review by Jason Manning
Date: April 8th, 2002
LocationTokyo Ariake Colosseum
This show was taped on April 7th, 2002 and was the tour climax to NOAH’s “ENCOUNTERING NAVIGATION 2002” tour. The show was a big one, with Misawa booking 12 matches, and therefore the broadcast was shown over two shows. This show covers five of the matches. The more notable ones see Misawa face WEW owner Kodo Fuyuki, the second clash between NOAH and New Japan juniors, and Marufuji defend his Jr. Heavyweight Title against Makoto Hashi.
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Kodo Fuyuki
Fuyuki had to run from his house in Tokyo to here in Ariake to get this match. Some deal, eh? KANEMURA~! seconds Fuyuki. Blah. This was pretty boring since it went so long and Fuyuki was out of breath like two minutes in. It was ESPECIALLY boring early on with just nothing happening. Misawa worked the arm, but that was nothing much. The rest was just kind of blah, Misawa making it watchable at times, but both looking way past their primes. A great moment in this came when Kintaro Kanemura got to put MITSUHARU MISAWA through a table with a diving body press. They tried to build to a finish, but the crowd was dead for it because nobody bought Fuyuki as a threat (despite him and Kanemura working together) and it was boring (and sad to me) seeing these two plod around the ring, doing a couple near falls here and there. There was a little heat because it’s MISAWA, but I sure wasn’t marking out. Misawa hit a bunch of elbows followed by a running one for the win (15:43). Misawa shakes Fuyuki’s hand post-match. Misawa then just raises his arms and leaves. Fuyuki then bows to the crowd. He had recently found out he had intestinal cancer, so this was going to be one of his last matches. This match was decent here and there because of Misawa, but pretty boring and nothing much overall. Both looked really old.
Rusher Kimura, Mitsuo Momota & Masashi Aoyagi vs. Haruka Eigen, Jun Izumida & Kawabata
And from old to OLDER. Fun fact: The combined age of guys in this 6-MAN tag match is 286. The usual OLD MAN STUFF~! goes on here, of course. And I keep my tape on fast forward. You can still view the match fine, it’s just faster. And therefore, more fun. I guess. Momota and Kawabata reversed waistlocks until Momota brought Kawabata down into a cradle for the win (11:34).
Honda, Masao Inoue, KENTA & Suzuki vs. Slinger, Modest, Donovan Morgan & Superstar Steve
Fun fact: The combined age of guys in this 8-MAN tag match is 231. This was pretty OK. Just a batch of fine sequences from almost everyone involved, although Inoue and Honda slowed things down when they involved themselves. Honda putting Steve in a rear chinlock in a match like this is pretty... stupid. KENTA and Kotaro are really great, especially for rookies, and are going to be awesome one day. Kotaro did some really cool stuff here. Slinger and Kotaro put together a decent little closing sequence, and Slinger dropped Kotaro with the Chattanooga Choo Choo for the win (11:01).
Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Jushin Thunder Liger & Minoru Tanaka
YYYYEEEESSSSS! Liger & Wataru Inoue invaded NOAH on 2/17 and had an AWESOME match with Kikuchi and Kanemaru that the NOAH guys won when Kanemaru pinned Inoue. Liger, wanting revenge, decided to just bring in New Japan’s Jr. Champion to take care of business. This feud is SO motherfucking great and the crowd is ON FIRE for it. The NOAH faithful *HATE* New Japan. IT IS A RULE NOW. The crowd is filled with heat. The dead time between Liger and Tanaka’s entrance gets more heat than Misawa vs. Fuyuki. Tanaka BOOS the crowd. He was such a DICK here, MY *GOD*. Minoru Tanaka needs to turn heel and stay heel. He doesn’t need to be some Liger ripoff with a crappy suit. He’s SO great as the pretty boy heel who flips off the crowd and acts all cocky and shit. Oh, and did I mention Kikuchi & Kanemaru? They are fucking GREAT faces. Kanemaru takes full advantage of him actually getting heat for once (and not being some second to Jun Akiyama) and Kikuchi is of course, the GREATEST FACE TO EVER LIVE. And now he’s the old, broken down great face and he STILL RULES. And then there’s Liger, who is a KING-SIZED DICK. He acts like GOD here and he rules at it. He’s also really the guy who keeps the match together and takes it where it needs to go. Liger is STILL the KING. There’s no introductions for this stuff, these guys HATE each other and start fighting as Kikuchi dashes down the ramp. GOD, THIS HEAT IS GREAT. The heat is SO awesome in this match that it makes you wonder if it’s the crowd or the workers that are making this great. No worries, this match is great too, but is