Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Old Wrestlers Are Good Wrestlers: Kenta Kobashi, Genichiro Tenryu, Akira Taue, Jun Akiyama, Kensuke Sasaki (Pro Wrestling NOAH 2005)

Hey yo Stud Muffins and Foxy Ladies,

Hope everyone had a bitchin Independence Day! What a heavyweight slugfest between Federer and Djokovic on Centre Court at Wimbledon! It was high drama in the fourth set with Federer winning five straight games to come back from a 5-2 deficit to take the set. He just didn't have enough gas in the tank. As much I have grown to enjoy Nadal's violent and brutal style of play, the grace of Federer is something hard to be taken by. I was really pulling for him and this match was the most I have myself vested in a tennis match in quite some time.

Towel Me

Pro wrestling is a tricky thing. A lot of non-fans would probably point to the fact well theoretically anybody could be champion. Yes, Vince Russo and David Arquette are among the WCW World Champions. That does not necessarily mean the fans will buy them as champions. WCW went out of business less than year after Arquette's title victory. It is a gross oversimplification to say that is what caused the car to be driven over the cliff, but the point is the fans did not buy into what WCW was selling. Yes, technically anyone can be champion, but that does not mean everyone should be champion.

In legitimate sports like tennis, much to chagrin of Federer fans, a younger generation will rise naturally to successfully challenge the older guard and eventually defeat them. Yes, there will be pretenders and one slam wonders, but the reals heirs will make themselves apparent through consistent play like Nadal and Djokovic. The fans will most likely accept them because they perform well based on the metrics of the sport, unless they are ardent Federer fans, in which case they are not really fans of the sport insofar as they are just fans of Federer.

Wrestling is such a different beast. Disregarding the extreme examples above, the acceptance of an anointed one has become increasingly harder. Perhaps wrestling as an entertainment medium for the blue collar masses should be dictated by the populism, but recently there has been a top down approach. This has been met with the mixed reactions that have plagued (or spun as boon) John Cena. Cena has survived and thrived in the face of this, but one man who flamed out was Takeshi Rikio.

This blog piece is devoted to what are generally considered the five best matches Pro Wrestling NOAH produced in 2005. Takeshi Rikio was the GHC Champion for the majority of 2005. He did not compete in any of the following matches. That is a problem, a big problem. Fans especially nowadays often clamor for new blood. Promoters, for the most part, realize the need for new blood in order to sustain their promotion. Even though, both sides want the same thing sometimes, it just does not work out. There are a myriad of reasons for it. Kenta Kobashi had a terrific 2 year plus reign that featured NOAH's first Dome show (50k+) and classic match after classic match. As a fan, I am loving the quality. As a promoter, I am seeing yen signs. It is the best of both worlds. Kobashi is not going to last forever. His knees are toast. You push a promising young talent to win the title and boom everything should continue.

Poor Kid Never Stood A Chance
It does not because a wrestler is like an authority figure. He or she needs to have a cache with the fans and seen as credible. Though are qualitative words that in terms of wrestling are usually measured by dollars and ratings. However, sometimes, I will be watching something and it just feels important. I will use words like "hot", "heated" and "exciting" to describe. I cant quantify it, but it is just hot. Like the Kobashi/Tenryu interactions in the tag bouts of 2005. They had a sense of urgency and chippiness to them. It was heated and important to me. I see that both bouts drew to the Budokan around 16k, which is about a sell out. Sometimes though that heat does not translate into dollars because of poor promoting. Even though you have Rikio defeat Kobashi and Misawa at the Budokan, it does not necessarily mean you have legitimized him in the fan's eyes because this is not sports. That's what is tricky about wrestling. As a promoter, if I have win against my new biggest stars, then obviously he is now a star. It is logical. Human emotions are not.

