NOAH Spring Navigation at Korakuen Hall
March 25 2017
We’re in Korakuen Hall, if you couldn’t guess from the title. NOAH failed to get 1000 fans in for this show, which is a wee bit disappointing considering their new look and attitude since January. Maybe the card was a little disappointing for Tokyo fans, who get to see great shows every week. The main event was Kitamiya vs. Kenoh and no titles were on the line. NOAH just being NOAH isn’t a draw it would seem. Even when it’s NOAH The Reborn.
Yoshinari Ogawa & Rionne Fujiwara vs. Mohammed Yone & Atsushi Kotoge
The one downside to this being clipped down for Samurai TV is the lack of entrances. Yone’s disco entrance is one of my favourites in wrestling right now. There is a clear difference between the energy levels here and from two months ago when everyone on the roster was trying to kill themselves in every match to turn wrestling into a goddamn shoot. Whether that’s just on Ogawa and Yone getting everyone to calm down or whether the lustre has come off NOAH The Reborn already. The intent in this bout seems to be getting Rionne over, which I’m cool with. Everyone else is already over, although you’d never know it from this Tokyo crowd. There are high levels of no fucks being given. Both inside and outside the ring. Kinniku Buster puts Rionne down for the pin. This was far too long for what it was.
Final Rating: *3/4
Katushiko Nakajima vs. Akitoshi Saito
Putting the champ on this early is a strange move. Especially in singles. It’s not for the GHC title because who did Saito beat? Saito decides to test the champ out with a kick exchange and finds him to be fairly sturdy for a young punk. They do a lot of strikes and such but the urgency from January seems to have gone and that leaves us where we were in 2016 minus the heat. Saito needs to be dragged, kicking and screaming, into the beefier parts of the match. He’s far too content to kick back and relax. The one bump into the corner is embarrassing. Nakajima is willing to pick up the slack, which is why he’s the champ. He outlasts all of Saito’s offence, kicks him a bit and then hits the Vertical Spike to win. Should probably have just made this a title match. Maybe that would have lit a fire under Saito’s posterior.
Final Rating: **3/4
Naomichi Marufuji & Maybach Taniguchi vs. Takashi Sugiura & Kaito Kiyomiya
Maybach’s new mask/contact lens is a good look for him. His biggest issue since losing the mask was looking like a JAG. It might have taken a while to develop a new look but now he’s there it’s good news for him and the NOAH roster as a whole. The more personalities that exist, and are over, there are the better for NOAH. Sugiura isn’t impressed and specifically targets Taniguchi as the weak link. The way he slaps people is always entertaining. The weak link for Sugiura’s team is definitely Kiyomiya, even if he’s come on leaps and bounds over the past 12 months. He’s one of the guys currently sporting chest injuries because Naomichi Marufuji is a dick.
Kiyomiya’s youthful exuberance is just what the card needs and Sugiura is in no mood to be the ‘lazy one’ on his team. Sugiura is a treasure. If NOAH would stop being assholes when it comes to booking him that would be nice. Taniguchi ends up pinning Kiyomiya’s shoulders to the mat here but it’s safe to say Kiyomiya will be back at this level and a lot higher. The kid has got moxy and tonnes of it. Or whatever moxy is measured in. Inches? I don’t know.
Final Rating: ***
Eddie Edwards vs. Go Shiozaki
I’m thrilled that Impact Wrestling’s loanee to NOAH is Edwards. In his first match there he instantly reminded me what a great wrestler he used to be. Meanwhile Go is constantly trying to prove himself to the NOAH fans after walking out on them once, and then walking out on All Japan too like a total doucheface. So we have two good wrestlers with a goddamn point to prove and only one them can walk out of here with his hand held high. Edwards is a good wrestler, while Shiozaki is a keen striker. From a storyline perspective they have an easy tale to tell. Shiozaki probably hasn’t lived up to expectations throughout his career. He was brought through as the first generation of NOAH wrestler and was the star pupil. Fast forward 13 years and he’s not really become the star performer he was destined to be. Which is a pity because, at times, he’s sensational. The main problem for him here is that Eddie Edwards looks better rounded and excels at all of Go’s strengths too. The only thing that makes Go look like a star is his commitment to the NOAH style and a penchant for doing silly spots on the apron. This is the best match for chests getting chopped beet red I’ve seen this year, outside of Marufuji of course. That bastard has busted up every chest in the damn company. These two guys do all that Marufuji bullshit and come out the other side. By the time Eddie is lifting Misawa spots they’ve got the crowd in the palm of their hand. Sure, it’s not as loud as it used to be but they’re into it and with good reason. Edwards ploughs into Go with a series of Shining Wizards and, to my surprise, Shiozaki stays down for the three. This was a very good pro wrestling match between two solid pros.
