December 5, 2005

As anyone familiar with me knows, due to NOAH’s usually dull undercards, I usually just get the commercial release of their big shows. I need to make an exception here though, with this having Taue’s first GHC defense, as well as another dose of the Shibata and KENTA tag team.

Naomichi Marufuji and Minoru Suzuki . . . drag something watchable out the horrid Dark Agents.

Junji Izumida . . . moves up the card but doesn’t manage to show any improvement like those before him.

Akira Taue . . . proudly wears the GHC Heavyweight Title and steps up to meet his first challenger.


As far as NOAH openers go, this is decent if a bit bland. It’s still preferable to the Rusher and Haruka comedy show though. Momota is pretty fun at putting Hirayanagi though some torture, including a bit of a Kobashi-eqsue chop flurry in the corner. Hirayanagi doesn’t do anything more than really take the pounding, but such a raw rookie can’t really be expected to do any more than that. Shiga looks decent, although there is some obvious ring rust given his two and a half year hiatus. Honda isn’t even in the match that much, leaving his partner to take his pounding. Shiga and Honda do some nice stuff on the mat toward the end, especially Shiga’s unique method of applying a Triangle choke, but it’s NOAH and low man on the totem pole always does the job, so Hirayanagi makes sure to get back in so Momota can finish him off with a powerbomb.


How the mighty have fallen, Rikio went from being the GHC Champion and headlining Budokan shows, to teaming with a total jobber second from the bottom of the card. As for the match, it’s nothing out of the ordinary which isn’t bad, but terribly predictable and dull. The Brits have an easy time controlling Kawabata, but they also dumb things down as much as possible so he won’t get lost, which means it’s not very interesting considering what they’ve shown they’re capable of doing. The former GHC Champion continuously mows down the Brits with big shoulder blocks, and uses some other generic power offense. Considering Nigel wore his ROH T-shirt as well as the ROH Pure Title. I don’t think him bending the rules a bit would have been a huge stretch. Instead of his trademark cheating, Nigel does work in a few of his basic spots, like the corner headstand, and the run up the turnbuckles. Williams and Nigel even do a little double team with Nigel’s headstand, right before Williams hits Kawabata with the Chaos Theory to finish him off, which looks surprisingly decent given the size of Kawabata.


One of the main problems with NOAH’s booking of trios matches, is that the matches are rarely able to stand out, unless there is some sort of underlying feud (such as KENTA vs. The Skinheads, and Burning vs. STERNNESS). Other than the obvious ‘Native vs. Gaijin’ factors, this match doesn’t have anything like that, and the work isn’t anything particularly ground breaking either. All six pretty much just run through their stuff, without any really obvious story or flow to what they do. All of them stick with their usual roles and characters, and nobody really comes off looking like a weak or stronger link to their particular team. The only part of the match that is memorable is Low Ki being on the wrong end of some triple teaming, which leads him to take a nasty bump off of the John Woo from SUWA, and Sano steps in to finish off Ki with his NLB. Aside from that though, it’s hard to really care either way, when neither team attempts to do anything other than kill time.


There’s no two ways about it, it sucks when a talented team like Marufuji and Suzuki have to dumb things way down in order for a team like the Dark Agents to keep up with them. Fortunately, it’s not a total carry job, though it may as well as have been. Saito brings a few decent power moves, and Inoue really only has his ugly looking eye rake to contribute. Marufuji and Suzuki both supply some decent offense, as well as their trademark bad attitudes and in reality they make this as enjoyable as can really be expected. Both Marufuji and Suzuki make liberal use out of a fake Irish whip that seemingly sends Inoue to his corner, but then yanking him back. And in fact, their constant use of it is actually paid off in a sense, when Inoue finally finds a counter and makes the tag. There is also a little cheating going on behind the ref’s back.

Aside from the aforementioned ugly eye raking, Inoue’s specialty looks like it's getting caught in bad positions and looking silly, and Suzuki makes sure to give Inoue plenty of openings for that. Which only makes Suzuki getting caught in the Argentine Backbreaker and needing Marufuji to save him looks all the more odd. With all the time that Inoue literally walked into trouble, it’s amazing that someone with the skills of Suzuki couldn’t get out on his own. Neither of the Dark Agents is much for selling, but Saito’s sell job for the big slap and superkick combo was priceless. It’s somewhat odd that it didn’t take any really big moves out of Suzuki or Marufuji’s arsenal to put away Inoue. It took a spike piledriver, the sleeper *and* the Shiranui to put away Kotaro Suzuki. But the spike piledriver was only attempted here, and the simple sleeper was all it took to finish off Inoue. Between these guys and Rikio, Misawa’s new booking ideas seems to be that former champions get shoved down the card after losing the gold. But it’s nice to see that unlike Rikio, these two are still at least making an effort to have decent matches.