Quickly to discuss the matches that actually did make the blog: two could from the 2005 Dome show and they are the double main events for the show that drew 52k+. I would say they are more important than they are great. The first was a dream match as Kobashi faced Kensuke Sasaki in a match famous for its 5 minute chop war. It is definitely something worth watching as Sasaki is good at working the NOAH style. Then Misawa/Kawada have their last major match. It feels like a "Best of" or nostalgia match, but if you are someone who loves Misawa/Kawada like me it is a great match to watch because it just makes you feel good to see them do their thing one last time. The rest of 2005 was dominated by tag matches. Kobashi and Sasaki continued their feud with each taking their junior as their partner and they put on a awesome action-packed affair. Genichiro Tenryu continued his quest to work for every major promotion ever as he entered NOAH. His interactions with Kobashi were fantastic. The first match saw Kobashi get so infuriated with him that he chopped him so hard Tenryu started bleeding. I am not talking a trickle, but it was a murder scene. Kobashi's junior partner was Go Shiozaki, a plucky young gun, that ate the pin. Seeking revenge on Tenryu, Kobashi upgraded his partner to a fellow Four Corner of Heaven: Akira Taue. What followed was one of the best matches of the decade. As Kobashi, Tenryu, Taue and Akiyama just ripped it up in the ring with everything building to an exciting, satisfying climax. It felt like a real throwback to the classic 90s All Japan tag style, but shorter without feeling compressed. I came in only knowing about Dome matches and come out being very pleasantly surprised at how awesome the tag matches were in 2005 NOAH.


1. Mitsuharu Misawa vs Jun Akiyama - Budokan 02/27/00
2. GHC Heavyweight Champion Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kenta Kobashi - Budokan 03/01/03
3. GHC Heavyweight Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Yoshihiro Takayama - Budokan 04/25/04
4. All Japan Triple Crown Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Yoshihiro Takayama - All Japan 05/26/00

5. All Japan Triple Crown Champion Genichiro Tenryu vs Keiji Mutoh - Budokan 6/8/01
6. Toshiaki Kawada & Masa Fuchi vs Yuji Nagata & Takashi Iizuka - NJ PPV 12/14/00
7. Kenta Kobashi & Akira Taue vs Genichiro Tenryu & Jun Akiyama - Budokan 9/18/05
8. GHC Heavyweight Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama - Tokyo Dome 07/10/04

9. GHC Heavyweight Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Yoshinari Ogawa – Budokan 11/01/03
10. Kenta Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama - Budokan 12/23/00

11. IWGP Jr Hvywt Tag Champs Ohtani & Takaiwa vs Kanemoto & Minoru - NJPW  6/25/00
12. IWGP Champion Kensuke Sasaki vs Toshiaki Kawada - 10/00 Tokyo Dome Non-Title
13. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Yuji Nagata vs Togi Makabe - NJPW 07/06/07
14. Keiji Mutoh vs Toshiaki Kawada - Champions Carnival 04/01
15. GHC Heavyweight Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Akira Taue - NOAH 09/10/04
16. Toshiaki Kawada vs Naoya Ogawa - Zero-One 12/14/03
17. Kenta Kobashi & Go Shiozaki vs Kensuke Sasaki/Katsuhiko Nakajima - NOAH 11/5/05
18. IWGP Jr Heavyweight Champion Minoru Tanaka vs Takehiro Murahama - NJPW 4/20/01
19. Shinya Hashimoto & Takashi Iizuka vs Naoya Ogawa & Kazunari Murkami - Tokyo Dome 01/04/00
20. GHC Heavyweight Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Tamon Honda - NOAH 04/13/03
21. Kenta Kobashi & Go Shiozaki vs Jun Akiyama & Genichiro Tenryu - Budokan 4/24/2005
22. Genichiro Tenryu & Masa Fuchi vs Toshiaki Kawada & Nobutaka Araya - AJPW 6/30/01

23. Kenta Kobashi vs Takao Omori - Champions Carnival Final '00
24. Akira Taue vs Yuji Nagata - NOAH 6/6/03
25. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shinsuke Nakamura - NJPW 12/10/06
26. AJPW Triple Crown Champion Toshiaki Kawada vs Shinya Hashimoto - AJPW 02/22/04
27. GHC Tag Team Champions Sterness (Akiyama & Saito) vs Burning (Kobashi & Honda) - Budokan 6/6/03
28. GHC Champion Mitsuharu Misawa vs Jun Akiyama - Budokan 07/27/01
29. Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada - Tokyo Dome 7/18/05 
30. GHC Heavyweight Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Yuji Nagata - Budokan 9/12/03
31. New Japan (Liger & Minoru ) vs. NOAH (Kikuchi & Kanemaru) - NOAH 4/7/02
32. GHC Tag Champions Akiyama & Saito vs Kobashi & Shiga - NOAH 10/19/02
33. Toshiaki Kawada & Genichiro Tenryu vs Stan Hansen & Taiyo Kea - Budokan 07/23/00
34. IWGP Heavyweight Champion Genichiro Tenryu vs Kensuke Sasaki - 01/04/00
35. Genichiro Tenryu vs Toshiaki Kawada - Vacant All Japan Triple Crown 10/28/00
36. Kiyoshi Tamura vs. Hiroyuki Ito - U-Style 08/18/04
37. Yuji Nagata vs Koji Kanemoto - NJPW G-1 Climax 08/12/06
38. GHC Heavyweight Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Minoru Suzuki - Budokan 01/08/05
39. Yoshihiro Takayama vs Kensuke Sasaki - G-1 Climax '04
40. Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada - Champions Carnival '00
41. Kenta Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama - NOAH #2 08/06/00

