NOAH "Di Colosseo" on 8/1/04
review by PdW2kX

Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA vs. Mohammed Yone and Go Shiozaki

All four start in-ring, but the match quickly boils down to Yone in charge with KENTA feeling some harsh offense. Go comes in and holds up pretty well against KENTA, nailing a few dropkicks. Go is eventually worked over enough by both members of the opposing team to get put into a corner, where he's subjected to the kinds of kicks only KENTA can dish out. Yone comes in as the proverbial house of fire (Afro of Fire would be a more fitting term) only to get clocked hard with a Side Kick/Super Kick combo by the team of KENTA and Marufuji. Go tries to ground KENTA, and succeeds with some forearm shots, but can't keep him down. KENTA is eventually able to hit his kick combo thing, and then follows it up with the Busaiku Knee Kick at 11:22 to score the pinfall.

Analysis: We get a good contest to start out the taping, but it's neither of the four men's best. Both teams were pretty typecast…they displayed the same exact skills you already knew they had. Marufuji was a bit heelish but really mixed well with KENTA. KENTA was his typical Pretty-Boy-Turned-Angry-Kicker self. Yone was Freaky Afro Hard-Hitting Man. And Go…unfortunately, Go didn't do much to alleviate his status as a rookie with short bursts of cool offense who usually gets his ass handed to him when he's against any NOAH veterans. Still, KENTAfuji is one of my favorite pairings. Even better, this match displayed a clever, appealing mix of fast-and-frantic NOAH Tag Team Junior Heavyweight action with typical NOAH stiffness and storytelling. All in all, the simple fact that nothing in this match changed anything shouldn't overrule the simple fact that it was a good match. ***

Tamon Honda vs. Yoshinari Ogawa

Ogawa lures in Honda with a handshake, kicks him in the gut, gives him a jawbreaker, and then dropkicks him in his face. Ogawa hits an Enzugiri and a Backdrop for 2½. Honda is eventually able to submission his way into a lead by using various holds. Honda even gets in the Rolling Olympic Hell and a Deadweight German Suplex. Tamon Honda tries another Rolling Olympic Hell, but Yoshinari reverses it into an Inside Cradle to get the win at 4:15.

Analysis: Wow, that was short. Why'd this one get on the DVD? It was a pretty surprising fluke win, though. And to be honest…I really wasn't looking forward to this one all that much. Honda's only impressed me in tag matches, and aside from a few excellent and notable tag team matches with Misawa, I don't like Ogawa all that much. He's still "Ratboy" to me, and the only NOAH star to never have deserved the G.H.C. Championship. Think of it this way…it went just long enough and was just short enough to not suck. Too little of any match is always a bad move except in some extreme cases, but too much of Ogawa/Honda would've been much worse. Sorry to be so harsh…to end positively, it was an average match. **½

Yoshihiro Takayama vs. Takuma Sano

Both men kick each other's thighs for a bit, and combined with some grappling, they effectively test each other out. After some elbows, Sano hits a barrage of kicks to a grounded Takayama, which culminates with a rolling kick that catches Yoshihiro high on the side of his head. Takayama eventually fights back and grounds Sano with multiple knees to the gut. The two then exchange submissions. Sano nails some kicks, but gets caught and splattered on the canvas with a big Exploder Suplex, which he promptly no-sells to hit a lariat. Bah. Sano then nails a sick Northern Lights Driver, but only gets 2. Takayama hits a nasty Full Nelson Suplex, which Sano takes right on his neck, but only gets 2¾. Sano hits a German Suplex, but Takayama catches him with a big knee and a German Suplex of his own. Sano flails his leg weakly but doesn't kick out. Unfortunately, the referee seems to have interpreted the flailing leg as a preemptive sign of a kickout, so he stops his hand in dramatic fashion right before he counts the three. Hoping to safe face, the referee tries to play it off as a ref stoppage due to Sano being knocked out. So, the official ruling is that Takayama wins at 10:45 by referee stoppage. After the match, both men shake hands.

Analysis: This match had three problems. One, there was that painfully obvious botch by the referee. Second, there was a lot of no-selling during this one. Third, there was a definitive lack of psychology throughout the second half of the match. This was "big move overkill", with both men throwing out stuff randomly just because it looked cool and produced some good bumps. There's better ways of getting over how both of you are badasses than simply dropping each other on your heads. But, to its credit, there was some psychology to this match…there just wasn't enough to justify chaining together all those big head-droppy moves. Most of the match felt like a complete mis-mash of killer moves thrown out almost at random. Yet a brisk pace and lots of intensity helped the match reach "good" status. ***

Kenta Kobashi vs. Bison Smith

Kenta Kobashi gets the typical Hero's Welcome by the crowd, but it's Bison Smith that takes control of the match. Kobashi can't keep up with Bison and gets virtually all of his moves countered: he chops Bison and gets a shoulderblock, he fights out of a Full Nelson only to get a Backdrop, and he tries slamming Bison from the second rope to the outside mats only to get an Iron Claw. Kobashi is basically at Smith's mercy until some chops and a suplex brings Kobashi back into the game. Out on the ramp, Smith gets leveled with two DDT's. Inside the ring, two Burning Swords gets 2¾. Bison suffers through some Machine Gun Chops in order to hit the Iron Claw Chokeslam. Kobashi tries the Half-Nelson Suplex, but Bison reverses into a Half-Nelson Suplex of his own that is so killer you wonder how Kobashi's not paralyzed. Kobashi even kicks out of a powerbomb and a Styles Clash. Trust me, the sight of Bison Smith giving Kobashi a powerbomb, lifting him up, then hitting a Styles Clash is one hell of a visual. After two Burning Lariats and a Half-Nelson Suplex, Kobashi finally puts Bison down at 17:04 with a brainbuster. Post-match, both men shake hands and Kobashi even raises Bison's arm.

