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[2002-09-07-NOAH-Navigation Over The Date Line] Yoshihiro Takayama vs Yoshinari Ogawa

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I'm probably gonna be in the minority here, but I loved this match. Ogawa gets a brief (very) shine before Takayama tosses him off on a cover. And starts beating him mercilessly. Ogawa turns things around and finds a weakness, and exploits it to the very very very fullest. Takayama gets the crowd believing Ogawa can put him away after a few near-falls, hits a HUGE knee followed by a big German that Ogawa kicks out of, then pulls down the knee pad. Ogawa rolls him up a few times, then eats a massive knee to the face. Kickout again! Takayama is done with this and hits the German for the win. If you can show me another match where a junior gets that much heat for a series of believable nearfalls on a heavyweight (Takayama!!!) all without ANY dive/top rope moves at all, I'd be very surprised. Crowd was tepid for early Ogawa comeback, but by the end they were nuclear hot. This probably makes my top 30. Reminds me a lot of Akiyama vs. Ogawa 9/11/98.

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This is my favorite of the 2002 Takayama singles matches. I love how Ogawa uses his speed and smarts to avoid Takayama's signature offense. Takayama gets all of his shots in at just the right times to elicit the biggest crowd reaction and the finish is perfect. I wouldn't hesitate to put this in my top 20 NOAH matches and this is an absolute lock for my final ballot.

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Oh what a fool, what a fool, I am.

 

GHC Heavyweight Champion Yoshinari Ogawa vs Yoshihiro Takayama - NOAH 9/7/02

 

Yoshinari Ogawa's tights say GHC Champ. Automatic 5 Stars!!! Hands down the best match of 2002 with Takayama and Ogawa just tearing it up in one of the best heel vs heel match that I have ever seen. Ogawa and Takayama have been the two best heels in Japan in the 2000s, but heel vs heel is even harder than face vs. face. I would say heel vs heel was the root cause of the relatively quiet crowd until the hot finish. They make it work because a monster bully can make even the most snot nosed punk an undersized underdog and the most snot nosed punk can make even the biggest bully an asskicking giant. Much like Hart/Diesel Survivor Series '95 (albeit that's a face v face match), I thought Takayama/Ogawa did a good job trading roles within the match.

 

The hooks of the match are Takayama underestimating Ogawa and Ogawa looking for any opening to exploit. Ogawa starts hot with a roll-up (where Ogawa actually sold his arm because Takayama is so heavy) and an eye poke/shoulder knockdown, but then goes totally flying on the kick out. Takayama begins to kick the shit out of Ogawa because Ogawa is not a tough badass we get some really fun selling. Takayama steps Ogawa's face and does the one foot cover. You actually feel a bit of sympathy for the little punk. Then you remember he is such a little snot when Takayama big boot goes over the top rope and puts Takayama in the tree of woe. When the ref tries to hold Ogawa back and Ogawa pushes him off, it is not the usual heel trying to be more violent, it is that Ogawa knows this is now or never. Ogawa makes the most of it and wrenches the arm across the post. Ring-assisted figure-4 armlock, Ogawa is God! Ogawa is hyper focused on arm and Takayama is still using his size to struggle, but Ogawa is leveraging this is as his one advantage. Every time Takayama seems like he is about to destroy Ogawa, but Ogawa always gets out. Takayama lifts him out of short arm scissors, Ogawa rolls through into another one. Takayama looks to send him into the railing, but Ogawa sends him arm first into the post. Takayama looks to take off Ogawa's head, but Ogawa gets drop toehold into the post. Ogawa back drop driver onto floor. YES! YES! YES! Crowd gives the biggest pop when Takayama gets back in the ring at 19 and Ogawa lets out a nice, big "SHIT!". Ogawa has turned Takayama babyface, BABY!

Ogawa rattles off a bunch of back drop drivers and one after another Takayama kicks out. You know it is coming. You know it is coming. BAM! KNEE LIFT AND OGAWA GOES FLYING! Ogawa actually kicks out of the first Everest Suplex. Ogawa counters with a barrage of roll-ups, which are actually over because it is Ogawa. Ogawa goes for a small package and Takayama stands tall and slams him in a wicked cool spot. Everest Suplex and Takayama wins the GHC Title!

