Written by: Colin Rinehart
NOAH The First Navigation Tour 2011 (1/15/11)
January 15th, 2011
Osaka Prefectural Gymnasium, Osaka, Japan
This is the first big event of 2011 for NOAH, and we’ve got some good matches booked. Takashi Sugiura defends the GHC Heavyweight title against Bison Smith, Naomichi Marufuji & Atsushi Aoki defend the GHC Jr. Heavyweight tag titles against Daisuke Harada and Atsushi Kotoge (two regulars from the local promotion Osaka Pro Wrestling) as well as the return of Jun Akiyama. Attendance is mediocre here, NOAH really needs Kobashi back to get those numbers back up.
Akira Taue/Yutaka Yoshie/Ricky Marvin vs. Masao Inoue/Taiji Ishimori/Masashi Aoyagi
Fun fact: there’s a six man tag match on every Japanese wrestling event ever, I’m convinced. These are the designated comedy matches, but they’ve also thrown in guys like Ishimori and Marvin who should be able to actually excite the crowd, so let’s see if they can. Marvin and Ishimori start us off with Ishimori delivering two beautiful headscissors and then teasing a tope to the floor. Back inside Marvin tags Taue in, and as usual these days it’s kind of sat to watch with the shape he’s in. Aoyagi tags in now and Taue just kind of whimpers to the corner and tags Yoshie in. Inoue gets the tag in next and Yoshie plays with him for a bit, easily overpowering Inoue and then tagging Taue back in. Inoue is able to evade Taue long enough to get the tag to Aoyagi, who takes Taue down with a series of quick roundhouse kicks. Marvin tags in now and he gives Aoyagi a taste of his own medicine with some stiff kicks ofhis own. Ishimori tags in now and missile dropkicks Marvin, and follows it up with a flying knee strike for two. Marvin and Ishimori put on a beautiful sequence here, reversing powerbombs and suplexes into near falls. Ishimori tries for a suplex but he get’s a big Michinoku driver instead for his troubles, and Yoshie tags in, prompting Inoue to do the same. Russian leg sweep from Inoue and he hits the wind-up clothesline, but only for a two count. Eventually Yoshie hits a big splash off the top rope for the 3 count and victory at 10:40. Thankfully they didn’t do the comedy routine here and instead just let them wrestle, and the results were entertaining enough to not make this a dud. **½
Katsuhiko Nakajima/Kento Miyahara vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru/Genba Hirayanagi
Miyahara and Hirayanagi start us of with a lockup and wristlock exchange, showcasing their agility in even the most basic of moves. Nakajima and Kanemaru both tag in now and Kanemaru has gotten a haircut since the last NOAH event it seems. Kanemaru locks hig legs around Nakajima’s head briefly, but he just flips right out of it and Kanemaru tags Hirayanagi back in again. They battle outside now and Kanemaru delivers a leg lariat and a DDT to Nakajima on the concrete floor! He and Hirayanagi wear down Nakajima some more while all along Miyahara is just standing on his side of the ring, watching all of this happen and not doing anything about it like a dope. Back inside Kanemaru applies a camel clutch of Nakajima. Miyahara finally tags back in its a big hesitation dropkick for a two count. Northern lights suplex from Miyahara gets him another close two count. Hirayanagi tags in now and gives Miyahara a snap suplex-senton combo, but only for two. Miyahara tags Nakajima back in now. He keeps trying to kick Hirayanagi but he keeps moving, and eventually Nakajima pins Hirayanagi for the win at 11:30 with a brainbuster-kick combo. Good little match here for the most part, but pretty underwhelming. I think we all would have rather seen Kanemaru vs. Nakajima. **¾
#1 Contenders Match for the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Kotaro Suzuki/Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Eddie Edwards/Bobby Fish
