Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

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supersonic
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Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Tue Jul 08, 2014 11:03 pm

Sure, KENTA and Marufuji (particularly the former) can get over with their styles upon first viewings, but why not see why their ROH debuts were so highly anticipated nearly a decade ago?

Takaiwa vs. Marufuji - December 9, 2001

Really good match and storytelling, although not structured to be truly great to me. I assume this title change was Marufuji's coming out party, and I loved the very beginning of the match, with Marufuji's superkick and immediate collapsing of the damage reminding me of Shawn Michaels. Takaiwa tried to make an example out of the younger challenger throughout the match, having the match done with but choosing to continue dishing punishment. That would be his downfall, as throughout the rest of the match Marufuji would not be denied and earned the Jr. Championship to a wonderful reaction. ***3/4

KENTA vs. Kanemaru - May 26, 2002

Another really good match, and I assume this was KENTA's breakout singles match. He really dug down deep just two years into his career, showing some tremendous hope spots, including the stupid release German suplex AND release Tiger suplex on Kanemaru. But the punishment that Kanemaru provided, much of it on the back after scoop-slamming his greener opponent from the walkway apron to the padded floor, all of the damage inflicted leading to him capturing the vacant Jr. Championship. Takashi Sugiura shows up to talk shit and gets in a brawl with Kanemaru, and I'm sure at some point I'll get around to that. ***3/4

KENTA & Kobashi vs. Suzuki & Misawa - September 1, 2002

Another good tag match here, although I can't help but cringe seeing that Misawa took TWO sleeper suplexes from Kobashi in this one. I loved Misawa shrugging off the majority of KENTA's offense, having learned to absorb the blows through his superior length of the time in the business. But KENTA's quickness would prove to be the difference-maker in the psychology of the match, as he kept Misawa at bay while Kobashi went to work on Suzuki, who took an ass-kicking in this one. Really good stuff that also protected Misawa with a GHC Title shot for him on the horizon. ***1/2

Kanemaru & Hashi vs. KENTA & Marufuji - March 1, 2003

Splendid tag match here, with one of the hottest opening sequences I've ever seen. But unlike Low Ki vs. Amazing Red in ROH (which was still good just not the OMG spectacle so many recall it to be), the rest of the match was great and truly fitting. In what had to be an idea based off of the apron DDT from the Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit match just several weeks earlier, Hashi managed to land an inverted apron DDT on KENTA, and Kanemaru followed it up working on the neck. Also in the match were tremendous alpha male striking sequences, with KENTA of course being the natural standout due to his kickboxing background. In a repeat of their singles match for the vacant Jr. Title the year before, KENTA also took the scoop-slam from the walkway apron to the padded floor from Kanemaru. And the finishing sequence is truly breathtaking too, ending with Marufuji getting a beautifully modified La Magistral cradle for the pin! Excellent match. ****1/4

Akiyama & Saito vs. Morishima & Marufuji - April 5, 2003

Good tag match that got incredibly hot at the end, but didn't find the first 2/3 all that engaging. Saito had some work done on his knees which never seemed to pay off. I loved Akiyama hitting the Exploder on Marufuji at the beginning, wanting to put this match away immediately. I also loved Akiyama getting irritated at Marufuji throughout the match, I wonder if there's a backstory that someone more familiar with NOAH could catch me up with.

There were some dramatic near countouts that stood out. Another standout was Akiyama being taken out of the equation for a few minutes (I'd have rated this higher if he had been taken out completely to really sell it) when Marufuji, with Morishima's assitance, gave him a Shiranui on the floor. I did find myself rooting for the challengers to win the tag belts when Marufuji got some last-ditch rollup pin efforts on Saito near the end, but once Saito hit the Steiner Screwdriver and Akiyama had Morishima prevented from another save, I knew it was over. ***1/2

KENTA & Suzuki vs. Sugiura & Kanemaru - April 13, 2003

Really good tag with KENTA coming in with a bandaged right shoulder. The psychology on the shoulder was great, becoming an engaging enough plot in the match that the crowd became genuinely invested in it. Really good elevation of KENTA's stock in this one, as he put in a great performance, having to dig down deep to compensate for his injury. ***3/4

KENTA, Susuzki, & Marufuji vs. Marvin, Liger, & Murahama - June 29, 2003

Tremendous trios action here. Suzuki and Marvin provided the spectacular high spots. Liger and Marufuji got testy with each other during and after the match, with Liger being a fantastic grump. KENTA and Murahama had some tremendous strike and kick exchanges. Fantastic finishing stretch. No complaints here. ****

KENTA & Marufuji vs. Liger & Murahama - July 16, 2003

It is really a shame that during this time we didn't get KENTA & Marufuji vs. Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin, as they were really the two best teams in their respective companies that could spectacularly pace a match.

Liger continued to be an asshole in this one, particularly to Marufuji. I wonder why vets like Liger and Jun Akiyama would get so annoyed with the former GHC Jr. title holder, but it definitely was engaging. The control segments were fucking splendid, transitions in momentum all making sense and happening fluidly, the ring getting cut in half on numerous occasions, and of course several saves being made.

KENTA and Murahama also had more great strike exchange displays, including early in the match when the latter caught the former's leg during an attempted kick, then quickly grabbed his head, and delivered a modified Fisherman's suplex. That spot makes me disappointed that we'll likely never get to see KENTA collide with Paul London and AJ Styles, as I'd absolutely love to see how they would counter KENTA's offense while also getting under his skin. Later in the match, after several minutes of KENTA playing the Ricky Morton role in the match, he used the one chance he had to gain momentum when Murahama went to run the ropes to get additional firepower, with KENTA delivering a roundhouse and opening up his window for a hot tag.

The finishing sequence was perfectly executed, with the younger Murahama taking too much top-notch offense from KENTA & Marufuji, including a knee strike while being hoisted in the air. Liger made the save for that, using up what little had remaining in the tank during this grueling classic, and KENTA slid him out of the ring. Once Marufuji hit the shooting star press, it was over.

