Puroresu Review: NOAH Dome Show 7/10/04

Event: NOAH Departure 2004
Date: July 10th, 2004
Location: Tokyo, Japan
Attendance: 58,000

When people name some of the greatest complete shows in the last five years, this show often comes up. I finally got my hands on it because while I have seen the main event, the rest of the card has eluded me. I will admit though that just scanning the card (Mutoh! Liger!) I see a lot of opportunities for awesomeness. Let’s see if it lives up to the hype. Here is the full card:

– Haruka Eigen vs. Mitsuo Momota
– Masao Inoue, Kishin Kawabata, and Aoyagi vs. Tamon Honda, Jun Izumida, and Kikuchi
– Kotaro Suzuki and Ricky Marvin vs. Michael Modest and Donovan Morgan
– Akitoshi Saito and Makoto Hashi vs. Scorpio and Richard Slinger
– Akira Taue and Takuma Sano vs. Daisuke Ikeda and Mohammed Yone
– GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Title: Marufuji and KENTA vs. Sugiura and Kendo Kashin
– GHC Jr. Heavyweight Championship: Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
– IWGP Tag Team Title: Takayama and Minoru Suzuki vs. Morishima and Takeshi Rikio
– GHC Tag Team Title: Mitsuharu Misawa and Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Keiji Mutoh and Taiyo Kea
– GHC Heavyweight Championship: Kenta Kobashi vs. Jun Akiyama

This was NOAH’s first show ever in the Tokyo Dome, and it was a big hit (which lead to the next Dome Show in 2005). This should be fun.

Haruka Eigen vs. Mitsuo Momota
An old man comedy match to start things off. Tie-up to start, waistlock by Eigen, reversed by Momota, Eigen gets on a hammerlock, but Momota reaches the ropes and Eigen gives a clean break. Arm wringer by Eigen, reversed by Momota, but Eigen gets into the ropes and Momota gives a clean break as well. Tie-up again, and Eigen headbutts Momota out of the ring. Eigen goes to do a dive, but Momota runs out of the way so Eigen slams on the breaks. A Eigen dive would make this match automatically awesome. Momota gets on the apron, Eigen approaches him, but Momota chops him in the chest and Eigen spits into the crowd. Back in the ring, Momota throws Eigen out and goes to do a dive, but Eigen runs out of the way. Eigen gets up on the apron, but Momota turns him around and clubs him in the chest. Slap by Momota, but since Eigen is facing towards him he gets spit in the eye. Eigen begins to work on Momota’s right leg and applies a submission hold, but Momota gets a hand on the bottom rope. Eigen drags Momota back to the middle of the ring, grabs his legs, and gives him the ‘ol Giant Swing much to the crowd’s amazement. It takes a minute for Eigen to recover, but eventually he does and picks up Momota to give him a headbutt. Momota rolls out of the ring but after a bit gets back in. Eigen immediately grabs him and headbutts Momota to the mat. Eigen picks up Momota, Irish whip, reversed, sunset flip attempt by Eigen, but it only gets a two count. Back up, backslide by Eigen, but again he only gets a two. Eigen gets Momota to his feet and he nails a piledriver. He then goes up to the top turnbuckle, but Momota is up and tosses Eigen off. Momota goes for his backdrop suplex, Eigen tries to get out of it, but Momota hits it anyway. Cover, but it only gets two count. Momota goes for a suplex, but Eigen reverses it with a DDT for a two count cover. On their feet again, Momota sneaks in a cradle, Eigen reverses it, but he only gets a two count. Waistlock by Eigen, reversed by Momota, he rolls up Eigen and he picks up the three count pinfall! Your winner: Mitsuo Momota

Match Thoughts: Less “comedy” then I was expecting, and for a NOAH opener it was pretty typical. I don’t really understand it, but the crowd loves watching Eigen and Momota so I guess I can’t really blame NOAH for continuing to use them. They are both old as dirt, but have a strong enough wrestling background that they can still put on a fairly intelligently structured match. Not much to it at all, but it is hard to complain too much when you hear the crowd react so loudly to it. Score: 3.9

Masao Inoue, Kishin Kawabata, and Aoyagi vs. Tamon Honda, Jun Izumida, and Kikuchi
Aoyagi and Kikuchi start things off. They trade kicks to the legs, and Aoyagi gets Kikuchi against the ropes. Irish whip by Kikuchi, but Aoyagi shoulderblocks him down. Aoyagi goes off the ropes, takedown by Kikuchi, but Aoyagi connects on a back heel kick. Kikuchi gets out of the ring and gets a microphone and yells at Aoyagi with it. He then gets back in the ring as Aoyagi tags in Inoue. Inoue goes off the ropes and he shoulderblocks Kikuchi to the mat. Club to the back by Inoue, Irish whip, and Aoyagi comes in the ring to hit Kikuchi in the stomach. Kikuchi rolls out of the ring, Aoyagi goes to take a dive, but when Kikuchi moves he flips himself back into the ring. Kikuchi then quickly gets back in, attacks Inoue from behind and tags in Honda. Forearm shots by Honda, he goes off the ropes, but Aoyagi kicks him from the apron and Inoue hits a backbreaker. Argentine Backbreaker by Inoue but Izumida quickly breaks it up. STF by Honda with his team mates protecting him, but Inoue makes it to the ropes. Irish whip by Honda, reversed, but Inoue knees him in the stomach before hitting a side Russian leg sweep. Inoue goes to grab Honda, but Honda takes him down and goes for the Dead End. Inoue fights out of it though and both men clothesline each other to the mat. Honda tags in Izumida while Kawabata is tagged into the ring as well. Izumida and Kawabata trade blows, Kawabata goes off the ropes, but neither man budges after a collision. Twice more they run into each other, but the final time Kawabata falls to the mat. Headbutt by Izumida, cover, but it gets a two count. Back up, Irish whip by Izumida into the corner, but Kawabata connects with a backdrop suplex. Kawabata goes off the ropes and goes for a lariat, Izumida blocks it, but Kawabata knocks him to the mat anyway. Cover, but it gets a two count. Back up, Izumida hits a series of Mongolian chops and tags in Kikuchi.

Forearm by Kikuchi, but Kawabata forearms him back and knocks him to the mat. Kawabata tags in Aoyagi, who picks up Kikuchi and punches him in the face. Kicks to the chest by Aoyagi and he hits a side kick to Kikuchi’s ribs. Kikuchi tries to fight back, but he is in the wrong corner and Aoyagi gets help before tagging in Inoue. Stomps by Inoue in the corner and he tags in Kawabata. Chops to the chest by Kawabata and he headbutts Kikuchi. Kikuchi comes back with headbutts, however, and the two end up trading blows. Kawabata gets the better of it after a moment and tags in Inoue. Inoue picks up Kikuchi, snapmare, and he kicks Kikuchi in the face. Inoue goes for the Argentine Backbreaker, Kikuchi gets out of it, so Inoue rakes his eyes and tags in Aoyagi. Irish whip by Aoyagi and he connects with a series of kicks. Aoyagi tags in Kawabata, and Kawabata comes off the top turnbuckle with a missile dropkick. Kikuchi is attacked by all three men, cover by Kawabata, but it only gets a two count. Irish whip by Kawabata, but he is caught with a back kick by Kikuchi and Kikuchi tags in Izumida. Izumida charges in the ring, but Kawabata catches him with a powerslam. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Kawabata goes off the ropes and nails the lariat on Izumida. Another cover, but again it gets a two count. Aoyagi and Inoue run protection while Kawabata hits a senton, but the pin attempt is broken up. Now it is Izumida’s team that is in control, as they all connect with running attacks in the corner on Kawabata. Cover by Izumida, but it gets a two count. Izumida picks up Kawabata, but he is saved by his partners. Honda and Kikuchi come in to get them out of the ring, while Izumida connects with a lariat for a two count. Izumida goes up to the top turnbuckle and he hits a diving headbutt. Cover, but Inoue breaks it up. Izumida picks up Kawabata, nails the Mukado Domu, and picks up the three count! Your winners: Tamon Honda, Jun Izumida, and Kikuchi

