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Mitsuharu Misawa vs Masahiro Chono (NJPW Tokyo Dome 05/02/02)

14 May 2018 - 08:37 AM

The more I watch NOAH Misawa, the more I'm fascinated and it reminds me how great this man was both as a worker and actually as a booker too. Here he is, leading his new company toward new coasts in dream matches that could never happen because of Baba isolationist mentality, and most of all preparing the field for his men to get over on the big stage. So he gets Chono, who is still in heel mode here (as opposed to the following year when he will already have turned into more of a legend figure) and also much more active than in the Kobashi match in 2003. Yet, we're leading toward that match already, as Misawa, who barely loses anyway, won't be able to take Chono down and go to a 30 mn draw. Now that may seem a crazy thought, especially by 2002 in a Dome (ah, the days where NJ would still run several Dome shows a year), but it actually works really well because Misawa knows what the fuck he's doing, and Chono is game enough.


Sure, it's a slower paced match. Sure, there's a lot of repetition of spots, but it's because the match works that way : who is gonna put the other one down with his favourite weapon : the elbow / the kenta kicks ? They mix up other spots too : Chono going for a few submissions, and Misawa doing a really good job putting the STF (whom everybody knows won't get him, really); Misawa actually does an emerald frosion on the ramp (which allows Chono to not have to kick out out it right way, as Misawa is also selling a piledriver too by that point, so it takes quite some time before they get back in the ring). A super neat sequences comes after Chono uses the Russian Legswip, which was a Baba spot, so Misawa retaliates with the same spot followed by a neckbreaker drop (again, old Baba spot). Yeah, some fine reference work there, again as Misawa uses the manjigatame on Chono (he gets countered of course, since he's not as good as Chono at it, it's a Inoki hold after all). Plenty of neat little stuff like this, until the point where it comes down to Chono not being strong enough to sustain Misawa's elbows (who is ?), yet manage to work enough counters and muster enough will to work up a few kenta kicks of his own. At this point, it's a matter of him not sinking more than beating Misawa (come on now, Chono ain't gonna beat Misawa)? leading to an unexpected draw.


Another thing : Misawa didn't drop Chono on his head once inside the ring. That will be Kobashi's not-so -secret-weapon. So yeah, this was not an epic spectacle nor a magnificient action packed match, but it was just right, it told a fine story, Misawa did an excellent job making the most out of Chono's sometimes really light offense, it felt like two big stars finally colliding, there was the old AJ vs NJ feel to it. Really good, smart, compelling stuff. And it let the door open for Kobashi, the real Ace of NOAH (still to come) to beat Masa Chono. Misawa was such a great, great pro-wrestler, coupled with a selfless booker.

Toshiaki Kawada vs Shinjiro Ohtani (AJPW 09.06.2003 - Triple Crown championship match)

11 May 2018 - 08:31 AM

This is Kawada, the last remaining AJ faithfull against Zero-1 dickhead Ohtani, who really never has proved himself at that level in single competition. So at first, he really can't hang with Kawada, which is the story. When he does that boot in the face deal in the corner, my thoughts were "Hum... Kawada ain't gonna like that." Yep. Kawada gets up and slaps the shit out of Ohtani. Basically, every time Ohtani was too much of an irrespectful dickhead, Kawada would get up, walk right in his face and kick the shit out of him. Ohtani's strategy is to go after a knee, with quick dropkicks and kneebars. He also no-sells regularly Kawada's jumping kicks to the back of the head, which can be seen as annoying, but more on that later. Kawada doesn't forget to sell his knee while he goes back on offense. Some nice double boots to the face and backdrops back and forth. Ohtani basically has to go back to the knee to get an advantage up to the point they are trading bombs and Ohtani insists on not-selling those kicks to the back of the head. What a dick. At some point though, Kawada's offense gets too heavy. And while he tries to show off as the dick he is and keeps on no-selling those kicks, he finally ends up taking one too many and gets pinned after.... a kick to the back of the head. That's poetic justice. Excellent, bordering great match for Kawada's last Triple Crown win.

Kenta Kobashi & Tamon Honda vs Yoshihiro Takayama & Shinya Makabe (GHC Tag Team...

