NOAH Great Voyage in Yokohama Vol 2
October 1 2017
We’re in Yokohama, as the title suggests. Over 2000 in the Bunka Gymnasium for this show, which had been dubbed the “wacky NOAH show” by Twitter because of the card. Quiet Storm in the semi-main. Check! Moose tagging with Yuji Okabayashi. Check! Ultimo Ninja. Check! Fujinami and stooges/son in trios action. Check! GFW title defence. Check! Against Cody Hall! CHECK! The Von Erich boys. Check! Opener featuting a wrestler I’ve genuinely never heard of. Check! Check! Check! I’m excited.
I’m so fired up even the ringing of the bell gets me excited here.
Masao Inoue, Tadasuke & Junta Miyawaki vs. Yoshinari Ogawa, Seiya Morohashi & Ashley Istria
Miyawaki, resident young boy, sprints to the ring. I love that young boy mentality. Don’t eat up too much time with your entrance, just get the fuck down there and patiently wait for the guys who’ve earned that slow stroll to the ring. Ogawa is now 50 years old. Where does the time go? So the dude I don’t know is Ashley Istria, who’s Australian. He has a big ginger beard and a sensible haircut. He looks like an alternative universe Mike Bird. A mask short of El Generico II. The lads been around for a decade and worked for Zero1 when I wasn’t watching wrestling. I would do a big old puro catchup of stuff I missed but I can’t even keep up to date with the current product, let alone watch stuff from five years ago. Tadasuke looks solid here with his thick junior heavy thighs. He’s destined to be a heavyweight sooner rather than later. Istria impresses me here and gets the win by submitting Miyawaki. Speaking of whom; I find his name hard to take seriously. It sounds like a line of dialogue from Jar Jar Binks. Ogawa is unimpressed with everything and walks in front of Istria while he’s doing his match-winning pose. He’s so grumpy, let him do a little pose.
Final Rating: **1/4
Kenou & Daisuke Ikeda vs. Marshall & Ross Von Erich
The Von Erich name carries some weight in Japan so I’m surprised these lads haven’t been over more often. It would probably help if they were good but name value goes a long way. Ikeda looks like a confused old man here. Like Kenou picked up from a nursing home and drove him to the show. You’re my tag team partner! Where am I? Who are you? What’s happening? Oh crap, he’s only 8 years older than me. Barefoot Marshall outshines his older brother Ross here, which apparently is a regular thing. Marshall has those Von Erich genetics down. He’s a strapping 6’ 3” and looks every inch the Von Erich. Ross is trying to do a lot of kicky modern stuff but in doing so doesn’t stand out at all. It doesn’t help that he attempts a standing SSP, another Indie Standard, only to fail to get over and landing in an apologetic senton. Marshall batters Ikeda with a lariat and the Von Erichs come up with a surprise win, greeted by a large inhalation of breath. Kenou walks off while they’re celebrating. He’s an angry man. An angry man with a top notch hairdresser.
Final Rating: **1/4
Eli Drake (c) vs. Cody Hall
This match is taking place so GFW (if they’re even still called that) can air the footage on Impact to boost those TV ratings that never change.
Eli Drake is the guy GFW have gone with because they’re basically run out of ex-WWE guys to push. He’s the holding guy until WWE release someone else who wants to work for Impact. If Ryback actually gave a toss about pro-wrestling he’d probably be carrying this belt around instead of doing podcasts. Big Cody is looking improved. He’s using his size, forcing Eli to utilise a mixture of offence to get his big ass unbalanced. Cody is keen to mix it up himself and he’s added a few moves that show off his agility. I kinda wish more big men stuck to big man stuff, rather than doing a bunch of needless flips but when you see everyone else doing it the temptation is to switch up your own offence. Take Sid for example. Terrible wrestler but he looked the part, had charisma and a cool entrance and finish. Sometimes that’s all you need. Even in modern wrestling. Sure, you’ll get criticised but you’ll also get over. The latter is more important than the former (sometimes). Cody is still relatively inexperienced and he doesn’t have a lot of guys to teach him how to use his size in Japan. Eli escapes the power moves and hits the Air Raid Crash to retain. This was fine. Cody is definitely improving as a worker.
