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Charles (Loss)

[2002-02-17-NOAH-Navigation For Evolution] Jushin Liger & Wataru Inoue vs Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru

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New Japan (Jushin Liger & Wataru Inoue) vs NOAH (Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Yoshinobu Kanemaru) - NOAH 2/17/02


It is one thing to lose your notes in a match you dont like (Togo vs Tiger Mask), but it annoys me that I don't have my notes for this match because I thought this was pretty good, not MOTDC, but solid resume padding for the greatest Junior of all time, Liger and a HUGE performance from Wataru Inoue. Inoue knows how to light up a muthafucka with an elbow. NJPW bullrushes early and isolate Kikuchi. At one point the Budokan is rocking like it is 1992 and chanting for Kikuchi. I always think of Liger as one of the best babyfaces of all time, but he has not trouble heeling it up here as he shoves his boot in Kikuchi's face before dropkicking him in the face and then doing a one foot pin cover. Kanemaru tags in and he does not have much in the way in offense. At first, he is content with letting the heels run into each other and stuff of that nature, but occasionally he will slip into indy-riffic spots, but he is not horrible. Liger gives him an absolute shit kicking I remember at least three Ligerbombs and a fisherman buster. Liger was on point in this match. Kanemaru to escape the wrath of Liger floats over on a suplex attempt and back kicks him in the balls. Kikuchi is pretty good at selling, but has almost nothing in the way of offense. The New Japan heels are really carrying this by delivering an ass kicking. Inoue and Kanemaru are the final two with Inoue initially gaining the advantage because he is ALL MAN~! However, the number games catches up to him and Kanemaru is able to hit a frogsplash, moonsault and a brianbuster to win. Melee ensues. New Japan and NOAH brawls to the back, which was awesome and pumped me for the rematch. It is not a super classic tag match, but the effective, powerful offense of the New Japan contingent and a pretty good finish. ***1/2

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I like this more with every viewing, though having it #1 when I last went through 2002 might have been a touch high. Not sure this is top 10 for the decade; not even sure it's top 20 for that matter. But they do get a LOT right, there's hardly any flaws, it's instantly memorable, there's heat, a satisfying finish, and it set up a bunch of other cool stuff. That's plenty of notches for one belt.

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This was a really fun invasion tag. I really enjoyed Liger and Inoue skipping the shine altogether and going right into the heat segment. Liger heeling it up is all sorts of fun and he seems to enjoy himself doing it. The NJ team cuts off the Kanemaru comeback off the tag and he has a heat segment of his own. NOAH finally gets some good offense in during the finishing stretch. Kanemaru is really, really flashy and I'm not sure if he backs it up with much substance yet. Kikuchi is all elbows. The submission offense from the NJ wrestlers has an odd feel to it. There is never any one limb targeted, but for some reason it doesn't seem to drag down the match. I can see this right around the 50 range or lower. Also, Minoru starting the brawl was a highlight.

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Y'know, I wouldn't have guessed that Kikuchi vs Liger would be a better dream match than Misawa vs Hashimoto when it finally happened but here's the proof. This is pretty easily the junior heavyweight feud if the decade and while this isn't my favorite skirmish it's still one of the best tags NOAH ever produced. This match in particular is good because it gives is plenty of what the people want (Liger vs Kikuchi) while using the younger wrestlers to their strengths. Inoue was a much better as a spunky rookie than he would be at any other point in his career and while Kanemaru is still getting all of his shit in the interpromotional hatred gives him more of a focus than usual.

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Definitely one of the matches I knew I underrated and on rewatch this was one of the most heated matches of the decade. Wataru looked way, way better here than he did in 2005 playing the spunky rookie that gets his ass kicked by Gedo & Jado. Dont get me wrong, he did a fantastic job in the role, but he showed it here he was way, way above the role. You would never even know how young he was here. He was presented totally on the level with Kikuchi and Kanemaru. On the outside in the beginning when Kikuchi is forearming him, his look was total "You better starting throw those harder" before he crushed him with forearms of his own. He was just rocking the rest of the match with stiff shots and oozing confidence. Minoru Tanaka vs Wataru Inoue should have rejuvenated the NJPW junior heavyweight division. Kanemaru added a bit of fun with his Rat Boy-lite gimmick I loved him coming in off the first hot tag with a school boy roll up and feet on his rope with everyone cheering. Of course, Kanemaru low blowing Liger and then accidentally low blowing Kikuchi was fucking awesome. After the absolute ass kicking the NOAH boys take for the first 3/4s, you knew they were going to take this one and that Wataru was going to take the fall. I liked Kanemaru's finish run just fine good splashes and suplexes get the win. Kikuchi was badass at selling the pain, but also firing up at the same time. He had such a great facial expression while Wataru had him in the camel clutch and Liger put his foot in his face. It just exuded "When I get out of here, I am going to kick both your fucking asses". I loved how he stepped through his forearms and almost tripped over himself sometimes landing them. How about the heat on that cross armbreaker on Liger, that was some great shit. Liger was the Man in this. He was the greatest junior of all time and this showed why. He owned this match and never let it get out of his command. Kanemaru gets on a roll, Kappo Kick and a wicked powerbomb. Kikuchi thinks he has him beat with the cross armbreaker and it is a palm strike to the face with his other hand. Liger was such a great heel in riling the crowd up from the jumping the NOAH guys at the bell, to the foot in the face and the one foot cover. The New Japan guys kicked some serious ass, but the NOAH boys did well in front of their home crowd to mount the comeback. One of the better comebacks in wrestling history because Liger & Wataru had put them in such a hole, but you could feel them fighting through it. The post-match crowd brawl sets up Minoru Tanaka's involvement for the sequel. I got this #3 in 2002 so far, but lets see how the rematches do. ****1/2

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Fun interpromotional juniors match in front of a molten hot crowd. To be honest I thought the match had too much filler work and not enough hate filled exchanges, but Kikuchi stepping up to maul opponents was indeed awesome and Liger was a sufficient prick. Inoue got to look strong for a rookie in black trunks and Kanemaru was able to not kill the match. Him kicking Liger in the balls may have been the highlight of the match, which feels stupid considering it's a juniors match that has brainbusters and whatnot, but it was an insanely well timed moment that the crowd ate up.

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