June 3, 2007


Go Shiosaki . . . shows promise as he continues to try to climb the NOAH ladder, but he’s still got a long way to go.

Kotaro Suzuki . . . finally shows some semblance of growth within the junior division, after years (upon years) of being the token whipping boy.

Mitsuharu Misawa . . . defends his GHC Title in a match that’s just barely watchable, if only because it manages not to be offensive.



Hey, this isn’t the worst opening match I’ve ever seen on a NOAH show. As expected, Ota and Hirayanagi do the heavy lifting as far as the work goes, and they both do a respectable job of getting worked over by the other team. Ota takes a diving senton off the apron from Kawabata and after they get him in the ring, Kawabata takes turns hip tossing his partners onto Ota’s ribs. Ota tags out to Inoue and he and Kawabata actually work a pretty intense segment. Nobody is going to confuse Inoue with a member of the Midnight Express or anything, but it’d probably crack a top five list of Inoue’s best performances. Ota and Shiga also work a pretty engaging finishing stretch, it seems like Shiga is going to submit him with the crab hold, but Ota gets the ropes and Shiga plants him with a pump handle backbreaker for another near fall. Shiga finally has to outwrestle Ota and trap him in an STF and then switch to an inverted stretch to finally make him submit. It’s not a surprise that Shiga was able to put him away, but it was impressive to see how far that Ota was able to push him before he finally gets it done.



DiBiase’s attitude and intensity tries to give the impression that he’s some sort of Bryan Danielson clone, but Danielson would have made this a whole lot more interesting. Saito’s hand is wrapped in a cast and DiBiase does next to nothing to work it over. Pretty much the only thing he does is wrap it around the ropes (and guardrail when they’re on the floor) and he throws punches at it. He only works two holds, a hammer lock and a crossface, and neither of them are very tight looking. He does try to bleed Saito dry with a sleeper, but instead of using the hold to win, he just lets it go and gets a near fall. Saito isn’t marginally worse than DiBiase, but it’s not like the onus is really on him to carry the offense anyway. He hits a pretty nasty backdrop, but other than that he sticks with his usual array of kicks and lower end offense, until he decides he’s had enough and plants DiBiase with four straight uranages which sufficiently softens him up for Saito to hit his Death Punish lariat finisher. It was also a bit disappointing to see Saito use the injured arm for the lariat and not sell it until after he gets the pin. Ted was decent in his WWE stint, but if this is any indication, NOAH was definitely not a good fit for him.



This is actually watchable once in a while, thanks to Honda. Taue and Ogawa are content to work over Kikuchi using comedy spots and cheating, but Honda refuses to play that game. As a result, Taue and Honda have the best stretch of work of the entire match, and Honda also does some nice stuff with Ogawa. But there’s not enough of those sequences, and far too much of their bullshit with Kikuchi, to come even close to salvaging this. Even the finish plays for laughs when Ogawa rolls through Kikuchi’s sunset flip and cradles him for the pin, although Kikuchi had just taken a jumping kick from Taue, so it does stand to reason that his bell was still rung from it.



This clearly isn’t a bad match; Hell, compared to the tag match that came before it, it looks like a trios match from the All Japan glory years. But, if you’re familiar with the hierarchy of everyone involved here, then there’s almost nothing here that will come as a surprise. Morishima works a decent segment with Takayama, and Yone does the same with Sano, but they don’t do much more than run through their familiar stuff, although the intensity is appreciated. That leaves Taniguchi to work in some spunky young lion offense and take the majority of the punishment. He does a good job with what he’s given to work with, which isn’t much. Takayama and co. settle for smacking him around and the only real submission is Sano’s single leg crab, and it’s intended more to simply torture the kid than as a genuine attempt to win the match. It’s clear how much of a threat that Taniguchi poses when the big spot that leads to his finally tagging out is reversing a vertical suplex. He does show a little bit toward the end, when he counters Sugiura’s gut wrench suplex with one of his own and then hits an overhead belly to belly and a deadlift German for a near fall. Takayama and Sano intervene and then tie up Morishima and Yone on the floor, and Sugiura hits a couple of his own suplexes and finishes off Taniguchi with the Olympic Slam. It’s watchable for what it is, but there’s virtually nothing that truly makes this stand out. There aren’t any exchanges that hint at bigger things happening between Morishima/Takayama or Yone/Sano, and Taniguchi’s only stretch of real offense seems far less impressive being done to a junior-turned-heavyweight than it would have against someone like Sano.



