Pro Wrestling NOAH on 1/22/06
review by Just John

Match 1: Kentaro Shiga and Mitsuo Momota vs. Kishin Kawabata and Haruka Eigen

Well, NOAH isn’t renowned for their “hot openers” and it’s pretty easy to see why. In this match, there are two guys that are about 60 years old (Momota and Eigen), and another two that aren’t recognized for their carrying ability. The sole purpose of this match, as with most Eigen matches, is to get to a spot where he stands on the entrance way and spits into the crowd. They do eventually get to that spot, as Momota and Eigen gingerly walk to the ramp and Momota slaps Eigen’s chest causing the waterworks. The rest of the match is filled with slow, awkward wrestling that lacks any semblance of flow or excitement. This whole match is about one spot, which I didn’t even find particularly enjoyable. Shiga counters Eigen’s attempt at a vertical suplex with a roll up for the win.

Final rating: * ¼

Match 2: Dakota, Takuma Sano, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Tsutomu Hirayanagi, Masao Inoue, and Akitoshi Saito

Normally, low-card NOAH 6-man’s like this are pretty dull. On paper, this match doesn’t look like much, but that’s why they wrestle in the ring. I actually found it to be pretty enjoyable. It was very formulaic, but well executed. The match does start rather slowly with some heatless exchanges between Dakota and Hirayanagi (who looks like he’s about 15 years old), then an only-slightly-better exchange between Kanemaru and Inoue. Saito and Sano get the crowd into it a little bit once they trade some kicks. After the initial exchanges, Hirayanagi comes in for the “rookie treatment.” Dakota isn’t too rough on him, but Kanemaru and Sano no-sell and stiff the poor guy quite a bit. However, this does get the crowd behind Hirayanagi, and he gets some decent pops for kicking out late in the beat down. Eventually, he makes the hot tag to Saito, and we get some good back-and-forth action between the teams before the finish. The crowd gets behind Hirayanagi as he got a near-fall on Dakota with a tornado DDT, but Dakota recovered and put Hirayanagi away with a Badland DDT (think of a diamond dust, but instead of landing in a stunner position, he rolls through and spikes the guy on his head). As soon as he hit it, the crowd knew it was over.

Final rating: *** ¼

Match 3: Yoshinari Ogawa and Shiro Koshinaka vs. Tamon Honda and Daisuke Ikeda

This is one of those NOAH comedy matches that serves as somewhat of a buffer between the more serious stuff. And since the last match was better than it had any right to be, it wasn’t a bad idea to throw this one on right afterwards. The comedic focal points of this match were Honda’s head Koshinaka’s ass. The other two would serve as foils. Ogawa brought his usual cowardly tactics and spent a lot of time either getting beaten up or cheating. He repeatedly tried to kick Honda in the head, which had no effect. Koshiinaka used lots ass-attacks as usual, and Ikeda used a nice bit of comedic psychology when he tied Koshinaka’s arms and legs in a knot and proceeded to repeatedly punch and kick him in the ass. However, that would do his team no good, as Koshinaka would recover to hit Honda with a running ass bump leading to an Ogawa small package for the win.

Final rating: ** ¼

Match 4: Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Takeshi Morishima, and Mohammed Yone, vs. Scorpio, Minoru Suzuki, and SUWA

I’m not exactly sure what the point of this match was. It only lasted about 7 minutes and the focus was on Suzuki and SUWA being upset with each other. Morishima did next to nothing, and there was very little legal, in-ring action. There really isn’t much else to note on this one. It was fairly fun, but really didn’t mean anything. The heels win when they each give Kikuchi a signature move—A John Woo from SUWA, a Gotch-style pile driver from Suzuki, and a 450 from Scorpio.

Final rating: ** ¾

Match 5: Mushiking Terry, Takashi Sugiura, and Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Mushiking Joker, Katushiko Nakajima, and Kensuke Sasaki

In NOAH, it’s not hard to tell when the show starts to get serious. This is the obvious turning point here. This match goes along the same lines as one of the main events at a smaller venue. It’s serious, but with lots of fun action. The focus of this match centered around Sasaki and Misawa squaring off. They start the match trading chops and elbows and would cross paths a few more times as well. However, the real key to this match is the performance of the young guys. Terry and Joker have some fun, high-flying moves up their sleeves, and Sugiura and Nakajima bring some more hard-hitting strikes to the mix. Nakajima goes all out and isn’t afraid to stiff Misawa a little bit. Of course, he gets the “one-elbow knock down” treatment, but you have to respect him for trying. Misawa and Sasaki wind up squaring off again before the match turns into a pier six brawl. Sasaki gives Misawa a tiger suplex and puts him in the strangle hold gamma before things break down. Misawa and Sasaki trade chops and elbows on the floor, while Joker and Sugiura brawl outside as well. This leaves Nakajima and Terry in the ring as the legal men. Nakajima gets a near-fall with a high German suplex, but Terry gets the win for his team after reversing a super-plex attempt and delivering the mist crash for the three count.

