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Charles (Loss)

[2009-10-03-NOAH-Great Voyage] KENTA & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

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This is another Misawa tribute match and I really loved it. It's not something I'd vote for as MOTD, but this match was all kinds of nostalgic awesome for me. The Holy Demon Army rides again! Akiyama is here! Kobashi is at the announce table! Kyohei Wada is the ref!!!!! (As an aside...KYOHEI!!!!!) And...KENTA is here? Kawada and Taue are both looking very emotional during intros. They are over like mad though. KENTA slaps the emotion right out of Kawada on a rope break, then does some step kicks just to piss off Kawada. Kawada gives KENTA a lot early with no payoff, but that's coming, we all know it. Akiyama and Kawada have one of those absolutely brilliant AJPW style strike exchanges. KENTA gets on the wrong side of the dickish submissions that Taue and Kawada made famous (and the crowd eats it up). Akiyama and KENTA play the dickish heels that Kawada and Taue did in AJPW, but in a more 2000s way. Taue and Kawada take their lumps, but you know they've got a big comeback in them. Taue finally tags to Kawada after a few KENTA attacks sent Kawada's way while he was building heat on Taue. Kawada unloads on KENTA and the crowd is really starting to warm up. Taue hits a tigerdriver on KENTA! They work to a big tease of the nodowa/backdrop (!!), but Akiyama isn't having it. Kawada powerbombs KENTA INTO Akiyama to get him out of the ring. Double team and KENTA kicks out! Taue hits the backdrop nodowa for the 3 count! Post-match, Kawada, Taue and Kobashi at the announce table are very emotional.

 

I read a post on here today that talked about wrestling becoming more physical than emotional. I don't disagree, but this match turns the clock back on that. The whole match was built around KENTA aggressively invoking the wrath of Kawada and Taue, having it sort of paid off, then Taue taking a beating at the hands of KENTA and Akiyama. The comeback and finish were so great as the final chapter to a very emotionally driven story. This match has it's flaws. Taue tends to overuse that running corner kick, and Akiyama seems like he is just there to throw the occasional knee or suplex after his initial run-in with Kawada. Taue in general looks really broken down, but man, he comes up huge in the finishing run. I think this is my favorite NOAH match ever. I know it's probably not the best NOAH match, but I don't care.

 

Edit: On second thought, fuck that. This is gonna be somewhere on my ballot above 50. Where I'm not sure, but this match transcends the in-ring work (which is very good in most spots) for me. I'm not saying it's more than a wrestling match, just some wrestling matches have a certain feel about them that you can't ignore. And for me this is one of them.

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Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue vs Jun Akiyama & KENTA - NOAH 10/03/09

 

The Holy Demon Army reunites to pay tribute to their great rival and compatriot, Mitsuharu Misawa. Unfortunately, Kenta Kobashi is unable to compete and KENTA has been selected to take his place as Akiyama's partner. Unlike the emotion of the Kobashi return match in 2007, the mood is very somber and it is hard to fist pump at the action like in that match. Still, it is very enjoyable to see Kawada and Taue return face off against Akiyama and KENTA. The match is wrestled closer to the classic All Japan tag style with KENTA in the asshole heel role and playing it perfectly. Kawada/KENTA would have actually been a great match they could built to in 2010 and actually would have been a nice retirement feud for him.

 

KENTA throws out any notion this may face vs face when he slaps Kawada in the ropes and pulls his head down to hit Kawada Kicks on the man who made them famous. This draws Oooooooooooos from the crowd and wild, stiff slaps from Kawada. KENTA is not going to shy from the moment and Kawada is not going to let him away with such a slight. A really good opening. I thought the Akiyama strike exchange that they lost a little bit.

 

Taue gets a deep, deep ab stretch and I love how Kawada follows that by grabbing KENTA's leg while he is in the ab stretch to apply his signature single half crab. There was no way he was going to let KENTA slip through his fingers. My major hang up in this match is that KENTA was sort of treated like he was Kobashi. He was shooting Taue in the ropes, deadweighting him on a powerbomb and backdropping out of it. Respect size differences and be creative and work around them, Akiyama hits an exploder on Taue and this turns the match in favor of Akiyama & KENTA.