Final Rating: ****
Two out of Three Falls
RATEL’s (Daisuke Harada, HAYATA, YO-HEY & Tadsuke) vs. Hajime Ohara, Taiji Ishimori, Hi69 & Hitoshi Kumano
RATEL’s is Harada’s idea. He’s seen all these new guys come into NOAH and figured he’d show them the ropes. For a new unit they have a slightly disappointing 2-2 record on shows in March. You’d think they’d want to start them off stronger but this is Japan, where you have to earn shit.
NOAH had an excellent junior division for several years but it got to the point where they were too good and both Kotoge and Kenoh got promoted to the heavyweights. Now it’s a rebuilding process. It’s fairly sensible to start with two of the three best junior wrestlers (Harada and Ishimori) and build stories/factions around them. Meanwhile the other great wrestler, Ohara, is the junior champ. The best thing about this match is that it’s not just about all the top guys. They incorporate the newcomers into everything. The most obvious point being HAYATA pinning Ohara for the first fall. That helps to set him up as a genuine challenger. Kumano is one of the younger guys who’s trying to step up into one of those top junior spots but, despite new gear, he’s the same jamoke as always. Meanwhile YO-HEY is doing this crazy-ass shit.
A splash off both his team partners standing on the top rope. That’s nuts. That’s what the incoming talent bring with them from the sleazier Indies. They’re prepared to get creative and take chances. Ishimori puts Tadsuke away with the 450 Splash to level up the falls. The final fall sees everyone going nuts and hitting shit a 100mph. It’s not as well organised or exciting as it could be though and Harada finishes with a German suplex before it really gets the chance to shine.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post Match: Ishimori gets a bit shirty with the champ so Ohara sets Kumano on him. It appears that Ohara & Kumano are coming after the junior straps. So at least this match has built to a junior tag title and a junior title match. This is clear as HAYATA is front and centre at the post match interviews.
Kenoh vs. Masa Kitamiya
The reason this is the main event is the backstory. Kitamiya was Kenoh’s tag team partner when Kenoh stepped up to heavyweight. They won the tag titles and then Kenoh turned on Kitamiya because he’s a fucking asshole. Even though they were successful, he still turned on him. Just to prove a point Kenoh then started tagging with Sugiura and won the tag straps a second time.
While the storyline is decent the crowd don’t seem inclined to buy into it as a main event. Which could be said for the show as a whole, in terms of ‘buying into it’ as it was such a low draw. The main event doesn’t feel important and that’s an issue for NOAH. They spent two years pushing a bunch of guys who didn’t work for them and waited until the last two months to get people over on them and it was too late. Now they’re having to push these guys because there’s no other option. This was a major issue for All Japan but they recovered from their funk by giving Kento Miyahara the ball and having him run with it. Business recovered! While NOAH are trying that with Nakajima, booking main event programs without him has been a struggle. As is the case here. The match is sub 18 minutes and drags.
A glance out into the crowd during lulls reveals a bored looking Korakuen Hall. Kitamiya, doing his best Saito tribute, takes it with the Saito Suplex. And the crowd goes mild.
Final Rating: **3/4
This show felt like a misfire from NOAH, apart from Shiozaki-Edwards. You can skip it. A pity as NOAH felt like it was on the way back in January and the wheels have come off NOAH the Reborn already. Eddie Edwards looked pretty great here again though and Go Shiozaki is performing at his best level since returning to the company. If they can get some angles going NOAH might bounce back again. They’re rebuilding. Slowly. Good luck to them.