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[2007-07-15-NOAH-Summer Navigation] KENTA & Taiji Ishimori vs Kota Ibushi & Naomichi Marufuji

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When you go back and watch a match that you considered one of your favourite matches of all time, there's always a chance that it doesn't live up to lofty memories. I felt that was very likely here, having seen some other junior matches that I LOVED at that time (Briscoes vs. Kotaro/Marvin being a prime example) not hold up so well, and also due to the fact that Marufuji is a guy who I've become really unenamoured with over time.

 

Well this is still one of my favourite matches ever, and firmly in my top 2 for matches I’ve watched so far for the project.

The big take-away upon watching it with 2014 eyes was how absolutely incredible Ishimori was in this match. He’s actually the glue that holds the whole thing together. He didn’t put a foot wrong, and he was the one constantly giving the match a boost whenever it needed it. Yes, the focus was Ibushi and this was absolutely his coming out party but Taiji was the MVP. KENTA and Maru are really fired up (stark contrast to today) and bring the goods as well. I would say this is the best finish on the set, as the timing on it is just ridiculous and the crowd are at a fever pitch for it. It was so conclusive, a great sequence.

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I went in expecting a lot of big spots with no particular focus on any kind of psychology and...Marufuji surprised me by wrestling an incredibly basic match. Ishimori and Ibushi seem like they are the reasons this match is here, to showcase their athleticism and ability to hang with Marufuji and KENTA. Both are incredibly athletic and have all kinds of really impressive flippy stuff. KENTA seems to be developing some idea that he needs to have a thought process going in the ring here also. I've started going into these looking at them as athletic exhibitions rather than wrestling matches. When things that resemble good pro wrestling come up I get pleasantly surprised. Oh, I also thought it was a really impressive go 2 sleep by KENTA for how he got to it. That little dude has some strength to lift a guy his weight like that.

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KENTA & Taiji Ishimori vs Naomichi Marufuji & Kota Ibushi - Budokan 7/15/07

 

Briscoes, Marvin and Suzuki, take notes, bruthas, this is how you do a fucking spotfest, baby! Ishimori and Ibushi are the next generation of Japanese junior heavyweight that care even less about strikes and building a strong match. They only care how they can add an extra rotation to any simple move. Standing elbow drop that is so passe. I can do a back handspring, full back flip elbow drop, BABY! If you going to execute those matches, then commit to them and they were committed to having this elaborate gymnastics competition, which made for a great spectacle. It is good eyecandy like a Michael Bay action movie. I don't want to watch a card full of these, but these exhibitions do serve a purpose because they are fun to watch. To me at least, however, they are not very satisfying in the same way a match where opponents are struggling to win a contest. The nice thing about this match is that they laid everything in. They did not treat strikes as givens like in the Briscoe/Marvin&Suzuki. Their transitions still suck like KENTA blowing off leg work to hit a flying knee drop or Ibushi's lame spinwheel kick to exit his heat segment. There was literally no move to move selling. People would take moves, sell, then fly like nothing happened. Even within these segments, they were flying with great highspots. After Ibushi tagged out, it was spots galore with flips and spins on everything. It was like R-Truth, but on steroids. Ibushi's double moonsault gets me everytime because I go years without seeing him, I always forget he has that. I actually enjoyed Ibushi ducking the KENTA strike, kip up and kick KENTA only for KENTA to be wary of it the second time. KENTA went into crazy Ceasro like beast mode to awkwardly catch Ibushi and hit Go 2 Sleep. The past two NOAH juniors tags were what expected all NOAH's juniors match to be like, but really that has not been case. I am curious if this newfound spotfest style is influenced by the rise of Dragon Gate and wonder see how similar it is to this. Usually, when something is mimicked the copiers steal the most glaring obvious traits without the subtle details that make the original so good. Ergo, NOAH guys were like people like flips lets give them flips. Dragon Gate may have done a better job building to the spots. I do not know, but we will see. Overall, I did enjoy this spotfest, but I will be sad if this is the way the NOAH's juniors division goes because it was quite good from 2003-2006. Spotfests have a ceiling in my book because of how much emphasis I put on transitions, selling and struggling. I would say this is one of the better ones I have ever seen though. ****

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On the plus side, they pulled off some genuinely spectacular stuff, which is what a match like this needs to stand out. The finishing spot looked great, but the one I really popped for was Ishimori's springboard dropkick on a sprinting Ibushi. Quite the feat of timing. On the minus, Marufuji took me out of the match every time he became the focus, because his offense looked so shitty. This run through the 2000s has confirmed every bad thought I ever had about him and his thigh-slapping garbage. The match also featured a few too many instances of guys taking weird pauses so an opponent could execute the next elaborate move. That's probably unavoidable with such difficult spots, but it bugged me nonetheless.

 

This probably won't make my ballot, but it wasn't a hard watch.

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I liked the knee work done on KENTA by Marufuji & Ibushi; sure it was filler as it didn't go anywhere & KENTA didn't sell it at all, but it was enjoyable filler. Ibushi's FIP segment was really strong, too. And then of course the whole finishing stretch with all of them, in particular Ibushi, going nuts. I do think they went little bit into the overkill zone w/ all the nearfalls, but this was still really good. ***3/4

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KENTA & Ishimori vs. Ibushi & Marufuji - July 15, 2007


As usual with puroresu, this became incredible at the end, just a hot finish with all kinds of scouting on display. Ibushi & Marufuji thought they had a good strategy early by targeting KENTA's sore left knee, but that ultimately proved to be a non-factor.


It was surprising to see a Crippler Crossface used just a few weeks after the Benoit tragedy, and perhaps it was a tribute to a wrestler that made an obvious puro impact in the 1990s. Perhaps due to such a regional, cultural distance, it didn't come across as sleazy at all as it would several weeks later in PWG (although I never was put off by WWE stars using it later in attempts to win matches since they had been defeated by Chris Benoit in that hold.)


Ibushi was on point in this one and came across as the real star even in defeat. His evasion kip-up against Ishimore was amazing, but KENTA picked up on it at the end for the victorious Go to Sleep. Before that also, Ishimori hit a mesmerizing Handspring Moonsault Back Elbow.


Ibushi & Marufuji also had an amazing sequence on KENTA. Ibushi went for a Moonsault but KENTA scouted it by rolling away; this was for naught though as Ibushi landed on his feet and hit his trademark swift Standing Moonsault on KENTA, who then fell to a Marufuji frog splash, followed by a Standing Shooting Star Press by Ibushi for a near-fall.


As mentioned, Ibushi was outmatched at the end by KENTA, who scouted his evasion kip-up to eventually hit the Go to Sleep. A sensational match and I'll be curious how the ROH match involving Katsuhiko Nakajima instead of Ishimori compares to this when ROH comes back to Japan the following year. ****1/2

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