Written by: Mike Campbell
NAVIGATION AGAINST THE CURRENT
October 19, 2002
Sometimes NOAH undercards are full of pleasant surprises, and sometimes they’re like this. Some good stuff here and there, but on the whole not Scottish (and if it’s not Scottish, it’s crap!)
KENTA . . . shows the potential for complete awesomeness, but he isn’t quite there yet.
Tsuyoshi Kikuchi . . . tries to summon the spirit of his old self, and take the GHC Jr. Title from his tag partner.
Kentaro Shiga . . . takes the fight to Akiyama in the best GHC Tag Titles match in the short history of the titles.
HARUKA EIGEN vs. MITSUO MOMOTA
This match is supposed to be a comedy match, but nothing is particularly funny about it. Its just two wrestlers, way past their primes, way out of shape, wrestling badly. The wrestling itself isn’t much better than what you’d expect from two raw rookies. There is one part that is funny, although for the wrong reasons. Haruka Eigen must spit in every match he’s in, so when Momota puts him on the apron, and hits his chest, the big loogie comes out, and the fans all hover under a newspaper, or a sheet. Why is this funny? Have you ever seen Gallagher do his bit?
KENTA vs. MAKOTO HASHI
NOAH has a very nice junior division, the only things New Japan’s junior division has over NOAH’s are the roster depth, and experienced workers. The experienced workers bit is what comes into play in this match, and what keeps it from reaching its potential. It took me longer than most to actually discover just how awesome KENTA is, even at this stage in his career. I was holding on to my impression of him, from the New Japan Cross Road show, where he was beaten by pre learning excursion Wataru Inoue. Just seeing him as a young wrestler, who will probably break out in a few years and be pretty good. That’s the magic of video, getting to go back and re-examine your opinions. The main issue with this match, is that it looks like KENTA and Hashi are on two different wavelengths and are trying to tell different stories.
Hashi wants to take out KENTA at the knees, so that he can avoid the kicks and of course, the Busaiku. Then with KENTA off his feet, he can go for the kill. KENTA knows that Hashi isn’t much of a striker, so he wants to beat him by using that method. Hashi’s method works well enough for its intended purposes. He uses his DDT on the apron, and then works over KENTA’s leg by hooking on a figure four. KENTA sells it well enough, and even fights really hard to turn it over, only for Hashi to turn it back on him. A nice chance of pace from the usual, roll over and then grab the ropes. With the bad wheel pretty much explained and emphasized, its onto Hashi’s second phase, the big moves. However, Hashi doesn’t have a big move set. He uses generic stuff, before breaking out the diving headbutt and the wrist clutch fisherman variation. KENTA starts to tell his story to get to the final stretch. He ducks a lariat and then lays into Hashi with two big kicks. By the time Hashi is on his feet, KENTA is airborne with the springboard dropkick. Then he hits the slap and kick flurry and the busaiku to finish him off. KENTA used his strikes and quickness, two things that Hashi really is lacking in. Hashi told his story and it worked, KENTA told his story and it worked, but put both stories in one ten minute singles match, and it really doesn’t work as well
IZU/RHODES/SLINGER vs. MODEST/MORGAN/SCORPIO
After I’ve watched a really good NOAH match, I’ll ask myself, are some of the NOAH undercard matches really so bad that I usually pass up really good sounding shows for months on end? Matches like remind me, that the answer is yes. The wrestling is about on par with the opener, save for the spitting and the fact that only Scorpio is really past his prime. Slinger might be too, but I’m not too familiar with his work to really judge him. Just to give you an idea of how bad this was, the majority of the match, was spent with me wondering exactly where I knew Trevor Rhodes from, other than a few other NOAH tapes that I have. The face was ringing a bell, and then it hit me. Rhodes was the guy in Beyond The Mat, who got spit on during the APW show and yelled at the fan to meet him in the parking lot. There were two interesting parts though. The first was Donovan Morgan stealing a page out of the Ricky Morton playbook, by not taking a bump, but selling it anyways to fake out the opponent, it didn’t lead anywhere, other than Rhodes missing an elbow drop. The very final stretch at least gave me something to enjoy. Scorpio and Smith trading holds and counters for about twenty seconds straight, no rest involved, and at a decently fast pace, until Scorpio cradled him in a victory roll for the pin. Funny how the only enjoyable portion of the match, from a wrestling perspective, came from the two who were past their primes.