Match Thoughts: A real cluster, I like some of these guys individually (well, two), but the structure of this match made it hard to enjoy. The “hot” tag wasn’t hot, the last few minutes seemed to slow down instead of speed up, and there were even a few sloppy moments which you usually don’t see from the veterans in Japan. These lower card six man tags in NOAH normally disappoint, I don’t know what their goal is, but I rarely enjoy them as they rarely seem to have any point at all besides to get more wrestlers on the big card. The wrestlers seem to just be going through the motions without any fire and without giving the impression that they care about putting on a good show. Score: 3.5

Kotaro Suzuki and Ricky Marvin vs. Michael Modest and Donovan Morgan
Modest and Marvin start things off. Tie-up, waistlock by Modest and he takes Marvin to the mat. Marvin rolls out of it and applies a front facelock, but Modest gets to the corner and Marvin gives a clean break after giving Modest a little slap. Tie-up, side headlock by Marvin, Modest Irish whips out of it and the two collide with no result. Marvin goes off the ropes and he catches Modest with a hurricanrana. Modest falls out of the ring, Marvin goes to do a dive but flips himself back into the ring instead. Both men tag out and now it is Morgan against Suzuki. Tie-up, and Morgan pushes Suzuki to the mat. Tie-up again, Irish whip by Morgan to the corner and he hits a running lariat. Irish whip by Morgan to the other corner, but Suzuki catches him with a headscissors and flings him out of the ring. Suzuki runs towards the ropes, Morgan moves, but Suzuki slams on the brakes and connects with a corkscrew pescado. Back in the ring, cover by Suzuki, but it gets a two count. On their feet again, Irish whip by Suzuki, reversed, but Suzuki hits a front kick followed by back kick. Roll-up by Suzuki, but it gets a two count. Morgan rolls to his corner and tags in Modest while Suzuki tags in Marvin. Marvin charges Modest, Modest catches him, but Marvin gets out of it. Marvin goes for a handstand springboard off the ropes, but Modest sees him and dropkicks him as he is in the middle of the move. Morgan then grabs Marvin from the outside and DDTs him down to the floor before rolling him back into the ring. Cover, but it gets a two count.

Modest tags in Morgan, who gives Marvin an uppercut. Reverse chinlock by Morgan and he tags Modest. Running butt smash by Modest, cover, but Marvin kicks out. Modest picks up Marvin, scoop slam, and he walks over Marvin. Marvin is back up, but Modest rakes him in the eyes. Irish whip by Modest, and he knees Marvin in the stomach before hitting a gutbuster. Cover, but again it gets a two count. Modest tags in Morgan, Morgan connects with the Overdrive, but it only gets him a two count. Morgan drags up Marvin, snapmare, and he dropkicks him in the back. Cover, but again Marvin kicks out. Kick to the back by Morgan, he picks up Marvin and tags in Modest. Headbutt to the ribs by Modest and he clubs Marvin in the back. Modest goes for the California Roll, Marvin pushes him off, but Modest hits it anyway for the close two count pinfall that is broken up by Suzuki. Morgan comes in, and together he and Modest hit a 3D on Suzuki. Back to Marvin, Modest chops him into the corner, but Marvin chops him back. Modest throws Marvin back into the corner though, but Marvin avoids a charges and dropkicks Marvin in the corner. Marvin tries to tag in Suzuki, but Modest drags him back. Morgan comes in the ring, they go for a double team move, but Marvin sorta slides off their back with no harm done. Another double Irish whip by Morgan and Modest, this time Marvin goes for a double DDT and mostly connects. This gives him time to tag in Suzuki, Modest goes for the Reality Check, but Suzuki rolls off his back. Morgan then grabs Suzuki and attempts to hit the Sayonara, but Suzuki backdrops his way out of it. He then goes off the ropes and hits a double dropkick on both men. Morgan and Modest don’t go down however, Suzuki goes off the ropes again, but this time he is caught with a double twisting neck drop. Cover, but Marvin comes off the ropes to break it up. Morgan and Morgan push Marvin against the ropes, double Irish whip, Marvin ends up on the apron, but he gets knocked off and Suzuki is dropkicked by both Morgan and Morgan. They then go for a double knee strike, but Suzuki grabs their legs and Morgan hits a springboard dropkick to both men, sending them into the second rope. Suzuki and Marvin then get running starts and hit simultaneous 619s. Double cover, but they both get a two count. They both go for German suplexes, but only Suzuki gets his and it is broken up. Morgan is thrown out of the ring and Marvin sails out onto him with a springboard plancha off the side ropes.

Inside the ring, Suzuki Irish whips Morgan into the corner and connects with a running forearm strike. Scoop slam by Suzuki, Marvin goes to the top turnbuckle and nails the moonsault. Suzuki then picks up Modest and nails the Blue Destiny. Cover, but Morgan breaks it up. Suzuki goes for it again, but Modest hits an exploder and tags in Morgan. Morgan picks up Suzuki, Irish whip to the corner, but Suzuki avoids the charge. Suzuki then goes to the top turnbuckle and connects with a flying kick before tagging in Marvin. Irish whip by Marvin, reversed, and Marvin nails the handstand springboard tornado DDT. Cover, but it gets two. Back up, Irish whip by Marvin to the corner, reversed by Morgan, but Marvin flips himself out to the apron. Marvin kicks Morgan to the mat from the apron, delivers a senton, and sets up Morgan on the second rope. He then goes for another 619, Morgan ducks it, Marvin then tries for a 619 under the next rope, but Morgan ducks that as well. Lariat by Morgan, and he nails the Sayonara. Cover, but Marvin barely kicks out. Lungblower by Morgan on Suzuki, and Modest delivers the Reality Check. They go back to Marvin, level him with the Day After Tomorrow, and pick up the three count pinfall! Your winners: Michael Modest and Donovan Morgan

Match Thoughts: I was afraid that Morgan and Modest were really going to slow the match down, but they kept up with Marvin and Suzuki to a reasonable degree and the match came across as a solid big man/little man tag match. Marvin and Suzuki of course were all over the place, and Morgan/Modest hit a lot of power moves to keep the feisty buggers down. Course I think in the last five minutes we saw every finishing move that the four wrestlers have, but it was the big Dome Show so I can’t complain too much. Marvin missed a few spots, which is normal, but Suzuki looked good when he was in the ring. I don’t have any serious complaints, the big man tag/little man tag formula was done well here (even if they didn’t diverge much from it) and I stayed at least mildly entertained throughout the match. Score: 6.0

Akitoshi Saito and Makoto Hashi vs. Scorpio and Richard Slinger
Scorpio and Saito start things off. Tie-up, Saito gets Scorpio into the ropes, they roll around the ropes together until Scorpio has the better position, but he gives a clean break. Waistlock by Saito, Scorpio goes off the ropes, but they collide with no result. They trade forearm shots, and Saito connects with a high kick. Another kick by Saito and he knocks Scorpio down, but Scorpio is back up. They trade high strikes, but neither man can get an advantage and they both tag out. Slinger and Hashi now, tie-up, waistlock by Slinger, reversed by Hashi, and they trade strikes. Mongolian chops by Hashi, side headlock, Slinger Irish whips out of it, but Hashi shoulderblocks him down. Armdrag by Slinger, Hashi arm drags him back, but Slinger uses his momentum to land on top and applies an armbar. Hashi struggles to his feet, but Slinger pushes him into the corner and connects with a high kick. Irish whip, reversed, and Hashi hits a forearm shot. Hiptoss by Hashi and he delivers a headbutt. Arm wringer by Hashi and he tags in Saito. Club to the back by Saito and he throws Slinger out of the ring. He follows him out and knees him in the stomach, and then Hashi comes off the apron with a diving headbutt. Hashi goes up on the apron and gives him another one, and then gives Slinger a third before sliding Slinger back into the ring. Irish whip by Saito and he hits a knee to the stomach. Delayed suplex by Saito, cover, but it only gets a two count.

