July 10, 2004

The first ever Pro Wrestling NOAH Tokyo Dome show, their biggest show ever. There’s some good, but as with all things in NOAH, as well as in all wrestling, you’ve got to take the good with the bad.

KENTA and Marufuji . . . keep on being awesome.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru . . . keeps on not being awesome.

Kenta Kobashi . . . does better than expected, but still doesn’t hold a candle to his younger days.


Well it wouldn’t be NOAH without these two kicking things off. With the exception of Eigen’s obsession of spitting on the fans, this is mostly devoid of comedy. They work a simple enough match, with no really dangerous moves, other than a piledriver, which was considered dangerous back in their time. Unfortunately they don’t treat it like it’s a dangerous move. The Giant swing would probably be considered a comedy spot, but the fans were more impressed than amused that Eigen could even get Momota up in it, let alone swing him around a dozen times. The rest of this is just slow paced mat work, full of roll ups and reversals. The ending looks like it may have come too soon, with Eigen kicking out of the cradle a split second after the three count.


Kikuchi needs to ditch the black tights, he looks like mini-Inoue with them. At least NOAH managed to get four of their worst workers in one match. Honda isn’t in there all that much, and he’s the best worker in there. He only does a few submission spots with Inoue, his old partner. Kikuchi is okay in the match, but his selling leaves a little to be desired. His shoulder is all taped up, and you wouldn’t know its hurt otherwise. He doesn’t do a damn thing to sell it at all. The other four just run in and do their stuff. There is bits of comedy in there with Kikuchi yelling at Aoyagi, and Aoyagi not hearing it, prompting Kikuchi to get on the microphone and scream it. Izumida is good for some comedy spots involving his headbutt, and how he needs his partner to give him a boost before he can do it. The rest of the match is just them running through their stuff, with no real fire under their ass, despite being the biggest show in company history. The ending is a game of how many times Inoue and Aoyagi can save Kawabata? It mercifully ends when Izumida hits his Mukado Domu, Kikuchi and Honda hold them back and Izumida picks up the win.


This tended to drag on a little bit, due to Modest and Morgan not being able to keep up with Marvin and Suzuki’s speed. A good chunk of the match is Marvin playing face in peril. You’d think Suzuki would be more suited to that role, since he’s still the very bottom of the junior totem pole. To Marvin’s credit, he takes a decent sized beating. Modest and Morgan pull out some nifty looking double team moves. But the rest is boring, because Modest and Morgan do very little else. Marvin only blows two spots here, both DDT spots, within twenty seconds of each other. One of them was while he was in mid-air though, so I can forgive that. The other blown DDT spot, was just sloppiness on his part. Suzuki and Marvin play a fun spunky team of flyers, but the clash of styles with Modest and Morgan playing a bad ass pair of power guys, rears its ugly head and keeps the match down. In the end all you really have is a lengthy spotfest. Some cool looking spots, but no substance or story to go with them. Modest and Morgan’s double team finisher “The Day After Tomorrow”, looked pretty weak too. With the more dangerous and deadly stuff they were doing before, you’d figure they’d really break the proverbial bank to finish it up, but all they do is a double spinebuster.


The term “disjointed” comes to mind when seeing this match. All four of them do their thing, but it never all comes together to make sense of the match as a whole. Hashi is firmly established as the screw up of his team. You would thing that after Akiyama kicked him out of STERNNESS for being a screw up, that he’d have improved by the time he was re-admitted to the group. But Hashi is still screwing up in the ring. Hitting his partner by mistake, and going for the same move multiple times, until he misses it. Saito is the enforcer, playing the tough guy, but it never really extends anywhere beyond his kicks. He also has to keep saving Hashi. Slinger doesn’t do much of anything at all. Scorpio seems to intent on being flashy with all his flipping splashes to concentrate on the match. The lights were on, but nobody was home at all four houses. There were some cool moments, like Slinger and Scorpio breaking out “Total Elimination” and subbing the dropkick for Saturn’s spin kick. Scorpio had some nice looking splashes including his mid air cartwheel splash. Slinger’s “Chattanooga Choo Choo” finisher looked nice, but there are much better ways to kill fifteen minutes.


