January 5, 2014

Kenou . . . has some fun smacking around, and stretching out, one of the NOAH rookies.

Yuji Okabayashi . . . beats the tar out of the GHC Tag Champions, to see if he can force the mighty to kneel.

Takeshi Morishima . . . gets some redemption from his loss of the GHC Title the year before.


It’s fun watching Kenou play kill the young boy. You know the score when three solid shots from Kumano barely register, but, one shot from Kenou drops him like a safe. They run into trouble when they try getting more ambitious, mostly because Kumano exposes the cooperation, like Kenou’s double knees in the corner with Kumano taking a little stroll before he drops down to set up the roundhouse kick. The ankle lock roll-through spot is annoying no matter who does it, but, if this isn’t the worst execution of it, then it’s scraping the bottom. Kumano’s near falls from the flash cradles are nice, and show that the kid could outwrestle and upset Kenou if he isn’t careful, but, they kill that idea dead with Kumano picking Kenou up to try a small package, exposing that he’s doing that because he doesn’t have anything else to do. If nothing else, Kenou wins with something resembling an actual finisher, in a modified STF, rather than some pedestrian submission hold.


You know things are bad when the best worker in the match is Ogawa. He does a very respectable job of busting up Yone’s arm. One could probably rattle off twenty workers who could do a better job of it, either in showing personality or coming up with better spots, but, the thought is still nice. Yone just goes on offense as though Ogawa hadn’t been working his arm over for an extended time, selling nothing, and any heat that they’d managed to conjure up vanishes. Ogawa goes back on offense when Yone takes a shoulder bump into the post, and follows up with a Fujiwara armbar. But, Yone, again, just blows it off, and finishes Ogawa with the Muscle Buster. I’d love to see what would happen if Yone tried this garbage against someone like Minoru Suzukil


There are nice moments here, but, this doesn’t come together very well as a whole, it feels more like an exhibition rather than something with a life of its own. They show their ability to outwrestle each other, with Harada’s tenacity in keeping Kotoge trapped in the sleeper, and Kotoge countering Harada’s bridge after the Northern Lights into a guillotine choke. There’s a nice moment when Kotoge hurts his ribs after a splash, and Harada follows up with a backbreaker and a diving stomp. And, they have a smart finish, with Harada stunning Kotoge with the Knee Upper before pinning him with the German suplex, after Kotoge has escaped the German earlier. Aside from the build to the finish and the brief midsection work from Harada, there isn’t any story to sink in, and there’s a noticeable lack of intensity, or any emotion, from either of them, which is even more noticeable when you consider that the longtime tag partners were joining different stables.


Despite the Ishimori/Ohara feud being the centerpiece of this, with Ohara submitting Ishimori going into their match for Ishimori’s GHC Jr. Title, they seem to get the least amount of time to work, it’s OK though, because the other four are able to pick up the slack. It’s always weird seeing Takayama in these sorts of matches, since he sticks out like a sore thumb, but, he always makes a genuine effort to work with, and sell for, his opponents rather than just squash them. This holds true for this match, as his exchanges with Nakajima are probably the highlights of the match, and, he works well with Marufuji as well. Genba is as fun to watch as he’s always been, he knows he can’t hope to outwrestle the opposition, but, he’s always prepared with a surprise counter or a shortcut that keeps him out of serious trouble. And that’s the way that this plays out. It’d have been nice to see them make more of an effort to tell a story and make the work more meaningful, especially with a submission finish. There’s clearly room for improvement, but, this is certainly watchable, although, you’d think this many good workers would be able to do a lot better than that.


Surely there were a couple of directionless heavyweights on the NOAH roster that could have been used to give the GHC Tag Champions a win, rather than bringing in the Big Japan team just to shit on them. There isn’t much of any story being told, other than the brief period of the Big Japan team working over Shane’s midsection with a series of bodyslams, and, Shane easily escapes Okabayashi’s backbreaker, which shows how much getting worked over affected him. You can see how much thought is going into making their spots matter when Ishikawa gets a near fall from a bridging Northern Lights, and then goes back to a chinlock. There’s a nice moment toward the end, with Shane running in after Mikey gets creamed by Okabayashi’s lariat, and Mikey is clearly disoriented from it. But, the finish still comes way too easily, and there’s just no reason for Okabayashi, who was established as the heavy hitter of the match, to be taking the pin.


The work itself isn’t anything special. But, the intensity and hatred that they show is convincing, and, after such a dull undercard, that’s a very welcome sight. Neither of them is concerned with winning the match, they just want to hurt each other, and if that means bringing in props, choking in the corner and ignoring the ref’s count, and tossing the ref aside, then so be it. There is one nice moment when Taniguchi grabs the ref to block Nagata’s backdrop, and Nagata switches to his armbar. The ref finally admits that things are out of his hands, and calls it after Taniguchi shoves him down, and grabs his cane again.

KENTA © vs. TAKESHI MORISHIMA (GHC Heavyweight Title)

Overall, this is fine to watch, but it’s nothing all that special. They’re painted into a corner because Morishima can’t very well squash KENTA, with him having been the champion for nearly a year, but, there isn’t a whole lot that KENTA can do to Morishima to make it a competitive match. KENTA mainly uses his strikes to try to chop Morishima down to size, while Morishima uses his size and strength to his advantage.

Morishima specifically focuses on the midsection, which causes an abdominal stretch to get a remarkably loud reaction, and allows for a great spot with KENTA’s springboard getting countered into a Big Bossman side slam. They work in several smart touches, like KENTA impressively getting Morishima up for a vertical suplex, but, it winds up hurting KENTA more than hurting Morishima. They even make Morishima going up for the Go 2 Sleep look believable. The first one comes from Morishima running himself into position for it, and the second one is after KENTA scores a head kick, with Morishima still being dazed. Morishima’s height also helps them, because it looks like KENTA doesn’t have to put too much effort into getting him up, it’s much more credible than Morishima going up for the Go Flasher. The Go 2 Sleep is somewhat protected, with the knee catching Morishima in the body rather than the head to explain the kickout. KENTA’s backdrop counters are another welcome sight, with him trying to outwrestle Morishima by countering them into a flash cradle and then into the Game Over. They have a nice enough finish, with KENTA seeing things slipping away, so he tries going all out with the strikes to finish off Morishima, but, Morishima drops him with two lariats and finishes him with the backdrop. Afterwards, Morishima turns heel and forms his own unit with Maybach and Kenou. It’s really too bad that this was his last hurrah, and that he was only keeping the title warm for Nagata. It’d have been interesting to see if the heel turn brought out that different side of him that I’d always hoped to see. ***1/4

Conclusion: Ho-Hum, a good main event and an undercard with nothing all that special or memorable. It’s pretty much what I’ve come to expect from NOAH.