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  1. 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!
  2. In all honesty, this was going to be a quickie post of just a few matches that I stumbled across. But then I became intrigued by the match ups or was impressed by a worker and wanted to see more. And here we are! The entire 2003 Differ Cup watched out of sequence reviewed out of sequence. I'm not going to pretend it didn't happen. Sit back and read on: KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki vs Great Takeru & Kappa Kozou (02/08): Was going to skip this since I'd never heard of the IWA Japan team. But then I thought - I'm going to end up watching the whole event (mostly) so I should just check it out. So glad I did! Its shown in full as it features the home NOAH team and frankly it is a great opening bout! Both teams were smooth and exciting which surprised me. Perhaps it's a case of low expectations but I thought the teams gelled well enough that the IWA-J team would be invited back for under card jobs at the very least. Not thinking they were though... Jun Kasai & Gran Naniwa vs YOSSINO & Ultimo Dragon (02/08): Saw this called the worst match of the night...no way man! In fact, I thought it was great! It wasn't a move fest but it was clever, funny and had some exciting moves too. It just felt like 4 pros at work. Sometimes it doesn't have to be epic, brutal or intense to be great. MIKAMI & KUDO vs Kuroda & Chocoball Mukai (02/08): JIP to the last 10 minutes of an 18 minute match. Took a chance on this and was pleasantly surprised. My sleazy indie radar steered me right. Very fun very indie match with chairs and a ladder. As a fan of ECW & FMW, this felt good. Ikuto Hidaka & Masao Orihara vs. Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yoshihito Sasaki (02/08): In a NOAH ring but this is a Zero-one match. And that is pretty cool. The familiarity is there and they were able to do some really good stuff. Hidaka never ceases to amaze me with some move or sequence. Orihara (who I hadn't seen much at this time other than Fire Pro Returns) can still go. This was all action and a great match. Yoshihito Sasaki looks good even this early. MIKAMI & KUDO vs Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yoshihito Sasaki (02/08): JIP and clipped however the stuff that was shown was really good! The Zero One team brings the steak but MIKAMI brings the needed sizzle. Heck KUDO looked really exciting here as well. The ladder is in play again and I'm not complaining. 12 minutes shown out of a 15 minute match so I feel safe giving this a "very good" rating. KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki vs YOSSINO & Ultimo Dragon (02/08): Oh yeah this was really good stuff especially towards the end. Masato Yoshino/YOSSINO did his part here but Ultimo was the star of the whole tournament. Good pace, action throughout - this 11 minute bout was a nice way to end night #1. Great Takeru vs Kappa Kozou (02/09): Fun showcase match of the IWA Japan guys. It's about 10 minutes of them throwing their best stuff out there. They made a good impression on me. Ikuto Hidaka vs Masao Orihara: Oh shit! They were not going to be out done by the IWA guys. This was some next level stuff. Hidaka again drops my jaw with his precision, speed and body control. Orihara is right there with him! This wasn't all fireworks either as Hidaka was trying to get a clean win whereas Orihara was going to take it anyway he could. Even Ikuto has a breaking point and introduces a steel chair to the mix. Nothing too crazy like we've seen the night before but it's nice to see the ECW/FMW relaxed rules again. This is a great junior match. Kuroda & Chocoball Mukai vs Gran Naniwa & Jun Kasai : I wasn't sure about this one. I looked it up and it was around 20 minutes. 12-14 minutes seemed right but that time seemed too much. Yet again, I was wrong. This was a really fun match that had a little bit of everything. Both teams looked really good. Kuroda and Kasai were the best though. I don't know if I would have booked this after Hidaka vs Orihara from a draw perspective but they did their job and provided lighter entertainment to prep the fans for the main events. KUDO & MIKAMI vs. KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki: This is fought for Third Place trophy. I've seen this called a very good match but I can't agree. The start was fun but the middle was long and pretty dull. The last third was good but wasn't enough to save this from being just OK in my book. This was very good but the Naniwa/Kasai match was no good? Yeah right! The Kappa/Takeru bout smoked this as well. It was just too long and none of the guys knew how to fill the time in the middle. A disappointing fight. Ultimo Dragon & YOSSINO vs Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Yoshihito Sasaki (02/09): Its much more toned down in terms of crazy spots (although it has a few) and has a strong face/heel dynamic. Masato Yoshino (YOSSINO) played the whipping boy and Takaiwa was the bully. Dragon was the big brother and Sasaki was the lackey. It was simple and effective. It was well executed, there were nice surprises, shoot it was a really good tag match! A great way to end the tournament. There you have it! Never had any intention at anytime to watch this but dammit I had a lot of fun! Only one match was a bummer and most were actually pretty darn good to great. This gets a very strong recommendation from me especially if you're craving something from this time in wrestling. Thanks for reading!