Final rating: *** ½

Match 6: Kenta Kobashi and Junji Izumida vs. Akebono and Takeshi Rikio

Well, looking at this match, you know it won’t be anything special workrate wise, but it’s intriguing nevertheless. For those who don’t remember, Akebono was the guy The Big Show sumo wrestled at Wrestlemania 21. So, here you have 3 of NOAH’s biggest stars in terms of size, and a guy that is twice as heavy as each one of them. They give you a taste of Akebono/Kobashi early, but it’s just a tease. Akebono does some good fat spots like standing on Kobashi and Izumida at the same time with Rikio on his back. He’s a lot more mobile than you’d think he’d be at 210 kilos, but that’s not saying much. He also blows up pretty quickly and spends lots of time breathing heavily on the apron. Meanwhile, Rikio takes a chop and head butt based beat down from the faces. Eventually Akebono gets back in the match and does more fat spots, but Kobashi actually does manage to sort of power bomb him off the second rope. It didn’t amount to anything, though. Soon enough, the heels got Izumida down, and Rikio piggy-backed Akebono who delivered a big splash to Izumida for the win. That’s about 800 pounds falling on him, if you’re curious.

Final rating: ** ½

Match 7 (GHC Jr. Heavyweight title): Naomichi Marufuji vs. KENTA ©

There’s a pretty interesting situation going into this one. First of all, these two guys are regular tag partners. They’re also the two best Juniors in the company in terms of status, and probably workrate as well. KENTA had lost 6 straight singles matches to Marufuji coming in, the most recent being on 11/13/04. He was also pinned by Marufuji in a tag match two weeks prior to this show. The match starts, and these guys know each other extremely well, so there’s no dicking around. They jump right into a fast-paced strike exchange that ends in a stalemate. Then they work some mat wrestling in, looking to wear each other down. However, it’s not long before KENTA starts with the strikes again and builds a good string of offense. Marufuji regains the advantage in a nifty little play on their 11/13 match and their intimate knowledge of one another’s moves. On 11/13, Marufuji ran at KENTA who was on the apron and flipped over him to deliver a sunset flip power bomb to the floor. In this match, KENTA finds himself in the same situation, so he swings as Marufuji charges in, except Marufuji was one step ahead thinking baseball slide all the way. KENTA missed everything and got kicked off the apron. Marufuji then went after KENTA’s leg with some nifty leg work, but it wasn’t the kicking leg, so it didn’t really factor in much down the stretch. About 20 minutes in, the high-spotting begins as both guys realize they’ll need to pull out all the stops to win. The highlight is Marufuji delivering a shiranui off the apron to the floor putting KENTA in grave danger. However, this doesn’t result in a pin, so Marufuji sets him up top for his super-finisher—the super reverse shiranui (think of a one man Spanish fly), a move that also won him the 11/13 match. However, KENTA wasn’t going to lose that way again, and was able to counter with a top-rope fisherman suplex. It was all downhill for Marufuji after that as KENTA won a kick exchange, hit the go 2 sleep and three busaiku knee kicks to seal his first victory over his long time partner.

Final rating: ****

Match 8 (GHC Heavyweight title): Jun Akiyama vs. Akira Taue ©

Sometimes you can tell when a guy is going to win or lose just by his body language. I suppose when you’re about to win the GHC title for the first time in 4 years, it’s hard not be a little excited. Jun Akiyama is one of my favorites, but I thought it was pretty easy to telegraph this outcome. Not that it was all bad, as he was more fired up than he had been in forever and really helped make this match work. He’s working with Akira Taue in 2006, so you know he’ll have to bring everything he’s got. While there are definitely some slow points during the beginning and middle, Akiyama does what he can. He definitely brings the bumping in this match, which is a critical element to keeping the match outcome slightly in question. He takes two different bumps to floor, one being a big boot knocking him off the top rope, the other being a chokeslam off the ramp. He also takes a nasty looking bump on a power bomb, eerily similar to the one The Giant took at Souled Out 1998. Taue immediately checks to see if he’s ok after that one. On offense, Akiyama looks in top form. His knee strikes are even more fast and crisp than usual. He doesn’t get to do as many exploders or high impact moves, but he works around that as best he can. They tease a repeat of the 9/18/05 tag match finish that saw Taue pin Akiyama off a top-rope chokeslam. However, this time Akiyama is able to kick out. He gets back up and delivers a series of vicious running knees to the head and gets the three count! Akiyama becomes the new GHC Heavyweight champion.

Final rating: *** ¼

Final Summary: This was a tremendous show, and arguably one of the best shows this year in any promotion. Outside of the opener, every match had something to offer. Even the undercard, which is typically unexciting in NOAH events, was above average. The JHW title match completely stole the show and is one of my top 5 matches of the year. I would recommend this show to anyone, whether you’re just getting into puro, or are an avid follower. And it’s a must see for all NOAH fans.

Final rating: 8/10

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