Taka Michinoku vs. Daisuke Harada
Pro Wrestling NOAH
January 9, 2016
It is a joy to watch Taka Michinoku in singles matches these days.
He wrestles with the acumen and proficiency that can only be obtained through decades of in-ring experiences. A lot of wrestlers have long careers. Far fewer wrestlers are able to parlay those experiences into applied knowledge. Taka has been able to do just that during the later stages of his career. For a lack of a better description this match – as well as many Taka singles matches from the prior few years – is Taka’s own take on the maestro match. The way that Taka crafts these basic but entertaining (and rarely repetitive) matches is not all that dissimilar from a great Virus, Black Terry, or Blue Panther maestros match.
Taka has a ridiculous number of tricks and tools lining his pockets. In this match alone he wrestled standalone mat sequences, worked a match long submission story, utilized fun pinning combinations that indirectly set up the finish, did some heel shtick, incorporated high impact/quick strike spots, and even did my personal favorite “holding onto a headlock” routine for 30-seconds early on. It was not just the fact that Taka possessed all of those tricks that made this match work. Those segments were also arranged so that they built on one another. The match flowed excellently and felt like a full match rather than a collection of individual segments. For example, even though the match progresses from opening match basics to Taka in control to Harada’s comeback to the higher impact ending, Taka’s attempts at his signature submission hold and both wrestlers’ attempts to score a quick fall off of a pinning hold recur throughout.
Much of the praise for Taka recently has surrounded his mat work, but the higher impact offense in this match was almost as strong. I loved the knee strikes from guys, both in terms of how they were utilized in the match and how well they generally connect. There was one rough spot where Taka tried to kick (or knee) a seated Harada in the face. Taka pulled up without really connecting and Harada half-sold it on a delay. It did not help that at that moment the TV shot was taken from a camera right behind Harada’s back making the entire thing impossible to miss. To be fair, it was not a big deal. Taka showed off his well-honed instincts yet again by going right into a submission after a very brief pause.
Harada more than held up his end of the bargain, although I believe that comparing this match to other Harada matches would reveal a difference in style that likely can be attributed to Taka’s involvement. At the same time I am not sure this match would have worked like it did if Taka had another opponent (Taiji Ishimori, for example). It is uncertain that Ishimori would have had the offense needed to make a convincing comeback while still selling the effects of the earlier beating in the way Harada was. He threw a couple of nice suplexes and landed some knee strikes – while still showing the impact Taka’s offense had on him – in a manner that someone with a different set of offense might not have been able to.
If you enjoyed Taka’s singles matches last year for NOAH and K-Dojo, this one is definitely worth checking out. It is below the top level Taka stuff from ’15 but on part with the Ogawa singles match from early last year.