September 18, 2005

When Alex Shelley formed Generation Next, he said that “it’s time for everyone else to move aside” and how right he was.

KENTA . . . makes Misawa and Kobashi move aside, so that he can be the best worker in the promotion.

SUWA . . . makes Jun Akiyama move aside, so that he can be the biggest heel on the face of the earth.

Akira Taue . . . stays right where he is, because he’s still awesome.

KENTA © vs. SUWA (GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title)

KENTA’s win at the Tokyo Dome may have been disappointing, but his first defense more than makes up for it. SUWA makes it crystal clear that the title isn’t even an issue for him, but it’s just an extra added bonus. KENTA and SUWA been feuding since SUWA entered NOAH (9/10/04), and their only singles match since that time ended in a DQ after a whopping six minutes. Anybody who thinks Puroresu doesn’t use face and heel structure doesn’t need to look any further than this match to see how wrong they are. In addition to his opponent, SUWA does a great deal to aggravate Joe Higuchi, the referee, and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (who is seconding KENTA). The opening trios match at the Dome show had teased a Kikuchi/SUWA confrontation, and their exchanges here only serve to keep the mouth watering at the prospect of an eventual match between them. SUWA actually manages to get more heel heat than Lyger was able to when he’d make trips to NOAH.

The big brawl to start is more than a given, but SUWA’s use of the bell and the briefcase to get himself DQ‘d after a minute and a half is a bit unexpected, especially for a title match. But it’s just a case of SUWA further getting under the skin of KENTA, who was hoping for a clean first title defense, as well as finally getting his hands on his bitter rival. Once the match is restarted though, SUWA makes it crystal clear that he’s not going to change a thing about his tactics. He removes the pad from the turnbuckle and smacks the ref with it, he spits on Kikuchi, he gets right in Higuchi’s face. And once SUWA focuses on his opponent, he’s damn near unstoppable. SUWA blatantly cheats in front the referee on several different occasions. He actually gets the ref’s attention and then punts KENTA right in the groin. He does the same thing to get the attention of the referee when KENTA is in the corner, and straight punches him in the jaw.

KENTA tries several times to get something going to put his own offensive run together, but SUWA just cuts him off at every pass. KENTA’s trademark springboard dropkick is thwarted by SUWA pushing the referee into the ropes, causing the champ to lose balance. After KENTA does string together a few vicious kicks to the head, his attempt at a running kick is thwarted and he winds up getting planted with a flapjack. Even later on, when KENTA attempts another of his trademark moves in the slap combo, SUWA puts the kibosh on things with an electric chair drop. The only altogether odd moment comes when KENTA counters the FFF into a Tiger suplex for two, but even then, KENTA was able to rattle off several of those kicks to the head of SUWA before the flapjack, so it’s not totally out of the blue that the effects from those kicks, and the Tiger suplex were able to stun him for that long. The really great thing about SUWA’s long offensive runs though is that they don’t detract from anything KENTA does. The few times that KENTA is able to get anything together, KENTA’s choice of offense looks plausible enough to slow down SUWA, but not to the point of SUWA flat out blowing anything off when he gets back the advantage. Also, SUWA doesn’t hog the match with his offensive runs. He’s using just enough offense to keep KENTA down but not out, while he’s working the crowd into a frenzy.

The only way KENTA is finally able to overcome what SUWA is dishing out, is by exploiting the one weakness SUWA winds up letting slip through the cracks. SUWA pinned KENTA back in May at a house show, with the FFF. Knowing his rival is susceptible to the move SUWA attempts it rather early and gets hit with the Tiger suplex. SUWA attempts it again after successfully hitting the John Woo, but KENTA is prepared for it again, and counters into the Go 2 Sleep, which SUWA marvelously sells. With KENTA finally having a chance to get something going, he pounces on SUWA and fires off the kicks to keep him down, and follows up with the Busaiku. SUWA’s haste in getting back to his feet, is another odd moment, but he salvages it by holding the ropes and staggering, to make it clear he doesn’t know where he is. Just like his title win at the Dome, KENTA answers with several kicks that look like he’s trying to send SUWA’s head home with one of the lucky fans at ringside, and a second Busaiku finally gives KENTA the win. To say it’s the best GHC Jr. Title match in the title’s history, isn’t a big stretch at all. But it’s certainly one of life’s little ironies that the best title match of all time, was only fifteen minutes long (and we know how much NOAH loves long title matches), and had very little to do with the actual title, but everything to do with intense rivalry. As well as the fact that the work being done, was little else than a clinic on how to work as a heel. ****


