Mike Reviews – Pro-Wrestling NOAH 20th Anniversary Show (22/11/2020)

Hello You!

Because why not eh?

I was a big NOAH fan in the 00’s and hoovered up any stuff from the company that I could, even going to see the company live on three occasions when they toured over in the UK at different points.

The death of Mitsuharu Misawa and the retirement of Kenta Kobashi played their part in my interest for the product waning and I haven’t watched a NOAH show for a very long time. However, there was a thread up on the Blog noting that this show was going up on FITE with English commentary, so I decided to throw some coins NOAH’s way for old time’s sake seeing as the card looked like it would be fun.

It’s been so long since I watched the product that I’m going into this one totally blind, but Lawrence Talbot has kindly allowed me to post his previews from the live thread on the Blog. Head over and give him a like for putting the work in for us.

If I enjoy this I might even try and stay up to date with the product going forward. Anyway, let’s watch some chuffing wrestling!

The event is emanating from Yokohama, Japan

Handling the English call on FITE are Stuart Fulton and Mark Pickering

Opening Match
Muhammad Yone, Hajime Ohara, YO-HEY and Seiki Yoshioka Vs Yoshiki Inamura, Junta Miyawaki, Kinya Okada and Yasutaka Yano

According to Lawrence:
Backstory: None, really. This a stable (Full Throttle, their thing is they go fast) and a random veteran (Yone) vs. the four youngest NOAH talents.

Wrestlers:

Muhammad Yone: Japanese Disco Stu

Hajime Ohara: Black pants, mustache, loves backbreakers and chain-wrestling (Full Throttle)

YO-HEY: The “Flying Playboy.” Preening cyberpunk high-flyer. (Full Throttle)

Seiki Yoshioka: Springy kick savant. Silver trunks, black hair (Full Throttle)

Yoshiki Inamura: Prefect Kong Bundy. Hosstastic.

Junta Miyawaki: Orange trunks, springy with some fired up babyface vibes. Clearly wants to be the next Kobashi, we’ll see if he gets there.

Kinya Okada: Black trunts with horribly placed lightning on the back. Kicks and suplexes. Probably the best of this bunch.

Yasutaka Yano: Brand new YL, blue trunks. Too soon to say much about him, this is like his fourth match.

I’m pretty sure the last time I watched NOAH Yone had gone all serious heel, so it’s fun to see him doing his traditional babyface gimmick again. I like how NOAH sticks some stats and a picture on a bottom of the screen when a guy tags in for the first time, just in case you don’t know who they are. It’s a good idea that other places should do too. Full Throttle and Yone clearly have more chemistry than the younger lads, and they control things with a nice quadruple team spot in the early going.

What’s interesting to me is that NOAH doesn’t seem to have the same policy New Japan has with the Young Lions where they have to wear generic black gear in their early years, as most of these lads have some flavour to their gear, even Yano who is sporting purple trunks and some knee pads despite only debuting in October. Miyawaki gets worked over for a bit and sells it well, which leads into the tag to Inamura, who does some fun “big bloke running wild” spots.

Okada seems like the most polished of the guys on the Young Lion team, and he does some nice stuff with Yoshioka and Ohara before things break down with everyone coming in to do a spot. It’s entertaining action and YO-HEY even busts out a dive at one stage. Eventually though the match ends how you would expect, with the least experienced man in Yano getting submitted in a nasty looking single leg crab style hold from Yoshioka.

WINNERS: YONE & FULL THROTTLE
RATING: **1/2

Good opener that had some fun action and warmed the crowd up nicely

We’re straight into the next match with no messing about. That’ll do me!

Match Two
Kotaro Suzuki and X Vs Haoh and Tadasuke

According to Lawrence:

Backstory: Suzuki was just kicked out of his stable, so he’s got a mystery parter. The Sugiura-gun stable has recently been trying to recruit him, so it will be telling if his partner ends up being one of them.

Wrestlers:

Kotaro Suzuki: Veteran cruiser who recently lost the title. A massive arsenal of moves, about half a dozen of which can finish any give match. Veteran savvy but still with enough juice to pull off the occasional back-handspring springboard cutter or what have you.

X: We don’t know!

Haoh: Kongo’s flippiest cruiser. Until recently he was a glorified putty for their leader (Kenoh), but lately he’s been proving himself as a legitimate threat. (Kongo)

Tadasuke: If you Brundlflied The Cleaner and Dude Love, this is what you’d get. Manic, high-charisma troll with a mean streak. Can be calculating and cheeky or reckless and sadistic depending on his mood, which changes often. (Kongo)

I’m a sucker for a good mystery man gimmick, and X doesn’t take off his mask to start either, meaning the mystery will go on for a bit longer at least. Whoever X is he works well, doing some nice fast paced Junior Heavyweight styled action. The action here in general is enjoyable, with Tadasuke showing some good charisma. I remember Suzuki from back when I watched the product more regularly, but the other guys are new to me, and I’m liking what I’m seeing thus far.

There is one notable botch where X tries to block a Haoh rana off the top so he can hold him for a Suzuki dropkick, but sadly he can’t hold him and they kind of just tumble down to the mat before Suzuki can deliver the move. They rally from that though and X ends up pinning Haoh not soon after with a Tiger Driver for the three count.

WINNERS: SUZUKI & X
RATING: **1/4

Shame about the botch. The rest was fun, yet abbreviated, Junior action

X doesn’t unmask following the bout, so I guess that’s a mystery they can keep going with. Fair enough, you gots ta have the intrigue baybeh!

Match Three
Kazuyuji Fujita, Kendo Kashin and NOSAWA Rongai Vs Masa Kitamiya, Manabu Soya and Nioh

According to Lawrence:

Backstory: This is stable match between Sugiura-gun and Kongo, though neither stable leader (Takashi Sugiura and Kenou) are in it. These two groups have been feuding forever, and are both nominally heel, though they have very different brands. Sugiura-gun is a weird mish-mash of MMA badasses and weird trolls, which is fitting as their leader is an MMA badass who’s also kind of a weird troll. They wear Shiba-Inu shirts as their uniforms. Kongo, meanwhile, is kind of a paramilitary cult that’s also the Ginyu Force. They believe NOAH is on the wrong path and also conspiring against them, and they pose a lot.

Wrestlers:

Kazuyuki Fujita: Former NJPW champ and MMA legend known for having a stupidly thick skill (seriously). Bald, old, tough.

Kendo Kashin: Masked wrestler who carries a mace to the ring. Doesn’t have much stamina, but can generally be counted on for an exciting ninety seconds (make your own jokes here).

NOSAWA Rongai: Evil juggalo, Sugiura-gun’s #2 guy despite being their least competent member. Behind the scenes, he’s NOAH’s booker (and Io Shirai’s ex).

Manabu Soya: Bright red hair, mega-hoss.

Masa Kitamiya: Blonde hair, also hoss. A bit more technical than Soya but they make a natural pair.

Nioh: The weakest member of Kongo, basically a glorified putty, but entertaining as a whipping boy.

Fujita is still using the Antonio Inoki theme all these years later, and it’s kind of funny seeing NOSAWA of all people coming out to that. NOSAWA is apparently the booker these days too, proving once again that wrestling is a business when you can just fail upwards if you’re lucky. I jest on that front though (partially at least anyway) because NOSAWA can work and people do seem to be digging NOAH’s product these days, so he can’t be doing that bad of a job in the role.

Fujita and Soya have a fun big bloke collision, with Fujita looking like he’s got a case of the Nakanishi’s going on in that he’s kind of physically broken and has trouble moving, but he has residual overness from the past and a type of physical charisma that lets him get away with it. Kashin has slowed down a bit obviously, but he can still bring the submission holds and he catches Nioh in one at the end for the clean win.

WINNERS: KASHIN, FUJITA & NOSAWA
RATING: *3/4

Nothing bad in it but it also didn’t last that long either

Fujita and Soya go nose to nose following that in order to tease a future clash between the two.

Match Four
Keiji Muto Vs Shuhei Taniguchi

According to Lawrence:

Backstory: They really got into it during a tag match, and Muto refused to release the figure four even after the bell, so Taniguchi challenged him. Muto has since said he’s going to beat him as quick as possible because he’s old and doesn’t want to risk getting hurt.

Wrestlers:

Keiji Muto: AKA The Great Muta. You probably already know him, but if not he’s a legend in WCW, NJPW, and AJPW, best known for the Shining Wizard, Dragon Screw Leg Whip, and spitting mist in people’s faces. Gets by mostly on savvy these days as he’s ancient.

Shuhei Taniguchi: Babyface hoss with a rarely remembered Terminator gimmick. Has “TOSH” on his tights for no adequately explained reason.

Muto has gone back to using HOLD OUT as entrance music apparently, which is enough to make this show a thumbs up all by its own! The fact Muto can even WALK, let alone wrestle, is kind of amazing at this stage. I mean, his legs were already wrecked by 2001 when he went bald and had the makeover, and it’s nearly 20 years since then and he’s still able to get in there. This is classic Muto (Well, classic turn of the millennium Muto) as he works it mostly on the mat, targeting Taniguchi’s legs with submission holds so he can knee him in the face to win.

I didn’t think it was even possible to love Muto more than I do, but seeing him with his Luchadore gut still being able to work a perfectly serviceable match in his 60’s has managed it. Taniguchi is not someone I’m particularly familiar with, but he’s alright. Interestingly when you say something is “Tosh” over here in England it means that its rubbish, so it’s another fun example of the Japanese completely misunderstanding a word’s meaning but using it anyway because they think it sounds good. It’s like when you see one of those shirts that has a completely bizarre English phrase on them like “Hey Man, Let’s Go Cheese Sandwich” or something. I enjoy watching Abroad In Japan as he always points things like that out when he sees them.

Taniguchi busts out a Polish Hammer at one stage, which I always approve of, but Muto manages to kick out of that devastating strike at two. This has felt a lot like a match from the 70’s, but in a good way if that makes any sense? I’m getting Akira Taue vibes from how Taniguchi moves actually, and as I say that he delivers a choke slam for two! Taniguchi actually heads up with a splash and then goes up for another one for good measure, which ends up getting him a two count. Taniguchi blocks the Figure Four, but Muto keeps coming with the Dragon Screw and follows up with the Shining Wizard. More Wizard’s abound and that’s enough for three.

WINNER: KEIJI MUTO
RATING: **1/2

Even at half speed with a broken body Keiji Muto is still the man

Muto mockingly shakes a knocked out Taniguchi’s hand following that, so maybe they’ll clash again at some stage?

This under-card is chugging along a nice spry pace I must say.

Match Five
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Titles
Champs: Daisuke Harada and Atsushi Kotoge Vs Yoshinari Ogawa and HAYATA

According to Lawrence:

Backstory: Harada and Kotoge were a super successful team like a decade ago, broke up, feuded, forgot about each other, and then recently reunited when literally every member of Harada’s RATELS stable turned on him individually. Harada is also the current Jr. Heavy singles champ. Both of them had issues with STINGER, the evil heel cruiser stable, before reuniting, so of course as soon as they got the belts, STINGER came calling. HAYATA was the first member of RATELS to turn on Harada, so Harada *especially* hates him.

Wrestlers:

Daisuke Harada: One of NOAH’s best technical wrestlers, he’s the sternly disappointed father of the cruiser division. Tough, mean, and fair. Black trunks.

Atsushi Kotoge: Is a labrador that thinks he’s a Rottweiler. His board shorts and pink hair go well with his early 2000s cruiser offense.

Yoshinari Ogawa: AKA “Rat Boy,” the Iggy Pop-looking archvillain of NOAH cruisers. Mean, cheap, and evil, he’s also been around forever, and was once GHC champ. Just a mean-spirited prick.

HAYATA: Cyperpunk Twink of Death. A duplicitous, smirking, kick-happy troll with one pant leg much longer than the other. Sneaky and shameless.

Ogawa sadly doesn’t keep the classic entrance music streak going by using Never Give Me Up, which saddens me somewhat. HAYATA reminds me a bit of Vortex from TEW 2020 (There’s one for those of you who have tried running a company in the Oceania region). Ogawa looks like he has a 50 year old’s face on a 30 year old’s body. He’s actually starting to resemble my Aunt when it comes to his face these days, which is kind of disconcerting for me. I don’t really know who the other three lads are, but they all look like they can work based off the early exchanges, so this should hopefully be a good match.

Kotoge gets worked over in the heel corner for a bit, selling it all well whilst the heels do a good job of coming across as unlikable jerks. They specifically target his left arm, with Ogawa flinging it into every metal thing he can find outside the ring at one stage whilst HAYATA takes the ref. Kotoge finally makes the tag after a long and vicious heat segment, with Harada running wild and looking good in the process. Just goes to show that if you work the formula and work it well then it usually always works.

Things break down following that, with everyone coming in to hit a move and Kotoge finally getting some payback by running wild with right handed lariats on the heels. We of course get some near falls, with them being executed well and the crowd digging it in their socially distanced way. The finish is great as well, as Kotoge takes out HAYATA with an Unprettier, only for Ogawa to quickly pounce with one of his trademark wacky roll ups to steal the pin and the Titles.

WINNERS AND NEW CHAMPIONS: OGAWA & HAYATA
RATING: ***1/4

Good tag action, where they worked the traditional formula and then Junior Heavyweighted it up a bit in the closing stages, only for Ogawa to prove the difference maker with his veteran smarts. Good storytelling all round

Kotaro Suzuki and X waste no time laying down an immediate challenge for the belts from the new Champs. We still don’t get to see who X is yet either, whilst Suzuki and Ogawa have a pull-apart.

Match Six
GHC National Title
Champ: Kenoh Vs Kaito Kiyomia

According to Lawrence:

Backstory: Short version? Goku and Vegeta. Longer version? Kaito is the babyface ace of the future, and sees himself as NOAH’s salvation. Kenoh also sees himself as NOAH’s salvation, and sees Kaito as an ignorant tool of the evil businessmen who run NOAH and conspire against Kenoh. This has blossomed over the years from annoyance to obsession, and he keeps insisting that Kaito needs to listen to him and join his stable so he can show him the true path forward. Most recently he’s been ranting about Kaito’s recent appearance on a dating show and how Kaito doesn’t know about love but he does and he has DEFINITELY HAD SEX YOU GUYS! Kaito would like to take his title, and would also like it if Kenoh would please stop cutting loud angry promos about his sex life.

The Wrestlers:

Kaito Kiyomiya: Super athletic babyface in white. Pure of heart, empty of mind. Wants to be the next Misawa.

Kenoh: Super intense, hyper paranoid leader of Kongo. Red pants and lots of kicking. Has recently styled himself as a bit of a knockout artist.

Kiyomiya’s music sounds like something out of a Soulcalibur game and I like it mightily. I’m pretty certain I’ve seen at least one Kenoh match in my life, but I honestly can’t remember it. Kiyomiya looks like a star, giving off vibes of Tanahashi and Ibushi when it comes to his attire and wrestling style. This one is all-action from the start, with them throwing forearm strikes before heading outside where Kenoh suplexes Kiyomiya on the floor to take over.

Kiyomiya sells well back inside and eventually fires up for the comeback, flinging Kenoh out of the ring and following with a fabulous flip dive out onto him. This kid is money! Kenoh bumps and feeds for everything great as well, being an excellent dance partner and looking good when he gets on offence also. Kiyomiya does something I’ve never actually seen before in the form of a springboard chop block, and then follows it up with a nice German Suplex for two as he we look to be heading into the near fall section of the match. Sweat quite literally flies from some of Kenoh’s hard strikes, as this had been a very entertaining clash and both men have looked good.

Kenoh goes for an ankle lock and then kicks Kiyamiya in the chest when he tries to crawl to the ropes in a great bit of brutality, before dropping a pair of knees for two. Kenoh continues to assault Kiyomiya’s mid-section with a top rope double stomp, but he still can’t put him away and gets caught with a dropkick on the way down when he tries it again. The near falls keep coming, with Kiyomiya even heaving Kenoh up into an Emerald Flosion from a fireman’s carry at one stage. Kiyomiya gets the Tiger Suplex (“That’s his move!” as Tony Schiavone would say) but even that’s not enough as Kenoh kicks out once again.

Kenoh goes to a choke following that, and because he’s not Minoru Suzuki I don’t think he’s going to weaken him for a piledriver. And indeed, as I type that Kenoh sinks it in even deeper and Kiyomiya is forced to tap out to give Kenoh the win. Wow, I was all geared up for the big Kiyomiya win there and then ripped it away at the end. Still, Kenoh survived all of the big moves and won it clean in the middle, so you can’t say he didn’t deserve it.

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION: KENOH
RATING: ***3/4

Some mighty fine pro wrestling there and definitely a match to seek out if you want to see what Kiyomiya is all about

We don’t get any post-match stuff other than Kenoh doing some more posing.

Match Seven
GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Champs: Takashi Sugiura and Kazushi Sakuraba Vs Naomichi Marufuji and Masakatsu Funaki

According to Lawrence:

Backstory: Sugiura and Marufuji are rivals, and largely carried the company from 2013 to about 2017 or so. Each leads a stable: Sugiura-gun we’ve covered, and then M’s Alliance, which is Maru’s stable of veteran wrestlers whose names start with M. Sakuraba and Funaki kind of mirror each other as well, both are MMA legends. As a subplot, Sugiura has recently angered Masahiro Chono by doing his pose, and refuses to stop. Also of note: In the last match before this show, Funaki was able to choke out Sugiura, which is nigh-unheard of.

The Wrestlers:

Takashi Sugiura: Mean Japanese Hoss Kurt Angle. Just a vicious block of meat and A+ technician. Loves Shiba Inus.

Kazushi Sakuraba: Old ManMcGrappleSpider. MMA legend who can be a bit of a clown, but can also suddenly tap-out anyone in the company if he grabs a limb.

Naomichi Marufuji: Misawa’s protege, former NOAH ace and current NOAH vice president. Floppy hair and lots of kicks and creative holds.

Masakatsu Funaki: Yellow trunks, a bad attitude, and MMA bonafides.

Chono ends up entering with Sugiura-gun despite the hype suggesting he was angry about it. The M’s group also has who I’m guessing is a Joshi wrestler with them whose name has M in it? She’s super cute whoever she is anyway. Research reveals she’s called Jurina Matsui and does commentary.

Saku and Funaki do some nice UWFi styled grappling to start, although at a slightly slower pace than they used to do in their primes. Sugiura come in and tries mixing it up with Funaki on the feet, and that goes about as well for him as you’d expect. Marufuji then gives him a terrifying piledriver onto the apron. Oh my word, why would you even do that spot? The margin of error is way too fine in my opinion, although they appeared to do it safely at the very least.

Sugiura not surprisingly is on the defensive following that and takes a battering from the challengers for a bit as a result. He eventually manages to tag out and brings in Saku, who does another bit with Funaki. This match feels like something you’d see on one of those Riki-Pro shows from about 15 years ago, where you’ve got some older guys who can still work but they aren’t going to be getting a Main Event slot in one of the main companies any more. The action is solid at least.

Sugiura and Marufuji do an excellent bit together as the match enters the closing stretch, with some good crisp offence and some nice looking big moves. They eventually fight to a stalemate and that leads to the big Saku and Maru conflict, with Marufuji pulling off Saku’s shirt so that he can chop his bare skin. Oh, it’s ON now! Saku’s pale skin bruises up almost instantly and Marufuji ends up kneeing him in the head for a near fall

This feels like it’s building to Saku catching Marufuji with a wacky submission hold of some kind, and wouldn’t you know it that’s exactly what happens as he catches Marufuji’s knee and then goes to a really cool looking knee, fighting off all of Marufuji’s attempts to fight out of it to eventually claim a submission win.

WINNERS AND STILL CHAMPIONS: SUGIURA-GUN
RATING: ***

Fine Heavyweight tag team action there

Chono is happy that his boys delivered the beans and liver, and grabs a mic post-match to yell at the crowd in his customary angry voice. He calls Matsui and Muto into the ring, so he can chastise them for being too negative about Sugiura-gun on commentary. Matsui shakes his hand following that, but then slaps him as well at the behest of Muto before fleeing the ring with a cheeky grin on her face. This woman is a national treasure.

Main Event
GHC Heavyweight Title
Champ: Go Shiozaki Vs N1 Tournament Winner: Katsuhiko Nakajima

According to Lawrence:

Backstory: How much time you got? In 2018, Nakajima turned heel after losing the top belt, but soon after teamed up with babyface Shiozaki as the odd-couple team AXIZ. They quickly became tag champs, best friends, and NOAH’s top act. They maybe became more than that, if their photobooks are to be believed. About a year ago, Go won the top singles belt, and has positioned himself (justifiably) as the spiritual heart of NOAH, proclaiming at every opportunity “I AM NOAH!” The expected Nakajima betrayal did not come until about nine months later, when Katsuhiko savaged him after a loss and joined Kongo (though he doesn’t seem to take his Kongo membership very seriously). From there, Nakajima steamrolled his way through the N-1 tournament, earning a title shot at his former best friend. Go’s been visibly heartbroken the whole time. He’s also now a bit physically broken, as Nakajima has relentlessly targeted his arm in the lead-up to this match, in hopes of taking away his lariats and chops, his two main weapons. It is also worth noting that historically Nakajima has been sort of his own worst enemy; a wrestling savant who could beat anyone if he could just stay out of his own way and quit dicking around for ten seconds. While he’s still a bit of a troll, he’s largely cut the nonsense out since his turn and has dominated all of NOAH’s other top stars (Sugiura, Kaito, Kenoh, and Marufuji) on the way to this match. Can he maintain that focus against his ex, or will his spiteful nature get the best of him once again?

Wrestlers:

Go Shiozaki: Protege of Kenta Kobashi and chosen successor of Misawa, NOAH’s prodigal son. Wears white and green, fights with a lot of chops and lariats, though he’s been known to break out Kobashi’s moonsault when he really needs it (including in his win against Nakajima way back in 2019).

Katsuhiko Nakajima: Adopted son of Kensuke Sasaki and Akira Hokuto, a sinister swag barbarian and so-called “Genius of the Kick.” Wears red trunks and a shit-eating grin. Often finishes with either kicks or a spike brainbuster, but his stronger finish is the Diamond Bomb (fireman’s carry brainbuster), and for very special occasions, he’s been known to break out his mother’s Northern Lights Bomb (though he hasn’t done so recently).

Nakajima is one of those people where instead of having the “My dad would batter your dad” argument at school it probably would have been more accurate to have the “My mum would batter your dad” argument instead. There’s some cracking intensity to this one, with both guys playing their parts perfectly. It’s a great example of wrestling being an excellent storytelling medium, as they get across more by staring at one another following a clean break than others could with a 20 minute promo.

We get another silly move on the apron, where Go flings Katsu off to the floor with the suplex and it looks like Nakajima maybe just grazed his head off the side on the way down. I honestly don’t care for moves either on or off the apron these days ever since Mike Bennett and BJ Whitmer had a piledriver that went awry a few years back. Nakajima sells that big for a bit but comes back and the two fight outside the ring, with Nakajima getting the better of it. Both of Go’s arms are all taped up, so you have to think it’s only a matter of time before the challenger goes after one or both of them.

And as I type that, Nakajima goes after the right arm, stomping it out on the floor before wrapping it around the metal railings at ringside. Go sells all of this really well, and it actually effects his performance too by taking the sting out of his chops. As a student of Kobashi, I’m hoping we get the “I’m going to Lariat him and collapse in pain but do it anyway because I’m just so gosh darn tough” shtick from Go that Kobashi used to do. He does eventually suck it up to throw some chops and a lariat, but it doesn’t get the job done and Nakajima keeps coming.

Some of these kicks from Nakajima are outrageously stiff, probably because he doesn’t want disapproving looks from the parents when he comes over for Christmas Dinner. Sweat flies as the match progresses, as these two have been laying everything in and the hits have reverberated around the arena. They’re giving WALTER and Dragunov a run for their money on the snugness scale here! This is utterly brutal, but a safe kind of brutal, so I feel happy enjoying it. That’s a difficult mix to get right so good on them for managing it!

Honestly I’m close to shuddering at some of these shots. They are just LAYING these in, but they are mostly in the meaty parts of the chest, so they’ll both live but deary me will they feel this later! We move into the near falls, with both men getting their big moves but failing to hold the other guy down. Go starts cooking a little bit. So Nakajima decides that it’s time to go back to the arm with some kicks and a Dis-Arm-Her for the big submission tease, but Go just about manages to make the ropes to break the hold before Nakajima breaks his arm.

Something goes terribly wrong on the top rope, but both men are safely deposited onto the apron, which leads to Go taking a ride into the railings outside only to fight back with a lariat. Moonsault looks to end things for Go back inside, but Nakajima gets his knees up and we have a double down. Nakajima has some first class facial expressions going on, as he nails the whole “malevolent grin” look with aplomb. They do the big knock out tease when Go takes a nasty kick, but he manages to pull himself up to all fours, only to take another vicious kick and some elbows for good measure.

“This is an attempted murder” declares Stuart, and he’s not far off the mark if I’m being honest. Go has a fantastic glass-eyed sell job going on, but bravely keeps fighting and pulls himself up using Nakajima’s body, only to end up taking brain buster for two in a great near fall. Diamond Bomb looks to finish following that, but Go slips out and gets a sleeper suplex before turning Nakajima inside out with a lariat for another great near fall in a series of them in this match. Go heads up for the Moonsault once again, and manages to get it this time, but he takes a moment to sell his arm which delays the cover and allows Nakajima to kick out. I love that as it gives us a near fall but protects the move as Go couldn’t follow up with a pin right away. I’m a sucker for that stuff.

We’ve hit the 40 minute mark apparently, even though this match hasn’t felt anywhere near that long, which is probably the biggest compliment I can pay it. I ponder how they’re going to finish this now, because it looks like we’re either going to get Go finally breaking Nakajima down to win or Nakajima is going to catch him with something. Both endings would make sense and would be a satisfying conclusion based on the story, and indeed I get my answer when Go gets one more Lariat to finally keep Nakajima down for three after an absolute WAR!

WINNER AND STILL CHAMPION:
RATING: *****

Genuine late contender for Match of the Year! It had everything you’d want with strong storytelling, great drama and believable looking offence from both men. Definitely worth going out of your way to track this one down!

Sugiura and Sakuraba have a stare down with Kenoh following that as it looks like he might be going after Go post-match. Kenoh grabs a mic and challenges Sakuraba for a match down the line. Sugiara meanwhile wants a shot at Go and lays down the challenge for 2021, which Go seems to be down for, which leads to Go doing the victory speech.

In Conclusion

That Main Event justified a purchase all by itself, but the rest of the show was fun too and I’ll definitely keep a look out if more shows go up on FITE. Shout out to the commentary team, who started a bit slow but were in full flow by the end of the show and really added to the viewing experience. Easy thumbs up!