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The Furious Flashbacks – NOAH Departure

July 30, 2007 | Posted by Arnold Furious
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The Furious Flashbacks – NOAH Departure  

The Furious Flashbacks – NOAH Departure

Kobashi v Akiyama the first time around

2000 saw a serious rupture in Japanese wrestling. The old age battle of All Japan v New Japan came to an abrupt end as AJPW’s star wrestlers left the company en masse to found a new wrestling company; NOAH. It was unheard of. Mitsuhara Misawa was at the head of this new wave of ideas and founded Pro Wrestling NOAH with the main colour scheme being his trademark green. NOAH almost overnight replaced AJPW as the main threat to New Japan as Japan’s top promotion. The battle has been an interesting and fairly friendly one to date. NOAH seems to have a better global image and draws more fans domestically as well but New Japan has better merchandise sales and TV ratings. Another smart move from NOAH has been from getting working agreements with other companies. Most notably Ring of Honor. New Japan had the chance to do the same thing beforehand but basically ignored the smaller company and treated it like dirt. NOAH has been smarter in its business workings. When NOAH started out All Japan had five big name stars; Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, Akira Taue and Jun Akiyama. Of those only Kawada remained behind in AJPW. Misawa took the rest. This was especially important regarding the main event scene as Kobashi-Akiyama was seen as the future headline main event for AJPW. NOAH had taken it away and the match people wanted to see would happen in a green ring.

Shown on Samurai TV. It’s NOAH’s first major show. This would be night two of Departure.

We’re in the Differ Ariake, Tokyo, Japan. The NOAH entrance video is very mild compared to how it became.

Kenta Kobayashi v Satoru Asako

The former is KENTA. Asako I’ve never even seen before. He’s blonde and short but slightly more stocky than the very young looking KENTA. He’s pretty green in the ring too, which is appropriate because the ring is green. He hits a few dropkicks and a high crossbody for 2. Asako’s style of selling is borderline comedy and quite over the top. He swats aside a missile dropkick as KENTA shows his inexperience by going to the top far too early. Asako begins his assault on KENTA’s back to keep him grounded. Again KENTA shows his inexperience by wanting to power up out of it to look good rather than win. The result is his back receives more damage. Asako isn’t particularly good but he simply doesn’t need to be here. KENTA is defeating himself. Asako finishes him off with a camel clutch at 4.01 shown (10.53). KENTA lost because of his inexperience rather than Asako’s ability.

Tsuyoshi Kikuchi/Yoshinobu Kanemaru/Haruka Eigen v Rusher Kimura/Mitsuo Momota/Makoto Hashi

This would be one of the old man matches that NOAH love putting on near the start of the show. Eigen, Kimura and Momota are all old timers. Momota-Eigen is like watching Ebessan-Kuishinbo Kamen because of the speed involved. Momota throwing Eigen off the top rope is pretty funny as he blocks it for ages because he doesn’t want to take it. Eigen is the guy that spits on the crowd so Momota sets up for that spot. Always good for a chuckle. The fans have their newspapers over their heads in the front four rows. Eigen is the focus of most things that cause amusement. Like running in while a pin is going down and stopping the other coming in. It’s all needlessly dramatic. While I’m busy chuckling at that Momota rolls up Kanemaru for the upset win at 5.25 shown (13.32). I really don’t see how jobbing out one of the lower weight class guys to Momota is going to help anyone. Momota at the time was 52. Kanemaru was 23. I guess it must have been the experience advantage that got the job done.

Naomichi Marufuji/Takeshi Rikioh v Masao Inoue/Takeshi Morishima

Marufuji was used as a jobber in AJPW due to his size. Rikio and Morishima are both fairly new but joined up Misawa’s revolution with a promise of future pushes. They had better luck teaming after this as Wild II. Inoue had just started getting some success in AJPW when he left. He teamed with Tamon Honda to win the All Asia tag titles. On arrival in NOAH he found himself at the back of the queue again. Effectively everyone in this match is looking to make themselves noticed. The slate wiped clean they now all have the chance to shine. Marufuji looks weird. Like a toned down version of himself. He uses his pace and flips around. The crowd is amused and claps along but he doesn’t do any damage. Inoue slows him down by picking off an arm and now Marufuji does something useful with his flips by escaping and hitting a dropkick. Morishima-Rikio and Morishima looks much lighter. Rikio easily overpowers him and drives him back. His sumo career gives him a big advantage when going toe to toe with the other guys. Morishima foolishly makes it about strikes but wins out with a huge running elbow smash. It could be suggested he’s beating respect into Rikio. They size each other up for chain wrestling too and Rikio comes out on top making it 1-1. Rikio seems hell bent on driving head on into Morishima though, which gets him caught in a Muso. Inoue tags in and hits an enormous lariat for 2. Rikio uses his power to throw Inoue off him though and gets a receipt with a stiff clothesline. Rikio & Marufuji work a double team that utilises their combined strength with a spinebuster/dropsault combo. Marufuji gets carried away and tries for a Frankensteiner only for Inoue to shove him off. Marufuji lands on his neck but Inoue is in foreign territory up top and can’t follow up. This allows Marufuji enough time to go up again and hit a missile dropkick for 2. Unlike KENTA in the opener he picked his moment to use the ropes showing a slight edge over his future running mate. Inoue has an experience and strength edge over Marufuji though and draws him in close for grappling control. A big backbreaker leads to the Argentine Backbreaker and Marufuji quits at 8.37 shown (19.30). Marufuji came off looking good by losing, which doesn’t always happen. The intensity between Morishima and Rikio lead to them eventually teaming.