This is an instant classic that stands the test of time, and was simply better than anything that the teams of Haas & Benjamin, Los Guerreros, America's Most Wanted, and Elix Skipper & Christopher Daniels put together in 2003. A genuine MOTYC that stands as one of the all-time classics in NOAH history, and kicking off the era of the GHC Jr. Tag Titles in the most appropriate fashion possible. ****3/4

KENTA & Marufuji vs. Hashi & Kanemaru - September 12, 2003

Didn't like this one as much as the tourney final, but objectively speaking, this was top-notch stuff again. Calling back to previous matches? Check. Selling hate and limb work? Check. Building to a hot finishing stretch that has the crowd in an absolute frenzy? Check. Mixing in spectacular spots to go with the phenomenal tag psychology, to give this match its genuine peaks and valleys? Check. The Jr. Tag Titles certainly started off similarly to the WWE SmackDown!-exclusive Tag Titles the year before, but in this case, even better. ****1/2

KENTA & Marufuji vs. Marvin & Guerrera - November 1, 2003

Sadly, this was not to be the greatest match of the day, as there was a singles match in New Jersey that quite easily surpassed this. And while I find it a bit overrated, it's still really good. Something seemed off about mixing KENTA in with the lucha background guys this early into his career.

This had a hot beginning, in what seemed to be sparked by some pre-match microphone work from the lucha challengers. Marufuji's high-flying style seemed to fit in quite well with Marvin and Guerrera. In fact, this match featured the greatest counter to the Shiranui I've ever seen, as Guerrera dead-weighed himself with Marufuji elevated in the air and dropped him with a Michinoku Driver near the end of the match.

With that kind of spot, the match obviously had a hot finish too, but with Guerrera's different background and likely his notorious attitude being a part of the match, the middle couldn't measure up to the other acclaimed KENTA & Marufuji tags of 2003. ***3/4

Sugiura vs. KENTA - November 30, 2003

Another very good match that never truly hit that emotional peak. Seeing Sugiura's offense on KENTA really makes me wish we'd get to see KENTA work with Kurt Angle in the near future, although I'm not holding my breath on that one. Tremendously paced contest with both guys just throwing bombs on each other, and I look forward to seeing KENTA progress as a singles wrestler. ***1/2

KENTA & Marufuji vs. Samurai & Inoue - January 10, 2004

Turns out NOAH did indeed have the best match of the day over ROH. This was the typical great puro match in which the first 2/3 or so it looks like it'll be peak with being very good, but the heat got tremendous in the last third of the match. There was a segment between Inoue and Marufuji, in which Marufuji did a super-hurricanrana followed by missile dropkick, that look a bit choreographed and business-exposing. At that point i also asked myself this - why the fuck did these two men, both with somewhat long hair, no upper body tattoos, cruiserweight style bodies, wear loose white pants? Made it difficult to differentiate.

KENTA was on fire in this one, getting the chance to do some Ricky Morton work when the challengers went to work on his neck, which started after a piledriver. The challengers were pretty vicious. In the last segment of the match, when Marufuji was playing the Morton, KENTA was tremendous with the hot tag. My favorite moment of the match was KENTA ducking Inoue and Marufuji delivering a superkick that would make Shawn Michaels proud. The remaining 2-3 minutes were fantastic stuff. Great tag match. ****

KENTA & Marufuji vs. Suzuki & Ogawa - April 13, 2004

Another excellent tag here, great layout. The challengers spent a significant portion of the match working Marufuji's knee, including a nice figure four leglock submission tease. KENTA was once again excellent in the hot tag portion. No complaints here. ****

Misawa & Ogawa vs. KENTA & Marufuji - April 25, 2004

Great tag match. The defending GHC Tag Champs did a great job in cutting the ring in half on the challengers, making the Jr. Tag Champs realize that they must ultimately be big fish in a small pond for the NOAH hierarchy. But this was no burial. KENTA & Marufufi came into this match with something to prove. My only complain was the obviously broken-down Misawa botching some shit, much worse than anything that gets nit-picked in a John Cena match. ****

KENTA & Marufuji vs. Marvin & Susuzki – June 1, 2004

Excellent tag match that built incredible heat. Shit-tons of near-falls that had the crowd rocking, and this is something I highly recommend for anyone that enjoyed the near-falls in the Nigel McGuinness vs. Tyler Black match ROH hosted in 2008. Whoever laid out this match did an incredible job, as almost everything was on point and KENTA had much better chemistry with Suzuki instead of Juventud Guerrero seven months earlier.

This also called back to that very same Guerrera match. Marufuji pulled out the Flux Capacitor for a near-fall. Marvin hit a springboard hurricanrana on a crotched Marfuuji. KENTA was set up for the 619 and ducked, maneuvering himself to the bottom rope. Seven months earlier, Marvin pulled out an extra 619 attempt on KENTA on that bottom rope, but this time KENTA sniffed it out and ducked that one too.

Just an overall spectacular match, and one that anybody that enjoyed Charlie Haas & Shelton Benjamin’s first WWE run together should check out. Splendid tag team wrestling. ****1/4

KENTA & Marufuji vs. KaShin & Sugiura - July 10, 2004

Fun but too much KaShin bullshit silliness to be anything special. Nice finishing stretch. ***1/2

Kanemaru vs. Low Ki - September 10, 2004

Yep, why not see Ki's first GHC Jr. Title shot to go with this Final Battle 2005 preparation?

Damn good match, arguably great. Ki worked on Kanemaru's arm, and it seemed Kanemaru wasn't completely familiar with his opponent on this night. Every time Kanemaru stalled, Ki would have an answer. My favorite of those spots was Kanemaru jumping from the top rope and Ki landing a rolling kick perfectly on Kanemaru's already damaged arm. Tremendous psychology.

Another great moment was Ki teasing to drop Kanemaru with a Ki Crusher on the entrance apron, then RUNNING with a 200+ pound man across that entrance apron and tossing Kanemaru into the ring Death Valley Driver style. Keep in mind that Ki pulled off this feat about 15 minutes into this match. An incredible athlete. He also got over huge with the NOAH crowd when he pulled out the Phoenix Splash and Tidal Crush, but in the end he could not measure up to the more successful Kanemaru's multiple brainbusters. ****

Marufuji & KENTA vs. SUWA & Marvin - October 24, 2004

After watching this classic, and getting to see the conniving greatness that was SUWA, I'm saddened we never got to see him lock it up with Ric Flair and Eddie Guerrero. He was an absolutely masterful jabroni in this one, the Kevin Steen (another guy who I wish had been booked against SUWA) of his team, with Marvin somewhat playing the El Generico-esque good cop. In particular, I loved the channeling of the Dudleyz with the blatant lowblow spot in the first act of the match on KENTA, this one though being a simple stop instead of headbutt from SUWA and minus the crowd-teasing of course.

KENTA was tremendous once again in getting his hope transitions in for a hot tag, capitalizing on the challengers the second he got that chance. He had some fantastic exchanges with SUWA, and I could see he really landed those kicks; there was no slapping of the thigh for the audio effect. Marufuji was great again in his chemistry with Marvin, the two of them having some dazzling flashy transitions. Marvin near the end of the match also laid in a gorgeous Shiranui on Marufuji, showing that he had learned from all those previous title shots and put in the work to utilized the arsenal of his greatest opponents.

