Puroresu Pulse, issue 164: Best of 2004 and 2005

Section 1- Results

All Japan: Kojima’s F4 stable disbanded after he was pinned by TARU in a Captain’s Fall match. Hama pinned Mutoh in a tag, and made a Triple Crown challenge afterwards.

Dragon Gate: K-ness retained over Pac. CIMA & Gamma retained over Doi & Yoshino. Yamato beat Sugawara to cement his title shot.

New Japan: Marufuji retained over Devitt.

Section 2- News

Dragon Gate: Cyber Kong seems set to return. The trios title match at Sumo Hall is an early MOTDC: Akebono, Mochizuki & Fujii vs Abdullah, Nosawa & Mazada.

New Japan: Jado suffered a neck injury and will be out for an unknown period of time. There will be a mystery replacement in the junior tag title match. The winner of Nakamura vs Nakanishi will defend on April 4th at Korakuen, almost certainly against the NJ Cup winner. Ibushi & Omega have said they will get a shot at the junior tag titles sometime in the spring. Davey Richards is supposedly going to be in this year’s Super Juniors tournament.

NOAH: Ito has decided to retire.

Section 3- The “Umemura Personal Computer Copy & Paste Title” is something that actually exists. Please keep that in mind as you read the following shill.

A discussion on Bruno.

A discussion on the ladies.

Section 4- Best of 2004 & 2005

I covered a handful of 2004/2005 matches in the Kobashi set and in the Misawa set. Between those links and here I’m covering 17 matches per year. Your hard drives should be thankful it’s not 20.

Kobashi, Rikio & Hashi vs Akiyama, Morishima & Kikuchi, NOAH January 10th 2004.

Back in the days when NOAH had reliable stables, this was considered an interesting “parejas increibles” match. The main one is Akiyama and Hashi on opposite ends, which kicked off a series of great underdog performances from Hashi over the next 20 months. Kobashi versus Akiyama and versus Morishima also rocks.

Tenryu vs Tenzan, IWGP title tournament final, New Japan February 15th 2004.

The use of striking in this match is very effective, accomplishing both ‘doing damage’ as well as acting as transitions. The vast bulk of the match is Tenryu beating up a heavily bleeding Tenzan. Some complain that it’s too one-sided in favor of the old lumpmeister. I say that’s crazy talk; how can Tenryu punching Tenzan in his bloodied face be anything but great?

Kawada vs Hashimoto, Triple Crown, All Japan February 22nd 2004.

You won’t find many people who would say that Hashimoto was a better worker than Kawada, but he certainly was here. Vicious on offense and phenomenal when selling, Hashimoto delivered a hell of a performance in his last big singles match.

Marufuji & KENTA vs Suzuki & Marvin, GHC junior tag titles, NOAH June 1st 2004.

One of my main complaints about ‘big’ junior matches is that they go too long for wrestlers who can’t effectively fill the time before they get to the big finish. This one manages to avoid those by having a solid structure sprinkled with neat spots, followed of course by a big finish. The main drawback is iffy crowd heat.

Fujita vs Tanahashi, IWGP title decision match, New Japan June 5th 2004.

Kaz Fujita, fresh off an easy shoot win over Bob Sapp, essentially replaces Sapp as IWGP champ. Tanahashi wasn’t even close to being on Fujita’s level at this point, and the crowd is rabid for any offense he manages to sneak in. The highlight is Fujita, who oozes heel charisma and looks nearly unstoppable, but also takes some huge bumps. It’s a pity Fujita didn’t stick with wrestling.

Takayama vs KENTA, NOAH June 27th 2004.

These two always tee off on one another, and this is the best example of it. About as good a 10 minute match as you’ll find.

Dragon Kid vs Kondo, Toryumon July 4th 2004.

A combo face vs heel and power vs speed matchup that captures the best parts of the Dragon System style. This also benefits from going 10 minutes, so the energy stays high throughout. By the way, this was the last Toryumon show.

Takayama vs Sasaki, New Japan G-1 Climax 2004.

Oof. What a slugfest. This was Takayama’s last match for almost two years, and he certainly went down fighting.

Tamura vs Hiroyuki Ito, U-Style August 18th 2004.

So often I’m left wanting by shoot-style because it’s played too straight, but at the same time that means it’s more special when shoot-stylists go for the gusto. In this case they use the promotion’s points-based decision system to perfection, with drama that builds and builds as it goes along. Tamura is one of the very best wrestlers that causal puro fans aren’t familiar with.

Kanemaru vs Low Ki, GHC junior title, NOAH September 10th 2004.

I rarely enjoy Kanemaru in singles matches, and going in I had no idea if he could mesh with someone whose specialty is striking. Ki does him a favor by doing focused limb work that (unlike most juniors matches) has an effect in the final minutes. A tight, smart match that still has the big nearfalls you want in a puro title match.

Florida Brothers & Sasaki vs Magnum Tokyo, Dragon Kid & Horiguchi, Dragon Gate September 17th 2004.

Yet another entertaining 10 minute match. I hadn’t realized just how many there were in ’04. This is all comedy, with a mix of Florida antics and lots of confusion over how to deal with Sasaki.

Milano Collection AT vs Ryo Saito, Dragon Gate January 14th 2005.

