January 21, 2007


Go Shiosaki . . . tries to take the fight to a former GHC Champion with only one arm.

Mark Briscoe . . . shows that he was crazy long before he grew out his hair and beard.

SUWA . . . bids farewell to NOAH by taking an ass kicking, and hearing the cheers of the crowd.



If not for Aoki and Dakota, the two token fall guys, then this would have been a rather unremarkable opener. Shiga and Yone are too preoccupied with hair comedy to add much to the match other than one good stretch of work. There isn’t much to see from Ishimori and Kanemaru until the match is winding down, other than a quick segment of Kanemaru working over Aoki on the floor. Aoki and Dakota bring a level of intensity during their exchanges with each other, as well as when paired off with a higher ranked member of the opposition, showing that they feel like they have something to prove. It’s too bad that the match couldn’t go all the way with it and let the finish come down to them, which would have created some doubt. All the suplexes in the world won’t make anyone think that Aoki is going over Kanemaru, and Kanemaru makes sure to hammer that point home by blowing off the Northern Lights in order to go straight into the brainbuster.



If Dakota and Aoki weren’t involved in the opener, then this is a good indication of how it would have turned out. There’s no sense of any story, and you never get the idea that they’re trying to build toward something. Nobody stands out as a weak link, even Kikuchi pitches Saito to the floor rather easily. It shows how motivated everyone is when Inoue sells an errant forearm shot from Kawabata better than anyone else sells anything. Everyone involved here has had the spotlight on them in some form or another in the past couple of years, and, matches like this show exactly why none of them became permanent fixtures in major matches.



If Hashi worked this sort match against Akiyama, then it would probably have worked. Not just because of their history together, but also because Akiyama is in much better shape to bump and sell for Hashi to raise his stock, as this match tries to do. It’s not that Taue doesn’t try, but his stoicism and awkward bumping just don’t have the right effect. The Goriman driver should have been a red-hot near fall for Hashi, but with the mediocre bump and the lack of any struggle for Taue to kick out, it wasn’t. It also doesn’t help that Hashi’s second attempt, after wearing down Taue some more, was countered into the small package for the finish. Hashi adds his fair share of smart moments, like his inability to drop Taue with the Mongolian chops, so he switches gears and dives at his legs to take him down, and then goes to a figure four. But, working in this manner isn’t Taue’s forte, so it doesn’t come off as well as it should. The only time that Taue looks comfortable is when he’s returning the favor and dishing out punishment to Hashi, such as the indignant way he throws him to the floor, and how he outsmarts Hashi into going for his diving headbutt, which misses and allows Taue to do the Nodowa. Hashi taking a beating and fighting back is a necessary component of what they’re trying to accomplish, but, it shouldn’t have been the only area where Taue came through in the right way.



It’s easy to see that this isn’t a bad match, but, it’s a rather unremarkable one. Ogawa works largely the same way that he always has, with his ususal offense. There are a couple of sloppy moments from the Brits, like Nigel’s Tower of London to Ogawa looking ugly, and the Double Impact to Taniguchi being exposed when Nigel started falling too early. Williams is the best performer here in a walk, a couple of miscues end up with him taking a European Uppercut and Nigel’s rebound lariat, and he sells them like death. He overdoes thing a bit when he sells having his head bounced off the turnbuckle, but it’s more of an effort than the other three make. Taniguchi takes a couple of hellish bumps, like the tandem Tower of London, and eating Nigel’s European Uppercut and going right into a German suplex from Williams. Taniguchi also shows that he can throw some nice suplex of his own, including giving Williams a Dead Lift German, but after seeing both Hashi and Aoki fall short, the crowd already knows the score.



If nothing else, this match does a nice job of making Sano seem like a threat, seeing as he would be challenging for the GHC Title in a few months. The rolling kick is treated like a lethal strike, and the ref stop finish is unique for the promotion. But, the match itself is rather one-dimensional with how it plays out. Sano spends most of the match working over Sugiura’s midsection, but, doesn’t do much else other than the rolling kick and the diving stomp. I’ve never been of the mind that more moves means high quality, but, this looks more like a video game than it does an actual performance. Considering how nice their early mat exchanges looked, it would have been nice to see Sano take Sugiura back to the mat and try to submit him. Even though there isn’t much size disparity between them, they could have taken advantage of the fact that Sugiura is technically a junior heavyweight, with Sano bumping him around a bit.


