Written by: Colin Rinehart
NOAH Winter Navigation 12/5/10 (Joe Higuchi Memorial Show)
December 5th, 2010
Nippon Budokan, Tokyo, Japan
I promised I’d review more puro, so here we are. This is the final big show of 2010 for NOAH, in part a memorial to the late Joe Higuchi. Some big matches on this card with longtime rivals KENTA and Naomichi Marufuji meeting up, Takashi Sugiura defending the GHC Heavyweight title against Takeshi Morishima, Yoshihiro Takayama and Takuma Sano defending the GHC Tag titles against the visiting Kings of Wrestling (Chris Hero, Claudio Castagnoli) from ROH, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru defending the GHC Jr. title against Kotaro Suzuki.
The show starts off with a 10 bell salute for the late Joe Higuchi, former wrestler and one of the great referees of Japanese wrestling who passed away due to lung cancer on November 8th, 2010 at the age of 81.
Akira Taue/Kentaro Shiga vs. Taiji Ishimori/Shuhei Taniguchi
Great, it’s old-man Taue time. Taue used to be brilliant in the 90s as one half of the famous Holy Demon Army tag team with Toshiaki Kawada, but he really should have retired at this point because he’s completely broken down in the ring. Ishimori and Shiga start us off with some fast-paced stuff, Taiji faking a tope. Taniguchi tags in and takes Shiga down with a headscissors for a bit. Taue tags in and they trade wristlocks. Taue grabs Taniguchi’s nuts (no, not making this up) and he breaks the wristlock. Next he twists Taniguchi’s nipple. Well that’s just downright rude Akira. Shiga tags back in and lays some weak headbutts in. They trade chops and forearms and the crowd is pretty quiet here, even for a Japanese crowd. Ishimori tags back in and hits a standing moonsault for a two count. Handspring back kick from Ishimori gets another two. Hip-toss from Shiga and he tags Taue back in. Taiji tries to fight him off with dropkicks and tags Taniguchi back in. Yakuza kick to the corner for Taue followed by a snap suplex for two. Taniguchi tries a German put gets DDTed and Taue tags Shiga back in. They trade waistlocks and counters and Taniguchi hits a suplex which Ishimori follows up with a senton. Rollup gets Shiga two while Taue and Ishimori fight outside the ring, the universal sign that a tag match is about to end in Japan. Taniguchi finishes Shiga in the ring with almost an Everest German suplex at 7:32. Okay match, but really just your typical filler to open the show. *¾
Atsushi Aoki vs. Delirious
This should be interesting as you don’t often see Delirious in NOAH anymore. Aoki bails and lets Delirious babble a bit before the match. Back inside we start out with an exchange of headscissor and waist take downs. Cradle from Delirious for a very close two. They exchange wild screams for a bit in amusing fashion and Delirious takes the upper hand with clubbing forearms and a chokehold. Big neckbreaker gets a two count for Delirious. They exchange forearms and Aoki slaps on a wristlock. Northern lights suplex gets two for Aoki and he goes back to working on the arm of Delirious. Delirious comes back with another neckbreaker and a roaring elbow, followed by a big lariat for two. Delirious delivers a big sleeper-hold suplex for two! Things are picking up now. Rollup gets Aoki two but he ends up eating a running knee in the corner. Delirious comes off the top with a big splash to Aoki’s back, but only for a two count. Big German gets Aoki his own near fall, and the crowd is starting to get into it now. Huge frog splash from Aoki gets another two and he tries an armbar, but Delirous counters into a pin for two. Big brainbuster gets Aoki another two! Aoki finishes with a modified T-Bone suplex at 10:18! Bit slow in the start but it picked up well towards the end and had a nice finishing stretch. **¾
Kensuke Sasaki/Katsuhiko Nakajima/Kento Miyahara vs. Akitoshi Saito/Masao Inoue/Ricky Marvin
