Puroresu Reviews

NOAH Destiny 2015 Review

It’s time for the culmination of a storyline that’s defined this company for a long time. It has brought us many ups and many downs, in forms of fantastic matchups, riots, and more. Suzuki-gun vs. The World comes to an end with a final battle; as Minoru Suzuki defends his GHC Championship against Naomichi Marufuji in what will be the third time this year. Also, Momo No Seishun look to keep their tag titles vs. the team they beat in a personal ****1/2 effort, Despy & TAKA. Taichi defends his jr. heavyweight title vs. Ishimori, and Big in U.S.A., Colt & Hero, look to dehthrone K.E.S. who’ve had a stranglehold on the tag team division for a good part of 2015. All this and more, as it’s NOAH Destiny 2015 before over 3000+ fans in the Ota Ward Gym in Tokyo! Let’s get to the matches.


Hitoshi Kumano & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Kaito Kiyomiya & Yoshihiro Takayama**1/4

The young boys were allowed to let it fly here, as they were the center of attention for the bout. Takayama came in a few times, Ogawa came in a few times; but other than that, it was a technical wonderland filled with more complete movesets being showed off in a limited environment. Kiyomiya got worked over for a good portion of the tag, and the ‘hot-ish’ tag saw Takayama come in for a rare in-match appearence. If you think about it, compare Brock Lesnar’s rare appearances to the two vets in this one. They came in when it mattered, but other than that, younger folks shined. Both guys were well-versed, with Kumano looking more complete, but it’s obvious why. More experience, as Kiyomiya didn’t even nearly look bad himself. The finish saw Kiyomiya escape the Boston Crab but get hooked for the Fisherman’s Suplex on Kumano’s behalf. Short and to the point.

Captain NOAH, Genba Hirayanagi & Quiet Storm vs. Akitoshi Saito, Mitsuhiro Kitamiya & Mohammed Yone**1/2

These guys worked hard and gave something better than a usual six man filler tag. No one was bad per say, even if Captain NOAH applied the worst STF ever (to Yone’s afro rather than his face). Quiet Storm is seemingly, slowly, getting better with time; and is meshing well with the boys in terms of strong style. Saito especially was better than usual, throwing extremely stiff blows to whoever came his way which was great. Not much else is of note, except for the fact that Genba being worked over served as the calm before the storm (no pun intended). Everything broke down after that, and whilst Genba, Storm, Saito, and Kitamiya, who showed solid signs of being a good big man in the match, were on the outside; Captain NOAH tried to reverse Yone’s lariat into the STF, but failed, and was backed up into the corner. You know what that means. Muscle Buster for the win.

Hajime Ohara vs. Kenou***3/4

My major selling point to you regarding this match is the fact that it’s believable in every sense of the word. They did something I was intrigued by. At times, they worked a Dragon Gate style pace whilst still taking breaks in-between and letting the audience know that they legitimately hurt via that faster paced style. I really dug that. Kenou is such a great underdog to root for, and even if that wasn’t exactly the dynamic here, you, of course, cater to him in that aspect when facing someone who was outsmarting him from the start to the middle of the match. Ohara kept countering Kenou, beating him up and trying to lock in his stretch on the worked over back of Kenou’s. Kenou managed to fight back, triggering the DG pace after a massive double knee strike to the head. These guys went all out whilst selling the damage; specifically Kenou and his back. There’s nothing else more to be said other than the fact that it was masterfully paced, worked, and sold to the crowd. The downside is that it didn’t last too long, clocking in in a little over 10 minutes. The finishing sequence was bonkers as can be. Michi Driver. Double Foot Stomp. PK. No big deal, Ohara kicks out at 1. Fighting spirit is in full effect. Until…

https://twitter.com/traskbryant/status/681946848530198528/photo/1

Go Shiozaki vs. Maybach Taniguchi***

About as good of a match anyone could get out of Maybach. This started out as something I thought was standard and not as good as other Go matches thus far, but it turned into something fairly nice — on the same level if not a little below the Kitamiya and Storm matches. Maybach dominated until Go turned it around and dove onto him. This triggered fighting spirit as the match elongated to the point where I almost thought it was a tad bit ridiculous. We even got to the point where Maybach kicked out of the Go Flasher, however, I never realized that he’s been using it as a set-up move in NOAH. That’s really lame, as the Go Flasher is immensely a better put-away finish than a damn (still good though) lariat. That very lariat put away Maybach, after a continuous struggle for Go; fighting headbutts, powerbombs, and even the pitchfork near the start of the match. Shiozaki continues to work his way up the chain, having solid and impressive bouts with some of the featured undercard talent we all know and critique.

Takashi Iizuka vs. Takashi Sugiura*1/4

I commend these fellas for their effort, hence the quarter-star addition; but this just didn’t work at all. Iizuka did his thing, and along with Sugiura, we had to shit through the entire match worth of Iizuka ‘stuff’, and I mean 95% of the match was his ‘stuff’! Sugiura kept getting beat down, Iizuka kept bringing in more weapons, we got some near-falls, multiple ref bumps via the same ref, and that was about it. Eventually Suigura turned the corner and managed to overcome Iizuka, even after Iizuka kicked out of the knees to the face like a damn old man. Sugiura wins with an Olympic Slam. The ugliness is over, unless if somehow Nakajima/Benjamin trumps it?