Saito tags in Hashi, Irish whip, and he hits a back elbow. Stomp to the back by Hashi, he picks up Slinger, scoop slam, and he hits a headbutt from the second rope. Cover, but Slinger catches him with a jawbreaker followed by a powerslam. Hashi tags in Scorpio, forearm by Scorpio and he knees Hashi in the head. Cover, but Hashi kicks out. Scorpio runs to the second rope and hits a front flip leg drop, cover, but Saito breaks it up. A headlock is applied by Scorpio and he clubs Hashi in the face before applying a stretch hold. Cover, but Hashi rolls through it. Hammerlock by Scorpio, he picks up Hashi and hits a suplex. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Scorpio tags in Slinger, and Slinger kicks Hashi in the stomach. Another kick by Slinger, Irish whip, and he hits a spinebuster for a two count. Texas Cloverleaf by Slinger, and Scorpio comes off the top turnbuckle with a leg drop. Cover, but it gets a two count. Slinger knees Hashi in the stomach before tagging in Scorpio. Butterfly suplex by Scorpio, cover, but he lets Hashi go and calls for the 450. Cobra Clutch by Scorpio, but Saito breaks it up. Powerbomb by Scorpio, he goes to the top turnbuckle and nails the moonsault. Cover, but Hashi barely kicks out. STO by Scorpio, he goes off the ropes and hits a rebound splash. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Shoulder tackle by Scorpio in the corner and he nails a superkick. Scorpio goes to the top turnbuckle and hits the twisting splash, cover, but Hashi kicks out. Scorpio goes up again, but this time Hashi rolls out of the way. Hashi waits for Scorpio to get up, but he is caught by a pair of kicks. He ducks the third though, nails a lariat and tags in Saito. Saito clotheslines Scorpio over the top rope to the ramp before suplexing him back into the ring. Saito waits for Scorpio to get up, nails the lariat, cover, but Slinger breaks it up. Irish whip by Slinger to the corner and he hits a forearm shot. Scorpio comes over, but Saito fights them both off. Eye rake by Scorpio though and he tags in Slinger. Dropkick by Slinger, Hashi comes in, but Slinger gives him a spinning elbow strike. Dropkick by Slinger on Saito, Irish whip, and he kicks Saito in the stomach. Face crusher by Slinger, cover, but it gets a two count.

Slinger goes off the ropes, but Saito catches him with a dropkick to the knee and he tags in Hashi. Hashi goes to the top turnbuckle and nails a missile dropkick on Slinger. Neckbreaker by Hashi, cover, but it only gets a two count. Irish whip by Hashi, reversed, and Slinger connects with a running kick. Scorpio then comes in the ring, but he accidentally hits Slinger. Hashi and Saito then take turns crushing them in the corner before Hashi hits a diving headbutt on Slinger. Cover, but it only gets a two count. In the ring, Hashi catches a Slinger kick and nails the Fisherman’s Buster. Cover, but again it gets a two count. Scorpio comes in to help and together they hit their version of Total Elimination on Hashi. Slinger then goes to to the top and nails a flying body press, cover, but Saito breaks it up. Chattanooga Choo Choo attempt by Slinger, but Hashi reverses it with a small package. Back up, Hashi ducks the first high kick but Slinger connects with the second. German suplex hold by Slinger, but Hashi barely kicks out. Slinger drags Hashi to his feet, delivers the Chattanooga Choo Choo, and gets the three count pinfall! Your winners: Scorpio and Richard Slinger

Match Thoughts: Not a bad match, although it was a little chaotic and random at times. I am always impressed (even still) when I see Scorpio in NOAH, since my last memories of him from the late 90s was that he was washed up and here he is clearly still a really entertaining wrestler. I have never been real impressed with Slinger though and neither team showed the team work that we saw in the previous match. So the match wasn’t totally void of entertainment, but it was just pretty average all around. Score: 5.3

Akira Taue and Takuma Sano vs. Daisuke Ikeda and Mohammed Yone
Sano and Yone start things off, as Yone quickly charges across the ring and hits Sano with a spinning heel kick. Irish whip by Yone, Sano ducks a kick, and the two collide with no result. Yone goes for a backdrop suplex, but Sano lands on his feet and delivers one of his own. Sano tags in Taue, but Ikeda flies out of nowhere and levels Taue with a kick. Sano takes care of Ikeda, as Taue throws Yone into the corner. Irish whip by Taue, but Yone avoids his charges. Scoop slam by Yone, he goes to the second rope, but Taue is up and chokeslams him off. Cover, but Ikeda breaks it up. Taue picks up Yone and drops him with a powerbomb. Taue tags in Sano, cover, but it only gets a two count. Reverse chinlock by Sano, he releases it and stomps Yone in the chest. Sano picks up Yone, scoop slam, he goes to the second turnbuckle and comes off with a double stomp. Cover, but Ikeda breaks it up again. Sano throws Taue into his corner and tags in Taue. Irish whip by Taue and he delivers the big boot to Yone. Taue picks up Yone, Irish whip again, but this time Yone gets a sunset flip for a two count. Taue cranks on Yone’s neck, but Yone makes it to the ropes and Taue tags in Sano. Kicks to the back by Sano, cover, but it gets another two count.

Sano goes for a vertical suplex, but Yone blocks it and hits one of his own. He goes for the tag, but Sano drags him back and applies a submission hold. Camel Clutch by Sano, but Ikeda breaks it up. Knee to the stomach by Sano and he kicks Yone repeatedly in the leg. Sano tags in Taue, who chokes Yone in the corner with his boot. Lariat by Taue, and he hits Yone with another one. Cover, but Ikeda runs in to break it up. Taue goes for a chokeslam, Yone blocks it, so Taue throws him into the corner. Irish whip by Taue, reversed, and Yone delivers a spinning heel kick before making the hot tag to Ikeda. Irish whip by Ikeda and he hits a jumping kick to Taue’s head. Ikeda goes off the ropes and goes for a lariat, Taue ducks it and goes for a chokeslam, but Ikeda shakes him off and finally hits the lariat. Ikeda picks up Taue and chokes him, but Taue pushes him into the ropes. Irish whip by Taue, and he connects with the big boot before tagging in Sano. Sano goes up to the top turnbuckle and comes off with a missile dropkick. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Irish whip by Sano, reversed, and Ikeda hits a series of kicks, knocking Sano to the mat. Ikeda picks him back up, puts him on his shoulders, and delivers a killer Death Valley Driver. Cover, but Taue quickly breaks it up. Ikeda throws him out of the ring and tags in Yone. Yone picks up Sano, Irish whip from the corner, and he hits a running lariat before Ikeda nails a lariat of his own after jumping off Yone’s back. Yone then nails the Muscle Buster, cover, but Sano barely kicks out. Yone goes off the ropes after Sano gets up and nails a lariat, cover, but Taue breaks it up.

