July 15, 2007


Go Shiosaki . . . shows that he may be improving, but he’s got a long way to go before being able to hang with Bryan Danielson.

KENTA . . . is apparently the only member of the junior roster who still understands the concept of selling.

Akira Taue . . . kicks the GHC Champion in the face as a reminder of exactly what should be expected out of a champion when he’s defending his title.



Aside from furthering the Morishima/McGuinness feud over the ROH Title, this doesn’t accomplish a whole lot. It doesn’t help that Danielson isn’t involved very much, and that most of his interactions are with Shiosaki, who looks pretty rough in this. Danielson overshoots a sunset flip and Shiosaki basically takes a phantom bump so that they can do the spot, and then later on he completely no sells a backdrop suplex. Rocky is a decent enough whipping boy for the NOAH team, although his bumping is a bit overdone, and they don’t really work him over long enough to develop any sort of theme or flesh out a story. Rocky’s counter of Yone’s Muscle Buster into the backslide near fall was the best moment of the match, and it’s too bad that Rocky had already used both of his finishers, the roundhouse kick and the armbar, because it could have led to a nice sequence of Rocky trying to win the match while the others were brawling on the floor. Instead, Yone just hits a single high kick and then plants him with the Muscle Buster. This does its job of attempting to create some interest in the upcoming singles matches between Morishima/Nigel and Danielson/Shiosaki at the ROH show the following day and then gets out of the way.



Despite having quite a few appreciable moments, there’s far too much emphasis on flashiness, and goofiness in the form of no-selling and delayed selling for this to wind up being anything more than watchable. The best parts of this involve KENTA working over Ibushi, with KENTA showing his disdain for the outsider from DDT. There are also some nice exchanges with Marufuji and Ishimori; Ishimori’s speed allows him to avoid taking most of Marufuji’s big shots and it looks like Marufuji wrestling a younger version of himself. KENTA’s apparent knee injury stops mattering after Marufuji’s STF. It seems like they’re working toward something when Ibushi opts to go with a sleeper instead of continuing to attack the knee and KENTA is able to take over the match, but they never do anything to try to work back to it, and it doesn’t even hinder KENTA and his kick and knee-heavy offense.


The one other nice touch they add are Ibushi’s near falls on KENTA, with the lower man needing to make the save in order to keep them in the match. KENTA has always been good with his selling, and he does everything possible to make it seem like Ibushi’s next big move will be the last one that he needs, and then Ishimori bails him out. But other than that, it’s a lot of stiff kicks and big spots that wind up meaning nothing. Ishimori tries for his Superstar Elbow and Ibushi counters him into a German suplex for a near fall, which was actually pretty nice. Ishimori responds with a head kick and Ibushi no-sells it and gives Ishimori one of his own, and then they work a double KO spot to tease each one needing to make a tag. Even the finish sees KENTA nearly scramble Ishimori’s brain with kicks and then he still needed to drop him with a release Tiger suplex *and* find a clever counter to get him up into the G2S. Without KENTA to pick up the pieces, I don’t even want to imagine the ugliness that would have transpired, especially if Marufuji and Ibushi were opposite Kanemaru and Sugiura.



This actually isn’t all that different from the previous tournament match. There’s no real sense of structure or story to what they do, and with Suzuki and Marvin being the GHC junior tag champs, this is an especially big failing for them. Each team gets a long segment to control the match, but, until the last five minutes, it never feels like either team is truly trying to win. During the champions’ control segment, Marvin fouls Mark behind the ref’s back. Instead of following it up by going for a pin or continuing to rudo things up (or both), Marvin does a Boston crab which Jay runs in and breaks up to essentially reset the action. A bit later on, the Briscoes gives Suzuki their Doomsday Device for a near fall. Suzuki escapes their tandem neckbreaker and Jay puts on an STF, and Marvin shows no haste at all in trying to break it up. He just sits on the ramp and eventually crawls to his corner to cheer on Suzuki while he crawls for the ropes. For his part, Suzuki doesn’t do anything to make the hold seem dangerous, it’s an especially stark contrast to what KENTA and Ishimori were able to do with Ibushi’s big offensive run. At the end of the day this comes off like a thirty-minute match with twenty-five minutes of filler. Suzuki’s spots look a lot better than everyone else’s, but that only means so much when there’s no real attempt to make them seem important.


