Rising Sun Soliloquy Newsletter #14
March 5, 2009
By: Hunter Golden of WrestleView.com

New Japan

NO LIMIT off to TNA, Mistico to Return

Yujito and Tetsuya Naito, also known together as NO LIMIT, will be ontheir way to TNA to wrestle the Motor City Machine Guns for the IWGP Jr. heavyweight Tag Team Championships sometime later this month. As a result, they’re off all New Japan cards through the end of March. They’re scheduled to return sometime in early April, likely before the 4/5 Sumo Hall show.

CMLL champion Mistico will be coming back, yet again, to New Japan Pro Wrestling. Its not confirmed yet as to whether or not he will be at the Sumo Hall show, however CMLL and New Japan officials have confirmed that he will indeed be on the Fukuoka International Center show. The company floated the idea of Mistico challenging Tiger Mask for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, with the other idea being a Mistico-Jushin Liger match in Fukuoka. They could conceivably do BOTH matches, but its looking like the Liger match would likely be the better choice at least in Fukuoka, at least given Liger’s name value and the market not being strong ‘New Japan Territory’. On a side note, fellow CMLL wrestler Dragon Rojo, Jr. will also be coming along for the tour to work that show.

Nagata Loses Zero-1 World Championship to Ohtani, Vows to Win New Japan Cup and challenge the winner of Tanahashi/Angle

After months of trying, Zero-1 was finally able to find someone that would be capable of defeating now former Champion Yuji Nagata and bringing their title back to its home promotion. Generation rival and Zero-1 boss Shinjiro Otani defeated Nagata with a dragon suplex hold to win the title this past Saturday in what was said to be a good match. The stipulation heading in was that if Nagata retained the Zero-1 title, it would be absorbed into New Japan Pro Wrestling. Of course now that Otani has saved the belt, that won’t happen. Nagata said in his post match interview that now that he had raised the value of the title, it was Otani’s responsibility to act as ‘a pillar for a struggling company’. The match marked the end of a year long New Japan-Zero-1 feud. New Japan lent a hand and invited Zero-1 into the fold to help them remain financially solvent. Disaster for the promotion has now more or less been averted, so the entire run can be considered an overwhelming success.

Now that his business in Zero-1 is over, Nagata has set his sights on reclaiming the IWGP Heavyweight Championship. He teamed with the Champion Tanahashi to take on the team of Masahiro Chono & Hirooki Gotoh this past Sunday and made a ‘declaration of intent’. He said he would win the New Japan Cup and challenge the winner of the Kurt Angle v. Hiroshi Tanahashi title match that will be taking place at the April 5th Sumo Hall event. Nagata has a bone to pick with both men, of course losing a big Tokyo Dome match to Angle last year and of course his winning and losing the IWGP title to Tanahashi. As I’ve mentioned in the past, Nagata is billed as ‘the soul’ of New Japan so to speak, much like Shawn Michaels is here in the WWE, so either way, with Tanahashi winning or Angle winning, the headlining match in Fukuoka will likely be a strong draw.

New Japan Stars Showing up Everywhere

Much has been made of New Japan’s taking the initiative in literally lifting a business on life support on its back and extending the hand of diplomacy. This past weekend alone, New Japan wrestlers appeared in four different promotions: Chono made an appearance at the Jinsei Shinzaki Homecoming show promoted by Michinoku Pro on Saturday, the Tiger Masks and Riki Chosu wrestled at the Real Japan show on Sunday, Yuji Nagata d ropped the Zero-1 title in a Zero-1 show on Friday night, and as you’ll read soon, Shinsuke Nakamura & Milano Collection A.T. Both popped up at the Budokan show for Pro Wrestling NOAH.

New Japan has certainly been raking up ‘favor chips’ and down the road, will be in a very powerful position should the business turn around.

Pro Wrestling NOAH

Akiyama, KENTA Reclaim Titles at 3/1 Budokan Show

This Sunday’s show at the Nippon Budokan seems to have a pretty distinct message: Times are changing.

