July 27, 2001

Ah, the early days of NOAH. When Akiyama as GHC Champion was considered progress and not a failure. The wrestlers who looked like “The Future of NOAH”, went on to become nothing of the sort. And the ones who did wind up becoming The Future of NOAH, sure don’t look like it here.

Mitsuharu Misawa . . . loses his title, but he still comes off looking like the top dog.

Takeshi Rikio . . . looks like many things, but a future GHC Champion isn’t among them.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru . . . was still a frustrating guy to watch, even back in 2001.


Just to keep the hindsight at the forefront, the man who wound up being a failure as NOAH’s Ace, is seconded by the man who wound up being a failure as New Japan’s new Ace, Yuji Nagata. As far as the match goes, while it may be Jun’s win, it’s still Misawa’s match, and when you’re attempting to pass the torch, that is not the way the match should come off. Aside from the early tombstone and the final pinfall, there are no real standout moments of the match from Jun’s end of things, all the really memorable moments come from things Misawa does, like the Tiger driver off the top.

Akiyama should know how to beat Misawa. He’s got a previous pinfall over him from back in AJPW, as well as several tag victories over him. But then why doesn’t Jun take control of the match just by taking it? Aside from ducking a running elbow and hitting an Exploder, Akiyama can only get control of the match (and it’s not too terribly often that it actually happens either) when Misawa makes a mistake. Jun sidesteps a dive, or avoids a blind charge, but until that Exploder 3/4 of the way through, he never once simply takes control from Misawa, it has to be handed to him. And aside from the final stretch where Jun got the win, his times in control aren’t long at all. One of the few good spots by Jun was his cradle tombstone piledriver, and he follows that up wisely with a chinlock, but makes sure to really crank on the neck. The very next thing that happens is Misawa shrugging off some elbows, and drops Akiyama with a few of his own, before applying his Facelock hold, and getting a two count. Jun’s good spot, and smart follow up simply tossed away so Misawa could get a near fall with a move that’s not beaten anyone in nearly ten years. When Akiyama escapes the Emerald Frozian and hits an Exploder, Misawa pops right up to his feet, and it’s only after another one that Jun is able to keep him down.

Ever since these two first locked horns in an important match in 1998, it’s been shown that Misawa can’t seem to actually work with a lower ranked guy, the way Jumbo and Hansen were able to do with him. But when it’s a match like this, where the idea is to make the lower ranked guy appear to be on equal or higher footing, you’d think Misawa would go the extra mile, and he doesn’t. Misawa not only hogs the offense, but more often than not he can’t be bothered to do anything out of the ordinary to at least put over Jun in the sense that he came back from Misawa doing everything to win, and being unable to. The Tiger driver off the top was cool, but it was just a wasted spot, no different from any number of eye-popping or head-dropping spots that have been rolled out over the years. The Akiyama Lock actually caused Misawa to submit on NOAH’s first show, and it’s one of the few very submissions that NOAH fans actually believe can win a match. And Misawa more or less dying instantly from the hold embraces that notion. But then why does Misawa kick out of the next pin attempt after he was quickly rendered motionless? It’s only after Jun hits the Exploder ‘98 that he finally keeps Misawa down for three. Jun may be the champion now, but he sure doesn’t look like it. Misawa is broken down and past his prime, but he still looks like the unstoppable juggernaut. The big question is that is it just a coincidence that both Kobashi and Akiyama had GHC Title defenses against Tamon Honda that completely smoked their respective title wins from Misawa?


After watching this match, it’s really scary to think any of these four would be a future GHC Champion, let alone two of them. The only one who really stands out here is Takayama, due to mixing up his offense a bit. Rikio can’t do anything other than slaps and shoulder tackles, and Morishima and Omori are both pretty bland, save for a nice piledriver from Omori. Morishima takes a decent sized pounding from No Fear, but doesn’t do much of anything to really sell it. He doesn’t just stand there like Misawa did, but he doesn’t put anything over to a great degree. He also times his comeback at the worst possible moment, when he’s stuck in the No Fear corner and brawls his way out, to make the hot tag. Rikio’s offense after the hot tag isn’t any better, and his selling isn’t any improvement over Morishima’s. Rikio takes a wicked roundhouse to the back of the neck and still requires both a superkick and a spinning heel kick to go down. Then it takes both the No Fear double team, as well as the Axe Bomber *and* the Everest German suplex to finally put him down for the count. As disappointing as the Rikio who spent eight months with the GHC Title was, he was still miles ahead of the Rikio here, as well as the other three for that matter.


