The Emerald Emporium, Chronological Order


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2000


Kobashi & Akiyama vs Misawa & Taue, 2/3 falls, 8/5/00. Main event on the debut show that sets the table for the rest of the year. Keep watching after the finish.


Match testimonial


Kobashi vs Akiyama, 8/6/00. From NOAH's second show ever, this match does a lot to establish that these two are the top guys in the promotion and that Akiyama is no longer in Kobashi's shadow. Good action, interesting middle-point between the kind of match they'd wrestle today and the kind of match they'd wrestle in All Japan. Kobashi isn't completely broken down at this point and it really shows with the amont of *wrestling* he does; probably his last big singles match before he became semi-immoble Chopbashi.


Match testimonial


Akiyama, Takayama & Kanemaru vs Kobashi, Rikio & Kikuchi, 9/15/00. Despite appearances this isn't a random 6-man at all. Rookie Rikio is all kinds of fun, Kikuchi has his best showing in years, and we get our first good Kobashi vs Akiyama 6-man.


Match testimonial


Akiyama & Takayama vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, 9/16/00. I'm not going to pretend like the outcome is much in doubt, but it's the journey, not the destination.


Akiyama, Takayama & Shiga vs Kobashi, Rikio & Kikuchi, 9/25/00. Not quite as good as the one from 10 days earlier, but close. Lots of wonderful pairings as the match progresses. Rather unusual finish.


Takayama vs Kikuchi, 10/7/00. Granted, these two can only have 'so' good a match given the size difference... but it can't NOT be good either.


Kobashi & Rikio vs Akiyama & Kanemaru, 10/7/00. Oh for those early days of NOAH, when the booking was really interesting. This is almost more of an angle than a match, but the bottom line is that it REALLY makes you want to see Kobashi get a rematch with Akiyama, which of course was the entire focus of the company at this point.


Kobashi vs Omori, 10/11/00. Kobashi doesn't need functional knees to murder you.


Akiyama vs Hashi, 11/16/00, clipped. A pity they clipped this in half because it's the first relevant Hashi singles match, the start of their series, and it looks like a good vet vs young lion bout. On the plus side, the clipping means there's no downtime.


Akiyama, Morishima, Shiga & Kanemaru vs Kobashi, Rikio, Kikuchi & KENTA, 12/2/00. The first two pairings are fascinating. Kobashi and Akiyama do their thing, to a decent response, and are followed by a HOT Morishima/Rikio exchange. Rookie Rikio was darn impressive, though he was a sumo veteran and thus not a typical young lion. The generally fast pace and a few other really good exchanges keep this interesting. KENTA is the presumed whipping boy, but someone else takes the fall.


Aoyagi vs Marufuji, 12/15/00. Pretty sure this match is from an alternate universe. Aoyagi started the '90s as someone known for intense matches with Onita, and later with assorted NJ and WAR guys. A few years after this he was a jobber. Marufuji, meanwhile, was a budding star. This match a few years earlier would have been an Aoyagi squash, and a few years later would have been a Marufuji squash. In December 2000, it's an open question how it will turn out. They have such totally different styles on paper, but Marufuji is quite grounded here and plays it straight, so this really feels nothing like a Marufuji match. Especially the finish.


Kobashi, Kikuchi & KENTA vs Akiyama, Shiga & Kanemaru, 12/15/00. Burning vs Sternness, always good times. It's kinda remarkable how much the Kanemarus of the roster stepped up in NOAH.


Shiga, Morishima & Kanemaru vs Inoue, Rikio & Sugiura, 12/23/00. Sugiura's debut and a really solid 6-man considering the randomness. 130 MB.


Hashimoto vs Omori, 12/23/00. Hard-hitting, to-the-point. This was a very important match for several reasons. One, it marked Hashimoto's first appearance since leaving New Japan to start Zero-One. Two, Omori felt that Hash was being uncooperative and decided to have the match end early; this led to Omori being put in the doghouse, and less than two years later he was gone. I included some nifty pre-entrance backstage footage.


Misawa vs Vader, 12/23/00. Old guys huckin' bombs at each other.


Kobashi vs Akiyama, 12/23/00. This was the main event of the first big NOAH show, and it was the last big singles match Kobashi would have for two years. He's an absolute wreck but still gives it his all, and tries to put Akiyama on the shelf in the process.


Match testimonial


2001


Misawa & Ogawa vs Hashimoto & Otsuka, 1/13/01. Misawa and Hashimoto DESPISE each other. Hashimoto makes Ogawa his woman and it's everything wonderful about Shinya Hashimoto. Pre-debut Zero-One almost starts a riot in NOAH-land. Glorious.


Match testimonial


Akiyama & Vader vs Kobashi & Taue, 1/13/01. Kobashi is about to go out for knee surgery. So imagine this as the scene early in a cop movie right after the old veteran says he's retiring in a week.


Kobashi's face on 1/18/01 in the aftermath of the big matches he had in the previous weeks. The real reason to download this short clip is the preview of the GHC title. Especially the 'G' part.


Kobashi & Taue vs Misawa & Marufuji, 1/18/01, JIP. Young Marufuji has something new and special up his sleeve for the veterans. Also, this is Kobashi's last match before the knee surgery.


Misawa vs Marufuji, 3/3/01. The day after Marufuji's big coming out party in Zero-One, he faces his mentor and throws out everything he's got.


Match testimonial


Takayama & Omori vs Morishima & Shiga, 3/3/01. On paper this is a by-the-numbers squash, but the underdogs take over early and keep plugging away. And keep plugging away. And eventually it gets to be the underdogs doing the squashing, at which point you're hooked! An odd choice for a main event, but they deliver.


Akiyama, Morishima & Shiga vs Ogawa, Rikio & Marufuji, 3/18/01, some clipping. I never expected a 6-man featuring Ogawa as a team leader to be heated, let alone one taking place in Differ Ariake, but this match proved me wrong! And man, there was just no going wrong with Morishima vs Rikio at this point.


Takayama vs Izumida, GHC title tournament, 3/22/01. Short-ish battle between two tough dudes.


Takayama & Omori vs Vader & Morishima, 3/30/01. Morishima did well against No Fear with scrawny Shiga at his side; imagine what he can do with the Beast from Boulder!


Akiyama vs Omori, GHC Heavyweight Title Tournament. A year earlier Omori beat Akiyama for the first time in a matter of seconds with an axe bomber flurry. Akiyama wants revenge, but Omori has progressed to the point where he can win in non-fluke fashion.


Misawa vs Akiyama, GHC Heavyweight Title Tournament semifinal. Their first match in NOAH, and it was assumed from the start that one of them would win the tournament.


Misawa vs Takayama, GHC Heavyweight Title Tournament final. Takayama has been pinned just twice in the last year, both times by Kobashi. His German suplex and kneelift have been enough to put down everyone, including Kobashi, and he beat Taue in a singles match with a roundhouse. That said, he's facing Misawa. HQ cap.


Misawa vs Takayama, 4/15/01. Lesser VQ but more pre and post match.


Misawa vs Taue, 5/18/01. First-ever GHC title defense. Somewhat low-key but still good. Watch for Taue's jumping boot, which put Misawa away in their last match.


Rikio vs Izumida, 5/25/01, JIP. I've seen Izu singles matches against the likes of Kobashi and Kawada in All Japan, and none of them had near this good a finish.


Akiyama vs Morishima, 5/25/01. By far the biggest match of Morishima's career to date, headlining a mid-size venue in a singles match. Akiyama wants a shot at Misawa and won't hesitate to pull out the big guns.


Rikio & Morishima vs Akiyama & Saito, 6/9/01. The first time Akiyama and Saito teamed up. The big boys only had a couple matches together, so both teams have something to prove. They really go at it, and the finish sets up another match later in the tour.


Akiyama & Saito vs Omori & Sugiura, 6/16/01. Only the second match for the Akiyama/Saito team. Sugiura is, as usual, most interesting when going against heavyweights. Oogly finish.


Misawa, Ogawa, Ikeda & Marufuji vs Akiyama, Saito, Shiga & Kanemaru, 6/20/01, slightly clipped. Wave vs Sternness! Lead-in to Misawa/Ogawa vs Akiyama/Saito at the end of the tour, not to mention Misawa vs Akiyama the following month. The interplay between the teams really makes this, not to mention the super-responsive crowd. I'd also say there isn't an obvious loss post, which helps keep the finish from being anticlimactic.


Ogawa vs Modest, 7/27/01. Modest is so great in this, and Ogawa is really the best opponent to show off his technical ability.


Misawa vs Akiyama, GHC title, 7/27/01. Having split the last two matchups against each other, and with a draw before that, this could go either way. Both debut big moves for the occasion of NOAH's first show at Budokan Hall.


Rikio vs Hashi, 8/15/01. Hashi should be a piece of cake even for rookie Rikio, but Hashi's spunk and skull make him competitive.


Morishima vs KENTA, 8/15/01. Before they were awesome, but after they were good. If that makes sense.


Akiyama, Saito, Shiga & Kanemaru vs Misawa, Ogawa, Sano & Marufuji, 8/15/01. The first Misawa/Akiyama battle after their title match. Some really clever team spots and a rare outdoor venue event make this standout from run-of-the-mill multi-man bouts. As with the June match, this is helped by a lack of a glaring weakness for either team. Unlike the June match, the finishing run here is big and climactic.


Akiyama, Saito & Hashi vs Rikio, Morishima & Ikeda, 8/27/01. Some clipping, but I did patch in some extra footage by merging the TV and comm tape versions. Rikio, Morishima and Ikeda are all in a four-man contenders tournament later in the tour, so that means Akiyama is an even bigger target than usual.


Honda vs Morishima, GHC #1 contenders tournament, 8/28/01. An interesting clash of styles, as Honda's grappling skills try to contain Morishima's explosive power.


Akiyama, Saito & Shiga vs Vader, Modest & Morgan, 8/28/01. A really fun match that focuses on Modest. This is fascinating for several reasons. One, he's over as hell after one tour. Two, he's someone that veterans like Vader and Akiyama are willing to give the spotlight to. This can be credited to Modest's great showing against Ogawa at Nippon Budokan. Good pace, lots of heat, and an unexpectedly harsh finish.


Takaiwa vs KENTA, 8/31/01. KENTA, having just over a year of experience, is smart enough to realize that unless he starts things to his own advantage he won't stand a chance.


Akiyama, Saito & Shiga vs Takayama, Omori & Asako, 8/31/01. Asako is just a few days from his first (and only) GHC junior title challenge, so he riles up champion Kanemaru who's at ringside to support his stablemates. Oh yeah and also Akiyama and Takayama are in this. Whatever, you know and I know that you're here to see some Asako.


Akiyama vs Honda, GHC title, 9/5/01, JIP. How well can Honda do in his first singles title bout? This is a good preview of what was to come in '03 from Honda.


Ohtani & Omori vs Rikio & Morishima, 10/6/01. The budding superheavies must contend with a cobbled-together but highly capable tandem in Omori and Ohtani. Double Takeshis actually do quite well for themselves, refusing to be bullied and doing very serious damage. Granted, the veterans get plenty of shots in, but this is not the rote semi-squash one would expect given their respective levels of experience; it's a real contest!


Misawa & Ogawa vs Ohtani & Omori, tag title tournament, 10/12/01. The quality of this match is roughly 95% about the Misawa/Ohtani interaction. Considerably more 'Ohtani' chants than one would expect, and he gets a ton of heat for hanging with Misawa. Can a makeshift team upset the Untouchables?


Modest, Morgan & Slinger vs Ogawa, Marufuji & KENTA, 10/16/01. So much FUN! Modest starts off with a number of moves that are still nifty in 2012 and should be stolen/borrowed by active wrestlers. The crowd responds to pretty much everything and thus proves that this is in fact taking place in Korakuen Hall. The finish is not what one would expect.


Ohtani, Omori & Asako vs Akiyama, Saito & Kanemaru, 10/16/01. Watch from the start, because it's fantastic before they even ring the bell. Ohtani's charisma is absolutely off-the-charts, and his clashing with both Akiyama and Kanemaru is very entertaining. It's a pity he only returned to NOAH a couple times after this tour.


Ohtani vs Shiga, 10/17/01. There really isn't any question as to whether Ohtani will be a total bastard to an up-and-comer from another promotion. The question is whether Shiga will bring it on his end, and he does! The result is a really solid outsider vs underdog bout.


Akiyama & Saito vs Misawa & Ogawa, tag title tournament, 10/17/01, JIP. Third meeting between the teams in just four months, and in the first two Misawa and Akiyama traded pins. Who will take it now that something is on the line?


Modest & Morgan vs Takaiwa & Hoshikawa, 11/18/01. APW versus Zero-One! I remember when both of those were fresh, relevant promotions, rather than lurching zombies like today. Coming in, I wondered how an outsider vs gaijin match would work. It turns out: pretty darn well! A mix of personality, action, and a couple of hellish bumps are enough to get even a Differ Ariake crowd into it. The finish came as quite a shock to me.


Akiyama, Shiga & Kanemaru vs Rikio, Morishima & KENTA, 11/18/01. An interesting matchup, because Double Takeshis would beat Akiyama & Shiga but Kanemaru solidly trumps KENTA at this point. Yet another solid match from a largely overlooked period for the company.


Kanemaru & Hashi vs Honda & KENTA, 11/27/01. A snapshot of a singular moment in time, because Kanemaru/Hashi are favored by virtue of KENTA being a fledgling. Honda is quite a bit bigger than the others, but he's not the sort of high-impact guy that can squish the other team after getting a hot tag. That means KENTA needs to both deliver some offense and survive some big moves if they're going to win. This match didn't stand out to me the first time I watched the show, but the second time through I was drawn in by the remarkably hot Korakuen crowd, and the end result is better than it looks on paper.


Takaiwa & Hoshikawa vs Marufuji & KENTA, 11/30/01. Ah, the days when KENTA was a weak link, gas was $1.25 a gallon, and nobody knew who Zac Efron was. Those were good times.


Takayama vs Morishima, 11/30/01. What happens in this one? They play hopscotch, WHAT DO YOU THINK HAPPENS.


Akiyama vs Rikio, 11/30/01. A year earlier, rookie Rikio faced NOAH's best in a series of matches. He lasted longest against Akiyama, but fell to the front neck lock. Now Akiyama is champion, while Rikio has three times as much experience as he did before and loads of power. Isn't exactly a match of the year but it has its moments.


2002


Takayama vs Hashi, 2/10/02. Poor Hashi. On one hand, if he doesn't try his hardest, he gets squashed like a bug. On the other hand, if he actually makes Takayama break a sweat he might get the ever-lovin' crap beaten out of him. This being Hashi, he takes the latter route.


Taue, Honda & Inoue vs Saito, Shiga & Hashi, 2/17/02. Sternness fights without their leader. HASHI~ steps up big-time, marking the start of his good run.


