NOAH Global Tag League 2017 Final
May 4 2017
We’re in Korakuen Hall in Tokyo for NOAH’s Global Tag League final. It’s been a tournament I’ve paid the bare minimum of attention to. Largely because I wasn’t interested in the field but also, in part, due to other promotions running more interesting shows. There was heavy involvement for Impact Wrestling here, although less heavy after Bram fucked up and got booted off the tour for taking a drunken nap in a supermarket display.
Takuya Nomura vs. Kaito Kiyomiya
On the surface this looks like your average Young Boy clash with two lads in black pants having a wrestle. Only Nomura is one of the top prospects in all of wrestling and Kitamiya is pretty decent too. They start out slowly but Nomura wakes the contest up by smacking Kitamiya around the chops with a slap. As they get into the meat of the contest it becomes apparent there’s a gulf emerging between the two. Nomura is more fluid, aggressive and calm. He works like a veteran who’s teaching a young boy the ropes. He takes NOAH’s lad Kiyomiya to school and has the crowd rallying behind Kaito like he’s battling a massive uphill struggle. The reality is that Kiyomiya debuted six months before Takuya Nomura. I had someone ask me what was so good about Nomura and it’s a combination of things. That he’s so inexperienced but looks so composed would be top but it’s the things he does really well that impress me. His strikes are snug, his selling is consistent and believable and his timing is impeccable for someone so inexperienced. Nomura catches Kiyomiya with a high kick and downs him with a German suplex in a well paced opener. It’s intriguing to me that the NOAH guy, with more experience, gets treated like an inferior specimen because that’s how NOAH book their own guys. Nomura looked really good here. Shocking huh?
Final Rating: ***1/4
RATEL’s (HAYATA & YO-HEY) vs. Hajime Ohara & Rionne Fujiwara
Ohara is the junior champ in these parts. It’s up to the likes of HAYATA to knock him off. Both he and YO-HEY are relatively new to NOAH, brought in during NOAH’s attempt to freshen up their roster at the end of last year. Rionne is the same, formally of Wrestle-1. The junior division feels like it’s going through a rebuilding phase after Kenoh and Kotoge were drafted into the heavyweight division to give that some substance. It was probably the right move as the junior division, while outstanding, had been getting a little stale. It’ll take time for this crop of guys to become adjusted to each other and the various abilities and styles. The RATEL’s duo click nicely here and there’s definitely potential in the division. HAYATA ends up pinning Rionne with a moonsault after some tidy tag teaming. This was perfectly fine for what it was. It’s implied that HAYATA fancies himself to be junior champ.
Final Rating: **3/4
Robbie E vs. Hitoshi Kumano
Well this is certainly something! Resident jamoke Kumano against oblivious North American musclehead Robbie E. The latter treats the match like it’s a joke, which about sums up the level of professionalism from the Impact boys on this tour. There are some North American workers who think they can drop into Japanese wrestling and just do their normal shtick and get accepted. While it works for some (Joey Ryan for example), others find themselves wrestling in front of perplexed foreigners who don’t get their act. Robbie E’s routine has changed from Bodyguy to scheming coward and it doesn’t go over well here. Mainly because his nutty facial expressions just look stupid and out of place. Robbie gets some sloppy bullshit double anklehold, dubbed a “Cloverleaf” by the generous commentator and Kumano has to tap out, rather than suffer working this insufferable shithead for a moment longer.
Final Rating: *
Cody Hall & Randy Reign vs. RATEL’s (Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke)
There is a substantial size difference here. Cody and Randy both being way over six foot against the junior team. This is the first time I’ve seen Cody Hall wrestle since his serious neck injury in New Japan. That was a year ago. Randy Reign is completely new on me. He’s a big dude but doesn’t intimidate like our boy Cody. The poor juniors get murdered throughout and beaten inside seven minutes.
