NOAH "Differ Cup Night 1" on 5/7/05
review by PdW2kX

Tiger Emperor and Super Shisa vs. Takehiro Murahama and Katsuhiko Nakajima

The match begins with a couple feeler moves and a bit of chain wrestling, while some stiff offense by Nakajima and a backdrop by Murahama both gets 2, while Tiger Emperor's handspring elbow gets 2¼. Your inevitable double moves to the outside by the masked wrestlers happen, and some more 2-count moves are in short order. After varied offense ranging from high-flying to stiff, Tiger Emperor hits the Tiger Suplex '04 for the win at 16:54.

Analysis: Considering who was involved, it was a decent opener. Everyone was "on" at various points in the match, but sometimes nobody was "on" all at once, leading to some points where all four men just slowed down because they couldn't find out what else they should do. The finish was nice, but nothing really built on top of anything else. Given the circumstances(it's the first match of a junior heavyweight tag team tournament), it was a decent opener, if not slightly sub-par due to it going about four or five minutes longer than it should have. While it was entertaining a bit, and an expected opener, as a stand-alone match, it's barely noticeable. **¼.

Ikuto Hidaka and Minoru Fujita vs. TAKA Michinoku and PSYCHO

PSYCHO nails some nice offense to start out a nice match. Fujita and TAKA soon exchange some decidedly stiff offense, and TAKA ends up doing a double team move with his partner that backfires. Hidaka and Fujita then nail a good double dropkick, sandwiching PSYCHO's face. They then work him over a bit with a couple leg submissions, but PSYCHO fires back with good twisting Complete Shot, then tagging in his fired-up partner. TAKA takes a big bump to the outside and into the crowd onto Fujita and Hidaka. It's nice to see that, even now, TAKA can still fly high and fly well. In a nice dramatic moment, TAKA clamps down a submission and really cranks it in. In another good moment, Fujita actually nails a Michinoku Driver on PSYCHO, but the pin is broken up. TAKA clamps down the same submission to Hidaka, and turns while PSYCHO puts Fujita into a submission of his own. Since TAKA is turned around, he doesn't see when Fujita reverses into the submission finisher of his called the Boneyard, which PSYCHO taps to, giving Fujita's team the win at 11:52 and giving us one confused and slightly disappointed TAKA Michinoku.

Analysis: Another o.k. match. I don't want to label it as "mediocre", because it's not. It wasn't even all that bland…just a tad, really. Typical junior heavyweight flash and flare was interspersed with some technical wrestling, to mixed results. While it did provide an interesting blend, it suffered from jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none syndrome. It just never did any one thing good enough to earn it more than a passing glance, although once you do take a closer look at it, it isn't really bad at all. The simple fact is that nothing really stood out too much, which meant it was just more of the same, which meant is was, basically, filler. **½

Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA vs. KUDO and Iifushi Kota

With all the hot ass in the ring, I'm not surprised that there's an absurd amount of girlish screams and streamers thrown. If those four men combined, they'd probably put all over J-Pop boy band groups to shame in the looks department. Think of it: Naomichi, the cool old one, KENTA, the hard ass, KUDO, the pretty boy, and Iifushi, the young one. Money in the bank, I say. Anyway, KUDO and KENTA start, which gets a big thumbs-up from me since they're currently two of my favorites. Both exchange some kick-based feeler moves, and then take turns ***** slapping the crap out of each other, which is always good in my book. KENTA soon falls to KUDO's massive and blunt kicks, then both men kick each other and both go down. Both tag out as well, brining in Marufuji/Kota. Marufuji takes a lead, at least until Kota nails a sick kick to send Naomichi outside. Kota follows that up with a great 180 cartwheel into a moonsault to Marufuji to the outside, then follows it up with a standing Shooting Star Press. KENTA breaks it up, and a cluster-**** breaks out.

KENTA puts Kota in a Camel Clutch and cranks back, Marufuji piledrives Kota on the outside ramp, and both men then nail a great double submission on Kota. Kota tries to mount an offense, but Team NOAH takes him down once more. As always, the "hot tag" spot is thrown in there for dramatic effect, bringing in KUDO, who beats some ass with those stiff kicks of his. KUDO even goes for his signature diving double knee drop, but doesn't get it. KUDO and KENTA then take turns stiff kicking each other, which is admittedly expected but nice nonetheless. And, out of nowhere, Kota fluidly transitions from a cartwheel to a standing Phoenix Splash. Team DDT dominates for a bit, with Kota nailing a top-rope Phoenix Splash and KUDO nailing his top rope diving double knee drop, just to name a few. Team NOAH then nails an Avalanche Busaiku Knee! Although KUDO breaks it up, KENTA nails the Busaiku Knee again, this time getting the win at 15:44. Post-match, all four men shake hands.