Liger & Wataru Inoue vs Kikuchi & Kanemaru, 2/17/02. New Japan invades and it is AWESOME. Budokan Hall is absolutely on fire. Kanemaru and Wataru aren't known for their intensity but both of them turn it up in a big way. Kikuchi has his best showing since '93. Liger's best match from '97 through today. Absolute must-see.


Misawa & Kobashi vs Akiyama & Nagata, 2/17/02. Kobashi's return from the big knee injury. The reunion of the Misawa/Kobashi team that dominated All Japan for years. Nagata's first match in NOAH. Akiyama's first chance to show up Kobashi after winning the GHC title. Accordingly, everyone kicks it up a notch.


Vader vs Morishima, 3/14/02. This was juuuust before Morishima developed enough to where taking on Vader would be a dream match. It's five minutes of Vader and Morishima going at it, so you know what you're getting: a straightforward slugfest.


Akiyama & Hashi vs Ogawa & Marufuji, 3/14/02. Lead-in to two tour-end title bouts, Akiyama vs Ogawa and Marufuji vs Hashi. Heck of a match, the first standout performance from Hashi. This wound up being considerably better than the payoffs.


Akiyama vs Hashi, 3/24/02. Hashi wants nothing more than to prove himself to Akiyama. It's Akiyama's job to make that as difficult as possible.


Akiyama vs Shiga, 4/6/02. Shiga has had it with being the 3rd man on Akiyama's crew, and he takes it right to the champ.


Modest, Morgan, Slinger & Superstar Steve vs Honda, Inoue, KENTA & Suzuki, 4/7/02. Fast pace, and the gaijin make it fun.


Liger & Minoru Tanaka vs Kikuchi & Kanemaru, 4/7/02. New Japan juniors heel it up like there's no tomorrow! Kanemaru fights fire with fire! Kikuchi Comeback 2002 continues!


Misawa & Ogawa vs Akiyama & Hashi, 5/11/02. Akiyama and Hashi have only one option: go all-out.


Morishima vs Hashi, 6/5/02. Hashi does shockingly well toe-to-toe with the beastly Morishima, thanks in part to his iron-hard dome. In response, Morishima busts out some nasty submissions that he never should have stopped using.


Rikio vs KENTA, 6/5/02. Although similar to Morishima/Hashi on paper, the match progresses differently as a result of the more dramatic size difference. KENTA has to rely on speed and strategy at all times if he's going to avoid being squished. However, does he have anything in his arsenal to trouble the ex-sumo?


Kobashi & Kotaro Suzuki vs Inoue & Kanemaru, 7/5/02. Kobashi's Korakuen return during his first comeback, and really his proper return after the aborted February match. Once again it's all about the Kobashi/Kanemaru interactions.


Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Scorpio & Slinger, 7/14/02, JIP. I clipped out a slow first half so you can get the quite good second half. Niigata loves them some Kobashi.


Akiyama & Kanemaru vs Taue & KENTA, 7/14/02. One might expect the Akiyama/Taue pairing to be the highlight, but no, it's all about baby KENTA taking it right to Akiyama. Worth emphasizing that we typically didn't get this much heavyweight vs junior focus in All Japan (or New Japan), and this is an excellent demonstration of NOAH's different philosophy. Somewhat of a breakout performance for KENTA in terms of showing his fire.


Morishima & Ikeda vs Takayama & Bison Smith, 7/26/02. Fun entrances! Lots and lots of beef! No blatant loss post! Hot crowd! This could easily have been plodding and low-effort, especially given its low placement on the card (3 of 9), but the four of them bring the goods. Definitely one of Bison's strongest showings.


Sano & KENTA vs Akiyama & Suzuki, 7/26/02. Building from the tag two weeks earlier, KENTA once again tries to prove his mettle against Akiyama. This time, he's not the weak point in the match, giving him more leeway to take potshots. At least that's what he'd like to think.


Misawa, Kobashi & Asako vs Taue, Inoue & Hashi, 7/26/02. Asako's retirement, featuring retro-tights for Kobashi and a feel-good ending.


Rikio & KENTA vs Kobashi & Suzuki, 8/14/02. Clipped. Kobashi squares off with a more grown-up Rikio! The first ever Kobashi vs KENTA interaction! Also featuring Kotaro Suzuki as Loss Post Pete.


Rikio, Morishima & KENTA vs Misawa, Sano & Suzuki, 8/15/02. Clipped. A battle in the pouring rain!


Kobashi & KENTA vs Misawa & Suzuki, 9/1/02. The first time Misawa and Kobashi got to face off after Kobashi's return, and they do so alongside their students.


Kobashi, Shiga, Kikuchi & KENTA vs Akiyama, Saito, Kanemaru & Hashi, captain's fall elimination, 9/5/02. The first proper Burning vs Sternness tag, and it's the longest of the feud! We only get about half of it though. Shiga looks to prove he's capable of being a #2 after leaving Sternness in the spring. He just took Nishimura to a 30 minute draw. For Akiyama, it's his 10th anniversary of debuting in the same building against Kobashi. For Kobashi, it's his first big match after the summer '02 return. Lots on the line, and with a guarantee of Kobashi or Akiyama taking a fall!


Ogawa vs Takayama, GHC title, 9/7/02. For some reason, Ogawa saved his best for the end of his title reign. He uses some very nice strategery in contrast with Takayama's full-steam-ahead approach. 177 MB.


Kikuchi & Kanemaru vs El Samurai & Naruse, IWGP junior tag titles, 9/23/02. Big crowd heat as usual for the NOAH vs NJ feud, nice compact match that keeps up the momentum through the hot finish. 129 MB.


Rikio & Morishima vs Akiyama & Saito, tag titles, 9/23/02. It's important to put this match in context. This is the first really high-end match for Wild 2, the GHC tag titles, and (for my money) Saito. They absolutely tear the house down. Go out of your way for this.


Takayama vs Misawa, GHC title, 9/23/02. Really stiff, to the point where Misawa injured Takayama with elbows. I don't recall any other match where that happened.


Kanemaru & Kikuchi vs KENTA & Sugiura, IWGP junior tag titles, 10/12/02. The first big NOAH vs NOAH junior tag. Not quite on the level of what they were doing a year later but certainly a big step up.


Kobashi & Shiga vs Akiyama & Kanemaru, 10/17/02. Kobashi and Shiga look to send a message before their tag title shot, and Kanemaru stands to pay the price. Really good lead-in, as it sets up the Akiyama/Shiga dynamic very well.


Akiyama & Saito vs Kobashi & Shiga, tag titles, 10/19/02. Shiga was bumped from his spot as Sternness' number 2 in favor of Saito. Now with Kobashi's help he has a chance to make good in the biggest match of his life! This is the climax of numerous Akiyama/Shiga matches over the years, and it's easily the career bout for Shiga. Akiyama does a submission that's now well-known but I don't think was seen prior to this match or for years afterwards. There are some lulls in the body of the match, but the home stretch is top-notch.


Lion, Marufuji? & Kevin Mask vs BLAZE, Sasakaman & HALIMAO, 10/31/02. Halloween, NOAH-style. I especially love all things having to do with 'Marufuji'.


Kobashi, Shiga & KENTA vs Akiyama, Saito & Kanemaru, 11/20/02. I spent quite a lot of time scouring the internet to find every last Burning/Sternness match that got taped. This is maybe the most obscure one, and it's good enough to justify the effort.


Kobashi vs Taue, #1 contenders match (I think), 11/24/02. Kobashi's first big singles match since returning, and their first singles match in three and a half years. Taue brings out the big guns in a way he hasn't since NOAH began. 102 MB.


Kobashi & Shiga vs Misawa & Sano, 12/1/02. Both teams lost in a tag title challenge in the last few months, and thus need a win to have any hope of getting another. Also, Kobashi is fresh off a win over Taue and can make an impression on the champ.


Kikuchi & Kanemaru vs Jado & Gedo, IWGP junior tag titles, 12/7/02. Considering how effective regular NJ juniors were in getting heat, there was really no way to go wrong with two guys who actively work heel. Jado and Gedo deliver their annual big-match effort, the crowd gets suitably behind the home team, and they build to a really satisfying finish. Not quite as good as the Liger tags, but not far off either.


Misawa vs Ogawa, GHC title, 12/7/02. Misawa's losses tend to be by knockout after a high-impact finisher. Ogawa clearly isn't going to win by turning the lights out. However Ogawa does the rarely-used strategy of trying to *wrestle* Misawa, and it pays dividends because 2002 Misawa isn't exactly the mat-wrestlingest guy around.


2003


Kobashi & Taue vs Misawa & Chono, 1/10/03. Kobashi and Chono take it to each other. Big Match Taue delivers the goods as only he can. Misawa does his thang. This dream match doesn't disappoint!


Akiyama & Saito vs Ohtani & Tanaka, tag titles, 1/10/03. Emblem, fresh off reaching All Japan's tag league final, get to headline Budokan Hall. That makes it the biggest match the tandem ever had. Sternness will have all they can handle to keep the belts from going to Zero-One.


Kobashi & KENTA vs Ohtani & Tanaka, 1/13/03. This was a few months before such a match would be a 25 minute plus main event at Korakuen, but still it's nifty enough. Kyoto KBS Hall sure looks badass.


Kobashi & KENTA vs Misawa & Marufuji, 1/26/03. Big lead-in tag for the title match. It's worth noting that while KENTA was slowly gaining stature, at this point he dropped falls in tag matches all the time and was a full step behind Marufuji. Also worth noting is that this took place at Kobe World Hall, which was just too big a venue for the card and hurts the heat. The finish is much more decisive than we normally see in this sort of tag, and sends a big message for March 1st.


Kikuchi & Kanemaru vs Liger & Kanemoto, IWGP junior tag titles, 1/26/03. JIP. The climactic conclusion to round 1 of the NJ vs NOAH juniors feud. 101 MB.


Hidaka & Orihara vs Takaiwa & Y. Sasaki, Differ Cup '03 round 1. The best match of the first night of the tournament was, somehow, this. Orihara can go when he wants, Hidaka can go under almost any circumstances, and Takaiwa is at his wrecking-ball best. Well worth watching despite the lack of, you know, NOAH.


KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki vs Mikami & KUDO, Differ Cup '03 3rd place match. The tiny DDT juniors go toe-to-toe with the big-shot NOAH guys. Lots of disrespect and stiffness and then a ladder comes into play.


Ultimo Dragon & Yoshino vs Takaiwa & Y. Sasaki, Differ Cup '03 final. Yoshino goes from being a T2P guy who does freaky submissions to Ricky Morton rather well. Takaiwa was born to put pretty-boys in peril. That Ultimo guy, he's okay too.


KENTA & Sugiura vs Kanemaru & Hashi, 2/16/03, JIP. This match and its aftermath would form the foundation of NOAH's junior division for years to come.


Kobashi, Honda, Kikuchi & KENTA vs Akiyama, Saito, Kanemaru & Hashi, 2/18/03. Honda's second match as Shiga's replacement in Burning, and it's in his hometown with his mom watching! He meshes darn well and this really is a heck of a match. Just loads of hate.


Marufuji & KENTA vs Kanemaru & Hashi, 3/1/03. A hot start, a middle with some spite peppered in, and a good finish. That might not seem like much in light of the later works of KENTAFuji, most notably the rematch between these teams six months later. Yet this match, at the biggest NOAH show to this point, set the table for making the NOAH junior division relevant from within. Previously, Zero-One, New Japan and gaijin stars were a focal point. By getting a strong reaction from the crowd, they proved that something special could be produced with the young home-grown talent.


Akiyama & Saito vs Honda & Sugiura, 3/1/03. Almost an angle more than a match, with an unusual beginning and a lot more intensity than one would expect from a somewhat throwaway tag with a (seemingly) obvious result. Honda had started teaming with Burning earlier in the tour, so I suppose the Sternness top two decided to try and take him out while Kobashi had more important things to work with. Certainly this makes you want to see more Honda vs Sternness, and more is what we got!


Takayama vs Masao Inoue, 3/1/03. All kinds of fun. Inoue is completely out of his depth and fights accordingly; Takayama is game to have a good match with anyone. 175 MB because I couldn't find a way to shrink it, but it's in DVD quality.


Music/entrances before Misawa vs Kobashi 3/1/03. Now that's a hot crowd.


Misawa vs Kobashi, GHC title, 3/1/03. Everyone knows this match for the slew of big moves used. What I think makes it good is the KINGS ROAD~ structure during the first 2/3rds. Control segments that take a lot of momentum to shift; internal continuity, teases, and payoffs; gradual build as things progress. Oh and then they use a lot of big moves in the last third.


Morishima, Rikio & Ikeda vs Akiyama, Saito & Izumida, 3/16/03. An unexpected amount of hate and intensity makes this all kinds of entertaining. Not only do we get effective brawling and sustained energy, but also good structure in the middle. This is the first lead-in to the April 5th tag title match and it definitely makes you want to see the conclusion. Plus: a sneak-attack! A hot finish between two guys you wouldn't expect a hot finish from! Crowd reactions in Differ Ariake! Oh yes.


Saito vs Honda, #1 contenders match, 3/30/03. Honda has developed quite an array of finishers, but Saito is hungrier because he hasn't had a title shot.


Morishima & Marufuji vs Akiyama & Hashi, 3/30/03. Morishima and Marufuji are a week away from a tag title shot against Akiyama and Saito. So they're going to get a lead-in win by steamrolling Akiyama and his young sidekick, right? Not if MAKOTO HASHI has anything to say about it.


Kobashi, Sano & Kikuchi vs Takayama, Ikeda & Sugiura, 4/5/03. You might look at that list of individuals and say to yourself "well there's six men who have no qualms about getting hit really really hard and hitting really really hard in exchange." And you would be correct.


Akiyama & Saito vs Morishima & Marufuji, tag titles, 4/5/03. Biggest match of Marufuji's career to this point, and he leaves it all in the ring. Flabby in the middle (not unlike some of the participants) but a very hot finish.


Sugiura & Kanemaru vs KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki, 4/13/03. A NOAH juniors tag that's highlighted by limb work and dramatic submissions? Sure, why not. Sugiura/KENTA is the best matchup in this and accordingly it's the most productive.


Takayama vs Rikio, NWF title, 4/13/03. I'm very glad that though the segment goes over 20 minutes, the match does NOT. These two are not going for 'technical masterpiece'; they're going for 'King Kong versus Godzilla'. Really simple, effective superheavyweight match. There are some blatant restholds but no more than needed, and less than we'd typically have with two giants slugging it out. Takayama busts out some unexpected counters in-between the bombs, but ultimately it's the bombs that make this fun.


Kobashi vs Tamon Honda, 4/13/03. Kobashi's first title defense. Kobashi doesn't do anything you couldn't see in a dozen other of his 'big' matches from the last ten years. But Honda, ah, now he's the story. A jobber in All Japan with a strong amateur background, dumpy ol' Tamon has been quietly on a tear and has developed an extensive set of finishers. He's finished off some very notable NOAH names with techniques ranging from knockout suplexes (the Dead End German) to cradles (fireman's carry pin) to submissions (shoulder hold). He's also quite tenacious on the mat. He also bumps like an absolute maniac for Kobashi's suplexes. This set up everything Honda did since. 222 MB.


