NOAH NOAH di colosseo 3/31/04 Navigate for Evolution '04
2/20/04 Tokyo Korakuen Hall: Mitsuharu Misawa & Shiro Koshinaka vs. Takeshi Rikio & Masao Inoue 11:10. A jealous Yoshinari Ogawa didn’t hide his distaste for NOAH’s new free agent acquisition Koshinaka, who he seemed to fear might steal his partner. Misawa’s style shifted toward Koshinaka’s, with both playing mean and grumpy heels who dominated through roughhousing. Unfortunately, that didn’t improve that match any, which was only passable due to weak efforts. One annoying aspect of these short NOAH matches is the wrestler who does all the selling is suddenly rejuvenated by their partners hot tag, and thus comes right back in acting fresh as a daisy for the finishing segment. *3/4
3/6/04 Tokyo Nippon Budokan
Jun Akiyama & Yoshihiro Takayama & Jun Izumida vs. Akira Taue & Takuma Sano & Takeshi Morishima 8:54. Nice little sprint. Good performance by Akiyama, pushing the pace and working enough spots in early to keep it interesting. Taue was surprisingly motivated, working the sort of energetic and exciting segments he used to do with Akiyama in the mid 1990’s. Sano gave a good, unselfish performance, mostly making the opposition look better than they should. They would have had something here if they choose to develop the match, but instead Izumida suddenly beat Morishima due to an undeveloped knee injury. **3/4
Tamon Honda & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs. Kishin Kawabata & Masashi Aoyagi 3:00 of 7:55. Kikuchi took Aoyagi’s kicks then ducked a lariat and schoolboyed him for the win.
Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Scorpio & Doug Williams & Trevor Rhodes 2:53 of 18:41. It came down to Inoue vs. Rhodes with Inoue’s teammates keeping Scorpio & Williams outside the ring for a minute and a half until Inoue finished it with his Argentine backbreaker.
Naomichi Marufuji & KENTA & Mitsuo Momota & Kotaro Suzuki vs. Michael Modest & Donovan Morgan & Superstar Steve & Ricky Marvin 3:30 of 13:56. Momota just stood around and watched while everyone else performed athletic feats he might have been able to contemplate if he were 25 years younger. Other than his ridiculous casting, it made for an impressive highlight film complete with Marufuji’s team delivering a quadruple suplex.
2/20/04: Akira Taue & Takuma Sano & Makoto Hashi vs. Kenta Kobashi & Tamon Honda & KENTA 6:10 of 26:56. The Taue vs. Kobashi edit, as Taue was a finalist for the next GHC title shot. Both were energized to the point they appeared to be younger, healthier versions of themselves. They brought their best stuff, unleashing some heavy artillery early including Taue taking Kobashi out with his ore ga Taue, but Kobashi coming back with a DDT on the apron. Kobashi blocked Taue’s nodowa otoshi off the apron, so Sano got Kobashi on his shoulders to assist Taue. Rikio looked on from the back as he was the other title shot finalist. When Taue tried to attack Kobashi after the match, tossing all the seconds aside, Rikio made the save and helped Kobashi up only to cheap shot him with his lariat. What aired was very good.
2/21 Kanagawa Sagamihara Shiritsu Sogo Taiikukan: Takeshi Morishima & Takeshi Rikio vs. Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi 5:40 of 16:40. The Kobashi vs. Rikio edit. Fiery and intense, but Rikio doesn’t give, or even take, nearly as well as even a 43-year-old Taue. Morishima held Kobashi off while Rikio took Kikuchi out with a deadly slap then made the belt around his waist sign to set off a post match skirmish.
2/26/04 Kanagawa Yokosuka Shi Sogo Taiikukan, GHC Heavyweight Championship Next Challenger Decision Match: Takeshi Rikio vs. Akira Taue 7:41 of 7:46. They delivered the sort of uninspired limpid turkey that would make you reconsider giving either a chance at a big match... in the next year. There was no feeling of importance beyond Kobashi’s presence scouting at ringside, and no sense of urgency. Taue may have found the fountain of youth against Kobashi, but it looked like he didn’t find out Rikio was getting the title shot until 5 minutes before their decision match. Rikio was no more motivated though. If anything, he was far more at fault because for whatever reason he got almost all the offense, which amounted to him using the guard rail and turnbuckle on Taue’s back and bowling not so Dynamic T over a few times. Taue finally got a few moves in at the end, only to be pinned out of nowhere after a single lariat. ½*
3/6/04 Tokyo Nippon Budokan, GHC Heavyweight Title: Kenta Kobashi vs. Takeshi Rikio 25:28. Kobashi was in a tough spot here because on one hand he had to deliver due to it being a Budokan main event, but on the other hand he had to sell constantly for one of the worst and most limited offensive wrestlers in the league in an effort to make him come off as a semi-credible challenger. I doubt there was any thought of delivering a match of the year, the goal here was simply to overachieve, which they arguably did due to Kobashi being great enough to carry a limited wrestler to 25 quality minutes even without constructing the match in a manner that would be particularly conducive to achieving that goal. Rikio received his 2nd title shot, having lost to Yoshinari Ogawa on 7/26/02. He looked like he belonged when he had his rematch with Kobashi on 3/5/05, but today he was more similar to an overmatched nerve riddled rookie. Rikio’s offense was that much worse than usual as he didn’t seem to have the confidence to follow through, often resulting in that fake “I wouldn’t want to hurt my opponent” look that you get from the WWE. Even without knees, Kobashi could have made the match with his offense if the only goal was making it memorable, but it’s not in his nature to be a selfish wrestler so he did what was (arguably) best for the company. Kobashi allowed Rikio to resort to attacking his bad knees since that was the only way anyone would give Rikio a snowball’s chance in hell. With Kobashi standing on the apron, Rikio ran the floor and clipped Kenta’s knees, but otherwise Rikio wasn’t really able to innovate or stray too far from his routine, which doesn’t exactly include a plethora of knee moves. The fans got into Rikio’s near falls, as if nothing else he was able to show a lot more desire and emotion than we are used to seeing. Rikio did do enough well in the last 5 minutes to leave a positive impression, but this was a bottom rung GHC Heavyweight Championship match to be certain. ***1/4