Taue then levels Ikeda and chokeslams Yone. Another kick by Taue to Ikeda, Sano is back up, and he trades strikes with Yone. Back kick by Sano and he drops him with a German suplex. Northern Lights Bomb by Sano, cover, but Ikeda barely breaks it up in time. Sano goes up to the top turnbuckle and nails the double stomp. Cover, but Yone kicks out in time. Taue rolls in the ring and with Sano they put Yone onto the top turnbuckle. Sano then joins Yone and delivers a top rope Northern Lights Bomb! Cover, and this one is certainly over. Your winners: Akira Taue and Takuma Sano

Match Thoughts: My favorite match so far, which I can’t really explain. Besides the resting point early, the match was pretty non-stop from start to go, which is saying a lot for match with Taue in it. I assume that the wrestlers knew they had 10 minutes and wanted to make it as exciting as they could. All four men looked good here relative to their abilities, with Yone taking a king-sized beating. I was a little surprised to see a move like a top rope Northern Lights Bomb this early on the card, but I guess that just shows how big of a deal being in the Dome was for NOAH… everyone wanted to do what they could to make their matches memorable. Pretty entertaining. Score: 6.4

(c) Marufuji and KENTA vs. Sugiura and Kendo Kashin
This match is for the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Marufuji and Kashin start things off, but Kashin immediately tags in Sugiura. They then tag back, tie-up, waistlock by Kashin, reversed by Marufuji, and he applies a wristlock. Kashin reverses the wristlock, but Marufuji flips out of it and both men are back on their feet again. Tie-up, fireman’s carry takedown by Kashin, but Marufuji kip-ups and gives Kashin one of his own. They trade roll-up pin attempts, but none work and both men are back up facing off. Kashin asks for a handshake, but he doesn’t give Marufuji one and tags in Sugiura. Marufuji then tags in KENTA, and he hits a running boot to Sugiura. They trade strikes, KENTA gets Sugiura against the ropes, Irish whip, reversed, but KENTA connects with a running boot to the face. Spear by Sugiura, and he tosses KENTA to the mat. Sugiura picks up KENTA, snapmare, and he applies a reverse chinlock. KENTA gets a foot on the ropes, so Sugiura releases the hold and stomps KENTA in the back.

Sugiura tags in Kashin, club to the back by Kashin and he throws Marufuji out of the ring. KENTA goes out after him, but Marufuji comes flying over the top with a pescado. He is caught by a few of Kashin’s friends at ringside, Kashin gets on the apron, but KENTA comes in the ring and dropkicks Kashin off the apron, knocking down Kashin’s friends in the process. Kashin gets back in the ring eventually and pairs off with KENTA. Kashin drives KENTA into his corner and tags in Sugiura. Double beatdown by Kashin and Sugiura, as they choke KENTA in the corner. Forearm by Sugiura, he goes for a suplex, but KENTA reverses it into a vertical suplex of his own and tags in Marufuji. Irish whip by Marufuji and he hits a jumping elbow strike. Cover, but it gets a two count. Neck crank by Marufuji and he tags in KENTA. Kicks to the chest by KENTA, Irish whip, and he hits an elbow before knocking Kashin off the apron. Cover, but it gets another two count. Snapmare by KENTA and he kicks Sugiura hard in the back. KENTA then applies a headscissors, but Sugiura reaches the bottom rope. Snapmare by KENTA, he goes to the apron and hits a leg drop, and then Marufuji hits a springboard elbow drop. Cover by Marufuji, but Sugiura kicks out. Marufuji applies a reverse chinlock to Sugiura and stomps Sugiura in the head. Irish whip by Marufuji, he charges Sugiura, but Sugiura back bodydrops him out of the ring to the floor. Marufuji recovers quickly though, pulls Sugiura out of the ring, goes back in the ring himself and goes for a baseball slide, but Sugiura catches him. Sugiura gets Marufuji up on the apron and nails a gutwrench suplex down to the floor. The count gets high, but at 19 Kashin runs over and slides Marufuji back into the ring. Cover by Sugiura, but it gets a two count. Sugiura appears mad that Kashin slide Marufuji back in the ring, so he tags him in. Club to the back by Kashin and he delivers an uppercut. Kashin goes for an Olympic Slam, but Marufuji grabs the top rope to block it.

Kashin tags Sugiura back into the ring and they take turns striking Marufuji in the corner. Kashin ends up throwing the referee into Marufuji when the referee tries to stop them, cover by Kashin, but the referee only counts a two count. Clubs to the back by Kashin, Sugiura comes in the ring, but Marufuji moves, causing Sugiura to spear Kashin. Sugiura attacks Marufuji, picks him up for Kashin, Marufuji moves again, Kashin slams on the breaks, but then he slaps Sugiura anyway. Olympic Slam by Kashin on Marufuji, cover, but Sugiura breaks it up. Kashin tags in Sugiura, and Sugiura applies the Camel Clutch. Sugiura picks up Marufuji and delivers a hard facebuster. Cover, but Marufuji kicks out at two. Marufuji begins to fight back and nails Sugiura with a superkick, allowing him to tag in KENTA. Running boot by KENTA in the corner, Irish whip, and he delivers another one. He then puts Sugiura on the top turnbuckle and hits a tornado DDT onto the top rope, with KENTA landing on the outside. Kashin comes into the ring, so KENTA knocks him down with a springboard missile dropkick. He then starts a kick combination on Sugiura, goes to the apron, and hits him with a missile dropkick as well. Cover, but it gets a two count. Fisherman’s Buster by KENTA, cover, but again it gets two. Suplex attempt by KENTA, but Sugiura slams on the brakes and suplexes KENTA over the top rope. KENTA lands on the apron though and goes for a springboard rana, but Sugiura catches him and plants him with a powerbomb. Sugiura tags in Kashin, who knocks down KENTA with a clothesline. Irish whip by Kashin, reversed, Kashin kicks KENTA back, but KENTA hits a powerslam for a two count. Back up, KENTA goes for his combination, but Kashin ducks it and delivers a low blow when the referee isn’t looking. Club to the back by Kashin, Irish whip, but KENTA dropkicks him in the knee and hits a dragon screw leg whip before tagging in Marufuji. Irish whip by Marufuji and he delivers a jumping elbow. Marufuji then puts Kashin on the top turnbuckle and goes for the Frankensteiner, Kashin pushes him off, but Marufuji lands on his feet. Marufuji charges Kashin, but Kashin grabs him and applies the Guillotine Choke over the top rope. Roll-up by Kashin, but it gets a two count. Dropkick to the knee by Marufuji and he dropkicks Kashin in the head. Superkick by Marufuji, he picks up Kashin and goes for the Shiranui, but Kashin reverses it and delivers a Shiranui of his own. Cover, but it gets a two count.

