December 10, 2006

Makoto Hashi . . . finally shows a little growth by dishing out the abuse to one of the NOAH rookies.

SUWA . . . brings in an old friend, and some new friends, to have some fun at the expense of NOAH’s junior division.

Minoru Suzuki . . . has a little bit of fun at the expense of KENTA.



Aside from Honda using his wrestling skills to get ahead, and a couple of nice spots from Momota, this is the usual nothing-special undercard match. They chop, slap, and do things that cause the crowd to chuckle, and it ends on a flash cradle.


Rudo Ricky! Ricky Marvin just gave me a reason to care about a Masao Inoue match! Marvin uses a groin claw to get out of trouble, and him and Ogawa start working him over, including a couple of post shots, and Marvin even using La Nieblina. It’s still Inoue, so Inoue playing Ricky Morton means he’s playing the world’s worst Ricky Morton. Inoue eventually makes the tag to Ikeda, and he has a few nice exchanges with Marvin, but, Marvin’s still just a junior, so he’s quickly finished off. The first half of this is the clear highlight, and it’s too bad Ricky doesn’t get to show that side of himself more often.


Shiosaki throws everything he has at Morishima, with Morishima doing a decent job of selling and bumping for him, and even getting up for a couple of suplexes from Shiosaki. Morishima decides that enough is enough and blows all of it off, and finishes off Shiosaki with a monster backdrop.


Although the finish negates it, the bulk of the match does a nice job of showing some progression for Hashi. Hashi does a respectable job of knocking around Taniguchi, and putting some distance between the two of them, and, he more than holds his own against Saito, whether he’s keeping him at bay so Akiyama can stretch out Taniguchi, or they’re paired off during the match. But, it’s Taniguchi who winds up looking the most impressive, between the mauling he takes from Akiyama and Hashi, and being able to hand it back to Akiyama with strikes, and plant Hashi with a couple of suplexes. Again, the finish puts the spotlight on Hashi in a negative way, when he puts Taniguchi through the ringer, including two Goriman drivers, and still can’t pin him. So, Akiyama hits an Exploder and just tells Hashi to pin him. Really, there’s no reason why the second Goriman driver shouldn’t have gotten the pin, Taniguchi had already taken enough of a beating, and kept on fighting, that the point was made.


Crazy Max meets the Voodoo Murders, it’s the Crazy Murders! Aside from the finish run, there isn’t all that much going on here. The heels get a chance to work over Terry for a spell, but, it’s mostly a lot of punching and kicking, without any direction, or any real hate and intensity, and, only the two fouls, from TARU’s axe kick and SUWA’s elbow, get any real reaction. Terry makes his own comeback when he counters a snap mare and hits a dropkick, and tags in Taue. The Taue/SUWA exchanges are the only times that the match feels like it has some real intensity to it, and it’s nice to see that Taue is will to take a couple of bumps, and sell for SUWA. The crowd likes seeing SUWA get his comeuppance from Taue, but, I still wonder why he had to eat the fall, when he was the one on his home turf, Kondo was All Japan junior champion, so it’s fine for him to be protected, but it’s not like TARU or YASSHI would have been damaged by dropping a fall to Taue.


This might have been good if they chopped off about ten minutes, and if the outsider team was able to generate any genuine heat. Some of their holds are nice, like MAZADA’s grounded octopus and NOSAWA’s Fujiwara armbar, but neither draw much reaction from the crowd, and Kanemaru’s arm gets worked over for all of a minute before they forget about it, and the work itself is uninspired. Aside from the fouls (what is it with all the fouls in the junior matches tonight?), and a couple of head drops, the crowd never seems to wake up to the idea of NOSAWA and MAZADA potentially winning the titles, and even the fouls stop getting a reaction after a bit. It doesn’t help that neither of the champions is much for selling, to give the idea that the outsider team could be a threat to the titles. Hell, watch as Sugiura takes a foul, and then easily reverses MAZADA and makes his own tag. Add in the usual NOAH title match staples of going far too long, and the overdone finishing stretch, chock full of big moves that mean nothing. With a few trios matches on the preceding tour, or even some sort of injury angle, the freelance team might have been able to generate some interest in their match, but, instead they went out there cold and challenged a team that wasn’t able, or willing, to do anything to help them out.