Edwards is known to US fans as one half of the great American Wolves tag team with Davey Richards, and he made a name for himself as a singles competitor in 2010 with a nearly year-long ROH TV title reign. Fish has been wrestling in Japan for a few years now and is just starting to make a name for himself on the American independents scene. Suzuki (the current GHC Jr. Heavyweight champion) and Edwards start us off, leapfrogging over each other and countering armdrags and headscissors attempts. Fish and Ogawa tag in next and trade dropkicks. Ogawa bails and Suzuki tags in now and they do a nifty little wristlock-exchange sequence. Edwards tags in now and he and Suzuki trade chops before Edwards gets thrown to the outside. Ogawa tosses him into the guardrail and ringpost and then tosses him back inside for Suzuki to get a two count. Fish tags in now and gets a flying forearm for a two count. Ogawa slaps on a sleeper hold for a bit, wrapping his legs around Fish’s midsection and wrenching away. Eventually Fish is able to get a ropebreak and end the hold, prompting Suzuki to tag back in. He tries applying an octopus stretch but he can’t and Fish gives Suzuki a big falcon arrow for a two count. Edwards tags back in and they trade forearms and big boots. Hurricanrana sends Suzuki out to the floor but Edwards gets tripped by Ogawa before he can dive out after him. Edwards decides to go for it anyways though, and he delivers a tope to Suzuki on the opposite side of the ring! Back inside Edwards hits a big missile dropkick and then follows it up with fisherman’s brainbuster for a two count on Suzuki. Ogawa tags in and gets a saito suplex for two on Edwards. Big running leg lariat from Edwards and he tags Fish back in, who’s fired up now. Back suplex and a big diving headbutt get Fish a two count on Ogawa. Beautiful moonsault from Fish! 1-2–NOO! Ogawa kicks out. Saito suplex and an enziguri from Ogawa, but Fish takes out his legs with a kick and both men tag their partners in. Diving knee off the top gets Suzuki a two on Edwards. Things are starting to break down at this point with all four men fighting in and out of the ring. Edwards misses a lionsault but lands on his feet, then he takes Suzuki out of the corner with a running chinbreaker for a two count. Fish hits a big gutbuster and then Edwards slaps a half Boston crab on Suzuki, who is in a world of pain. The hold is countered with a rollup and both men are back on their feet, trading elbows. They trade several hot near-falls and then Edwards tries a bridging cradle, but Suzuki lowers his shoulders far enough to the mat that both men’s shoulders are down and both men get the double-pinfall for the draw at 16:51! Nice finish there as it throws something new in the mix with a double-pinfall, and it leaves the road open for a rematch down the line. Extremely entertaining slice of tag team wrestling, and hopefully a sign of things to come from both teams. ***½
Takeshi Morishima vs. Mohammed Yone
Morishima is coming off of a great title match against Sugiura in December, while Yone is just doing his usual sucking-at-life thing thing, wastng a roster spot in the company. It’s still hard to get used to seeing the new slim Morishima, but it’s totally lit a fire under his ass and he’s been great since his return. Yone attacks before the bell even sounds, and they start trading forearms. Spinning heel kick from Yone sends Morishima outside, where they begin brawling into the crowd and up the entrance ramp. Big running clothesline all the way down the ramp from Yone wipes Morishima out on the floor again. Back inside Yone delivers a running legdrop and then applies a bizarre chinlock. Big missile dropkick gets Morishima a two count. Morishima completely no-sells a superplex and just starts tossing Yone around, but Yone finally brings him down with a big German suplex. Big legdrop off the top gets Yone a very close two count. Morishima comes back with two stiff lariats and a towering saito suplex for the 3 count however at 9:00. Usually I can’t stand Yone but he was very good here, showing more energy than I’ve seen out of him in a long time. This was far better than it looked on paper. **½
Kensuke Sasaki vs. Takuma Sano
