Reviews

NOAH Retro: Pro Wrestling NOAH Destiny 2005 Review

Pro Wrestling NOAH was THE top wrestling company in the entire world during the first half of the 2000s. They had the best in-ring wrestling product, a balanced roster of established top guys and rising stars, an established and consistent fanbase, and tons of respect due to the high quality of matches they put on. These qualities allowed them to put on two major shows at the fabled Tokyo Dome, which was a monumental achievement for the company at the time.

But history has been somewhat unkind to NOAH. This show was NOAH’s peak, as things would go downhill from here. They drew 62,000 fans to this event, which was a huge accomplishment given the climate of pro wrestling at the time. The early-to-mid-2000s saw Japan become engulfed by an MMA wave, and pro wrestling/puroresu was viewed as outdated and waning in popularity. And yet, NOAH still drew the Tokyo Dome. No wrestling event managed to draw that many fans in 2005.

And the reason for that was because this show, much like WWE’s WrestleMania, had its balance of heavyweight wars, tag team turmoil, high-flying excitement, and pure dream matches. And while the undercard was pretty solid, it was the main event that drew the house. The main event saw AJPW legend and NOAH founder Mitsuharu Misawa face his erstwhile rival and AJPW mainstay Toshiaki Kawada in their last-ever confrontation. It was a huge, historic event. So let’s see how this show compares to other events that occurred around the same time.

NOAH Destiny 2005
July 18, 2005, Tokyo Dome
Attendance: 62,000

The show opens with shots of the crowd and a quick rundown of the matches. Card placement in Japan has much more symbolic importance in Japan than it does in North America. The concept of a world championship match opening a show doesn’t exist over there. Instead, where someone lands on the card demonstrates their significance on the roster. Keep that in mind as it’ll be important as we go through the show.

Match #1: Masashi Aoyagi, SUWA and Takashi Sugiura vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima, Mitsuo Momota and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi

Background: NOAH’s openers usually featured old-timers and aging veterans having nothing comedy matches, but this one’s a bit different. Included here are two rookies, Sugiura and Nakajima. Nakajima was the young protégé of heavyweight star Kensuke Sasaki, who is in a match later on this show. Meanwhile, Sugiura was a guy that wrestled like Kurt Angle that was pegged for future success in NOAH. Also, Momota is the son of Rikizodan, a.k.a. the Father of Puroresu.

Nakajima and SUWA start. SUWA ducks a spinkick and knocks Nakajima down with a shoulder tackle then counters a hiptoss. Nakajima fires back with hard kicks and tags Kikuchi. He, Nakajima and Momota take turns landing clotheslines on SUWA, then Momota lands a backdrop suplex and Kikuchi lands a diving splash and pins but Aoyagi saves his partner. Kikuchi lands a backbreaker for two but SUWA manages to escape and tags Sugiura. He and Kikuchi trade elbows until Kikuchi gains the upper hand and tags Momota, who then lands chops of his own and counters a corner charge into a sunset flip for two. Momota lands a DDT and tags Nakajima, who lands brutal martial arts kicks on Sugiura for another two-count. Nakajima ducks a clothesline and lands a gorgeous bridging German suplex for another two-count. Aoyagi tags in and lands stiff strikes of his own and tags SUWA again. He lands some basic slams and tags Sugiura, who starts a strike exchange with Nakajima. Nakajima charges but walks into a big boot, and then Sugiura and SUWA land a Dudleyz-style ‘wassup’ headbutt to the groin. SUWA distracts the ref allowing Aoyagi to land a big ax kick to Nakajima’s crotch as well. Nakajima eats more hard kicks but kicks out at two, which pops the crowd. Nakajima ducks a spinkick and lands one of his own and tags Momota, who lands a back suplex for two. Aoyagi escapes a powerbomb and Momota tags Kikuchi and Aoyagi tags SUWA. Kikuchi lands a Bridging German but SUWA’s partners save him. Kikuchi lands a sick-looking Blue Thunder Bomb-like move for another two-count. All six wrestlers start hitting big moves on each other until Nakajima dropkicks SUW into a corner. He whips SUWA into Momota but SUWA dropkicks Momota and flapjacks Nakajima. Kikuchi powers out of a Tigerbomb but eats a clothesline followed by a double underhook facebuster from SUWA to end the match after nine minutes.

Winners: Masashi Aoyagi, SUWA and Takashi Sugiura

Analysis: **1/2 Good opener. Everything here was simple yet everyone got the chance to shine. The action was crisp and smooth and all six wrestlers looked good. The match never felt ‘chaotic’ or overbooked. And all of them knew how to create tense pinfall attempts in what little time they had. Nakajima was the star performer here, pulling off great dives, convincing strikes, and gorgeous suplexes. And to think he was only 17 years old in this match.

Match #2: Muhammad Yone and Takeshi Morishima vs. Burning (Go Shiozaki and Tamon Honda)

Background: Burning is the stable Kenta Kobashi formed in late 1998 and brought into NOAH. He was preoccupied on this show (we’ll get to him later) so two of his stablemates had this match to try and achieve some glory for the group. Honda was an Olympic-level wrestler (basically a lesser version of Kurt Angle) that was a midcarder for life until he challenged Kobashi in 2003 for Kobashi’s newly-won GHC Heavyweight Championship. Honda lost, but he put on such a valiant effort that Kobashi demanded he become his new main tag partner. The second guy, Shiozaki, was a rookie with less than a year’s worth of experience going into this match. Their opponents were Yone (an undercarder still looking to prove himself) and Morishima (a massive brawler that looked like a Japanese Terry Gordy and hit like a Japanese Stan Hansen).

Shiozaki dropkicks both Yone and Morishima to start the match. He follows with a plancha onto Morishima at ringside and goes for a missile dropkick from the top rope in the ring, but Morishima swats him out of the air with a clothesline. A big forward slam gets Morishima a two-count. He applies an abdominal stretch and tags Yone, who knocks Honda off the apron twice and lands a running leg drop for two. Yone applies a chinlock and a necklock to work the head but Shiozaki escapes by rolling to the ropes. Morishima tags in and lands a knee lift to Nakajima and a big clothesline then whips Shiozaki into a corner. Yone charges but Shiozaki moves, so Yone goes into the corner and then Shiozaki manages to dodge Morishima as well, causing Morishima to squeeze Yone against the turnbuckles. Shiozaki manages to back suplex Morishima and tags Honda. Honda lands standing sleepers on both Yone and Morishima and then lands backdrop suplexes on each of them. He goes for a choke sleeper of sorts but Yone breaks it up. He German suplexes Morishima and tags Shiozaki who lands a shotgun dropkick for two. Shiozaki tries to German Morishima but can’t, so he lands a flurry of strikes and then succeeds, which pops the crowd. He pins Morishima with a bridging German but Morishima kicks out.

