Monday, 10 November 2008

Pro Wrestling NOAH First Navigation 2007 - DVD Review

This edition of The Two Sheds Review sees us making a return to Japan, to take a look at the DVD release of Pro Wrestling NOAH’s first show of 2007, First Navigation, headlined by Mitsuhara Misawa defending the GHC Heavyweight title against Takeshi Morishima, and available to buy online via A-Merchandise. Commentary, in English, for this one is handled by Ken Hiriyama and Wally Yamaguchi.

The show begins with tag-team action, with Kentaro Shiga, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Dakota facing Muhammad Yone, Taiji Ishimori, and Atsushi Aoki. It’s the usual good solid start for a NOAH show, with great technical wrestling mixed in with some high spots, and a comedy moment or two regarding the hair of Shiga and Yone. There’s just something about Yone in particular that makes him so damn watchable, and I’m not just talking about his afro. In fact mention must also be made of American star Dakota. Harley Race’s student looked really good in this one. The end - after plenty of false finishes between Kanemaru and Aoki, Kanemaru got the pin after a spinning suplex. Great stuff, but then again I’ve already said that!

Match two sees Tamon Honda, Junji Izumida and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi take on Akitoshi Saito, Masao Inoue and Kishin Kawabata. Slightly slower paced than the first match, mainly because all of the wrestlers in this one are firmly in the heavyweight division. Good to start off with, with some great hard-hitting stuff, but later on it got a bit messy, and that was thanks to Honda. As the match went on he clearly looked tired, and it was most evident when he was whipped into the corners and in his selling. Whether this was intentional or not I don’t know. Thankfully, when he tagged out things got a lot better again, and Kikuchi and Izumida were able to pick up the slack a little. In the end it was Inoue who got the victory for his team, picking up the pin with a side roll cradle. Mixed bag here.

Singles action followed, with Akira Taue taking on Makoto Hashi. This one began before the bell sounded, and to say that it had a certain intensity about it would not be an understatement. From the way that they were going it made you think that they weren’t exactly fond of each other, and it’s all of this put together that made this match compelling viewing. Hashi tried to take Taue apart, and looked like he was going to get the win with his powerful head butts, but just when he was about to go for his modified fisherman’s suplex for a second time, Taue reversed and scored the pin with that simplest of moves, the small package. It may not have lasted that long, but it was still that good.

Then it’s on to Britain’s Doug Williams and Nigel McGuinness, as they go up against Yoshinari Ogawa and Shuhei Taniguchi. As always, the two Brits put in a good, solid performance, but then again, that’s always what you get with Williams and McGuinness. Ogawa and Taniguchi were great foils for them. The Brits’ team work was great, even though they suffered a breakdown in communications a couple of times, but this didn’t stop them getting the win, with Williams pinning Taniguchi with what we Brits call his chaos theory, but what NOAH calls the roll-through German suplex. It’s still a bloody good move whatever you call it!

More singles action follows, with Takuma Sano and Takashi Sugiura. Technical wrestling is the order of the day for this one, and even though it’s quite slow paced, that’s okay, because you don’t need to go at a thousand miles an hour to put on a good match. It kind of reminds me of an old style British rules match with a few MMA stylings mixed in. There was also a fair amount of drama here, especially as Sano tried to take Sagiura out with multiple double foot stomps from the top rope, one of them while Sagiura was on the arena floor, which resulted in him almost losing by count out. A ton of false finishes follows, with Sano getting the win after he knocked Sugiura out with a series of kicks. You know, I could watch this kind of match all day.

The singles matches continue with Jun Akiyama taking on Go Shiozaki. When I saw that this match was on this DVD I immediately thought that it would be something. These two tore at each other before the opening bell, before Akiyama began to heavily punish Shiozaki’s injured right arm. The attack was so intense that whenever Shiozaki tried to use the arm against Akiyama it had little to no effect - at first, because as the match went on he was able to use his arm more and more, although Akiyama would always counter a Shiozaki move by returning to the injured limb. In the end Akiyama was finally able to counter Shiozaki’s never say die resistance by taking him down with a second exploder suplex. This was an extremely compelling match, with a great storyline that just made you root for the injured underdog.

The first title match of the evening follows, with the Briscoes defending their GHC Junior Heavyweight Tag-Team Championship against Kotaro Suzuki and Ricky Marvin. Lasting nearly thirty minutes, this was a perfect example of tag-team wrestling at it’s finest. Once again Jay and Mark Briscoe show just why they’re considered one of the best tag-teams in the world today, and Suzuki and Marvin showed tremendous team-work and ability as well. This was the sort of match you just couldn’t take your eyes off, it was that good. The end, and I was kind of disappointed when it did, saw Suzuki win the match for his team with the blue destiny move, with an assist from his partner. Hell of a match.

Next, the final six man match, with Takeshi Rikioh, Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA taking on SUWA, Minoru Suzuki and Yoshihiro Takayama. The mixture of heavyweight and light-heavyweight wrestlers made for an interesting match. If such a match had taken place on a certain American company’s show, then the smaller guys would have been treated like jobbers. But here the smaller guys were treated as equals, and that’s why this match worked. We had some great hard-hitting action, high spots, and even a couple of comedy moments as well, but it didn’t have the ending I was expecting. In the final moments, SUWA, apparently in his last NOAH grabbed a big blue plastic box from somewhere and started clobbering everyone, including his own team-mates. This resulted in a five-on-one attack on him, with Suzuki and Takayama eventually leaving him to the mercy of their opponents, and ended with KENTA finishing him off and getting the pin after the go 2 sleep. A very good match, with a very interesting finish.

Main event time, with Mitsuhara Misawa defending the GHC Heavyweight title Takeshi Morishima. A great way to end the show, pitting the youth and superior power of Morishima against the wily veteran that is Misawa. Morishima used his size advantage to simply overpower Misawa, which included a power bomb and a DDT on the arena floor, and it seemed that no matter what Misawa tried, he just couldn’t do anything to keep the younger man down. Eventually, though, the champion’s experience came through, and after a series of heavy blows and an almost botched tiger driver, Misawa took Morishima down with a running elbow smash to get the title retaining pin. This may not have been the best match on the show, but it was still damn good.

The only extra to speak of here is a brief interview with Doug Williams and Nigel McGuinness and a look behind the scenes.

In conclusion - by now you should be able to tell that I really enjoyed this release. Aside from Tamon Honda’s fading performance early on every match here made sense and served it’s purpose, which was what made this release such great viewing. As I said during my last NOAH review, the English commentary of Ken Hiriyama and Wally Yamaguchi is a great help on these releases, and once again, if you’ve never seen a Pro Wrestling NOAH show, or you’ve never seen one with English commentary, then I would suggest getting these DVDs. As the old saying goes, you won’t be disappointed.

With thanks to Mark Sloan for supplying a copy of this release. Pro Wrestling NOAH First Navigation 2007 can be purchased online by visiting www.a-merchandise.co.uk.