NOAH Junior Tag League Finals
July 27 2017
We’re in Korakuen Hall for NOAH’s big tag league final. The attention is on the GHC title though where Brian Cage is challenging Katsuhiko Nakajima. This is a two hour TV block on Samurai TV so it should be an easy watch.
Cody Hall & KAZMA SAKAMOTO vs. Phil Atlas & Seiya Morohashi
Phil Atlas has been on this tour, tagging with Morohashi. He’s not new to Japan. He used to wrestle as BLACK BUSHI for AJPW. Big Cody has a Bad Day at the Office here. He mistimes a few things, accidentally tripping Atlas out of the corner and then having troubles with an Irish whip with Morohashi. And this is the clipped version. Imagine what they left on the cutting room floor? It’s not like KAZMA can cover for him because he stinks. KAZMA beats Morohashi with the Michinoku Driver. This was not a good opener.
Final Rating: ½*
Back Breakers (Hajime Ohara & Hitoshi Kumano) & New Wrestling Aidoru (Shunma Katsumata & MAO) vs. RATEL’S (Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke), Gurukun Mask & Shuri Joe
Here are a bunch of junior teams that didn’t get to the finals of the tag league. I still haven’t recovered from Harada forming RATEL’S, a piss-poor faction. It feels like a waste of a guy who’s blatantly ready for bigger things. By way of contrast I dig Kumano being made relevant by teaming with Ohara. For someone who’s been treading water in NOAH for his entire career it’s a pleasing change of pace. Gurukun Mask & Shuri Joe won one match on this tour, which shows how important they are. It’s Harada + 3 vs. exciting youngsters. The Back Breakers team do a lot of backbreakers, which is pleasing. It’s not just a clever name. The best part of the match is MAO cracking himself up by nailing a sick fucking plancha into the front row. I’ve never seen anyone so pleased to have successfully dived onto other people. Not even fans stage-diving at rock concerts. Somehow Kumano manages to lose here, despite teaming with Ohara, and Gurukun Mask beats him with a moonsault. Not impressed with the booking here lads.
Final Rating: **1/2
Naomichi Marufuji, Akitoshi Saito & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Masao Inoue, Gaston Mateo & Kaiser
Mateo & Kaiser were the lucha team in the tag league. I’m not big into lucha and all the shit they do in this match reflects that it’s not my bag. Mateo is especially bad. His timing is woeful and his punches are the worst. His appeals to Marufuji to ‘please don’t chop me in the throat’ are met with chops to the throat. Just when I think Mateo can’t get any shittier he delivers the tamest STO in the history of the move. The match is significantly better when Inoue is in there. Inoue! It’s saying something when NOAH old boys going through the motions is better than something else. Autopilot delivers us to our destination – Ogawa pinning Inoue. We can move on. Thank Christ.
Final Rating: ½*
Atsushi Kotoge & Kenoh vs. Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm
I’m not sure why Kotoge & Kenoh are a team. Presumably because they’re both former juniors who decided to be heavyweights. They clearly don’t get along. Kenoh gives less of a fuck about Kotoge than he does about the junior division. He spends a fair sized chunk of the match strolling around ringside looking miserable. Nice to see Storm up and about after he missed the first half of the year with injury. With NOAH heading in a new direction he almost missed the train back in January. Kenoh eventually gets into the match, forcefully tagged in by Kotoge and promptly eats a superkick off his partner accidentally. Kenoh is so mad he kicks Kotoge in the face and costs him the match. This was all storyline but there were some great moments between Kenoh and Storm. The diminutive American eating Kenoh’s boot a few times.
Final Rating: **1/4
Eddie Edwards vs. Masa Kitamiya
Eddie is having himself a little career renaissance. He looks motivated and ready to make a name for himself in Japan again. Kitamiya is a solid opponent. They go out and have a solid match. Eddie looks better, from a booking and wrestling stand-point. The thing you get with Eddie Edwards is consistency. He goes out there and gives it the old school try, regardless of opponent. Edwards comes up with the hard-earned win here. This was brisk but served a purpose – to establish Eddie as a top card guy who’s capable of challenging for the GHC title.
Final Rating: **3/4
Go Shiozaki vs. Maybach Taniguchi
These two have had issues stemming back to the Global Tag League where Taniguchi was a poor winner. Go is having a sneakily good year. His career looks to be getting back on track after a series of misfires. He’ll never be a Hall of Fame level great because of his constant top level failures but when he’s motivated he’s great.
