NOAH "DESTINY" on 7/18/05
review by PdW2kX

Takashi Sugiura, SUWA, and Aoyagi vs. Tsuyoshi Kikuchi, Mitsuo Momota, and Katsuhiko Nakajima

Nakajima nails some incredibly stiff kicks to SUWA's head to start off the match. SUWA also nails what is almost a very sloppy spinebuster. Nakajima drills Sugiura with some very stiff kicks that get a 2 count. And a SUWA match wouldn't be complete without the crotch elbow, so of course he nails it. After a brief cluster-****, SUWA wins with the FFF (Lifting Double Underhook Facebuster) for the win at 9:32.

Analysis: This was definitely your standard opener. It was readily apparent that this was a time-killer first and foremost even if everyone involved put on a halfway decent showing. It was decent, about as decent as you can get, but it also was damn generic. **

Mohammed Yone and Takeshi Morishima vs. Tamon Honda and Go Shiozaki

A cluster-**** starts the match out. Go hits a nice dive to the outside onto Morishima, but a slightly blown dropkick-to-lariat counter has me a bit worried. Another sorta-kinda blow spot (an STO) leads to a pseudo-STO for 2. Later on, in an absurd moment, Morishima virtually deadweights a German Suplex, but gets German suplexed by Tamon Honda anyway! Although it wasn't on the level of Vader/Inoki, it was a type like that and very awesome to see. Go tags in and hits a nice dropkick, and then actually tries to German Suplex Morishima. He actually gets about halfway, which is still pretty cool. But one superkick later, Go nails a fantastic German Suplex! But he misses a moonsault, bringing in Yone. Go does eventually hit a big, big moonsault, but the pin is broken up by Morishima, who then gives a neck-breaking backdrop to Honda. After some more nasty (as in good) moves, Yone nails the Muscle Buster at 8:26 for the win.

Analysis: This should've been the first match. Everyone played their parts and knew their roles well: Honda the veteran used his brains against his two big opponents but still proved he had some strength left in him, while Go proved he could go toe-to-toe with some of the biggest people NOAH has to offer and still dish out the punishment as good as anybody else. On the flip side, Morishima played the hoss role nearly to perfection while Yone once again proved that an afro and freaky pants are o.k. to wear/have as long as everyone knows you can kick their ass. Although the beginning was slow, even a tad boring, mid-match found a flow that fit everyone's unique talents, and it shows. This really, really should've been the opener. ***

Akitoshi Saito, Koshinaka, Masao Inoue & Kawabata vs. Taue, Sano, Jun Izumida & Haruka Eigen

Damn…four against four. This got a little confusing when I first watched it. The main story for most of the beginning match is Kawabata being broken down and everyone else tagging in and out to stay fresh and keep piling on the pain. After that, the second "story", if you will, is that of everyone tagging in and out relatively quick to keep everyone fresh and try to gain as much as an advantage as you can when your strategy has to be divided up between four men. Then, of course, the inevitable cluster-**** breaks out. In the end, Kawabata nails an Axe Bomber into Izumida's back, which sends him into Inoue, who rolls into a cradle for the win at 11:56.

Analysis: The finish to this match was a bit anti-climatic. Aside from that, there really is nothing to say. It truly felt nothing more than cramming eight guys into a ring so they can get their share of the spotlight. Basic, generic, mostly decent. Hopefully I won't have to use the word "decent" much more, since, even though I use it to describe many a match, I don't want to associate a show like this with the word "decent". But decent is all I'm getting so far. **

Mushiking Terry Debut Match: Mushiking Terry vs. Black Mask

Aside from the campy intro and both wrestlers looking like Power Rangers, I was actually looking forward to this match. Terry nails a great headscissors in the early minutes, and then a diving splash to the outside. After more good junior moves/reversals, Black Masks hits a nice legdrop to the back of Terry's head, but one that only gets 2. Black Mask also nails a nice springboard flipping senton for 2. Black Masks hooks in a few submissions to break down Terry, but Terry nails a quick headscissors, then rolling kicks, and finishes it off with a very nice standing hurricanrana, but Black Mask kicks out at 2½, leading into another nice, but quick, reversal-into-reversal spot. Black Mask nails a sick neckbreaker-like move from the top rope, and then a top rope lariat for 2¾. Even a nice Michinoku Driver doesn't put Terry away, as he rolls up Black Mask for a quick 2. Terry nails a Tiger Feint Kick, then a roll up, but he rolls into a mix between a Dragon and Tiger suplex- one arm is hooked above the head, one hooked behind the back. A nice move and one I shall dub the Terry-Plex. It gets the win at 7:59.

