NOAH did a double header of shows on the 26th and 27th of June, with night one having a Lucha de Apuestas Cage Match and night two having Great Muta getting dug out of the mothballs. It seems like quite a desperate ploy on their part, but what the heck maybe the shows will be good?
I’ll try and have the Muta show up tomorrow, but for today it’s time for some Cage War!
The event is emanating from the NOAH TV Studio, which I didn’t realise as I usually don’t watch empty arena wrestling, but I’ve decided to watch it now so hey-ho. It’s going to make that Muta match even more of a slog if they aren’t any fans to react to it though.
Calling the action are Stewart Fulton and Mark Pickering
Stewart and Mark actually do a to-camera intro this time, and it’s nice to see them for once. Mark looks kind of hench actually, I bet he used to play rugby when he was back home. They run down the card for us.
Manabu Soya Vs Kinya Okada
Soya is a heavy hitter from the Heel Kongo stable, whilst Okada is a youngster on his way up the ladder. That should dictate that Soya wins after a spirited effort from Okada, but you never know I guess. This is a straight forward match with them mostly doing simple stuff like headlocks and shoulder tackles, but they do it well and it’s fun to watch as a result. Okada shows some good fire and even gets to take Soya down a few times, as well as throwing some snug kicks.
It’s one of those matches where the result is never really in doubt but it’s more about Okada showing he can hang whilst also giving Soya a win and a chance to showcase his offence. It’s classic Young Lion booking that you get in Japan and then tick all of the boxes whilst working a snug believable looking match. Soya even locks Okada in THE DREADED YOUNG LION BOSTON CRAB at one stage, which only adds to the classic feel of the bout, and Okada sells it really well before struggling to the ropes in a good submission tease.
Okada gets some more flurries, and does a great job of selling his back, with it actually effecting his performance and limiting what moves he can pull off, but he does manage a lovely gut-wrench suplex at one stage for two. I made that my finish on Wrestling Empire actually as it’s nice and snappy and you can turn it straight into a pinning predicament. Some of these kicks that Okada has been throwing have been making an almighty thud and Soya has sold well for him, but eventually he spikes his younger foe with a DDT for two in a good near fall. Spicolli Driver finishes it straight after though.
WINNER: MANABU SOYA
Fun veteran Vs youngster Japanese opener, with both men playing their respective roles well and the wrestling itself being to a good standard
Sadly there are no fans to give Okada a deserved round of applause for a good effort there.
STINGER (Yoshinari Ogawa and HAYATA) Vs Kai Fujimura and Yasutaka Yano
STINGER are former GHC Junior Tag Champs, whilst Fujimura and Yano are another bunch of young lads learning their craft. There’s some good action in this one as well, with the younger lads getting in a decent amount of offence. Yano actually gets to get the better of Ogawa on the mat at one stage, with Ogawa being excellent in his grizzled veteran role. Eventually though the experience of STINGER plays its part and HAYATA pins Fujimura with a moonsault.
This was fine
The Young Lions help one another to the back following that in a nice moment.
Eight Man Elimination
Sugiura-gun (Kazunari Murakami, Kazushi Sakuraba, Kendo Kashin and Takashi Sugiura)
Funky Express (Mohammed Yone, Akitoshi Saito, Masao Inoue and Shuhei Taniguchi)
You can be eliminated by the usual methods, but going over the top will also see you eliminated as well. I hope they don’t just have everyone chucked out over the top as that feels like a bit of a copout in these sorts of matches. I don’t mind it with a guy or two that you’re protecting, but when you have everyone getting chucked out then the eliminations kind of lose some spice.
Funky Express are all classic NOAH guys who have been given wacky dancing gimmicks, whilst Sugiura-gun are a lot more serious, although Murakami is continuing to wrestle in a suit like a bad extra from a Yakuza video game. In a funny moment, Kashin demands to start and chews out his teammates, which leads to Funky Express quadruple teaming him and his partners not helping him.
Inoue looks absolutely finished and he was hardly a great worker to begin with in the NOAH glory days. The older NOAH crew definitely works better when here’s a crowd to react to it all, because without the crowd reactions they’re kind of just 40-60 year old dudes working at about a quarter speed of what they used to and there’s nothing to really cover for it.
Saku busts out the Giant Baba styled knee strikes at one stage though, which is enough to get a pop from me. Inoue can basically lie around and sell and not much else, so he mostly just does that when Sugiura-gun cut him off for a bit. Yone can still go a bit though and does a nice segment with Sugiura at one stage where they trade elbows.
