NOAH DEPARTURE 2004 PPV 7/10/04 Tokyo Dome (58,000)
If there ever was a test for the promotion, this would be it. NOAH is not the top dog promotion, but since they can sell out major arenas like Budokan or Ariake Colosseum, they are a little above Zero-One. However, day in, day out they are struggling. They probably have some of the worst roster depth of the major promotions, and that hurts them on the house show circuits. But the reason they have no problem selling out major shows is mainly due to the fact NOAH is really the only pro-wrestling promotion "keeping it real" these days. While New Japan is busy jobbing their guys out in K-1, Zero-One is in the pocket (book) of DSE running "loser has to wear a fro" angles, and All Japan promotion is on life support because they’re trying everything from the sports entertainment kitchen sink (and who can forget the TC classic of Kawada vs. Jamal??), NOAH is really the only major promotion that is sticking to its pro wrestling roots, and people respect that. In fact, NOAH almost fell in to the same trap, because NTV wanted Bob Sapp taking on Kobashi in the main event, but luckily for NOAH, Sapp became IWGP champion, lost to Fujita in a shoot, then ran away to the Washington State mountains (only to return for a brief thrashing at the hands of Ray Sefo). However, how much longer can they keep going with the same old dudes on top? Rumor has it that the show only sold 20,000 tickets and there was a ton of papering the day of the show.
Folks are already ragging on this show a little, but for a major show, I think it was one of the best in a long time. I’ve mainly been watching MMA recently and I wasn’t looking forward to this show, but as I sat down with my watermelon, I got in to it really fast (then again, I skipped the bottom of the card) with my jaw sitting on the floor by the time the show was over. It was a no frills show with hardly any video packages or flashy graphics. Even the entrance ramp was a little low tech for a Dome show. But NOAH has never been about glitz, right? We’re here for the wrestling!!!
Admittedly, I didn`t watch the undercard. NOAH tells us not to care about the undercard, and I did exactly that. But, here are the results:
1) Mitsuo Momota defeated Haruka Eigen in 8:03
Comedy match. Bleh.
2) Tamon Honda, Jun Izumida, & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi defeated Masao Inoue, Kishin Kawabata, & Masaji Aoyagi in 10:58 when Izumida pinned Kawabata after a flying body press and a headbutt.
3) Michael Modest & Donovan Morgan defeated Kotaro Suzuki & Ricky Marvin in 11:55 when Morgan used his "Day After Tomorrow" finisher on Marvin.
4) Scorpio & Richard Slinger defeated Akitoshi Saito & Makoto Hashi in 16:44 when Slinger used his "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" on Hashi for the win.
5) Akira Taue & Takuma Sano defeated Daisuke Ikeda & Mohammed Yone in 10:49 when Sano used an off the ropes Northern Lights Suplex hold on Yone for the win.
6) GHC Jr. Tag Title Match: Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA defeated Kendo Kashin & Takashi Sugiura in 22:26 when Marufuji used a top-rope shiranui on Sugiura for the win.
Ok, this is a good place to start!!! Everyone knows that Marufuji and KENTA are the greatest thing since sliced bread right (or at least that`s what newsletter writers tell us), so naturally this match was probably going to be the best thing after the main event, but it wasn’t. It was a good match, don`t get me wrong, but these guys had the unfortunate task of working on the same card with Liger (who knows how to work Tokyo Dome matches). Anyways, there was some swank chain wrestling early between Marufuji and Kashin (who has gone crazy since he left New Japan). Shortly afterwards, Sugiura and Kashin proceeded in heel beatdown fashion Demolition style circa 1988. Sugiura is a "Matt Hardy" junior in that he works a totally heavyweight style (but he fits in, so it’s not too much a distraction). KENTA went crazy on the hot tag. Crowd was not in to this as much as they would be at Budokan, but that’s juniors at the Dome. Kashin botched a few spots (including a shiranui). Marufuji bumped like a madman for Sugiura. Since this was a big show, they did the psycho spot of a shiranui off KENTA`s shoulders, but it still took another shiranui on Sugiura from the top rope to finish him off. Also, Sugiura and Kashin don’t get along. so there was a lot of bickering. I thought there was a little too much Marufuji for this match, but oh well. ***3/4
7) GHC Jr. Heavyweight Title Match: Yoshinobu Kanemaru defeated Jushin Liger in 17:36 with a brainbuster after consecutive moonsaults
I really wished Liger would've worn his heel "Black Liger" costume, but he stuck with the traditional Ultraman red outfit. The match started hot with Liger and Kanemaru trading powerbombs and brain busters. Kanemaru did a good job here of selling (he sold a power bomb like he was dead). There seems to be more heat for this match than most of Liger`s matches at the Dome. I thought these guys did a tremendous job of telling a story. Basically, Liger worked over Kanemaru`s back and was basically just murdering the kid with brain busters and the like, but Kanemaru would do little things (like kick out at one after a top rope brainbuster) to prove that he was not going to quit. That being said, since Kanemaru went over, I thought maybe Liger dished out a little too much, and didn’t take enough, but then again after the match, you got the feeling Kanemaru "deserved" the title, so maybe Liger did enough. Second best match on the show.****
8) IWGP Tag Titles Match: Yoshihiro Takayama & Minoru Suzuki defeated Takeshi Rikio & Takeshi Morishima in 12:55 when Takayama used his Everest German Suplex on Morishima
Some people refer to the team of Takayama and Suzuki as the "backyarders" but I don`t get it. I don’t think these guys are bad at all. They aren’t LCO, but who is? At least they’re solid tag champs, which is more than most promotions can say they have. I didn’t see all this match, but it seemed to have lots of heat, and Takayama did a flying cross body (which seemed to even impress the announcers)!!!!! For that reason alone, I automatically say it was pretty good.