Takayama, Ikeda & Sugiura vs Kobashi, Honda & KENTA, 5/9/03. Takayama has just won the IWGP title, which makes Korakuen red-hot for the prospect of him tangling with Kobashi. 244 MB.


Kikuchi, KENTA & Kotaro vs Sugiura, Kanemaru & Hashi, 5/11/03. KENTA is in this the least and it's still really good thanks to Kikuchi being surly and going through walls. 159 MB.


Honda/Kobashi/KENTA/Kikuchi vs Saito/Akiyama/Kanemaru/Hashi, Captain's Fall Elimination, 5/14/03. A team loses if either its captain (in this case Honda and Saito) or 'everyone else' drops a fall. The match runs a bit long by virtue of having several falls instead of one. Each fall has its own finishing run and leads to a new dynamic in the match, but they struggle to maintain momentum over the full course of the match. They're smart to let the juniors handle the early work so the heavies are fresh for the second half, and there are also a few occasions where 'wrestling logic' would dictate a rote elimination but they defy convention. The match ends when it should and leaves plenty on the table for the big tour-ending climax.


Kobashi, Honda, KENTA & Kikuchi vs Akiyama, Saito, Kanemaru & Hashi, 2/3 falls, 6/1/03. Last of the Sternness vs Burning full-stable battles. As with the captain's fall match, this one drags at times due to length, but still contains all kinds of action. Watch for yet another trick from Honda's seemingly endless supply of cool moves that he stopped doing later that year.


Marufuji & KENTA vs Kanemaru & Sugiura, 6/6/03. A preview of the junior tag division. Interestingly enough, these teams were kept apart for two years after this, despite being the logical 'top four' in the promotion. The first half is a bit choppy, but they string together some big moves in the closing minutes and pull the crowd in nicely.


Takayama vs Morishima, 6/6/03. Short but very sweet. And by sweet I of course mean brutal.


Misawa vs Sano, 6/6/03. I like how obvious it is that Sano's theme was done in-house, because it sounds just like the GHC title themes. It wasn't necessary, given how badass his SWS song was. ANYWAY. Misawa beat Sano in rather routine fashion just after Sano joined the company. Now, with Sano more established as a heavyweight, he's able to hang with the emerald boss. The interest isn't "can Misawa handle the overwhelming theat of Sano?", but rather, how will Sano hold up his end of things in a high-profile singles match? For the most part, the answer is 'well', especially when coupled with Misawa's selling and ability to take punishment.


Taue vs Nagata, 6/6/03. Taue is ridiculously awesome here, dishing out hell from bell-to-bell to stop recently-deposed IWGP champ Nagata.


Akiyama & Saito vs Kobashi & Honda, tag titles, 6/6/03. Following Honda's career performance against Kobashi on the last tour, he was welcomed into Burning as the #2. Over the course of this tour the Burning vs Sternness feud has been rekindled, and they traded wins in two big stable vs stable tags (with Honda and Saito getting falls on one another in the process). Now, Honda is in his first and only Budokan main event and he has to step up now or likely return to mediocrity for the rest of his career. Akiyama, of course, has no desire to lose the tag titles to Kobashi. Dirty little secret: Honda beat Akiyama seven months before this in a 4 minute singles match. Akiyama isn't about to let that happen either. 230 MB.


Liger, Murahama & Ricky Marvin vs KENTA, Marufuji & Kotaro Suzuki, 6/29/03. Dig the mixed reaction for Liger! God bless you, NOAH fans. Lead-in to the junior tag tournament, and Marvin's first match in the company. EVERYTHING even vaguely related to Liger get a huge response, which gives this a big-match feel despite being a 6-man at the start of a tour. Great set-up for the tournament final.


Takayama, Makabe & Sugiura vs Akiyama, Saito & Hashi, 7/1/03. Makabe hates NOAH, and Akiyama, and Kobashi, and you. YES YOU!


Takayama, Makabe & Sugiura vs Kobashi, Honda & KENTA, 7/2/03. Lead-in to Takayama & Makabe challenging Kobashi & Honda for the tag titles. Makabe is despised by the NOAH crowd and he feeds off it. Tons of heat, tons of hate.


Akiyama vs Nagata, 7/16/03. Nagata, having recently had his year-plus long IWGP reign ended, bounced back with a win over Taue. Now he's got Akiyama, who downed him on the biggest stage in puro the year before. Akiyama needs a win if he wants a shot at Kobashi any time soon; Nagata needs a win to keep from being a 1-hit wonder in NOAH.


KENTA & Marufuji vs Liger & Murahama, 7/16/03. Finals of the junior tag title tournament, which headlined the show ahead of Akiyama vs Nagata and a heavyweight tag title match. Hot crowd, somewhat of a trailblazing match in terms of being the first 'epic' junior tag match in NOAH. Quite the harrowing finishing sequence.


Kobashi, Honda, KENTA & Marufuji vs Akiyama, Saito, Kanemaru & Hashi, 8/23/03. I wasn't sure that Marufuji would fit in with the Burning vs Sternness style but he does very well. In fact, I'd put this up there with the best multi-man tags of the 2000s. Pairing after pairing deliver quality action. Marufuji is in for most of the middle and really shines. The finish sets up the big tour-end junior tag, meaning that this match works in its own right and as a lead-in. Oh and Korakuen is HOT. A hidden gem. Do yourself a favor and watch it!


Marufuji, KENTA, Suzuki & Momota vs Kanemaru, Sugiura, Kikuchi & Hashi, 9/6/03. Kikuchi joins the heel team per the end of the match above. Not a blowaway match but it's worthwhile for fans of NOAH juniors, and it does a good job of building towards KENTAFuji vs Kanemaru/Hashi.


KENTA & Marufuji vs Kanemaru & Hashi, junior tag titles, 9/12/03. The first tag title defense for KENTAFuji, and it's a doozy. Tons of action, escalating nearfalls, the works.


Kobashi vs Nagata, GHC title, 9/12/03. A really huge match, as Nagata just came off his long IWGP reign and had the never-escaped Nagatalock III at his disposal, not to mention the reliable backdrop hold and a bevy of hard kicks. Kobashi holds nothing back, nor does the crowd.


Kikuchi vs Aoyagi, 10/5/03. Very unique match as Kikuchi does a lot more shoot-flavored stuff to counter the martial arts of Aoyagi. They beat the tar out of each other while Differ Ariake watches mostly in silence because it's Differ Ariake. Friggin' Differ.


KENTA, Marufuji & Kotaro vs Kanemaru, Sugiura & Hashi, 10/5/03. This runs a bit long for a juniors 6-man, which leads to some over-long control segments, but the crowd is darn hot otherwise. Interesting to see so many of their staple moves get a big response, as opposed to a few years later when they were seen as routine. Sugiura/KENTA is the best pairing, as expected.


Kobashi, Akiyama & Rikio vs Misawa, Taue & Morishima, 10/5/03. Perhaps the greatest frustration one has with NOAH is a lack of all-star tags during the company's prime. The big names always team with second-tier guys like Saito, Ogawa, Sano and Honda. Unfortunately, a 6-man at Differ is not really the best way to do a dream match. This isn't even the best match on the card, let alone any sort of MOTYC. And yet I still believe it's worthwhile for several reasons. One, we get some pairings that NOAH didn't serve up much. Two, we get a chance to see that these six are capable of stringing together engaging sequences in the absence of an overarching story. Three, one wonders how well Kobashi and Akiyama can get along. Four, they finish the match with the biggest pairing possible. Stick around post-match for more Kobashi/Akiyama.


Takayama & Sano vs Misawa & Rikio, 11/1/03. Now here's a sign that NOAH really loaded up the card: they have an all-star heavyweight tag 4th out of 8. Takayama/Sano is a regular tandem with a darn good win/loss record, but Misawa/Rikio is a powerhouse duo. This match really makes me wish there were more Misawa vs Takayama tags, because their exchanges always feel huge.


KENTA & Marufuji vs Guerrera & Marvin, junior tag titles, 11/1/03. One might go so far as to say the amount of spots in this match is a veritable festival.


Morishima vs Yone, WLW title, 11/1/03. They go all-out here and not only do you get the usual awesome Morishima stuff but you also get Yone back when he was still pretty good. Very compact match as well.


Kobashi vs Ogawa, GHC title, 11/1/03. I hated this match the first time because I just wanted to see Kobashi dumping Ogawa on the skull, and it never happened. I loved this match the second time because it's good in a different way; they play roles and develop a story. Early on you really get a sense of uniqueness to the matchup. Where Misawa vs Ogawa from 12/7/02 was a technically fine but dry match, Kobashi is more energetic and a better foil for Ogawa's technique and cheating. Ogawa's leg work is solid and feels fresh relative to the usual stuff you get in Japan. Kobashi's revenge is also something special. This match is wonderfully old-school, but US rather than Japan old-school. It might not have the slew of bombs one expects from a Kobashi main event but you should watch it anyway.


Kobashi, Honda, KENTA & Kikuchi vs Akiyama, Saito, Kanemaru & Hashi, 11/16/03. How can this possibly not be good? I think I have yet to be let down by a Burning vs Sternness tag.


Takashi Sugiura vs KENTA, 11/30/03. The first title match of the more grown-up KENTA we're familiar with today. Solid, very competitive match with a real 'big match' feel. 106 MB.


Sugiura vs KENTA, junior title, 11/30/03. Upgrade, though incomplete.


Kobashi vs Yone, 12/6/03. I just love Yone's reaction to the finish. And the finish itself.


Nagata & Tanahashi vs Rikio & Morishima, tag titles, 12/6/03. The POWER and FIRE of Wild 2 versus the skill of New Japan's usurping duo. Crowd is really responsive, and really look for any opportunity to get on Tanahashi's case. Not that I blame them; just look at his absurd hair. The match would benefit from not having quite as much time to fill, but there's plenty of action and drama to make up for the lulls.


2004


Kobashi, Rikio & Hashi vs Akiyama, Morishima & Kikuchi, 1/10/04. Kobashi vs Morishima rocks. Kobashi vs Akiyama rocks. Morishima vs Rikio rocks. But the real reason why you get this is HASHI, as this marks the first time he's in a big match opposite Akiyama. Plus Kikuchi gives him a skull-puncturing headbutt. Trust me on this one.


KENTA & Marufuji vs El Samurai & Wataru Inoue, junior tag titles, 1/10/04. NOAH vs NJ juniors action is so reliable. Wataru manages to do 2000% better in NOAH than he typically does in NJ. El Samurai, on those occasions when he's on, rules. KENTA and Marufuji at this point are in the middle of their peak as a team. Good match? You betcha.


Kobashi, Honda & KENTA vs Taue, Sano & Hashi, 2/20/04. Background: Taue vs Rikio is taking place in a few days to determine Kobashi's next challenger. Taue is thus all fired up and out to show that he'll be the guy to dethrone the champ. However the real star of this match is Makoto Hashi, who doesn't hesitate to go toe-to-toe with Kobashi himself and who generally does what he does best.


Akiyama vs Hashi, 2/21/04. Two years earlier, Akiyama toughened Hashi up before a Hashi junior title shot. Now it happens again, and this time Hashi does quite a bit better against his mentor. Slow early on but intense down the stretch.


Morishima, Taue & Sano vs IZUMIDA, Takayama & Akiyama, 3/6/04. This match is insanely fun. Izumida and Morishima are the core, with Izu going after the leg and overcoming his own general crappiness with the help of his teammates. Morishima sells like a champ, leading to a rewarding finish.


Kobashi vs Rikio, 3/6/04. Rikio's first shot at Kobashi. Some nice exchanges and clubberin' and so forth.


Morishima vs IZU, WLW title, 3/13/04. Building off the 6-man a week earlier. IZU has a shot at the biggest win of his career, but that's quite a hill to climb. Lots of beef, lots of... psychology?! 131 MB.


KENTA & Marufuji vs Yoshinari Ogawa & Kotaro Suzuki, junior tag titles, 4/3/04. Ogawa slums it in the junior division. Some jumbo nearfalls and a big result.


Akiyama & Hashi vs Rikio & Suzuki, 4/25/04. Good start as the underdog team comes out firing, including the use of Hashi as a weapon. Hashi lobs some SICK headbutts, getting Rikio all pissed off. Both of the heavy vs junior matchups are what make this worthwhile, and this was a big step up in quality for Kotaro. Hot finish even with a prominent botch.


Misawa & Ogawa vs KENTA & Marufuji, 4/25/04. Lot going on here. You have an all-juniors team making a challenge to the heavyweight tag straps, you have Misawa and Ogawa being total pricks to the young'uns, and you have a spectacular finish. Widely considered one of NOAH's best tag title matches ever.


Kobashi vs Takayama, 4/25/04. King-sized heavyweight war. The first minutes scream 'epic'. The teases, the tension, the use of Kings Road standbys like the anchor hold. Takayama picks things up with his hard kicks and segues very naturally to the arm work rather than arbitrarily targeting it. Said targeting forces Kobashi to settle for second-tier offense, which is especially problematic when facing a beast like Takayama. Neither one of them can just run through their standard moves and keep the other down, leading to each man tossing out big moves they otherwise avoid. I liked this the first time I saw it, and it's even better the second time.


Akiyama vs KENTA, 5/14/04. Akiyama mixes it up a bit, with some nasty looking knee strikes and exploders. KENTA = KENTA.


Kobashi & KENTA vs Taue & Sugiura, 5/21/04. Rather evenly matched teams, though Double Kenta has the edge on experience with each other. KENTA and Sugiura match up so well.


Morishima vs Ikeda, WLW title, 6/1/04. Morishima is able to force Ikeda into Battlarts-level stiffness, for our enjoyment.


KENTA & Marufuji vs Ricky Marvin & Kotaro Suzuki, 6/1/04. That ol' KENTAFuji magic. 160 MB.


Marufuji & KENTA vs Kotaro & Marvin, junior tag titles, 6/1/04. Higher bitrate & bigger screen size.


KENTA vs IZU, 6/11/04. IZU manages to rip off both Hashimoto and KENTA in hilarious fashion.


Rikio & Morishima vs Takayama & Izumida, 6/23/04. Somewhat of a lead-in to the Dome show, where Double Takeshis would take on Takayama and Minoru Suzuki. Only... Izumida is a tad different than Suzuki. This works in much the same way as the March 6-man where Morishima and Izu tangled; Izu is still loveable and chunky but is clearly outmatched. When Takayama is in we get superheavyweight clobbering, and when Izumida is in we get a charming underdog tale. All that along with a minimum of downtime is enough for me to point out what might have been a forgettable undercard match on a mid-tour show.


Kobashi, Honda & KENTA vs Akiyama, Saito & Hashi, 6/23/04. The final Burning vs Sternness match, and appropriately enough it's used to build to the feud's ultimate climax.


