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Charles (Loss)

[2003-11-01-Navigation Against The Current] Kenta Kobashi vs Yoshinari Ogawa

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GHC Heavyweight Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Yoshinari Ogawa – Budokan 11/01/03

I did not know until I watched this match that I have a spirit wrestler and his name is Yoshinari Ogawa. If I stepped into the ring, I would look pretty much same right down to the bitchin’ zebra print tights. I’m an inch taller than his billed height. We have a similar build and the same hair color/hair style. I would be the most obnoxious, cheating prick you ever did see. Needless to say, it took all of 30 seconds for Ogawa to become one of my favorite wrestlers ever. I can’t wait to see his dynamic with the Golden Boy, Misawa. I am feeling the Sting/Luger ’96 dynamic on steroids.

Liberal cheating, blood and closed fist punches sound like something out of Memphis, but remarkably it happened in the Budokan in 2003 during a Kobashi match. You can only have so many “epic” matches and this served as a great change of pace. Instead of Kobashi trying to best a warrior on his level in a struggle for the prestige of the GHC Championship, we just wanted to see Kobashi murder this little douche and we got it. Very rarely, do you see Kobashi filled with hate. He fires up and gets angry, but he has respect for his opponent. For Ogawa, he holds him in contempt and is going to punish him. However, this can only be conveyed if Ogawa does his part to live up to the name, “Rat Boy”. This is one of the better heel performances I have ever seen as Ogawa just lays it on thick trying every trick in the book to prove lightning could strike twice and pull off a major upset to become the GHC Champion again.

He sets the tone of the match right off the bat by spewing water in Kobashi’s face at the bell and beating down Kobashi with a big ‘ol shit-eating grin. Of course, Kobashi fires up and just lays in some wicked chops, which Ogawa’s due to his character can really sell well because he does not have to protect his image. Ogawa next trick is play dead off Kobashi’s chops. Kobashi argues with the ref and Ogawa chop blocks Kobashi’s knee. Kobashi’s knees are why he was out for all of 2001 and a good chunk of 2002 and they are heavily braced. Ogawa is just relentless on the knees including trying to take the braces off. Two spots, I loved during this segment were Kobashi blocking the kneecrusher and Ogawa turning it into a Dragon Leg Screw and Kobashi doing push-ups out of a half-crab and chopping the fuck out of Ogawa. In a moment of hubris, Ogawa thinks he has effectively weakened Kobashi starts to toy with him by poking him in the forehead. This leads to some suplex reversals and Kobashi being thrown into the ref. Ogawa actually gets a visual pinfall off of the enziguiri and back suplex. Ogawa realizing the ref was out gets the friggin’ ring bell and goes to town on Kobashi’s knee. You know it is coming now that big blowoff to all the heat they were building.

They struggle on the outside and Kobashi sends him head first into the post. It looked wicked. He sends into post again head first and a spinning back chop puts him out. The ref are trying to restrain Kobashi and I don’t speak Japanese, but I am pretty sure he said “Fuck that little prick”. Ogawa comes up bloody and Kobashi unloads with closed fists on the cut. It is such a shame All Japan/NOAH is worked so straight because Kobashi has a badass worked punch. When Ogawa tries to cut off Kobashi at the knee literally, Kobashi rocks with a huge punch and then DDTs him on the ramp. Kobashi hits the mother of all powerbombs, but only gets two. Kobashi only gets two off the sleeper and punches Ogawa again in the head. The ref has enough and tries to restrain him and Ogawa low blows Kobashi! Kobashi right back on top with chops and a superplex. Ogawa’s last ditch effort was quick pinfall attempts with the feet on the ropes just like how he beat Akiyama and pinned Kobashi in a tag match. Ogawa refused to take the half-nelson suplex (proving he was smarter than everyone else in the promotion) and eats a Burning Lariat for the mercy killing.

