December 6, 2003

As often happens to out of control tape/DVD collectors like myself, I bought this show and quickly forgot that I had it. After being pleasantly surprised by the Nagata/Tanahashi singles match from the 10/18/03 NJPW show, I remembered that I owned this show, and that it contained a Nagata/Tanahashi GHC Tag Title match.

Mitsuo Momota . . . is involved in a better match than both Jun Akiyama and Yoshihiro Takayama.

Tamon Honda . . . is no longer with a title belt and back teaming with everyone’s favorite jobber.

Hiroshi Tanahashi . . . takes an unholy beating at the hands of NOAH’s resident unholy beating tag team.


At least it’s not the usual snoozer from the should-be retirement home. Not that this is really any better, there’s just less saliva flying around. I’ve never seen Godeker before, he looks like Gillberg. For openers, this is as uninteresting as it can get (although I suspect NOAH may try to top it, just to prove me wrong). The only things of any note that happen are from IZU, which is scary, in the form of a few comedy spots he brings. IZU shrugs off Aoyagi’s kicks, but succumbs to the almighty thumb to the eye. IZU and Godeker also do the Hardy Boys’ ‘Poetry In Motion’ double team, and IZU tries to switch places and do it again, only to flatten his partner like a pancake. Godeker and Aoyagi find an excuse to fight on the floor so that IZU can finish off Kawabata with his version of Kea’s Hawaiian Smasher.


In a span of seven days, Tamon Honda went from half of the GHC Tag Team Champions, back to teaming with ‘Hoover’ Inoue. Even worse, is that this goes fifteen minutes long and the bulk of it involves Inoue, and we don’t even get to see anything fun like Ikeda stiff the living hell out of him either. Instead there’s an overly long segment where Ikeda and Inoue dick around with a bunch of cradles and roll-ups for near falls, and then berate Mighty Inoue (the ref) for either counting too slow or too fast. Honda’s participation is all too brief, and it only serves as filler between Inoue’s stuff, but at least the stuff Honda is involved in has something in it to stick out. Such as trying to take Taue to the mat, and Taue being as smooth and graceful as ever, and if you’ve seen Honda try to give Taue a German, while he’s holding onto Ikeda, who is in turn holding the ropes, it’s an image that will tend to stay with you. Actually Inoue does provide about thirty seconds of something decent when Ikeda levels him with the Dai Chan Bomber, and then DVDs him for the win. But that’s the extent of it.


As much fun as this junior trios match is (and believe me, it’s a whole lot of fun), it’s a showcase on one of NOAH’s biggest booking problems, keeping things consistent. Look at Honda in the previous match for an example. He stepped up his game huge in 2003, with some very stellar performances, and now that his push is over, he’s back to where he was. The same thing happens here with Momota. Momota and Kikuchi were headed toward a tag title shot, so obviously they needed to be pushed a bit, and if this is any indication, Momota stepped up his game as well, but after the title match they went right back to where they were.

Although this comes off looking quite a bit like the Mitsuo Momota Show, this is largely a group effort from everyone involved, with Hashi being the only one who really doesn’t make any big contributions. Kikuchi brings the grumpiness, Momota brings the fire, and their three opponents bust their collective humps to make Kikuchi and Momota look that much better. Kikuchi’s grumpiness shows early on when KENTA lays in a few kicks to the back of his thigh. Kikuchi doesn’t budge an inch, and even challenges KENTA to do it harder. When they still have no effect, Kikuchi levels KENTA with some of his elbow smashes, which have much more effect on KENTA than the kicks did to Kikuchi. From an offensive standpoint, Momota is a Mini-Me-Baba, but KENTA, Marufuji, and Suzuki all work around that by going the extra mile to sell for him when he lands even the simplest thing like a chop. Momota also proves that experience has no substitute with the way that he’s able to weave and dodge away from things like Marufuji’s superkick, or Kotaro’s attempted leg lariat. When something happens that Momota isn’t able to handle on his own, like the sunset flip-reversal-jackknife sequence with Marufuji, then his opponents are right there to pick up the slack for him.

Most of the major offense for Marufuji’s team winds up being left behind. The Shiranui, Busaiku Knee, and KENTA’s kick-slap combo all never see the light of day, and for all his attempts at the superkick, Marufuji only lands it twice. That’s not to say that they don’t do anything, all three of them, especially Kotaro (because he doesn’t have much else to do) do a lot of flying around in an attempt to catch their opponents off guard. Kotaro’s role is obvious though, he’s going to be the one who gets to feel the wrath of the grizzled vets, and after one of his flying moves goes wrong, that’s exactly what happens. Kotaro is left two on one with Kikuchi and Momota and falls victim to a Momota backdrop and the Fireball Bomb from Kikuchi. The only thing this really could have done to add would be a few spots where it looked like KENTA or Marufuji were in danger of being finished off by the grumpy vets, but that’s more of a NOAH staple (low man jobs) rather than anything else. ***