The finishing stretch in this was phenomenal too, ending with KENTA laying in the G2S on Marvin, who took a spectacular bump to put it over and give this match the exclamation mark it deserved. I hope a decade later though that the bump was worth it for him though. SUWA, still the absolute jabroni he was during his career, attempted to ambush the successful champs post-match. ****1/2

Marufuji vs. KENTA - November 13, 2004

Very good singles match here. They did a great job of countering each other left and right. Such examples include KENTA hitting basaiku knees out of nowhere and even with limited space, KENTA countering an attempted Shiranui by turning it into a successful piledriver, and then countering another attempted Shiranui into a successful G2S. The only issue was both mean being so sweaty and/or gassed that they fell over about 20 minutes in, killing the drama for a good finish. ***3/4

Marufuji vs. Shiozaki - November 21, 2004

Good match here to elevate the green Shiozaki's stock. In the first act of the match I was having flashbacks to Ric Flair vs. Ricky Steamboat and Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk, because Shiozaki just kept holding on with that headlock, constantly gripping Marufuji with it. Marufuji once again pulled out the stupid running sunset powerbomb onto the floor spot which I'm sure has shortened his career and anyone else's that has taken it from him. Overall good stuff though. ***1/2

KENTA, Low Ki, & Marvin vs. Kanemaru, SUWA, & Sugiura - March 5, 2005

Good trios action. Ki and SUWA had a phenomenal early exchange, reminding me that I wish we had gotten them in singles in an ROH ring. SUWA was again a tremendous jabroni, having his partners set Marvin up for the D'Von Dudley diving headbutt lowblow. Kanemaru also was vicious to Marvin, scoop-slamming him onto the apron, and Marvin did a great job moments later selling that when trying to get a rush of adrenaline during their strike exchange segment. Later, when Sugiura would try to make an example of Marvin, KENTA came darting in with some rapid brutality, knocking him the fuck out. But once SUWA hit the shotgun dropkick and falling Pedigree on Marvin, I knew that was it.

Post-match, SUWA ambushes KENTA, with Kanemaru and Ki backing up their respective teammates. KENTA and SUWA have a tremendous little brawl going to the back on the entrance apron. ***1/4

KENTA vs. SUWA - April 24, 2005

No star rating for this one, but it didn't matter. Those who are optimistic about KENTA being able to pull off a TV style match, watch this one. Tremendous little storytelling firecracker, and fuck it's a shame SUWA ain't still going, but I don't blame him. I am DEFINITELY looking forward to the acclaimed rematch.

KENTA & Marufuji vs. KUDO & Ibushi - May 7, 2005

Really good tag. Match starts with a KENTA and KUDO slap exchance that the former quickly wins, then they have a vicious strike exchange that ends up a stalemate. Ibushi also hit a running over-the-top corkscrew in which one of his knees landed on the top of the steel guardrail. He later takes a piledriver from Marufuji on the entrance apron, gets a flash of adrenaline to go after Marufuji, but then immediately shows that flash was very minimal when KENTA needs to give him a quick stomp to put him down again.

Later, KUDO impressively caught KENTA off-guard when he countered an attempted lariat, back-flipping around KENTA's right arm, and turning that into a backslide pin. But the GHC Jr. Tag champs were too much of a juggernaut, with Marufuji taking KUDO out of the equation later, and Ibushi going down to two Basaiku knees from KENTA, the first while being on Marufuji's shoulders. ***1/2

KENTA & Marufuji vs. Kendrick & Hayashi - May 7, 2005

Another very good tag, only negated by Marufuji's lackluster selling when Kendrick hit a Hayashi-assisted Shiranui on him. SELL YOUR OWN ESTABLISHED FUCKING FINISHER. The work done on KENTA" left arm early also was never paid off in any fashion whatsoever.

The Jr. Tag Champs spent about half the match working on Kendrick and beating him down. Once Hayashi got the hot tag, although there were never any teases to truly build that up, the crowd got hot. He had a phenomenal strike exchange with KENTA too. But once KENTA took him out and Marufuji got the roll-up on Kendrick, there was no way of a thrown-together tag team stopping the juggernaut. And as it turns out, Kendrick's greatest match of his entire career was not in Japan, but in New Jersey against Bryan Danielson. ***3/4

KENTA & Marufuji vs. Fujita & Hidaka - May 7, 2005

As I suspected, hot tag segments were preserved for this Differ Cup Final rather than being blown on the earlier matches. The result is a great match, although not a tippy-top all-time classic that I'm sure many deem this to be. Of note is that Fujita & Hidaka have some NWA or Zero-1 Tag belts with them, but I'm not sure which tag championship specifically.

In this one, KENTA got his left leg worked on early, but enough damage wasn't done to matter. But the Zero-1 team would much later go back to that left leg, yet KENTA didn't sell it in the very finish, which to me is what took this from being at the very tippy-top as mentioned earlier. However, what I loved is that the finishing several minutes were absolutely incredible, creating a formula that so many teams in ROH and PWG have copied largely to lesser match quality results.

Also fond to me was the GHC Jr. Tag Champs becoming the default heels when KENTA did the boot scrapes on Fujita, which the crowd jeered as that had been an established signature spot for Fujita. I'll definitely keep an eye on that for KENTA's matches involving Samoa Joe when I catch up to those. There was also another moment when Marufuji delivered a subtle (but to the detail-oriented blatant) eyepoke. When the hot tag was achieved for the Zero-1 team to go into the third and final act, the crowd went absolutely apeshit, as there were also old-school segments of the referee not allowing them to help each other.

Hidaka did everything he could to keep Marufuji at bay while Fujita had some jaw-dropping attempts to put KENTA away, including a leg-whip on the left leg from the top rope, followed by the Boneyard, and then attempting another Boneyard submission moments later when the opportunity came. But KENTA wouldn't submit, finding ways to reach the ropes, and Marufuji was able to break up a pinfall attempt after a successful Michinoku Driver. After multiple Busaiku knees though, it was inevitable that NOAH's team would win this instant classic. ****1/4

KENTA & Marufuji vs. Kanemaru & Sugiura - June 5, 2005

This isn't quite up to par with the finals of the GHC Jr. Tag Titles tournament, but to say that isn't an actual criticism. This was not only a historic match, but fantastically paced one to boot, with just some minor questionable selling to take it from MOTYC (which this is) into all-time tippy-top classic.