42. Genichiro Tenryu vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan - Vacant IWGP Championship 02/15/04
43. GHC Champion Yoshihiro Takayama vs Mitsuharu Misawa - Budokan 09/23/02
44. Mitsuharu Misawa vs Yoshihiro Takayama - Vacant GHC Title 04/15/01
45. Genichiro Tenryu vs Satoshi Kojima - AJPW 07/07/02
46. Kenta Kobashi vs Kensuke Sasaki - Tokyo Dome 7/18/05
47. Yuji Nagata vs Giant Bernard - New Japan Cup Finals 04/30/06
48. U-30 Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Kazuyuki Fujita - Vacant IWGP Championship 6/5/04
49. IWGP Champion Yuji Nagata vs. Yoshihiro Takayama - Tokyo Dome 05/02
50. Kiyoshi Tamura vs Tsuyoshi Kohsaka - U-Style 02/04/04
51. All Japan Triple Crown Champion Vader vs Kenta Kobashi - Budokan 2/27/00
52. All Japan Triple Crown Champ  Toshiaki Kawada vs Katsuyori Shibata - NJPW 11/03/04 Non-Title
53. IWGP Jr Tag Champions Kanemoto & Minoru vs Liger & Makabe - NJPW 9/12/00

54. Keiji Mutoh vs Yuji Nagata - Sumo Hall 08/12/01 G-1 Climax Final
55. Jun Akiyama vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan - G-1 Climax Finals 08/17/03
56. Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kenta Kobashi - Champions Carnival '00
57. Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama & Yuji Nagata - Budokan 02/17/02
58. Mitsuharu Misawa & Akira Taue vs Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama - NOAH #1 08/05/00
59. New Japan (Liger & Inoue) vs NOAH (Kikuchi & Kanemaru) - NOAH 2/17/02
60. IWGP Jr Hvywt Tag Champs Liger & Minoru vs. Kikuchi & Kanemaru - NJPW 8/29/02
61. Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Giant Bernard - NJPW 06/18/06 Vacant IWGP Championship
62. Sterness  vs. Burning 8-Man Tag - NOAH 08/03
63. Toshiaki Kawada vs Kenta Kobashi - AJPW 01/17/00
64. Genichiro Tenryu vs Satoshi Kojima - AJPW 02/24/02

65. Yoshihiro Takayma vs Osamu Nishimura - G-1 Climax Semifinals
66. Yoshihiro Takayama vs Kensuke Sasaki - G-1 Climax Round Robin
67. SUWA vs Dragon Kid - Toryumon 08/24/00 Hair Vs Mask
68. GHC Tag Champs Misawa & Ogawa vs Saito & Inoue - NOAH 9/10/04
69. NWA World Heavyweight Champion Shinya Hashimoto vs Masato Tanaka - Zero-One 3/02/02
70. Keiji Mutoh & Hiroshi Hase vs Jun Akiyama & Yuji Nagata - Tokyo Dome 10/08/01
71. NJPW(Liger, Minoru , Makabe) vs Osaka Pro(Delfin, Murhama, Tsubasa)-NJPW 12/14/00
72. Toshiaki Kawada vs Vader - AJPW 2/17/00
73. Shinya Hashimoto & Yuji Nagata vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama - Zero-One 3/2/01
74. U-30 Champion Hiroshi Tanahashi vs Shinsuke Nakamura - Tokyo Dome 01/04/05

75. Toshiaki Kawada vs Satoshi Kojima - AJPW 06/06/01
76.  Naoki Sano vs Minoru Tanaka - Battlarts 01/30/2000
77. Dick Togo vs Tiger Mask IV - M-Pro 08/25/02

78. GHC Tag Team Champions Wild II vs Jun Akiyama & Akitoshi Saito - Budokan 9/23/02
World Class Cups


Kenta Kobashi & Go Shiozaki vs Jun Akiyama & Genichiro Tenryu - Budokan 4/24/2005

I want a Revolution 2005 shirt!

