March 4, 2007


Atsushi Aoki . . . steals the show in a meaningless undercard trios match.

Doug Williams . . . proves to be an amazing pro wrestler by carrying Misawa’s mediocre tag team partner to the best match he’s ever had in the Green Ring.

Takeshi Morishima . . . finally finds the anger and attitude that he’s always been lacking, but, he finds it too late to salvage his match on this night.



Aside from some of the Hashi/Shiga exchanges, and the heels working over Hashi’s back, this is mostly forgettable. Hashi gives Kanemaru a diving headbutt from the top to the floor in the first couple of minutes, and the spot is rendered completely meaningless. Along with mostly mediocre work, there are some bad attempts at comedy in the form of Izumida and Hashi not being on the same page, and Kanemaru gearing up for a dropkick, and then changing his mind. Shiga and Kanemaru are fairly nasty when they work over Hashi’s back, but it’s forgotten about as soon as Hashi tags Izumida, and long before the match ends. The finishing stretch between Hashi and Shiga is probably the smoothest work of the match, with Hashi’s attempts at the Goriman suplex getting countered, and Shiga outwrestling Hashi for the win. After all these years, you’d think Hashi would have shown enough progress to not get pinned by a backslide.



Why was Aoki the most interesting worker in this match? Instead of being the token fall guy, he somehow manages to work good segments with all three members of the opposing team. Aside from Aoki’s performance, there isn’t a whole lot else to see. Shiosaki is able to show off his athleticism, which isn’t something that he’s been afforded much of a chance to do, with a springboard moonsault while his team was working over Aoki and also a rana to Kawabata. But, Shiosaki’s work, like everyone else’s in the match, wasn’t anything marginally different from what everyone had already seen from him. Shiosaki getting the winning pinfall for his team shows a little bit of growth for him, although, his Go Flasher finisher is beyond ugly, and the lariat/German suplex combo with Honda would have been a much better spot to end the match with.



There isn’t much here that makes this vastly different from the previous match. Marvin’s performance is clearly the centerpiece to the match, and it’s nice to see that Bison is willing to take a couple of bumps for him. In addition to his flying, Ricky also bumps like a fiend for the foreigners, and working him over gives Hero and Fish their own chances to show off their athleticism, including a big tope from Bobby. Neither Rikio nor Saito adds much at all to the match, but, since the story centers around Ricky, they don’t need to. All they really needed to do was give him some backup, and not outshine him, which they do just fine. It’s nice to see the story have a good payoff when Ricky is the one who gets the win for his team. Granted, he was the only one with a title around his waist, so, he really should have gotten the win anyway, but, it’s nice to see the junior not treated like an afterthought.



There are some fun moments to this match, but, it never quite comes together as well as it should have. It’s nice to see that Takayama and Sano don’t mind letting Marufuji look good. If anything, Takayama is a little too giving to him, going up for an ugly straightjacket German suplex and also getting outwrestled by Marufuji and caught in a juji-gatame. Sano and Takayama manage to corner Marufuji and work him over for a spell, focusing on the midsection with some great spots like Sano’s diving stomp off the apron, and a big backdrop from Takayama. But, Marufuji doesn’t do much of anything to put it over, he still uses his speed and agility to keep himself out of too much trouble, when it would have been better to let the heavyweights keep the control segment going, and let his partner make a save or two.


There isn’t a whole lot to see from Taue. He gets one nice stretch with Takayama after Marufuji tags out. He unloads with some chops, and tries for the Nodowa. Takayama throws him off, but he comes back with a jumping neckbreaker drop for a near fall. The main takeaway from the match is how lethal a strike Sano’s rolling kick is. Whenever Sano unleashes the kick, Marufuji goes airborne to put it over, and, the kick is what allows Sano and Takayama the chance to slow down Taue and eventually finish him off.



This was fun for a while, but, once Terry blows off Rocky’s arm work, and they started blowing off suplexes and head kicks, it was all downhill. Rocky’s arm work really only amounts to filler, but, it was still fun to watch. Rocky preventing the handspring by kicking the bad arm was a smart touch, and, he shows off his craftiness with the various ways that he’s able to surprise Terry and trap him in an armbar. There are a couple of other nice moments, like Rocky rolling through the rana for a hot near fall. But, once they started no-selling suplexes, and Terry forgets about the arm after he escapes the superplex, there wasn’t any reason to care one way or another. After his superplex escape, Terry starts throwing out spots and eventually puts Rocky away with was essentially a hip toss from the top. Rocky showed some promise, and it’d have been interesting to see how he’d have matched up with someone like Aoki, or, to see him teamed up with SUWA if he were still around. But, I can’t say that I’m looking forward to watching Terry challenge Takaiwa.



This is the best Ogawa match that I’ve seen in NOAH, by a big margin, and there’s not very much that has to do with Ogawa. If you like limb work, then this will be something that you’ll want to check out. Williams works the arm and Ogawa works the leg, but, it’s easy to see that Doug is doing the heavy lifting. Doug almost literally works circles around Ogawa, surprising and countering into arm locks time and time again. Any time that Doug sees the slightest opening, he pounces, even something simple like Ogawa taking a breath and Doug getting the chance to use the post. When Ogawa is in control, Doug has to more or less lead him though the sequences, and make the openings as obvious as possible, with the Scorpion deathlock/small package sequence being especially obvious.