Shiozaki goes for a moonsault but Morishima rolls out of harm’s way and tags Yone, who knocks Honda off the apron again. Yone lands a second-tope diving leg drop for two. Shiozaki starts firing back, and counters a strike from Yone into a rolling cradle for another close two-count. Shiozaki succeeds in landing the moonsault this time but Morishima breaks up his pin at the last possible moment. Honda comes in to help his partner but eats a backdrop from Morishima for his efforts. Morishima lands a big Uranage on Shiozaki. Yone charges and lands a big lariat for two. Doomsday side kick onto Shiozaki. Yone pins. Honda makes the save. Yone drops Shiozaki with a Muscle Buster and pins him after eight minutes.

Winners: Takeshi Morishima and Muhammad Yone

Analysis: *** A fun little tag team match. They packed a lot of action into such a short match. It was exciting from bell to bell, and followed a tried-and-tested tag team formula. The story here was that it was an opportunity to shine a spotlight on Shiozaki, who was a protégé of Kenta Kobashi’s. That’s why he his many of Kobashi’s trademark moves, including the rolling cradle and the moonsault. And although he lost, he looked tough in defeat as he took several big moves from both his opponents.

Match #3: Dark Agents (Akitoshi Saito, Kishin Kawabata and Masao Inoue) and Shiro Koshinaka vs. Akira Taue, Haruka Eigen, Jun Izumida and Takuma Sano

Background: This is a match that mostly featured old-timers in the twilights of their careers and lower-card guys. The most notable ones are Taue (a 1990s legend who gets a huge reaction), Koshinaka (who trained and debuted in All Japan but became famous in New Japan), Saito (who had the worst case of ‘wrong place wrong time’ in wrestling history since he wrestled in Misawa’s last-ever match) and Eigen (who was later discovered to have ties to the Yakuza).

The crowd’s pretty loud as Taue and Koshinaka start things off. After a lock-up, Taue drops Koshinaka with a boot and lands a corner hip attack. Koshinaka blocks a corner facewash and lands a snampare into multiple kicks, which gets loud applause. One by one different members of Dark Agents tag in to land knee strikes on Taue, until Taue blocks Inoue’s and tags Eigen. Eigen lands some chops in the corner and tags Izumida who lands some basic corner strikes and an elbow drop for a two-count. Sano tags in but gets overpowered quickly as Saito tags in. He and Sano trade shoulder tackles and forearms until Saito lands a knee lift and a delayed vertical suplex for two. Seconds later Koshinaka lands a running hip attack to Sano, but the ref admonishes Koshinaka instead of counting the pin. Seems a bit out of place, but ok.

Kawabata tags in and so does Eigen, and Eigen lands chops to Kawabata’s chest against the ropes. Kawabata falls down for some reason and Eigen tags Izumida. Kawabata reverses an arm wringer and tags Inoue, but Izumida quickly drags Kawabata to his corner after some uppercuts and tags Taue, who does a classic slapstick wind-up slap. He lands a DDT for a one-count and tags Sano, who lands some kicks and applies a single leg crab until Kawabata reaches the ropes. Eigen tags in and lands some chops then whips Kawabata into a corner but then gets rolled up for a two-count. Taue’s next and he lands a high kick and a lariat for a two-count. Kawabata fights out of a corner and tags Saito, who lands a lariat of his own for two. Taue gets quadruple-teamed but Sano saves him from being pinned. Taue gets revenge by getting his team to quadruple-team Saito and Sano gets a two-count on Saito off a diving dropkick. Sano continues his onslaught with a diving foot stomp for a two-count but Saito fights through the pain and wheel kicks Saito before tagging in Inoue.

Inoue immediately gets spinkicked in the stomach and tries to make a comeback for his team but Sano backdrops him instead. Izumida tags in and lands a falling head-butt for a one-count. He goes for a big slam but Inoue fights out with a jumping hip attack and tags Koshinaka, who hits some weak clotheslines in the corner. Izumida lands more head-butts (that appears to be his sole gimmick), and lands a martial arts sweep for two. Chaos ensues as everyone gets into the ring as Taue chokeslams Koshinaka and Sano foot stomps him for a two-count. Izumida gets distracted by Kawabata and knocks him into a corner and then turns around to wind up for a big move on the legal man Koshinaka. But Kawabata attacks Izumida from behind. Koshinaka rolls Izumida into a small package for the pin and the win after twelve minutes.

Winners: Dark Agents (Akitoshi Saito, Kishin Kawabata and Masao Inoue) and Shiro Koshinaka

Analysis: ** That was a bland match without much excitement in it. It came across as chaotic and nonsensical at times and there wasn’t any real story to invest in. It isn’t bad, just forgettable. Skip this if you can.

Next, some dude dressed like a cross between Harry Potter and an anime character comes out and cuts a promo meant for all the kids in the audience. He then introduces the first competitor for the next match, Mushiking Terry. Terry is Kotaro Suzuki, whose biggest claim to fame was ending his matches with a vicious Widow’s Peak that Victoria wishes she could do.

This is followed by some dude in a black cloak playing an over-the-top villain cuts a very cheesy promo before introducing and accompanying to the ring Mushiking Joker. Joker is Ricky Marvin, a luchadore from the CMLL promotion in Mexico that looks to have found steady work in Japan.

Match #4: Mushiking Terry vs. Mushiking Joker

Terry lands a headscissor takedown to start things off and does some clever lucha counters like Rey Mysterio in his prime. Terry dives off the top rope to the floor with a plancha. Back in the ring, they whip each other around the ring until Joker dodges an attack from Terry and kicks his head for a one-count. Joker ducks a flying crossbody and lands a springboard senton bomb for a two-count. He works Terry over and applies an octopus stretch as the camera frequently cuts between the match and some kids in the audience. They’re really trying to push these guys as wrestlers kids should pay attention to (and presumably buy their merchandise).

Joker whips Terry into the ropes but Terry counters with another headscissor. Terry charges but Joker goes for a tilt-a-whirl, only for Terry to counter into a spinkick. They sprint around and dodge each other some more until Terry lands a perfect Frankensteiner for a 2.5-count. Terry charges but Joker counters into a crossface. Terry reaches the ropes and Joker goes for a vertical suplex, only for Terry to land on his feet behind him. German suplex. No, Joker lands on his feet and lands a Booker T-style spinkick. Joker goes to the top rope but Terry cuts him off. Terry tries to fight him but Joker counters with a diving neckbreaker. Both guys go down. Diving head-butt by Joker. Terry kicks out. Michinoku Driver. Terry kicks out again. Joker goes for an electric chair. Terry counters into a roll-up for 2.75. Terry tanks a superkick and dropkicks Joker. 619 into a roll-up. Joker escapes. Terry counters into a bridging half-and-half suplex. That gets him the pin and the win after eight minutes.