It looks like somebody didn’t clue in STERNNESS that they missed Halloween by more than a month. All three of them certainly look different, but aside from Akiyama using a superkick as an offensive moves, they don’t wrestle any differently, and certainly no better than usual. And it doesn’t help at all that the majority of the match is Saito beating on Ace Steele, and as you may expect, it doesn’t make for the most engaging viewing experience. Things are a bit better when Modest or Williams gets involved, because Modest can interject some intensity, and Williams can bring some nice offense to the table. But unfortunately neither of that lasts very long before STERNNESS regains control, and Ace gets tagged back in, along with the obligatory multi-man brawl on the floor so that Road Warrior Saito can finish off Ace with his big roundhouse kick. This is the perfect example of why I dislike NOAH’s undercards for the most part.


This is better than the last trios match, though it’s still not much good at all. Slinger and Sano both may as well have not been involved, as neither did much of anything of any note until the very end, when Sano pinned Slinger with the NLB. I’m not a fan of Ogawa in the least, but he was exactly what he needed to be here. Ogawa was scared shitless of Takayama whenever they were face to face, but when his team was working over Sugiura, Ogawa would act all arrogant and cocky and even try to bait Takayama into the ring. And bless him, when Takayama finally did get his hands on Ogawa, he had his flying shoes on. Scorpio rarely brings much to his matches besides his flying offense, but he made sure he was up in the air for Takayama as well. Sugiura didn’t get a chance to do a whole lot, given that he was mostly the recipient of the beating from Ogawa’s team, but he did have a few nice suplexes to add. As per usual, the obligatory multi-man brawl on the floor signals the ending coming close. Takayama’s team does get in a nice triple team before Slinger is finished off, when Takayama and Sugiura pin him down and Sano comes off the top with a diving foot stomp. But when two former GHC Heavyweight Champions and the current GHC Jr. Heavyweight Champion are getting outworked by Mitsuo Momota, something isn’t right.


Single matches on non-Budokan NOAH shows are a bit of a rarity. Hell, most Budokan shows are made up mostly of tag and trios matches. But whenever NOAH does run non-title singles matches in the upper card, it’s due either to a running theme throughout the show, or specifically to build to something in the future. Which makes this pairing seem even more strange. There isn’t any running theme to the card here, and Yone wasn’t on the verge of any sort of push or elevation. It’s as though the match was just booked to give them an excuse to play off their previous fun match from September of 2002, which is more or less what they do here.

There is one big failing of the match though, which is that neither Kobashi nor Yone does a whole lot to give the impression that Yone can pull off the win. Not that anybody would or should believe that Yone could take Kobashi, but the idea is for them to create doubt as to the finish. There isn’t a whole lot that Yone really does to Kobashi other than his various kicks, and even when Kobashi goes the extra mile with his selling such as the bumps he takes over the guardrail, the fans barely even blink. Of course it’s not helpful that when Yone does something unique like the bow and arrow that Kobashi quickly escapes and sells no effects from it. The lack of fan reaction is most evident when Yone hits Kobashi with his trademark Muscle Buster, and the fans have no reaction at all to Kobashi kicking out, and a similar response to Yone’s Fisherman Buster off the top.

When Kobashi is working over Yone, this is a fun little match for what it is, which is namely a squash. Unlike his big matches, Kobashi isn’t playing the great defender of NOAH, or the great champion. He’s the grumpy veteran who shows how firmly he can control Yone without having to rely on the big fighting spirit no-sells. Kobashi for the most part keeps it relatively simple with his offense, although toward the end he digs a bit deeper into his offense with a few suplexes and the brainbuster to finish him off. The crowd reaction to the missed lariat by Kobashi is about what you’d expect Yone’s Muscle Buster to garnish. Kobashi using the brainbuster to finish off Yone shows exactly how much of a threat he really was to Kobashi. He wasn’t even worthy of going down to Kobashi’s finisher. This is a fun match at times, but really needed a bigger performance from one or both of them to be anything more.


If only Misawa had motivated himself a bit, this would have been a much better match. It’s sad to see one of the all time greats constantly phoning it in, and disproving most of the excuses why his matches turn out the way they do, when it’s just Misawa being unmotivated. This match is the perfect example of Misawa being on autopilot rendering a potentially good match to simply one that’s fun at various points. Misawa isn’t always on autopilot mode, as he does bust out a nice tope con hilo in the early going, but once the match settles down, it’s the typical Misawa affair where he takes his beating, fires off the elbows, and works in the usual spots like the frog splash and facelock, without any real rhyme or reason as to why (unless he’s still banking on that 1991 submission over Jumbo to bring him victory).