In front a solid crowd of 14,200 paid, Jun Akiyama defeated Kensuke Sasaki to claim the GHC Heavyweight Championship for a third time. The heavyweight title wasn’t the only championship to change hands, as KENTA was able to rest the GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship f rom the grasp of rival Katsuhiko Nakajima, a mere three weeks after losing it. NOAH also announced its new television deal during intermission as well as the announcement of the new ?Global Tag League?, which will take place over the course of the next tour.

With NOAH recently losing their television show ‘Pro Wrestling’, the longest continuously running television show in history, there have been a plethora of changes. Many wrestlers including Mohommed Yone and Naomichi Marifuji have begun to change their look. There has also been an increased emphasis on developing actual story lines, in particular, feuds that will be used primarily in the mid card. Junior Match time has been extended, and leadership has decided to provide more one on one action on shows in the near future.

Also continuing was the New Japan-NOAH feud that began at the Tokyo Dome this past January. Takashi Suguira & Go Shiozaki were able to repel the invading New Japan team of Shinsuke Nakamura & Milano Collection AT in what was probably the most interesting and eventful match of the night. The plan is right now for superstars f rom both companies to work big shows in both New Japan and NOAH for the forseeable future. There was said to be a particularly rowdy section of New Japan rooters in the stands and the fun back and forth was said to have created a really fun atmosphere in the building.

The biggest news for NOAH fans however, was the return of company ace Kenta Kobashi to action after surgery to repair torn ligaments in his elbows. The working plan for now is that Kobashi will be making his way up the card again, starting in the opening matches and moving onward and upward where he’ll eventually challenge Akiyama or whomever the Champion will be down the line. Kobashi looked to be in good health, and has slimmed down considerably to a nice, neat 242 pounds, which is the lightest he’s been since his early years. The match itself was against loveable chicken heel Masao Inoue, whose almost too good at being an incompetent cheater, and has found himself to be cheered, when he should be getting booed. Inoue’s biggest night came when he was shockingly announced for a Budokan main event against Jun Akiyama back in 2006. Inoue primarily stuck to his cheating shtick and cowardly antics throughout the match, and produced one of the most entertaining contests of that year. Sunday’s match with Kobashi was worked in a very similar way, with Inoue working as if he knew that his only shot in the world was to cheat, cheat often and if that didn’t work, cheat more. Kobashi used a very limited amount of offense (which is good for an opener) and the look on Inoue’s face when he figured out he COULD hurt Kobashi was one of the more oddly rewarding, humorous but naturally engrossing moments of the night.

We will have a full review of this show later on in this section!

Details on the new NOAH Television Contracts

While there are many physical changes going on in NOAH, none is greater than the new Television deal that has been signed. The Sunday Budokan show marked the last live television wrestling event for NTV. NTV is the longest running television in Japan and has run some of the most watched professional wrestling program in the history of the sport.

Thankfully, NOAH was able to negotiate a network that will be played on the G+ network, which is the satellite network of NTV. The deal will enable NOAH to run its live television shows which includes its four hour Budokan Hall events.

Two shows a month will be airing on Samurai TV, which is another satellite network and features some programming f rom New Japan as well. That deal will enable NOAH to run two shows a month that will likely run two hours.
The company will likely get the most regular exposure however, with their deal with Osaka TV, which is a smaller network affiliate of TV Tokyo. The catch with the deal is that the shows will only air in the Osaka market and that it will only be a 30 minute show that will be dedicated to profiling wrestlers outside of the ring. Compounding problems, is the fact that a few months ago, the Osaka affiliate of NTV actually d ropPED Wrestling f rom its line up due to poor ratings. It will be interesting to see if the show can survive.

The issue with ALL of the TV deals is the fact that they’re all featured on Satellite Television only, and with less than 10% of the Japanese television market actually OWNING satellite, television, this is very problematic. This really is is the equivalent of someone going f rom a huge network like NBC or CBS and being sent to something that would be the equivalent of half as popular as the Sci Fi Network. Its expected that hardcore fans will likely be able to see matches at will, but their ability to build a base will be extremely impaired. Coupled with the fact that the biggest draws Kenta Kobashi, Mitsuharu Misawa and Akira Taue are well into their 40s and deteriorating physically at an alarming rate. The company has been slow to grow new stars and are in a very tenuous position to say the least. Establishing new stars as actual, bona fide ‘draws’ is an extreme long shot at this point. Ryu Nakata, who runs NOAH’s business office, said that there are some other offers included in the deal that will syndicate the shows out to particular markets.