Winner: Mushiking Terry (Kotaro Suzuki)

Analysis: *** This was good for an eight minute match. It was NOAH’s attempt at pure lucha libre and they picked the right guys for it. They packed a lot of action into such a short period, yet it didn’t come across as overkill. They got to tell an interesting story of two equally-skilled wrestlers wanting to win in a pure lucha match. The match was flashy and had good back-and-forth action with some great near-falls towards the end.

Match #5: GHC Junior Heavyweight Championship match: Yoshinobu Kanemaru [c] vs. KENTA

Background: Kanemaru was the ace of NOAH’s junior heavyweight division. He won the junior heavyweight title a year earlier at NOAH’s terrific Departure show by defeating Jushin ‘Thunder’ Liger. He has managed to keep his title up to this point; but his challenger is KENTA, the notoriously-stiff kickboxer who kicks people with the collective force of an entire soccer team.

The bell rings and KENTA bursts forward with a big boot. They trade stiff strikes and Kanemaru drops KENTA with a boot of his own. KENTA fires back, ducks a clothesline, and lands yet another high kick. A stalemate ensues and the crowd applauds loudly.

They lock up and Kanemaru ducks a huge roundhouse kick. A nice technical exchange ends in another stalemate. That’s followed by some matwork and Kanemaru gets KENTA in a corner. KENTA counters a whip into a corner, Kanemaru counters that into a crossbody, but KENTA sidesteps and Kanemaru eats canvas. KENTA starts stomping Kanemaru’s shoulder and then tosses him shoulder-first into the steel ringpost for a two-count. KENTA floats over into a kimura lock but Kanemaru starts fighting back, so KENTA lands a headscissor takedown and an armdrag back into a grounded armlock. He attacks Kanemaru’s arm with such viciousness that Kanemaru crumples to the mat off an Irish whip (because his arm got extended for about one second). The ref makes KENTA back off so he can check on Kanemaru but KENTA’s not buying it. He continues to kick the crap out of Kanemaru until Kanemaru starts fighting back, which KENTA answers by landing another deep arm drag. KENTA goes for a suplex but Kanemaru resists, so he counters into a Fujiwara armbar instead. Nice counter. Kanemaru reaches the ropes with his foot so the ref orders KENTA to release the hold. KENTA does release his hands but not his legs, at least not right away. Man, KENTA is great at bending the rules. He reminds me of pre-WWE Bryan Danielson. KENTA goers for a second-tope superplex but Kanemaru counters into a diving DDT. Amazing counter. That basically turns the tide of the match for Kanemaru.

KENTA rolls out of the ring for safety, but Kanemaru gives chase and lands another diving DDT from the apron to the floor. KENTA crawls back into the ring and Kanemaru starts working over his neck. KENTA rolls out of the ring again but Kanemaru smashes him onto the steel barricade and then lands a leg drop using the barricade. Damn, that has to hurt. KENTA drags himself back into the ring and Kanemaru applies a sleeper hold, only for KENTA to get to the ropes soon after. Kanemaru hangs KENTA upside down in the corner and lands a big running dropkick to his face for a two-count. He follows with a camel clutch that again targets KENTA’s face and neck, but KENTA fights back. KENTA charges, Kanemaru counters into a sleeper, but KENTA counters that with a backdrop. KENTA charges into a corner but Kanemaru boots him. Kanemaru goes for a dive but KENTA shuts him down with a kick to his weakened arm. Kanemaru tries to maintain control but runs into a powerslam from KENTA.

KENTA begins his comeback with some sick martial arts kicks and a springboard dropkick to the back of Kanemaru’s head for two. Kanemaru tries to power through the pain of KENTA’s kicks but KENTA just drills him with a big running yakuza kick. KENTA goes for a vertical suplex, Kanemaru counters, KENTA fires back with a spinkick and goes to the top rope. KENTA dives, but Kanemaru counters into a powerbomb from midair. One, two, no, KENTA kicks out. Frog splash. KENTA kicks out. A third diving DDT. KENTA kicks out again. Kanemaru goes for a moonsault, but KENTA rolls out of the way and lands a fisherman buster. Bridging German suplex. Kanemaru kicks out. KENTA removes his knee pad and goes for a top-rope knee drop. Kanemaru gets his foot up. Now it’s his turn to dive. He jumps off the top rope, but lands on KENTA’s shoulders. Go 2 Sleep, countered into a Brainbuster. No wait, KENTA lands on his feet. Bridging Tiger suplex. Kanemaru barely kicks out. KENTA lands his patented martial arts strike rush and charges for the running knee. Kanemaru answers by dropkicking KENTA’s knee. Brainbuster by Kanemaru! KENTA gets right back up. Busaiku Knee strike. Both guys go down in the middle of the ring.

Both guys get up slowly and trade sloppy elbows. KENTA gets the upper hand and goes for a suplex but Kanemaru resists and lands another Brainbuster. One, two, thr—no, KENTA kicks out. Moonsault by Kanemaru. KENTA still kicks out. Yet another Brainbuster. KENTA kicks out yet again. Kanemaru puts KENTA on the top turnbuckle for a diving Brainbuster, but KENTA counters into a diving Fisherman buster. He crawls over for a pin. Kanemaru kicks out. KENTA lands a turnbuckle powerbomb and follows with a regular powerbomb but struggles to lift Kanemaru up completely. He tries again and just drills Kanemaru with it for another very close two-count. Martial arts rush by KENTA. He goes for the knee strike but Kanemaru counters into a roll-up for two. Busaiku knee strike. Kanemaru gets up defiantly. KENTA drills him with a second Busaiku knee. One, two, thr—NO, Kanemaru kicks out. Go 2 Sleep. One, two, NO, Kanemaru kicks out again. Jesus Christ, this is insane! More stiff kicks from KENTA. Followed by a third, full-power running Busaiku knee. One, two, three! KENTA wins after 20:31.

Winner and NEW GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion: KENTA

Analysis: ****3/4 That was an awesome wrestling match. Kanemaru was great here but KENTA was the man, no two ways about it. I haven’t seen such insanity in a wrestling match in a long time. It went from zero to one hundred really fast. It was one of those typical ‘unrealistic, video game burst’ matches that went far into the realm of surrealism. And yet, such craziness actually worked in this case.