Analysis: The kids in the crowd certainly ate this up. Perhaps that was Destiny's appeal: it had something for everyone, even little kids. Honestly, I thought it was a fun match between two obviously green competitors. They didn't have stage fright at all, though- both men pretty much ate up all the attention they were given and did their best to pull together a good match. But it's apparent both need to hone their skills- everything was crisp, but nothing had too much emotion. Everything made sense, but nothing really flowed. For two debuting wrestlers, I can see great things for Terry and whoever played Black Mask, since both seem to have the raw talent, they just need it to be refined. In a way, it reminded me of Liger vs. Hayabusa, except both men were green in this match. I still did like it, though. ***

GHC Junior. Heavyweight Title Match: KENTA vs. Yoshinobu Kanemaru (c)

This match had a lot of energy going into it even before the bell rings, and once it rang, some stiff-as-all-**** shots start it out. Both men really tear into each other. KENTA dodges a body splash and takes a commanding lead. Aside from a few flashy moves here and there, KENTA focuses on Yoshinobu's arm, but Kanemaru nails that top-rope flying DDT, and then an even better one off the apron. Both men continue to dish out some punishment, and KENTA nails a slingshot dropkick to the back of Yoshinobu's head for 2¼. More kicks by KENTA follows, but his top rope hurricanrana is countered into a powerbomb that gets 2½, and then a Frog Splash by Kanemaru gets 2. Yoshinobu climbs the second rope and then launches off, grabbing KENTA and drilling him with a very sick spike DDT for only 2½. Kanemaru misses a moonsault and KENTA nails a desperation Fisherman Buster out of freakin' nowhere, then a German suplex that gets 2¼, which leads into a Tiger Suplex that gets 2½. In an excellent moment, Yoshinobu nails the brainbuster, but KENTA gets back up and hits the Busaiku Knee, causing both men to flop down in an excellent showing of delayed selling. Kanemaru then nails another brainbuster, but KENTA kicks out at 2¾. Kanemaru then hits a moonsault, but again KENTA will not quit. Kanemaru then hits ANOTHER brainbuster, but once again KENTA kicks out. In another brutal moment, KENTA turns a top-rope brainbuster attempt into a Fisherman Buster! Damn! Yoshinobu barely kicks out of it. KENTA hits a few powerbombs, but once Kanemaru kicks out again, KENTA nails the Busaiku Knee with such force that Kanemaru flips and flops like a fish out of water. But, again, Kanemaru kicks out! KENTA nails another jaw-smashing kick, but again Yoshinobu will not quit. KENTA nails the Busaiku Knee once again and finally wins it at 20:31 to become to 10th GHC Junior Heavyweight Champion!

Analysis: Pretty damn good. KENTA stuck to his guns: fast hits, stiff kicks, agility, and stamina. Kanemaru also did what he knew best: absorb punishment, work a slightly slow style to wear down the opponent, and use big power moves when the advantage is gained. Both men also beat the crap out of each other, and some of the spots involved were very, very sick. The ending was built up expertly, as well, with neither man going down until the truly climatic finish, which culminated in one hell of a victory. It's no exaggeration when I look back on Kanemaru's run fondly and salivate at the notion of a KENTA G.H.C. Junior Heavyweight Title run. Both men deserved all the praise they will soon get for this match. ***½

GHC Tag Team Title Match: Minoru Suzuki & Naomichi Marufuji (c) vs. Jun Akiyama & Makoto Hashi

Hashi nails a diving headbutt to the outside onto Marufuji in a great opening spot. Jun and Suzuki wrestle around a bit and seem a bit stand-offish. In another nasty moment, after some resistance, Hashi gets powerbombed off the apron into the mats. Ouch. Akiyama then begins beating some ass on the ramp, but is Spike DDT'ed after attempting an Exploder. The champs then run roughshod over a hurt, defenseless, no-partner Makoto Hashi. Akiyama dazedly gets back up as Hashi gets rammed with a brutal camel clutch -> dropkick combo. Suzuki withstands some slaps and response with some quick slaps of his own. Hashi keeps getting his ass kicked, quite brutally too. Hashi hits some weary offense and tags in Akiyama, who immediately sends Marufuji over the ropes and into Suzuki on the outside in a nice moment. And, of course, Jun and Minoru eventually stiff the flippin' hell out of each other with slaps. Akiyama also gets some insane elevation on a backdrop to Marufuji, and a pinning powerbomb gets 2½. This leads to a bit of a cluster-**** which sees Hashi nailing an Inverted DDT off the apron, sending Suzuki back-first into the apron, and Akiyama nailing the Exploder! After a brief tag screw up (Akiyama tagged in Hashi when Hashi was in the wrong corner, thus nullifying the tag), Hashi nails a top-rope headbutt for 2½, then a rolling kick and a Blue Thunder Bomb, which Suzuki breaks up. Hashi nails a vicious lariat and then what looks to be a Wrist-Clutch Ki Krusher for only 2½. But then Marufuji nails the Shirunai! Akiyama and Hashi do a double team top rope backdrop -> headbutt combo after Marufuji went for the Avalanche Inverted Shirunai. Once Suzuki breaks up the pin, a big cluster-**** breaks out, including an insane moment that sees Marufuji run up Suzuki's chest and then his shoulder to nail a Shirunai on Akiyama! Hashi is then once again handed a large chunk of his ass with various brutal double team moves, but now Akiyama makes the save. Hashi is busted open as Marufuji nails an Avalanche Shirunai, which gets the win at 24:55 to end the Tag Team Champ's first defense in a big way.