  3. I've been in a bit of a down period with wrestling the last month or so. I got a Highspots Best of 2003 compilation off eBay a little while ago and I thought it might be the thing to get me back into things. It starts out with matches from the January 10th show. A couple of them are ones that I always wanted to see but never got around to. Looks like a good place to start. KENTA & Takashi Sugiura vs Takuma Sano & Kotaro Suzuki - Man alive this was a Jr. tag fireworks display. Kotaro just set the tone early showing Tiger Mask like speed & agility. Sugiura was the powerhouse while KENTA & Sano were the violent artists. 14 minutes of Jr. action without being contrived or "out of order." There is a difference between this and what was going on in the U.S. at the time. Guys would catch up but this was crisp, clean and engaging Jr. tag wrestling. The finish was the only flaw of this great match. Even then, it doesn't diminish the work. Jun Akiyama & Akitoshi Saito vs Shinjiro Otani & Masato Tanaka - This is a WAR lover's match. More potatoes than Idaho. Some might more moves but this burns bright with inter-promotional hate. That coupled with a brutal finish makes this a classic tag match in my book! Mitsuharu Misawa & Masahiro Chono vs Kenta Kobashi & Akira Taue - So I thought the above match was the final but no! We have this dream bout with NJ's Chono getting in the mix. His interactions with Kenta & Taue were like a Fire Pro match come to life. Its different than what came before it and was very much a big time main event style match where you get what you came for. The tanks aren't emptied out but you're still grinning at the end. It's been awhile since I've seen Misawa, Kobashi & Taue so this was a treat. I feel very comfortable calling it a near classic match... ----- Its no secret that I'm a big fan of tag matches and these were totally up my alley. Each was different stylistically yet each was dynamic and engaging. I'm sure these are available online somewhere or maybe you have them on DVD or saved somewhere on a computer, take the time and check these out. If you're a newer fan, its some great stuff from the not too distant past. If you were watching NOAH take shape 20 years ago (holy cow!), these matches will take you back in time to a period of excitement and possibility. Thanks for reading!
  4. A very rare gem of the NOAH juniors paying visit to the IWA Japan show. And I'm not gonna lie, Marufuji's flying elbow to Takeru was perfectly executed. Impressive match. ****1/4
  5. Welcome to my Best Match Watched of 2020 celebration! We've got big stars appearing and a number of musical performances lined up tonight! Let's get this party started! Oh wait, never mind all of that...let's just get onto the Big List of my favorite stuff of that I've watched this year. In chronological order: Pre 1970's: Mighty Atlas vs Angelo Poffo (Chicago 1956) Honorable Mention, Very good match with nice action and pacing. Simple story but, well worked. 1970s & 80s: Tiger Mask vs Gran Hamada (11/05/81) Tiger Mask vs Steve Wright (04/01/82) Tiger Mask vs Black Tiger (05/26/82) Tiger Mask vs Bret Hart (07/30/82) Akira Nogami, Tatsutoshi Goto, K. Yamada, K. Hoshino & S. Koshinaka vs Hiroshi Hase, K. Kobayashi, Kensuke Sasaki, N. Honaga & H. Saito (04/27/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (04/27/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (05/27/88) Shiro Koshinaka vs Owen Hart (06/24/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24/88) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Big Van Vader (06/26/88) Riki Choshu vs Antonio Inoki (07/22/88) Shiro Koshinaka vs Kuniaki Kobayashi (8/08/88) Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami (08/08/88) 1990s & 2000s: American Dragon vs Low-Ki vs Christopher Daniels - Era of Honor Begins (2002) American Dragon vs Christopher Daniels - Round Robin Challenge (2002) Daniels vs Low-Ki - Round Robin Challenge (2002) American Dragon vs Low-Ki - Round Robin Challenge (2002) Jerry Lynn vs AJ Styles - Road to the Title (2002) American Dragon vs AJ Styles - All Star Extravaganza (2002) Low Ki vs American Dragon vs Steve Corino vs Samoa Joe Final Battle (2002) Low Ki & Homicide vs Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal (Punk: The Final Chapter 2005) Roderick Strong vs Jack Evans FIP Strong vs Evans (2005) KENTA & Marufuji vs Samoa Joe & Danielson (ROH Best in the World 2006) KENTA vs Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson (ROH In Your Face 2006) Low Ki (Senshi) vs Chris Sabin (TNA Bound for Glory 2006) Honorable Mention, An action packed match with 0 TNA bullshit to spoil it. Golden era X Division stuff. Daisuke Sekimoto vs Manabu Nakanishi (BJW 2007) Honorable Mention, A very good to great match that told a great story that that fans & myself could believe. Precursor to the BJW Strong Style revival stuff. 