This is simple but effective. If you like stiff kicks in the BattlArts mold, then this is your match. Sano, Ikeda, and Yone all fire off on each other with the stiff shots. Taue can’t kick like them, so he reciprocates with his jumping dynamic kicks. This is fast paced Bat Bat style match, with some amusing double teams from Ikeda and Yone. In particular is Ikeda’s Shining roundhouse on Taue, off the back of Yone. Taue mostly steps aside and lets Sano do his thing, and is only around to keep him out of trouble, and to get a quick pop with the Dynamic Kick, and the Nodowa Ototashi, Sano’s rolling back kick, is always given the big respect, and its no different here. When he brings it out, to put a quick halt to Yone’s offensive run. The submissions only come into play from Sano, as well. Ikeda shows enough foresight to know that he has to break Sano’s grip before he tries to drive him back. After seeing all those times Sano has gotten knocked backwards while having the reverse figure four on, and wrenching the knee, even more in the process. So before Ikeda hits Sano to break the camel clutch, he makes sure to break his grip on Yone’s chin. The NLB off the top as a finisher, I have a bit of issue with. Only because Yone only survived the regular NLB thanks to Ikeda saving him. Taue has Ikeda on the floor now, and Yone is at Sano’s mercy. But its pretty common practice in NOAH to use your finisher off the top rope, so its not much of a surprise.


This is an important hurdle for the champions to clear on several grounds. Takashi Sugiura is the only remaining major player of the NOAH junior division that the champions haven’t yet gotten by in their title reign. KENTA also has a personal revenge for his failed challenge at the GHC Jr. Title, when Sugiura was champion in November of 2003. Naomichi Marufuji is the top junior in NOAH with or without the title. Marufuji has been gunning for Lyger hoping to get that win to propel him that much higher. Kendo Ka Shin is your All Japan version of Lyger, so a win here will give Marufuji that much more credibility.

All hail KENTA and Marufuji, as even Kendo Ka Shin and his seemingly eternal horridness cannot drag the champions down. Ka Shin isn’t really that bad here, when he wants to wrestle. Such as the opening mat sequence with Marufuji, who isn’t exactly known for being a mat wizard. The main problem with Ka Shin stems from the big control segment from the challengers. Instead of working the match. Ka Shin and Sugiura are too busy playing the wacky partners who don’t get along. Sugiura will accidentally spear Ka Shin, and Ka Shin will slap him in the face. Ka Shin will do Sugiura’s Olympic Slam, to mock him, and Sugiura will break up the pin. Its entertaining and all, but it takes away from the match. It forces Marufuji to just lay there like he’s a dead man the whole time. The Kurt Angle-Takashi Sugiura comparisons that Meltzer was making when he first debuted really do hold true though, and that’s not very positive. Despite his mat skills, Sugiura is more concerned with killing Marufuji with suplexes. When he does go for the Ankle Lock. He does no leg work to really build to it, and then Marufuji doesn’t reverse or get to the ropes right away. So it’s a waste of a perfectly good submission. Sugiura shows some good forethought with a German suplex though. He does a German and as the ref starts to count, he sees that KENTA won’t make it into the ring to make the save quick enough. So he hurries up and floats over, so he can do a second one, that KENTA can break up.

