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The Navigation Log 12.23.07: Top 10 NOAH Matches of 2007

December 23, 2007 | Posted by Matt Short

Ever wonder what kind of saps work on the Eve of Christmas Eve? Now you know. Though I don’t think this is the same kind of high stress job as say, working in retail is. However, this week’s particular edition is giving me grief for a couple of reasons. One is that I cannot really get into a good writing groove while at home. Second, is that I have been steadily getting drunker and drunker with each passing day.

Onto the Navigation Log!

NOAH’s Best of 2007
I will admit that it has not been the best of years for NOAH. The company essentially put itself into stand-by mode while Kobashi was out. Misawa cruised through the year as champion with very few serious threats to his title. While Misawa was not at all in the best shape of his career (very very VERY far from it) he had some great match thanks to being well carried by his opponents. Marufuji had a great year and has had a fine series of matches with Takeshi Morishima as well as an outstanding match where he and Takashi Sugiura captured the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team titles.

While the heavyweights tended to be lack luster, NOAH’s juniors put on some amazing shows. Ricky Marvin and Kotaro Suzuki led the charge with their impressive reign with the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team titles. This was supplemented with some outstanding performances from foreigners and Japanese independent stars like The Briscoes, Taiji Ishimori, and Kota Ibushi.

In short, it was hard to develop any real criteria for what should have been the best of the best this year. I know from personal experience that not everything happens on NOAH’s big tour finales as I saw an amazing match of Ricky Marvin & Nigel McGuinness vs. Ogawa & Suzuki in 2006 that stands as one of the best matches I’ve ever seen live. But I haven’t been to every show in NOAH and haven’t seen every match they’ve had or read the Japanese magazines to gauge the fans’ reactions to everything. So I’m going on what I have seen and my own opinion on it. If you feel I left something out feel free to let me know.

Honorable Mentions
Nigel McGuinness vs. Kotaro Suzuki – Summer Navigation
-This was a fun little match. While there was nothing groundbreaking it was a good, rare singles match on non-tour ending show. It was a crucial singles win for McGuinness who would be facing Takeshi Morishima for the ROH World Title in front of a Japanese crowd.

Shuhei Taniguchi vs. Akihito Ito – ROH in Tokyo
-I wanted to give this match some recognition because I feel that a lot people kind of just ignored it when it came up on the DVD release. It’s the only pure NOAH match on the card and it was two guys who, while not famed Puro stars, put on an excellent show. They didn’t set the world on fire, but these two showed glimmers of greatness. NOAH and ROH had faith in them to go out and put on a good match and they did. Taniguchi would go on to win the Mauritius Cup at the end of the year and is set to get a 10 match trial series in 2008.

GHC Heavyweight Championship: Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Samoa Joe – Autumn Navigation
This was a good match that saw Joe come in looking unstoppable having pinned the champ on the previous show. These two put on a solid main event performance but the real story was that NOAH made good on giving people this match, which had been hinted at since the start of the year. It didn’t look like this match would end up happening once Joe was forced to stop appearing in ROH.

10) GHC Heavyweight Championship: Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Akira Taue – Summer Nagivation
Taue was the first major threat to Misawa’s title in 2007. At least he was the one who was built to be a threat. Or rather he was a major established star in the promotion. Taue came out strong from the start, hitting the champ with his finisher Ore ga Taue. Misawa weathered the storm though and came out and finished with a sick brainbuster variation of the Emerald Flowsion. This fit the mold for most of Misawa’s defenses over 2007, where despite being outmatched he always found a way to get out with the belt.

9) Naomichi Marufuji vs. Akitoshi Saito – Shiny Navigation
The Shiny Navigation saw the Determination League tournament take place. The A Block of the tournament became complicated when Takeshi Rikio went down with an injury. Marufuji had been coasting through the tournament up until this point and was getting wins any way that he could. He hit a real buzzsaw in Saito, who battled back from taking a lot of punishment to his leg in the opening minutes. Saito handed Marufuji his first loss in the tournament and forced a draw that led to a rematch to decide the winner of Block A. I really loved this match for the drama it created and helped build into the finals of the tournament.

8) NOAH vs. Dragon Gate: Naomichi Marufuji, Ricky Marvin, and Ippei Ota vs. CIMA, Dragon Kid, and Susumu Yokosuka – Spring Navigation
Whenever Dragon Gate appears with these six-mans they somehow manage to steal the show. The whole purpose of this match was to introduce Dragon Gate to NOAH fans who might not have been too familiar with the DG product. What was really surprising was the outsiders won the match. It was essentially a massive Junior-style spot fest at times, but it was a damn good one. It’ll give it extra points for CIMA’s promo at the end which includes him just belching into the mic. Because CIMA is a weirdo.

7) GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: Kotaro Suzuki & Ricky Marvin vs. Taku Iwasa & Kenichiro Arai – Northern Navigation
This is just the start of me praising Suzuki & Marvin in this Best of ’07 column. They turned in one great performance after another all year. This doesn’t quite reach the top of the list, but it’s pretty damn good if I say so myself. It was a meeting of two teams who over the course of ’07 were becoming such well oiled machines that they could put on great matches with just about anyone. Iwasa & Arai brought their best, but it wasn’t good enough to get past NOAH’s top team of juniors. It eventually came down to whose team work was better, and Marvin & Suzuki proved it was them. They isolated Arai and dissected him before finishing him off. A great match that was just one of the many this team had with other Dragon Gate teams over the year.

6) GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: Jun Akiyama & Takeshi Rikio vs. Yoshihiro Takayama & Takashi Sugiura – Spring Navigation
The story behind this match was all about building up Sugiura. 2007 was a good year for him as he has graduated from the junior division up into the heavyweight division. He pinned Akiyama in a match prior to this and that was what caused Takayama to choose Sugiura as his partner for this match. This was an excellent heavyweight tag team bout, with all four men pulling out all the stops. But Sugiura stood out in this match as many times he found himself isolated and having to fight off both Rikio and Akiyama on his own. In the end he took the fall, but the match had done its job. Sugiura looked like a star when it was over and was positioned to take the titles later in the year with Marufuji.

5) GHC Heavyweight Championship: Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Takuma Sano – Spring Navigation
I was very critical with NOAH’s decision to put Sano into this match. They didn’t really build him up to be a title contender, despite his past record as a top junior wrestler. Sano just was just not look like he was capable of winning the title. Despite the lead into the match not being very exciting, the booking in the match was impressive and was a damn good bit of story telling. Over the year, they seemed to play up the fact that Misawa had been showing his age and every match showed him overcoming the odds. It’s not as impressive as Ric Flair doing it now, but it worked for each of Misawa’s matches. The story here was that Misawa could not keep up with Sano. Sano didn’t let Misawa breathe as he just hit him again and again with roaring savate kicks and a massive double stomp to the floor. Only when he broke his game plan was Misawa able to jump in and start with his elbows and eventually winning the match. In the end this turned out to be Misawa’s best defense of the year thanks to Sano doing an excellent job carrying the Old Man.

4) Naomichi Marufuji vs. Takeshi Morishima – Winter Navigation
This was a rematch from the Determination League finals. Marufuji had dominated Morishima in that match because Morishima had been worn down from his match with Jun Akiyama. This was a longer version of that quick 10 minute bout and was quite awesome. Morishima avenged his loss and closed a great 2007 for him and earned himself the first shot at Misawa in 2008.

3) Naomichi Marufuji & Kota Ibushi vs. Taiji Ishimori & KENTA – Summer Navigation
This ended up being the deciding match of the NTV Cup and it stole the show that night. Ibushi and Marufuji had been very impressive during the tournament, especially Ibushi who is best known for his amazing high-flying on the independent scene. He traded kicks with KENTA and aerial stunts with Ishimori. This match also allowed people to see KENTA vs. Marufuji again which the crowd absolutely loved. In the end experience won out over flashy moves as KENTA pinned Ibushi with a Go 2 Sleep.

2) GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Titles: The Briscoes vs. Ricky Marvin & Kotaro Suzuki – First Navigation
There aren’t enough words to express the awesomeness of this match. This was an amazing confrontation between two great teams and they were doing stuff I never imagined possible. Some might call it nothing but a glorified spotfest, but it did build nicely to the big move portion of the match. The spots that they used were nothing short of amazing. A Doomsday Device Shining Wizard. Marvin literally hitting a hurricanrana in mid-air. This match had everything. I would have given it the number one spot were it not for the circumstances and atmosphere surrounding the match I chose.

1) Kenta Kobashi & Yoshihiro Takayama vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama – Winter Navigation
There’s really no words to describe the awesomeness of this match. It didn’t have the amazing spots that The Briscoes vs. Marvin & Suzuki had, but it brought the fans to their feet like nothing I’ve ever seen. Kobashi brings the Budokan to life every time. He looked phenomenal for someone coming back from cancer treatment. The match was more than just Kobashi though. It was as if his presence fired up the other men in the match. Akiyama, Takayama, and Misawa were all on fire and they helped to add to an amazing match.

That wraps up my Top Ten from NOAH this year. If you want to sound off about anything you feel I overlooked or have your own favorites feel free to let me know. In the mean time, I’m going to enjoy the holidays. I got this amazing eggnog more bourbon than egg or nog. Happy holidays, whatever it is you celebrate. I’ll see you next week with some predictions for 2008. I’ll leave you with this amazing video of NOAH wrestlers singing “Jingle Bells.”


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Matt Short

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