Sometimes a move up the card and a high-profile match will cause a noticeable improvement in the ring work of a usually mediocre worker, just look at Tamon Honda for an example of that. Izumida on the other hand, seems to be an exception. Aside from his selling of Tenryu’s chops, he’s a drain on the match. His execution is as bad as it’s always been, and some of his ideas are almost mind boggling. He takes a chair shot flush in the noggin and stands there like it’s nothing, but then over sells on a simple jab. During the control segment on Izumida he takes the abuse, but doesn’t really put anything over to any great degree, other than Tenryu’s chops.

The other three are better than Izumida, but this is still miles behind the Kobashi/Tenryu tag match from April, and not just due to lack of juice either. Kobashi and Tenryu don’t have any meaningful exchanges that aren’t chop related, unless you want to count all the times Tenryu throws water bottles at Kenta. Things actually looked like they were going to start strong, with the brawl on the floor, but once it settled down into a regular tag match, the excitement pretty much faded. Kobashi and Koshinaka’s segments against one another are decent, but the only really memorable thing about any of them is Kobashi chopping Koshinaka in the ass. Koshinaka picking up the win over Izumida was a bit of a surprise considering how often outsiders win in NOAH, but it’s hard to really care when Kobashi and Tenryu aren’t involved, seeing as their feud is why we’re supposed to care about this tag match to begin with.


KENTA and Shibata are a fun tag team, but without an opponent the caliber of Morishima on 11/5, they can only do so much. Shiosaki is also decent here. He’s good as the spunky babyface trying to get the tag and end the brutality, and the perennial jobber looking for his first big victory. It’s Misawa who really phones it in though. He just has no clue or desire to work with his opponents. So what happens here is that Misawa takes his own beating from KENTA and Shibata, and then fires off some standard Misawa offense, and then tags back out. He supplies nothing in the way of good transitions or openings for KENTA and Shibata. You’d think someone with as much experience with awesome matches as Misawa would be able to add a whole lot more.

Shibata and KENTA do a lot of kicking which is expected, and Shibata also brings out the sleeper on a couple of occasions to set up the PK as well as a nice Waki-gatame. They’ve also got a few nice double team moves at their disposal, specifically KENTA’s springboard knee, in a Doomsday Device. That move actually was one of the best moments of the match, when Shiosaki was on the floor after one of the extended beatings he’d taken. KENTA and Shibata were working over Misawa and setting up that move, and Go found it in him, to trip up KENTA and prevent it from happening. Later on when they finally were able to do it, the result was Misawa being a non factor and allowing Shibata to finish off Shiosaki with the PK and a series of roundhouse kicks. The offense from Misawa is another reason why the match doesn’t hit the highs that 11/5 did. Shiosaki doesn’t really have much offense yet, and Misawa does, but just opts to not use it. He doesn’t need to go throwing people off ramps and dumping everyone on their heads. But he does next to nothing other than single elbows and one Tiger driver. Shibata and KENTA do make a good team, and it’s awesome that their teaming up on 11/5 wasn’t a one time deal, but they really need to work with better (and more motivated) opponents.


Aside from Nakajima being the one to score the win, there isn’t much of anything here in the way of surprise. Nakajima gets beaten up a lot by Akiyama and Kikuchi, and Kensuke beats up on Kikuchi. Even though Kikuchi and Nakajima are in the ring the longest for their respective teams, most of their time in the ring is spent on the wrong end of a lengthy control segment, so they’re not really able to shine that much aside from selling, and Sasaki and Jun don’t bring a lot of good offense. The Kikuchi/Nakajima exchanges are easily the best of the match though, and just like the exchanges Kikuchi and SUWA had in July at the Dome, it’s simply begging for a singles match. Kikuchi brings a bunch of grizzled veteran grumpiness and Nakajima has his stiffness to attempt to fight back.

What’s surprising (although not in a bad way) is the lack of a long heated exchange between Sasaki and Akiyama. I’m not complaining in the least that they didn’t spend five minutes no-selling chops, and blowing off suplexes, but it’s something that would have been expected given this being their first time meeting. The few exchanges that Sasaki and Akiyama do have are okay, although they’re nothing to really get excited about. It’s Nakajima who really looks the best though, with his selling and offense, although Kikuchi is talented enough to make almost anyone’s offense looks great. It’s simultaneously frightening and amusing to think Kensuke Sasaki will wind up being only the third best worker in his family. In fact aside from the lack of really good offense during the control segments, the only black mark on this comes at the end thanks to Sasaki. Just like the match where Sasaki and Nakajima won the All Asia Tag Titles, Kensuke doesn’t seem to want to let Nakajima do it on his own, and it puts a bit of tarnish on Nakajima getting the big win. It’s fine when Kensuke simply gives his pupil the assist with some double teams, but instead of letting Nakajima go from there, Kensuke has to put the finishing touches on and then let Nakajima get the win. That’s useful in terms of ensuring he gets the win, but it doesn’t say a lot about Nakajima having any sort of chance for winning big matches on his own.


