Written by: Colin Rinehart
NOAH The First Navigation Tour 2011 (1/29/11)
January 29th, 2011
Korakuen Hall, Tokyo, Japan
The first NOAH tour of 2011 continues tonight with our last stop in Korakuen Hall where we’ve got a great main event in Kotaro Suzuki defending his newly-won GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title against Eddie Edwards from ROH. On the last show a week back Edwards powerbombed Suzuki onto a table after a six man tag match and Suzuki had to be stretchered out of the arena, so he’s looking for payback tonight. We’ve also got the usual slew of regular and six man tag matches, so let’s get started.
Akira Taue/Kentaro Shiga vs. Masao Inoue/Takashi Okita
No real story or anything here, just your usual tag match to get the show started. Shiga and Okita start us off with a lockup, each man attempting to work a wristlock. Taue tags in and gives Okita a big boot. I’m shocked Taue can still get his leg up that far in the air with the shape he’s in. Inoue tags in now and he and Taue continue the feeling-out process. The camera cuts to the back of the arena where we can see Kenta Kobashi watching on. The sooner he’s back, the better for NOAH’s dwindling attendance. Back in the ring Shiga and Okita have both tagged in, and Shiga gets a back-elbow for a quick one count. Okita gets strung up in the corner and Taue takes the opportunity to literally squash Okita’s balls with his foot. Ouch. Inoue tags back in and hits his trademark wind-up clothesline for a quick two count. DDT from Taue and Shiga’s back in. Bulldog on Inoue gets him a two count. Inoue hits a shoulder-block off the top and then tags Okita back in, who gives Shiga a snap suplex for a quick two count of his own. Death Valley Driver gets Okita another close two. Some miscommunication leads Okita to accidentally take out Inoue, and Shiga rolls Okita up with a unique pump-handle cradle for the 3 count at 9:07. Just your usual tag opener here with Taue and Inoue doing a bit of comedy. *
Akitoshi Saito/Yutaka Yoshie vs. Bobby Fish/Ricky Marvin
I like the pairing of Fish and Marvin here, but anytime Yoshie comes on my screen I tend to instinctively groan at the suckfest that’s usually about to take place. Fish and Marvin try double-teaming Saito to start, each man hitting a splash off the top rope for a two count. Saito and Fish are legal now I guess but Saito quickly tags Yoshie in. Yoshie literally slams Fish’s head into his fat belly with a pair of devastating manboob-strikes, which is somehow not as gross as it sounds. Saito tags back in and gives Fish the classic hesitation suplex, letting all the blood rush to Bobby’s head before slamming him down for a quick two count. Yoshie tags back in drives an elbow right into Fish’s heart, but Bobby is fired up and he rises to his feet quickly, dishing out rapid kicks like a Street Fighter character. This doesn’t last long though as Yoshie just grabs his leg and applies the laziest half Boston crab I have ever seen. Saito tags back in now and lays a few kicks of his own into Bobby’s chest, but only for a two count. Yoshie tags back in and gives Bobby the devastating ASS BUMP OF DOOM. He can’t follow it up though and Fish gets a dropkick and the hot (or lukewarm) tag to Marvin, who then sprints across the ring ropes like some kind of Undertaker/Rey Mysterio hybrid and dropkicks Saito off the apron! Amazing that he kept his balance there. Marvin fights off Yoshie and Saito as best he can for a bit, laying as many quick kicks into the big Yoshie as he can, finally knocking him down momentarily. Saito misses the scissors kick and eats an enziguri, which gives Marvin enough time to tag Fish back in. Hurricanrana from Fish followed by a weak knee to the back of the head gets him a two count on Saito. Exploder suplex from Fish, but Yoshie breaks the pinfall attempt up. Fish hits a beautiful moonsault off the top, but again only for two. German suplex on Fish from Saito, followed by a splash from Yoshie and a lariat for another close two count. Finally Saito finishes Fish off with the Sickle of Death (basically an enziguri) at 10:26. This was alot better than I was expecting, as Fish and Marvin both looked very good here while Saito carried most of the load for his team, so Yoshie didn’t drag it down much. **¾
Takuma Sano vs. Taiji Ishimori
This could be fun. Ishimori immediately takes advantage with a few dropkicks right as the bell rings, then he comes off the top with a big hurricanrana that sends Sano to the floor, where, Ishimori then springboard-moonsaults out after him! Now that’s how you start a match! Springboard dropkick back inside and a handspring back kick get Ishimori a close two count. Flying knee off the top does the same. Sano comes back with a doublestomp off the top for a two count of his own, and he tries for a second but Ishimori gives him the Frankensteiner off the top and a superkick, but again Sano kicks out. 450 Splash attempt by Ishimori is blocked by Sano’s knees! Another big doublestomp off the top from Sano. 1-2–NOO! Ishimori kicks out. Ishimori tries for another hurricanrana but Sano just powerbombs him for a two count. They trade cradle pinfall attempts, and then Sano hooks the leg into another cradle pin and actually gets the 3 count at 4:43. Aww man, this definitely could have used another five minutes. Surely you could have shaved some time off of one of the thrown-together tag matches for this? Oh well, as it is this was excellent stuff for such a short match. **¾
