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[2001-07-27-NOAH-Accomplish Our First Navigation] Mitsuharu Misawa vs Jun Akiyama

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GHC Heavyweight Champion Mitsuharu Misawa vs Jun Akiyama

Budokan 1st Anniversary Show 07/27/01


The crowning achievement of Jun Akiyama's career as it finally seems like he is going to be the man. All of 2000 was leading to this climax where he defeats Misawa to become the GHC Champion. The aftermath would turn out differently as NOAH would reset and go with Kobashi as their big drawing ace. However, for this one night Akiyama looked like he fulfilled his potential and had become puroresu's new big star.


In their last big match at the Budokan, Misawa lost to Akiyama and he comes out elbows blazing. He will not be deterred and elbows through everything. Akiyama tries to powder. Misawa keeps elbowing. Akiyama ties to take it to the mat. Misawa elbows out. Akiyama tries to go elbow for elbow well that is just preposterous. Akiyama finally kills this onslaught by dropkicking Misawa off the top rope onto the floor in a sweet bump. Akiyama drives his knee into Misawa back sending him crashing into the railing. Misawa is not the only who remembers their previous match as Akiyama goes for Misawa's neck with a tombstone piledriver and some neck submissions. All of sudden we are transported to the Greensboro Coliseum where the "Total Package" Mitsuharu Misawa no-sells "Nature Boy" Jun Akiyama's strikes in the corner and cleans his clock with some more elbows and Akiyama has some great webble-wobble, ropes holding me up sells of it. The one of the biggest stylistic differences in this match from the 02/00 match is that Misawa gets way more of his offense in this match. I don't if it is due to his age, but Misawa almost looks demonic when he slaps on the front facelock the way his eye-brows are arched. Misawa gets his trademark diving elbow to the floor after doing a rana out of a powerbomb and a butterfly suplex after he cant get his Tiger Driver. Then out of nowhere Akiyama applies a crossface.


Here come the fireworks! Akiyama DDTs Misawa on the ramp and teases an Exploder and a German off the ramp onto the floor, but Misawa elbows him off. Similar to Misawa's fatal mistake in 2000, Akiyama dodges an elbow from the ramp and drives him to floor. He capitalizes on this mistake with an Exploder on the floor and in the ring. Then in a perplexing move, Akiyama goes to the top? They tease a superplex until you realize that they are actually going to do a SUPER TIGER DRIVER~! It did not look as great as it possibly could have, but the audience and announcers all collectively lost their shit. Misawa sells his own damage thus it takes him too long to cover. Misawa follows up with the Roaring Elbow and a Tiger Driver both getting two. Hence he looks to finish off Akiyama and hit the Emerald Flowsion, but Akiyama wriggles free to hit two Exploders to level the playing field.


They are both in their respective corners and charge at each other, but it is Akiyama's high knee that finds the mark. The end is nigh for Misawa. The brainbuster and choke fail to polish off Misawa, but the combination of an Exploder and a Wrist-Clutch Exploder ultimately finish Misawa and Akiyama wins his first major singles title.


Unlike the first match, Akiyama feels like he is overcoming Misawa's onslaught of elbows and bombs. In the first match, he builds a huge lead and needs to weather the inevitable comeback. In this performance, he proved he does not have to be a front runner and he has big time comeback ability. I loved Misawa's presence in this. He was not going to lose to Akiyama again and just elbowed through everything. He would not be denied. The problem was that when he tried something high-risk it paid off with him crashing and burning (yes he pulled off the SUPER TIGER DRIVER~!, but more often than not he ate concrete). Eventually, it came down who was quicker at pulling the trigger Akiyama's knee or Misawa's elbow and the younger Akiyama won that battle and ultimately the match. My major issue with this match was the transitions were pretty lame and did not weave a complete story. The Akiyama crossface and the SUPER TIGER DRIVER~! were poorly set up from an in-ring action perspective. I don't think they made the most of their big spots. Nothing seemed to have any consequence until about 2 minutes to go. I liked the story, but I thought the plot devices could have been better combined to deliver a more complete match. ****

