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[2005-01-08-NOAH-Great Voyage] Kenta Kobashi vs Minoru Suzuki

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GHC Heavyweight Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Minoru Suzuki - Budokan 01/08/05

 

In the Taue review, I said that the Kobashi reign had all but run its course. They did squeeze one more good match out of it before they had him drop the title to Rikio, which is this match against the mercurial Minoru Suzuki. The cackling, invading shoot fighter looked to wrest the time from NOAH's ace using his unique brand of head games and submissions. A lot of people would say this match screams styles clash, but styles make bouts interesting. Suzuki took Kobashi out of his comfort zone and together they had a more dynamic effort than say with Yuji Nagata. However, it just felt like it came to late in the reign. The Nagata match was a Clash of the Titans. The Kobashi reign was running on fumes at this point.

 

Right off the bat, we get Suzuki's head games that frustrate Kobashi and establish why Suzuki is such a lethal opponent. He is like Rat Boy with skills. You think a test of strength would be a bad idea on Suzuki's part, but he turns that into a crazy pinning predicament and triangle choke then into a cross armbreaker. When Kobashi gets out of it, he is laughing and having himself a grand 'ol time at the expense of Kobashi. Kobashi gets pegged as a meat head sometimes, but he aint no dummy. He knows he has the strength advantage and if Suzuki is quicker and shrewder well why not bring back to the basics and Kobashi works a headlock the majority of the opening. He does not let go. He puts a headlock on him outside and brings him with one. You can control the head; you control the body. Two can play that game, Suzuki.

Prematurely, Kobashi thinks it is time to unload the chops and Suzuki grabs his arm, sticks out his tongue and puts him in a triangle choke dangling over the ropes. Suzuki is such a badass heel, the perfect blend of cocky and dangerous. Even busting out the Dikembe Mutombo finger wag. You can sense Kobashi frustration over both his arm injury and Suzuki's behavior. Kobashi is able to get a sleeper and hit the sleeper suplex to turn the tide. Tease the half-nelson suplex on apron, but Suzuki slaps on a sleeper and Kobashi collapses off the ramp onto the floor. Nasty bump that puts over how messed up Kobashi is. When Kobashi gets back in, Suzuki lays it in with a cradle piledriver, a wicked back drop driver and an octopus stretch. However, a desperation BURNING LARIAT~! levels the playing field. Kobashi jacknifes off a weak powerbomb and Suzuki grabs a cross armbreaker out of it. Too sweet! Wild left handed lariat saves Kobashi. Axe bombah in the corner and Kobashi accelerates through the hole with a barrage of lariats and back drop drivers to win the match.

The story of the match is the story that has continued since Akiyama. Attrition is taking Kobashi down and it is inevitable that soon he will drop the title. Suzuki also accomplished the feat with a sound strategy of taking out the arm and avoiding Kobashi's bombs (like the half-nelson on the ramp). Suzuki just being Suzuki forced him to wrestle very conservatively from the outset with the headlock and once he tried to transition into a Kobashi match Suzuki pounced. The thing with Kobashi is that he always has a puncher's chance so when he hits off-handed lariat he is able to follow up with all those bombs that Suzuki just could not escape. It is an interesting match, but in terms of the reign it is just not at the high end (which speaks volumes about how bitchin this reign was) ****

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So glad SS reviewed this because I had foolishly skipped it. Minoru Suzuki is great at heeling it up and doing small things that make a match better. Kobashi can be that way, but he usually needs somebody else who is willing to go that far to bring that out. The headlock sequence is incredible. I've written a lot of negative things about Kobashi, and I'm not taking any of them back. However, the man can work a headlock like few others. I just wish he would do it more. Hell, Kobashi the submission wrestler is incredible. If he went a whole match working mostly submissions, I would mark the fuck out. Back to this match. Suzuki forces Kobashi out of the usual gameplan (shout a lot and throw chops, then do a bunch of big suplexes to pop the crowd). This makes for a much better match, as Kobashi is forced to adapt, which brings out the superworker lurking within. Suzuki gets a nice sleeper out on the ramp, and Kobashi has probably one of the best counters I've ever seen. Crawling off the ramp, plunging both himself and Suzuki to ringside. That was some spectacular stuff. Kobashi finally has enough of Suzuki's shit and backdrops him. A lot. Suzuki does this great attempted nosell and throws some slaps that barely touch Kobashi before falling over. Kobashi knows what to do from there and we're headed home. This is pretty easily in my top 30-40 range. Also, it makes me want to find more Minoru Suzuki when I'm done with this best of the 2000s.

