About Us  |   Contact

Pro Wrestling NOAH's biggest show of the year 3/15 Ariake Colosseum - Marufuji vs. Suzuki for GHC title and Smith & Archer vs. Nicholls & Haste

NOAH Great Voyage 2015 Live Report  3-15 Tokyo

Live Report by Dean Gordon Burbage

NOAH's biggest show so far this year saw three titles change hands at Ariake Coliseum, and the Suzuki-gun stable now holds all the belts.  The process of restoring Pro Wrestling NOAH's high profile is a long road, but there were flashes of significant promise by the end of the show.

1.  Mitsuhiro Kitamiya  vs  Hitoshi Kumano
The opener featured two young wrestlers; Kitamiya has embraced a barrel-chested brawler persona (complete with a 2x4 he brings to the ring) and Kumano is starting to pick up fan support just two years into his pro wrestling career.  Kitamiya looked best throwing his weight around in the bruiser role, but some of his "mean guy" posturing drew chuckles from the crowd.  Kitamiya picked up the win in about eight minutes with a Moose-style spear with a roll through.

A video package played announcing the 6/13 Misawa memorial show.  It will feature Genichiro Tenryu in a match on his retirement tour, along with an appearance of the three amigos of Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, and Akira Taue.  I think they announced Shiro Koshinaka for it later in the show as well.

2.  Taiji Ishimori & Katsuhiko Nakajima & Muhammed Yone & Captain NOAH  vs  Zack Sabre Jr. & Yoshinari Ogawa & Super Crazy & Jonah Rock
Taiji Ishimori pinned Super Crazy at 10:20 with a top rope 450 splash.  This match wasn't much, but the crowd was into the tongue-in-cheek shenanigans of Captain NOAH as he did all of the Jado trademark spots.  You could tell from the reaction to Zack that years of uninspired booking have kept his excellence a secret to a good portion of the crowd.  Good thing he gets to show his wares in places like PROGRESS & PWG.  Crazy looked slow as molasses.

3.  "Strong BJ" Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi  vs  Quiet Storm & Akitoshi Saito
Daisuke Sekimoto pinned Quiet Storm in 11 minutes with a german suplex.  A good match that was way better when Quiet Storm was in.  His interaction with the world-class duo of Sekimoto & Okabayashi was great - they mix perfectly.  Hard clotheslines, grunting, sweating.. it had it all.  Saito looked bad, but he didn't take the match down too much as he was burly enough to stand & trade in the Strong BJ style.  Yuji Okabayashi is fantastic and having a monster year, and seeing Daisuke Sekimoto move in the ring in person is true beauty.  Every step he makes is perfect (except when he & Yuji walked all the way to the opposite side of the arena looking for the locker room after winning the match).  A fun meeting of beef, but it didn't approach the level of Strong BJ's last NOAH appearance (an excellent undercard gem against Ishimori & Yone in January).

4.  "Cho Kibou-Gun" Takeshi Morishima & Maybach Taniguchi  vs  Hiroyoshi Tenzan & Manabu Nakanishi
Takeshi Morishima pinned Manabu Nakanishi in 12 minutes with a backdrop suplex.  This match had a weird dynamic.  The days of New Japan guys coming into NOAH to a reflexive big-time heel reaction are long gone.  But the crowd still didn't see the NJPW team as "their guys", so Tenzan & Nakanishi were luke-warm babyfaces facing the hijinx of Cho Kibou-Gun who don't heel it up as much as they used to.  The most aggressive heel antics came from Tenzan after the match, continuing his post-match ornery streak from last week's NJPW Korakuen show.  Tenzan kicked the referee and mouthed off while wagging his NWA title at Morishima & Taniguchi.

5.  "Dangan Yankees"  Takashi Sugiura & Masato Tanaka  vs  "Suzuki-Gun"  Shelton "X" Benjamin & Takashi Iizuka
Takashi Sugiura pinned Takashi Iizuka with a "High Angle" Olympic Slam (no double entendre there) in 17 minutes.  Very good match, centered around Iizuka taping Sugiura's wrist to the turnbuckle.  They got a lot of sympathy on Sugiura, who had a lot of fans (and rightfully so holy shit he's great).  A good final match before intermission.  They look to still be going in the Sugiura-Benjamin direction as Benjamin said Sugiura is just dirt off his shoulder and they started the match paired off brawling on the outside.

Dangan Yankees, along with Sekimoto & Okabayashi, were the most over acts on the first half of the show.  You could hear very passionate support from pockets of the crowd that want to scream from a mountaintop how great these guys are.

The Ariake Coliseum crowd sometimes sounds lifeless on TV (but not as moribund as the crowd can sound at the Differ Ariake building across the street).  I noticed a lot of the sound traveled up and echoed in the rafters, so it's possible the acoustics of the building don't allow the crowd noise to be picked up well on TV.  Or maybe passion for the promotion is picking up (even though the size of the crowds still seems lagging behind).  I would say there were under 5,000 people there (1/5 of the 10,000 seat arena blocked off for the entrance; entire upper deck closed), but I don't have anything to compare it to as I have not been to this building before.  The ticket prices were higher than how New Japan has Sumo Hall scaled for Invasion Attack, so even if the attendance figure is disappointing, they did a pretty big gate.