With these new deals in place, TV revenues are expected to basically fall nearly to half of its current levels. While cutting salaries hasn’t been moved off the table, its something the promotion would like to avoid. The budget to say the least, will have to be significantly trimmed. In addition, its unlikely a lot of outside deals with other companies will be upheld (sans New Japan of course) and that includes the Kensuke Office stars, who signed a ‘working agreement’ with the promotion last summer. While nothing has been made official as of yet, its assumed that Kensuke Office and Pro Wrestling NOAH have officially parted ways just based on the booking of Sunday’s show, with both Sasaki and Nakajima losing their respective titles, and youngster Okita and Miyahara losing their tag match as well.

The bigger concern here is with show attendance. While in the US, TV ratings are considered important, in Japan, its the gates that shows bring that pay the bills and companies are most concerned with. With Kobashi likely only to work a limited amount of shows, and Misawa and Taue showing very little spring in the step these days, its a question as to how many shows they’ll be able to work and there’s massive concern about shows drawing without them. As of right now, they’re going to keep running Budokan Hall shows as long as the demand is there, but the company is at a point now where they’re willing to leave the venue altogether if they can’t draw in it.

Global Tag League Teams, Next Budokan Show, Misc. Musings

During the intermission, the company announced they would be returning to the Budokan on May 6th of this year and the show will be headlined by the finals of the new ‘Global Tag League’. The following teams were announced as participants:

GHC Tag Team Champions Akitoshi Saito & Bison Smith
Bull Buchanan & D-Lo Brown
Takeshi Rikioh & Mohommed Yone
Akira Taue & Masao Inoue
Jun Akiyama & Shuhei Taniguchi
Mitsuharu Misawa & Go Shiozaki

The line up is a weird one f rom the standpoint that Takeshi Morishima, Kenta Kobashi, Takashi Suguira, Marufuji, KENTA or a visiting New Japan team were NOT included. Inoue and Taue is seen as very odd as well. The line up is considered very weak and there doesn’t seem to be a single potential match up that would really draw for a Budokan show.

Budokan Review!

Nippon Budokan
March 1, 2009
Attendance: 14,200

Match #1: Kenta Kobashi v. Masao Inoue

Take note, this is how you work an opening match.

These two work an astoundingly simple, yet effective match. They give away very little in terms of offense with Inoue heeling it up and more or less being a big bag of fun, trying to get an edge any way he can. Inoue’s stuff isn’t going to really dent Kobashi, so he relies on trickery to do his thing. They don’t start out quickly and are patient in building some heat here. On its face, this is a total mis-match and Inoue even treats it as such, knowing his only chance is to pull as many shenanigans as possible and hope for the best.

Kobashi is eager to mix it up in the early going while Inoue isn’t. He is able to comically use that eagerness against Kobashi to at least keep himself in the match. Its just delaying the inevitable though, as Kobashi eventually takes the advantage. Inoue though, is surprisingly resilient, and there is a little honor in this thief, as he amps up and his willingness to go toe to toe with the NOAH ace is a fun moment in the match. Inoue’s even able to surprisingly do a little damage getting a ‘lucky bounce’ so to speak, whipping Kobashi into the guardrails and enjoying some limited success working the back. He does some fun heelish mocking of Kobashi in a submission hold and even takes him to the corner and gives him a fistfull of lariats. He goes for his torture rack and gets a big pop in getting Kobashi off the ground, but that’s as far as he’s able to get. Kobashi fights out and they go into a series of revenge spots where Kobashi hits a bunch of big chops, pay back for the lariats before giving us a big old head dumpy half-nelson suplex. Inoue amps up a bit though to get himself in better position to bump for the lariat and once he eats that, it’s lights out.

