148. Kenta Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama (Pro Wrestling NOAH August 6th 2000)

Now, we turn to ‘Kenta Kobashi: The Pro Wrestling NOAH Years’ in this list of ‘BURNING: The Greatness of Kenta Kobashi’ (click here for the list).  Mitsuharu Misawa led a group of wrestlers away from AJPW to form a new wrestling company: NOAH (in 2000). When I say a group, I mean 24 out of 36 contracted AJPW wrestlers!. Kobashi was one of the ‘Four Pillars’ of AJPW, and would be one of the major figures of NOAH. But knee injuries would prevent him from reaching the top of the mountain for a few years. Even with these knee injuries, however, he competed in the first “great NOAH match,” according to Case Lowe, author of the ‘Burning’ list. That match is Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama…but was it great?

Some context here: in AJPW, Kobashi and Akiyama formed a tag team called ‘Burning’ in the late ‘90s. They continued that tag team into NOAH and competed in the main event of the very first NOAH show against Akira Taue and Mitsuharu Misawa (the only ‘Pillar’ not to follow the crowd and join NOAH was Kawada) in a 2/3 Falls match. Burning ended up victorious, pinning both Misawa and Taue in two straight falls. After disposing of 2/4 Pillars, Akiyama turned on his partner, Kobashi, hitting him with the Backdrop Driver (a shoutout to the missing Pillar, Kawada, perhaps). The stage was thus set for the former buddies to collide the following night. Akiyama had never defeated Kobashi in a singles match, and this was his time to prove himself in a new promotion. He wanted to be a Pillar of NOAH.

You’d expect a grudge match, a violent war between the betrayer and the betrayed. If you expect that, you’d be a little let down. Perhaps Kobashi was still musing over the betrayal, only 24 hours prior to the bout. It was still sinking in for him. This interpretation feeds into the opening segment of the bout, where it almost looks like Kobashi is toying with Akiyama. No matter what Akiyama does, he can’t seem to outwrestle or outmanoeuvre Kobashi. The only crack in Kobashi’s knightly demeanour occurs when he powerbombs Akiyama on the outside, but soon after he returns the action (and his dominance) to the ring.

Akiyama may have pinned Misawa and Taue in the same night (hello, Y2J!), but on that night, Kobashi was on his side. Here, he’s on his own, and looks out of his depth against the mighty Kobashi. To turn the tide of the bout, Akiyama has to cave in to his heelish instincts and target Kobashi’s greatest weakness: his knees. And he duly does, dominating the middle portion of the out a focusing on the knees.

This Kobashi is a different one to the AJPW Kenta: gone are the orange trunks, gone is his fast-paced, high-flying offence. He’s turned to strikes and submissions out of necessity. But even so, with that innate Kobashi flair, he still knows how to put on a show.

Akiyama, presumably, is also different from his days as a babyface in AJPW. I only remember watching highlights of Akiyama on the ill-fated ‘The Wrestling Channel; that aired in the UK almost twenty years ago. There was a highlight reel of Akiyama’s finisher, the Exploder Suplex, that aired, it seemed, every day. As an aside, ‘The Wrestling Channel’ had so much potential…but wasted it. Back to the match, whilst targeting Kobashi’s knee, Akiyama truly gave into his heelish side. Kobashi was outclassing him, so Jun had to fight dirty.

Simple, but effective. However, I felt the two were holding back a little. After reading up on their rivalry, several of their other matches look to be better than this one. Perhaps this was a taste of what was yet to come. Even so, it’s still an impressive bout, telling an easy to follow, yet layered, story in just over twenty minutes. Even when these two hold back, they still produce something that towers over most other matches.

Very good, but not great…but now I need to seek out their superior matches!

Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)

(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)

My Other Reviews of ‘Burning: The Greatness of Kenta Kobashi’ (in date order)

And here are some other reviews of Kobashi’s matches:


6 thoughts on “148. Kenta Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama (Pro Wrestling NOAH August 6th 2000)

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