July 18, 2005

Pro Wrestling NOAH crammed 52,000 people into the Tokyo Dome for this show, good for them. I got this show without paying a nickel, great for me.

Tsuyoshi Kikuchi . . . makes you wish he was fighting SUWA in singles matches on every show.

KENTA . . . achieves a win that is very long overdue.

Kenta Kobashi . . . does really nasty looking things to Kensuke Sasaki’s chest.


The best way to describe this match, is a trios match, that’s a good tag match. Aoyagi and Momota didn’t really bring a whole lot of anything with them. SUWA and Kikuchi showed some nice chemistry together and it leaves hope that Kikuchi can once again crawl out of the hell that is the comedy match and get involved with a meaningful program. As you might expect, Nakajima gets to play the spunky underdog, and although there isn’t enough time to give him a really nasty and thorough beat down, the heels do what they can, which includes several shots to Nakajima’s southern region. Nakajima advertently assisting SUWA to hit the John Woo on Kikuchi is a great surprise spot, and as frustrating as it was to see Kikuchi shrug it off, the final stretch climaxing with SUWA hitting the FFF for the pin is a thing of beauty, and leaves the mouth watering for a singles match involving SUWA and Kikuchi. If nothing else, this shows that Kikuchi still has it in him to work good matches, which is probably a lot more that can be said for the guy in the main event.


For all the potential that Yone and Morishima have as a total ass kicking team, Go Shioski should be thankful that he was able to walk away from this. In fact, he hardly takes any sort of pounding at all. The opening couple of minutes are definitely not pretty. Morishima tries to lariat Shioski in midair, coming up almost embarrassingly short. Morishima’s side slam looks somewhat awful too. After that Morishima and Yone look more like Rusher and Momota, bumping into each other like clowns instead of putting the hurting on. Honda doesn’t do anything of real note, except spike Morishima with a truly nasty Dead End, and try to set up Shioski to score the big win for them. Beyond that, this match is more like a game, than an actual match. First it’s a guessing game of how long Shioski can keep using the basic moves to get cheers and near falls. After that, it becomes a question of when Morishima and Yone will successfully cut off Honda, and finish off Shioski. It’s odd that both Morishima’s backdrop, and their Doomsday spin kick can’t get the job done, but Yone’s Muscle Buster does the trick. You’d figure that with their intention of going for the tag titles, they’d have at least something that looks capable of getting them the win as a tag team.


Why is this match even happening? Aside from the amusing bits between Taue and Koshinaka there is nothing that’s worth seeing. Well maybe if you’re a fan of weak ass chops and little to no actual wrestling moves, you’d probably think this was good. Seriously, this is the biggest show of the year and NOAH still carts these guys out to do nothing but fill time. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch at all to say that the previous two matches were also carted out for that reason, but at the very least, they tried to make something out of it. Koshinaka and Taue don’t do anything to try to make anyone want to see a possible future one-on-one match, like SUWA and Kikuchi did. Everyone just goes through their motions because they’ve got this eleven minutes to fill up, and after seeing so many of these matches, it’s no surprise at all that the finish was a small package of all things.


Here we have a complete, and total spotfest, not a surprise given the participants though. Marvin and Kotaro should be quite familiar with each other, and you’d expect them to be able to use that familiarity in order to build something out of the match. But it looks more like they were going for the opposite, and didn’t want anyone to know who they were, and the match suffered as a result. One thing that Mushiking Terry seems to have over Kotaro Suzuki is that his execution is better, the front cradle counter to the tombstone, as well as the modification on the 619 both looked great. There were a few instances toward the end, where the work wasn’t as pristine, especially the Tiger suplex ‘05 at the end, that couldn’t get the pin until Kotaro moved him into position. Black Mask used his offense well enough, to rally the crowd behind Terry, although if he’d gone ahead with some vintage Ricky Marvin stuff, Kotaro would have been better prepared to counter or reverse it. While this match isn’t the smartest worked, or the best worked match that they’ve probably had together. It does contain that spectacle that goes with being in the Tokyo Dome, and that’s definitely not a bad way to begin the legacy of Mushiking Terry.

YOSHINOBU KANEMARU © vs. KENTA (GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title)

This particular title victory comes a year too late, but it’s definitely a case of better late than never. This is quite good until Kanemaru runs out of things to do. KENTA summons some great intensity in the early stages of the match, most likely stemming from the tag title loss a month before. Both KENTA’s arm work and Kanemaru’s neck work amounted to filler, which is expected although disappointing.

