November 5, 2005

2005 was a very big year for NOAH, and it’s only fitting that NOAH makes their final Budokan show of the year a show that fans will remember.

Kenta Kobashi and Kensuke Sasaki . . . actually sell strikes and moves, just not for each other.

Takeshi Morishima . . . is half of the GHC Tag Champions, along with a warm body.

Akira Taue . . . is living proof that dreams can come true.


The world may not be in any hurry for a Kobashi/Kensuke rematch from Destiny, but if putting them on opposite sides of the ring in tags always has this kind of result, then keep the feud going! It’s got a similar mentality to the 4/24 Budokan tag, with Kobashi being regulated to more of a supporting role, and it’s probably not a coincidence that both tags have been very good as a result. Of course this match does contain a Kobashi and Kensuke Chop Chop Till You Drop Chop Chop Never Stop sequence, which wasn’t needed at all. If you want to watch stiff chops done in an enjoyable manner, then watch Roderick Strong.

The two young and inexperienced guys are really what makes the match though. Shiosaki and Nakajima both take the feud between their mentors as seriously as their respective mentors do. Obviously neither one of them has a huge move set yet, but they’re both able to offset that with their selling and their strikes. After watching Kobashi and Sasaki blow off the chops, it’s impressive to see how well Shiosaki sells a single chop from Sasaki. While the intended purpose is to show that Sasaki can chop hard, it winds up showing that Shiosaki may be young and inexperienced, but he’s not totally lost out there. Hopefully being under Kobashi’s wing so to speak, doesn’t teach him to no-sell and throw out his moves (when he develops enough of them) without any sense of a build. The fan reaction is also a cool aspect of the match. The Budokan isn’t pulling for a certain team, they’re just as much behind Nakajima as they are Shiosaki.

Shiosaki and Nakajima also aren’t afraid to take the fight to their senior opponents with the same fire and intensity as they take the fight to each other. Even though Sasaki and Kobashi both aren’t afraid to squash an opponent like a bug, but to their credit both of them do a decent job of selling when the fight is brought to them. They don’t sell nearly as well for each other, as they do for the proteges. If they’d have sold that well for each other back in July, their match would have been so much better. Kobashi’s sell-job of Nakajima’s German suplex particularly sticks out as an example of him doing a bang-up job selling a suplex, considering what we’re used to seeing from him. When Sasaki gets ready to lay a beating on Shiosaki, he gets surprised by a strike flurry and Sasaki doesn’t react with amusement, he’s sent reeling back. His facial expression is a combination of impressed and shocked that he’s still got fight in him. Of course Kensuke does finally put him down for the count, but not before he discovers that the Tornado bomb isn’t enough, and it’s only after a vicious lariat that nearly puts Shiosaki on his head that the All Asia Tag Champs finally score the win. On one level this is just awesome stuff, showing what Sasaki and Kobashi are both capable of when they’ve got their minds set to it. But it’s also sad that they don’t seem to have their minds set to it more often. ***1/2


If Minoru Suzuki was in this match in place of Tenryu, complete with his usual “I don’t care how bad my opponent looks” attitude, then this would be the greatest match ever. It would also be the last time Suzuki worked in NOAH, but what a way to go out. The match we got on the other hand, is all kinds of bad. It’s even bad for Misawa in 2005. Aside from one brief moment where Tenryu’s soccer kick fires up Misawa and he unloads the elbows with some speed and then takes flight with the suicida, there isn’t anything here worth seeing. They just trade elbows and jabs back and forth with no consent whatsoever to building a match or establish flow. Tenryu spends the early portions with his hand extended to Misawa, like he thinks he’s working in ROH, rather than NOAH. Tenryu also nearly drops Misawa not once, but twice botching the brainbuster and the powerbomb. Misawa climbs to his feet, blocks a jab and gets a near fall from a one-two elbow. Misawa leaves most of his offense in the back, although he does attempt the Emerald Frozian (God only knows why) and does do a Tiger driver. Of course the running (more like jogging) elbow is enough to win. Why Misawa went over, when Tenryu vs. Kobashi is the match everyone wants to see, is beyond me.


