Thursday, March 23, 2017
Maybe it’s just me, but 2,504 is strong attendance for NOAH. This event features some TNA talent as part of NOAH’s new working agreement with them.
If Tenzan, Kojima, Nakanishi, Nagata, etc. are the New Japan Dads, does that make Saito, Taniguchi and Ogawa the NOAH Dads? Though they’re the veterans around here, they put in a lot of effort to match their younger counterparts. The teams went back and forth throughout, but not much of note happened. Taniguchi got the win with a flying splash. Decent enough for an opener.
I’ve been doing my best to keep up with NOAH throughout the year. One of the guys I’ve enjoyed a fair amount is Hi69, who I’d never seen before this run. Tadasuke is also new to me, but Ishimori and Harada have been two of the better juniors of the past few years. This was fast paced and everyone brought it. Ishimori and Hi69 have great chemistry, which shined through here. Hi69 brought the big guns with a huge spot where he hit a splash off the balcony and through a table. It was wild and felt different from what I’m used to in NOAH. Back in the ring, Ishimori scored with a 450 splash on Tadasuke to retain the titles. Just what I’m looking for in a wild Jr. tag sprint.
I’ve seen two Ohara Jr. Title matches in 2017. His title win (***¾) and a defense against Harada (****). On the other hand, Kumano has never impressed me much. Kumano was in trouble early, but showed off a good stalling vertical suplex in the early goings. This felt like Kumano was out to prove himself, while Ohara wanted to show that the division belongs to him now. At one point, he lit Kumano up with a serious of vicious slaps that hurt to just watch. Kumano brought fire and kicked out of several moves down the stretch. He finally gave up to the Muy Bien submission. I enjoyed this. Ohara seems to be a favorite of the company’s new booker (much better than Jado already) and is having a strong run in 2017, while Kumano looked the best he ever has.
I know some people aren’t a fan of NOAH bringing in guys form Impact Wrestling but I’m okay with it. Both companies have had their issues lately and teaming up could help. I mainly like it for NOAH since the departure of Suzuki-Gun thinned out the roster and bringing in more guys gives fresher matchups. Kiyomiya is a young lion in NOAH, but unlike NJPW young lions, he gets singles matches with guys higher in the card. He’s just 20 years old, so it was clear why Storm controlled most of the match. Kiyomiya fought hard and busted out a beautiful missile dropkick. It clearly wasn’t enough though and Storm won with the Last Call. It was fine for what it was and I continue to enjoy what I see from Kiyomiya, but Storm just isn’t very interesting right now.
Of all the guys Impact Wrestling can send to NOAH, Edwards has to be in the top three in terms of quality matches. Kotoge was one of the guys the Jr. division was built around in Jado’s booking run, but is now a heavyweight. This started the way you’d expect a match between two guys who haven’t worked together before. They went through a feeling out process with neither gaining an advantage. As things progressed, Edwards had the upper hand until Kotoge nailed a dive outside and a missile dropkick. That led to a more even battle. The final few minutes were great. Kotoge got busted open and took a barrage of chops before coming back with a PK. Edwards got a tremendous near fall after a powerbomb and HUGE tiger driver. He won right after with the Boston Knee Party. Best thing on the show so far. Edwards looked great but I love what NOAH is doing with Kotoge. He’s ahead of the juniors after winning often there but has come up just short against various heavyweights thus far. He’s putting on top notch performances though and this was another.
The final part of Impact Wrestling on this show saw Moose in tag team action. Mutoh looked rough. He’s in his 50s and it shows. To be fair though, he looked to have done the best he possibly could’ve. SAKAMOTO didn’t do much and the real meat of the match saw Moose and Marufuji do their thing. The fans caught on to the “Moose” chant quickly. He shined in this one. He tossed Marufuji around, got the crowd behind his easy to follow taunt and wowed with his athleticism. I do enjoy a big athletic gaijin (Michael Elgin for example). The interactions between Moose and Marufuji were certainly the highlight and make me want them in a singles match. Wisely, tandem offense took Moose out of action for a moment, opening the door for Shiranui to end SAKAMOTO. This was a fun match that accomplished the goal of making Moose look great. He’d be a welcome addition to the NOAH roster in my book.
Kenoh and Masa Kitamiya won the titles in a great match (****) back in January. A month later though, Kenoh turned on Kitamiya and the titles were vacated, setting this match up. Considering the story behind it, I liked that this started as a brawl. Kitamiya was worked over with a guardrail in the crowd and it led to him taking the heat. Since he’s typically booked strong, I was surprised it wasn’t Yone getting beat up. Yone did eventually come in but his hot run was short and he took a heat himself. They rallied behind Kitamiya, who got into it with Sugiura in a great exchange. In the end, the combination of Sugiura and Kenoh proved to be too much for Kitamiya, despite his best efforts. He fell to an Olympic slam. I was surprised he took the pin. This was a good match though it might’ve gone a bit too long. Still, they told the story they had to and it featured good action.
After the match, Naomichi Marufuji and Maybach Taniguchi showed up to challenge the new champions. That match goes down on April 14th in Korakuen Hall.
GHC Heavyweight Champio
For all the problems NOAH has, putting the title on Nakajima was the right move. He’s young, awesome and should be the franchise player moving forward. Go hasn’t quite panned out as the top star NOAH pegged him to be, but he can still deliver. Go took control when the match went outside and tossed Nakajima into the guardrails, while also lighting him up with chops. Nakajima would fight back, but Go had an answer for everything. Nakajima rallied but missed the PK and ran into a dropkick. It became a fight of Go’s chops against Nakajima’s kicks. Go even tried taking out the legs with some of his late offense but it wasn’t enough. After knocking Nakajima off the apron, Go followed with a dive that barely cleared the ropes. He got lucky. They were back to trading big blows inside before Go seemingly knocked out the champion with a lariat. He was out on his feet as Go delivered chops and strikes. Nakajima awoke, avoiding a lariat for a German. He fired up and hit one of the stiffest kicks to the head you’ll ever see. He finished GO with the Vertical Spike. Exactly what I wanted from a main event between them. It was hard hitting and intense. After Jado gave NOAH fans overly long main events filled with interference, Nakajima’s title run has been filled with clean matches. No shenanigans. He had to dig deep to beat Go. Nakajima feels like the ace, which you want from your champion.
Overall: It’s my first NOAH review in quite some time (I’ve watched their other shows in 2017 but no reviews) and they delivered a great show. Nothing is bad, with the opener and the James Storm matches being the worst, but still being solid. The three tag matches are different and all were strong, while the Jr. Heavyweight Title match and Kotoge/Edwards should both be seen. Shiozaki and Nakajima stole the show with the main event and if you can only see one thing from the card, I’d recommend that. I look forward to more NOAH in the post-Jado era.