NOAH Navigation for the Future
February 2 2018
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall. Main event for this show is Kenoh vs. Yuko Miyamoto. Putting the big gold strap on Kenoh has certainly shook up their top tier. The jury seems to be out on the effect this is having on business. The crowds are certainly not embarrassing but they’re not heading back to Budokan Hall anytime soon.
YO-HEY vs. Junta Miyawaki
20 year old Miyawaki is coming along nicely. He’s still very green but he knows what he’s doing and when everything clicks together he could be really good. He shows moments here, like when he slips out of the ring to get on the buckles, where he looks special. YO-HEY toys with him and finishes relatively quickly in four minutes. This was perfectly fine.
Final Rating: **
Hajime Ohara & Masao Inoue vs. Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke
Having an old comedy wrestler like Inoue in with the elite juniors feels like a bit of a rib.
Nailed it. pic.twitter.com/EMCHr9zoJG
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) February 14, 2018
Like, what? Obviously Harada vs. Ohara is great and they’re coming off a match on this tour, which main evented the Osaka show. I’m a little surprised it wasn’t saved for here but it shows that NOAH are going to certain lengths to get business outside of the capital. The inclusion of Inoue makes this a very jokey match right the way to the finish where Tadasuke distracts the ref and kicks Inoue in the balls for the pin. Although I love a comedy match Inoue has never done much for me.
Final Rating: *1/2
Go Shiozaki & Atsushi Kotoge vs. Cody Hall & Jay Bradley
Jay Bradley might as well have “OVW” branded on his ass because he’s typical of that cookie-cutter production line that fed WWE with talent in the early 2000s. You can see why he never caught on in the Big Leagues. He’s fine but he takes odd looking bumps sometimes and his selling is patchy at best. Meanwhile Cody is still looking quite green. He mis-times a few spots and focuses so much on one sequence that he forgets to sell during it. The whole thing makes Shiozaki & Kotoge look second rate. The gaijin double team sequences are some of the least interesting I’ve ever seen. No thought has gone into them at all. Killswitch finishes off that bum Bradley and the better team win. This was fairly bad.
Final Rating: *1/4
Taiji Ishimori, Hi69 & LEONA vs. Yoshinari Ogawa, Minoru Tanaka & Seiya Morohashi
Tanaka comes to the ring drinking from a magic can that gives him eternal youth. I swear he’s either an alien or a vampire but he’ll be around and permanently 30 long after we’re all dead and gone. The dude is 45 years old. 45! The timing is out on Tanaka vs. Ishimori, which is sad. I was hoping they’d gel beautifully and get a blinding singles match out of it. Some of their interactions are tidy but at other times they lose the plot. Luckily they’re both great so they find it again. Rather surprisingly the best interactions are Ogawa beating the shit out of Ishimori and trying to tear his arm off. I kinda hope Ogawa and Tanaka regularly team up as a couple of moody old bastards. Title show next please. Tanaka puts Hi69 away to set that up. This started badly but I got very into Ogawa & Tanaka teaming. Miserable old fucker Tanaka is very enjoyable.
Final Rating: **3/4
Takashi Sugiura & Akitoshi Saito vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya
This is a throwaway midcard outing but nobody told Saito. He goes out there and murders Kitamiya, throwing him into every guardrail and hitting a piledriver on the floor. There are four matches after this mate, let’s leave something on the table for the big boys. Nakajima has faded quite badly since losing the GHC title and he’s virtually anonymous here. Bullied by Sugiura when he is involved in the action.
He hasn’t lost the arsenal of kicks or anything but he looks like he wants a breather. Whereas Sugiura looks hungry to get that GHC belt back and be the ace again. Kitamiya gets all fired up and pins Saito with his own hold. This was really good and I want more big Sugiura matches. He’s been criminally underused since the Suzuki-gun thing rather predictably ended leaving him in midcard limbo. How cool would it have been if he’d gone to New Japan? Well, he’d probably get lost in the mix there but shit, he’s getting lost in the mix in NOAH right now.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Hitoshi Kumano vs. HAYATA
This is for a shot at the GHC Junior strap. Who the fuck did Kumano beat to get in here? They whiff on a few early moves including a phantom HAYATA dropkick. That doesn’t bode well. Neither Harada title defences get me particularly excited although battling his own teammate in RATEL’s would be the more interesting of the two. That said Kumano has a decent underdog act and would be shredded by Harada’s superior blend of technical expertise and tidy suplexes. HAYATA tries to force the pace here but Kumano looks sluggish.
He’s trying to alter his style to something resembling heavyweight, which is also reflected in his stomach getting bigger. HAYATA finishes with his short rana/DDT move called Auto Headache and the RATEL’s will collide.
