NOAH at Budokan
review by Kevin Wilson
Date: March 5th, 2006
This was a very special show for NOAH, more so then a simple glance-over at the lineup would show. As anyone that follows NOAH knows, singles matches are somewhat rare and feuds are often built for months (or longer) before the one on one match finally takes place. Take Akiyama and Suzuki, for example. They have been feuding for a year, but it took them this long to face off in a singles match. On this show, besides the one I just mentioned, there are four other singles matches. While they have not been built up over a long period of time (except perhaps Kobashi vs. KENTA), they still have a special meaning. This is a chance for the new generation (Rikio, Marufuji, Morishima, and KENTA) to step up against the old guard and prove that they are ready to take control of NOAH. Obviously a win would be better, but the main idea is for the four younger wrestlers to show their growth since joining NOAH by putting up a good fight against four former GHC Heavyweight Champions. This is extremely rare for NOAH to do, I can't remember the last time that so many important singles matches were on one card. This card also saw Zero-One wrestlers invade to take a shot at the Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship, and this also was Eigen's last appearance at the Tokyo Nippon Budokan. Here is the full card:
- Takuma Sano, Junji Izumida, and Haruka Eigen vs. Tamon Honda, Kentaro Shiga, and Momota
- Mohammed Yone, Kikuchi, and Mushiking Terry vs. SUWA, Low Ki, and Mushiking Joker
- Akitoshi Saito, Masao Inoue, and Kawabata vs. Bison Smith, Doug Williams, and McGuinness
- Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Takeshi Rikio
- Akira Taue vs. Naomichi Marufuji
- Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Takeshi Morishima
- Kenta Kobashi vs. KENTA
- GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship: Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Takashi Sugiura (c) vs. Ikuto Hidaka and Minoru Fujita
- GHC Heavyweight Championship: Jun Akiyama (c) vs. Minoru Suzuki
Takuma Sano, Izumida, and Haruka Eigen vs. Tamon Honda, Shiga, and Momota
Post match: Eigen is carried triumphantly around the ring to the back, where confetti falls down on him. I'd be more touched if I wasn't so damn happy to see him retire. And Honda looks like there are a million things he'd rather be doing then carrying a sixty year old man on his back.
Match Thoughts: When it comes to puroresu, almost all the customs and traditions I understand. Most of them I enjoy, which is why I prefer puroresu so much. But the crowd getting excited about Eigen spitting on them is one tradition that I don't really understand, and even if I did I think it would get old after seeing him do it in every match. Actually, as much as I enjoy NOAH's product I rarely enjoy their matches like this one. Eigen and Momota, in my opinion, should have retired many years ago. Shiga, Sano, Izumida, and Honda just seem to be wasted in a comedy match, I'd rather see any combination of those four fight to start off the card. Since the fans obviously enjoy the matches its hard to be too negative, but it isn't my personal taste. So I'll give them credit for getting the crowd excited, which is the entire point of the opener anyway, but I can't say I was particularly entertained. Score: 3.5
Mohammed Yone, Kikuchi, and Dakota vs. SUWA, Low Ki, and Mushiking Joker
Going back to SUWA, Kikuchi hits a suplex followed by a Fisherman's Suplex, but it gets a two count. Irish whip by Kikuchi, but SUWA hits a clothesline and tags in Joker. SUWA elbows Joker when he comes in and goes for the Fireball Bomb, but Joker flips out of it and hits a drop toehold. Dropkick to the head by Joker, cover, but it only gets two. Joker goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits a flying body press, but Kikuchi rolls through and gets a two count cover. Kikuchi goes off the ropes, elbows Joker down and tags in Yone. Big boot by Yone, Irish whip from the corner and he delivers the jumping knee. Yone goes to the top turnbuckle, hits the diving leg drop, but the pin attempt is broken up. Yone goes off the ropes, Joker ducks the clothesline attempt and hits a back kick, but Yone clotheslines Joker to the mat anyway. Cover, but Joker kicks out at two. Yone puts Joker on the top turnbuckle and goes for the Muscle Buster, but Joker gets out of it and nails a springboard front kick to the side of the head of Yone. Joker tags in Low Ki, who hits a running elbow smash. Cover, but it gets a two count. Irish whip by Low Ki to the corner and he hits a diving elbow. Low Ki goes to the top turnbuckle, but Kikuchi distracts him which gives Yone time to recover and hit a leg lariat on Low Ki. Yone tags in Dakota, Irish whip by Dakota, reversed, but Dakota kicks Low Ki in the head and nails a DDT. Cover, but Low Ki kicks out. Dakota goes to the top turnbuckle and delivers a diving body press. Cover, but again it gets a two count. Elbow strikes by Dakota, he goes off the ropes, but Low Ki dropkicks him in the leg. Black Magic by Low Ki, cover, but it only gets a two