Once it’s announced that there are five minutes left in the time limit, then they start rolling out the big moves and moving with urgency, but even that has its issues. The ref bump before the double Blue Destiny is supposed to give the impression that it saved the Briscoes from losing the match, but that’s backward logic. The titles may not be at stake, but Suzuki and Marvin are still the junior tag champions, they shouldn’t need to be protected like that. If anything, it’s Mark and Jay that should be robbed of the win and giving the impression that they’re good enough to beat the team that ended their title reign. And for all their effort in the last five minutes of teasing the notion that both teams could pull off the win, nobody here was close to the level of KENTA as far as selling goes. It’s certainly not uncommon for anyone with a title to at least have a couple of draws or losses over the course of a tournament in order to create fresh challengers or draw some interest in a rematch. But, between this and the title switch in January, I don’t think anyone was clamoring to see these teams go for round three.



The combination of age, injuries, and breakdown has hit these two as hard as anyone in the promotion, yet they’re able come out here and spank nearly everyone else featured on this card for smart work. Then again, between All Japan and NOAH, and considering Kobashi’s long periods of layoff, Misawa probably has more experience working with Taue than he does anyone else in the company. But it’s still remarkable that Misawa adds so many smart touches that were nowhere to be seen in his title matches with Morishima or Sano. And granted, keeping up with Misawa in 2007 isn’t the daunting task as it would have been even ten years earlier, but it’s still impressive to see Taue going step-for-step and strike-for-strike with Misawa. Hell, the first big spots of the match come from Taue; he and Misawa do a couple of stalemate shoulder tackle sequences and then Taue outsmarts Misawa and hits a dropkick that sends him to the floor. A jumping Dynamic kick knocks Misawa off the apron and then Taue springs forward with a suicide dive. That alone would be impressive, but Taue and Misawa make it count for something. Misawa favors his shoulder and Taue gets him in the ring and does a series of short-arm lariats while maintaining a grip on Misawa’s wrist so that he can yank him back to his feet.


While this is certainly nowhere near their Triple Crown or Champion Carnival classics from the mid 1990’s, this is still a pretty good effort from both men from bell to bell. They both bring quite a few smart transitions, and they play off their long history of working together by getting to their bigger moves (namely the Nodowa and the Emerald Frozion) by outsmarting each other. The only real bit of goofiness comes from their strike exchanges. Taue’s selling of Misawa’s elbows is overblown, he looks like your average southern heel stooging for the babyface after the hot tag, and Misawa is as stoic as ever, he takes the jumping kicks to the face and just gets right back up and he gives virtually no reaction to Taue’s Baba-like chops. They make it a bit worse with an extended strike exchange and just when it seems like it’s over and that Taue’s last kick is going to keep him down, Misawa gets to his knees and throws one last elbow. However, things like this are the exception instead of the rule. Misawa’s facelock has long since ceased to be any sort of legit finisher, but you wouldn’t know that with how Taue puts it over. NOAH had very rarely pushed submission finishes anyway and it was so early that nobody thought that Taue was going to fold, especially in a title match. But Taue was more than able to convey how punishing the hold was, and the standard two count that always follows the hold seemed plausible as a result.


The standard-fare-for-NOAH home stretch full of no selling and popping up after finishers is nowhere to be found. It’s got the big moves from both of them, but they find smarter ways to get to them, and both men put them over nicely. Taue escapes the Emerald Frozion and hits a Nodowa to kick off his big run, including a near fall from the Dynamic Bomb and hitting a second Nodowa as a counter to an elbow. Taue hits the Ore ga Taue, but his lazy cover allows Misawa to kick out, and to take Taue down and lock in a juji-gatame, and after Taue gets a rope break, Misawa pulls him back and traps him in a reverse juji-gatame. The armbars weaken Taue enough that Misawa is able to hit the Frozion, but he still seats Taue on the top rope to get him in place for it, just to make sure that Taue can’t do the same escape. Taue still manages to kick out, so Misawa hits a running elbow and then plants him with a ramped-up Emerald Frozion, which looks more like an NLB, which keeps Taue down for good. Taue kicking out of the first Emerald Frozion is still rather questionable. Considering that Taue was seated on the turnbuckle to set it up, it would have been just as easy to do it near the corner and have Taue get his foot on the rope to stop the pin. But overall, it’s not that big a deal, especially with Misawa having already set the precedent for it, and the Sano match from April doubling down on it.


On the surface, the fact that quite possibly Misawa’s best singles performance of the year comes against Taue of all people seems surprising, but it really shouldn’t. Taue has had his share of good and great moments and matches in NOAH, and it’s not like this is a one-man show where Taue has to lead Misawa by the nose. It’s more accurate to say that the combination of not getting his bell rung at the onset of the match and working with a familiar opponent, that he has good chemistry with, helped to bring out some of Misawa’s better qualities. ***


Conclusion: While this isn’t exactly a stellar show, there’s some good stuff to see in the main event and KENTA’s performance.