Jun Akiyama may be the new GHC Champion, but what good is a champion without challengers? And being NOAH, they didn’t show the forethought of building up anyone else to be a potential GHC Challenger for Akiyama. So a mini tournament is the answer.

Daisuke Ikeda . . . he’s a talented worker and over with the fans, so no way he’s going to win.

Takeshi Rikio . . . he’s the least talented of the bunch, but that never stopped NOAH from pushing him.

Tamon Honda . . . he can work smart matches, but not all the time, so he’s a safe bet.


The biggest question isn’t why was this clipped up so bad, that part is understandable given that the angle afterwards was the important part. The big question is why wasn’t Ikeda pushed further than he was, at this point? What is shown is mostly Akiyama being able to fend for himself, but Hashi has no such luck and with Ikeda holding a chair down to keep Jun from helping out, Hashi is beaten after the Double Impact. The fun doesn’t stop there though. Wild II takes out Akiyama afterwards, and the rest of STERNNESS gets taken out by Ikeda and Wild II, and then Ikeda gets on the microphone and starts to brag about how tough he is. Tamon Honda tries to help out and Wild II beat him up as well. The crowd heat for the post-match angle alone should have been enough of a hint as to who Jun’s first challenger ought to be.

TAMON HONDA vs. TAKESHI MORISHIMA (GHC #1 Contender’s Tournament semi final)

It’s too bad that it took Honda a year and a half to start working smart matches consistently. Honda isn’t able to work for two here. The finish is worked well enough to make it clear that the smarter worker was the winner. The match also isn’t long however and Honda works his end of things just as smartly as the finish. Morishima is a big powerful guy, and Honda knows he can’t match up in that department. But Honda falls back on his amateur skills, and keeps Morishima on the mat whenever possible to wear him down with submissions. He also uses leverage in order to pick up Morishima and put him on the ground, using his size against him in a sense. Morishima’s offensive run is more or less token, he runs though all his moves and then they go to the finish. Honda throws a couple of smart bits in there, particularly after Morishima hits the backdrop, but Morishima negated it by quickly grabbing Honda for more abuse. The Kata-gatame counter to the backdrop is seamless and a submission in a NOAH ring is as rare as a TNA main event with a clean finish. There is no better way to get across the message that power and potential means nothing when one can’t work smart.

TAKESHI RIKIO vs. DAISUKE IKEDA (GHC #1 Contender’s Tournament semi final)

Take the last match, and replace Honda working smart, with Ikeda simply taking a colossal beating at the hands of Rikio. Neither member of Wild II had much offense at this point, but at least Honda was able to cover that up until Morishima went nuts and started throwing out his moves. Here it’s Rikio on offense for 9/10 of the match and while Ikeda does take his beating like a man with a decent sell job, it’s painful to watch Rikio pull off the same stuff over and over because he’s got nothing else to do. While Honda got his win by playing to his strengths, Ikeda’s win here looked like a stroke of luck. He’d gotten in nothing for offense until he sidestepped the lariat and applied the keylock, and while it’s cool to see two matches in a row end with a submission, it’s counterbalanced by the guy who looked like the next logical challenger for the title, looking like a chump.

DAISUKE IKEDA vs. TAMON HONDA (GHC #1 Contender’s Tournament finals)

If Ikeda had only heeled things up the way he did in the trios match that opened the tape, or been as fired up as he was in the Ikeda/Honda tag match from July, this would have been so much more fun. Ikeda is clearly the better of the two. He understands that Honda’s strength lies in working submissions and he gives Honda several openings to apply various submissions. They also play off Ikeda’s win over Honda in July, by having Honda once again get caught in the Triangle choke, and this time Honda finds an escape. Even though it was just filler, the early bits on the mat were still fun. It was cool to see someone actually work on the mat with Honda, instead of looking totally lost like Morishima.

The main problem is that most of the stuff on the mat is filler, and that neither Honda nor Ikeda gives any reason for the fans to get behind either of them. Neither of them show much as far as intensity goes. Ikeda doesn’t do anything to heel things up at all. Honda never shows any dominance of his own. He can outsmart Ikeda by countering him into a submission hold, but he can never simply grab him and slap one on. Honda attempts his Dead End and Ikeda fights it off as hard as he can, and when Ikeda does finally hit the suplex, Ikeda does a nice sell job. Honda shows similar respect for Ikeda’s backdrop and the Dai Chan Bomber. They wind up looking essentially like equals. Ikeda can hang with Honda on the mat, and Honda can hang with Ikeda when it’s time to suplex. Honda’s Dragon screw to set up the STF, segued to Kata-gatame for the win, looks like it’s done in slow motion. The ref stopping the match puts over Ikeda and the actual hold more than it does Honda. It’s obviously a dangerous hold to get Honda two wins in a row and a GHC shot. But it was the hold that won, not really anything Honda did. And the fact that Ikeda was stuck in it and didn’t tap out is a tribute to him. But how does NOAH expect anyone to buy a guy with one lucky hold, as having a prayer to win the GHC, when the champion is also a former amateur wrestling standout?

