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[2007-04-28-NOAH-Spring Navigation] Jun Akiyama & Takeshi Rikio vs Yoshihiro Takayama & Takashi Suguira

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This has some pretty good stuff going on in it. The opening moments with Takayama putting Rikio over as an immovable object are really good. Sugiura's performance outside of the bad strike exchanges and no-selling is also pretty good. Rikio gassing again is not so good, but he seems to recover it as he goes. It's really odd to see Akiyama being outdone by Sugiura. If anything, Akiyama and Takayama are here to highlight the fact that the young guys are the real focus of this match. And Akiyama isn't even that old. Akiyama should be down for 3 twice just before the 20 minute mark. But we go 8 minutes longer so we can have MORE BIG NEARFALLS. Boo. Probably won't be getting a vote, but at the very least an interesting watch.

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GHC Tag Team Champions Jun Akiyama & Takeshi Rikio vs. Yoshihiro Takayama & Takahashi Sugiura - Budokan 4/28/07

 

One of the most disappointing trends of the 00s purorseu has been the decline in focus and quality of heavyweight tag team wrestling. The matches generally heralded as some of the best of 90s All Japan were when the Four Corners were making war in the ring in their tag team bouts (12/3/93 & 6/9/95 standout) and Akiyama only added to drama producing what many considered the greatest match of all time 12/6/96. Yes, there have been some great heavyweight tags like AJPW vs NJPW in 12/00 and Kobashi/Taue vs Tenryu/Akiyama in 9/05, but they are much fewer and the focus is not there. I was hopeful this match would be a return to classic tag team, but remained unimpressed and thought this was worse than the Kobashi tags of 2005.

 

The focus was definitely on the young talent, Rikio and Sugiura. Akiyama does have a tendency to hide in tag matches, which is ultimately a bad thing for him. I know people get on Kobashi's case about making every match the Kobashi show, but there are ways to make your presence felt without being overbearing. See Takayama in this match as he does a great putting over Rikio early with their shoulderblock stalemates. It is very telling how different Takayama is in 2007 and his 2009 Triple Crown run. He was doing similar spots with Suwama, but without the energy and panache. Here he was really expressive and Rikio looked badass taking him down. The whole match Takayama looked spry and was adding to the match being an obstacle for Rikio to overcome because of his size and agility. Akiyama was just kind of there. That is the difference between a B+ and an A player. Even when you aren't highlighted you need to add to the match with your unique attributes.

I also liked the Takayama and Sugiura pairing because of the size difference. I have never seen Sugiura, but he is a tiny stout powerhouse dude. He is a shorter Kensuke Sasaki, but a bigger Dick Togo. I did not expect him to throw kicks. He has some impressive power spots and a great unpredictable spear, but the Kurt Angle moveset complete with all the video game transitions does nothing for me. I will keep my mind open, but he is a worse version of Sasaki in my book so far.

 

As for the match, I thought it peaked in the early 2 minutes with the Rikio/Takayama shoulderblock war. It just felt like two bulls clashing with neither one giving an inch something that is desperately missing from all the perfunctory elbow war, kick war transitions. Early on, Takayama/Sugiura establish their gameplan of taking advantage of their opponents by throwing them to the outside and letting the partner whip them into the railing. Akiyama and Rikio say whats good for the goose is good for the gander and Rikio throws Sugiura out there and Akiyama DDTs him on ramp and then DDT him throat first on the railing in a nasty spot. Of course Sugiura is right back up doing a fast paced criss cross sequence in the ring. Ugh. Rikio is best he has ever looked in this match. His slaps look great and he is moving with a lot more purpose and energy. Sugiura out of nowhere spear and is able to get the tag. After that it really just devolves into big moves to get Sugiura and Rikio over. Rikio throws Takayama around and Sugiura throws Akiyama around. Rikio has to save Akiyama from an ankle lock.

 

Takayama is so good at the basics. The way he follows through on his knees makes them look so damn realistic. I really liked the double team version of Go 2 Sleep. Akiyama is really getting his ass kicked. So much for him ever being an ace. So sad. RIKIO NODOWA ON SUGIURA! At least he steals from the right people. Sugiura runs through a bunch of suplexes, but cant negotiate a pinfall. Sugiura does that annoying runaround selling after an Exploder, but Rikio stops him dead with a Zidane headbutt. Rikio runs through his big offense to get the win. Sugiura looks like a tough, powerful little fucker. Rikio tosses in his most purposeful performance, but still has conditioning issues and not every good at selling. Takayama is great at establishing himself as worthwhile obstacle and Rikio proved he could win mini-wars against him. Akiyama looked not there at best and a jabroni at worst. The action was great and there were some fun spots, but there was no hook to really keep me entertained or wanting to revisit this. Still it is an action-packed match with some really good Takayama work and this always at least worth one look. ***1/2

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Akiyama and Takayama have been my two favorite guys in this project not named "Tenryu," so the marquee stands out. Especially after a year of NOAH failing to meet its old standards.