Kashin tags in Sugiura, Sugiura charges Marufuji, but Marufuji ducks and Sugiura flies out of the ring. With Sugiura on the apron, Marufuji goes for a sunset flip powerbomb, Kashin tries to help, but KENTA dropkicks Kashin into Sugiura and Marufuji takes Sugiura over. KENTA then stomps Kashin and kicks him back into the corner before throwing him out of the ring. Marufuji slides Sugiura back into the ring, KENTA picks him up, Irish whip to the corner, and both men hit running strikes. Kashin comes back in, but he is treated with a double superkick. Marufuji then puts Sugiura on his shoulders, but Sugiura gets off. Sugiura then applies the ankle lock to Marufuji while Kashin slaps the cross armbreaker on KENTA. Marufuji makes it to the ropes though and Sugiura breaks the hold. Sugiura picks up Marufuji, Irish whip to the corner and he hits a running spear. Marufuji tries to wiggle his way out, but Sugiura merely spears him again. Release German suplex by Sugiura, cover, but Marufuji barely kicks out in time. Sugiura goes for another one, but Marufuji lands on his feet and delivers a superkick. Marufuji then goes for the Shiranui, but Sugiura catches him and plants him with a tombstone piledriver. Sugiura picks up Marufuji, hits a German suplex followed by a Dragon suplex hold, but KENTA runs in to break it up. Kashin throws KENTA out of the ring, Sugiura picks up Marufuji and nails an Olympic Slam, picks him back up, puts him on the top turnbuckle, but KENTA runs over to help. With Marufuji still on the top turnbuckle, KENTA sets up Sugiura for a powerbomb and hits one as Marufuji delivers an avalance-style Shiranui. Cover, but Kashin knocks the referee to break the count. KENTA delivers a kick combination to Kashin and knocks him out of the ring with a Busaiku Knee Kick. Shiranui by Marufuji, cover, but Sugiura barely kicks out. Marufuji sets up Sugiura, goes to the top turnbuckle, but the Shooting Star Press turns more into senton as he doesn’t rotate over. Cover, but again it gets a two count. Marufuji then puts Sugiura onto the top turnbuckle, nails the Shiranui, cover, and he picks up the three count pinfall! Your winners and still champions: Marufuji and KENTA

Match Thoughts: A very entertaining match, as you would probably assume. It probably annoyed some people, but I liked the interaction between Kashin and Sugiura. They clearly didn’t want to be partners here, and even though they had a few fun back and forths, when it really mattered (breaking up pins, tags, etc.) they worked together so it didn’t hinder the match. The ending was a little botched, but I give Marufuji a lot of credit for turning a SSP that he didn’t rotate on into a senton rather then doing what Lesnar and Hayabusa did in the same situation. Kashin is a step below the other three in terms of in-ring ability, but he held up his end here and didn’t drag down the match too much. Overall it was a fun match, the winner was obvious from the start, but it was still a very solid defense for KENTA and Marufuji. Score: 7.6

(c) Jushin Thunder Liger vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru
This match is for the GHC Jr. Heavyweight Championship. Kanemaru charges Liger to start the match, Irish whip, reversed, Kanemaru hangs onto the top rope and knocks back Liger when he charges, he then goes for a springboard moonsault, but Liger steps out of the way. Shotei by Liger, he picks up Kanemaru and nails a Liger Bomb. Cover, but Kanemaru barely kicks out. Liger picks up Kanemaru, but Kanemaru quickly hits a brainbuster and gets a two count cover. Liger rolls out of the ring holding his neck, but he eventually gets back in. Kanemaru kicks Liger as he does though, snapmare, and he applies a reverse chinlock with a body scissors. Liger makes it to the ropes though and Kanemaru has to break the hold. Stomps by Kanemaru, he picks up Liger and puts him in the Tree of Woe. Kanemaru then goes to the other corner, gets a running start, and dropkicks Liger in the head. Cover by Kanemaru, but it gets a two count. Camel Clutch by Kanemaru and he rips at Liger’s mask. Kanemaru goes back to the neck by applying a headscissors, but Liger gets out of it. Kanemaru slaps on a headlock, Liger struggles to his feet, and Kanemaru pushes him into the corner. Knees by Kanemaru, Irish whip, but Liger kicks him when he charges in. Liger goes for a tilt-a-whirl backbreaker, Kanemaru lands on his feet, but Liger nails him with a Liger Kick and Kanemaru sails out of the ring. Liger then connects with a baseball slide and slides out of the ring after Kanemaru. Liger picks up Kanemaru and delivers a powerbomb on the outside.

Liger gets back in the ring, and Kanemaru barely makes it before the 20 count. Liger picks up Kanemaru, Irish whip, but Kanemaru collapses. Liger picks him up again and delivers another powerbomb. The referee starts the 10 count for Kanemaru, but he manages to get to his feet. Release German suplex by Liger, cover, but Kanemaru barely kicks out. Liger puts Kanemaru up on the top turnbuckle, joins him, and hits a butterfly suplex. Cover, but again it gets a two count. Liger applies a stretch hold to Kanemaru and then slaps on a reverse chinlock with a body scissors. Romero Special by Liger and he applies a Dragon Sleeper while keeping Kanemaru’s legs tied up. Liger picks up Kanemaru and chops him into the corner. Running start by Liger, but Kanemaru gets a foot up when Liger charges. Liger goes for another powerbomb, but Kanemaru lands on his feet, goes off the ropes, and dropkicks Liger in the knee. Kanemaru picks up Liger, but Liger plants him with a backdrop suplex. Liger gets Kanemaru to his feet, puts him up onto the top turnbuckle, but Kanemaru fights back and hits a sunset flip powerbomb. Kanemaru goes up to the top turnbuckle, waits for Liger to get up and nails the Deep Impact. Cover, but it gets a two count. Kanemaru quickly goes up top again, but Liger rolls out of the way of the moonsault.

Back up, quick roll-up by Liger, but it gets a two count. Liger pushes Kanemaru into the corner, puts him on the top turnbuckle and hits a Frankensteiner, but Kanemaru rolls through it and gets a two count pinfall. Kanemaru goes off the ropes, but Liger levels him with a Shotei. Liger picks up Kanemaru, Irish whip to the corner, and he hits another Shotei. Liger puts Kanemaru on the top turnbuckle again and delivers the superplex, cover, but Kanemaru quickly gets out. Boot to the head by Kanemaru, and he hits a brainbuster of his own, but Liger quickly kicks out as well. Liger goes for a Shotei, but Kanemaru pushes his hand back. Liger slaps him though, nails a Shotei anyway, and then delivers a brainbuster. Cover, but Kanemaru barely kicks out in time. Liger signals that the match is over, he puts Kanemaru on the top turnbuckle and goes for the brainbuster, but Kanemaru punches him off. Liger charges back though, but Kanemaru reverses it into a top rope DDT. Cover, but Liger kicks out in time. Kanemaru positions Liger, goes to the top turnbuckle, and hits the moonsault. Cover, but again Liger kicks out. Kanemaru picks up Liger again, nails the brainbuster, rolls Liger back up, and this time delivers the revolution-style brainbuster. Cover by Kanemaru, and he picks up the three count pinfall! Your winner and new champion: Yoshinobu Kanemaru

Match Thoughts: Pretty good, but not without its problems. The best thing that Liger brings to the table these days is he knows how to make a match matter and he has the crowd in the palm of his hand throughout the match. I didn’t like, however, the random no-selling in the middle of the match… I don’t know where it came from or what its point was, but I think it really broke the flow of the match. Kanemaru did a good job at first focusing on the neck, but he didn’t do much with it in terms of submissions after the first several minutes. The crowd popped big for the pin though, which was probably more for Liger losing since Liger is on a completely different tier then Kanemaru. Still, the match was certainly entertaining even though some of the sections were a little puzzling. Score: 7.0