The match followed the tried-and-tested King’s Road formula of a hot start with two guys jockeying for control, followed by a subdued middle that involved submission holds, and closed with an explosive race to the finish line. Here, KENTA and Kanemaru did a great job of incorporating that structure into the more explosive and wilder junior heavyweight division’s sub-style. They spent the opening minutes kicking the crap out of each other, then they worked a different limb (Kanemaru attacked KENTA’s neck while KENTA obliterated Kanemaru’s arm), and they finished the match by hitting one explosive big move after another.

But where this match also succeeded was that it actually made KENTA into more than just NOAH’s new junior heavyweight star. Kanemaru made him look like a million dollars and an unstoppable force by dropping him with one huge bomb after another but it wasn’t enough. KENTA refused to lie down and die and the crowd loved him for that, even if he wrestled this match in a heelish way. And KENTA returned the favor by having to land multiple brutal big moves to keep Kanemaru down long enough, which in turn made Kanemaru come across as a credible champion. Did they go into overkill territory here? Yes they did. But they did so because they had to and it made sense to do so in this context. These were two smaller wrestlers, so for them to prove to the audience that they were legit they needed to show how tough they were, which they could only accomplish by hitting each other with as many bombs as possible. And it worked.

My only issue here was that the working holds they spent so much time on limbwork and working different body parts early in the match didn’t matter once they started that epic closing sprint. KENTA went back to attacking Kanemaru’s arm only once at a moment when it made sense and it helped him maintain control of the match. As for KENTA selling for Kanemaru, it worked in a different way. On one hand, there was never a moment when KENTA was clearly selling Kanemaru’s work on his neck or slowed down to make it look like he was struggling to power through the pain Kanemaru had caused him. On the other hand, most of Kanemaru’s biggest moves targeted the head and neck; so when he landed those moves, it was convincing that he was more likely to win because he was landing those moves on a body part that had already been weakened by his earlier work, even if KENTA wasn’t selling that damage outright.

Match #6: GHC Tag Team Championship match: Minoru Suzuki and Naomichi Marufuji [c] vs. Jun Akiyama and Makoto Hashi

Background: Suzuki’s regular partner, Yoshihiro Takayama, was inactive at this time because he had suffered a stroke. So in the interim, Suzuki teamed with Marufuji, who was trying to make the ‘promotion’ from junior heavyweight to full heavyweight. Together, the oddball pairing of Suzuki and Marufuji were facing the team of former world champion and amateur grappling master Jun Akiyama and…Makoto Hashi. At last year’s NOAH Dome show, Hashi was an up-and-coming star hoping to make a name for himself. A year later, he found himself in this match and…it’s pretty obvious who’s intended to take the fall here.

The bell rings and Hashi clotheslines both Marufuji and Suzuki. Marufuji takes over and whips Hashi, Hashi goes for a reverse DDT and Marufuji counters with a dropkick to Hashi’s knee. He follows with a running dropkick to Hashi’s head, which angers Hashi because his head is already taped up from an injury. Hashi goes for a German suplex but Marufuji lands on his feet and dropkicks Hashi. Marufuji charges and lands on the apron but Hashi drops him with a big lariat and goes to the top rope. Diving head-butt by Hashi to the floor. Hashi tosses Marufuji into the ring and gets a two-count, and then tags Akiyama who demands Suzuki tag in and he does.

The two heavyweight grapplers have an amateur exchange that ends in a clean break on the ropes. They lock up again and Suzuki gets Akiyama on the ropes then bitchslaps him. Akiyama gets the upper hand on their next lock up and starts slapping the hell out of Suzuki’s chest. Both guys resist getting Irish whipped, leading to another stalemate. Marufuji tags in and starts chopping Akiyama’s chest, but Akiyama walks towards him completely unfazed. Akiyama tanks a barrage of elbows and then boots a charging Marufuji down before tagging Hashi.

The crowd is surprisingly behind Hashi as he lands a double ax handle to Marufuji’s chest for a two-count. Hashi unloads his own strike barrage on Marufuji in the corner but Marufuji fights back with a stiff kick to Hashi’s jaw. Marufuji drags Hashi to his corner for a tag but Hashi escapes Marufuji’s control and knocks Suzuki off the apron. Suzuki responds by dragging him out of the ring, only for Hashi to head-butt him away. Marufuji takes advantage of this distraction and goes for his always-crazy over-the-rope-sunset-flip-powerbomb-to-the-floor, which lands successfully thanks to Suzuki’s help. Damn, Hashi hits the mats with a pretty loud thud.

With Hashi out of commission temporarily, Marufuji and Suzuki drag Akiyama up the entrance ramp for a double team but Akiyama fights back. He goes for an Exploder suplex on the ramp but Marufuji stops him and Suzuki DDTs him onto it. They leave Akiyama for dead and pose for the fans in the ring as the fans shower them with boos. It looks weird seeing fans booing Marufuji. He’s like Rey Mysterio, such a natural babyface.

Once Marufuji’s back in the ring, the ref starts counting Hashi out (this count-out can only be started if one person is already in the ring, not if both are outside it in NOAH) and he makes it in at the count of eighteen, and then kicks out of a pin. Marufuji tries to pin again and Suzuki tries to help his partner pin, but the ref stops his count as soon as he sees Suzuki’s shenanigans. Suzuki tags in and kicks the hell out of Hashi for a two-count. He applies a camel clutch on Hashi and rips off Hashi’s head bandage as Marufuji winds up and lands a big running dropkick to Hashi’s face. Hashi squirms in pain as Suzuki starts bullying him in ways only Suzuki can. Hashi tries to stand up for himself by slapping Suzuki but Suzuki drops him with a flurry of palm strikes. Hashi tries to fire up again but Suzuki continues to kick the crap out of him. Marufuji tags in and both he and Suzuki drapes Hashi over the second rope and take turns kicking Hashi’s chest for a long time which leads to another two-count. Marufuji applies a cobra clutch and Hashi starts sinking to the mat. He pins but Hashi kicks out somehow.

Hashi tries to fight both opponents one-on-two, but Suzuki lands a hard right hand that stops him dead in his tracks. Suzuki tags back in and the two of them double-foot-choke Hashi. Suzuki mocks Hashi and tries to make him tag Akiyama but Hashi has too much pride and tries to fight back on his own. He tries to go strike-for-strike with Suzuki but fails horribly (because, Suzuki) and ends up at Suzuki’s mercy in Suzuki’s corner. Suzuki tags Marufuji and hangs Hashi upside down in the tree of woe, allowing Marufuji to land a jumping dropkick to Hashi’s face. A frog splash gets Marufuji a two-count and he goes for a suplex but Hashi counters into one of his own. He crawls over to tag Akiyama but Marufuji holds him in place. But Hashi fights back all the same. Hot tag to Akiyama.