Talent and ability are rarely factors anymore when it comes to wrestling. More often than not, factors such as favoritism, storylines, and looks have much more bearing on the booking rather than putting on the best match possible, regardless of how anyone comes out looking. That’s why this match is so cool, because it gets structured and worked around the actual talent and abilities of the workers, and winds up putting over both teams, rather than just the winners. KENTA and Shibata are both known for their stiff kicks, and Morishima is also able to really knock the hell out of someone, but Yone can’t compare, and he also doesn’t have a very deep or strong move set to offset the disadvantage he’s at. So it’s no great shocker that when the challengers are dishing out the punishment that it’s Yone who gets the brunt of it. The challengers don’t employ a vast array of attacks because they don’t need to, they’re both well known for their strikes, and Shibata also employs a few submissions just to change things up.

The challengers also aren’t at a complete disadvantage just because it’s their first time teaming. Yone and Morishima first teamed up back in July, and only won the titles a week or so before this, so as far as experience as a team goes, they’re essentially equal. The challengers do know that Morishima will be a lot harder to contend with than Yone, and both KENTA and Shibata take several cheap shots at him on the apron, to ensure that when they try to finish Yone off, Morishima won’t be at full power to save him. That’s also the cause of them losing their advantage. KENTA takes one shot too many at Morishima who just yanks him outside and beats the high-holy tar out of him. When Morishima calmly tags himself in to continue his assault, and when KENTA gets Shibata in there, it’s the same story, but different response now. Morishima is bigger than both challengers but that’s not the sole reason he’s able to keep them at bay. It’s because his larger frame allows him to take more of a shot than Yone (also why Shibata’s kicks have more effect than KENTA’s) and because unlike Yone, he can also dish it out. When Morishima brings Yone back into the fray, things don’t go much different, Yone quickly finds himself back in trouble getting the tar kicked out of him. Yone does manage to get control of things on two separate occasions, but they’re both the result of him hitting lucky spin kick, and he’s never able to do anything to parlay his lucky shot into a real advantage. Unlike Shibata, who uses his submission skills to surprise Morishima with a Triangle choke, and the segue to an armbar when Morishima was about to power out of the move.

What this match doesn’t do however, is anything to make the champions look like they could be on equal footing. While it’s all well and good that they show how Yone is at a disadvantage, nothing happens that would show that Yone has some sort of ace up his sleeve. Yone doesn’t do anything special to show that he’s worthy of holding that title as well. Sure he saves Morishima when he gets in trouble but that happens in every tag match, so it’s nothing special. Morishima and Yone do have their swank Doomsday Device-like move with Yone’s spin kick, but KENTA and Shibata have a similar double team that can be done from a springboard. Yone does send Shibata into the post and render him unable to save KENTA from the backdrop, but that’s something else that anyone else could do. As a simple tag match, it smokes just about every other GHC Tag Title match with only a few exceptions, and the fans could go home from the Budokan knowing they’d seen a hell of a tag match. But what the match really fails to do is to portray the new GHC Tag Champions as actually the best *team* in the promotion, and that isn’t the best way to kick off a new title reign. ***1/4

TAKESHI RIKIO © vs. AKIRA TAUE (GHC Heavyweight Title)

The fan reaction to the finish that nobody ever thought that they’d see is phenomenal, and a real feel good moment. The twenty minutes or that precede it, are pretty bad. Taue’s age and condition make is that Rikio will have to carry things, and he just doesn’t have the interesting offense to make it work. As it also the case with Taue, a good bit of the work looks pretty ugly. Taue proved with Nagata that good looking work wasn’t always necessary when working smart, but this is a far cry from working smart. There a real lack of a genuine build to the eventual finish. Indeed the way that it’s structured is like it’s designed as a bit of a “Surprise!” to the fans. Rikio connects the Muso and barely misses the three count, but his three previous defenses all the Muso to be used more than once, so that’s no surprise. Rikio appears to be one more big move away from getting put away, but suddenly Taue starts to pull off every trick he can think of to get away from it, and surprising Rikio with his Nodowa variants. Finally Taue hits the Ore Ga Taue for a shocking three count, and a monster pop. But the epic feeling of the previous GHC changes is missing. The wins by Akiyama, Kobashi, and Rikio all felt like true monumental moments, this on the other hand comes off like NOAH giving in and admitting Rikio was a failed GHC Champion, rather than feeling like Taue won the title because he’d earned it.

Conclusion: .500 isn’t bad at all. Despite a lousy main event, at least you get the huge reaction from it, so it’s got something that’s salvageable. Definite recommendation for this show and it seems to be the trend with NOAH’s Budokan shows in 2005.