Category Archives: NOAH

(05/17) KENTA & Naomichi Marafuji vs. Takashi Sugiura & Katsuhiko Nakajima

Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)

An era in Pro Wrestling NOAH comes to an end as KENTA wrestles his final match for the promotion where he made his name.

For his swan song, KENTA teamed up once again with longtime partner and rival Naomichi Marafuji. They were opposed by Takashi Sugiura – another NOAH lifer – and Katsuhiko Nakajima. Nakajima – the protégé of Kensuke Sasaki – is now a fulltime NOAH roster member and is no doubt being looked at as someone who can step to fill some of the void left by KENTA. This was your classic retirement/leaving match mix with a combination of the past, present, and future all involved.

KENTA’s signature blend of stiff strikes, quickness, and big moves are all on display in his final NOAH appearance.

In the latter stages of the match, KENTA and Sugiura just wallop each other with open hand slaps for a couple of minutes. The strikes, as expected with these two, all landed solidly and with a lot of impact In a sense, the strike exchange seemed at home in this match. KENTA is on his way out and Sugiura is looking to step up when he is gone – going all out and ignoring the obvious pain of the blows feels more natural under those circumstances than under others. At the same time, these two were beating the heck out of each other and if wrestlers are going to do that, I am not sure why they wouldn’t signal to the audience that the blows hurt by selling them a bit more. No matter the context, these exchanges always seem misguided to me.

All-in-all, it was the sort of all-out, hard hitting affair you would expect from these four on KENTA’s final night. The crowd at Korakuen reacted to KENTA before, during, and after the match but not in any truly unforgettable way. It was obvious the match was an emotional one for the fans, for KENTA, and for Marafuji even if it didn’t come across on video as anything really out of the ordinary.

KENTA picked up the win by doing a Go 2 Sleep on his exposed knee. He goes out a winner in his last match on a green mat. As far as swan songs go, KENTA’s in NOAH was neither good nor bad but likely a bit unmemorable. It will be interesting to see when we get our next KENTA match. It seems likely that he will be on NXT by the end of the calendar year but given how stuffed the WWE talent roster is at the moment, it would not be altogether shocking if this is the last KENTA match to make the air in 2014.

Japan Tag | Common | Farewell Match/Historical Importance

(03/08) Taiji Ishimori (c) vs. Daisuke Harada

Ariake Coliseum (Tokyo, Japan)
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship 

I often disagree with Dave Meltzer’s match opinions and ratings.  However, I almost always can see where his opinion is coming from and more times than not, our opinions on match quality are within the same realm.  When it comes to Taiji Ishimori’s GHC Junior Heavyweight title defense against Daisuke Harada from March of this year, like usual I can see why Meltzer likes the match.  I just don’t share the same opinion in the slightest.

Piecing together Dave’s comments on the match, it seems that the creativity of some of the moves and spots, as well as the fast pace, appealed to him.  There certainly were some big time moves, some of which I thought were well-executed particularly in the sections that proceeded the stretch run.  Ishimori is backed off by the official early in the match when Harada spills to the outside.  Ishimori appears to comply, backing into the far corner of the ring.  Once the referee moved an inch out of his way, however, Ishimori sprinted across the ring, dove over the opposite ring post, and laid out Harada with an impressive flip dive.  The crowd reacted in awe of the sudden burst.  It was an effective spot because it came off like a real risk and came out of nowhere, which provided the match with an extra little spark and sense of importance early on.

Meltzer also made mention on Twitter that Ishimori and Harada re-enacted the Sakuraba & Nakamura knee spot from 2013’s Tokyo Dome show.  In the original match, that spot saw Sakuraba react to Nakamura shooting in on him the way he might in a shoot fight – with a quick and brutal knee strike to the temple.  The move looked so good that it looked like it could have legitimately knocked Nakamura out cold.  In this match, the diminutive champion charges at the challenger only for Harada to stick his knee up and catch Ishimori with it in the face.  The move generated oohs and has from the crowd and looked good to boot.  On a standalone basis, I thought it was a good move and it did serve as a transition into the near fall section.  Unfortunately, the stuff that came afterwards paled in comparison.

Where the match fell short – significantly short – for me was that its appeal was all in the quickness and creative moves.  That is rarely enough to sustain a match, let alone a 20-minute one.  There wasn’t a lot of substance beyond those two elements.  The crowd was into the match but not overly so.  There was not much in the way of dramatic near falls.  The story being told wasn’t overly compelling and at times (particularly down the stretch) it felt like move after move after move.  I saw thought it was a bit too much in terms of moves, including a DVD on the apron mid-match that really led nowhere.  All of that left me a bit underwhelmed.

I will also say that I was not as impressed with the creativity in the match.  I don’t watch a lot of Ishimori but I still didn’t see much that I have not seen from him before, none of which I ever found terribly impressive.  I am all for new moves, creativity and innovation, but it goes without saying that it has to be good new moves, good creativity, and good innovation for it to have any value.  I am not sure that was the case in this particular match.

Juniors | Common | Hype & Title Switch

(05/03) Yoshinari Ogawa & Zach Sabre Jr. (c) vs. Shiori Asahi & Hiro Tonai

Differ Ariake (Tokyo, Japan)
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship 

The first defense by Ogawa and Sabre Jr. since regaining NOAH’s version of the junior tag team titles is a really excellent junior tag team bout.  This match contained a lot of the elements that I think of when I think of junior or cruiserweight tag team wrestling.  One of the things in pro wrestling history that I am most disappointed that we never got see was the WCW Cruiserweight tag team division for any extended period of time.  I imagine this match is a lot like what the best matches from that division would have eventually looked like.

