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The Furious Flashbacks – NOAH Joe Higuchi Memorial Show

June 4, 2011 | Posted by Arnold Furious
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The Furious Flashbacks – NOAH Joe Higuchi Memorial Show  

The Furious Flashbacks – NOAH Joe Higuchi Memorial Show

NOAH put on a show for the chairman of the championship committee. Ishimori holds back Taue, Masao Inoue gets blown up. Go gets a haircut. Sugiura lands on his head. Twice! Its all here.

I know what you’re thinking; who is Joe Higuchi? Well, he’s one of Japan’s most famous referees. He was a former wrestler turned ref who became the first Japanese referee to ref an NWA title match (in the USA). He was All Japan’s senior referee and joined NOAH when Misawa began the company in a backstage capacity and as chairman of the GHC championship committee. He passed away from cancer in November 2010 and NOAH decided to climax their Winter Navigation Tour with a show dedicated to his memory. Over 8,000 fans attended.

5th December 2010. We’re in Tokyo, Japan.

The show opens with an eerie tribute to the fallen official, the Budokan in darkness and a 10 bell salute sounding out while the roster stands around the ring, heads bowed in silent contemplation.

Shuhei Tanaguchi/Taiji Ishimori v Akira Taue/Kentaro Shiga

Shiga, career midcarder, was actually released by NOAH in early 2010 but he’s come back under freelance rules. He’s now been relegated to opening match jobber. After about 5 minutes of this match I wished I’d picked up one of those clipped up tapes NOAH does so well; where this match would be reduced to the most interesting 30 seconds or so. Shiga still wrestles like a rookie. Considering he debuted in 1994 he’s never really ‘got’ wrestling has he? Taue gets it. This match is here for him to bully the juniors until they’re too fast for him to cope. Then he discovers Tanaguchi is stronger than him too. Poor Taue, his time has gone. At least he’s able to save Shiga from one lot of double teaming but then he’s held back by Ishimori. ISHIFUCKINMORI? He’s about 90lbs! This ridiculous scenario combined with of the pain of aging allows Tanaguchi to finish Permanent Enhancement Shiga with a German suplex. ½*.

Delirious v Atsushi Aoki

NOAH has been booking Delirious as an upset master but they’re not planning on sacrificing their best up and comer in Aoki. Delirious goes nuts at the bell, confusing everyone and sending Aoki outside. Aoki is so laid back and smart that its scary how composed he is for a young man. Confidence combined with technical ability. Delirious takes over with suspicious tactics and incoherent rambling. I really don’t think the Japanese fans get the comedy. They just see this crazy gaijin in a mask who bites everything so they’re scared. Delirious does some actual wrestling around his goofier stuff but I really can’t take him seriously as a heel and that’s how the crowd perceives him here. Aoki tries something off the top and gets met with a headbutt. He has ways of showing how crazy he is but I’m not sure the Japanese are really getting the gimmick. They’re cheering Aoki on as the face. The native who faces an evil foreign devil. Delirious hits a soft Panic Attack and gets the crowd going before SHADOWS OVER HELL gets 2. Aoki doesn’t do much selling, which shows you he’s a NOAH guy. He pops back up and starts with speedy babyface offence. Delirious gets some last second kickouts before the Assault Point finishes. **1/2. Crowd weren’t getting this but Delirious actually won them over with his weird offence. Aoki is still considered the future at this weight class and I’m sure NOAH will push him into big matches sooner rather than later.

