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  1. Jeez, I've been watching a lot of NOAH lately. I suppose it's because I'd turned a blind on it for so long after so many drawn out strike battles, over long "epics", and a roster that resembled a pop talent show more than puro company (at least from their names and appearances..more on that later). Eddie Edwards is one of those guys that I've come to consider a favorite of mine recently. I'm not exactly sure why however. He doesn't have a real remarkable look and he doesn't seem like a real 'character.' He seems very much like an athlete who's chosen profession is wrestling. I suppose that's why I like him. So, I was pleased to see that he popped back up in NOAH (on a talent exchange) last year. For those that don't know (or care), Edwards developed a true professional over in the NOAH promotion in the mid-2000s. So, when he came into ROH (again as sort of a talent exchange) he was looking like top talent in the making (except for his braided Jason Newsted haircut). I pretty much forgot about him for awhile (3 years perhaps?) as I focused on other promotions and older puro. Occasionally, his name would pop up in tape/DVD listings or reviews. It was good to see that he was still around and thriving. So many of those mid card guys in ROH had a lot of potential but, something happened and their careers never blossomed (Erick Stevens and Brent Albright are two I recall). I think the match that put Eddie on my radar as a serious talent was a 2011 match in NOAH vs Kotaro Suzuki. Kotaro had the GHC belt and much like Eddie, it was fantastic to see a lower ranked guy was getting pushed AND was doing well. This match had gotten some praise at the time and probably was one of the the more positively reviewed matches in NOAH at the time. Or at least that I can recall...2011 wasn't getting a lot of love. Gosh, to be honest after that, it probably wasn't until 2015 where for whatever reason, I thought I'd give PWG & ROH a try again that I started seeing Eddie Edwards clips on the 'tube. But, I'm rambling because all I want to cover in this entry is Eddie Edwards short lived but, historic GHC title run. A transitional champion? Yes but, the first non Japanese to hold the belt. Plus, he's the man to have ended Katsuhiko Nakajima's 307 day, 7 defense reign (the longest since KENTA's 2013 championship reign). That's pretty significant to me even if NOAH is in umm...transition??? Nevertheless, Eddie's involvement (through Impact's agreement with NOAH) helped bring me back into the viewership. Plus he really cut his teeth during his early years on the ARK so, it was a bit of a coming home story with him winning the title. So, let's take a little look back: Eddie Edwards & Ricky Marvin vs Katsuhiko Nakajima & Kota Ibushi (08/23/08): I am expecting fireworks from the get-go but, it begins with conservative striking and grounded holds. This is the first five minutes until Nakajima gets a bug up his ass about Marvin. He gets in the ring like a junkyard dog off his chain to save Ibushi. Then it picks up with the combos like Marvel vs Capcom 2. None of it is really engaging me though. Everyone is doing a bunch of running, kicking, and jumping. It's not that I even care who is doing it OR why. It's pure fireworks for the sake of going:'Oh wow!' *BANG* 'Cool!' *POP* 'Oh that was neat...' until you kinda get bored until the spectacular finish where all kinds of shit is blowing up. Sounds familiar with some wrestling matches, right?? That was this 100% to me. It was good but, nothing more. Eddie however (since this is his little feature) looked the strongest to me. He was most in contol of his movements as well putting forth the most effort for the longest period of time. A. Ito & I. Ota vs Ricky Marvin & Eddie Edwards (09/06/08): This is how you do a tag match- bring some hate, desire to win, desire to inflict pain or embarrassment...something right? You've got to have some energy! 