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I thought their 2/27/00 match was far, far better. Misawa comes out a lot more aggressive here and Akiyama..goes to the left arm inexplicably for a bit. That was completely wasted time. Akiyama's big early offense comes after a calf branding from the apron to the rail, and he focuses on the neck of Misawa. Misawa comes back with elbows and Akiyama engages him in an elbow contest for some reason. Really, after that early beating from elbows he's just gonna volunteer to take more elbows without at least trying to move or hit a jump knee or anything? The ramp shenanigans are really starting to make me wish they had never started going with entrance ramps in puroresu. It's just another distraction from the actual wrestling match if you ask me. Finish is well done, but again, their match a year and a half earlier was far, far better and more meaningful. Probably won't make my ballot as the 2/27/00 match is my working #1.

 

Edit: I think the main thing I dislike about this match is that it felt like it was Misawa's match all the way through until Akiyama hit the exploder 98. If you're going to have a passing of the torch, it can't feel like the old guard (here Misawa) got one-upped at the wrong time and lost after dominating the match. It worked for Misawa vs. taue in 96 because we were never supposed to think that Taue was the new ace. We just had to believe he could beat Misawa given the right circumstances. For this match, if they wanted Akiyama to truly be the new ace, they had to make it Akiyama's match and a definite win for him.

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So no, this obviously isn't as good as their 2000 match but it's still really good. It has it's flaws, such as the super tiger driver that I assume was just thrown on because they felt they needed a big epic highspot but the structure is there to make it compelling.

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Rewatched this as I felt I short-changed it. It is amazing that I am agreeing with my reviews almost wholeheartedly I just absolutely hate the ratings I am giving. What is my problem! After Misawa lost in 2000 this is the exact match they needed especially if Akiyama is scheduled to win. Misawa has, has to reestablish himself as a major obstacle for Akiyama to overcome and he does that by elbowing through everything. Akiyama and Misawa are making each earn everything. Akiyama is not standing around just getting elbowed he is forcing Misawa to elbow through his offense. By the same token when Misawa hesitates like he did on the top rope early Akiyama dropkicks him off the top rope. I loved how they constantly attacking, but with Misawa getting the better. Thus Akiyama earns another victory over Misawa, but this time it is through resiliency rather than pure offense. He plays Misawa's game and wins. Misawa is forced to one-up himself and more often than not does more harm than good. Thus the Super Tiger Driver was the key to victory, but could not follow it up. Akiyama has enough fight to counter the Emerald Flowsion and hit a bomb. Like I said, they are both recovering in opposite corners. It comes down to who can pull the trigger first and Akiyama hits the knee and the rest is history. Akiyama outlasts Misawa and wins proving February 2000 was no fluke and that he can come from behind. Some of the transitions were a bit lame and it was a bit bloated and listless in the middle. The overall story propels this to fourth best match of 2001 and probably no worst than #30. ****1/2

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Usually I wouldn't post a ~4~ year old review but I watched this twice and feel I did a good job of expressing what worked for me:

 

 

I rewatched this, and it's hard to slap a rating on it. Early on they establish that Misawa is by far the better striker. Akiyama's ego keeps him from changing up hif offence and he keeps losing and losing in the strike exachanges, which are very fun (and stiff!) as you'd expect. Besides the elbow exchanges Akiyama's offence was very smart as he went back to what got him his first victory over Misawa. However, the thing I cared about the most was how Akiyama would get back into the match. Misawa's missed dive seemed like a perfect way to get Akiyama back in a long control segment which would get him the victory without deavaluating Misawa's killer Elbows. Instead Misawa quickly cuts him of because they had to get their Avalanche Tiger Driver Spot in. Akiyama's comeback is pretty formulatic (Elbow no sell fighting spirit Exploder), and he sells the damage he's taken for a decent amount of time. End result-nothing they did was either illogical or bad-but it didn't feel satisfying either. The ending struck me differently this time-I would've preferred more struggle on the first viewing, but this time it would've struck me as Misawa no selling Akiyama's big moves (which is pretty much the only credible offence he had without strikes and with him treating matwork as irrelevant) so I was happy with what I got. ***1/2

