Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Mitsuo Momota & Katsuhiko Nakajima VS Takashi Sugiura, SUWA & Masaji Aoyagi
Nakajima was greeted to NOAH the only way a rookie like him should be, with a big diving elbow shot in the nuts by SUWA and a axe kick to the same area by Aoyagi! Nakajima took a beating in this one, but gave as good as he received. He had some good kick exchanges with Aoyagi, including a nice spot where he ducked Aoyagi’s spin kick and hit one of his own. Momota is just always fun to see in matches like this one, and he still knows how to pop the crowd. Kikuchi also showed he still has some fire in him when required, as he worked really well with SUWA it seemed. Great opener for the show.Match Rating: **Tamon Honda & Go Shiozaki VS Takeshi Morishima & Muhammed Yone
Big night for Go Shiozaki as he gets a match in the Tokyo Dome while still in his rookie year! Shiozaki took the brunt of the punishment in the match as expected, and you could tell he had to be nervous about performing on such a grand stage this early when he miss timed a few spots, but the kid still put on a great showing, including his ever impressive German suplex on big Morishima and a move that could easily be the best moonsault ever! He even introduced a super kick to his arsenal! I really wish they would start giving Honda some big matches to work cause the guy’s talent is being wasted and he’s not getting any younger. We know the man can put on string performances when required, so why not use him already like Taue is used? Honda didn’t even get to do much here, but at least he had more ring time than he did at last year’s Dome show. He did manage to hit a good looking Dead End on big Morishima though.
Morishima & Yone came down wearing Galactic Wrestling t-shirts, which gets me wondering if there’s a new game in the works? These two have been teaming a lot recently and they do work well here abusing young Shiozaki. I also love the great Doomsday Device with a spinning heel kick move they do, and I easily see them as the next challengers for the GHC tag titles, if not winning the titles down the line.Match Rating: **1/2Akitoshi Saito, Shiro Koshinaka, Masao Inoue & Kishin Kawabata VS Akira Taue, Takuma Sano, Jun Izumuda & Haruka Eigen
The Dark Agents were in almost full force here, minus Sugiura and I think Aoyagi is a member also. The crowd went nuts for Taue facing off with Koshinaka to open the match, and made even more noise when Taue did one of Koshinaka’s trademark hip-attacks! I could easily see these two having a good singles match if it were to ever happen. Eigen is entertaining, but I would like to see him broaden his arsenal like Momota when it comes to matches like this istead of just doing the usual slap and spit spots. Izumuda is also a load of fun to watch as usual these days. Hard to believe he’s the same guy that was stinking up AJPW matches back in the day.
Saito is still boring as hell, despite his stiff stikes. I find him less deserving of any kind of push more than Yoshinari Ogawa. Inoue is also getting pretty boring since he does the same things all the time himself. Inoue is more suited to the comedy bits. I still love watching Kawabata in action, whether he’s getting his ass kicked, or doing the kicking. This guy should be in Inoue’s spot as the no.2 man to Saito when Koshinaka isn’t around. The ending spot he pulled off with Izumuda and Inoue leading to the finish was really cool too. A good bout, and a good way to max out the talent use.Match Rating: **Mushiking Terry Debut Match: Mushiking Terry VS Black Mask
This match was really ok, but the one problem I felt it had was that neither Terry or Black Mask played up their parts as super hero and super villain. Heck, Kotaro Suzuki so didn’t look like he was enjoying himself under the Terry costume. I was expecting more of a spot fest from this one, but what was done was good with a few big dives with some submissions thrown in the middle. I think Black Mask, also known as Mushiking Joker cause he looks exactly the same as Terry save for the color scheme, had more offense in the match. Terry has a really good finisher though, which is a cross between a tiger and a dragon suplex pin. Let’s hope Mushiking Terry gets better down the line as Kotaro Suzuki completely changed his style so know one could tell it was him. The kids seem to like the characters too as their seemed to be some sections with kids specifically cheering Terry.Match Rating: **
GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title: Yoshinobu Kanemaru VS KENTA
I’ve heard great things about this match, but watching it was even better! Once again, New Japan needs to take a serious look at how NOAH’s juniors put on a title match, they might actually learn something instead of just being Jr. versions of their heavyweight division.
These two went full steam ahead from the opening bell and tore into each other so hard they were both feeling the effects of it just minutes into the match! But they still managed to keep up a great pace, mixed with high-spots, stiff shots and head drops! For those of you who’ve heard of the Deep Impact spot, it was definitely one of the BEST looking examples of counters and reversals EVER as they did it so smoothly and effortlessly, just like two rivals who’ve known each other for so long should have. This match easily had some of the best sequences and exchanges in a single match ever, and the crowd was way behind both men. I noticed KENTA even picked up a few pointers from Kawada when it came to selling. There might be some complaints of the way both men hit each other with every move in their arsenal near the end and not getting the win, but this is easily a Match of the Year candidate, and one of the best junior title matches you’ll ever see.Match Rating: ****1/2GHC Tag Team Titles: Minoru Suzuki & Naomichi Marufuji VS Jun Akiyama & Makoto Hashi
This match was all about getting Hashi over, and it did just that as he was involved in most of the match and busted his ass off to put on a very strong showing. Hashi seriously gets more impressive the more I see him, which is a good thing since he’s being groomed for a run as a heavyweight. I just wish people would stop kicking out of his finishers, or else it’s time for Hashi to find a new one when it’s finally his turn to play ball on the main court. This was alsot the babyface Jun Akiyama we saw in this match, not the cocky heel STERNESS leader. With Hashi carrying most of the match, there really wasn’t much for Akiyama to do and his time in the ring was mostly limited to short bursts of offense. He still had some great exchanges with Marufuji and Suzuki though, including a killer slap-fest with MiSuzuki that had a really big slap count in it, rivaled only by the chop count to come in the Kobashi/Sasaki match.
