brands, like Tokyo Joshi Pro Wrestling and Ganbare Pro. In January 2020 CyberAgent bought Pro Wrestling NOAH. Due to the financial pressures of COVID-19, DDT and NOAH were merged to form CyberFight on July 27th, 2021. CyberFight has been working on attracting more English-speaking fans. NOAH and TJPW have run events with English commentary. Some NOAH events have aired on Fite TV, and DDT has run “Chris Brookes produce” shows to attract part of the British Indie fan base.
CyberFight Festival 2021 was designed to show off every aspect of wrestling provided by CyberFight. Held at the Saitama Super Arena, it was a big event in a big venue. Showcase events in big venues, like WrestleMania or Wrestle Kingdom, usually go long as they try to get as many people on the card as they can. This show is no exception. At 5 ½ hours long (including the pre-show) it was almost certainly the single longest wrestling show in COVID times. The show included English Commentary, which was a must for newer fans as the show featured over 80 wrestlers.
Compared to my reviews of New Japan shows, there are more recommended matches than normal. This was because I expect few people to sit through a 5 ½ hour-long show, especially newer fans. So, the recommendations are for people who want to try something new.
Pre-show: Mirai Maiumi, Suzume, Haruna Neko, Moka Miyamoto & Arisu Endo Vs Nao Kakuta, Raku, Pom Harajuku, Mahiro Kiryu & Kaya Toribami – A simple but fun tag match that did well at introducing all 10 wrestlers.
B. Pre-show Battle Rumble: Yoshiaki Yatsu Vs Toru Owashi Vs Kazuki Hirata Vs Makoto Oishi Vs Saki Akai Vs Antonio Honda Vs Yusuke Okada Vs Yuya Koroku Vs Yuji Hino Vs Yuna Manase Vs Shu Sakurai Vs Shuhei Taniguchi vs Muhammad Yone vs Masao Inoue vs Akitoshi Saito vs – Slow at times but some fun entrances. Skippable, especially if you do not like comedy
C. Pre-show main event: Ken Ohka, Keisuke Ishii & Shota Vs Shuichiro Katsumura, Kouki Iwasaki & Yumehito Imanari – A good, fast-paced, and action-packed introduction to Ganbare Pro – RECOMMENDED
1. DDT vs NOAH: Yuki Iino, Toui Kojima Vs Junta Miyawaki, Kinya Okada – A short, simple rookie match with good fire from the youngsters
2. TJPW: Rika Tatsumi & Miu Watanabe Vs Shoko Nakajima & Hyper Misao Vs Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino – A chaotic, quick packed showcase that let everyone show their strengths
3. DDT Vs NOAH: Danshoku Dieno & Super Sasadango Machine Vs Takashi Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba – Sugiura and Sakuraba tried to fight off DDT goofiness. A decent showing but avoid if you do not like comedy wrestling.
4. DDT vs NOAH: Hideki Okatani vs Masa Kitamiya – A good squash match with a great start from Okatani before Kitamiya smashed him
TJPW: Hikari Noa, Mizuki & Yuki Arai Vs Maki Itoh, Yuki Kamifuku & Marika Kobashi – A fun but fairly basic match centered around Ito trying to school the rookie Arai.
6. NOAH: Atsushi Kotoge, Daisuke Harada & Hajime Ohara Vs Yoshinari Ogawa, HAYATA & Seiki Yoshioka – A fast-paced, energetic Junior tag with great execution and well-established teams- RECOMMENDED
7. DDT: Daisuke Sasaki, Tetsuya Endo & Soma Takao (w/ Mad Paulie) Vs Chris Brookes, Shunma Katsumata & MAO – A good but messy tag match. Some good action but nothing special
8. DDT Vs NOAH: Sanshiro Takagi, Akito, Kazusada Higuchi, Yukio Sakaguchi, Naomi Yoshimura & Yukio Naya Vs Kenoh, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Manabu Soya, Haoh, Nioh & Tadasuke – Weaponised goofiness, a bicycle, an angry Kenou, and a great exchange from Yukio Sakaguchi & Katsuhiko Nakajima. A great clash of ideologies, full of tension – RECOMMENDED
9. DDT Vs NOAH: Konosuke Takeshita & Yuki Ueno Vs Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura – A great match with crisp action, great power moves, and four polished wrestlers showing what the future of their promotions looks like – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
10. TJPW Princess of Princess Title: Miyu Yamashita (c) Vs Yuka Sakazaki – A great match full of intensity, passion, crazy high spots, and magnificent striking – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
11. DDT KO-D Openweight Title: Jun Akiyama (c) Vs HARASHIMA – A deliberate start leads into a great battle of attrition as HARASHIMA tries to survive against Akiyama – RECOMMENDED
12. NOAH GHC Heavyweight Title: Keiji Muto (c) Vs Naomichi Marufuji – Surprisingly good, a grounded first half leads to a frantic finale – RECOMMENDED.