Katsuhiko Nakajima vs. Shelton Benjamin****

These two have only faced in singles action twice this year, at Great Voyage in Osaka and a Global League night. Both times Benjamin won in 13 minutes. This match was obnoxious and amazing at the same time. These dudes killed it, and brought the fire that was primarily lacking at their Voyage match. Benjamin brought the banter (not just physically) from the start, trash talking Nakajima, saying how he’s beat him twice and how it’s disgusting they have to share a ring again. Fortunately for Shelton, a good part of the match was spent backing up his case; with some insane highspots and extremely, extremely stiff shots. Nakajima was no slouch either, firing back with his case as to why he can beat Shelton this time. Even though it was tons of shock-and-awe, the pacing was done well yet again on the card, as even in recovery phases of the match, stuff was still happening that felt important such as selling or garnering crowd reaction whilst dazed. Big Banter Shelton brought out all he could, including the grip by the neck throw off of the damn top rope, tons of Ankle Locks, and his arsenal that beat Katsuhiko the first time. It wasn’t enough this time. After an amazing looking double knockout, and various kicks to the head, Nakajima hit his PK and brainbuster for the win. Awesome match, and one of Shelton’s best of 2015.

(GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag Team Championship) Momo No Seishun Tag (Atsushi Kotoge & Daisuke Harada) (c) vs. Suzuki-gun (El Desperado & TAKA Michinoku)***1/2

Time for the rematch of one of the hidden-gem tags of the year that came in at ****1/2 on my ballot, where Momo won the titles. This was a good rematch, but it dragged at times and was way too long. I have no problem with long matches, but you have to structure one correctly first off, in order for it to completely get a pass. This shouldn’t have been elongated but kept in the fine-line boundary — it felt long as heck. It may have also hurt that these guys killed it back on October 4, and there is no way to ever replicate that type of magic and structure in a tag again. We got all the bells and whistles of their matchups, with Kotoge being isolated with the crowd firmly behind Momo No Seishun; maybe more than possibly ever. There were tons of nicely placed hope spots, especially the deadly TAKA induced submissions that would make Kotoge fight for every inch of his ground. Those were my favorite parts of the match. Eventually, sneaky TAKA was laid to rest on the outside, and Despy was left alone with nothing left. The German/Killswitch combo was initiated, hit, and allowed the champs to retain. Good stuff with some problems mostly having to do with everything except movesets and the crowd aka pacing and match structure.

(GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship) Taichi (c) vs. Taiji Ishimori****1/4

Holy shit. What a match. I really shouldn’t look at a match this way, ever, but I have to in this case, as the last 5-10 minutes of the match trump anything on this card so far. The slow build to said minutes was still good/solid, with Taichi playing his tricks (he still didn’t do enough), such as getting his girl to slap Ishimori so the ref could be distracted. Ishimori continued to be mild-mannered, something you never see the dude do; as he was building the slow burn pace with Taichi’s methodical offense. Then came those minutes. And my goodness were those ever some amazing minutes. We got some of the best overbooking period. Suzuki-gun lost every single match so far on the card; and TAKA, being the leader, snapped. He ran-in and said F YOU to everyone, especially Ishimori, but that still wasn’t enough. The ring got cleared and things got even more insane. 450 hit, not good enough. Canadian Destroyer counter out of a Rite of Passage position, not good enough. Every single one of Taichi’s moves ever delivered. Not. Good. Enough. Ishimori was on a roll, and he was not ever going to let Suzuki-gun slide out with a victory and a retain-ment of a true NOAH championship. What makes this stretch even better, is the fact that the ref, who stripped Taichi of the title so he couldn’t use it after the SKG run-in, oversold every single reaction to a kickout. Taichi would get pinned after something insane, lands on his head. Ishimori almost loses, bounces on his head. This is the right case of overdramatic wrestling; it’s so beautiful and emotional and is all happening for definitive reasons. The final kickout. Taichi said no to the standing sliced bread that’s put away opponents. It’s clutch hour. 450 Splashes to the BACK and FRONT of Taichi. Taiji Ishimori is the ace of the Junior Division. What a performance and what a match. I love wrasslin!