As much as these thrown together trios matches highlight NOAH’s lack of creativity, every now and then, they come up with something good. This has all the hatred and intensity that the previous two matches were lacking, along with tons of stiffness, and everyone being up to the task. Takayama’s team does most of the heavy lifting, dishing out a monster sized beating to KENTA, complete with plenty of attitude and fun spots from Suzuki, and a diving stomp off the apron from Sano. KENTA mostly does a nice job putting things over, with the only issue being that he blew off the arm work from Suzuki, so that he could surprise Takayama with a backdrop suplex and finally tag out. But, he made up for it later when Sano did a second diving stomp, and after tagging out again, only being able to slump in his corner. Sano’s rolling kick is treated like a dangerous strike, with everyone either putting it over huge, or doing everything they can to avoid it. Sano is in a three-on-one situation, but after a couple of those kicks, he has things well at hand. Yone and Rikio seem to get the least amount to do, but they still try to make things count, Rikio’s Muso finish looks like crap, but they’d already put Sano through the ringer before the finish, so it’s not too big a deal. ***1/4


If this was being judged solely on Marufuji's performance, then it'd be a really nice match. Marufuji shows that he's taking his role as than man seriously, with the ways he takes the fight to Misawa. Instead of relying on flashy junior spots, he's much more direct. He stands and trades strikes with Misawa, and he works holds like the headlock and later the facelock. Marufuji adds some smart touches as well, such as ducking an elbow, and hitting the dragon screw to start working over Misawa's knee, and he even uses some uncommon holds, like an STF and a Scorpion, in addition to his barrage of dragon screws and guardrail assisted dropkicks, to keep the leg work moving. There's another nice moment when he blocks an elbow and tries for the Shiranui, rather than just sucking the elbow up and firing back.

Unfortunately, Misawa just doesn't seem to be able to care any less about the match. He shows more energy in the opening moments, doing the prerequisite matwork, than at any other time. His selling of his knee is fine, but doesn't get any better than that. The only thing that Marufuji's tearing it apart seemed to accomplish was preventing the pin on the early Tiger driver, not even preventing the move, just the pin. The count out tease was a perfect chance to show Marufuji's leg work paying off, but, instead of his knee being the reason he may not make it in time, he just lays there and lets the KO aspect of taking the Shiranui tell the story. It's something of a positive that he bumps so much for Marufuji, but, this is Misawa, he's never shied away from taking big bumps, it just seems more impressive because of whom he's bumping for. And, that also leads to a couple of issues, with the rana off the apron, and the ring post spot both looking ugly and exposing.

The one nice thing that Misawa adds is his blocks and counters to the Shiranui, and even that doesn't work as well as it could have, because they wind up leading to big spots that get wasted. The Tiger suplex '85 off the top gives Misawa a single near fall, and Marufuji was right back on his feet, and setting up Misawa for the Shiranui Kai for a near fall of his own. There was no reason for Marufuji to kick out of the Emerald Frozion after Misawa used it to counter the Pole Vault. It's a perfectly believable counter, and the move has always been Misawa's kiss of death. What’s even worse is that they follow that with a near fall from a Tiger driver, and then Misawa counters another Shiranui into another Emerald Frozion, this time ramped up from the top rope, for the finish. Kobashi kicking out the Emerald Frozion made sense, because Misawa was passing him the torch. But, doing it here doesn’t serve any other purpose other than devaluing the move. It’s the final bit of nonsense, in one of Misawa more unmotivated performances.

Conclusion: Both title matches failed to deliver, and the undercard is fun at times, but unspectacular.