Mitsuo Momota VS Haruka Eigen
The usual bout between these, but on a grand scale in the Tokyo Dome which the live crowd just ate up! Giant swings and spitting into the crowd abound, followed by the usual old-school goodness.
Match Rating: **
Tamon Honda, Jun Izumuda & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi VS Masao Inoue, Kishin Kawabata & Masaji Aoyagi
This was a fun even though it mostly centered around Kikuchi and Aoyagi pulling some comedy spots. It still surprises me how much better Aoyagi is now compared to watching his FMW match with Onita from almost TEN YEARS ago! It’s too bad Honda only had all of two minutes of in-ring time in a big Tokyo Dome match after the big push he had in 2003. But this was still an enjoyable match to watch.
Match Rating: ***
Michael Modest & Donovan Morgan VS Kotaro Suzuki & Ricky Marvin
Maybe it’s because of the size of their opponents, but Modest & Morgan seriously look too big to be Jr. heavyweights! And Morgan even looks like a cross between A-Train & Crash Holly! I really feel for Suzuki & Marvin as they are two great high-flyers stuck as rag-dolls to be tossed around by the bigger gaijins. And yes, Marvin blew a spot, but that wasn’t all his fault. The match got really good when Marvin & Suzuki upped the pace and Modest & Morgan showed some great tandem offense. Watching this also makes me want to watch the GHC Jr. tag title match Marvin & Suzuki had just before the Dome show.
Match Rating: ***1/4
Akitoshi Saito & Makoto Hashi VS Scorpio & Richard Slinger
If I had to pick worst match of the night, I’d probably pick this one. It wasn’t that bad, but wasn’t anything special either. And like everyone else, I do question Misawa’s booking decision in putting the gaijins over here. At least with Modest & Morgan it was to build momentum for a GHC Jr. tag title match, but this didn’t make much sense even though Scorpio is the senior. I would have preferred if Misawa spared the expense to bring in Vader to team with Scorpio one more time just for the Tokyo Dome spectacle.
Match Rating: **
Harley Race is shown at ringside since his WLW champion will be in action next.
Akira Taue & Takuma Sano VS Daisuke Ikeda & Muhammed Yone
This was a fun match with Yone showing a lot of spirit trying to prove himself. The four men in this match are all great workers, three of them could be carrying the NOAH banner in the future, and either one of these teams could be future GHC tag champions. There were a lot of fun spots and big moves in this one and it was definitely one of the better tag matches of the evening. Though I still believe they should have given Ikeda the chance to wrestle solo and defend the WLW title.
Match Rating: ***1/4
Pre-taped segment of Rusher Kimura announcing his retirement. They show some classic moments from his career in the 70’s against Giant Baba and Jumbo Tsuruta, followed by some clips of his legendary mic-work. Rusher then gives his thanks and puts the mic down one last time in a really touching moment. (For the record, one of my all time favorite Rusher memories was a six man tag with Andre the Giant where after Andre cleared the ring, he and Rusher danced a waltz around the ring! Watching his work from his earlier years does make me want to get some old classic tapes.)
GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Takashi Sugiura & Kendo KaShin VS Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA
Right off the bat Sugiura and KaShin had trouble getting along, and it was almost comedic watching them argue and miscommunicate. ALL the goodness in this match strictly came from Sugiura, Marufuji and KENTA, and I don’t think KaShin bumped all that much either. Ok, maybe he did make a few attempts to make himself worthy of being in the match when he stole Sugiura’s Olympic Slam and Marufuji’s Shiranui, but both attempts weren’t pretty. Sugiura on the other hand bumped his ass off for the champions though, and I never thought I’d see the day Marufuji would blow a spot! Great match in the end, and Marufuji also seemed to have hurt himself in the closing spot and needed to be carried out.
Match Rating: ****1/4
GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship
Yoshinobu Kanemaru VS Jushin Thunder Liger
This match easily put a lot of X-Division and WWE Cruiserweight title matches to shame! This was also the best Liger match I’ve seen since he won the title off Sugiura in January at Wrestling World 2004. Kanemaru bumped his ass off here for Liger, who relentlessly Liger-bombed, shoteied and brainbustered him all over the ring! Kanemaru held his own even though the match did look a bit one sided at times, as he connected with his signature Deep Impact DDT, moonsault and brainbusters of his own. Great MOTY quality match with an ending that really made you wish it would go just a few minutes longer!
Match Rating: ****1/2
IWGP Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Takeshi Rikioh & Takeshi Morishima VS Yoshihiro Takayama & Minoru Suzuki
This was not the total squash that reports on the internet made it out to be. It actually reminded me of the old Steiner Brothers VS Outsiders feud during the WCW/NWO wars. Suzuki was very much like Scott Hall, being all cocky and arrogant to antagonize his larger opponents, and would tag in the big man, Takayama, after agitating WILD II enough. It was really funny when Rikioh finally got his hands on Suzuki though! Seriously though, this was a fun tag match, and I don’t think WILD II looked all that weak as the press made it out to be, maybe Morishima since he took the fall, but WILD II definitely aren’t MILD II.
Match Rating: ***1/2
GHC Heavyweight Tag Team Titles
Keiji Mutoh & Taiyo Kea VS Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa
Ogawa actually played second fiddle here as Misawa again had a huge target on his head from both Mutoh & Kea. The crowd was hot for every Misawa/Mutoh exchange, and both men antagonized each other by stealing each other’s finishers! It was also good to see Ogawa take a few bumps and Kea wasn’t all that bad either, too bad he didn’t bring the loaded knee-pad with him! Kea showed a lot of fighting spirit as he took on his old mentors and held his own against Misawa.
Match Rating: ***1/2
GHC Heavyweight Championship
Jun Akiyama VS Kenta Kobashi
These two literally tried to KILL EACH OTHER! This was a great match that was nicely built up from the beginning, with some good mat work and strike exchanges before leading to some INSANE bumps to close out the match! They even played some brief recap footage of their history from All-Japan to present to hype the history between the two. It was a good idea for Akiyama to NOT work on Kobashi’s arm, hence removing any ‘no-sell’ later in the match like what usually happens in Kobashi matches. Instead, Akiyama attacked the neck and legs, to set up the dreaded “King Crab” hold. I did notice the match was rather one sided at times with Kobashi dominating and over-powering Akiyama throughout most of the match, but Akiyama came back after every big hit and move Kobashi threw at him.
And damn did they throw everything they had at each other! Chops, elbow shots, face kicks, lariats, suplexes, backdrops, exploders, half-nelsons and a bunch more devastating headdrops and both men wouldn’t stay down!
This was a truly awesome encounter of the two top stars of the company. Even though Akiyama lost in the end, the sense that he could have won if Kobashi didn’t counter the Sterness Dust still leaves the thought lingering in your head if that could have been the move to put Kobashi away.
Match Rating: *****
Despite the “weak on paper” look of the card and questionable booking decisions, NOAH’s first solo trip to the Tokyo Dome was a really good show. The problem being that the same card could easily have been booked for smaller venues. Hopefully Misawa and co. will learn from this and make any future trips to the Dome more anticipating and more captivating. We know the work is there, they just need to improve the presentation.
Still, the live crowd was into everything on the show, which is always a good thing. I highly recommend this show just not just for the sheer historic aspect of it, cause it was indeed a darn good show!