May 4, 2023
The commentators start running the card down and SUPER CRAZY is on this show. What year are we actually in? We’re in Tokyo, Japan at the Ryogoku Kokugikan.
Akitoshi Saito & Taishi Ozawa vs. Mohammed Yone & Super Crazy
Yone leaning hard into the disco gimmick is one of the great moments in NOAH history. It made their undercards more tolerable. Super Crazy looks older than dirt here. He is aging like a fine burrito. Saito, now a silver fox, is looking chunky and slow. To be fair, he was looking chunky and slow three years ago but now he’s got grey hair too. Ozawa doesn’t have a Cagematch profile, he’s so new. He’s a 26-year-old rookie. Super Crazy was a 12-year veteran at 26. I was going to put a joke number in there, but he legitimately had been wrestling for 12 years at 26. Yone hasn’t lost anything, at 47 years old, but he didn’t really do anything to begin with. Ozawa fucks him up with one too many stiff forearms and Yone elbows him so hard his soul departs his body. Yone and Saito occasionally do something useful and stiff each other but otherwise this match is bad. Super Crazy is the main culprit. He is just horrible now. However, he does hit a SWANK~! POWERBOMB. I hope to see one of those from everyone this weekend. Much love to Dean Rasmussen.
Extreme Tiger & Lanzeloth vs. Atsushi Kotoge & Seiki Yoshioka
The main reason we have to sit through Super Crazy matches in 2023 is he trained and booked guys like Lanzeloth. Yoshioka will always be a Wrestle-1 guy for me but he’s been in NOAH for four years. He’s now in his mid 30s. Jesus, where does the time go? While I was away from wrestling, Wrestle-1 ceased to exist. Lanzeloth is pretty fun but his stuff is very dancey. Seeing as this is pre-show nobody is motivated, bar Yoshioka, who seems incredibly fired up for no apparent reason. Lanzeloth, however, goes the other way and just gets worse and worse and worse until I wanted to reach into the screen and punch him in his stupid mask. I look him up and he’s been wrestling for FOURTEEN years. If I had to guess, I’d say 2 at the most. At least he takes the L here but nobody did a SWANK~! Powerbomb so this match can fuck right off.
FUCKING G-MAN IN NOAH? This is just bizarre to me. Fair fucks mate, follow your dreams. Apparently he’s been there for a year but I’ve not been watching.
GLG (Anthony Greene, Jack Morris, Tadasuke & YO-HEY) vs. Alpha Wolf, Dragon Bane, Sean Legacy & Stallion Rogers
When I was last watching wrestling Greene had been signed by WWE. I guess that didn’t work out. I love him. He’s great. Stallion Rogers is the former Curt Stallion. YO-HEY is 35 years old. Again, where does the time go? The Mexican team of Alpha Wolf and Dragon Bane do a load of fun stuff, although I have seen enough lucha to recognise it. Sean Legacy is out of Georgia and looks healthy. He looks like he chugs 20 protein shakes for breakfast. Stallion wrestles like he belongs here but doesn’t have the body for it. His chest looks like it would collapse in a traditional NOAH chop duel. Everybody in this match seems determined to do something memorable. It’s a properly heated, fast-paced belter. Greene drops Stallion on his dome for the win. This was a little rough around the edges but everyone showed up. The Wolf & Bane team in particular rocked my socks off. Both of them! ***¼
Natsu Sumire & Ryo Mizunami vs. Maya Yukihi & SAKI
Sumire is dressed like a hot witch. She’s, sort of, left Stardom since I was watching regularly. It’s very weird how all the Japanese promotions now feature women’s wrestling. Allan Cheapshot, you changed the world, brother. Sumire has always been a heel gimmick worker rather than someone who’s technically good. At least her antics get reactions and in general the positive reactions from the crowd should be considered a win. Yukihi spends most of the match down at Sumire’s level, which is not ideal. Neither is the run-time, which is nearly 14 minutes. Sumire gets the (upset?) win with a cradle DDT on Yukihi. Some of this was very OK. At least the crowd liked it.