 

I love this sequence and it is just so All Japan. Kawada breaks up a pretty snug chinlock by Akiyama on Taue. In a normal tag match, no harm, no foul. KENTA comes in and his misdirection big boot right in Kawada's face. He blasts him off the apron and then keeps attacking him. KENTA returns and figure-4s Taue head. Now Kawada is hot and kneedrops KENTA in the face. I love the perpetuation of violence. Kawada tagged in and KENTA goes to cut him off at the pass and Kawada just overwhelms him with wicked chops and kicks even Kawada Kicks! STRETCH PLUM!!! Akiyama senses end might be near and hits Kawada with an exploder and Kawada is double teamed. He hits a couple knee lifts and collapses into a Taue tag.

 

I like how KENTA uses his high flying offense to keep Taue off balance and set up his quick big boots. It was a creative, credible way to get Taue vulnerable and leverage KENTA's fast paced offense in logical fashion. KENTA hits his exploding knee to get a nearfall on Taue. Kawada comes in to block a Go 2 Sleep and he wipes him out with a wicked jumping head kick. It was awesome. NODOWA~! to Akiyama. KENTA is left for the pickings. Taue hits a Tiger Driver in honor of Misawa and just like MIsawa he only gets a two count. Kawada/Taue Backdrop Driver/Nodowa on KENTA gets a nearfall and then Taue hits the backdrop driver Nodowa solo version for the win,

 

This is a really great tribute match to the All Japan 90s style where there is great struggle between teams for the victory. KENTA really made this something special with his energy and being a prick. Unfortunately, I felt like Akiyama was just there to hit Exploders to cause turning points. Taue was a fun feel good wrestler, whose Nodowa was the counterpoint to Akiyama's exploder. It was Kawada that really took the match to the next level because he was going to kick this punk kid's ass and teach him some respect. That is at the cornerstone of so many early 90s All Japan tags. It is a fun sprint feel and especially with the great compact finish run. It is a MOTYC for 2009, but just the next rung down. ****1/4

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Rewatched this after reading it claimed that Taue was the guy holding this together, which surprised me as I always remembered this is Kawada and KENTA having cool exchanges while the old guys dragged this down. On rewatch, I still don't think Taue held this together, but I do think all four contributed something and it wouldn't have had the same effect were it just a KENTA and Kawada singles matches. Though it is still a definite shame that NOAH didn't book KENTA vs. Kawada for Kawada's retirement, I also wouldn't have complained if this tag functioned as Kawada's retirement. Anything would have been better than him going out on some random NJPW six-man.

 

Looking at the line-ups reads like a meditation on the effects of age and injuries can have even on guys once regarded as among the toughest and most talented workers out there. You've got Taue, who went through both many 90's AJPW wars and and a fair amount of tough NOAH matches barely able to move. Akiyama, who wasn't in quite as many AJPW wars but has been through quite a bit in NOAH and clearly very banged up for this match. Kawada, who got out after the NOAH split and is looking in better shape for this than Akiyama and Taue but still definitely past his peak. And KENTA, who is in by far the best physical condition of anyone and in the midst of the best run of his career, though he'd ironically suffer a severe injury a few weeks after this and have to slow down his style afterwards.

 

With that out of the way, the opening of this really stuck with me. Kawada and KENTA lock up for a little and, when they get to a rope break, KENTA delivers a hard slap to Kawada. The thing that makes it is Kawada's selling. It's not some "I can't believe this young punk disrespected me" thing like with Joe slapping Kobashi. The guy slowly goes down to one knee like a tree that got chopped down. He looks like the slap actually rocked him. But, like the commentator described him during the ring introductions, Kawada is the eternal junior. He's that little brother constantly out to prove himself, whether that's trying to trade elbows with Misawa, refusing to attack Kobashi's injured leg, or like here, trying to hang with a prime KENTA. And so, after a moment of staying on the ground and realizing what just happened, he gets right back up and trades blows. KENTA, not one to pass up a chance to disrespect an elder, doubles down on the disrespect by imitating Kawada's signature rapid-fire punts. Kawada no sells it and gets in his own bit of disrespect, getting revenge on the slap from earlier with a bunch of hard slaps of his own. KENTA tries to run the ropes, but gets caught with a hard high kick, which leads to KENTA rushing Kawada into the corner and tagging in Akiyama. Such a beautiful opening segment.

