These write-ups are designed to further explain and promote matches. If you'd like to participate yourself, by all means drop me a line.
Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Akira Taue - 8.5.00 (by Steve)
When All Japan split and NOAH was formed, they not only needed to take the stars of All Japan, but also the fans. So in the main event of their first show, they put out their four top draws for a match that was not only a good move for move affair, but also one that would lay the foundations for a monumental fued that spanned nearly half a decade.
The match itself was a technically sound encounter between four guys extremely comfortable working with each other. It was somehow quite low-key, and the aftermath of the first fall was quite impactful on the viewer, especially after Misawa's death, but no match is without it's flaws. It was a 2-3 falls match, with the first coming in a matter of minutes with Akiyama choking out Misawa, showing that Jun would have a huge role in store, and also giving a nod to his development over the past couple of years.
As you'd expect from these four, there wasn't an awful lot of down-time, and the match went on at a reasonably high pace for over 20 minutes. The 'rest' holds didn't look as if they were taking time out at all, which for guys at that age (Taue was 40), is pretty impressive. Akiyama especially doing well against the veterans and eventually getting the winning pinfall over Taue was key in cleverly hinting at a big push. Heck, even the post match was eventful, with Kobashi being betrayed by his long term right hand man Akiyama, who left with Yoshinobu Kanemaru, a man that would also step up to a much bigger role than he'd ever been given in the coming months as number 2 in Akiyama's new stable.
Kenta Kobashi vs. Jun Akiyama - 8.6.00 (by Steve)
Obviously, this match plays on the aftermath of the tag one day before it. In order to prove himself a world beater in NOAH, Akiyama needed to gain some big victories for himself, thus he Backdropped his long term partner and set off for himself. Kobashi was pissed. He wanted a shot at Akiyama as soon as possible, so one day after the betrayal, this match takes place.
To start off with, there is quite alot of early mat work and feeling out, but this is understandable considering the two haven't faced in over a year. But when the action gets going, it really does get going. Some nice strategery from Jun pairs nicely with Kobashi's hate-filled, full steam approach, and it has all the big moves you'd want in a match of this kind. It also does a good job of maintaining a high-profile feel over the 24 ish minutes they wrestle. The finish does a good job in further putting over the move that finished Misawa in a few seconds the night before. Saying this match is the worst of the three they had in NOAH isn't exactly a harsh comment, but it definetely was. The start up, though justifiable, was also quite boring, and the action only really picked up about 2/3 of the way in. Still, a very bright start to a new feud as well as a new promotion.
Akiyama, Takayama & Kanemaru vs Kobashi, Rikio & Kikuchi, 9/15/00
NOAH doesn't have nearly the reputation for match quality that pre-split All Japan did. I can understand why, but I think one thing gets missed. With the emergence of young heavyweights (Rikio & Morishima), young juniors who could play a role (Kanemaru, Marufuji & KENTA), and those who improved in the final years of All Japan (Takayama & Ogawa), NOAH was able to produce good 6-man tags with much more regularity than the final years of pre-split All Japan. One might say that NOAH, having more of its shows air in full, has an advantage. But I've bought plenty of late '90s All Japan shows airing in full on Samurai TV, and the 6-man tags were rarely any better than the bare minimum based on who was involved. I think this 6-man was as good or better than any to see daylight from the last 55 months or so of All Japan.
There's Akiyama, who did quite well leading the Sternness stable (something he never had in All Japan); Takayama, who was emerging as a world-class worker; Kanemaru, who in my estimation is money when in a match opposite Kobashi; Kobashi, who needs no introduction; Rikio, who was quite a bit better as a rookie than he was as a 9 year veteran; and Kikuchi, rescued from the old man comedy matches, shows his old fire. Each team has the same general components as the other, and between the pace and mix of matchups I ranked this not far behind the top ten matches from Japan in 2000. Most people don't enjoy this as much as I did, but if you're a fan of this grouping I'm certain this is worth your while.
Kenta Kobashi vs. Jun Akiyama - 12.23.00 (by Steve)
Since the two last faced of in singles competition, they had met in 4 tag matches, with Akiyama's team winning 3 and Kobashi's Burning only managing one. NOAH, meanwhile, was building up support rapidly, and had booked a show set to be their biggest ever, in front of 12,000 fans at the Ariake Colosseum. They needed a big draw for a main event, so this match was born.
The match itself was a classic, in my opinion the best they had with each other in NOAH. Both guys used a clever strategy, with Akiyama working towards the Front Gulliotine that finished Kobashi 4 months earlier, and Kobashi being forced into busting out a new move, and his biggest move, in an attempt to put away his former understudy. Many references are made to not only their 8.6.00 war, but way back to their All Japan series. Plenty enough big bumps and headdrops are taken to justify this match as an epic, and they went 35 minutes, which for Kobashi and his knees is a huge achievement. All in all, this was easily the best match NOAH had put on since their emergence, and was a key factor in drawing in fans for years to come.