Of the two of them, KENTA is clearly the better one, and his arm work segment shows some nice variety from simple kicks, to using the post, and a nice looking Minoru Special variation. Kanemaru’s is quite dull in comparison. The jumping leg drop from the guardrail was nice, because for once it wasn’t just used as a flashy type of deal, as was catching KENTA’s rana and hitting a powerbomb. But the rest of it is either a dull rest hold, or a head drop. And once Kanemaru runs through his secondary moves like the frog splash, moonsault, and jumping DDT (which KENTA does a great job of selling), all he seems to have left in him is the brainbuster. There isn’t a shortage of moves that could be used to work over the neck of KENTA, so all Kanemaru is doing in the long run is screwing his own finisher over, since KENTA is going to have to kick out.

KENTA isn’t exactly blameless himself. He totally blew off the first brainbuster just to hit the Busaiku knee, and then covers up by doing a silly delayed sell of it. At the least KENTA tried to protect his finishers to some degree though, he used a few moves to try to get the win such as the fisherman’s buster, and what looked to be a variation of the Ki Krusher from the middle rope. The Go 2 Sleep would have been better used and protected if KENTA hadn’t pulled him away and just let Kanemaru get the rope break. Kanemaru does a great job of putting over the Busaiku knee kick, although he should have saved the Curt Hennig spinning sell job for the final one, which came after KENTA had attempted to kick his head into the tenth row. Although this isn’t the classic match that should have given us KENTA’s title win, it’s still good at the very least and the KENTA era has begun. ***


I’ve said it countless times in my various NOAH reviews, Makoto Hashi is the screw up of STERNNESS, always making mistakes, and costing his team the win, and in this match, Makoto Hashi makes me eat my words. Along with the graduation to being a heavyweight, and the change in hairstyles, Hashi also seems to have found it inside of him to steal the show. This is far from a one-man performance though, as excellent as Hashi is, the other three also carry their own weight too. Hashi starts off with a nice flurry of offense climaxing with hitting Marufuji with a big diving headbutt from the top to the floor. Even when Suzuki tries to intervene, the champions can’t get a break because Hashi isn’t to be denied. It’s only after Suzuki assists Marufuji with his sunset flip powerbomb from the apron that Hashi’s momentum gets halted.

Akiyama gets double teamed on the ramp and temporarily taken out of the picture early, and with Hashi left in a two-on-one he keeps on going, and takes quite the beating from the champions. He’s on the receiving end of several nasty double teams, but not once does he back down at all. Suzuki goads Hashi into a strike battle, which he knows that he won’t be able to win, but Hashi just steps on up and does his best. Hashi’s selling and facials are also excellent here.

The match gets a bit silly when Hashi finally tags Akiyama in, because Akiyama and Suzuki still have their beef stemming from the tag match in March. They’re blowing off each other’s strikes like it’s nothing, and the fans are just eating it up. It’s not too big a deal, since the only punishment Jun had taken was on the ramp five minutes into the match. Akiyama switches gears though and avenges the beating Hashi had to endure, by giving Marufuji one of his own. Much like in the Misawa tag match from April, Marufuji is the king of selling Akiyama’s strikes, always reeling back a mile, and Marufuji gets some serious hang time just from Akiyama’s simple back body drop. Hashi does his best to keep Suzuki out of the picture, including his patented DDT on the apron, but Suzuki finally does make it into the ring to save Marufuji from the Akiyama Lock. One of the best moments of the match comes when Akiyama tags Hashi in to give him the pin, but the ref won’t count, because Hashi wasn’t in the correct corner. It was just a simple, yet petty mistake and the missing seconds could easily have been all the difference between who left the Dome with the gold.

The finish run is excellent, with crack timing on the saves, to the point that almost every near fall was only nanoseconds away from the three count. Marufuji’s penchant for over using (and over attempting) the Shiranui was a bit annoying, and the silly delayed sell after he finally hit Hashi with one, could have been done without. But Hashi more than made up for it with the show of fight he was giving off. Even with Akiyama unable to help him, he stood toe-to-toe with the champions taking several strikes and a vicious slap/super kick combo, and never backing down. The deciding factor in the outcome wasn’t even really due to Hashi so much. It was Suzuki outsmarting Akiyama and countering his toss outside of the ring, into a sleeper, and rendering him unable to save Hashi from the Super Shiranui. ***½.