Murakami gets some slaps and punches in on Yone following that, but Yone fights back and then flings him over the top to give us our first elimination. However, Saku pulls a Dean Malenko from Souled Out 2000 and forgets the rules, diving out onto Yone when Kashin drags him out under the ropes, leading to him eliminating himself.
First Elimination: Kazunari Murakami via Mohammed Yone (1) – Over The Top Rope (OTTR)
Second Elimination: Kazushi Sakuraba eliminates himself with a plancha – OTTR
Saku is pretty hilarious reacting to all of that though I must say. The less he gives a crap about this wrestling lark the better he seems to get sometimes. He’s like Batista in that regard, whereby once he drops his inhibitions and just commits to having fun he becomes instantly more entertaining. In a weird moment, Sugiura accidentally clotheslines Kashin and Kashin then essentially throws himself out over the top, leaving Sugiura 1 on 4 with Funky Express.
Third Elimination: Kendo Kashin throws himself out – OTTR
That looked like a botch to be honest, but who knows with Kashin. He might have done it just to mess with his partner. Sugiura is by far the best worker of his team at least, so the wrestling should hopefully improve a little bit. Sugiura gets worked over for a bit by the entire Funky Express team and he sells that well, even though most of that teams offence isn’t really up to par these days. Seriously, Inoue in particular should just NOT be in there. He can barely move.
Saito can still throw some nice strikes at least, so he mostly looks good when he does that, and Yone can work, but the other two guys look really out of place when in there with an actual top level worker like Sugiura. Sugiura gives it a spirited attempt and manages to fling Yone out following some miscommunication. Seriously guys, would it kill you to let us have a pin here?
Fourth Elimination: Mohammed Yone via Takashi Sugiura (1) – OTTR
Sugiura keeps coming despite the numbers and catches Saito with an inside cradle to give us another elimination. Yes, finally and pin!
Fifth Elimination: Akitoshi Saito via Takashi Sugiura (2) – Pin
Sadly we now have Sugiura left with the two worst members of the opposition team, although he does the best he can to get something out of them and is incredibly generous in his selling even though most of their stuff looks rubbish. Inoue does some rope running for some shoulder tackles and looks like he needs some time in an iron lung following it. And yet Sugiura is the one who came back from the heart attack! Inoue doesn’t even have the decency to eat a pin as Sugiura gently dumps him to the floor instead.
Sixth Elimination: Masao Inoue via Takashi Sugiura (3) – OTTR
Sugiura and Taniguchi actually do a reasonably decent closing stretch actually, as Taniguchi lays some clotheslines in and actually comes off the top with a splash attempt at one stage, although he only finds raised knees waiting for him. Taniguchi actually delivers some head butts to Sugiura’s chest at one stage, but Sugiura catches him with a rana out of nowhere to win it.
Seventh Elimination: Shuhei Taniguchi via Takashi Sugiura (4) – Pin
SURVIVOR(S): TAKASHI SUGIURA
MOST ELIMINATIONS: TAKASHI SUGIURA (4)
That didn’t do it for me I’m afraid. A lot of the wrestling was bobbins, some of the eliminations were insulting and the lack of a crowd really highlighted just how past it most of these guys are
They tease that Sugiura needs medical help following that but he recovers in time to celebrate with his team, although he doesn’t seem to be getting on with Kashin.
Kaito Kiyomiya and Yoshiki Inamura Vs M’s Alliance (Masaaki Mochizuki and Naomichi Marufuji)
This is another in a series of inter-generational matches, with Kiyomiya and Inamura being the New Gen taking on GHC Heavyweight Champ Maru and his partner Mochizuki, who are allies because they both have a name that begins with M. Again, I’m still waiting on my own personal invitation to join M’s Alliance. You can send it anytime Maru. I’ll happily enter my dining room to “Hysteric” everyday if you extend the olive branch.
Kiyomiya has had a short fuse lately and its cost him matches, with Inamura desperately trying to get him to focus. The wrestling here is good, especially from the New Gen team. I’ve never really cared for Mochizuki for whatever reason. He’s fine, but he doesn’t excite me one iota. Maru is of course The Don and I’ve enjoyed his stuff for many a year, and I become more of a fan of Inamura every time I see him. Kiyomiya is “the guy” for me though so he should have the belt, and hopefully down the line he will.