He’s out to teach Taniguchi a lesson and it’s a lesson of pain. Via the medium of chops. Taniguchi is someone I’ve been watching for years and he’s always been trash. Until 2017 where he’s suddenly stepped up to a higher level and is now capable of hanging with someone like Go Shiozaki. They start throwing the big bombs with lariats and headbutts and it’s brutal stuff. Maybach basically loses but instead of kicking out he grabs the ref’s hand! Surely that’s a DQ lads? His shoulders were down for three regardless. The referee’s count only includes slapping the mat to let the wrestlers know what’s happening. When that nonsense is over they go back to wailing on each other. It’s a war of attrition. My favourite kind of battle where nothing is left at the finish. Go is almost out from being headbutted by pulls a miracle lariat out of his ass and manages to knock Taniguchi out. Neither man answers the ten count and it’s a draw. This wasn’t even ten minutes long but it felt EPIC. I demand another match ASAP.
Final Rating: ****
NOAH Junior Tag League Final
RATEL’S (HAYATA & YO-HEY) vs. XX (Taiji Ishimori & Hi69)
This is not the final I would have booked. This isn’t even the best RATEL’S pairing in the tournament! Although they have better chemistry than Harada & Tadasuke. NOAH are also keen on pushing some new talent. This comes across as very cruiserweighty. Lots of flipping and slapping of thighs. Wrestling has changed over the past 20 years and the time when this style was exclusive to smaller wrestlers has passed. It makes it harder for smaller wrestlers to stand out but also it’s purged a lot of larger wrestlers from existence. Unless they can work an exciting style. Hence Brian Cage in the main event. The pacing here is fine. It’s kept fast and furious. Both sides throw in double teams and nutty flipz. It doesn’t feel like a big deal, which is unfortunate, but the fans gradually get into it. The finish sees YO-HEY do a frankly ridiculous Twister off the top and it connects with Hi69’s shins. I would be very dubious about taking that spot if that’s how much he’s likely to miss it by. It looked pretty impressive, if dangerously out of control, though and you need something flashy to finish off a big cruiser match. This was alright but I wasn’t as into it as I would have been if wrestlers I was more invested in were competing.
Final Rating: ***1/4
GHC Heavyweight Championship
Katsuhiko Nakajima (c) vs. Brian Cage
The size difference gives them an easy story from the start. Cage is the monster, Nakajima needs to slay him to retain the title. Cage is legitimately awesome. He has the kind of physique you’d expect from Vince’s bestest muscle monsters but he can also trade on strikes and come off the ropes as well as doing the power moves. He’s the logical progression of pro-wrestling. The mega-athletic big guy who can do it all. As he hurls Nakajima around a thought pops into my head; why not switch the belt here? Even if it’s just for Nakajima to win it back. Cage would be made into a legitimate star overnight and NOAH would have some buzz. Cage looks like a punk rock version of Wolverine so I’m sure he’d get over. The crowd rally behind him here, excited by his range of moves and perhaps a little tired of Nakajima’s relatively uneventful title reign. There is definite support for Nakajima too. Some women in the audience have kittens at the near falls. Nakajima has a knack of a supremely late kick-out too so it looks like he’s losing over and over again only to throw a shoulder up at the last microsecond. Cage achieves the same, surviving Vertical Spike with a last gasp kick-out. The match is not without flaws. At one point Cage rolls Nakajima nearer to the ropes for a pinfall, which is broken (shockingly) by Nakajima putting his foot on the bottom strand. On the whole it’s a hell of a show. It’s all about Cage’s power and Nakajima’s resilience. Nakajima is able to out-last Cage by staying alive and throwing kicks. As Cage tires his opportunity slips away and Nakajima takes over. There is one scare left as Cage, through strength rather than timing, catches Nakajima in mid-air and jacks him up (in stages) into the Steiner Screwdriver. Somehow that’s not the finish. It should always be the finish! It’s the Steiner fucking Screwdriver. Cage, incensed by this, decides to completely no sell a brainbuster off the top rope! Nakajima promptly kicks him in the head and hits Vertical Spike again to retain. Brian Cage is a crazy dude to watch. His arsenal is incredible. It’s weird he doesn’t get more opportunities on the Indies and I’m pleased that NOAH jumped on the chance to book him in a big match. He aced it. Even when things went wrong he recovered beautifully and came out of this looking like a fucking star.
Final Rating: ****1/2
Post Match: Eddie Edwards comes out here and challenges Nakajima to a title match. The only bad thing about the timing of this challenge is it comes in the ashes of glorious defeat for Cage. If this was an American promotion Nakajima would have left and Cage would have taken a standing ovation for his performance. One he richly deserved.
The undercard is almost completely skippable but don’t sleep on Shiozaki-Taniguchi. The main event is where it’s at. Meltzer scored it highly. I’ve scored it highly. It’s tremendous fun. Especially if you dig Brian Cage and his crazy power antics.