Analysis: This thing had psychology up the ass. And not just basic psychology, but smart psychology: things made sense to a profound level, and there was nary a single flaw. For those who are into this sort of thing, many will call it a Match of the Year Contender. But for some reason, I couldn't get into it. I honestly felt it lacking in emotion. There is only so many ways Makoto Hashi can express how hurt he is from getting beaten up. Even if it was technically sound, at times I had it pegged as a squash simply because Hashi kept getting pulverized. This match covered all the bases to what makes a good wrestling match, of course, but its entertainment value was only so-so. Belittle this all you want, but when I watch wrestling, my definition of a great match is one that weaves a tapestry of emotion and moves to create a match that assaults your senses and plucks at your heart strings. This match certainly did not insult my intelligence: it was actually very smart. But it felt so…emotionless. I just can't get over the fact that, aside from Hashi, no one really showed any emotion in this match. But, to end on a positive note, it was indeed one hell of a match wrestling-wise. ***½

GHC Heavyweight Title: Takeshi Rikio (c) vs. Hiroshi Tanahashi

Some basic wrestling starts this out, as the fans seem eager to get into it. Tanahashi looks very athletic and powerful here, but Rikio actually looks like he's been having a rough couple of nights. Tanahashi gets in a few slaps to mess with Rikio's head, which leads to some stand-off stuff and power moves/submissions. Tanahashi hits some crisp stuff for a 2¼. More decent, but bordering on a bit too much, power moves/submissions follow. Rikio nails a superb top-rope crossbody for 2, then a Jackhammer for 2, then a nice powerbomb into the corner. Tanahashi responds with a cool moonsault/crossbody thing. When Rikio rolls outside the ring, Tanahashi tries a diving splash through the second ropes without using his hands. Guess what happens. Tanahashi over-shoots Rikio and collides almost crotch-first into him before smashing his head into the announcing table and his legs onto the guard rail in a completely brutal and totally unplanned spot. Tanahashi gets up, does the same damn thing, but except this time uses the ropes. Subsequently, some better results are achieved, as Tanahashi crashes into Rikio. Thinking that the first one was a fluke, Tanahashi tries a dive to the outside AGAIN, this time AGAIN without using the ropes, and AGAIN he overshoots Rikio, this time falling almost side-first into the announcing table. Ouch. This is getting painful to watch. Tanahashi then nails a horribly sloppy German suplex, into an o.k. German Suplex, into a decent German suplex for 2½. The match rebounds slightly with a nice slap-fest that Rikio wins. A powerbomb gets 2½, but Hashi rolls through on a Muso attempt and gets a small package for 2½. After a multitude of chops, Rikio hits a lariat for 2¾. Rikio finishes off his 2nd defense and Tanahashi at 17:11 with the Muso.

Analysis: This was a painful match to watch. I'm bordering on hate for this match, honestly. Both men had no excuse for this sin against nature. The two botches grounded this match to a screeching halt, as did the unneeded stalling, rest holds that killed any momentum, and overall the piss-poor performance by Rikio and Tanahashi. I may be a bit overly harsh, but the fact of the matter is that I like both of these men very much, and this ended up being akin to Brock Lesnar vs. Goldberg. Think of that the next time you wonder why people say Rikio is a bad champion after watching something like Kobashi/Rikio and then viewing this piece of crap. This was a black spot on an otherwise solid card, so it's no wonder nobody talks about it when mentioning Destiny. *½

Genichiro Tenryu vs. Yoshinari Ogawa

In an effort to further piss me off, I can only imagine how much Ogawa had to beg to have his match booked after a match for NOAH's most prestigious title. I will give Ogawa credit when he earns it, and there are a few matches where I actually like the guy, but most of the time I can't stand him. I would be lying if I said I had high expectations for this match. Some stiff slaps start it out, and Ogawa tries to do a Marufuji-like armbar counter, but it comes out with him pretty much spinning on his ass. Ogawa works over Tenryu's knees and legs and then both men get in some back-and-forth stuff, including more submissions. A table is brought into the mix, but aside from Tenryu knocking it away, it is never used. A lariat by Tenryu gets 2, as does a suplex. Ogawa hits a nice backdrop, then a holding backdrop for 2½. Two lariats by Tenryu both get 2. A sick brainbuster leads into another lariat that gets the win at 10:27.