M’s Alliance work some heat on Inamura for a bit, and he sells that really well, although it’s kind of weird that they’re working heat on the big powerhouse member of the opposing team. Still, he’s good at it, so I’ll let it slide. Kiyamiya gets the hot tag eventually and looks fantastic, with his offence being on point and the M’s Alliance team selling and feeding for it excellently. Kiyomiya and Maru in particular do some lovely stuff together and I’m on board with a Title match between the two if that’s where they are going.
Inamura gets a chance to run wild at one stage at too, and that allows Stewart to put him over in his own imitable way. I think Stewart Fulton’s love of Yoshi Inamura is one of the purest and most beautiful things in all of Professional Wrestling. Things eventually break down with everyone going at it, which leads to Mochizuki kicking Inamura to death with a variety of strikes for the three count after a gutsy showing from the big man.
WINNERS: M’S ALLIANCE
I enjoyed that. Some good wrestling and the Next Gen guys looked good. I just can’t really get into Mochizuki though for whatever reason and I feel that him beating Inamura was almost a waste
Maru and Kiyomiya seem to have words following that.
GHC Junior Heavyweight #1 Contender Battle Royal
Ikuto Hidaka Vs NOSAWA Rongai Vs Yoshinari Ogawa Vs Kotaro Suzuki Vs Nio Vs Daisuke Harada Vs Hajime Ohara Vs Tadasuke Vs Yuya Susumu Vs Hao Vs YO-HEY Vs HAYATA Vs Eita Vs Seiki Yoshioka Vs Junta Miyawaki
The winner gets a Title shot at Atsushi Kotoge on the 27/06/2021 show.
#1 is Harada
#2 is NOSAWA
So this would appear to be Rumble Rules, with guys coming out in intervals. There’s a ref in the ring too so I think you can eliminate people by pin and submission as well as the traditional method. Not much happens with these two and Eita is next out, who is a stablemate of NOSAWA.
#3 is Eita
Eita is someone I’ve never seen before, but he seems decent and does some nice double teams with NOSAWA.
#4 is Seiki Yoshioka
Yoshioka looks great, moving at a quick clip and hitting some impressive moves and strikes. This has been pacey thus far and I’ve enjoyed it.
#5 is Junta Miyawaki
Miyawaki runs wild with dropkicks and shows some good fire. He’s still relatively early in his career though, so I doubt he’s going to win.
#6 is YO-HEY
YO-HEY and Yoshioka are former teammates and don’t like one another, so they do a segment together and it’s good. YO-HEY seems to have toned down the zaniness a bit as well and is focusing more on wrestling, which I approve of.
#7, #8 and #9 are Haoh, Nioh and Tadasuke
All three of these guys are in Kongo and they all come out together at the same time, which is allowed for some reason and it’s never really explained why. They of course take out everyone else in the ring due to them all working together and the action is good at least.
#10 is Hajime Ohara
Ohara goes after all of Kongo and does pretty well for himself actually.
#11 is Yuya Susumu
Susumu reminds me a bit of classic Switchblade Jay White with his hair and black pants. He doesn’t really do much though.
#12 is Ikuto Hidaka
Hidaka is one of my personal favourites and he looks good whilst running wild on everyone. He’s got that mid-90’s Ricky Morton vibe going on, whereby he’s clearly past his prime years but he has such a good understanding of psychology and timing that he can still make it work for him.
#13 is Kotaro Suzuki
Suzuki goes right after Susumu, as he’s been feuding with him recently, getting the mount with punches. There are so many people out there now that some guys have to fight around ringside just so there’s enough space in the ring. It’s all getting a bit messy, but it’s still entertaining for the most part. We get a series of dives at one stage, but everyone steps out through the middle so no one is eliminated. We’re left with a pile of bodies all outside of the ring, leading to Harada and NOSAWA going back at it one-on-one back inside, leading to a double down.
#14 and #15 are STINGER, and they throw out both Harada and NOSAWA
Elimination 1 and 2: Harada and NOSAWA via STINGER, Ogawa (1) and HAYATA (1) – OTTR
Once again NOAH’s graphic game is absolutely on point, as we not only get picture guides of all the stables but a helpful scorecard confirming who has been eliminated. Kongo double up on Ohara following that, with Haoh getting the pin.
Elimination 3: Hajime Ohara via Haoh (1) – Pin
Haoh and Miyawaki do a bit following that, with Miyawaki getting some roll ups and finally managing to hold Haoh down for three. That’s a big win for Miyawaki!
