NOAH Television

Taped on November 30, 2003

Two title matches in one TV block, and unfortunately NOAH starts to end 2003 with a whimper.

Tamon Honda . . . ends his tag title reign with a lousy performance.

Takashi Sugiura . . . continues his junior title reign with his own lousy performance.

KENTA . . . puts on a better performance, but not quite good enough.


The heat for this match is disappointing, Lyger had more heat than Nagata and Tanahashi combined, just for being El Samurai’s second. This match is also supposed to be the big ‘Revenge of Nagata’ where he avenges his big loss to Kobashi from September, but aside from some stuff with Honda, this looks pretty much like any other Nagata match, with all the usual frustrations that he brings with him. There isn’t any sense of urgency or anger that Nagata is able to convey, it seems like just another match. Nagata isn’t completely at fault though, Kobashi brings some of his usual bright ideas, and it looks like Honda has really learned from Kobashi, and that isn’t a positive thing at all, it looks as though Honda took the nifty mat skills that instantly separated him from most of the NOAH roster, and after his newfound push combined it with some typical Kobashi silliness. And in that respect, it’s definitely a good move that NOAH clipped this for television.

Honda and Nagata’s exchanges are nice when it’s on the ground, because for once it looks like Honda has someone who can actually “go” with him. The matwork itself isn’t anything that hasn’t been done substantially better in other places, by other workers, but it’s nice to see someone who can actually trade holds and counters with Honda, instead of just laying (or standing in the case of the shoulder hold) there. When they’re on their feet, it’s not nearly as pretty. Nagata shows that he at least understands some semblance of building to a climax, when he levels Honda’s leg with three solid kicks and then goes for the Nagata Lock. Honda on the other hand, takes several kicks to the face from Nagata, and shrugs them off, not even bothering grimacing or twitch ala Kobashi. After the kicks, Honda charges Nagata and drops him with the Dead End, just to put the icing on the cake. Kobashi and Nagata seem to pick up where they left off, trading suplexes and popping right up, and this time Nagata doesn’t even bother with some attempting to be interesting limb work like he did in September with Kobashi’s arm.

Tanahashi’s work here is good for the most part, although it’d have been nice if he tried to show off some personality ala green boy Wataru in the first NJ vs. NOAH junior match. It could only have helped, considering Tanahashi’s lack of NOAH experience. Kobashi and Tanahashi have some nice exchanges with each other as well, based around Tanahashi using his speed to his advantage, the really nice part with when Tanahashi hits the big jumping kick on Kobashi, who sorts staggers for a minute before dropping like a safe. Tanahashi also makes that inexperience error by getting tagged and attacking Honda on the floor, rather than keeping on Kobashi. Kobashi and Tanahashi also have fun with the prerequisite for NOAH vs. Outsider matches, submission spots. Seeing as Tanahashi hasn’t put away anyone of real note (let alone someone of Kobashi’s stature) with the Dragon sleeper, it’s odd to watch him use it on Kobashi. But then Kobashi goes and puts it over nicely, rather than simply powering out like you’d expect. Then when its Kobashi’s time to use a submission, he uses the Full Nelson, which logically plays to his power and weakens the neck for a potential lariat. Honda isn’t anywhere near as effective with the submissions he brings. Normally they make good wear down holds, because they’re so unlike anything else anyone uses. But now with someone who can keep up with him in that regard, Honda has to dig a bit deeper to find something effective, and he fails. A submission (or ref stoppage or KO for that matter) finish would probably have worked better for the ending. It’d have enabled Nagata to show Honda that despite his rapid rise in NOAH with his offense, he’s far from being anything special. The strikes to soften him up are a nice touch, exploiting an avenue that Honda can’t utilize, but kicking out the initial backdrop negates that aspect. The bridging backdrop finish now goes to no deeper meaning than Honda got beat because Kobashi was being held back. Even Kobashi being taken out on the floor by a double team, or a cheap shot, would have put Honda truly ‘on his own’ instead of just on his own, until an eventual tag, which would have made a fitting end to the Tamon Honda story.

KENTA vs. TAKASHI SUGIURA © (GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title)

I like Sugiura more than most do, but he was really bad here, and KENTA was better, but not enough to salvage the match. Sugiura’s early filler work is dull and more often than not, it’s pointless. He clearly wasn’t paying attention to how Honda was able to use his amateur skills to further his own career, because he’s got the same opportunity and it’s wasted. Sugiura has all the good spots down, but it’s the work between spots where he falls short. The only thing Sugiura does in the early portion of any note is his ankle hook, which pays off when he applies the Ankle Lock much later, but Sugiura never follows up, or does anything to show that he’s weakening KENTA up for something. And when Sugiura does start throwing out the spots, there isn’t any viable reason why anything he does, either makes sense or furthers the match along.

KENTA is better, but he cannot work for both of them here. He takes his beating from Sugiura like a man, and when he finally gets on offense, he tries to make his work actually count for something, as opposed to just throwing out spots for the heck of it. Such as when he hits Sugiura with the Falcon Arrow, almost right after Sugiura had missed the spear and hit the post, and then following up with the Tiger suplex attempt. Laying the kicks into Sugiura’s chest also sends him a little message about finding a solid focus and actually sticking with it, like when he was working the leg over. The Busaiku off the apron is a bit out of place, but not too big a deal after the extended control segment Sugiura got, it makes sense to go with a decent bomb to try to get him hurt. The same deal with the big springboard dropkick that leads Sugiura back to control, KENTA needed a good move, but Sugiura was too strong. KENTA is far from perfect though, after Sugiura hooks the Ankle Lock (which KENTA sells fabulously), and KENTA gets the ropes. Sugiura attempts the Olympic slam and KENTA flips out of it, but then moments after his excellent sell job, he’s throwing out the kick flurry like he’s perfectly fine again, KENTA hits a Busaiku knee and flops down to explain his lack of cover. The finish is quite fitting given the match. Kicking out of a finisher and then getting hit with it again for the win is typical of NOAH (just look at the last match), but the difference here is that the last match had that chance to make it mean something and just wasted it. This match didn’t even really get that far. There isn’t anything that Sugiura did to show that he’s clearly higher up the food chain or better than KENTA, it’s just a case of Sugiura hitting two Olympic slams and retaining his title.

Conclusion: Nothing to see this time around. It’s a shame that the Honda tag title run had to end the way it did, but that’s just NOAH for you. Even the awesome KENTA couldn’t salvage something out of the other match to at least make the TV block hit .500. Move right along folks, nothing to see here.