NOAH’s big debut year end show, though in the future it would be their new year opening show, with cards that would rival that of New Japan’s annual Tokyo Dome shows around the same time of January. The show is highlighted by four big singles matches, the main event being the second ever NOAH singles encounter between Kenta Kobashi and his former best friend, Jun Akiyama. Akiyama won their first encounter six months earlier due to Kobashi’s nagging knee injuries, but Kobashi would be at 100% for this epic encounter! The semi-main event was an old All Japan rivalry resurfaced as Vader took on his arch nemesis, and NOAH boss, Mitsuharu Misawa. And the team of No Fear would each be in a big singles match, Takayama taking on senior veteran Akira Taue, and Omori would be having the biggest singles match of his career at that point against Zero-One ace Shinya Hashimoto! On to the show!
Takeshi Morishima, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Kentaro Shiga VS Takashi Sugiura, Takeshi Rikioh & Masao Inoue
Sugiura’s debut match, and he made quite an impact! The crowd was heavily behind Sugiura the second he tagged into the match, and from his first grapple you could just tell he’s destined for greatness! Watching Morishima and Rikioh go at it here, you would never guess that a year later they’d be one of the premiere tag teams of NOAH. Kanemaru was still evolving after being given the ball here in NOAH, and the early signs were all there of the greatness that awaits him! Really a great opener!
Match Rating: ***
WEW Tag Team Titles
Tetsuhiro Kuroda & Kodo Fuyuki VS Naomichi Marufuji & Tamon Honda
The crowd loved Kuroda, but hated Fuyuki! I still wonder how an odd pairing like Honda & Marufuji could be WEW tag champs, but the different styles of all four men made for an entertaining bout.
Match Rating: ***
Akitoshi Saito & Masaji Aoyagi VS Daisuke Ikeda & Yoshinari Ogawa
Saito is one pissed wrestler in this match as he’s looking to make a name for himself, and is stuck paired up with an old-timer. Luckily for him he would be teaming with one of the best in the promotion in the future. Aoyagi stuck to his martial arts style, meaning throwing strikes which look pretty weak. Ikeda was his intense self, and Ogawa is his usual trickster self. Good stuff.
Match Rating: **1/2
Yoshihiro Takayama VS Akira Taue
Takayama started off this match really cocky, but then Taue showed once again that there’s still some big fight left in the old dog! What follows is a match of stiff kicks and big bumps by two big powerful men. This was a really fun match, but the sudden ending really ruined the momentum it garnered.
Match Rating: ***1/2
Shinya Hashimoto VS Takao Omori
The crowd heat for this match was off the charts! But the problem with this match was Hashimoto. Yes, this was the infamous squash job that everyone buzzed about back int eh day, and you could even see from the look on his face during his entrance that Omori wasn’t a happy camper, being the sacrificial lamb. Omori sold Hashimoto’s stiff shots like a real pro, but Hashimoto sold next to NOTHING for Omori, and thus one of NOAH’s shinning stars is squashed for no purpose.
Match Rating: ***
Vader VS Mistuharu Misawa
A classic All Japan feud, and this was right on par with all their previous encounters! Vader dominated the match with his power, and surprisingly sold a busted arm that Misawa targeted with sloppy arm-locks all the way to end of the match! I don’t think I’ve seen such a convincing sell job in a long while, especially from someone like Vader! Great match!
Match Rating: ***1/4
Jun Akiyama VS Kenta Kobashi
This is the kind of match that makes me proud I turned into Japanese pro-wrestling! The classic formula of mat-work, submission tactics and big drop sequences combined with incredible psychology that these two were almost equals with a long past history made this a must see match for all puroresu fans! It really made me cringe watching all the sick head drops Akiyama took in this match. This was a killer contest from start to finish, and the only flaw I see that made me drop it a notch from a perfect 5-star rating was Kobashi’s lack of selling the bad arm late in the match, unlike Vader in the previous. But hey, that’s just my opinion! Watching how awesome this contest was makes me REALLY want to see their DEPARTURE Tokyo Dome match.
Match Rating: ****3/4
If you have NEVER seen a NOAH match before, this is definitely the best place to start! The four big singles matches, if not the main event alone, are reasons you MUST get this show! This is the reason why despite all the killer new shows that come out every month, I’m still happy to back-track and get a few classic shows every now and then.