Navigation Against The Current, 10/24/03
review by PdW2kX

Jun Izumida and Mitsuo Momota vs. Masashi Aoyagi and Kishin Kawabata

Jun Izumida and Kishin Kawabata do some mat-wrestling, while Aoyagi is able to get in a few stiff kicks. Mitsuo Momota trades palm slaps with his two opponents, and then both Kawabata and later Momota are isolated from their partners. Jun Izumida gets the win at 11:17 with the Mukado Domu on Kishin Kawabata.

Analysis: Standard fare that I've seen in just about every NOAH show I've ever watched. I really wish I had more to say than that, but I can only review what they give me. The action was decent, if unspectacular. This was an icebreaker designed to ease the crowd into the show. Aside from that, it was little else. **½

Scorpio vs. Masao Inoue

Scorpio manages to get in his Nipple Twists, but Masao Inoue is able to out-wrestle Scorpio and nail a few signature moves of his. Scorpio fights out of an Argentine Backbreaker, makes his comeback, and is thrown clear across the ring when Inoue hits an Avalanche Fall-Away Slam. There's some near-falls after that, and Scorpio wins the match at 11:34 with a jackknife hold.

Analysis: An entertaining match, with a good back-and-forth flow. This is a classic Scorpio match: Scorpio's a kidder, but he's got a quiet charisma and lots of talent. Inoue's a perpetual mid-carder, but he pulled his own and worked well with Scorpio. As the first and only singles match of the night, I've got no real regrets here. ***

Takashi Sugiura and Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Michael Modest and Donovan Morgan

Michael Modest and Yoshinobu Kanemaru do some show-boating and stand-offish stuff, and then Takashi Sugiura's arm is worked over. Donovan Morgan then gets his head worked over, including a sick German Suplex by Sugiura. Morgan is able to hit a Belly-to-Belly Overhead Suplex to bring in his partner, and Modest promptly nails his patented Ass Smash. After an Elevated Ace Crusher double-team move can't put Takashi Sugiura down, Sugiura plants Morgan on his neck with a Release Olympic Slam at 12:25 to get the win.

Analysis: I liked how Sugiura and Kanemaru didn't ignore all that work that had been done on Morgan's neck. Sugiura is usually a stickler for subtle things like that, but sometimes Kanemaru has trouble hitting anything that has a purpose, and isn't just for flash. Sugiura and Kanemaru compliment each other very well in this match, as do Modest and Morgan. My attention waned through some of this match, though. Most of it was due to what came off as a lack of any real emotion: they wrestled well, but they felt a bit monotone out there. Still, a few key points and a good effort lifted this one up to just-near good match status. **¾

Wild II (Takeshi Morishima and Takeshi Rikio) vs. Takuma Sano and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi

Kikuchi is worked over pretty hard by his much bulkier opponents- he's stiffed about as unmercifully as you can get. Sano brings out his best against Morishima and Rikio, and there's a few near-fall spots where it looks like Sano and Kikuchi may just pull out the win. It's all for naught, though, as Morishima hits a Holding Backdrop on Kikuchi to get the pinfall at 9:56.

Analysis: For a Wild II match, this was good. I'm a big fan of both Morishima and Rikio, and Kikuchi's an expert Junior Heavyweight to me. Kikuchi was able to play the "small man against dominating heavyweights" role well, selling big while also sneaking in his fair amount of offense. The assorted double-team moves used by both teams were very cohesive, as well. Plain and simple, this was four guys that mixed well and knew how to go out in front of a crowd and have a good match…having a good match. ***

Richard Slinger, Juventud Guerrera, and Ricky Marvin vs. Marufuji, KENTA, and Kotaro Suzuki

You could expect a cluster-**** the moment this match started, and when it happens, we're treated to some sweet spots. Juventud Guerrera is the first one to suffer notable damage in the match, as he's cut off from his partners and has his legs beaten on. Next up for us is Kotaro Suzuki, who is also unfortunately isolated, even taking a great Piledriver from Richard Slinger. Juvy hits some great offense for a few nearfalls, then Kotaro Suzuki and Ricky Marvin tangle up, going full-tilt but unable to pin each other. Kotaro Suzuki hits a Tiger Feint Kick to Marvin, but Slinger breaks. After another cluster-****, Marvin hits a Boeing Splash (180° Slingshot Moonsault) on Suzuki at 18:32 for the win.

Analysis: Fun Junior action with lots and lots of good wrestling and flashy highspots. Ricky Marvin and Juventud Guerra vs. Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA is basically guaranteeing good times, but adding in Richard Slinger and Kotaro Suzuki was an added bonus. The constant state of both confusion and awe typified the action, but my one main flaw I found was that no one really shined. There was a bit too much happening and a few too many men involved in everything. Everyone produced a great match…but the sum actually wasn't greater than the whole of its parts on this one. There were too many instances of people starting off hot and then fading into the background so someone else could have their chance to hit a spot or do a flip. Yet despite that one single flaw, this was still great wrestling, and one of the better matches of the night. ***¼

Mitsuharu Misawa, Yoshinari Ogawa, and Yone vs. Jun Akiyama, Akitoshi Saito, and Makoto Hashi

Mohammed Yone and Makoto Hashi try to out-stiff each other, but both feel it and both go down. There's a comedy spot where Hashi has a perfect attempt to hit a dive, but keeps complaining: first he tires to shrug it off, and then he complains that the ropes are too close together. Akiyama has to hold the ropes open, and Hashi hits his dive. Yoshinari Ogawa tries to cheat (using mostly eye pokes/rakes) in order to get a lead on the much-larger Akitoshi Saito, but all that does is piss off Saito. Misawa and Akiyama struggle for position, but when Ogawa is tagged in, the Double Stomp/Elbow Drop double-team combo puts Ogawa in the lead. Ogawa is hit with slams and kicks, but manages to hold his own, mostly due to his quasi-cheating ways. After some near-falls, Mohammed Yone is triple-teamed, but his partners save him. Hashi is then triple-teamed, but his partners save him as well. Akiyama is drilled with a Tiger Driver to put him out of action, and Yone gets the pin at 19:26 following a Kinniku Buster on Makoto Hashi.