It’s not a Budokan card without a pointless six-man tag! Nakajima, Sasaki, and Marvin are kind of being wasted in this match. Nakajima and Inoue start us off and we get a quick “Masao!” chant. Feeling out process to start with lock-ups and exchanges of headlocks and shoulder-blocks. They do the criss-cross spot and lockup again, Inoue slapping on another headlock. They do a really funny spot where Nakajima keeps sending Inoue into the ropes and making him jump over him on the mat, again and again wearing Inoue out. Miyahara even jumps in and helps out, which the crowd loves. Sasaki tags in while Inoue catches his breath. Sasaki lays a few of his stiff chops in and challenges Inoue to a chop-off. Inoue looks to tag but Saito and Marvin just walk away, wanting no part of Sasaki’s famous chops. Inoue lays a few chops in to absolutely no effect and Sasaki just wipes him out with a single chop and a suplex for two. All three men choke Inoue in their corner with the boots for a bit and Nakajima tags back in and lays some big kicks into Inoue in the corner. He hits a modified Russian leg sweep for only two on Inoue. Miyahara tags in now and gets a big dropkick for two. They continue to triple-team Inoue for a bit, exchanging frequent tags. Inoue hits a shoulderblock off the second rope and finally gets the tag to Saito who hits a really weak scissors-kick and a big slam for two. Saito hits a big German suplex on Nakajima and follows it with a lariat for two. Frankensteiner and a superkick take Saito down and Miyahara tags back in. Big dropkick to Saito’s head gets two. Marvin tags in now and things speed up as he and Miyahara trade rapid-fire kicks and strikes on eachother. Powerbomb gets Marvin two. They trade dropkicks and Miyahara almost takes Marvin’s head off with a pair of superkicks. Inoue and Sasaki tag in now and Inoue hits a few weak lariats and a Russian leg sweep, warming his arm up like a windmill for a not-so-big lariat, which he hits, but only for one. Match breaks down from here with all six men fighting in and out of the ring, and Sasaki finishes Inoue off with a big Northern Lights Bomb for the win at 13:19. Pretty good six-man here actually as they threw a bit of comedy in to lighten the mood and what’s usually a filler match managed to be entertaining in it’s own right. **¾
Go Shiozaki/Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Genba Hirayanagi/Mohammed Yone
Oh god I hate Yone, he’s like a modern Gedo with a bad dreadlock/ponytail combo. Shiozaki and Ogawa hit the ring immediately and the match is off. Shiozai tries fighting off both Hirayanagi and Yone to no avail. Yone hits a bit running clothesline on Shiozaki on the ramp and Hirayanagi does the same. Ogawa is just standing in the corner, doing nothing while Yone and Hirayanagi double-team Shiozaki in the ring right infront of the referee. The domination on Shiozaki continues in the ring as he continues to be isolated by the opposing team. Wow Ogawa is just useless here, he’s not even attempting to help Shiozaki as Yone and Hirayanagi basically just doubleteam and do whatever they wantat will, working on Shiozaki’s already injured shoulder. Finally Shiozaki gets a brainbuster and tags Ogawa in. This ref is totally useless, not even attempting to stop the constant double-teaming and interference. After awhile Shiozaki just starts getting pissed and uncharacteristically shoves the referee out of the way, getting DQed at 8:16. Well that’s odd, you’ll hardly ever see Shiozaki get DQed, but you can totally understand his frustration. Really a dull match that hopefully has a point further down the line with Shiozaki. *
Naomichi Marufuji vs. KENTA
This is Marufuji’s return match after taking a few months off for nagging injuries, and of course they match him up with longtime rival KENTA. These guys have had some legendary matches over the years including two matches I’d easily rate at five stars. They had a very good match last July as well, but hopefully this will live up to the high standards a match between these two instills in the viewer. Rapid-fire kicks and strikes to start off with both men, each evading the other and staring off to a round of applause. KENTA immediately goes after Marufuji’s shoulder, slamming it into the steel post twice. Back inside KENTA locks on a version of a triangle choke with his legs for a bit. KENTA tosses Marufuji outside and tries for a suplex but Marufuji counters with a brainbuster onto the apron! Running knee and KENTA brings Marufuji in with the elevated DDT from the second rope, Randy Orton-style. They trade waistlocks and suplex attempts but KENTA catches Marufuji with a back elbow and is back in control. KENTA lays some big forearms and rapid-fire kicks into Marufuji in the corner, which the ref eventually breaks up with his own leg. Brave ref. Marufuji evades a suplexout of the ring and comes off the top, but KENTA goes for a kick which Marufuji catches and delivers a big dragon-screw legwhip! Crowd really liked that. KENTA hits a pair of stiff