KENTA/Go Shiozaki/Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru/Genba Hirayanagi/Mohammed Yone
Let’s see if these guys can’t wake this crowd up. Shiozaki and Yone start us off and Go hits a big flying forearm. Kanemaru and Ogawa both tag in now and they counter every one of eachother’s moves, even shaking hands in a sign of respect for the abilities of each man. KENTA tags in now, as does Hirayanagi. KENTA gets choked in the opposing team’s corner for a bit until the ref breaks it. Stiff European uppercuts and rapid-fire kicks from KENTA bring him back to his corner, where he tags Shiozaki back in. Camel clutch applied from Shiozaki now, and KENTA comes in to get a few cheap shots on Hirayanagi. Ogawa tags in now and he tosses Hirayanagi to the outside floor. KENTA and Shiozaki start trading blows on Hirayanagi, tossing him back and forth like a ragdoll. Back inside Hirayanagi continues to get triple teamed in the opposite corner. Shiozaki tags in and delivers a big suplex for a two count. KENTA tags back in now and he just arrogantly kicks Hirayanagi in the face a few times with the heel of his boot. Ogawa tags in and Hirayanagi is able to tag out to Yone, who delivers a few weak lariats and a bodyslam to Ogawa before hitting a legdrop for another near fall. DDT to Yone and Shiozaki tags back in. Shiozaki and Yone trade big elbows for a bit and then Hirayanagi tags back in. Shiozaki tries for a superplex but HIrayanagi spits in his face, only to miss a missile dropkick. It’s all chaos now as no one is tagging anymore, everyone is fighting in and outside of the ring. Huge roaring elbow gets Shiozaki a close two, but Kanemaru breaks it up. Suddenly KENTA and Kanemaru bring a chair into the ring and KENTA slams the chair down on Shiozaki! A swerve, in NOAH?! The match is declared a no contest at 12:30. KENTA shakes hands with the 3 men he was just fighting minutes ago and it’s clear he was with them all along. He grabs a mic and says something in Japanese, which unfortunately I can’t understand. The match itself was average, but it’ll likely set up a KENTA-Shiozaki feud down the road, which sounds great, so it served it’s purpose. **¼
Kensuke Sasaki/Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Takeshi Morishima/Shuhei Taniguchi
This should be solid with these four guys involved. Taniguchi and Sasaki start us off, trading big shoulderblocks. After a more power exchanges, both men tag out and Morishima and Nakajima tag in. Nakajima tries his best to knock Morishima down with a shoulderblock, but it just won’t happen, even as he tries it for a seventh and eighth time until finally Morishima gives him the old butt-bump. Nakajima gets thrown into a guardrail outside by Taniguchi and then he gets rolled back in for Morishima to cover for a quick two count. Taniguchi legally tags in now and bod-slams Nakajima, following it with a camel clutch hold. Nakajima finally mounts some offense with some kicks and tags Sasaki in. Sasaki starts laying in his famous chops on Taniguchi, then powerslams him. Taniguchi just gets right back up though and tags Morishima in, who hits a missile dropkick off the top! They trade stiff lariats, but neither man can take the other off his feet! The blows just get stiffer and stiffer, until finally Sasaki lariats Morishima off his feet and hits a Northern Lights bomb suplex! 1-2–NOO! Morishima kicks out. Huge back-suplex from Morishima and both men are spent, laid out on the mat. Nakajima gets the tag and comes off the top with a missile dropkick, but it doesn’t even take Morishima off his feet. He tries another and this time he succeeds in grounding the big man. He tries for a German suplex, but Morishima easily counters out. Series of rapid kicks from Nakajima gets him a two count. Nakajima keeps trying to lay the kicks in, but Morishima just lariats his head off and tags Taniguchi in. Yakuza kick-double underhook suplex combo from Taniguchi! 1-2–NOO! Nakajima kicks out. Taniguchi tries for an Everest German suplex, but Nakajima counters into an ankle lock. Huge belly to belly suplex off the top rope from Taniguchi now! All four men hit the ring and both Taniguchi and Nakajima hit German suplexes on one half of their opponents simultaneously! Cool visual. Taniguchi slaps on a sleeperhold on Nakajima that turns into a choke, but he just gives him the sleeper suplex right there dropping him directly on his head! That’s a concussion waiting to happen. German suplex gets Taniguchi a two count as Sasaki comes in to break it up. STIFF kick to Taniguchi from Nakajima and it looks like someone turned off the lights in Taniguchi’s head. Sasaki tags in and Taniguchi tries fighting him off with forearms, but he’s spent by this point and Sasaki is making easy work of him, wrenching away on an armbar. Nakajima puts a sleeperhold on Morishima on the outside while Sasaki continues the painful armbar submission in the ring, but Taniguchi refuses to give up and eventually gets the rope break. Taniguchi can barely stand at this point, and Sasaki finishes him with a big lariat for the pinfall at 17:14. Excellent tag team match here as Sasaki and his protege Nakajima always work well together and Morishima and Taniguchi are just the kind of powerhouses you want facing them. Taniguchi showed a ton of heart in this match, even in the loss. ***½
