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* The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
This show features one of the most talked about matches from 2003, a battle between two of the greatest Heavyweight wrestlers of all-time: Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi.
The rivalry between these two men goes way back before the beginning of the NOAH promotion, back to the early 90’s of All Japan Pro Wrestling. These two competitors are considered to be among the elite of Puroresu, along with Akira Taue and Toshiaki Kawada, with these four collectively being known as the “Four Lords of Heaven.”
This show was billed as being possibly the final confrontation between these great friends and greater rivals.
I picked this tape up from the excellent Simania.co.uk.
Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota vs. Haruka Eigen & Kishin Kawabata.
This is the kind of match you really don’t want as an opener to a show. Match starts out with Eigen & Kawabata gaining the upper hand by working the leg and arm of Momota. This is followed by Eigen breaking out a Giant Swing. Later in the match Kawabata gained an advantage with a Sidewalk Slam and an Elbow Drop. Finish came from Momota reversing a hiptoss into a backslide on Kawabata. This match was the worst I have ever seen from NOAH with a really slow pace, very little offence from anyone and practically no selling either. If you want to see four fat, old men slapping each other…this IS the match for you.
Akira Taue, Michael Modest & Donovan Morgan vs. Takuma Sano, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Kotaro Suzuki.
Match starts out with Kikuchi’s team gaining a slight advantage over Taue. Following this all six guys got in some good back and forth work with some submissions. Modest and Morgan as expected using some good tag team offence, with Suzuki taking a good beating. As expected the offence was crisp throughout, with some excellent suplexes from Morgan, Modest and Kikuchi. Overall, an average match which started out quite slow, but picked up pace towards the end. Finish came when Modest hit his Kryptonite Krunch on Suzuki.
Naomichi Marufuji & Kenta vs. Yoshinobu Kanemura & Makoto Hashi.
This match should have been the opening match to this show as it starts out at an incredible pace. Kanemaru and Kenta trading offence, leading to Marufuji coming in with a Dropkick on Hashi while Kenta nailed Kanemaru with a Springboard Dropkick and Brainbuster for two. Marufuji and Kenta controlled the pace early on working on Kanemaru. Match turned following a Backdrop on Kenta by Kanemaru, followed by a Reverse DDT on the apron by Hashi. The pace of this match didn’t slow down there with all four guys doing some amazing, crisp offence with some good strikes, counters and moves. Finish came following a really good reversals sequence between Marufuji and Hashi ending with Marufuji rolling Hashi up for the pin. Overall, this was a really good match with a great finish.
Takeshi Morishima, Takeshi Rikio & Daisuke Ikeda vs. Bison Smith, Superstar Steve & IZU.
Match started out quite fast paced with Superstar Steve hitting a pair of Dropkicks and a Plancha on Rikio. After this though, the match went South as it seemed to lack flow and direction. Slow pace, average offence with average execution of moves. Best performances came from Superstar Steve and Ikeda, while Bison Smith barely seemed to get into the match. Overall, a short, slow and poor match.
Scorpio vs. Yoshinari Ogawa.
This match was really short and was hurt because of the length. Match was okay and started out with Ogawa taking the upper hand. After a short comeback by Scorpio, both men ended up on the ramp where Ogawa nailed an Enziguri and a Backdrop. This led to more Backdrops by Ogawa, but Scorpio came back with a Diving Pyramid Driver. Scorpio seemed to want to show that despite his age, he is still a great highflyer as he ended the match with a huge Guillotene Legdrop, Tumbleweed Guillotene Legdrop and two 450 splashes. Overall, not much of a match, but quite well paced with some well executed offence.
Yoshihiro Takayama vs. Masao Inoue.
Inoue started the match out by using every variation of raking the eyes imaginable on Takayama. Good, short, well paced match with some well executed offence and good timing from both competitors. Match was mostly dominated by Inoue, who even hoisted Takayama up for the Torture Rack. Takayama with good suplexes as always nailing the Butterfly Suplex and the Everest German Suplex for the finish.
Jun Akiyama & Akitoshi Saito vs. Tamon Honda & Takashi Sugiura.
Cool opening to the match with Akiyama coming through the crowd, allowing a sneak attack on Honda. This led to Honda taking a Spike Piledriver to the exposed concrete floor from Akiyama. After more double teaming, Honda fought back with a Double Clothesline, followed by a Stalling German Suplex on Akiyama and a Backdrop Driver on Saito. Some good tag team offence followed from Akiyama and Saito, who worked over Honda’s leg to the finish which came from a Half Crab by Akiyama. Good pace to the match, with some well executed offence and some good psychology and selling from Honda. Good match.
GHC Heavyweight Title: Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi.
Good, fast paced opening sequence with Misawa countering a Backdrop attempt into a pin, with some good hard hitting offence early. This led into some good technical work by both competitors, followed by a Half Nelson Suplex counter by Misawa, who dropped Kobashi on his head with a Backdrop Driver. Misawa followed this with a Diving Elbow to the outside and a Cannonball off the ring apron. More hard hitting offence by Misawa leading into him working on Kobashi’s arm.
Kobashi fell to the outside following a Dropkick, but countered a Diving Elbow attempt by ramming Misawa jaw first into the security rail. Half Nelson suplex on the outside by Kobashi follows. Kobashi with more offence back in the ring and a DDT on the ramp. Back to back Half Nelson Suplexes follow from Kobashi. Short trade of strikes leads to Kobashi hitting the Backdrop Driver on Misawa. A second attempt at the Backdrop Driver is countered into a German Suplex, followed by a Release Tiger Suplex from Misawa.
Misawa starts pulling out the big moves and hits the Tiger Driver for two. This is followed by a Tiger Suplex ’85 for two, followed by a second Tiger Driver for two. Misawa looked to end it with the Emerald Flowsion, but this was countered into the Half Nelson Suplex by Kobashi, followed up with a Sleeper Suplex and a Back Brain Lariat. Two count off a Burning Lariat by Kobashi. Then both competitors ended on the ramp which led to Misawa hitting a Release Tiger Suplex off the ramp!!! Once both guys got back in, Misawa only manages a two count. Flying Knee for two by Misawa and this is followed by an Emerald Flowsion for two. Kobashi counters the Tiger Driver and follows with a Burning Lariat, Brainbuster and Burning Hammer for the three count.
As you can see this was quite an epic match. Both guys went toe to toe throughout, nailing some huge moves and keeping the pace of the match excellent. Execution of everything was awesome and this was an awesome effort from both competitors to go 30 mins plus (Kobashi was 36 at the time of the match and Misawa was 40) at such a hard hitting, high pace. This is by no means one of their best matches, but this is one of the very best matches of 2003 without a doubt.
Kobashi and Misawa put in career performances considering the amount of surgery they have collectively had and their collective age (combined age of 76!). As I have already said, not one of their best matches, but by any one elses standards this would be top of the pile. My match of 2003.
A lot of the undercard was just above average to atrocious(excluding the Marufuji/Kenta vs. Kanemaru/Hashi match). Some bad performances in a lot of the matches dragged down the show and really showed the weakness in the NOAH mid card.
There is absolutely NO excuse for that opening match. That could easily have been given to an extra singles match or in fact anything else would have been better. That was the WORST match I have ever seen on a NOAH card and is easily in my top 3 worst matches of all time!
Overall this show is hit or miss. With an awesome main event, a decent heavyweight singles match and tag match, and a great Junior Heavyweight Tag Match holding the show together. As for the rest of the matches on this show, have fast forward at the ready.