 

These two played their roles to a tee. On paper, Ogawa is totally overmatched by the awesome Kobashi. He cheats and needles Kobashi and then he has the audacity to go after his knees. Throughout the whole heat segment, I was just so pumped for the forthcoming destruction. I am just thinking I am going to get some suplexes, throws and Lariats. Then on top of that, I get BLOOD and CLOSED PUNCHES! That’s some sweet icing on the cake. I have some minor quibbles, no reason for Ogawa to get the visual fall and the ending stretch could have been tighter (low blow-> leads to pinfall attempts ->Kobash BURNINATES). Overall, a match that totally caught me unawares and is just a bitchin’ curveball out of NOAH. ****1/2

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This was great stuff by BOTH Kobashi and Ogawa. It's weird and fun to see flashes of the early to mid-90s Kobashi. He busts out staples like the rolling death cradle and the jackknife powerbomb. He works between nearfalls! Ogawa has this great sequence towards the middle where he slaps Kobashi in a taunting way as he's getting up. It's like he's lost the focus that got him this far and let his cockiness take over. Then Kobashi comes roaring back and Ogawa shoves him into the ref. Ogawa doesn't realize it at first, but once he does he takes full advantage with the ring bell. Ogawa's cutoff rollups are well-placed and the finishing run is really well-done. The match ends exactly when it should instead of going into pointless nearfalls. I'd say this is top 20 material.

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This. is. awesome. This is how a little guy heel should go against a physically bigger face. Ogawa's cheap shot at the start sets the tone. He has to use his agility to evade and counter Kobashi. Kobashi intends on teaching Ogawa a lesson but Ogawa isn't too keen on picking it up. Ogawa keeps going to a giant sack of dirty tricks to cut Kobashi down to size. In this case, that means working the knee, the classic way to slow down someone bigger than you. Ogawa's selling looks great. He's scared shitless of Kobashi and every move hurts him so much more than it would hurt Akiyama, Misawa, or other equals, so he has to do anything he can to avoid taking punishment. Poor Ogawa gets something of a visual pin after the ref takes a hard bump. Oh well, not all is lost. Time to bring the ring bell into play. Ogawa starts bleeding like crazy too. He's sporting the Crimson mask while Kobashi chops and punches away at his forehead.

 

Ogawa staggers around while the ref weakly admonishes Kobashi for using closed fists. Because pro wrestling rules say that's illegal and all. Ogawa has to scrape by, barely surviving Kobashi's onslaught. Most American matches would have ended long ago. Heels don't usually take ass kickings like this and drag it out. Ogawa isn't done with his dirty tricks. The ref is busy struggling with Kobashi when Ogawa nails him with a low blow. Kobashi finally goes for the kill with a half-nelson suplex, only for Ogawa to counter him twice. First a foot stomp gets him some time, the second time he slips into a pin. He throws his feet up on the ropes during a school boy after that. Everything's a trick with him. Kobashi says enough is enough, I'm killing you, Ogawa. Some big lariats flatten the little challenger to wrap things up.

 

****3/4, I loved this. I'm pretty down on Kobashi compared to most when he has his big show downs with top dogs. I think he's really best facing off against unorthordox opponents, or at least that's where I enjoy him a lot more. Ogawa put on a hell of a show bumping, selling, and heeling his way to a damn good match.

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Probably my second favorite Kobashi title match. Ogawa is a little creep and you want him to get killed but Ogawa is crafty. Of course he's only prolonging his life as his doom has been sealed. Kobashi finally catches him and draws blood. Everybody wins except for Ogawa obviously. This is like wrestling 101.

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First 10 minutes with Ogawa out wrestling Kobashi is a ton of fun. The middle portion of the match slows, especially once the blood dries up from Ogawa's posting. Finish stretch is solid. Kind of wish they cut out 6-7 minutes and just went from Ogawa being quicker and smarter earlier than Kobashi and his comeuppance being mauled by Kobashi. It's the first year MLB pitcher taking a shut out into the 6th before he gets to the heart of the line up for the third time and then lets up 4-5 runs very quickly. Doesn't take away from his first 5 innings (Ogawa) but shows who the better hitting team is (Kobashi). This match had the guy go 5 innings, get in trouble in the 6th but get out of it with only 2 runs, and then have to leave the game after giving up 3 runs in the seventh without getting an out.

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This match epitomizes pro wrestling and is by far my favorite Japanese match of the 2000s. To me this illustrates how pro wrestling can transcend time and cultures and it can be when done correctly the greatest form of entertainment in existence. It probably won't be my top match for the decade, but top 6 no doubt. *****

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This match epitomizes pro wrestling and is by far my favorite Japanese match of the 2000s. To me this illustrates how pro wrestling can transcend time and cultures and it can be when done correctly the greatest form of entertainment in existence. It probably won't be my top match for the decade, but top 6 no doubt. *****

 

I'm close to finalizing, and I think it's going to be my No. 1.

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High praise. What do you have above it for the decade?