Shinya Hashimoto & Alexander Otsuka vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa - 1.13.01 (by Steve)
Not a classic, nor a main event, but what we have here is a simple story executed wonderfully in ring. Hashimoto, an ace of New Japan for most of the early 90's, was in NOAH for one reason. A burning hate for Misawa. Or at least, that's what you'd think seeing his early interaction with him. Otsuka is a talented, if unspectacular shoot worker, and a worthy opponent for Ogawa.
In the early stages, they go at it, each trying to prove a point to their partners that they were the right men for the job. After some nice exchanges, Hash steps in. Every time he nails a high impact move on Ogawa, Hashimoto taunts Misawa, daring him to step in. When he does, the war is on. Plenty of hate and fire from everyone involved, even the normally bland Ogawa has a good showing (although it mainly involves him being obliterated by Team Z-1), but really, this was the Hash show, teaming brutal move for move action with some fine acting and facials. They keep it short enough to go at a good pace too. Overall, definetly worth a viewing.
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Naomichi Marufuji - 3.3.01 (by Steve)
Just a day after what many consider to be his 'breakout' match against Takaiwa in Zero-1, Marufuji takes on his mentor Misawa.
Under normal circumstances, Misawa would get the easy win in a couple of minutes against the rookie Marufuji. But not only is Maru on a roll, he is determined to prove himself, and throws everything he has out there. The match goes short, with a fast pace. Misawa effectively beats on Maru for a large portion of the match, working the legs and back in an attempt to null the aerial ability of his opponent, the only glaring advantage he holds over Misawa. When Marufuji gets his shots in, he doesn't mess around, taking it to his mentor. A good showing from both men results in a solid undercard showing.
Kenta Kobashi & Akihiko Ito vs. Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Kazuchika Okada - 5.6.09 (by Steve)
The NJ/NOAH feud that raged on in 2009 produced a hell of a lot of goodness, this match included. Tenzan is an established NJ wrestler, and he brings Okada, coming off a good showing against Shiozaki in NJ. Kobashi steps up to defend his company, along with young lion Ito, eager to impress.
Ditch mentioned how Kobashi is Baba esque in this match, and I can't help but agree. He is in the match the least, but his presence is always felt, whether it be through his encouragement of Ito (who is great as the plucky underdog), or his actual wrestling. Matches like this show that guys with as much charisma as Kobashi don't need to wrestle much more than 5 minutes every night but can still remain remarkably entertaining.
Kensuke Sasaki vs Go Shiozaki, 7/24/10 (by Benedict)
This match has been building for nearly 5 years. 5 years previous to this, a young Go Shiozaki was teaming with his mentor, Kenta Kobashi, against the man seen as his mentor's equal in Kensuke Sasaki along with his protege, Katsuhiko Nakajima. Shiozaki and Nakajima were the weak links in their team but they fought harder than ever and both had the match of their career in that very tag. However, that night, Shiozaki fell to Kensuke Sasaki and Kensuke finally gained a small amount of revenge against Kobashi after his lost to him at the dome.....what was Kensuke victory lead to a young man's career who now seemed to have that one big goal, beat Kensuke. The wars between Burning and Kensuke Office would still rage and Shiozaki finally made his mark several years later.
Fast forward to 2008, Go Shiozaki is coming back full time to Pro-wrestling NOAH after a year tour in North America and his opponent is none other than GHC Champion, Kensuke Sasaki. Year, 2 years, or 3 years, nobody would even process in their minds that Go would even last 5 minutes against Kensuke Sasaki let alone if he was champion. Shiozaki not only lasted but he had Sasaki in jeopardy with one of own maneuvers. The scorecard said that Kensuke won by points but the impression was that night was that Shiozaki had Kensuke beat. Surely this would not be the last each man had seen of each other.
Fast Forward to near mid 2009,Go Shiozaki is now The Man of NOAH and with his fellow Burning peer, KENTA, are the top GHC heavyweight champions of NOAH. They, however, face the unit that none of the Burning combination have been able to beat in Kensuke Sasaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima. A hard fought battle but Go finally put the streak to a end by being apart o the first NOAH team to beat KO. Shiozaki secured the win for his team against that same youngster he stared at from across the ring in 2005, Nakajima. Nakajima, who many felt was at a higher level than Shiozaki for years, was now looking at a man that was now the Gem of Pro-Wrestling NOAH. Nakajima didn't take the loss lightly and disrespected Shiozaki after the match. He isn't about to be under a wrestler who he didn't only believe could beat Kensuke but a man who he believed couldn't even lace his own boots.
As much as it would be such a story for Nakajima to beat Shiozaki, Shiozaki took away the young man's dream. Shiozaki had now put his past behind him and he now proved that his young rival were not his equal anymore. Shiozaki had put away most of his haunted past as he finally went over Morishima, beat KENTA, and even held his own in a toe for toe battle against Kobashi. Now all he had to do for his career was defeat the man that gave him his defining moment as well as lost in his career and that man he needed to beat was Kensuke Sasaki.
