NOAH Navigation with Breeze
May 29 2018
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall. NOAH is in disarray, again. Taiji Ishimori has defected to New Japan. Kenoh has announced his intention to depart NOAH, thus leaving the main events shy of the new ‘ace’. NOAH have once again fallen back onto Takashi Sugiura, the evergreen, always reliable top card star. He’s dropped into so many roles over the past five years where NOAH have been desperate and he’s stepped in. The debate over who the ‘saviour of NOAH’ will be continues but at the moment its 48 year old Sugiura, once again stepping up to fix NOAH’s main event issues. His challenger here is Naomichi Marufuji, the other guy NOAH can always rely on.
Akitoshi Saito & Junta Miyawaki vs. Back Breakers
I resist to the urge to skip an hour of undercard matches, although I probably should. Nothing good has ever happened in NOAH in the first hour of their shows. I’m basically here because I want to get another look at Miyawaki. Ohara is a good guy for him to be wrestling because he’s so technically good. It’ll help him get smoother during mat exchanges. Miyawaki is still at the stage where you can see him thinking about what he’s about to do. But at least he’s thinking! He does a good job selling his back and Muy Bien finishes relatively quickly.
Final Rating: **
RATEL’s (HAYATA & YO-HEY) vs. Yoshinari Ogawa & Seiya Morohashi
Ogawa’s place in 2018 is to beat up young boys. Morohashi is another old surly fucker, recruited to make up for NOAH’s lack of depth. Much the same as the RATEL’s, who both signed to cover for NOAH’s small roster. I’m not convinced by NOAH’s scouting process as they always seem to end up with wrestlers that look the part but don’t do much for me in the ring. The trouble with RATEL’s is I don’t buy into their offence at all and the trouble with Morohashi is I don’t buy into his selling. So I don’t like this match. RATEL’s win. We can move on with our lives.
Final Rating: *3/4
Cody Hall & Masao Inoue vs. 50 Funky Powers
NOAH’s ongoing rib of giving Cody shit tag team partners continues. As for Cody himself; he’s grown a beard. I think that counts as character development? The test here is whether Yone & Quiet Storm can carry a match just by being a fun act. The match features a lot of miscues and Cody eventually just walks out and leaves Inoue to die. I totally get that.
Final Rating: *1/2
Maybach Taniguchi & Mitsuya Nagai vs. KAZMA SAKAMOTO & KENSO
Oh, fuck you NOAH.
Maybach is by far the best wrestler in this and he went through a spell (circa 2015) of being my least favourite wrestler in the world. They brawl all over the place because a wrestling match would be a bad idea. KENSO has only wrestled 6 matches this year, which makes me hope he’s winding down his career. The audio on this collapses entirely, which turns out to be my computer rebelling at having this bullshit streamed through it. It’s like when you eat bad food and fucking vomit. I glance away for a moment, remembering I’m downloading Far Cry 5 updates at the same time, and when I look back Maybach has won. This was a load of nothing.
Final Rating: *
Kenoh vs. Atsushi Kotoge
This starts at 55 minutes, leaving me absolutely convinced I should have skipped the first hour of this show. At least this allows me to see Kotoge’s majestic cape.
I really don’t know what to make of Kenoh. From turning on everyone to moving up to heavyweight when he’s blatantly tiny to briefly taking over as NOAH’s top guy to threatening to leave to being booked as the main draw for Frontline (Ospreay’s BritWres/Puro promotion). Speaking of the weight thing; Kenoh is allegedly 209lbs. 209! He’s about 180lbs max. These two have a lot of history so they put together a pretty effortless match. Just going with the flow. Kenoh has better strikes but also relies on rest holds, while Kotoge is more direct. Kenoh’s kicks, coming from an assortment of angles, are a constant highlight. Kotoge’s insistence at incorporating his cape is actually quite endearing, although incredibly dangerous. Likewise him still doing shoot headbutts, the fucking idiot. He splits Kenoh open here with one of those THUNK noises sickening me.
— Arnold Furious; a prince (@ArnoldFurious) June 5, 2018
This is the catalyst for the match to pick up into a killer stretch. Now the blood red hair of Kenoh becomes a great visual backdrop to the war in the ring. Kenoh finishes with a double stomp and I would have loved this if a) they’d not pissed about so much at the start and b) Kotoge hadn’t done that goddamn shoot headbutt.
Final Rating: ***1/2
GHC Junior Tag Team Championship
Minoru Tanaka & Hi69 (c) vs. RATEL’s (Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke)
The last champs I remember here were XX (Ishimori & Hi69) but they lost to Tanaka & Ogawa in March. The belts were vacated and Tanaka and Hi69, a combination born of the previous two champion teams, took home the gold after a tournament. Unfortunately I’m watching this right after an insane AAA spotfest that got linked on Twitter. So I’m moving a lot faster than Tanaka and Tadasuke as they start.
RATEL’s are generally not good and that’s true again here. Too much brawling. Too much wasting of Harada’s talent so Tadasuke can get over. Not even Minoru is in the mood to save this. His wild swings on clotheslines are the kind of thing I bag on rookies for making a hash of. It’s literally Harada trying to carry the action for the bulk of the match. Seeing Hi69 getting exposed as a fraud when Ishimori isn’t around perhaps shouldn’t be a surprise but I am shocked at how bad he is in this. When his execution moves up to passable it’s because he telegraphs the move. It’s a very poor showing. Harada might be able to hold things together but he’s at his most interesting when faced with skilled, pacey opponents. I’d be all over a Minoru singles match and when they get cameo sequences the match is at its best. Hi69 puts Tadasuke away with his plank splash and the champs retain. I wasn’t into any of this.