As I mentioned, the pacing in this was just off-the-charts insane. While KENTA unloaded Basaike knees aplenty to hold on to the Jr. Tag straps, Sugiura consantly found ways to deliver Angle slams. But no matter how many times Sugiura would execute that, the champs would find enough adrenaline to kick out or be there to make the save for one another.

Also in this match that stood out to me was Marufuji selling a tornado DDT hope spot from Kanemaru like he had been studying some Rob Van Dam matches, a tremendous moment that allowed Kanemaru to get a hot tag. Another moment was KENTA giving Sugiura a Yakuka kick, with Marufuji using that momentum to give him a sunset powerbomb on the floor. Later, KENTA would apply a powerbomb using the momentum of a Shiranui.

To say that the drama built and built in this classic would be an understatement. I think that despite the numerous MOTYCs in which KENTA & Marufuji had found way to hold onto their straps for dear life, the crowd could sense something magical just like Kenta Kobashi vs. Takeshi Rikio a few months earlier. When Kanemaru found a way to keep Marufuji outside the ring, allowing Sugiura to hit a super Angle slam on KENTA, the historic reign came to an end to crowd's mighty approval.

While not the box-office draw of Kobashi's GHC Heavyweight Championship reign, to me the reign of KENTA & Marufuji as the GHC Jr. Tag Champs, being the very first tandem to hold those titles, was just as important. Match quality wise, both reigns are obviously comparable. But like Davey Richards and Eddie Edwards years later, having these two green young men booked together not only did an amazing job of hiding their weaknesses, but in showcasing their incredible athleticism, high-flying, and striking abilities. I don't think it's any coincidence that Gabe Sapolsky the following year made sure that every championship in ROH would be booked with such strength and prestige simultaneously.

“You do what you can for as long as you can, and when you finally can't, you do the next best thing. You back up but you don't give up.” - General Chuck Yeager

****1/2

Kanemaru vs. KENTA - July 18, 2005

The match starts off with a vicious striking exchange segment that leaves both men wincing. KENTA is able to get an advantage, perhaps a foreshadowing of arguably the greatest match of his entire career, when Kanemaru feels pain in his left arm. KENTA was on that shit like white on rice, not just with his usual kicks, but showing off the submission holds for any morons that claim he's one-dimensional.

Kanemaru is able to get some advantage when he hurts KENTA's neck and goes to work on that, but despite some selling issues of his arm down the home stretch, he just simply isn't able to do enough damage to KENTA, who is obviously still bitter about their historic tag match the night before. After two Basiukee kneeds, KENTA earns the GHC Jr. Title to begin the next stellar chapter of his career. Some better selling from Kanemaru would have made this match something truly special, rather than just a great match on a stacked show in front of an incredible Tokyo Dome audience. ****

Suzuki & Marufuji vs. Akiyama & Hashi - July 18, 2005

Another splendid tag match, with Hashi coming into this one having his head bandaged. Why a heavyweight like him agreed to take a Marufuji's sunset flip powerbomb onto the floor, I'll never know. Suzuki of course was usual his cunty self going after Hashi's head and removing the bandage. I also enjoyed the seemingly continual subplot of Akiyama being irritated with Marufuji's existence - I wonder if that ever pays off with a particular match. But Hashi was the weakness of his team, not being able to kick out of a Shiranui after all the damage to his head and neck. ****

KENTA vs. SUWA - September 18, 2005

SUWA grabs the GHC Championship script from Joe Higuchi prior to the match and tears it up, stunning the crowd and pissing KENTA off. They brawl for a minute before the match is thrown out after SUWA uses a ringbell. The match is allowed to continue, with KENTA running to beat the shit out of SUWA at the stage curtain, and dragging the challenger back to ringside, throwing him over the top rope into the ring.

For about 15 minutes, SUWA was the jabroni of all cunts. Getting in Higuchi's face. Blatant low blows, including one in front of the referee. Fucking with dojo students at ringside. Using wrist-tape to choke KENTA out of the referee's view. Taking a turnbuckle pad off and throwing it in Higuchi's direction. But KENTA, through sheer determination, hatred, anger, and crowd support, was able to stay alive, even shrugging off the effects of a shotgun dropkick about 15 minutes into this storytelling greatness, preventing what appeared to be a package piledriver attempt and lifting SUWA for a beautiful G2S.

If this was meant to be the final rung of the ladder in terms of making KENTA one of the premier babyfaces in the company, mission accomplished. ****

Suzuki & Marufuji vs. Akiyama & Koshinaka - November 5, 2005

This felt like a very good Raw tag. Suzuki and Koshinaka had a great slap exchange that anyone who has a taste for the likes of Sheamus or Fit Finlay should see. Akiyama seemed a bit bitter going up against the team that beat him and Hashi at the huge Destiny PPV, so of course he was great. At one point he was able to isolate Marufuji, dropping him multiple times on the entrance apron while Koshinaka somehow kept Suzuki in the ring.

Marufuji had a great burst near the end on Akiyama, but couldn't put down the legend with a Shiranui. However, Marufuji's stock was elevated when he kicked out of a wrist-clutch exploder, requiring a second one to take him down for the count. Post-match, Suzuki warms my heart just like SUWA by being a jabroni to the winners. ***1/2

Yone & Morishima vs. KENTA & Shibata - November 5, 2005

First time I've seen Shibata, looked pretty good here despite being green, I'd like to see him against his Caucasian mirror image Kyle O'Reilly. Looking forward to seeing more of him. The match took forever to get hot, becoming great in the last 2-3 minutes. The work was smart, but there were never any moments of building to hot tags, it was just good but nothing special until Morishima and KENTA exchanged finishers while their partners would break it up. Had the hot finish been several minutes rather than just a few, I'd have been happy to say this was great. ***3/4

There is no doubt that there was some quality professional wrestling presented on November 5, 2005.

KENTA & Shibata vs. Shiozaki & Misawa - December 4, 2005

Really good tag here, with Misawa showing the real-life fighter Shibata what it means to be snug in the ring. Misawa got grumpy and snug again when KENTA gave him boot scrapes later in the match. And later on, I was definitely impressed with the junior team knocking Misawa off the apron twice just by using the firepower behind their running Yakuza kicks. That's how you elevate newbies and mid-carders without doing the job to them.