Elimination 4: Haoh via Junta Miyawaki (1) – Pin
Miyawaki keeps going and throws out Nioh following that as well, giving him two eliminations for Kongo guys. Well, shut my mouth for my comments earlier!
Elimination 5: Nioh via Junta Miyawaki (2) – OTTR
Hidaka and Susumu do a bit together following that where they trade pin and submission attempts, with Susumu eventually catching him with a pinning hold for three.
Elimination 6: Ikuto Hidaka via Yuya Susumu (1) – Pin
Miyawaki continues his good showing by giving Eita a scare, but ends up eating a knee for three. He still gained something from that match though thanks to his two eliminations.
Elimination 7: Junta Miyawaki via Eita (1) – Pin
Eita and Ogawa go at it and there’s some good intensity, with eye gouging and hair pulling going on. NOSAWA and Hidaka try to help their mate Eita, but it doesn’t end up working for them and Ogawa back body drops Eita out onto them.
Elimination 8: Eita via Yoshinari Ogawa (2) – OTTR
Tadasuke is the only Kongo man left now, but he hits a series of lariats and ends up pinning Susumu with one to send him out.
Elimination 9: Yuya Susumu via Tadasuke (1) – Pin
Tadasuke and Yoshikoka do a segment following that, with Yoshioka kicking him for the pin.
Elimination 10: Tadasuke via Seiki Yoshioka (1) – Pin
YO-HEY and Yoshioka renew their rivalry following that, doing a segment together, with YO-HEY dumping his former partner out.
Elimination 11: Seiki Yoshioka via YO-HEY (1) – OTTR
So now it’s STINGER left with Suzuki and YO-HEY. Ogawa gets sent to the apron and is eventually knocked out when NOSAWA does the old Jerry Lawler trick from the 1993 Royal Rumble by helping to pull him out whilst the others in the ring try and eliminate him. Both Suzuki and YO-HEY helped with that so I’ll let them both take credit.
Elimination 12: Yoshinari Ogawa via Kotaro Suzuki (1) and YO-HEY (2) – OTTR
HAYATA gets doubled on following Ogawa’s elimination, but he manages to fight back and spikes Suzuki with a rana for three.
Elimination 13: Kotaro Suzuki via HAYATA (2) – Pin
So now we’re left with HAYATA and YO-HEY in THE BATTLE OF THE CAPS LOCK! They do a nice finishing sequence together, whilst the factions fight outside the ring, and I’d be genuinely interested in seeing HAYATA get the shot here so I kind of hope he wins. The two factions continue to fight outside the ring, and occasionally the two guys in the match get dragged into it as well. The near falls are well done for the most part, and I think a crowd would be into it if one was there. YO-HEY looks really good here, the best I’ve ever seen him actually. YO-HEY sells really well whilst HAYATA tries to put him away, and HAYATA eventually succeeds with a head spike rana.
Final Elimination: YO-HEY via HAYATA (3) – Pin
MOST ELIMINATIONS: HAYATA (3)
I really liked that actually, with some good stories being told such as Miyawaki stepping up and getting a couple of eliminations and the ongoing feuds between the NOSAWA and Ogawa groups. There was a lot of good action too and the final section with YO-HEY and HAYATA was a really great finishing stretch. Has Miyawaki gone on excursion yet? If not, it feels like the right time for him to do so actually. Let him go away a bit and come back with a gimmick so he can be pushed, because it feels like he’s ready for it
Amazingly the factions just focus on checking on their respective guys following that and don’t fight with one another anymore, whilst Kotoge looks on stone-faced. Kotoge gets into the ring once the match ends and grabs the mic, where he thanks HAYATA for entering the rumble and shows respect towards him. He won’t stop him though. HAYATA cheap shots him following that though and then gives him a Brain Buster for good measure.
Stewart and Mark fill some time whilst the cage gets set up, showing once again why they’re low-key one of the best commentary duos in all of wrestling as they do a very good job holding it all together.
Lucha de Apuestas
Hair Vs Hair in a Steel Cage
Katsuhiko Nakajima Vs Masa Kitamiya
Kitamiya turned on Nakajima on the Mitsuharu Misawa Memorial show and wanted a cage match, with Nakajima adding on the Hair stip. These guys are actually the GHC Heavyweight Tag Champs as well, although you’d think it would be difficult to make that work going forward. Kongo and it’s leader Kenoh are out for this as well, seeing as both men are technically members of the stable, although I’m not sure if Kitamiya essentially bailed on the group when he turned on Nakajima.