For the first five or six minutes, this seemed like it was going to be good, but then they went off the deep end. After a quick feeling out process, Shiosaki catches one of KENTA’s kicks and takes him over in a Dragon screw and follows up by working over the leg. Aside from Shiosaki using the figure four, the offense isn’t exactly high end, but it was nice to see that Shiosaki had it in him to control KENTA on some level, and it makes KENTA’s kick-and-knee-heavy offense work against him as much as it would work for him. Even after KENTA takes over by hitting a running kick to stop a diving shoulder block and then hitting a second kick, he still remembers to sell. But then he throws Shiosaki to the floor to continue the assault and the idea that Shiosaki working over the leg mattered at all is completely out the window. KENTA’s control segment has a few smart touches of his own, like outwrestling Shiosaki into an armbar and then angling some kicks at his arm, but Shiosaki makes his comeback with a lariat, and then they decide that the way to decide who’s in control will be by stiffing the piss out of each other with kicks and chops.


There are a couple of times when KENTA seemingly does something that might get them back on track to building this thing, but it never goes anywhere. They do a counter/reversal exchange with each of their finishers, and it results in Shiosaki hitting KENTA with a German in the corner that KENTA sells like absolute death. But, instead of doing something to let KENTA keep selling, Shiosaki picks him up for another German that KENTA has to kick out of. Then toward the end, KENTA counters a lariat into a seated armbar that gets broken when Shiosaki eventually crawls to the ropes and seems like it sapped the last of his strength. KENTA hits a Tiger suplex for a near fall, and it looks like the perfect setup for the Busaiku and/or G2S. But Shiosaki hits a surprise lariat, and they have another strike exchange that KENTA has to win before he can do his two big spots and win the match. Shiosaki’s performance really looks like he studied, and patterned himself after, the absolute worst performances of Misawa and Kobashi, right down to timing his comebacks to make sure that he still looked strong, regardless of whether or not it seemed plausible for the match. The idea of Shiosaki pushing KENTA as far as possible and still coming up short certainly isn’t a new concept for how to raise his stock, but this comes off like Shiosaki was too worried about looking weak by losing to a junior (forgetting the fact that KENTA had challenged for the GHC the year before and would be doing so again in the near future). All they really accomplish is making Shiosaki look like the worst possible Kobashi clone. It’s kind of sad that the best effort of making a young kid look good in a loss was in the throwaway opening trios match.



If they hadn’t gone crazy in the last six or so minutes, then this would have easily been the best of the “Established Star versus Up-and-Comer” matches. Much like their tag meeting the following month, it looks like Marufuji is wrestling a counterpart of himself from 2000 or 2001; a clearly talented athlete who certainly isn’t a rookie or young boy anymore but is still lacking the experience that Marufuji now has, and that’s what Marufuji uses to shut him down. It seems like Marufuji is completely prepared for whatever Ishimori has to throw at him, whether it’s crafty escapes and counters or Marufuji knowing exactly what’s coming and being able to avoid it. Marufuji also adds in a few heelish touches of his own, like blocking the handspring with the sliding kick and then slamming the gate to the guardrail on Ishimori’s forehead. There’s another great moment when Marufuji counters the dropkick into a powerbomb, but instead of a throwaway near fall, Marufuji locks in an inverted butterfly lock.


It starts going downhill when Marufuji misses a lariat and hits the post. Ishimori’s response to the opening is to hit a diving moonsault to the floor, and then roll Marufuji in for a near fall, rather than work over the arm and try to take the match somewhere. All things considered, the spot itself is pretty much wasted. Then they completely go off the deep end with a backdrop and no-sell sequence, and then a ref bump which allows Ishimori to hit his Superstar Elbow. And we’re suddenly supposed to believe that the guy who spent the better part of eleven minutes getting worked over is suddenly on the verge of winning. It’s something of a positive for Ishimori that Marufuji has to resort to the Pole Shift to finish him off, but it’s even better to see Marufuji needing to cycle through other finishers before he gets there. First he hits a Shiranui after stopping Ishimori from doing the usual block, and after the near fall he hits a superkick and dodges one from Ishimori and hits a spin kick for another near fall, and then Marufuji spikes him with the Pole Shift to finish him off for good. It doesn’t quite hit the same level as the Shiga/Ota stretch, but out of all the matches with this underlying theme, this is the only one that told any significant story. And if they hadn’t gone spot-crazy during the last third, it would have easily surpassed the trios match.