Marufuji is his always flashy self, showing some very impressive body control and hang time whenever he takes to the air, including an impressive tope con hilo over the rope, and over Sugiura on the apron. He’s definitely not afraid to take a pounding either. He takes quite the bump off of a Sugiura German suplex. KENTA is the usual bad ass type. Bringing in the kicks, and taking to the air whenever its needed. KENTA is the brains of this match though. He sells big when its needed, and he shows he’s always on his toes. Outsmarting the challengers and avoiding their double teams. Also catching Ka Shin sleeping and dropkicking him off the apron into Kawabata and Izumida. There are only two blown spots in the match. One is Ka Shin’s attempt at the Shiranui, which is forgivable since it plays into Ka Shin’s character throughout the match of being a loose cannon. The other was the Marufuji’s SSP attempt. Because he couldn’t flip all the way over, so he did a half elbow, half senton. That’s sort of where this falls apart. Unsure what to do, they just go back to the super Shiranui to end the match, which would have been fine, if the champions hadn’t just done a super Shiranui, off of KENTA’s shoulders. A spot impressive enough to get the pin, and not even go to the SSP. This was really good aside from the blown ending, and the silly Ka Shin/Sugiura friction. Had the ending not been blown and the challengers just opted to wrestle, this would probably have been the best defense yet, for The World’s Greatest Tag Team. ***1/2.


While it makes sense for Lyger’s title reign to end at the biggest show in NOAH history. Kanemaru shouldn’t be the guy to take the title. If anything, this should have been Lyger’s second to last defense. Kanemaru already has two reigns to his name, as well as the longest reign in history. He’s firmly established as being a top player. The idea of wrestlers from rival promotions to win the title is to either give the fans a dream match, ala Lyger vs Marufuji. Or to help a younger wrestler turn the corner, from “wrestler” to “superstar”. This accomplishes neither.

A good chunk of this is pretty boring, due to being littered with restholds. Except for Lyger’s occasional big move, most notably his powerbomb on the floor. They stick with the chin locks and surfboard holds. They pick it up near the end, in typical NOAH fashion, that being “top this” with the big spots. Kanemaru tries the Kobashi style fighting sprit no-sell. When he takes Lyger’s running shotei, does the 360 sell job, and then kicks out at one. But it doesn’t have the same dramatic effect as when Kikuchi does it. Later on, he eats the shotei and brainbuster combo, that has put away countless opponents of Lyger. Kanemaru kicks out, but apparently a more deadly combo of Lyger, doesn’t warrant showing any fighting spirit. They start the finish run nice enough. With Kanemaru reversing Lyger’s attempt at the avalanche brainbuster, into a DDT off the top. A deadly looking variation of one of his good finishers. But instead of selling any fatigue from the match. He just jumps up and goes up top for the moonsault. Then completes the hat trick by pulling out his third finisher, in the locomotion brainbuster. It makes sense for Kanemaru to go all out to keep Lyger down. But at least have the decency to attempt a cover and let Lyger kick out, to add some drama to the near falls. The fans pop huge at the end. They pop, not because Kanemaru won the title. They pop because Lyger lost the title. Big difference.


WILD II have a reasonably logical game plan for this match. Take out the big guy early, and then destroy the little guy and take the gold. Against any other tag team combination, it would probably have worked for them, but they’re not wrestling any other tag team combination. The early stages surely look like WILD II is on the path to victory, when they take apart Takayama. They climax with the Backdrop/Nodowa on the floor, and then turn their attention to double teaming Minoru Suzuki. That has some success, but then they run into trouble when they attempt their Doomsday Device way too early. Takayama cuts off Morishima, and Suzuki is sitting on Rikio’s shoulders. Within ten seconds. Suzuki has a Triangle choke applied. In a span of fifteen seconds, WILD II went from surefire winners, to deep trouble.