(c) Takayama and Minoru Suzuki vs. Morishima and Takeshi Rikio
This match is for the IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Suzuki and Rikio start things off. Suzuki avoids Rikio to start, as they jockey for position. Suzuki continues avoiding Rikio, Morishima comes in to help, but Suzuki gets away from him as well and he tags in Takayama. Tie-up, Rikio pushes Takayama into the ropes and gives him a slap before backing off. Forearms by Rikio, but Takayama returns fire and the two trade blows. Rikio goes off the ropes and he shoulderblocks Takayama to the mat. Rikio tags in Morishima, Irish whip by Morishima and he hits a spinning elbow strike. Takayama gets back to his feet, tie-up, waistlock by Takayama and he applies a sleeper before tagging in Suzuki. Kicks in the corner by Suzuki, but Morishima breaks loose and wildly swings at Suzuki. Suzuki continues avoiding Morishima, and Morishima tags in Rikio. Tie-up, and Suzuki slaps Rikio. Another slap, but Rikio catches him and slaps him back. Shoulderblock by Rikio, and Suzuki rolls out of the ring. Rikio goes out after him, Takayama tries to interfere, so Rikio chokeslams him on the outside. Morishima and Rikio get in the ring with Suzuki to double team him, splash by Rikio, cover, but it gets a two count. Rikio picks up Suzuki, throws him into the corner, and both men connect with running lariats. Rikio and Morishima then bounce off the ropes and lariat Suzuki from both sides. One final lariat by Rikio, cover, but Suzuki barely kicks out.

Rikio picks Suzuki on his shoulders while Morishima climbs up top, but Takayama intercepts him. Cross armbreaker by Suzuki on Rikio in the ring, but Morishima breaks it up. Suzuki picks up Rikio and chokes him in the corner with his boot. Takayama tags himself in, and he kicks Rikio in the head before standing on his shoulders in the corner. Forearm shot by Takayama, Irish whip from the corner, and he hits a jumping knee. Hiptoss by Takayama, cover, but it gets a two count. Snapmare by Takayama, he goes off the ropes and kicks Rikio in the chest. Cover, but Rikio kicks out. Takayama kicks Morishima off the apron as Suzuki comes in to help kick Rikio. Backdrop suplex by Takayama, cover, but Morishima breaks it up. Takayama goes for a knee lift, but Rikio blocks it and nails a chokeslam, allowing him to tag in Morishima. Morishima picks up Takayama, Irish whip, and he hits a pair of lariats. He then goes off the ropes, but Takayama catches him with a crossbody and tags in Suzuki. Suzuki picks up Morishima, ducks a lariat, and applies an armbar. Morishima makes it to the ropes though and Suzuki breaks the hold. Sleeper by Suzuki, Morishima gets out of it, but Suzuki takes him down with a keylock. Takayama takes care of Rikio, but Rikio finally gets in the ring to break it up. Stomps by Suzuki, and he tags in Takayama. Elbow to the arm by Takayama and he applies his own keylock, but again Rikio breaks it up. Together he and Morishima dropkick Takayama to the mat, and then Morishima hits a running kick to the face. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Backdrop suplex by Morishima, cover, but Suzuki barely breaks it up. Morishima picks up Takayama, but Suzuki dropkicks him. Morishima slaps Suzuki back into the corner, goes back to Takayama, and hits him with a lariat. Takayama fires back with a knee however, and then nails a running knee to the face. Cover, but Rikio breaks it up. Suzuki applies a sleeper on Rikio and kicks him out of the ring as Takayama hits a backdrop suplex on Morishima. Takayama then picks up Morishima and nails the Everest German Suplex for the three count pinfall! Your winners and still champions: Takayama and Minoru Suzuki

Match Thoughts: A decent match, although I think they could have used their time (12 minutes) a bit better. Unlike the Taue match, here they stalled quite a bit at different times which made the match seem even shorter then it really was. When I first starting watching puroresu I hated Suzuki, but he has really grown on me over time and I really enjoy his style now. Rikio and Morishima had little chance of winning, however, and only had one or two realistic near-falls in the entire match. Also the transition by Takayama seemed a bit sudden, as he went from eating a lariat to dominating Morishima in a matter of seconds without showing any signs of being damaged the moment before. On a regular card this match would have stood out more, but surrounded by more notable matches it hardly left a lasting impression. Score: 6.2

(c) Mitsuharu Misawa and Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Keiji Mutoh and Taiyo Kea
This match is for the GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Championship. Oh boy oh boy…. Mutoh and Misawa clash for the first time. Kea and Ogawa naturally start things off. Tie-up, kick by Kea and he applies a wristlock into a side headlock, cobra clutch by Kea, cover, but Ogawa applies a headscissors and both men get back to their feet. Tie-up, hammerlock by Ogawa, reversed by Kea, reversed back, wristlock by Ogawa, Kea forearms out of it, but Ogawa pokes him in the eyes. Jawbreaker by Ogawa, but Kea chops him back and tags in Mutoh. The crowd is going nuts as Ogawa makes the tag to Misawa. They circle each other, tie-up, side headlock by Misawa, Mutoh Irish whips out of it and the two collide with no result. Elbow strike by Misawa, and he nails the Tiger Driver for a two count cover. Mutoh trips him up however, springs back to his feet and delivers the Shiiiiiiiining Wizard to Misawa, sending him out of the ring. Mutoh then poses on the top turnbuckle before going to one knee to wait for Misawa to come back in. He eventually does, tie-up, waistlock by Mutoh, reversed by Misawa into a wristlock, and he gets Mutoh to the mat. Back up, wristlock by Misawa, but Mutoh trips him to get out of it and applies a leg submission hold. Misawa eventually gets to the ropes and Mutoh has to break the hold. Mutoh tags in Kea, tie-up, Misawa pushes Kea into the ropes and gives him a spinning elbow.

Misawa tags in Ogawa, double Irish whip, and they connect on a double elbow. Cover by Ogawa, but Kea easily kicks out in time. Ogawa picks up Kea, Irish whip, reversed, but Ogawa kicks him when Kea charges in. Again Ogawa pushes Kea back, but Kea applies a side headlock and takes him down. Scoop slam by Kea, Irish whip, and he elbows Ogawa to the mat. Kea then goes to the top turnbuckle, but Ogawa pushes the referee into him, knocking him off. Chop by Ogawa, and he tags in Misawa. Misawa and Kea trade strikes, Kea gets the better of it, Irish whip, and he delivers a dropkick. Kea tags in Mutoh, who stomps Misawa in the corner. Snapmare by Mutoh and he nails the Flash Elbow. Mutoh pulls back on Misawa’s leg a bit and then applies a leg submission hold. Mutoh tags in Kea, and they both yank on Misawa’s leg. Kea picks up Misawa, he goes for a suplex, but Misawa blocks it and tags in Ogawa. Punches to the ribs by Ogawa, Irish whip from the corner, but Kea moves when Ogawa charges in and Ogawa goes into the ring post. Backdrop suplex by Kea and he tags in Mutoh.