It’s so odd to me that you have this sort of match with these sorts of stips and you don’t wait till you can do it in front of a crowd. They do the big dramatic face off at the ring of the opening bell and it would mean so much more with a crowd there to react to it all. They work it mostly shoot-style to start, with both guys going for submissions on the mat and trying to connect with strikes, and I quite enjoy that style so it’s right up my alley. Your own personal mileage may vary depending on how you feel about shoot-style.
Eventually they Pro Wrestling things up a bit, with Nakajima flinging Kitamiya into the cage a few times, with Kitamiya selling it all well. Nakajima has so much presence and charisma these days, it’s kind of hard to think he was once such a bland youngster in his early days. He’s come along A LOT over the years. Kitamiya makes continual attempts to fight back, but Nakajima regularly manages to cut him off again with things like stiff kicks. It’s good intense action and Kitamiya’s consistent selling really adds to it all.
Kitamiya does eventually manage to fight back a bit and heads up top for something, but Nakajima joins him up there and ties to suplex him down. Kitamiya fights that off but ends up in the Tree of Woe and Nakajima tees off on him with a big kick. They’ve definitely got the grudge match aspect of this down, as you can really feel that they don’t like one another. Nakajima actually heads up to the top of the cage (!) and leaps off with a Missile Dropkick onto Kitamiya, which would have got a MONSTER pop if there were fans in the building. That was a hefty bump to take and it looked great.
Amazingly Nakajima doesn’t want a pin off that and tries to beat Kitamiya with the Saito Suplex for maximum insult seeing as Masa Saito was Kitamiya’s mentor, but Kitamiya fights that off, only to take a running kick from Nakajima for two. Kitamiya makes the proper comeback following that, targeting the legs so as to set up his Prism Lock submission hold (Kind of like an Indian Deathlock). Kitamiya gets the Prism Lock applied and Nakajima sells it big, really getting the hold over in the process. The drama and selling in this one has been top notch.
Kitamiya stupidly head butts Nakajima so hard that he causes himself to bleed (Dude, don’t Shibata yourself please) but Nakajima still manages to make the ropes to break the hold. Nakajima has started bleeding too somewhere along the way, but his looks more like an actual blade job rather than hardway due to head butting too stiffly. Kitamiya heads up to the top of the Cage and tries a big Senton Back Splash, but there’s no water in the pool. OOOF, that looked horrible to take as the ring barely seemed to give at all.
Nakajima pounces with a Brain Buster following that, but it only gets him two in a great near fall. Kitamiya timed that kick out perfectly. Nakajima throws some head butts of his own following that, and Kitamiya blades now to increase his blood flow, as they’ve gone all out for the big Cage Death Match here. Nakajima looks to finish things, but Kitamiya snaps off a desperation Saito Suplex for a double down. Again, the timing on that was absolutely perfect, these guys are just completely on the same page here thus far and it’s really added to the match.
We get the big Main Event elbow trade between the two men, with both of them laying them in, as this one just continues to get more and more intense and the action has been superb. It’s told a great story too and both men have really gotten across the hatred in their performances. Kitamiya eventually decides that he’s had enough of elbows and takes Nakajima down with a Spear for a double down. Nakajima gets a big kick following that and then follows up with some more in a deliberate fashion.
Nakajima does the whole Randy Orton deliberate calculated beat down stuff even better than Orton does, and I actually quite like Orton’s wrestling style. His wacked out facial expressions are better too, and he gurns at the drone at one stage in a great visual. The ref keeps looking to end it, but Nakajima won’t let him and keeps shoving him away, because Kitamiya hasn’t been punished enough for his betrayal yet. Kitamiya pops up from a couple of big moves from Nakajima and does the big lariat in classic Japanese Wrestling style before following up with a Saito Suplex for two. Another Saito follows, and amazingly that’s enough for three. Wow, I totally thought that would go the other way.
WINNER: MASA KITAMIYA
What a fantastic match that was. It had everything except a crowd, with great wrestling, strong storytelling, consistent selling and some excellent intensity throughout. A truly outstanding effort from both men and definitely a match you need to go out of your way to see
Kenoh checks on Nakajima following that whilst they bring in the chair for the haircut. Nakajima sits down and takes the haircut like a good sport and tries to no sell it, but you can tell he’s seething deep down. Heaven’s knows what they do with the tag belts now though. Interestingly Kitamiya leaves the haircut incomplete and Kenoh has to finish the job.
Those last two matches make the show an easy thumbs up