July 16, 2006

Another of the legit NOAH DVD commercial releases! This is a really big show for NOAH. It’s got the long awaited return to the ring of Yoshihiro Takayama, and the not-so long awaited return of Kensuke Sasaki. Also, SUWA debuts his new wardrobe.

SUWA . . . is living proof that real men can wear pink, would you tell him otherwise?

Minoru Suzuki . . . cuts off Go Shiosaki at the knees, doing what he does best.

Jun Akiyama . . . makes it his goal to put Takayama right back onto the shelf.

Highlights of the undercard are shown. The opener, with a pink-clad SUWA taking on Mitsuo Momota, looked like a boatload of fun. SUWA was as grumpy as ever, and Momota was dishing out some grumpiness of his own. Aside from that, nothing else on the undercard looked to be all that interesting, and nothing worth going out of your way to see.


Once again, Suzuki is underwhelming here. It’s always fun to watch veterans smack around their less experienced opponents, but this is out of hand. It lacks something, anything, that would give the impression that Shiosaki could pull off the upset. Nobody would believe that Suzuki could get unseated by Shiosaki (nor should anyone believe it), but the whole point of a wrestling match it to create doubt. Suzuki is as grumpy as ever, pelting Shiosaki with slaps and knee strikes, along with a nice juji-gatme, as well as a camel clutch that really stretches him out. And the sleeper hold, complete with the takedown to finish him off. All Shiosaki has to show is a nice exchange on the mat in the opening stages, a Kobashi-style spinning chop, and a surprise Oklahoma roll. And for a young gun that NOAH seems to have high hopes for, judging from his capacity as Kobashi’s disciple, and the higher profile matches he’s being booked in, he should have more to do than simply get squashed in a fifteen minute match on a high profile show. But nobody ever accused NOAH of making the most out of their booking.


Given NOAH’s love for thirty-minute plus matches, many of which have no business going that long, this flows surprisingly well, with a lot of enjoyable moments. All four of them have a nicely defined role within the match, and all four of them play it very well. Morishima and KENTA easily stand out the most, because they both show the most passion, when they’re dishing out the punishment. Marufuji is the crafty one, always outsmarting the big guys, and getting out of two-on-one situations. Rikio more or less brings up the rear, keeping things relatively simple, mowing down the smaller guys with shoulder blocks and tossing them with various slams and suplexes.

The booking of the draw itself brings up a few issues. The most notable one is that the draw is supposed to imply equality among the four of them. If the teams were mixed up somehow, it’d make more sense, but a team of super heavyweights taking on a team of junior heavyweights, doesn’t make them look very equal at all. Thankfully, the juniors are smart about their control segments for the most part. Both extended periods of offense come on the heels of the juniors double teaming, and the offense used during the segment usually works well in the context of the match. The real fun comes when Wild II starts to work over KENTA’s midsection. Both Rikio and Morishima are real bastards, standing piggyback on KENTA’s ribs. Morishima also really stretches him out with a Camel clutch, and then pulls him back all the way, and uses a body scissors. That’s the only really focused area of the match, and it winds up being forgotten about by KENTA soon after it ends. KENTA’s great selling, even when he does something offensive, is soon reduced to KENTA not selling them at all, even doing his trademark leap to the top rope.

The real travesty here is how much Morishima winds up getting cut off at the knees. He was easily the most standout performer, with the fire he was showing. And he brought a lot of the violence that he brought to the Misawa match, but KENTA and Marufuji are miles better about putting it over. But throughout the match, there are a good number of instances where he’s made to look weak. The first big one is just after KENTA and Morishima have a big showdown. They rock each other with big shots and then KENTA gives him a fisherman buster. Morishima hits three big lariats and attempts his backdrop, and can’t lift KENTA up for the move. Morishima does successfully connect his backdrop during the final stretch, but it’s still not enough to keep KENTA down. Now KENTA had hit the Go 2 Sleep a bit earlier and Morishima had also kicked out, but only because Rikio was too late in breaking up the pin. As the time starts to run out, Morishima and KENTA are left trading roll-ups, and even with a huge weight advantage, Morishima isn’t able to keep KENTA’s shoulders down. It’s sad when the guy in the match who’s most likely to carry the promotion, winds up looking the worst. The booking isn’t entirely off, when you consider that Rikio’s GHC reign was a huge failure, and that Marufuji is the next in line to challenge Akiyama. It’d just have been preferable for both teams to look equal and all get the same rub, rather than Morishima largely being sacrificed in order to make KENTA and Marufuji look to be on their level. ***


Takayama is lucky that this match didn’t put him back on the shelf. It’s nice to see that Akiyama’s mean streak from his GHC match with Inoue wasn’t a one time only appearance. He’s quite the punk in regards to taking shots at Takayama’s head. He does things like pulling down his knee pad before a knee drop, using several running and jumping knee strikes, and even spiking him with a DDT on the ramp. Misawa isn’t to be left out either, reeling off a few vicious elbow shots, including a nice elbow suicida (with a great sell job by Takayama), and spiking him with an Emerald Frozian before Akiyama finishes him off with the Exploder ‘98. Beyond that, the rest of the match is really shallow. Misawa basically just shows up. He curls up and dies after Takayama’s first two kicks, and does a passable job putting over some more abuse from Takayama a bit later. Sasaki isn’t even really a supporting player in the match. All he contributes is aping Kobashi’s patented chop flurry in the corner, and trading a bunch of chops with Misawa, before Misawa just walks away. The main points here are Takayama’s return to the ring and Akiyama showing his continued mean streak, and the match makes its points and gets out of the way.

Conclusion: There’s plenty of fun to be had with the opener, and the final two matches. It’s nothing to run out of your way to see, but if you’re looking for something enjoyable it’s not bad at all.