2010 to present: Sami Callihan vs Tommy End (wXw 16 Carat 2011) El Generico vs Kotaro Suzuki (same) El Generico & Emil Sitoci vs Adam Cole & Kyle O'Reilly " Yoshihito Sasaki vs Sami Callihan " Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr. " Daisuke Sekimoto vs El Generico " Cole & O'Reilly vs Sabre Jr. & Scurll " Sami Callihan vs Big Van Walter " KENTA, K. Kanemoto, Minoru Tanaka, Kanemaru & Genba vs Devitt, Taguchi, K. Suzuki, Nakajima & KAI - All Together (2011) Akiyama & K. Sasaki vs Omori & Takayama - All Together (2011) Fred Yehi vs Tracy Williams ROH Pure Title tournament (2020) Mark Haskins vs Alex Shelley (ROH TV 02/20): Honorable Mention, excellent chain wrestling by Shelley and a good fit for Haskins hybrid style. Crowd actually was into this match which can be tough for live ROH crowds nowadays. -THE BEST of the BEST!- Pre 1970's...well I only watched a few pre 1970's matches and well Mighty Atlas vs Angelo Poffo (Chicago 1956) was the best of the bunch. The rest of my picks are going to be a little more difficult so, I think I'll do a top 3 or top 5 for the others. Then...just maybe will I actually able to narrow it down. 1970s & 80s: Clearly I was all about NJPW in the 80's although I did dip my toe in AJPW a couple times later in the year. They had some good 6 man matches (British Bulldogs w. Kobashi), I didn't see anything that could touch NJPW. Tiger Mask vs Gran Hamada (11/05/81) Tiger Mask vs Steve Wright (04/01/82) Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24/88) Riki Choshu vs Antonio Inoki (07/22/88) Antonio Inoki vs Tatsumi Fujinami (08/08/88) 1990s & 2000s: And now we enter the Ring of Honor K-hole I was lost in for awhile. Hey, I'm glad I took that journey. I was pretty ignorant of Year One ROH and got me excited to keep watching their current stuff. Plus is encouraged me to check out the sister company FIP which I've been digging. Also, I have made some purchases that have fill in some gaps in my DVD collection. I hope to be hitting up a couple of those for 2021. So, my list boils down to these: American Dragon vs Low-Ki - Round Robin Challenge (2002) Low Ki vs American Dragon vs Steve Corino vs Samoa Joe (2002) - Perhaps a controversial pick against the Era of Honor Begins but, I think this has the action along with the story lines Low Ki & Homicide vs Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal (Punk: The Final Chapter 2005) KENTA & Marufuji vs Samoa Joe & Danielson (ROH Best in the World 2006) KENTA vs Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson (ROH In Your Face 2006) 2010 to present: There's a good chunk from the wXw 2011 tournament here but, what can I say? It was a great show. Perhaps similar to the Ted Petty Invitational 2004. Sami Callihan vs Tommy End (wXw 16 Carat 2011) El Generico vs Kotaro Suzuki Yoshihito Sasaki vs Sami Callihan Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr. Akiyama & K. Sasaki vs Omori & Takayama - All Together (2011) The runners up: Tiger Mask vs Steve Wright (04/01/82) - a long technical match with beautiful chain wrestling - counters, escapes, reversals, and counter reversals...distinct from his matches with Baby Face, Hamada, Blackman but, still was athletic and exciting as we've come to expect. KENTA & Marufuji vs Samoa Joe & Danielson (ROH Best in the World 2006) - Felt like a late 1990's AJPW Four Corners tag classic Yoshihito Sasaki vs Sami Callihan - I think this match best encapsulates the awesome hard hitting style that both guys showed all 3 days. I didn't rate it as a classic at the time but, both guys have stuck in my mind all year. Here's my top 3 and I'm just going by my gut: Tatsumi Fujinami vs Riki Choshu (06/24/88) - This was timeless stuff to me. A heavenly dream battle...great grappling, wonderfully engaging storytelling, and a real sense of rivalry. Low Ki & Homicide vs Samoa Joe & Jay Lethal (Punk: The Final Chapter 2005) - I got an out of body feeling when watching this match that