Analysis: My hopes never rose. 8th on a 10 match card, and it barely raised above passable. Not only that, it was pitifully short and the finish seemed only a few levels above stupid. If this was a feud killer, at least that happened- I doubt anyone wants to see Tenryu vs. Ogawa again after watching this match, which was completely bland and devoid of almost any entertainment. *¾

Kenta Kobashi vs. Kensuke Sasaki

Although clichéd, it must be said: hearing Kobashi come in to "Grand Sword" is an awesome site to see. The match starts with a great backdrop by Kensuke, and, after some stiff chops, Kobashi returns the favor with a backdrop of his own. Kobashi is the first to gain any sort of lead, using the chops only he can do. Kobashi nails two diving chops off the apron, then an awesome diving splash to Kensuke on the outside. Later on, Kensuke has a bit of trouble setting up himself and Kobashi on the top rope, but this is forgiven since he hits an insane hurricanrana, an equally impressive diving lariat, and then caps it off with a top rope diving splash to Kobashi on the outside. 'Twas very nice. Sasaki continues to hammer away, but Kobashi refuses to stay down longer than for a few seconds. They both then go into a chop-for-chop exchange that goes on for an absurd amount of time. Both men's chests are visibly purple and even have small gashes on them by the time it's over. Both men even nail machine gun chops, and Kobashi finally wins the exchange after an ungodly amount of chops. One of the craziest damn things I've ever freakin' seen from these two. Kobashi then nails two Half Nelson Suplexes following a nice Superplex, all of which were a site to behold. But Kensuke fights back, even nailing the Northern Lights Driver onto the outside mats! Kobashi manages to crawl inside the ring right as the referee calls 19. But Kensuke nails a Tiger Suplex! It only gets 2½. A lariat gets 2¾, but Kobashi responds with the Burning Lariat! In an amazing moment, Kobashi nails a brainbuster, but Kensuke gets right back up and hits the Northern Lights Driver, only for Kobashi to get right back up, and both men simultaneously lariat each other. Kobashi then nails a brutal Sleeper Suplex! But even a Burning Lariat and a picture-perfect Moonsault will not result in Kensuke's defeat. After five, count 'em, FIVE spinning neck chops, Kenta Kobashi defeats Kensuke Sasaki at 23:38 with the Burning Lariat! Post-match, both men shake, hug, and raise each other's hands.

Analysis: The definition of stiff should be this match. The storyline and psychology was simple yet somehow unexplainably unique: two of the biggest, and some would say best, men in the business doing everything they can to prove which man is stronger. But it must be noted that while the above formula made for a brutal, entertaining match, it wasn't a technical marvel. This was stiffness non-stop, and I respected both men immensely for putting their bodies through this match, but the thing is that stiffness non-stop means…well…nothing but stiffness. This was a wonderful match if you're into it, and I am too, but to a point, really. I liked most of it and loved many parts of it, but I can't help but recognize that while non-stop brutality certainly added to the match, it did also detract from it quite a bit. But by measuring this match for what it was, not what it could be… this match was unique, brutal, and entertaining as all hell. ***¾

Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada

An excellent highlight video is played to give further hype to a match that has so much of it already. Both men start with a few feeler moves. Then the fun begins: elbows, chops, kicks, a few submissions by Kawada to work over Misawa, then more kicks. But then Misawa nails some more elbows, then a Tiger Driver, but Kawada rolls through. Misawa then nails a Frog Splash for a quick 2. After some more Misawa offense, Kawada goes ape-**** and lets loose on Misawa, eventually taking it to the outside where he lifts some mats, only for Misawa to Tiger Driver him onto the concrete floor! Sick. Speaking of sick, Misawa nails a sick dropkick that clocks Kawada right on the side of his face for 2. Both Misawa and Kawada battle it out until Kawada nails the Ganmengiri! A slow-motion replay beautifully highlights Kawada's leg smacking right into Misawa's jaw and causing a ripple effect. Kawada continues to go on the offensive with some kicks, and even though Misawa gains a short advantage, he dives right into an elbow by Kawada. The fight leads onto the long entrance ramp, where Kawada nails a sick Ganmengiri and then an even sicker powerbomb! Kawada doesn't want to win simply by count-out, so he drags Misawa back into the ring where he subjects his long rival to more kicks, but a pin attempt is kicked out of at 2½. Both men get into an exchange of elbows, and Kawada actually wins it. Kawada then hits two great German Suplexes, and then two Ganmengiri's. Holy damn ouch. That pin attempt, along with a subsequent pin attempt following a brainbuster, only gets 2¾. Even a powerbomb only gets 2½. To top it all off, in one of the sickest sights imaginable, Kawada nails the Kawada Driver! Surprisingly, it only gets two. Misawa gains a momentary advantage with a Hurricanrana and a running elbow that gets 2. Misawa hits the Rolling Elbow soon after, and then the Emerald Frosion, but Kawada kicks out at 2. Misawa nails a brutal Tiger Suplex, but even a Tiger Driver '91 only gets a 2½. Following a crap load of elbows, Misawa hits a running elbow that brings Kawada down for the victory at 27:04.

Analysis: To be perfectly honest…I feel gypped. I was expecting a lot more from these two. Not only that, but Kawada losing when everyone thought he would win doesn't constitute as a great swerve in my book- for a while it legitimately pissed me off. Kawada losing in this match made no damn sense. If anything, he needed to be put over strong to help set up several other money matches which, in a perfect world, would help NOAH draw houses as big as this one. But even though Kawada proved he could still "go", this loss honestly made me think of him as less credible. I still liked it, but I didn't love it by any means, and I came in expecting a match that made Match of the Year Contendership with ease. Nothing really capitalized on their rich history of each other: it was the same old, same old. Misawa and Kawada might as well have wrestled two different opponents with the psychology and flow they used. I liked the match, really, but my expectations far exceeded the match Kawada and Misawa delivered. Although I liked the match to an extent, my hopes really were let down. To re-use an old phrase: I'm not angry…just disappointed. ***½

Final Thoughts: This feels strange. Going into this event, I was expecting a grand gala of Japanese wrestling at its best, a true stepping stone that solidified NOAH as a prime contender to the big time. It had all the right ingredients, too: big matches, matches that appealed to everyone, awesome talent, a few dream matches sprinkled here and there, and the one rematch everyone thought wouldn't happen because of the supposed hatred that Misawa and Kawada had for each other which came to a boiling point with the AJPW split. I came in here thinking I'd witness one of the greatest events of the past five years…what I got is more or less a standard NOAH show that managed to attract a large fan base because of the great-looking card. But looks can be deceiving.

Am I done? No, not quite yet. To truly stand by my negative and positive reactions towards Destiny, I feel I at least owe my "Final Thoughts" section an extra paragraph or two. Even though I was disappointed, I still liked the event. If this had no hype going into it, many people would call it a "sleeper hit". The thing I can't get over is that it had so much, much possibility, and it only used about half of it. Everything on the upper card was solid, even the "dream matches". Mushiking Terry's debut match shouldn't be labeled as a miracle since I honestly felt the guy wouldn't disappoint, and he didn't. Even the generic "Black Mask" seemed to be very impressive. From Terry's match on is when the card hit its stride, aside from the terrible Rikio/Tanahashi match and the equally abysmal Tenryu/Ogawa match, a match I won't even bothering reflecting on. The Rikio/Tanahashi match, though, was a close runner-up in the "letdown" department since it was quite literally a train wreck. Both men really had no idea what the hell they were doing, and that's a damn shame. Although Kobashi vs. Sasaki was, as stated before, nothing but hard-hitting moves, I found it very good, and it broke the mold for the type of match it was with actual psychology and smartly-timed segments rather than the usual "let's see who can hurt the other the most with the biggest flashy, stupid moves" type of "power" match.

In the end, this is what you're looking at: a ten match event, with two crap matches (Rikio vs. Tanahashi and Tenryu vs. Ogawa), two decent matches (the 3 and 4 man tag), two good matches (Terry vs. Black Mask and Yone/Morishima vs. Honda/Shiozaki), three very nice matches (the GHC Junior Title Match, the GHC Tag Team Title Match, and Kobashi vs. Sasaki) and one match that was good, but disappointed due to rather high expectations (Kawada vs. Misawa). If nothing else is learned, this event only re-asserts the theory about all hyped-as-hell shows: you should believe most of the hype. Just not all of it.

Even so, Destiny still managed to keep me entertained, and sometimes on the edge of my seat, to such a degree that it earned a warm ***½.

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