I Want To Build On My Glory: An Interview with Masa Kitamiya

A stalwart for Pro Wrestling NOAH, Masa Kitamiya has been an indispensable part of the roster since making his NOAH debut in February 2012. A rough and ready powerhouse, Kitamiya exemplifies the hard-hitting style that fans associate with the emerald green ring. He has proven himself to be one of the toughest, most resilient wrestlers in NOAH, fighting legends and future stars all the same. He’s tussled with Masakatsu Funaki and Satoshi Kojima, Yoshiki Inamura and Kinya Okada, and remained his physical, imperious self throughout every match.

Only 33 years old and already a remarkable six time GHC Tag Team Champion, Kitamiya may well be on his way to cementing himself as the most prolific tag team wrestler in NOAH’s acclaimed history. But whilst he clearly shines in the tag team division, his singles battles cannot be overlooked: In June 2021 Kitamiya’s rivalry with Katsuhiko Nakajima climaxed in NOAH’s first ever steel cage match. His cage war victory over Nakajima stands as a highlight of his career so-far, felling his former tag partner and shaving his famed locks in a bloody battle.

The prodigal son of wrestling legend Masa Saito has had a NOAH career already glistening with highlights, whether it be his tag team triumphs or spirited GHC Heavyweight challenge against Keiji Muto. Kitamiya is a star that has risen far already, but has a golden trajectory still ahead of him.

With translation help from NOAH we were able to ask Masa Kitamiya a series of questions that covered his experience wrestling the now-retiring Keiji Muto, his training from the legendary Masa Saito, his breath-taking cage match against Katsuhiko Nakajima and which American wrestler he most wants to compete against!

Q: What are your feelings of NOAH being a fusion of both young and experienced talent? Do you enjoy competing against the varied range of opponents?
Kitamiya: It’s amazing. I want to have as many opponents as possible, regardless of who they are or where they are from. 

Q: You recently challenged Masakatsu Funaki for the GHC National Championship at Sunny Voyage, having defeated him during N-1 Victory. How do you plan for an opponent such as Funaki, given the clash of styles between power and technical wrestling? 
Kitamiya: I was wary of kicks and submissions, but the rest was as usual. 

Q: You fought Keiji Muto for the GHC Heavyweight Championship in April 2021. What did you gain from wrestling a legend like Muto? 
Kitamiya: I realized the depth of Keiji Muto’s heart. Mr. Muto, who was Masa Saito’s former partner, even admitted that he started calling me “Masa.” I was happy. Even if he was just humouring me, it made me smile. 

Q: Keiji Muto is currently on his retirement tour which will end at the Tokyo Dome in 2023. What your thoughts on Keiji Muto and his retirement? 
Kitamiya: I want to thank him for all of the hard work he has done. And I am proud that I was able to have a singles match against him, even once. 

Q: You’ve spent time in multiple tag teams, with Katsuhiko Nakajima, Yoshiki Inamura and Michael Elgin, and this is something you’ve thrived in, now being a 6 time tag champion. Do you see yourself having more tag team glory in the future in NOAH? 
Kitamiya: I want to build on my glory after I win the belts. And I wanna defend against lots of strong tag teams around the world and keep doing it. 

Q: You’ve spoken at large about your admiration for your trainer, the legendary Masa Saito, and your own name being a tribute to him. Are there teachings from Masa Saito that you still carry into your matches with you today?
Kitamiya: “Professional wrestling is a relationship of trust.” “Continue to hone your specialty and become ‘the one and only.’” 

Q: Of course Masa Saito had a storied rivalry against Antonio Inoki, who unfortunately passed away. What was your reaction to hearing about Inoki’s passing? 
Kitamiya: Please, rest in peace. 

Q: You were part of NOAH’s first and only cage match versus Katsuhiko Nakajima in June 2021. What were your feelings after not only competing in that match but winning it? Do you want to see more matches like that in NOAH? 
Kitamiya: I definitely want to do them. Next time, I’m gonna do the diving senton off the top of the cage! 

Q: You have a very tough, physical style. Did you always envision yourself having your hard-hitting style, or is it something that has evolved over time?
Kitamiya: Thank you for saying that. I built it over the course of my career. I found the style and character that best fit my personality, I think. This reconfirms that Masa Saito was a great wrestler and trainer. 

Q: At the beginning of the year you were part of Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 3 and teamed with Go Shiozaki to defeat Dick Togo and EVIL. How did you feel about the joint NOAH x NJPW show, would you like to see more collaboration between NOAH and other promotions? 
Kitamiya: I had a mixed feeling of anxiety and elation when stepping into the ring in a new place. But that feeling of stepping into the ring of a new place is the best. I want to hit various groups. 

Q: There has recently been a bevvy of NOAH wrestlers announced for independent promotions in USA. Is wrestling in America something you hope to do as well? Are there any wrestlers in America you’d particularly like to compete against? 
Kitamiya: I want to fight Eddie Kingston. The United States is the big stage for pro wrestling and is recognized by many wrestling fans around the world, just like Masa Saito wanted it to be. 

Q: We saw on your social media that you visited a Tom and Jerry exhibition in January 2021! Are there any other English language cartoons that you are a fan of? 
Kitamiya: I love Disney animated shorts.

Q: Unfortunately you did not win your block in the N-1 Victory this year, however you did defeat eventual winner and now GHC Heavyweight Champion Kaito Kiyomiya. Given your victory, could we see you challenge Kiyomiya for the title again, as you did in 2019? 
Kitamiya: I want to do it. Anytime. [Thinking about it] makes me want to go all out for GHC championship. And I think Kaito Kiyomiya is an appealing champion [to challenge].