Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Tsutomu Hirayanagi VS Mitsuo Momota & Atsushi Aoki
I rather enjoyed watching the two old veterans go at it, as Momota wasn’t afraid to take some sick looking elbow strikes from Kikuchi and Kikuchi took several loud slaps from Momota. They really flubbed their timing during the ending moments of the match though, and the final 3-count was a bit questionable whether Momota kicked out of Kikuchi’s backslide in time or not since Aoki was right there to break the count but didn’t. Of the two rookies in the match, Aoki got to show more than Hirayanagi, who’s still very far down the food chain compared to the boy in blue.Match Rating: *
Yoshinobu Kanemaru & SUWA VS Ricky Marvin & Taiji Ishimori
Now this is the kind of match that comes to mind when you think of junior heavyweight tag team action! You had the exciting speedy team of Marvin and Ishimori up against the two heel brawlers in Kanemaru & SUWA, and what you get out of it is a great match. I love the opening sequence where Marvin avoided everything that was thrown at him and managed to take down the heels with a bit of help from Ishimori. Than the heels took over with their dirty tactics, distracting the referee so SUWA could hit a big low blow on Marvin, take him out of the match for a bit so they could work over Ishimori. SUWA even dropped a submission hold to threaten to go out after a fan sitting in the audience!
Marvin finally gets the hot tag and it’s more high-speed offense all over the place, hitting a big 619 and a sweet Shining Wizard for a near fall. Ishimori joins in the fray and hits a big Swanton-bomb and a standing shooting star press for a near fall Ishimori tries for the Superstar Elbow, but SUWA recovers and catches him in mid-air with a big back suplex! SUWA hits a big time lariat, but only gets a near fall. SUWA than hits a big John Woo, than finally finishes Ishimori with a big running FFF 3-quarters across the ring for the win!Match Rating: ***
Tamon Honda & Shuhei Taniguchi VS Scorpio & Murat Bosporus
Like I’ve said before, I really enjoy watching Bosporus in NOAH, and there were even a few Bosporus fans chanting “Murat” for him in the front row here! His major disadvantage for him as once again demonstrated here was his size, as there were a few spots that just didn’t come out right because of it and even cause a few unintentional funny moments, like the bizarre cross-face chicken wing he attempted which ended up looking like a really ugly Tazmission. Still, he did manage to hit that great frog splash of his, and managed to belly-to-belly suplex the much larger Tamon Honda.
Taniguchi was also given a good showing here, as he hit some big suplexes of his own on Scorpio, and played a part in the finish where he and Honda gave their opponents stereo Germans and pinfalls, with Taniguchi getting a 2 count on Scorpio, but Murat couldn’t kick out of the Dead End, giving the home team the win.Match Rating: *1/2
Masao Inoue, Kishin Kawabata & Ippei Ota VS Doug Williams, Nigel McGuinness & Ares
Well, Ares finally made himself useful for a change. He did some of his usual comedy at the beginning with his neckties, but came out looking strong at the end of the match when he hit a great looking cannonball on Ota, followed by a nice brainbuster and finishing with a tiger driver for the win. There was also a really nice spot where Williams and McGuinness battered Ota back and forth with non-stop European uppercuts! Other than all that, the one other fun spot was Inoue and Kawabata helping Ota get more spin on his aeroplane spin and Ares doing a great job of selling the move while he was going round and round.Match Rating: *1/2
Akira Taue & Kentaro Shiga VS Akitoshi Saito & Go Shiozaki
This was another really fun tag match! Saito and Shiozaki tried to steal this one early by attacking Taue and Shiga, then hitting a big doomsday missile dropkick on Shiga, but Taue recovered in time to make the save. But the best part of the match was when Taue tried to charge in on Saito with his trademark running corner face kick, and Saito ducked and Taue a big jab in the nuts! It was funny watching Taue hop around selling the shot, but than Saito sets up Taue for a Dynamic-Bomb, and Taue responds by giving a head butt in the gonads! So we get a really funny sight of two veterans selling their aching genitals on the mat! This match will forever be immortalized for that spot alone! Add to that, we also get a good showing from Shiga and Shiozaki, including a very Kobashi-like short lariat from Shiozaki, and Shiga steals the win from Go with a ground cobra-twist.Match Rating: **
Takeshi Morishima & Mohammed Yone VS Jun Akiyama & Makoto Hashi
There was one really awesome spot in this match where Morishima and Yone were going to give Akiyama a Doomsday Device type move, but Akiyama escaped it by giving Yone a super Exploder off Morishima’s shoulders! We than get the usual underdog Hashi booking, as he comes close to winning the match several times and fighting for all he’s worth to survive the onslaught of the former GHC tag team champions. They may have goofed up the ending a bit when Yone hit the Muscle Buster on Hashi, but he actually let Hashi up before pinning him again and Hashi kicked out the second time on his own. Yone would than hit a huge diving guillotine leg drop on Hashi for the win.