Pre-show: Mirai Maiumi, Suzume, Haruna Neko, Moka Miyamoto & Arisu Endo Vs Nao Kakuta, Raku, Pom Harajuku, Mahiro Kiryu & Kaya Toribami
This was a 10-woman tag designed to get most of the TJPW roster on this show. Each wrestler had a brief chance to show what they could do. I can guarantee that you have not seen anything like Raku’s Goodnight Express. The finishing stretches between Mirai Maiumi and Mahiro Kiryu was really good for a random 10-woman tag, with Maiumi winning with a Lariat.
Mirai Maiumi pinned Mahiro Kiryu
A simple, basic match designed to quickly introduce you to the wrestlers and highlight Maiumi and Kiryu. That finishing stretch was surprisingly good, although the match is still easily skippable.
Pre-show Battle Rumble: Yoshiaki Yatsu Vs Toru Owashi Vs Kazuki Hirata Vs Makoto Oishi Vs Saki Akai Vs Antonio Honda Vs Yusuke Okada Vs Yuya Koroku Vs Yuji Hino Vs Yuna Manase Vs Shu Sakurai Vs Shuhei Taniguchi vs Muhammad Yone vs Masao Inoue vs Akitoshi Saito
The “Battle Rumble” was basically a Royal Rumble with noticeably short intervals where you could lose by pinfall, submission or being thrown over the top rope. In addition to the mix of NOAH and DDT wrestlers, former Olympian Yoshiaki Yatsu was involved. Yatsu, who had his right leg amputated below the knee in 2019, started the match.
If you think I am play by playing this then I am sorry to disappoint you. Yatsu looked good considering his age and prosthesis. Kazuki Hirata’s hoverboard entrance to Tokyo Go made me smile. Yuji Hino and Shuhei Taniguchi had a fun face-off, showing off their power and their big splashes. Hirata showed off these lethal neck chops and his dance moves before he got waffled by Akitoshi Saito. It came down to Masao Inoue, Antonio Honda, and Honda’s infamous “Gon the Fox” promo. Honda won the match with a roll-up after a low blow.
Antonio Honda won the Battle Rumble via pinfall
The action may have been limited but this was a fun way to introduce a lot of different wrestlers. Hirata, Taniguchi & Hino made good impressions and people will either like or hate Honda. Ultimately this was very skippable.
Pre-show main event, Ganbare Pro offer match: Ken Ohka, Keisuke Ishii & Shota Vs Shuichiro Katsumura, Kouki Iwasaki & Yumehito Imanari
This was the only match from Ganbare Pro, DDT’s sleazy Indie younger sibling. With the exception of ASUKA (aka VENY), this match featured the best wrestlers from the Ganbare regulars. The action was incredibly fast and intense. Yumehito Imanari & Ken Ohka were fired up and passionate. Shuichiro Katsumura showed off his submission techniques. Keisuke Ishii was crisp and inventive. The finish was between Shota and Kouki Iwasaki and both wrestlers looked good before Iwasaki won with a lifting reverse DDT.
Kouki Iwasaki pinned Shota
I honestly recommend that you watch this, as it is a quick way to decide if you want to see more of Ganbare Pro. A great introduction to the promotion as they kept a really fast pace and filled it with action. This was 6 passionate wrestlers being given a short amount of time and doing their best to show what they can do. It did a good job of giving everyone time so you could get a feel for the individual wrestlers.