After an over two year title reign as GHC Heavyweight Champion, Kenta Kobashi settled into a sort of legend's dream match role against the likes of Genichiro Tenryu (WAR/NJPW/AJPW)  and Kensuke Sasaki (NJPW). He was still the big drawing card on the shows, but like Misawa in 2002/2003, it was clear that the title and the push would be going to the younger generation. This certainly did not pan out for Takeshi Rikio or any of the younger generation. There was no watershed 3/1/03 match for the younger generation in part because that generation did have a decade plus of backstory like Misawa/Kobashi did. I dislike fantasy booking, but it is clear to me that Akiyama who had history with Kobashi and still young enough to develop history with a Shiozaki or a Morishima could have been a great bridge champion. I think the Rikio victory over Kobashi could still work as it is blamed on sheer exhaustion of the two year reign, but then have Akiyama beat Rikio pretty much immediately and build to Kobashi/Akiyama II at the Dome in 2005 or 2006 with Akiyama going over. I believe Akiyama could have been salvaged after 2004, but the booking from 2005 onwards became very remscient of 2002 WWE or 2012 WWE where they are booking dream matches instead of progression. This match and the rest of the matches nominated from this time period prove this as the main focus is Kobashi/Tenryu or Kobashi/Sasaki and poor Akiyama takes a backseat.

I have no idea what the hell Tenryu did to Kobashi back in 1989, but boy does Kobashi hold a grudge because he is madder than a hornet at Tenryu. It could just be that Tenryu is the biggest prick in wrestling history and pearl harbors Kobashi early and fucking just chucks a table at him like the edge of the table. 2005 NOAH you are alright. Kobashi is just ripshit at this point. Akiyama is controlling Shiozaki, but Tenryu comes around the corner and whips a full water bottle at Kobashi. Kobashi is all like "Who the fuck you think I am? Satoshi Koijma?I ain't no jabroni." Tenryu lets Shiozaki tag in Kobashi. Tenryu would never make that mistake. What unfolds is one of the most brutal and barbaric events in wrestling history. With each Kobashi match, I am forced to attempt to describe these chops in different fashions. I will leave the reader with the the end result, it looks like a murder scene and that Tenryu had just been shot in the chest.
Go Shiozaki comes in with a missile dropkick. He gets derailed with a closed fist because Tenryu has had enough of this shit. Shiozaki does some fighting spirit bullshit to try to take down Akiyama who quashes him with a jumping knee. A melee ensues on the outside and Akiyama is able to DDT Kobashi on the floor.  This leaves Go isolated and Akiyama hotshots him onto the railing and murders him with a jumping knee.

The story of the match is pretty much Akiyama and Tenryu will win if they can isolate Go, but Kobashi is a weapon of mass destruction that they need to neutralize. Then add that Kobashi hates both Akiyama and Tenryu while Go Shiozaki is trying to prove his worth by taking out one of the big dogs and you have yourself a pretty neat story.

Go is much better at selling and the fighting spirit bullshit than other "junior" tag partners I have seen. He is a pretty decent size, a little lean, but young so he will fill out. He is very scrappy, which is exactly what you want from him at this stage in his career. I have never watched any of his matches before I enjoyed him in this.

Tenryu is now in and just hits some wicked stiff chops on Shiozaki. Taking out your anger on someone else is just wrong. Weirdly botched slingshot suplex from Tenryu and a piledriver from Akiyama only gets two. Go gets all fighting spirit-y, but focuses on Tenryu who is on the apron, which is not very smart. Akiyama hits an Exploder and Shiozaki powders and milks the countout. Kobashi exhorts Shiozaki to get up. Go wins a suplex struggle and AAAAHHHHHHH SHIIIIITTT, Kobashi is in!

Akiyama tries to head Kobashi off at the pass, but eats a sleeper suplex and a Burning Lariat. Tenryu saves and wins a chop war with a closed fist. After teasing finishers, Tenryu hits an enziguiri and Akiyama knees Kobashi in the head and goes for the choke. Shiozaki saves! Shiozaki is hot against Tenryu, but does not have an answer for the closed fist. Kobashi helps out his buddy with a DDT. Go slaps Tenryu and goes for the moonsault, but Tenryu throws him down. No Spider German? Huge lariat with a great sell by Shiozaki gets two. Powerbomb polishes off the young whippersnapper.