count. Low Ki picks up Dakota and the two trade blows. Irish whip by Low Ki, reversed, but Low Ki nails the Tidal Wave. Cover, but again it gets a two count. Back up, Irish whip by Low Ki from the corner, but Dakota avoids the jumping elbow and hits a belly to belly suplex. Running splash by Dakota, cover, but Low Ki kicks out. Dakota goes off the ropes, but SUWA slaps him from the apron. Irish whip by Low Ki to the corner, Joker comes in the ring and hits a dropkick to the head of Dakota, then Low Ki hits an atomic drop, and SUWA finishes with a dropkick to the stomach of Dakota. Once Dakota gets back up, Low Ki delivers the Tidal Krush to the corner and finishes off Dakota with the Ki Krusher '99. Cover, and Low Ki picks up the three count pinfall! Your winners: SUWA, Low Ki, and Mushiking Joker
Match Thoughts: A simple match, but at the beginning of the card there is nothing wrong with that. Dakota is a goofy dude, I had never seen him before. He looked fine, but he really didn't seem to fit in with the other five. The rest of the wrestlers all looked good as well, hitting all their spots. I was surprised Yone didn't get more action since he is a tag team champion, but with only 10 minutes and an obvious focus of beating up Dakota it made sense. Perfectly watchable, even if it was pretty straightforward. Score: 6.0
Akitoshi Saito, Masao Inoue, and Kawabata vs. Bison Smith, Doug Williams, and McGuinness
Saito picks up Smith and knees him repeatedly in the chest. Scissors kick by Saito, cover, but it only gets a two count. Saito goes off the ropes and hits a lariat, but Smith doesn't go down. A second one has the same effect, but the third one knocks Smith off his feet. Cover, but it gets a two count. Back up, Smith connects on a lariat on Saito and tags in McGuinness. Uppercuts by McGuinness, Irish whip, reversed, but McGuinness elbows him when he charges in and then hits his headstand dropkick from the corner. Cover by McGuinness, but Kawabata kicks out. McGuinness knocks Saito back to the mat, another cover, but again it gets two. McGuinness charges Saito, but Saito catches him with a chokeslam and tags in Inoue. Irish whip by Inoue to the corner and he hits a running lariat followed by a series of rapid-fire lariats. Side Russian leg sweep by Inoue, he hits another lariat, cover, but it gets a two count. Inoue goes for the Argentine Backbreaker, but McGuinness elbows out of it. Rake to the eyes by Inoue, he goes off the ropes, but McGuinness kicks him in the stomach. The two trade strikes, but McGuinness knocks him off his feet with a lariat and tags in Williams. Williams comes off the top rope with an elbow strike to Inoue, cover, but it gets a two count. Jumping knee by Williams in the corner and he connects on a knee lift. Cover, but again it gets two. Williams picks up Inoue and goes for the German suplex, but Inoue shoves him off. Flying shoulderblock by Inoue from the second turnbuckle and he tags in Kawabata. Kawabata comes off the top turnbuckle with a missile dropkick, cover, but it gets a two. Powerslam by Kawabata, cover, but again Williams kicks out. Williams is triple teamed in the ring, as all three of his opponent's hit strikes in the corner. Chokeslam by Saito, Kawabata hits a senton from the top turnbuckle, cover, but McGuinness breaks it up. Kawabata picks up Williams, but Williams hits a gutwrench suplex. Now it is their turn, Williams hits a jumping knee on Kawabata in the corner, then McGuinness hits a jumping European uppercut followed by another handstand dropkick. Smith then nails a claw chokeslam on Kawabata, and after that Williams comes off the top with a kneedrop. Cover, but it is broken up. Kawabata quickly sneaks in a roll-up, but it gets a two count. Axe Bomber by Kawabata, cover, but it is broken up by McGuinness. Waistlock by Williams, but Kawabata drops out of it and rolls up Williams again for another two. Kick by Williams, Kawabata goes for a backslide, but Williams gets out of it and applies a waistlock. He then rams Kawabata into the corner, delivers the Chaos Theory, and picks up the three count pinfall! Your winners: Bison Smith, Doug Williams, and Nigel McGuinness
Match Thoughts: Not quite as good as the last match and the crowd never really got into it, which is unusual for NOAH. Either they really wanted the native team to win or they didn't know the Chaos Theory was a finisher, for they got really quiet after the three count. The best thing about this match was the double and triple teams used by both teams, it is nice to see tag teams that actually work together instead of just tagging out and leaving the ring. But a lot of times they seemed to be going through the motions and Bison Smith was really the only one that showed any fire. The transitions were pretty rough as well, but that is pretty common in six man matches. Your average "big man" multi-tag match. Score: 5.0
As I mentioned, the next four matches are part of the "Youth vs. Experience" series. In case you don't know which is which (shame on you, by the way), I will list the experienced veteran first followed by the wrestler from the newer generation.
Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Takeshi Rikio
Match Thoughts: Even though Ogawa was the veteran in this case I have trouble thinking of him as the favorite since in the last year Rikio has beaten Kobashi and Misawa. Anyway, I don't like Ogawa, although I admit he plays the "I suck but still win somehow" role pretty well. This was in some ways a squash, since Ogawa only got in offense when he bent the rules and otherwise Rikio pretty much threw him around. As it should be. Rikio needs to wrestle more little people, he hits the Muso much better that way. Since Ogawa was in control a good bit and I don't buy his offense, I can't say this was a great match, but it did a good job of establishing that Rikio is on a higher tier then Ogawa and hopefully he always will be. Score: 5.5
Akira Taue vs. Naomichi Marufuji
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Takeshi Morishima
Running forearm by Misawa, and Morishima rolls out to the apron. Misawa goes out to the apron as well and goes for the Tiger Driver, but Morishima grabs the top rope. They trade blows, Morishima grabs Misawa and slams him down to the floor. Morishima heaves Misawa back into the ring, goes up to the top turnbuckle and delivers a diving lariat. Clubbing blows by Morishima, he goes off the ropes, and nails a lariat. Cover, but it gets a two count. Morishima lariats Misawa again from behind and connects with his backdrop suplex. Cover, but Misawa barely kicks out in time. Punches by Morishima, but Misawa fires back with a forearm and a somersault kick. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Misawa goes for another Tiger Driver, but Morishima backdrops out of it. Chokeslam by Morishima, and he kicks Misawa out to the apron. Morishima picks up Misawa on the apron and goes for the backdrop suplex, but Misawa holds onto the ropes. Forearm by Misawa, and he nails the Tiger Driver down to the floor. Misawa rolls back in the ring, Morishima doesn't follow, so Misawa goes out to get him. Cover, but Morishima kicks out. Forearm smash by Misawa, cover, but again Morishima kicks out. Misawa applies a crossface hold, another cover, but again it gets a two count. Misawa goes for the Emerald Fusion, but Morishima gets out of it and nails another backdrop suplex. Cover, but Misawa manages to kick out at two. Morishima drags Misawa to his feet and drops him right on his head with a Scrap Buster. Cover, Misawa kicks out at two. Morishima goes off the ropes, lariat, cover, but it still gets a two count. Another backdrop driver by Morishima, cover, but once again Misawa will not stay down. Morishima picks up Misawa and hits a series of punches, but Misawa hits a pair of spinning elbows. Elbow smashes by Misawa in the corner, he throws Morishima in the middle of the ring, and hits him with one more. Cover, but Morishima kicks out. The two trade blows on their feet, and Misawa knocks Morishima to the mat with a running elbow smash. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Mounted forearms by Misawa, he picks up Morishima to a sitting position and rocks him with one more forearm to the head. Cover, and Misawa picks up the three count pinfall! Your winner: Mitsuharu Misawa
Match Thoughts: A really entertaining match and the best Misawa match I have seen in years. People complained about Misawa winning (of course), but I had no problem with it. The man has only been pinned in singles matches twice in the last three years, so when he does lose it should be in a bigger match. Maybe now Morishima will get a rematch this fall or winter in a warm-up for another GHC Heavyweight shot and pick up the win, but here I don't think he was ready since he hasn't beaten any of the upper-tier wrestlers yet. That being said, Misawa gave Morishima a lot in this match and up until the end it was extremely close. Morishima got a lot of near falls and showed a lot of intensity. Misawa took those backdrop suplexes like a champ, no one can say he won't take bumps, and Morishima took his share as well to make this match seem bigger then it really was. It was a pretty strike-based match, but since both of these wrestlers always throw a lot of strikes it didn't come across as time-killing. In fact, the early chinlock was the only slow portion of the match. Better then I was ever expecting (remember Rikio/Misawa?), and if Morishima stays on this track he can be a legit GHC Heavyweight Champion within a couple years. Score: 8.0