Kongo (Shuji Kondo, Hajime Ohara & Hi69) vs. Alejandro, AMAKUSA & Junta Miyawaki
This is a big old mess. Everybody rushes their spots and even good workers, like Ohara, are limited to how they can effect the match. It feels like they saw the tempo of the opener, thought they’d do the same thing, but couldn’t get on the same page. Some of the ‘near miss’ spots are diabolical. AMAKUSA is the only person who doesn’t enrage me because he does a crazy outta control tope. As if he was vaguely aware of the concept of gravity and guardrails but just didn’t give a fuck.
Masato Tanaka & Kazuyuki Fujita vs. Daiki Inaba & Masa Kitamiya
Tanaka looks like he had a tanning accident. He and Fujita chug miniatures pre-match. What is this; Philip Dohm Wrestling? I’m sad the big man won’t get to read this because he doesn’t have ‘time’ to read anything. Remember when Daiki Inaba and SANADA tagged together in Wrestle-1 (presumably because they look a bit alike) and I used to get them confused? How their careers have diverged since. In some other reality Daiki Inaba just got strapped up by NJPW. Tanaka, who is almost 50 now, seems in great shape. For someone who spent the bulk of his career being hit in the head with chairs, and worked for ECW, it shows how sturdy the human body can be.
Oh no, am I going to get hooked on Zero1 again? Baby steps, guys. Speaking of surprising things; Inaba looks all fired up here. He looks like he woke up and said to himself; “today is the day I outwork Masato Tanaka”. I’m sure he’ll go to bed tonight (and every night) with visions of Masato Tanaka’s elbow Sliding D coming towards his face. Rest easy, sweet prince.
You may notice I didn’t really mention Kazu Fujita here, that’s because he did fuck all. I’m not really sure why he still wrestles.
GHC Martial Arts Rules Match
Shinya Aoki vs. Masakatsu Funaki
Aoki has had such a weird career. 47 MMA victories including Sakuraba and just about everyone in Pride. Then, as a little sidebar, he started working for Antonio Inoki’s insane, and awesome, shootstyle company IGF. Then he joined DDT in 2018 for some reason and has wrestled there for years.
Ringside for this one is Josh Barnett. Presumably bringing the commentary knowledge on the English language version, which I’m not watching. “Martial Arts” presumably means MMA. They certainly stiff the hell out of each other with leg kicks.
That’s about the end of it as an interesting contest and I’m reminded I should be watching GLEAT. They do some faux shoot grappling, which is a nice change of pace on a long ass card. The finish is fun. They have Funaki get caught in a leglock but his legs are too big for it to hurt, so he just grabs Aoki’s leg and twists his foot off. Funaki spots Josh Barnett at ringside and with his hubris at max, challenges him to a match and Josh agrees as long as he can wear his leather jacket and Mark Pickering is banned from ringside.
Eita & Daga vs. Yoshinari Ogawa & Chris Ridgeway
Riddy getting the NOAH gig last year was one of the more surprising BritWres guy works in Japan occurrences. Mainly because of his terrible record of missing shows. I can only assume that he’s not allowed out of sight of Ogawa during his time in the Land of the Rising Sun. Ogawa is surprisingly mobile considering he’s now 56. Ridgeway seems to be enjoying himself, torturing Eita and trying to market himself in the same vein as Zack Sabre Jr.
Eita accidentally superkicks Daga so they do a really convoluted bit where Ogawa throws Eita to Daga and Daga beats him up. Which would have worked better if Daga’s finisher wasn’t total shit.
Rey Escorpion vs. Dralistico
Dralistico is the former Mistico (II), not to be confused with Mistico (I) who was Sin Cara, then Mysteziz (I) and now works as Caristico. Got it?
Rey Escorpion, a big mean, thick chested rudo, is the perfect foil for a babyface flier like Dralistico. He does all the Bullet Club heel stuff, only he does it by himself and in front of the referee all the time because he doesn’t give a fuck. I’m going to hit him with a chair, what are you going to do, disqualify me after a minute of the match?