The show proper started with an opening video package talking about the show and giving a feel of the wrestlers and promotions involved. The president of CyberAgent, Susumu Fujita, had a brief speech and introduced the show and the video running down the card.
DDT vs NOAH: DDT vs NOAH: Yuki Iino & Toui Kojima Vs Junta Miyawaki & Kinya Okada –
This match pitted the DDT rookies against the NOAH rookies. Yuki Iino had a new look with a pink singlet. There was a clear hierarchy here, as Junta Miyawaki & Kinya Okada controlled Toui Kojima, and the DDT rookie had to rely on teammate Iino’s size and power advantage. Okada and Iino traded strikes before Iino hit the Haka elbow. Kojima showed fire but Miyawaki had too much for him, winning with a modified Jujigatame.
Junta Miyawaki submitted Toui Kojima
A simple way to show off some of the rookies. There was some good fire from all four. The NOAH students felt more solid while Iino had a more obvious personality. Kojima was the least impressive, but he showed some guts and fire.
TJPW offer match: Rika Tatsumi & Miu Watanabe Vs Shoko Nakajima & Hyper Misao Vs Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino
Everyone in this match was a former Princess Tag Team Champion, although Hyper Misao & Shoko Nakajima won the belts with other partners. The wrestlers were clearly hyped up for this. After a pre-match promo, Misao was isolated until she tagged in Nakajima. Miu Watanabe had some crazy shows of strength, body-slamming two opponents at the same time. Amongst the quick-paced action, Nakajima hit a great rider kick before Rika Tatsumi came in with a flurry of hip attacks. Nodoka Tenma & Yuki Aino hit a great Doomsday Bulldog on Nakajima. However, Misao made the save and Nakajima won with a top rope senton on Aino.
Shoko Nakajima Pinned Yuki Aino
Another short and simple match. Despite that, it proved to be a great showcase, as the 6 competitors all got time to show off their strengths and personalities. Watanabe made a great impression with her strength. This did a good job to make you tempted to see more from these wrestlers.
DDT Vs NOAH: Danshoku Dieno & Super Sasadango Machine Vs Takashi Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba
For good and bad, Danshoku Dieno & Super Sasadango Machine represented the traditional DDT spirit, where comedy and weirdness helped the promotion stand out when the overall quality of the wrestlers’ in-ring ability could easily be described as sub-par. Takashi Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba represented the tradition of Pro Wrestling NOAH. Before the match, Sasadango used a PowerPoint presentation to discuss his strategy.
Both Sugiura & Sakuraba wrestled wearing Super Strong Machine masks. The DDT wrestlers’ attempts at goofiness were quickly punished, as shown by Sugiura smashing Sasadango in the backside with a plastic baseball bat. Dieno’s tactics were… interesting but also toned down in many ways. Sugiura nearly had the match won with an ankle lock. Dieno tried to save his partner by putting stockings over Sugiura’s face. That failed as Sugiura pinned Sasadango with an Olympic Slam while still wearing the stockings.
Takashi Sugiura pinned Super Sasadango Machine
This match will annoy a lot of NOAH fans and it was a waste of Sugiura. Dieno’s usual antics were underplayed, the match was short and NOAH team looked strong, but this will not change people’s minds about DDT.
DDT vs NOAH: Hideki Okatani vs Masa Kitamiya
Last week Masa Kitamiya turned on his tag team partner Katsuhiko Nakajima, quitting Kongo in the process. This match was made after that turn, to separate Kitamiya from Kongo. Hideki Okatani, a DDT rookie, showed a lot of fire and urgency with an impressive start. Kitamiya soon showed his superiority, no selling an Okatani suplex and winning the match quickly with the Prison Lock.
Masa Kitamiya submitted Hideki Okatani
This was a good squash match. Okatani showed loads of fire and looked good while it was also clear that he did not stand a chance. You could say that Okatani maybe got in too much at the start but Kitamiya no selling a suplex was a perfect way to reestablish that he was the one in control.
