October 29, 2006

SUWA . . . smacks around spunky junior heavyweights.

Go Shiosaki . . . and the rest of NOAH’s young gun contingent are still being booked to look as weak as possible.

Naomichi Marufuji . . . defends the GHC Title against his former partner.


Aside from the exchanges between Aoki and Hirayanagi, which show that they were coming along nicely, there really isn’t a whole lot to see here. Neither Kikuchi nor Momota really added anything, and they definitely lacked that sadistic edge that you’d expect from a grumpy vet working over a rookie. They weren’t as bad as the old Rusher/Eigen show, but they were closer to that than they should have been.


Matches like this are indicative of why the NOAH junior division can be so much fun. They all do what’s expected of them without going crazy, and it makes Kanemaru so much more tolerable to watch. Ishimori and Marvin are the spunky babyfaces, flying around to pop the crowd, while SUWA and Kanemaru try to keep them grounded, by working over Ishimori’s back, and spoiling the fun. The only big misstep is Ishimori’s DDT spot getting flubbed, but SUWA still puts it over like a champ. It looks like spunkiness is going to win out over surliness for a bit, but, neither of them was established enough yet, so, SUWA counters the Superstar elbow, and dispatches Ishimori after ramping up the FFF.


Aside from Honda cleaning house after the hot tag, there isn’t a whole lot to see here. Taniguchi gets a chance to show off his suplex skills on Scorpio, but other than that, he’s only there to take the pounding, and the exchanges between him and Murat, especially early in the match, are very hard on the eyes. Honda wraps up things in short order, by stretching Murat in the Kata-gatme, and finishing with the Dead End.


Take everything about the last match, and then take away Honda, and this is pretty much what you have. Ota shows virtually nothing until the last minute or so, Ares only seems to be there to clown around, Inoue and Kawabata are as uninteresting as ever, and Nigel and Doug are miles ahead of everyone else, but they aren’t able to show it. The one positive to take away from this is that, for once, the tease of the rookie getting the upset actually worked, with both the airplane spin, and the backslide getting a nice reaction before Ota gets pinned. Other than that, the less said about this, the better.


What’s the point of having a match be designed to showcase the young gun, only for said young gun to be the one to lose? Then again, it’s not like Shiosaki was exactly setting the world on fire anyway. Sure, he’s much more fired up and energetic than the other three, but he had almost nothing to do other than typical young lion offense. There are a couple of nice exchanges between him and Shiga, the best one being Go missing the knee off the top, and Shiga taking advantage with the STF, and just after that, Shiosaki disorientates Shiga with an Oklahoma roll, and then hits a lariat for a good near fall. Shiosaki misses a second lariat, and Shiga gets an abdominal stretch cradle for the pin. If Shiosaki had to lose, at least go all the way with it, and have Taue destroy him with a Nodowa off the apron, or the Ore Ga Taue. Shiosaki losing to someone like Shiga, in somewhat of a fluke nature, doesn’t accomplish anything.


It’s hard to tell what they were shooting for here. There aren’t any exchanges between Morishima and Akiyama that seem to be building to something happening between them, and, Morishima is much more fired up when he’s knocking Hashi around. Hashi spends the bulk of the match getting worked over by the former tag champs, but, he never gets that big comeback or hot tag. Hashi gets one near fall on Yone from the Gorimon driver, but that’s all he gets. In fact, the only thing it seems like they accomplish is showing how much higher up Akiyama is than Hashi. Hashi gets the snot beaten out of him, but Akiyama easily escapes their attempted double impact and leaves both of them laying. There isn’t even a big kill shot to lead to the finish, like a Morishima backdrop to take out Akiyama, and leave Hashi on his own. It’s just Morishima hitting a lariat and holding Akiyama back, while Yone is able to finish off Hashi with the Muscle Buster and diving legdrop. If this was for the GHC Tag Titles, then it wouldn’t be so egregious, but, you’d think that, after all this time, Hashi would have been advanced a little bit.