2005 NOAH is off to a great start as Tenryu is a shot in the arm they needed. Kobashi is always at his best against a wrestler who is willing to heel like Ogawa or Takayama. Tenryu is such an asshole. I thought this was an effective use of Kobashi as the weapon of mass destruction. He came in, saw, and conquered, but he was never so overwhelming that the match became all about him. So I don't end this on a bad note, while Akiyama was effective, he was not a stand out. His role was just standard opponent that is a couple levels above Shiozaki. In such a pivotal period in his career, you would like to see Akiyama stand out more. Shiozaki knocked it out of the park as the plucky up and comer. He had his moments to shine, but most of the time he was getting the snot beat out of him, but he just kept coming until Tenryu finally overwhelmed him. After the Kobashi title reign, I don't know much about the heavyweight scene in NOAH, but this was a great start. ****1/4


Five Long Minutes

Kenta Kobashi vs Kensuke Sasaki - Tokyo Dome 7/18/05

This is the double main event of a heavily stacked card, but the card is also a harbinger of things to come. GHC Champion Takeshi Rikio is ostensibly in the third most important match (fourth from the top), but against rising New Japan star, Hiroshi Tanahashi. The double main event of Misawa/Kawada and Kobashi/Sasaki features two outsiders  and all four men are from the 90s. Yes, they were still able to draw 52k to the Dome, but from a quick glance at the card you can see how unhealthy the promotion is. Indeed, all five major heavyweight matches from NOAH in 2005 feature outsiders (Sasaki, Tenryu, or Kawada). The NOAH vs NOAH matches were stale, but instead of building from within they were bringing from the outside, which is not a sustainable solution to their woes of staleness.

There are a couple handful of matches from this decade that have a lot of notoriety  surrounding them as must see bouts. I would say up until this match all those matches held up. Whether it was Mutoh/Tenryu, Misawa/Kobashi, Kobashi/Takayama, these matches are hyped and you should believe the hype. By WON voting, this placed third overall in 2005 and number one in puroresu. In Ditch's DVDVR poll for the best puroresu match in 2005 it ranked second. It is (in)famous for the five minute EPIC CHOP WAR~! that takes fighting spirit to new lengths. However, for the first time in this project, I felt let down by a hyped match that felt very much like an exhibition of fighting spirit rather than a sporting contest. I want to watch this match and the Sasaki/Kawada Dome match back-to-back to solidify my opinions, but based on recollection the Sasaki/Kawada match blows this out of the water. That match is very much rooted in the same impetus as this match. It is about macho pride. If Kawada was the most suited All Japan wrestler to work New Japan then Sasaki was the most suited New Japan wrestler to work NOAH. Sasaki and Kawada have a hard-fought struggled to prove who is the best by challenging each other at every turn. Whereas, Kobashi/Sasaki came off as the biggest dick waving contest ever held in a wrestling ring. They were demonstrating their moves and proving how tough they were to each other rather than trying to claw for a victory. It is a very good exhibition of the NOAH fighting spirit style and has its entertaining parts, but as a wrestling match it is sorely bereft of the urgency and struggle necessary to making a match a true classic.

I enjoyed the early bomb throwing leading to trash talking before the epic test of strength. There needs to be more trash talking in Japanese wrestling even if I dont understand it. Nothing of any real consequence happens before the chop war they just throw out some moves. Sasaki hits an awful lot of high-risk moves like a top rope Frankensteiner and a cross body from the top to the floor (which I really liked against Takayama), but it all looks well planned rather than heated. CHOP WAR~! I will say this they are committed to it and they go all out. The plums of sweat that comes off each man's chest and the color of chests are impressive. How could Kobashi's chest never turns that virulent shade of purple that his opponents do? They look to be hitting as hard as him. Kobashi wins the battle, but it is a Pyrrhic victory as he collapses. Sasaki is very good at selling the damage of the CHOP WAR~! in how moves throughout the rest of match, but he may not even be selling. My one favorite signature Kobashi spot from the mid-00s is the teased countout finish and this one comes courtesy of a sweet Northern Lights Bomb off the apron to the floor. Kobashi falling off the apron at 16 was a real nice touch. I don't like the Sasaki armdrag/armbar spot at all. They knock each other out with lariats signaling the reset for the big finish, which is Kobashi running through his shit and winning with a Burning Lariat.