Akiyama goes to whip Marufuji but Marufuji counters and sends Akiyama into the ropes which allows Suzuki to kick his back. That does little as Akiyama kicks Suzuki off the apron and sends Marufuji flying over the rope and onto Suzuki. Akiyama goes to suplex Marufuji over the rope into the ring but Marufuji lands on his feet. Akiyama dodges a superkick, Marufuji avoids a back suplex and dropkicks Akiyama’s knee and then his face. Suzuki tags in again. He and Akiyama go at it trading dropkicks and bitchslaps. 26 stiff slaps to the face between them. Akiyama goes for an Exploder but Suzuki elbows out. Another twenty slaps between them. Hashi tags in and starts chopping Suzuki. Suzuki answers with jabs and knees to Hashi’s ribs. He follows that with some really stiff kicks to Hashi’s chest. But Hashi continues to power through and catches Suzuki’s leg. He goes for a fisherman suplex but Suzuki counters into an abdominal stretch until Akiyama saves Hashi.

Suzuki drags Hashi over to his corner but Hashi lands a desperation enzuigiri to escape. Akiyama and Marufuji tag in. Marufuji charges with some big running attacks but Akiyama answers one with a big back body drop. Akiyama follows with a folding powerbomb for two and applies a guillotine choke as Hashi brawls with Suzuki ringside. Suzuki out-fights Hashi and breaks up Akiyama’s hold, only for Hashi to drag him to the apron and hit a reverse DDT that sends Suzuki crashing down hard. Akiyama blocks a super Frankensteiner from Marufuji but then eats a midair dropkick. Marufuji goes for the shiranui (Sliced Bread No. 2) but Akiyama escapes.

Marufuji goes for a lightning-quick victory roll but Akiyama counters into a big running knee. Exploder suplex. Hashi tags in and lands a diving head-butt. Hashi pins but the referee says he never saw the tag. So they try the same move again but Marufuji kicks out. Hashi lands a corner wheel kick and his own version of Akiyama’s Blue Thunder Bomb for a pin but Suzuki break it up. lariat by Hashi to Marufuji. Fisherman Brainbuster by Hashi. One, two, no, Marufuji kicks out. Akiyama continues to hold Suzuki in place against the ropes as the two junior heavyweight fight it out in the ring. Hashi goes for a super back suplex but Marufuji lands on his feet and lands a Pélé kick. Marufuji then connects with the shiranui but both men collapse. Marufuji gets up first and attempts a Spanish Fly from the top rope but Akiyama cuts him off and backdrops him off the top rope. That allows Hashi to land another diving head-butt. One, two, no, Suzuki saves Marufuji. Suzuki puts Akiyama in a sleeper but Hashi saves his partner.

Akiyama fights with Marufuji but Marufuji uses his speed to land a superkick out of nowhere. Then he lands a shiranui using Suzuki as a stepping stone. Hashi gets up and finds himself stuck between Suzuki and Marufuji. Undeterred, Hashi fights both of them. But they soon overpower him and land a big slap/superkick combo. Gotch-style piledriver by Suzuki. Diving dropkick to Hashi’s head by Marufuji. Akiyama breaks up another pin attempt but gets tossed out of the ring again. Suzuki places Hashi on the top rope for Marufuji and then drags Akiyama to the opposite end of the ring and wraps him up in the ropes. That allows Marufuji to land a Shiranui Kai/super shiranui on Hashi for the pin and the win after 25 minutes.

Winners and STILL GHC Tag Team Champions: Minoru Suzuki & Naomichi Marufuji

Analysis: ****1/4 That was a very interesting match. The whole story was that Hashi was this incredible underdog that basically fought Marufuji and Suzuki in a handicap match as Akiyama was largely isolated and rendered relatively useless outside of a few select spots. Hashi did his best to overcome the odds and came very close more than once. But both Marufuji and Suzuki were just too much for him in different ways. Marufuji showed his creativity and artistry by constantly countering Hashi (and to a lesser extent Akiyama) while also avoiding their biggest moves wherever possible. As for Suzuki, he just beat the holy crap out of Hashi whenever they were together. He was perfect as the ‘smug-d**k-that-acts-like-he’s-better-than-you’ and his interactions with Hashi actually made the audience give a damn about him.

Match #7: GHC Heavyweight Championship match: Takeshi Rikio [c] vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Background: Remember earlier when I mentioned how card placement is way more significant in Japan? This is what I was referring to.

At the previous year’s Departure event, the GHC Heavyweight title was in the main event. This year, it’s fourth from the top beneath three non-title singles matches. And that was because NOAH’s world champion at the time was none other than Takeshi Rikio.

Rikio is perhaps the best example of a failed experiment in pro wrestling history. He was the guy that ended Kenta Kobashi’s legendary two-year reign as champion in the upset of the decade. But there was one problem: Rikio was not a great, world-champion-level wrestler. He was average at best in the ring and had middling charisma. He wasn’t just a step down from Kobashi; he wasn’t even on the same planet much less in the same atmosphere as him. Even with a body held together by metal plates and black magic, Kobashi was a phenomenal in-ring wrestler whereas Rikio was not. As a result, the world title failed to draw the house, hence three big dream matches above it.

Going into this match, Rikio was defending his title against New Japan’s Hiroshi Tanahashi. This was before Tanahashi became New Japan’s biggest savior and arguably the best pro wrestler of the 21st century. Here, he was hoping to steal NOAH’s world title from under them and add a second belt to his collection (he was IWGP U-30 Champion as well. That was an experimental title meant to be fought over by wrestlers under the age of 30, but that experiment never really took off).

The bell rings and Tanahashi’s clearly in enemy territory as the crowd boos the hell out of him. They start off with some chain grappling that ends in a stalemate. Tanahashi slaps Rikio’s face and Rikio answers by forcing Tanahashi into a corner. He goes to slap Tanahashi but Tanahashi escapes and slaps him again. This is a bit of a dangerous situation for Tanahashi because Rikio has both a height and weight advantage over him. They lock-up again and Rikio tackles Tanahashi down. Tanahashi jumps up into a crossbody for a one-count and another stalemate ensues.

They lock-up again and Rikio knocks Tanahashi down with a back elbow. Tanahashi wrestles his way out of a headlock and into one of his own but Rikio quickly power out. He sends Tanahashi into a corner and charges but Tanahashi boots him in the face and charges, only to walk into a bearhug. But that doesn’t last long as Tanahashi counters into a cradle for a quick two-count. Rikio knocks Tanahashi out of the ring but Tanahashi dropkicks him into the barricade. In the ring, Tanahashi knocks him down and lands some standing splashes for a two-count.