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Not as good as the Ogawa match but still a really good Kobashi vs heel match. I get so used to wrestlers going strike for strike that it's really refreshing to see someone trying to avoid Kobashi's chops. I really appreciate that Suzuki, Tenryu, and Ogawa go that route against Kobashi during this era. This is how I'd rank Kobashi's GHC defenses from best to worst:

 

vs Honda

vs Ogawa

vs Takayama

vs Misawa

vs Suzuki

vs Taue

vs Akiyama

vs Rikio 2

vs Saito

vs Sano

vs Rikio 1

 

These matches were straight garbage:

vs Chono

vs Smith

vs Gladiator

vs Nagata

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I am surprised you have the Taue match so low other than that it seems pretty close to mine (well I need to rewatch the Honda match because I don't think I got Honda at the time). I am about to rewatch a good chunk of his reign so I will have my finalized list soon.

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Kobashi vs. Suzuki - January 8, 2005

After watching only two matches, it might be safe for me to say that Minoru Suzuki is my favorite puro worker. The man has Bryan Danielson's quickness along with CM Punk's natural douche-bag charisma.

Speaking of Punk and Danielson, there were moments early in which I had memories of Samoa Joe's ROH Title defenses against them. First there was Suzuki being the Danielson to Kobashi's Joe when he arrogantly showed off his quickness. Then, Kobashi surprised Suzuki by not playing into the mind games of Suzuki, instead keeping the challenger in a headlock for an extended period, similar to what Punk had done to Joe in their acclaimed matches. I couldn't help but also think forward to Shawn Michaels surprising Kurt Angle in similar fashion just three months after this.

Suzuki though was able to get a fuck ton of work done on Kobashi's right arm and shoulder, applying what looked to be a triangle and then turning it into a cross-armbreaker, reminding me of Punk's instant classic against Brock Lesnar. Kobashi's selling was just awesome, showcasing just what a dangerous motherfucker Suzuki continues to be almost a decade later.

I know I reference a lot of classic matches, but this didn't have the hot third act to be quite in that category. This started off hot, then the pace slowed quite a bit, resulting in a very good match, and it's a shame Minoru Suzuki was never booked for ROH during the Gabe Sapolsky era. Can you just imagine all the matches he could've had? ***3/4

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Loved this match. Suzuki is such an unbelievable dick (in the best possible way), but he’s a dick with a strategy, and it’s to get in Kobashi’s head and take him off his game at every opportunity.

 

The opening moments with Suzuki dodging the chops and scoring with some disrespectful slaps is glorious, his tongue out facials just begging for a punch in the face. It announces right from the start that he’s going to fight this battle on his terms. At any opportunity, any opening, he goes right for the arm and is able to get at it from so many different angles that it leaves Kobashi constantly second guessing. As Superstar Sleeze says, Kobashi knows he has the strength though and he wrenches in a headlock tight and leaves it on. And on. And gradually takes back some control.

 

But just when KK thinks he has the match in hand and can move onto to dishing out the punishment, Suzuki sis able to strike back. He’s like a football (soccer) team actually wanting the opposition to attack and come onto them so he can respond with rapid fire counter attacks when they leave themselves open.

 

Kobashi has two key strengths, his ability to take punishment and survive and then the weapons to get him out of a hole, and in the end, despite his arm being shot and Suzuki’s efforts, he is able to hit a barrage of lariats and backdrop suplexes that his opponent just can’t stand up to. Suzuki tries the fighting spirit comeback after one suplex, but he can’t quite absorb the abuse like Kobashi and that his undoing. He had the strategy, he took Kobashi out of his comfort zone and had him on the back foot, but when the opening came, he just couldn’t quite stand up to the steamroller.