DDTs, planting Marufuji into the mat and then comes off the top with a diving knee to the back for a two count. Springboard dropkick from KENTA followed by a big Yakuza kick and a lariat that just takes Marufuji’s HEAD off! 1-2–NOO! He kicks out. KENTA rolls out of the ring and Marufuji meets him with a slingshot body-press. Marufuji pulls back the steel guard rail and then delivers a HUGE Asai moonsault off the top, over the steel barricade, taking KENTA out in the first row! Huge air from Marufuji there and the crowd loves it. KENTA stumbles back into the ring, but Marufuji springboards in from the opposite end of the ring with the coast-to-coast dropkick! That certainly lookedpainful. Powerbomb-rollup combo gets Marufuji a two. He hits the Sliced Bread #2 out of nowhere but again, only for two. Marufuji tries a superkick but KENTA grapevines his leg around Marufuji’s and takes him to the ground, applying an STF! Marufuji goes for another Sliced Bread but gets hung up in the tree of woe instead, eating a huge hesitation dropkick in the process. KENTA follows it up with a TIGER SUPLEX off the top rope, but Marufuji no-sells it. WHAT THE FUCK MAN? This is why Marufuji is so overrated, there are times when no-selling can be acceptable and even logical, but that was not one of them. Frankensteiner and a superkick from Marufuji for two. HUGE superkick gets Marufuji another very close two count and both men look wiped out from the pace they’ve been wrestling for nearly 20 minutes now. He tries for backbreaker but KENTA throws him up on his shoulders, going for the Go 2 Sleep, only for Marufuji to wriggle out of it and try for a suplex of his own. KENTA counters with a painful abdominal stretch, almost wrapping his entire body around Naomichi. HUGE double-stomp off the top from KENTA to Marufuji’s back! Tiger suplex! 1-2—NOO! Somehow Marufuji kicks out. KENTA gets a big running leg lariat, but again only for two as Marufuji refuses to quit here. Stiff kicks from KENTA, but Marufuji simply rises to his feet, practically begging KENTA to give him everything he’s got, which KENTA gladly obliges. Huge kick and KENTA finishes with the Go 2 Sleep at 19:09. Typically excellent match from two guys who know each other so well in the ring they could write books about it. Marufuji kept coming back from KENTA’s offense, showing alot of heart before KENTA eventually put him away with the Go 2 Sleep. My only criticism was a moment of no-selling from Marufuji, but I’ve come to expect that from him at this point so it didn’t detract very much from the match. Just another great match in a book of great matches between these two over the years. ****
#1 Contendership for the GHC Heavyweight Title Match
Bison Smith vs. Yutaka Yoshie
Winner gets a title shot on January 15th. Oh lord, this does not look good. Bison Smith is a tag team specialist while Yoshie is a comedy wrestler, roughly resembling a large pink puff of cream with his spandex attire. They do the usual big fat guy stuff to begin here with big forearms and displays of power. Bison reverses a suplex from Yoshie and follows it with a shoulderblock. They brawl outside for a bit, taking turns tossing eachother into the steel guardrail. Back inside Bison tries to slam him but he’s too big and collapses under the weight. Bison gets knocked off the top rope and crashes all the way to the outside. Yoshie teases doing a tope but we know that’s not happening. Back inside Yoshie grabs a leg and arm and weakly wrenches away before settling on an awkward half Boston crab. Yoshie follows it up with a big spinebuster and a splash for a two count. Yoshie comes off the top with a lariat of sorts, but doesn’t go for a cover. Bison blocks a superplex attempt and slams Yoshie’s head to the mat all the way from the top, and both men are laid out. Bison slams Yoshie, and then hits a big lariat. Really slow match here if you can’t tell. Yoshie reverses a power-bomb attempt and then butt-splashes Bison. He delivers the devastating ASS-SLAM OF DOOM in the corner, but Bison grabs him and power bombs him off the top for a two count. Big lariat gets Bison the win at 13:18. Wow, why are these two guys wrestling in a number one contendership match? Atleast the right guy went over as Bison can probably play the big American brawler against the babyface for a decent match down the road. Slow and plodding match though. *½
GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title Match