Sugiura does a great job of selling, but it’s disappointing that he doesn’t have more to do. His penchant for suplexes would allow for a spot where he was unable to do it, or for him to pull off a bridging suplex and be unable to maintain the bridge. Then again, with the way that they treat the Ankle lock, it might have been just as well. Sugiura going to the hold when Sano misses the diving stomp was probably the smartest moment of the match, but neither of them sees fit to do anything to make it matter. After Sano gets the ropes, Sugiura goes right back to the hold instead of doing something to wear Sano down to make him more susceptible to it, and Sano gets another rope break. Sano ensures that the hold is rendered meaningless by doing two diving stomps off the top, one on the apron and the other to the floor, and then just casually strolls back into the ring so that they can tease Sugiura not beating the count. The effort to build up Sano is nice, although there were more credible members of the roster to feed him, such as Rikio, Honda, Yone, Saito, and Ogawa, all of whom had held the GHC single or tag titles, and had main event experience. But, the way that this winds up being worked only puts over Sano, rather than putting over both of them, with Sano looking that much better for winning.



This is easily the best of the three midcard singles matches. It takes the better qualities of the two previous singles matches and improves upon them. Shiosaki tries to start quickly by jumping Akiyama at the bell, and Jun’s selling is perfect, he makes sure to respect what Go is doing, and he also doesn’t overdo it, which works with Shiosaki not having nearly as much to do as Hashi did against Taue. When Akiyama starts working over Shiosaki’s arm, he shows the variety that Sano was lacking. Jun attacks it with strikes, uses the ropes and guardrail, and even busts out some unconventional (for NOAH) holds like a Fujiwara armbar. For as much as Shiosaki has underwhelmed me, his performance here is very good. It looks all but hopeless for him when Jun starts sharking on the arm, and Shiosaki’s selling only reaffirms that idea. When Shiosaki starts fighting back and manages to take control, he doesn’t forget about the damage that’s been done. He initially tries going back to his chops, which had hurt Akiyama before, but he’s not so lucky this time around. The use of the lariat also seems questionable, until Akiyama gets a block, and then gets clobbered by one with Shiosaki’s good arm, which allows him to take over. Even when he’s throwing Jun with a German suplex, Go shows how much it’s hurting him to do. Go’s near fall from the moonsault comes off great because of this, he hits the move but can’t even muster the strength to hook the leg. Go just lies on him, and Akiyama takes the opening to counter the pin attempt into another armbar.


It’s disappointing, although not surprising, that Akiyama doesn’t win by tap out. But, much like Go showed the perseverance to keep on fighting when Jun went after his arm, he finds it in him to keep trying to fight back when Akiyama is trying to suplex him into oblivion. Everyone, Shiosaki included, knows that he’s finished, but Shiosaki is determined to not make it easy on him. Jun tries to backdrop him into oblivion and then use his lower-end finishers like the running knee. Shiosaki won’t stay down and he forces Jun to go all out with the Exploder ‘98. The Kobashi influence on Shiosaki is clear, especially in the facials and his selling of his arm. Go certainly isn’t ready for a GHC level push, but, it’s nice to see that he’s capable of pulling his weight when he gets a chance. ***1/4