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So, that young punk Akiyama is backed up by New Japan new sensation, Nagata, who looks quite gangsta himself. Misawa is having none of this young punk bullshit this time around. Elbow flurries in yo face Akiyama. Yes, it is Misawa's match, as it should, the old lion isn't ready to lose another one, especially with his new title around his waist. To beat the man, mofo you gotta come get it. Misawa is amazing here, bringing the fight to Jun and pushing him around. Until Jun takes advantage of a mistake and going medieval on Misawa's ass outside. Loved how this match was built and how it escalated until the old lion showed himself too slow and taking too much risks at the end. Great match. MOTYC level.

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Yeah, there's not much else to say that hasn't been said about this already and I agree with those who said this was a great match. Finally Akiyama gets his big crowning moment by defeating (one of) the biggest name in the organization.

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This was good but as previously stated, not as good as their 2000 match. Straightforward opening but when Akiyama tries to get cute with his grappling, Misawa pops him with an elbow. As always, I liked Akiyama working the neck with his grumpy stomps, hitting a great jumping knee to set up the tombstone piledriver. Misawa keeps finding ways to avoid Akiyama's offense, keeps popping him with elbows and then finally takes him out with the dive through the ropes. Akiyama's able to bring the focus back to the neck with the DDT on the ramp, the Exploders in and out of the ring, but again, Misawa cuts him off up top to hit his superduper tiger driver and we get another traditional bomb-heavy finishing stretch with Akiyama hitting a bunch of Exploders to win.

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I didn't really care for the match these guys had in All Japan in 2000 that everyone seems to like, but a year later I just want to see something good. This was good, so that automatically makes it one of the better matches of the year. That's a sad indictment on Japanese men's wrestling in 2001, but that's the reality, especially with Kobashi on the shelf. The amazing thing about these NOAH matches is how much they lack the psychology and storytelling of classic All Japan. If Baba hadn't gotten sick and died, and Akiyama had earned his big moment over Misawa in an All Japan ring, you can be damn sure this would have been better. Again, it wasn't a bad match, but can you look me in the eye (over the internet) and with a straight face tell me this is up to the usual pass the torch standards in Japan? You can't! Because Kobashi comes back with bung knees and has better matches than this. Perhaps Misawa was exhausted from working that style. I'm not sure if Akiyama ever really mastered it. But this was All Japan-lite. 

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This has a great sense of anticipation at the beginning - you can tell the crowd is buzzing and excited at the possibility of the title change. Akiyama coming out with a gangster looking Yuji Nagata in a suit is also great. I watched this after the GHC Title Tournament final where Misawa faced Takayama and this is very different - Misawa is the one that dominates from the off. Early on, Akiyama is struggling to get anything going, and it seemed like Misawa was that more successful team in a sports match saying "you want to take the title, you are going to have to earn it". Whether by accident or design, early on Akiyama does seems like he is a bit out of his depth, but as others have pointed out, it tells the story that if he wants to win the title he is going to have to win through being resilient - hanging in there till he can get an opening. I understand the criticism that if you want Akiyama to be the ace coming out of this, you would want to make him look more dominant in the early and middle parts of the match, but I feel like they have gone for the approach that if Misawa is the big boss to be slayed, then that needs to be firmly established within the match structure itself so Akiyama's win is truly meaningful. I can also see the criticism that things are a bit lethargic until the final few mins, but in personal preference I don't mind a match being slow at times to build to that crescendo. There's a great nearfall once Akiyama has started hitting the big exploders where Misawa barely gets his foot on the rope, but at that moment it shows Misawa has very little left and the title is there for Akiyama with one last push, building the crowd to be excited that title change is coming. (**** 1/4)   

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