8 minutes of great shit beats 21 minutes of blech. Marvin & Edwards were flipping awesome here. Ito & Otis looked good too but, mainly vehicles to put Rick & Ed over. Fun stuff so, I'd recommend going outta your way to watch this as it's under 10 minutes. Eddie Edwards & KENTA vs Prince Devitt & Ryusuke Taguchi (Apollo 55) (07/10/10): An all action match that I never knew happened. Apollo 55 was pretty big at this time so, it was a big deal for them to be in a NOAH ring. KENTA & Edwards look as good as any team against them. In fact, they looked better. Maybe it was the different environment or the green ring but, 55 seemed a little of this evening of combat. It's nothing embarrassing or even noticeable but, KENTA & Eddie were hell of a hard hitting tandem compared to the more Junior move-centric Devitt & Taguchi. Nevertheless, it was a very satisfying fantasy match up come to life. Very Good match! vs Kotaro Suzuki (01/29/11): GHC Jr. strap is on the line. They set a really good pace here for a title match. The highspots were simple but, spectacular. Both guys sold the exhaustion & pain from the match and it appeared that it was a struggle to win an athletic contest- not a performance of some maneuvers. It looked like a title fight. It really clicked for me. I am a fan of both guys but, in a way that makes me a harsher critic. I wanted to see both guys kick ass and if either were dogging it, I took note. I mean Kotaro's elbows looked tired toward the end. But to be honest, I think he was rattled as all hell. Eddie did not go easy on him and wouldn't put over the elbows until it was believable. If it was all selling then, double kudos to them for getting the story across that well. This was a great match! So I'll only do a little bit for Eddie's title fights because it was an unfortunately quick run... vs Katsuhiko Nakajima (08/26/17): A nice quick pace. The intensity and the drive to win for Edwards is really apparent. Whoa! he almost crippled Naka' on that tope! Ed's working the back...very nice. The strikes are there but, there are a variety of them as well as actual moves. At least 3 Evel Knievel suplexes. This feels like NOAH from a decade ago! A minute or 2 could have been shaved but, this was a great match! You should check this one out. vs Naomichi Marufuji (10/01/17): Marufuji had been competing in Impact (TNA) so, this in a way an Impact & TNA event (ya know how ROH & NJPW do co-shows?). Anyhow, I liked this but, it felt a little too smooth to me. The crowd was sedated as a psych ward too. That was a bummer but, it was still a Very Good match. It would have gone over better in front of the Impact crowd I think...it certainly was wrestled in that style. vs KENOH (12/22/17): I really got into this one despite KENOH looking like a Blade Runner Brian Jones. These guys had great chemistry together and put on a fantastic match where I'd like to see them compete again or team up in the future. Great match for sure! I think Edwards gave the company a shot in the arm in terms of experience and talent. NOAH feels very unfamiliar to me in 2018. There are few faces from the past to root for & those there seem unenthusiastic or uninspired (Shiozaki & Sugiura). The newer guys like KENOH have an off-putting look about them. It's sorta like whatever glamour B.S. Marufuji & Ibushi (and Tanahashi) brought to puro really rubbed off on these guys (HAYATA & YO-HEY). Masa Kitamiya doing a Masa Saito tribute and Nakajima channeling Ashura Hara is promising though. But, I looked on the NOAH roster page a moment ago and thought, "Who are these guys? and why should I watch this?" I get a very 'local independent wrestling' promotion vibe from NOAH. They have guys you know and maybe bring in big names but then have a load of guys you may be heard of or saw in a match or two that have a goofy name or look (much like Eddie Edwards early on) or complete no-names. I guess it behooves me give them a chance though. KENOH, who may look the goofiest of the bunch & has an all CAPS name, is A-OK in my book. He let his wrestling do the talking much like Edwards did in late 00's ROH. So, perhaps it's fitting that Ed lost the title to him. Changing of the guards? Maybe...who knows? Again, it would be great to see Ed in that green ring with KENOH in some shape or fashion. NOAH might be heading in a good direction. Again, who know? Good stuff and a fun little spotlight for me Thanks!!