Final Rating: ***
Kaito Kiyomiya vs. Naomichi Marufuji
I am genuinely excited about this one. Kiyomiya has been improving at a phenomenal rate, comparable to the successes of the New Japan lads. Only without the excursion. He’s just stepped the fuck up. He’s 20, been in the business for two years and he’s getting in the face of NOAH’s most established guys. Marufuji takes him lightly, which immediately gives us a perfect underdog vs. veteran storyline. Kiyomiya’s movement is nicely fluid, even if he sometimes looks too lightweight and slow on hitting his big spots. Leaving Marufuji either waiting for him or, worse, having to bump pretty much no impact. They run some nice little sequences where Marufuji goes to unload with a bunch of strikes and Kiyomiya keeps getting to cut him off before the apex. Sure, he’s red-chested as hell but he looks great in countering Marufuji right before a Shiranui or a knock-out blow. Plus his selling a pure magic. It might be his best attribute. When Marufuji hits Ko-Oh and he slumps in stages it’s perfect. He also throws out some snap bumps for other strikes, showing both variety and commitment to the bumps. Shiranui finishes, showing all Marufuji had to do was land one big move to win. Kiyomiya gave a very good account of himself. I really hope they keep coming back and having Kiyomiya take shots at established guys and getting closer and closer to winning. He’s at the start of what should be a great career. Only 20!
Final Rating: ***1/2
I had a bit of a rant, to no one in particular, about how bad NOAH are at bringing through rookies. They’ve been hopeless for years but Kiyomiya is the definite exception to that. Miyawaki is the only other rookie they’ve brought through in the past two years. That’s not a good record, compared to just about every other Japanese promotion who seem to be breeding future superstars at an alarming rate.
GHC Tag Team Championship
Quiet Storm & Mohammed Yone (c) vs. Maybach Taniguchi & Mitsuya Nagai
Making Nagai relevant in 2018 might be NOAH’s greatest achievement in some considerable time. When was the last time Nagai was relevant? 2004 maybe?
It’s a tough sell but so was Yone & Storm as tag champs and they’ve been killing it. Quiet Storm is such a bizarre case study. He broke out in the USA when ROH started featuring him circa 2002 and the next year he’d basically become a regular in Japan. He’s been there ever since. First for Kaientai Dojo, then for Osaka Pro and finally settling into NOAH in 2014. It’s quite the success story for a lad who used to share rings with Chris Divine, Christian York, Brian XL and Slim J. You look at those ROH cards he used to be on and everyone around him has disappeared. Those higher up the card have all made it big and Quiet Storm is the anomaly that exists to confuse people. A load of those undercard ROH scrubs have been retired for years. Here’s Quiet Storm, five feet of meat, still living the dream. It’s romantic, in a way. If you truly believe in yourself you can make it in pro wrestling. No matter what you look like and what your style is.
Anyway; the story of the match has Yone playing Disco Stu in peril and Storm taking the hot tag and cleaning house with his beefy offence. Only in Japan! Nagai comes across strongly, roughing up Yone throughout and slapping him in submissions at will. As if NOAH went “hey, we need fresh blood, let’s use this 49 year old miserable old prick who hasn’t been relevant anywhere in a decade”. And let’s face it; he wasn’t that good then either. So the match is carried by Taniguchi and Quiet Storm, which is nowhere near as bad as it sounds. Funky Buster Bomb (as yelled by Quiet Storm you’ll be pleased to know) puts Nagai away and the champs retain. This was a tricky match as Nagai felt so weirdly out of place but it turns out he was just here to take a job and enhance the funkiest tag team in pro wrestling today. God bless!
Final Rating: ***1/4
Post Match: Quiet Storm demands “the best” and is greeted backstage by Nakajima & Kitamiya.
Shouting and hairy manliness occurs. “Oh…pointing” being the killer line for me, from Yone, although Quiet Storm quite happily stands there and cuts a promo in Japanese. I guess you pick up quite a bit of lingo if you wrestle somewhere for 15 years straight.
GHC Heavyweight Championship
Kenoh (c) vs. Yuko Miyamoto
The undercard has been steady but unspectacular so it falls to Kenoh to save the show for the fans he doesn’t give a shit about (character wise). I’m still struggling somewhat with the concept of Kenoh the champion and I think it stems from how underwhelming their top card challengers are. It feels like they’re feeding him softballs. Where is the competition? Eddie Edwards, Kaito Kiyomiya and Yuko Miyamoto? It’s like they know he’s too small to realistically be overcoming the likes of Sugiura or even Marufuji. Both also former junior wrestlers, turned heavyweight.
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) February 15, 2018
Miyamoto makes a point of unloading a bunch of his wacky Big Japan learned hardcore badassery, including this delightful spots where he drives the champ head first through a table. Kenoh’s main offensive weapon are his kicks and he certainly utilises those bad boys here, including a running PK, which has me wondering why Miyamoto doesn’t just move. Then they start headbutting each other and I forget about it. Kenoh’s kicks are wonderful though. The impact of them is great but the noise he gets landing them is some of the best striking noise in the business. A lovely dull thud. They have to work hard here to provide the kind of high risk offence that’s routinely expected of NOAH’s main events. They certainly try but it doesn’t feel right. In fairness they do break two notoriously tough Japanese tables. Kenoh takes it by stomping Miyamoto through a table then stomping him into the canvas too for chuckles.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Post Match: Kenoh goes ahead and calls out Sugiura. Now we’re fucking talking.
This started out in dodgy fashion but got better and the top end was all good. Nothing over four stars though and my expectation from NOAH is that at least the main has to be really strong. It was good here but not that good. NOAH are, at the very least, keeping 2018 fresh and different. After the Suzuki-gun dirge that’s a step in the right direction.