Yoshinobu Kanemaru (C) vs. Kotaro Suzuki
These two are former tag team partners and were practically unstoppable together, but this is all about Yoshinobu’s GHC Jr. title tonight. Kanemaru is in his 5th title reign and has been holding the belt for over a year at this point. Feeling out process to start us off as they trade suplexes and cradles for nearfalls. Kanemaru takes the upper hand quickly, applying a camel clutch. Kanemaru tosses Suzuki out of the ring and hits a big legdrop while Suzuki is draped over the guardrail. Back inside Kanemaru lays in some forearms and shrugs off a dropkick from Suzuki. Suzuki tries a handspring back elbow but Kanemaru simply grabs him and slams him. They go to the ramp and Kanemaru DDT’s Suzuki off the ramp onto the floor! Back inside Kanemaru only gets two. They exchange forearms and then Suzuki hits a BIG Saito suplex on Kanemaru. Diving knee from the top gets a two for Suzuki. Both men try for an abdominal stretch and then exchange pinfall attempts. Big suplex on Kanemaru gets another two. Kanemaru hits a flying body press off the top for a two count and follows it up with a moonsault, which he rolls through and lands outside of the ring. Suzuki flies out after him with a big tope and both men are almost counted out. Back inside a German suplex gets Suzuki a two. Suzuki tries for a powerbomb but ends up delivering a tombstone instead. 1-2—NOO! Kanemaru kicks out. Big jawbreaker-rollup combo gets him another two and Suzuki is seemingly in control until Kanemaru counters into a reverse piledriver! Both men are out now. Kanemaru delivers a big superplex next and follows it with a lariat and then a brainbuster! 1-2–NOO! Suzuki tries to tombstone Kanemaru but hits a jawbreaker instead for two. They do a neat pinfall rollup counter sequence and the crowd really buys into the last near fall. Suzuki nails Kanemaru but he just gets right back up, so Suzuki gives him a big-time Tiger Driver for the 3 count and the title at 14:49. Another impressive Kanemaru GHC Jr. Heavyweight title reign has ended, and who better than by the hand of his own tag partner? These two pretty much just skipped right to the good stuff and bumped around like little maniacs for 15 minutes. ***¼
GHC Tag Team Title Match
Yoshihiro Takayama/Takuma Sano (C) vs. Chris Hero/Claudio Castagnoli
The Kings of Wrestling in Japan makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. This should be good, Hero and Takayama work well together. Hero and Claudio attack immediately to start and they hit the big swing-dropkick combo for a quick two count. Claudio tosses Takayama outside and then flies out after him with a tope. The Kings try use some of their double team moves on Sano but Takayama keeps coming in to break it up. Hero applies a half Boston crab to Sano and then turns it into an STF, telling the referee to ask if Sano submits. Claudio tags in and hits a big fallaway slam for two. Takayama is limping outside the ring, apparently still hurting from that tope Claudio gave him. Claudio springboards off the second rope with a twisting flying forearm! God damn that was cool for a man of his size! 1-2–NOO! Sano kicks out. Claudio tries to suplex Sano on the ramp but settles for a European uppercut. Out of nowhere Hero runs over and flies out of the ring with a huge no-hands moonsault right over the turnbuckle and onto the floor, taking out both Sano and Takayama in a pile of bodies! DAMN Mr. Hero, do you have a death wish, taking suicide dives like that? Back inside Claudio gets a two count and locks on a half Boston crab for a bit. Hero and Claudio trade frequent tags, isolating Sano in their corner and shouting “New champions!” at the crowd. Hero and Sano trade spinkicks and finally Takayama tags in. He takes care of both Kings easily, tossing them around with suplexes and knee strikes for several near falls. Hero hits the roaring elbow and than a roaring high kick! Holy shit! Claudio tags in and boots Takayama in the face, following it with a big slam for a two count. They trade big boots but Claudio hits a lariat for a two count. He sets Takayama up in the corner and delivers a superplex, which Hero follows up with a moonsault! 1-2—NOO!! Sano breaks the pin up. The match breaks down here as all four men are in the ring now, exchanging blows. Claudio hits the Ricola Bomb, but again Sano breaks the pin up! Hero and Sano battle outside while Claudio lays in forearms on Takayama, who just eats them. He tries a springboard but Takayama just knees him with his gigantic tree trunk leg and Claudio is out. Shining wizard gets Takayama a two count. Takayama delivers a big full nelson suplex to Claudio, but again Claudio kicks out! Finally Takayama hits the big Everest German suplex V2 for the win at 14:22. After the match Hero and Takayama end up hugging in a sign of respect and sportmanship. This was excellent, Hero and Claudio were on fire here, jumping around like men half their size and bumping their asses off. Takayama looked frail but the Kings saved this and turned it into a hell of an exciting match. ***¾