Kensuke Office (Kensuke Sasaki/Katsuhiko Nakajima/Kento Miyahara) v Akitoshi Saito/Masao Inoue/Ricky Marvin

The NOAH Vs Kensuke Office doesn’t have the same intensity of the NOAH Vs New Japan feud. Maybe because Sasaki isn’t seen as the outsider like, say, Kanemoto. Crowd wakes up for it but that could just be Sasaki’s presence. Marvin looks bored here compared to against Kanemoto where he looked permanently pissed off. Nakajima runs some awesome comedy with Inoue where he forces Inoue to keep running so he gets tired. They got all of Kensuke Office’s team keeping the long Irish whip going. Funny stuff. A riff on the rope running spot where one guy leaves the ring. Storytelling is fun but the wrestling leaves a lot to be desired. I feel like Inoue and Saito have improved their standing in NOAH because the standard has dropped rather than an improvement in their quality. Whereas Sugiura made an effort to improve himself, which is why he’s the champion. Kensuke Office think Marvin is the guy to isolate but he really isn’t. His offence is energetic and he’s harder hitting than Inoue. It’s a pity he and Miyahara work in so many bullshit spots. Inoue brings the funny once more by winding up a lariat but Sasaki is slow to rise so he just tires himself out. Its telling that the comedy spots are the best ones in the match. Sasaki eventually gets to isolate the tired Inoue and hits the Northern Lights bomb for the win. **1/4. Digging the comedy and it lead directly to the finish. The match was limited however and the comedy took away from the potential intensity. Its like they decided to have a match to showcase how funny Masao Inoue’s facial reactions are. While that’s fun it doesn’t need to be the focus of an entire match.

Mohammed Yone/Genba Hirayanagi v Go Shiozaki/Yoshinari Ogawa

What is Go doing this far down the card? I’m sure he could no sell Yone in some more meaningful tag match. The other team works over Go’s lariat arm while Ogawa is being USELESS. He’s just hanging back in his zebra print trunks allowing double teams. Go has tape all over his right shoulder, which is a bull’s eye. It’s the only way to make this close because a fit Shiozaki would mow through both opponents. He shows this when Genba calls for the brainbuster and Go just throws him off. Rat Boy gets a tag. He’s 44 so I guess he’s Rat Man now. Its like God made a spare Japanese Sean Waltman…only not as good. He gets into trouble and tags Go back in and his arm is worked over some more. Genba, channelling Brutus Beefcake (urgh, what a shitty wrestler to channel), gets some scissors and starts trimming Go’s luscious hair. That allows Go to use his arm to chop and lariat everyone. Ogawa tries to calm him down so Go chops him too. After he bumps the ref FOUR times the zebra gets sick of being shoved over and calls for a DQ. *1/2. Totally woofer until the finish with Go getting SUPER PISSED OFF TO THE MAX about his new hairstyle. Shame he felt the need to lariat and chop away with the arm after that was the focus of the entire match. Worse still is that Shiozaki is now trapped in some bizarre 70s Memphis feud with Genba. That said; his reaction when he saw his hair on the mat was priceless. If you want to REALLY upset Go then mess with his hair.

Naomichi Marufuji v KENTA

This is Marufuji’s comeback match after missing a chunk of action with injury. They work in some SICK counters in the early going although Marufuji is a little loose. But loads of dodging moves and familiarity selling. Good stuff. KENTA is intent on being a complete asshole though, like he was against Suzuki in his comeback match, and works Marufuji’s jaw/neck/shoulder over. Marufuji gets a receipt with what could politely be called a brainbuster on the apron. Its clear that KENTA is fit, healthy and has no ring rust while Marufuji hasn’t wrestled recently. KENTA dodges some kicks and lays in with his own, which again shows he’s ready for this while Marufuji isn’t. They make a mess of Marufuji trying to block a kick and KENTA lands it anyway. Compare this to the Kotaro Suzuki comeback match and there’s no comparison. Suzuki came back fresh as a daisy. Marufuji realises he needs to do something and baits KENTA so he can hit the dragon screw and take out that knee. KENTA still avoids the shiranui and Marufuji decides to break out a bizarre handstand to bump a DDT. Wow, that sucked. KENTA figures he might as well stiff the shit out of Marufuji to avoid more embarrassing spots and THAT WORKS. Marufuji responds by moonsaulting KENTA into the crowd. As KENTA crawls back into the ring he’s caught with the Coast to Coast dropkick. Shiranui but KENTA just kicks out of it. Wasn’t even a tense kickout. KENTA breaks out a SWANK block and counter to a gut kick into the STF. Oh, that was sweet. KENTA blocks another shiranui. TIGER SUPLEX OFF THE TOP!!! Marufuji almost lands on his head but POPS RIGHT BACK UP! Again Marufuji gets sloppy with his strikes but his superkick is still tidy. Marufuji escapes the G2S after a spot of countering. Again, he’s not clean on that. KENTA looks pretty sick of this match now. DOUBLE STOMP! Tiger suplex. Marufuji kicks out and looks to start shit so KENTA levels him with a lariat. BUSAIKU KNEE KICK….for 2. Marufuji is on fumes now but he’s still standing. KENTA takes exception to Marufuji still being alive. GO TO SLEEEEEEEEEEEP! Its over and KENTA halts another comeback at one match. ***1/2. Marufuji was sloppy as fuck but KENTA held the match together with his dickish attitude and stiff striking. Marufuji needs to start thinking about just wrestling a regular match before shooting for epic. This one needed an in-ring build up.

