October 27, 2007


Go Shiosaki . . . makes the most of his opportunity and shines during a midcard trios match.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru . . . once again wins the junior title and reminds me why he’s amongst my all-time least favorite workers in the process.

Samoa Joe . . . throws and bumps around the GHC Champion like he’s his own personal tackling dummy.



This is no better or worse than about a hundred other midcard trios matches that NOAH had run on various Budokan shows over the past seven years. There’s nothing that’s especially great nor especially offensive, although it’s beyond absurd to watch Morishima bumping for guys that he ought to be steamrolling. Ogawa may not be great in the role of Misawa’s sidekick or as a main event GHC contender, but it’s pretty fun watching him and Williams heel things up and double team Ishimori, and Ogawa’s eyepoke to Morishima to assist Williams with a sunset flip backfiring on them was probably the highlight of the match. The work itself is fine, everyone gets their chance to show what they can do, but there’s not much as far as any real story goes aside from establishing that Fish and Ishimori are the weak link of each team. All six wrestlers brawl and then four of them conveniently leave the ring so that the other two can work the finish. It’s watchable, but there’s nothing here that hasn’t been seen before.



Between the interactions with Takayama and KENTA, which aren’t very long but are very intense, and the story of Shiosaki showing his growth, there’s a lot of fun to be had with this match. The only person who doesn’t add much to the match is Taue, he makes a couple of token appearances but he’s mostly there to work comedy spots, like escaping a leglock by grabbing Marvin by the nose or eating a kick from KENTA when Takayama ducks while Taue is holding him in place. The Takayama/KENTA exchanges work much better than the ones between Morishima and Ogawa in the previous match because KENTA mostly uses offense that he could believably use against someone like Takayama, and Takayama sells in a reasonable manner. The only thing that KENTA does that might be considered questionable is the vertical suplex, and that’s hardly considered to be a big spot. And whenever KENTA tries for too much, such as the snap mare and running kick, Takayama makes him pay for it.


However, the big takeaway from the match is just how much Shiosaki is growing as a worker. His exchanges with Sano and then Marvin show how much confidence he’s gained. It does help that the sequences with Sano are mostly basic without a lot of big bombs, but it’s still nice to see that Shiosaki can hold his own with a veteran. Sano even gives him a bit of a rub by doing his rolling kick and diving stomp, and then needing to tag out instead of trying to press the advantage. Shiosaki looks even better when he’s in there with Marvin. It may not seem very impressive that a young heavyweight is able to mostly dominate and eventually get the winning pin over a junior foreigner, but it’s still the guy who’s spent the last few years as the resident whipping boy and jobber of the company going over someone with a title belt around his waist. Marvin gets in some good shots of his own, including a dropkick that Shiosaki leans into and makes look even more nasty. Shiosaki’s rising stock is fully on display with the finish. Not just because he gets the win for his team, but because he does it on his own. Taue and KENTA give Shiosaki assists at different points, and both of those pin attempts are broken up. Shiosaki doesn’t get frustrated or deterred, he simply stays the course and keeps doing what has been working for him, and after a surprise lariat and the Go Flasher he keeps Marvin down for good. Aside from Shiosaki and the Takayama/KENTA segment, nobody stands out all that much. KENTA and the other heavyweights have all had much better matches than this, but it’s very much worth watching if one enjoys good storytelling with a satisfying payoff. ***1/4



I would have been underwhelmed by this if I actually had any expectations going into it. There are some fun parts to the match, but it turns into the same old overdone spotfest that Kanemaru always seems to have in big matches, and that Terry’s title win showed that he doesn’t have any qualms about having. The best parts of this involve them working holds to target a specific body part, the head and neck area for Terry and the midsection for Kanemaru. Nothing that either of them do is all that meaningful, but it’s rather fun to watch. For all of his shortcomings, Kanemaru is at his best when he’s able to heel things up and work over a body part, the Boston crab in the ropes and the camel clutch are both examples of this. Terry doggedly holding on to a headlock, despite Kanemaru’s various attempts to escape is actually pretty engaging, and the vertical suplex with the floatover into the front neck lock is probably the highlight of the match.


