Quebrada Pro Wrestling, Puroresu, & Mixed Martial Arts Reviews by Mike Lorefice

NOAH Nippon Budokan SP GREAT VOYAGE '03 1/10/03

Rusher Kimura & Mitsuo Momota vs. Haruka Eigen & Kishin Kawabata 8:39. Kawabata did an early spit spot to Eigen, who soon avenged, propelling Kawabata to the floor. Good thing these guys are doing old man's wrestling rather than participating in the old man's game of golf! Kawabata did two or three moves, but they essentially just chopped and kicked because it takes some actual ability to give and receive moves. The setup for the finish was truly pathetic. Eigen was struggling to keep his balance to avoid falling into Momota's sunset flip, so Kawabata stumbled in for reasons known only to him and stood with his back to Eigen until Kimura ambled across the ring and pushed him into Eigen, leading to the pinfall. -*

Kentaro Shiga vs. Makoto Hashi 11:02. Had it's moments, but they were too infrequent and the quality was inconsistent. I felt like they had the ability to do a good match, but it was woefully lacking in direction and they were only going to put so much effort into a match so short and so early on the card. Hashi didn't take a Dragon screw well, but was doing a good job of putting over how the knee Shiga was working over was hampering his own offense, his leg giving out on a bridge and such. That was the only story, but for some reason they abandoned it and instead had Shiga get the submission with the Shiga sleeper after a manjigatame. *3/4

KENTA & Takashi Sugiura vs. Takuma Sano & Kotaro Suzuki 13:49. Kotaro did his best to make the match, coming out as a little jumping bean and pushing the action toward his athletic strength, including an early triple dive sequence. Unfortunately, they injured his knee when they took over, and that really cramped the flying aspect of the match. KENTA & especially Sugiura did a good job of roughing him up with high impact offense. I'm not used to liking Sugiura this much, but he was an absolute beast here, putting extra impact and instilling malicious intent into everything. Suzuki did manage some neat and/or innovative athletic moves later including a reverse corkscrew splash off the 2nd and a leapfrog facecrusher, but Sano had little involvement, and KENTA was hit and miss. Actually, KENTA was mainly good until the finish, which didn't work at all. He kicked out of a Misteriorana then did his overly choreographed, no impact martial arts forms combo followed by some sort of flying movie kick that grazed Kotaro's side. **3/4

Masao Inoue & Takeshi Rikio & Jun Izumida vs. Yoshihiro Takayama & Daisuke Ikeda & Masashi Aoyagi 18:27. Completely nondescript match of the plodding and deliberate variety. It's obviously better than the opening comedy match, but worse in a way because they are half Rusher's age yet can only kick, chop, and play to the crowd. The big entertainment here was Takayama & Ikeda repeatedly elbow dropping Rikio then Takayama quick counting and raising Ikeda's hand in victory. Later, Rikio & Inoue avenged the repeated elbow drops on Aoyagi with Izumida doing the flash 3 count. *

Naomichi Marufuji Return Match: Yoshinari Ogawa & Naomichi Marufuji vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi 15:48. Marufuji returned from a 9 month absence, blowing out his knee in a junior title defense against Makoto Hashi on 4/7/02. It was far from his greatest match, but Marufuji you were very confident about him going forward, as he already looked fully recovered and appeared to be as athletic as ever. There was a lot of nice stuff from him & Kanemaru, who were pushing for a more creative and athletic style of match, and putting their quickness on display. They did some excellent athletic spots, with Marufuji making all his aerial moves look so easy, but the match was still somewhat disappointing because the old guys aren't capable of giving them much help and had to do a more basic style, striking and working the knee that kept Marufuji on the shelf. It was much better when Ogawa & Kikuchi were apart because they killed the pace and had no offense to make up for it. That was most of the time though, as Ogawa learned from Misawa to spend almost the entire match on the apron, but be active and motivated for the couple brief segments you do work. Kikuchi & Ogawa did bring experience, and Kikuchi was at least good at setting people up. Overall, a bit sloppy but a quality match that had a few really good moments. ***

Tamon Honda vs. Takeshi Morishima 6:54. I felt the match should have been putting over Morishima, who at least has some future as a bruiser. Morishima is rather graceless, but at least works hard and comes off credibly as a tough guy. He blitzed Honda at the outset and Honda stood there making some goofy faces to sell his overwhelming attack. We were supposed to be impressed by Morishima's power, but I was mainly grinning at Honda's teeth clenching. Otherwise, it wasn't bad when Morishima was on offense, but Honda turned it around and Morishima was inexplicably just done. There's nothing about Honda that makes me believe he should be able to turn the tables and overwhelm a guy like Morishima. I mean, Honda has no skill and lamer moves, is smaller, weaker, and less inspired. It was something of a rough match with Morishima getting a bloody nose and Honda a bloody mouth, though that was more due to their not being precise wrestlers than to any extraordinary stiffness.