Kenta Kobashi vs. KENTA
Kobashi picks up KENTA and hits a series of chops, KENTA fires back, but Kobashi chops him to the mat. Double handed chop by Kobashi, he picks up KENTA and chops him right in the face. Lucky he didn't break his nose. Kobashi picks up KENTA and applies a modified abdominal stretch, but releases the hold when his arm starts hurting. Back on their feet, KENTA connects with a few slaps, but Kobashi chops him down. Kobashi picks up KENTA, puts him in the corner, Irish whip, but KENTA kicks him when he charges in and connects with a kick from the second turnbuckle. Kicks to the chest by KENTA, he goes to the apron, and nails a springboard missile dropkick. Cover, but it only gets a two count. KENTA kicks Kobashi in the chest, Kobashi goes for a chop, but KENTA catches his arm and kicks it. This staggers Kobashi back, and KENTA delivers a running boot to the corner. Running dropkick to the face by KENTA and he tauntingly kicks Kobashi in the corner. Kobashi slowly gets back to his feet even though he is being kicked, catches one, and pushes KENTA to the mat. KENTA gets back up and connects with a few forearms, but Kobashi pushes KENTA into the corner and delivers his rapid-fire chops and a double chop to the neck. Kobashi then powerbombs KENTA into the corner, does another powerbomb with a victory roll, but it gets a two count. Kobashi goes for the half nelson suplex, but KENTA reverses it with a roll-up. Back up, Kobashi goes for it again, but KENTA elbows out of it. Enzigieri by KENTA to the back of the head of Kobashi, and he nails a release German suplex. Kobashi is back up however as KENTA charges and he delivers the half nelson suplex. KENTA gets back up though and nails the Busaiku Knee Kick. Both men are laid out and get to their feet at about the same time. Kobashi catches a kick and goes for the rolling back chop, but KENTA ducks it and dropkicks Kobashi in the knee. KENTA goes up to the top turnbuckle, but Kobashi catches him up there and joins him on the top turnbuckle. Kobashi goes for a superplex, but KENTA flips over his back and nails a powerbomb. Cover, but it only gets a two count. KENTA picks up Kobashi, hits a combination, and hits the Busaiku Knee Kick. Cover, but again it gets a two. KENTA goes for the Go To Sleep, but Kobashi elbows out of it. KENTA gets him up anyway, but he can't quite manage to do the move and they collapse in a heap together on the mat. KENTA kicks Kobashi repeatedly in the head instead, cover, but Kobashi kicks out. KENTA picks up Kobashi and hits a Knee Kick to the back of the head. He then goes off the ropes and connects with another one, as Kobashi stumbles around the ring. KENTA calls for one more, bounces off both sides of the ring, but Kobashi catches him with a lariat. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Kobashi signals that it is the end, picks up KENTA, and nails the rare Wrist-Clutch Burning Hammer! Cover, and Kobashi picks up the three count pinfall. Your winner: Kenta Kobashi
Match Thoughts: This match took some flak for various reasons, but in reality it was a very good match. It was just hindered by the fact it followed Misawa/Morishima, a match which would be hard to follow for anybody. The game plan of KENTA was very sound (take out Kobashi's right arm) and things were going great until the last 5 minutes or so when Kobashi stopped selling it and KENTA stopped working it over. Up to that point, Kobashi was shaking his arm after every chop but it got to the point where it seemed to be forgotten. I had no problem with him using the Burning Hammer, since it came across in a "this punk kid is getting on my nerves, I am just going to finish him off" way. It wasn't that Kobashi couldn't have won with a different move, he just wanted to prove a point. KENTA didn't do quite as well as Morishima in terms of elevation, but he took a lot of sick shots including a few half nelson suplexes and the absolutely brutal chop to the face (make sure you watch that clip). He still relies on kicks too much though, I'd like to see a slightly more varied moveset from him. It was also disheartening that he failed in his attempt to hit the "Go To Sleep," as I am sure the crowd would have popped huge for it. Overall it was certainly entertaining, it just had a tough task in terms of where the match was placed on the card. Score: 7.0
(c) Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Takashi Sugiura vs. Ikuto Hidaka and Minoru Fujita
The Camel Clutch is applied by Sugiura, then Kanemaru runs in and dropkicks Hidaka in the face. Then Kanemaru applies the hold, Sugiura gets a running start and slaps Hidaka in the face. Sugiura picks up Hidaka and forearms him in the back before tagging in Kanemaru. Kicks to the chest by Kanemaru, but Hidaka slaps him back. Dropkick by Kanemaru, cover, but it only gets a two count. Irish whip by Kanemaru, and he hits a back bodydrop. Kanemaru grabs Hidaka's legs and applies a crab hold while Sugiura runs over to take care of Fujita. Fujita still manages to come in and break up the hold though, Kanemaru picks up Hidaka and tags in Sugiura. Club to the back by Sugiura, Irish whip, but Hidaka get a sunset flip for a two count cover. Sugiura pounces on Hidaka before he can make the tag though and applies a crossface hold before Hidaka makes it to the ropes. Kanemaru is tagged in, he picks up Hidaka and elbows him in the back of the head. Irish whip by Kanemaru, reversed, but Kanemaru gets his f oot up when Hidaka charges. Kanemaru goes up to the second turnbuckle, but Hidaka kicks him when he jumps off and dropkicks Kanemaru in the head. Hidaka tags in Fujita, who first catapults off of Kanemaru's back to dropkick Sugiura off of the apron. Irish whip by Fujita from the corner and he hits a jumping forearm. Another forearm knocks Kanemaru down, he picks up him, waistlock, reversed, reversed again, Fujita ends Kanemaru into the ropes, but Kanemaru holds on and Fujita rolls free. Neckbreaker by Fujita, cover, but it gets a two count. Fujita goes for a vertical suplex, Kanemaru hangs on though and reverses it into a suplex of his own. Kanemaru goes up to the top turnbuckle, but Fujita runs up and hits an overhead suplex from the second turnbuckle. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Back up, they trade blows, but Kanemaru dropkicks Fujita in the knee and tags in Sugiura. Sugiura tackles Fujita in the corner, slams him to the mat, and then hits a diving lariat from the top turnbuckle. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Karelin Throw by Sugiura and he goes for a crucifix powerbomb, but Fujita slides down his back and knocks Sugiura to the mat with an enzigieri. Fujita tags in Hidaka, who comes off the top turnbuckle with a missile dropkick. Hidaka goes out to the apron and springboards back in, Sugiura moves, but Hidaka does a roll and lands on his feet. Hidaka ducks a Sugiura clothesline, waistlock by Hidaka, reversed, Sugiura goes for an overhead suplex, but Hidaka lands on his feet. Elbow strike by Sugiura, but Hidaka comes back with a spinning heel kick. La Magistral by Hidaka, but it only gets a two count. Hidaka goes for a hurricanrana, but Sugiura slams him with a powerbomb. Kanemaru then comes off the top turnbuckle with a splash, and Sugiura applies the ankle lock. Fujita breaks it up though after a moment, Sugiura picks up Hidaka and delivers a German suplex followed by a dragon suplex for a two count pinfall. Sugiura picks up Hidaka and goes for a backdrop suplex, but Hidaka lands on his feet and Fujita comes off the top turnbuckle with a flying forearm shot. Roll-up by Hidaka, but it gets a two count.