Taken as an exhibition of fighting spirit and macho pride, this is fun, but really outside of the countout finish tease there is not much in the way of drama, struggle or urgency. It is a must-watch because of how well it exemplifies the style of the time, but it is nothing I consider great. ***3/4


Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada - Tokyo Dome 7/18/05

It is hard to declare one particular matchup or feud as my all-time favorite, but it asked to rattle a handful off, you best believe that Misawa/Kawada would be listed. It had been five years since their last match due to the All Japan/NOAH split of 2000. I could not think of a better way for them to go out then in front of 52,000 fans in the Dome. All Japan never even ran the Dome until 1998 and what was the feud that propelled them to believe they could pop a big number: Misawa/Kawada. In a full circle moment, this matchup headlined the last NOAH Dome show. Much like a big 70s/80s hard rock/heavy metal act touring on their big hits, Misawa and Kawada seek to deliver the best of Misawa/Kawada one last time. A nostalgia match really will never be an all-time classic, but when it is Misawa/Kawada you can't deny how good it makes you feel to watch them work on last time against each other.

A long staredown between the old rivals is broken by Kawada's fear of the Almighty Elbow. In a change of pace, Misawa is the early aggressor and it is Kawada trying to weather the initial storm of elbows. There is a great moment where Kawada goes bezerk after a couple elbows by slapping the shit out of Misawa and kicking him in the face. Kawada knew he could dig himself into a hole early and it was like he woke up and just freaked out. It was relaly good stuff. He goes for the piledriver on the floor, but Misawa hits a Tiger Driver on concrete. Kawada collapses on the Irish Whip. After years of dominating Misawa early and not being able to put him away, it looks Kawada is being blown out by Misawa.
Kawada's answer to Misawa's elbow has always been his feet and with some timely kicks begins to turn the tide. Misawa is looking for the Tiger Driver on the apron, but it settles for elbowing him off the apron. INCOMING! Kawada elbows Misawa out of the sky. Game-changer. Misawa misses his first big bomb and Kawada hits a powerbomb on the ramp. I didn't really care for this because the amount of walking done to get to the ramp and then Kawada having to walk Misawa back to the ring to avoid countout finish. Kawada survives an elbow war with a kick and wins a suplex struggle to be able to apply the Stretch Plum and get two. Kawada firmly in control even works in his bicycle kick counter to the German and it looks like the beginning of the match is long gone with Kawada rocking and rolling. Brainbuster gets two. Powerbomb gets two. Whiffs on the home run knee. You sense something big is coming and BANG! GANSO BOMB~! Tough to watch regardless what happened to Misawa later. You know once Misawa kicks out of the Ganso Bomb that this not going to end well for Wile E. Kawada.

Misawa-rana right out of his own pants in a funny moment. Elbows reestablish his control and Emerald Flowsion onlyu gets two. Rolling kappo kick sets up the Tiger Suplex and Tiger Driver '91. It is the merciless onslaught of elbows and eventually Kawada can no longer resist.

As a one last time, "Best of" match, this really hit the spot. You do get a curve ball early with Misawa being so dominant early and really setting the tone with his elbows and Tiger Driver. Kawada was really put on his backfoot, but made the most out of expoliting Misawa's mistake. In the story that is as old as time, Kawada try as he might could not put away the resilient Misawa even with the ultra-dangerous Ganso Bomb. Then it became 'ol reliable the best stretch in wrestling Kawada jelly leg feeding Misawa and Misawa elbowing him into oblivion. ****


Akira St. Taue: Patron Saint of Efficiency

Kenta Kobashi & Akira Taue vs Genichiro Tenryu & Jun Akiyama - Budokan 9/18/05

A dream tag team match that actually delivers in spades with a match of the decade contender. I have had an aversion to the big dream tag matches earlier in the decade (Hashimoto Z-1 and Kobashi's '02 return), but I thought this match was an action-packed, high-octane match that played off the the earlier Tenryu/Kobashi tag with excellent Taue/Akiyama interactions. It does say a lot that a dream tag featuring all 90s stars in 2005 was NOAH's best match in 2005. Yes, they did try harder to push the new generation into key roles the next year, but matches likes this showcase how unsustainable their current model was. As a fan though, let's rejoice and be glad because Akira Taue is fucking awesome.

