Review by Jason Manning
Date: March 27th, 2002
Location: Tokyo Korakuen Hall
This show, taped on January 20th, 2002, was the tour climax to NOAH’s first tour of 2002, titled “FIRST NAVIGATION OF 2002.” Original, eh? For a tour climax, this is a really weak lineup. The undercard sees the awesome Shiga vs. Sugiura feud blowoff, as both go at it in singles action. The semi-main will determine the #1 Contenders for No Fear’s GHC Tag Team Title, as Honda & Inoue face Wild II. And finally, the main event is a big elimination match between WAVE and STERNNESS.
Scorpio & Richard Slinger vs. Michael Modest & Donovan Morgan
This was a big batch of fun brought to you by the NOAH gaijin. They did some comedy, hit a few spots, and wrestled a solid match, all in 12 minutes. Modest delivered the Reality Check to Slinger for the 3 count (11:40). This was an enjoyable 11 minutes.
Kentaro Shiga vs. Takashi Sugiura
YEAH! YEAH! YEAH~! NOAH pushed this feud really nicely over the tour with Shiga submitting Sugiura on the tour opener in a tag and Sugiura hating Shiga throughout the month for it. This was fucking fun as hell. It wasn’t mattastic as you’d think. It was just a fun, back-and-forth “I’m gonna fuck you up motherfucker” fight. Both brought the HATE to each other for 9 minutes and I loved every second of it. Plus, thanks to the well-booked feud, there was some good heat, which is always a plus. The crowd was 100% behind Shiga and Sugiura played the heel fine enough. Shiga controlled the first portion but Sugiura started busting out a bunch of his fun suplexes midway through. The cross armbreaker was built up throughout the match with both getting it hooked on and having a strong fight to the ropes. Sugiura tried to roll Shiga into it a second time, but Shiga stopped him and rolled him up with a jackknife hold for the 3 count (8:55).
Kishin Kawabata vs. Yasuhiro Suzuki
JIP at the finish. Kawabata hits a lariat and then a diving senton for the 3 count (4:47).
Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota vs. Haruka Eigen & Jun Izumida
JIP at the finish again. Momota managed an inside cradle on Eigen for the win (9:49).
Daisuke Ikeda & Mohammed Yone vs. Bull Schmidt & Bison Smith
JIP at the finish yet again. Yone was controlling until Smith killed him with a powerbomb and killed him again with a lariat for the 3 count (9:23).
Juventud Guerrera vs. Matt Murphy
JIP at the finish yet again. Juvy and Murphy did a cool sequence of reversals, and Juvy delivered the Juvy Driver for the 3 count (6:58).
Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama vs. Akira Taue & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
JIP at the... oh, nevermind. NOT JIP! This was pretty fun with No Fear bringing Kikuchi back to his old days by beating the HELL out of him. He’s a surly veteran now and wasn’t taking some of it (especially from Omori), but he still looked great on defense (he’s one of the best at it) and the crowd got behind him. The hot tag to Taue was fucking terrific as he looked better than he has in years for a few moments. No Fear got dominant again but Kikuchi helped his team make a fun comeback after a bit, avoiding a Takayama high kick and causing Omori to get hit, but it was back to defense soon enough. Taue & Kikuchi made yet another nice comeback for the finish, but Omori absorbed an elbow from Kikuchi and nailed him with an Axe Bomber for the 3 count (13:14). Pretty fun, formulaic tag match that got better near the end but was pretty good all the way through with Kikuchi showing that he doesn’t need to be in old man comedy matches and can still go.
Fun stuff afterwards. Kikuchi’s getting checked on and No Fear just sit down at the commentator’s booth, put on some t-shirts and do commentary.
GHC Tag Team Title #1 Contender Match
Tamon Honda & Masao Inoue vs. Takeshi Morishima & Takeshi Rikio
This is just whatever. It goes far too long for everyone involved and all four can’t keep it interesting. The Honda/Inoue team is just so... blah. I don’t mind Inoue, but he’s so... boring. Honda sucks, and Wild II can be OK on occasion but mailed it in here. After boring stuff for the first 12 minutes or so, they wrapped things up with a fine finish that had a lot of BIG heat. If this wasn’t determining No Fear’s next challengers, the crowd would be dead and buried, but they were lively for the finish that all four deserved heat (the good kind) for. All four got involved and there were some nice near falls, with Inoue looking better than ever. However, Wild II killed him with a bunch of moves, Morishima finishing him off with a lariat for the win (16:09). A huge batch of boring followed by a pretty good finish. Welcome to NOAH...