was very similar to the first time I saw Kobashi vs Misawa's matches from 1997. Maybe it was the mild hype that lower my expectations but, this blew my mind. Davey Richards vs Zack Sabre Jr. (wXw 2011) - As hard as Sasaki & Sami were in the tourney, these two went beyond that. Davey really only does one thing but, when he's in there with the right person it can be awesome. It has grappling, strikes, nice counters & escapes all with an aggressive pace. Best Wrestler: Fujinami was killing it in '88. Tiger Mask given the right opponent was working magic. Sami, Yoshihito Sasaki, and El Generico were on fire during the wXw tourney in 2011. But I'm going to give it to American Dragon Bryan Danielson specifically for his work in 2002 in ROH. A natural baby face to Daniels' gimmick and Ki's natual demeanor, Dragon is relatable in addition to being a fantastic in ring worker. He has a grip of classic matches but, also elevates his tournament matches into something you want to see as well. Best Surprise: Yoshihito Sasaki was pretty much unknown to me other than a character in Fire Pro Returns but, he's a guy I want to be on the look out for in the future. Seeing as I got a 4 disc Best of BJW in 2006 set, the future might be pretty soon! But, I think the best surprise of this year was Full Impact Pro being pretty great wrestling. I watched their Unstoppable 2007 DVD a few years ago and for the first time a few years before that and it didn't "wow" me. I think my expectations were too high or something. As I watched it again, I saw stuff that I don't think I appreciated in the past. From that I've seen some really great stuff including Roderick Strong vs Jack Evans which is a lost "ROH" classic to me. I'm looking forward to getting back to FIP Fridays! Looking forward to: Tackling the mountain of DVDs I've got - AJPW, BJW, NOAH, NJPW, ROH and more including FIP. Duh right? But I'm also swinging back to FMW and specifically 1998 which may be their very best year. I've already watched a handful of matches (although I'm not including them on this year's list) and I am NOT disappointed. Thank you so much for reading this year! Its been a really crappy 365 days but, I hope I was able to give you a little bit of fun and inspiration. Let's hope for a better new year! Stay safe and keep watching wrestling!
  6. This was a wrestling show held in August 2011 in honor of the victims of the March 2011 Earthquake & Tsunami and the aftermath including the meltdown of the Fukushima power plant. Well, without going and checking dates I'm not sure they knew the scope of the disaster of Fukashima yet. That's one of those things that the company and government wanted to downplay at the time. And they still do. It is certainly one of those things that still exists but, is sadly a footnote in the 24 hour news cycle. It was almost a decade ago but, those people and communities are still gone...and that area is still radioactive. I digress. Ok so on to the wrestling part. This was a joint venture between AJPW, NJPW, and NOAH as well as some big time freelancers to but on a super show in the spirit of solidarity and togetherness in the face of a national tragedy. What better way to do so then have a bunch of dudes beating up on each other? I kid! All proceeds went to the Japanese Red Cross. It was one of those things that I shied away from at the time because I didn't know if it would be a somber show or if it would be dull due to the nature of the show. Its me being stingy with my wrestling dollar. Don't fret though because this show as well as its follow up (and Kobashi's farewell show) are all available in full on Youtube. I haven't been watching a ton of puroresu and thought "Man, this looks like a good way to get back into it after getting lost in an ROH k-hole." I had pretty low expectations but, this features a pretty complete list of top Japanese talent and I should check it out for the sake of it. Kota Ibushi, Taji Ishimori, BUSHI & Yamato vs Kaz Hiyashi, Shuji Kondo, Tiger Mask IV & Ricky Marvin - This was a short but all fireworks spot fest! What a way to start the show. My fears of a dull exhibition show have subsided. This was good stuff. Ricky Marvin was my fave. Naito, Sanada & Taniguchi vs Takahashi, Manabu Soya & M. Yone - I'm not writing out everyone's names. Every match is some form of a tag match and I'm not doing it! You probably know some if not most of the names and