Shiozaki was of course great in being a punching and kicking bag for KENTA and Shibata, continuing to pay his dues as his stock slowly elevated in NOAH. But once Misawa was taken out by electric chair clothesline, Shiozaki didn't stick a chance against Shibata and his MMA/kickboxing background, getting knocked out by a kick that rocked his jaw. ***3/4

And this finally concludes my KENTA/Marufuji project to familiarize myself with them prior to their ROH debuts. I will continue to watch their good NOAH shit though as they worked as semi-regulars for ROH, and I've got quite the enjoyable task on hand, as not only will I be reviewing the show that includes their ROH debuts, but an important PWG show from the same weekend with a landmark feud-ending match for independent wrestling, plus the week before that what many consider the greatest match in TNA history.

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supersonic
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Re: Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Wed Jul 16, 2014 8:12 pm

KENTA vs. Marufuji - January 22, 2006

I'll get the flaws out of the way: KENTA had room for improvement in regards to selling the left knee that Marufuji spent so much time working on. In addition, he could've added some more hope spots to fulfill this match's crowd heat potential. I also saw zero point in landing a fucking Shiranui off the apron to the floor. Marufuji almost fell apart in the closing stretch due to that, failing to lift KENTA for a Tiger Suplex, simply rolling him back in that position for the pin.

This was a great Jr. Title defense for KENTA, most importantly VERY different than his prior classic defenses against SUWA and Low Ki. Marufuji worked a headlock early to feel out and slow down the red-hot KENTA, bringing back memories of Shawn Michaels doing the same thing to Kurt Angle at WrestleMania 21. KENTA would get some back-and-forth going until Marufuji attacked his left knee and just mercilessly went to work on it.

Make no mistake, Marufuji was relentless on KENTA's left knee, neutering the few sporadic hope spots KENTA attempted, and the best part of course was him bringing out the classic figure four leglock. Put this match in front of an ROH crowd at the time and the heat would've been off the charts for that. After about 10 minutes, KENTA is able to bring the match to an even level when lifting his right leg to block an attempted corner splash, then landing a Yakuza kick, and countering a charging Marufuji with a powerslam.

KENTA was vicious, doing a so-so job of selling all the left leg work as I mentioned earlier. But that was somewhat made up for with the pacing, and more importantly in the finishing stretch which I'll get to later. I actually didn't mind KENTA landing an Attitude Adjustment style Death valley Driver out on the floor, as that protected Marufuji from a stupid head/neck drop. Once the match got to the finishing stretch after the Shirnaui on the floor, both men traded blows and suplexes, with Marufuji ducking some left leg roundhouse kicks, showing that KENTA lacked that extra fraction of speed to land them after the work done earlier. They also traded beautiful Tiger Suplex nearfalls that had the crowd rocking. KENTA eventually no-sold the earlier work and used his left leg to deliver his standard kicks.

However, KENTA showed that his left knee lacked a bit of firepower. Marufuji was able to kick out of a left leg Basaiku knee. He then kicked out of a left leg G2S. But once KENTA landed the second Basaiku knee, everyone knew it was over. I suspect the issues I pointed out earlier were taken care of by the time these two faced off again to provide the MOTYC potential they have, rather than just a great match that gets lost in the shuffle. ****

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Re: Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Wed Jul 23, 2014 11:16 pm

Taue vs. Marufuji - March 5, 2006

Really good storytelling in this one. Marufuji went after the legend's left leg early to limit his already limited mobility, but Taue would still be able to withstand some dropkicks to the chest. After Marufuji put in more work on him, Taue could no longer hold his ground and was actually getting thrown around by the much smaller Marufuji. Taue would rely on his old man strength to get him out of jams, such as just throwing Mongolian chomps and relying on his various chokeslams. My favorite moment of the match was when Marufuji blocked one while falling, absorbing the bump since Taue didn't get the full impact on it, and getting a cross armbreaker on Taue.

It became crystal clear that the upset was coming, and it certainly did when Taue found himself stunned standing after a blocked Flux Capacitor, getting a superkick and being pinned clean with a pumphandle small package. This was a simple story, one that NOAH unfortunately didn't go on to fully utilize with its booking: Marufuji had too much speed, just enough experience, and significantly less wear-and-tear, and that is what got him this landmark victory. ***1/2

KENTA vs. Kobashi - March 5, 2006

Excellent match as expected at the time. KENTA got to show the first-ballot HOFer just how much he had improved when they lost went at it in singles a year and a half earlier. In this one, he was able to inflict early damage on Kobashi's left arm, and he was it on like white on rice with numerous arm-bars and even kicking at it while the former GHC Heavyweight Champ was down.

Kobashi's selling of the left arm was mostly exceptional, constantly clutching at it after landing some bombs with it. I really appreciated that KENTA escaped Kobashi's stupid head-dropping suplexes, showing that he had done an effective job on him AND showing how much he had improved since their previous encounter. Mid-way in the match when Kobashi got control, his right arm was in such pain that he used his left-arm to deliver a DDT to the then-GHC Jr. Champ on the apron.

But despite how much better KENTA had become, no matter how much damage he had inflicted, even with him holding a championship that was considered prestigious at the time, he could not slay the icon. Kobashi was able to suck up whatever pain he had, with enough time passing in the match for it to slightly heal, and deliver his trademark bombs, including the corner Kobashi chops followed by Polish Hammer, plus his half-nelson and sleeper suplexes. Great match to elevate KENTA and remind the fans exactly one year after his epic GHC Heavyweight Title reign had concluded, Kobashi was still the shit. ****

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Re: Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Sat Aug 02, 2014 10:10 am

Kobashi vs. Marufuji - April 23, 2006

Another great match here. Marufuji kept finding ways to survive Kobashi's standard brutality, and went after the left knee of the HOFer. His work on that joint was phenomenal, with a picture-perfect figure four leglock being the highlight. Kobashi would continuously find ways to neutralize Marufuji though with his various chopping methods.

Of course, Marufuji took some stupid bumps in this one. There were the head-drops, but also a plancha in which he landed on the floor. He would later hit a super shotgun dropkick... to Kobashi out on the floor, scraping the outside apron before bumping on the ground. He had a great moment calling back to his victory over Akira Taue when he grabbed Kobashi's arm to prevent a chop, making an upset career-defining victory seem possible. But this was Kenta Kobashi, and he wasn't going to look up at the lights, even after taking a straight jacket suplex pin and straight jacket backroll pin attempt. Just a great match all around. ****1/4

KENTA vs. Ishimori - April 23, 2006

Spectacular match with Ishimori surprising KENTA at the start by using his acrobats. In frustration KENTA brutalizes the challenger with stiff kicks to the face, back, chest, and stomach. He would follow that up with brutal work on the back, including a couple Boston Crabs and a powerbomb, plus a vertical suplex on the entrance apron.