Kobashi, Rikio & Marvin vs Akiyama, Morishima & Hashi, 6/27/04. Final (taped) show before the Dome, and naturally it's a Kobashi vs Akiyama 6-man. Lots o' good pairings besides the obvious one. Rikio/Morishima is teammates who are willing to go at it hammer-and-tongs. Kobashi/Hashi is ever-reliable. Marvin and Hashi are effective whipping boys. It doesn't reach the stratosphere, but it's a solid tag bout with good heat and it makes you want to see the Dome main event. Mission accomplished.


Takayama vs KENTA, 6/27/04. In a word, stiff. In two words, really stiff. Looove the extended first exchange. Takayama brutalizes KENTA in grand fashion, and even his mid-range offense feels like it could turn out the lights. KENTA goes the extra mile throughout in making his comebacks because otherwise he'll get cut off. Takayama's selling is right where it should be given the size difference. Plenty of hellish strikes along with some quality counters. End isn't one of the 'usual' finishers, but it's brutal regardless.


Modest & Morgan vs Kotaro Suzuki & Ricky Marvin, 7/10/04. In theory this seemed like a junior tag title contenders match, but as the follow-up Modest promo demonstrates that wasn't the case. The story of the match is flash and speed versus impact. Modest and Morgan, who had yet to do much as a team in three years with the company, finally get to show what they're capable of. That said, don't count out the Suzuki/Marvin tandem that showed so much ability in June versus KENTAFuji. Lots of cool spots, fast-paced, and perhaps most impressively a LOT of heat from the Dome crowd (for a juniors match).


Modest & Morgan promo after their match at the Tokyo Dome.


Taue & Sano vs Ikeda & Yone, 7/10/04. Very much a bomb-fest, with nearly every big move these four have crammed into a tight window. Yone in particular takes a boatload of bumps. One highlight that most people would miss is Taue connecting really solidly with a big boot, in that he has an extended follow-through after contact. Ow.


Marufuji & KENTA vs Sugiura & Kendo Kashin, junior tag titles, 7/10/04, JIP. Kendo Kashin in 2004 was nobody's idea of an elite juniors wrestler, let alone an elite juniors *spotfest* wrestler. Thus the announcement of this match drew a puzzled reaction. I suppose that the Sugiura/Kashin tandem represents a more "legit" pairing than KENTAFuji. Anyway, the first half doesn't really get going, but the second half holds up on its own. Kashin's "problem child"/trickster persona adds a dimension we don't normally get in KENTAFuji bouts, and Sugiura delivers the big finish one expects in this situation.


Takayama & Suzuki vs Morishima & Rikio, IWGP tag titles, 7/10/04. A tale of two matches, both of which earn great reactions from the Dome crowd. When Takayama is in, we get superheavyweight clubberation. When Suzuki is in, we get the cocky, speedy prig trying to avoid being swatted by the hometown heroes. The last two moves are absurd given the sizes involved.


Misawa & Ogawa vs Mutoh & Kea, GHC tag titles, 7/10/04. Fun match thanks to the Misawa vs Mutoh sections and a good effort by Kea. And also Misawa nearly kills Kea a couple times but let's not focus on that.


Kobashi vs Akiyama, GHC title, 7/10/04. Dare I say that this needs no particular explanation? Yep, but here's one anyway. The first two thirds are good stuff, bottom line. The start has proper 'big main event' pacing; wonderful use of the test of strength and the first strike exchange to get the crowd into it; REALLY effective transition to Kobashi working the neck; a REALLY good extended sequence for Akiyama's transition; and Akiyama's control segment escalates things without delving into finishers. The last third is what makes the match famous, but to me is the weakest part. If you're big on AJ '90s style, the first chunk of the match is as good an example as you got in NOAH. If you're big on head drops, the last chunk is right up your alley. Keep in mind, I'm *more critical than average* about this match.


NOAH 7/10/04 part 2, TV version. Picture isn't as sharp as the comm DVD but it's got commentary. Contains the junior tag title match, Liger vs Kanemaru, and the IWGP tag.


NOAH 7/10/04 part 3, TV version. Picture isn't as sharp as the comm DVD but it's got commentary. Contains the top two matches.


An unlikely duo forms. AND THE WORLD WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME.


Akiyama & Hashi vs Honda & Shiozaki, 7/24/04. Go Shiozaki's debut match, and very interesting to see how well he does right from the get-go.


Kobashi, KENTA & Marvin vs Misawa, Marufuji & Kotaro Suzuki, 7/24/04. Fun match thanks in large part to the juniors switching up from their usual partners.


Takayama vs Sano, 8/1/04. Hard shots, nasty suplexes. This match was so rough that it almost single-handedly put Takayama on the shelf.


Misawa vs Taue, 8/1/04. The two of them are 1-1-1 in their last three matches. Whoever comes out on top is almost certain to be Kobashi's next challenger.


Kobashi & Honda vs Saito & Inoue, 8/20/04. Both teams are gunning for a tag title shot. Can Dark Agents overcome a team far stronger on paper?


Akiyama, Rikio & Kikuchi vs Kobashi, Sano & Kanemaru, 8/28/04. A 'parejas increibles' 6-man more than a Kobashi vs Akiyama one. Lots of Kobashi/Kikuchi and Akiyama/Kanemaru. For a tag with some comedy and a generally restrained tone, Kikuchi sure isn't afraid to potato Kanemaru with a headbutt. Speaking of them, it's interesting to see the former IWGP junior tag champions square off.


BAH GAWD IT'S BREAKING LOOSE IN DIFFER.


Misawa vs KENTA, 8/28/04. This one is almost entirely about KENTA, between throwing everything he has out there and doing his best Misawa impression. Plus, the debut of a big move.


Sano & Izumida vs Yone & Trevor Rhodes (Trevor Murdoch), 9/10/04. Trevor in NOAH equals fun. Plus IZU~.


Akiyama & Shiozaki vs Rikio & Hashi, 9/10/04. Works off the strength of Go and Hashi in the underdog role.


Kanemaru vs Low Ki, 9/10/04. One of the better juniors singles matches from Japan in recent years, because it manages to mesh big moves with logical selling and psychology. They don't go overboard with finishers but manage to keep it entertaining.


Misawa & Ogawa vs Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue, 9/10/04. You know the big heavyweight names: Misawa, Kobashi, Taue, Akiyama. They go back to All Japan. But what about the guys you don't hear about? Masao Inoue is one of those. He debuted in the early '90s and hardly ever made a commercial tape or a TV airing. Not much to look at, no particular physical gift, not much in the psychology department... Masao was most notable for being on the floor and watching great matches rather than being in them. But not this night, oh no. This night Masao Inoue gets his chance to shine. He fights his little heart out and says "I'm not laying down tonight! You have to beat me!" while Saito urges him on. Granted he's still Masao Inoue during the match, but damned if it isn't the performance of his career by a factor of ten.


Kobashi vs Taue, GHC title, 9/10/04. Taue is physically limited but tweaks his offense in order to hang in a big match. For instance, the way he wins the first exchange. By the time we're about a minute in it's obvious that Taue is putting it ALL out there. The finishing run is sufficiently big for this to be a satisfying conclusion to their rivalry, and it's capped off with a nasty climax.


Kobashi vs KENTA, 10/9/04. Kobashi gives his boy a lot of punishment but also lets him look like he belongs.


KENTA & Marufuji vs SUWA & Ricky Marvin, 10/22/04. SUWA's first big match in NOAH as he becomes Marvin's third partner within a year to take a shot at the straps. Really lays out the groundwork for the KENTA vs SUWA match eleven months later.


Kobashi vs Saito, GHC title, 10/24/04. I didn't like this the first time I saw it, but the second time (with better video quality) it holds up. Saito brings the kind of performance he needs to: hanging with Kobashi in exchanges, controlling things effectively, tossing out credible offense and surviving some big bumps. Kobashi's final response to Saito's striking is icing on the cake. There are exciting nearfalls without going overboard, and the match is consistent enough that it beats out the last few Kobashi defenses for space on the site.


Marufuji vs Shiozaki, openweight title, 11/21/04. Go gets a title shot, and all he has to do is last 15 minutes. Quite fun.


Kobashi vs Gladiator (Mike Awesome), GHC title, 12/4/04, JIP. I clipped this because for some reason they decided to book Mike Awesome to go 28 minutes when he got famous for 10-15 minute sprints. Thankfully they do kick it into gear for the last third, with plenty of the bombs one would expect from the two of them.


Akitoshi Saito, Yoshinari Ogawa & Haruka Eigen vs KENTA, Kishin Kawabata & Kikuchi, NOAHFUL GIFT IN DIFFER 12/24/04. A match not so much memorable for its wrestling as... well, you'll just have to see.


2005


Marufuji vs Eigen, Openweight title, 1/23/05. Eigen wins if he can take it to a 10 minute draw OR by countout in addition to pins and submissions. Match is like 95% about Eigen and that's why it works.


Kobashi vs Shiozaki, 1/23/05. End of Shiozaki's singles match 'trial series' on the first tour of '05. Kobashi, the champ, gives Go the most time of anyone. And I'm assuming the most chops.


Kobashi, Yone & Shiozaki vs Rikio, Morishima & Marufuji, 2/20/05. Grudges! Suplexes! Tauntings!


SUWA, Kanemaru & Sugiura vs KENTA, Low Ki & Marvin, 3/5/05. Very unique match with several frenzied exchanges and an injury angle.


Misawa & Kotaro Suzuki vs Ohtani & Takaiwa, 3/5/05. OHTANI IS SO EXCITED ABOUT BEING A HEEL AGAIN! Ohtani punks out Kotaro several times, though Kotaro is no longer a harmless young lion and gets some retaliation. Misawa/Ohtani is off-the-charts great. Everyone does what they're best at, there's plenty of heat, good pacing, classic tag structure, and an exciting close. Start, middle and end all have memorable moments.


Kobashi vs Rikio, GHC title, 3/6/04. Rikio's first Budokan main event. Clearly, Rikio will not be trying to emulate a late '90s All Japan-style epic, but he does have the strength to credibly go toe-to-toe with Kobashi. Some big exchanges and hot nearfalls once they get past the middle section. Much 'bigger' finishing run than Rikio had the year before with Takayama, demonstrating his growth.


Kobashi, Misawa & Akiyama vs KENTA, Marufuji & Hashi, 4/2/05. The old guard versus the new. Grumpy vets versus spunky upstarts. You know the drill. Drags a bit during the middle, but there's plenty of fire and stiffness and hope spots to make up for that.


Scorpio vs Shiozaki, 4/3/05. My favorite Scorp-in-NOAH match, as he has to be focused in order to guide young Go.


Akiyama vs Hashi, 4/3/05. The Akiyama/Hashi relationship continues.


Kobashi, KENTA & Marvin vs Misawa, Sugiura & Kanemaru, 4/3/05. There's lots of good pairings here that we don't get much of, like Kobashi/Misawa (they rarely faced off on TV after 2003), Kobashi/Sugiura, even Misawa/Marvin. Hot KENTA vs Sugiura start. Kobashi/Misawa feels big even if they were paired with juniors in a non-main match. Misawa dishes out an extra-nasty elbow early on to remind you why his elbow is not to be messed with. In addition to the pairings, there's also more urgency here than one would expect, with outside-the-ring save attempts, a hot second helping of Kobashi/Misawa, and a strong sprint to the finish. I vividly recall how much this match surpassed my expectations in 2005 and it holds up.


Kobashi & Shiozaki vs Misawa & Yone, 4/17/05. GoBashi = reliable goodness. Misawa & Yone work out pretty good for a totally random one-shot.


Marufuji, KENTA, Marvin & Suzuki vs Kanemaru, Sugiura, SUWA & Hashi, elimination match, 4/17/05, JIP. I clipped out most of what happens before the first fall because it's pretty dead, but afterwards there's a lot of quality action.


Taue & Sano vs Yone & Morishima, 4/24/05. Yone, the 'hardcore' champion, hopes to avenge his loss at the Tokyo Dome. Trading Ikeda for Morishima is a lateral move, so Yone has no excuses if he falls short. There's lots of Taue-related fun, and a bigger run of finishers than I expected. This match flew under the radar at the time, and although it's not a MOTYC, it's compact and enjoyable.


KENTA vs SUWA, 4/24/05. At the time this match was a big letdown, because it's a Budokan match that goes short and lacks a decisive finish. But in full context, it's a great lead-in to their climactic battle later in the year. This makes you want to see a rematch based on the strength of the hate, not based on an epic stretch of nearfalls.


Akiyama & Tenryu vs Kobashi & Shiozaki, 4/24/05. Tenryu is so great in this. The contempt for Go; the selling for Kobashi. He makes Kobashi look *dangerous* rather than just tough like everyone else tries for. Shiozaki is all "yay I get to tee off on the old man!" and Tenryu pops him in the mouth. Shiozaki is all "I'm turning the tables on Akiyama, yay!" and Tenryu swats him down. Tenryu's glares at Kobashi while he beats on Shiozaki are fantastic. Kobashi guarding but also yelling at Go to get up is a wonderful touch. Kobashi gets the hot tag and takes over, and only then do we get the big Kobashi/Tenryu strike exchange you expect at the outset of the match. The way Tenryu sets up and milks a nearfall on Shiozaki is exactly the sort of detail that shows why he's one of the best of all time. Haven't seen this yet? Snap to it.


KENTA & Marufuji vs KUDO & Kota Ibushi, Differ Cup '05 round 1. Similar to the 2003 third-place match in that KUDO and KENTA have interpromotional hate. Different in that Kota has a real breakthrough performance, busting out some great highspots. 157 MB.


KENTA & Marufuji vs Kaz Hayashi & Spanky, Differ Cup '05 round 2. Here, KENTAFuji must deal with a 'peer' team that's very capable of putting the match away.


KENTA & Marufuji vs Ikuto Hidaka & Minoru Fujita, Differ Cup '05 final. Top junior teams face off. KENTAFuji go mostly heel despite being in NOAH's home building and somehow it works.


Kikuchi vs Hashi, 5/13/05. Oh the headbutts. Dear lord the headbutts.


Akiyama, Tenryu & Shiozaki vs Rikio, Yone & KENTA, 5/17/05. Tenryu and KENTA utterly despise each other and go at it. And it's awesome.


Kobashi & Honda vs Minoru Suzuki & Marufuji, 5/17/05. Honda gets targeted as the weak link on Burning, but he damn sure isn't going to be anybody's victim.


Minoru Suzuki vs Sano, 6/5/05. I like that NOAH references their match from 1991 in PWFG. Sano does really well in staying with a focused attack. At the end when it seems like Suzuki will go through the motions to win, he finds that he can't, which gives Sano the opening he needs at pulling off the upset...


Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Honda & Shiozaki, 7/2/05. Burning vs Burning! Kikuchi is a loon! Honda takes one of his rare (for good reason) mega-bumps!