Final Rating: *1/4
Takashi Sugiura & Kenoh vs. Taiji Ishimori & Hi69
Kenoh is such an asshole that Ishimori would rather break both his legs on an insanely dangerous dive than allow Kenoh to share a ring with him. Now that’s a bad guy. The last match had a storyline of ‘two big jerks murder cruiserweights’ and they double down on that. Only Sugiura and Kenoh are properly mean so it works better. It helps that Kenoh was a junior until this year and hasn’t put on much weight. He’s basically the same size as Hi69 (pronounced Hirooki). Sugiura used to be a junior too, once upon a time although he has a height advantage over modern juniors. It’s a spirited brawl, with a surprise finish as Sugiura manages to get himself counted out by a fleeing, lighter opponent. It’s an upset. It’s also a match that felt like it never quite hit the higher gear and had a relatively weak stretch. Sugiura takes it out on the smaller lads backstage by beating them up in the interview area!
Final Rating: **3/4
Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya vs. Mohammed Yone & Akitoshi Saito
Nakajima and Yone don’t mess around here and start to kick lumps out of each other at the bell, both out to prove superiority. Yone for his veteran status, Nakajima because he’s the champion. Yone, when he raises his game, is one of the most overlooked and underrated guys in wrestling. Maybe it’s down to his penchant for not giving a fuck at times that gives him a bad reputation. I’ve seen many ten minute midcard stinkers from Yone over the years but put him in a good spot, with good workers and magic can happen. Saito is another guy who gets grief, for being a fat old man, who when the mood takes him can perform at a higher level. Nakajima will be facing Yone in a title match in early June so they need to build expectation for that here, which mainly involves Nakajima kicking the piss out of the afro warrior until Yone catches him with a fluke high kick and the ref stops it! This was a weird shoot-ish finish, designed to protect the champ, as he lost via referee stoppage. Tremendous selling from Nakajima, who dropped dead when Yone connected and was lying there staring into space like a champ.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Global Tag League Final
Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Kotoge vs. Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi
Shiozaki and Marufuji on opposing sides? All chests prepare to die!
Taniguchi looks properly nuts with that one contact lens. As if he looks crazier without the madman mask and samurai police weapons! Perhaps predictably chests take a beating here, with Marufuji chopping people so hard he hurts his hand. And you’d better believe that thing has a million callouses by now. Marufuji is over huge with the rubes for his violence. I’m not sure which I like best; the row of guys marking out for him or the couple of girls being horrified by the noise the chops make. They’re both golden crowd moments. Go manages a spectacular botch, falling off the ropes and turns it into an injury angle in an instance out of shame and embarrassment. It’s a wicked improvisation, which is a key difference between a talented wrestler and someone who laughs these things off as fuck ups. It’s not long before he and Marufuji go back to murdering each other with chops so it’s all good.
NOAH have been criticised for letting their main events rumble on out of control and while that’s partially true it does occasionally create a wonderful sense of epic. The crowd are into this and it builds nicely with all four men getting progressively fatigued and beaten down. They do a grand job of creating false finishes with guys being isolated and killed until a last gasp save or dramatic kick-out denies the victory. Kotoge makes a point of doing his headbutt here and totally gimmicking what used to be a legitimate shoot move. As I said, the near falls in this are just sensational. If you don’t know who’s winning it’s thrilling to see those shoulders shoot up at the latest possible moment. The crowd remain rowdy throughout because of it and NOAH have done a bang up job of selling me on everyone in the match. Taniguchi eventually overwhelms Kotoge and pins him. This was fucking great.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Post Match: It all gets a bit feisty with Cody Hall launching into a profane assault upon the winners before Go Shiozaki kills Taniguchi with a lariat to teach him a lesson in humility. Or something.
This was the two-hour TV edit so it was easy to sit through and the main event is brilliant so you need to see that. Some of the undercard was a little rough but that’s to be expected when your company is a little short on Yen. Can’t afford big imports? Have to make do with Rionne Fujiwara, Randy Reign and Robbie E then. Hopefully their cash flow situation improves. I take no pleasure in a once-great company suffering indignities.