KENTA would make the mistake of removing the gym mats off the floor, allowing Ishimori to deliver a 619 followed by a snap suplex on the concrete floor. Ishimori would show more great agility with a springboard Ace Crusher, using the ropes for momentum. But KENTA minutes later would counter a top rope maneuver with an Ace Crusher of his own.

Ishimori disappointed a bit by not selling all the punishment he took this was still spectacular. Other highlights in the match include a super Falcon Arrow that further displayed the blood in Ishimori's mouth and an attempted G2S being turned into a crucifix pin nearfall. Once KENTA finally got the G2S, which Ishimori oversold, it was all over, holding onto the GHC Jr. Title. The selling and also the unnecessary ref bump keep this from great, but this is worth seeing. It reminded me of AJ Styles vs. Matt Sydal for ROH a few months earlier. ***3/4

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Re: Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Thu Sep 18, 2014 11:35 pm

KENTA vs. Sugiura - June 4, 2006

Another excellent match, a fitting finale to KENTA's tremendous reign as the GHC Jr. Champ. He never truly got what I would consider to be a genuine advantage in this, even with Sugiura occasionally selling at points. KENTA just found himself constantly getting thrown away with all kinds of overhead suplexes throughout the match. Of note is that Sugiura worked on KENTA's left knee early, softening it up for the ankle lock. A pity Kurt Angle likely never watched this and of course that he will likely never face KENTA.

KENTA found himself Yakuza kicked off the apron and flying back-first into the steel guardrail, allowing Sugiura to dominate the rest of the match. And although Sugiura dominated, KENTA always kept himself in the match with kicks and slaps, having beautiful exchanges with the challenger. But with such a beating having been laid upon on him and his left ankle damaged, KENTA had no choice after about a minute in that hold, coming so close to the ropes and having the crowd antsy, but to finally tap out. Phenomenal match. ****1/2

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Re: Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Wed Nov 19, 2014 2:08 am

KENTA & Marufuji vs. Rikio & Morishima - July 16, 2006

Excellent tag match here as expected. The juniors stepped up their physicality and utilized their speed to offset the size difference here, but Rikio did a great job at times using slaps to cut them off, and I assume he pulled that from his sumo background. Everyone here did a great job when hitting a bomb after being knocked out of immediately going down afterwards, making sure to still the sell the pain and show that they found a quick burst before reality kicked in.

However, this match was designed to be Morishima's breakout, and he fucking delivered with the opportunity. After 20 minutes of incredible tag team wrestling action with all kinds of cutoffs, strikes, kicks, suplexes, and size matchups, the match became molten-hot when it came down to KENTA vs. Morishima. The closing several minutes had the crowd in a collective orgasm, going apeshit when Morishima not only kicked out after a Busaiku knee, but then also a Doomsday Shiranui followed by a G2S! Rikio also did his best to keep Marufuji from helping KENTA, even pulling out a World Muso.

Morishima would dig down deep to hit KENTA with a sudden backdrop driver for another hot nearfall, but as the match inched closer to its 30 minute time limit, the two of them became desperate to get the win for their team. Rather than just rely on strikes and bombs, they turned to traditional wrestling as well, including a small package and school boy pinfall attempt by KENTA. Moments later, KENTA deadweighted Morishima on an attempted fireman's carry position, so Morishima quickly improvised and rolled KENTA over into a pinfall, structured similarly to a Death Valley Driver without an actual suplex and slam being involved. Moments later, the 30 minute time limit expired, with all four men getting the standing ovation they obviously from the awesome Tokyo crowd.

The only nitpick to point out were the juniors slipping on the ropes a couple times, but I don't factor that into my rating. We've seen plenty of times athletes slip in a flukey moment as well, causing them to miss a steal, touchdown, tackle, etc. and that doesn't take away from their respective sports either.
This match is a work of art that all aspiring strong-style wrestlers need to study, and one of the defining matches in NOAH history. No wonder so many ROHbots were getting hard at the thought of Morishima coming across the Pacific back in the day. ****3/4

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Re: Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Thu Apr 23, 2015 10:19 pm

Akiyama & Aoki vs. KENTA & Marufuji - August 13, 2006

Good but not great match, with the main purpose of having Aoki pay his dues since he had made his in-ring debut on the year before. He managed to outwrestle KENTA early to give his team the advantage, but despite Akiyama's size and experience, KENTA & Marufuji were able to gain the heat on Aoki. Akiyama had to keep bailing Aoki out, showing that Aoki still had quite a bit of learning to do and also develop a threshold for taking such devastating strikes and maneuvers.

It came down to KENTA vs. Aoki in the end, as KENTA is superior at putting green guys and rookies through the paying dues process. Aoki did hold his own and showed his growth, pulling out a gorgeous Northern Lights suplex followed by a Regalplex for nice back-to-back nearfalls. Akiyama and Marufuji kept battling on the outside during the third act, with Marufuji gaining the upper hand in-ring when he used the nearby ref's positioning to give the then GHC Heavyweight Champion a standing Shiranui, allowing KENTA to finish Aoki off with the G2S. I must also mention I heard the commentary bring up "ROH" and "New York City." I wonder if something big's planned for that. ***1/2

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Re: Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Wed May 13, 2015 9:55 pm

KENTA & Shibata vs. Taue & Shiozaki - September 9, 2006

Fun tag here especially the story told between Taue and Shibata. The taller veteran Taue got the advantage to the crowd's approval during an early strike exchange via multiple slaps and then crushing Shibata's face on his knee. Minutes later, Shibata used the same knee-to-face move on Shiozaki and taunted Taue on the apron. Taue also gotten taken off the apron, causing the younger Shiozaki to have dig deep and hold his own against the fast kickboxing-background duo. Ultimately, the combined quickness of KENTA & Shibata was too much, as Shibata was taken out and Shiozaki went down to a springboard Doomsday Device. ***1/2

Akiyama vs. Marufuji - September 9, 2006

Akiyama dominated early, but Marufuji got the advantage when he hit a dropkick on Akiyama's left knee. That became the story of this match, as Akiyama was never able to make a full comeback against the smaller, less experienced Marufuji. Sure, he got in a nice submission sequence of putting the challenger in the Scorpion Deathlock followed by a Bow-and-Arrow Stretch, as well as backdropping Marufuji on the entrance apron, but the damage was done. And Marufuji was quite vicious on Akiyama's left knee, slamming it on the ring post and locking in numerous submissions including the figure four leg lock.