It would have been nice to see a little more selling from Doug, even though Ogawa wasn’t exactly stellar when in control. Even something like Doug losing the bridge for the Chaos Theory near fall would have given the impression that Ogawa was making a little bit of headway. With how much better a performer Williams was, it’s nice to see him get the win, even if it’s with a flash cradle and not a submission. It’s much better than seeing Ogawa win the same way after being thoroughly outclassed. There are other guys on the roster that would probably match up better with Williams. Honda, Sano, Sugiura, and Takayama all spring to mind quickly. But, it speaks volumes about how good Doug is that he could get this good a match out of Ogawa, just by having Ogawa stay out of his way and not muck things up. ***1/4



It seemed like this was going to be interesting when Yone attacked Akiyama as he was making his entrance, and Jun was grumpier than I’ve probably ever seen him when he finally made it to the ring. But, this was just a sprint with very little of any substance. It was nice to see Akiyama take out Yone’s knee before he did the Exploder off the apron, but, the Exploder itself was a waste of the spot. The anger and intensity is welcome, but, both of them just run though their spots with nothing as far any real storytelling goes. And, keep in mind that Akiyama got a watchable match out of Masao Inoue the year before, so it’s not like Jun isn’t capable of putting on engaging matches with lower ranked and/or lesser workers. The way Yone positioned Akiyama for his diving legdrop made it clear that he wasn’t going to hit it, and Yone’s kick out at one and subsequent Hulk-up after the first Exploder was beyond terrible. The mere fact that this ends in under five minutes is actually one of the nicest things that I can say about it. With how absurd things were getting already, I can only imagine what another five would have looked like.



As far as structure goes, this isn’t vastly different from the matches that Misawa was having with Kea in ‘98 or Sano in ‘03. Misawa takes more than his fair share of abuse and punishment, and still winds up winning in what looks like a decisive manner. What makes this stand out is that the work is smoother than one might expect. Misawa has never been shy about taking big bumps, but, with Sugiura’s strength, it doesn’t look like Misawa is bumping himself around.


There are also a few nice things to be found in the match. Sugiura’s first control segment comes when he catches Misawa with a spear as he’s charging for an elbow. It not only looks good, but, it’s entirely believable. There’s another good spot in the form of Sugiura lifting Misawa into an Argentine backbreaker and then dropping him and hitting a big kick to the back as he falls (basically an inverted G2S). Misawa counters Sugiura’s powerbomb into a back body drop off the ramp and onto the floor. After milking the count a bit, Sugiura crawls into the ring and Misawa gets a near fall from a Tiger driver. But, right afer he gets the shoulder up, Sugiura segues himself into an ankle lock on Misawa, and forgets about selling the effects of the two bumps he just took. It’s plausible that Sugiura is good enough on the mat to outsmart Misawa into the hold, but there had to have been a better way to do it. It also doesn’t help that using the ankle lock against Misawa is just as much of a waste as Akiyama’s Exploder off the apron. Sugiura rarely uses the ankle lock to win matches anyway, and with the exception of his junior title win over KENTA, he’s never used it to win a major match or to submit a big name. And, nobody would believe that Misawa of all people (even if he didn’t have the GHC at the time) would be the first.


The TKO finish with the ref stopping the match while Misawa elbows Sugiura’s face into oblivion is somewhat unique, although it seems like it’s becoming a habit for Sugiura to lose via a ref stop. But, considering that they’d killed off both of their finishers, nothing else would have worked much better. Sugiura gives Misawa three consecutive Olympic Slams, and still fails to put him away. Does anyone else remember when the Emerald Frozion was Misawa’s kiss of death finisher, on par with the Burning Hammer? It’s certainly not anymore. For all the talk about how much Kobashi lost his way as a worker, I’ve never seen him work a match where he planted his opponent with multiple Burning Hammers, and still needed something else to win. It’s something of a positive that these two are able to work together so smoothly, but, you’d think that, between the latter few years in All Japan and going on seven years of NOAH, that Misawa would have figured out that it takes more to potentially elevate someone than letting them tee off on him before losing.


TAKESHI MORISHIMA © vs. KENTA (ROH World Heavyweight Title)

After the thirty-minute tag draw in July, and the twenty-minute singles draw in December, Morishima finally gets a win over KENTA. But, the way that they go about getting to that result leaves a lot to be desired. Just like in the two draws, Morishima is far too giving with his bumping and selling. There is simply no reason for KENTA to be able to drop Morishima with a lariat, unless he’s knocked him loopy with a head kick, and Morishima has no business going up for the G2S at all. There are a few things that they make work, like Morishima’s selling after springboard diving stomp to the floor, and KENTA countering Morishima’s Koshinaka-style jumping hip attack into a German suplex worked after KENTA had tried and failed to suplex him.


But, those few nice things are the exceptions and not the rule. KENTA charges for the Busaiku and gets leveled with a big lariat. That should have been the beginning of the end. But, KENTA kicks out of the backdrop, and then takes another lariat and backdrop combo and kicks out again, and then another where he pops back up. He finally stays down, but it’s after far too many occurrences of Morishima unloading his primary strike and finishing move. It’s great to see Morishima get more and more angry as KENTA survives, and then finally unleashing on him in the corner, including tossing the referee to the side. But, Morishima should have been doing that a hell of a lot sooner than now, so it almost feels like a hollow victory for him.


I understand that ROH may not have been too thrilled about it, but, if any match on the card could have worked as a sub five-minute sprint, it was this one. Morishima should have clobbered KENTA from the moment the bell rang, and not let up until he stayed down. One could just read the stats and results and see that Morishima won in just under ten minutes, and get the impression that he handily defeated KENTA, but that’s certainly not the case. If Morishima has any chance of being the next generation ace that NOAH has been trying, and failing, to create for a few years now, then, never having a match like this ever again would be a great start.


Conclusion: There’s some fun on the undercard in the form of the Takayama/Sano tag, the Williams match, and Aoki’s performance, but the top matches all failed to deliver.