If you like overly flashy spots, and very little else of any substance, then you’ll want to check this out. Suzuki and Marvin both fly a bunch, the Briscoes throw a ton of suplexes, and Mark shows just how out-of-his mind he was back then by doing both a cross-corner quebrada and SSP. Their timing when pulling off the more elaborate sequences is impeccable, like Marvin’s springboard rana to prevent the springboard Doomsday Device, but, that only serves to further expose the cooperation. The Briscoes work over Suzuki for a spell and build up to a tag to Marvin, but, there isn’t anything done to make Suzuki seem all that sympathetic, and in danger of losing. Considering how long Suzuki had been the whipping boy of the promotion, that’s an even bigger failing on his part than it is on the Briscoes. I’ve never been especially high on Kanemaru, but, he and Sugiura probably could have generated some good heat on Suzuki. The one really cool part of the match was when Marvin broke up a pin attempt and Jay shoved him, which caused Marvin to fall through the ropes and go tumbling to the floor. It was the only part of the match that felt like it had legitimate intensity to it. At its core, this is just a spotfest without any story or engrossing work, and a title change that goes longer than twenty-five minutes should have a lot more to it.



Overall, this was a fine way for SUWA to bid farewell to NOAH. It’s a fun enough trios match, with KENTA and SUWA looking to pick up where they left off in 2005, Marufuji and Suzuki showing that no concession will be made to their former partnership, and Takayama and Rikio showing that they’re the heavy hitters of the match. The heel team works over KENTA for a bit, and when KENTA tags in Rikio, they get some revenge on SUWA. It shows how much SUWA really has ingratiated himself to the NOAH fans over the last two years, with the way they rally behind him when he’s getting worked over. SUWA tags out and it looks like Suzuki is going to finish off KENTA, but then SUWA decides that his NOAH swan song should be all about him. He lays out both of his partners, and then starts laying waste to the opposition, including Marufuji taking a scary looking bump off the Jon Woo. But, before he can give KENTA the FFF and win the match, everyone comes back for revenge and SUWA takes everyone’s finishers, culminating in the G2S, and SUWA getting pinned by his most famous rival. There were probably better matches that he could have gone out with, such as a singles versus Kikuchi, or reuniting with Kanemaru and Sugiura for one last junior trios match, but, SUWA’s stealing the spotlight and having it backfire on him was a nice way to go out on his back.



If there was ever a sign that Misawa needed to slow down and lay off the big bumps, then this is it. Morishima powerbombs Misawa on the floor in the first minute, and Misawa is clearly hurt. Morishima gets him in the ring and keeps the match going, without dropping him on his head. Misawa eventually gets his wits about him enough to fight back, but, the damage has already been done. Every time Misawa takes a bump, he wiggles his neck, to make sure it’s not broken. Any sense of structure or build goes right out the window, and, any good ideas or nice moments are negated immediately afterwards. The biggest example is Misawa’s Emerald Frozion on the ramp, he adjusts it so that Morishima takes a back bump, and the initial aftermath is nice. Morishima sells the bump and nearly gets counted out, and then rolls into the ring for a decent near fall. But, then Morishima jumps to his feet and wins the next strike exchange and takes over the match. A bit later on, Misawa throws an elbow and Morishima throws a lariat, resulting in a stalemate, which works on the level of their best strikes cancelling each other out. But, then Misawa catches Morishima with a surprise elbow and he goes down. Instead of selling the elbow and Misawa taking over by outsmarting his younger challenger, Morishima just leaps to his feet to lariat Misawa and keep the match feeling equal. That’s actually the one recurring theme to the match, Misawa will rattle off something nice, and Morishima kills it by making a big comeback right afterwards.


And who’s to say that either of them learned anything from the near incident that opened up the match? Morishima still suplexes the holy hell out of Misawa. He throws him with Germans, Uranages, and several backdrops. The finishing sequence, featuring what was either a Tiger driver ‘91 or a badly blown regular Tiger driver, should have been another sign that Misawa shouldn’t be bumping like this anymore. It was either a receipt for any, or all, of the unnecessary suplexes that Morishima did, or the second near-tragedy of the match because Misawa couldn’t get Morishima up all the way. Morishima kicks out of the pin attempt and eats a single elbow that keeps him down for good. There is virtually nothing good that comes from watching this match. It’s either frustration over the lack of structure and watching them kill off any momentum that they build, or sadness from watching Misawa continue to work this style, knowing that it would ultimately end his career and his life.


Conclusion: Another unimpressive showing from inside the green ring. There’s just no reason for Shiosaki to be one of the standout workers on the card.