TJPW offer match: Hikari Noa, Mizuki & Yuki Arai Vs Maki Ito, Yuki Kamifuku & Marika Kobashi
Most of the wrestlers in this one had an Idol background, as shown by Maki Ito’s song and dance entrance. This was Yuki Arai’s 2nd match ever, and Ito isolated here since Arai had a more successful idol career (Arai is part of SKE48). Arai eventually tagged in Mizuki, who did well before tagging in Hikari Noa. After a lot of dropkicks the match ended up back with Arai & Ito. After a spirited display, nearly won the match with an Axe kick. Eventually, Ito hit the diving headbutt and made Arai tap out to a Liontamer.
Maki Ito submitted Yuki Arai
The action was less crisp and impressive than the TJPW 3-way tag, but it had a good story with Arai trying to prove herself against Ito, who was jealous about Arai’s idol career. Arai did well considering her inexperience and Ito showed her growth as she led Arai through the match. The other competitors had some time to shine but this was obviously focused on the story of Arai vs Ito.
NOAH offer match: Atsushi Kotoge, Daisuke Harada & Hajime Ohara Vs Yoshinari Ogawa, HAYATA & Seiki Yoshioka
The word that best describes the NOAH Jr Heavyweight division is turbulent. Since Nosawa Rongai became the booker, it has had more turns than a game of Monopoly. The Momo no Seishun team of Daisuke Harada, Atsushi Kotoge & Hajime Ohara showed great teamwork in the early goings. The Stinger team then isolated Ohara, with Yoshinari Ogawa, HAYATA & Seiki Yoshioka all attacking Ohara’s leg. Kotoge got the hot tag, and he took down all 3 of his opponents. After Ohara tagged out the action was impressively smooth, quick, and energetic. Kotoge saved Harada and then took out Ogawa and HAYATA with a flip dive. Harada won quickly after with the Katayama German Suplex.
Daisuke Harada pinned Seiki Yoshioka
In terms of quality, this was the best offer match on the show. The action was crisp, fast, and impactful and you also had the story element with STINGER isolating Ohara. This was a good example of what the NOAH Junior Heavyweight division can deliver.
DDT offer match: Daisuke Sasaki, Tetsuya Endo & Soma Takao (w/ Mad Paulie) Vs Chris Brookes, Shunma Katsumata & MAO
This match pitted the Damnation heel stable against Chris Brookes and half of the 37 Kamiina, a stable founded due to a mutual love of saunas. No, I did not make that up. MAO and Tetsuya Endo showed off their athleticism. The match was frantic, frequently breaking down. The Damnation team got trapped in a triple submission. MAO did a springboard to the outside, smashing a plastic crate over Daisuke Sasaki’s head while in mid-air. The finishing stretch was between Sasaki & MAO, had the match was won after an avalanche Butterfly suplex and a pair of top rope splashes before DAMNATION removed the referee. Soma Takao and Tetsuya Endo took out Brookes & Shunma Katsumata, letting Daisuke Sasaki win with a modified crossface.
Daisuke Sasaki submitted MAO
This was a chaotic match, with lots of flashy athleticism. That said, it was messy at times and the interference near the end might annoy some people. This did not really achieve much other than getting the wrestlers a pay day.
DDT Vs NOAH: Sanshiro Takagi, Akito, Kazusada Higuchi, Yukio Sakaguchi, Naomi Yoshimura, & Yukio Naya Vs Kenoh, Katsuhiko Nakajima, Manabu Soya, Haoh, Nioh & Tadasuke
When CyberFight was formed, Kenou had harsh words to say about DDT which resulted in a tag match between Kenou’s Kongo stable and DDT. This was the rematch. In an ideal world this would have been an awesome tag match. Kenou & Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Kazusada Higuchi & Yukio Sakaguchi has enormous potential.
The DDT team came out with some of the wackier props and weapons from the DDT warehouse, as a way to wind up Kenou. Things started with Kenou beating down CyberFight President Sanshiro Takagi with strikes. Takagi suffered a 4 on 1 beat down and DDT’s blow-up doll wrestler Yoshihiko entered the ring, only to be quickly ignored. Nakajima was vicious in torturing Takagi. The hot tag was made to Naomi Yoshimura, who took out Kongo’s Jr heavyweights. Those 3 (Haoh, Nioh & Tadasuke) got their revenge by isolating Akito. Things broke down before it came down to Nakajima and Sakaguchi. These 2 exchanged a vicious series of kicks to the back. Nakajima was in trouble until Kenou made the save. Kenou tagged in and he stared down Sakaguchi. The ensuing slap and kick exchanges were nasty, ending with a Sakaguchi high kick.