Kanemaru dropkicks Hidaka, Fujita intercepts him, but Sugiura spears Fujita. Hidaka comes back to Sugiura and hits a kick followed by a tornado DDT. Both men tag out, Kanemaru kicks Fujita, Irish whip, reversed, and Kanemaru hits a reverse DDT. Cover, but it gets a two count. Kanemaru goes to the top turnbuckle, but Hidaka runs over and grabs his leg. This gives Fujita time to recover, he goes up to the top with Kanemaru and hits a Frankensteiner. Cover, but Kanemaru kicks out. Fujita picks up Kanemaru and nails the tombstone piledriver. Cover, but it gets another two count. Back up, Fujita puts Kanemaru on the top turnbuckle and climbs up top, but Kanemaru pushes him off. Fujita runs back over and goes up top again, but Kanemaru delivers a DDT. Fujita manages to make the tag first, Hidaka runs over to Sugiura, Sugiura avoids his strike, but Hidaka hits a headscissors through the ropes down to the floor. Hidaka gets back in the ring, grabs Kanemaru and hits a neckbreaker while Fujita hits a splash from the top turnbuckle. Cover, but Sugiura breaks it up. Double Irish whip on Sugiura, but Sugiura spears both of them. Irish whip by Sugiura to Hidaka to the corner and he hits a jumping knee. Sugiura then puts Hidaka on his shoulders and with Kanemaru they hit a Samoan drop/missile dropkick combination. Cover by Kanemaru, but Fujita breaks it up. Scoop slam by Kanemaru on Hidaka, he goes up top and delivers a moonsault. Cover, but Hidaka kicks out. Brainbuster by Kanemaru, he goes up top again and this time hits Deep Impact. Cover by Kanemaru, but Fujita barely breaks it up in time. Sugiura runs in and nails the Olympic Slam on Fujita while Kanemaru hits another brainbuster on Hidaka. Cover, but Hidaka barely kicks out. Kanemaru picks up Hidaka and goes for another one, but Hidaka reverses it into a roll-up for a two count. While Fujita hits a tombstone piledriver on Sugiura on the ramp, Hidaka manages to hit a powerbomb on Kanemaru in the ring. Kanemaru slowly gets up and puts Hidaka on the top turnbuckle, he goes up as well, but Fujita has crawled back in the ring and catches Kanemaru from behind. Fujita puts Kanemaru on his shoulders and Hidaka comes off the top with a DDT. Hidaka picks up Kanemaru, he hits the tiger suplex, cover, but it only gets a two count. Sugiura comes back in the ring, but he is knocked out with a double heel kick from Hidaka and Fujita. Sugiura and Fujita leave the ring, and Fujita throws Sugiura into the railing followed by a dropkick. Inside the ring, Hidaka picks up Kanemaru and goes for the Misty Flip, but Kanemaru throws him off and rolls him up for a two count. Superkick by Hidaka, Fujita comes back in the ring, and Hidaka nails an assisted DDT. Cover, but Sugiura breaks it up. Fujita goes over to Sugiura, picks him up, and delivers the northern lights bomb. Hidaka waits for Kanemaru to get up and hits a combination of kicks, knocking Kanemaru back to the mat. Cover, but Kanemaru barely kicks out in time. Hidaka goes up to the top turnbuckle, waits for Kanemaru to get up and hits a missile dropkick to the knee of Kanemaru. Hidaka goes off the ropes and slaps the Shawn Capture on Kanemaru. Kanemaru fights it for literally a minute, but the referee calls for the bell! Your winners and new champions: Ikuto Hidaka and Minoru Fujita
Match Thoughts: This match did exactly what it was intended to do, and that was create a buffer between the previous four matches and the championship match by presenting a completely different style of match. Both of these teams do a lot of double team moves, and while the overall psychology was all over the place, they kept the action face paced for virtually the entire match. It lacked that special "it" and within a month will probably be mostly forgotten, but there was nothing wrong with it and all four wrestlers went all-out. There were certainly things here and there I could nitpick about, but it was a fun match that saw the "invading" team pick up the big win. Score: 6.5
(c) Jun Akiyama vs. Minoru Suzuki
More kicks by Suzuki and he knees Akiyama in the chest. Suzuki now applies a legal Octopus Hold, but he releases it so he can kick Akiyama in the ribs. Kick to the chest by Suzuki and he re-applies the Octopus hold while elbowing Akiyama in the ribs. After a minute, Suzuki releases the hold, but he just pulls Akiyama back to the middle of the ring and re-applies it, but this time he has Akiyama's arm trapped back as well. Suzuki eventually releases the hold, waits for Akiyama to get up and goes for the sleeper, but Akiyama gets out of it with a backdrop suplex. Akiyama picks up Suzuki and delivers another backdrop suplex. Running knee lift by Akiyama, he pulls Suzuki to his feet and applies a standing front facelock, Suzuki almost gets out of it, but Akiyama sits