The rest of this is a bit on the dull side. When Takayama is in the ring, its all about stiff hitting, and big moves. When Suzuki is in the ring, then it turns into the Minoru Suzuki show. Suzuki has Morishima and Rikio at a loss for what to do to counter all of his state of the art looking submissions. Morishima is quite used to using his size and power to his advantage. But all of a sudden, Suzuki has an armbar locked in, and is doing a rolling cradle, which includes having to roll Morishima on top of him. It’s the one thing that always seems to come into play in the big NOAH vs Outsider matches. Lack of submissions. For as good as some NOAH matches are. There is always the case, where the submissions come into play from the outsiders and the NOAH team just doesn’t know what exactly they are supposed to do. As much fun as it watching Suzuki do his thing is, there is often the instance where it crosses the line from being worked and looking like a shoot. To looking like a work, due to trying to hard to make it look like a shoot. That instance comes when Suzuki dispatches Rikio, and allows Takayama to finish off Morishima. We’ve seen worked choke outs before in wrestling, but this sets a speed record for it. Suzuki doesn’t have it applied for more than ten seconds when Rikio is suddenly out like a light. Even in squash matches, they usually struggle longer than that, before they tap out. Rikio is magically unconscious, and Morishima is on his own. It’d have been nice to see Takayama use his own submission to take him out, especially after being the big lumpy striker and letting Suzuki corner the market. The IWGP Tag Team Champions would have looked that much more dangerous, because they could both take you out on the mat, not just Suzuki. But alas, the Everest German Suplex, is what the fans are accustomed to seeing finish the big matches for Takayama.


This match really isn’t the type of match you want in the semi-final of your biggest show to date, from a workrate standpoint. Misawa vs Mutoh is a verifiable dream match. The match itself on the other hand, is anything but. The first issue is that despite the fact that Misawa vs Mutoh is what the fans want to see, 80% of this match is Kea vs Ogawa. There are very long stretches of nothing other than Kea kicking Ogawa, and Ogawa jabbing at Kea. Kea decides to hit the TKO at a random point for no real reason. It makes no sense whatsoever because Kea hadn’t done a thing to give the illusion that he could end the match. And if the All Japan team did pull out the win, it sure as hell wouldn’t have been Kea scoring the pinfall. Misawa and Mutoh make a few guest appearances to heat the fans up, but they only last a few seconds and leave them feeling deflated. The most notable one being when Mutoh does an Emerald Frozian to Ogawa and points to Mutoh. Misawa then follows up with a Shining Wizard. Sounds great on paper, but Mutoh went to his feet, and then remembered that Misawa was coming in, and had to drop back down to one knee.

Misawa’s biggest contribution to this match is what he usually brings into his matches nowadays. The fact that he isn’t afraid to take big bumps. Mutoh doesn’t have anything he can really do to let Misawa take a big bump. But Kea has that Cobra Clutch suplex that Misawa isn’t afraid to take right on the noggin. Also, Misawa treats Kea’s big moves like the Cobra Clutch suplex and the Hawaiian Crush with respect, and letting Ogawa save him, rather than kick out of them. Mutoh makes a little flub when he hits the Shining Wizard on Ogawa and then does the moonsault, and sells his knees as an excuse on why he can’t cover. Except that he can’t cover anyways, because he’s not legal in the ring. Kea takes the worst looking Emerald Frozian in history. He was either scared out of his mind at the bump, or he legit sandbagged Misawa on it. But Misawa got his revenge when he hit his Screwdriver Emerald Frozian and made sure that he dropped Kea vertical. It was a nice match as far as spectacle goes, but it really lacked in substance. When it’s the semi-final of the biggest show in company history, a history making show (the first NOAH show with All Japan participation), as well as being one of the very few dream matches that are left. Then there needs to be more to it.

KENTA KOBASHI © vs JUN AKIYAMA (GHC Heavyweight Title)

This is arguably the only match NOAH could have put at the top of the card, without having to use an outsider. Kobashi and Akiyama have met twice before in singles since NOAH was formed. Akiyama scored the win on the second NOAH show, on 8/6/00. Kobashi evened the score on 12/23/00, and now we have the rubber match. Although this is the perfect time and place to finally crown a new king for NOAH, and make Akiyama the top dog. This match proves the exact opposite. That Akiyama can’t, and won’t become the top dog, and for good reason. Its not a big secret anyways, because Akiyama helped to build up GHC Challengers like Yuji Nagata and Takuma Sano, both of which were easy Kobashi victories. Also putting over Kobashi’s own tag team partner in June of 2003 for the GHC Tag Titles. Akiyama couldn’t beat two guys, who Kobashi pretty much put away without much effort. And couldn’t even hold back Kobashi’s weaker partner. And Akiyama’s the guy who’s supposed to get the torch?