This should be decent atleast. Both men try to out-power the other to start with unsuccussful shoulder-block attempts and the exchange of open-palm chops and stiff kicks. Sasaki clotheslines Sano outside and then tosses him into the steel guardrail. Sano comes running back for more but Sasaki just powerslams him right there on the floor! Back inside Sasaki starts laying in some of his famous chops, following with a quick piledriver that he doesn’t fully execute. Another chop sends Sano out to the floor but this time Sano gives Sasaki a suplex on the floor. Sano then dives out of the ring again with a big tope suicida. Finally Sano tosses Sasaki back inside, but he can only get a one count. Big doublestomp off the top and Sasaki is writhing in pain and rolls outside the ring to try and recover. Sasaki makes it back at the count of 19 and is greeted with two more top rope doublestomps! 1-2–NOO! Sasaki kicks out. Sano slaps on a figure four leglock now and starts wrenching away on Sasaki. Eventually he gets the ropebreak, but Sasaki is in a ton of pain at this point, limping and clutching at his stomach from the doublestomps. Sano tries for a German suplex but Sasaki comes back with a big powerslam and both men are laid out on the mat now. Sasaki nearly rips Sano’s arm right off his shoulder with a huge armdrag for a near fall, and he goes right back to working on that same arm. Sano eades another lariat and delivers a German to Sasaki, but Sasaki gets right back up and delivers a German of his own to Sano! Both men try for a lariat at the same time and they’re both out. Awesome sequence there. Another big doublestomp off the top gets Sano another close two count. sano starts laying in forearms and kicks, but he can’t capitalize in time and only gets a two count again. Crowd is really into it now as Sasaki hits a big powerslam/brainbuster combo! Three big lariats from Sasaki puts Sano away finally at 16:47. Wow, very good match here as Sano is a guy who’s almost always stuck in pointless tag matches and never really gets a chance to shine, but he looked great here taking the fight to Sasaki and busting out all of those huge doublestomps. Sasaki was his usual stoic self and the whole thing just flowed nicely and was thoroughly entertaining. ***½
Jun Akiyama/Akitoshi Saito vs. Go Shiozaki/Shuhei Taniguchi
This is Akiyama’s return to NOAH after a few months off following the summer of 2010, and he’s got a great pair of opponents in Shiozaki and Taniguchi. Saito and Akiyama are like the cranky old veterans here while Shiozaki and Taniguchi are products of the youth movement in NOAH over the last decade. Akiyama and Shiozaki start us off and the crowd quickly begins chanting for Akiyama. They trade wristlocks and then Akiyama tags Saito in. Saito starts laying in kicks on Shiozaki, but Taniguchi extends his arm and gets a blind tag. He slaps on a sleeperhold for a bit, wearing Saito down on the mat while the camera shows us the GHC Heavyweight champion Takashi Sugiura watching on from the crowd. Akiyama tags back in and he trades forearm shots with Tangicuhi in the corner, and then both men begin fighting outside. Akiyama gets tossed into the guardrail and the ringpost, which appears to open a small cut on Akiyama’s forehead right above his right eye. Back inside Taniguchi keeps laying big boots into Akiyama but they won’t keep him down, so he tries working an armbar. Taniguchi tags Shiozaki in and he gives Akiyama an armbreaker off the apron, slamming his arm into the steel guardrail on the way down! Back inside Shiozaki starts laying in chops on Akiyama’s chest, but he just can’t keep him down for any long period of time. Akiyama blocks a shoulder-block and then gets the tag to Saito, who quickly cleans house. Big running knee strike to Shiozaki in the corner and then Saito gives him two huge German suplexes and a big lariat! 1-2–NOO! Taniguchi breaks the pin up. A suplex and then a back suplex on Saito gives Shiozaki time to tag Taniguchi back in, who powerslams Saito for a quick two count. Shiozaki and Taniguchi are both in the ring now, delivering a double superkick for a two count. Akiyama and Shiozaki begin fighting outsidde while Taniguchi gives Saito a pair of big German suplexes for a two count. We see Takeshi Morishima and Takuma Sano are also watching on from the crowd, everyone appears to be interested in Akiyama’s return match. Akiyama gets the tag in and tries for his signature exploder suplex, but instead he settles for a guillotine sleeper. Eventually he does hit the exploder suplex, but Taniguchi kicks out at