Great match aside, what the heck happened to Hashi? If he teamed with Morishima, you could probably call them Team Man-Boobs!Match Rating: **
Mitsuharu Misawa, Yoshinari Ogawa & Kotaro Suzuki VS Yoshihiro Takayama, Takuma Sano & Takashi Sugiura
Seriously, I thought this one dragged on longer than necessary. There was a lot of goodness with Suzuki in there playing the little guy taking on a gang of bigger guys, and he even managed to hit the Blue Destiny on Sano for a near fall! There was even a few fun exchanges between Ogawa and Takayama. The only thing that seemed to kill the momentum of the match was Misawa, who as usual looked really un-motivated here. Sano takes the win for his team with a big Northern Lights Bomb on Suzuki.Match Rating: *
GHC Heavyweight Title: Naomichi Marufuji [C] VS KENTA
To say that these two gave it their all in this one is definitely an understatement, as both men threw caution to the wind on more than one occasion to risk it all for the gold, the way a world title match should be! They did some really insane stuff in this one, but the biggest near miss that could have been disastrous was the moonsault out to the floor Marufuji gave KENTA early on, but didn’t quite clear the guardrail and could have broken his neck! KENTA was busted open the hard way from spot, but you could still see him asking the referee and the seconds to check on Marufuji.
Things just got more extreme from there, as KENTA would counter a Shiranui from Marufuji by tossing him right out onto the floor, crashing into the guardrail! They tried to re-enact the Misawa/Kobashi tiger suplex to the floor spot from 2003, but Marufuji was able to flip out of the German suplex KENTA tried and land on his feet. Marufuji wasn’t so lucky moments later when KENTA would give him a big time falcon arrow off the apron to the floor, and follow that with a big springboard diving double foot stomp onto the champion’s already aching chest on the floor! They then did the classic “no-sell chain sequence”, where Marufuji escaped a Go2Sleep attempt and hit a dangerous backdrop, KENTA pops up with a dangerous backdrop of his own, Marufuji pops up with a release German, KENTA pops up with a German of his own but almost loses him due to the momentum and Marufuji almost crashes on him, Marufuji pops up again with a release German but KENTA lands on his feet and gives Marufuji a discuss lariat, and Marufuji answers with a superkick before both men finally collapse!
Marufuji also managed to match kicks with KENTA as he added the spinning sobat kick to his arsenal and scored a near fall after a barrage of spin kicks to KENTA’s head. Marufuji also innovated a wrist-clutch Shiranui for a near fall and was smart enough to position himself near the ropes after taking a Go2Sleep so he could get a foot on the ropes to break the count. The biggest “WTF” moment for Marufuji was when he hit the super Shiranui (one-man Spanish Fly) and KENTA actually managed to kick out at 2.9! Marufuji was shocked as heck, so he picked up KENTA and drove him on his head with his new wrist-clutch fisherman’s driver finisher, which reminded me more of Hiroyoshi Tenzan’s sit-out ganso-TTD, to finally put KENTA away and successfully defend his title after 30-minutes of action!
Overall, the match was what you’d expect from these two next generation aces of the company. It was a great world title match if you don’t look between the lines that you basically had two junior heavyweights fighting it out for the company’s top prize. And like I said at the beginning, they gave it their all and sacrificed their bodies to entertain the 10,000+ fans at the Budokan who were really in to it from the get go.Match Rating: ****3/4
OK, it’s no secret the card was put together deliberately just to see how well Marufuji VS KENTA could draw on their own without anything else major on the undercard. But despite how poor on paper the card looked, the actual matches were all quite entertaining and made for a good show overall. On a final note, I hope they bring back Murat Bosporus sometime in the future ^_^ .