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Charles (Loss)

[2007-12-02-NOAH-Winter Navigation] Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Kenta Kobashi & Yoshihiro Takayama

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Right away you get the sense that this is a big night for Kobashi. Some reading tells me that it's his first match back after recovering from cancer. That Kobashi is one tough dude. And the match...holy crap is it great. They go back to the more All Japan style of doing things rather than the NOAH way for the majority of the match. And the few instances where it isn't that way get set right pretty quickly. Kobashi works this absolutely tremendous heat segment. Kobashi getting beaten up and showing vulnerability (read here: not screaming, no-selling and killing everything in sight with chops) is so fucking great. Kobashi makes his comeback, then they go into the finishing run with not a lot of falls and a lot of fighting over who gets to hit their big moves. WOOOOO! Kobashi looks to be doing well and cruising towards the win, but he ends up on the wrong end of some offense from both Misawa and Akiyama after Akiyama surprises him with an exploder to counter a lariat. Takayama makes the BIG SAVE and hands Misawa to Kobashi on a silver platter. Lariat! Akiyama barely makes the save! Misawa does a big nosell, but it's not too bad because it's a half nelson and those are worthless by now anyway. Kobashi kicks out of an emerald frosion, so Misawa gets some help from Akiyama to hit one from the top and put Kobashi away. If NOAH would have just stuck to matches like these, the 2000s would have been a much happier time for me. I can definitely see this above top 30.

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Kenta Kobashi & Yoshihiro Takayama vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama - Budokan 12/02/07

 

"Do not be afraid for I am with you."

 

Emotionally, there is no more moving 00s puroresu match than this. It was a conquering hero's welcome for Kenta Kobashi. The fans chanting "Ko-Bash-I" before the match. Tamon Honda crying on commentary. Kobashi teaming with one of his great rivals against two of the fellow All Japan Five Pillars in his return match from cancer. Regardless of how I felt about Kobashi from 2005 and 2006, I had an ear-to-ear smile seeing Kobashi again. I mean it is not like Kobashi was going to job to cancer.

 

I would argue you cannot separate the emotion and content of the match. The match is so fueled by Kobashi's return that intangible propels this match into a 2007 Match of the Year Candidate. Takayama was so surprisingly good at being a cheerleader and playing to the crowd to get Kobashi involved. I don't know if Kobashi was selling the after effects of cancer or if he was actually severely weakened because I found his shine sequence a bit tepid and even sluggish. At first, I was exclaiming "Poor Akiyama!" because it seemed like he was made to be the jabroni of the match. I was beginning to think that emotion would not be able to sustain the heat of the match.

 

Misawa catching Kobashi with an elbow as he comes off the top is when the match goes from good to excellent in really quick order. Kobashi is no longer Superman and all of sudden we get 1993 Kobashi playing face in peril against two of the greatest offensive wrestlers in history. Save for the Kawada/Fuchi heat segment on Iizuka, I can't think of a better face in peril segment in the 2000s in Japan. Kobashi as a face in peril is just so timeless. Even though it is 2007, we have not seen vulnerable Kobashi in so long and it is so refreshing. When you add that Kobashi was coming back from cancer, the sympathy levels are just off the charts. I loved that when Kobashi seems to be turning the tide on Akiyama, Misawa comes in and elbows Kobashi to a chorus of boos!!! Takayama has to hold Misawa on the top rope to allow Kobashi to hit a superplex and tag out to Takayama.

 

Takayama as a hot tag is so awesome to finally see. It is so short-lived because Misawa blows him out of the water with an elbow. I really loved the Takayama/Akiyama sequence and would have loved to seen them mix it up in a high-profiled singles match. Takayama could have gone for a cover on Akiyama, but he knows that the crowd wants Kobashi and he tags him in. Kobashi runs through his spots to great crowd reaction and I was beaming right with them. Misawa saves Akiyama again, but Takayama tackles Misawa so that Kobashi can hit the moonsault on Akiyama. Kick out! Honda crying! From there, Kobashi gets another nearfall on Misawa with the Burning Lariat, but eventually AKiyama and Misawa were able to overwhelm the weakened Kobashi. Misawa could not score the win with the Emerald Flowsion, but he secured the victory with a Super Emerald Flowsion.

So the time honored tradition continued with the returning wrestling doing the job with the rationale being ring rust and having to earn his return. Kobashi is at his absolute best as the underdog and for the first time since the 90s he is in the role he was meant to play. Takayama was great at being a badass, but always showcasing Kobashi. Akiyama was thankfully not a total jabroni in the match even though he was the one that Kobashi could get over on. As good as Akiyama was as a dick, but my God, Misawa was excellent. It is not his best match in the 00s, but I thought it was his best performance since February of 2000 against Akiyama. He was so cold and calculating, He did not care that his ex-partner and his friend was returning from cancer. He was here to win. He was not going to take it easy on Kobashi. All the factors came together to produce an amazing tour de force. ****1/2

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It was the feel good match of the 2000s in Japan and I know it is a time-honored tradition that he who returns jobs, but fuck Kobashi should have won. They chanted Kobashi during Misawa's theme during the exit. If there was ever time to break with tradition, it was now. The crowd was just on fire for Kobashi. I was going crazy for a second time for the moonsault. What a reaction! Takayama was destroying everything, Akiyama was kneeing everything and Misawa elbowing everything. I never thought I hear Misawa get booed AND Takayama cheered for suplexing Misawa. Crazy! I loved Kobashi showing vulnerability and being that never say die Kobashi of the 90s. It is 2007 so everybody is a half step slower that keeps it in the #15-25 range, but for pure emotion this match needs to be watched.

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