I loved, loved Tenryu's chickenshit act at the beginning. It is so rare for someone to actually have balls big enough to act like a coward in the FIGHTING SPIRIT~! dominated puroresu culture that it is very refreshing. If you recall, Tenryu's chest looked like a murder scene last match and is doing everything to avoid Kobashi's chops early. Frustrated Kobashi sics Taue on him, who has Tenryu and Akiyama reeling. Taue tags in Kobashi who is now licking his chops (pun fully intended), but Tenryu backpeddles and tags in Akiyama. Akiyama chops Taue off apron in retaliation. Taue DEMANDS to be tagged in to avenge this offense. Taue goes BEZERK on Akiyama whipping him into all sorts of railings. Crowd goes wild. TAUE! TAUE! TAUE! Akiyama hits a jumping knee and tags out to Tenryu. Kobashi/Taue conference and Kobashi tells Taue to stick with it. Taue controls Tenryu with an overhand chop and here comes Kobashi. CHOP WAR~! Chop wars are so much better with Tenryu because of his reactions. Sasaski is trying to be all tough and macho. Tenryu looks like this fucking hurts. Tenryu dropkicks Kobashi in the knee to end that. Akiyama knocks Taue off the apron again and dragon leg screw on Kobashi. Taue comes in and they do a runaround the ref. Taue cant get his hands on Akiyama, but Kobashi is able to tag out.

Taue wins a suplex struggle over Akiyama and Kobashi hit a sleeper suplex that is actually consequential because it leads to the heat segment on Akiyama. Taue collects the Akiyama carcass to the outside and Kobashi whips him into repeated big boots. Akiyama selling of his neck is so good. I would say Akiyama rates behind only Kawada in terms of how well he sells out of the five. Everything is so chippy in this match as Kobashi is still jawing with Tenryu. Taue drops Akiyama throat-first on top rope. In one of my favorite spots of the match, Tenryu kicks Taue in the face when he has a chinlock on. Taue comes over makes him eat a big boot. Tenryu's face is like "What the fuck was that for" as he checks to make sure he still has a jaw. The transition to the home stretch is Nature Boy Kenta Kobashi vs. Total Package Jun Akiyama with Akiyama strengthening from every chop. In fact, he accidentally draws blood from Kobashi when he headbutt him on what should have been a nose-to-nose. Thats the intensity level right now baby! I am loving just how heated it is between these four.

Tenryu is now licking his chops. Tenryu chop/punches in corner. He beats Kobashi down with double overhand fists. Kobashi comes back with spinning back chops and chops of his own. Kobashi instead of overstaying his welcome having turned the tide tags the fresh Taue in. That's what separates this from a lot of the big 00s tag is smart wrestling. Goes for Nodowa nothing doing. Tenryu scores a massive lariat. Tag to Akiyama and melee ensues. A rare Japanese miscommunication spot as Taue big boots Kobashi. Now Taue is double teamed. Exploder for two and here comes the guillotine choke. Kobashi saves and takes on both Tenryu and Akiyama at the same time. He eats an Exploder. Exploder on Taue! Taue pops up and Nodowa! TAUE! TAUE!  TAUE! Taue looks to end it with the big splash. Akiyama meets him and looks for the Super Exploder. No! No! No! IT IS THE SUPER NODOWA~! HOLY SHIT! You can count to a million, Jess! 1-2-3!

Match of the year! Everybody played their role so perfectly. Tenryu  was the crotchey old man that picked his spots wisely. Akiyama was the firecracker and heavy hitter for his team, but doubled as a great seller for Kobashi and Taue's offense. Kobashi played this match perfectly. He was the big gun he turned the tide against Akiyama, but he never tried to play hero until the end. If he needed to tag out whether it was having his knee worked on or Tenryu's chops, he did. When Taue has been taken out by Akiyama, he sacrificed himself by trying to take on both and ended up eating an exploder for himself, but gave Taue that valuable recuperative time. Taue, Taue, Taue! What can be said about such a masterful performance other than just go watch it. He was being built for a GHC Heavyweight Title run and he looked like a million bucks here. The home stretch is one of the best built hom stretches in a while with a fantastic climax. Top ten match of the decade! ****3/4


Kenta Kobashi & Go Shiozaki vs Kensuke Sasaki/Katsuhiko Nakajima - NOAH 11/5/05

In 2009, there was no wrestler I was a bigger mark for than Katsuhiko Nakajima, who I just thought was a tremendous talent. I really can't wait to watch his series with KENTA again to see if it holds up. Of course, when I heard he was coming stateside courtesy of ROH to Detroit, I just had to go. It was one of the most awesome experiences seeing him wrestle and one of the best pure mark out moments. Even though, I always stayed a wrestling fan my last two years of undergrad were pretty heavy so puroresu was the hobby that got cut. Unfortunately, it seems like Nakajima never rose the ranks to reach the level of a Liger or a KENTA as a top junior heavyweight.