The atrium of the arena was lively during intermission (as well as before the show).  About half the guys on the show were selling merch and taking pictures with fans, and Kenta Kobashi and Yoshihiro Takayama attracted long lines for meet & greets.  Even in this setting, they came across larger than life: Kobashi with his infectious smile, and tall-ass Takayama standing there like a cool statue behind a table with a tip jar.  The soundtrack for all this hustle & bustle was the carnival barker pitch booming across the room from the guys working the Big Japan table.  Before the show, the magnetic Minoru Suzuki attracted the longest line of all, looking typically churlish (but friendly in his own way).

6.  Kenou & Hajime Ohara  vs  Daisuke Harada & Genba Hirayanagi  vs  TAKA Michinoku & El Desperado  (GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Championship 3WAY Match)
TAKA & Desperado won the titles in about 10 minutes after hiding outside for most of the match and Desperado swooped in to hit Genba with a frog splash.  This match needed more time.  Genba is pretty over as a cult babyface, but more as a plucky underdog than the guy that does dick comedy.  Hot action while the Suzuki-gun team hid outside; Kenou's kicks always look great and Daisuke Harada is fantastic.  But just as the crowd was starting to get into the match, Desperado stole the pin and the titles.  The Cho Kibou-Gun team was mad about not getting pinned & losing their titles, so they chased TAKA & Desperado to the back.

In video package that aired between matches, there was a two-second clip of KENTA (bumping for Marufuji, it wasn't even focused on him) and you could feel a visceral reaction from the crowd how much they miss him.

A girl group in sparkly cheerleader-type outfits did a song.  They were about as over as Wiz Khalifa last week.  This segued into Taichi's karaoke entrance. 

7.  Atsushi Kotoge  vs  Taichi  (GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship Match)
Taichi won the belt in 18 minutes with the Black Mephisto (Air Raid Crash).  TAKA & Desperado interfered constantly.  After they pulled the ref out of the ring, Taiji Ishimori cleaned house on them, but it wasn't enough to tip the scales back in Kotoge's favor.  The previous match needed another five minutes; this one needed five fewer.  This match would have been better if Taichi was over as an outsider invading heel, instead he got the normal heel reaction he gets everywhere.  He did a lot of stalling early, and the heel interference was wearing thin at this point of the show.  Kotoge frequently has excellent matches, but a "Taichi match" has a low ceiling for how good it can be.  The match built well and peaked at the right time, but it was just so-so.

8.  "K.E.S."  Lance Archer & Davey Boy Smith Jr.  vs  "TMDK" Shane Haste  &  Mikey Nicholls
Killer Elite Squad retained the tag titles when they hit a Killer Bomb on Haste in 16 minutes.  Shane Haste was fucking great in this match.  The heels worked over his injured knee from the jump, and it was very dramatic as TMDK is very over with women & kids, so there was a strong reaction to Shane in peril.  Davey Boy Smith Jr. used a varied attack with a lot of strikes he doesn't normally do, all of which looked great.  This was much better than the first meeting of these two teams.  This match was a case in not doing "too much" and doing just the right amount - Haste sold and sold and sold and when he was back in after a Nicholls hot tag, he was pinned quickly.  But there were still spectacular spots like the sky-high chokeslam from Archer to Haste.  Excellent match.

Before the GHC championship match, Kenta Kobashi read the proclamation - the crowd loved him almost too much; it would have taken away from the match if Suzuki's star aura wasn't so strong.  Suzuki refused to shake Kobashi's hand before the match.

9.  Minoru Suzuki  vs  Naomichi Marufuji  (GHC Heavyweight Championship Match)
Suzuki made it a clean sweep for Suzuki-gun in title matches as he pinned Marufuji in about 25 minutes after Iizuka ran in with the iron fingers and then Suzuki nailed a delayed Gotch-style piledriver.  This was a great match.  There was a real buzz in the building, and this was the first time the Suzuki-gun invasion felt really hot.  The match was a little sloppy at points, and it felt like it was bordering on reaching that sublime next level, but the big takeaway was the legitimate glimmer of hope for the Suzuki title reign to be a big shot of adrenaline into NOAH's heart.  Suzuki was fantastic here on the big stage in a big show main event - he electrified the crowd with moves like his perfectly-timed "surprise" dropkick and an octopus hold while Marufuji was crotched on the top rope.  All of Suzuki-gun was ringside by the end of the match, but the interference wasn't overdone.  The crowd seemed to deep-down much prefer Suzuki to Marufuji, but Suzuki got a strong heel reaction during a great post-match.

Suzuki cut a promo rubbing it in everyone's face that Suzuki-gun has all the gold.  Kenta Kobashi & Akira Taue entered the ring in disgust.  Kobashi very briefly got in Suzuki's face, and Taue plopped the trophy at the new champion's feet with a look on his face like "can you believe this fuckin guy?!".  The entire NOAH locker room emptied and watched as Suzuki celebrated with tension thick in the air.  Then, in a somewhat deflating moment, Marufuji cut a promo thanking everyone for a great title reign and individually shaking the hand of every member of the roster.  Other than a pretty big pop when he shook Maybach Taniguchi's hand (saved for last), it was an anticlimactic way to end the show.

Before the semi-main, the show was just OK, but I definitely recommend seeking out those final two matches!