Aside from the hairdo, there is virtually no difference between Kanemaru here and Kanemaru today. Kanemaru doesn’t look comfortable at all playing the sympathetic babyface. Morgan doesn’t have enough interesting offense to carry the match and make in enjoyable, so it tends to drag. There is one brief moment when Kanemaru starts to heel things up, with a cheap shot with the ring bell, and then he chokes Morgan with his wrist tape. The fans start to get interested in the match, a little bit and Kanemaru suddenly looks a bit more confident, but it doesn’t last and when Morgan goes back on offense things are back where they started. Morgan seems to be targeting Kanemaru’s neck for his reverse Tiger driver, but aside from a couple of nice suplexes and a wicked looking lariat Morgan sticks with dull rest holds and generic strikes while he’s on offense.

While Morgan on offense was dull although somewhat smart, Kanemaru is the exact opposite. His stuff is quite flashy, but there isn’t any sense of thought put into it. It’s no different or less frustrating than watching Kanemaru today. He seems to just throw out whatever comes to mind until he’s done enough to get the pin. Kanemaru initiating his last run of offense with the low blow was a good start, once again heeling things up a bit. But after that he just starts throwing out his various big moves, brainbuster, moonsault, jumping DDT, and finally two more brainbusters to score the win. Kanemaru couldn’t even be bothered to sell his neck at all. It’s a seventeen minute match, but the only things that really mattered to any great degree all happened in the last two minutes. Satoru Asako attacks Kanemaru post-match and Kanemaru *still* doesn’t sell, he just gets up and goes strutting down the ramp to the locker room. Luckily for NOAH and the fans, the junior division would get much better over the next couple of years.


The little of this that gets shown really isn’t too bad, although it’s impossible to tell from what is shown how the whole thing came off. Ogawa does as little as he always does, but Modest brings a few nice moves in the form of a fisherman suplex off the second rope, as well as the Reality Check. From the look of Ogawa, it appears that Modest more or less wiped the floor with him for the match. Ogawa getting the upset with the sunset flip cutback, is standard Ogawa stuff, with him getting the win despite doing nothing. But it at least plays into Modest’s arrogance getting the best of him, when he opted to not finish off Ogawa when he had the chance.


This is about as bad as can be expected. Taue can’t carry all four, and isn’t in the match enough to do anything worthwhile anyway. Bull Schmidt (insert name joke here) acts like a complete idiot. He’s trying to be a big tough guy one second, and then way overselling the next. Vader does nothing else than the few spots he still can, and Izumida isn’t in any place to be useful. Izumida somehow survives not one but two Vader bombs, and then falls prey to the Vader Hammer? Somehow it seems odd that someone as out of shape as Vader, landing directly on you with all his body weight is more damaging than a single right-hand strike. But then again, why am I questioning the logic of a total squash that lasted all of three minutes?


Now this, I wouldn’t have minded seeing in full, even with Inoue in the match. What all is shown is essentially a Ikeda/Honda singles match. Things explode as soon as Ikeda enters the ring and goes after Honda. It’s basically a lather, rinse, repeat sort of structure. Honda gets in trouble, Inoue helps him out, and Sano dispatches Inoue. Nothing too terribly interesting after a few times, but at least Inoue is being used to his full potential. Honda tapping to a Triangle choke is a bit ironic, considering how Honda more or less made his way up the ranks by upsetting higher ranked workers with his various submission holds.

Conclusion: This is interesting as a sort of “where are they now?” type of viewing. But the actual wrestling is on the disappointing side. Recommendation to avoid this NOAH commercial tape.