Liger and Tanaka are in the fucking house, baby. And they look quite badass in their suits.
Jun Akiyama, Saito, Kanemaru & Makoto Hashi vs. Misawa, Ogawa, Takuma Sano & Marufuji
This is the big match to end NOAH’s first tour of 2002. Since STERNNESS vs. WAVE is the obvious top feud, there really wasn’t much to build for this, so most of the January main events were centered around TAMON HONDA and the other guys involved in the previous match against No Fear. Anyways, this was motherfucking fantastic with a fine flow and a batch of great sequences that had some “story” behind them, that being the eliminations. The fans actually cared about the product here and were extremely lively, with good old fashioned heel/face alignments played up (resulting in great heat, although it’s Korakuen so that’s expected). Everyone stepped up and looked very good, with Ogawa and Hashi looking better than ever (at times). Ogawa had a terrific sequence with Akiyama at the bell (I hate seeing Ogawa in a main event feud, but it’s being booked fairly well and gets heat) and Hashi even managed to beat MITSUHARU MISAWA to the ground with tons of headbutts. After a bunch of good (Marufuji vs. Kanemaru especially) and heated (not Marufuji vs. Kanemaru) sequences for 10 minutes, STERNNESS showed off some good teamwork and managed to eliminate Sano first, Saito hitting a Sickle of Death for the 3 count (11:01). The heated and fun action continued after Sano’s elimination, with WAVE struggling to stay alive against the four STERNNESS guys. Marufuji had a fun fight against Akiyama, managing to catch him with a dropkick and tag in Misawa after absorbing some offense. Misawa generously busted out an elbow suicida, taking Akiyama out. After another wonderful exchange between Marufuji and Kanemaru, Kanemaru reverse low blowed Marufuji and hooked on a backslide for the big 3 count (19:26). MISAWA & OGAWA VS. STERNNESS~! The partners did some fine teamwork on Saito, but Misawa hit Ogawa with an elbow by mistake and both had a staredown. But, it was back to teamwork yet again and after Ogawa hit Saito with a chin crusher, Misawa hit a running elbow smash for the 3 count (20:26). STERNNESS did a triple-team of Ogawa, and Akiyama eventually delivered an Exploder for the 3 count (22:19). MISAWA VS. THREE~! Akiyama got the fun going after Hashi missed a corner charge on Misawa, picking him up and throwing him back into Misawa, wanting him to try it again. Misawa elbowed away at STERNNESS and after throwing Hashi into Kanemaru, he delivered a Tiger Driver to Hashi for the 3 count (23:28). Misawa struggled some more, and busted out an Emerald Frosion to take out Kanemaru (24:55), leaving Akiyama vs. Misawa! Before Kanemaru’s elimination, Misawa was working over Akiyama’s bandaged shoulder, which works on so many levels. The finish was terrific, as it was just a battle between the top two guys in NOAH, with uberface Misawa trying to stay alive. He smartly targeted Akiyama’s shoulder, and after some decent near falls, applied a cross armbreaker. Akiyama struggled to the ropes, but Misawa applied a vicious reverse cross armbreaker. Akiyama’s struggle rocked with Shiga basically entering the ring and yelling at him to reach the ropes. However, Akiyama, bandaged shoulder and all, was forced to tap (27:14). Misawa with the comeback! And it works, since Akiyama’s injury played the key role. This was rocking from start to finish with tons of great action. The finish seemed a bit rushed with less than a few minutes between each elimination after the second, but this was still a great match between NOAH’s top two teams. Everything was there to make this work and it did. [***½]
Akiyama’s in a bunch of pain afterwards, and Saito throws the referee outside just because he can. And... HEY! LIGER! AND TANAKA! THEY’RE HERE! WAVE started to leave, but Marufuji noticed and stayed. He walked over to the two, and words were exchanged. Liger and Tanaka entered the ring and Marufuji offered a hand to the junior king, but Liger slapped his hand away. THIS FEUD IS GOING TO RULE.
Final Analysis: This was quite the good show. Everything not clipped to nothing was fully watchable, although the Wild II vs. Honda/Inoue match was really boring until the finish. The gaijin opener and Shiga vs. Sugiura both rocked in their own way, and No Fear vs. Taue/Kikuchi was fun. The main event was rocking and an excellent ending to the show. This is Recommended.
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