JUN AKIYAMA © vs. TAMON HONDA (GHC Heavyweight Title)

Akiyama’s title win ended with him looking far from being the Ace of the promotion, and while this match is an improvement over his title win, it doesn’t do much of anything to change the notion. It’s not due to the workers though, it’s due to the way NOAH simply threw together a quick tournament to decide Akiyama’s first challenger. Ikeda as challenger is no more credible than Honda, but at least there would have been a bit of heat, thanks to the angle from the trios match. Right off the bat you’ve got an unproven champion taking on an unproven challenger and there isn’t really any logical reason for the match to be taking place, which is far from the ideal way to start off a new title reign.

All of Honda’s matches thus far had featured him on the mat, and this is no different. The stuff on the mat is usually filler and this isn’t anything new, the only thing it really accomplishes is attempting to show that Honda could potentially beat Akiyama and take the title if he can keep things on the mat. Akiyama is Honda’s biggest challenge yet on the mat. Unlike Ikeda or Morishima, Honda does find himself in precarious positions and is forced to go for the ropes, which is remarkable in itself. But Akiyama being forced to go for the break and being unable to counter is much more common than Honda needing to. Akiyama’s performance here is actually very giving to Honda. As nice as it is to attempt to not make the match seem like a squash, it’s not doing Akiyama any favors as far as perceived credibility. Not only does Honda keep control of the match on the mat, but he’s also the first to connect a suplex, when he scores the backdrop. Honda outsmarts Akiyama by attempting the Dead End intentionally close to the ropes, so that Akiyama will grab them. But Jun holding the ropes only makes it easier for Honda to get him all the way up and spike him with the Dead End. Honda even counters Akiyama’s jumping knee into the powerbomb, and makes sure to not be in a position to be caught in a Triangle choke.

Most of Akiyama’s offense comes on the heels of singling out Honda’s neck as his target, starting with the DDT on the ramp. Jun is good about working it over in interesting ways, such as his inverted bow and arrow. But also with some smart moments thrown in there too. One thing Akiyama is known for his throwing out Exploders left and right, but here he connects with the Exploder and instead of picking up Honda for another one, he applies a Nagata Lock II, to keep working on Honda’s neck. After Honda has a quick offensive run, Akiyama counters an attempted suplex right into the Akiyama Lock. The typical antics of a NOAH main event do crop up such as little to no regard of perceived credibility of finishers, as well as trading off strikes without any selling. That sequence, along with Honda’s weakened neck is what finally puts it in the bag for Akiyama. After Akiyama took Honda’s best strike, and dropped him with the knee, there was nothing more Honda could do. Honda had a quick last ditch effort in a cradle to counter the Akiyama Lock, but after one last Exploder, the Akiyama Lock was applied and Honda was finally beaten. As huge a step up for Honda as this was, it was also one for Akiyama. He may not have cemented his spot as Ace, but he showed how smart a worker he could be when he wasn’t saddled with having to work the same style as Misawa and Kobashi.


Just like in his defense against Donovan Morgan, this winds up showing exactly how limited a worker Kanemaru really is, and it’s not doing any favors for the perceived credibility of both the title and the junior division, with such a weak worker as the champion. Neither Kanemaru nor Asako really put in much effort to control of the match and the early parts of the match are spent working basic moves and sequences, while killing time. The match spills to the floor and Kanemaru finally takes control by hurting Asako’s arm. Asako did a decent job of selling the arm when Kanemaru worked it over, but Kanemaru lacked both interesting offense and intensity in terms of how he went about working it over. Kanemaru’s look and attitude make him a natural at playing heel, and along with Asako doing such a nice sell job, it’s all the more disappointing to see Kanemaru come up so short, when he’s allowed to play to his strengths.

Soon enough though, it’s not about Asako’s arm and keeping the match consistent. The match becomes about working in the cool spots, whether or not they fit the situation. Both Kanemaru and Asako are guilty of that, and the result is not only inconsistent selling, but some rather ugly reversal transitions. Sure some of the spots look cool (particularly Kanemaru’s flapjack), but after working a slow pace early on, suddenly both of them are taking and dishing out all sorts of suplex and powerbomb variations and getting right up without a problem. But the biggest offense of the whole match lies in Kanemaru’s treatment of the SDA (Super Driver Asako - a really brutal looking Michinoku Driver variation). Kanemaru gets hit with the SDA and barely kicks out, and that by itself was at least tolerable. But then when Asako tries an Irish whip Kanemaru collapses in the ring, and after Asako picks him up he surprises him with a backslide, and even drives with the legs. The finish is almost an exact rehash of Kanemaru’s win over Morgan, with the low kick being the catalyst and then Kanemaru throwing out finishers until he gets the three count, although it doesn’t take as much to put down Asako. It still takes two brainbusters, with a moonsault in between them. It certainly wasn’t only Kanemaru’s fault that the match was as mediocre as it was, but I’m not going to complain that Kanemaru’s next title defense resulted in a new champion.

Conclusion: There’s some interesting stuff out of the usual suspects like Akiyama and Ikeda, and Honda is surprisingly good in his matches. But there isn’t anything here that’s really worth hunting down for the purpose of it simply being a good match. Just like the 7/27 NOAH show, it’s good for watching with a sense of perspective, but not for wanting to watch some really good wrestling.