Minoru Suzuki & Marufuji vs Akiyama & Hashi, tag titles, 7/18/05. The biggest match of Hashi's career, as he goes after the heavyweight tag belts at NOAH's biggest show ever. Match is great in its Hashi-ness, and it adds to the also-great 8/19/05 Korakuen main event.


Kobashi vs Sasaki. Epic slugfest to end all epic slugfests, including the endless chop battle to end all endless chop battles.


Misawa vs Kawada, 7/18/05. Their first meeting in 5 years, quite possibly their last. Watch for the Kawada post-match promo, which because it was unscheduled during a live broadcast caused he and NOAH to have a falling-out.


More on the Kawada thing: Kawada talked about wanting to return to NOAH and fight Misawa again. That isn't the issue. It's that NOAH got a special prime-time slot, and NOAH's relationship with their network is vital to their financial health. An unscheduled promo saying "Misawa is the greatest and I wish I was Misawa" would still have gotten Kawada in trouble. It's a silly thing, hopefully they work it out in the future but if it was going to happen I suspect it already would have given NOAH's troubles after Kobashi got cancer.


Akitoshi Saito, Takashi Sugiura, Kishin Kawabata & Mushiking Joker vs Yoshinari Ogawa, Low Ki, Richard Slinger & Mushiking Terry, 8/19/05. This match blows on paper, like numerous throwaway NOAH undercard matches. Yet somehow, some way, they make it work. Dark Agents do an effective beatdown on Terry for the body, the pace is kept up, and the Slinger vs Kawabata finishing stretch fails to suck despite all logic. I was amazed to see that this holds up on tape.


Rikio vs Inoue, 8/19/05, JIP. This was supposed to be Mike Awesome, but he got hurt. Crafy veteran Inoue survives a lot more than you'd expect.


Morishima vs SUWA, 8/19/05. SUWA is heading into a title match and needs to brush up on his cheating skills. And his 'not getting obliterated' skills.


Taue & Sano vs Misawa & Shiozaki, 8/19/05, JIP. Go gets to look darn good here.


Bison Smith & Scorpio vs Izumida & Kikuchi, 8/19/05. Kikuchi hates Scorpio's mask! Can Bison's claw hold work on the thickest skulls in Japan?


Minoru Suzuki & Marufuji vs Honda & KENTA, 8/19/05. This was such a great show, and this here is a fine semi-main match. From what I can tell, Suzuki ran over KENTA's mother and fed her to a wood chipper, based on KENTA's seething hatred. Oh and some old lady in the crowd tries to cause a rift between the tag champs. I love Korakuen.


Kobashi & Hashi vs Akiyama & Kanemaru, 8/19/05. This was an amazing match live and it sure does hold up on film. Hashi and Akiyama had just lost a tag title shot so Akiyama ended his long tough-love partnership with Hashi. Hashi, however, hasn't given up on proving himself. Red-hot Korakuen Hall gets behind him and everyone plays their role perfectly.


KENTA vs SUWA, junior title, 9/18/05. I can't think of a match in recent years that was loved so universally and unconditionally. SUWA delivers a heeling tour-de-force, just being the god-king of Jerk Mountain and reveling in his own vileness. The pre-match is memorable, SUWA's inventive and non-stop cheating is memorable, and the finish is big enough to pay the whole deal off. Any pro wrestling fan should be able to enjoy this.


Kobashi & Taue vs Akiyama & Tenryu, 9/18/05. Really hot start between Tenryu's stooging, Kobashi being pissed, and Taue taking care o' bidness. Tenryu's chop exchange selling is great as always. He proves that sometimes the only way to win is not to play. Watch how Taue sells the impact of *giving* a DDT on the ramp, to a lot of crowd response. Tenryu's hot tag is both awesome and hilarious. Things really pick up from there, and we get a huge feel-good finish. This sort of "dream tag" often falls short of the combined talent in the ring, but they deliver here.


Tenryu vs KENTA, 10/8/05. Let's see, what do we want from Tenryu vs KENTA. Stiffness? Check. No restholds? Check. Total lack of respect and sportsmanship? Check. More stiffness? Sure, why not. Oh and it's at Korakuen to boot. Somewhat anticlimactic, but that can't be helped.


Akiyama & SUWA vs Kobashi & Hashi, 10/22/05. The booking of this makes perfect sense based on what happened with the particulars from the Tokyo Dome onwards. I won't say this lives up to the full potential of the August 19th tag and the September 18th SUWA match, but when every matchup has something to offer and all of them have a clear role there's really no way to go wrong. Also, there's about as much heat as possible given that they aren't in Tokyo. Really solid match that would get raves if it happened in WWE.


Minoru Suzuki & Marufuji vs Akiyama & Koshinaka, 11/5/05. Hidden gem from the best show of 2005. Marufuji's bumping is vital to this, but more important is the DETAIL of it. Little things like Akiyama idly cutting Marufuji off from his knees, Marufuji doing his run-over-the-back stomps with a different target, Suzuki doing a ton of work to set up two slaps at different parts of the match and Akiyama's callback to it, etc. Hardly any downtime, lots of charisma on display, lots of fun, and a big finish.


Sasaki & Nakajima vs Kobashi & Go Shiozaki, 11/5/05. Kobashi and Sasaki come off their chop war for the ages, while the young guns had both impressed in the first ten months of '05. The result here is my current match of the year, one that I think will hold up better than a number of bouts getting hype as 'five star'. Great action, as every single pairing brings a lot to the table and everyone clicks and the crowd is hot and... geeez. Honestly I can't think of a wrestling fan who couldn't enjoy this.


Morishima & Yone vs KENTA & Shibata, tag titles, 11/5/05. Great match with a bunch of hatred and stiffness and huge bumps, plus it's paced well. Everyone does what they're best at.


Rikio vs Taue, 11/5/05. Can Taue, aided by a rabid Budokan crowd, end the tyranny of the Takeshi Rikio title reign? Well, can he? More 'emotional' than 'good' due to Taue's physical limitations (and Rikio's for that matter), but Taue really does go all-out.


KENTA & Kikuchi vs SUWA & Kanemaru, 11/18/05. Stemming from KENTA vs SUWA. And, accordingly, 'tis good.


Akiyama & Koshinaka vs Kobashi & Shiga, 11/18/05. This match is worth it just for how Kobashi counters the hip attack. Shiga returned two months earlier after a long injury absence (longer than any of Kobashi's!) and this is one of the few good showings he'd have in the years to follow. Plus: headlocks are more fun when you share! Koshinaka has a rapid-fire ass! I swear that will make sense when you watch the match. Finishing run is a bit understated, but post-return Shiga is not one for epics, and it ends when it should.


Akiyama vs Sugiura, 11/27/05. Sugiura tries to hit above his weight class and does quite well for himself, as Akiyama has to throw out just as much offense here as he did two months later against Taue.


Taue, Kobashi & Misawa vs KENTA, Marufuji & Mushiking Terry, 11/27/05. Similar to the old vs young 6-man in April, only this is a bit more on the 'fun' end of things. Taue, having just won the title, is a good sport not to murder Terry about a minute into this.


Kobashi & Izumida vs Tenryu & Koshinaka, 12/4/05. As soon as I saw the 12/4 card I knew I'd like it. Nothing was out-of-this-world great, but it had matches like this that to me are just enjoyable. Witness Koshinaka's ass-power going against Kobashi's chops. Witness Tenryu being his usual grumpy self. Witness IZU taking his lumps like a man and doing his best.


Sasaki & Nakajima vs Akiyama & Kikuchi, 12/4/05. Not blowaway-great like the tag from 11/5, but still nifty because each matchup brings something to the table. Good ol' Kikuchi.


Shibata & KENTA vs Misawa & Shiozaki, 12/4/05. Once again, not anything to make you go gaga over, but plenty good thanks to the matchups. Sadly this was Shibata's last match in NOAH and Shiozaki got his jaw busted a month later... by KENTA.


Taue vs Morishima, GHC title, 12/4/05. Morishima's first big chance and he makes the most of it, while Taue is forced to debut a new finisher in the hopes of fending off his chunky challenger.


2006


KENTA & Ricky Marvin vs Marufuji & Kotaro Suzuki, 1/8/06. Regular partners go against each other. Some interesting spots.


Taue, Izumida & Kikuchi vs Akiyama, Kanemaru & Shiga, 1/8/06. Lead-in to the Taue vs Akiyama title match. I'm of the mind that the value of this match is almost entirely derived from Taue's team, but then I'm an IZU mark.


Kobashi & Izumida vs Akebono & Rikio, 1/22/06. Fun match with the most ungodly finish in the history of wrestling.


KENTA vs Marufuji, junior title, 1/22/06. JIP. The first half dragged quite a lot, which is why I lopped it off. Coming in, Marufuji hadn't received a title shot since vacating the belt in early 2002. He had also beaten KENTA in all of their previous matches, most recently 2004. As a result this was a pretty big deal, getting the semi-main slot at Budokan. They deliver what we're looking for from them: athletic sequences, cool moves, and big nearfalls.


Taue vs Akiyama, GHC title, 1/22/06. Rather than throwing bombs, which Taue showed a remarkable ability to take, Akiyama focuses on knocking him out. Taue is his usual loveable self. They make sure to work in the 9/18/05 tag finish as well.


Kobashi, Tamon Honda & Kanemaru vs KENTA, Morishima & Yone, 2/17/06. Kobashi and KENTA have a match upcoming on March 5th so they decide to attempt to soften each other up. By that I mean they maul each other every chance they get. Morishima is awful surly as well, including post-match violence. Honda spikes Yone on his noggin a couple times to round things out. 70 MB.


Kobashi, Honda & Kanemaru vs Morishima, Yone & KENTA, 2/17/06. Better VQ, though some post-match stuff is missing.


Taue vs Marufuji, 3/5/06. Marufuji really steps up here, perhaps being reeled in by Taue. Smart, fun match; one of the best of '06.


Misawa vs Morishima, 3/5/06. Morishima rocks and Misawa actually makes a good effort himself. Also Morishima dumps Misawa with his backdrop a bunch.


Kobashi vs KENTA, 3/5/06. KENTA does a good job of using agility, strategy, and cheapshots to chip away at his mentor. Lots of hard shots as one would expect. Note the way they build to the finish of KENTA's match with Marufuji at the previous Budokan, which pays off in a big way.


Rikio & KENTA vs Morishima & Sugiura, SEM 3/21/06. NOAH delves into Biblical trivia, naming their new youth-focused offshoot promotion after one of Noah's sons (Shem). This being a small show they don't go all-out, but these four were solid enough to deliver plenty of heavy-hitting action at Differ Ariake.


Kobashi & Kikuchi vs KENTA & Marufuji, 4/2/06. Not quite the epic inter-generational dream match this would have been a few years earlier, but yet at the same time it IS a dream match.


Akiyama & Kanemaru vs Kobashi & Honda, 4/16/06. Kanemaru is in way over his head but fights admirably, and creates some fun interactions with Kobashi. Plus a decent amount of Kobashi vs Akiyama is to be had herein.


Kobashi vs Marufuji, 4/23/06. Marufuji makes with the high-spotting and the actual wrestling. Kobashi makes with the Kobashi-ing.


Akiyama vs Inoue, GHC title, 4/23/06. Masao gives MAXIMUM EFFORT~ and the crowd rallies behind him, with sometimes funny and sometimes awesome results. Godawful booking behind this match but it's so much better than it has any right to be.


KENTA & Kikutaro vs Scorpio & Marvin, SEM 5/7/06. It's a Kikutaro match. You know what you're getting.


SUWA, Kanemaru & Low Ki vs KENTA, Marufuji & Ishimori, 5/19/06. Juniors get the main event slot at Korakuen! It could stand to be tighter (see the 8/19/07 6-man), but there's enough action and SUWA to make this worthwhile.


KENTA vs Sugiura, junior title, 6/4/06. Stiff exchanges, some nifty spots, and a rarely-seen finish (at least in NOAH).


Morishima & Yone vs Kobashi & Honda, tag titles, 6/4/06. This is allllllll about Morishima. Somewhat plays off what they did in the six-man earlier in the year too. But mostly it plays off of Morishima being awesome.


Rikio, Morishima, Yone & Shiozaki vs Kanemaru, Sugiura, KENTA & Marufuji, 6/9/06. A Captain's Fall elimination match with over-the-top also causing elimination. Match ends when Rikio or Kanemaru is eliminated. This is more of a 'fun' match than a typical big-moves-and-stiffness NOAH main event. Note that Sugiura vs KENTA for the junior title took place just before this. 297 MB.


SUWA vs Momota, 7/16/06. All that is right about professional wrestling. Plus post-match antics!


Taue & Nakajima vs Ogawa & Ippei Ota, 7/16/06. The young lions are pretty good in this, but Taue is so completely king-sized and awesome that he's veritably Jumbo-esque (albeit a gangly, awkward Jumbo). Trust me, you'll enjoy this.


Rikio & Morishima vs Marufuji & KENTA, 7/16/06. You've just gotta love Morishima.


Akiyama & Misawa vs Takayama & Sasaki, 7/16/06. He's BACK, baby.


Sano & SUWA vs Honda & Kikuchi, 9/9/06. SUWA and Kikuchi going at it, of course it's good!


KENTA & Shibata vs Taue & Shiozaki, 9/9/06. KENTA, Shibata and Go are all bright young stars with good-looking offense and crowd support. But this is the Taue show, and everyone else is along for the ride.


Morishima & Rikio vs Takayama & Sugiura, 9/9/06. Junior double-champ Sugiura shows NO FEAR amidst Japanese giants, and when you start to realize just how much of a very physical match he wrestles he comes off that much better.


Akiyama vs Marufuji, 9/9/06. Marufuji is only there because Kobashi got struck with cancer. Akiyama has never been pinned by one of the NOAH juniors. Yet somehow, some way, Marufuji hangs with Akiyama and evades big moves long enough to actually have a real chance of winning. The last ten seconds are something else.


Misawa, Sugiura & Ota vs Murakami, Usuda & Hara, 10/6/06. Hate and a bit of un-cooperativeness on display in this one as the shoot-stylists INVADE. 129 MB.


Akiyama vs Kikuchi, 10/13/06. After Akiyama's title loss to a mere junior, old grumpy Kikuchi told him to MAN UP. Just not in those words. They smack each other pretty freaking hard with elbows because Kikuchi is there to force Akiyama to ratchet up the stiffness.


Takayama & Sano vs KENTA & Saito, 10/13/06. So there's just A LITTLE stiffness in this. A tad. A wee bit.


Marufuji vs KENTA, GHC title, 10/29/06. It's what you expect. Huge file.


Shiozaki, Nakajima & Sugawara vs Sai, HARASHIMA & KAZMA, GPWA, 11/14/06. GPWA is essentially run by NOAH so I'm putting it here. I was glad to see lots of hate and fire and stiffness in this rather than just a trillion overwrought spots.


Morishima & Yone vs Rikio & Sugiura, 11/17/06. Good in that Morishima-y Sugiura-ish kinda way.