They do a great job here of not giving a lot away (Kobashi uses two chop variations, a headlock, a half nelson suplex and a lariat), building heat for the limited spots (Inoue’s stalling, stooge-ish antics and tactics) while working in some fun hope spots for Inoue, where Kobashi is able to progress, but make Inoue look better than maybe we thought he was. They don’t get wound up in high spots, as that’s not something anyone should do in an opener, and basically work a very basic, but totally effective and well worked match. **3/4

Match #2: Takashi Okita & Kento Miyahara vs Taiji Ishimori & Ippei O-ta

This wasn’t a barn burner or anything, but it was a fun enough short tag that more or less told you how the rest of the night was going to go for the Kensuke Office boys. Okita really brings a lot of energy as usual, and I have to admit that his act is catching on with me. So many juniors these days are pretty much just either working some sort of lucha style or consider themselves strikers and Okita’s a small power house. He’s like a little barrel of dynamite. I don’t know if he just sticks out because he’s ‘ just different’ or ‘good’ quite yet, but either way, he’s fun to watch.

Really though, this is just a pretty paint by the numbers, spotty tag to get the crowd going some more. Ishimori does his usual set stunts, Okita and Miyahara bring the energy and Ota does what he’s allowed to (still very young, very green). *1/4

Match #3: Akira Taue & Naomichi Marufuji & Atushi Aoki vs Buchanan & Roderick Strong & Davey Richards

I adore Akira Taue, but this was pretty bad stuff. This is a really basic, throwaway six man tag that’s just filled with rotating spots of guys fighting on the floor while two climb in the ring and just do stuff to each other that has no bearing, meaning or anything else in the outcome. Oddly enough, I did enjoy the brief exchanges between Taue and Buchanan, but that’s really it.

Marifuji tries to work these intricate mat exchanges and they look great, except Davey Richards thinks they’re working a ‘you do it, I do it’ mirror match, and Richard’s stuff just looks like s?t. Roddy is lots of d rops and slams, but again, nothing really goes anywhere here. They just pair off and rotate. Davey works Marifuji mostly. Aoki and Strong go at it and Taue and Bull pretty much do the big man thing. They rotate around, throwing in the occasional double team, only for them to right back to square one. Rinse, wash, repeat. I’d REALLY like to see Strong or Richards involve themselves in something thats more than a movez demonstration these days. *

Match #4: Takeshi Rikioh & Kotarou Suzuki vs Yoshihiro Takayama & Ricky Marvin

You know, I enjoyed this quite a bit. For anyone whose been reading me the past five years or so, you’ll find out quickly I’m really not a guy who typically whines about why ‘so and so’ wrestler isn’t getting pushed. The reasoning behind that is pretty substantial and way too long for me to go into, but the crux of it is that I just don’t think a lot of the guys many fans want to see pushed are very good. At all. My one break f rom the norm though, the one thing you could stamp a big, old ‘hypocrite’ tattoo on my head for though, would probably be Ricky Marvin in Pro Wrestling NOAH.

While Marvin isn’t Rey Mysterio, he’s incredibly slick in his delivery, is creative in his counters and doesn’t get bogged down into routine, run of the mill spots (although he has three or four.. you know.. a reasonable number), and seems to always be able to present himself as something fresh, even when its more or less the same guy coming out of the curtain. Unlike 90% of the NOAH juniors, Marvin can also sell and sell (really) well. He’s highly versatile and is always able to build his shtick around everyone else’s formulas and seems relatively unselfish. Because of all of that, he’s probably the best baby face in peril in the entire company right now.

So anytime he pops up on a NOAH card, I usually check it out, and am almost always pleasantly surprised. This match is another one of those ?Marvin specials? where he sells his backside off, makes himself the centerpiece of the match, but in the process makes everyone around him look really fantastic in doing so. The one constant theme here is that Rikioh has this strange, lustful and manly desire to bully Marvin ‘just because’. I like this new attitude-ish Rikioh, too, as Marvin bumps his backside off for the big man, they give us some great visuals that show how much bigger Rikioh is than Marvin, and Rikioh brings the fury and really looks like he’s out to hurt the little guy.

Takayama is great in his role as ‘protector’ of the little guy, constantly encouraging Marvin, tagging him in so he can get in offense, getting him in the match when he’d have ‘the best chance to succeed’, etc. He also does a sound job of trying to keep Rikioh in check so Marvin can do his thing.