SUPERSTAR STEVE vs. TAKESHI RIKIO
Superstar Steve is a good looking kid, and I’m sure he daydreamed over and over about going to Japan and working with some of the world’s best wrestlers. When NOAH signed him up for this tour he was probably ecstatic. Now he’s here, and Takeshi Rikio is going to slaughter him. Rikio pretty much throws Steve around the ring, and smacks him around. Steve tries to play the spunk underdog and keeps on surviving. But considering that due to Rikio’s lack of height, the fans really don’t buy it. Put Steve in there with a big guy like Takayama and you’ve got a different story. But Steve is so much taller than Rikio, that Rikio comes out looking better, because he’s beating the big guy. Steve’s comeback attempts are met with literally zero reaction. Steve’s springboard dropkick ends up with him falling flat on his face, and hurting his knee, while the fans laughed. Rikio keeps the pain coming and Steve keeps fighting back. The ending is a big of a let down though. Rikio uses big moves like his backdrop, and even rips off the Ore Ga Taue, and Superstar Steve comes back. But when he hits a simple lariat, its over. Fun to watch Steve get demolished, a very non offensive waste of seven minutes.
TAMON HONDA/MASAO INOUE vs. TAKESHI MORISHIMA/KISHIN KAWABATA
Some matches are so bad, they’re funny, others are like this one. Much like the junior match before this, this match is about different wrestlers telling different stories. The problem doesn’t lie within the idea that the stories are on different wavelengths, but within the realm that none of the wrestlers really know the best way to tell their various stories. Inoue and Kawabata both play the stooge character, dependant on their partner. Kawabata plays it as a face, meaning he tries against Inoue and Honda, but can’t cut the mustard and Morishima needs to save him. On the flip side, Inoue can’t do squat when left to his own devices, so he always needs Honda to save his ass. The only way he can do anything, is by cheating here and there. Morishima uses his strength to keep Honda and Inoue at bay, while Honda relies on his mat knowledge and submissions.
On paper, it seems to work just fine, but none of them can take it to the next level. Kawabata’s heat segments are pretty boring, even when Inoue tries to play the dirty heel. Honda and Kawabata don’t bump well for Morishima’s power moves, and Morishima and Kawabata don’t really put over Honda’s submissions all that well. So the match turns into a copy of the previous six man, almost down to a bad first stretch, boring middle run, and then a little pickup for the ending. With Morishima tied up, Honda hooks on his STF, and then turns it into Tamon’s shooter (STF with a shoulder stretch) and Kawabata has to give it up. This ending didn’t have any impact though, because it had long been established that Kawabata can’t do anything without Morishima to watch his back anyways, but it worked for what its intentions were. No rating, and literally nothing to see here.
TAUE/IKEDA/SUGIURA/AOYAGI vs. MISAWA/OGAWA/SANO/SUZUKI
Taue’s team shows exactly what’s wrong with NOAH. With the exception of Aoyagi, Taue’s team are the talented wrestlers who can’t get a good push, because they’re being overshadowed by the less talented wrestlers, like the boys on Misawa’s team. Looking at how each of them measure up. Taue can still go, and he can go better than most of NOAH’s roster, yet he’s stuck as the over the hill veteran, who’s past his prime. Sugiura and Ikeda are also two of the better workers, but they wind up looking at the lights. On the flip side, Misawa’s best days are long behind him, but he’s the owner. Ogawa is just his sidekick, and wore the GHC for five months. Sano is still pretty good, but it not motivated at all. Suzuki is a rookie with zero wins, but he’s usually on the winning team in the high profile multi man matches.