Akiyama, Hashi & Kanemaru vs Ohtani, Murakami & Takaiwa, 12/2/06. Plenty of hate, plenty of Hashi goodness, and even hardway blood. 169 MB.


KENTA vs American Dragon, 12/2/06. Two points against this match: slow start and lethargic crowd. Two points for this match: hot finish and its participants.


Morishima & Yone vs Takayama & Sano, 12/2/06. Even Yone ratchets up the stiffness in this one, so there's plenty of brutal shots and exchanges to go around.


Morishima vs Go Shiozaki, 12/10/06. Go is ambitious, taking it to the big man and trying to end the match quickly. Morishima isn't interested in losing in five minutes, but does share the desire to go home early.


Akiyama & Hashi vs Saito & Taniguchi, 12/10/06. In addition to the usual Hashi fun, Taniguchi shows a lot of heart and spirit and so forth. The Akiyama/Hashi interaction is especially good.


Taue, Mushiking Terry, Ishimori & Aoki vs SUWA, TARU, Kondo & Yasshi, 12/10/06. Voodoo Murders Max can heel it up like nobody's business, and the NOAH team makes it clear that they are not welcome. Taue has not stopped being Taue.


Rikio, KENTA & Yone vs Minoru Suzuki, Takayama & Sano, 12/10/06. Not quite wall-to-wall awesome, but still plenty of hard-hitting action.


2007


Akiyama vs Go Shiozaki, 1/21/07. Akiyama shows that he respects Go's strength after their initial exchange by focusing on ripping apart the right arm, which sets the base of the match.


SUWA, Takayama & Minoru Suzuki vs Marufuji, KENTA & Rikio, 1/21/07. SUWA's last match in NOAH. Lots of hate and stiffness and then SUWA decides he wants the spotlight all to himself. 135 MB.


Shiozaki, Honda & Kikuchi vs Kawabata, Inoue & Aoki, 3/4/07. Closing minutes. Probably the best minutes of wrestling in Kawabata's career.


Bison Smith, Chris Hero & Bobby Fish vs Rikio, Saito & Ricky Marvin, 3/4/07. Quite the random teams. This could have easily been a forgettable throwaway 6-man, but Bison and Marvin decide to bring THE GOODS and deliver something entertaining. I think they serve to motivate the others, because the effort and pace are much higher than one would normally get from something so low on the card.


Takayama & Sano vs Taue & Marufuji, 3/4/07. Interesting to have Taue and Marufuji teamed up a year after their great singles match. Unfortunately for them, the it's against the double-tough UWFi veterans. Some unexpected spots and exchanges, leading to an even more unexpected finish.


Akiyama vs Yone, 3/4/07. It's a sprint! Just the match these two should have. 76 MB.


Morishima vs KENTA, 3/4/07. So first they work the headlock, then they do a nice series of headscissors spots, and... oh who am I kidding, you know what happens here.


KENTA, Saito & Ota vs Danielson, Joe Legend & Ted DiBiase Jr, 4/1/07. Ah the fun Korakuen 6-man, how I've missed you. Ted junior looks great and is a fine tribute to his father. Just Joe is no slouch. Ota is a good underdog, especially after taking a certain bump a bit too hard. Danielson returns and doesn't seem to have missed a step. That KENTA guy is in this one, too. 161 MB.


Morishima & Yone vs Akiyama & Rikio, 4/1/07, tag titles. First time a NOAH heavyweight title gets defended in Korakuen, and the crowd is accordingly hot. What might be a lifeless affair elsewhere is good as a result. 210 MB.


Kotaro Suzuki vs Tsutomu Hirayanagi, SEM 4/4/07. Hirayanagi totally makes the match, heeling it up like crazy and getting actual fire out of the uber-bland Kotaro. Good match to fill a few minutes with.


Danielson & Ishimori vs Marufuji & Aoki, SEM 4/4/07. It's all about Danielson vs Aoki. He clearly enjoys having a chance to work in stuff like d'arce chokes, though the ever-cruddy Differ Ariake crowd doesn't bother to respond to his awesomeness. Friggin' Ariake. Nothing mindblowing, just lots of solid wrestling content.


Saito, KENTA & Aoki vs Bison Smith, Danielson & Ricky Marvin, 4/14/07, slightly clipped. For as world-class as Danielson is, was, and will be, I'm still impressed by how quickly Aoki developed. Along those lines, the final minutes build very nicely from the SEM tag ten days earlier.


Takayama & Sugiura vs Akiyama & Shiozaki, 4/14/07. Takayama and Sugiura bring the pain, Akiyama is awesome in selling the damage, and they keep up the pace rather than go longer just because it's the main event. Big finish. 122 MB.


CIMA, Yokosuka & Dragon Kid vs Marufuji, Marvin & Ota, 4/28/07. Dragon Gate invades! CIMA targets the new guy! Crowd is stoked! Why is it that the Dragon Gate guys do so much better outside their home promotion lately? 147 MB.


Akiyama & Rikio vs Takayama & Sugiura, tag titles, 4/28/07. The best tag title match NOAH has turned out in quite some time, another great showing for Sugiura, and (until December) the runaway leader for NOAH's best of the year. 216 MB.


KENTA vs Tsutomu Hirayanagi, SEM 5/5/07. Hirayanagi once again brings the goods as a heelish young lion. KENTA beats the crap out of him every chance he gets. Very enjoyable. 103 MB.


HARASHIMA & Kota Ibushi vs Hara & Usuda, Differ Cup '07. All kinds of stiffness. Just gobs of it. 145 MB.


HARASHIMA & Kota Ibushi vs Kagetora & Hercules Senga, Differ Cup '07. Senga doesn't look like a 'Hercules' and takes the beating you expect. More towards the 'cool stuff' end of the spectrum. 95 MB.


Hidaka & Namiguchi vs Kengo Mashimo & Makoda, Differ Cup '07. I've been lukewarm about Mashimo, who is the current ace of K-Dojo. However he wins me over here with his selling, and Hidaka helps make him want to sell. Makoda busts out a must-see move. 153 MB.


KENTA vs Go Shiozaki, 6/3/07. An action-packed second-half of the match as you'd expect from these two.


Murakami vs Marufuji, 6/8/07. Short and intense with action before and after the bell.


Saito vs Shiozaki, 6/8/07. Go had his arm picked apart earlier this year, and thus relishes attacking Saito's cast. The core appeal, however, is that they really lay it in throughout. 122 MB.


Nigel McGuinness vs Kotaro Suzuki, 7/1/07. Nigel has what it takes to drag Kotaro to the best singles match of his (Kotaro's) career. 120 MB.


Morishima, Yone & Hashi vs Sano, KENTA & Ishimori, 7/1/07. This could have been rather bland, but everyone is on-point and there's enough fire to make it special. 147 MB.


Danielson & Richards vs Romero & Aoki, junior tag league, 7/1/07. Not only is it good, it also manages to do so without being a total Danielson carry-job. 157 MB.


The Briscoe Brothers vs Marufuji & Ibushi, junior tag league, 7/1/07. Okay, see, THIS is how you do a spotfest: just do a bunch of cool stuff in vaguely coherent fashion with a minimum amount of downtime. The Briscoes going over 20+ minutes tend to lose me. Get closer to 15 minutes (like this) and we're talking. Marufuji/Ibushi lack fraternal-level teamwork, but they have more raw talent. Is that enough to get the win?


Marvin & Suzuki vs Romero & Aoki, junior tag league, 7/6/07. Decent opening sections (with a lifeless crowd), then they bring it home in a big way. I just love how quickly Aoki got to being competitive with the veterans.


The Briscoe Brothers vs KENTA & Ishimori, junior tag league, 7/6/07. I clipped the first 2/3rds or so, and what's left is the exciting conclusion.


Marufuji & Ibushi vs KENTA & Ishimori, junior tag league, 7/15/07. Better than any GHC junior tag title match in a looooong time. 190 MB.


Misawa vs Taue, GHC title, 7/15/07. Compact match with Taue dishing out his biggest shots and Misawa dishing out something especially nasty. 133 MB.


KENTA vs Aoki, SEM 8/10/07. Decent enough match, but it's must-see because of the super-cool location just outside the Tokyo HQ of the TV network. 113 MB.


Marvin & Suzuki & Ota vs KENTA, Ishimori & Romero, 8/19/07. Been a while since the NOAH juniors really clicked in a 6-man. The junior tag league seems to have given the division a kick in the pants, and if this becomes the norm we're in for good times. 159 MB.


Morishima vs Shiozaki, 8/19/07. The big guy sorta goes through the motions. This match is all about Go, as he does a great job of hanging with Morishima in striking, putting together a great strategy, and thinking on his feet. Shiozaki in this match looks very close to being a main event caliber talent. 180 MB.


Takayama, Morishima & Yone vs Misawa, Taue & KENTA, 9/2/07, JIP. Quite the random teams. The vast majority of juniors wouldn't fit very well amongst heavyweights, but KENTA's attitude means he isn't a drag on his team.


KENTA & Ishimori vs Kanemaru & Aoki, 9/9/07. Kanemaru carries this. Wait, KANEMARU carries this?! 132 MB.


Akiyama vs Morishima, #1 contendership semifinal, 9/9/07. Morishima has done a fair amount in his career, but he's never pinned any of NOAH's top 5 (Misawa/Kobashi/Akiyama/Taue/Takayama). If he can't do it now, with the biggest win streak of his career, he never will. 162 MB.


Marufuji vs (winner of Akiyama/Morishima), #1 contendership final, 9/9/07. Marufuji would normally be a big underdog, having gone through Saito earlier, but he comes in RIGHT after the finish and clearly got some time to rest. This sets the table for the match, as Marufuji's speed and energy tries to wear down his tougher, stronger opponent. 105 MB.


Misawa, Takayama & Akiyama vs Marufuji, KENTA & Shiozaki, 11/24/07. Dig that old vs young rivalry! Takayama/KENTA is always great, Shiozaki looks like a young Kobashi and gets some respect, I think you'll want to give this a look. 100 MB.


Honda, Shiozaki & Kikuchi vs Sugiura, Yone & Ito, 12/2/07. Burning is back, and Shiozaki looks as good as he ever has. Kikuchi gets surly, Ito goes all-out for the sold-out Budokan crowd, this is good. 127 MB.


Kanemaru & Aoki vs Suzuki & Ota, 12/2/07. I wasn't expecting much, but thanks in large part to the youngins this is a heck of a match. 95 MB.


Kobashi & Takayama vs Misawa & Akiyama, 12/2/07. A match that should need no introduction. Includes full pre and post-match. 309 MB.


Morishima, Izumida the Butt-Biting Bug & Taniguchi vs KENTA, Ota & Fake Ota, 12/24/07. NOAHFUL GIFT IN DIFFER delivers thanks to Fake Ota.


NOAH Christmas Carols '07.


2008


Morishima, Marufuji & Yone vs Misawa, Shiozaki & Ota, 1/6/08. Morishima vs Misawa buildup! Go's chops are absurdly hard! Ota is a loveable screwup, and Yone kicks his head off!


Kobashi, Honda & Shiozaki vs Akiyama, Shiga & Kanemaru, 1/13/08. Kobashi and Shiozaki dish out some chops that are just plain nasty. Kanemaru interacting with Kobashi once again brings out the best in both of them. And Akiyama, well, his neck can't be glad Kobashi is back.


Takayama & Aoki vs Saito & KENTA, 1/20/08. On one hand, it's almost as if everyone involved knows that what YOU really want is the Takayama/KENTA pairing. On the other hand, we do get quite a bit of those two teeing off on one another, and the match doesn't overstay its welcome. That's enough to earn my seal of approval.


Sugiura, Marufuji & Shiozaki vs Takayama, Sano & Ota, 2/15/08. Lots of nasty, nasty stuff dished out in this one. Takayama and Sugiura set the tone early, and everyone- even Marufuji!- gets into the act. Somewhat anticlimactic ending but that's just something one has to learn to live with in most 6-man tags.


Kobashi, Honda & Taniguchi vs Morishima, Sugiura & Marufuji, 2/21/08. Like I need to hype this. Lotsa MB.


Taue & Izumida vs Hero & Castagnoli, 3/2/08. I'm actually *not* a fan of Chris and Claudio as a team, but this is just way too fun. 108 MB.


Kobashi, Honda & KENTA vs Takayama, Sano & Aoki, 3/2/08. Kobashi and Takayama go AT IT. Aoki shows NO FEAR. And Takayama/KENTA is as awesome as ever. 320 MB.


Misawa vs Morishima, GHC title, 3/2/08. Misawa is the master of coming back from big deficits. Morishima over the last year has learned how to get ahead and stay ahead in the title match. With Misawa's experience and elbows fell the monster one more time, or has Morishima finally become more than the old man can handle? 194 MB.


Marufuji vs Kikutaro, SEM 3/5/08. Kiku does some NOAH trademarks, with varying degrees of success.


Taue, Marvin & Taniguchi vs Inoue, Izumida & Ota, 3/29/08. Enjoyable enough thanks to Marvin and IZU. It's not about stiffness or bumps, just clever little spots. A matchup like this isn't going to tear the house down, but if they can put some smiles on peoples' faces, they've done their job.


Sasaki & Nakajima vs Taue & Shiozaki, 4/4/08. Worth it for Sasaki vs Shiozaki, the rest is icing.


Kobashi, KENTA & Taniguchi vs Sasaki, Nakajima & Yamaguchi, 4/13/08. Rather long 6-man that sets the stage for the similarly long (but better) Kobashi vs Sasaki tag battles in months to come. Yamaguchi was a short-tenured Kensuke Office young lion who pretty much just takes up space. Amazingly, he isn't even on the receiving end of a mid-match control segment, which violates all laws of Kings Road booking. At one point Taniguchi either gets legit KOed or he has way better selling than anyone gives him credit for. Also, if you are wondering whether this match contains chops, the answer is 'yes'.


Kobashi, Honda & KENTA vs Takayama, Sano & Shiozaki, 4/27/08. Progressing from the March 6-man, Takayama's team gets a big upgrade. If you know anything about Shiozaki you know why his addition makes this must-see. 183 MB.


Akiyama & Rikio vs Sasaki & Nakajima, 4/27/08. Akiyama and Rikio take the tournament with a win; Sasaki and Nakajima fight for pride. In the same vein as the memorable Akiyama/Rikio vs Takayama/Sugiura battle from 2007, this well-paced and loaded with great exchanges, and has a finish that's both dramatic and tight.


Danielson vs Aoki, Aoki trial series, 5/15/08. Aoki is only a two year pro at this point, meaning we won't get a Danielson epic. That said, Aoki beat Davey Richards in January and thus won't be a pushover. Lots of solid technical work and good execution throughout. Considering how good this is with Danielson somewhat holding back, I'd kill for a rematch today.