Kotaro Suzuki still can’t make up which popular American heel he wants to emulate, so this week I guess he’s the great Muta, spitting mist. While the act itself is pure cheese, especially considering its a finish and Suzuki REALLY needs to stop it with the ‘hey LOOK! I’m a HEEL~!’ thing, it oddly works. You feel bad for Marvin because he puts his time in and gives it his all. He hangs in there with the abuse f rom Rikioh and flat out dominates Suzuki through most of the match. Tak giving him the pat on the back is also a nice touch. Any match that makes Rikioh NOT sucky is probably a good one. **3/4

Match #5: Takeshi Morishima & Makoto Hashi & Akihiko vs Mohamed Yone & Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Genta Hirayanagi

This was a pretty fun match. One of the things I’ve enjoyed about NOAH more recently is the fact that they seem to be paying far more attention to their mid card and building up stuff for their younger stars to do. A lot of folks have been getting make overs, given more defined roles, and generally speaking, its going to add a lot of their big show cards. Usually these six man tags on these shows particularly are just time fillers and are totally dependent on the main event to help draw, so its nice to see them making the effort and this match is sort of evidence of why that’s a good thing.

Everybody here brings a little extra gumption to the table and we get a little intensity here, which is nice. Akihiko in particular is pretty excited to be there by the looks of things, too, as he starts everything off with a bang by jumping the heels before they get any stupid ideas. Morishima is just an awesome glob of goo here, throwing his fatness through the ropes on an awesome tope and then setting up a great ‘hey, lets squash all the bad guys at once!’ spot in the corner. Hashi’s always fun and as per the usual, is a pretty good face in peril here. On a side note, something about Hashi’s man boobs and Morishima being big assed that just goes hand in hand.

Its not to say the heels aren’t any less fun here as they’re quite good as well. Kanemaru is a guy who really isn’t that great in any particular area, but man, he’s a good ‘fourth outfielder’ so to speak in the way that they can rely on him to be OK if he needs to be used in a more ‘main event style’ junior match, or whether they want him further down the card. Here, he’s more or less a bumping stooge alongside Hirayanagi who play the roles of the guys who’re charged with keeping fat man Morishima off of their boss, Mohommed Yone. They do an admirable job for the most part and while Morishima IS able to get at Yone some, he’s never really able to get at him in a way that makes you feel like you got everything there is to see between the two.

The downside of this is that while there’s considerably more going on here, there are stretches where clumps of guys are just ‘doing stuff’, hammering each other around the ring while two guys have virtually meaningless exchanges on the inside. I still don’t think the big brawl scenes are pulled off very well in NOAH yet, but they’re trying and they’re getting better. This is fun. **1/2

Match #6: Mitsuharu Misawa, Yoshinari Ogawa & Shuhei Taniguchi v. Bison Smith, Akitoshi Saito & Doug Williams

I found a lot of this to be pretty flat. While I’m not a huge fan of Misawa (these days at least) and Ogawa in singles, together they’re a fun pairing and with the recent push of Bison Smith and Akitoshi Saito in the tag ranks, I expected some fun stuff here, but nothing ever really, really picked up until the tail end.

That’s not to say we don’t get some fun sequences here though. Doug Williams, a favorite of mine on the indy trail, works some fun sequences, finding himself up ending Ogawa quite a bit and finding more fun ways to tie him up and further frustrate his opponent. Smith and Misawa have some fun striking exchanges and Saito busts out a killer lariat heading down the stretch. Williams working over Taniguchi coming down the stretch is fun, and its kind of cool to see Saito and Smith really try to make sure its Williams that gets the fall.

There’s a few things going on to at least keep you with it, but still comes off very much as flat and entirely too long at nearly 21 minutes. They could have packed all this into 10 minutes and had it be entirely more entertaining. *3/4

Match #7: Takashi Suigura & Go Shiozaki v. Shinsuke Nakamura & Milano Collection A.T.

The first match in this blossoming New Japan-NOAH series produced a lot of praise, here and elsewhere on the ‘net so this was probably the match I was looking forward to the most on this card. I had some reservations as Shiozaki is generally a guy I dislike and Milano is just known for working the same match ad naseum in New Japan, but hey, this was surprisingly good.