As odd as the layout of this match seems to be, the payoff and fan reaction speak volumes for how well NOAH can read their fanbase. Although Kobashi vs. Tenryu is the big dream match that everyone wants to see, it winds up taking a backseat to Taue showing that even though he’s usually regarded as the worst of the original four lords of heaven, he’s easily the best. The Kobashi/Tenryu rivalry taking the backseat isn’t a bad thing either, given that Kobashi and Tenryu’s exchanges in the match do precious little to further the rivalry, do nothing to further the match, and nothing to build to their eventual singles match. The little bit that we get comes from Tenryu’s early avoidance of taking a Kobashi chop, given what happened when Kobashi chopped up his chest back at the April Budokan show. The rest of the time they just paste away at each other with chops and jabs, and do little else of any note. Tenryu does take a cheap shot at Kobashi’s knee early on, but that never goes anywhere.

Kobashi and Akiyama’s exchanges with each other eat up the most time, and not surprisingly, that doesn’t fare much better than Tenryu/Kobashi either. They run through the same stuff they’ve always ran through in their matches, only this time it’s to a mostly dead crowd. Not even Kobashi’s sleeper suplex gets a decent pop. And just like Kobashi and Tenryu, there isn’t anything to really further the match along to anyplace very interesting. At first it looks like Akiyama is going to go after the knee, like Tenryu did, but that gets forgotten pretty quickly. Kobashi strings some nice stuff together to target the neck, but it’s not long before they’re trading (and no selling) chops, forearms, etc. Kobashi and Akiyama also don’t show any big fervor, or show that they’ve got some goal or strategy they’re working toward accomplishing.

As depressing as it is to see the top man in the company giving such a lousy performance, his partner definitely carries his weight. Taue proves himself to be a man on a mission of sorts, as almost nothing can stop the man. Taue’s exchanges with Akiyama, show the complacent #2 man in the company, what happens when you become complacent. Early on, Jun takes a cheap shot at him while he’s on the apron and Taue’s charge into the ring winds up knocking the referee over. Kobashi tags in Taue, and he charges Jun with a full head of steam, sending him to the floor and hitting a big DDT on the ramp. Taue doesn’t back down from Tenryu either, showing the legend, that he isn’t the only grumpy veteran that can still go. When Tenryu breaks up Taue’s sleeper on Akiyama with a soccer kick to the head, Taue levels Tenryu with a jumping kick for payback and knocks him off the apron. The really funny moment was when Taue gets hit with a Tenryu lariat (complete with Taue’s comical sell job). The moment that Taue got back to his feet, he quickly leveled both Tenryu, and a charging Akiyama with jumping kicks, and easily avoided a two-on-one attack. Taue isn’t the only thing that’s got a lot of fire either, the Budokan fans are simply going crazy watching the broken down, and past his prime Taue, outwork the two stars and the legend. Anything and everything Taue does is met with a thunderous reaction. It’s not until Taue and Kobashi’s double team backfires, and Kobashi eats a jumping kick, that Jun and Tenryu can finally get something going.

In addition to intensity, Taue also goes the extra mile in his selling. When Taue levels Jun with the DDT on the ramp, despite Jun having had his neck worked over, he’s on his feet fairly quickly. When Jun returns the favor a minute later, Taue is down for about as long as Akiyama was, but had taken next to nothing in terms of neck work or any punishment at all. When they get back into the ring, rather than just pouncing on Jun to take back control, Taue waits until he can reverse the suplex that Akiyama attempts and then go back on offense, and his choice of offense is a sleeper, to continue going after Akiyama’s neck. Being Taue, obviously his movements look a bit awkward and comical at times, especially when selling Tenryu’s lariat, but Taue is proof gracefulness isn’t always needed, when one is working smart. When Akiyama finally does get a meaningful run of offense going against Taue, he still sells like a champ. He puts over the regular Exploder as a near knockout, and just barely kick out at two, and Taue sells like Akiyama Lock as though he’d have been done for if Kobashi hadn’t made the save.