Rikio breaks free from a dragon suplex attempt so Tanahashi counters into a sleeper hold. Rikio quickly escapes that one and then counters a second sleeper with a backdrop suplex. Tanahashi keeps bouncing back up from Rikio’s attacks so Rikio slaps the taste out of his mouth and applies a dragon sleeper. Finally the crowd wakes up. Tanahashi crawls to the ropes and Rikio clotheslines him in the corner and lands a big top-rope crossbody for a two-count. Rikio follows with a Jackhammer suplex that Tanahashi also kicks out of. Somewhere Goldberg is seething. Tanahashi resists a normal powerbomb so Rikio punishes him with a turnbuckle powerbomb instead. He goes for an avalanche backdrop suplex but Tanahashi fights out and flies through the air with a top-rope crossbody. Tanahashi charges for a dive through the ropes and hits both Rikio and the steel barricade. Wow, that looks painful. But seconds later Tanahashi’s back up and lands a second dive, hitting only Rikio. I guess the first one was a botch and Tanahashi needed to hit another one for good measure.

Tanahashi hits a third rope dive but this time hits the barricade again as if he has a death wish. Back in the ring he dropkicks Rikio and lands triple German suplexes for a two-count. Rikio fights out of another dragon suplex but this time Tanahashi counters into his own dragon sleeper. Tanahashi traps Rikio’s arm so Rikio drags himself to the ropes with his feet. Rikio ducks an enzuigiri and then kicks out of a roll-up. He fights out of a suplex and a cradle and goes for a powerslam but Tanahashi escapes and starts slapping Rikio as hard as he can and lands a slingblade for two. He goes for a second one but Rikio drills him with a running lariat.

Rikio makes his comeback with a flurry of slaps that eventually drop Tanahashi. Folding powerbomb by Rikio. Kick-out. Muso side slam. Tanahashi counters into a cradle for two. Rikio launches Tanahashi into a corner, unloads more slaps, and lands another huge lariat. But Tanahashi still kicks out. Muso waist life side slam. Rikio gets the pin and the win after 17:11.

Winner and STILL GHC Heavyweight Champion: Takeshi Rikio

Analysis: *** For a singles match this was fine. But for a world title match this was an enormous disappointment. There was no story, no heat, no tension, and no real structure. It was just two dudes hitting moves without much in the way of rhyme or reason. Rikio had a taped up arm and I’m surprised Tanahashi didn’t target it. And Rikio’s offense was boring. Tanahashi basically bounced off of him for most of the match in a way that made Rikio look good, but only good and not great. Rikio didn’t do anything to make him stand-out, which only further entrenched him as a guy far beneath the old guard like Kobashi, Misawa and Akiyama.

Match #8: Dream Match: Genichiro Tenryu vs. Yoshinari Ogawa

Background: Tenryu was one of the top stars in All Japan up until early 1990 when he left to form his own company (which didn’t work out for him). Giant Baba was furious and basically blacklisted him from AJPW à la Vince McMahon and Randy Savage. But after Baba died, he came back to AJPW at the behest of Baba’s widow and had some big money feuds that basically saved AJPW from closing for good. Afterwards, he wrestled in big money dream matches, including this one. Here, a very old Tenryu is wrestling one of his protégés, Yoshinari Ogawa. Ogawa is basically Misawa’s weaker sidekick whose gimmick is that he’s clever and underhanded. And somehow that underhandedness won him NOAH’s world title three years earlier. So yes, this skinny toothpick of a wrestler is a former world champion and he’s taking on his mentor whose prime was over a decade earlier.

Tenryu offers his hand but Ogawa declines. They trade clean breaks on the ropes and then Ogawa offers his hand. Tenryu goes to shake it but Ogawa cheap-shots him. Big mistake. Tenryu answers Ogawa’s underhandedness with brutal chops to the chest and a big clothesline. They fake each other out and Ogawa does some cool technical wrestling for control but Tenryu pulls a trick out of Ogawa’s bag and pokes his eye. Ogawa dropkicks Tenryu’s knee and starts working over, which includes doing his own version of Bret Hart’s ringpost Figure-4. Tenryu writhes in pain as Ogawa grabs a step ladder to walk into the ring in pure mockery of Tenryu.

Ogawa continues working Tenryu’s leg until Tenryu lands some hard chops. He whips Ogawa into another corner but Ogawa fires back with kicks and blocks Tenryu’s attacks. Ogawa lands a DDT and applies a double underhook hold. Tenryu gets to the ropes and lands a big enzuigiri to Ogawa’s head and then applies the same hold onto Ogawa. Ogawa reaches the ropes but Tenryu pulls him back and applies it even deeper. This goes on for a while until Ogawa headscissors Tenryu over the rope and out of the ring.

Ogawa grabs a table and attempts to suplex Tenryu into it but Tenryu counters and smashes Ogawa’s head into it. In the ring, Tenryu lands another clothesline for two and then gets two again off a vertical suplex. Ogawa escapes a powerbomb by kicking Tenryu in the face and then smashes Tenryu head-first into the corner. He lands a backdrop suplex and then starts kicking Tenryu’s face in mockery of what Tenryu did earlier. Bridging backdrop by Ogawa. Tenryu kicks out and lariats Ogawa for his own two-count. Another lariat and another kick-out. Snap Brainbuster. Ogawa kicks out again. Tenryu lands a third lariat for the pin and the win after 10:27.

Winner: Genichiro Tenryu

Analysis **1/4 Disappointing as far as ‘dream matches’ go. Tenryu was 55 years old here and was not in a state to have compelling back-and-forth matches. He was basically Hulk Hogan here in that his name was a draw and not his abilities. Ogawa did what he could to get a halfway decent match out of Tenryu but that just didn’t happen. Not only did Tenryu not sell much of Ogawa’s offense or legwork, but he also landed some really weak-looking moves of his own. And Ogawa’s offense looked pretty weak overall. He relied on cheap tricks and shenanigans but Tenryu was having none of that. I guess Ogawa was happy to be in the ring with his mentor from back in the day. It’s just too bad that the result was so underwhelming.

Match #9: Dream Match: Kenta Kobashi vs. Kensuke Sasaki

Oh, HELL YES!

Background: After losing the GHC Heavyweight title to Rikio earlier in the year, Kobashi decided to become an ambassador for NOAH. One of his biggest responsibilities in this role was to have the best matches he possibly can against dream opponents. And one of the wrestlers to answer his challenge was former NJPW world champion Kensuke ‘Power Warrior’ Sasaki. Sasaki, like Kobashi, was a muscular hoss that hit hard and could take a monumental beating and still stay alive. Here they hoped to see who the bigger badass was. Kobashi had reputation, experience and technique on his side; while Sasaki had speed, fewer injuries, and youth on his.

