This is a two birds with one stone post. I wanted to get a little more Zero One in this year as well as get back to early 2000s NOAH. I was going through my 2001 list and realized I had a mini project with Zero One vs NOAH in 2001. There's some better known stuff and a couple I'd never heard of. Let's jump in!
Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Shinya Hashimoto & Alexander Otsuka (January 13th, 2001) : A good match that goes a long way on the Misawa vs Hashimoto interactions. Very exciting and extremely well worked despite not being memorable from an action standpoint. This is a big one but I think would've been better with someone other than Otsuka.
Naomichi Marufuji vs. Naohiro Hoshikawa - ZERO1 - 03/02/2001 : Great match! This is one I wanted to see for a long time as it was highly recommended on Quebrada (which was my gateway to serious puro fandom). It didn't really disappoint either. Now I wouldn't call it a classic in 2022 but 21 years ago, I could certainly buy that rating. Marufuji is spot on here and Hoshikawa is someone who looked ready to break out in the new millennium. He's like a beefier KENTA. This is kinda the template for their NOAH classics. I'd really recommend watching this match. It just has this really neat early 2000's transitional vibe to it. Like you could see where 2000's wrestling was headed but it was grounded by 90's sensibilities. From a personal perspective, I was only 5-6 years removed from this match when I found out about it. It's taken me 15 years to see it. Ha! A weird existential/where-has-the-time-gone feeling came over me when thinking about that. Like using wrestling as a way to measure the passage of time.
Kentaro Shiga & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Naohiro Hoshikawa & Tatsuhito Takaiwa - ZERO1 - 09/15/2001: This was off the hook! Fantastic junior action from bell-to-bell. The mix of styles is what I think did if for me. Zero One is power & kicks vs NOAH's speed and technique. It made for some great interactions and unexpected moments. And thy showed restraint by not emptying their tanks. They are building up the program and there's not much more you can do than this. It got over exactly as it needed too. I'm calling this a lost near classic junior tag match. It was a blast!
Shinya Hashimoto & Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Daisuke Ikeda & Takashi Sugiura - ZERO1 - 09/15/2001: Where did this come from? Holy cow this is a interesting matchup. It's clever and exciting. Its much more like a 1986-87 NJPW heavyweight strong style tag. It's been awhile since I watched this type of stuff and this was appreciated. Yeah buddy, go check this shit out.
Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Shinjiro Otani & Takao Omori (October 12, 2001) Back in the green ring of Noah. This is neat as Omori is here as a cast off from the early days of Noah but there's that great AJPW history that ties him to Ogawa & Misawa. Then you've got Otani who has no love for Ogawa or Misawa whether you want to draw upon his NJ history or as one of the top stars of the fledgling Zero One. It's a simple match but a great one. I think what elevates it is that the little touches are done right. And perhaps it's because it is 2001 and we're not that far away from when wrestling (as in holds, storytelling over moves etc.) mattered. Compare this to nowadays or 2011 AJ which I was just watching, and working a few holds in between moves, escalating the action and selling rather than acting as a tough guy seems so very old fashioned. But dammit, those things work! And this isn't a text book example of those things but they're in the match and this small venue/B show main event was exciting and got me engaged. And rather than beat the scrap out of each other, go move crazy or whatever, they did a simple yet dramatic tag battle with good heel/face work, well timed counters & spots, and some believable near falls (rare as a unicorn nowadays).
Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (10/19/01) - Very good to great Jr. Heavyweight title fight. Lots of bombs thrown and no way will you not dig this match. Nice counter moves and surprises... just a lot of fun and believable near falls.
Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA vs. Naohiro Hoshikawa & Tatsuhito Takaiwa (11/30/01) - A prelude to the Marufuji/Takaiwa encounter. Its 13 minutes of really good junior tag action. KENTA hasn't quite found his identity yet and its the earliest I've seen him. The potential is visible already. The Zero-One team is a great combo and Hoshikawa impressed again. As a lead in to the match below, there's no reason not to see this.
Tatsuhito Takaiwa vs Naomichi Marufuji (12/09/01): This is a classic junior match because of all of bananas shit that takes place. It definitely belongs in the list of awesome Junior matches of early NOAH and perhaps it's the first one. But not only is it shocking (in a good way) but its clever at times as well. Takaiwa attacks the leg quite viciously and Marufuji's real only offense is his side kick (super kick) and taking flying leaps of the top rope. And his only defense is trying to counter Takaiwa with a pinning combination or endure the onslaught and maybe get lucky. I will say with a bit more structure this could have been a high end classic and be scratching at an all time classic (****3/4-*****) however it's just sneaking in at ****1/2. I try to avoid stars anymore because I'm splitting hairs with fractions so yeah low-end classic but a classic nonetheless
In summary, this was extremely fun to watch. There's variety in styles and match-ups. The intensity was there. The action was exciting and surprising at times. It was exactly what I wanted. Everything here is easy to find online. If nothing else, pick 2-3 matches to watch. If you haven't seen Misawa in awhile, go with those. You want guys kicking people, Hashimoto and Hoshikawa got you covered. It is hard to go wrong with anything here.
Be kind and patient with people this holiday season. A little bit of kindness goes a long way. Thanks for reading!