two. Taniguchi is able to tag Shiozaki in now, who starts laying stiff chops into Akiyama’s chest. Taniguchi and Saito start fighting on the outside while Akiyama tries for the exploder on Shiozaki, but Shiozaki reverses it into a falcon arrow suplex. He tries for a pin attempt but Akiyama keeps getting back up from Shiozaki’s huge strikes. Shiozaki calls for the Go Flasher, but Akiyama counters with a brainbuster! Big lariat and then Shiozaki is able to hit the Go Flasher successfully this time and pins Akiyama clean at 19:21. A nice return for Akiyama, who came off like the grizzled veteran who just won’t quit. Eventually the young guns were just too much for him to handle though. Good enough match, and Akiyama’s chest is a blistered red mess after all of the strikes to the chest he took in this one. **¾
Yoshihiro Takayama vs. KENTA
This should be good, Takayama and KENTA have good chemistry together and have put on some very fun big man versus little man contests. KENTA attacks immediately as the bell rings with four big running kicks to Takayama in the corner. He climbs to the top and hits a big double-stomp and goes for the first pin attempt of the match, but only for two. KENTA tries taking Takayama down again with big kicks but Takayama just gives him the big boot. Open-palm slapfest ensues with KENTA throwing in extremely stiff kicks, eventually scoring one right to Takayama’s temple and sending him crashing to the mat like a big redwood! Takayama comes back with big knee strikes, tossing KENTA to the outside and then slamming him into the steel guard-rail and ringpost. Back inside they trade stiff slaps again, but Takayama just grabs a hold of KENTA’s short hair and head-butts him so hard he flies back to the outside floor again. Takayama is bleeding slightly now from the stiff headbutt to KENTA, but he just pushes the referee away when he tries to check it. Back inside KENTA reverses a Dragon sleeper with a nice northern lights suplex, and then he grabs one of Takayama’s big tree trunk legs and wraps his small frame around it, applying an STF in the middle of the ring. Eventually Takayama gets the rope break, but not before the damage is done. He eats a big diving lariat off the top from KENTA for another close two count now. KENTA hits a springboard dropkick and then tries for a Yakuza kick, but Takayama boots him down again. He misses a second boot however and KENTA dumps him to the outside. KENTA climbs to the to top and hits a big doublestomp from the top rope all the way to Takayama’s on the floor! Damn that’s got to hurt. KENTA brings Takayama back inside with the second-rope DDT (similar to Randy Orton’s trademark DDT for you American wrestling fans). KENTA tries to lift Takayama up on his shoulders foolishly, and Takayama just throws KENTA over him with a big belly-to-belly release suplex. KENTA tries to wear him down with a series of lariats, but Takayama is too big and he just keeps coming back from KENTA’s deadly strikes. Big German suplex from KENTA! 1-2–NOO! Takayama just barely kicks out, that’s incredible strength shown by KENTA to give a guy Takayama’s size and weight a German. KENTA collapses after a stiff knee from a now limping Takayama, who then delivers a towering Saito suplex for another very close two count! They start trading blows now and it quickly breaks down into straight-up closed-fist boxing with each man scoring very stiff, very real shots to the other’s jaw, my GOD this is getting brutal. Takayama then gives KENTA a full-nelson suplex all the way from the mat and back down, which gets him another close two count. KENTA just won’t quit! Takayama however delivers his famous Everest German suplex to KENTA and is finally able to get the 3 count at 12:11! See what I mean about great chemistry between these two? This was a brutal match up with crazy stiffness and execution from both men, but best of all it also told a story with KENTA trying to attack Takayama’s legs with constant strikes, trying to chop the big man down to his size before eventually the size difference was just too much for KENTA to handle. Excellent match-up. ***¾
GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title Match