Akiyama’s only singles win over Kobashi, was a result of a simple and effective game plan. First he sharked out Kobashi’s knees. When Kobashi was distracted by it, he started in with the Exploders, essentially beating Kobashi at his own game. Then finished him off with his new Akiyama Lock, submission. Now if that is the only path that has ever led Jun to victory over Kobashi, it would only seem logical to use the same game plan. If this was some spot show, or just a mid-card special attraction match, then trying out a different route would be more acceptable. But this is the main event of the biggest show ever. Its not the time to experiment and see what else may work. Stick with your guns and do what you know works. Except for a few bits in the early portion, Akiyama doesn’t do a thing to try and target Kobashi’s bad knees. Forget the fact that Kenta Kobashi’s knee problems are right up there with Keiji Mutoh’s for most common knowledge of injuries. Jun seems to just completely skip the all important first step of the winning formula.

This match is mostly a “Kobashi style” match, meaning lots of big moves, lots of stiff strikes, and a deliberately slow pace, with not much logic involved. Kobashi takes it easy with the head drops, but that doesn’t exactly make some of his other ideas any more brilliant. The suplex off the apron, makes sense from the standpoint that it’s the biggest match on the biggest show, so he’d damn well better pull out all the stops. As the challenger, Jun should come out with both guns blazing and Kobashi damn well better be prepared to return fire. But Jun’s revenge spot, the Exploder off the apron is atrocious. Just like Mutoh having to set himself up for the Shining Wizard in the previous match, Kobashi has to literally do all the work himself. Akiyama is standing on the apron, and Kobashi is perching himself on the top turnbuckle. What exactly can Kobashi do from this position? Nothing. He has to sit there and wait for Akiyama to throw him off. There are some hints of thinking from Akiyama. After connecting with the Exploder from up top, he fails to score the pin twice. Then it suddenly hits him that Kobashi is still down and hurt, and he’d won his match by submission. So he locks in his King Crab Hold. Maybe if he’d locked it in right, away instead of trying for the pin, he’d have won. Its little careless errors like that, that show exactly why Akiyama isn’t the top dog. When that doesn’t work, its right back to the big moves. The Wrist Clutch Exploder doesn’t do it. Kobashi does give some respect to the STERNNESS Dust though. By countering it, as opposed to simply kicking out of it. It leaves that little notion of mystery. Had Akiyama worked the neck a bit more, or worked the knees. Would the STERNNESS Dust have done it?

Another long since logic devoid method of the big matches is the pop-up sequence that creeps up towards the end. Kobashi with his Half-Nelson suplex, and Akiyama with his Exploder. The only real positive to spin on it, is that neither move is looked at as a viable finisher for them anymore. Kobashi has the sense to build up to a final climax though. He starts with the brainbuster, which put away Takuma Sano. He moves up to the Burning Lariat, which had downed Honda, Chono, Bison, Nagata, Ogawa, and Rikio. When that doesn’t work, then its time for the moonsault which he used to put away Takayama. Finally with nothing else left, he resorts to the move that won him the GHC Title in the first place, as well as what put away Akiyama in December 2000, in their last singles match, The Burning Hammer. Honestly, it wouldn’t have been beyond the real of believability for Akiyama to find it in him to kick out, and then finally go down to the Diamondhead. The Burning Hammer finish does work, because its what made Kobashi the man in the first place. Did the right man go over? Probably not. Kobashi has been the champion for far too long and its getting old. The top guy doesn’t always need to wear the gold. Did the right man go over, based on the work and story of this match? Absolutely. ***1/4.

Conclusion: I was honestly expecting a lot worse out of Kobashi vs Akiyama. I was expecting something along the lines of Misawa vs Kobashi from 2003. There is some fun stuff to see on this show. The Taue tag was lots of fun, the GHC Jr. Tag Title match showed exactly why the champions are so great. Kobashi vs Akiyama did better than expected. I’m gonna go thumbs in the middle on this one.