also great at keeping the feud going and getting the crowd involved. Liger vs. Kikuchi is SO, SO AWESOME. This feud is SO a decade in the making and it’s finally here and it’s FANTASTIC. Kikuchi and Tanaka did this awesome thing pretty early on where Kikuchi sunk in a bunch of Tanaka’s kicks from a seated position. That’s right, Kikuchi gets fired up SITTING DOWN, BABY. So, what does Tanaka do? He legitimately tries to KICK HIS FUCKING HEAD OFF. Kikuchi tries to sink in the pain but just slumps down and Tanaka covers with one foot. WHOO, BABY. WHOO. Did I mention that Kanemaru is great, too? Oh, I did already. Fuck. Matches like this deserve my rambles that probably don’t make any sense but show my absolute LOVE for the match anyways. Kanemaru tore part of Liger’s mask off later on, showing the HATE. FUCK YOU FOR FUCKING WITH US YOU MOTHERFUCKER! Everybody put together a WONDERFUL closing sequence. I WUV THIS MATCH SO MUCH. Tanaka eventually locked a cross armbreaker on Kikuchi the cripple and the old man couldn’t answer, so the referee stopped the match (16:35). I won’t waste your time with a big essay on how great this was. Oh, I did already. Fuck. JUST GET THIS. I liked the other NJ vs. NOAH match kind of better just because it was something new, but seeing ULTIMATE DICK Minoru Tanaka, KING LIGER, CRIPPLED-BUT-STILL-FIGHTING Tsuyoshi Kikuchi and NOAH RULES YOU Yoshinobu Kanemaru put together SUCH a GREAT match is a lot of fun. THIS FEUD RULES. GET THIS.
PULL-APART BRAWL~! YES, YES, YES! SAMURAI! NARUSE! KAKIHARA (which is so cool because he ditched NOAH after their debut show)! They all want to KILL those dirty NOAH guys. But those NOAH guys want to kill them, too. Tanaka looks WONDERFUL as everyone is fighting and he just stands there, awaiting more guys to kill after he throws away Yone. Then the NOAH referee has to raise the hands of the New Japan guys. Backstage, Liger screams at a NOAH interviewer with his nose and mouth fully exposed. He is SO pissed. And Tanaka just stands there. Then he says some stuff and it’s filled with hate and shit. MINORU TANAKA, ULTRA-HEEL~! Liger and Tanaka confront Kanemaru backstage and they get into another brawl. The New Japan guys toss Kanemaru outside as Liger breaks a media set. THIS STUFF IS FILLED WITH SO MUCH HATE. I WANT MORE. NOW.
GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title
Naomichi Marufuji [c] vs. Makoto Hashi
Marufuji injured his knee badly a couple weeks before this, so is risking a lot. The match was scheduled beforehand, and Misawa didn’t want to cancel, so we have this. Marufuji was already scheduled to miss time, but could miss even more due to this. Hashi pinned Marufuji on the tour opener, so has a chance of winning again, or so the fans in attendance may think. This was an OK match, but just OK. It probably would’ve been better if Marufuji wasn’t injured. After a counter-filled start, this slowed down into a slowish, standard match. Hashi didn’t work the knee, which would’ve been cool, but it would’ve hurt Marufuji even further, which isn’t cool. Marufuji went for a Shiranui from the apron to the outside, but Hashi refused and NEATLY but HURTFULLY reverse DDT’d him on the apron. After that, Marufuji was clearly in a lot of pain. He put up a good performance and worked hard, but did a lot of stuff that he shouldn’t have. Hashi kind of had to carry the match, and he isn’t the guy who’s going to carry anything, and really struggled to keep things going 21 minutes. They really couldn’t get a story going, which is fine if they’re going to do a spot-oriented match like Juvy vs. Marufuji. But, this wasn’t spot-oriented, so it was just kind of solid. Hashi tried working the knee at times, but obviously couldn’t do that to the best effect. After some more decent stuff (and a pretty good closing sequence), the end came when Marufuji ducked a lariat, but fell and couldn’t get back up thanks to the injury. A confused Hashi asked the referee to check on Marufuji, and the referee then stopped the match (21:28). Hashi wins the title, but doesn’t like the decision. He’d vacate it the next day since he wasn’t supposed to win it and isn’t the kind of guy who’s going to carry a junior division. Marufuji didn’t return for 9 months.
Final Analysis: An OK show. Misawa vs. Fuyuki was boring but OK, the old man stuff was nothing, the 8-man was fun but nothing I’ll remember tomorrow, and the Jr. Title match was solid but weak thanks to the injury. But then, there’s the New Japan vs. NOAH juniors match. THAT is wrestling you NEED to see. Plus, everything here sans the old man stuff is still solid. Sure, this is Recommended.
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