Date: February 3rd, 2002
Location: Tokyo Ariake Colosseum
This show, taped on December 9th, 2001 was the tour climax to “NAVIGATION IN RAGING OCEAN 2001.” The feature matches include defenses of all the GHC title belts. For the Jr. Heavyweight Title, ZERO-ONE Tatsuhito Takaiwa defends against Naomichi Marufuji. For the Tag Team Title, Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa defend against Team No Fear. Finally, in the main event, Jun Akiyama defends his Heavyweight Title against Vader.
Rusher Kimura, Mitsuo Momota & Aoyagi vs. Haruka Eigen, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Kawabata
Comedy, comedy, comedy. Aoyagi has some cool kicks. Eigen busts out a 15X GIANT SWING~! on Momota. Why is Kikuchi here? Funny how he ended up as a top junior near the end of 2002. Momota and Aoyagi throw Kawabata into the deadly RUSHER LARIATOOO, and Aoyagi follows with his weakest kick of the match for the 3 count (12:32). The usual crappy goodness.
Kentaro Shiga & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Michael Modest & Donovan Morgan
This was pretty solid, well-worked, traditional professional wrestling between four capable guys who want to win the match. Modest & Morgan seemed to want to do some comedy early on, but Shiga and Kanemaru (especially) rudo’d it up with some heel tactics that isolated Morgan. Modest did an AWESOME thing where he wanted Morgan to get up and take advantage of Shiga and Kanemaru being on the outside, but Morgan was down, so Modest catapulted his friend out onto the opposition. Shiga eventually busted out his cool Spiral Shooter Shiga on Morgan for the 3 count (12:26). What you can expect from NOAH: Pretty good stuff, but nothing blowaway and pretty heatless.
Takuma Sano vs. KENTA
This was a lot of fun with Sano taking KENTA by the hand and guiding him to one of the best matches of his career. Both pretty much made up for each other’s weaknesses, as KENTA brought the speed and big spots while Sano brought the ability to tell a story and carry the match. KENTA hit a springboard plancha over the guardrail early on, which was a lot of fun, but Sano eventually brought out some WONDERFUL rookie discipline, using tons of submissions to stretch the fuck out of young KENTA. Midway through, I was getting the feeling that this was going a bit too long, but matches like this are only going to help KENTA in the long run. They messed up a few spots later on, Sano trying to counter KENTA’s leap off the top with a dropkick, but jumping too soon; and KENTA trying to counter a powerbomb but instead just falling lightly. Sano eventually punished KENTA with a double foot stomp from the top, a release German suplex, and a Northern Lights bomb for the 3 count (13:09).
Akitoshi Saito & Makoto Hashi vs. Daisuke Ikeda & Takashi Sugiura
This went on... for a while. There really wasn’t much focus, as it was just simple, solid pro wrestling that went from start to finish with no problems except for the fact that it went on... for a while. It was played up that Ikeda & Sugiura are the unlikely team, since they hit each other by mistake and argued a lot. Nothing else is really notable. Ikeda hit a standing Hashi with a somersault leg drop for the win (16:10). Completely watchable, but nothing special.
Takeshi Morishima & Takeshi Rikio vs. Scorpio & Richard Slinger
Wild II are pretty fun to watch in simple matches like this, so I enjoyed this. There wasn’t much “to this:, but the match was to put Wild II over and it accomplished that quite well. Scorpio and Slinger did some nice spots, Slinger pescado’ing over the referee onto Morishima, and Scorpio busting out a plancha suicida over the referee. They also got in some offense early on, but this was really all Wild II, as they killed Scorpio & Slinger with a bunch of lariats and suplexes and all that fun stuff, and Scorpio and Slinger bumped like motherfuckers for all of it. Morishima eventually delivered a BRUTAL backdrop suplex to Slinger for the 3 count (8:20).
Akira Taue & Jun Izumida vs. Tamon Honda & Masao Inoue
This sucked. Two guys in this are technically fine but boring (Taue and Inoue), and the other two just suck (guess who). The point was to put over that the Honda & Inoue tag team could get a win over their mentor, but I really don’t see Honda & Inoue as a top team. But, Misawa sent them all out to accomplish something and they did what they had to. However, in between it all was a boring, boring match. The only real weak point of the show. Taue took Inoue outside and left Izumida to take care of Honda, but Honda countered a nodowa otoshi by Izumida with a horizontal cradle for the 3 count (9:05).
GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title
Tatsuhito Takaiwa [c] vs. Naomichi Marufuji
This was motherfucking great as Takaiwa guided Marufuji to the best match of his career just like Sano guided KENTA earlier in the night. Except, this was 50x better. Marufuji RULES but is still green. Takaiwa RULES and isn’t green, so he carried Marufuji to a low-end MOTYC. This was really just everything everyone anybody wants in a match. There was never a boring moment, as they busted out tons of big spots and Takaiwa brought the psychology by concentrating on Marufuji’s leg. Marufuji didn’t sell it all that well, but sold enough for it to make a difference and for it to add to his “struggle” to defeat Takaiwa. They did a bunch of really cool, really stiff spots, SUCH AS... a vicious powerbomb over the top onto the rampway by Takaiwa, a Van Terminator by Marufuji, a DVB by Takaiwa, a Frankensteiner by Marufuji where Takaiwa landed DIRECTLY on his head, some cool dives by Marufuji, a bunch of stiff strikes by Takaiwa, and... well, more. The crowd was MOLTEN for the finish, which in four words... RULED THE FUCKING WORLD. Loads of near falls done really well, causing the crowd to buy into Marufuji’s struggle. He eventually delivered a SUPER Shiranui followed by a big Shooting Star Press for the big 3 count (22:10). MARUFUJI! NEW CHAMPION! This has been labeled as a spotfest by some. Even if it was... THIS SPOTFEST RULED. Just an awesome match. The most fun I’ve had watching wrestling in a while. [****]
GHC Tag Team Title
Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa [c] vs. Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama
Boy, this stunk. Really bland and really dull. It had it’s moments and was pretty decent overall, but those kinds of matches deserve to be down on the undercard, not here semi-maining a big show. They didn’t really take advantage of having 20 minutes to work with, just randomly doing stuff with no real story put in place. Lots of “isolate one guy until the hot tag” stuff, but it wasn’t done too well. Ogawa was absolute crap here, and may have the worst offensive moveset in NOAH. He looked totally out of place. Misawa did what he could, but looked really old, and No Fear just did some moves and nothing beyond that. Things picked up a bit for the finish, which was pretty good and had some heat, but that was the only part of the match that had some genuine heat and some enjoyment from me. Takayama took care of Misawa as Omori nailed Ogawa with an enzuilariat followed by an Axe Bomber for the 3 count (20:31). TEAM NO FEAR! NEW CHAMPS! That’s cool. This match wasn’t, though. Ogawa sucked, Misawa looked old, and No Fear couldn’t carry.
GHC Heavyweight Title
Jun Akiyama [c] vs. Vader
This was a lot of fun with both men stepping up to turn a potential disappointment into a damn good match. Akiyama went for Vader’s arm early on and kept the work over it going, and that was the simple focus of the match. Vader worked over Akiyama’s ribs and did an OK job of it, but Akiyama’s selling really made it great. Unfortunately, there was really just NO heat for Vader’s offense, and little heat for Akiyama’s. The crowd was just dead for most of the match, which is really weird and really disappointing. The main story other than Akiyama’s work over Vader’s arm was obviously Akiyama being the struggling native and Vader being the big, bad gaijin. Vader busted out a MOTHERFUCKING HUGE release German suplex midway through after refusing an armbreaker. Akiyama busted out some Exploder’s on the big man, all of which were pretty rocking. The finish came when Vader went for a sky high nodowa otoshi or something, but Akiyama did a MOTHERFUCKING GREAT counter by bringing Vader down with a cross armbreaker. Vader sold it like a MAN, but got out. Akiyama went for another Exploder, but Vader refused, so Akiyama said “fuck this” and applied the cross armbreaker again. He then modified it a bit and Vader... TAPPED (17:16). This surprisingly rocked. Perfect body part work is a forgotten art these days, but this brought it back. Akiyama was ON and kept the attacks going, and Vader was ON and sold it all so well, but also dished out some stiff yet heatless offense. This was nothing amazing or anything, but still a fine, fine batch of professional wrestling and a great end the show. [***¼]
Final Analysis: This show motherfucking rocked. Nothing except the comedy match (expected) and the Taue & Izumida vs. Honda & Inoue suckfest was bad. Everything else on the undercard was pretty good. The Tag Title match was pretty dull but fine, and Akiyama vs. Vader was great. If anything else, just get this to see Takaiwa and Marufuji produce a MOTYC. This is Recommended.
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