  2. Pro Wrestling NOAH after Misawa's passing is uncharted territory to me. I know that it exists and I've even seen a little bit of it but, I tend not to wander around too long. This cluster of matches popped up because I wanted to do a brief "Shiozaki vs the Stars" post. Like most wrestling projects, I got sidetracked Here we have a sort of triple main event for NOAH's Great Voyage in Tokyo show. GHC Junior Heavyweight Title Match: Ricky Marvin vs Katsuhiko Nakajima: 18 minutes- Nice striking, clean execution so, it was a very good match from a mechanics standpoint. The story and energy wasn't engrossing however. Nakajima worked on Ricky's leg and the Rick man sold it like death during his time on 'defense ' but, his offense was counter intuitive. If you have hurt knees then, for god sakes! Don't do a knee drop or double foot stomp! I'm not saying don't fly... 'cuz you gonna fly Ricky...but think before you leap man. Still...I liked it but, you know... :-/ Triple Crown Heavyweight Title Match: Jun Akiyama vs Taiyo Kea: 23 minutes - This was like a '99-'00 Triple Crown bout. It has a slower pace and an emphasis on telling a story. This is my preferred style for title matches. So, this starts very grapple heavy until Kea gets a cheap one in on Akiyama. The fighting begins and soon spills over to the floor. Referee Wada has something to say about this & I loved it! He & Jun were priceless! Taiyo takes the opportunity however, and puts his tri-laser Predator beam on Jun's bandaged shoulder. I'm not going to spoil anything else! This was very much a 'story match' and had me interested from bell-to-bell. The veteran pair never tried to upstage the GHC title match in the top slot. They instead just put on a Triple Crown match with a steady building pace that felt organic and never rushed. A great match! GHC Heavyweight Title Match: Go Shiozaki vs KENTA: 27+ minutes - I watched this twice in order to form a better opinion. Both guys are Kobashi protege. This is an action oriented bout where there's no greater story than, 'I'm Tough!'...'No! I'm Tough!'. Thankfully, this did not descend into aimless dueling strikes for 15 minutes. Of course, they hit each other but, in a practical and purposeful way. Go stuck to his chops and KENTA mixed it up with damn near everything else but chops! They had their spots and everything was really quite good. I long for the days when wrestlers struggled to hoist each other into throws though. Think about Misawa fighting with all his might to lift Kawada into a Tiger Driver or German suplex. These two just lifted each other with the greatest of ease deep into the fight...this detail really bugged me. Its probably what holds it back from being a classic match. If you're more interested in or familiar with 2010's puro then, you probably won't mind this- and that's cool! To me, it didn't feel right...but then again, we're watching two Kobashi kids kick butt...so maybe I am blowing hot air! Quibbles aside, this match was very much worth the time. Both guys were very impressive and the final third of the match was dramatic and brutal. A great match! So, all 3 matches were a good time with the two Heavyweight title fights being in the **** area. You may even get a bit more out of them if you're interested in newer stuff. If you're liking an older style then, the Kea-Akiyama bout might be more your speed. In any case, a sweet bit of puro for November 27th, 2011! Thanks for reading!
  3. In true Mixed up Monday fashion, I'm going to do a whole show review which is all mixed up since, I usually just toss a couple random fun match reviews up. I bought the official NOAH DVD from Highspots. Its got English commentary. Its not very good commentary but, its not awful either. Its laughable that at every (yes, every kickout), the lead commentator asks, "Did he kickout!?" Does he mean that he literally cannot see the kickout or is that a dramatic phrase? I wonder even as I write this. It doesn't step on the matches and well, damn that's good enough. On to the show! A. Ito & I. Ota vs Ricky Marvin & Eddie Edwards: This is how you do a tag match- bring some hate, desire to win, desire to inflict pain or embarassment...something right? You've got to have some energy! 8 minutes of great shit beats 21 minutes of blech. Marvin & Edwards were flipping awesome here. Ito & Otis looked good too but, mainly vehicles to put Rick & Ed over. Fun stuff so, I'd recommend going outta your way to watch this as it's under 10 minutes. Akira Taue & Mohammed Yone vs Takuma Sano & Yoshi Takayama: Stiff as a drink. Yone channels his BattlArts days. Taue's still got it in '08. Fun match. Mitsuharu Misawa, Yoshinari Ogawa, Takashi Sugiura vs Jun Akiyama, Takeshi Rikioh, Atsuhi Aoki: Good mix of styles here. They keep is interesting without going move crazy. Haven't seen Misawa (RIP) in awhile (at the time of this viewing). Ogawa is awesome as Rat Boy here. All action inside and out of the ring, double teams, triple teams- Fast and simple 6 man where everyone looks great. Highly recommended. Naomichi Marufuji & Kento Miyahara vs Bryan Danielson & Davey Richards: NOAH is where Bryan & Davey belong...damn. Marufuji is in a goofy mood tonight but, it's all good, the gaijin team are being especially brutal. Oh shoot! That's Akira Hokuto, yay! Highly recommended? Recommended? Just a fun match? Kinda an extedned squash but, it's a blast to see Danielson & Davey in NOAH. Under 10 minutes. The Briscoe Brothers vs Katsu Nakajima & Kota Ibushi: Prematch worry: Let's see if Ibushi gets wacky. Match starts and they are pretty evenly matched. The Briscoes look fantastic with their rough house brawling. They do well in taking the Japanese team's offense...I say that considering the range in offense of their opponents. Really, both teams are leaving it all in the ring - I'm really impressed! This is 100% bananas. 