 

I maybe rating this way too high, but absolutely loved this. It can have **** ½ and like it.

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A good match, somewhat disappointing as it's clearly not the best these two could do against each other. Commentary tells us Suzuki intends to rip off Kobashi's right arm before the match. I really liked the opening with Suzuki taunting Kobashi, easily evading his chops and pro-style moves. Kobashi is obviously not going to work a New Japan vs UWFi type of tmatch here so they have to transition into his type of match, which they do but having him counter Suzuki's takedown with a chinlock/headlock. It looked very good, they milked it out well and Kobashi dragging Suzuki into the ring while holding him in a headlock made for a nice touch. The biggest problem for me in the match was that, while there were a lot of great individual moments (like Kobashi trapping Suzuki in the corner and obliterating him with corner chops) Suzuki's control segments left a lot to be desired. Suzuki did a good job of selling the threat and the impact of Kobashi's chops but only showed flashes of what he could do by stretching him. They did a very good job of putting over Kobashi's power with the spot where Suzuki tried an Armdrag only for Kobashi to stand there in place and shove him off standing out. There were flashes of brilliance-like the armbreaker/sleeper spot Suzuki has repeated since in many of his famous matches. Suzuki grabbing a Sleeper on the ramp only for Kobashi to counter it by throwing himself from the ramp onto the floor. Kobashi's amazing out of nowhere counter Lariat. Suzuki breaking up a suplex no sell sequence with an Octopus Hold of all things. The finish that paid off Suzuki teasing Kobashi during the entire match and insisting on his defiance even after Kobashi headdropped him ten times and he was half dead and doing awesome slow motion slaps. But that just goes to show you can't have a great match by just doing a bunch of great stuff, even if the great stuff is more than spots. The stuff inbetween is always the most important. Kobashi didn't sell the arm more than surface level-though I don't think that played a big factor in how good the match wa (I didn't come in expecting the world's most nuanced selling performance from him anyway). It's frustrating to know Suzuki had better matches against Mutoh, Okada and Tanahashi than he did against Kobashi but he was also a more experienced worker by that point and understood what he needed to bring to the table better. ***1/4

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Not a lot else to add, I would call it a 'smart' or 'enjoyable' match rather than great or epic, which is clearly what they were aiming for. And all credit to them, because I did enjoy it. Real simple story or Suzuki's ambar vs. Kobashi's chops for the most part. *** 3/4

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Not structured like a traditional Kobashi “epic special fantastical” so I can see why some people would be turned off. That being said, I love this match, not only because of Suzuki’s performance but Kobashi’s selling of the arm, which is more than we usually get. The systematic destruction of a body part is one of my favorite stories in pro-wrestling and Suzuki’s fantastic at it. Obviously, Kenta’s going to be chopping and lariating a bunch so it makes perfect sense to take that arm out of the equation. I love Suzuki’s initial hesitation to lock up with Kobashi, utilizing his speed and agility to bob and weave around Kobashi’s chops, bitching slapping Kenta when he as a chance and then promptly attacking the arm. Of course, when Suzuki does get caught with chops, it’s wonderful. But I could watch Suzuki dismantling somebody’s arm all day long, just trapping and stretching limbs, and Kobashi’s selling is perfect here, especially the missed chop and Suzuki’s finger wagging. Suzuki’s such a badass that he hits the Gotch-style piledriver and decides to stand on Kobashi’s head rather than pin him. Even when he’s getting rocked with brutal suplexes and powerbombs, Suzuki finds a way to snag the arm and further inflict damage, not giving Kobashi an inch. His only real effective offense are his suplexes and when he unloads on Suzuki with backdrop after backdrop suplex, it’s brutally awesome – not to mention Suzuki’s last stand, as pathetically slaps away at Kobashi before crumbling in defeat.

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