I’ve already reviewed this match in depth before, so I’ll keep things more concise in this review.

Analysis: ***** Holy Sweet Mother of God, what a fun match. I absolutely loved it. It was epic. It was brutal. This was a wrestling match that felt like a gladiatorial fight to the death. Kobashi and Sasaki came into this wanting to answer one burning question: which of them was tougher? To prove to each other, and to the audience, that both of them were eligible candidates for ‘toughest wrestler in Japan’, they both put themselves through incredible pain. The chop battle was in itself another storytelling element, a story within a story, if you will. It was a microcosm for the match itself as they told a story in which neither man would be the first to drop, no matter how much pain they suffered. Even if it meant enduring 181 chops between them in that one sequence.

But it wasn’t just about that legendary chop battle. Kobashi and Sasaki took the concept of never giving up to new heights. No matter how much pain they were in they had to keep going. They fought as though their lives depended on it. They forewent traditional wrestling psychology in the classic sense of going after a limb and instead just threw bombs at each other. That didn’t weaken the quality of the story, especially since most of the big moves they hit on each other were neck-targeting moves. In doing so, both guys were more vulnerable to each other’s final moves, especially since both guys loved using a lariat as a finisher.

There were some parts of the match that featured no-selling, but in this cast they were done properly. Each moment of no-selling was followed by a lengthy rest sequence to allow the fans to digest what they just saw and to sell the punishment the wrestlers had just endured. While no-selling can detract from a match, it added to the match’s drama here and made sense in the larger story they were telling. Both Kobashi and Sasaki wanted to show superhuman toughness, and doing so meant they had to push through the pain and go through quick bursts of energy to try and keep each other down for the count.

These two know how to build drama and make stuff matter. Kobashi provided an excellent example of this when he was trying to avoid Sasaki’s Tiger Suplex. He inched his way to the ropes, desperate to avoid the suplex. You could see it on his face, he was desperate to escape. Those small things are why he and Sasaki were able to make this into a dramatic contest and not just a structure-less spot-fest.

Post-match, Sasaki cuts a promo thanking Kobashi for the epic match. Luckily, the two of them faced off two months later on a smaller NOAH show in another fantastic match. And less than a month after that, Kobashi faced Samoa Joe in that legendary ROH match. Man, Kobashi was a beast in 2005.

Match #10: Dream Match: Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada XXI

And here I thought the last match was big.

Background: This is it. The last-ever singles match between Misawa and Kawada. This is a match that most people thought would NEVER happen for two reasons. First, after Misawa and his crew left AJPW to form NOAH, then-AJPW owner Motoko Baba refused to ever allow AJPW wrestlers to work any show with NOAH wrestlers. And since Misawa and Kawada were contracted to different companies, any sort of cooperation was considered impossible. Secondly, there were personal reasons that hindered these two from working together. What I’m about to disclose is only heresay, as nothing was ever really confirmed by either man. But at some point in the late 1990s, Misawa and Kawada had a monumental fight backstage. They had been at odds for years, with their in-ring rivalry being amplified by real-life tension. It was said that at some point they couldn’t even put their matches together in the same locker room, and guys like Kobashi had to go back-and-forth as a middle man between them to communicate match layout. Anyway, Misawa and Kawada fought backstage, and most rumors at the time indicated that Kawada won. That fight may have been the impetus for Kawada to stay with AJPW instead of joining Misawa in NOAH. But in January 2005, a ground-breaking announcement was made and Kawada shook hands with Misawa on a NOAH show and then announced he wanted one more match. As you can imagine, people bought tickets to see this final confrontation in droves.

The bell rings and the crowd roars in approval. The camera pans to Tenryu who is now doing commentary. This is pretty symbolic considering Kawada is widely considered to be Tenryu’s best student. Some early lock-ups lead to clean breaks and then they start trading strikes. An elbow/chop exchange ends with both guys nose-to-nose, neither one backing down. Misawa with elbows, Kawada with chops. Yakuza kick. Running elbow. Kawada lands a big hook kick. Misawa goes down. Kawada stomps on his head and applies a single leg crab and then switches to a bow and arrow hold. Kawada lands some stiff kicks but Misawa fires back with elbows. Then Kawada answers with a yakuza kick, only for Misawa to respond with a running elbow smash that drops Kawada. Tiger Driver. Kawada kicks out at one. Frog splash. Kawada kicks out at two and Misawa applies a facelock. Kawada reaches the ropes, so Misawa answers with a stiff forearm to the neck. Suddenly Kawada jumps up and he looks PISSED. Misawa responds by hitting more forearms, but that only makes Kawada angrier. Kawada explodes with a barrage of slaps, knees, kicks and stomps which cause Misawa to escape to ringside.

Kawada pulls off the ringside mats to expose the bare concrete and teases a powerbomb. Misawa resists so Kawada stepkicks him, only for Misawa to power through and fire back with elbows. Tiger Driver by Misawa. Kawada lands on the concrete floor back-first. Christ, what a brutal landing.

Misawa pulls Kawada into the ring and pins for a two-count. He follows with a second-rope dropkick that also gets two. Then Misawa goes for a Tiger suplex but Kawada reaches the ropes for safety, so Misawa applies a sleeper with bodyscissors. Kawada rolls to the ropes and Misawa goes to whip him into a corner but Kawada collapses after taking five steps. THAT is how you sell in wrestling. Kawada struggles into the corner to pull himself up, sees Misawa charging, and gets his boot up. Kawada gets a sudden second wind and lands another running yakuza kick. Misawa pops back up and lands an elbow. Kawada answers with a gamengiri. Damn, Kawada damn near kicks Misawa’s face in.

Kawada lands another corner yakuza kick and then unleashes a flurry of knees and kicks to Misawa’s face. Both guys end up on the apron and Misawa goes for a Tiger Driver there but Kawada resists. Misawa lands a hard elbow to break Kawada’s resistance but Kawada holds firm. An elbow smash causes Kawada to fall to the floor and Misawa goes for a diving elbow, but Kawada lands a sudden elbow smash of his own to an airborne Misawa and Misawa goes down. Kawada’s not done punishing Misawa. He drags Misawa up the entranceway and scoop slams him on the entrance ramp. Wait, he’s still not done. He goes for a powerbomb on the ramp. Misawa fights back, so Kawada drops him with another gamengiri. Powerbomb on the entrance ramp. Kawada gets his revenge for what Misawa did to him earlier.

