So, I decided to make this a 4 parter after all. There was way more NOAH that I wanted to watch than I thought. So, this installment will cover July to October. There's a ton of stuff at the very end of the year so, I figure that can have its own entry.
Takeshi Rikioh & Takeshi Morishima vs Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA (07/16/06): This is a tremendously exciting match where they did a sprint without going over board with moves or sequences. Morishima vs. KENTA was of course the sweetest thing here but Rikioh was a good partner for him while Marufuji was um not as good as could as he could have been. He was best during the double team segments but his super complex spots were just silly in a hard-hitting match like this. It helped that Rikioh usually made 'Fuji pay for his trickiness. Once the match picked up both were pretty awesome in their roles as back-ups. A good way to get past Marufuji is to consider him as this generation's Yoshinari Ogawa: weak strikes but speedy, crafty & exciting. It harkens back to the late 80s/early 90s when you didn't need to kill the guy to have a great match. The main difference is that Marufuji indulges in the unnecessary or esoteric where Ogawa "Keeps It Simple Stupid." There are some cock-ups that keep this from being a classic encounter. The stuff with KENTA & Morishima was awesome. Great match
Jun Akiyama & Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kensuke Sasaki & Yoshihiro Takayama (07/16/06): Takayama return dream match. Kensuke is filling in for the ill Kobashi. Everyone looked really good in this hard hitting, action filled NOAH big time tag match. They didn't exactly empty their tanks but, fantastic effort and nice Kobashi tribute spots helped make this a great match. 16 minutes in duration. This doesn't get the talk like the Kobashi return but, man this is still a nice dream bout. It delivers like Dominoes, fool! ...man, that's lame. Ah screw it, I'm going with it!
Katsuyori Shibata & KENTA vs Akira Taue & Go Shiozaki (09/09/06): Shibata starts with Taue and gets all karate on the old timer. Taue is like, "Fuck yo' karate, man!" Yes! Akira Taue don't fake the funk, Shibata or not. This reminds me of when Baba would fight Tenryu in a 6 man match. Tenryu (like Shibata) would open a can of whoop ass on Baba...to the extent that Baba might get hurt. But! It would only turn Grandpa Baba into Badass Baba who would just hit some indignant mean ass chops and neckbreakers. So, yeah this is Taue. Everything is up in the air with this puppy. A slept on great match. 15 minutes of action.
Jun Akiyama vs Naomichi Marufuji (09/09/2006): GHC belt is on the line. Spoiler in this review so, skip to end of this if you'd like to see this match. I've come to like this match a bit more than when I first saw it. I "get" 'Fuji now and the look on their faces after the bell is rung for the win is timeless. Marufuji is elated and Akiyama while upset has got a grin on his face like, "I can't believe he beat me without beating me." The thing is Akiyama in AJ held the same spot Marufuji does...the guy who got elevated quick and has to take his lumps in the ring but is damn athletic & damn talented. The ring work is mostly spots akin to a RVD/Jerry Lynn match so; it's entertaining and amazing but also not capable of "greatness." Akiyama is like Jerry Lynn in giving the match a skeleton from which to operate. It's more like, "Did you see that move? I can't believe he did that!" Still it's really fun and probably a neat way to start someone out on puroresu especially someone who's younger and wants to see wrestling instead of crud. It bit off more than it could chew at times but it's still quite good. Highly recommended
KENTA vs Bryan Danielson (ROH 09/16/2006): ROH title match. This probably is the closest thing to prime 90's junior puroresu that we'll see in the United States. Both men brought everything to the match- intensity, stiffness, psychology, & pacing. The only reason it's not rated any higher is because there is some noticeable stalling, especially for the top rope moves. When put in comparison to the rest of that night's card & ROH in general, this flaw is barely noticeable. In an era where legends are fading away and style is valued over substance, it is reassuring that wrestlers like KENTA & Danielson are out there. This match had its goofy American-indy moments and the aforementioned stalling but, its greatness cannot be diminished. In a post-Baba, post-Misawa world, this is required viewing.
Jun Akiyama vs Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (10/13/06): Jun's in his old AJ gear. This is a pretty entertaining match where Jun destroyed Kikuchi and that gravel throated bastard shows how tough he is. I'd recommend this if you're coming home after a long day at work and you wanna grab a beer, a sandwich, and some simple but, entertaining wrestling.
Naomichi Marufuji vs KENTA (10/29/06): Title match ya'll. This certainly wasn't your typical NOAH main event and looked so far away from traditional AJPW it was astonishing. This style they were wrestling or maybe always wrestle with is more a derivative of Michinoku Pro or even Ring of Honor than AJPW. It's no secret that both were in the midst of their ROH touring and which direction the influence rubbed off...well, I debate that with myself sometimes. They always seem to want to go back to the spectacular spots which is unfortunately the legacy of their seniors but hopefully is not the legacy that 90's AJPW has left the wrestling world. To speak more specifically about KENTA & Marufuji, they are Junior wrestlers not apt to use deep tactics in their offense. They play with the idea but, tend to go for the high-impact moves when push comes to shove. With all of that said, this was an excellent display of skill & athleticism and even a bit of psychology. Of course, they didn't sell it once it was time to do the spots but neither did 90% of the great NJPW Jr. wrestlers. So with that in mind, like many of the great Jr. matches the work done cannot be denied it's due.
Re-Watch: I'd have to say this stands up with the best Jr. matches that NJ produced. Seriously, I can only think of a couple matches that were as satisfying as this one. Granted I don't know as much about stories in NJ as I do with Noah but, from a wrestling standpoint this was pretty awesome and about as good as you can get. So, I go back to a point that I made in a post on the main page that the 2000 Juniors were more influenced by NJPW Jrs. There was a little overkill at times but they brought it back so that the finish was believable and logical. If you could shave 5 minutes of it would have been better but, as it stands it's still fantastic and one of the better matches that the 2000's had. I'd keep the rating and call it the Jr. version of Misawa/Kobashi 03/01/03. Not the BEST but, still a classic.
Whew! Some heavy hitters this round! Last but not least, November and December in part 4. Thank you for reading! Hope this helps you get excited to watch wrestling.