We head off to the earlier press conference. Kings of Wrestling say they’re the best tag team in the world and predict victory over Takayama & Sano.

Yutaka Yoshie v Bison Smith

This is a number one contender’s match for the GHC title, if you can believe that. The Flying Pink Tank can’t win because putting him in a match with Sugiura would result in an entirely horrible load of shit. But on the other hand you have Bison Smith. I know Sugiura has beaten everyone but surely they could find someone less boring to challenge him. At least there’s some effort here on brawling and such. But they trade on spots. Like; Yoshie whips Bison into the rail so Bison whips Yoshie into the rail. Yoshie can make anyone look bad and Bison wasn’t great to begin with so you’re left with this ball-achingly bad match just stuck in the middle of the card stinking the joint up. And its 13 minutes long. Most of which is spent with either Bison or frequently both men lying around on the mat. Bison tries to channel Stan Hansen a bit so Yoshie breaks out the Broncobuster. God, this match sucks. The best part of the whole match is the finish where Bison gets sick of Yoshie wobbling around in front of him and just nails him with a FUCKING ENORMOUS lariat for the win. ¼*.

GHC Junior Heavyweight title – Yoshinobu Kanemaru (c) v Kotaro Suzuki

Kanemaru isn’t the first name that springs to mind when discussing NOAH juniors and yet he’s the most successful in the division with FIVE title wins. He also has FOUR of the five longest reigns ever with this one right at the top. He’s held this belt for 400 days. Suzuki’s only title run came under the mask as Mushiking Terry. That title reign was ended by Kanemaru. They start hard and fast with Suzuki getting a quick roll up before Kanemaru comes firing back with a lariat and the brainbuster for 2. Suzuki can’t cope and slides out of the ring to get a breather while the crowd get their breath back too. Hot opening! Kanemaru slows it down because you can’t wrestle a whole match at that pace. Suzuki tries his lucha-esque stuff but Kanemaru is too sly to get caught with any of it. Kanemaru heads out onto the ramp with evil intentions and DDT’s Suzuki off the ramp. That didn’t look anywhere near as good as it sounds. Suzuki gets his neck area worked over and spends a lot of time down selling it. Crowd doesn’t seem terribly supportive of either guy. Suzuki gets a lot of roll up’s but every time he tries something involving the ropes or flying he gets caught. He tries a rana and gets countered into a powerbomb. The first time he does connect with something high risk is when he’s flattened Kanemaru with strikes and follows with a tope. It seems Suzuki has far more joy with suplexes and impact grappling. Tombstone gets 2 and he follows with Blue Destiny for 2. It does rather feel like he’s popping off every move he knows but in reality he’s still trying to set for the Tiger Driver. He feels he needs to rough Kanemaru up first but those moves are as effective as a Tiger Driver, surely. The Tiger Driver is only a finisher because he says so. There should be a marked difference in impact between your set up moves and your finisher. The crowd gets really excited as Suzuki avoids the Touch-Out and counters into a Tombstone. They blow the next counter so Suzuki has to set up the Blue Destiny separately, which is a pity. He tried these moves separately; now he’s trying them together to the same lack of win. They go into the Eddy-Malenko sequence with a few nice upgrades that get popped more than the formula. Suzuki comes back with elbows but Kanemaru pops back up. TIGER DRIVER! Kanemaru gets pinned and loses the title after 400 long days! ***1/4. Suzuki’s psychology was all over the place here. It was an exciting match, sure, but the Tiger Driver was only the finish because its Misawa’s finisher. He did higher impact stuff to set it up. I get that he uses Misawa’s moves as a tribute but he doesn’t do them as well as Misawa and his stuff looks better. At times the match was really good, when they were countering at speed but they didn’t do that consistently.