16 minutes of insanity. If you're gonna do a Jr. sprint match, this is it! Classic, classic match in this style. As the kids say, OMFG! Kotaro Suzuki & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs KENTA & Taiji Ishimori: I don't know how anyone can follow that. It is a bit slower but, still exciting. I appreciate Kanemaru & Kotaro acting as straight heels with their second causing mayhem and cheating like a M.F. 20 minutes and it's a great match. So, I failed to mention that there's a Jr. Tag tournament and this was the last match but, both teams are tied OR they are #1 & #2 and they need to have the final TONIGHT! Either way, we get a second match. I feel this 2nd bout diminished the awesomeness of the first but, still paid off and was pretty good as a whole. If you wanna take a break between matches, that might be a good idea. In total it was 31 minutes. I tend to side toward brevity nowadays but, I enjoyed the heck out of this nonetheless. I felt KENTA was subdued here so, that could be taken as a plus or minus depending on your preference. Highly recommended stuff but, again the first was my favorite. Takeshi Morishima vs Kensuke Sasaki GHC Title Match: Stiff clubbering wrestling. Oh so many club shots and clotheslines! I wouldn't say this is a classic title match but, on a super Jr. heavy show, this was a nice change of pace & an awesome way to close out the show. You got tons of speed, fancy manuevers, and nearfalls and now...Here's the tried and true NOAH beatdown title match. Two battleships facing off for the belt. It's that intense Choshu main event style so, if done right it's an easy 4 star match for those keeping score. Great match. The 09/06/08 NOAH Shiny Navigation was an outstanding show that offered alot of fantastic matchups that really paid off. If a full show DVD is available still and you're into that kinda thing, I say go buy it. This is especially true if you were digging ROH back in the day. Lots of cross pollination at the time between the two companies and very much the style they were going for at the time. Highest Recommendation on this show.
  4. So, below is the final match from the AJ 11/26/11 show which I highlighted last week. Also let's take a look at a couple GHC title defenses from 2017 NOAH. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi vs SUWAMA & Takumi Soya (11/26/11 AJPW): Strong BJW have the tag belts but, this is a non title fight. It's a RWTL match-up. So here we go- Takumi smartly WRESTLES Okabayashi...fuck...do NOT get into a power battle with him. Daisuke wants SUWAMA. 'WAMA is a beast eating chops for lunch. Takumi gets back in (at some point) and wrestling smartly but, gets sucked into trading hits and early one his chest is a cherry tomato. BJW is stretching him out like a fat lady in a pair of stirrup pants. Quick tags and repeated hard slams only rub it in. Soya is in trouble. Slam, cover, 2 count, kickout, tag, repeat. SUWAMA's waiting... This match was built brilliantly and paid off in a perfect manner. It starts out being like a ***3/4 match then, a great match like a firm ****+ but, damn this just kept getting better and better. So, I'd call this a classic match. I can't give a number or anything like that but, whew! This did it for me! Awesome closer to an awesome night of wrestling. Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Go Shiozaki - GHC Title (03/12/17 NOAH): I've enjoyed Nakajima and Shiozaki matches in the past. I think their November 2005 match with their mentors is fantastic yet, I just could not get into this... It's a case of the sons paying for the sins of their (wrestling) fathers. Imagine an entire match based on the 07/18/05 Kobashi/Sasaki chop battle. I think it was fitting that they wanted to do this in theory but, boy it did not work for me. The upped the strength of their attacks and did it for much longer but, really so have a lot of other folks in the past 12 years. Make no mistake, this had some bone shaking blows but, matches like this make me want to crawl back into my old hermit hovel. Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Eddie Edwards - GHC Title (08/26/17 NOAH): Ok so, I wanted to chalk up the badness of the March match to Shiozaki. I've not been impressed with his couple post AJ run NOAH matches that I've seen. I really liked him while he was in ROH so, I've tried be a fan of his when I can although post Misawa NOAH isn't the most welcoming style for me in my 30's. I don't always have the time for 30+ epic fights. I'm off track but, I wanted to give this a shot because Katsu and Eddie, I like. I may have watched this immediately after the above match based on my write-up. First thing I wrote after the names and dates was: "Already better than the Shiozaki match." Hahaha! That must have been like 30 seconds in!! Ok here's the rest of my take: The pace is quicker. The intensity and the drive to win for Edwards is much more apparent. Whoa! he almost crippled Naka' on that tope! Ed's working the back...very nice. The strikes are there but, there are a variety of them as well as actual moves. At least 3 Evel Knievel suplexes. This feels like NOAH from a decade ago! A minute or 2 could have been shaved but, this was a great match. This restored my sense of regard for Nakajima as a true puro talent as well as strengthened that sentiment for Eddie. Like Meatloaf sang, Two outta three ain't bad...
