October 3, 2009

Go Shiozaki . . . does very little to change the perception that he should not be wearing the GHC Title.

Yoshinobu Kanemaru . . . proves that anything is possible, by having a match that I don’t hate him in!

Toshiaki Kawada . . . reunites with his longtime partner to remind everyone that they’re still the baddest team around.


This is far too short to be anything more than fun, but, they pack in enough good ideas, and work well enough together, that it seems like an extra five or six minutes would be more than enough to take them to another level. Ishimori gets a couple of wicked shots to Ito’s ribs, first a slingshot footstomp and then dropping Ito ribs-first onto both knees, and Ito sells it consistently for almost the whole match. He only slips up by forgetting to sell after his frog splash near fall, but, he picks up right where he left off after the kick out. The series of flash cradles at the end, that culminates in Ishimori getting the pin, seems to be trying to put over Ito as losing due to luck, but, it wasn’t exactly like Ishimori was in dire trouble, so it doesn’t exactly hit the mark.


If not for Genba, then this would have been a total wash. Marvin isn’t bad, but he only adds a nice dive and the Tornillo that finishes off Aoyagi. Aoyagi doesn’t do anything useful, and, Ogawa doesn’t do much more than his usual stuff, although he does add some nastiness to the mix. That leaves Genba to do the heavy lifting, which he does by taking every shortcut there is in order to get ahead, because he knows he’s seriously outgunned. Genba kicks Marvin low, and positions Marvin and acts like Marvin kicked him low. He does the same thing to Ogawa, but Ogawa pays him back by posting him. Genba’s work isn’t all that great, but, it’s nice to see someone at least make an effort to be entertaining.


Aside from the fact that Taniguchi actually gets the pin, the way this plays out isn’t surprising in the least. Hashi and Kikuchi have no trouble at all with the relative rookie in Taniguchi, but, Morishima can do pretty much whatever he likes, and they can’t do anything about it. There are a few amusing comedy spots, like Kikuchi’s headbutts into the microphone, and Hashi trying to bodyslam Morishima. The finish sees the tables get turned, when Morishima takes out Hashi to leave Kikuchi on his own, and, Taniguchi hits him with a nice overhead and then finishes him with a couple of German suplexes to show that he is capable of winning, if given the chance.


There a couple of nice moments from the two legends. Chono gets a nice run after getting a hot tag from Shiozaki, leading up to an STF on Saito, and, Kobashi and Rikio have a nice exchange with Rikio escaping the half nelson suplex. But, they spend the bulk of the match on the apron, while the GHC Champion does the heavy lifting, which would be fine, if the GHC Champion wasn’t getting the cream cheese kicked out of him for most of this. Shiozaki really had no business being the champion anyway, but, putting him in situations like this only makes him look that much worse. It’s not like he’s doing this to set up a future challenger, it’s a nothing trios match buried in the middle of the card. There’s no reason that Chono couldn’t have made the hot to tag to him, instead of the other way around. As broken down as Chono is, it’s not like Shiozaki was getting spiked on his head over and over, it was mostly strikes. One could argue that Shiozaki winning the match for his team redeems him, but, he only wins after Saito and Rikio are dispatched, and all three of the babyfaces tee off on Yone. Did I mention the chops yet? Yeah, there’s a ton of them and they all raise a huge mist of sweat. Guess who the weakest one is, and needs a running start to even come close to the others?


Why are Kanemaru, Gedo, and Jado involved in a match that’s this much fun? Granted, it helps that Jado and Gedo forgo the things they don’t do well, and spend the bulk of the match being dick heels, which they’re very good at. It also helps that Kanemaru taps a gusher, and spends most of the match selling, and doing a good job of it. That leaves Suzuki to carry the load as far as the actual work goes, but, he’s up to the challenge. He’s almost perfect as the fired up hot tag, and, he and Gedo work almost all of the really nice spots and exchanges. Suzuki even takes a couple of big bumps to set up Gedo and Jado’s control segment on Kanemaru. The only real downer is the finish. It’s fine that Kanemaru gets the win for his team, since he’s the senior member, but, it looks a bit too easy, considering the beating he’d taken. Suzuki opened the door with the Tiger driver to Gedo, so, it’s not as annoying as it could have been, but, it’d have been nice to see some sort of delay, or struggle, instead of Kanemaru just firing away with his spots until Gedo stays down. As a whole, it’s much better than you’d expect considering all those involved. ***1/4


If you like stiffness, then this isn’t something that you’ll want to miss. Takayama and Sugiura paste each other with some horrific shots. They don’t do much else, but, they really don’t need to. The impact of the strikes, and, the way they put them over, more than tells the story. Sugiura slips up a couple of times, first by jumping to his feet and blowing off a backdrop suplex. Nothing that hasn’t been done to death in this promotion. The other time is slightly worse, Takayama drops Sugiura with a running knee to the face and Sugiura starts to get up, but then remembers he needs to be on his knees so he suddenly stops so that Takayama can level him. There’s a nice play on their previous match, when Takayama gets a near fall on the same cradle that beat Sugiura before, and after that they start the road to the finish, with Takayama hitting the Everest German for the win. Given the way that they worked this, a KO finish would have been more appropriate, and unique for the promotion


To me, this match more or less sums up the NOAH promotion as a whole. It’s got a lot of good stuff, but, it just doesn’t come together well enough to push it into the territory of great. The main reason for this is Akiyama. He just doesn’t do very much of note. The Kawada/KENTA exchanges are the clear centerpiece of the match, and, while Taue has certainly had his share of great performances in NOAH, he shows a certain intensity that has been lacking in the nine years since he and Kawada last teamed up. But, Akiyama doesn’t step up in the same way. At best, he provides some assistance to KENTA, such as the jumping knee that allows KENTA to get the near fall on Taue with the diving stomp. But, the control segment on Taue mostly features Akiyama working rest holds to kill time, rather than taking the match somewhere. He’s not even really there to save KENTA as the match winds down. KENTA escapes the attempted Nodowa/Powerbomb on his own, and, when he gets planted with it a minute later, he still kicks out on his own. Akiyama does get planted with the Nodowa right before Kawada and Taue start working to finish KENTA off, but, he recovers long before the finish.

Akiyama fails to step up for the occasion, but, the other three sure deliver. KENTA is determined to not be the designated junior whipping boy, and is always ready and willing to take the fight to Kawada whenever the chance presents itself, and their exchanges are the clear highlights to the match, and one of a very few times that a ‘dream match’ actually delivers. There are also a lot of smart touches, like KENTA’s block and counter of the early attempt at the Dynamic bomb, and Taue outsmarting KENTA with the neckbreaker drop. When Taue and Kawada get a chance to work over KENTA for a bit, it looks like 1993 all over again. Kawada and Taue obviously aren’t as quick and spry as they were sixteen years before, but, the attitude is there. The final stretch has all the excitement you’d expect from a NOAH main event, without the ridiculousness of the pop-up sequences, and wasted big moves for near falls. Taue even pulls off a Tiger driver to honor Misawa, before they commence to finishing off KENTA, which comes after Taue gets the job done himself with the Ore Ga Taue. If Akiyama has been as up to task as the other three, then this could easily be the best tag match, and maybe even the best match period, in company history. ***½

Conclusion: It feels like typical NOAH. A mostly unremarkable undercard, with most of the quality coming toward the end.