Once it’s time for the filler to end and for the big spots to come out, any sense of structure or logic is tossed right out the window. It doesn’t start out that bad, Terry surprises Kanemaru with a Tombstone on the ramp, Kanemaru tries crawling into the ring but just as he makes it to the ropes Terry hits a 619 and sends him to the floor where he nearly gets counted out. Kanemaru gets back into the ring and Terry starts unloading with the big spots, and the guy who was just a millisecond away from losing is able to take everything Terry throws at him and fight back. Kanemaru manages to block Terry’s Dragonsteiner, and he’s suddenly completely refreshed and then it’s his turn to rattle off everything he has at Terry, namely DDTs and brainbusters. It gets ludicrous to the point of Terry rattling off a string of near falls and then doing a Tiger suplex and Kanemaru kicks out at one, and, not to be outdone, Terry takes his umpteenth brainbuster from Kanemaru and does the same thing. They also work in the sunset flip to jackknife cradle and back again sequence for way too long, although at least Kanemaru had a couple of cradles that looked tight enough to conceivably win the match. Kanemaru and his brainbuster eventually win out but it’s hard to imagine why. Kanemaru does the brainbuster and Terry does the kick out at one, and that’s followed by another from the top rope that results in a near fall, and Kanemaru picks him up and does another one that finally keeps him down. It seems like dropping Terry on his head from the top rope (and that’s not even the first time that happened, Kanemaru had countered him into a DDT off the top earlier in the match) should be more effective than doing it from regular height. Sure, the one off the top got a two count and the regular one before it only got a one count, but Kanemaru had rattled off several before that which resulted in two counts. So, you’d really have to stretch to justify that as somehow being smart. When Tatsuhito Takaiwa and Takashi Sugiura look like shining examples of smart work and storytelling in junior title matches, something is terribly wrong.



It’s too bad that this had such a goofy finish, it’s almost as bad as Kanemaru and Terry, because this was an almost shockingly watchable match. D-Lo and Buchanan may not be great workers, but between their intensity and attitude, they more than kept the bulk of the match interesting. The only big negative was the way that the Shining Wizard wound up being treated. It doesn’t say much about the move when D-Lo does three consecutive Shining Wizards to Marufuji, and he still kicks out. At least Sugiura breaking up the pinfall would leave the idea out there that the move could be a legit finisher. Buchanan gives Sugiura a powerbomb on the ramp, and they follow that with D-Lo working a stretch plum and then Buchanan working an abdominal stretch. Nobody thinks that Sugiura will submit to either hold, but he’s great at showing how much the holds are taking out of him. Marufuji tags in to give him some time to rest, and when Sugiura gets back in he still shows how much it takes out of him to do his normal things like the spear and the gut-wrench to D-Lo, and he doesn’t even try to do them to Buchanan.


The really nice thing here is the story with Sugiura and Marufuji needing to work together. Marufuji can use his speed and agility to his advantage, and Sugiura shows that he can use his strength and he also has a speed advantage over the champions. But they don’t find real success until they start working together. Marufuji is able to keep D-Lo outside for a bit and they hit a tandem Shiranui and backdrop suplex and continue double teaming to finally get Buchanan in some real trouble. They get overly cute with the finish, which comes off more silly than it does anything else. Marufuji hits Buchanan with a superkick and Sugiura plants him with the Olympic Slam, and after repeating the sequence two more times, he finally stays down. It may have looked like it came a little too easy for them, but getting the win after the first sequence would have been so much better. If they’d just stayed the course and performed as well in the last few minutes as they did for the bulk of the match, then this would probably be looked at as a real hidden gem. It’s almost a shame that the Americans only got a token run as transitional champions, it’d have been interesting to see how well they could have worked with some of the other NOAH heavyweight teams.


This marks the end of the commercial release proper, but there’s still one match to go so it’s on to the NOAH live TV show...


MITSUHARU MISAWA © vs. SAMOA JOE (GHC Heavyweight Title)

A more accurate listing for this match would probably be ‘A Warm Body vs. Samoa Joe.’ To say that Misawa sleepwalks his way through this would be overly kind. Joe works in most of his usual spots; the boot rakes in the corner, the powerbomb into the STF, the powerslam into the juji-gatame, the Muscle Buster and he even brings out the Island Driver. But the match never comes together enough to feel like anything is being done for a specific reason beyond Joe doing the stuff that he always does. There are times that it seems like they’re getting somewhere in that regard, Misawa sells his neck after Joe’s enzuigiri and that leads to the Muscle Buster, but that’s about all there is. The juji-gatame spot would have been a great way for Joe to try to neutralize Misawa’s elbows, but Misawa wears a pad on his elbow throwing arm, and Joe has the hold locked onto his other arm. Misawa takes everything that Joe throws at him, makes a couple of comeback attempts by throwing elbows, and after he kicks out of the Island Driver (which Joe had used to beat him in a tag match on 10/25) Misawa hits Joe with a flurry of elbows, drops him with a running elbow, gets a near fall from the Emerald Frozion and then pins Joe with a single elbow strike to the back of the head. One certainly can’t categorize this as a squash match, seeing as Joe got in a good ninety-five percent of the offense, but that hardly seems to matter with how easily Misawa finished him off once he was ready. Misawa was always more stoic than any of his All Japan and NOAH main event contemporaries, but this is a new level of it for even him. Watching the listless way that Misawa tries to simply get through the match makes me wonder if his title loss to Morishima the following March shouldn’t have doubled as his retirement match.


Conclusion: The commercial release portion of this has a couple of fun outings, but the Misawa match and the junior title match are both huge disappointments.