Final Rating: **1/4
GHC Tag Team Championship
Go Shiozaki & Kaito Kiyomiya (c) vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima & Masa Kitamiya
Ever since TMDK fucked off to WWE there has barely been a tag division in NOAH. It’s just a bunch of guys thrown together. Sure, there’s usually reasoning for them being together but the lack of actual teams is painful. Even classic AJPW, where most of the teams were ‘superteams’ they still had an identity. I’m not feeling that in modern NOAH.
At least these boys are wearing matching tees. The champs are also interviewed backstage and they look like two blokes who’ve never met before. Nakajima re-branding the team “The Aggression” and giving it the Naito ‘I don’t give a fuck’ approach is helpful. It doesn’t really fit in with Kitamiya’s Masa Saito tribute act. In defence of the champs they walk out here in matching NOAH tees. The crowd is very into Kiyomiya, so that should help.
Nakajima transforming himself into an asshole heel after years of bland babyface behaviour is almost a relief. I was ready to write him off entirely but the way he goes after Shiozaki’s knee in this is quite beautiful. They see Go’s mentality of toughing it out and they just destroy him, knowing that Kiyomiya doesn’t have the experience to take them on solo. Nakajima’s evil genius sees him boot at the immobile Go and slowly pick him apart. To his credit Go totally understands his role in the match. He tries to tough it out, not wanting to abandon Kiyomiya to a handicap match but in doing so just gets himself into more trouble. His selling is mint.
By the time he realises he’s too hurt to play a role in the match it’s too late. It leaves Kiyomiya alone and he gets to play his role; the plucky underdog hero and he’s excellent at it. It’s probably a long term ambition but could Kiyomiya be NOAH’s actual saviour after a half dozen false dawns? Go trying to be the hero and tagging back in is pretty great but even better is Nakajima going after his leg again like a son of a bitch. Nakajima is so great in this match. He stands there, like Jesus, waiting to be punished with Go’s chops and when he smirks at the pain and just lays in more kicks I’m in heaven. I love proper dickhead heels and Nakajima is a guy I never thought had it in him.
Look at this shithead on the finish! I can’t wait for the Nakajima vs. Kiyomiya singles match that should happen at some point. Imagine all that vengeful babyface fire coming up against an asshole of this calibre. Sensational performance from Nakajima here. Needs to be seen. I’m backing him to become NOAH’s biggest star by the end of the year. Imagine if he’d been this good when he was champ?
He even does this pose over a fallen Go with Kiyomiya staring up at him. Sensational work.
Final Rating: ****
Takashi Sugiura (c) vs. Naomichi Marufuji
This is coming hot on the heels of Marufuji challenging for the Triple Crown after winning Champion Carnival. He came up short in his Triple Crown challenge just last weekend. Now he’s after the GHC belt to make up for it.
This match would benefit from a big personality. Both these guys are superstars but exist at the top of the card for two reasons. 1. They’re really good. 2. Nobody else in NOAH has gotten good enough to unseat them. Both guys are run down and suffering from injuries but don’t let it effect their performance. The near misses alone are wonderful and its easy to forget Sugi is 48 years old. The match is structured like one of those NOAH epic main events but runs to a pleasing 25 minutes. In that they throw in everything you’d expect from a NOAH main. Including obviously;
Broken down Marufuji taking an apron spot off 48 year old Sugiura.
The NOAH lads never disappoint. pic.twitter.com/L0drw1J0cw
— Arnold Furious; a prince (@ArnoldFurious) June 7, 2018
Sugi grinds Marufuji down, works over his midsection and reduces his opponent to a pliable mess. The targeting of the ribs and abdominal area is highly focused and Sugiura is ruthless with it. The way he dumps Marufuji gut first on the ropes makes me wince. I love how Marufuji sells it too, struggling for breath. He doesn’t let the injury overly affect his movement, which is a pity but his only shot at winning is firing off those crazy strike combos. Although part of me wishes he couldn’t do that because of Sugiura’s work. Apply that logic to the max. Would it be exciting? Not especially, but it would at least make sense. Sugiura continues his common sense approach and everything he does targets that midsection. It’s a disciplined performance from a disciplined wrestler. Marufuji is left in a tough spot; needing to maintain a challenge but keep the midsection relevant. It’s a tough balancing act. While Marufuji struggles to walk that tightrope Sugiura is virtually flawless and you can see why NOAH have decided to go back to him as champ. He can do no wrong. Marufuji has a few spectacular ideas up his sleeve, mostly surrounding the knee strikes but his top rope Spanish Fly is pretty crazy when both guys are beat up.
They do an excellent job of the strike duels, with Sugiura winning due to his work throughout the match rather than having the harder strikes. Marufuji getting all fired up is pretty great. He’s taken such a beating that I rally with him. I was expecting a barrage of finishers and he’d be done. Instead he fires up and makes the match competitive again. I’m very partial to his attempts to no sell the Olympic Slam. Rolling back to his feet and staggering around the ring only to stagger right into a DDT and Sugiura finishes with his front choke. This was a war. If you like the NOAH main event style you’ll love this.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Post Match: former champ Kenoh strolls out here and challenges the man who beat him for the gold.
While the undercard for this show is mostly a disaster the top end is well worth checking out. The main and the tag the precede it are especially excellent. You need to see Katsuhiko Nakajima playing dick heel. It’s the role he was born to play. The main was two dependable talents going at it. They did a great job. I’m also kinda partial to Kenoh/Kotoge but your mileage may vary based on whether you can sit through that shoot headbutt. For god’s sake, skip most of the undercard though. It had me questioning what I was doing.