Dropkick to the head by Mutoh and he then dropkicks Ogawa in the leg. Dragon screw leg whip by Mutoh and he slaps on the STF. Misawa eventually breaks it up, so Mutoh picks up Ogawa and just drills him with an Emerald Frosion! Misawa doesn’t appreciate it though and runs into give Mutoh a Shining Wizard! Mutoh tags in Kea after he recovers, and Kea chops Ogawa into the corner. Strikes by Kea in the corner, Irish whip, and Kea hits a running lariat. Another running lariat by Kea, he puts Ogawa on his shoulders and hits the TKO. Cover, but Misawa breaks it up. Enzigieri by Ogawa, but Kea replies with a jumping heel kick. Both men tag out, but Mutoh catches Misawa with a dropkick. Misawa returns with a dropkick of his own, they trade blows, but Mutoh dropkicks Misawa in the leg and hits a dragon screw leg whip. Mutoh goes for a Shining Wizard, but Misawa blocks it and elbows Mutoh out of the ring. Misawa then gets a running start and flies out of the ring with an elbow suicida, knocking Mutoh over the guardrail into the crowd. Kea comes in the ring as Misawa rolls back in, but Mutoh eventually makes it back in under his own power. As Mutoh gets on the apron, Misawa approaches him, so Mutoh elbows him so hard that it (legitimately) makes him fall off the apron. Mutoh quickly recovers though and gets back in the ring. Mutoh goes to the top turnbuckle then and delivers a missile dropkick. He then tags in Kea, Irish whip by Kea and he hits a diving forearm. Waistlock by Kea, Misawa elbows out of it, but Kea hits a superkick. Irish whip by Kea from the corner, reversed, but Kea avoids the elbow and hits a hurricanrana for a two count. Kea applies the cross armbreaker, but Misawa get a foot on the ropes. Irish whip by Kea from the corner, but Misawa elbows him when he charges in. Kea goes for a backdrop suplex, but Misawa lands on his feet and levels him with an elbow smash.

Misawa tags in Ogawa, Ogawa picks up Kea, Irish whip, reversed, but Ogawa hits a DDT for a two count cover. Kicks by Kea, and he connects on a jumping heel kick. He goes for the Hawaiian Smasher, but Misawa comes in to help. Double Irish whip from the corner, Misawa hits an elbow followed by a drop toehold by Ogawa and an elbow drop by Misawa. Backdrop suplex by Ogawa, cover, but Kea kicks out. Misawa knocks Mutoh off the apron, then he gives Kea a Tiger Driver. Ogawa follows with a backdrop suplex, cover, but Mutoh barely breaks it up. Ogawa kicks Mutoh out of the ring, and they go back to double teaming Kea. After a slightly botched move (not sure what they were going for), cover by Ogawa, but Mutoh breaks it up by dropkicking Ogawa in the head. Double Irish whip on Mutoh, Ogawa hits a jawbreaker, but Mutoh then dropkicks Misawa, dropkicks Ogawa, and then gives both of them a Shining Wizard! Mutoh picks up Ogawa, backbreaker, he goes to the top turnbuckle and nails the moonsault. Cover by Kea, but Misawa breaks it up. Dragon screw leg whip by Mutoh on Misawa, but Misawa fires back with an elbow smash. Ogawa manages to tag in Misawa, Misawa goes off the ropes, but Kea ducks the elbow and plants him with a Surfing Suplex. Cover, but Misawa gets his foot on the ropes. Kea picks up Misawa, puts him on his shoulders, but Misawa slides off. The two trade blows, Misawa goes off the ropes, but Kea quickly delivers the Hawaiian Smasher! Cover, but Ogawa breaks it up. Mutoh throws Ogawa out of the ring, as Misawa and Kea trade blows. Kea finally goes down, cover by Misawa, but Kea quickly kicks out. Misawa picks up Kea and hits him with a quick Emerald Frosion, cover, but it only gets a two count. Misawa gets Kea up again, gets him in a vertical suplex position, and then just about kills him with a vertical-drop Emerald Frosion! Cover, and Misawa gets the three count! Your winners and still champions: Mitsuharu Misawa and Yoshinari Ogawa

Match Thoughts: I better explain this one better then I normally do. First, lets get into the significance of the match. Misawa and Mutoh were two of the biggest stars of the 90s and are still big stars in their respective promotions, but they had never squared off before. Ever. This is a match that the Japanese fans had been clamoring for for many years, which is why they went so nutty when Misawa and Mutoh would square off in this match. To fully appreciate the match it is important to understand the history of it. Yes, the match is enjoyable either way, but in the same way that Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is funnier if you have seen the other Kevin Smith movies, this match is better if you understand why Misawa and Mutoh facing off was such a big deal. Course, by 2004 one was the leader of NOAH and the other of All Japan, and both had held their promotion’s big belt in 2003.

So the match was about Misawa and Mutoh, but Kea got a good rub from Misawa as well. Veteran wrestlers are criticized a lot at times for not “giving back” to the new generation or not respecting other veterans, but here Mutoh and Misawa sold like kings. Look at Misawa… he actually let Kea win a strike battle, he took a Surfing Suplex right on his head along with being saved from getting pinned after a Hawaiian Smasher, and had Kea kick out of an Emerald Frosion. Mutoh gave Ogawa enough respect to give him a moonsault, a move he rarely breaks out these days unless he thinks it is really necessary. Also, Misawa and Mutoh sold for each other well, respecting each others big moves. Mutoh and Misawa stealing each others moves was great, and Mutoh hit the Emerald Frosion better then Misawa usually hits it (helps that Ogawa weighs about a buck ‘0 five). So from a historical context and when considering the wrestlers did what was “right” to do, the match was very well done.

Now to the match itself, while I would define it as “very fun” with the Mutoh/Misawa confrontations and the crowd’s reactions to them, the action in the match was disjointed and sporadic at times. You could tell these guys had not wrestled against each other… ever… since they did the planned spots very well and the chain wrestling decently but the transitions were pretty rough around the edges. Also, if wrestlers were placed on a five tier system with Mutoh and Misawa being a 5, Ogawa would be a 3 at best and he seemed a little out of place in this match. The Ogawa/Kea sections were real slow and it became apparent that they were just killing time until we were given another Misawa/Mutoh face off. Kea is known for rising to the occasion when he needs to (such as against Tenryu in July 2002), but Ogawa is just pretty much Ogawa regardless of the situation. The match would probably only be considered fair at best if it was rated based purely on the “workrate,” but there was so much more to this match that made it fun and worth watching. Score: 7.2

(c) Kenta Kobashi vs. Jun Akiyama
This match is for the GHC Heavyweight Championship. Tie-up to start, chop by Kobashi, but Akiyama doesn’t seem impressed. Side headlock by Akiyama, Kobashi Irish whips out of it and the two collide with no result. Akiyama goes off the ropes, goes through Kobashi’s chop attempt, but Kobashi blocks the jumping knee. Test of Strength, Kobashi gets Akiyama to his knees, but Akiyama rolls out of it and reverses the momentum. Kobashi pushes Akiyama into the ropes and chops him in the chest. Another chop by Kobashi, Irish whip, reversed, but Kobashi hits a diving shoulder strike. Akiyama comes back with a jumping knee, he rolls Kobashi out of the ring and goes out himself, but Kobashi quickly slides back in. Akiyama eventually follows, tie-up, and they trade strikes. After a minute Kobashi gets the better of it and chops Akiyama to the mat. Kobashi picks up Akiyama, Irish whip, and he knees Akiyama in the stomach. He does the same move again and goes for a side Russian leg sweep, but Akiyama trips him up and applies a leg submission hold. Kobashi gets to the ropes, however, and Akiyama breaks the hold. Akiyama drags Kobashi to the middle of the ring and applies the Bow and Arrow submission hold. Kobashi chops out of it however, he picks up Akiyama, puts him in a reverse chancery and chops him in the chest. Cover, but it gets a two count. Kobashi chops Akiyama in the same fashion again, pulls him to a sitting position and applies a reverse chinlock. Another chop to the chest by Kobashi, cover, but Akiyama kicks out. Kobashi drags Akiyama to his feet and goes for a brainbuster, but Akiyama blocks it. Chop by Kobashi, but Akiyama fires back and they trade strikes. Kobashi chops Akiyama against the ropes, but Akiyama starts absorbing the blows. Chops to the neck by Kobashi, but Akiyama ducks the rolling chop. Akiyama goes off the ropes, but Kobashi catches him with a chop to the neck. Kobashi then goes off the ropes and goes for a flying shoulder block, but Akiyama jumps up and knees him in the head while he is in the middle of the move.

