Sunday, 2 March 2008

Pro Wrestling NOAH Autumn Navigation 2006 - DVD Review

We’re going to stick with the Pro Wrestling NOAH theme for this review, but this time we’re going right into their backyard, with a look at Autumn Navigation 2006, held on 29th October at the Nippon Budokan. This is the first full NOAH show I’ve seen since Navigation With Breeze was broadcast on The Wrestling Channel back in 2004, and this is also the first NOAH show I’ve seen with English commentary, provided by Ken Hiriyama and Wally Yamaguchi, so at least I’ll know who all the wrestlers are!

The show begins with tag-team action, as the team of Tsutomu Hirayamagi and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi facing Mitsuo Momota and Atsushi Aoki. With both teams being comprised of a veteran and a rookie, this certainly was an interesting contest. While the youngsters impressed with their fast-paced antics, the veterans also did well, especially Kikuchi, who got the win for this team by pinning fellow veteran Momota with a backslide. A good match to open the show with.
More tag-team action follows, with Yoshinobu Kanemaru and SUWA taking on Ricky Marvin and Taiji Ishimori. As good as the opener was, this one was even better. A high speed match throughout saw Marvin and Ishimori deliver some good double-team moves at the beginning, before SUWA and Kanemaru take control with some well delivered punishment, including a variation of the Dudley’s old “whassup” move, with a slight variation, SUWA delivering a top rope elbow to Marvin’s down below bits. SUWA looked great in the bout, pinning Ishimori with his awesome looking FFF finisher. A really enjoyable match, with four good performances here.
Then it’s on to Tamon Honda and Shuhei Taniguchi against former WCW and WWE star Scorpio and Murat Bosporus. While the previous bout had been a good advertisement for the high spot-based match, this one was a good advertisement for the mat-based game. I hadn’t been that impressed the last time I saw Bosporus in action, but his performance in this match was a thousand times better here. Scorpio didn’t look that bad either, still pulling out the high-flying high-impact moves when they’re needed. Together, they made a good team, and doubled up well against Taniguchi. But despite their dominating performance, it was the Japanese team that emerged as victors, with Honda pinning Bosporus after a back suplex. You know, I have a feeling that I’m really going to like this DVD.
Six man action follows, with Masao Inoue, Kishin Kawabata and Ippei Ota facing Ares, Doug Williams and Nigel McGuinness. As always, the two Englishmen looked good, especially their double-team moves, but it was Ares who came up with some great comedy moments, especially the routine with his multiple neck ties, and the moment he ran the ropes on numerous occasions while a stunned Ota sat on the mat, only for Ares to end the move by applying a chin lock. The Japanese team, especially Inoue, also looked great, and after some great storytelling and an array of false finishes, Ares got the pin for the European team with a tiger bomb. That’s four good matches in a row now. Can this hot streak continue???
It’s back to normal tag action next, with Akira Taue and Kentaro Shiga against Akitoshi Saito and Go Shiozaki. A hard-hitting affair, which started off quickly with Saito and Shiozaki showing some great team-work, and Shiozaki unloading with the stiff looking chops, with the chests of both Taue and Shiga turning bright red. The pace slowed down a bit when Taue and Shiga were in control, especially when Shiga was using his super-hard head butts. Shiozaki was clearly the best wrestler in this one, putting in a great performance, but despite this great performance, he ended up on the losing side. After getting several near falls on Shiga, Shiga got the pin with a variation of the abdominal stretch to end another good match. This is getting crazy. I keep waiting for a bad match on this bloody DVD and there hasn’t been one yet!
The next match sees Takeshi Morishima and Muhammad Yone taking on Jun Akiyama and Makato Hashi. This one started before the bell rang, with Akiyama and Hashi attacking their opponents, and Hashi connecting with a diving head butt from the top rope while Yone was lying on the floor ringside, before the pace slowed down a bit as the match returned to normal. Yone and Morishima looked just as good here as they did in my last review, and Hashi and Akiyama weren’t far behind in that respect. The pace picked up again towards the end of the match, with plenty of false finishes as both teams nearly got the win several times, before Yone got the winning pin on Hashi with an awesome looking top rope leg drop to end another great match. So far this is the best one on this DVD.
Then it’s a return to six man action, with Mitsuhara Misawa, Yoshinari Ogawa and Kotaro Suzuki going up against Yoshihiro Takayama, Takuma Sano and Takashi Sugiura. This is possibly the best six man tag match I’ve ever seen. Every man in this match put in a near flawless performance, and even though each man had their own style, these melded extremely well to produce a brilliantly executed match, with great ring psychology and great storytelling. I really can’t speak too highly about this match, and if I spent longer saying how good it was you, the reader, would probably get bored with me, so on to the finish. After over twenty five minutes of action, it was Sano who got the winning pin for his team, taking Suzuki, who had almost got the pin himself several times, with a northern lights bomb.
Main event time, as KENTA challenges Naomichi Marufuji for the GHC Heavyweight title. What you’ve got here is perhaps the perfect main event title match. With two of the best wrestlers in Japan going at it, it had that big match feel to it from the beginning, something I’ve rarely seen in other shows recently, and a promotion showing that two light-heavyweights can carry themselves in the heavyweight division. Everything about this match just made sense in each and every way, as the former tag-team partners put on an excellent contest. Some of the stuff in this match just has to be seen to be believed, and I won’t list the good points of this match, because there were just too many, so once again I’ll get to the ending. After over thirty minutes of back and forth action, Marufuji got the title retaining pin, taking KENTA down with a modified fisherman’s driver. ‘Nuff said.
In conclusion - this is another of those rare occasions where I watch a wrestling show and I’m impressed with every single match. NOAH Autumn Navigation 2006 is a perfect example of this promotion at it’s finest. From the opening match to the main event title match, everything was perfect. I never really took much interest in NOAH when their shows were broadcast on The Wrestling Channel, and now it’s pretty obvious why. The English commentary of Ken Hiriyama and Wally Yamaguchi really added to this DVD, and made it far easier to understand who was who and the history behind some of the wrestlers. Sadly, Mo Chatra’s brief introductions when NOAH was shown on TWC just didn’t do it for me, but now I know that there are NOAH DVDs with English commentary, I’ll definitely make an effort to add a few more to my ever growing collection.
So if you’re a fan of Japanese wrestling, then this DVD will be perfect for you. If you’ve never seen any NOAH action before and want to get a feel for what the promotion is about, then Autumn Navigation 2006 is the perfect place to start.
With thanks to Mark Sloan at A-Merchandise for supplying a copy of this DVD. If you want to order a copy of this release, or any other NOAH DVDs, and to find information on Pro Wrestling NOAH’s upcoming show at the Coventry Skydome here in Britain in June, visit www.a-merchandise.co.uk.