 

Takayama and Rikio start, neither able to shoulder the other one down in the first dozen charges. Takayama, sick of that, throws a big boot that Rikio dodges, only for Rikio to finally put Takayama on his back. Sugiura and Akiyama swap in without much of a fuss. Instead of strength spots, it's proper grappling. For a few moments. Then Sugiura brings the kicks. The two get into a forearm exchange. Sugiura really looks like he wants to best Akiyama but it's Akiyama who grinds his man down.

 

Sugiura eludes Akiyama until he can boot Akiyama off of the apron and into the guard rails. Suguira takes control but doesn't do a lot with it. Takayama comes in to swing around those tree trunk legs for a bit, which looks great as always, before locking up Akiyama. Akiyama drives Takayama back into Rikio, letting the other brute tag in. Things move at a glacial pace for a while, not that there's anything wrong with that, but it looks like Takayama learned he can't plow his way through Rikio. Him and Sugiura have to take turns stretching and beating on Rikio. Akiyama casually strolls across the ring while Rikio is in a Boston crab. There's not a lot of urgency there until Sugiura refuses to break the hold, even after a few forearms to the jaw. Rikio seizes the opening, hitting a lariat then dumping Sugiura onto the ramp. Akiyama gets his entrance ramp DDT in, plus a nice running knee. The crowd doesn't seem particularly into this, I note.

 

Now it's Sugiura's turn to sell for the opposing tag. He's certainly more vocal about it than Rikio. He's not bad nor is he particularly noteworthy. Takyama has to step in a couple times to break up holds or at least slow down Akiyama. Sugiura spears Akiyama and tags in Takayama, who immediately tosses Rikio and Akiyama around. He either lays in those kicks like crazy or is the Jerry Lawler of side kicks. In a strange spot, Rikio slaps Takayama, Takayama high kicks Rikio, and both fall back like they got hit much harder. Takayama especially looked odd taking a bump there, Rikio barely hit him.

 

Sugiura only knows hot to sprint around when he moves in the ring and between spots. Maybe he sapped all the life out of the other guys who have zero urgency. There's finally a bit more Takayama vs. Akiyama, giving us a great Takayama running knee, though it ends after a moment. Neat spot where Sugiura dumps Akiyama from his shoulders as Takayama throws up a rising knee. Rikio and Takayama show down again until the big vet ends their macho exchange with some knees. Sugiura follows up by sprinting and hitting another spear. His spear at least looks good. Unlike his selling and being fired up which amount to a lot of grunting and groaning.

 

The four cycle through their match ups pretty often so the match does have a certain freshness to it. Still, it's a lot more compelling when at least one of the veterans is in there, especially if Sugiura is involved. He needs Akiyama to slow him down as Rikio either can't or won't. Big spot exchange from the four of them leaves everyone on the canvas. The crowd chants for Sugiura. Rikio and Sugiura battle it out while the 'yamas neutralize each other elsewhere. Rikio gets the pin after unloading on Sugiura.

 

***. I wouldn't call it action packed. Slow, slow match. Not slow as in deliberately paced, but slow as in everyone seemed kinda sleepy or like they'd rather be somewhere else. Disappointing but not actually bad. The type of thing i'll probably never watch again. Akiyama's selling was good but nothing compared to what he's been doing in previous performances. Takayama's offense is the real star of the show. The Sugiura-Angle comparison that Sleaze threw out there isn't off key.

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I was disappointed to see Takayama become a bystander for much of this. I've never liked Sugiura much, and this confirmed my worst thoughts about him as he felt the need to look tougher than Baba and Jumbo rolled together before taking a pin from a guy who outweighed him by 50 pounds. Rikio and Akiyama were solid, though Akiyama's failure to stand out as the boss in a match like this speaks to why he'll never be viewed on the same level as Misawa, Kawada or Kobashi. Another NOAH match that dragged on and on, and it probably won't make my list.

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