GHC Tag titles – Yoshihiro Takayama/Takuma Sano (c) v Kings of Wrestling

I used to really like Sano when he was a cruiser, tearing the house down in New Japan. But then he went off trying to be a shooter (and failed) and he’s not been great since. You get the feeling he’s champion because Tak feels like it, as opposed to his ability to beat anyone. Kings of Wrestling are Chris Hero & Claudio Castagnoli but you knew that anyway. They’re one of the best tag teams in North America (and Europe, seeing as Claudio is Swiss). KOW attack before the bell and pick off Sano for GIANT SWING/DROPKICK action. That’s so much more effective when they do it; as opposed to the Machine Guns. Mainly because Hero is Mr Timing. The ref is having a hard time making this into a tag match so Tak lumbers in there to sort it out. Claudio seems unphased and takes Sano’s leg apart. Man, Hero looks in great fucking shape. Its been like 3 years since I saw him wrestle because I’m so far behind in my US DVD’s and he’s dropped most of the fat that was holding him back. He looks like a star now. Sano looks terrified because Claudio is so much faster than him AND A FOOT TALLER! The scary thing is that Sano can’t even sell half as well as either KOW. So these massive dudes are booting him in the head and he has no idea what to do. I’d stiff the little bastard. Hero pops the shit out of the crowd with a FOSBURY FLOP! Why is this man not world champion, right fucking now? KOW get a little cocky after demolishing Sano for umpteen minutes straight and stand around shouting “SHIN CHAMPIONS!” Sano, predictably, mounts a comeback but Hero levels him with the front flip neckbreaker and nips up. He has this crowd. They could put the GHC title on Hero and this crowd wouldn’t raise the slightest “nneeeeee” of surprise. Admittedly Tak just bulldozes him but Hero is so mobile that Tak is lost after a few moves. Its not long before KOW are throwing Tak around too, which blows Tokyo’s mind. Especially when Claudio and Tak both hit a big boot and Claudio’s wins. If Hero was watching Sano instead of celebrating a moonsault KOW might even have won the belts. Which wouldn’t be a shock, they’ve dominated the entire match. Hero takes out Sano with an awesome elbow smash. Tak gets one too and the RICOLA BOMB gets 2 with Sano saving. Damn it, Hero, just stop him! That’s twice now. The thing with Tak is one move can change everything. Here it’s a massive knee to the midsection on a flying Claudio. He survives a dragon suplex where he lands on his neck but EVEREST finishes moments later. Hero stopped from breaking the pin by Sano, earning his Yen. ***. The wrong team won but I like the storyline with Hero unfamiliar with Japanese tag teaming and failing to block the saves. Of course if they know what every IWA-MS fan knows that wouldn’t happen because Hero has the biggest tape library in the world. Still Kings of Wrestling could fucking own NOAH if they wanted to. If they keep on like this they’ll be tag champs sooner rather than later and one of them could easily become GHC champion. They need a new top end star with Sugiura so isolated up there. My only criticism of this match is it was SO one-sided with KOW getting like 90% of the match but that shows how superior they are as a team.