 

In general contention for the Top 8 is Misawa vs Akiyama from 2000, 3/1/03, Tenryu vs Mutoh 2001, Kobashi vs Takayama 2000, Kobash/Takayama 2004, Nagata & Izuka vs Kawada & Fuchi, BatBat Tag from 2008 and Kobashi/Ogawa. I think Misawa vs Akiyama will be my number one.

 

Childs, I did not see a comment for Kobashi vs Takayama from 2000. I really liked that one a lot and will probably make my top 5. Did you watch it?

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A match totally made by the characters. Ogawa was only ever a heel to 2000s US puro fans and you can see that here too. Kobashi totally overwhelms him in every way so he's forced to attack him before the bell, spit water at him and all that jazz. It makes for a really fun opening with Ogawa using his speed and simple holds to counter Kobashi's power. They tie this into Ogawa playing possum after which he takes a cheapshot at Kobashi's knee. But he's still not booed here. One of my favourite things about this match is that there were essentially two control segments, and both vey similar. The first one had Ogawa working over Kobashi's knee-and there were far more important things to that segment working than Kobashi's selling. Due to how much bigger Kobashi is there was a sense he could reverse Ogawa and get back on top at literally any point in the match and that made the segment so much more engaging. Ogawa grabs a hold, Kobashi tries to power out, Ogawa hits him in the knee. Kobashi then grabs Ogawa's right arm to prevent him from hitting his knee but Ogawa jabs him with the left arm. And Ogawa then moves onto his next trick. Kobashi's Half Boston Crab escape of simply pushing himself backwards was a thing of beauty and fit into the narrative really well. The sense of urgency Ogawa worked with was crucial in this match-Kobashi's knee provided him an easy target any time he was in peril but the way he escaped Kobashi's Machine Gun Chops in a logical way is something that I've never seen anyone else do and it felt very natural for him to come up with a counter like that on the fly as Kobashi is about to cave his chests in. Kobashi gets some hope spots, never drops the selling, but Ogawa doesn't lose control. The point at which the crowd gets clued in is when Ogawa senses he is in so much danger the only way out is to push Kobashi onto the ref. That's when the booing starts. It's not that the crowd wasn't sympathetic towards Kobashi before that-but that's supposed to be the real start of the heat section. And Ogawa does well, hitting Kobashi's knee with the ringbell and such. But there we also encounter the biggest problem of this match. Ogawa's REAL heat section didn't last long enough. They didn't get the crowd into it the way they should've, which was a crucial mistake for this type of match. Kobashi gets back into control with some of by god the sickest ringpost shots you'll ever see. Smashing someone's head into the ringpost is often used as a cheap way to get to the blaed job but here they look so good Ogawa HAS to bleed to no expose every other time someone has bladed on that spot in the history of pro wrestling as nonsense. Kobashi's comeback is really good-mostly consisting of great looking punches. Sometimes he loses focus and does *wrestling moves* not really fitting for the occasion like a Powerbomb with a Jacknife pin, but mostly he is on point. And Ogawa's hope spots are worked the way you'd expect them to-with him taking cheapshots and bending the rules. He manages to get several convincing nearfalls out of them. But the beatdown on Ogawa wasn't proportional to the heat he'd earned. If Ogawa's heat segment was 2/3 minutes longer and Kobashi's comeback that much shorter this could be a legitimate all time classic. Alas, that was not to be. ****

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I liked this, but not at the level I wanted to like it or that I expected to like it. I enjoyed Ogawa ambushing Kobashi before the bell but the stuff working over his knee bugged me -- not because he was doing it, but because he wasn't cheating nearly enough to have such an advantage. As most people who have talked wrestling with me for any length of time know, I'm not someone who thinks small guys shouldn't be competitive with big guys, but I do think the size difference should be part of the story. I think about something like Flair-Giant from 3/96 on Nitro where Flair exaggerated the size difference and made Giant look like a million bucks. That wasn't in the same league of this match, and Kobashi isn't exactly a giant, so I don't think they needed to go to that extreme. But it seemed like they missed something that was right there. Yes, Ogawa had a track record of being competitive with heavies, but I didn't like that that part of the match had them working each other like they were the same size. It was a distraction.

