Scout Report by Wrestlingscout
The Globally Honored Crown Championship Tournament
Like many puroresu fans, I was baffled by the overall booking of the Globally Honored Crown Championship tournament. Mitsuharu Misawa proved his mediocre booking skills on this one and I think the bracketing was the major one of the tournament's shortcomings.
Few tournaments in history can really captivate the audience in the first round, since the top seeds are usually placed with opponents, who don't have a chance in hell of advancing. Every once and a while a longshot beats a favorite, but usually not the favorite. In retrospect, this tournament did not really have a standout darkhorse as the lesser competitors who advanced, namely Shiga and Rikio were predicatably eliminated by Takayama and Akiyama respectively.
This tournament had to two toss-ups in the first round: Vader against Taue and Akiyama against Omori. I think these four were favorites to win and the fact two were going to be eliminated in the first round added a little suspicion. Taue has mainly been concentrating on tag wrestling with his Japanese Bulldog partner, Jun Izumida, so winning the GHC title, especially for the first time seems some what far-fetched. Vader, is the monster gaijin and only one of a few allowed in Misawa's NOAH promotion, he's a three-time IWGP champion and a two-time Triple Crown winner, so winning this belt doesn't seem to be a stretch. Akiyama was on the verge of winning the Triple Crown, when the split occured and could finally get his cumufence by becoming the first GHC title holder. Omori is in a similar boat, though he's arguably a step behind Aki.
When I first looked over the brackets, I thought they were set up strangely in some parts and well in others. I thought sticking Akiyama and Omori together in the first round was horrible and I would have rather seen Takayama in his tag partner's place. I thought Misawa-Ogawa in the second round was good, though I did not think the top star would job to his number 2 man. I thought the Rikio-Morishima match was poorly placed as it was obvious the winner of the Akiyama-Omori match was practically getting a bye to the final four. Ikeda against Taue or Vader, especially the latter was an interesting pairing. Takayama against Shiga was weak though, especially since Takayama made it to the finals.
The final four was a nice pairing: Takayama against Vader and Misawa and Akiyama. Again, I would have rather seen Omori-Vader, but you have to expect some dissapointments in the wrestling world. I felt Vader was a heavy favorite to beat Takayama, but to my and many people's amazement the Rocky Mountain monster lost in a schmoze. I think this set up for a painfully predictable final as either Misawa or Akiyama would go over Takayama. Perhaps the tournament was hoping to boost his status, since he would be fighting IWGP champion, Kazuki Fujita, at the next Pride show.
Now would Misawa put over Akiyama, though he did to an extent at NOAH's first show, in which Aki used his new Guillotine Chokehold to defeat Misawa in the first of three falls. One could dispute that, but Misawa losing to Akiyama here would elevate the young star. Aki had defeated both Misawa and Taue on NOAH's debut show, then pinned his long-time partner, Kenta Kobashi, the next night. He'd been dropped down though losing to Kobashi's team on the September pay-per-view, then losing to Kobashi himself on the Great Voyage show. This win would set Aki's path towards greatness in a substantial way. On the other hand, the booker and top star could go to the finals and use his status to help the pay-per-view buyrates. An Misawa-Vader final would be money in the bank as the two have had a storied feud going up to a respectable match on the Great Voyage show.
I thought I would compile a list (though I'm a little late for predictions) of whom I think would have been best suited to wear NOAH's first piece of gold:
1. Jun Akiyama - Ever since seeing his excellent match with Misawa back in All Japan, I knew Aki could run with the ball. The question then and still now, to a lesser extent, is will Misawa pass it. Akiyama has a youthful spirit and look that make him seem to be the next huge star in Japan. I think NOAH needs to build around this more than likely possiblility.
2. Takao Omori - He always struck me as a poorman's Kenta Kobashi, but since adopting his new bad ass look, Omori seems destined to becoming much more than that in Japan. After making it to the finals of the Champion Carnival last year and having a high-profile match with Shinya Hashimoto, Omori needs one big win. Though he was cursed by being paired with Akiyama in the first round, an upset there would have put him in the running to meet Misawa in the semis.
3. Mitsuharu Misawa - Definately one of, if not the top star of the 90s, whose to say Misawa cannot remain "Untouchable." He's beaten a laundry list of stars and though the competition in NOAH is not much different than All Japan's, Misawa has a legacy to uphold. He was generous at first, but this tournament proved Misawa is about business first. He is a deserving champion, the question is will he hold the title too long and whom will he drop it to?
4. Vader - A big man, who can do it all, Vader has always been best suited for Japan's stiff style and only a handful of gaijins are more renowned. He has been very successful and would and may still become the first grand slam winner in Japan (Triple Crown, IWGP, and GHC titles), not to mention he's held the WCW (three-times), CWA (Austria), and IWA (Mexico) Heavyweight titles. Perhaps no man has been more successful in a broad perspective than Vader.
5. Akira Taue - One of the top stars to jump ship along with Misawa, Kobashi, and Akiyama, Taue's years are on the downswing. He is a former Triple Crown winner and he and Kawada were a dominant tag team. Taue was a late bloomer though and has been used primarily to elevate younger talent in the past few years. NOAH may give him one last chance at glory with a brief and/or transitional title reign. He and Izumida will most likely win the tag titles when they are established and have even beaten perhaps the top favorites, No Fear (Omori and Takayama), but he may be given a pat on the back for his contributions to this upstart promotion.
Though the tournament finished up a while ago, I thought a retrospective analysis of this important part of NOAH's history was acceptable. It makes one wonder about the history of the newest puroresu group as they went with a strange runner-up, interesting semi-finals, a few odd pairings in the first two rounds, and the safe champion in the end. Will NOAH use this formula again? Will we see new stars emerge in this type of setup? Will we see "can't miss" stars be held down? Who will take the title off Mitsuharu Misawa?
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