The final installment of my 2006 NOAH Navigation. It is pretty stacked so let’s get on with it!
Takeshi Morishima & Mohammed Yone vs Takeshi Rikio & Takashi Sugiura (11/17): To be up front, I was not excited about this match. 3 out of 4 of the guys are good only in tags or short matches so, I’m tuning in for Takeshi M. Frankly, this starts out bland as unsalted popcorn. Even the Korakuen krowd were not into this! Business eventually picks up and this is actually fun to watch. Wait a minute! This is actually something I’d recommend to fellow Morishima Maniacs…damn this just gets better & better. False Finishes & saves abound! It’s a blast! Both teams really worked their butts off to put on a great match. It wasn’t really deep or anything but, their effort really made this something special.
Shinjiro Otani, Kazunari Murakami & Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs Jun Akiyama, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Makoto Hashi (12/02): Akiyama vs Otani is dream match-up stuff to me. I’m excited. Also I’ll say that I miss Makoto Hashi. He was a tough impactful scrapper type of guy. Sort of a utility wrestler who go in any spot he needed to. I will say that I don’t miss his bouncy bosom though :I Its here in full effect but, shit he gets hardway juice from a Murakami headbutt and gets his face eliminated by Otani so, jiggle away my man!
In all seriousness, this is some very nice 6 man wrestling. Once Akiyama gets in there to save Hashi, this opens up like a cheap bag of chips. Akiyama is directing rush hour traffic here and it’s wonderful. Guys are going everywhere, Hashi’s bleeding from the head and mouth- this is Sterness vs Zero-1 for sure! This never steps outside of it’s place on the card and that is a testament to Otani & Akiyama. It’s something I’d highly recommend checking out.
KENTA vs Bryan Danielson (12/02): 2006 methodical surgeon, Bryan Danielson? Yes, please! Oh man it’s been awhile seeing Dragon work this style and it is a joy. He takes the reigns here and forces KENTA to restrain himself- both real and in-ring. This is brilliant because it only magnifies KENTA’s explosive ferocity. When he gets an opening, he’s like a Tasmanian Devil. That being said, this is more of a dry athletic contest than their ROH title fight in October. I could watch this forever though. It was really perfectly executed and perfectly matched competitors. For that I’d say it was a near classic encounter and should be watched right along with their others.
I will say this style really shows the limitations of KENTA however. He doesn’t seems to really add much of anything different to the bout despite this being a different style. He just does his thing when he gets a chance. This is OK but, it does really show that Danielson (and Marufuji indirectly) are superior workers. Nonetheless, these two work so well together, it was just an awesome competetive match.
Takeshi Morishima vs Go Shiozaki (12/10): This starts really solid with Go being like 1995 Jun Akiyama. Morishima is a generous fellow here but, that soon wears thin. Its time to show Go who’s the Tag Champ. This is over way too soon for my liking but, got the point across with both guys. Recommend this match to fans of either.
Akira Taue, Mushiking Terry, Taiji Ishimori & Atsushi Aoki vs SUWA, TARU, Shuji Kondo & "brother" YASSHI (12/10): This is a fine match to show friends and loved one who are used to traditional heel/babyface dynamics. Taue is the man in this and the younger babyfaces bring all kinds of fireworks when its their time to shine. The heels are dastardly and feed the faces at just the right times. This is fun, fun stuff for non-fans and wrestler dorks alike
Naomichi Marufuji vs Mitsuharu Misawa (12/10): GHC belt is on the line. A quick cardio opening shows us that not only can Misawa go but, much better than his peers (see 03/05 & 04/23 Marufuji matches). ‘Fuji baits Misawa to gain control and locks in a fierce stepover facelock. Misawa again uses his elbows to create space but, the champ is using his brain and is damn quick. He focuses in on the challenger’s legs like a laser. Naomichi is almost heelish in his ruthlessness. Misawa calls for the ref to break Marufuji on two occasions. This appeal to the official is a clear departure from the collected Mitsuharu of youth. Further, Naomichi seems to welcome the legendary elbow strikes. He’s proving that Misawa is no longer the invulnerable hero & that he IS the rightful holder of the GHC championship. Of course, our Emerald Hero finds an opening and hits back hard. He has to or this is going to be over before it begins. They’re both wounded and desperate- shit gets good!