Team NO FEAR v Akira Taue/Jun Izumida

NO FEAR is Takao Omori and Yoshihiro Takayama. They’re debuting the blonde hair look (well, sort of as this is night two but you get the drift). They were about equal at this stage of their careers with NOAH unsure as to who was going to get the big push out of the duo. In fact Omori is given more respect in the introductions suggesting he’d be on top at this point. Izu & Taue are both former sumo wrestlers so that’s their connection. Oddly enough Taue vacated the AJPW tag titles, with Kawada, when he left. He won them from Izu & Omori. Izu is better known for siding with Akiyama though and he’s a member of Sternness. That doesn’t make him any good. He’s one of those rare commodities; a really mediocre worker in NOAH. NO FEAR pick him off and his selling isn’t any better than his offence. It’s not so much the old ‘no sell’ as much as it is an inability to sell. In a shoot, like UFC, a strike is clearly noticeable because it rocks the opponents head. When Izu takes an elbow to the back of the head he doesn’t move. So it obviously wasn’t dangerous then was it? That’s how the Japanese equate it and it just makes Omori’s strikes look bad. Taue comes in to show him how it’s done and Taue’s selling is a great improvement. He’s from the Misawa school whereby he eats up abuse and sits there squinting at his opponent through the sweat. Takayama challenges him to a big boot duel, which Taue wins with relative ease because he’s the experienced star and Takayama is an upstart. It’s weird seeing anyone dominate Takayama with such ease given his reputation since. Taue does so and makes it look credible because he’s surprisingly spry for a big man. Takayama is pretty inflexible so he’s not prepared for Taue’s bursts of offence. Omori comes in because he’s far quicker and finds it easier to deal with Izu. It’s very weird thinking of Takayama as the weak point in the team but it’s his immobility that’s letting them down. Omori is a world class fuck up though and he’ll make a mistake sooner or later. In this match he lariats the ring post. Taue is your man when it comes to taking apart a body part. After all he’s a 12 year pro by this point. Izu is fucking hopeless though so he lets NO FEAR back into it. Omori sells on European uppercuts but why use your bad arm? Takayama looks really awkward and cumbersome in there. So Omori is forced back in with his bad arm. NO FEAR, for being the established team has made a catalogue of errors already. Omori has injured himself, Takayama doesn’t have the common sense to dominate an inferior opponent and as a team they’re making a poor judgement on who should be in at what point. Taue is picking his spots as a result despite the fact he’s carrying Izu’s dead weight. Watching this old footage it’s really apparent how much Takayama has improved. He looks really rough around the edges. In particular on a shoddy Russian legsweep. He commits the latest error by missing a boot charge and injuring his own leg. Even Izu knocks him over with a shoulderblock. Even Takayama can handle Izu though and knees him the stomach to set up Omori for a missile dropkick. They can’t finish Izu even with two guys in there. Omori fucks up again with the Axe Bomber with his bad arm. Taue jumps in there and throws him out of the ring. Nodowa for Takayama. Another terrible one for Omori, who fell before Taue tried to lift him, and Izu drops a knee for 2. Izu armlocks Omori and because he’s already injured his own arm three times Omori quits at 15.06. **. Not a good match but at least the finish made sense. Taue was the only guy out there who looked really capable.