Marufuji is definitely taking up some bad habits from Suzuki, like sticking his tongue out arrogantly during his matches. At least he didn’t do a dozen superkicks like he usually does. The kid is definitely coming into his own as a heel now. Suzuki was of course the same old cocky arrogant guy he’s always been. At least he had his working shoes on tonight and wasn’t as boring or lazy as he usually is.
If this match is any indication, Hashi will be headed for the big time soon enough. The fans were heavily in his favor here, and so wanted to see him pull out the big win after all the build up of the past few weeks. I can’t wait to see what the reaction will be like when he finally does win the big one.Match Rating: ****GHC Heavyweight Title: Takeshi Rikioh VS Hiroshi Tanahashi
You could easily see Rikioh has dropped some weight here, which is a good thing of course. Now if only Morishima would follow suite. Yoshihiro Takayama comes out to do guest commentary and get a big pop from the crowd when he’s shown on screen.
This was a good match. Rikioh pulled out a solid performance against Tanahashi who looked just a bit sluggish in the opening moments, but he got his game on himself later and seemed to want to try to kill himself when he pull three consecutive suicide dives out of the ring on the GHC champion, twice over-shooting his mark and hitting the guard-rail! Tanahashi even hit an impressive rolling-German suplex pin on big Rikioh for a near fall, but the champ battled back hard with some big time stiff lariats and power moves. I get the feeling the fans still don’t buy the Muso as that good of a finisher, cause despite beating Kobashi twice with it, the fans still don’t seem to cheer it when he does it or calls for it. But what do you expect when it just looks like a high angle slam? Hopefully, the fan response will pick up for Rikioh’s finisher, as the were into him here at the Dome.Match Rating: ***1/2
Yoshinari Ogawa VS Genichiro Tenryu
This was kinda fun as Ogawa pulled out every trick in his book to try and down Tenryu. The match wasn’t a complete squash as everyone says, which isn’t that bad considering Ogawa does have a bizarre following in Japan that the rest of us just can’t seem to understand. Tenryu is definitely getting on in his age, but he’s still willing to take a bump or two like he did here for Ogawa’s backdrops and such. Not the best match on the show by far, but still ok workrate wise.Match Rating: **1/4
Kenta Kobashi VS Kensuke Sasaki
I had a tear in my eye watching this as it was just so friggin’ good! They had an incredible match which lived up to all the hype that was built around it, and the crowd was way into it throughout. The match was mostly raw power they traded strikes and big spots. Kobashi pulled out his usual offense of half-nelsons and a sleeper suplex, which looked painful the way Sasaki landed on his head, but Sasaki would answer back with a big northern lights bomb out on the floor! Sasaki even tried to get a cheap count out win at one point when it seemed like he knew he couldn’t beat Kobashi.
And what about the big chop battle everyone was talking about? It truly was a sight to behold as they blasted away relentlessly for what seemed like forever! And both men knew just what to do to keep the audience interested as the chop-fest went on, and the fans of course ate it all up! Truly one of the best moments in Puroresu ever!
Also should be noted that Kobashi did not use a barrage of lariats to finally put Sasaki down like it’s being reported. He only used one, after a flurry of spinning back chops, so Kobashi didn’t fall into the redundant “keep hitting it till it works” shtick that Satoshi Kojima does.
Definitely one of the best heavyweight matches in a long while, and easily one of the most heated Tokyo Dome matches I’ve EVER seen. Definitely a match of the year contender, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was voted just that by the Japanese press at the end of the year. If there was any flaw I could find with the match, it’s that at 24 minuts, it was rather short. This match at least deserved another 5 minutes, and I would have liked to have seen Sasaki pull off some heavier offense. But I guess their saving that for next time.Match Rating: ****1/2
Mitsuharu Misawa VS Toshiaki Kawada
These two legendary figures are going into this with a record of 12 wins for Misawa, 3 for Kawada and 5 draws. As expected, they went at it tooth and nail from the opening bell. They did the standard routine of heavy strikes, followed by the mat work leading to the big moves and the big finish. There actually was a missed spot or two in this one, but they managed to get through those pretty well.
They hit each other with some of the stiffest strikes I’ve ever seen, and Misawa actually showed some emotion in the match he seemed to lose his patients with Kawada not falling after a barrage of heavy elbow strikes the two were exchanging. Kawada was definitely the man here, but Misawa wasn’t being lazy either. They brought out the big guns in this match, including a very dangerous looking intentional ganso-bomb by Kawada and a rather sloppy Tiger Driver ’91 by Misawa.
But at the end of it, the match was decided once again by the heavy striking ability both men posses. The only thing that bugs me about it is that Kawada showed at the beginning of the match that he was ready to block the dangerous elbow shots by Misawa, but at the end he showed his guts by repeatedly getting up and taking even more elbow shots from Misawa till he finally couldn’t take anymore, which kinda made the ending a bit anti climatic, but still better than most anything I’ve seen in awhile.Match Rating: ****1/2OVERALL:
Easilly one of the best puroresu shows ever, with four very strong stand out bouts. The legends have their day in the spotlight again, and the younger generation are getting primed for when their time will come. Definately a show not to be missed!