Analysis: Easily one of the better matches of the entire show. Not just so far, but the entire show altogether. Everyone came out looking strong, as always, and the length was just right, giving me just enough time to get into it while giving the four men in the ring long enough time to hit their spots while still making an enjoyable and unpredictable match. Although, some things were pretty much given- Busaiku Knees, KUDO and KENTA kicking the hell out of each other since that's what both of main offensive moves are, Kota nailing those big spots. Yet it could be argued that even knowing that those segments and spots would be in there doesn't end up detracting from the match itself all that much, because they were executed well and thrown in at the right time instead of "Let's just hit our spots and go home". Although there were some brief error in judgments, the only thing particularly detracting from this match were some sloppy moves by Kota: while good, his two Phoenix Splashes were sloppy, one hitting on the knees while the other clipped the face in an almost scary moment. But, in the end, Team DDT and Team NOAH worked very well together despite a few shortcomings. Plus they're all so damn pretty. ***¼

Kaz Hayashi and Leonardo Spanky vs. Takashi Sasaki and GENTARO

A brief cluster-**** starts out the match, and GENTARO busts out the chair early on. Kaz and GENTARO stiff each other, with Kaz losing. A little later on, Kaz and Spanky nail the double dive to the outside onto their opponents in a slightly generic but at least well-executed spot. After getting a bit of a beat down, Spanky uses his agility for the quick tag to Kaz, who nails a springboard moonsault for 2¼. Everyone gets a few near falls, leading into a Schwein by Hayashi to Sasaki and Spanky nailing a great moonsault that gets broken up. GENTARO actually nails the Sweet Chin Music, complete with the in-the-corner leg stomp setup. Spanky then nails the Sliced Bread #2, but Sasaki breaks it up. Kaz and Spanky then nail an awesome powerbomb/Sliced Bread #2 combo, which gets the win at 15:26.

Analysis: Through and through, it was a good match. Everyone gelled together really well, but that could be a given since everyone involved looks to have been partnering up for a while now. Kaz and Spanky complimented each other's styles well, while GENTARO and Sasaki wrestled the same style but in different, unique ways. Even though it was far beyond filler, as a whole, it wasn't too much of a blow-away match. Even so, it was still good, and still entertaining, and it did raise the credibility of the tournament, just like the last match, given the slightly sub-par first two matches. ***

Sonjay Dutt vs. Ebetaro

In a good opening moment, Ebetaro mimics the ref and tries to get Dutt and the ref to fight each other. Ebetaro then orders the ref to fast count, only to get rolled up by Dutt and nearly lose since the ref does indeed do a fast count. And, of course, it wouldn't be an Ebetaro match without the Muta Elbow, so that is thrown in there too. Dutt gets spanked twice in a wonderful show of homoeroticism. Then Dutt gets some hair yanked out of his scalp. Dutt nails a great Asai DDT for 2½. Dutt nails a Satellite DDT for 2½, but Ebetaro fires back with the Shining Ebetaro! It also only gets 2½. In another nice comedy spot, Dutt tricks the ref into DDT'ing and then lariating Ebetaro. Dutt nails a slightly troublesome springboard tornado DDT, then the Phoenix Splash for the win at 11:29.

Analysis: A decent comedy match to offset the very-serious tag tournament. Not the best comedy match ever, but a standard Ebetaro match, which is always fun to watch. Some benefactors go to the unique comedic moments, especially when the ref keeps getting "accidentally" used and even becomes a factor in aiding Dutt's win. Dutt's comedic factor wasn't as high as Ebetaro, and Dutt was more athletic, but then again, Dutt wasn't as big as Ebetaro…or dressed like a clown. A nice match…just typical. **½

Ikuto Hidaka and Minoru Fujita vs. Tiger Emperor and Super Shisa

Some general rolling around by all four men starts off this rather important deciding factor. The highspots are brought in early and quickly, although it doesn't really detract or add from the match given who is involved- they're well done, but they're still bordering on meaningless highspots. Shisa and Tiger then get a very cool double submission to both opponents. Shisa then gets beat down for a bit, leading to the standard "desperation move, hot tag" spot to Tiger Emperor. Emperor soon nails a handspring elbow to both of his opponents, and cleans house until Hidaka nails the cool "Tornado DDT by kicking off the chest of the other opponent" spot. Some more stuff happens, but nothing too noticeable, until Fujita locks Shisa in the Boneyard! After a rope break, both men tag out, and Tiger Emperor soon nails the Tiger Driver! That nearly gets it, as does some rolling pins. In the end, though, Emperor ends up tapping to a Shawn Capture (ground, hooking ankle lock) at 11:29.

