June 21, 2008

The Green Ring makes its way to the U.K. and gives the fan an authentic NOAH experience. Why they did that to their loyal European fans, I don’t know, but this is definitely your average NOAH show. Boring and meaningless tags clogging up the undercard? Check. The GHC Champion doing nothing special? Check. A chance to do something interesting and unique only for it to be squandered? Check.

Kotaro Suzuki . . . transforms from a spunky young kid into a brash young punk and I love every second of it!

Bryan Danielson and Eddie Edwards . . . steal the show in their quest to get the Junior Tag Titles.

Go Shiosaki . . . puts up his usual valiant effort and, as usual, gets the short end of the stick.


If this match is any indication, then I know what’s in Aoki’s future, a learning excursion to the great state of Minnesota and then returning to Japan as Atsushi Anderson. The way that Aoki constantly goes after Redman’s arm, he looks like an honorary Japanese member of the Minnesota Wrecking Crew. Watching Aoki go after Redman’s arm is also the only thing that makes this worth watching. Aoki isn’t as heelish as he probably should have been considering he spent so much time teaming with Kanemaru, who’s not much good, but he knows how to heel things up. Aoki is inventive at times, like his hanging armbar in the corner, and trapping the arm in between his legs and rolling over to apply pressure, and Aoki is always smart is working back to it, whenever Redman kicks out of a pin, Aoki is there to segue that into another hold to wear down the arm.

It’s a shame that Redman couldn’t be bothered to sell the arm worth anything. He’d escape from the holds or get rope breaks and then act like he was fine. And he’d just start throwing out moves whenever he felt like it, regardless if it made sense or not. After having him arm worked over for nearly two-thirds of the match, he’s able to pull off a Fisherman’s suplex, Brainbuster, and Northern Lights, all without a hitch. The fifteen minute time limit winds up expiring while they’re trading off roll ups and near falls. The idea seemed to be to showcase both men and give the impression that they’re equals, but Redman’s terrible performance made them look like anything but. Aoki had a strategy and was working back to it and taking the match in an actual direction. Redman was just doing whatever he felt like doing and not doing anything to help Aoki tell the story. It seems like Redman was worried about looking weak in front of his countrymen, when, in fact, Redman having his arm tortured and then not giving up and holding out for the time limit would have done anything but. Instead he puts on this terrible performance and looks like a wrestling school dropout.


If nothing else, this match showed that Kikuchi still has it in him to perform well. The grizzled and grumpy Kikuchi did a respectable job of putting the small and spunky Fitzgerald through the ringer. Kikuchi didn’t go full circle and become Masa Fuchi circa 1993, but instead stuck to his usual offense, with the elbow strikes and pulling off the Spider Belly to Belly, and diving headbutt. Wade took the beating like a man, and did a respectable job selling for Kikuchi, and also for Izumida when it was time for the finish. I’ve heard some good things about Martin Stone, but he didn’t get to show too much here, he was mostly regulated to playing the supporting role while Junji worked in all of his head and headbutt related comedy stuff. That’s more or less the entire match: Fitzgerald gets beaten up while Junji shows off his hard head. Fitzgerald impressively survives the headbutt onslaught and forces Junji to actually do something else to finish him off, which Junji does with the TKO. This didn’t have anything as good as Aoki’s arm work, but at the same time, nothing as offensive and Redman’s (lack of) performance.


Hey, this actually has some crowd heat to it! Despite being absurdly fun at times, as a whole, the match is just sort of there, the teams didn’t really appear to be on the same page, and despite showing promise at first, their styles didn’t seem to mesh very well at all. The big positive to the match is the Japanese team heeling things up. As expected, the crowd was solidly behind Nigel and Doug anyway, but by doing things like booting Nigel off the apron, and Suzuki’s disrespectful slap in the face, it only got the fans that much more behind them. The problems came when they’d forget about doing those sort of heelish things and worked the match like it was your typical third match on a NOAH show, with no flair or effort at all.