GHC Heavyweight Title Match
Takashi Sugiura (C) vs. Takeshi Morishima
Sugiura won the title roughly a year ago at this point, and Morishima certainly has to be seen as one of his biggest challenges yet. Morishima looks damn good, he’s lost a TON of weight. They trade forearms to start us off with each man trying to one-up the other with stiffer and stfffer blows. Morishima gets tossed into the guardrail and then eats a big boot on the outside. They trade forearms on the ramp and Sugiura eats a lariat. Morishima attempts a Saito suplex on the ramp but Sugiura counters out of it only to be met with a big sidewalk-slam. Ouch. Sugiura tries to get back in the ring but Morishima just knocks him back off the apron. Back inside Morishima hits a missile dropkick off the top rope! Yes, I did infact just type that. I’m loving the new lean & mean Takeshi Morishima man! Sugiura hits a big suplex on Morishima and follows it up with a Yakuza kick, but Morishima comes right back with strikes. Another dropkick sends Sugiura outside and Morishima flies out after him with a tope! Morishima isn’t done though and he lifts up the padding on the concrete floor and tries for a powerbomb, but Sugiura reverses with a Frankensteiner on concrete! That was pretty sick. Sugiura suplexes Morishima from the inside of the ring to the out on the floor. Sugiura appears to have hurt his neck in the process. Back inside the ring Sugiuragets a German suplex-Shining Wizard combo, but only for a two count. Sugiura hits another German and tries for a full nelson but Morishima counters it into a full-nelson suplex of his own! Sugiura tries for a frankensteiner spot off the top rope but ends up just falling neck-first backwards on the mat! My god that did not look good, and the ref checks on him to make sure he’s okay. Morishima comes off the top with a body splash for a close two count. He tries a lariat, but again only for two. Brainbuster from Sugiura out of nowhere and now both men are laid out. They trade German suplexes and then Morishima almost takes Sugiura’s head off with a lariat! Morishima hits another pair of lariats and then a big back suplex, but Sugiura kicks out. Morishima goes for a MOONSAULT but Sugiura moves out of the way just in time! Sugiura suplexes him into the corner and then starts laying in shots. He hits a full-nelson suplex but again only for two. Next Sugiura tries a backslam, but Morishima just gets right up and lariats Sugiura out of his boots. HUGE German suplex from Morishima! 1-2–NOO! Sugiura kicks out, the crowd is REALLY into this match, and these guys are just clicking. Sugiura slaps the shit out of Morishima and then delivers a STIFF knee. Sugiura is in total control here and he delivers a variation of the burning hammer to retain at 22:12! This was a fantastic title match here as a slim Morishima came in and delivered high-flying moves you’d never imagine seeing him use previously. Match Takeshi bumping around like a madman with Sugiura doing his never-say-die pitbull routine and you’ve got yourself a unique and extremely entertaining match. ****¼
After the match Sugiura celebrates with his title and is interviewed in the ring, where he pays homage to the late Joe Higuchi. We get a final closing shot on the huge banner of Higuchi’s face as the live show goes off the air.
Like most NOAH cards it starts slow, picks up, and then never looks back. KENTA and Naomichi Marufuji have their 9000th **** match, the Kings of Wrestling have an exhilerating tag title match with Yoshihiro Takayama and Takuma Sano, we’ve got a big title change in a good match between Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Kotaro Suzuki, and to top it all off a possible match of the year candidate in the main event with Takeshi Morishima practically looking like Rey Mysterio out there. Great show and an easy Thumbs Up.