Analysis: Another good match. For some reason, I'm not digging Shisa and Emperor all that much, while I like Hidaka and Fujita to a certain extent. Shisa and Emperor were good, and a decent pairing…but I just had the feeling that Shisa and Emperor did a mirror image of their last match, while Hidaka and Fujita mixed it up to a fair level. Not to say Fujita and Hidaka crafted an entirely new match from scratch, since they also recycled a bit…they just didn't recycle to the point of it being redundant, something I felt Shisa and Emperor did. Even so, this match may just fit into the "ain't broke, don't fix it" category, since I was still entertained. In the end, it was a meaningful win since many points in the match where very unpredictable, and overall a good, athletic, if not slightly redundant match.

Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA vs. Kaz Hayashi and Leonardo Spanky

Marufuji hits that armbar reversal spot of his to start, but his tag partner is soon on the end of a beating. KENTA recuperates, and now Spanky is subject to a beating, even on the outside. And, of course, KENTA and Kaz take time to stiff slap the holy hell out of each other. In a great moment, Marufuji nails the Tiger Driver, only for Kaz to kick out and nail the Shining Wizard! Spanky gets in some nice offense, too, including a springboard crossbody, a great moonsault, and then the powerbomb/Sliced Bread #2 combo! Holy ouch! KENTA breaks it up, and a big, big cluster-**** soon breaks out where everyone hits their finisher/trademark moves. Marufuji nails a surprise cradle on Spanky for the pin and the win at 19:12.

Analysis: Even though it was the longest match, it felt inexplicably short. Maybe because the finish felt so much like a clear-cut example of the "start" of a great match, not the "ending" of a good one. If the same spot had been worked into a longer match, it would be easy to point out and say "Here, look at this. This was when everyone stepped up, nailed the big moves, and began the real build to a great match." For what it was, I felt confused slightly, and I honestly thought to myself "That's how the match ended? With everyone being fired up?" I may use the phrase "anti-climatic" a bit loosely, but it was really evident here that the finish wasn't exactly all that good. Ignoring the finish, though, this was still a good match. Every man once again proved themselves, and I'm beginning to dig Kaz Hayashi for what he is, not what people try to make him out as. I'm already a fan of KENTA and Naomichi, while Spanky had always impressed me with his vastly under-rated Velocity tag team matches with fellow under-rated Paul London, so while I was expecting the goods from the start from those three, they did end up delivering. Overall, thumbs-up all around, and a good main event all considered. If anything, it helped set the stage and further give credibility to the tournament, which is always a plus. ***¼

Final Thoughts: As a whole, the event wasn't forgettable, nor passable: it was solid, well built, and every match eventually contributed to the whole. If anything, this proved that Misawa and NOAH does, in fact, give a crap if their junior division looks credible. I also applaud NOAH for bringing in so much talent from other feds: Zero-One Max, DDT, AJPW, even K-Dojo. It really made things unpredictable, shook things up, and exposed me to some new faces. And that's always a plus. It must be said, though: there is better junior stuff out there. And, as a benchmark, no one came out as a blow-away star, and no match was really a blow-away match. That doesn't mean that everything blew, though, since non of the matches were below watchable. I was never really bored with any of the matches, despite some of them being a tad predictable.

Unlike my recent Lucha Libre review, I'm used to this Japanese Junior style, so maybe I'm being a bit overly harsh. Then again, I still give high praise where it's due: notable mentions go to Spanky, Kaz Hayashi, Marufuji, KENTA, and, of course, KUDO. My favorite match was Marufuji / KENTA vs. KUDO / Kota, but, then again, I mark like a little school girl for KUDO and I've always had a soft spot for KENTA and Marufuji. Even though nothing stood out all that much, everything in general was nice to watch. Although it wasn't my best purchase ever, it was still a good purchase, and a solid event.

So, despite a few shortcomings here and there, Differ Cup Night 1 ended up drawing me in and making me want more, while also being pleased with what I got. And as a total, the show caught my interest enough to warrant a thumbs-up to Junior Heavyweight aficionados and ***¼.

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