(GHC Tag Team Championship) Killer Elite Squad (Davey Boy Smith Jr. & Lance Archer) (c) vs. (Big in U.S.A.) Chris Hero & Colt Cabana****1/4

This was tag team wrestling. Everything clicked, and once again, I’ll be damned, everything happened for a reason. This was by far and large one of the best performances of Cabana’s career, whilst still interpreting tiny bits of comedic effect such as high-fiving the ref trying to count DQ him. The crowd was the hottest crowd I’ve heard in MONTHS for a NOAH match. This completely benefited the match and Chris Hero; who played a 100% perfect face in peril in comparison to bigger ‘stronger’ partner Cabana was unreal in comparison to other performances. It turned out that Hero weighs more in the fighting spirit section come the end of the match! There were so many little things that made this what it was as well, including double sharpshooters, and to get out of it, Hero & Cabana locked hands to work toward the ropes. I can’t even recall the last time I saw that from a tag team. Shock-and-awe factors were alive here as well, as right out of the gate we saw Hero and Cabana do what they rarely do — FLIPS~! Hero being worked over felt so natural and believable, with backdrops from The Bulldog and deadfall Chokeslams from Archer increasing the damage on the team as time ticked down. Cabana on his own was fantastic too, being the sneaky little comedic big man trying to eaze through the situation without Hero at times. Little things of his own such as a hop-hop-roll-up to gain more momentum for the pin added indescribable amounts of urgency to the potential win. Blackout and Dark Days were hit a lot, and that never stopped Big in U.S.A. from hanging on. Hero threw endless amounts of rolling elbows but never got the 3 count. The absolute cap on the bottle which is this tremendous tag; the fighting spirit embodied finish. Colt had been taken out, because K.E.S. caught him for the Killer Bomb when he leaped to do a double splash on them in the corner. Even more originality. Then, one of the best spots of the year. Chris Hero kicked out of the Killer Bomb after everything he’s gone through. The crowd goes insane for it in the moment. Large Hero chants echo the building. DBS Jr. lifts Hero into a powerbomb position and Archer smashes his face into the ground. That finally does it. Suzuki-gun finally get a win and retain a championship. That was wrestling.

(GHC Heavyweight Championship) Minoru Suzuki (c) vs. Naomichi Marufuji***3/4

It’s time for the culmination of an A+ wrestling event, and the culmination of a major puroresu storyline in 2015. It’s the last stand. This was one of MiSu’s best performances in general, as the man carried the match through start/middle/finish. Marufuji had a lot of things going for him when the bell rang that did *not* relate to his own talent. The crowd is still fairly good, they’re getting behind him, the image of the rest of the roster at ringside provides extra meaning which doesn’t have to fully come from the in-ring work now. To credit MiSu, I’m giving this the lowest ***3/4 possible, in history, ever! It was close to even being ***1/2, but this was a performance for the ages from Suzuki. He dominated the match in kayfabe none the less, controlling the tempo, minimizing retaliation from Marufuji, and continuing to raise hell vs. the ref, the rest of the roster, and Marufji’s right arm which was awesome to see constantly targeted. To counter that, Marufuji would use lots of unique springboard offense for his bursts of power in-between getting worked over. This was precisely a 34:00 long epic, which I am not a fan of when it comes to Marufuji matches, but it worked because of the end-game goal and reaction, which I’m not taking selfishly. K.E.S. ran-in but it never ended up in much. The finale was a spectacular one, as the dramatic tone of Marufji repeatedly being trapped in the Suzuki sleeper enhanced the final pinfall victory. After Marufuji finally escaped the sleeper, he hit Suzuki’s own Gotch Piledriver. Minoru sold it like absolute death, unlike anyone I’ve ever seen (except for maybe even Marufuji ironically, but he was probably knocked silly by it). As faces in the crowd smile on as the savior of NOAH finally gets his big break at the 30 minute mark, the tide officially turns. Marufuji has never had a one-up like this in the other two matches. FIVE final knee blows are delivered, and on the fifth, Suzuki falls to his knees and plants himself into the ground. Suzuki-gun’s stranglehold on the company isn’t immortal. A final Pole Shift for the now former champ. Naomichi Marufuji has saved Pro Wrestling NOAH from Suzuki-gun and is the new GHC Heavyweight Champion.

As Minoru Suzuki looks on, Kenta Kobashi crowns Naomichi Marufuji the new champion of the company.

Minoru Suzuki smiles and sticks out his tongue before we see Sugiura about to congratulate Marufuji. Then comes…

A SUPER MEGA SWERVE FOR THE AGES: Sugiura has joined Suzuki-gun! He takes Marufuji’s hand and lifts it up and hits an Olympic Slam! Sugiura gets fended off by Go Shiozaki, but walked up the ramp and shook MiSu’s hand. He is now an *official* member of the group. He even gets his merch right away. Go Shiozaki looks on as the shocker resonates. Maybe that would have been his position to take if he’d accepted Suzuki’s original offer when he returned. An awkward tension fills the air as Maru can’t trust anybody anymore. Him and Go go their separate ways after a bow. The champ celebrates still to end the show.

Wow. What an event. There is still so much to take in and a lot to discuss headed into 2016. This is for sure in the Top 5 Shows this year, if not Top 3. A ***1/2 match, two ***3/4 matches, a **** battle between Benjamin/Nakajima, and lastly, two ****1/4 encounters solidify that statement if not makes the case even better on paper. I’m glad I had the chance to vent about all there is to talk about regarding this show, in written form, and I look forward to 2016 with new champions, a new Suzuki-gun standing within the company; and Sugiura/Go Shiozaki’s paths that are to come. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the year with Pro Wrestling NOAH.

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