An organic, excellently executed and paced bout. The escalation of violence and the moves chosen have contextual significance. They wrestlers don’t just do things because that’s when they’re supposed to do the big moves. Additionally, the omission of some key attacks are also significant. The finish was just fantastic as well- Very reminiscent of Hansen/Kobashi 07/93 in my opinion. It felt like a struggle up until the end. And let’s be honest- that’s how it is supposed to be! The fans storm the barricades after the bell like White Walkers at Hardhome. Classic match man.
Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs Takashi Sugiura (12/23): GHC Jr. belt on a SEM show. SEM was (is?) like a 205 Live of NOAH shows. This is fought like a NJPW NEVER championship match. Seriously…stiff as a starched shirt, good power moves, and transitions of control based on toughness/powering through more than finding openings. Sugiura eventually has to use his Cro-Magnon brain to save himself from the Japanese Karl Pilkington Terminator. But damn if, Sugiura isn’t a beast himself. Holy Shit! No doubt this would be a 4.5-5 star match if this were in NJ today. I’ve watch a nice chunk of the G1 and this fits right alongside the touted matches from the tour. Likewise, I don’t think it was classic stuff nor even a great match on the whole. It WAS a great display of toughness & neck-death though! Highly recommended.
Pro Wrestling NOAH 2006 is completed in my books! Woo-hoo! It’s been one of those watch-projects that I’ve been putting off for about 3-4 years. I had seen a few matches that I really dug back then and heard about on the NOAH USA website. Plus this year was really strong in various opinion polls and boards. So, I got a few DVDs with the purpose of watching the stuff that seemed most interesting to me but, like all of us, got sidetracked.
I think what was most interesting was that I realized I hadn’t seen a Misawa singles match in probably a couple years. That is so strange considering he was ubiquitous in my formative puro watching years and even in those early NOAH explorations. So, I was pleasantly surprised with his classic bouts against Morishima & Marufuji. He really still had “IT” in 2006. Unsurprisingly, Morishima & Marufuji’s stock went up with me as well. I’ve always liked them but, they had some high quality performances this year. Naomichi especially shone bright. I think his big push to be champion was well deserved despite it being so short. Takeshi Morishima had one classic singles match but, felt like the glue and future star of NOAH in 2006. KENTA is one person whose stock fell a little bit. He seemed really one dimensional. It’s a good dimension to have in pro-wrestling but, other than his match with Danielson, he didn’t show a lot of variety. This is not terrible since he frequently brings the intensity of the Sun at noon in the middle of July. Still, I would put him below Marufuji & Morishima at this point. This is a big shift in perspective for me since KENTA was near the top of my list for the 2000’s for a long time. He’s most likely top 10-15 still but, that’s still a downgrade. Also want to mention Taue & Akiyama being really fantastic as well. 2006 was about the elevation of the Marufuji, KENTA, and Morishima so, these two legends played a great supporting part in that as well as delivering some standout performances both in singles and tags.
I want to see what ’07-’09 holds although probably not as in depth. I’m really interested to see Go Shiozaki develop to challenge Morishima, KENTA, & Marufuji. Sugiura gets pushed but, that seemed to be out of necessity than talent. I’m hoping that he gets a bit better in crafting his matches since he does play a big role in the GHC title later in the decade. Also, I want to see more of Taiji Ishimori. I remember not really caring for him at the time but, in today’s puro climate he’s relatively moderate.
Top 5 Matches of the Year:
KENTA vs N. Marufuji 01/22
KENTA vs K. Kobashi 03/05
T. Morishima vs M. Misawa 03/05
N. Marufuji vs KENTA 10/29
N. Marufuji vs M. Misawa 12/02
Biggest Letdown: N. Marufuji vs K. Kobashi 04/23
Misawa/Akiyama vs Takayama/Sasaki 07/16
Shiozaki/Taue vs Shibata/KENTA 09/09
Morishima/Yone vs Rikio/Sugiura 11/17
2006 Akira Taue in general
Big take away from this venture- 2006 NOAH is comparable to contemporary NJPW in my eyes. The crowd excitement, atmosphere & presentation may not be as slick as NJ but, the quality and style is very similar. I’ve said this in various reviews yet, I think it’s worth stating again especially coming of the 2018 G1 tournament where people raved about similar or lesser matches. Seriously…go back to NOAH 2006, it’s just as good or better.