Kobashi & Kikuchi vs KENTA & Marufuji, 5/24/08. Better than the '06 version, and a very underrated bout. Several Kobashi matches were highly touted by the end of the year, and those tended to be done in a very 'epic' style. This one is more about storytelling, roles, and emotion instead of raw testosterone. Considering how worn-down Kobashi and Kikuchi are it's remarkable how little downtime there is. I can't promise you'll enjoy it *as much* as I do, but odds are you'll enjoy it.


Kobashi & KENTA vs Sasaki & Nakajima, 6/14/08. Great video and audio helps to make the stiffness that much more real. Going into this match you're expecting a lot of heavy strike exchanges, and boy-oh-boy does it deliver precisely that. Matwork? Strategy? Get that crud outta here. It's all-hitting, all the time.


Kobashi, Takayama & Nakajima vs Misawa, Sugiura & Marufuji, 7/18/08. Kobashi and Takayama pair up after months of clashes. It's a rocky marriage. As with any such partnership it's the kid who suffers.


Sasaki vs KENTA, 7/18/08. There are chops and kicks in this professional wrestling match. If you want to see Sasaki and KENTA pelting each other with strikes, well, here you are.


Morishima vs Rikio, GHC title, 7/18/08. Lotsa beef and collisions and stuff.


Ishimori vs Hirayanagi, 8/1/08. NOAH is back at the cool NTV open area thingy! Hirayanagi is back doing what he does best, punking out junior prettyboys!


Kobashi, KENTA, Aoki & Ito vs Sasaki, Nakajima, Okita & Miyahara, Survival Tag, SEM 8/17/08. One of the very best of the year. Long, but so worth it. Fired up young lions, fired up Korakuen, and the epic conclusion of another of the year's best tags. 400+ MB.


Briscoe Brothers vs Nakajima & Ibushi, junior tag league '08, 9/6/08. An exciting sprint for your ocular cavities to feast upon.


Morishima vs Sasaki, GHC title, 9/6/08. A match layered with backstory and psychology. Okay I'm lying; they mash each other with lariats and try to huck each other around as much as possible. Can Morishima survive his biggest test as champion? Can Sasaki chop the big man down? It's not a technical dream match but it delivers pretty much what you'd expect.


Ishimori vs Takanishi, SEM 9/8/08. Takanashi started as an Ultimo Dragon Gym trainee, but wasn't able to graduate and had to finish his training at DDT. Here he faces not just any Ultimo trainee, but one of Ultimo's most prized pupils. The resulting match is... a matwork clinic? Yep! And they're quite generous in giving Takanashi, an indy nobody, over ten minutes to show himself.


Akiyama, Rikio & Ito vs Sasaki, Nakajima, & Okita, 10/5/08. Heck of a tag. Akiyama/Rikio vs Sasaki/Nakajima is proven goodness, and you throw in a couple hungry young lions, you got yourself a fine outing.


Kanemaru & Suzuki vs KENTA & Ishimori, junior tag titles, 12/11/08, JIP. Blood is shed! Genba haunts the outside! Hot finishing stretch!


Akiyama vs Morishima, #1 contenders match, 12/11/08. A sprint in the same vein as their '07 match.


2009


KENTA vs Suzuki, junior title, 1/25/09, JIP. Continuing their feud from the December match.


Sasaki & Ibushi vs Akiyama & Ishimori, Kensuke Office 2/11/09. Jaw-dropping exchanges! Logical limb work! Crowd heat! Big finish!


Kobashi vs Inoue, 3/1/09. Not emotional like the '07 return, but a fun match thanks to Inoue, who is Mr. Clutch.


Ishimori & Ota vs Okita & Miyahara, 3/1/09. Yellow Fever (my name for Ishimori/Ota) takes on Kensuke Office. Fast, energetic start... then a couple minutes of filler. Okita livens things up, and I'm so sad his career ended early. Ota's career I feel less strongly about but you have to give a *little* love to someone who brought the airplane spin back to Japan. Good finish that manages to feel 'big' but ends when it should.


Shiozaki & Sugiura vs Nakamura & Milano Collection AT, 3/1/09. Milano looks better than he has in YEARS, Nakamura and Sugiura are still great against each other, and the last 8 minutes or so are stellar.


A tour of the NOAH dojo. Note where ring gear is stored and where the young lions sleep.


Kobashi & Ito vs Tenzan & Okada, 5/6/09. A broken-down Kobashi takes down a not-100% Tenzan. Kobashi is a quasi-Baba, cheerleading from the apron and using his presence when needed. Okada, fresh off a good showing the day before, brings it once again.


Match testimonial


Sasaki & Morishima vs Misawa & Shiozaki, 5/6/09. De facto final for the tag league. Go wrestles 90% of the match (because Misawa was in such bad shape) and takes a hell of a beating, but he's still able to bring it at the end.


Akiyama vs KENTA, 5/17/09. Heavy champ versus junior champ. I love the struggle for control at the start. Some hard hits and big bombs. This is Akiyama's best singles match in years.


Sasaki & Nakajima vs Taue & Hirayanagi, 6/4/09. Genba gets to wrestle with his mentor. The result is never in doubt, but that's often the case in puro. What matters most is how enjoyable the match is, and this is very enjoyable. Old Man Taue's involvement is limited, so naturally that means it's good when he does get in. Genba takes his expected share of punishment, but he has no problem giving Kensuke Office the business. I'm not sure it's wise to raise the ire of a team that hits so hard but that's apparently his plan.


Shiozaki vs Hero, 6/4/09, JIP. Chris Hero finally BRINGS IT in Japan and the crowd responds accordingly.


KENTA vs Marvin, junior title, 6/4/09. Closing minutes of Marvin's biggest singles match to date. Marvin won a #1 contenders match with a powerbomb-to-lungblower, while KENTA of course looks to his trusty bedtime story.


Hero vs Ito, 6/22/09. It really is a shame that Hero was never made an every-tour guy (and that Ito retired). Beyond the whole "boyhood dream" aspect, I'm sure he would have gotten progressively more over as time passed. Here he does a fine job making Ito pay some dues, which is interesting because Hero was somewhat paying dues himself in the company. Crowd starts off dead but they come alive as things progress. The finish is a tribute to one of Hero's heroes.


Takayama & Sano vs Morishima & Sugiura, 6/22/09. Takayama and Sugiura starting gets a big reaction from the crowd because they know butt-whoopin' is soon to start. And indeed, butt-whoopin' is what they get. None of them are the type to shy away from punishment, and since the match doesn't go long they generally stick to the striking YOU want out of this. There's an overall theme of Sugiura trying to prove himself against the UWFi toughguy veterans, often to the point of recklessness. Another theme is "Morishima is so fat he dwarfs Takayama". I mean he SPLATTERS Takayama with some lariats. Nastiest spot of the match comes just before the 11 minute mark of the file, but there's plenty of nasty to go around.


Sasaki & Nakajima vs Shiozaki & KENTA, 6/22/09. A treat for the senses as Kensuke Office battles NOAH's singles champs. Heaping helpings of hurtin' in front of an eager and sold out Korakuen Hall.


Shiozaki vs KENTA, 7/5/09. A legit random draw produced this matchup. KENTA has his second chance to beat a heavyweight champ in a month and a half, and uses a bit of strategy to overcome Go's edge in power. Shiozaki lost their matchup two years earlier, and this is his first big test as champ. Is he up to the task now?


Kanemaru & Suzuki vs Nakajima & Miyahara, 7/12/09, JIP. This one goes too long but the second half is worth watching, and by the end they actually look like they could have gone another couple minutes easily.


KENTA & Ishimori vs Ibushi & Aoki, 7/12/09, JIP. Last year this would be an easy win for KENTA and his insanely jakked-up partner (Ishimori was set for a bodybuilding contest soon after this). However, Ibushi and Aoki both went to the semis of the Super Juniors tournament and scored some big wins in the process. They make things more than competitive between Ibushi's flying and Aoki's submissions.


Kobashi & KENTA vs Shiozaki & Ito, 8/2/09. Man alive that is some loud chopping from Kobashi and Shiozaki. I mean, some SERIOUSLY crazy chops. Ito shows some fire! Atta boy. Too bad he retired shortly afterwards. Not overly deep, but I think it's energetic and entertaining in a straightforward enough way to please pretty much anyone who can enjoy a Chopbashi match.


KENTA & Ito vs Aoki & Fish, 9/12/09, JIP. Aoki looks to do damage heading into his title shot against KENTA.


Kanemaru & Suzuki vs Nakajima & Miyahara, junior tag titles, 9/12/09, JIP. As in July they take a while to get going. As in July they finish strong.


KENTA vs Aoki, junior title, 9/21/09. Really smart match that builds from their encounters in recent months, and has a hot finish without going overboard.


Bison Smith vs Taniguchi, 9/27/09. One of those rare matches where two inconsistent wrestlers both click at the same time. Bison looks like a beast; Taniguchi looks impressive in being able to pull off some significant offense on him. Both of them look much better by the end than they did coming in, thanks in part to the fast pace and responsive crowd.


Sasaki, Morishima & Nakajima vs Tenryu, Ogawa & Suzuki, 9/27/09. Tenryu is 59 and a half years old, and he RULES. There are three main elements to the match. One is "Morishima the monster", because nobody on the other side can handle him physically. Two is "Tenryu as quasi-Misawa", where he does some teamwork with Ogawa in the vein of the Misawa/Ogawa team (since this is a Misawa tribute show). Three is Tenryu's fighting spirit as he tries to go toe-to-toe with Sasaki, who was too much to handle when Tenryu was a spritely 49 and is more so now.


Kanemaru & Suzuki vs Jado & Gedo, 10/3/09, junior tag titles. You know what works good in tag team matches? TAG WRESTLING. I'm not sure why J&G so rarely channel southern-style tactics (as opposed to generic time-killing), but when they do bring their A-game it's almost always worthwhile.


Takayama vs Sugiura, 10/3/09. Stiffffffff. But also a very 'complete' match within an under 10 minute frame. It never ceases to amaze me how often they get put in main events for 25+ minutes, when they can just go out and tear the house down *every time* if they aren't forced to fill a bunch of time. Bottom line: *this* is the two of them doing what they do best.


Kawada & Taue vs Akiyama & KENTA, 10/3/09. Kawada vs KENTA lives up to expectations. And those are some great expectations.


Kobashi, Akiyama, Taue & Honda vs Sugiura, Rikio, Yone & Taniguchi, 10/15/09. Taniguchi takes it to Kobashi! Sugiura takes it to Akiyama! Yone and Honda... um... Sugiura! Yes, let's focus on Sugiura being in this.


Kobashi & Akiyama vs Takayama & Keith Walker, 10/31/09. A lot of huge bumps in not-a-lot of time.


2010


Takayama & Sano vs Sugiura & Taniguchi, 4/10/10. What it lacks in execution, it makes up for in really really hard elbowing. Takayama's strikes are so brutal.


Sasaki vs Akiyama, Global League, 4/10/10. Sasaki suddenly has ultra-effective elbows?! Akiyama makes it work and they put together a match that's about a thousand times better than the title switch a year earlier.


Shiozaki, Saito & Ishimori vs Akiyama, Ogawa & Kikuchi, 4/25/10. KIKUCHI-FEST 2010. He brings the crazy and the awesome while taking it right to Go.


Kawada vs Morishima, Global League, 4/25/10. Eleven years ago, Morishima was a young boy doing ring duty while Kawada was a headliner. Now Morishima is all grow'd up and Kawada has everything he can handle. Perhaps more than he can handle?


Kawada vs Saito, Global League, 5/2/10, very slightly clipped. Can Kawada carry Saito to his first good singles match in ages? Yes. Yes he can.


Takayama vs Morishima, Global League, 5/2/10, JIP. Features the nastiest legdrop in wrestling history. Ye gods.


Takayama, Akiyama & Sasaki vs Shiozaki, Morishima & Inoue, 5/22/10. Mighty Inoue's retirement from refereeing, and Korakuen decides that Masao Inoue should be the focus. The result is that rare super-fun Masao Inoue performance, and when he's not in we get bunches of hard-hitting action.


Takayama, Yoshie & Saito vs Sasaki, Morishima & Okita, 6/6/10. Most of the matchups here are straightforward smash-mouth heavyweight wrestling. Okita adds the 'young guy trying to prove himself' aspect. To top it off, it's got a fast pace because it's shorter than most 6-mans. Check it!


Minoru Suzuki, Takayama & KENTA vs Ikeda, Yone & Hashi, 6/13/10. Suzuki and KENTA hate each other! Hashi in the underdog role! Yone adds nothing! What, did I go back in time to 2005 or something?


Sugiura, KENTA & Yone vs Takayama, Sasaki & Nakajima, 6/26/10. Lots of HITTING and so on and so forth. KENTA eats a pretty good beatdown.


Sasaki vs Shiozaki, 7/24/10. It drags in parts, and they botch the only big spot they try for, but when it's clutch time they pull through. The way the match is structured and sold is excellent, and it leaves the door open for a rematch in the way that Kobashi vs Sasaki kinda didn't.


Match testimonial


Akiyama & KENTA vs Nagata & Taguchi, 7/24/10. Taguchi is a nonentity. Nagata vs KENTA makes up for this and then some. HOT HOT HATE.


KENTA vs Aoki, 8/22/10. Aoki gets all up in KENTA's grill and KENTA is all "yo get off my grill" and Aoki is all "make me dawg" and they proceed beat the living crap out of each other.


Ishimori & Marvin vs Kanemoto & Tiger Mask 4, junior tag titles, 8/22/10. Kanemoto and a handful of New Japan fans invade NOAH and bring the big-time hatred!


Shiozaki & Morishima vs Sugiura & Taniguchi, 8/28/10. Most of the match is solid-to-good, and some fantastic exchanges between Sugiura and Go make this really worth your while.


Shiozaki vs Kotaro Suzuki, 9/11/10, JIP. I wasn't sure how well these two would match up, since Go is much bigger and a headliner while Suzuki is a second-tier junior. But once they got into the home stretch, they started clicking.


Sugiura vs Shiozaki, GHC title, 9/26/10, JIP. Hard hits & high drama. Match took a while to get going, but once it did... oh yeah.


Nakajima, Ishimori, Marvin & Satoshi Kajiwara vs Yasu Urano, Atsushi Kotoge, Daisuke Harada & Kenbai, 10/30/10. Sprinty! Rather than giving them 15-20 minutes and forcing structure on guys who aren't good at it, we get an under-10-minute action-fest. The finish might seem out-of-place on paper, but the bump off of it is more than enough for it to be a fitting end.


KENTA & Aoki vs Strong & Edwards, junior tag league final, 10/30/10. Strong/Edwards is a much tougher duo than they would be at any other time, as they hold both of the ROH singles belts. Edwards especially comes out of this looking great as he holds his own in the epic finishing run.


Takayama, Nakajima & Inoue vs Shiozaki, Saito & KENTA, 12/24/10. The heavy hitters hit each other heavily. An out-of-his-element Masao Inoue has little chance of surviving even if he can manage some light treatment from former partner Saito.