the others you can look up Anyhow this was a really good match where Naito got worked over but made a good comeback and tagged out to kick it up a notch - BAM! This was a good mix of guys and although there were some rough patches nothing ruined the fun. Makabe & Akitoshi Saito vs Hirooki Goto & Kea - This was my jam. Hard hitters hitting each other hard. Good chops and slams. These guys had that good upper card tag vibe going, Taiyo Kea and Makabe had good chemistry against each other. Very good match. KENTA, K. Kanemoto, Minoru Tanaka, Kanemaru & Genba vs Devitt, Taguchi, K. Suzuki, Nakajima & KAI - Oh man! They could split all these guys up and have a tag tourney and I'd be a happy man. What we get scratches that it nonetheless. Everyone gets in there and does their thing. KENTA and Koji Kanemoto on the same team!? Get outta here! Attitude for miles! So you've got that and everyone just is super talented and wanted to win, this was a great match. 15 minutes but, it was fantastic. Best match so far. Masakatsu Funaki, Liger & Sano vs Minoru Suzuki, Aoki & Taichi - NJ Dojo classmates united again. Suzuki is right behind them so that's the story of the match to me. Fun little match with good spots toward the end. The Destroyer battle royale - I skipped this... Nagata, Tenzan, Nishimura & W. Inoue vs Akebono, Hama, Y. Yoshie & Morishima - Fun match but, this would have been better with Nagata & Nishimura vs Yoshie & Morishima . Its only 11 minutes and its all good for where its at on the card. Akiyama & K. Sasaki vs Omori & Takayama - So, Takayama was starting to not have "it" by this point but, he could still take a helluva beating. I wanted to say that right off the bat. That being said, this was a near classic macho beat-em up match. All three other guys were still awesome and the crowd was molten hot for this battle. I really really dug this especially at 15 minutes where it was all steak and no sizzle which works wonderfully for this style and the guys' ages. I'm a fan of all 4 so perhaps you think I'm full of it but, I really want to put this as like a ****1/2 match. The final 3rd of the match which had Omori in the ring more really put this up there. Best match of the show and should have been the main event in my eyes. Kobashi & Muto vs Iizuka & Yano - This won the Tokyo Sports GP Best Match of 2011 award. That like many of their awards is based on mass appeal, nostalgia, and star power. That and the finish is really something beautiful if you're a long time puro fan. SUWAMA, Tanahashi & Shiozaki vs KENSO, Nakamura & Sugiura - I totally get why this is the main event. These are the heavy hitter, the aces of their companies, the world champions. That being said I would have LOVED this id it was minus Tanahashi & KENSO because the other four guys are absolute beasts! So, it makes their offense look mid card level. SUWAMA and Nakamura grappling to start, Shiozaki & Sugiura blasting each other...it makes the other two guys stuff look soft. It got really really good though. All that talent in one ring, they had to have a very good match in their sleep. This was that match BUT! they threw a story element in there as well. It was kinda goofy but, the fans loved it and we got to see all these dudes in one ring at once. Kinda like a lucha trios match... Overall this was a really really good show and I think paid off the Dream Show vibe. I would say this would be like getting the '94 Super J Cup tape if you wanted to get into puro but stuff is so easy to come by with Youtube, NJ World, etc. that there's probably more relevant entry points now. But, let's say if you're looking to get into older stuff but, want a more modern presentation and a good introduction than this is a great way for that. I think its also a good reminder of the events that took place all most a decade ago. Thanks for reading !
  7. There was one really great FUTEN-esque exchange between Ikeda and KENTA in this. I can see KENTA having a pretty great career in BattlARTS/FUTEN or WAR just acting like a kickboxer. Unfortunately, Sugiura & KENTA immediately cooled that excitement down by working a rather lame control segment. Taue does almost nothing in this, but the 2 times or so he is in he really kicks people in the face or ragdolls KENTA around, so it's fair to say that he rules. It picks up again for the finish and Ikeda even gets to pick up the win with the Kinniku Buster in a nice moment.