07 May 2018 - 03:46 AM

This match is ugly, folks. But really fun too. But ugly, really. The one issue that appears really quick is that Makabe, a few weeks removed of being renamed Togi, is not very good. Not good even. So the beginning of the match with a long sequence against Honda just drags forever. Each time Takayama tags in, the match comes alive. Each time Makabe gets back in, it's a yawnfest with his boring, plodding brawling style. So, from there, Kobashi beats the shit out of him and now it gets fun, as soon enough after another heat sequences that works a bit better (Takayama gets things moving), the match loses it's structure and it's just a bunch of brawling outside, Honda suplexing Takayama from the ramp to the inside, Makabe getting blood and Kobashi beating the fuck out of him even more. And finally, a short but nice teaser sequence between Kobashi & Takayama, foreshadowing a title match in the future maybe. Kobashi was just the Man at this point, he could adapt to any situation. So he brawls, tries to make Makabe's stuff look good (but fails, as Makabe can't even do a powerslam right) and then, fuck it, beats him even more. Meanwhile, some Honda ugly goodness too with him trying to smothers the outsiders one after another. Well, it's an ugly match, that moves from boring to a fun mess, to the point I'd call it quite good in the end, but man, Makabe was not good and really took that one down a bunch of notches. Watching the other three make up for it and Kobashi beating on Makabe (who 's only good for that use at this point) unmercifully finally made the match fun, basically.

Jushin Liger & Takehiro Murahama & Ricky Marvin vs KENTA & Naomichi Marufuj...

05 May 2018 - 08:38 AM

This Liger vs NOAH stuff never ceased to be awesome. This is all about planting the seeds of the upcoming Jr. tag title match, as Liger is now teaming with the awesome Osaka Pro ass-kicker Takehiro Murahama. Marvin is an unmasked luchador was kinda was the talk of the day back then, while Suzuki is still a rookie, mostly, but shows very good potential. But really, as KENTA and Murahama trade great kicks, the crux of the match is Liger & Marufuji not respecting each other. And damn, this is awesome. Maru blocking Liger's shotei and holding his hand while badmouthing him, Liger deviating Maru's superkick and slapping him in the mouth. Meanwhile, Murahama and KENTA are kicking each other again, really hard. Excellent six-men match in front of the hot Korakuen crowd, with tons of purpose and heat, foreshadowing the big match to come.

Kenta Kobashi vs Masahiro Chono (05.02.2003 - GCH Championship match)

01 May 2018 - 02:57 PM

By this point, Chono is Mr. Puroresu and he's a legend. And he's also washed up. Like, really washed up. So, what does Kenta Kobashi do to make this match at the Tokyo Dome as compelling as it can be without compromising himself (that is, without making himself look like a completely washed up guy can actually take him down) ?


First : work the first part of the match like Dory Funk Jr. would. Stretch job reversals, work a solid headlock spot that is part of your repertoire anyway; stuff that Chono can do and can eat up some minutes building the tension while doing not so much in term of spots and physicality (which Chono can't do).


Second : find a cool transition for the washed up guy to do : Chono actually reverses a powerbomb doing doing some ugly hurricanrana on the ramp.


Third : find a way to give your opponent some kind of offense that looks like it affects you to some degree. This is where Kobashi has to go overboard, as Chono's backrop just look weak as fuck. So Kob litteraly does a bunch of twists with his body to throw himself on his head, of sorts. Which, yeah, is goofy, but is right out of Ric Flair "please back body drop me / please throw me off the tope rope / please reverse my figure four" playbook. Because really, apart from no-selling a few chops, Chono has nothing he can do to make himself look slightly menacing. 


Four : sell the STF spot like it's really hurting you and could end the match....eventually. Nobody's gonna buy it, but give it your best.


Five : since there's no way anyone actually thinks Chono can takes you down, to make it a Tokyo Dome spectacle, make it about how Chono is too washed up, too weak but shows a bit too much heart so you drop him on his head several times. They know he ain't coming back up. Be a dick, kinda. And then Tenzan is almost wanting to throw the towel because everyone understand you're murdering the guy now. Have Chono kinda, almost, try to do a delayed no sell on the latest head-drop, but actually barely making it to his knees before beheading (well, not really considering the tired bumps Chono takes) the guy. That's the final drama time. Not a bunch of stupid trading nearfalls that would make no sense. Something that makes sense, that doesn't need the audience to think you can actually loose (which they would not anyway), but still feels big.


So yeah. That's NOAH Ace Kobashi vs washed up dream match worker Masa Chono. It's a good match, all things considered (meaning : considering Chono had really almost nothing left and looked like a relic from a removed era). Kobashi was a great, great pro-wrestler.