Taue going up to the top to work the finish initially looks like a bit of prerequisite NOAH booking for big matches. After all Taue, never comes off the top, although a Dynamic kick off the top, would probably be enough to put Akiyama away. It’s also no great surprise to see Akiyama cut him off and attempt the Exploder, given Taue barely survived the regular one. The reversal into a super Nodowa Otoshi to give Taue the shocking win, is a pleasant surprise though, and rather fitting given the crowd reaction Taue got, as well as the fact that he seemed to be the obvious participant in the match to take the fall. And it just makes what was in store for Taue the next time at the Budokan, that much sweeter. ***1/4


Considering how little Misawa has shown, in both major and minor matches this year, this is actually sort of decent, and that’s quite sad when you consider that once upon a time, Misawa’s worst was better than almost everyone else’s best. Given Misawa’s penchant for taking bumps and doing little else, this ranks as one of his better performances of the year (granted, that’s not saying much). Rikio is better here than he was with Saito, and he’s ok, until he runs out of things to do. Instead of throwing Misawa around like a ragdoll, Rikio’s extended control segment early in the match is based around working over Misawa’s back. He finds a nice variety of ways to keep at it, from the stereotypical clubbing forearms that you’d expect from a big man, he works some submissions into the mix, and of course power moves. Rikio’s problem though, is that as nice as it is that he’s changing it up, he’s not doing anything fairly interesting, and he’s not showing a lot of intensity. Misawa’s selling leaves much to be desired though, given how long Rikio keeps up his attack, and the fact that Misawa is giving Rikio a huge footnote in history (Misawa’s first failed singles title challenge in more than thirteen years), it seems like Misawa should have really made it seem like Rikio was doing major damage here.

The biggest bump of the match though, surprisingly enough isn’t taken by Misawa. Misawa reverses Rikio’s attempted powerbomb on the ramp, and gives Rikio a rana to the floor (although it takes them two tries to get it right). When it’s Misawa in control, the offense is what you’d expect from him, in the form of elbows. But then Misawa just starts to run through his various finishing moves, as though the rana was enough to set Rikio up to be put away. And Misawa doesn’t seem to have a clue about building to them or anything. He just starts rolling them out, the running elbow? Check. One-Two elbow? Tiger driver? Check. Emerald Frozian? Check. While Rikio isn’t giving the moves the respect that they probably deserve given their history, Misawa is just as, if not more guilty of disrespecting them. Misawa also more or less ignores Rikio working the back over, showing no problem at all as he gives out his various moves.

Rikio’s counter of the Rolling elbow with a lariat to get back on offense is a particularly nice moment in the match, but after that it seems like Rikio used up all his good ideas when he was working over Misawa’s back, and now he’s left with nothing but the Muso and some slaps. He seemed to be on the right track with his Muso/Exploder deal that nearly pitched Misawa on his head (something he’s used to) but once that failed, it’s like he just threw his hands up in the air, and gave up. Instead of using some of his trademark offense such as the chokeslam, or the cradle DDT, and building from there to the Muso, he just does the Muso again for the historic three count. Misawa’s third singles loss in NOAH, the first time he failed to capture a singles title since Hansen beat him on 3/4/92, history is made. You would think that the GHC Champion would really have had to fight to get that win, but it was more or less gift wrapped to him. That Misawa would let himself be dominated, and all his big moves scoffed at in such a manner, shows that he wants Rikio to become their young ace, but until someone comes along who can both work with, and get Rikio over, it’s going to be little more than a pipe dream.

Conclusion: Despite a disappointing main event, you can’t go wrong here. KENTA/SUWA is must see stuff, and it’s always great to watch Taue when he’s on. High recommendation this time around.