Analysis: Seeing Kobashi this good reminds you just why he's such a big star. This was a knock-out combo of mixing hard, exciting moves with a deeply involved, constantly changing storyline. Bison was the heelish underdog that countered and brutalized Kobashi so much that he thought it was easy: he bought into Kobashi's hype and brought his A-game; and knowing how much it would take to put Kobashi down, he established a strong base before letting out his typical power move offense. But of course, being the heel, Bison began believing that being in control for so long automatically meant he would win, neglecting the key element that Kobashi wins a lot of his matches after a heroic comeback. Kobashi, to his immense credit, remained strong. And while Bison Smith grew complacent, Kenta Kobashi drew upon the same Burning Spirit that has led him to countless victories and "Legend" status. Kobashi's show of sportsmanship was an excellent end: Kobashi taught Bison that respect is respect, even when you're getting your ass kicked. The match itself was very engrossing with all manner of excellent spots and a well-balanced pace. Simply put…you gotta love this match. ***¾

Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Akira Taue

Misawa is immediately caught with a Nodawa Atoshi, but rebounds with a Spinning Crossbody. Some typical Elbow offense keeps Misawa in charge, but some kick offense brings Taue back into the limelight. Taue then works over Misawa's legs with some Dragon Screws, a Figure Four, and an Ankle Lock. Misawa fights back and is able to hit a baseball slide before nailing his classic Diving Elbow through the ropes to the outside. Misawa gets in a Frog Splash and a Tiger Driver which gets 2½ and 2¾, respectively. Taue manages to nail a barrage of kicks, culminating with a Dynamic Bomb that gets 2¾. He then hits two Avalanche Nodawa Atoshi's, but still gets 2¾. Misawa reverses the Ore Ga Taue into a Rolling Elbow, but Taue manages to attempt and successfully hit the Ore Ga Taue for 2¾. Both men then get in some nearfalls and are at a constant stalemate. Three Nodawa Atoshi's and a Dynamic Bomb still can't put Misawa down, and the time limit expires at 30:00. Both men shake hands after the match.

Analysis: Unfortunately, this match fell into the same exact trap as the previous Takayama/Sano match. It had a lot of promise, and certainly felt epic, but the no-selling throughout this match is a real shame. I don't care if you're Mitsuharu Misawa, no one kicks out of three Nodawa Atoshi's and a Dynamic Bomb after thirty minutes of wrestling. It's just not possible, and it hurts the match. Misawa's made better comebacks in better ways; he shouldn't have to no-sell everything to get the crowd behind him. Misawa simply came off as lazy to me, despite the fact that both men did wrestle pretty hard. My only question is…why? Why would Misawa no-sell all of Taue's offense, when Taue busted his ass to sell for Misawa? But to be honest…aside from one problem…even if it was a large problem….this match was pretty good. The "stalemate" spots were expertly well done, I loved those. The match was really involving, and had a hot crowd. Even though they abandoned most of their previous psychology and just started throwing big moves at each other, the early-match psychology was very well done, with Taue going after Misawa's knees because he knew it was frivolous to break down his elbows, while Misawa stuck with what works and elbowed Taue as hard and as often as he could. I liked this match…but I was expecting a lot more. If you can overlook the problems in selling and psychology, you'll like this match too. If you can't…well…I warned ya. ***

Final Thoughts: You know, I'm beginning to dig these "Di Colosseo" things. They may be short, but they give you some of the best matches on a card, with usually none of the filler. If you're into Pro Wrestling NOAH, this is a short burst of good action that'll keep you interested in the product. Nothing was too bad, but the inclusion of Honda/Ogawa was a bit puzzling to me. The Juniors Tag was typical NOAH fun while Sano/Takayama and Misawa/Taue delivered with lots of stiffness and head drops. Kobashi/Smith was the best match of the night, as it excelled where the previous two matches didn't: storytelling. Kobashi still has "it", and it's good to know that he can basically go up against anyone and churn a good match out of them. That's not a shot at Bison Smith; I actually like the guy as an arrogant powerhouse. But, honestly, I knew he wasn't on Kobashi's level going into the match. After the match, though, he was elevated to being a credible contender, even if he lost.

So, today's rule of thumb is that I still love Kobashi, I still love Taue, I'm disappointed with Misawa, I don't like Honda or Ogawa except in some rare circumstances, Bison Smith has grown on me, and I like KENTAfuji. With five matches, it's a solid taping. If you can find Kobashi/Smith on a compilation DVD or tape, you're not missing much by missing this. But if you're interested in giving this one a look, it's not the worst in the world. In fact, it's not even the worst NOAH show. It's a solid event that will keep you entertained and moderately deserves a place in your collection.

Overall Rating for Pro Wrestling NOAH "Di Colosseo" August 3, 2004: ***

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