Takagi tagged in wearing a jet pack and a rocket fist. It ended poorly for Takagi. The goofy weapons came into play and Kenou just no-sold them. Takagi tried to run Kenou over with his bicycle, but he hit Yukio Naya instead. Kenou then used the bike as a weapon before kicking it to pieces. The match ended with Haoh against Takagi. Kenou broke up a pin after a Stunner and slapped Takagi to pieces. Sakaguchi made the save, insulting Kenou by using a Yoshihiko assisted choke sleeper as Takagi pinned Haoh with the Himawari Powerbomb.
Sanshiro Takagi pinned Haoh
Coming into this, many people feared that this would be dominated by Takagi vs Kenou. While that was the core story, I think that helped the match. It felt like a battle of ideology, and the way that the goofier stuff was used was perfect as it was about trolling Kenou rather than making him bump for it. Plus, Takagi took an absolute beating here. Yukio Sakaguchi was DDT’s star man here, getting plenty of time to show what he could do against Kenou and Nakajima. Sadly, the likes of Akito and Higuchi got short shrift but ultimately this was a great match because of the animosity and the way they introduced the goofiness without making any of the NOAH wrestlers look like goofs. It still will not change a lot of people’s minds, but I loved this one.
DDT Vs NOAH: Konosuke Takeshita & Yuki Ueno Vs Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura
Konosuke Takeshita is basically DDT’s equivalent of Kazuchika Okada: The guy given multiple title runs at a relatively young age. Yuki Ueno has been one of DDT’s best in-ring performers in the last year. They are seen as the future of DDT. Their opponents are seen as the future of NOAH, with Kaito Kiyomiya being positioned as the company’s future Ace.
While Takeshita & Kiyomiya felt like an even match, Yoshiki Inamura dominated Ueno due to his superior size & power. The NOAH team dominated Ueno, including a squatting stalling suplex by Inamura. Ueno tagged in Takeshita after a beautiful dropkick. A series of Lariats eventually took down Inamura, who eventually tagged out after a massive belly-to-belly suplex. The clash between Kiyomiya and Takeshita was intense, with both wrestlers well matched.
Yuki Ueno showed off his athleticism with a Tornillo. Takeshita hit a surprise corner to corner dropkick and Ueno nearly won the match with a Frog splash. Kiyomiya got the knees up for Ueno’s Best Moonsault Ever. Inamura came in and just yeeted Takeshita across the ring in a ridiculous show of strength. Ueno fought off a Tiger Suplex attempt and unloaded on Kiyomiya with slaps. Takeshita did a Double German suplex, suplexing both Ueno and Kiyomiya. A series of Kiyomiya elbows was countered by a pinpoint dropkick to the face before Ueno got a big win by pinning Kiyomiya with the Best Moonsault Ever.
Yuki Ueno Pinned Kaito Kiyomiya
This was a great tag team match and the best match on the card up to this point. Yuki Ueno looked excellent with his selling, athleticism, and precision. His second dropkick was a thing of beauty. Yoshiki Inamura looked like an absolute monster, throwing his opponents around and only being in trouble when Takeshita got involved. Takeshita and Kiyomiya both showed their skills and their crispness, even though Kiyomiya is currently being portrayed as being in a slump. This was a great example of the young talent that is in Japan and shows that the best young prospects in Japanese wrestling are probably outside of New Japan.
TJPW Princess of Princess Title: Miyu Yamashita (c) Vs Yuka Sakazaki
Miyu Yamashita is the best wrestler in TJPW. You can easily argue that Yuka Sakazaki is the 2nd best. TJPW set up arguably the best singles match (on paper) that they have for this show. The match started with pure intensity, whether it was grappling or striking. Sakazaki was laser focussed on regaining the title. There were some incredibly fast counters that ended with Yamashita’s triangle kick. Yamashita hit an incredibly high kick, but Sakazaki somehow replied with a springboard dropkick. That was followed by Sakazaki hitting a superplex onto the apron. Yes, a superplex onto the apron. Sakazaki waited for Yamashita to re-enter the ring in order to hit the Magical Girl Splash. Yamashita was smart enough to enter in a manner that prevented Sakazaki from cleanly hitting the move.