 

At times, this felt more like a collection of great ideas than a cohesive great match -- lots of cool moments but the connecting thread was a little weak at times. Key moments, specifically in Ogawa positioning the ref to his advantage (a heel's lost art!), were done exceptionally well. I also liked Ogawa bleeding and paying for his earlier sins. But some of the extended runs of offense -- from both guys -- were on the bland side, and even Ogawa's moment of truth didn't have quite the level of drama I hoped for. When I did my GWE list I remember debating Yoshinari Ogawa or El Samurai in the #100 spot. Watching this match tells me I made the right decision in going with Samurai. I love Ogawa, I really do, but Samurai worked a very similar match against Jushin Liger in 1992 that was so much tighter and crisper, without the moments where it seemed like not much was happening. I give them huge credit for doing something different and for working a style near and dear to my heart. I enjoyed the hell out of it as a novelty. But it didn't strike me as an all-time classic. ***3/4

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Man that review is pretty alienating for me. It's not that Ogawa was just *competitive* with heavies, he was the GHC Heavyweight Champion! And while I understand people have a desire to compare everything to Flair Ogawa was billed as 180cm and 90, the size difference was significantly smaller here. Furthermore the legwork worked because Ogawa was such a smart and sneaky wrestler that had a history of beating heavyweights that way and because Kobashi (even by this point) had a well documented history of knee injuries. There was no point in the match where they worked each other like they were the same size. The lack of cheating is the real issue-as soon as they started getting heat they transitioned into the comeback and thus didn't properly milk it out.

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Mentioning that he was significantly smaller is kind of the point. It's such an obvious visual that didn't seem to be played up nearly enough. I've seen Ogawa work other guys much bigger than him and he usually does an awesome long stretch of desperate offense where he's cutting a fast pace and trying every single legal and illegal tactic at his disposal in rapid fire succession. The comparison was not intended to Flair specifically -- I was thinking of matches with big size differences and which matches got that over the most convincingly where the smaller guy was the heel, and that was the one I came up with. Chalk it up to my expectations -- I was thinking we were going to see a more epic version of Akiyama-Ogawa from '98.

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I have found this match disappointing given the praise surrounding it. That doesn't mean it's not really great but not really MOTDC level. My biggest complaint is the pacing which is so weird. I thought there are odd pauses and lulls in action. Loss is right, it could have been tighter/more compact. What makes it even more weird is that this is a Kobashi match and he usually paces his matches better than literally everyone ever, IMO. Still Ogawa's heel antics and Kobashi's selling and aggression are top notch. **** 1/4

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I prefer Ogawa spitting water and stepping on Kobashi's face over your generic japanese main event type wrestling. I dunno about the complaints, what the hell did people want to see? A fast paced show? Hell no. Kobashi gets MAD and chops him to death! Ogawa actually sells Kobashi's chops like they really are devastating! Ogawa weasels and rats his way around Kobashi and there are few wrestlers greater at believably controlling a bigger opponent than Ogawa. At no point did it look like Ogawa had an easy time. Ogawa uses every trick in the book including comical amount of heel tactics, even attacking Kobashi's weak leg with the bell because why not? It all comes back to him and this really turns into a full on 1980s US match with Ogawa eating a brutal posting, bleeding and getting punched in the face by a pissed off Kobashi. Kobashi has HAD IT with this punk and his bullshit eye pokes! He is so mad he doesn't even care about bringing the workrate anymore, there is not even a Half Nelson Suplex in this match! Ah well. I thought Kobashi could've done a better job selling his leg, but as it stands this is pretty much the dopest match.

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Once again, Ogawa proves to be one of the sliest weasels out there, this time pissing up the wrong tree with babyface supreme Kobashi. He spews water in Kobashi’s eyes, blindsiding him, assaulting him and grinding the heel of his boot in his face while playing to the crowd. Of course, he promptly pays for this when Kobashi chops him all the way down to the ground and then some. After some fancy maneuvering on the mat, he comes away with Kobashi’s arm and continues clinging onto Kobashi like some kind of parasite, only to get chopped off. He goes after Kobashi’s taped left knee and targets it whenever the situation gets a little sticky icky. After the referee gets taken out, Ogawa attacks the knee with the timekeeper’s bell. Kobashi’s selling is terrific here as he hobbles to a comeback on the outside, blasting Ogawa with a spinning back chop into the ringpost that turns Ogawa’s face into a bloody nightmare. The punishment only continues for Ogawa and likewise, his selling is fantastic as he gets chopped and punched and powerbombed. He’s finally able to sneak in a low blow to catch a breather but It’s not enough to keep Kobashi down for long. I loved how Ogawa was able to avoid the half nelson suplex, using cradles and school boys to try and come away with a victory, but after Kobashi hits a…I don’t even know, a half nelson Exploder?...he finishes him off the Burning Lariat.

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