That being said, make no bones about it, Sug and Nak are the studs here. Nakamura works a great ‘screw you’ heel to the NOAH crowd and Sug is boiling for a fight to restore some lost honor f rom the Tokyo Dome. The opening exchange starts this off well with Nakamura and Suigura really laying em in. They get a little mirror-ishy for my tastes here, but the opening go at things is great. Milano’s stuff is shockingly cooler in a NOAH ring and they take his usually placed spots and make em mean something and be somewhat interesting. Go’s not my cup of tea, but man the dude was laying in the chops tonight. He’s pretty darn good selling the let to boot, and even when he shrugs it off later in the match, there’s enough time gone by for him to freely do that without there really being any problems. He gets the better of Nak on one or two exchanges too, showing a little growth. But its Sug’s personality that’s just awesome. This guy was so monotone and boring for so many years, and since the Tokyo Dome, the dude is a madman. Total Buzz Sawyer blood lust. His throws on Nakamura are pretty darn impressive looking

The last 8 minutes of this are out of this world great, and hugely refreshing considering that NOAH’s not a place we see that stuff in much these days. We get a DIESEL strike exchange between Nakamura and Go, some awesome double teams f rom the home town team and some crazy counters with Go and Milano to take us home. This isn’t the Dome match and its got its problems, but its a lot of fun. ***1/4

Match #8: KENTA v. Katsuhiko Nakajima, GHC Jr. Heavyweight Championship

Just as a disclaimer here, I’m not really one for the neo-juniors style of wrestling because it has a real tendency to frequently delve into straight up overkill on a lot of things. Not that I hate juniors, I just hate the style.

Given that, I was headed into this as pretty darn skeptical based on what I saw as a glaring example of everything that was wrong with juniors wrestling in Japan the last time these two hooked up at the Kensuke Office show last month. The problem with the match was that it just went far too long for two guys that just aren’t good enough quite yet to carry something that long. So I was hoping they’d cut this down. These two work some pretty heated exchanges, so I was hoping that a less drawn-out affair would be more conducive to their strengths.

And this is a big improvement over the last match. Still though, it has its problems. KENTA has thus far been generally praised for his selling here, and for the most part, that praise is well warranted. There are some awesome ways he figured out how to work his leg damage into the overall ebb and flow of what he was doing, letting the leg cave out on the power bomb and at one point, having it give out again on another slam variation. It keeps consistent with the last go-round these two had, and overall I liked it.

But to say its not spotty at times would be giving this match a free pass. KENTA’s problem is, more than anything, that while he generally paces his matches well, he struggles in spots where he’ll speed up rather than slow down, even if its relatively momentary. He has one comeback spot in particular where he literally sprints across the ring not once, but twice, only to work a delayed sell after the big punctuation point in the sequence. Now I get the whole concept of a delayed sell, but coming off that leg work and it causing his leg to cave, why is he sprinting across the ring?

The strike exchanges are overdone here as well. If these kicks are indeed lethal, they should be sold as such, yet these two seem to have this deal where they just land knock out kick after knock out kick to the point where you wonder why they’re really bothering to do them, as they’ve pretty much blown any value that would have. Kick someone in the body frequently if you must, but stay away f rom the knock out spots.

The good thing is that the bad is usually sandwiched with some good here, with the two working some completely eye popping counters and trade offs, which sure, I guess they don’t do a lot for the narrative, but really they’re cool enough where they don’t seem out of place, and well, they’re cool. The stretch run is a little dumb, where we get them blowing through signature spots a bit, but the tail end of it, where Kenta counters into his second Go 2 Sleep, is total crowd popping dynamite.

So this is a better match to be sure, but its got its glaring flaws, too. Flaws that I’d say really just have worked themselves into that style so severely, that it’ll be a wonder if it ever leaves. The problem these guys will encounter as their careers progress is that if every match finish is ‘epic’, then none of the finishes will be such. It works now, but over the long haul, this is what causes people to ditch the suspension of disbelief. If you’re being told that a loofah is supposed to hit me and I’m supposed to die, then when that loofah hits me, I had better die. If I don’t, sure in the short term maybe it doesn’t mean much, but if it happens, then WHY should I fear it. See that when you think KENTA and Nakajima kicks.