With that said, none of Marufuji's bombs could take down Akiyama, not even a standing Shiranui that had Akiyama's back landing on the top edge of a steel guard rail, or even a Super Shiranui inside the ring. Instead, Marufuji took advantage of his work on Akiyama's left leg, ultimately ducking a lariat in a nice finishing sequence, and securing the GHC Heavyweight Title in a pumphandle style small package, which Akiyama didn't have the leg strength to kick out of. Nice sequence to pay off a solid but unspectacular story.

I must point out that the commentary specifically mentioned ROH and New York City, obviously alluding to Glory By Honor V Night 2. I wonder if something special is planned for that event. This was a historic business risk taken by NOAH, as Marufuji was the first true junior heavyweight to claim the top prize in the company. I'll chronicle that as I continue watching vintage NOAH. ***1/2

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Re: Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Mon Oct 31, 2016 11:54 am

Marufuji vs. KENTA – October 29, 2006

A significant improvement over their excellent singles encounter 9 months earlier, and even better than I had remembered.

Marufuji’s early work on KENTA’s left leg wasn’t enough to keep the recently slain ROH juggernaut down, Unlike their prior match and the referenced masterpiece 6 weeks earlier between KENTA and Bryan Danielson, it was minor work thanks to a change in strategy for Marufuji. Instead of continuing the strategy of the left leg to take away KENTA’s most significant offense, which Marufuji saw didn’t work at all at Glory By Honor V Night 2 despite a greater effort from Danielson, he improvised with a slingshot DDT to KENTA on the apron. This not only played into a terrific story throughout the match, but was a way to taking a highlight from the Kurt Angle vs. Chris Benoit classic from Royal Rumble 2003, that being the apron DDT, and putting their own spin on it.

The slingshot apron DDT caused damage to KENTA’s neck and shoulder, so that’s what Marufuji targeted with various submissions. KENTA would tease some comebacks out of desperation, only for Marufuji to cause KENTA to bend over and be prone to a neck strike to cut him off. After several minutes of this tremendous work, KENTA finally managed to make a successful comeback with desperate kicks, particularly striking Marufuji’s abdomen. This then became KENTA’s strategy to work on Marufuji’s core.

KENTA was tremendous as well with his strategy, delivering many blows to Marufuji’s core and also applying a body scissors submission. When Marufuji would attempt a comeback, KENTA would quickly land a kick to the abs to cut off the reigning GHC Heavyweight Champion. It would take a major error on KENTA’s part for Marufuji to regain the heat.

KENTA would for a move on the apron but ended up eating a short-distance springboard shotgun dropkick from a desperate Marufuji. The champ then ran the ropes for an aerial attack to the outside only for KENTA to evade it. KENTA went for a roundhouse kick only for Maruufji to duck, and the momentum caused KENTA to spill over the ringside barricade when Marufuji capitalized. With KENTA down, Marufuji yanked the barricade closer to the apron and went for a moonsault that bloodied KENTA, but it came with a price as the champ’s face and/or throat struck the top of the barricade. This would lead to a good count out false finish for KENTA.

Marufuji was able to overcome the pain he unintentionally gave himself thanks to KENTA’s dazed status and bloodied face, including hitting an intelligent face smash onto the top of a ring post. Eventually the fight would spill to the outside and they teased a number of moves off the apron ramp, including a Shiranui. Nothing would be hit successfully, as Marufuji landed on his feet when he got suplexed off of it and then surprised KENTA with a superkick. They continued battling outside though, eventually leading to KENTA hitting a Falcon Arrow off the apron onto the floor!

This basically transitioned into a phenomenal closing stretch over the next several minutes with all kinds of bombs being thrown including strikes and suplexes aplenty. I loved that when KENTA hit the Go 2 Sleep, Marufuji intelligently made sure to bounce towards the ropes, showing another thing he learned from Danielson on how to slay KENTA. I also loved that a straightjacket Shiranui was just a near-fall, since it didn’t quite have the dramatic conclusiveness to properly wrap up this timeless masterpiece.

Once Marufuji hit a Flux Capicator and then a Cradle Michinoku Driver, there was no way KENTA would manage to kick out. In a great touch, KENTA even has to have help walking to the backstage area afterwards, truly selling the devastation left by the champion and his former tag partner. It was a devastating finish, a proper end to a brutal match layered with fantastic psychology and the bombs serving as blockbuster special effects to compliment it. Without exaggeration, this match a decade later truly serves as one of the greatest matches in puroresu history, and having seen plenty of both men’s resume (although with a tremendous chunk yet to be seen of course), is my pick as the best match that these two have ever had. The consumers that decided to not buy tickets for this out of a misguided and/or preconditioned prejudice towards cruiserweights in the main event scene only did themselves a disservice. *****

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Re: Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Sat Dec 03, 2016 4:24 pm

KENTA vs. Danielson – December 2, 2006

Danielson got the early advantage by targeting KENTA’s left arm with various strikes and submissions, and honestly dominated this one in what seemed to be booking reciprocation from their Manhattan classic. While this lacked Manhattan’s dramatic atmosphere to put this into all-time classic territory, this was still an excellent contest nonetheless. KENTA truly had a chance in this match about halfway into it when Danielson dove at him in the audience. Danielson’s left knee and/or shin seemed to strike a chair, leading to a count out tease for both. There’s a striking difference in the drama between Japan’s standard 20 count and WWE’s choice to use a 10 count; in the former’s case, the ring announcer’s dramatic change in voice inflection in the last several seconds of the count truly add to the intensity.

Danielson almost fucked up a kip-up after a missile shotgun dropkick due to his left knee pain, so once KENTA was able to get an opportunity, he tried weakening that joint with Texas Cloverleaf submissions, making me sad we never got Danielson vs. Dean Malenko. I really appreciated around this point that Danielson had KENTA’s spinning back fist combo scouted, turning into a Regalplex near-fall. The biggest disappointment was the fault of neither competitor; the audience didn’t react in as dramatic fashion as I would’ve hoped when Danielson locked on the Cattle Mutilation. Perhaps many in attendance had not gotten around to watching the Manhattan match, although I’m 99.9% sure it was made available for viewing on Japanese television.

They were went out of their way to tease that Danielson would win this rematch with the Cattle Mutilation, as the ROH Champion even dragged KENTA to the middle of the ring for it, which made the crowd’s lack of electricity disappointing. The match was so intelligently worked which is why the crowd’s mostly subdued demeanor, which is usually something I appreciate when compared to how quickly audiences in other regions around the globe blow their loads too early on a card, was a detriment in this case. I loved that KENTA had the Crossface Chickenwing scouted, shoving Danielson as soon as his left arm got hooked.