Mitsuhara Misawa/Yoshinari Ogawa v Daisuke Ikeda/Kentaro Shiga

If you’re sat there thinking “gee, I wonder who wins this match up?” on one side we have the guy that owns the company and his little rat faced friend (Japan’s version of X-Pac). On the other side we have Shiga who’s been around since 1994 but has never progressed up the card and Ikeda had barely gotten himself promoted into AJPW’s full time roster by the time the split occurred. In other words; the deck is stacked to Misawa’s team. Misawa himself has five triple crowns and he’s the most over wrestler on the roster. And seeing as he’s spent his whole career being dropped on his head he feels inclined to push Ogawa as a legitimate heavyweight. That would continue until Ogawa won the GHC title to become the 3rd champion in 2002. Ogawa, like Waltman, is a decent light heavyweight and has no trouble trading with a midcard guy like Shiga. It’s like they’ve set up two guys that sort of match Misawa & Ogawa only further down the card. Ogawa gets himself picked off as soon as he has to deal with tags and in particular Ikeda whose better on the mat. Ogawa beats him up with punches, which are illegal, before tagging to Misawa. He’s pretty generous with letting Ikeda match on him the ground. Misawa absorbs a lot of strikes and takes a breather in the corner. The crowd isn’t biting though because everyone does this to Misawa. He’s a notoriously slow starter. He swats Shiga aside with one elbow. Just getting warmed up. Ogawa tries to get the crowd interested by brawling out onto the ramp with Shiga. Ogawa seems intent on throwing punches more than wrestling. I guess he’d been working on them. Shiga and Ikeda try to tear him apart with two armbars but the ref questions the legality of it. Ogawa continues throwing punches like they’re going out of fashion. Ikeda grounds him and starts working at the back. Ikeda does come across as a professional and they’re setting this up quickly as Ikeda trying to wear down Ogawa so he can tap him and Misawa trying to get an opening with Shiga who he knows he can beat. Although Misawa is equally content bashing Ikeda about he’s a tougher prospect to pin. Ogawa comes in to make a mess of a sleeper. When you’re botching something so straightforward it’s questionable as to whether you belong in such a high profile position on the card. It’s fine to make such mistakes in an opening match or a low card encounter but when you’re tagging with the guy who is the figurehead of the company you should be more consistent. Although you get the feeling Ogawa has a chip on his shoulder because of his size and push. Shiga makes a point of elbowing Misawa while he’s on the apron. In fact he does it twice. Crowd really rises to that because it’s so bold almost to the point of disrespect. He goes for a third and Misawa catches him coming in. Not content with that he jumps into the ring and puts the boots in as well. Ogawa decides to teach him a lesson with a slam on the ramp. Shiga has been well and truly put in his place. Shiga gets all fired up and trades with Misawa, which goes badly for him. Misawa elbows him half a dozen times and leaves him lying. Ogawa punches Ikeda off the apron and hits a backdrop suplex for 2. That didn’t look great. Neither height nor speed in the application of the move. Misawa comes in with his spin kick for 2. Misawa could have used kicks more often I think. They always looked strong but he has such a reliance on elbows. Shiga comes back with a springboard front kick and Ikeda is able to tag. He also connects with a flying kick and celebrates in elaborate fashion. Spinning heel kick in the corner and Ikeda has used his feet to keep Misawa off balance. He hits that Pele Kick that AJ Styles is so fond of. Only Ikeda is about 40lbs heavier and barely connects. Ogawa runs in to help out and pokes Ikeda in the eyes. That’s not very sporting ratty! Enzuigiri and a rope ride but Ogawa doesn’t pull Ikeda away from the ropes so he can use them to break the fall. They trade and Ogawa goes to the eyes again. Ikeda retorts with kicking and a Russian legsweep. Ogawa gets picked off and Shiga hits an awkward diving DDT. Ogawa gets into the ropes trying to avoid an armlock but Ikeda kicks away at his leg. Shiga flips out of a backdrop and lands on his feet but Ogawa plants him with a DDT. Shiga helpfully lands it on top of his head. Misawa comes in and you get the feeling that Shiga is in trouble now. Especially when Misawa & Ogawa pick off Ikeda as well. Misawa looks for the Tiger Driver and when he can’t get it turns it into a butterfly suplex. Shiga manages to keep Misawa away with a desperation kick and a DDT. Misawa counters him the Tiger Driver and Ikeda is forced in to save. Shiga gets levelled with a running elbow and that’s it at 20.39. **1/2. A real feeling that the match only went on as long as it did because Misawa couldn’t be bothered with finishing it off. He broke out some nice counters to make Shiga look credible at times and then at others just ran through him like he wasn’t there. Considering this got 20 minutes they really didn’t do anything with it.

