A Fuerza title match is a real treasure. There aren't that many of them in circulation and it's not necessarily the best setting for him (not to say he won't be great in it), but every time I come across a new one I feel like I need to see it (I say new one, but this has apparently been on youtube for over two years). For a title match it didn't have much in the way of matwork. To be honest, it didn't really have any. It was more of an "anything you can do"/"top this" affair with a primera built around throws rather than dives. Fuerza was even more of a goof than usual, maybe to the point of being too much for some, but I can't say I didn't get a kick out of it all. I'll never complain about him intimating he'd been kicked in the balls, no matter how many times he does it (and I counted at least four instances in this match). I'd never seen Gallo before, but if you're competent I'll have little trouble watching you wrestle Fuerza Guerrera. A little further digging revealed that he was actually Fuerza's trainer, and this was probably his last meaningful program before hanging it up. Fuerza started things out by trying to horse shit his way into getting Gallo disqualified for hair-pulling (no such thing happened, of course) before realising this is a title match and approaching the situation with a little more decorum. It never lasted and you knew it wouldn't, but it's fun to see him try once in a while. Some of what they did in the first caida was kind of weird and it built to them working quite literally as equals, trying the exact same moves at the same time resulting in several stalemates. They both went for a scoop slam and neither would budge, so Gallo tapped Fuerza on the shoulder, Fuerza thought it was the ref' and let go, and Gallo capitalised. This went on for a few minutes until they clonked heads off another shared idea, and that was enough to push Fuerza beyond the boundaries of acceptable title match behaviour. He mostly spent the segunda stomping Gallo and slamming him with a little extra oomph, but it wasn't until the tercera that we got our real Fuerza highlight, as he tried to bolt away from a Gallo tope only to run face-first into the ring post. There's an apuestas match between them on youtube so I think I'll check that out soon. It was probably a really fun feud.
Pretty decent single fall apuestas match, though I wonder if Segura hadn't nearly ripped Fuerza's mask clean off it might've been better. Fuerza had to keep adjusting it and hide his face when he took a moderately-sized bump, so we never got to see the blood truly flow. At times it felt like he was being more reserved than usual as well, intent as he was on keeping his face covered. It did not stop him from kicking and punching Segura in the balls several times. He seemed to get more creative with the foul each time as well, going from a straight kick to the Fuerza Punt to sneakily punching Segura low as he pushed out of a pin attempt. By the end he just grabbed a handful of wedding tackle and squeezed. Segura was fine. His stuff mostly looked good and I liked him ramming Fuerza's head into a freezer with enough force that it looked like he was trying to stuff him inside without opening the lid first. The big tope looked great as well. Some might nitpick on Fuerza being back to his feet first, but Segura cleared the barricade and might've dislocated a finger or two on the landing, so it's hard to argue he didn't take the brunt of the damage. That's the beauty of the tope, I guess. Sometimes the gamble isn't worth it.
Remember when NOAH was really fun for a minute there? I thought Tenryu was pretty exceptional in this, in a subtle, low key sort of way. It was a match largely built around strike exchanges, but it was Tenryu's reactions to them that stood out (insert point here about those exchanges not just being rote "you hit me, I'll hit you" affairs, that they sold the strikes in interesting ways, that they injected personality into them, etc). Tenryu was 55 by the time he got to NOAH (this is his first appearance there, actually). He's a big name and still has pretty good mobility for a 55 year old who's been wrestling for nearly three decades. He can still go and he'll hit super hard (evident by Misawa's welted chest after a couple minutes), but he's breaking down and can't hang with the very top dogs like he used to. So he gets even more belligerent! And acts like an even bigger shithouse! There were a bunch of great moments in this where he'd be laying it in with chops, then later potato punches, and he'd be at least even in the exchanges...but then age would creep up on him and he'd be left in a heap somewhere. I love how he'd sell Misawa's elbows like molars had been knocked out, or Rikio's slaps like they'd scrambled his brains. It also led to him ramping up the cheapshots, like the knees and kicks from the apron, the short punts to the face, the casual interference. It could only get him to far, but he still had gas in the tank and he wasn't ready to accept that it might be time to step aside. Misawa was mostly elbows in this but good grief did they have some meat behind them. He hit one combo that even Tenryu's relatives felt, and later when he had Tenryu in a chinlock he took the time to measure one nasty little elbow to the bridge of the nose. Rikio and Koshinaka were fun understudies and for the eighty seventh time I'll reiterate how much more enjoyable I find old man Koshinaka compared to prime Koshinaka. I haven't seen the Tenryu/Misawa singles match in about a decade, but I'm wondering if it's as disappointing as it was thought to be at the time. It certainly shouldn't have been based on this.
It's already been established that Ono can work a pretty, pretty, pretty good four minute match, but Kotsubo is very much not Ikeda and there's only so much Ono can do with a guy like that in four minutes. Kotsubo didn't flat out suck or anything -- he has some solidish wrestling, and he at least made the matwork look somewhat competitive even if Ono's scrambling was much quicker. I mean, if you've seen enough Ono then you get the sense he could turn loose and Kotsubo would not be able to fight off that armbar or heel hook. Kotsubo's main problem is that he doesn't hit hard, and when you're i) in FUTEN and ii) against Ono, that problem tends to be magnified. His German suplex never had much snap and looked more like a throw, then his lariat was kind of a grazing love tap, and Ono is supposed to sell that as a near KO after we've seen him take cannons from the Battlarts crew for years. Then Ono kicked him in the face and backfisted him into the 22nd century and you conclude that Takeshi Ono is far too precious a treasure to be showing up on tape once every other year to be wrestling Hiroyuki Kotsubo for four minutes.
I didn't really care one way or the other about Hijikata and his fighting spirit business, but Ono was outstanding again. He looks like one of the best wrestlers in the world in 2000/20001 and yet he mostly seems to be dicking around in barely-spotlighted undercard fights. Surely the one major blemish on Yuki Ishikawa as a booker/human being. Hijikata jumped Ono before the bell here, running him into the barricade before throwing him into the first row, and as Ono made his way into the ring for the first time he had this "okay so we're doing that, are we?" look on his face and you get a little giddy at what you fully expect him to do. Naturally he went and kicked the shit out of Hijikata. Some of his selling towards the end was incredible, like the crumpled sell of a lariat and the way he made it back to his feet like a cobra in answer to the snake charmer's punji. And like most dealings with a cobra, Hijikata wound up getting bit when he came too close.