Akiyama drags Kobashi out to the apron and nails the DDT, with Kobashi falling to the floor. From the apron, Akiyama grabs Kobashi from behind and drives his knee into his neck as Kobashi falls to the floor. Akiyama rolls Kobashi back onto the apron with his head draped over the edge, goes to the second turnbuckle, and hits a diving knee drop to the back of Kobashi’s neck. Kobashi slowly gets back onto the apron, but Akiyama knees him back off. Akiyama drags Kobashi back in the ring, cover, but it only gets a two count. Headscissors by Akiyama, but Kobashi gets a foot on the ropes. Forearm drop to the throat by Akiyama and then he punches Kobashi in the throat as well. Akiyama gets Kobashi to his feet and punches him back into the corner. Irish whip, but Kobashi kicks him when he charges in. Kobashi goes to the second turnbuckle, but Akiyama throws him off and applies the grounded front facelock. Kobashi gets out of it however, Akiyama puts Kobashi in the corner and elbows him in the shoulder repeatedly. Kobashi slumps down, so Akiyama nails him with a running knee strike. Back up, double-armed DDT by Akiyama, he goes to the top turnbuckle and forearms Kobashi in the back of the head. Cover, but it gets a two count. Akiyama re-applies the grounded front facelock, but Kobashi eventually rolls to the ropes and Akiyama has to break the hold. Knee lift by Akiyama, cover, but it gets another two count.

Backdrop suplex by Akiyama, but Kobashi applies a side headlock before Akiyama can get back up. Akiyama tries to Irish whip out of it, but Kobashi slams on the breaks and sits down. Akiyama struggles back to his feet and hits a backdrop suplex, but Kobashi maintains the hold. Again Akiyama gets to his feet and hits a backdrop suplex, but still Kobashi won’t let go. A third time Akiyama gets up, he goes for the ropes, but Kobashi modifies the hold and delivers the Sleeper Suplex. Rapidfire chops by Kobashi in the corner, and a series of rolling back chops knocks Akiyama to the mat. Kobashi then goes out to the apron, pulls Akiyama out with him, and hits a vertical suplex from the apron down to the floor! This takes a lot out of both wrestlers (naturally), with Kobashi spitting blood as he gets back to his feet and slides in the ring. He then goes back out to get Akiyama and rolls him back into the ring. Slow cover by Kobashi, but Akiyama gets a shoulder up. Kobashi puts Akiyama in a half nelson, pulls him to his feet, and delivers a half nelson suplex. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Kobashi signals for the lariat, Akiyama grabs him to attempt an exploder, but Kobashi gets out of it and hits a rolling chop to the back of Akiyama’s head. Orange Crush Bomb by Kobashi, cover, but it gets another two count. Kobashi picks up Akiyama and connects with a lariat, cover, but Akiyama kicks out once again. Kobashi puts Akiyama onto the top turnbuckle and goes for the Burning Hammer, but Akiyama elbows out of it and hits a release German suplex before nailing a running knee. Akiyama then goes out to the apron, he picks up Kobashi and goes for an exploder, but Kobashi grabs the top rope and gets out of it. He then goes for a half nelson suplex, Akiyama gets out of it, but Kobashi chops him back. Kobashi then goes to the second turnbuckle, tries to chop Akiyama, but Akiyama grabs him and nails an exploder to the floor!

The referee checks on both of them, Akiyama gets up at around 15 and gets back in the ring, and Kobashi barely makes it in at 19. Cover by Akiyama, but Kobashi gets a foot on the bottom rope. Akiyama drags Kobashi to his feet, delivers an exploder, cover, but again it gets a two count. Akiyama then puts Kobashi on the top turnbuckle, climbs up to the second rope, and hits an exploder down to the mat. Cover by Akiyama, but Kobashi barely kicks out. Another cover, but again it gets a two count. Akiyama goes for a submission, Kobashi fights him off, but Akiyama locks in the grounded front facelock. Akiyama calls for the end of the match, picks up Kobashi, nails the wrist-clutch exploder, cover, but Kobashi barely gets a shoulder up. Akiyama goes for the Sternness Dust, but Kobashi blocks it and delivers a brainbuster. Akiyama gets back to his feet, rolling chop by Kobashi and he hits a half nelson suplex, but Akiyama springs back to his feet and plants him with an exploder. Kobashi is back up too, hits another half nelson suplex, but Akiyama replies with another exploder. Both men are back up, they collide, Kobashi hits a lariat, Akiyama tries to get up but he falls back down in the corner. Kobashi is up first, and he nails Akiyama with a lariat. Cover, but it only gets a two count. Kobashi picks up Akiyama, slams him in front of the corner, goes to the top turnbuckle, and delivers a moonsault. Cover, but again Akiyama kicks out. Kobashi gets Akiyama to his feet, gets him up on his shoulders in a reverse fireman’s carry position, and nails the Burning Hammer! Cover, and Kobashi gets the three count pinfall! Your winner and still champion: Kenta Kobashi

Match Thoughts: Another “epic” Kobashi battle. Anytime Kobashi is in a big match like this, you know that there will be big bumps, trading no selling, a good deal of submission holds, and at least twice that you think that one of the wrestlers really shouldn’t be moving, let alone continuing the match. It is a pretty set formula these days, but its a formula that isn’t overdone and it is a formula that I really enjoy watching Kobashi in. The ring psychology was solid to start, as Akiyama constantly attacked Kobashi’s neck since almost all his finishers have to do with the neck. Kobashi never really got around to focusing on a part and seemed content with simply dropping Akiyama hard on his back or neck whenever he got the chance. I don’t think this match quite reached Kobashi/Misawa, there were a few parts here that slowed down unnecessarily and there were a few spots that looked a bit too contrived. Kobashi gave Akiyama quite a bit even though he lost, since wrestlers kicking out of Kobashi’s moonsault isn’t exactly common, and we are left wondering that if Akiyama had hit the Sternness Dust if it would have meant a victory for him. A really fun match that shows, as far as I am concerned, why Kobashi was/is one of the best wrestlers in the world. Score: 8.9

Final Thoughts:

This was a fantastic event. Even though it began slow, a few of the undercard matches were very solid and all the title matches came through to some degree. The IWGP Tag Team Championship match wasn’t great, but even it had the fun Kashin factor that still makes it worth watching. Seeing Mutoh/Misawa face off was a real treat, and who knows if the two will ever have a singles match. Kobashi/Akiyama was voted top match in Japan for 2004 by many Japanese publications, and it is easy to see why. The whole atmosphere for the card was incredible, as the crowd was hot throughout for the big day for NOAH. This is worth going out of your way to see if you get the chance.

Highly Recommended

Feel free to email me at wrestlingencyclopedia@gmail.com if you have any questions, comments, or snide remarks.

Tags: