NOAH Destination 2021 HOT TAKE
As the world of combat sports settles into 2021, the only norm in a landscape that hasn't stopped shifting over the last year is that athletes will always step into battle to prove who is the best and that those who have lasting success ascend into that rarified air known as legend.
If there is one competitor who has helped define what legendary means in the world of Japanese professional wrestling, it is Keiji Muto aka The Great Muta. On February 21st when ABEMA presents Destination 2021 from Budokan Hall in Tokyo, Muto, 58, will once again have an opportunity to carve yet another major milestone into his miles-long list of career accolades.
For someone who has submerged himself into the professional wrestling world for his entire adult life, it will be yet another moment where Muto gets to turn back to the hands of time and showcase his superiority in the ring.
At Destination 2021, Muto will challenge Pro Wrestling NOAH Global Honored Crown Heavyweight Champion Go Shiozaki, attempting to win one of the few championships that have eluded his grasp since debuting way back in 1984.
Indeed, Muto's career may be one of the most celebrated in the world of puroresu as he has crisscrossed the world in pursuit of championship glory and global victories. He feuds with Sting over the NWA World Television Championship and his team with the legendary Terry Funk are the stuff of legend. The run of the Fighting Spirit Three Musketeers alongside Masahiro Chono and the late Shinya Hashimoto helped define NJPW in the 1990s. Muto has battled everyone from Hiroshi Hase to the Steiners to Ric Flair to Hulk Hogan to Steve Austin, all in the pursuit of proving he is the best in the world.
Over the course of his career, Muto has also represented the duality of man, a true Dr. Jekyll carrying the shadow of Mr. Hydes every step of the way. When competing as Muto, he brings the best of his combat skills to the ring. As if that doesn't make him a fearsome enough foe, he can also unleash his bestial side, the face painted and later masked madness of The Great Muta, moonsaulting through the air and tearing through opponents with a frenzied madness rarely seen.
Muto's balance of man and menace has brought him the IWGP Heavyweight Championship and the All Japan Pro Wrestling Triple Crown as well as scores of others titles and victories, but to score the ultimate goal of adding the GHC Heavyweight Championship, he is going to have to overtake Go Shiozaki, a task that few have been able to accomplish since his ascension to Champion in January 2020.
At 39 years old, Shiozaki is a loyalist to NOAH, having debuted for the promotion back in 2004, just several years after it was formed by the late Mitsuharu Misawa in an exodus from All Japan Pro Wrestling. After taking some time away from the promotion, he declared he would return in 2015 and has since been one of the true stalwarts for NOAH. He has held the GHC Crown on four different occasions for over 830+ plus day.
If there was anyone poised to turn back the challenge of Muto, Shiozaki is likely Shiozaki, who had been lauded for his in-ring accomplishments over the last several years. Tokyo Sports named him for his Outstanding Performances in the ring last year and he has taken Daniel Bryan, Naomichi Marufuji and countless others to the limit. He is in the middle of his career best run and just as the title match brings Muto to the crossroads, it also sets Shiozaki up to perhaps score his greatest victory ever.
Muto's popularity continues to grow and exceed all expectations over the past several decades. With the possible exception of the now-retired Jyushin "Thunder" Liger, there may not be a more beloved and recognizable Japanese wrestler for international fans than Muta. He is larger than life and is a living, fighting Hall of Famer...and after Destination 2021, he may one again he champion.
On February 12th, the very fate of Pro Wrestling NOAH stands at stake when Keiji Muto once again seeks championship gold. It's the Master of the mysterious green mist against NOAH's Rock of Gibraltar. One will fall, but who will it be?
Destination 2021 will also feature:
GHC National Championship
Kenoh vs Masakatsu Funaki
Tag Team Match
Naomichi Marufuji & Jun Akiyama vs Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura
GHC Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Daisuke Harada vs Seiki Yoshioka
GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship
Yoshinari Ogawa & HAYATA vs Kotaro Suzuki & Ikuto Hidaka
12-Man Tag Team Match
Takashi Sugiura & Kazushi Sakuraba & Kazuyuki Fujita & Kazunari Murakami & Kendo Kashin & Nosawa Rongai vs Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya & Manabu Soya & Haoh & Nioh & Tadasuke
Tag Team Match
Muhammad Yone & Shuhei Taniguchi vs Masaaki Mochizuki & Masato Tanaka
6-MAN Tag Team Match
Atsushi Kotoge & Junta Miyawaki & Yasutaka Yano vs Hajime Ohara & YO-HEY & Kai Fujimura
Tag Team Match
Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue vs Daiki Inaba & Kinya Okada
Mike Johnson is the lead reporter for PWInsider.com and has been writing about professional wrestling since 1996. He can be found on Twitter @MikePWInsider and MikeJohnsonWrites.com.