  5. Ah Big Mouth Loud we hardly knew ye! Now twelve years passed and you are forgotten by all but a few! Seriously though, I remember hearing about this promotion and not knowing what the hell it was about. I think my understanding was that it was a shoot style group. I no longer was into that so, I walked away. Recently however, I'd come across matches recommended by YouTube. Kurisu vs Kudo isn't shoot style! OK, this is something I've got to take a look for myself. It does start out as more shoot based but, ultimately its not really a promotion as much as it is a series of high profile Indy shows. So, it becomes whatever it needs to be based on whatever talent is booked. Its more like NJPW in that regard. Well, older NJ. I haven't seen every match but, these were best that I saw. For those interested there is a thread in the Microscope section here with more details and such: http://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/36227-big-mouth-loud/ My reviews below are there but, I've consolidated the best here: Kazunari Murakami & Kensuke Sasaki vs Yoshiaki Fujiwara & Minoru Suzuki (04/19/06): Wow, this was fantastic! Awesome character & heel work from Suzuki and Fujiwara. Sasaki had minimal in-ring time but, was maximum in his effectiveness. Match showcased some comedy, hard way blood, and a really satisfying finishing stretch. Fujiwara at 100 years old here still was very very dangerous and didn't hold the match back one bit. Great match! Katsuyori Shibata vs Katsuhiko Nakajima (04/19/06): Battle of the young stars in K-Hall! Kicks, slaps, elbows and all the other stuff you'd expect outta these two lads. 'jima is outranked and outclassed in 2006 so its a lotta guts and guile from him...well and kicks...he does kick a bit. 12 minute match is just right. Nice compact stuff. Not sure I would have booked this after the tag but, Shibata is the ace so to speak. Highly recommended. Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Munenori Sawa (07/02/06): Hot damn this was nifty UWF in NJ type match. Plus its around 7 minutes long so, its all good stuff. Nakajima looks badass in it. Highly recommend checking this one out. Minoru Suzuki & Yoshihiro Takayama vs Kazunari Murakami & Yuji Nagata (08/20/06): This one, the last match of BML did not disappoint. It is all the striking grappling goodness that I'd hoped for. Minoru Suzuki and Takayama are total awesome destroyer heels. Referee Wada even won't put up with their crap. Nagata is the awesome hero. But, man Murakami was great too. The finish is good but, after the bell was rung and Suzuki starts redecoration of K-hall, that's when I thought this was a damn great match. I'd like to rewatch it because it seems like it could be a mid 2000s Indy classic.
