NOAH "Differ Cup Night 2" on 5/8/05
review by PdW2kX

Osamu Namaguchi vs. Katsuhiko Nakajima

The match starts out with some basic head games, a bit of standard chain wrestling, and some nicely-placed pimp slaps to get the crowd going. Nakajima dishes out the punishment in the form of several submissions and general stiffness, nearly winning the match a few times. After a big elbow and slap exchange, Namaguchi is busted open from either his lip or his nose in what looks like a very legit example of the worse possible effects from getting the hell stiffed out of you. After a lot of tense and very passionate near-falls, Nakajima hits a big German Suplex, only for the time limit to run out at 15:00 at the very second the referee was about to slap his hand on the mat and clench a victory for Nakajima.

Analysis: As an opener, and as a match in general, this one really surprised me. A stiff-fest through and through, but a rather good one. The end moments, with the clock winding down and the near-falls piling up, were especially climatic and emotional, while the finish ended up being great instead of cheap. As a whole, both men really shocked me with this match in terms of quality as an opener and as a stand-alone match. I'm impressed. ***

Amazing Kong vs. Stalker Ikichawa and DJ Nira

This match is set up after Kong beats Stalker in only 23 seconds, with a lariat, after Stalker gropes the big woman. Kong simply dominates both men for the entire match. Ichikawa actually kicks out of a very high-impact move by Kong, but soon regrets it as he is flattened with a powerbomb. In the end, Kong nails a diving body press onto both men at the same time, squashing the poor bastards and winning at 2:30.

Analysis: This was a squash the likes of which only Goldberg could compare to. Kong completely and utterly annihilated these poor saps. That said, Kong is a freakin' animal, and it was, honestly, a very entertaining time waster. But, as a squash, and a match that went under three minutes, of course it sucked quality-wise. Match-wise, it barely passes over *. But it entertained me and the crowd, and was one of the better squashes I've seen, which I feel is good enough to warrant a whole other point. Just remember- those of you who hate this type of match need to fast-forward. **

Takehiro Murahama and KUDO vs. Hi69 and Iifushi Kota

All four men go through the "testing each other out" motions of dodges, bits of chain wrestling, and a few moves here and there, which can be excused because it helped set a pace and made sense. Kota and KUDO then share some grimace-inducing kicks to each other's backs. In a good moment, Kota hits a picture-freakin-perfect Shooting Star Press off the apron onto KUDO, who was laying down on the outside mats. Rotation, positioning, point of impact- all were spot on, which was very cool. Another good moment is when KUDO rolls out of the way to dodge a moonsault, only for Kota to land on his feet and hit a standing moonsault. After a Phoenix Splash is broken up and a small cluster-**** breaks out, KUDO nails the diving double knee drop for the win at 9:17.

Analysis: Another good match to compliment was is becoming a solid event. KUDO brought it in full force as usual, but I'll keep my praise to a minimum since, over time, I've become such a very, very huge KUDO mark. Hi69 was good, although he admittedly didn't do as much as I thought he would. Kota continues to impress, but he needs some work in a few areas, especially that Phoenix Splash of his. But, overall, it was another good match that honestly made me think about picking up some of their home-fed stuff. ***¼

Tomohiro Ishii, Takaiwa, and Yoshihito Sasaki vs. TAKA Michinoku, PSYCHO, and Sonjay Dutt

Sasaki dominates for a bit, then Dutt is stiffed for a bit, then TAKA and Takaiwa share some knife-edged chops. In a good opening moment, PSYCHO gets caught and backdropped right on his neck, leading to some all-around stiff shots to further wear him down. TAKA comes in and cleans house, but is also soon cut down to size. PSYCHO takes in, but once again finds himself on the losing side of an uphill struggle. Sonjay tags in and nails a good standing SSP for 2, though. Even a "everybody takes out everybody else" spot is thrown in for good measure. Finally, Takaiwa wins with the W Impact on Dutt at 13:56.

Analysis: Amazing Kong was the good type of squash. This felt like the "bad" type of squash. It was still decent, but this shouldn't have been a squash, and that's basically all it was. No "come from behind" thing, just a standard "three big men nearly kill three little men" story, even though the six men did put in some good effort. Decent all-around, but a bit of a hit to a show that, if not being good, has at least been entertaining. This match really wasn't either. **½

Differ Cup Tag Team Tournament - 3rd Place Playoff : Kaz Hayashi & Leonardo Spanky vs. Tiger Emperor & Super Shisa

Some junior-infused grappling and reversals help start a steady pace, and then Kaz gains a pretty dominating lead with some big boots and chops. Kaz and Shisa get into a stiff slap fight, which Kaz wins, but he's soon caught with a dropkick. Spanky tags in to semi-bail out his partner, and nails a great superkick ? Tornado DDT combo. Kaz eventually nails a good springboard DDT as well, and there's a brief yet well-done "everyone hits everyone else with their signature/finishers" spot. Emperor even nails the Tiger Driver! After more offense, everyone begins to slow down, which doesn't really kill the match, but does put a damper on it. Spanky seems to have legitimately injured himself and seems to be in a great amount of pain. As a whole, these last few minutes were really strange, in a "should this really detract from the match" way. In the end, Kaz and Spanky nail the Powerbomb ? Sliced Bread #2 combo for the win at 18:44. Post-match, Spanky is attended to and has trouble walking, pretty much confirming an injury.

Analysis: While it didn't have a "big match" feel, it was a solid semi-important match. Everyone had their high points, but everyone also had some low points. Again, towards the end, everyone showed signs of fatigue, and the match just crawled on, with no one really knowing what else to do. Good enough, but a bit disappointing. ***

Differ Cup Tag Team Tournament - Final: Marufuji and KENTA vs. Ikuto Hidaka and Minoru Fujita

Hidaka gains the early lead with a DDT, and then gets in a "Face Wash" to a big pop. And Marufuji and Fujita fight on the outside a bit, KENTA and Naomichi do a bit of double-teaming on Fujita, but KENTA is soon caught in a powerbomb and then gets dropkicked right on the face. Naomichi breaks a submission to KENTA, and is actually booed for doing so. After a bit, KENTA gains a lead over Fujita and subjects him to the Face Wash before bowing to some nice heel heat. Naomichi and KENTA then continue their slightly-heelish ways since the crowd has apparently turned on them. Fujita quickly nails a Northern Lights Suplex off the top rope, and tags in his partner, who quickly cleans house. Fujita nails a big tombstone Piledriver for 2¾ after he and his partner dominate KENTA and Naomichi. After some very fast-paced, high-impact near-falls, Fujita locks KENTA in the Boneyard! KENTA barely gets a rope break, but a Michinoku Driver-ish move nearly does him in, even though he kicks out at 2¾. Some incredibly stiff double team kicks by KENTA and Marufuji also nearly wins the match, only for KENTA and Naomichi to bust out the Avalanche Busaiku Knee! Marufuji then nails a Shirunai to Hidaka! Although Fujita barely kicks out of a Tiger Suplex, he soon falls to the Busaiku Knee, giving Naomichi Marufuji and KENTA the big win at 35:24 and crowning brand-spanking-new Differ Cup champions.

Analysis: A very, very worthy match to end the tag tournament. I was honestly surprised at how insanely over Hidaka and Fujita were: this was easily "their" crowd, the most pumped-up match of the night, and it was great seeing KENTA and Marufuji play off of some unexpected heel heat and adjust their style accordingly. The fans were really into this one, and so was I. The worst parts only suffered from temporary blandness, and the "highs" ended up completely over-shadowing the "lows". Hard-hitting and high-impact, but with meaning. Not exactly a testament to all four men's skills, but they really gave a lot, and it showed. ***½

Final Thoughts: I was a bit torn on how to end this one. If you can put the thinking cap aside and simply let yourself be entertained, most of the matches succeed. It's wrestling-wise where some of these matches begin to fall apart. A couple times, I was a bit confused, and maybe even a little bit embarrassed: I keep cringing at Kota's Phoenix Splash Knee Drop to the Face, Spanky's legitimate injury made me worried, I hated seeing talented people like TAKA, PSYCHO, and even Dutt get creamed without end. But then there are the high-points, like Amazing Kong's killer squash that delivered high on entertainment, the Differ Cup Final that delivered high on both entertainment and wrestling, and, of course, seeing KUDO doing so well in front of such a large audience and bringing credibility to his home federation. In fact, there's a very uplifting atmosphere most of the time: with the knowledge that they no longer have to expressly focus on making their federation look good, since this was accomplished in Night 1, the various wrestlers could "let loose" and really show their styles.

Although deciding on a concrete final review at first, in the end, the second night of the Differ Cup ultimately entertained and didn't disappoint, earning another thumbs-up for aspiring fans of the current Junior Heavyweight Division in Japan, and ***¼.

The Differ Cup, As a Whole: As a whole, the Differ Cup delivered two nights of solid action and some pretty memorable moments. Although it didn't produce any stand-out matches, every last match could stand on its own as at least halfway decent, while a few were very good and highly entertaining. Since I couldn't really find any large difference in quality, good or bad, from either Night, I advise picking up both Nights, just to get the whole shebang. I wasn't disappointed, and I'm almost sure many people won't be either. There are better Junior tournaments out there, of course, but the Differ Cups are still a solid purchase.

So, just like all good tournaments, Night 1 and Night 2 combined to make a very good, very versatile Differ Cup and an overall rating of ***½.

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