NOAH Navigation for the Future at Korakuen Hall
January 6 2018
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall. This show did good numbers with NOAH being one of the most recognised promotion by New Japan fans in Tokyo. If anyone went to the Dome with the intention of doing ‘other’ puroresu shows as well this would probably be the first port of call.
NOAH did a massive rebranding exercise last year where they switched to “NOAH the Reborn”, resulting in a series of unspeakably violent blood-soaked matches including one where Atsushi Kotoge busted himself and Go Shiozaki open hardway with the same headbutt. It was a gruesome time but NOAH the Reborn suffered due to Katsuyori Shibata’s head injury. NOAH had to tone it down and they lost their identity again. Now they’re NOAH the LIVE and I am excited to find out what that means. Incidentally I dig that Shiozaki and Kotoge are teaming on this show.
Junta Miyawaki vs. Yoshinari Ogawa
This is the kind of match Ogawa keeps getting put in because he’s too old to do anything else. He’s here to teach younglings the nature of the business. The business is ass-kicking and business is good. Miyazaki starts hard and fast but grabs a headlock and gets beaten with the backdrop driver in about a minute. Ogawa didn’t even take his t-shirt off.
Final Rating: Squash
Yuko Miyamoto, Mitsuya Nagai & Cody Hall vs. Akitoshi Saito, Mohammed Yone & Quiet Storm
Cody looks huge in NOAH. Yone is quite a big dude but Cody towers above him. Nagai looks to be having a good time, being all surly and old. It’s not quite on a level with Ogawa’s “I don’t have time for this shit” two move opening match demolition but it’s in the same vein. The Boogie Wonderland tag champs make a decent go of it but Nagai finishes Quiet Storm off with a flying knee from the top and that’ll do it. Nagai is a weird dude because he keeps wandering off and trying other things (like kickboxing) but has never really been a big star anywhere, despite working everywhere. He’s 50 this year so it’d be a shock if NOAH gave him the twilight push but crazier things have happened.
Final Rating: **1/4
Back Breakers, Hi69, Minoru Tanaka & Seiya Morohashi vs. RATELS (Daisuke Harada, Tadasuke, YO-HEY & HAYATA) & LEONA
I thought for a moment that LEONA had been added to RATELS but no, they all look like skateboard/underground band members and he looks like an accountant. All the cool kids have to team up with a nerd for a project. He’s there in his ring jacket warming up and they’re all hanging out at the back of the bus, smoking cigarettes. The Harada vs. Ohara interactions are pleasingly well done. It reminds me that they’re both in the same division and have a lengthy, exciting rivalry. When NOAH shook up their divisions and moved Kenoh and Kotoge up into the heavyweights I almost forgot both their tag partners remained behind. The junior division hasn’t been brilliant since those moves but these are two lads who can go out and have a blinder without any warning. All their interaction here is super. LEONA, nerd that he is, insists on trying to organise the RATELS into a limb assault on Morohashi. Seiya does a majestic job of selling the leg and also escaping and tapping LEONA out. Fucking nerd. Go back to (checks Cagematch) Dradition!
Final Rating: **3/4
Jay Bradley vs. Takashi Sugiura
There is a trend of Americans strolling into NOAH with their big dicks swinging and Takashi Sugiura beating the ever loving shit out of them and sending them back stateside.
Bradley brings the kind of Attitude Era punchy offence that I could live without seeing in Japan, or anywhere. Sugiura either ignores it all or shrugs it off and before I know it he’s downed Bradley with the Olympic Slam. Well, that was brisk! Sugiura doesn’t get paid by the minute.
Final Rating: **
Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya vs. Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Kotoge
Four wholesome, yet violent, wrestleboys here to beat the crap out of each other and move up the card to the ultimate goal; Ace of NOAH. Shiozaki thought he had it. Nakajima thought he had it but it’s still out there, waiting to be claimed! No matter what Eddie Edwards, Transitional Champion, has to say on the matter. I’m a big fan of Go’s chops vs. Nakajima’s kicks. It’s a rough old duel. It looks violent. I also dig Go switching gears and trying an overhand chop to the head but getting nowhere with it because the Power of the Perm prevents Nakajima from being harmed. Kitamiya has the least buzz of all these guys but he’s slowly building a reputation through hard work and perseverance. His movement has improved over the past year and he has a great look. He probably needs a hook to get people fully invested (other than dressing like Masa Saito). Meanwhile Kotoge has outright lost his hook (shoot headbutts) and is coasting a bit because of it. He’s not shown the determination and advancement that Kenoh has and they were promoted to the heavies at the same time. Kenoh has a better defined character and that counts for a lot. Hell, all these boys are terrific wrestlers but sometimes that’s not enough.