Final Rating: **3/4
Hajime Ohara & Ultimo Ninja vs. Hi69 & Garza Jr
Hey, let’s randomly throw some luchadores onto the undercard shall we? I love 2017 NOAH. Thank fuck Suzuki-gun are gone. Garza Jr used to be in AAA but he’s now making a living with The Crash. He’s been working on Impact too, which is the probable connection. Ultimo Ninja? No idea. Presumably recommended by Garza. Maybe related? Ultimo Ninja comes out to Iron Maiden so I automatically love him. The opening exchanges showcase Garza’s gift for making lucha stuff look realistic.
Speaking of realistic; Ohara is tremendous at this. His mat wrestling and chain game are top drawer. Everything is so fluid in this match. Especially Ultimo Ninja, whether he’s flipping into the ring, sliding out of it or flipping back into it everything is on point. Ultimo Ninja constantly shows that being flashy needn’t come at the expense of logic. Even in the field of lucha. He does a lot of a moves based sequences but they flow logically from one part to the next. His flipping over the corner turnbuckle bit, where Garza loses track of his location is brilliant but slightly over done. The dives in this match are devoid of fucks. No fucks are given. Ninja uses both his size and his lucha moves to near perfection. I’m even a little irritated that they do a convoluted couple of chair spots and they not only make sense but they’re executed perfectly. Those would have been so easy to fuck up. Not on Ultimo Ninja’s watch! Garza finishes him with a missile dropkick with Ninja sat on the aforementioned chair. This was seriously great and I don’t particularly like lucha. Ultimo Ninja should be booked everywhere. He’s young, he’s got a great look and he will create fresh matches wherever he goes. North American promotions would be mad to not book him. Especially Texas area.
Final Rating: ****
Hitoshi Kumano vs. Minoru Tanaka
Kumano is the definition of ‘lower midcard’. I keep thinking he’ll get better and he never does. NOAH decided to stick him in tag teams to cover this up, which was for the best. He’s back in singles action here so Minoru Tanaka can torture him for a bit. One thing Kumano is excellent at is taking a beating. He screams and yells and Iron Mike Sharpe’s his way through life like a true enhancement superstar. The difference between this Kumano and the loveable loser of two years ago is that his offence doesn’t look like dogshit anymore. His strikes in particular have come along loads. He tries so hard, bless his little cotton socks. The theme of the match is that Kumano finds it hard to keep up with Minoru and gets caught any time he mounts a comeback. The armbar to block a comeback and the assortment of high kicks are all great. Kumano finally gets trapped in the middle of the ring and has to tap out. This was a very good experienced guy vs. young guy match. Lots of fire from Kumano and slick pro-wrestling counters from Tanaka. In a vacuum I’d probably like it even more but it had to follow a very good tag.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Tatsumi Fujinami, Mitsuya Nagai & LEONA vs. Maybach Taniguchi, Akitoshi Saito & Shiro Koshinaka
Tatsumi Fujinami is in the house and Shiro Koshinaka is all fired up about it! Saito is wearing the yellow gi to support Koshinaka. My main hope for this match is that one of the badass NOAH regulars singles out LEONA for abuse. Instead he goes 50-50 with big cuddly teddy bear Saito while the crowd pop Koshinaka doing hip attacks on Fujinami. LEONA has learned how to throw a forearm (it’s about fucking time) so at least he has that going for him. At least this is over with the fans, who happily applaud along to the most mundane of spots. When you’ve been in the business for 45 years the demands from the crowd are significantly reduced. Fujinami has been wrestling for 6 years longer than I’ve been alive and I’m no spring chicken. To celebrate it’s Dragon Screws all round! LEONA is always the low man on this totem pole and he eats the pin courtesy of Maybach. This is a bizarre thing to say but Taniguchi has been so good this year that this match feels like an abject waste of him! Nagai seems to think so too and they get into it after the finish. Taniguchi has been a revelation during 2017. That whole gimmick was holding him back so much.
Final Rating: **1/4
Yuji Okabayashi & Moose vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya
I hate Moose. He’s fine as a worker, I just hate the chant.
