NOAH Great Voyage in Yokohama
March 12 2017
We’re in Yokohama at the Bunka Gymnasium. This is the first major NOAH show since their revamp and they drew a healthy 2500 fans. There are rumours that the crowd was heavily papered. Given their recent Korakuen Hall attendances that’s entirely possible.
HAYATA, YO-HEY & Rionne Fujiwara vs. Maybach Taniguchi, Akitoshi Saito & Yoshinari Ogawa
This is an interesting dynamic as you’ve got the younger team who don’t normally work for NOAH vs. the elder citizens who’ve been repping NOAH since the start. The vets score the win with a Taniguchi top rope splash. That’s pretty much all you need to know.
Final Rating: **
GHC Junior Tag Team Championship
Taiji Ishimori & Hi69 (c) vs. Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke
The surly Indie scum have invaded NOAH. Harada had to find a new partner after Kotoge abandoned him to become a heavyweight. That change resulted in the tag straps becoming vacant and Ishimori & Hi69 (pronounced “Hiroki”, because Japan) winning the belts.
Ishimori and company come out in lucha masks and boiler suits. I have no idea what to make of it. I don’t know who numbers 1-5 are, nor where 7-68 are currently located. They start badly and Tadasuke does a horribly botched super brainbuster. Then they attempt it again and again fuck it up. Harada pretty much rescues the match by himself. It’s the sign of a talented wrestler when they haul a mess kicking and screaming back into an ordered routine. Once Tadasuke has found his feet again the match becomes worthwhile. Then Hi69 dives off a balcony to put Harada through a table. It’s a regular ‘holy shit’ moment.
With Harada dead Ishimori is able to put Tadasuke away and the lads with the masks and counting gimmick get the win. I bumped the score up for the ballsy balcony dive. It had a certain car-crash curio value.
Final Rating: ***
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship
Hajime Ohara (c) vs. Hitoshi Kumano
The junior field has been thinned out so much Kumano is getting a title shot. Spoiler: he’s going to lose. It does create an interesting atmosphere as the underdog gets his shot though and he’s got new gear for the occasion. Kumano stumbles through the action in his usual clumsy fashion. Normally wrestlers improve by this point in their career but he’s still a patchy worker. He takes a mean bump over Ohara’s knee on a backbreaker but just before that he’s stumbling over on a drop toehold. It’s a real mixed bag effort from him. Ohara can walk him through the ground work so all of that is tight at least. When you have a clumsy wrestler and a super smooth worker paired up there is potential for it to go either way. Luckily this comes across as a big match. Kumano gets dropped on his head with the Emerald Flowsion and then has the nerve to kick out. That really should have been the finish. Muy Bien gets strapped on and Kumano submits verbally due to Ohara locking up both arms. Should have finished with the Flowsion, guys. Would have been a fine tribute to Misawa.
Final Rating: ***1/4
James Storm vs. Kaito Kiyomiya
This is part of NOAH’s new relationship with TNA. TNA’s previous relationship was with Wrestle-1, who are virtually defunct. I’m not saying that NOAH are going to die too but generally I wouldn’t touch TNA with a ten-foot pole. There’s something about the stench of TNA, or should I call it “Impact Wrestling”? Or Anthem presents Impact Wrestling? Fuck that owl. The crowd gives zero fucks about Storm, perhaps deliberately choosing to forget about his other TNA ventures in Japan. This creates an awkward atmosphere where the crowd aren’t into the match. Storm wins with a superkick. Kiyomiya had some decent crowd support, when they woke up, but this match didn’t do a lot for him. Storm shows compassion after the match. I’d rather all the TNA guys acted like total assholes, establishing some kind of cross-promotion heat.
Final Rating: **1/2
Eddie Edwards vs. Atsushi Kotoge
This is immediately better because Edwards is a bigger deal, having worked for NOAH in the past, and Kotoge is higher up the totem pole than Kiyomiya. They have better ideas too and click far quicker. Maybe ‘better’ ideas is the wrong wording because Kotoge has lots of stupid ideas that happen to create cool visuals. I’m really hoping he doesn’t Nigel McGuinness himself into an early retirement. I can’t say I’m a big Eddie fan. He’s probably the blandest man to hold two different world titles. He puts out a reliable shift with the occasional moments where he goes balls to the wall. His tope is particularly nuts. Kotoge has no issues with him whatsoever and pretty soon they’re having a low-key banger. Edwards is just so darn reliable. Kotoge is reliable too. You can count on him to bust himself open hitting a headbutt any time he has a big match. He does so again here, bleeding profusely afterwards. I swear he’s going to hit Post Concussion Syndrome sooner rather than later.
Edwards knocks him out with a flying Shining Wizard and gets the pin. People will remember the headbutt though because Kotoge is a sick son of a bitch. Eddie Edwards just reminded me that he’s a really, really good wrestler.