GHC title – Takashi Sugiura (c) v Takeshi Morishima

Suggy, rapidly running out of challengers, is up against a former champion because he’s the former champion. On the tour that preceded this Morishima beat him quickly in a tag match but before that Morishima had been stagnating in the midcard for a while. He’d also missed a chunk of action directly prior to the tag with a foot injury. Jun Akiyama is on commentary. He’s another guy that took a run at Sugiura and lost. Sugiura has held the belt for a year by this point and they tease the old WOYAH-Honky Tonk Man finish with a lariat after a few seconds but Sugiura then bails on the Backdrop Driver. Morishima throws his weight around and Sugiura bails again, presumably because he wasn’t ready for this level of intensity from the former champ. Morishima just keeps catching him and it looks as if they’re super-eager to make Morishima look a credible threat. So he keeps getting everything. Sugiura runs into a Black Hole Slam on the ramp. As Morishima hits a missile dropkick I’m wondering when Sugiura is planning on turning up for this title defence. If you went in from the bell you’d think Morishima was the champion and this was a routine defence. The massacre continues unabated with Sugiura a bladejob short of putting Morishima over as the best thing since sliced bread. Although, what’s so good about sliced bread anyway? Are you people really so lazy you can’t slice a loaf of bread? Although, to be fair, I did nearly slice by thumb off the other week so maybe sliced bread is ok. Passable. I give it **. Back in Tokyo, Morishima connects with a FAT MAN TOPE! He can barely fit through the ropes so that’s impressive. Morishima goes to completely kill this off with a powerbomb on the floor but Sugiura COUNTERS INTO A RANA AND LANDS ON HIS DOME, COMPLETE WITH 330LBS ON TOP! Man, my neck is sore just looking at that. Sugiura still hit something, which allows him to set up a neckbreaker off the apron. Back inside Suggy kicks him SQUAAAAAAAAR in the face. The tide has turned. Morishima just looks fucked. I know I frequently use this as a reference point but its almost as if Sugiura pulled the old ‘Rope-A-Dope’ on him. Sugiura then attempts something mental with a FRANKENSTEINER and LANDS ON HIS HEAD AGAIN. Holy shit, Sugiura! Morishima opted not to bump it so he didn’t kill the champion, which is nice of him, but Sugiura really can’t do a rana on Morishima. You’d think he’d have learned after the first one but hey, maybe he knocked himself stupid doing it. LARIATOOOO gets 2. They start no selling shit and just popping off suplexes. This ends suddenly when Morishima just LARIATS fuck out of the champ. Sugiura gets back up and slaps at the big man. LARIATOOOO for 2. Morishima isn’t done and hits another one to set up the BACKDROPPAAAAAAAAAA…for 2. I’m totally sucked in now. FAT GUY MOONSAULT MISSES! Sugiura Germans him into the buckles and just kneels there hammering him with elbows. Morishima is toast. He’s blown up and immobile. OLYMPIC SLAM but Morishima just TOTALLY no sells it, pops back up and hits the LARIATOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO…for 2. Sugiura did NOT see that coming. He sees the Backdrop Driver coming though, knees out and unloads with strikes. Three knees to the head of the seated Morishima gets us back to where we were before the no sell. Morishima is toast. Another OLYMPIC SLAM and this time Morishima barely kicks out. He saved a bit of energy for that big lariat spot, now he’s done. A third OLYMPIC SLAM and Morishima stays down this time. Sugiura retains. ****. I know that rating seems a little high considering the two big screw up’s but they sucked me in with the near falls. And I’m not often fooled by near fall spots because everyone does them now. This had that AJPW 90s vibe about it even if the “Fighting Spirit” was a little too inconsistent. But if you look at Morishima’s last no sell spot, it totally drained him.

The 411: While these guys (Sugiura, Marufuji) are a lot sloppier in big matches than their 1990s AJPW counterparts they still leave it all in the ring. There was a tonne of effort in the big bouts and especially with Sugiura-Morishima. I didn’t even buy Morishima as a threat before the show but he took it to the champ. Seriously though, NOAH bookers, push Kings of Wrestling to the moon. Get them on every tour. Tag titles forever.
Final Score:  7.5   [ Good ]  legend

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