The ref starts counting both guys out when Kawada decides ‘screw the count-out’ and drags Misawa back into the ring. He wants to win, true, but he wants to win decisively and without shenanigans. He lands a kneedrop onto Misawa’s face for a two-count and then drops him with another martial arts kick combination. Lariat by Kawada. Misawa kicks out. Kawada attempts another powerbomb. Misawa elbows out. Both guys start trading stiff elbow strikes. Kawada gets the upper hand and even hits stiff one-two combos that Misawa made famous years earlier. Misawa fires back with more of his own elbows. He goes for a rolling one but Kawada kicks him down. Kawada lands a suplex and applies the stretch plum submission hold. Misawa looks like he’s out of it, so Kawada pins. One, two, no, Misawa kicks out. Misawa holds onto the ropes for one German suplex but can’t escape another one. He lands hard but gets right back up and lands an elbow smash. Kawada ducks a second elbow and lands another German suplex. Misawa bounces back up again and hits another elbow. Misawa goes for his own German suplex. Kawada fights out and lands another gamengiri. Misawa avoids a Brainbuster and lands more elbows. Kawada answers with a high kick and a lariat to the back of the head. Another Gamengiri right to the face. One, two, no, Misawa’s still in this. Brainbuster connects. Misawa kicks out once again. Folding powerbomb. Kick-out. Kawada goes for a running face kick. Misawa ducks, so Kawada punts him in the spine instead. Kawada lifts Misawa up again…and spikes him with the GANSO BOMB! Jesus Christ, Misawa gets spiked on the top of his head. One, two, NO, Misawa still kicks out. The guy seems to be indestructible.

Kawada goes for another powerbomb. Misawa escapes via Frankensteiner. Kawada goes for more kicks but Misawa elbows Kawada’s leg. Running elbow smash. Kawada kicks out. Emerald Flo—no, Kawada escapes. Misawa answers with a rolling elbow smash. Emerald –no, Kawada escapes again. Misawa elbows and goes for it a third time. Emerald Flowsion connects. One, two, thr—no, Kawada kicks out. Misawa goes for a Tiger Driver but Kawada resists, so Misawa lands an ax to his neck. Tiger suplex followed immediately by a Tiger Driver ’91. Misawa pins. One, two, thr—NO, Kawada kicks out.

Both guys get up and Misawa lands more elbows as Kawada remains defiant. Rolling elbow smash. Kawada kicks out at one. Elbow smash/kick exchange. They’re hitting each other so hard you can hear the impact over the crowd noise. Misawa drops Kawada with a running elbow smash but Kawada still kicks out. Misawa picks Kawada up and he looks like he has no idea where he is. Misawa keeps hitting elbows and Kawada looks completely dazed but he still has enough wherewithal to stay on his feet. Misawa hits elbow after elbow after elbow but Kawada stays up out of pure instinct. Kawada hits weak elbows of his own out of sheer defiance. Misawa lands another running elbow smash. One, two, three! Misawa wins after 27:04! The rivalry has come to an end!

Winner: Mitsuharu Misawa

Analysis: **** This was exactly what I expected it would be. Both Misawa and Kawada were WAY past their primes yet they had a great hardnosed fight here. It was mostly brawling and strike exchanges, but that fit perfectly given the rich and deep history these two have with each other. Both Misawa and Kawada took some insane and risky bumps here, particularly Misawa who got powerbombed onto the entrance ramp and then spiked on the mat with a Ganso Bomb. As for Kawada, it takes a lot of guts for a guy to take any sort of fall onto concrete, but he did and he was the man for it. The match had lots of great tension and drama, especially during the strike exchanges that could’ve dropped either man at any moment. And Kawada’s desperate attempt at survival at the end, where he was moving around on auto-pilot, made him look like the babyface here. And to be honest, that’s one of the reasons I think Kawada should’ve won here. Misawa had no reason whatsoever to win. He wasn’t in any big feuds or programs and wasn’t in a position to challenge for any title. Meanwhile, Kawada was still needed by All Japan to help keep that brand alive. And he would’ve been far more successful in that role if he left this show and came back to AJPW – the company both he and Misawa became stars in – with a win over the biggest star in All Japan from the prior decade. That aside, this was terrific, especially for two wrestlers in their forties with over twenty years’ worth of King’s Road wrestling having taken its toll on both their bodies. It may not have the best or most satisfying conclusion, but these two more that earned their billing in the main event of this Dome show.

Five Stars of the show:

  1. Kenta Kobashi – I’m trying my best not to be biased here but goddamn, did Kobashi fight hard here. He made Sasaki wrestle his style of match and it was f**king epic, even with Kobashi’s many physical limitations at the time.
  2. Kensuke Sasaki – He had the best match of his career on this show. He managed to go toe-to-toe with Kobashi for almost twenty-five minutes and more than proved that he could be on Kobashi’s level, which was a difficult task for him to achieve.
  3. KENTA – I think he had his breakout performance against Kanemaru here. I saw exactly why so many people praised him at the time. He fought like hell against Kanemaru, survived an ungodly amount of punishment, and looked like the beater of worlds when his match was over.
  4. Naomichi Marufuji – I think he stole the show in that tag match. I never thought Marufuji could wrestle as a heel with his style. But he did and he made it work. The guy is ridiculously talented. It’s too bad few people give him the credit he’s due.
  5. Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada – it was impossible to choose between them so I went with both. They had the best possible match they possibly could with their physical limitations. And while it was nowhere near the standard they set back in the 1990s, it was great all the same.

 

Best match on the card: Kobashi vs. Sasaki (*****)

Worst match on the card: Dark Agents (Akitoshi Saito, Kishin Kawabata and Masao Inoue) and Shiro Koshinaka vs. Akira Taue, Haruka Eigen, Jun Izumida and Takuma Sano (**)

Show Rating (out of 10): 10

I didn’t think this show would top NOAH’s 2004 Departure show, but it did. This show featured a perfect, 5-star manly hoss fight for the ages, a nearly-perfect cruiserweight war, a surprisingly-good tag title match, a main-event that exceeded my expectations, and an otherwise passable undercard. This is a perfect example of delivering the goods and meeting if not exceeding fan expectations for a major wrestling show.

You don’t need any subscription to watch Destiny as I have the link to the entire show below. And like with Departure, you don’t need subtitles or someone dubbing the commentary in English to understand what’s going on. The beauty of these NOAH shows is that the wrestlers understand that their audience isn’t exclusively Japanese (for the most part). You can watch these matches and understand the story on your own without someone having to explain every detail for you. I just did that here to make it easier for you. But the matches themselves are easily digestible so you can watch them and draw your own conclusion and be just as satisfied as someone that was fluent in Japanese.

Thanks for reading.