The old saying goes that lightning doesn’t strike twice. To some, though, that is exactly what has happened in Pro Wrestling NOAH with Kazuyuki Fujita’s GHC Heavyweight Championship victory that recently took place. In 2020, Keiji Muto displaced NOAH’s Ace, Go Shiozaki, to become the GHC Heavyweight Champion. One year later, Fujita has captured the very same title from the grasp of the ever-impressive star, Katsuhiko Nakajima.
It’s simple to make the conclusion that lighting is striking once more with Fujita taking NOAH’s top crown, but this might not be entirely the case. They undoubtedly have similarities; for starters, they are both bone-headed booking decisions, but the metaphor falls down on closer look. Muto was near immobile when he became GHC Heavyweight Champion. One could visibly see the struggles placed on him by an enduring, decades-long career from just his stuttering walk to the ring. Never mind his troubles inside the ring ropes.
📢 COMING UP WEDNESDAY: 2/23 Nagoya✨✨✨— Pro Wrestling NOAH (@noahglobal) February 20, 2022
🟢 GAIN CONTROL 2022 NAGOYA
🗓 Wednesday 23 February
🛎 15:00 🇯🇵
📺 LIVE on #wrestleUNIVERSE
🔘 MAIN EVENT
👑 GHC Heavyweight Championship@noah_katsuhiko (c) – 5th defence
Kazuyuki Fujita (Challenger)#noah_ghc pic.twitter.com/tiWLkEgXUz
Kazuyuki Fujita’s GHC Heavyweight Championship Victory
A Look Back on Keiji Muto
Keiji Muto was 58 when he haphazardly rolled-up Shiozaki for the decisive three count on February 12, 2020. This is no age to be defeating a company ace, especially not for the company’s top title. Muto’s title win did secure him a slice of history, becoming only the third man to complete Puroresu’s glorified trifecta – New Japan Pro-Wrestling’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship, NOAH’s GHC Heavyweight Championship, and All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Triple Crown Championship. However, moments aren’t what make a wrestling promotion – matches are.
Muto’s reign was one which set off like a firework, with his prized crowning moment in Budokan Hall, but fizzled out like a cheap sparkler as underwhelming match followed underwhelming match. At the time, I maintained that putting your highest championship on a man who was struggling to wrestle was a bad idea, but his depressing reign only served to compound that. Muto was there to put over young, fresh talent (according to some). Muto’s title reign was going to do wonders for NOAH (according to some). This hasn’t been the case.
The Ascent of Kazuyuki Fujita
Slightly over 12 months to the day of Muto’s title victory, Kazuyuki Fujita ascended to Pro Wrestling NOAH’s pinnacle. At 51, and in severely better shape than the ailing Muto, Fujita’s title win isn’t as bad as his contemporaries. However, much like in elections, the least worst of two bad options is still a bad option.
In no world should Fujita be defeating Nakajima in a dominating, crushing, and vitriolic manner. NOAH has done a great job at building Nakajima into a high position in the company, developing his character through the devious charm he shows in every match. Though, it only takes one match to erase a years-long venture. Nakajima being defeated by Fujita is beyond ridiculous. It burns the work put into raising his stock and it crushes hopes of him leading the promotion going forward.
While Nakajima loses much from his loss, Fujita doesn’t truly gain anything save for vanity and an unneeded ego boost. The story arc was curving towards Shiozaki redeeming himself to be victorious over Nakajima for the GHC Heavyweight Championship, yet now the path is murky and unattractive. An egotistic Fujita won’t drop the title to any suitable candidate, but instead only to people he deems suitable (usually other older wrestlers).
Diving Deeper Into the Issue at Play
As POST Wrestling reported, the backstage politics involved in Fujita refusing to lose to Nakajima have crippled the main event scene of NOAH. It’s reported that he was scheduled to lose to Nakajima, but refused close to the match, forcing a scrapping of the booking plans. This is a symptom of the overall disease plaguing NOAH; a disease that will result in a mess if not swiftly dealt with, as the head booker, NOSAWA Rongai, is near powerless. He’s at the mercy of the veteran wrestlers whose egos, vanity, and refusal to build new stars are starving the wealth of young talent in NOAH of opportunities.
The Fujitas, Mutos, Funakis, and Kashins of NOAH have played on Rongai’s fetish for older wrestlers: pushing their self-interests and stifling the promotion’s growth. It seems obvious to compare Muto’s car-crash title reign with the ill-advised beginning of Fujita’s, but there is at least one key difference – Fujita is still a great wrestler. The juxtaposition of a senseless result and great, hard-hitting, violent match is one that proves the Fujita situation is different from that of Muto.
Muto couldn’t have good matches, but Fujita still can. So, lightning might not have struck twice, but Fujita’s title win is still comparable to Muto’s in the sense that it is a repression for a company that has the opportunity to progress. The mileage with NJPW since their series of failures over the past few years created a void for a top-line Puro promotion. Pro Wrestling NOAH was the perfect candidate to fill this, yet they’ve done their best to prohibit themselves.
Kazuyuki Fujita’s GHC Heavyweight Championship Victory – In Closing
NOAH isn’t a lost cause, but with Kazuyuki Fujita’s GHC Heavyweight Championship win, the journey to get the promotion back on track is a difficult one. A dangerous tightrope needs to be walked for NOAH to resume greatness, but NOAH’s egotistical veterans might just cut the rope once and for all. Fujita’s title win wasn’t a second bolt of lightning. However, it was another sign that Pro Wrestling NOAH is a promotion that needs evolution. Fujita winning the GHC Heavyweight Championship is another chapter in the book of self-deprecating NOAH booking decisions, but no story can go on forever. It will end, one way or another.
Stay tuned to the Last Word on Pro Wrestling for more on this and other stories from around the world of wrestling, as they develop. You can always count on LWOPW to be on top of the major news in the wrestling world. As well as to provide you with analysis, previews, videos, interviews, and editorials on the wrestling world. You can watch Pro Wrestling NOAH as well as DDT, TJPW, and more on Wrestle Universe and ABEMA.