Team Taue really do try to get something out of the loads they have for opponents. They spend a good chunk of the match by taking their frustration out of Suzuki, since they already know the little puke is going to be on the winning team. Sano brings some nice exchanges with Taue, Ikeda, and Sugiura, based on his submissions, and willingness to kick stiffly. Ogawa does diddly squat other than his usual stuff, most of which is jabs, and the eye poke, and Taue even sells the eye poke like he just got planted with an F-5. Misawa has no problem taking offense from the lower ranked guys, but then when time is up, he just hits a single elbow and they’re dead to the world. Aoyagi doesn’t bring much other than his spin kicks in Suzuki’s face, but when you see the talent of his partners, you get the feeling he was only booked for this team to bring the talent ratio down anyways. Of course Misawa and Ogawa have to bring along their double teams, which at least get a pop from the crowd. Not the kind of pop that Taue and Sugiura’s Doomsday Dynamic kick got though. In the world of pro wrestling though, everything is a work, and no matter how much Team Taue spanked Team Misawa, Team Misawa was going to win. Sugiura gets selected to look at the lights from under Ogawa, just to add the exclamation point that political favor > wrestling talent. ***
TSUYOSHI KIKUCHI vs. YOSHINOBU KANEMARU © (GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title)
The IWGP Jr. Tag Team Champions are going one on one for NOAH gold, and friendship as well as partnership is out the window. Kanemaru’s biggest issue is that he’s got a very limited moveset and beyond his basic spots, he’s hard pressed to fill up the match. Kanemaru starts off this match by hitting two of his big ones, the dropkick tree of woe, and the guardrail leg drop all of two minutes in. Kikuchi puts it over fine, but then when it comes time for Kanemaru to actually wrestle before he hits another big move, he’s got nothing to do and he goes to the almighty rest hold of the chinlock. Kikuchi is able to salvage something out of it, by at least attempting to escape and having Kanemaru hang on to the hold, which makes (a. Kanemaru look better because he can keep that hold on, and (b. builds up sympathy for Kikuchi.
Kikuchi’s role is always going to be the guy who gets beat up, and either comes back to win, or just can’t take anymore and finally falls in defeat. Whether he’s facing Jumbo in 1992, or Lyger in 2002. Kikuchi makes Kanemaru’s spots look like death, and he’s got the great facial expressions to add to it. Its not just “I’m too old to take these beatings” but its also “who does Kanemaru think he is?”. Kikuchi takes his control segments and keeps them interesting with a combination of his basic spots, such as the spider belly to belly, and the diving headbutt, but he throws in a few new ones like a reverse suplex facebuster. With NOAH talent like Marufuji, KENTA, and Kanemaru, nobody takes Tsuyoshi Kikuchi seriously as a GHC Jr. Champion. So he’s going to show then the error of their ways.
The final stretch is simply further proof that Kanemaru needs a lot of work, and judging from the fact that he’s only given the GHC Jr Title when there is nobody else to give it to. His first reign was to build suspense to Marufuji winning it, and this one is only because Marufuji is hurt. Kikuchi attempts the Fireball bomb, which won them their tag gold, but Kanemaru escapes it. Then Kanemaru hits a big brain buster, but Kikuchi can survive that, and then a top rope brain buster ends Kikuchi’s quest, only further setting up their tag title loss in January. Kikuchi made it interesting, but he played the wrong role. He tried to play the Kikuchi from Jumbo vs Kikuchi, when he should have been playing the role of Jumbo. ***
JUN AKIYAMA/AKITOSHI SAITO © vs. KENTA KOBASHI/KENTARO SHIGA (GHC Tag Team Titles)
Before the match starts, highlights of two previous tag matches are shown. The first is Shiga and Kobashi defeating Honda and Saito, when Shiga uses his mat skills to defeat Honda, who got started in puroresu thanks to his amateur credentials, just like Akiyama. The second is of Kobashi and Shiga defeating Akiyama and Kanemaru, when Kobashi debuts his new “Diamond Head” on Kanemaru.
