365 match reviews, one for each date on the yearly calendar? Challenge accepted. Welcome to 365 Wrestling.

For about five years, Minoru Suzuki topped my bucket list of wrestlers to see in person — a feat I was able to cross off in October, 2021 when he took on Anthony Henry as part of a tour of the U.S. He threw brutal-looking-and-sounding forearms and chops. He cackled maniacally. I brought him an “I Survived the Suzuki Incident” T-shirt. It was fantastic.

Today, we take our first (but definitely not the last) look at Suzuki as part of the project. Check out this treasure from Pro Wrestling NOAH‘s Great Voyage 2005, where Suzuki challenged Kenta Kobashi for the GHC Heavyweight Title.

You can find this match on Youtube or, watch it embedded below:

The Match

Kobashi has been GHC Champion for nearly two years and this is his 13th defense. Having one grueling title match after another have worn down the beloved champion.

When I say beloved, I mean it. The NOAH crowd is so behind Kobashi that when he clamps a headlock on Suzuki at the five-minute mark, the fans LOSE THEIR MINDS. For a headlock. The two wrestlers stick with it; Suzuki crumples in the hold as Kobashi wrenches, and when the action briefly spills to the floor, Kobashi re-applies the headlock, gets back to his feet, clambers up on the apron and drags Suzuki into the ring, still ensnared. The crowd loves every bit of this.

Choices like an extended headlock seem wise with how gingerly Kobashi is moving. A pair of massive knee pads indicate the accumulation of damage he has accrued in 15-plus years wrestling regularly for All Japan and NOAH, and any actual running by Kobashi is absent aside from one Burning Lariat at center ring.

Kobashi brings the intensity and has the fan support, but Suzuki makes this match go. He uses his quickness and catch wrestling to compensate for his lack of size. While eating machine gun chops in the corner, Suzuki catches Kobashi’s arm and transitions into his hanging triangle choke over the ropes, setting up a focus on the right arm that remains a theme of the challenger’s offense for the rest of the match. Kobashi weathers the storm, also surviving a standing RNC on the outside of the ring by crawling off of the elevated entrance aisle. In another example of the evolution of Suzuki’s character and wrestling, Suzuki hits his Gotch piledriver — a sure-fire match ender today — but doesn’t even go for a pin after hitting it here, instead choosing to toy with Kobashi.

Instead, Suzuki is focused on making the champion submit. He elicits anguish with an octopus stretch. Then, after Kobashi rallies with the aforementioned lariat and a powerbomb into a jackknife pin attempt, Suzuki promptly counters into an MMA armbar. Kobashi outlasts this too, and then unleashes hell on Suzuki with two clubbing clotheslines, a running lariat, and a backdrop driver. Slaps by Suzuki only anger the champion, who delivers yet another lariat and three consecutive backdrop drivers. Almost out on his feet, Suzuki musters enough energy for a final, feeble slap… a precursor to yet another Burning Lariat and a now-inevitable outcome for the champ.

Final Rating: 6.8

There’s a lot to like and the novelty of the matchup is one of the main reasons for watching. Making an early-match headlock compelling and creative was quite the feat. Still, with Kobashi facing some physical limitations, the end result only reaches a certain height.

What’s Next

Tag team mayhem in Memphis.

Here’s the complete, ongoing list of matches in this project.

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6 thoughts on “365 Wrestling, Day 8: Kenta Kobashi vs. Minoru Suzuki (NOAH Great Voyage, 1/8/05)

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