The finish comes quickly with Kitamiya taking Kotoge’s leg and not giving it back until he quits. Good performances all round here with excellent intensity. Kotoge does seem a wee bit lost at the moment. Hopefully he can find that spark that puts him back among the main eventers.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Maybach Taniguchi vs. Naomichi Marufuji
Taniguchi was in a team with Marufuji but got sick of being in his shadow and the ‘accidental’ miscues that are all a part of Marufuji’s explosive kick-heavy offence. So they have to settle the score before moving on. Time for a tag team implodes fight! Taniguchi has certainly improved since he ditched most of his gimmick, and mask, in favour of being a complete bastard who uses his fists instead of plunder to dispatch danger.
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) January 18, 2018
They’ve clearly spent some time thinking about this match and how they can use each other’s offensive moves to set stuff up. The momentum on this Taniguchi headbutt had me smiling big time. I love the logic behind it. Him reeling at the contact but recovering and going right into an offensive move. Taniguchi is back to his old ways though, using second Nagai to help him take over on his former partner until the ref calls for a DQ. Marufuji is a dipshit. He’s the Sting of NOAH. Kotoge makes the save here and I can’t wait for Kotoge to turn on Marufuji.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Impact X-Division Championship
Taiji Ishimori (c) vs. Andrew Everett
Everett is here as part of the Impact talent exchange program. Ishimori is an actual champion in Impact, thanks to their hunger for international recognition.
It’s cool that Ishimori is getting the chance to express himself for Impact after the various failures they’ve had with Japanese talent in the past. They have a very exciting match. The flips in the early going are not spectacular but they are athletic and difficult. Which sets the pace nicely. It escalates from there with Everett hitting a Shooting Star Press to the floor. Everett has to be the one who forces the pace and does the more spectacular shit first because he’s the challenger and because less people know him. The assumption from the fans has to be that Ishimori retains. Everett meanwhile walks a fine line between wanting the belt and doing flamboyant moves and full on being a dick about it. It would be easy to come in here and wrestle heel. That’s not what NOAH want. Instead they deliver a high-paced, high-impact back and forth match up. Both guys get the chance to shine and they unload a bunch of flippidos. Although my favourite moment comes from Ishimori hacking Everett down in mid-attempted flip with a big old lariat.
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) January 18, 2018
Ishimori wins soon after with a 450 Splash and this was 16.44 of good junior heavyweight action. Wouldn’t have been out of place in the latter stages of the Cruiserweight Classic.
Final Rating: ****
GHC Heavyweight Championship
Kenoh (c) vs. Kaito Kiyomiya
This is a huge match this early in Kiyomiya’s career.
Kiyomiya looks out of his depth but Kenoh is a largely untested commodity at this level. Kiyomiya tries to make up for his lack of experience with pure moxy. This gets him kicked in the chest a great deal. Kenoh, in my head, just kicks people all the time but in actuality he also slaps them a lot too and also spends an enormous amount of time working on his tan. In my head he trains outdoors on a beach, kicking over people’s sandcastles. Kiyomiya’s attempts to make the match competitive are adorable, and mostly involve chinlocks and hope. First Kenoh escapes the chinlocks, then he kicks the hope out of Kiyomiya. Some of Kenoh’s kicks are spectacular. The angles he gets with the flying kicks are just beautiful. It’s not just the AJ Styles Pele Kick over and over again. The angles change but the power of the kicks does not. The only thing the match is lacking is that big ‘NOAH title match’ spot. They do a top rope move, a super reverse DDT, and it looks a bit awkward. Fortunately Kenoh is able to surpass any other issues by slapping the shit out of Kiyomiya and playing off the badass champion vs. inexperienced underdog motif. Kenoh eventually has enough of this shit and throws high kicks until one knocks Kiyomiya out and his title opportunity is over. This told a tidy story with the underdog trying everything in his bag of tricks before the champ got sick of his shit. There was never any danger of a title change but in making the match competitive they showcased what Kenoh can do for NOAH as their top guy. His small stature makes just about anyone a credible challenger but he remains a credible champion. If you’d told me three years ago that Kenoh was the solution to the NOAH main event scene I’d have probably laughed in your face but here we are.
Final Rating: ****
There’s an obvious north/south divide here with the upper card matches being clearly of higher quality. That’s traditionally the case in Japan so it shouldn’t be news but the New Japan Dome undercard was so good that it might have kicked other companies into a different manner of thinking. It hasn’t. The top end is definitely worth visiting here. Some tremendous action and performances. Everett had the best showing in NOAH since Eddie Edwards and Brian Cage last year. It shows that the Impact/NOAH relationship is working so far. Especially with Ishimori/Everett coming out as one of the best matches on this card. The jury will be out on Kenoh, as it was on Nakajima, but Kenoh does carry himself like a champion, which will make his life easier from day one.