A second Magical Girl Splash earned Sakazaki a near-fall. There was a vicious striking exchange between the two, which was won by Sakazaki. A Sakazaki Springboard 450 Splash missed and after a flurry of attacks, she hit the Magical Merry go Round. Yamashita kicked out and used a great-looking Skull Kick. When Yamashita finally made the cover Sakazaki had enough left to grab the ropes. Sakazaki managed to kick out of a Crash Rabbit Heat to the back, but a second Crash Rabbit Heat saw Yamashita retain.
Miyu Yamashita pinned Yuka Sakazaki
This was a great match. From the very start, it felt intense, with high stakes. They went out there to try and steal the show and you could argue that they came awfully close to succeeding. The striking exchanges were great, with Sakazaki throwing some of the best-looking forearms that I have seen in a women’s match. The big spots, especially the ones involving Yamashita’s kicks, were great. There was a big botch, but you could argue that it worked in kayfabe. If you are picky, you could point out that the result felt obvious and some of the no selling could be egregious but ultimately, I was very impressed by this match, and it really sucked me in.
DDT KO-D Openweight Title: Jun Akiyama (c) Vs HARASHIMA
Former All Japan and NOAH veteran Jun Akiyama has run roughshod through DDT. He has only lost 2 singles matches in DDT, and he got his win back against both of those wrestlers. Despite that, he has never faced HARASHIMA 1 on 1. HARASHIMA is DDT’s Hiroshi Tanahashi: Even when time moves on, he is still the promotion’s spiritual Ace.
Akiyama entered with the giant hammer from the DDT vs Kongo match, a sign that he had embraced the spirit of DDT. This started with some great initial grappling before HARASHIMA started attacking Akiyama’s midsection with strikes and submissions. Akiyama turned the tide by dodging a HARASHIMA knee drop and hitting a piledriver on the outside. This was followed with a DDT on the ramp and a running knee. When HARASHIMA returned to the ring he was met with another Piledriver. Akiyama dominated HARASHIMA before HARASHIMA landed a shotgun dropkick and a Falcon Arrow.
HARASHIMA followed up with a Springboard splash for a 2 count. Akiyama eventually regained control with a Lariat before applying the Front Neck lock. An intense forearm exchange followed, which was won with a flying headbutt by HARASHIMA. The match fell apart a little at times due to mistiming or inaccuracy on some big strikes, but Akiyama took over with an Exploder and a flurry of knee strikes. HARASHIMA somehow kicked out of a Wrist Clutch Exploder and the crowd was firmly behind him. A reverse Frankensteiner gave HARASHIMA space for the Somato, but Akiyama kicked out. HARASHIMA went for the springboard Somato, but Akiyama dodged and hit another Exploder but again HARASHIMA kicked out. A shocked Akiyama was shaken by HARASHIMA’s never-say-die attitude, so he locked in a Front Neck Lock to win the match by referee stoppage.
Jun Akiyama beat HARASHIMA by referee stoppage
This match was all about HARASHIMA trying to survive Akiyama’s onslaught of suplexes and knee strikes. Both wrestlers looked strong, and a lot of the action was well-paced as it built to a finish full of big bombs, although some of the execution felt off at key points. This was another good Akiyama title defense but, like his defense against Higuchi, I can see that some people may be a little disappointed. For newcomers, HARASHIMA is not the flashiest wrestler, and I can see some people finding this a little underwhelming. You could argue that it felt like HARASHIMA did not stand a chance, and it was more about how much could he take. I look forward to seeing who Akiyama’s next title defense is against.
NOAH GHC Heavyweight Title: Keiji Muto (c) Vs Naomichi Marufuji –
Keiji Mutoh’s GHC Heavyweight title reign has seen him beat two of the younger guys on the roster. Now he faces one of the most iconic wrestlers in NOAH history. Naomichi Marufuji has been with NOAH since its inception, yet in all that time he only held the top title for 384 days. That is as long as the 24-year-old Kaito Kiyomiya’s 1st title run. Stylistically, Sugiura or Go Shiozaki might feel like more traditional NOAH Heavyweights, but Marufuji has constantly fought to try and live up to the company’s legacy. Marufuji’s title reigns have one thing in common: the ability to beat the big-name veteran. Since his 3 title wins came against Mitsuharu Misawa, Yuji Nagata, and Minoru Suzuki, Marufuji beating Mutoh feels like a distinct possibility.