Koshinaka doesn’t bring a whole lot of offense with him either, but he’s able to accomplish something that Misawa doesn’t even really sniff in this contest. He uses makes the little that he does actually mean something by finding a focal point and staying with it. Koshinaka made it clear from the get-go, that this wasn’t going to be one of those respectful and friendly ‘dream matches’ where they shake hands and harp about how great a wrestler the other one is. Koshinaka actually jumps Misawa while he’s getting into the ring causing the seconds on the floor to pull them apart. One of Koshinaka’s staples has always been his hip attack, and after he fires off a couple of them right in Misawa’s face, he really heels things up nicely with cheap shots to his face. Including several straight punches to the nose, and even a reverse powerbomb dropping Misawa face first onto the apron. Koshinaka even one-ups Misawa a bit when he applies a face lock of his own, and makes sure to wrench on it to make it more than a rest hold. It’s a treat to see Koshinaka attempting to work a smarter match, but shots to the face aren’t going to deter Misawa of all people, which is more or less what leads to his undoing. Misawa counters a diving hip attack into a German suplex and proceeds to finish him off with the usual stuff, although Koshinaka does have the gall to kick out of an Emerald Frozian and a running elbow, pretty much forcing Misawa to come up with a finisher that might make sense, when he digs out a ramped up version of the Emerald Frozian.


After such a dull undercard, this is a nice way to end the show. Both teams have an understanding of sorts as to how the match will flow. Namely that Tanahashi’s specialty is getting his ass beaten, and Rikio and Morishima’s specialty has always been heaping abuse on smaller wrestlers whenever they can, which means that for a good chunk of this match the NOAH fans get something they can enjoy. Another nice touch that the match contains is the methods by which control of the match is gained or lost. Again, Wild II’s specialty is the ass beating, but they’re *far* from technically proficient, and that’s how the champions are able to gain their advantages. And both teams of course benefit with double teaming.

The opening stretch of the match gives a very good indication of what to expect here. Tanahashi and Rikio are nose to nose and Tanahashi is doing his damnedest to slap the taste out or Rikio’s mouth, and winds up accomplishing zero. But once Tanahashi forgoes the striking and starts to use headlocks and chinlocks on Rikio he’s instantly more successful. Morishima’s explosiveness is another very welcome addition to the match. After both Rikio and Tanahashi tag out, Morishima and Nagata don’t bother with going nose to nose like their partners did, Morishima just charges Nagata, throws him into the corner and starts to lay into him with elbows. The charging kick and no-sell sequence is annoying but par for the course with Nagata and in NOAH. The best moment of the match comes just after Nagata catches a sleeping Rikio with a sleeper hold on the apron, and Rikio sells it as a KO for a good five minutes. Nagata and Tanahashi are total punks about it too, putting the boots to him, and bullying the ref when he won’t count Tanahashi’s pin. The only altogether odd part about it comes when Morishima tries to make the save. The same guy who charged Nagata, and knocked him back, right out of the gate, is constantly and easily getting dispatched by Tanahashi, so that the NJPW team can work over Rikio. Morishima finally gets Nagata on the floor and returns the favor by putting him out of commission, and it’s right after that when the NOAH fans get what they paid to see, Wild II beating the tar out of Tanahashi.

From there on in, the match is the intense, heated affair that most of the NOAH vs. NJPW matches that take place inside the Green ring are. The NJPW team digging out the dual submission hold spot, both teams pulling out the double team moves to keep things in their favor. That’s actually one of the more simultaneously bad and good aspects about the match. The constant double teaming to change momentum is nice for keeping the teams on the same level. Both members of Wild II are top prospects (whether that’s good or bad depends on your point of view) to carry the company in the future, and is the top tag team in the company, so they needed to be kept strong. The outsider team needed to look strong as well though, to keep the feud going. What hurts it though is that it makes the finish feel a bit tacked on. The ref stopping the match with Morishima stuck in the Nagata Lock III itself is fine. Morishima (and Rikio too for that matter) is too bad-ass to be tapping out. But what hurts it is that the NJPW team didn’t really show any specific goal tendered toward that, the way Wild II was trying to get the victory by beating down Tanahashi. Nagata did catch Morishima in the Nagata Lock II at one point, but he never went back after the arm. It looked more like the NJPW team’s idea was to use their head kicks to KO Morishima. Odd finish aside though, this is quite the entertaining match, and it’s really too bad that their next defense against Misawa and Ogawa wasn’t able to retain the excitement and fun of this match. ***1/4

Conclusion: The NOAH vs. Outsider stuff makes for good viewing. But like most full NOAH shows, the undercard just has too much junk on it to sift through. If you can download the good stuff, or find it on regular tv blocks then that’s your best bet. Avoid this complete edition NOAH show unless you’ve got no other choice.