Takashi Sugiura/Naomichi Marufuji/Atsushi Aoki vs. Jun Akiyama/Yoshihiro Takayama/Bison Smith
I guess they just needed to do something with Sugiura here since he’s not defending the belt, so this is acceptable I guess. Akiyama and Aoki start us off with the usual collar and elbow lockup. Marufuji tags in pretty quickly and he and Akiyama exchange a waistlock. Takayama tags himself in but each man is cautious to go for another lock-up this time. Marufuji crouches to the ground as though to try and attack Takayama’s feet, then he takes him down with a traditional amateur wrestling hold. Takayama quickly powers out however, being familiar to these holds from his years spent in MMA and shoot-fighting. They do the old Greco-Roman knucklelock and then Sugiura tags himself in. He and Takayama immediately begin an exchange of forearms, followed by each man exhcanging a belly-to-belly suplex with the other. Bison Smith tags in now and he’s facing off against the man he fought (and lost) against for the title only a few weeks back. Big boot right to Bison’s face and then an impressive gut-wrench suplex from Sugiura, but Bison no-sells it like an asshole. Aoki tags back in and quickly eats a lariat from Bison. Aoki, Akiyama, and Takayama all start brawling on the outside. Back inside Bison just starts tossing Aoki around like a ragdoll, giving him the old Bret bump into the corner turnbuckle. Akiyama tags in now and gives Aoki a scoop slam for another quick two. Boston crab by Akiyama and Aoki is literally screaming at this point. Back suplex from Akiyama, but again Aoki kicks out. Takayama tags in now and just starts laying in stiff elbows on Aoki in the corner. Missile dropkick from Aoki and he gets the semi-hot tag to Takashi Sugiura, who says “Hello” to both Takayama and Akiyama’s faces with his stiff boot. Don’t fuck with the Sug. Both men start trading boots now, each man hitting one with more speed than the other’s in a game of one-upmanship (is that a word? It is now.) Sugiura wins the battle of the big boots, but Takayama just turns around and charges at Sugiura with a knee-strike so stiff it sounded like his kneecaps were exploding. Akiyama tags in now and gives Sugiura an exploder, but Marufuji breaks up the pin attempt. Aoki’s back in now, seemingly without a tag, and he’s fired up and pissed off about the beating these three guys gave him in the beginning of the match. Akiyama and Aoki start trading foreharms and headbutts. Frog splash off the top rope from Aoki. 1-2–NOO! Akiyama kicks out. Aoki tries a cradle rollup but Akiyama counters by transitioning into a guillotine choke! The Gracies would be proud. Bison tags in and hits a big sitout powerbomb for a two count. Hurricanrana from Aoki and he finally is able to tag out to Marufuji. Bison tries for a chokeslam but Marufuji evades and then hits the Sliced Bread #2! 1-2—NOO! Bison kicks out. Both men climb to the top rope and jockey for position until Bison delivers a top rope belly-to-belly suplex! It’s all chaos now a the tag rules have obviously flown out the window like they always do and everyone begins brawling outside of the ring again. This leaves Bison alone in the ring with Marufuji, and he pins him clean with the Bisontennial (Styles Clash) for the win at 22:08. This was another solid six man tag here as we had several distinct chapters to the overall story; Aoki playing the babyface in peril and then coming back rejuvenated later and kicking ass, you had Sugiura and Takayama trying to one-up eachother, and most importantly you had Bison show he’s still a dominant force in the company despite failing to win the GHC Heavyweight title from Sugiura two weeks ago. Nothing that’s going to blow your mind here or anything, just great action and simple but effective booking. ***½
GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title Match
Kotaro Suzuki (C) vs. Eddie Edwards