 

I had been so down in 2002, just turns out I was not watching the correct matches because this was all types of awesome. Ogawa just embodies Rat Boy so well. The way he can just slip out of each situation and his heat segments are some of the best since 2000 because there is no guy you want to see get his ass kicked. He just kept getting out of each situation. Then he gets the countout finish. It keeps building and building, you get that knee lift just like the Kobashi bloodied up Ogawa. Then you get a nice compact finish run Takayama needs a bomb or two and Ogawa tries to hold on by the skin of his teeth with roll ups. The only reason this does not go on higher is because Takayama as such a natural heel just is not as good as the ultimate babyface Kobashi steamrolling Ogawa so that is why it is a level less, but an easy 2002 Match of the Year and gives 2002 a Match of the Year on the level of the years. Watch this match! ****1/2

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Matches like this are the reasons I love these projects. I'd never watched it nor heard it mentioned as a jewel in Takayama's great 2002, but goddamn this was awesome. First off, I loved Ogawa's GHC Champ tights. Then he was so great going after Takayama's arm once he found the slightest opening. That was some of the best work around a ring post I've ever seen. As outgunned as Ogawa had seemed, he suddenly felt like the legit champ, cutting off Takayama's comebacks and everything. The finishing sequence, with Ogawa tossing off a brilliant series of roll-ups in a last stab at keeping his title, had me popping big time. Great match.

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Who am I to doubt myself? Again, thought I may have overrated this match, but I thought this was really fun again. Ogawa was without a doubt the most entertaining wrestler of the decade, it is a shame, he disappeared in the latter half of the decade as you would have been great as the decade got staler. I had forgotten about Ogawa's loud "Shit!" at the 19 count when Takayama rolled back in in a nick of time. I popped all over again. He sold so well in the beginning making you believe Takayama was going to run away with this. Even with the size disparity, once Ogawa went on offense it was totally credible because he used the ring-post initially and just kept on it. I loved those cutoffs by using the ring post late in the match.

 

Takayama was so in the zone at this point that this is just perfect confluence of great wrestling. Takayama is such a great bully that you actually start rooting for Rat Boy to stick to this arrogant asshole. Then when he is forced to sell for Ogawa, he goes all out. He is so critical in making Ogawa credible and making you doubt the outcome of the match. Then you start to root for Takayama to kick his scrawny ass. It was just a really well done heel vs heel match whether neither sacrificed their character in order to wrestle the match. It really felt like a match that only these two unique wrestlers could have. I have it #2 for 2002, but I severely short-changed some other 2002 matches, but we will see how it holds up. I am projecting in the #20s. ****1/2

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I love this match. Yoshinari Ogawa is the perfect grimy ring tech, who plays the sneaky pants David to Takayama’s blonde Goliath, and Takayama’s Goliath is a real brute, body pressing Ogawa off the pin attempt, punishing him with kicks and knees, ragdolling him with suplexes, grinding his boot into Ogawa’s face. When Takayama gets hung up on the ropes, Ogawa puts him in the tree of woe and pummels the hell out of him with punches and stomps before going to work full-time on the arm. Takayama powers Ogawa up out of an armbar and sets him up top…but Ogawa’s able to take him back down to the mat with the arm in tow. Ogawa’s a jerk to Takayama on the ropes with his stomps and Takayama can’t seem to catch a break. After he hits four consecutive backdrops, Ogawa goes right back into the armbar, kicking Tayama’s hand away to cinch it in. As Takayama starts powering up near the end, I love Ogawa’s final desperate flash pin attempts at hanging onto his title with Takayama countering the last small package, brutalizing Ogawa with the knee strike and putting him away with the big German to capture the title.

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IT SAYS GHC CHAMP ON OGAWA'S SHORTS!!! This is about the quintessential Ogawa match, as swamp monster Takayama is coming after him and Rat Boy has to weasel his way out of this without getting murdered. Ogawa is so great in the opening, throwing punches and eye pokes like a ratty, sleazy heel mini Jerry Lawler. Takayama puts a fulls sized ass beating on his undersized ass and about 5 minutes in the match, it seems like Ogawa is done already. Ogawa makes great use of the TREE OF WOE~! does a mighty great control segment on Takayama. My favourite thing about Ogawa here was that everything he was able to do was capitalizing on something else, he was never merely running through his offense. Takayama gets in a SINGLE BLOW which is enough to almost put Ogawa on the shelf and we get a brief but awesome finishing run built around Takayama throwing bombs and Ogawa throwing Rat Boy'isms. Ogawa's bumping was great here as he was just flying around for Takayama and Takayama himself did a great job putting over the champ as a champ.

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The Ogawa project was quite interesting, although I don't think it was a success as a drawing card. But what a refreshing take from NOAH to even try it. Goes against about everything you'd expect from the AJ school of booking. Takayama was the hottest free agent in Japan at the time. Fun days. This of course is excellent as Ogawa is a sneaky bastard who gets killed by Monster-shooter Takayama for a while, then manage to make a comeback by being, well, a sneaky bastard. Despite the fact he was pretty much the Mickey Whipreck of puroresu, they manage to get true near-falls toward the end, with small packages and shit. Bret Hart would be so proud. Finally Takayama stomps the little bastard and rises to the top, but what an intricate piece of work, which also demonstrate that you can reach excellence in about 15 minutes and without having to do ridiculously dangerous stuff. Ogawa's in-ring stuff was indeed a success. Early NOAH was so much fun, it looked like the future of puroresu was right there.

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