  6. - Fantastic match. Danielson was fantastic working over Nakajima, targeting that arm, softening him up for the Cattle Mutilation, Nakajima sold it fine - he really didn't do anything to "sell" it, but he didn't do anything to no sell it either. Nakajima's work over of Bryan was just as good as that of Bryan's over him; loved the leg targeting, there were a couple of moments where I thought Bryan's selling of it was a LITTLE spotty, as in there were a couple of moments where I thought he could've sold it more, but all in all I thought he sold it pretty damn fantastically. A lovely war of attrition. ****1/4
  7. Look-this is modern wrestling-things aren’t perfect. You’re going to get Edwards popping up and doing an enzuigiri at a time where the match would’ve benefited form some patience and a later transition. You’re going to see some predictable irish whip transitions, and counters (though only one really stood out in this match) where long-term selling is ignored for the immediate pop. But, all things considered, I think they did a very good job of building a match around classic NOAH tropes, sticking to their strengths in striking (Edwards’ chops really have improved significantly) and kicking and letting the match play out and gradually increasing the intensity, adding bigger spots and counters as well as managing to make them mean something by not cramming too much of them as well as creating an interesting narrative around Eddie trying to use Misawa’s big moves instead of just having him hit them all straight away on his first attempt. Nakajima’s current move-set doesn’t really lend itself to nearfall fests well, which is in a way a strength of his matches as they’re more built on him killing of his opponents (him grabbing Edwards’ wrist and proceeding to just mercielssly beat on him was a wonderful moment), and even for a big moment like this they didn’t go nearly overboard, along with smartly timing their kick-outs throghout the match. The big spots resonated, the crowd got into it, good stuff all around. ***3/4
  8. Similar structure to some of the recent Nakajima title defences, a little chain wrestling, some brawling outside and then the match starts proper. The weight Nakajima puts behind his kicks never ceases to impress me-they're so incredibly sharp, it really shows he is a black belt karateka. This match needed more focus-there weren't really any control segments, and the only things setting it apart from just *getting stuff in* was them building stuff around countering each other's signature maneuvers. And some of the counters were good (Nakajima's particularly-Kotoge's signature spots are very unique in their elaborateness, and the stark contrast of Nakajima just cutting them off with quick head kicks made for a nice visual), but they didn't properly organize it so that moments when those moves were hit later on would feel special, they'd just try them for the second time and be successful. Kotoge's move-set is still quite juniorish and he doesn't have much heavyweight offence other than the headbutt, but that's not necessarily an issue, and after thinking about it I realised even if some of NOAH's heavyweights are smaller there's no one really working like that now other than him. They got the crowd invested without forced nearfalls (in fact the finishing stretch was really minimalistic) so I reckon this is a continuation of positive crowd conditioning. ***1/4
  9. This is a battle of two kickers (well, Yone is a kicker when he's motivated enough to be one) on a Misawa memorial show, and you get exactly what you'd expect. Aside from the opening sequence, there aren't really any differences in the type of work throughout the match-they almost immediately get to striking at each other, with the intensity and urgence being the main difference depending on when it took place. They in their shots nicely, the control segments aren't huge, but Yone does get tangible control over the match and at point Nakajima just goes berserk, mounting Yone and just killing him with forearms, setting off the finishing stretch. Yone's Lariats throughout the match looked great, Nakajima is great at using his kicks as cut-offs (espeacially in the later portions of the match) and the double slap spot was very cool and almost surprisingly fresh. They managed to get the crowd invested in the match without forcing an epic or going needlessly long, which was probably the right call for a "smaller" title defence. ***1/2
  10. Fun tournament match which doesn't shoot for epicness but simply displays their strengths in a conscise manner without any stupid gimmickry and simultenously presenting enough novelty to make it stand out a little. All of their usual spots are here, but un an easily digestible format-Suzuki modifies his rope hanging armbar by going on the apron and trapping Nakajima's foot between the ropes instead of just countering a strike as an obvious set-up for the spot and cranks Nakajima's arm by hammerlocking him with a chair. Nakajima's flashy kicks and strikes are matched well by Suzuki's well timed seling of big spots while Nakajima's upbeatness prevents Suzuki from losing focus which allows them to seamlessly build on previous sequences. ***1/4
  11. Talk about it here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leTJ-IYrPQI