Milano comes in as one of the company’s four big stars. Saito, on the other hand, was an eternal bridesmaid. In 2001, Milano’s Japan debut was a memorably dominating win over Saito. This match features a fired-up Saito out to get the first big scalp of his career, and a fired-up crowd gets behind him.

Jado & Gedo vs Kanemoto & Inoue, IWGP junior tag titles, New Japan March 4th 2005.

These teams had faced off in a decent 2004 bout, with Jado/Gedo coming out on top. It is difficult to impress upon you how much of a shock this match was at the time. Jado and Gedo were a known commodity, having done the same heel schtick for years and ranging in quality from ‘boring’ to ‘okay’, with maybe one good match a year. Inoue, an uber-bland babyface, had an even lesser reputation. Out of nowhere comes this, with tons of intensity and high-end tag wrestling, managing not to drag horribly despite going over twice as long as the ’04 match. The response to this was so great that they hastily scheduled a rematch for later in the tour, something that pretty much never happens in Japan.

Kobashi, KENTA & Marvin vs Misawa, Sugiura & Kanemaru, NOAH April 3rd 2005.

Some random pairings (Kobashi/KENTA with Marvin; Misawa with Sugiura/Kanemaru), which would usually mean ‘disappointing’ but somehow ends up with one of Misawa’s few good 6-man tags in NOAH. The highlight is KENTA and Sugiura beating the snot out of each other.

Ishikawa vs Ikeda, Futen April 24th 2005.

Futen is the part-time boutique promotion Ikeda formed (with his wife’s money) after he decided to stop doing NOAH tours. For some reason the vast majority of the shows weren’t taped. Let us be thankful that this, one of the most hellaciously stiff matches in wrestling history, was taped. SO STIFF.

Akiyama & Tenryu vs Kobashi & Shiozaki, NOAH April 24th 2005.

Not often that two matches of this caliber happen in different promotions on the same day. Everything having to do with Tenryu is off-the-charts in this, and I think Kobashi vs Akiyama has earned a certain reputation at this point. The first really great Shiozaki match.

CIMA, Fujii & Doi vs Ryo Saito, Dragon Kid & Horiguchi, trios titles, Dragon Gate July 3rd 2005.

Same lineup as the 2006 WON MOTY, except with Fujii in Yoshino’s place. However, this one has a lot more substance rather than being a non-stop spotfest. Blood Generation is great as the domineering heels, and the face team is easy to root for. As good a trios match as this crew has had.

Minoru Suzuki & Marufuji vs Akiyama & Hashi, GHC tag titles, NOAH July 18th 2005.

Suzuki and Marufuji are TOTAL DICKS. They revel in their DICKISHNESS. They love being DICKS to Hashi. I mean, how can frigging Makoto Hashi possibly merit being in a title match at the Tokyo Dome? Well, Hashi for one isn’t going to take the abuse laying down. He’ll stand up to those DICKS. And Akiyama is pretty good backup to have.

Kobashi & Hashi vs Akiyama & Kanemaru, NOAH August 19th 2005.

A direct follow-up to the last tag, with Hashi looking to redeem himself against his mentor Akiyama. I’ll admit to some bias since I watched this on my first trip to Japan, but it more than holds up ‘on tape’. There’s a few minor issues but overall this is great stuff with everyone playing their role to perfection.

Mochizuki, Taka Michinoku & Yokosuka vs CIMA, Kishiwada & Shingo Takagi, Dragon Gate September 7th 2005.

The July tag was (in my opinion) a better version of the 2006 ROH 6-man. This happens to be a better version of the 2007 ROH 6-man, as the focus is on a young Shingo standing up to champion Mochizuki. The ‘young lion makes good’ story is normally one seen among heavyweights, but this is just as good as anything that the ‘mainstream’ promotions this decade.

KENTA vs SUWA, GHC junior title, NOAH September 18th 2005.

Speaking of DICKS: this match. SUWA delivers one of the great heel performances of the decade, and the result is by far the most universally loved juniors match from Japan in recent memory.

Akiyama & Tenryu vs Kobashi & Taue, NOAH September 18th 2005.

Kobashi gets a big partner upgrade from the April match, making this an all-star tag. Taue kicks off a run of awesome performances at Budokan, and Kobashi vs Tenryu once again delivers.

Rikio vs Taue, GHC title, NOAH November 5th 2005.

Maybe I’m being too sentimental in bringing this up, but dammit, not every match needs to have perfect execution or jaw-dropping brutality. This match is about Rikio trying to prove himself as a worthy champion, against Taue who is trying to prove that he’s still got something left. There’s a pretty good structure to this, as they build off the Kobashi title defense formula in such a way that it seems like Rikio is going to have a through-the-motions victory, but when that doesn’t happen we get a sense that it really could go either way. Great crowd, great finish, and for a Taue fan like myself, a great match.

Sekimoto vs Abdullah Kobayashi, light tubes deathmatch, Big Japan November 22nd 2005.

Not for everyone, and for heaven’s sake NOT WORK SAFE. This is laid out differently than other deathmatches, since there’s some actual structure and purpose to the violence. Sekimoto uses the light tubes to get a big response from otherwise low-end offense, and Kobayashi responds with an unorthodox but certainly memorable comeback.

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