The pace is quick but not in a move-a-second kind of way.  The quickness comes from frequent tags, constant movement, changing up holds, and frequent saves.  Ogawa and Sabre Jr. attack Tonai’s arm with a fast, unrelenting, and varied offense.  They clearly had a solid game plan for their offensive portions of this match and the execution is pretty spot-on.  Ogawa is a veteran in every sense of the word and Sabre Jr. makes his living attacking the arm so the champions had no shortage of fun ways of going after Tonai’s arm.

The challengers – both from Taka Michinoku’s K-Dojo promotion – are a fun, fiery underdog team.  Their matching white pants and general offense reminded me a bit of 2001-era WCW Jung Dragons (Kaz Hayashi & Jimmy Yang), although a bit more on the green side.  I thought their comebacks were good and they more than matched the quick pace of their opponents.  Tonai sold the heck out of the beating his arm took.  He and Asahi walked away from the loss with me wanting to see more of them which is always a positive sign of a quality match.

If there was a flaw in the match structure, it is that the hot tag – particularly the first one by Tonai after his arm was destroyed for a lengthy period – lacked some drama.  The K-Dojo team is not entirely polished but – to continue the WCW 2001 cruiserweight comparisons – are much more 2001 Shannon Moore unpolished than 2001 Jimmy Yang unpolished.

Those are largely nitpicks though and whatever drama the hot tags lacked, they made up for with a hot finish.  It was clear after the first few minutes where the match was heading.  The champs arm attack was so focused that it was certainly going to payoff in the end with some sort of arm bar submission.  However, they did enough stuff in the middle that made the journey to the finish blow by.  When Sabre Jr. just wrenches viciously at Tonai’s arm at about the 14-minute mark and Tonai finally gives, it is a satisfying payoff.  You feel like Tonai has taken all that he can handle – no more, no less.

I thought this was as good as any junior match I’ve seen this year, up there with the DDT Openweight title match from March.  It was well-executed and a lot of fun all the way around.

Junior Tag | Watch It | Quality

(02/22) Yugi Nagata (c) vs. KENTA

Differ Ariake (Tokyo, Japan)
GHC Heavyweight Championship

There is not a ton to say about Nagata’s first GHC Heavyweight Championship defense other than it was a surprising match on two fronts. For one, a title change appeared imminent when the match was announced. Nagata appeared to be a transitional champion in order to get the title back on KENTA when he did not end up in the WWE. KENTA’s title shot was rushed – something KENTA apparently acknowledged himself upon its announcement – all of which pointed to a title switch that ended up not occurring after all.

Secondly, the match was a bit of a surprise in how good it was. It is a step (or more) below the best stuff from this month and this year, but exceeded my expectations.

The Differ Ariake crowd was far from hot, but they maintained some level of noise throughout the entire match yelling for KENTA which helped. This wasn’t as back-and-forth as some NOAH and some KENTA matches can be. Nagata controlled a decent portion of the match and looked good doing so. Nagata is rather middling at this point in his career – if he hasn’t always been – and the lackluster title win versus Morishima did little to inspire confidence for his GHC Heavyweight title run, but he was good here. The pacing and the selling were also a bit more my style in this match, which I cannot say about a ton of NOAH matches.

The ending was well-executed with several teases and near falls on the backdrop suplex before he finally catches KENTA in it a final time and puts him down. Good match overall, but unfortunately KENTA is probably one of the better (best?) opponents for Nagata in NOAH so I still don’t have high-expectations for his title reign.

Japan Singles | Common| Quality & Title Match

(02/08) Takeshi Morishima (c) vs. Yuji Nagata

Korauken Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
GHC Heavyweight Championship

When writing about Morishima’s fun title defense versus Shane Haste, I noted that Morishima as a super heel champion with a stable constantly interfering on his behalf seemed to be working. As noted then, I didn’t think it had a long shelf life, but figured it could get NOAH well into April before they came up with something else. It turns out the run was cutoff way before reaching the springtime. Perhaps it was KENTA’s decision to stay with the promotion that changed plans, but the entire sequence of events to switch the title Nagata – this match included – felt rushed and unsatisfying.

The idea behind Morishima and company running rampant should have led to either KENTA – as the ace of the promotion – ending the madness eventually or a new face stepping up to put an end to it after at least a couple months of Morishima running roughshod over the entire promotion. An outsider like Nagata putting an end to the reign just a month into it didn’t feel right.

The match itself was also completely unremarkable. The first ten minutes were bland and it doesn’t pick up until the interference kicked in. Morishima and his stable mates were getting the constant-interference thing down to the point where I could envision a big time reaction when someone finally stopped them months down the line. When TMDK came out here to do that – which allowed Nagata to gain the victory – it felt like it was too early in the title run for it to have any real meaning or impact.

Nagata’s reign might be over before it begins as he defends against KENTA in a couple of days. I get the reason for getting the title back on their most marketable and popular wrestler, but it feels like it would have meant more for KENTA to put a stop to Morishima’s reign of terror in a month or two rather than using Nagata as a transitional champion at this stage.

Japan Heavyweight | Pass | Title Match