wrestling / Columns

The Navigation Log 1.13.08: New Stars Rising

January 13, 2008 | Posted by Matt Short

While I am a self-admitted wrestling nerd, I’m not just one dimensional. Oh no, far from it. January has turned out to be an awesome month for movies. This weekend we’ve got a sure-fire candidate for worst movie of the year candidate with In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale. Directed and produced by one Uwe Boll, this will be an awesome suckfest of biblical proportions. I love shitty movies since I was raised on Mystery Science Theater 3000 and snarking this film would be a dream come true. You could call it a Holy Grail of crap movies. On the other side of the coin is Cloverfield, JJ “I’m Smrtr Than U” Abrams’ answer to Blair Witch and Godzilla. I’m up in the air about it because while I enjoy a good giant monster flick I don’t like the handheld camera thing and I don’t like the promotional campaign that finds it’s necessary to talk down to everyone about some huge mystery. I’ll wait for the reviews on that.

Well that was massively off-topic. Onto the Navigation Log!

2008: New Stars Rising?
It looks like 2008 could be the breakout year for NOAH’s dojo boys. And it couldn’t come at a better time. I discussed in a column a couple weeks back about how First Navigation ’08 was going to be quite demanding on the rookies. 2007 had ended with the completion of the Mauritius Cup, which gave the dojo boys a chance to really show off. The SEMful Gift show featured a series of squashes between rookies and veterans, which led into Atsushi Aoki’s first in a 10 match series. Aoki fell to Jun Akiyama, but was looking down 9 more matches for 2008. Shuhei Taniguchi was also scheduled to start his own series at the end of the First Navigation against Kensuke Sasaki.

So far NOAH seems to have made good on pushing its rookies. Atsushi Aoki scored a huge upset in his second trial series match, going over visiting ROH star Davey Richards. What’s huge about this? It is extremely rare for guys getting a trial series in Japan to pick up a win. It’s part of traditional puro booking, so this win comes as a shock. The last (and only prior) wrestler to win during a trial series in NOAH was KENTA defeating Juventud Guerrerra back in 2004. This win shows NOAH has got plans for Aoki. Hell, giving him the trial series shows that they have future plans for him, but the win points to a bigger push. How far this goes in 2008 remains to be seen, if he goes on a winning streak Aoki could end up being in line for a GHC Jr. Heavyweight title shot. Aoki just needs to continue to impress as he’s been doing and he’ll have quite the future.

It’s not all limited to just Aoki’s win and series though. We’ve still got Shuhei Taniguchi’s trial series to look forward to. Sure, he’ll probably end up getting horribly abused by Sasaki in his opening match but that’s just to be expected. Aoki is a good fit in the junior division, but Taniguchi could make a big impact in the heavyweight ranks if his series goes well. I don’t see lighting striking twice with him gaining a trial series win, but if NOAH is as serious about pushing these guys as they’ve already demonstrated you can’t rule out anything.

There’s also a couple other things that stand out. One is Akihiko Ito is in line for a Global Hardcore Championship title match against Kishin Kawabata this tour. He’s not expected to win, but it’s another chance for a young guy to show off. The other item of note is the evolution of Tsutomu Hirayanagi. And by evolution, I mean Akira Taue decided to rename him. Instead of Tsutomu he is now known as Genba Hirayanagi. Looking into it, I can’t find any special meaning behind the name aside from the fact that the kanji mean “Mysterious Region” or something like that. From what I can tell, the name change could mean an attempt to start giving him personality. Personality means standing out and standing means advancement.

2008 will be an interesting year to watch these young guys.

Do Not Pass Go
NOAH is most popular in the United States for its relationship with Ring of Honor and I am pleased to see that their relationship is going to continue into 2008. Coming off of the events of 2007 that lead to the strengthening ties between the two companies it seems like there’s been some line-up changes.

First of all KENTA is out for 2008 as of now. NOAH has decided against renewing his United States work visa due to financial reasons. Essentially, NOAH doesn’t feel that it’s worth it to send him to the US anymore given that he’s had more than enough exposure there. Without having looked up the requirements for getting US work visas I could guess that they’ve already paid for themselves but are still very pricey. This could signal a bigger push for KENTA this year, possibly moving into the heavyweight tag division.

But while ROH will be losing KENTA, they will continue to see Marufuji and former ROH Champion Takeshi Morishima. Replacing Mr. Go2Sleep will be Kenta Kobashi protégé, Go Shiozaki. Young Go has generated a lot of buzz for himself, especially over the past year with an impressive showing in the King of Europe Cup and a phenomenal bout with Bryan Danielson at the ROH in Tokyo show. The US will now get a heaping helping of Go as he is reported to become a ROH regular come March. A stint in ROH could be really beneficial to Young Go. He has done well for himself in Europe and working in the US can only give him new opportunities to work new opponents and develop his skills.

Not only will Go be getting a shot to prove himself in ROH, but before he will get to the United States he will get a shot at Nigel McGuinness in Tokyo. At The First Navigation finale in Korakuen Hall these two will square off one-on-one with the title on the line. I wouldn’t expect Nigel to drop the title here, but provided he stays healthy this will be a tremendous match. Shiozaki always has something to prove in his matches and therefore he always brings his best. A good showing here would just generate more buzz on his coming US appearance.