I am proud to say that in 2009, I did have some semblance of good taste because Nakajima is still fucking awesome.  Nakajima reminds me of a young Kobashi or Ohtani with his emotional selling and his never say die attitude. This time around Shiozaki has a peer in the match in the likes of Nakajima so that changes the heirarchial dynamic to showcase more of Go's offense. Nakajima and Shiozaki have a really energetic and hard-hitting sequence that establishes they are equals. Kobashi and Sasaki have the same equality sequence, but in the mold of their style playing off the Dome Chop War, trash talking and the test of strength. Shiozaki tags in and like all challenges in life, he meets them head on and gets slapped the fuck down on first pass. Nakajima lights him up, but Go hits a dropkick to get Kobashi in. Kobashi easily handles the undersized Nakajima. Sasaki chops Go off when he has the camel clutch in. A nice spot sees Go have Nakajima up in the surfboard and Kobashi chops Nakajima in the midsection. Nakajima uses a dropkick to get the powerhouse, Kensuke Sasaki into the match.


Sasaki has a great intensity chopping and now lariats to Kobashi. It is always impressive to seem someone overwhelm Kobashi even if only lasts briefly. Here comes the Chop War! Sasaki chest turns a nasty shade of purple-red with these strange ripples. Sasaki hits a Back Drop Driver, but still engages in chopping. Thats just plain stupid. Kobashi chops Sasaki's chopping hand. Kobashi tags in Go. Shiozaki just cant get Kensuke off his feet, who swats him away. Sasaki ain't messing around and brutalizes him with fists. Nakajima roundhouse kick nearly KOs Go Shiozaki and Go does the fall on the Irish Whip, which I am a mark for. Shiozaki actually has a really good suplex struggle with Sasaki and gets him over in what looks like a deadlift.

Given that Sasaki seems the worse for wear compared to Kobashi, I don't think Nakajima will be able to make up the difference. Kobashi hits two half-nelson suplexes, but Nakajima stops the bleeding with a timely German on Kobashi. Shiozaki hits the Back Drop Driver on Nakajima and Sasaki hits the Dragon Suplex on Sasaki. I am ready for "This Is Awesome" chants but thankfully we are in Japan in 2005. Sasaki armdrag and armbar combo just is not a very good spot for him to keep going back to. One of the best spots of the match is Kobashi blocking a Nakajima dropkick by chopping his legs mid-air. BEHOLD THE MIGHTY HAND OF KENTA KOBASHI! Kobashi follows up with a Texas Cloverleaf, you gotta love the psychology.

Shiozaki wants in and he is a firecracker and he takes out both. GO GO GO! Missile Dropkick! Fisherman Buster! GO GO GO! Nakajima hits a ridiculous spinwheel kick to knock him off the top. Wicked high angle German by Nakajima, but Kobashi chops him on the bridge. Nakajima whiffs on the KO Kick to head and Shiozaki Germans him into the turnbuckles! Shiozaki goes for the kill with the moonsault, but eats knees. Tag to the Brickhouse, Sasaki. Go superkicks Sasaki. Sasaki blocks the Dragon Suplex. Shiozaki slaps him a whole bunch, but Sasaki gives him the "Dont Bring That Into My House" Lariat! Sasaki directing traffic slams Nakajima into Kobashi. Wicked high angle powerbomb only gets two?!?!?! Sasaki turns Shiozaki inside out with a lariat to give Kensuke Office the victory.

Again, the opponents of the Kobashi/Shiozaki tag team, weather the Kobashi storm, isolate Shiozaki and pick up the victory. This time I thought with Sasaki coming out the worse for wear in the chop war that Nakajima would not be able to make up the difference like Akiyama would for Tenryu. Nakajima was able to hit a timely German just when Kobashi was about to get on roll and after that Kobashi was basically a non-factor. Shiozaki bit off more than he could chew when he demanded to get in. It was the right thing to do given Kobashi's state, but he stayed in against Sasaki when he should have tagged out, but pride got the best of him. We all want to prove ourselves to the veterans to earn their respect, but sometimes we try to do too much and in this case it was Shiozaki's downfall as Sasaki ate him up. Sasaki is a great powerhouse with a low center of gravity. He is not going to fall unless you earn it. Nakajima was so versatile in selling and bumping around for Kobashi/Shiozaki, but hitting timely spots to keep his team in it. ****1/4

I have been awful about posting lately. Hopefully I will fix that as I should have a 2003-2004 Junior Heavyweights in Japan featuring the polarizing KENTAFuji and 2006 NOAH up soon. I want finish out Dangerous Alliance and continue 1984 WWF. So much wrestling, so little time!

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