There are some nifty exchanges, especially in the first half, but, this never picks up the way you’d expect of a Budokan semi-final. It’s nice that Misawa is willing to take, and put over, insanely stiff shots from Takayama and Sano, but he doesn’t do much more than that. Ogawa has a couple of nice moments, like countering Takayama’s early knee into a flash cradle and the spot where he went for his eyepoke, but Takayama beats him to it, but, the bulk of this is spent with Suzuki getting worked over, and Takayama’s team not always being that interesting while doing it. Aside from a couple of dickish spots, like Sugiura’s camel clutch that opens him up for a series of kicks from Takayama, the control segment meanders quite a bit. There’s never the idea that they’re trying to build up to something, and it doesn’t help that Suzuki’s selling isn’t much more than just fine.

The finishing stretch is a nice change of pace, with Suzuki surviving far longer that one would expect him to, especially after the triple team that ended with Sano’s diving stomp, but, he still winds up losing in the end. They try to tease the upset, with Suzuki giving Sano the Blue Destiny, but, it takes two tries to get it right. If nothing else, the minimal rub that Suzuki gets from this is more than Shiosaki or Hashi were afforded in their matches.

NAOMICHI MARUFUJI © vs. KENTA (GHC Heavyweight Title)

History has shown this to be thought of as a missed opportunity for NOAH that was ultimately squandered by their own shortsightedness when the house wasn’t up to snuff (although, they’d probably kill to draw 11,000 today). A two-thirds full Budokan should be cause for concern, but, to me, the major disappointment is that Marufuji and KENTA decided to follow in the footsteps of their main event predecessors and worry more about how much they can do, rather than making what they do matter.

The early work, which only served to be filler, winds up being the high point of the match. It starts with Marufuji outwrestling KENTA, and using some unconventional holds, like a crossface chickenwing and cobra clutch. The holds themselves don’t really mean much, but, by doggedly keeping KENTA locked up, it lets Marufuji assert his dominance over his former partner, and show him that he’s the man now. KENTA tearing up Marufuji’s midsection is even better, it gives new meaning to KENTA’s kick-heavy offense, KENTA’s body scissors is payback for the earlier matwork, and between the way that KENTA works the hold, and how well Marufuji puts it over, it comes off like a genuine method of attack. KENTA even shows how truly dickish he’s willing to be with a Falcon Arrow off the apron, followed by a diving stomp.

But, ultimately, all they wind up accomplishing is using up fifteen minutes. KENTA never goes back to the ribs in order to try to actually win, not even something simple like forgoing his usual chop and slap flurry that precedes the Busaiku and just drilling Marufuji to stun him for it. And, it doesn’t do much to stop Marufuji from trying to win. There’s one moment where he sells the ribs after KENTA shoves him into the ramp to block a Shiranui, but, KENTA doesn’t try to starve off the move by going after the ribs, and the impact from actually doing it never hurts Marufuji enough to stop him from taking advantage. KENTA is able to block and counter the Shiranui a decent number of times, but, it’s predicated on familiarity from their longtime partnership.

When they can’t be bothered to make their best stretch of work count for anything, it’s hard to care about anything else they do. The Asai moonsault spot was ill advised even without it blowing up in their face, and it’s compounded with Marufuji not taking advantage of KENTA’s cut nor KENTA taking advantage of Marufuji’s bad landing. Once they start throwing out, and blowing off, the bombs, it’s obvious that they’re more concerned with emulating Misawa vs. Kobashi than they are with using this to carve out their own main event legacy. They even go all the way with it, by doing suplexes off the ramp and the top rope, which mean absolutely nothing. There’s a thread of logic to the finish, with Marufuji unable to put away KENTA with all of his variations of the Shiranui, and having to create the Pole Vault to keep him down, but there were much better, and smarter, ways to get to the same finish. If nothing else, this is a step up from their junior title match from January, but, watching two of the undercard workhorses finally make it to the dance, and then fall into the same trap as those who came before them, is a sad sight indeed.

Conclusion: We have an uneventful undercard, and then cap it off with a huge letdown of a main event. Take a pass!