re: Official Puro Match/DVD Discussion Thread (NO SPOILERS)
So, I've been working my way through some of Kobashi's GHC title run. I started with the Misawa match which I reviewd a few pages back. Anyway, heres my thoughts and ratings on the matches I could search out on youtube and dailymotion. I didn't review the Akiyama defence because I didn't really need reminding of how good that was, but these are matches I either hadn't seen before or had seen a long time ago. Match ratings:
I put the reviews in spoiler tags because it would have been a very long post otherwise and I didn't want to make the people who don't care have to scroll down loads lol...
Spoiler for match reviews:
Kenta Kobashi vs Mitsuharu Misawa (1/3/03)
This was one of the first Puro matches I ever watched, and I didn't like it. I thought Puro would never be my cup of tea, fast forward three or so years and my opinion on this match has completely changed. A combination of getting more into Puro over the last couple years and watching tons of 90's AJPW with these guys and seeing their history together, and I finally see the love that this match gets. I used to think this was just a bunch of ridiculous spots for the sake of it, but now I see that this is so much more than that.
This has an insanely HUGE atmosphere around it, and why wouldn't it, it's Misawa/Kobashi. Good chain wrestling at the start with Misawa instantly going after Kobashi's arm. Kobashi tries relentlessly to hit his big moves straight away going for his half nelson and sleeper suplexes as soon as he gets the slightest chance but Misawa won't let it happen. Misawa in retaliation hits a SICK backdrop suplex as if to say 'Fuck you, I can hit them but you can't'. Misawa works over the arm a bit more, until Kobashi chops him. The chop just pisses him off and he knocks Kobashi loopy with an elbow, and then starts going for his more high flying based offense, but he makes a mistake and goes flying into the guardrail in a disgusting spot that legit busts him open near the mouth, Man that looked so brutal.
Misawa is pretty fucked, but to add insult to injury, Kobashi hits a half nelson suplex on the outside. Kobashi works over the neck for a while. He starts hitting Misawa with some insanely hard chops to the neck and shoulder area, fuck taking one of those. He goes all out to try and put Misawa away early because he knows this guy isn't going down easily, so he hits two half nelson suplexes in a row! Then theres an amazing moment where Kobashi chops the shit out of Misawas neck, and Misawa hulks the fuck up and just stares at Kobashi as if to say 'you fucking what bitch?'. Kobashi just responds by hitting a backdrop suplex. Awesome.
Misawa shortly after starts to make a comeback and theres an incredible sequence leading to Misawa hitting a tiger suplex to gain the advantage. The crowd is molten by this point, the camera cuts to the crowd and there is a little girl covering her ears and crying because the crowd is so loud. Cruel but awesome lol.
Theres a short part here I think the match could have done without where Misawa hits a tiger driver, then a stretch plum type submisson, and then another tiger driver. Kobashi kicked out of one of Misawas biggest moves twice (that has been known to end a lot of matches) in the space of 2 minutes, maybe not even that. The crowd didn't react to these spots anywhere near as much as they did to everything else. I don't think anyone bought the match ending there because the lead up to it wasn't big enough but there is no way that was going to take anything away from what came before and what was still to come.
Things pick straight back up after that with a half nelson suplex that Misawa just stands up after, wobbling around in a great fighting spirit spot and he goes for an elbow but Kobashi says fuck you and hits a sick sleeper suplex. I loved how Misawa then keeps going for comebacks but Kobashi constantly puts him back down, and everything is always centred on Misawas neck. Misawa eventually is able to hit a suplex on the ramp and then one of the most ridiculous INSANE spots I've seen when he hits Kobashi with a tiger suplex OFF THE RAMP~! What a crazy spot. Misawa is now in firm control and Kobashi's selling is absolutely amazing. I don't know how fucked he was after that ramp spot, but he was either legit fucked up or this was the greatest selling I've ever seen. His eyes are dazed and he just stumbles around, even after he fights his way out of the tiger driver and he manages to hit a huge lariat were he just falls on top of Misawa for the cover. It's not enough and he hits an awesome brainbuster and Misawa still won't go down. Kobashi is still falling all over the place as he helps himself up with the ropes, but Misawas neck is now completely done for after taking everything to it, literally every single bit off offense Kobashi threw at him was directed at the neck. Kobashi knows it's over now and hits the BURNING HAMMER for the win.