down with it and keeps the hold applied. Akiyama eventually releases the hold, goes off the ropes, and hits a running knee. Akiyama picks up Suzuki and nails an exploder, cover, but it gets a two count. Akiyama goes off the ropes, but Suzuki avoids the jumping knee and hits a running knee to the chest of Akiyama. Kick to the chest by Suzuki and he hits an enzigieri. Suzuki nails the Gotch-style piledriver, cover, but Akiyama kicks out at two. Akiyama gets back to his feet, and the two trade slaps. They trade slaps for the next four minutes or so, with periodic pauses at times if one gets the advantage. I call this "going to the well once too often." When Kobashi and Sasaki did it, I enjoyed it. But these are slaps. Yes, I know slaps can hurt (trust me), but of all the strikes in puroresu, I'd rank it pretty low. Slaps should be used to stun your opponent or disrespect your opponent. Now, the crowd stayed in it most the time, especially when Suzuki really started drilling Akiyama with the slaps. But I think the segment would have been a lot more effective if they had kept it to around a minute. There are other problems with it, but I'll talk about that in a bit. Anyway, Akiyama eventually gets the better of the slapping and hits Suzuki with a jumping knee. Another jumping knee by Akiyama, he picks up Suzuki, and he nails a head-droppingly wonderful wrist-clutch exploder! Cover, and he picks up the three count. Your winner and still champion: Jun Akiyama
Match Thoughts: I wanted so badly to enjoy this match. I was thrilled when Akiyama got another chance with the belt and Suzuki is a really fun heel. But I can't lie, I don't think they did much of anything right in this match. For starters, these two hate each other, but in the first seven minutes nothing happens. Nothing. You'd think they'd be psyched to be wrestling one on one and just tear into each other like Misawa/Morishima did or even Ogawa did. Then, we have a long segment where they work submission holds. If the submissions had ended up meaning anything, I would understand, but that wasn't the case. They had no bearing on the ending whatsoever. And then... the slap battle. If they had this towards the beginning of the match, that would have been different. But by having it right at the end (literally) it negated everything they had done. All the submission holds didn't mean a thing, as when Akiyama won the slap battle he hit two knees and finished Suzuki off within a minute. You can tell from my play by play that not a lot of action happened... it was the longest match on the card but more happened in Misawa/Morishima which was 10 minutes shorter. I am not saying that alone is proof that Misawa/Morishima was better, but it shows that action was scarce in this particular match.
I am not normally so critical, but in this case the first time I watched it I was waiting for something to happen and nothing ever did. Suzuki only had one realistic near fall, which was the piledriver, and at no point did it look like he was going to pick up the victory. The top turnbuckle Octopus was cool looking and a fun spot, but it was worthless in the end. To their credit, I have read that Akiyama's ribs were legitimately hurt, which might have restricted them. The ending exploder looked good and the crowd stayed pretty vocal throughout. Suzuki did his heeling up well as always, and even though he is over the top I find it a fun change of pace. But with this match on the same card as four other singles matches where the wrestlers all showed intensity to win the match, it was disappointing that a year-long grudge match came off so flat. A disappointing way to end a very solid event from NOAH. Score: 4.0
As much as it pains me, I simply can not give this event my highest recommendation. I loved the Youth vs. Experience trial, the Tag Championship match was good, and the beginning of the card was perfectly acceptable. But the main event for me was so disappointing in comparison with what I was expecting from seeing Suzuki and Akiyama interact in the past that it took the event down a notch. For the series, I'd say that Morishima gained the most just by getting such a good match out of Misawa, followed closely by Marufuji for his big upset. KENTA looked good as well, but I never considered Rikio an underdog in the first place so I don't really think he was elevated much per se. All four of those matches accomplished their goals I think and up until the last match I had this event ranked very high. I still love the event, and I'd absolutely still recommend it, but I'd also recommend you'd not expect much from the grudge match championship battle at the end. If I gave -/+ I'd give it a B+, and if you're already a fan of NOAH then you need to get this just for Taue/Marufuji and Misawa/Morishima.