Elbows to the head once again couldn’t put KENTA down, but instead of using the positioning to put Danielson into a fireman’s carry like in their prior encounters, Danielson stopped early and went for a cover for a near-fall. That was brilliant to ensure he didn’t put himself at risk of a Go to Sleep, while showing the confidence he had in his blows after finishing off many with it, including Roderick Strong and Nigel McGuinness. It’s a damn shame we’ll never get to see him bust them out to counter an F5 attempt by Brock Lesnar.

Since Danielson dominated this match, KENTA tended to waste no time when he’d daze Danielson on a cut-off attempt. That was truest when it mattered most at the end. After Danielson had some fantastic near-fall counters via an O’Connor Roll and schoolboy pin, they then hit a strike exchange with another counter near-fall pin tease. Instead, KENTA blocked Danielson’s backslide pin attempt and landed a few high kicks to the head, leaving Danielson both prone to the Go to Sleep and unable to kick out like had happened in Manhattan. As stated, an excellent match. ROH fans may as well in the last 3 months of 2006 just watched all Jimmy Jacobs segments and whatever KENTA was doing across various promotions, as this along with KENTA other matches during that time span were right on par with the majority of ROH’s 2006. ****1/4

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Re: Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Sat Dec 10, 2016 3:54 pm

Marufuji vs. Misawa – December 10, 2006

This was a total carry-job by Marufuji. He brought forth an energy that Misawa simply didn’t have anymore. In fact, Misawa just looked totally cooked in this match. Even if he was still alive today, I think this would’ve been the perfect time to start winding down or outright retire. He was so lethargic without any of the fire of Kenta Kobashi, who was also broken-down at this point.

Marufuji’s work on Misawa’s left leg went nowhere, which really disappointed me. There was simply too much focus done for me to accept it being forgotten, especially for an all-time elite worker like Misawa. There was also almost a business-exposing moment because of Misawa. They had a finisher blocking exchange on the apron that ended with Marufuji countering a Tiger Driver with a hurricanrana to the floor. Marufuji didn’t get enough rotation so his legs never scissored Misawa’s head, but thankfully an arm was still hooked from the Tiger Driver attempt to explain why Misawa sold for Marufuji.

That wasn’t the only insipid bump Misawa took. Oh no, he had to take a Shiranui off the entrance apron to the floor for a count-out false finish. This was a missed opportunity to pay off the earlier story and protect Misawa’s body. Why not have a count-out false finish instead due to Marufuji immobilizing Misawa’s left leg? Surely Misawa would know how to sell the struggle of breaking the 20-count on a bad leg.

Misawa’s cache was in full effect here, as the crowd was going crazy at the end for him and all the false finishes. The biggest credit is that Marufuji never hit the Shiranui, so therefore it was never fed just to boost Misawa. Having Marufuji kick out of an Island Driver was a good move too, but once a Super version was done, I knew that was it for such a promising title reign only 3 months after it began.

Due to Marufuji’s performance and the crowd’s electricity at the end, this is ultimately a good match. As someone whose puro knowledge is from a distance, I’ve concerns though because Misawa looked very uncomfortable. At age 44, he looked 54. This title change comes across as incredibly impatient and short-sighted, going back to the well long since it’s been run dry. It doesn’t seem to serve the best interests of anyone in the long-term.

In hindsight, this feels like the first booking domino that ultimately led to NOAH’s decline over the next several years, even more so than Kobashi’s iconic reign being ended by Takeshi Rikio. Rather than invest in Marufuji with the same kind of effort as WWE had done around this time with Randy Orton, NOAH made the decision of being penny smart, dollar dumb. This felt equal to had Sting’s career not ended in his WWE Title match against Seth Rollins, but he had actually dethroned the champion after having a difficult time drawing throughout 2015. Sting winning the WWE Title in 2015 would’ve been a great moment, while ultimately pointless in the long-term picture just like this direction. ***1/2

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Re: Supersonic prepares for Final Battle 2005

Post by supersonic » Sat Jul 15, 2017 6:36 am

KENTA & Ishimori vs. Ibushi & Marufuji - July 15, 2007

As usual with puroresu, this became incredible at the end, just a hot finish with all kinds of scouting on display. Ibushi & Marufuji thought they had a good strategy early by targeting KENTA's sore left knee, but that ultimately proved to be a non-factor.

It was surprising to see a Crippler Crossface used just a few weeks after the Benoit tragedy, and perhaps it was a tribute to a wrestler that made an obvious puro impact in the 1990s. Perhaps due to such a regional, cultural distance, it didn't come across as sleazy at all as it would several weeks later in PWG (although I never was put off by WWE stars using it later in attempts to win matches since they had been defeated by Chris Benoit in that hold.)

Ibushi was on point in this one and came across as the real star even in defeat. His evasion kip-up against Ishimore was amazing, but KENTA picked up on it at the end for the victorious Go to Sleep. Before that also, Ishimori hit a mesmerizing Handspring Moonsault Back Elbow.

Ibushi & Marufuji also had an amazing sequence on KENTA. Ibushi went for a Moonsault but KENTA scouted it by rolling away; this was for naught though as Ibushi landed on his feet and hit his trademark swift Standing Moonsault on KENTA, who then fell to a Marufuji frog splash, followed by a Standing Shooting Star Press by Ibushi for a near-fall.

As mentioned, Ibushi was outmatched at the end by KENTA, who scouted his evasion kip-up to eventually hit the Go to Sleep. A sensational match and I'll be curious how the ROH match involving Katsuhiko Nakajima instead of Ishimori compares to this when ROH comes back to Japan the following year. ****1/2

Briscoes vs. Marvin & Suzuki - July 15, 2007

Hell of a match here too, easily topping their title change match 6 months earlier. These teams overcame quite a bit, including a ref bump at the end along with a time limit draw. The booking has to definitely be questioned although I'm not digging into all the details of this inaugural tournament.

Marvin was happy to play dirty in retaliating against the cheating Briscoes, which was nice to see. My favorite scouting moment was Marvin attempting to block a Springboard Doomsday Device, only for Mark to just clothesline him midair and Suzuki to eat the double team trademark. Deep into the match, Marvin cut Mark off from outside the ring, allowing Suzuki to hit a Reverse Rana.

The post-match had everyone in the tournament in the ring to watch KENTA & Ishimori be presented as the ultimate winners. Someone else would have to translate the Japanese promos but the crowd is popping well. ***1/2

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