Nakajima’s face here! He’s all ‘what the fuck are you doing?’ He’s none too impressed with Moose either and kicks the Moose chants out of him. Moose constantly reminds me why he would be good if he wasn’t about chants. His standing dropkick to send Kitamiya to the floor is astonishing. Just give the chant a rest yeah? Nakajima’s kicks vs. Okabayashi’s chops is my favourite aspect of the match. When you’ve got two guys this dynamic in the ring then it’s a recipe for success. There’s no thigh slapping here. They proper beat the shit out of each other. Ok, there is a *bit* of thigh slapping because it’s 2017 but not on the big stuff. Everyone has a good match, although it does have an exhibition element to it because of the lack of familiarity between participants. Okabayashi helps this immensely because he’s so intense. He fucking batters Kitamiya, putting the scraggly hair bastard in his place, and finishes with the Golem Splash. Really good match. One that made me want Okabayashi vs. Nakajima in singles.
Final Rating: ***1/2
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Championship
RATEL’s (HAYATA & YO-HEY) (c) vs. New Wrestling Aidoru (Shunma Katsumata & MAO)
NWA; love the wrestlers, not keen on the gimmick. I blame MAO’s “rapping”. He’s supposed to be a bad boy is he? He’s particularly laughable in the role opposite HAYATA and YO-HEY who are sleazy punk rockers with loose pleather trousers. MAO is a choir boy. They explore the venue in junior fashion (IE they jump off stuff). Shunma has changed his look slightly since I last saw him and he looks a little more grown up. The football shorts are an improvement on his DNA gear. They have made him lighter and more aerodynamic allowing him to do sicker dives. He makes a point of doing a ridiculous suicide dive in this where he clears both the people he’s landing on. It’s a good job there was a gap in the rail where he landed. NWA spend the match doing a lot of babyface crowd-friendly flippity spots, which I enjoy a great deal. The champs are content to move between selling these and general sleazy double teams that seem unfair. YO-HEY wins with his twister splash (Bamboo Dragonfly), which once again is woefully inaccurate. It looks amazing until you see where he lands. This time it’s on MAO’s shins but somehow the impact is able to subdue him for the pin. This was jolly good fun but I’m not into RATEL’s at all and was hoping for the clear-cut pop lads to pick up the win. The, yet again, botched finish merely plays into my frustrations with the current champs. That and I’ve never forgiven him for the monkey business in Dragon Gate.
Final Rating: ***1/2
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship
Taiji Ishimori (c) vs. Daisuke Harada
Oh shit, I had no idea this was on the card! It was such a wacky looking card that all the focus was kept on non-regulars and I completely overlooked this potential gem. Harada is always at his best when dealing with someone more showy than himself and Ishimori is perfect for that. Imagine Dean Malenko vs. Rey Mysterio.
Ishimori is so good here. He does the avoiding opponent stuff, with the ropes, better than just about anyone in the business. He doesn’t get enough credit for what he brings to the NOAH junior division. Harada might be the glue that held together the division over the past few years but Ishimori isn’t a carry job, far from it. He might be spectacular but it’s not at the expense of logic. Harada isn’t to be outdone on the flying stakes and decides to hit a dive into the crowd. You can see the reaction from the audience.
- It’s Harada, he won’t do a dive.
- Oh, he’s heading back into the ring, must be to break the count
- Oh, he’s heading up the turnbuckle.
The crowd scatter as Harada goes sailing over the guardrail. Smash those expectations mate. The match is somewhat pedestrian at times but when they crank that effort dial up it’s great. Harada doesn’t dominate, instead allowing Ishimori to look every inch the champion; taking all his wacky spots. The story of the match is that Harada is technically strong but Ishimori’s high spots are so nuts he just can’t stop them. This is only changed by the 450 Splash getting knees. Once Harada establishes control, and targets the ribs, he abuses Ishimori into submission. Or rather unable to kick out of the German Suplex. The Knee Upper, to the ribs, sets it up. The psychology of Harada was great here. He waited for his opportunity, patiently, waiting for Ishimori to inevitably crash and burn on the flips. Then when he did the dissection of the champion was flawless. There was really nothing Ishimori could do. I love that. So many times in modern wrestling someone gets an injury and it doesn’t mean anything. Here it totally changed the course of the match and lead right into the finish.