Analysis: A great match that complimented everyone involved and played up their unique character traits. There was a lot of action, very cohesive, along with plenty of good plot points and a very well-done finish. The story was brisk, and there were even a few surprising moments here and there. Mohammed Yone and Makoto Hashi stood out as particularly above-normal, but everyone else was their own level of good-to-greatness. Misawa and Akiyama simply wanted to prove who was better, while Ogawa and Saito were the effective back-up men that were always around and always ready to make a save. Hashi tried to cope with having to deal with Akiyama's style (basically ordering Hashi to do things, like the dive), while Yone simply saw three more asses that he could kick. When it comes to heavyweight three-on-three tag team matches, NOAH has their **** on firm lockdown. ***½

G.H.C. Tag Team Championships Match: Kenta Kobashi and Tamon Honda © vs. Akira Taue and Ikeda

Honda and Ikeda immediately go into a stiff-fest, while Taue and Kobashi do much of the same. Kobashi executes a Stalling Suplex on Taue with so much force that the entire ring shakes, but such an early pinfall barely gets 2. On the outside, Kobashi chops Ikeda so hard that Ikeda goes over the guardrail and into the fans. Kobashi brings Ikeda back into the ring area in much the same way. Honda tries the Rolling Olympic Hell, but it's broken up. Taue then does the one thing no one really expected him to: he viciously attacks Kobashi's legs. Ikeda takes the hint and does all he can to break Kobashi's legs. At one point, Taue puts Kobashi in a Tree of Woe and Ikeda grabs a chair and relentlessly hits Kobashi multiple times. Ikeda and Taue come dangerously close to disqualification for their tactics, but the damage has more than been done. Kobashi manages to get a tag after basically being made useless, and Honda comes in so enraged at Taue and Ikeda's actions that he promptly hits dual Rolling Olympic Hell's. Kobashi comes in and tries to get his revenge, but all he gets is a sick Kinniku Buster, which is a site to behold. In another awesome moment, Ikeda takes a Half-Nelson Suplex from Kobashi, Kobashi takes a Nodawa Atoshi by Taue immediately after, and Taue takes a German Suplex by Honda immediately after that…a German Suplex that is so sick it looks like it nearly killed Taue. Honda tries to put Ikeda down for the count, and basically destroys him with an Avalanche German Suplex. Akira Taue saves Daisuke Ikeda one last time, but Honda locks in the Rolling Olympic Hell VII and gets the win at 31:29.

Analysis: The ending felt a bit anti-climatic at first, but consider this: Ikeda had just been through thirty minutes of hell, and he'd taken a German Suplex from the top rope. He was out, plain and simple, Taue just happened to be able to make the save. Plus, the Rolling Olympic Hell VII had Ikeda's left leg pushing toward his head, his head pushing toward his left leg, his other leg was pinned down, and only his right arm wasn't taken care of. It was a very subtle finish…but like most of the entire match, the devil (meaning quality) was in the details. I loved this match, plain and simple. Subtle things like the ending-match segment were worked in as perfectly and easily as a wristlock. This was almost artistic in the way all four wrestled. There was so much story behind this one: Kobashi's leg work was Taue's doing, but Taue embellishing his darker side caused Ikeda to go over-board. Plus, even though Kobashi's legs were worn down, this still left his arms at full strength, and when he got the chance, Kobashi let loose some sickeningly powerful chops to get his revenge. Honda took Ikeda's wrestling ability and attempt to out-wrestle him as a personal insult to his past, and Honda shifted into the "Fired-Up Submissionist Machine" character that only he can play so very, very well. The character development was excellent, the story was easy to follow but highly detailed, and the match had such a natural and exciting progression that "flow" doesn't even do it justice. Nothing "flowed" in this match…stuff just "evolved" from one point to the next. Kobashi and Honda make an excellent pair, as do Taue and Ikeda, and this match gave the G.H.C. Tag Team Championships the kind of prestige that the G.H.C. Heavyweight Championship has. ****

Final Thoughts: With one classic match and a solid undercard, this would be a perfect fit for the Budokan. Such a high-quality main event coupled with such a solid base is usually reserved for end-of-tour cards. With seven matches, we had our fare share of diversity: Scorpio gave us comedy, the Juniors gave us fast action, the Heavyweights gave us stiff and competitive wrestling, while the last match gave us the "epic" feeling every good match hopes to have. Pro Wrestling NOAH had several landmarks in 2003: for starters, this was the year that had Misawa/Kobashi for the supposedly last time, and was the start of "The Reign", Kobashi's long streak of having great matches and never letting go of the G.H.C. Heavyweight Championship. Pro Wrestling NOAH didn't rest on its already-good reputation in 2003…everyone involved busted their ass for the live shows, the tours, the Budokan cards, everything. It's the sense of dedication that gave this card its greatness. Nobody was interested in having a bad match here…they all wanted their fair share of the spotlight. The good thing about this is that the spotlight they wanted was the one that they deserved…with the exception of the first match (which can easily be overlooked), everyone put forth their best efforts for this card. This card is a prime example of why Pro Wrestling NOAH is my favorite promotion right now. Without a doubt, absolutely pick this up if you're interested.

Final Rating for Pro Wrestling NOAH "Navigation Against The Current 2003": ***½

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