 

Akiyama and Kawada is really cool as well with knowledge of their history together, though not on the level of the opening exchanges. Fittingly for a Misawa tribute show, Akiyama tries to use elbows to get the better of his old rival, but he's not Misawa and ends up falling to a spin kick from Kawada. Taue tags in and does his own spin kick, but it looks like it's at half speed compared to Kawada's. Akiyama takes over off a missed running boot and tags in KENTA. When KENTA is in control, but match looks like its going at 2x speed, but when Taue fights back it's reminiscent of slow-motion comedy wrestling, except this is a serious match. Taue ab stretch before tagging Kawada and it's really nice seeing them working in tandem again, though also a bit sad with how Taue has declined. We get another neat KENTA/Kawada exchange that leads to Kawada working a good half-crab on him until tagging Taue back in. KENTA blocks a power bomb and manages to flip Taue over before the running the ropes at light speed en route to a punt, and then he tags in Akiyama. Though Taue is clearly much larger than KENTA, the sequence works with how old Taue has looked and gets across KENTA as a different level in terms of conditioning than anyone else in the match.

 

A spirited exchange between Taue and Akiyama ends in Akiyama hitting an exploder on Taue, which leads to the big heat section of the match. The stuff earlier with Taue looking washed up on offense was actually a great set-up for the heat section. It feels like I'm seeing an old guy getting mugged when KENTA attacks Taue on the outside. Akiyama settles into spending some time in a face lock that Taue sells well and leads to some great interactions between Kawada and KENTA as they interject themselves in the match. We eventually see Taue pull out a ninja roll to hot tag Kawada and it's great to see him finally get the chance to hit all his signature spots on KENTA. Love the spot of the Misawa portrait looking on while Kawada has KENTA in a stretch plum.

 

KENTA gets in a dragon screw, which is a neat choice for a transition move knowing Kawada's history with knee problems. Tag is made to Akiyama and we are in the stretch run with everyone looking for big moves and counters. KENTA and Akiyama try to take out Taue and go for the kill, but the HDA still has some fight left in them and Kawada fights back to make tag to Taue. Kawada is definitely selling the wear and tear of this match at this, selling like he can barely walk back to apron. Taue can't get the better of Akiyama for long, though, and it's soon back to KENTA and Akiyama looking to finish. KENTA's high speed juniors offense seems to be Taue's kryptonite as he's just got no answer to anything KENTA does. Kawada's makes one last rally to save the match. He manages to get Akiyama on the outside and throws him into the guardrail before coming in and stopping a Go 2 Sleep attempt by KENTA. KENTA has looked like an unstoppable monster so far, so things still don't look too good for Kawada when they get into another strike exchanges. Then, in a great moment, Kawada catches KENTA with a surprise gamengiri during their exchange and knocks him out. From there, Akiyama tries to come back in and gets taken out with a nodowa before Taue gets in a tiger driver on KENTA for a near fall. KENTA and Akiyama get back up, but their comeback is short-lived as Kawada powerbombs KENTA into Akiyama in a great spot. Backdrop/Nodowa combo for a nearfall that probably should have been the finish, but this is NOAH and Taue gets the win the very next move with ORE GA TAUE~!

 

Cathartic is the best word to describe this match. On a Misawa tribute show, we don't get an epic with everyone looking spry but rather a match where everyone except KENTA shows their wear and tear, and that might be the most fitting match for such an occasion. Taken as whole, the match plays very well off the unique atmosphere and the high emotion of it being Kawada coming back for Misawa's tribute show The match does seem sad at points like mentioned, but they use those moments as assets for the story that they tell and they make sure to wrap things up in a feel-good moment. ****1/2

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