Naomichi Marufuji/Atsushi Aoki (C) vs. Atsushi Kotoge/Daisuke Harada
Kotoge and Harada are regulars from the local Osaka Pro Wrestling promotion, which has became an underground success over the last few years in Japan running small shows mixing DDT-style comedy with Toryumon style “lucha-resu” wrestling. This is Marufuji and Aoki’s first title defense since winning the belts last month in Tokyo. Before the match Aoki and Marufuji recieve flowers from local children karate students. Harada and Marufuji start us off with your basic lock-up/wristlock exchange. Marufuji keeps countering out of every hold Harada tries on him, kicking out of several backslide pinfall attempts. Kotoge and Aoki both tag in now and they exchange waistlocks. Kotoge evades a throw into the corner and hits a dropkick, and he and Harada begin trading frequent tags, double-teaming Aoki at every chance. Marufuji tags back in and starts choking Kotoge on the middle rope. Kotoge is on the apron now and Marufuji dives over the top to the outside, attempting a sunset-flip powerbomb to the floor, but Kotoge is hanging onto the ropes for dear life. Aoki sees this and dropkicks him, giving Marufuji the time to powerbomb him to the thinly padded floor! Marufuji slams the opening between two guard-rails into Kotoges head in a nifty spot and he gets tossed back inside and put into a sleeper-hold. Marufuji and Harada battle to the outside while Aoki hits a big neckbreaker for a two count in the ring. Big missile dropkick off the top gets Aoki another close two. Kotoge manages to fight off both Aoki and Marufuji though and Harada gets the tag, giving a flying forearm to Marufuji and then a big exploder suplex to Aoki for a two count. Marufuji tries to interfere but he gets an overhead release belly-to-belly suplex into Aoki in the corner! Marufuji bails to the outside after, but Kotoge delivers a running somersault plancha and wipes both Aoki and Marufuji out on the floor! Back inside Harada gives Aoki an elbow drop from the top rope. 1-2–NOO! Aoki kicks out. Harada tries for a German, but Aoki gives him a back suplex of his own and tags Marufuji in. ‘Fuji evades a suplex attempt and then he and Aoki both give Harada running elbows in the corner, even doing the old Hardy Boyz spot of jumping off of your partner’s back into the corner. Superkick and Marufuji tries for the Sliced Bread but fails, Harada tries for a German and that fails as well. Marufuji tries a spinkick, but Harada grabs him and tosses him on-top of his shoulders and gives him a big death valley driver! Kotoge tags in now and gets a quick two count. Inverted double-underhook facebuster gets Kotoge another close two. Aoki comes back in and dropkicks Kotoge’s face while he’s stuck in the tree of woe position, then he starts working a vicious armbar, which Harada runs in to quickly break up. Harada tries for an exploder to Marufuji off the top, but instead Kotoge gives him a moonsault side-slam! That move never gets old. Harada and Kotoge start laying in various kicks to Aoki now, giving him a superkick-Death Valley Driver combo for two. Crowd is really into it now with tons of people screaming for Aoki. BIG German suplex from Harada, but Marufuji and Kotoge break it up accidentally through their own fighting. Sliced Bread #2 from Marufuji on Harada! Kotoge gets the tag now though and he hits a big moonsault! 1-2–NOO! The crowd totally bought into that near-fall. Kotoge and Harada try for the Doomsday Device, but Aoki evades and sends Harada to the outside, where he begins brawling with Marufuji. Aoki then gives Kotoge a northern lights suplex, rolls through, and delivers a second suplex without ever breaking the waistlock! 1-2–NOO! Kotoge kicks out. German suplex-dropkick combo from Marufuji and Aoki, then another inverted German suplex gets Aoki a two count. Beautiful frog splash off the top from Aoki, but again Kotoge somehow kicks out! They begin trading headbutts now and Aoki hits a Michinoku driver! 1-2—NO! Kotoge still won’t quit. Finally Aoki finishes him off with the Assault Point suplex to retain at 25:31. After the match Harada and Kotoge reluctantly slap hands with Marufuji and Aoki in a sign of respect and sportsmanship. Wow, great match here as the crowd was really into it and all four men delivered exactly the kind of action you come to expect from the Jr. Heavyweight Tag champs. Aoki looked great as well, carrying the load throughout most of the match and getting the crowd behind him for the big finish. Excellent tag team wrestling. ****