As expected, Nigel and Doug had their workboots on, but there was only so much they could do with the Japanese controlling the bulk of the match, and not doing a very good job of it. They both managed to bring some good stuff at times, such as the spot when they basically went around Sugiura’s body and attacked every part of him, ending with a good old-fashioned wishbone. Nigel and Suzuki’s early exchanges are very fluid and smooth, and the dual Tower of London that finished off Suzuki was the perfect way to keep him down. It almost seemed like too much though, the finish run was lots of nearfalls and Suzuki kick outs, like you’d expect from him, but the fans in the U.K. didn’t want to see him keep surviving, so it fell a bit flat. Oddly enough, the one you’d think would mesh the best with the Brits, Sugiura, was the one who mostly kept the match from being as good as it could have been. Aside from his boot to Nigel off the apron, and impressively getting Doug up in a gut wrench, he was a drain on the match. Doug’s Chaos Theory on him looked horrible. Contrast with Suzuki, who was just as capable of getting the fans angry at him, and was also having good exchanges with the Brits. To say that he stole the show is a bit much, but after seeing him here, I’m definitely interested in seeing more of his heel work.


Wow. You’d think that with NOAH making their first venture as a promotion across the pond that the GHC Champion would have something more important to do than this. There are a couple of bright spots from Morishima, but this is the usual dull and heatless midcard affair in NOAH. Morishima and Bison have a fun elbow exchange with neither man backing down nor selling. It doesn’t take the match anywhere special, but it’s at least a good way to display both men’s toughness. A bit later on, Morishima survives a couple of Bison’s tackles and smacks him with a sickly audible lariat. Bison shows that, in addition to being a big and powerful guy, he’s also quite agile when he jumps over the ropes and hits Yone with a flying tackle. But other than those cool moments, there isn’t anything else special to see here, apparently they took the idea of doing an authentic NOAH show a bit too far. Even the commentators know it and they spend more time talking about Akiyama’s past title reigns than they do about the match. The icing on the cake though is that the established team or Morishima and Yone wind up losing to the thrown together team. Sure, Bison is half of the tag champions and it’s not like Yone will be doing anything that the loss will have an effect on, so Bison pinning Yone after hits his two finishers isn’t so bad. But you’d think a team that’s been together for nearly three years would have some kind of edge over the one night only pairing that doesn’t have much of a future together.


There isn’t any reason why these two teams couldn’t have the best match of 2008. They certainly have the tools available to do so. KENTA and Danielson are great. Ishimori can bring tons of great spots, and whether he’s in front 200 fans in upstate NY or in front of thousands in Tokyo, Edwards has shown that he’s very capable. This is also one of the rare times that NOAH has put on a match with a logical reasoning for doing so, KENTA and Danielson’s rivalry goes all the way back to ROH, it even predates Danielson entering NOAH, and Edwards pinned Ishimori in a tag match on 12/7.

The match itself has quite a lot of good spots and exchanges, but it doesn’t feel like the best match of 2008, it really doesn’t even come off like the best match the teams could have against one another. Part of the reason might have to do with the location. The match itself doesn’t have much of a story being told beyond what we already know, Danielson and KENTA don’t care for one another, and Ishimori and Edwards are more or less backing up their partners. But the intense hatred doesn’t shine through all the way. The most often occurrence that takes place to put the hatred into perspective is cheap shots off the apron. KENTA strikes first blood in that regard by knocking Danielson off the apron, but quite a few times during the thirty minutes of the match do both teams use that tactic, either to stick it to their rival or to prevent a potential tag. And what’s all the more disappointing about is that the crowd reacted better to when Suzuki was doing it in his tag match than to any of the times that the four of them do it. Maybe they thought that Suzuki was above doing that, or maybe it was because he did it to their fellow countrymen. Beyond that, Danielson does quite a lot to try to get the crowd behind the Japanese team. He won’t let them sing along with The Final Countdown, and when they try to make like the ROH crowd and use his ‘I have till 5!’ bit or sing along during his attempted surfboard, he flips them off. Danielson also uses some dirty tactics, like pulling at the face, and his aforementioned reminding the ref of the five count rule. Aside from situations like those, the fans don’t seem to react to much, outside from something like a KENTA stiff kick or an Ishimori flashy spot. They’ll give the big “OH!” but it doesn’t seem like they genuinely care about who wins, and what the consequences might be.