Kenta Kobashi & Akira Taue vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Masahiro Chono 22:19. One of those dream matches that was no longer a dream by the time it finally took place. Everyone worked hard and made it a more than acceptable Budokan feature attraction (I'm sure no one will argue that people were buying tickets to see Saito). It was more conservative than in the past, which is fine with me in theory, but didn't help the match any in actuality. Especially with Chono involved, I hoped that they'd finally go back to using their heads for thinking, but their heads just weren't involved in thought or droppings. Well executed and a good show, but nothing tremendous beyond the crowd reactions. The audience was going nuts because they never thought they'd see Misawa & Chono shaking hands before the opening bell and Chono standing toe to toe with Kobashi. You can't go wrong with any key match where Misawa & Kobashi are squaring off, but the problem here was it's selling point; once the awe factor of seeing Chono against the old All Japan guard wore off, it was impossible to see him as anything more than a shell of his former self who couldn't raise his level to anything approximating an average older Misawa big match. Kobashi was psyched, but Chono couldn't amp it up and Kobashi couldn't will Chono to his level. Almost all of Chono's blows looked lame by NOAH standards (his enzuigiri was nice), and what's worse is he couldn't come up with anything to make up for it. Some time after his chops failed, he tried to pit his yakuza kicks against Kobashi's chops, but he still showed me nothing that should make a dent in a man who has survived Kawada's fiercest. Kobashi gave a strong no knees Kobashi performance and Taue, though over the hill and far away, was able to raise his level to something suitable to the occasion. Misawa is the only one who can still do a good imitation of their peak form, but the others were smart in knowing their limitations, minimizing their weaknesses as best as they could, and using their aura to get extra pops from the crowd. The early portion was almost all striking with Chono carrying a lot more of the load than was expected or beneficial. Shifted from striking to attacking the knee was what Chono needed to improve his end, but Kobashi popped up from his kneecap dropkick and came back with chops, which was goofy but with Kobashi having missed so much time in the past 2 years I'm willing to consider this a smart way of getting the knee attack out of the way without having Kobashi to actually take much impact on them. They did a few special spots, with Chono earning points for following Misawa's elbow suicida with a graceless suicida of his own, which Taue quickly avenged. The final 2 1/2 minutes were much better than the rest. The key sequence saw Kobashi & Taue go to town on Misawa after Taue saved Kobashi from the emerald flowsion, but Chono recovered just in time to make a diving save after they combined for a nodowa otoshi off the 2nd/powerbomb. ***1/2

GHC Tag Title Match: Jun Akiyama & Akitoshi Saito vs. Shinjiro Otani & Masato Tanaka 23:03. Disappointing, formulaic EMBLEM match that was far too much about attitude and far too little about that translating into a high quality match. It was a good match, but they didn't setup or perform anything of any real difficulty although the timing was very good, and it's hard to get excited about seeing Otani & Akiyama for no discernible reason be 1/10th of the wrestlers they were in the mid to late 90's. The early portion was a big ego fest. They exchanged punches, kicks, and slaps, mostly of the not so interesting pro-wrestling style rather than the more interesting martial arts based striking. Saito did some of his karate, but this isn't exactly the fired up Saito with major heat on him that we saw in his earliest days in NJPW, and he doesn't have talent to burn like Akiyama or Otani. Saito was largely selling for EMBLEM (a good thing). Their heel routine succeeded in being annoying, doing their signature punkish tag spots and poses, but the heat was nowhere near the previous match. It may be unfair to expect Otani & Tanaka to get anywhere near the reaction of Chono, but the fans would have been better if they were wrestling near their capability. Tanaka threw a chair into Saito's head and tried to follow by clocking him with the title belt, but the ref restrained him and Joe Higuchi ripped the belt from Masato's hands and scolded him. The match picked up with Akiyama's hot tag, and became a genuinely good effort even if in a conservative and safe style. Tanaka finally kicked into high gear, and when he was wrestling the way he was capable of he was several notches above the others. Akiyama & Tanaka did some nice sequences, and there's a ton of potential in that match if Tanaka can be elevated to the level of being a real threat and Jun can be coaxed into really showing up. Unfortunately, those two were the only ones that did enough wrestling to talk about. Saito was way out of his depth, though given the simplistic nature of the contest I can't say he specifically hurt the match in any way, and Otani could have been any punkish heel. Saito pinning Tanaka just added insult to injury. 22:03. **3/4

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