GHC Heavyweight Title Match
Takashi Sugiura (C) vs. Bison Smith
Bison defeated Yutaka Yoshie on the Christmas Eve show a few weeks back to earn this title shot here. Sugiura’s title reign is quickly rising the list of longest GHC Heavyweight title reigns ever, currently he’s third behind Misawa and Kobashi. This should be your typical Japanese babyface versus monster American heel. Bison quickly tosses Sugiura to the outside and follows him out with a running shoulderblock off of the apron. They begin brawling into the front row, and Bison gets a big running start and dives like a flying white missile into the front row seats, wiping out Sugiura and the whole row at once! Nice agility from the big man there. Bison tries for a suplex in the front row, but Sugiura counters with a big back suplex onto the front row of chairs, wiping half of them out! That’s a pretty cool spot for so early in a match. Bison barely makes it big to the ring before the 20 count, and Sugiura takes the upper hand, slapping on a chinlock for a bit. Back on their feet they trade stiff forearms, with Sugiura eventually winning the exchange and sending Bison back outside to the floor. He tries getting back in the ring, but Sugiura knocks him off the apron with a big boot. Bison makes it back in at the count of 16, but gets quickly taken down again with a spin-kick for a brief one count. Sugiura tries for a yakuza kick, but Bison grabs him by the throat and choke-slams him! He follows it up with a big lariat and then comes off the top with a diving shoulder-block for a two count. Sugiura spears him and then delivers a big gut-wrench suplex, but Bison comes right back with another lariat. Half-nelson suplex drops Sugiura right on his skull, but Bison can’t get the cover. Huge power-bomb from Bison now and he climbs to the top rope, but Sugiura meets him up there and gives him a Frankensteiner off the top. Bison shrugs this right off though and gives Sugiura another half-nelson suplex! Not to be outdone, Sugiura delivers a German of his own. Suddenly Bison hit’s the Styles Clash! 1-2—NOO! Sugiura just barely kicks out. I have never seen Bison use that move before, that was cool to see. He tries for another one, but Sugiura counters it and puts him in the ankle lock in the center of the ring! Eventually Bison gets the rope break, but he gets a full-nelson suplex for a two count. Running knee gets Sugiura another quick two. Sugiura tries an Angle slam, but Bison just shrugs him off and starts getting fired up, powerbombing Sugiura right into the corner turnbuckle! Sugiura, never one to play it cool, steps the game up a bit and gives Bison a German suplex of his own, but into the corner turnbuckle this time! OUCH! Bison’s neck just snapped across that bottom turnbuckle in a nasty manner. The ref desperately tries to get Sugiura out of the corner where he’s just laying in illegal shots on Bison with no concern. Big Angle slam from Sugiura! 1-2–NOO! Bison kicks out somehow. Both men climb to the top rope and Sugiura delivers a top-rope Angle slam, which is finally enough to put Bison away at 19:39. Damn good title match here that followed your basic big man-little man formula (strange to think of Sugiura as “little”) but was never boring or predictable. Very nice work from both men. ***½
After the match Sugiura gives a brief interview in the ring, celebrating his victory tonight.
NOAH kicks of 2011 with a great event in Osaka, utilizing local and American talent to bolster the undercard and deliver an all around strong show from a card that didn’t look particularly special on paper. Pretty easy Thumbs Up for NOAH’s First Navigation of 2011.
34-year-old currently living in Syracuse, New York. Long-time fan of the New York Mets, Chicago Bulls, and Minnesota Vikings. An avid fan of professional wrestling and write reviews/articles on the product. Usually focusing on old-school wrestling.