However, he falls horribly into some lucha brainworms. His Irish whip STINKS. He also spends half the match standing around waiting to get hit with dives. I’m torn by his work because half of it is awful and stands out as awful on a card where most stuff has been snug. However, half of it is evil shit, in the best sense of the word. Dralistico tries to win my heart by hitting an insane Asai moonsault where he lands guts first across the rail and his legs land entirely on the announce table. There’s glossy props, 8x10s, and desk lamps everywhere.
This is the kind of match where if you clipped it and made it into a music video, or whatever highlight reel nonsense kids do today, it would look pretty fucking cool. There are also a lot of overhand chops, which are still the coolest form of chop. However, they also do two (TWO) rubbish Canadian Destroyers. One of which involves Dralistico bouncing off the ropes having no sold the first one and making a horrible mess of it. I want to like this match, I really do but fuck me, they’re making it hard. Like stopping off to have a chat about a top rope move during it. They do the finish twice, the first time Escorpion counters out of La Mistica. Was he supposed to? Not sure. Dralistico does it again for the duke. This was an incredibly frustrating experience. Some of this match fucking ruled but it was dragged down by the sheer number of botches and obvious cooperation and communication issues. A match with this much cool shit in should at least get a Gentleman’s Three but they just fucked too much stuff up.
GHC Tag Team Championship
Shuhei Taniguchi & Takashi Sugiura (c) vs. Saxon Huxley & Timothy Thatcher
Seeing Muscle Cat be successful in NOAH is a reward for returning to pro-wrestling. And Tim too, obviously. Wait, THEY GAVE TIM THE CLASSICAL ENTRANCE MUSIC! BritWres Roundtable represent! Dvorak’s Symphony #9 was our theme music and then Thatcher started using it.
How did Tim Thatcher not get to Japan before now? He’s absolutely MADE for Japan. Speaking of which; Huxley is too. We’d joke about him skipping leg day in the UK but here he can thrive as a modern day Bruiser Brody style brawler with his powerful upper body and mass of hair being selling points. Meanwhile Tim does all the heavy lifting and the technical stuff. Huxley uses his size well, and does a lot of the monster gaijin heel stuff. A graphic reveals Sugiura is 52 years old. How does this guy never age? I used to say that about Masato Tanaka but Sugiura is aging even better than him.
Taniguchi, aware he’s potentially a weak link in this match, comes charging in and hits a bunch of the stiffest clotheslines I’ve seen in a while. He gets a wee bit carried away and chokeslams Sugiura onto Huxley. Taniguchi unloads everything and big Saxon just kicks him in the face. Huxley pins Taniguchi and Muscle Cat and Tim Thatcher are champions in NOAH. What a time to be alive. ***
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship
HAYATA (c) vs. Ninja Mack
Ninja Mack is a bit unpredictable. Sometimes he’s shite but he does cool stuff. HAYATA is a guy I’ve never really bought into. I remember him coming into NOAH, with an assortment of others, and feeling he wasn’t good enough for the spot they wanted him to inhabit. Based on the early going here, the looseness both guys show makes me worried for the overall quality of match here. At least Ninja Mack doesn’t leave HAYATA hanging and is quick into position for his high spots.
Ninja Mack does a couple of things I really like here. 1. His Irish whips have genuine follow through. 2. He sells his arm by struggling to do things with it. He leaves it hanging by his side frequently to showcase the injury. It doesn’t stop him doing a bunch of handspring nonsense, but I appreciate the effort. HAYATA keeping focus on the arm is also quite pleasing. Limb work can be the downfall of any wrestler, let alone a junior who wants to fill the match with high spots.
Ninja Mack’s one final piece of work is to hand stand out of something only for his arm to collapse. Fair play mate, you’ve worked hard on this. HAYATA bridges an armbar and Ninja Mack taps out. Holy shit, this ruled. This was so good. They did an arm for an arm on the limb work and it was really well done. Leading right into the finish. I appreciate this a great deal. Limb work is never usually done like this. It’s usually just filler. Well played both. ***½
GHC National Championship
El Hijo del Dr. Wagner Jr. (c) vs. Hideki Suzuki
Suzuki taking a year off to go and train jabronis in Florida only to come back at the same elite level he was at before is very pleasing. Apparently El Hijo del Dr Wagner Jr has been killing it in Japan too. I’m all in on this when EHDDWJ starts by screaming “Ariba Mexico” in Suzuki’s face and Suzuki just decks him with a forearm.