  8. I took a small break from my New Japan 1988 project to cherry pick a few Golden Era Ring of Honor matches that I had been wanting to see. The theme I guess would be Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson but, KENTA is in two of the three matches. So its really Joe, Danielson plus KENTA matches that I wanted to see AND are free on ROH's Youtube channel. I've had these bookmarked for months and been waiting to see for more than a decade. There's no time like the present to check these out! Samoa Joe vs Bryan Danielson (ROH Title, Midnight Express Reunion 2004): I've seen their 2003 match and heard that this was their best. It is considered a classic and in 2004 with the storyline of Joe post Punk encounter #1, I can see giving it that status. I'm not going to take that away in honesty because, I'm sure there are wrinkles that I've missed in 2020. That being said, I thought as a stand alone title fight this was very good (and perhaps great). I think the story was Dragon trying to force Joe to go long (like Punk had) but, also try to systematically dismantle the champ. That and Danielson post NJPW tour could hit with the hardest so, Joe didn't stand a chance. However, the Samoan Submission machine was in Terminator mode not only eating what Danielson was throwing but, dishing out some sickening blows himself and possession "the choke" or Coquina Clutch as TNA would brand it, I've read comparisons to 90's AJPW and I can see that as there were few slams and suplexes compared to strikes and submissions. Where this differs is the organization department. Most notably Joe's need to fit in the Ole kicks 2/3rds of the way in. This is the point where my excitement went off track. Each guy was desperate to close the fight and now Joe finds it necessary to do his showboat/insult move? He should have just faked it out and just chest kicked Danielson or something more visceral. And that's the thing... the match was at a gut level violent...like Tsuruta vs Tenryu then, Joe (and I don't really blame him in '04) inserts an Indy fan service move. A bit of wind went out of my sails. My other quibble is Danielson's attack psychology. The awful 2004 announcers (whom I muted on the 2nd watch) even acknowledge the change in gameplan. This is so heavy handed on their part frankly...they're explaining rather than letting the wrestler do so with their actions. Anyhow, I would have preferred a Liger-like focus from Bryan on Joe's leg or neck early on then settle into the middle of the match only to call-back to that to set up the ending portion...even if it would not lead to the finish. Instead, it doesn't seem like he can commit to a single plan of focus and neither can Joe from a selling standpoint. So, the story of the challenger doesn't come across as strongly as it should have, Those things would have made this an all time classic in my eyes...I think this was the time where Gabe S. was really pushing the long matches = great match ideology for ROH. The above flaws would have been less bothersome if this was 5 -10 minutes shorter. Not that it NEEDED to be but, they story would have been tighter and the earlier portion would have look less like time-filler. Nevertheless, I watched the damn thing twice in two days and enjoyed it both times so, I gotta recommend watching this. Samoa Joe vs KENTA vs Bryan Danielson (In Your Face 2006): This is another match that I'd been wanting to see for a decade plus. I'd seen clips from the ROH Live Wire from another DVD and thought this looked awesome but, perhaps too good to be true. I was wrong. This was precisely the match I'd hoped it would be. A high intensity, ultra stiff action packed 3 way match during their peak.Honestly, 2006 was the peak of their peak and this was special. A classic match that doesn't go too long or get too cute. Perhaps an all time classic if I'm going to be honest with myself. The shorter match length (20+ minutes I think) kept everything mean and showing how much Joe & Bryan had improved in just over a year...and ROH for that matter. Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA vs Samoa Joe & Bryan Danielson (Best In the World 2006): I watched this bout right after the above and if you have the luxury, I suggest you do the same. It plays off of (and in real time sets-up) the heat between Joe & KENTA beautifully. Not only that but, we have 4 of the best wrestlers in 2006 facing off and this is probably the closest to a AJPW Big 4 match as ROH did. Some have given this **** but, that's the bare minimum in my view. This match deviated from the balls to the wall fest that many were hoping for and instead provided all kinds of build ups and cool-downs that only master wrestlers can do. And I'm not talking about kickouts but, they achieved this by scaling up the intensity and urgency through body language, speeds, how hard they through their strikes, when they chose to tag, etc. It was a thing of beauty and like all true classics, I could have watched this all night. Even when a error was made, it was forgiven and forgotten as a miss rather than a mistake. If you are a fan of these guys and this style, check this out. You may not think as highly of it as me but, you will have fun. That goes for all of the above! Three remarkable matches available for free on ROH's 'tube page. I'd like to get the DVDs of the ones featuring the NOAH guys since I'm old school but, if not I'm stoked that I saw them. Thanks for reading! We'll get back to NJPW 1988 next week for sure!
  9. Talk about it here. http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x19v3f2_kenta-c-vs-takeshi-morishima-noah_sport?search_algo=1
  10. This was a lot of fun. You got some brief interactions between Kobashi & Misawa, and those were pretty wild as you'd expect, then you got KENTA & Marufuji doing their thing - some fast paced, energetic sequences. My favorite thing though was just seeing KENTA & Kobashi kick Marufuji's ass - my goodness their offense looked so great & Marufuji sold the beating well. Great match. ****
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