If nothing else, this is certainly better than Rikio’s last GHC defense. The praise can only stretch so far though, because Rikio still does have his work cut out for him. The match has a very noticeable lack of heat to it, because there isn’t one person who buys Tanahashi as having a prayer of winning the gold. On one hand, it speaks well for how NOAH books their title matches, because even though we have seen upset title changes (Modest over Kanemaru, Scorpio/Williams over Misawa/Ogawa) they aren’t so common that fans expect them, like the IWGP Heavyweight Title.

Tanahashi also works this, the way he might work an IWGP Title match. He’s the spunky underdog trying the flash pins, and his offense looks a lot like the offense you’d see in a typical junior vs. heavy match in New Japan. But this isn’t a New Japan match, and nobody here actually wants to see Tanahashi score the win. So when the fans aren’t silent, they’re booing Tanahashi. The common bond that the two main issues with the match have, is that they aren’t things that Rikio has any sort of control over. He does understand his role to a certain degree, and evidently better than Kobashi did at this stage during his title reign. Rikio goes a bit far with some of his selling of Tanahashi’s offense, it’s not too bad because he is a bit banged up going in, but he could have done better by reigning in a little bit. Rikio does do a nice job with selling the modified Dragon sleeper though.

Rikio does make up for his overselling though, by showing Tanahashi that he can take the abuse, and hand it back tenfold. Tanahashi sticks to junior style offense mostly, while Rikio simply uses his power to toss around the challenger like a ragdoll. Whenever Rikio connects a shoulder block, or a lariat, he just mows Tanahashi down. Rikio brings some fun stuff, such as a cross body press from the top, and a nasty powerbomb into the corner. Tanahashi tries to follow suit toward the end with the Rolling German suplex and some forearm strikes, but he can’t match Rikio, and Tanahashi goes back to the attempted flash wins, an especially nice one as a counter to the Muso. But Rikio isn’t to be denied and just lariats him down once again (much preferable than crying to the ref) and successfully connects the Muso to finish him off. It was decent for the quasi squash that it was, Tanahashi needed a few wins to build him up in order to make it seem like he might have a chance. A major title match in the Dome shouldn’t feel like a foregone conclusion, and the bad placement on the card didn’t help. ***


In whose mind is this a dream match, and how did this warrant placement higher on the card than the GHC Heavyweight Title match? It’s an interesting match, because it’s worked very much unlike any other matches involving Tenryu. The only sort of prospect this could have actually had as a dream match, would be Tenryu going ballistic and beating the tar out of Ogawa. Tenryu opts to work the type of match you normally see Ogawa in, which involves Ogawa working in his spots, and stooging a bit to gain control. The opening bit involving Ogawa working Tenryu’s leg over is just filler, which is too bad since it would have been a nice basis to give Ogawa a fighting chance. There are a couple rather amusing moments, such as Ogawa making a big project out of getting that table set up, and then Tenryu winds up being the one to use it as an offensive weapon. As well as Ogawa stealing Tenryu’s Soccer kicks. The ending is more than a bit odd, as Ogawa survives two Tenryu lariats, and then kicks out of the brainbuster. So what does Tenryu do next? Level Ogawa with a series of jabs and then finish him off with a powerbomb, or another brainbuster? Why no, he just does another (weak looking) lariat to get the win. The dynamic for the match was interesting, but there is just no way that anyone else would have been able to look this good, or take this little of a beating from Tenryu. But that just goes to show how much it pays to be Misawa’s little sidekick.


Don’t get fooled into thinking these two actually worked a wrestling match. This is nothing more than a big masculinity contest simply disguised as a wrestling match. Forget thumping your chest in show of your manhood, the new fad is to get your chest chopped for about five minutes straight until it’s a sickly looking shade of purple with veins sticking out. Sure it’ll be bruised and sore for weeks on end, and there is a high risk of staph infection, amongst other things. But the fans in the Dome sure liked it, and that’s what really matters.

Everyone knew the second the match was signed that the no-selling would be off the charts in this one, and thanklessly they didn’t disappoint us. It makes sense at least at first, because you have two of the hardest hitting guys in Japan, going one-on-one for the first time ever in a verifiable dream match. But over time, it degenerates down to simple frustration. Blowing off a few chops is really no big deal, but then they get way out of hand. Kobashi is the worst offender of the two of them, as if simply shrugging off a superplex, and Ippon Seionage wasn’t bad enough, he then pops up after the NLB to make sure he can squeeze in his lariat, and do the always lovely delayed sell. Kobashi also has to take his suicide bump to the floor, which is courtesy of an NLB. If nothing else, Kobashi shows he still has the power of holding the crowd in the palm of his hand, he does a really nice job of teasing that the match will end on a count out. Of course we can’t have a major Kenta Kobashi match without a pop-up sequence, Kobashi is at least somewhat smart in that regard as he opts for the Half Nelson suplex, which he doesn’t particularly treat as a big move anyway, of course he negates the momentary smartness by completely shrugging off the NLB.

Kensuke is no prince either in that regard, but he’s simply the lesser offender compared to his opponent, as he at least had it in him to sell the sleeper suplex. He also gave Kobashi’s moonsault and the first Burning Lariat a modicum of respect by kicking out at two instead of just jumping to his feet. Kensuke also does some good selling with the flurry of neck chops that Kobashi fires off on him, before finishing him off with the lariat. Even as the three count is coming down, Kensuke is kicking his legs, trying to find the energy to kick out. Of course it’s a dream match taking place in the holy grail of Japanese wrestling, and they should absolutely try to go out there and do something that fans will remember. But they seem to have forgotten that it’s possible to work a smart, logical match, while maintaining that semblance of memorability.


There was a time everything that these two did in the ring together was must-see stuff. Misawa vs. Kawada at their absolute worst, was still better than the best of most others. But it’s crystal clear that those times are now behind us. For all his degeneration and regressing, Kawada shows that he still has it in him to out perform damn near anyone. Misawa’s performance though, is a whole other ball game. The really sad thing is that the choice of questions is either “Why would Misawa sleepwalk through the main event of a show this important?” or “is this really all Misawa can do anymore?”. Much like Kawada vs. Kojima from February, Kawada puts on a great one-man performance, despite losing a match that he probably shouldn’t be losing, but eventually he realizes that it’s not going to matter and just gives in and plays their game.

Kawada is hard at work right from the opening bell, every time Misawa rears back for a possible elbow Kawada is quick to put up his hands for protection and back right off. When Misawa finally does connect the strike, Tosh does a respectable sell job of it, considering it’s only three minutes into the match. Misawa never gives anything Tosh does that sort of anticipation or respect. Whenever Kawada lands a strike (the only real exception being the Ganmengiri), Misawa just stands there and then returns fire. Misawa doesn’t do anything to really project any sort of intensity into his performance either. This is someone whom he dislikes *legit*, Kawada is invading his promotion for this match to happen, and they haven’t been in the same ring competing for five years now. Misawa treats it just like another day at the office. When he’s got Kawada in the chin lock early on, he’s doing literally nothing with it, and in fact when Kawada starts rolling toward the ropes, it’s very much obvious Misawa is helping him. Kawada even tries to help him loosen up a bit, with a series of kicks and stomps to the face, but it fails to do the trick.

Being a big match in NOAH, the action goes to the floor and Misawa shows a bit of intensity with a Tiger driver on the floor, but it winds up just being a throwaway spot, because Misawa never tried anything to play off it. Kawada gets a great revenge spot in the form of a powerbomb on the ramp, along with a great tease of a count out, culminating with Kawada needing to run out and retrieve him before he gets counted out. Once Kawada gets him back in, Misawa kicks out of the pin, and then gets up like it’s not a problem at all for him. Kawada then uses a lariat, and some kicks to wear him down a bit more and attempt the powerbomb again, and Misawa just blocks it. Misawa doesn’t lower his base, or plant his feet, he literally just stands there. Kawada could probably have done with leaving the Ganso Bomb alone (especially if he knew how well Misawa would treat it) but he did have solid reasoning for using it. Kawada had already attempted his other big finishers, so it wasn’t as if he just pulled it out of his ass. The same cannot be said for Misawa though, the Emerald Frozian was completely throwaway, and the Tiger driver ‘91 would have been, if he hadn’t just used the Frozian right before that, and his pin attempt after the TD 91 wasn’t half-assed, eighth-assed would be a more fitting term.

The finish run to the match is almost an exact replica of Kawada vs. Kojima. Misawa is hell bent on using the elbow to get the win, and no matter what Kawada does to try and convey to him that he should do something else, Misawa won’t listen. Kawada attempts to fight back, but the power of the elbows just drives the fight out of him, and the final running elbow despite looking totally off the mark, gets put over as the nail in the coffin for Kawada. While the goal was most likely to show that Misawa still “has it” (as is evidenced by his using the win to challenge Rikio for the GHC) all it really accomplishes is proving the exact opposite. Misawa clearly doesn’t have either the physical or mental capabilities any longer, and if this is any indication, any sudden change in that will more than likely be due to the courtesy of his opponent, or partner. ***

Conclusion: Well there is some good stuff to be sure, the two main events are worth seeing for the spectacle aspects, and Kawada’s performance alone, thumbs up this time around.