Christ it’s been a long time hasn’t it guys? January I believe was the last time I could get to my keyboard and feel inspired to write something about the glorious world of Puroresu. Well I’m back and I want to make this a more regular thing once more. And the place I aim to start this week? Pro-Wrestling NOAH.
Since my last article NOAH took a huge gamble… They dethroned ‘ace’ and champion of two years, Kenta Kobashi and placed on top the mighty frame of Takeshi Rikio following a monster push where he pinned Kobashi (his first fall loss in over two years at the time) and then took him out again with his new finisher ’The Muso’ to earn the strap on the 05/03/05 show.
He first faced Akitoshi Saito in his first defence, a move which turned most fans off straight away and then after dispatching of him after two Muso’s (a big mistake to devalue his ‘big’ finish so early) he took on Hiroshi Tanahashi in his second defence. Now what could have been a blinding inter-promotional defence was blighted by Tana’s injuries to his ribs and elbow, the positioning on the card of the event (7th on a ten match card and below Tenryu v Ogawa for heavens sake!) and also the fact that Tanahashi didn’t have a meaningful win going into the match to make him look like a threat. In fact his last match in the NOAH ring saw him drop the GHC tag belts to Misawa after holding them with Nagata.
Then came the death blow. Misawa jobbed to him in a vain attempt to give him the final ’rub’ he needed. But alas Misawa was too broken down for the old magic to work, Rikio was too inexperienced in carrying (like with Saito) and seemed out of place and in the end the match and the job just harmed both Misawa and Rikio in equal measure. Plus the crowd weren’t buying him as a dominant champ in the vain of Kobashi nor as the underdog either, to be honest they couldn’t stomach his uber-push at all.
So along came the 05/11/05 show and his fourth defence against the giant Akira Taue, always the bridesmaid it would seem and never the bride and an elder statesmen of NOAH in the wake of a small revival. Taue and Rikio worked a good match together, full of the power moves they are expected to bring and Taue was relentless, he wanted that title. Rikio tried everything but in the end Taue prevailed with the Ora Ga Taue and became only the 8th ever champion.
But Taue is 44, and whilst not broken down to the extremes of Misawa and some might even say Kobashi is he the future of NOAH? The answer is no of course. He is a great choice for a transitional champion of course as he is SO over with the fans and Rikio as champion and underdog was booed whenever on offence in their match-up.
But who can replace Taue at the top?
There are four candidates for me. One has been there before but never grew into the role and he is Jun Akiyama. But times have changed, the fans have grown a bond with him, his charisma more apparent and he would be another good choice for GHC title holder.
But the next three are the true future. Takeshi Morishma, Mohammad Yone and Go Shiosaki are the next elite it would seem. Morishma is next in line for Taue’s title and having never received a title shot it is an important match to see if he can perform at this level before Misawa thinks of handing over the belt at a later date. Then there is Yone. Over and a great showman but with a few gaps in his move set. Plus the fact he has just sustained a leg break after winning and retaining the GHC tag belts is another blow but he showed in a match against Kobashi that he can stand up and be counted and I believe one day he should be GHC champion.
As for Go? Not yet, he needs a few more years in the ring and a more filled out move set before he can go up the ladder. A GHC Hardcore or Tag run wouldn’t hurt him either before he gets a shot, but he is an emerging talent that deserves recognition.
But for me the true future of NOAH as a bock office ticket? The Junior Heavyweight division. KENTA is at last the champion and his defences against SUWA and Mushking Terry have had the fans eating from the palm of his hand. Terry also is a goldmine waiting to happen too. Played by athletic but bland and near win-less Kotaro Suzuki this character has captured a Japanese craze like all great masked juniors before it and is running with it and bringing in the kids as KENTA brings in the ladies. Then with the able Marufuji winning Heavyweight gold in the GHC Hardcore and tag belts this year and bringing his own brand of flair to proceedings too, well you have a formidable trio of talent. Not to mention Shiga who is a legit bad ass and Kanemaru who is the wily veteran plus the able gajian talent of Low Ki to add the martial art flair too…
NOAH has the tools to succeed for years to come. It has a great junior division, good gajian’s, young and adaptable heavyweight talent and still has some top draws to give them the rub they need. The only thing they have to be careful with is the booking of Taue’s reign. He needs to have a respectable reign to keep the prestige of the belt high but also at the same time be beaten decisively by some one who can lead.
Only Misawa knows who that is in his eyes and that is all that matters. Let’s just hope he truly things of NOAH when he does make his choice and that future he creates shines as bright as the Emerald Green his ring reflects.
Until next time Puro-heads.
Robert ’Evil Gringo’ Heard