Yes, this is a big improvement, but there’s still room for plenty more of that. **3/4

Match #9: Jun Akiyama v. Kensuke Sasaki, GHC Heavyweight Championship

I have to admit that I was pretty underwhelmed in general by this match. This just has a really strange vibe in general because between the stare down at the beginning and the big build this had, it really never seemed to get out of second gear it seemed. Akiyama seemed pretty OK just going after the head, but despite his heightened sense of urgency, he really didn’t seem IN to this. Sasaki on the other hand was pretty all over the place and never really got past hitting revenge spots on Akiyama’s noodle. I say ‘never got past’ because he did it once, then again, then AGAIN. And then some more. The finishing run is OK in and of itself. Akiyama hit three exploders in a row, before going to the top rope for a knee d rop. Sasaki gets up and lariats him out of mid air. Then he hits another lariat for a near fall. Then he goes for another one and Akiyama hits a knee to cut the lariat off before whipping out a wrist clutch exploder. Another kick out to minimal reaction (because the crowd’s seen so many of this guy’s finishers totally eaten). Akiyama hits a running knee to the back of Sasaki’s head and then breaks out Sterness Dust for the win.

My problem with this match is that it just doesn’t really go anywhere or communicate much other than these guys are in a wrestling match together. I mean its totally ‘OK’ action and there are way worse ways to kill 22 minutes of your life, but still, this just really isn’t all that great. Its too bad considering the build. Very much the definition of uninspiring. **

Overall Thoughts

This was a pretty good show all things considered. With NOAH in the midst of some pretty tough times, they really had to pump out a solid effort and I felt, more or less, that this show was pretty good. Kobashi-Inoue, the New Japan-NOAH tag, the two title matches and the Marvin & Morishima tags respectively, were all a lot of fun.

The one thing I’d like to see NOAH do is stop cramming so many guys onto a card and featuring so many six man tags though. We had 5 matches that were more or less ‘just there’ on this card. The Morishima card they could have kept, the Marvin tag, too, and just scrapped the rest of it and they’d have been FINE. Heck, even add a tag title match on if you want to, or maybe a higher profile singles match. Either way, nine matches on the card, 60% of which was on the card ‘just because’ can be a little exhausting.

Really though, its not the time to focus on the lows, because there were really a lot more positives out of this show than I’ve seen out of NOAH in a long, long time. I even kept a running list:

— The Jr. title match was kept to a more reasonable time. Personally, I’ve watched very few juniors matches that have run much past 20 minutes that I enjoyed. Keep em under that. They’re not there yet, but I really don’t need to see KETNA and Nakajima blowing off leg work for 40 minutes because they don’t have enough ‘stuff’ in the tank to go that long. Keep those matches compact.

— The lower card stuff was somewhat developed. If its going to be there, it might as well be good or have SOME sort of thought thrown into it. The new Yone/Rikioh heel faction seems like it could be OK They’ve got some work to do in delivery, but like I said, at least it gives a group of guys who’re probably not going anywhere on their own something to 1.) actually do and 2.) even if they don’t make much progress, at least you’ve always got a tool in the mid card that you can use when you need to fill up some programming. So huge thumbs up in developing the mid card.

— Personality. The one thing that just bores the crap out of me about NOAH is the total lack of real charisma on the roster, or at least the effort going into presenting guys with charisma. Everyone brought that ‘aaaaarrrrggghhh’s’ to the arena tonight, f rom Marvin to Rikioh, to Inoue, and even Bison Smith. I had more ‘fun’ with those guys than I’ve ever had with them before.

So all in all, this is a solid show. A lot of fluff and needless stuff, but a good show when you really focus in on the better stuff.

Hunter’s Mindless, Ongoing, Who-Cares-what-he-thinks!? Best Puro Matches of 2009

I’m hoping by that at the end of this nonsense, I’ll have a nice 10-15 match list for you guys to check out at the end of the year. Right now I haven’t seen enough good stuff to warrant a top 10, but we’re getting there.