Kanemoto & Tiger Mask 4 vs Marufuji & Aoki, junior tag titles, 12/24/10, JIP. The last section of the match, focusing on Aoki trying to make good against Kanemoto.


2011


Takayama vs KENTA, 1/15/11. If you've found this website, odds are you know how this one goes. And if you're new: welcome to puroresu.


Sasaki & Nakajima vs Morishima & Taniguchi, 1/29/11. I find this matchup really interesting. Taniguchi is probably 'higher ranked' than Nakajima by virtue of his size, but Sasaki/Nakajima is a quality long-term team. Taniguchi really brings it as best he can, Sasaki and Nakajima dish some pain at him, and Morishima throws his weight around effectively.


Morishima vs Hashi, 3/5/11. Weird match. I think Morishima blasts Hashi hard enough to ring his bell, and he seems generally pissed. Poor Hashi.


Suzuki vs Nakajima, junior title, 3/5/11, JIP. Kotaro is getting good at stringing together his elbow combos, and they put together a suitably big finishing run that has above-average flow thanks to the strikes.


Sugiura vs Minoru Suzuki, GHC title, 5/8/11, JIP. These are two of the smallest heavyweight champions Japan has seen, but they're credible because they're two of the most legit. The first chunk of the match was Suzuki working over Sugiura's legs to kill time (which is why I clipped it out). In the second portion they get to the violence, and it's a lot better finishing run than I was expecting. They are certainly man's men.


KENTA & Kanemaru vs Kotaro Suzuki & Aoki, junior tag title decision match, 5/25/11. The titles were held up due to Marufuji's spinal injury. The first half is okay, but it's the usual big second half that got my attention. Aoki really turned out to be quite the find for NOAH.


Shiozaki vs Morishima, #1 contenders match, 6/11/11. Starts slow and builds to a hard-hitting finish. Morishima's hammer blows are all kinds of brutal.


Shiozaki vs Bison Smith, 6/13/11, JIP. As much as anything, there isn't much Bison on the site because he doesn't usually bring the level of impact that past big-men like Hansen and Vader did. Thankfully he does bring the beef in this one, making for a hot finishing run. Emotional post-match as they pay tribute to Misawa, which is especially sad considering what happened five months later. RIP Bison.


Akiyama vs Nakajima, 7/10/11. Akiyama, the rookie phenom of the '90s, faces Nakajima, the rookie phenom of the '00s. Nakajima takes the fight to him and Akiyama replies in kind. Tight, hard-hitting battle with some big nearfalls down the stretch.


Sugiura vs Shiozaki, GHC title, 7/10/11, JIP. The home stretch has lots of struggle-for-control-in-strike-exchanges, which is everything I love about Japanese heavyweight wrestling. A fitting follow-up to the finish of their 2010 bout.


Sugiura vs Sasaki, 7/23/11. You'll note I haven't raved about any of Sugiura's title matches. That's because I don't think he's effective in long bouts. This one stays under 20 minutes and thus avoids excessive downtime. The booking here is tricky, with Sugiura having lost the title and Sasaki overdue for a shot. I think the end result is perfect, as both (especially Sugiura) come out looking tough-as-nails and leave you wanting more. They really lay into each other. I mean REALLY lay into each other.


Shiozaki vs Akiyama, GHC title, 8/6/11, JIP. The first chunk of the match totally fails to get going. I clipped it to shortly before an incident that instantly makes it interesting. They build momentum from there and deliver a big-time finish at small-time Differ Ariake.


Sugiura, Morishima & Yone vs Sasaki, Nakajima & Miyahara 8/24/11. Sugiura and Kensuke renew their feud from the July slugfest, and everyone else gets in on it, especially Nakajima. Miyahara is sorta the odd man out, which doesn't stop him from getting clobbered. Also, Morishima is getting in shape, which for him means 'obese' instead of 'morbidly obese'.


Shiozaki, Sugiura & Taniguchi vs Takayama, KENTA & Kanemaru, 9/11/11. This match interested me when I saw the lineup. Who wins? One might dismissively say "the all-heavyweight team", except KENTA and Kanemaru are the junior tag champs, and their side is the top three members of the company's heel stable. It's not like Genba is in there as a blatant loss post. The top four guys in this all match up well with one another, and Sugiura/KENTA is a pairing that's delivered often enough over the years that I don't think I have to describe exactly why it works. Meanwhile, Shiozaki and Takayama are headed towards a GHC title battle. As a bonus, this has a darn good crowd for NOAH-outside-Tokyo. Plus I left the start intact so you can experience No Mercy's entrance song.


Sugiura vs KENTA, #1 contenders match, 10/10/11. Takes a bit to really get going, but man-o-man do they go to war in the finishing run.


Sugiura vs KENTA, Global League, 11/13/11. Short, sweet and to the point.


Shiozaki vs Yoshie, Global League, 11/14/11. I'm a gloomy gus when it comes to more current wrestling, but this is an instance where something from 2011 tops something from before. In this case it's their singles match from 2007. At this point Yoshie has lost so much in NOAH that he shouldn't be much of a threat, but he matches up especially well against Shiozaki. He's thicker, so Go can't overwhelm him with strikes. He's nigh impossible to throw. He hits hard enough to hang with the champ in exchanges. And he proved in 2007 that even a moonsault won't keep him down. Can Shiozaki beat the rotund warrior before the big man caves in his ribcage with a splash?


Sasaki vs Sugiura, Global League, 11/14/11. All the ridiculously stiff strikes of their first match, plus a lot more structure, plus a decisive finish. Get allll this!


2012


Akiyama & Kobashi vs Sasaki & Kitamiya, Diamond Ring 2/11/12. Kensuke Office has rebranded itself as Diamond Ring. Kitamiya is a new Sasaki trainee, and he really gets put through a wringer. Kobashi's chops are one thing, but the absolute highlight is how Akiyama schools him in very basic ways. Akiyama was a top-class amateur wrestler but he rarely shows that side in the ring. In this bout he stuffs takedown attempts and dominates the mat with ease; I wish he'd show that kind of effort/mindset more often. Anyway, the 'young lion shows his fighting spirit' story is strong here, so if you're at all a fan of that story you should watch.


Akiyama & Saito vs Morishima & Nakajima, tag league, 4/22/12. Akiyama and Nakajima had an enjoyable singles match last year. This works along the same lines, only with a bigger feel to it because the outcome isn't inevitable like the singles was. A strong finish as well.


Shiozaki & Honda vs Sasaki & Miyahara, tag league, 4/29/12. I was skeptical about putting Miyahara in the heavyweight division, but he brings the goods. Specifically, the Shiozaki/Miyahara matchup makes this worthwhile, as the Kensuke trainee tries to prove himself against NOAH's top star.


Morishima & Nakajima vs Ohtani & Daichi Hashimoto, tag league, 4/29/12. The pairings mirror each other: experienced heavies and fiery kick-based young guns. Daichi continues to bring it, and I have a good feeling about his future.


Gallows, Strong & Fish vs Sabre, Nichols & Haste, 6/13/12. Luke Gallows is SO ANGRY and Sabre pays dearly for being within arm's reach of him. The extent to which the smaller team is outmatched (a lot) helps get Korakuen into it. But mostly this is the Luke Gallows Show.


Akiyama, Saito & Shiozaki vs Morishima, Sasaki & Koshinaka, 6/13/12. Misawa Memorial all-star 6-man. Sasaki's team might seem underpowered because of Koshinaka, but it's actually two wrestlers he's held tag titles with (as the NOAH production team lays out). Koshinaka isn't just there to get a cheap pop for his hip attacks; his surly side comes out. The Korakuen crowd is somewhat of a detriment (!), because the wrestlers give a solid effort and get tepid responses at times. Big finish.


Sasaki & Nakajima vs Taue & Hirayanagi, 7/22/12. Not much to it; Team Diamond Ring hit hard, and it's up to Taue & Son to avoid death for as long as possible.


Kotaro Suzuki & Aoki vs Marvin & Super Crazy, junior tag titles, 7/22/12. Fast-paced sprint. The challengers are DOGGED, throwing bombs/highspots and going for the win relentlessly. The champs survive long enough to get in some shots of their own, but is it enough to overcome the frenzied Mexicans?


KENTA vs Kotoge, 8/9/12. KENTA's return from injury. Kotoge, being a much younger, much smaller junior... his odds aren't too good. Except he decides that he's NOT interested in losing in a by-the-numbers squash, and actually brings a solid fight. Both of them rely one strike throughout the match that you wouldn't expect and have great success. I was very, very skeptical when NOAH signed Kotoge but he seems to get it based on this.


Nagata vs KENTA, Global League, 11/17/12. This isn't an epic "big event" level match they're capable of because they have to leave something in the tank for the rest of the tour. That said, they deliver a solid, hard-hitting bout.


Shiozaki vs KENTA, Global League, 11/23/12. Last day of the tournament, and this will help decide who wins their block. Compact match with a very dramatic second half. ATTN NOAH: more matches like this, fewer attempts at half hour epics.


Sugiura vs KENTA, Global League final, 11/23/12. In line with their big match a year earlier: lots of heavy-hitting and bombs. Some *really* strong nearfalls in the closing minutes.


2013


Kondo vs Ishimori, junior title, 1/27/13, JIP. Two top dragon system students with quite distinct styles go at it. I especially like the last minute or so as the winner steadily plugs away.


Morishima vs KENTA, GHC title, 1/27/13, JIP. Morishima retained over KENTA in September, but KENTA beat Morishima during the fall singles tournament and ended up winning the whole thing. We know that Morishima's path to victory is the backdrop. KENTA has both the G2S and GAME OVER lock, but is either enough to bring Morishima's best career run to an end?


Sasaki & Nakajima vs Sugiura & Kotoge, tag league, 4/27/13. Sugiura's team started the night with a match against Y. Sasaki and Shinya Ishikawa of Big Japan, and I put the finishing run of that on the start of the file. After a break of just one match they have to deal with Kensuke Office. This would be rough going to begin with, let alone after a full match earlier. Kotoge is a good Ricky Morton and Sugiura would eat Robert Gibson for breakfast, plus it's at Korakuen for maximum underdog crowd support, so this is a nifty tag bout.


Kobashi retirement special greetings, 5/11/13. They save the best for last.


Kobashi, Akiyama, Mutoh & Sasaki vs KENTA, Shiozaki, Taniguchi & Kanemaru, Kobashi retirement match, 5/11/13. I admit to shaking my head when the match was announced, since the weak links are obvious. That said, KENTA and Go hold up their side, and Kobashi's support team are effective in their limited role. The spotlight, of course, is on Kobashi. He's physically shot but has enough fire to make up for it.


Kobashi retirement post-match.


KENTA vs Sugiura, GHC title, 5/12/13. These two have violent tendencies in regards to one another. That has not changed, and I doubt it will change despite the fact that they joined up afterwards. I really enjoy the "okay, enough screwing around, I'm ending this" sections that they go through.


"Misawa vs Taue", 6/13/13. A touching tribute to the fallen legend.


Ishimori vs Sabre, junior title, 8/4/13. Ishimori mostly works as a high-flyer, but I think his best talent is technical work. Sabre's British style brings that out wonderfully, as they bust out all sorts of nifty counters and reversals. Plus we get a lot more focus, struggle, and setups/payoffs than a typical juniors match. When you can get Differ Ariake to care about a juniors match in 2013 you're doing something right.


KENTA & Sugiura vs Nakamura & Marufuji, 8/24/13. Fantastic whenever Nakamura is in; less so when Marufuji is in. Nakamura's mix of cockiness and shoot ability is perfect for interpromotional battles, and KENTA/Sugiura is the best possible NOAH tandem to exploit that dynamic.


Sasaki vs Morishima, 10/5/13. Morishima returns from injury. Not a heck of a lot to this besides bombs, which is certainly playing to their strengths.


Nagata vs Sugiura, Global League, 10/26/13. They hit each other really frigging hard, and do so quite a lot. That's the stuff.


KENTA & Sugiura vs Nagata & Sekimoto, 11/27/13. A desperate NOAH finally starts bringing in Big Japan guys with regularity, which sets up a very nifty tag. Sekimoto and Sugiura do a good job of leaving KENTA and Nagata the spotlight, since this is a lead-in to their title match. The match could have been a bit shorter but it's pretty much the four of them clobbering each other the whole time so who am I to complain?


Taue retirement ceremony, 12/7/13. TAUE~


KENTA vs Nagata, GHC title, 12/7/13. On paper, this is a terrible matchup for KENTA. Nagata has considerably more size, uses a similar striking style, and is better on the mat. KENTA does have agility and speed on his side, but he won't avoid trying to win strike exchanges. Can he beat Nagata at his own hard-hitting game, or will Nagata end KENTA's long title run?


2014


Sugiura vs Kotoge, 2/3/14. I had a feeling that this would turn out the way it did. Kotoge brings the PRIDE and UNDERDOG FIRE he did against KENTA, and Sugiura brings the BEING SUGIURA. I'm still surprised that Kotoge, an Osaka Pro-trained junior, has such a good grasp of how to work a match like this.


KENTA & Takayama vs Sugiura & Masato Tanaka, tag league, 4/12/14. Sugiura and Tanaka have formed a multi-promotional stable, Dangan Yankees. They face arguably the top NOAH duo possible to start out the tournament. Everyone's tough, everyone hits hard, and anyone getting beat seems important.


KENTA & Marufuji vs Sugiura & Nakajima, 5/17/14. KENTA's farewell to NOAH. Thankfully, the focus of the match is him trading strikes with two dudes who can throw hard. I have to say, I'm a bit skeptical that he will do much in WWE, but he has a better shot at success than Yamamoto did.


Tenryu, Koshinaka & Ogawa vs Morishima, Taniguchi & Ohara, 6/13/14. Misawa: dead for 5 years. Kawada: retired for 5 years. Tenryu: still wrestling. Huh. Tenryu does fine in a Baba-esque/late Kobashi role of absorbing punishment and throwing chops, and Morishima relishes beating down the old man.


Sugiura & Takayama vs Nagata & Sekimoto, 6/13/14. Misawa memorial night has strong semi-main tag. Very much a slugfest, which plays to their strengths.


Other


NOAH Christmas Fun-Time Special Compilation. This... this is two hours of GOLD, spanning 2000 through 2006. And superb quality for the length and size (228 MB). Stick with it through the slow parts because the hits just keep on coming.


NOAH Finish Collection 1. The endings of Sugiura vs Akiyama 5/2/10; Sugiura vs Takayama GHC title 7/10/10; Suzuki & Aoki vs Nakajima & Kajiwara 7/23/11.


NOAH Finish Collection 2. The endings of Misawa, Ogawa & Sano vs Jun Akiyama, Saito & Shiga 2/10/02; Misawa & Ogawa vs Taue & KENTA 5/9/02; Kobashi, Honda & KENTA vs Ikeda, Yone & Sugiura 11/20/03; Shiozaki vs Takayama GHC title 9/23/11.