Final Rating: ****
Those nice RATEL’s boys are collecting belts it seems. Where’s Tadasuke’s strap? Oh, what if he went after the GHC title itself? Tadasuke = NOAH saviour.
GHC Tag Team Championship
Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Kotoge (c) vs. Funky Powers (Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm)
I’m thrilled for Quiet Storm, here in the semi-main. All those years of busting a gut in Japan have paid off for the little fella, made entirely of beef and anger. Being such a large chested individual merely gives Go Shiozaki a larger target to chop. He’s only got himself to blame. There’s not a lot of energy in this match. Instead they take it slowly and leather each other. The strikes are all very deliberate. Of course they are following two junior matches so a slowing of the pace is probably for the best. Allow yourself to stand out. Kotoge, as the former junior, is the one who tries to force the pace and this ends badly for him. Storm shuts that shit down. Kotoge takes this badly and demands Go use him as a battering ram! This isn’t your conventional puro match. Kotoge’s established hard head used for comedy purposes, rather than the standard shoot headbutt (one he’s thankfully abandoned of late). I must admit I completely lose track of who’s legal as both teams tend to lean on ignoring the rules. That said the tension and excitement slowly builds. The possibility of a finish gets the crowd more invested with each passing moment, as it becomes clear the end is nigh. It’s now that Yone gets fired up. Funky Buster Bomb finishes Kotoge and Quiet Storm is one half of the GHC tag champions! YES! This is the best of timelines.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Eddie Edwards (c) vs. Naomichi Marufuji
The whole ‘Eddie Edwards: Saviour of NOAH’ timeline is one of the strangest things to happen this year but here we are. Credit to NOAH, they like to think outside the box sometimes and it creates some intriguing moments. The trouble with Eddie is he looks completely bland and forgettable until he starts wrestling, which is when I remember how fucking good he is. The opening sequence in this is all kinds of great. It’s all about both of them showing off their cardio and athleticism. This continues unabated, as if the match is a constant running reminder that Eddie Edwards is really fucking good. They had similar issues with Nakajima, where I was somewhat nonplussed for his title matches but then pleasantly surprised. Maybe that’s the game all along. Underwhelming announcements, overwhelming action. Eddie is particularly impressive in his homework, from a shoot POV, in that he avoids a lot of Marufuji’s offence. He’s been watching the video tapes. This works really well in the corner combo but also when Maru attempts a springboard and gets kicked off the ropes.
— Arn Furious (@ArnoldFurious) October 13, 2017
This Eddie Edwards tope is brutal. He nearly decapitates Marufuji on the way through but landing on his head probably wasn’t part of the plan. Holy shit, it’s an awesome looking spot. It makes me stop, rewind and bust out the Gifcam. Marufuji doesn’t want to be outdone and piledrives Eddie on the apron. The NOAH main events contractually have to include a spot where it looks like one of the wrestlers has been crippled. They move past this and into beating the shit out of each other, where Eddie tries to out-chop Marufuji. The match definitely hits a higher gear after the tope spot. There’s a sense that everything is more important. That the match could end at any moment. Eddie does a spectacular job of selling for Marufuji’s strikes and Marufuji does a grand job of switching around his offence so it’s not just a barrage of chops. Eddie in turn provides a mass of big moves in beating Marufuji down. The variety and excellence of these are tremendous, with the exception of a reverse rana, which goes wrong. Eddie even breaks out the Tiger Driver/Emerald Flowsion combination to get the pin. A beautiful tribute to Misawa in his green ring. Hey, he’s wearing green tights too. Eddie picks up a great win over one of NOAH’s top guys. This was honestly excellent throughout but it picked up significantly late in the match too.
Final Rating: ****1/2
It’s a very long show from NOAH, pushing four hours. Normally that might put me off and I certainly felt my attention wavering during the last few matches but it’s a great card. The last five matches is a fucking great run. Add in the great lucha tag that went on fourth and you’ve got yourself a killer card. If you’re cherry picking this show, do not skip over the entire first half because you will miss one of the best matches on the show. NOAH has been so much better in 2017, which is bizarre because I deliberately downgraded it on my list of promotions after a shitty 2016 and I’m now regretting it because every time I dip back in it’s good. No difference here.