Once you get past all of that, this is a fairly straightforward tag team match. And again, these four are all good enough to where being even straightforward is enough to top the rest of the card up to this point, but it’s missing that extra spark or fire that would take it to the next level that they should have been able to hit. The challengers are fun early on by roughing up Ishimori’s arm, and it’s fun watching KENTA make Edwards pay for Danielson’s sins in the form of several of his trademark kicks. Ishimori’s athleticism has always been amazing and he’s no different here, with a breathtaking standing rana, and even taking a page from Danielson’s book (and maybe also sucking up to the British fans) by putting Edwards in a freaky stretchy submission hold. The best stretch of the match is the KENTA/Danielson portion, and while it’s as technically good as you’d expect, it’s criminally short on the hate that the match seemed to be predicated on. Danielson easily counters KENTA’s crucifix attempt into the Cattle Mutilation, but KENTA knew it was coming and had the escape ready. Danielson was ready though and took advantage of the fact that he still had KENTA’s arms and got a near fall from the Tiger suplex. It’s also not a major NOAH match without the dual submission spot, in this case it’s the Cattle Mutilation and Boston crab.

Both teams get a nice stretch of offense on the weak man from each side to pull out the win. Edwards and Danielson double team Ishimori for a bit, and Edwards gets several near falls, and when he finally hit what he knew could finish off Ishimori, KENTA made the save. When the shoe was on the other foot, Eddie was better at thinking and wrestling for himself and not depending on Danielson to bail him out, such as his counter to the Go 2 Sleep, but it was eventually too much for him and KENTA was able to finish him off with another Go 2 Sleep. At its worst it still kills the rest of the card, it’s just a shame that these four had already set the bar so high with their previous work, that they couldn’t hit the mark, when they seemed to have all the tools needed to do so. ***1/2


Both these two can be fun in the right setting, but a singles match against each other isn’t the right setting. They’ve both got plenty of good moves and big spots to bring to the match, but they didn’t have anybody to reign them in on when to do them and how to treat them. So a lot of the early part of the match is rest holds (including a potshot at Randy Orton by the commentators), and when they’ve killed enough time, it’s time to start throwing out the big spots. Kanemaru hits his jumping DDT and Jay blows it off, wins the next strike exchange, and then hits a big spine buster. Now granted, Kanemaru has no problem treating that spot like a joke, but someone as highly regarded as Jay should know better. Jay follows up the spine buster with a big powerbomb and a DVD, and Kanemaru turns the tide with a simple lariat and then finishes off Jay with two brainbusters. I can understand what they were shooting for, which seemed to be a ‘realistic’ approach by seeing who could take the most punishment and stay down, but working that way is far from interesting.


Given that this even was more of a NOAH showcase than anything else, then this was the obvious choice of a main event and the style that the match is worked in makes sense in that same vein. The match is mostly the Marufuji show, he’s the one who brings the bulk of the interesting and/or flashy offense during the first twenty or so minutes until it’s time to work the finish, and he’s also the one who does all the bumping and selling for his opponents. Misawa is content to rattle off his usual stuff and get out of the way, and when Kobashi finally gets Misawa in the corner to unload the chops, the look on Misawa’s face is more like a look of annoyance or aggravation than it is pain. Meanwhile, Marufuji is being chopped to death by Kobashi, and getting the crowd in a frenzy by getting a running start on the ramp and clearing the top rope to give Go a dropkick.

It’d be easy to knock Kobashi for his over reliance on using chops, but when watches this match, it’s clear as to why. First off, there isn’t much else that he can do. Watch him badly blow a DDT on the ramp that winds up looking like Marufuji DDT’d himself. Also he attempts to counter a Misawa surfboard with a rolling head scissors that will put Misawa in a pinning position, but they fall over and lay on their sides because Kobashi can’t get him over all the way. So yes, it’s just as well that Kobashi sticks with the chop, but it’s not like Kobashi can’t do *anything else* he sells Marufuji’s superkick better than anyone sold anything the whole match, and he’s great at putting up a fight when Misawa tries to clamp on the chinlock. Go is pretty much left in the dust, he doesn’t have anything as dynamic as Marufuji to do, so he winds up being Kobashi’s helper more than anything else. He gets to shine in the final stretch by constantly blocking and surviving the Shiranui, and attempting to finish off Marufuji with the Go Flasher and Moonsault, but he winds up falling to the Pole Shift. The one person who would have gained something by scoring the win winds up losing the match, the chance was there to show that Shiosaki’s time overseas was actually having an effect on him, and it’s not like Marufuji would have lost anything with the loss, but instead of something potentially interesting, they went with the same old stuff.

Conclusion: There’s a reason why I’ve seen barely any of NOAH in 2008, because they’ve done very little to generate any interest in what they’ve done, and this show as a whole is proof of that. The GHC Jr. Tag Titles match was a damn fine match, but even that fell short of expectations. Recommendation to avoid this one, oh, how I miss the NOAH of 2005.