  12. A fun mess. Match starts out with Nakajima and Marvin, and while you may expect them to do some contrived junior sequences they instead proceed to just slap the taste out of each other's mouth, setting the pace and the heat for the match. And it's not like it was hard for them to sustain that-you get Ibushi pinballing for Misawa, Misawa and Kensuke slugging it out, Kensuke destroying juniors, all intriguing ideas that were executed well (I loved MIsawa saying fuck it mid-strike exchange with Kensuke and tagging out). Misawa is at his most Giant Baba-ish here, at the end of the match he can't even run halfway across the ring, but anyone other than Kensuke that gets close to him gets elbowkilled. Marvin and Nakajima were unfortunately the heat killers too, as Marvin tried to use more of his more juniorish offence in their next match-up and Nakajima didn't really know how to react. In an interesting turn of events Ibushi and Ishimori were the ones to get the heat back by doing even more junior stuff, but with fluidity and good execution. It being a six man tag also allows them to incorporate more complicated spots easier without ridiculous set-ups, like Marvin's ramp run and Ibushi's sudden Springboard to cut-off the double 619, you don't even notice that stuff when there's simulatenous action going on. ***1/2
  13. The children of Kensuke Sasaki are keeping the tradition of meathead battles alive. I am so glad that in this age of flash and GIFs someone is doing a Masa Saito tribute gimmick, Kitamiya may not be able to do the Omaga/Okada feats of athleticism and do Moonsaults over the guardrail but he has really good basics. So many wrestlers these days don't know how to stomp, kick a lag or throw a bodyslam, all things Kitamiya is great at. Even his legwork was badass. They built a smart match with a beginning, middle and end and a clear trajectory. If there was a criticism I could point at the match it's that shaving a couple of minutes would've made it even better, because it seemed they could produce something REALLY special and making it more concise would've certainly helped. These two put in great effort, keeping their offence varied and also keeping the viewer on his toes, constantly modifying sequences you thought you'd already know how they'd end. When Kitamiya way about to shoot Nakajima off the ropes Nakajima would pull him back in a Headlock and start really wrenching it, when it seemed Kitamiya was gonna Shoulder Block Nakajima Nakajima kicked him in the head and they built to a shoulder block, making everything feel earned. Kitamiya feels so refreshing, here's a guy who turns a Samoan Drop into a holy shit spot and has all these awesome hulk ups and knows how to get the crowd riled up. It comes as a given they worked incredibly stiff. Nakajima's biggest stregnth may be how great his cut-offs are-he really knows how to time and adapt a kicking variation to best match the moment. ***1/2
  14. I thought about watching 2000 All Japan next but saw this was the next match on the show, and thought you know what, it doesn't even matter if it's good or not, I've already seen most of the All Japan matches anyway and have pretty much made up my mind on all the workers there, this is a match I would've lost my shit for in 2011, let's see how it turned out. And-it turns out it was good, and when you have a good match even a 2017 NOAH crowd will react. Some gauging at the start, one of those quick sequences where wrestlers counter each other's signature moves and then about 16 minutes of strike/kick exchanges, mirror spots and everything that made me love this genre 5 or so years ago. There are holds and selling in there too but they're only in there because they have to be, and they don't go weak holds or stay in them too long or do dumb selling that obviously sets up spots and weak brawling around the arena, they just lay in it kick away at each other. There was a bit too much pinfall attempts for my taste and a dragon suplex no-sell that was what it was, but other than that this was a nice change of pace in being a mostly bullshit-free celebratition of dumb stiffness in wrestling. Kenou had some really nice and quick combinations and I loved how he'd incorporate his Ankle Lock in them grabbing it out of nowhere without becoming too realiant on it in filling time or teasing a near submission that wasn't going to happen. ***1/4
  15. I think no one's really accurately depicted the way modern NOAH matches are worked. Obviously that is in direct correlation with the dropping interest in it but when it gets some attention the focus is mostly put on the more obvious and uninteresting stuff. Looking at this match and thinking about how it's worked and how that relates to NOAH's recent success or lack thereof was interesting. The body of the match is worked with them exchanging control segments-but unlike in most workrate matches here the control segments actually last a good couple of minutes. The transitions used to get from one control segment to another were quite good-Nakajima's first High Kick in particular was just magical, the sheer speed and technique in that kick were unreal and Sugiura fell down as picture perfectly as it gets. Sugiura focused his offence on Nakajima's injured back as was the case in the transitions he used. The one thing I also liked in them is that there was danger behind the moves attempted-it's feasible Nakajima would do a Penalty Kick on the ramp or Sugiura would connect with a Big Boot