There isn’t anything here that’s especially surprising or remarkable. It’s mostly the heavyweights working over the juniors, and while it’s watchable, it’s not very exciting. Kanemaru is his usual annoying self, not wanting to let the foreigners get too much heat on him, so he’s constantly trying to fight back. Eddie is much better, especially when they’re working over the midsection; he’s great at putting over Jun’s crab hold. But he gets annoying toward the end too; he takes consecutive diving stomps from all three opponents and then makes his comeback by taking over Rikio with a rana and then hitting a spin kick before he tags out. It’d have been fine, although still questionable, if it were Kanemaru on the receiving end of it, but Eddie definitely shouldn’t be able to pull that off on the biggest of the three opponents. The idea here is clearly to build some excitement for Akiyama and Rikio defending the GHC Tag Titles against D’Lo and Buchanan, but aside from a scrum on the floor after Kanemaru tags out and then some brawling after the bell, there isn’t much to be seen. And the brawling isn’t even all that intense or heated. Buchanan blocking Kanemaru’s sunset flip in order to hit the Iron Claw Slam makes him look somewhat crafty, but it’s not like anyone thinks that he’d be able to pull that off with Akiyama or Rikio. Overall, this is a watchable trios match, but that’s pretty much the highest praise that it gets.



Arai and Iwasa were making a name for themselves as a team over in Dragon Gate, but it’s hard to imagine them posing much of a threat in NOAH, and the way that this match plays out doesn’t do much to alleviate that issue. Aside from the jumpstart at the bell, there isn’t much to see as far as hate and intensity is concerned, and it’s hard to imagine that any number of other DG teams (even a couple of makeshift ones) couldn’t have done a better job of heeling things up on the spunky NOAH team. Arai and Iwasa spend a good chunk of time working over Ricky’s back, but it really doesn’t go anywhere special. It doesn’t serve as gateway offense to lead into their more dangerous stuff, and it never seems like the DG team is trying to win the match with it. Arai and Iwasa take turns working him over with mostly low-end offense and a couple of contrived spots that seem designed more to get laughs. When Suzuki’s knee becomes the focus their work is a little better, especially Iwasa’s tricked out legbar, but it doesn’t go nearly as long, and it winds up mattering equally as much as the control segment on Ricky.


Despite the overall lack of consistent story, there are quite a few smart touches throughout the match, it’s just a shame that they don’t get followed up on to any great degree. The main one is Arai’s famously hard head. It gets him out of quite a few predicaments and Suzuki swinging his 619 into Arai is what sets up the DG team to work over his knee for a little bit. But, aside from those few instances, it’s not a consistent theme to the match. The control segment on Ricky would have been a perfect time for Arai to dig out some head-based offense or for Arai and Iwasa to come up with some tandem spots. They would have been a lot more credible and convincing than the bodyslam, vertical suplex and crab hold type of moves that they were using. It’s also curious that an errant 619 to Arai is what hurts Suzuki’s leg, but then later on he hits another one to Arai followed by Suzuki and Marvin hitting him with a double 619 and neither of them are hurt at all from it. The other thing that sticks out is how well Suzuki’s Blue Destiny finisher is treated. Suzuki plants Iwasa with it relatively early in the match, and he’s out for a good five minutes. It leads to some double teaming on Arai, which is where he first uses his head to keep out of trouble. And it’s what Suzuki eventually uses to pin Arai to win the match, and he only needs it the once. Suzuki does attempt the move, and has it countered into a backslide for a near fall, but, once he’s able to connect it, it puts Arai away. It’s also a positive that Suzuki gets the pin on Arai rather than Iwasa, as one might expect. Despite having a title around his waist, Suzuki’s rise in rank has been more due to the deemphasis of Kikuchi and Momota, Marufuji and KENTA being pushed as GHC threats, and the addition of rookies and young boys to the roster, rather than him specifically getting elevated. So, it does give Suzuki some rub to outwrestle and pin someone like Arai, who’d been around for a while and had a few title reigns under his belt.