Final Rating: ****
Post Match: Eddie sneaks in a promo saying he missed NOAH a lot. He’s asked if he did the Tiger Driver as a tribute to Misawa. He confirms he did, although his version is inferior. Here’s hoping for a strong run in NOAH for Eddie. He can really shine here. Still stunned TNA put their title on him but this is a better setting for his work.
Moose & KAZMA Sakamoto vs. Naomichi Marufuji & Keiji Mutoh
What the fuck is this match? Why is KAZMA anywhere near the top end? Why is Mutoh here? Why has KAZMA gained an umbrella? Why does he botch getting into the ring?
I hate Moose. It’s largely because he has a terrible name and he makes the crowd chant his terrible name every time he pulls his hand down from a fist position. He can dropkick people off the top rope from the mat though and that’s pretty cool. It’s not long before he’s got the Japanese eating out of his sizeable hand. I would say he handily outshines his tag team partner but it’s KAZMA. Everyone outshines him. But Moose REALLY outshines everyone here, using the match as a showcase for his range of impressive moves. The crowd pop the hell out of everything he does, amazed that he manhandles Marufuji with ease. It’s akin to Bob Sapp when Bob first hit Japan. The big man with tonnes of power who does ridiculous things to famous Japanese talent. Only Moose is actually quite good. Marufuji makes a point of beating the shit out of KAZMA so he can absorb the bulk of the match, leaving Mutoh on the apron where he can look famous and sweat profusely. Then he gets tagged in to hit the Shining Wizard and Marufuji pins KAZMA. Moose was fucking great in this match, seriously.
Final Rating: ***1/2
GHC Tag Team Championship
Masa Kitamiya & Mohammed Yone vs. Takashi Sugiura & Kenoh
Kenoh, asshole that he is, turned on Kitamiya after winning the tag straps with him. So now they’ve gone and acquired partners to contest the vacant belts. Kenoh has chosen wisely. The crux of the match is Kenoh being a total dick to Kitamiya, even though Kenoh is much smaller. He’s managed to maintain the terrible attitude he had in the junior division and transition into a heavyweight piece of shit. When you’re getting heat and you’re the small guy, you’re usually a pretty tremendous heel. Kenoh is largely the centre of attention throughout the match, whether he’s in the ring or not. That’s also good news for him. Kitamiya also looks strong, taking it to Sugiura and trying to submit him. Yone doesn’t share the same intensity as the others and Sugiura allows himself to take a back seat. The match has the kind of length that big NOAH matches tend to have as it struggles past the twenty minute mark. It outstays its welcome and a lot of the match feels like filler. I do like the general presentation of the wrestlers though, especially Kiyamiya who aims to overcome the odds and beat Sugiura. Eventually Sugiura puts him down for the three count and we have new champions. And they’re assholes.
Final Rating: ***
GHC Heavyweight Championship
Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) vs. Go Shiozaki
Shiozaki is damaged goods so there’s no way he’s winning here but it’s a chance to help rebuild his image in front of a big crowd. Nakajima has been on a good run and has proved to be a deserving champion. He’s basically the result of the Suzuki-gun angle finally going away. He’s the main winner. Go is the loser, taking a horrible beating from the champ, including a back bump off the apron into the rail that would make Cactus Jack sharply inhale breath through his clenched teeth. The ones he’s got left, anyway. The expectations of a NOAH main event nowadays are for the participants to murder each other with stiffness and they certainly live up to that. The run-time isn’t ridiculous either, going 27 minutes, even if it is longer than it needs to be. Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with long matches if you have the storyline that merits it. This feels like it deserves nearly thirty minutes as they’re fairly evenly matched and it is a war of attrition. A quick finish wouldn’t make sense. The chops and kicks in this match are suitably brutal. At one point they’ve hit each other so much that Go roars and Nakajima collapses. It’s a fantastic visual. Another is Go hitting a crazy dive over the top. It looks like he’s forgotten what a dive is and is trying to recreate a vague memory of one. It also reflects his desperation to win the title. Look at what crazy shit he’ll do in the name of glory! Then he takes Nakajima’s head off with a lariat. When the champ kicks out Shiozaki gets a bit upset and attempts to decapitate him with spinning chops. It turns out Nakajima left something in the tank though and he slips past another chop before laying waste to Shiozaki and beating him with the Vertical Spike. This was pretty savage and I think it’s fair to say that Go Shiozaki is properly rehabbed now. If he walks out on NOAH again it’ll probably take five years to fix the chump though.
Final Rating: ****1/4
This show delivered in ways I was not expecting. I did not expect Eddie Edwards to come over here all fired up and keen to steal the show. I did not expect Moose to come over here all fired up and keen to steal the show. But that’s exactly what happened. Plus the main event is great and although I’m not keen on Impact Wrestling being involved in NOAH, or in Japan at all for that matter, at least it gives some of their talent something worthwhile to do for a change. The Wrestle-1 relationship did very little for both parties. The NOAH one, combined with NOAH having a relationship with wXw in Germany, could open a few interesting doors. Imagine wXw talent on a tour? Imagine both sets of guys getting involved over in America for Impact? It’s an interesting relationship.