Absolutely incredible match. Yeah theres a lot of big spots and moves, but within the context of the match as well as their history, they all made complete sense. Boy am I soooo glad I decided to give this match another chance. Amazing. *****
Kenta Kobashi vs Yuji Nagata (12/9/03)
First time watching this match, and it's obvious from the start this is a big time match. From what I understand Nagata had just finished his long ass IWGP title reign and had come to NOAH for a taste of more gold. The crowd is all over Nagata as the outsider and they boo the hell out of him and the way he plays up to it is amazing with this cocky smile across his face. Theres an amazing moment right at the start when they lock up against the ropes and Nagata refuses the clean break and chops Kobashi. He backs off and has this total bad ass look on his face like 'yeah bitch, I aint here to play around'. Kobashi just looks down at the floor and then slowly looks up at Nagata with the most amazing intensity and badassness as if to say 'OK son, shits about to get real'. The way the crowd pops for such a small facial expression is amazing and it just shows how awesome Kobashi is at getting the crowd invovled through his mannerisms. The man is a god.
They square off again and Nagata throws a big boot that seriously pisses Kobashi off this time, as he just charges Nagata into the corner by the throat and just lays the fuck into him with all kinds of chops. Nagata hits one of the sickest boots I've ever seen, only for Kobashi to respond with a huge chop and they just square up to eachother in brutal fashion! This is intense!
They basically decide to calm things down a bit and go to some wrestling holds, because lets face it, they don't want any of the other guy when they are pissed. This lasts maybe 2 minutes at the most as they just start hitting eachother really fucking hard and bring tons of hate. Nagata manages to block a chop with a kick and this sets up the arm work nicely that follows. Sadly it doesn't last long though but Kobashi as always follows up on the neck that he chopped that the shit out of earlier. Theres a sequence with fighting spirit to the maximum as they both no sell some suplexes, but Kobashi eventually put Nagata down with 3 sick half nelson suplexes in a row, and yu gradually saw him get weaker with each one. This made the earlier 'no selling' things a bit more acceptable as it put it over as fighting spirit and not just plain old no selling.
At one point Nagata hits like 6 enzuguris in a row that gradually take Kobashi down one by one, but it's still not enough to put him away. Nagata didn't work over the arm enough to prevent Kobashi's lariats though, and that eventually led to his downfall. The finishing run was awesome and wasn't too overkill. I wish the arm work had been done better and played more of a role, but these guys just wanted to beat the hell out of eachother and thats what they did. I've seen some blood feuds that didn't have as much intensity as the start of this match. Great stuff. ****1/4
Kenta Kobashi vs Yoshihiro Takayama (25/04/04)
Takayama is all about the mind games at the start, chilling in the corner even once the bell rings and leading Kobashi to think they are going to lock up but hitting the ropes instead. He knows he might be one of the only guys who can out strike Kobashi, and he's cocky as fuck about it. They eventualy do lock up and it turns into an all out slugfest! These guys hit harder than almost anyone and it is stiff as hell. Kobashi formulates a game plan though and takes it to the mat and wears down Takayama with headlocks and more mat based stuff and it allows him to start hitting his chops and strikes without Takayama retaliating. Kobashi makes a mistake though and allows Takayama to lock in a guillotine choke to stop Kobashi in his tracks and wear him down. This opened the door for big Tak to take control and kick the shit out of Kobashi. Theres an awesome bit were Kobashi takes a sick knee while he's in the tree of woe and he falls to the outside, Takayama just decides to chill out in the corner and let Kobashi back in the ring. What a boss. Kobashi tries to fight back but his chop is blocked by a HUGE knee to the arm and it sets up the armwork amazingly and Kobashi's selling is just so damn good. Takayama works over the arm now and theres a sick spot on the outside with a German suplex off the apron to Kobashi as Kobashi was trying to crawl back in the ring, Tak just grabbed him and delivered it. Almost like he was obsessed with keeping Kobashi on the putside to deliver more punishment and would do anything to stop him from getting in the ring.
When they do get back in the ring Takayama just continues to hit Kobashi as hard as he can while still going after the arm. Kobashi tries to make comebacks, even using his other arm and his head to strike like a pro, but he constantly gets cut down and kicked/punched/kneed whatever the hell Takayama feels like doing, even using Kobashi's own half nelson suplex against him. The finishing stretch is what really cements this match as a classic for me. Takayama KICKS THE LIVING FUCK out of Kobashi! Holy shit that was insanely stiff, screw taking any of those shots. Kobashi fights through the pain and delivers some sick looking hakf nelsons and an even sicker looking brainbuster because Tak is so damn big it looks really dangerous. Kobashi hits a huge lariat and Takayama is basically DEAD by this point. Kobashi has to life him up off the floor and it really looks like dead weight. It ends with fittingly, the absolute SICKEST moonsault EVER with Kobashi's knees landing on Tak's face!
Amazing match and an absolute war. The crowd as with most of Kobashi's title defenses was amazing and only made the match better. One of my favourite NOAH matches ever and up there with the best of them. ****3/4
Kenta Kobashi vs Akira Taue (09/10/04)
Holy shit, Taue takes it to Kobashi straight away and it instantly makes this feel like a big deal. Taue dominates for a while, even hitting a great looking kick to the head that Kobashi sells amazingly (again). At this point Kobashi's selling is second only to Kawada for me, and even then it's a close call. Kobashi hits an AWESOME slingshot body press over the top rope to the outside. That was seriously impressive for someone like Kobashi to do that. These guys are bringing it, it's like they are telling the young guys that they can still fuck shit up as good as anyone else on the roster. They slow things down as expected and Taue eventually goes after Kobashi's leg but sadly it doesn't last that long as they then start going for bigger moves. Taue is still in control and he hits several german suplexes, his finisher on the ramp and then off the apron! Another awesome apron spot from NOAH. NOAH's slow motion replays were also awesome.
Kobashi's selling is once again incredible as he sells the apron spot for ages as he takes even more of Taues big moves including an awesome sit out powerbomb. Kobashi keeps trying comebacks but Taue is just daminating this match completely. Taue hits a fucking hurricanrana and the crowd goes crazy for that and so did I, no way anyone expected him to pull off something like that. He follows it up with a diving body press! The crowd is now pretty much 100% behind Taue, but it's too late as Kobashi finds a way back in to the match and destroys Taue with chops to the neck, a half nelson suplex and finally a WRIST CLUTCH BURNING HAMMER~! Sick finish to a great and very surprising match. Taues performance was amazing, but Kobashi's selling really deserves praise too. ****1/4
Kenta Kobashi vs Akitoshi Saito (24/10/04)
Saito's entrance is awesome and he comes off as a total badass. Really quick great start to the match and Saito sends a message straight away that he isn't to be messed with or taken lightly with a backdrop driver. Kobashi of course sells it on the outside for long enough to make it seem like Saito really has his number. Saito is in the ring just shouting at Kobashi to get up. Saito gets the upper hand once Kobashi has recovered and beats him in nasty headbutt exchange and destroys him with Knees in the corner. Saito decides to try and go after the leg of Kobashi, but at one point just strikes him instead and this just pisses Kobashi off big style. He goes on a rampage and dominates the match for a bit, until Saito gets a hope spot in by giving Kobashi the most disgusting Brainbuster ever performed by a human being on the ring apron. The lower back of Kobashi just bends over the ring apron, I actually threw my hands over my head and shouted 'fucking hell!', it was so sick. There is no way Kobashi isn't in major pain from that spot. I thought Saito might go after the back but he goes after the arm instead once they are both up and he's awesome going after the arm. The finishing stretch is pretty amazing, especially the sequence were Saito gets right up from a half nelson suplex and the takes another one. The actual finish was so fucking good, as Saito punches Kobashi in the face, Kobashi is just infuriated by this and proceeds to just knock Saito the fuck out with two massive right hands to the face followed by one of the most intense angry 'Mothafucker' faces ever and then a brainbuster.
Great stiff bomb fest of a match, and fairly short in comparison with most other Kobashi defenses. I wish the arm work had gone further, but I'm not complaining because the finishing stetch was just way to awesome. DON'T MAKE KOBASHI ANGRY! ****1/4
Kenta Kobashi vs Minoru Suzuki (08/01/05)
First of all, let me say I mark the fuck out for MiSu, and Kobashi is probably my favourite wrestler ever, but for some reason I had never seen this before. Oh god, the start of this is so fucking good with Suzuki just playing with Kobashi and using his size and speed to his advanatge. The way he avoids Kobashi's chops and hits a slap to the face every time and taunts him is awesome to watch and exactly why I love the guy. He comes off as such a complete dick that it's awesome to see a character like him in puro, but also impossible not to route for him, especially since he's usually the smaller guy in a match. I love how when Kobashi finally thinks he's got him where he wants him in the test of strength, MiSu again just basically toys with him by using his quickness and fucking awesome counter wrestling to escape and lock in an armbar. Awesome sequence and an even more awesome Kobashi moment after as he gets to the ropes, MiSu is loving it, and Kobashi gives him one of his great looks, this time a kind of 'OK, you're good, I seem to have underestimated you' look.
When Kobashi finally catches Suzuki in a headlock, the crowd reaction is huge and I don't think a headlock has ever been more awesome as the crowd and I both know this is where Kobashi can really fuck Suzuki over lol. I love how he keeps the headlock on no matter what because he can't afford to let him go as he'll just use his quickness and submission skills to get the advantage if he gets out. Kobashi finally makes the mistake of thinking Suzuki is worn doen enough to let go and try for a bigger move, but MiSu escapes to the apron, and in an absolutely awesome as fuck spot, he dodges a chop from Kobashi on the apron and just laughs in his face, only for Kobashi to chop him in the face! So awesome, MiSu is incredible at character work in a match. Kobashi gets the headlock locked in on the outside, and with the most determination ever, brings Suzuki in the ring while still with the headlock applied. MiSu finally gets to the ropes, but Kobashi finally gets MiSu were he wants him and chops the shit out of him, and then chops him REALLY hard in the face! MiSu collapses in the corner with an awesome 'what the fuck have I done' expression.
Kobashi sets him up in the corner for a chop, but he catches Kobashi's arm and again pulls an epic 'you're fucked now' face, because he knows this is how he can beat Kobashi, by working over a limb and using his superior submission wrestling. MiSu is awesome at going after a limb and this is a great example of that. He kept avoiding Kobashi's chops and going straight for the arm. There was an awesome hope spot for Kobashi as he Suzuki goes for a over the shoulder armbreaker, but Kobashi catches him in a sleeper suplex and he rolls to the outside. Kobashi is amazing at selling the arm, so it allows Suzuki to recover by the time Kobashi goes outside to get him, and he manages to put Kobashi in a sleeper hold on the outside. I loved how Kobashi was so desperate to escape that he just crawled off the ramp, but the damage was done anyway. MiSu is again back in control and he's great again. There was a random suplex exchange that really didn't need to be there at this point, because it didn't lead to much other than a hope spot for Kobashi to get the advantage back, but they could have done something better for that. After that exchange though MiSu is back in control but Kobashi hits a desperation lariat as MiSu is getting way to cocky for his own good.
The finish was fucking awesome here, as it was very quick and one sided, but it worked really well. MiSu took too much time getting cocky and that was his ultimate downfall as it allowed Kobashi to just fuck him up like he had been waiting to the whole match. Kobashi hits another lariat only for MiSu to fire up and hit some strikes, but Kobashi just thinks 'fuck this' and he hits about 4 backdrops in a row, after the third, MiSu is pretty much dead and not moving, but he gets hit with a final one for good measure. Kobashi picks his seemingly lifeless body back up, but with the last tiny amout of energy left in him, MiSu hits the most pitifull slaps ever and then just collapses with only Kobashi holding him up, and then Kobashi nails a HUGE short arm lariat for the win. Fucking great match, it was so simple, but sometimes thats the best type of match.
I absolutely loved pretty much everything about it apart from the suplex exchange that didn't really serve a purpose. From MiSu's character and limb work to Kobashi's selling and the simplicity of the finish. The way it put across the whole idea that if Suzuki makes one mistake and doesn't stick to his game plan , he's pretty much fucked was so awesome. ****1/2
The only other matches I really wanted to see was the Honda match which I hear is amazing and the Bison Smith and Sato matches. I couldn't get my hands on them sadly. Even without seeing them though there is no denying the quality of this title reign. Astonishing set of matches and Kobashi is the fucking man!
Location: In an alley in Burbank trying to re-enter the earth's atmosphere in an old refrigerator box.
re: Official Puro Match/DVD Discussion Thread (NO SPOILERS)
The Honda match is probably only second best to the Takayama defence for me. Honda is a genuine underdog which really helps with the layout of the match because he's just such a natural guy to root for and it was great to see a sort of 'breakout match' for Honda compared to the Akiyama, Nagata, Takayama and Taue defences where both guys were more evenly matched. Honda busts out some of the best pro wrestling matwork you'll see and its not nearly as overkill territory with some of the finishers which is even better.
That Taue match is insane though, one of Taue's last legit awesome performances and matches.
re: Official Puro Match/DVD Discussion Thread (NO SPOILERS)
I've never understood why the Taue defense isn't more highly-regarded than it is. I'd never heard a word about it until I got IVP's "Top 25 Matches in NOAH" DVD set, and was damn near blown away. Part of that is probably because I didn't have the highest of expectations; as big a Holy Demon Army mark as I am, I never expect much out of Taue in singles matches for some reason. But that's a match that more than holds up on its own merits, and stands perfectly strongly alongside his 2006 match with Marufuji, and I'd say a little bit above the much-loved 2003 match with Nagata, on the list of "Taue in NOAH" gems.