But, when it comes right down to it, this isn’t vastly different from the matches that Suzuki and Ricky had against the Briscoes. When they get the filler out of the way, the match is little more than a big spotfest. As impressive as it might be to see Ricky springboard in and take Iwasa over with a rana to thwart the DG team’s attempted double-team or his diving cutter that stops Arai from hitting his diving headbutt, the sequences come off so seamless that it exposes the cooperation more than anything else.  All four of them rip out some impressive looking stuff, with Suzuki’s being the best of the lot, but aside from the counter into the Tombstone that sets up the Blue Destiny, none of it truly feels like it matters. Aside from the bit of rub that Suzuki gets by beating Arai, it’s hard to understand what the point of having Arai and Iwasa challenge was; Suzuki and Ricky had already beaten Doi and Yoshino, arguably the top heel team in DG. If the idea here is to elevate Arai and Iwasa in defeat, the way the match plays out doesn’t really accomplish that goal, and it seems odd to do that in a NOAH ring anyway. What’s most telling, at least to me, is the fact that every one of Suzuki and Ricky’s title matches (including their title win) was them going over outsiders, freelancers, or foreigners, rather than beating any established name in the NOAH junior division.



The idea of Bison being an actual threat to Misawa’s title is pretty much laughable, and there’s nothing that happens during the course of the match to change that perception. The only time that this even seems all that interesting is when Misawa is working over Bison’s leg. Bison gets a boot up to stop a charge and seats himself on the top rope, Misawa hits an elbow and Bison gets hung up in the corner, and it leads to Misawa sharking at Bison’s knee, even throwing some cheap shot elbows while the ref is still trying to get him free. The work itself isn’t anything high end or state of the art, it's mostly Misawa working a basic legbar and throwing his elbows, along with Bison being surprisingly adequate at putting it over. The main reason that it comes off so well is that it’s such a departure from what we’ve come to expect out of Misawa.


There isn’t really anything else to take away from this. Bison escapes an Emerald Frozion and press slams Misawa on the ramp, and then hits his Bisontenial finisher on the ramp. Misawa puts them over well and does count out teases after both, but it’s not like anyone thinks Misawa is going to lose, let alone that way. Bison throws Misawa over the rail and dives onto him for another count out tease, and Misawa literally sits in the front row to get a breather while Bison does warmups in the ring. Misawa gets back into the ring and throws some elbows, and Bison wants to do his Iron Claw slam and they do some countering and dodging, including a somewhat amusing sequence with Bison having the claw on Misawa’s elbow. Bison wins out after ducking a rolling elbow and hitting the slam for a near fall, and then doing a second one, and then deciding to stick with the claw itself. It sounds good in theory, but the execution is pretty much awful. Bison looks more like he’s trying to keep Misawa’s hair out of his face than trying to hurt him. Bison does have a couple of decent moments here; using the claw to keep Misawa stationary and then blasting him with a lariat for a near fall was his best, and he also uses a reverse claw (as in, on the back of Misawa’s head) and bounces his face off the mat. Bison sits Misawa on the turnbuckle and climbs for something (maybe a reverse Iron Claw slam off the top) and Misawa counters into an Emerald Frozion for a near fall, which pretty much pinpoints the moment that the move lost all its credibility. Misawa starts going through various finishing elbow sequences, and finally ends it after an elbow to the back of the head.


Overall, this isn’t exactly a bad match, it’s just a relatively uneventful one. There’s nothing to see here that hadn’t been done far better at some other point. It also doesn’t help that for all the years that he’d been coming over to NOAH,  Bison was never treated as even a moderate GHC threat. Even leading up to this show, Bison was mostly getting wins in tag matches over juniors or low ranked heavyweights. His only singles wins were against Shiosaki, Yone, and Marufuji; and even the Marufuji win was still a jacked up heavyweight beating a junior. If nothing else, this match is inoffensive, and that alone is enough to push this at least toward the middle of Misawa’s defenses during this last title run.


Conclusion: Another middling offering from NOAH, and further illustration of 2007 not exactly being a banner year for the company.