Jun Akiyama v Kenta Kobashi

The first departure show had Kobashi & Akiyama teaming and they beat Misawa & Taue in two straight falls. Akiyama turned on Kobashi after the match and gave him the Exploder to set up this match. The idea being they’d set up Akiyama as NOAH’s ace. For whatever reason, probably that he’s never been quite as good as Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi, Akiyama has never been considered a big star. He just doesn’t have the same presence. This was the first real attempt at making him a star on a par with anyone in NOAH. After all he tapped Misawa in his first night in the company and then pinned Taue the same night. The only guy he hasn’t beaten is Kobashi and that’s because they were a team. Crowd is still far more pro-Kobashi. Akiyama starts with more aggression and tries to go after Kobashi’s knees and hit big moves from the off but Kobashi has so much adrenaline running through his veins after the last show that he shrugs it all off. Akiyama realises this isn’t the route to go and slows the game down picking Kobashi’s legs off and grounding him with a Boston crab but Kobashi is really energised and powers out. The knees are a weak point though and Akiyama constantly picks a leg whenever he has the chance. This slows the pace down from the speed they had out of the gate. Kobashi shows off his chops and Akiyama chooses to absorb them for a while before fighting back. As if he wanted to show Kobashi he could take the abuse. He comes back and hits a high knee that sends Kobashi outside. Kobashi doesn’t take kindly to it and chops Akiyama into the front row. He seems pretty pissed off. As if to demonstrate this he powerbombs Akiyama on the floor. Akiyama is very slow to his feet and Kobashi hauls him back into the ring with a delayed vertical suplex for 2. Facelock is applied as Kobashi wants to show his dominance. Again Akiyama tries for the knees to escape but Kobashi’s positioning is key. Kobashi continues with the chopping and boots Akiyama really hard in the ribcage. Kobashi works a pretzel like chinlock where he tears the arm one way at the same time as applying an abdominal stretch with his leg. Kobashi switches to the full nelson and Akiyama has to get into the ropes to save himself. Akiyama has been in real trouble for about four minutes but rather than look to batter him into oblivion it seems Kobashi is determined to get a submission. As if to make him pay for his turn the previous night. Akiyama goes for his high knee to get him out of trouble but Kobashi shrugs it off. He’s in a position to do so because he’s been so in command for the past five minutes. Akiyama knows where the weak spot is though and positions himself to dropkick Kobashi’s knee out. Remember he desperately needed knee surgery and everyone knew this. He was only wrestling because NOAH needed him to establish itself. Akiyama dropkicks the knee again and the crowd is very sympathetic towards the situation. Sharpshooter from Akiyama and it seems he also wants the submission win but not for any conceited reason but rather because he feels the knee is the weak spot and you can’t get pins off a bad knee. Kobashi is too strong to be held down at this early juncture but that doesn’t stop Akiyama constantly wearing out his bad leg with a collection of locks and bars. He goes for the Sharpshooter again but Kobashi recognises the set up and has a counter planned where he rolls into a kneebar counter. They roll again and Kobashi gets the ropes. He has more urgency to do so because of the bad knee. Akiyama is slow to break the hold and then kicks at the knee joint. He’s showing absolutely no mercy and the crowd aren’t particularly fond of him because of this. There’s a lack of heel/face alignment in Japanese wrestling but Akiyama is erring towards the dark side here. He continued assault on Kobashi’s knee injury seems unsporting but he is within the regulations of the spot. Kobashi grabs him and shows his remaining power with a suplex. He’s then breaks out the dreaded SLEEPER SUPLEX. He’s still able to throw Akiyama around because he’s so strong but every throw hurts his bad knee some more. Spinning neck chop! Powerbomb and Kobashi has enough to hit it but then gets countered attempting a jack knife pin and Akiyama nearly beats him without doing anything. Kobashi knocks him back down and hits the HALF NELSON SUPLEX (known Internationally as the Kobashiplex) for 2. Kobashi is really slow to his feet. His knees must be really hurting him by this point. He wants the Burning Lariat but Akiyama ducks it into a German suplex. Kobashi counters out of the pin by grabbing the arm and wrenching at a keylock. He hooks the neck as well to make it really hard for Akiyama to make the ropes. Eventually he positions himself near enough to get out. They counter standing with the Lariat being blocked into the EXPLOIDAAA but Kobashi pops back up with the LARIATOOOOOOO for 2. Kobashi is ALL fired up. Akiyama needs something and gets it. High knee, TWO exploders and Akiyama says it’s over. It seems Akiyama just had more in the tank. Another exploder gets 2. The basic exploder rarely ever gets it done but three of them makes for an impressive kick out. Another exploder. Kobashi clearly isn’t too troubled but Akiyama traps him in the KING CRAB LOCK and Kobashi gives it up at 24.27. Kinda irritating that wasn’t a hold on the knee BUT Misawa did quit to it the night before after 2 minutes so they were really putting the hold over. ***3/4. Didn’t really have a finish that matched the build up and counter wrestling. They had a much better match down the line when Kobashi was champion in 2004.

The 411: The main event is fun enough but that’s about all you get with this tape. Interesting to see just how hard they pushed Akiyama at the start of NOAH. They really wanted him to be this huge star and used the injured Kobashi to get him over. Kobashi, like the prize guy he is, happily did the job and was a total pro. It’s a pity they couldn’t find a more relevant finish. Although using that finish allowed it to figure into the re-match in 2004, which I totally missed at the time. Hindsight is 20-20.
 
Final Score:  7.0   [ Good ]  legend

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