One thing in wrestling that always seems to be constant is that cruiserweights, junior heavyweights, whatever you want to call them, never seem to get enough respect from the right people. However a match like this is a good example of why that is. At nearly thirty minutes, this is the longest match of the night. In that thirty minutes there is precious little storytelling going on, and it only really develops a couple basic themes that continue throughout the match, because they’re too busy rattling off spots. It’s plain to see that Marvin and Kotaro are talented athletes, the hang time and body control that both of them have is excellent, but you can only see it done so many times. It’s not surprising that the challengers don’t bring much offense aside from dives, because they don’t win matches a whole lot and don’t really have any “finishing” moves, aside from the Blue Destiny.

When the champions take over and have their extended control segment on each of the challengers, there isn’t any sense of focus on what they do. There are some nice double teams from Kanemaru and Sugiura, but there doesn’t seem to be any specific target to what they do. Kanemaru still doesn’t have a clue about saving his big moves, as he rattles off several of them for near falls on Kotaro, and it takes a brainbuster on the ramp to finally keep him from saving Marvin. Sugiura is better than Kanemaru about his finishers (mostly because he doesn’t have as many), although some build up to the Ankle Lock would have been nice, as would have Sugiura *not* going right for the grapevine right away to make it seem like Marvin would have to tap. The champions also ought to have a chat with their stablemate SUWA concerning ways to heel things up during a long segment. The only real time that happens is when Sugiura works over Marvin’s cut, other than that things are mostly clean, which could be explained as respect for the match being for the titles, but it doesn’t add much excitement to things. With the match mostly being spot crazy, the Olympic Slam off the top is the natural way to go, especially with Kanemaru already out of moves to use. This would have been worlds better though if there was some sort of story to the match that would have made people generally care about the actual result.


The final minute or so of this was great. The rest of the match wasn’t as good, although it was better than Taue’s win, simply because Morishima is a lot better than Rikio. What’s odd though is the lack of offense from Morishima in the middle portion. Morishima more or less made his name in NOAH as the big shit kicker who ran roughshod over his opponents, and with age and degeneration, obviously Taue can’t keep up with the sort of pace Morishima likes to work, but Morishima more or less stands there while Taue dishes out the punishment. Granted the champion does need to look like a dominating force, and one look at the blood coming out of Morishima’s nose and mouth shows how hard Taue can hit. But it still looks odd all the same.

Taue never was the King of Offense. King of Awkward Looking Offense is more suitable actually, but he’s always been able to make up for it by working smart with his opponent. Whether he was taking the mother of all beatings from his then tag partner Kawada, or countering everything Kobashi would pull out, or making Nagata really look like a top level worker. But it’s different here though because Taue needs to control the offense, and it’s exposed pretty quickly that he doesn’t have much to work with. Sure he’s got the chops, the Dynamic kick, and Baba-san’s Coconut crusher, plus the mighty Nodowa Otoshi. Things are obviously more exciting when Morishima has control because he’s got a lot more to do, and he can do it at a quicker pace, but Taue’s awkwardness plays into things as well, and not everything Morishima does looks as good as it could have. The Uranage does look very good though, as well as the backdrop. And just like Morishima took the chops and kicks to the mush and resulted in the blood flow, Taue also takes some stinging slaps to the face.

One nice thing about Taue’s Nodowa though is that he’s got sever variants of it, much like Misawa with the elbows. Unfortunately, with Taue having controlled most of the action, he runs through them all rather quickly. He does retain the Nodowa off the apron, as well as the one on the floor to be his “match breaker” so to speak. But we see both the normal Nodowa and the Ore Ga Taue an absurd number of times. The final stretch though is beautiful, after Taue finally comes to terms with the notion that the Ore Ga Taue isn’t going to be enough, he hits Morishima with a Beale Toss variant of the Nodowa to finally score the win. Taue may not have the physical abilities of a Kobashi, Rikio, or Akiyama, but it’s nice to see that Taue is still capable of working smart, and that makes his GHC run worthwhile, even if it’s short lived.

Conclusion: This is a solid enough NOAH show, but doesn’t have anything that really stands out. Taue vs. Morishima is better than Taue vs. Rikio, but it’s good more for historical purposes than as a great match. Recommendation to avoid.