Now here’s a match I’ve been anxiously waiting for, Edwards is a household name on the US indy scene thanks to his tag team with Davey Richards and near year-long TV title reign in ROH, while Suzuki just defeated Yoshinobu Kanemaru for the strap back in December. Suzuki is one of the most promising young talents NOAH has had over the last few years so you can expect him to remain a major player in the company in the coming years, which will help because of how desperately the company needs to start building new stars. On to the match though! We start off with your basic feeling out process as usual; wrist, headlocks, and armdrag exchanges. Suzuki get’s kicked to the floor outside and Edwards goes for a tope, but Suzuki slaps him in the face and just suplexes him from the apron all the way to the thinly matted floor! Back inside Suzuki slaps on a bow-and-arrow submission for a bit, grinding his knee into Edwards’ spine. Edwards gets hung up on the ropes and Suzuki tries for the 619, but Edwards rolls out of the way and they begin swapping forearms on the apron. Edwards hits the Die Hard suplex (his finisher) right there on the apron! Suzuki looks like he has the wind knocked out of him from that one. Back inside Edwards can only get a two count however. Edwards tries a snap suplex, but again Suzuki kicks out at two. Suzuki tries for a hurricanrana, but Edwards just grabs his legs and sits down into a brutal Boston crab. Awesome counter there as the ring announcer lets us know that 10 minutes have passed in the contest. Handspring back elbow from Suzuki, but he can’t keep Edwards down and he ends up eating a chinbreaker out of the corner that Suzuki counters with a rear naked choke. Edwards is on top though so he gets a two count before Suzuki realizes what’s happening. Huge back suplex from Suzuki and both men are spent on the mat, as that was just a stunning sequence of counters there. Flying knee off the top gets Suzuki another close two count. Flying elbow from Suzuki and he follows it with the Octopus Stretch submission, but Edwards gets the break quickly. Suzuki tries to suplex Edwards out of the ring, but Edwards suplexes Suzuki back into the ring instead, and then without breaking that same hold, suplexes him over the top and both men tumble to the floor NASTILY. Crowd is really starting to get alive here after that spot, which was just brutal. Edwards moves the guardrail in and then delivers a huge Asai moonsault, sending both men flying into several rows of chairs! These guys are on fire right now, even if that spot was a tad bit contrived. Both men make it back to the ring at the count of 17, and Edwards missile dropkicks Suzuki. Both of these guys are spent, or so it seems because just as I type that Edwards nips up like a young Michael Hickenbottom. Shining Wizard from Edwards! 1-2–NOO! Suzuki kicks out. Fisherman’s buster suplex from Edwards gets another close two count. Both men jockey for position on the top rope, but Suzuki gets knocked off and Edwards delivers a Codebreaker to Suzuki from the top rope! 1-2—NOO! Suzuki kicks out but Edwards rolls him over and goes back to the Boston crab. Suzuki counters out into a cradle for a two count of his own and then both men begin exchanging vicious strikes. Both men simply refuse to give up or show weakness at this point, so they keep hammering away on eachother with harder and harder blows, expelling every last bit of energy they have. Edwards gets knocked to the floor and Suzuki follows him out with a tope suicida, smashing his elbow into Edward’s face in the process! He tries for a tiger driver off the apron, but Edwards counters into a hurricanrana and sends him flying back to the floor! Crowd starts what sounds like an Eddie Edwards chant, but it’s hard to tell. Doublestomp off the top to Suzuki’s back! 1-2–NOO! Suzuki kicks out again! They battle to the top rope again and Edwards delivers a huge Frankensteiner! Powerbomb from Edwards, 1-2–NOOO! AGAIN Suzuki kicks out and the crowd totally bought that fall. Edwards tries for the Die Hard, but Suzuki evades it only to eat a huge lariat-powerbomb combo instead. 1–2–NOO! I’m telling you this place is ELECTRIC, every near fall is being bought into and both guys are running on fumes at this point. Edwards tries for the Die Hard off the top rope now, but Suzuki counters into a body-press for a two count. Edwards just starts throwing out superkick after superkick, but Suzuki keeps coming back. They do a great rollup-counter exchange sequence and the crowd eats it up. Edwards counters a tiger driver into a Death Valley Driver! I’m not going to lie, this has been incredible thus far. Suzuki hits a series of roaring elbows and then attempts and finally suceeds in delivering the Tiger Driver for the win at 29:40. After the match they shake hands in a sign of respect. As an ECW fan might say, “Holy shit”. Those are the only appropriate words for this incredible BATTLE between these two junior heavyweights. These guys did not half-ass it either, they bumped their asses off for nearly half an hour and countered every last move the other man offered to no avail. I know it’s early, but this is my match of 2011 so far. ****¾
After the match Suzuki celebrates his win and does the usual post-match interview as we close out the show and the first NOAH tour of 2011.
Bottom Line: Excellent way to cap off the first tour of 2011 for NOAH, the main event completely exceeded all of my expectations and the rest of the show delivered some good tag team action. Limited filler, two good matches and one incredible one, yeah that’s more than enough to give this show the Thumbs Up.