Shiga is on a little personal mission as well as his goal to win the gold. Akiyama booted him from STERNNESS awhile back, and now he’s out for his revenge. The exchanges between Shiga and Akiyama are almost enough to make this match on its own, and the most remarkable fact, is that they’re only against each other as the legal men in the match on a grand few occasions. Shiga, plays the role that suits him perfectly. The stick boy, who takes his beatings and is lucky to survive, let alone win. While Akiyama is playing the role that Kawada used with him all those years ago. The big name, who would be wasting his talent by actually wrestling Shiga. Their first exchange comes from a tope by Shiga, when Akiyama is unsuspecting it, on the floor, and Shiga follows up with two DDTs, that send Akiyama ribs first onto the guardrail. Their next exchange is a little revenge for Akiyama, because we know that he’s got that amateur background, but we’ve just seen him succumb to just throwing out suplexes for so long that we often forget. So when Shiga is rolling up Akiyama, it’s a big of a surprise to see Akiyama grab his arm and segue into a crossface. It made sense to doubt Shiga’s chances because of his size, but he could also be outdone on the mat, which is his strongest advantage.
Akitoshi Saito, uses his kicks and size to destroy Shiga, and play Akiyama’s enforcer. He dishes out the punishment and then tags in Akiyama, who just hits a few punches, and drops a few knees on Shiga. But for all that Akiyama can just look down at Shiga and know he’s got him. Kenta Kobashi can do the same thing to Akiyama, so Saito will also be needing to save Akiyama from him. Kobashi, understands that this is about Shiga getting his revenge on Akiyama, for booting him out of STERNNESS, for the big lug Saito. So he’s only there to make sure the kid doesn’t get himself killed. He mostly trusts Shiga on the pins, although if he’s caught in a submission hold, then he’ll make the save. Shiga pulls his own weight on the team and returns the favor when Kobashi is stuck in the clutches of the Akiyama Lock. Saito uses his kicks to keep Kobashi from taking Akiyama apart, and Shiga shows his appreciation for Kobashi watching his back, by pulling out Saito and whipping him into the guardrail. Kobashi gets his hands on Akiyama, and this time its Akiyama who’s feeling the pain, he got to have his fun with Shiga, but now the shoe is on the other foot. Kobashi doesn’t try to embarrass Akiyama though, he tries to hurt him. Kobashi uses the big suplexes, and even attempts the Burning Hammer, just to make sure that his former partner, gets the message. The message being that he may have gold around his waist, and he may be higher than Shiga, but he’s not at the top either.
Kobashi is down from Saito’s enzuigiri and Shiga has no choice to tag himself in, and go face to face with Akiyama. Akiyama tries to do the Exploder, and Shiga takes him down and hooks on an STF, and then segues into a judo choke, taking Akiyama to school on the mat, even though, Akiyama has his own credentials. Saito makes the save, but then Shiga turns the Exploder attempt into a cradle for a very close two. Akiyama feels the titles slipping away, so he digs down and pulls out a move he’s never done before, because he knows that if Shiga can do one more quick escape, or counter something, then the titles are gone. So Akiyama digs out his STERNNESS Dust, a wrist clutch fisherman buster and finally puts him away. STERNNESS keep the titles, but Akiyama can walk away and he’ll know that Shiga has his number, and maybe next time, the results will be different. The story was excellent, nothing was out of place, and the roles were played perfectly, you have the best GHC Tag Titles match since the titles were created. ***½
Conclusion: Despite an excellent main event. The under card is a textbook example of why its sometimes better to stick with the NOAH commercial releases. I’ll have to go thumbs down on this tape. I’d suggest taking advantage of Golden Boy’s Custom tape offer, so you can get this match, without having to sit through the whole undercard.
31-year old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Longtime fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Vikings. Avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on the old school wrestling.