1.) Hiroshi Tanahashi v. Shinsuke Nakamura, IWGP Heavyweight Championship, New Japan 2/15 ****
2.)Shinsuke Nakamura & Hirooki Gotoh v. Mitsuharu Misawa & Takeshi Suguira, New Japan 1/4 ***3/4
3.) Hirooki Gotoh & Jushin ?Thunder? Liger v. Yuji Nagata & Tiger Mask, New Japan 1/31 ***1/4
4.) Takashi Suguira & Go Shiozaki v. Shinsuke Nakamura & Milano Collection A.T., NOAH 3/1 ***1/4
5.) Yuji Nagata v. Masato Tanaka, Zero-ONE World Championship, New Japan, ? ***1/4

All Japan

All Japan to Be Broadcast over the Internet

At a press conference held last Friday, All Japan announced that it will be broadcasting over the Internet network ?Leo-net?. The network reaches 450,000 homes in Japan so while this isn’t any ground breaking TV deal, its a nice supplement to television for the company. They’ll be uploading both the 2007 and 2008 Champions Carnival shows as well as last November’s Sumo Hall show.

Final 3/11 Sumo Hall Card Announced

The full card for next week’s Sumo Hall card was announced today. Osamu Nishimura & Manabu Soya will be taking on the team of Riki Chosu & Tatsuhito Takaiwa. What times we live in. Two of New Japans bigger stars working in an All Japan Show being wrestled at the Sumo Hall. Bizarre. Also, former New Japan Junior Ace Minoru will be making his All Japan debut, taking on champion Kaz Hayashi. Suwama and Shuji Kondo will go for Tag Team gold against Taiyo Kea & Minoru Suzuki while Yoshihiro Takayama will challenge the Great Muta for the Triple Crown.

Tokyo Ryogoku Kokugikan

1.Masanobu Fuchi vs. Kikutaro
2. Nobutaka Araya & Seiya Sanada vs. NOSAWA Rongai & MAZADA
3. Satoshi Kojima, KAI & Hiroshi Yamato vs. TARU, Hate & Toshizo
4. Akebono & Ryota Hama vs. Joe Doering & ZODIAC
5. Osamu Nishimura & Manabu Soya vs. Riki Choshu & Tatsuhito Takaiwa
6. AJPW World Jr. Heavyweight Title: Kaz Hayashi (c) vs. Minoru
7. AJPW World Tag Team Title: Taiyo Kea & Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Suwama & Shuji Kondo
8. Triple Crown: Great Muta (c) vs. Yoshihiro Takayama


Dragon Gate

Very busy night on Saturday night in Dragon Gate as CIMA has returned, and starting f rom Korakuen on Thursday he is back full time. They’re working him in with the GammaSuka for a group calledthe WARRIORS-5. KAGETORA is also believed to be joining the group after turning his back on his old stable of RH in the main event of the show.

Yoshino challenged CIMA to come after the Brave Gate. With their win today over the Triangle Gate champions, W-1 earned a title match, but a RH team also made a challenge, so there will be a 3 Way match for the titles. Finally, the reunited Maraha-Isappa team f rom RH will be the first Twin challengers. All at Sumo Hall. Korakuen on Thursday has also been drastically altered.

Next Card: (A ‘3 Kinds of Alcohol Match? THAT is something I will review.)

3/5/2009 Tokyo, Korakuen Hall
1. 3 Kinds of Alcohol Drinking Match: KAGETORA vs. Kenichiro Arai
2. Masato Yoshino, m.c.KZ, PAC vs. Taku Iwasa, Dragon Kid, Kenshin Chikano
3. Akira Tozawa vs. Youhei Fujita
4. Super Shisa, Anthony W. Mori vs. Genki Horiguchi, Cyber Kong
5. CIMA, Susumu Yokosuka, Gamma vs. YAMATO, Ryo Saito, Yasushi Kanda
6. Naruki Doi, BxB Hulk, Naoki Tanisaki vs. Masaaki Mochizuki, Don Fujii, Koji Kanemoto


After the main event at Futen’s Anniversary show, Manabu Hara announced he was officially joining Futen Promotions, the group that owns the BATTLEarts brand. He should be an interesting addition to the roster and with the two ‘promotions’ supposedly not on good terms, it’ll be interesting to see where he heads next.