The match started with both wrestlers targeting the legs before Marufuji switched his target to Mutoh’s left arm, looking to soften it up for the Perfect Keylock. Meanwhile, Mutoh continued to target the left leg, with Marufuji escaping an STF by biting the hand. The longer the match went, the more Mutoh relied on the Dragon Screw Leg Whip.
Marufuji managed to fight back with a flurry of kicks, but Mutoh blocked the Shiranui. They traded Shining Wizards and knee strikes, which saw both wrestlers sprawled on the canvas. Both Mutoh and Marufuji fought to try and apply their big submissions: Marufuji’s Perfect Keylock and Mutoh’s Figure Four Leg Lock. Mutoh was the first one to apply his hold, with Marufuji writhing in agony. A Shiranui from Marufuji earned a 2 count so he tried to follow it up with an Emerald Frosion. Instead, he got caught with a knee strike and Mutoh hit him with 3 Shining Wizards for a nearf-all. Mutoh then hit the Moonsault for the first time since 2018 but Marufuji kicked out. Mutoh was clearly in agony when he landed the Moonsault. Marufuji followed up with a flurry of hook kicks and knee strikes for a near-fall. Marufuji used the Tiger King Zero knee strike to successfully pin Mutoh and win the GHC Heavyweight Championship for the 4th time.
The show ended with Marufuji, Akiyama & Yamashita closing out the show and the whole roster standing on the stage and bowing to the fans.
Naomichi Marufuji pinned Keiji Mutoh
Depending on your taste, this was probably up there with the match against Masa Kitamiya as Mutoh’s best GHC Heavyweight title defense. They did a good job of using mat work and strike flurries to reduce the amount that Mutoh needed to run. It was a slow pace at times, but it was honestly better than I expected. The limb work ultimately did not mean much but Marufuji’s flurries of strikes were impressive enough to offset his lack of selling by the end. Mutoh deserves credit for bringing out the Moonsault and this was a good match. That said, the fact that Mutoh lost to Marufuji instead of a younger name makes you question the benefits of this title reign. Hopefully, Marufuji acts as a transitional champion, but the question is who do you put the belt on? I would not be surprised if one of Nakajima or Kitamiya is Champion before 2022 comes round.
This show was designed to introduce fans to lots of new wrestlers. I felt that it achieved that. The show was too long and some of the matches could have been cut or redesigned to give better wrestlers more time. However, many matches felt like they did a good job of letting the wrestlers show what they can do. Matches like the TJP 3-way tag, the Ganbare Pro match, and NOAH six-man tag did a good job of whetting your appetite. Later on, things really got good by the time of the DDT vs Kongo match. It will not be for everyone, but it did a great job of mixing the DDT and NOAH aesthetics without making the NOAH wrestlers look stupid. I just hope that Yukio Sakaguchi gest another opportunity to mix it up with NOAH wrestlers.
The last 4 matches were all great for different reasons. The NOAH vs DDT match will impress a lot of people, and I can see Yuki Ueno and Yoshiki Inamura impressing a lot of people. The TJPW title match will go a good way to making people view TJPW as something other than a “character promotion”. The DDT title match may be a little underwhelming to some, but it was great at having that big match structure and build. While it was probably the lesser of the 3 title matches, the result of the NOAH match will stand out.
While there were some off moments, which you would expect with a four-man commentary booth, the English commentary team did a good job of being passionate and informative. There are some lessons to be learned but it was a great first step, especially as DDT does not have an established English commentary team.
As a show of the year card, you cannot call this a success as it was too long and had too much filler. But that was not the purpose of the show. This was about being a showcase for the 3 promotions and I think it achieved that. So have a look, pick some matches that sound like you might like them, and see what you think. Who knows, maybe you can find some new wrestlers to follow.