9) GHC Tag Title Match: Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa defeated Keiji Muto & Taiyo Kea in 21:46 when Misawa used two Emerald Flowsions on Kea
The crowd was pumped for this one. The mark in me was pumped as well. Misawa got the bigger pop than Muto (not a big surprise). Now that NOAH is starting a relationship with All-Japan, I guess this match was supposed to wet everyone’s lips. Obviously this match would have been better if Kojima was in Kea`s spot, but this was a preview of things to possibly come. Given the age of Misawa and Muto, and the “youth” of Kea and Ogawa, I think this match was done about as good as one could hope. Of course, Kea and Ogawa start but then Kea quickly tags in Muto, with Ogawa playing the crowd WWF style teasing to tag in Misawa. He obliges. Holy crap, the heat for this is Rock/Hogan levels. Misawa immediately gets a Tigerdriver, and then is hit with a shining wizard. They crowd then settles down, as the meat of the match starts with Ogawa and Kea doing the work (which freaked me out at first but then I realized that Kea is good and Ogawa isn’t horrible). Misawa and Kea traded some good stiff. Muto displayed his typical "great psychology" by using dragon screws and dropkicks to the knees of Ogawa. Muto did the Emerald flowsion on Misawa and was answered with a shining wizard. There were a few botched spots here and there, but I liked this match. They did the right thing by spacing out the spots between Misawa and Muto, and they kept the encounters to just trading trademark moves. To me, it felt like one of those matches that you know wouldn’t be perfect but they did all the right things to make it entertaining.***1/4
10) GHC Heavyweight Title Match: Kenta Kobashi defeated Jun Akiyama in 35:34 with the Burning Hammer
I was planning on going to this show live, but due to certain circumstances that didn’t happen. After watching this match on TV, I really regret it. You know, if only NOAH made this "Baba`s ashes on a pole" match, they would have sold out the Tokyo Dome 3 times over. But those silly guys, just want to put two top workers out there, and have a "rasslin` match." Idiots. There won`t be a main event like this for a while. I know Kobashi isn’t the most sensible guy when it comes to psychology and such, but I love him. His fire and heart are incredible. Even after a pair of bad knees, he still wants to give 120%. The match started with lots of forearms and chops early. After intercepting a Kobashi shoulderblock with a knee, Akiyama proceeded to work on Kobashi’s shoulders by doing normal things like doing a flying knee off the apron on to his neck. Kobashi held a headlock forever (but those of us that saw UFC 47 know the move is legit). Kobashi then proceeded to be himself by suplexing Akiyama off the apron! Don’t worry, he was only coughing up blood. THE MATCH CONTINUED!!! A few minutes later Akiyama gave Kobashi an exploder off the top rope to the floor. Holy crap that was insane!!! This was followed by another exploder off the top rope, but this time they landed safely on the mat. Basically, the story is Akiyama can’t put Kobashi away. After about 3 exploders and a wrist clutch exploder, Kobashi wouldn’t quit. Kobashi then got a burning hammer and then the pinfall (some stuff happened before this but I forgot what it was). I haven’t seen many of Akiyama’s big AJPW matches, but this was the best I’ve seen him. The crowd seemed impressed too because they were chanting his name after the match. I really thought Akiyama was going over, but I guess since NOAH is now working with All-Japan, they probably want Kobashi in the spot to take on Kawada, Muto and Kojima. This is MOTY. I don’t see a better match on the horizon. ****3/4