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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

2006 Match of the Year

Jun Akiyama v. Masao Inoue NOAH 4/23

PAS: Inoue as ineffectual schmuck is one of my favorite wrestling characters. Here he is in his ultimate challenge. Inoue is perfect as the lovable heel loser getting his improbable big match. It starts with Inoue (who has visable indentations from his reading glasses) jumping Akiyama at the bell and hitting a big suplex and a roll up. Akiyama is established as a guy who can get upset quickly and the crowd buys the near fall. Akiyama locks on the choke, and you also buy Inoue going down quickly. Inoue then spends the next couple of minutes with some awesome stalling, and then some really great eye rakes. When Akiyama responds to the eye rakes with rakes of his own, the crowd starts booing him unmercifully. Akiyama is great as a guy who can't deal with the crowd booing him. There is a point where he just decides "fuck it, you want to boo, boo this" and just murders Inoue, including a calf branding into the steel barricade. Inoue is working as a guy with a limited number of options, he can't go toe to toe with Akyama, and he can't out quick him, out wrestle him, or out power him. He needs to either catch Akyama in a mistake or outsmart him. The rolls ups, and the stalling fit into that, and he keeps getting near falls by tricking Akiyama into almost getting counted out. Including a great figure four on the ramp which he just held it until the last possible second and sprints into the ring. Near the end Akiyama is just killing Inoue, but Masao won't go down. It isn't no-selling because he is so tough, it is more like he knows this is his only shot and despite all of his flaws wants to die on his sword. Not a ton of cool moves or fancy sequences, but still the best match of the year.

ER: Ahhhh, the match that made me love Masao Inoue. He's my absolute favorite chubby little loser. You know he has to be tougher than every one of us, but he's so convincing as himself that it's almost impossible to imagine. I would love to see footage of him training in the dojos, and I'm already laughing at the mental image of all the different fatigued faces he would be making. Tons of those faces are on display here, the full color wheel of schlub. He jumps Akiyama at the streamers with a lariat and a big sleeper suplex and gets about the most convincing nearfall of the match. He locks on his torture rack but Akiyama immediately grabs a choke out of it, due to Inoue being a schlub, and you buy that Akiyama could basically just hang out in that choke until Inoue passes out. Akiyama, for possible sportsmanship reasons, let's him go. Inoue spends the next several minutes recovering on the floor, hilariously rolling like a log out of the ring when Akiyama tries throwing him back in, and devotes a great deal of time to having the ref back Akiyama off so he can safely get back inside.

Inoue does all these great eye rakes, digging his fingers into Jun's eyes, and violently scraping his wristbands over the bridge of his nose. The second Akiyama does the same the crowd boos him, and he has this perfectly incredulous face, as the camera cuts back to Inoue rubbing his eyes, like your little brother after you got him to stop crying by saying the word poop a lot. Inoue somehow reverses Jun's attempt at a suplex on the ramp, hits his own vertical, then casually walks to the ring before going "oh shit wait!" and doing a funny run back to Jun, just to lock on a sloppy figure 4. The anticipation building in the crowd was tremendous as they catch on to his plan, as the ref count keeps getting higher and higher, and Inoue breaks the figure four at 17 to rush back to the ring, limping along the way as his own knee was hurt during the submission. But Akiyama makes it back in, and the beating commences. The crowd keeps booing Akiyama in a "why ya gotta pick on him" way, and Akiyama embraces his Legend Heel persona for the match. The calf branding into the guard rail was disgusting, not sure how Inoue came out of that one without a busted nose or mouth. Akiyama is pretty coolly vicious from this point, being cautious to not slip up and allow an opening, but knowing that he can coast. Inoue still surprises him with a couple great cradles, getting a really high scoop and honestly making it seem like Akiyama will be "the doof who keeps losing the title to cradles and roll ups", and nobody wants that moniker. So he starts killing Inoue not because he needs to, but because he can, and he wants that potential embarrassment buried FAR below. We get a bunch of knees to the back of the head, some exploders, and then one final, unnecessary wrist clutch version that we could have gotten a 15 count on. Very unique title match, and we basically owe it to ourselves and the world to go back and review tons of Inoue matches.


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