after Gutbustering Nakajima on the ropes. I've seen them do spots like those a million times. What was most staggering about the match, and what feels most distinctive about NOAH is the pace it was worked at and the way they filled time. The complete lack of urgency in the movement inbetween spots is not something I remember seeing in any other promotion-and even if other promotions had the lack of trying to fight back from the wrestler eating offence they would at least get over with it faster. But you'd have a moment where Sugiura is holding Nakajima by the arm, and he's going to lift him up, he's kinda looking at him, and it takes him five to ten more seconds than it should and Nakajima just stands there. That's nowhere near as compelling as Sugiura lifting up Nakajima and Nakajima trying to fight back with all he can from Sugiura's big move would be. When they're walking around you have Sugiura eat a Nakajima kick, and he'll take few steps back, then eat another move and move more, it's inexplicable how they got so bad at projecting human movement naturally. There's also the fact that the pace they work it doesn't work for anything, with the way they work it they sell less and less as the match goes on but don't finish it with a big nearfall heavy clasically "exciting" finish you'd expect, they hit a couple of big moves that feel out of place and just finish the match. When Nakajima pulled out his Superkick/Dropkick combos at the end it felt big and important because everything beforehand had been so slow, but really at least the last 10 minutes of the match should be just them doing stuff like that. I still enjoyed the match because I like both guy's offence and there was enough violence in the knees, elbows, kicks etc. to keep me hooked, but to steal a phrase from Loss this definitely felt like a match that didn't know what it wanted to be, and I imagine the same is through for NOAH currently. ***
  16. I've avoided NOAH like the plague since KENTA plague-the only time I ever think about them is when I wonder what exactly went wrong with the style. One of the theories I remember is that the AJ/NOAH guys took the style too far and nothing the new guys did could make the crowd care-but after seeing Zack Sabre Jr. get his matches hugely over in Differ Ariake I came to the conclusion the newer guys just have no clue how to build a match. This wasn't even the best example of that as most NOAH main events are structured worse than this one was-Sugiura vs. Shiozaki or Marufuji is just 30 minutes of repeating the same strike exchanges. Here you actually have something resembling a heat section-Sugiura has really great, reckless offence and Nakajima has improved tremednously at garnering sympathy. And they at times they really *do* get that heat from the remaining two thousand NOAH fans. But overall....the match lacks direction, and more than anything it lacks urgency. You get a spot, then a bunch of down time where nothing happens and so on, and it shows they really don't know what to do to fill so much time. The match created a lot of strong visuals and could be edited into a great highlight video-Nakajima being busted open with an unprotected chairshot in particular was something else. NOAH really does need a proper change. You can what you want about all the Sugiura and KENTA 2010-2013 main events but at least they had an identity. I have no idea whom this style is supposed to cater to. It's moving the style closer to New Japan's but just by taking away some of the tools the workers used to fill the time yet insist on the workers filling the same amount of time. Either slice 10-15 minutes off these matches or let them Dragon Suplex each other for ten minutes like they used to. There was at least a natural progression and structure in the style that required 4 finishers for a big match victory. **3/4
  17. Interesting opening-Elgin overwhelms Nakajima with power, Nakajima had to use the dreaded Dean Ambrose rope pull and drop toe holds to get back in control, first attacks the arm and then when Elgin fights back goes for the legs. Nakajima's armwork and legwork is pretty inconsequential-triple limbwork would've been interesting but Nakajima's kicks were pretty enough that I'll just take that segment for what it was. I find it really hard to care about Elgin's control segments when all he does is spam spots, and his spots aren't really that special. Nakajima's selling carried the strike exchanges-Elgin nailed a couple of good elbows but also did stupid sound effect enzuigiris. There was stuff like Elgin's triple suplex attempt where you could tell they were just setting up the next spot and the finishing stretch was classic 2.99 spam/hit a big move>if the next one is reversed its damage is instantly nullified. A good showing for Nakajima who managed to make me enjoy an Elgin match about as much as I am gonna in 2016. **3/4
  18. Opening was kinda boring as they quickly dropped the matwork to do boring armwork and irish whips into the guardrail, because that's what the people REALLY want to see Match was fine once they transitioned to hitting each other hard-Nakajima's technique and Shibata's brutality never cease to impress me. Still the match was filled with lazy mirror spots and had a stupid suplex sequence, so a couple of minutes of nice violence will only get you so far. ***
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