Iâ€™m in tag wrestling heaven
While Wrestlemania is the big story this month, Iâ€™m going back to the Puro world to focus on a tournament that has the potential to be the best thing Pro Wrestling NOAH has done in a long time. While NOAH can still lay claim to the #1 spot in Japan, they became a pretty bland organization with New Japan and All Japan upping their game last year. However, where match seriesâ€™ and #1 contenderâ€™s tournaments failed, the upcoming Global Tag League may be able to provide an action-packed tournament. At its best, this tournament will eclipse anything All Japan will be able to do with the Real World Tag League this year, and at its worst this will be another NOAH tourney blunder.
P.C. Says: Iâ€™m liking this tournament
Iâ€™m a fan of tag-team wrestling; Iâ€™ve never made that much of a secret. In Japan tag-team wrestling is generally better than it is in The States, thus the reason I get excited about any team that is abnormally good in The States. However, in Japan, even makeshift tag teams usually provide the goods and NOAHâ€™s upcoming Global Tag League proves that point.
First, letâ€™s look at the teams:
Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa – 2nd/8th GHC Tag Team Title Holders
D-Lo Brown & Buchanan
Takeshi Morishima & Mohammed Yone – 11th/13th GHC Tag Team Title Holders
Bison Smith & Akitoshi Saito
Yoshihiro Takayama & Takuma Sano
Jun Akiyama & Takeshi Rikio – 14th GHC Tag Team Title Holders
Akira Taue & Go Shiosaki
Naomichi Marufuji & Takashi Sugiura – Current GHC Tag Team Title Holders
Kensuke Sasaki & Katsuhiko Nakajima
10th Team (Originally Kenta Kobashi & Tamon Honda, but Kobashi refused medical clearance)
Despite the loss of Burningâ€™s top team, this field is stacked. Misawa & Ogawa provide the legend team (I know Ogawa isnâ€™t a legend), Marufuji & Sugiura are the champs and thus automatic, Sasaki & Nakajima provide the token outsider teamâ€”and a great choice at that, Taue & Shiozaki provide the teacher/pupil team, Smith & Saito provide the gaijin/native team, Morishima & Yone provide the always a tag-team team, D-Lo & Buchanan provide the all gaijin team, and the other two (Akiyama & Rikio and Takayama & Sano) provide the formerly makeshift now full-time teams.
Akiyama & Rikio and Takayama & Sano were both makeshift teams put together in late-2006, but the overall approval of the NOAH fans and both teamsâ€™ abilities to put on great tag team wrestling has morphed them into full-time teams. And that is for the better as these two teams in particular had a great match last year and Akiyama & Rikio had a feud with Takayama for a little bit last year when Tak was alternating teaming with both Sano & Sugiura. A matchup between these two will main-event one of the tour shows Iâ€™m sure of it.
Donâ€™t expect Shiozaki & Taue to make it far in this one. With Shiozakiâ€™s commitment to ROH for seasoning, itâ€™s unlikely that this team will be anywhere near the final. However, since itâ€™s Taue and Shiozaki, the crowd will eat up whatever they end up doing in the tourney and for good reason. However, I still think that if Kobashi couldnâ€™t participate that his partnerâ€”Tamon Hondaâ€”should team with Kobashiâ€™s student, Shiozaki. Either way, I guess.
D-Lo & Buchanan and Smith & Saito are two heavyweight teams that I donâ€™t expect to see make it past the preliminary matches. The fact that D-Lo & Buchanan got an extremely short tag-title reign and Smith & Saito just lost a tag-title match (both losses to Marufuji & Sugiura) that these are two teams strictly in the mid-card at this moment and will likely be there just to be there as far as this tourney is concerned.
After all of that there are still seven teamsâ€”all with a legitimate shot to win this thing. Marufuji & Sugiura obviously have a shot to win this tourney as they are the tag-team champs and thus should be at least near the final. However, they will likely not win the tourney because if I know NOAH, Marufuji & Sugiuraâ€™s fate should go something like this: since the tourney will end at Budokan (Iâ€™m guessing), they will make it to the final day before losing, another team will win the tourney and challenge for the tag belts at the next Budokan show with six man tags galore involving both teams all over that tour. It is a plausible scenario and would make sense as having the champs win wouldnâ€™t defeat the purpose of the tournament (it would give them and the belts a big push), but title matches speak louder and setting one up would be a better idea all things considered. But if they want the champs to take it all, go for it. For some reason, I do see Nakajima & Sasaki making it to the final day and possibly the final itself. Misawa bringing them back had to have an ulterior motive besides just participation in the tourney itself. Donâ€™t be surprised if Kensuke Office takes this one. With Tak & Sano, they could make it to the final day, but Iâ€™m not seeing it, and with Morishimaâ€™s GHC world title win, I doubt the longtime Morishima & Yone team make it too far either. Misawa & Ogawa will obviously make it somewhat far for reasons already covered and known (Misawa is booking), but it seems that Rikioâ€™s injury deflated the push he and Akiyama were getting as a team, so if a native team is going to win this tournament, this would be my pick as to whom.
As for the tenth and still unnamed team, there are too many possibilities. NOAH has brought in both RO&D (now disbanded) and Voodoo Murderers from All Japan, so Satoshi Kojima & TARU being that final team isnâ€™t totally out of the question. However, if All-Japan would be the location of that final team, I wouldnâ€™t rule out Mutoh & Kea or even Kawada & Kea if NOAH management has forgiven him for his impromptu post-match promo at the Tokyo Dome a few years ago. My guess for the 10th team stays within NOAH and goes along with why I think Shiozaki & Honda should have tagged together on this tourney: Kobashi. Kobashi was and still is (if the group is still recognized) the leader of Burning, a stable consisting of himself, Honda, KENTA, and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi. Since Kobashi is out, Iâ€™m going to guess that Tamon Honda & KENTA will be the tenth and final team. The tournament is in NOAHâ€™s rings, is held in NOAH, why shouldnâ€™t the mystery team be from NOAH?
The Reality isâ€¦Iâ€™m excited about something in NOAH. Iâ€™m not totally bashing the promotion as Iâ€™ve seen more recent stuff from NOAH than any other promotion in Japan (and with all my compliments towards New Japan that should say something). But when a promotion is getting stale, itâ€™s getting stale. That was the fact with NOAH last year, as their big Budokan shows didnâ€™t have the same feel they had even in 2006. This tournament could be NOAHâ€™s way of rejuvenating their product as a whole as the wrestling hasnâ€™t been bad, but the feuds and intrigue (the â€œwhatâ€™s going to happen?â€ mentality) could be brought back. Sadly with NOAH, since Marufujiâ€™s title win, it hasnâ€™t been hard to see what was going to happen in the heavyweight division and as an opposite trickle effect, all of the other divisions have almost been engulfed with chaos with short title reigns and title matches that people simply have little reason to care about. The concepts of efficiency and making more out of less that helped NOAH build some new stars during the years 2003-2006 has apparently left the green ring. If NOAH wants to continue to be #1, this tournament could be a good starting point if they can do things effectively. In other words, make a big deal out of this tournament; they should because the field is tops in the Puro world and trumps the last few Real World Tag Leagues in terms of ability and the overall talent pool. NOAHâ€™s been given a lob here, but the real question is whether than can spike it or if theyâ€™ll just get hit on the head.