By Chris Vetter, ProWrestling.net Contributor (@chrisvetter73)
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Pro Wrestling NOAH “Keiji Muto Grand Final Last Love”
Replay available via wrestle-universe.com/en
February 21, 2023 in Tokyo, Japan at the Tokyo Dome
This is the final match (we’ll see!) for Keiji Muto/Great Muta. Unfortunately, we have Japanese-only commentary. With my lack of familiarity with NOAH wrestlers and storylines, that presents a challenge.
1. Daiki Inaba and Masa Kitamiya defeated Yasutaka Yano and Yoshiki Inamura at 7:20. Yano wears the Yuji Nagata-inspired light blue trunks. Inaba and Mas worked over Yano early on. Yoshiki is the powerhouse and he hit a nice suplex. Yano got a Victory Roll for a nearfall, but Inaba nailed him with a Saito Suplex for the pin. Solid opener.
2. Rika Tatsumi, Shoko Nakajima, Miyu Yamashita, and Yuka Sakazaki defeated Yuki Arai, Maki Itoh, Mizuki, and Miu Watanabe at 11:35. I know Itoh the best here from her AEW and GCW appearances, and seen a few matches of some of the others. Yamashita’s team worked over Arai early on. Itoh hit her Kokeshi falling headbutt at 4:00. Watanabe got in and hit a Claudio-style swing, then she suplexed two women at the same time. Impressive. Mizuki made the hot tag at 7:00 and hit a top-rope crossbody block.
Yuka Sakazaki entered and hit a brainbuster for a nearfall. Itoh entered and hit a tornado DDT. Yuka hit a Flatliner, then a springboard 450 Splash to pin Yuki Arai. Entertaining match.
3. Jake Lee, Jack Morris, and Anthony Greene defeated Takashi Sugiura, Satoshi Kojima, and Timothy Thatcher at 7:15. Thatcher and Greene were cut at the same time from NXT. Morris is a tall European with looks like Drew McIntyre or a young Scotty Riggs. Jake Lee is particularly tall and he wears an outfit that makes me think of Darth Vader. Morris and Satoshi started, with Kojima hitting his never-ending chops in the corner. Greene entered at 3:00 to face Sugiera, with Greene hitting a twisting springboard crossbody block for a nearfall and a dive between the ropes to the floor.
In the ring, Sugiera hit a second-rope superplex. Thatcher tagged in at 5:30 and hit some European Uppercuts on Jake Lee, then a belly-to-belly suplex; he switched to an anklelock, then to a cross-armbreaker. Lee nailed a Helluva Kick on Thatcher in the corner and pinned him. That finish came out of nowhere and I frankly wasn’t ready for it. Good while it lasted.
4. Eita, Yoshinari Ogawa, Hayata, Daga, and Chris Ridgeway defeated Atsushi Kotoge, Yo-Hey, Seiki Yoshioka, Alejandro, and Junta Miyawaki in a 10-man tag at 6:25. I am admittedly unfamiliar with most of the guys in this match. Alejandro’s look makes me think of Ultimo Dragon. Daga and Kotoge started; Kotoge has reddish-purple hair. Eita and Alejandro squared off at 2:00. Yo-Hey, the impressive high-flyer, entered the match. Everyone is tagging and out quickly, so this action kept going. Ridgway applied an anklelock at 5:00, and he eventually applied a head submission hold to get the tap out. I should have guessed they were going short by they way everyone rushed to get their moves in.
5. Mao, Shunma Katsumata, Toui Kojima, and Yuki Ueno defeated Tetsuya Endo, Hideki Okatani, Yuya Koroku, and Takeshi Masada in an eight-man tag at 905. Ok, I don’t know any of these guys, but many are quite young, so likely trainees or recent graduates. We had a nice triple dive spot to the floor at 1:30. Nice. Like the last match, everyone is getting in some quick offense; we aren’t wasting time on chinlocks or extended beatdowns of one person. The pin came after a spinning neckbreaker move. This was entertaining.
6. “Tam NOAH” Naomichi Marufuji, Ninja Mack, and Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. defeated “Team Dragon Gate” Shun Skywalkerl, Kai, and Diamante at 11:21. Skywalker had a nice run in MLW and some U.S. indies in recent months. I know Marufuji best from his run in ROH. Mack has had some stellar matches in GCW. Diamante wears a black-and-yellow mask (this is not AEW’s female Diamante!) Kai seems to be a Miz-like jerk that everyone wants to see beaten up. Marufuji and Shun started. Diamante and Wagner entered at 1:30. The short Ninja Mack entered to face Kai at 3:00. Mack went for a handspring move, but Shun hit him as Mack touched the ropes, and Team DG began working over Mack.
Naomichi made the hot tag at 6:00 and he battled Shun. Shun hit a Tiger Bomb for a nearfall. The Dragon Gate team began working over Wagner. Kai hit a German Suplex and a superkick for a nearfall at 10:00. Wagner hit a Michinoku Driver for a nearfall. Mack nailed his move where he does three cartwheels in the ring then a flip to the floor. Wagner hit a top-rope moonsault to pin Kai. Good match.
7. “Kongo” Manabu Soya, Katsuhiko Nakajima, and Kenoh (NOAH) defeated Aoyagi & Suwama & Kento Miyahara at 15:19. I have said this before, but the flaming red-haired Soya is a bull and makes me think of Tomohiro Ishii. Miyahara and Nakajima started. Aoyagi, wearing blue trunks, battled Soya. All six brawled to the floor at 3:00. Back in the ring, the Dragon Gate team kept working over Soya. Suwama, who is older and has a sizable gut, laid in some hard chops.
Nakajima made the hot tag at 7:30. He nailed a running bulldog, and the Kongo team began working over Miyahara, who wore gold pants. Kenoh entered at 11:30 to battle Aoyagi. Kenoh and Suwama traded hard slaps to the face. Kenoh hit a German Suplex, dumping Aoyagi on the top of his head. Everyone hit finisher moves, and suddenly everyone was down at 13:00, and this has gotten really good.
Aoyagi hit three straight German suplexes on Kenoh, then a brainbuster for a believable nearfall. Soya hit a decapitating clothesline on Aoyagi. Kenoh nailed a running punt kick on Aoyagi for a nearfall, then a top-rope double stomp on the chest to pin him. Good stuff.
8. Gedo and Taiji Ishimori defeated Nosawa Rongai and Mazada at 4:43. Nosawa has dark makeup coming down his face from his eyes. All four brawled at the bell. Mazada hit a Divorce Court armbreaker on Ishimori. Ishimori fired back with a jumping knee to the jaw. Gedo and Nosawa squared off at 2:00 and traded punches. At 40, Ishimori is actually the youngest man in this match, and he hit his sliding German Suplex on Nosawa, then Taiji tied him in an STF. Nosawa opened his arms, signaling he was offering a hug to Ishimori. However, Ishimori nailed his spike DDT for the pin. Shockingly short. There is clearly a backstory between them I don’t know.
9. Hiromu Takahashi defeated Amakusa at 11:01. Amakusa wore a robe he stole from Ric Flair or Robert Roode or Ravishing Rick Rude. Hiromu is wearing a robe that has eight tentatcles; he looks like a bizarre purple octopus. An intense lockup to start. Amakusa hit a huracanrana, sending Hiromu to the floor. Amakusa hit a dangerous-looking twisting dive through the ropes at 1:30. In the ring, he hit a top-rope flying back elbow for a nearfall and he was in charge early on. Hiromu tied Amakusa in a Tajiri-style Tarantula in the ropes, then he nailed a running shotgun dropkick off the ring apron to the floor.
Amakusa hit a DDT at 5:00, with Hiromu rolling to the floor. Amakusa hit a twisting top-rope Phoenix Splash to the floor, then a 450 Splash in the ring for a nearfall. HIromu hit an overhead release suplex, tossing Amakusa into the corner, and they were both down. Hiromu hit a snap German Suplex and a clothesline at 8:00, and they were both down again. Amakusa got a rollup for a nearfall. Hiromu hit a Time Bomb, dropping Amakusa on his head, for a believable nearfall. Hiromu nailed the Time Bomb 2 slam for the pin. Really, really good match.
10. Kazuchika Okada defeated Kaito Kiyomiya at 16:32. Kaito came out first. Of course, Okada just returned from California where he competed late Saturday night. An intense lockup to start. Okada tossed him to the floor, but Kaito ran back in; Okada immediately hit a German Suplex. They brawled on the floor, where Okada hit a DDT at 2:30. Back in the ring, Kaito hit some European Uppercuts. Okada hit a backbody drop at 4:00, then a top-rope elbow drop for a nearfall. He made the Rainmaker pose (already?) but Kaito stood up and they traded more forearm shots.
They rolled to the floor, where Kaito whipped Okada into the guardrail at 6:30. Kaito hit a running flip dive over a guardrail onto Okada, and they were both down! Nice. In the ring, Kaito hit a top-rope missile dropkick and a German Suplex for a nearfall at 9:00, and he was in control. Okada hit a flapjack, and they were both down. Okada hit a shotgun dropkick. Kaito hit a Grimes-style Cave-in stomp to the chest. Okada hit a spinning tombstone piledriver and a short-arm clothesline at 11:00. Kaito hit a jumping knee on Okada’s left arm, and Okada sold the injury.
Kaito hit a top-rope missile dropkick on the damaged arm, then a running knee for a nearfall at 13:00. Okada hit his dropkick, and they were both down. Okada hit a Rainmaker short-arm clothesline, but he missed a second one, instead hitting a dropkick. Kaito hit a tiger suplex for a believable nearfall. Okada hit a Michinoku Driver and a Rainmaker, but he picked up Kaito before the three-count at 16:00!! He put Kaito on his shoulders and hit a spinning Bulldog Powerslam. Okada then nailed another Rainmaker for the clean, decisive win. A fantastic match.
* Masahiro Chono walked to ringside to a nice pop and he spoke on the mic. We went to video footage with Muto, including him watching highlights of his match with Shinsuke Nakamura. Lots of footage of Muto from his career, and Naito doing a sit-down interview.
11. Tetsuya Naito defeated Keiji Muto at 28:26. Naito came out first, and of course, Muto came out to a massive pop. The entrances went on for several minutes, and of course, Naito is very deliberate in removing his robe and button-down shirt. An intense lockup to start, and Muto immediately tied up the left arm on the mat. Naito applied a headlock on the mat. Muto applied a leglock on the mat on Naito’s right leg, and Naito reached the ropes at 4:30 and rolled to the floor. Back in the ring, they tied up in a knucklelock, and Muto hit a suplex while they were locked up. He then hit his signature elbow drop, earning a huge pop.
Naito faked the dive to the floor and instead did his ‘tranquilo pose’ at 7:00 as Muto regrouped on the floor. They brawled on the floor. Muto has a swollen right cheek with a bit of blood. Naito ran down the ramp and hit a basement dropkick to Muto’s back. They got back in the ring, where Naito applied a leglock around Muto’s head at 9:30, and Naito was in control. They briefly fought to the floor; as they re-entered, Muto hit a dragon screw leg whip at 12:30, drawing a pop. In the ring, he applied a Figure Four and the crowd loudly cheered.
Muto set up for another dragon screw leg whip, but Naito caught him with an enzuigiri, and Naito went back to the leglock around the neck; Muto reached the ropes at 16:00. Kuto hit some overhand chops to the shoulders and a DDT, and they were both down. Muto hit a Bulldog Powerslam for a nearfall. Muto nailed a Shining Wizard running kneestrike for a nearfall at 19:00. Muto hit a backbreaker over his knee and he climbed the ropes to a massive pop. However, he hopped down and the crowd expressed dismay. Funny; he must be saving the moonsault for last.
Muto hit another running knee in the corner. Naito hit a modified Blockbuster out of the corner; he set up for a big move, but Muto caught him with a basement dropkick to the knee, another dragon screw leg whip, and Muto applied a Figure Four. We briefly have a close-up of Hiroshi Tanahashi on commentary. Muto hit a Shining Wizard to the back of the head at 23:30, then one to the jaw for a believable nearfall; the crowd really wanted a pinfall here.
Muto again climbed the ropes for a moonsault, but again came back down. What a tease! Naito hit a dragon screw leg whip, then his own Shining Wizard for a nearfall, and he now applied a Figure Four. Naito hit a Destino for the clean pin. That was good but a bit anticlimactic. Naito and Muto did the ‘LIJ hand gesture’ and Naito left the ring.
* Muto got on the mic and addressed the crowd. He called on Masahiro Chono to enter the ring, which he did. But wait, they aren’t going to hug… we are having a bonus match!! Chono took off his jacket but he’s still in a dress shirt.
12. Masahiro Chono defeated Keiji Muto at 1:32. They had an intense lockup and the crowd is just going nuts. Chono hit a Shining Wizard, and he applied an STF, and Muto tapped out. They teased me here; I thought Muto was actually going to win his retirement match.
Final Thoughts: The main event met and slightly topped my expectations. Considering that the match went nearly 30 minutes, I don’t feel like Muto was really gassed at any point. They worked a smart match with lots of moments where they were matching spot-for-spot. I never doubted Naito was winning, because of course Muto did the classy thing and put him over on his way out.
I am not surprised that Okada won, but I am surprised at how decisively he won. To beat down Kaito so much to be able to pick him up before a three-count, to continue beating on him some more, was surprising. I frankly am surprised NOAH would let him lose so dominantly, even though Kaito got in some decent offense in the middle of the match.
Hiromu-Amakusa was a really good match, too, and I’d love to see them run it back and have more time to work. With Okada, Hiromu, and even a surprising Gedo win, New Japan Pro Wrestling went undefeated against rival promotions here.
I know it is a Japanese style, but I wish we didn’t have so many multi-person matches where wrestlers look good in short sprints but no one has enough time to really stand out, either.