Every time lucha bullshit threatens to break out Suzuki headlocks it. There is a missile dropkick that EHDDWJ takes forever to set up but I’d rather he did that than the alternative, which is falling off the top rope. I much prefer him when he stays grounded and just uses his power. The match has the kind of vibe where it feels like every move could be prefaced by the wrestler doing it shouting “FUCK YOU” beforehand. I am CACKLING here. This match is exactly, EXACTLY, what I want from pro wrestling. Even Suzuki decides to do the fucking Garvin Stomp I’m all in. They even do a wacky near falls sequence and that rules too. EHDDWJ even wins with a pin out of this sequence. I couldn’t be happier. Massive grin on my face watching this. ****¼
Keiji Mutoh joins commentary and he’s all, check this shit out;
Kongo (Katsuhiko Nakajima, Kenoh & Manabu Soya) vs. Go Shiozaki, Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshiki Inamura
This is Shiozaki’s first match since getting injured in September last year.
Does he have this level of Kongo Swag though? Kiyomiya vs Kenoh within this match is a much quicker version of their really good title match earlier in the year. Inamura vs Soya is a series of tests of strength. It’s awesome. Kenoh ruins it by tagging in and no selling for Inamura. He’s such a patently ridiculous little man with Napoleon Syndrome. He then makes it worse by overselling so much for Kiyomiya that Kiyomiya has to stop while climbing the ropes to wait for Kenoh to get up. Go plays a cameo role in his own comeback. Occasionally opening up with big chops. Nakajima is his foil and ‘Hiko spends most of the match kicking the business out of Go before eventually beating him clean in the middle of the ring. That’s what you get for having less swag. Kenoh weirdness aside this was really good. ***½
Post Match: Nakajima shit talks Shiozaki for a while but then….ohh….they shake hands. Kenoh is all confused. Nakajima is all ‘don’t you get it? We’re coming for your tag belts you dumb blonde bitch!” Or something along those lines. AXIZ are back!
GHC Heavyweight Championship
Jake Lee (c) vs. Naomichi Marufuji
Jake Lee jumping to NOAH and immediately being pushed the moon was not something I was expecting from 2023 but here we are.
He’s like a more handsome James Bond. Previously I always felt like Jake Lee was auditioning for a role in the Three Musketeers. The aim of the match seems to be to tell us that Marufuji isn’t over the hill yet. Of course not, he’s only 43 and hasn’t had the kind of deterioration you get in older workers. Marufuji makes the decision to work the arm and now it’s on Jake Lee to do a job on the selling that at least matches what Ninja Mack did earlier. Which should be easy enough, as he doesn’t do any handstands.
Marufuji makes a point of beating the piss out of Lee, showing him what it means to be a main event in NOAH. Lee is just awkward though and repeatedly mistimes stuff. At one point leaning in early for a spot and just staying there with Marufuji looking confused at him. Maybe that’s on Marufuji for not just punting him immediately but it looked weird. A lot of other corner and rope related charges look really bad for a main event though.
The only thing this match proves is that Marufuji is still main event good, rather than Jake Lee having the required ability to carry NOAH forwards. In defence of the match, the crowd are far more into this than I am. They even buy into Marufuji’s stupid referee assist spot. Anyway, Lee retains and the experiment continues. This is my first time seeing Lee in NOAH and I’m not entirely sold on him. I figured WWE would come calling for Jake because he’s tall, handsome and marketable. I find his work too clunky for the main event in a major Japanese company. ***½
A really good show from NOAH overall. I’m not sold on the main event being good enough for the level it was supposed to be on. There were a bunch of good matches on the show though and El Hijo del Dr Wagner Jr vs Hideki Suzuki ruled.