2010 and the match is finally signed. Kensuke Sasaki vs. Go Shiozaki. Shiozaki is now seen as one of the aces of Pro-Wrestling NOAH and is fresh off of revenging his loss against New Japan Pro-Wrestling's ace, Hiroshi Tanahashi. If there is anytime Go Shiozaki was going to beat the man that made his career, it would be now. Kensuke Sasaki isn't any slouch and isn't exactly the guy you can just roll through. Had a strong performance in his Global Heavyweight league and even drew with the GHC Heavyweight Champion. Kensuke will not be that guy to just roll over for you. Can Shiozaki finally put that famous lost behind him or will Sasaki take the dream away from Shiozaki?
The Match : Big fight feel and they even have Kenta Kobashi doing commentary. The storytelling in this match is fantastic because it isn't the simple one subject but it's the variety that progresses and it makes segments become memorable instead of forgotten. I came into this match not having much faith in Shiozaki to deliver and in Kensuke to deliver the good but I am glad I was wrong. For my money, this is the best match in NOAH's 2010 year.
First, the match begins with Shiozaki and Kensuke ending up in collar and elbow tie up and they both FIGHT for who gets to decide the clean break. This leads to believing that the first chop is going to be thrown here and then it'll be all hell. Surprisingly though, Shiozaki gives him the clean break to which the announcers are even surprised. It's great to know that people are still great at teasing the inevitable. Match ends up being a power vs power lock up which is acceptable for so many damn reasons and it is quite a play on so many things. They start having a shoulderblock war which leads to one of the most badass moments in the match up. Shiozaki chops Kensuke, Kensuke responds, and they both just stare at each other. I mean c'mon, there is no words, no middlefingers, or anything, they both just eye each other like two cowboys ready for a duel.
The stare ends and they end up STARTING TO HEADBUTT EACH OTHER. Some really sick ones to and Kensuke clearly ends up the victor in all of this. This clearly establishes the point of who really is going to be the big boss in the match but I digress. Shiozaki gets pissed about this and takes Kensuke down. What makes this even better is that Shiozaki starts using Tanahashi's offense on the leg but that really isn't the story. It's just a nice little add in. The story here is that Go isn't going to be a idiot and start fighting like a barbarian but he picks his spots smartly and nicely. He knows if he gets aggressive Kensuke, Kensuke will not take it as lightly as his other opponents would. When he sees the chance, he takes the opportunity to do some damage. When he can't get a piledriver on the apron, he goes for a simple yet effective DDT. When Shiozaki gets chopped on the outside, he doesn't retaliate with a chop of his own but makes sure not to even get that ball rolling.
However, this plan goes all to hell when Kensuke starts giving him crap during a chinlock and Shiozaki gets aggressive. The problem with that is that you don't aggressive Kensuke because Kensuke doesn't play that aggressive crap and getting aggressive with Kensuke means you are going to aggressively get your ass beat. Even bears don't get aggressive with Kensuke because of fear. Go ends up getting the EPIC hell beat out of him The story is not now if Go can play it smart but if Go can survive this and comeback from this. There is a moment where Go tries to play it smart with elbowing Kensuke to stop the chops but Kensuke just LEVELS him with a monster elbow of his own. There is one EPIC point in which Go tries to get out of this predicament by busting out with a unique Hurcanranna but get his arm TAKEN OFF for giving Kensuke such trouble. I mean Shiozaki damn near gets his whole arm decapitated from Kensuke saying "F' YOUR LARIATS"! Badass.
What's great about Go's comeback is that it's a big signature spot from when he came back in the 05 and that spot is a struggle over a suplex. It's so great to see this and it makes Shiozaki's comeback seem so much more damn special. I marked my ass off when he DEADLIFTS a 260 pound built Kensuke the whole way around for a suplex. I would spill into more about how amazing everything was in this match but I'll get down to the one thing I want to get to the most....
Chop fest. This is one the most amazing things I've seen all year next to YAMATO's counter to his own sleeper and Shawn Michaels's rebellious reaction to his inevitable end by Taker. The chop fest here is amazing to me because it basically gives the result. It is labeled on it "Whoever wins this will win the match". While the Kensuke/Kobashi chop fest is amazing, this was it...this was for everything or nothing. A chop duel to decide who would walk out the victor. This made the match more epic than it had any right for it being. Not ever would I have imagined that a chop fest would be THIS DAMN IMPORTANT. It had such a brilliant build the whole match but this solidified why this match deserves every bit of love.
However, the moment, that I believe stands with YAMATO'S counter and the ending to the possible MOTY, was the moment Shiozaki went to the corner and told Kensuke to give him his best. Go f'ing Shiozaki MAN UP'ed and told Kensuke to give him the best damn chops he had in him. It keeps replaying in my head because it had no right happening but it did and it was a moment. What makes the moment even better is that Go survives the corner chops and gives him every bit of it back. Shiozaki is a star. That moment proved it. Let me just put it down again to put it in your skulls: Shiozaki took a chop from Kensuke F'ING Sasaki, walks over to the corner, wraps his arms around the ropes, and yells "BEAT ME"! Chuck Norris has chosen Shiozaki as his disciple after surviving 3 Roundhouse kicks to the face and replying with "Is that all?". F'ing Win.
Anyway I have spoiled enough of this match but feel free to find this match enjoy the epicness. More great things to name then just one. ****1/2+