NOAH in the UK
This past week the NOAH head offices announced that the company will be running a show in June 21st at the Coventry Skydome. A lot of big names are already booked for the show including Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, KENTA, Takeshi Morishima, and Naomichi Marufuji. Also taking part in the show will be British stars Nigel McGuinness, Doug Williams, and Martin Stone, along with Bryan Danielson and The Briscoes. If you’re in England, this is a huge opportunity to see puro action live. This is NOAH’s first foreign expedition and I can imagine that this is going to be an amazing event. If you’re someone who’ll never get to Japan to see a puro show and you’re a fan you probably won’t want to pass this chance up. Damn you, England, you get all the break apparently.

Ishimori Signs On Permanently
Former Toyrumon X ace and leading star of the Dragondoor and El Dorado promotions Taiji Ishimori has signed a full-time deal with NOAH. Ishimori had been making frequent appearances for NOAH since 2006, though he was not officially a roster member. He’d received title shots in the past and last year won the NTV Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team tournament alongside KENTA. Ishimori’s official joining into the NOAH ranks opens the door for him to move up the junior ranks. He’ll be a viable contender down the line for Yoshinobu Kanemaru and a Jr. Heavyweight Tag Title reign with KENTA isn’t out of the question either.

Puro From Other Places
Just a reminder that New Japan stars will be featured on Global Impact this week on Spike. This is a chance to see some great puro action on TV. The show is being headlined by Kurt Angle defending his fake IWGP title against Yuji Nagata. Reports are saying that this match was very good, so you won’t want to miss it. You’ll also get a chance to see other great Japanese talent like Wataru Inoue, Milano Collection AT, and former WWE star Giant Bernard will be making an appearance. Watch, it’ll be good. The big bonus to this all is that we’ll be seeing New Japan stars in TNA in the near future which again, is a good deal.

Dragon Gate stars made appearances in PWG last weekend and CIMA announced that there would be a bit of venue swapping between the two companies. PWG will be making a venture to Osaka, Japan this year. Dragon Gate meanwhile is planning on running a show in Los Angeles. Dammit, I wish I lived on the West Coast. PWG will be a lot of fun in Osaka too. People are different outside of Tokyo and as such have different tastes. That expands to wrestling, and the unique atmosphere and wrestlers from PWG should go over well.

One final note, before returning to Japan CIMA and Susumu Yokosuka made a stop off in Hawaii. Yokosuka defeated someone by the name of Kaniala (I know nothing of the Hawaii wrestling scene) while CIMA defeated “Sweet n’ Sour” Larry Sweeney. I feel bad for Mr. Sweeney as I imagine that he was only in Larrydise to work on his tan and was most likely not prepared for CIMA. I hope we get a rematch sometime in the future when he is more prepared.

Your Weekly Puro
You can judge for yourself if Atsushi Aoki is worthy of a push. This is his match with Davey Richards and I found it pretty entertaining. The crowd didn’t make much noise until the end though, but that’s kind of expected.

Aoki Trial Series Match 2: Atsushi Aoki vs. Davey Richards

Part 1

Part 2

At Home
Raw was good this week, I enjoyed it a lot. It was mostly awesome because of that cage match though. Jeff Hardy and Umaga have great chemistry and work the big man/small man match perfectly. I’m sure Hardy’s dive from the cage will get remembered by the time we do end of year voting, as it really helped get the match over. Hardy looks amazingly strong heading into the Royal Rumble at this point. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if he were to actually win the title from Orton at this point. ECW was equally good with that great tag team match between Yang & Moore against Miz & Morrison. Good action this week.

TNA wasn’t bad this week either. I know there were some complaints about the Knockouts title switch, which I can understand. It was something that people wanted to see and would have paid to see. TNA I think sometimes takes advantage of the fact that spoilers get out for every show and think that will be enough to get people to watch. In a way I can see how it does. I personally made it a point to watch Impact to see the title switch, but I can imagine that there are just as many people who didn’t bother to tune in because of it. I can understand that in this day and age of the Internet it’s impossible to hide the results of a pre-taped show like Impact, but I would think that something like that would encourage the company to keep major things like title changes for PPV when they have a chance at some suspense in their title matches.

Short Takes
-I’m going to continue to shove the Chikara love down all of your throats. King of Trios will be amazing. While I’m still calling for The Colony to win the whole thing there’ll be some stiff competition. I’m most interested in a team from the UK comprised of Martin Stone and The Kartel. I’ve seen little from any of them but Stone has a good reputation and the antics I’ve seen from Sha Samuels and Terry Frazier they should fit well in the competition.

-It’s been said thousands of times, but damn Rey Mysterio is short. And it still amazes me seeing him in a WWE ring standing next to anyone.

-Robert Roode is awesome. Sure hitting women is a cheap source of heel heat, but Roode is backing it up with great promos.

-Masked Charlie Hass could be the best thing to happen to him. Since doing Miss Jackie of course.

That’s all for this week folks! I’m outta here.


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Matt Short

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