(Almost) 5-Star Match Reviews: Kenta Kobashi & Go Shiozaki vs. Jun Akiyama & Doug Williams – Universal Uproar 2005
By Alex Podgorski on 25th October 2023
Most diehard wrestling fans remember Japanese legend Kenta Kobashi’s big tour to the United States that led to one of the greatest indy matches in modern times. What most people forget is that this famously hard-hitting wrestler also did a tour of the UK and had another great match. It didn’t lead to as much positive feedback as the legendary Kobashi vs Samoa Joe singles match, but it was still impressive on its own right. How good was it? Read on to find out.
For those new to this series, my name is Alex Podgorski and I’ve been writing about pro-wrestling for almost a decade. For the last four years I’ve been reviewing famous matches and those matches given exceptionally high ratings by Dave Meltzer going as far back as the 1980s.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “But they’re just the opinions of one person. Why does it matter so much?” This is a great question to ask, and you’re right to think that way. The reason we’re giving so much credence to Dave Meltzer’s star ratings is that, a) these are coming from a source outside of wrestling, which gives it more of an outsider’s perspective as opposed to being influenced by the wrestling companies themselves; and b) the Wrestling Observer has helped expose wrestling fans to a wider variety of wrestlers and styles around the world.
Before the ubiquity of the internet and video-streaming services, few people in North America knew about wrestling outside of the territories that made of the National Wrestling Alliance. News about great wrestlers in Canada, Mexico, Japan and beyond was rare.
Thanks to the fame (or notoriety, depending on whom you ask) of the Observer, word spread of famous wrestlers in smaller companies and in far-away places that helped change the wrestling landscape. It’s possible that without Meltzer singing the praises of certain wrestlers by awarding their matches 5-star ratings, today’s wrestling landscape would be a very different place, and not in a good way.
Without certain wrestlers being awarded 5 stars in their matches, there’s a good chance that many of the most famous “in-ring workers of the past four decades – names like Rey Mysterio, Eddy Guerrero, Jushin Liger, Kenta Kobashi, Stan Hansen, Manami Toyota, Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada, Steve Williams, Samoa Joe, A.J. Styles, Kazuchika Okada, Kenny Omega, Will Ospreay, and others – wouldn’t’ve gotten the exposure that enabled them to change the wrestling business in the ways that they did.
But giving a match a 5-star rating isn’t always the right decision, especially when that rating comes right in the aftermath of a match’s conclusion and one is still swept up in the emotion of the moment. That’s why this series exists: to look at matches long after the fact with a cooler head to see if that immediate praise was and still is justified.
Previously I was writing for a site called TJR Wrestling and now this series is coming to Blog of Doom. For now you can check out the series in its entirety here.
By the second half of 2005, Kobashi switched to being a sort of elder statesman and global representative for Pro Wrestling NOAH. With his days as world champion behind him, his focus shifted to putting on big matches and using his name and reputation to draw new eyes to the company he represented. As part of that role, Kobashi went on foreign excursion with other NOAH wrestlers to showcase the famed King’s Road style to new audiences to see if fans outside Japan were interested in what he and his colleagues had to offer.
After an incredibly successful two-night tour in the United States, Kobashi was sent to the United Kingdom for a special independent event called Universal Uproar. On this night, Kobashi would team with his protégé Go Shiozaki to take on his longtime rival Jun Akiyama and local wrestling veteran and former martial artist Doug Williams.
This was, for all intents and purposes, a cold match without much of a story beyond “big name from outside coming to a new place for the first time.” Would that be enough to make new fans want to tune into NOAH once it was over?
This match originally took place on November 12, 2005.
Kobashi and Akiyama start things off with a collar-and-elbow tie-up. Kobashi hits a big chop which gets an equally big pop from the crowd. Kobashi shoots Akiyama into the ropes and neither man goes down on a shoulderblock spot. Another quick strike exchange ends in a stalemate and then Williams tags in. Kobashi lands a few chops but Williams hits back with uppercuts. Williams hits a head-butt to the stomach and another big uppercut, leading to another stalemate.
Kobashi powers out of a headlock and overpowers Williams with an overhead wristlock. Shiozaki tags in to work over Williams’ arm and counters an arm drag with one of his own. Williams overcomes the armwork and tags Akiyama, who has a quick exchange with Shiozaki before being taken down by a dropkick. Another exchange yields another stalemate and then Akiyama takes Shiozaki’s arm. Williams tags in, works the arm some more, and then tags back out. Akiyama applies a chinlock but Shiozaki gets a ropebreak.
Akiyama applies a piledriver but Shiozaki powers out and tags Kobashi. They have a long strike exchange that ends with Kobashi chopping Akiyama’s chest until it turns beet red. The crowd roars in approval as Kobashi settles into a chinlock and then tags Shiozaki, who hits another dropkick for another two-count and a kneedrop for yet another two-count. Shiozaki applies a camel clutch and Kobashi chops Williams’ chest a few times. Kobashi tags in and lands a downward chop for a one-count and then blocks a corner jumping knee. Akiyama runs into a sleeper hold which soon becomes a sleeper suplex. The referee counts one, two, Williams breaks up the pin.
Williams’ interference angers Kobashi so much he chops Williams off the apron while Shiozaki hits a senton onto Akiyama at ringside. Shiozaki knocks Williams back down as Kobashi hits an apron DDT onto Akiyama followed by another big chop for a two-count. Kobashi hits a double kneelift combo followed by a Burning Sword and some more heavy chops but only manages two once more. The crowd chants “this is awesome” as Shiozaki & Kobashi take turns dropping elbows on Akiyama. Akiyama uses a back suplex to escape a chinlock but Kobashi stops him from tagging out so that Shiozaki can wear him down some more. Kobashi tags in and lands more vicious chops and now even the commentators are getting uncomfortable with Kobashi’s brutality. Akiyama tries blocking an attack but Kobashi makes him pay by hitting even harder.
Kobashi gets a two-count off a back suplex and tags Shiozaki and then the two hit a suplex/crossbody combo for yet another two-count. Shiozaki hits a second-rope kneedrop but Akiyama kicks out. Akiyama tries fighting Kobashi and Shiozaki one-on-two but gets overwhelmed for a moment until he blocks a corner charge and hot tags Williams. He drops both Shiozaki and Kobashi with kneelifts. He gets a short moment to shine before Kobashi cuts him off with more chops. Shiozaki applies a surfboard and Kobashi uses that opportunity to cave in Williams’ chest with even more chops. One, two, Williams kicks out.
Shiozaki tries shooting Williams off the ropes but Williams lands a brilliant counter into an inverted Gory Special and then drives Shiozaki into a corner. Williams tags Akiyama who drags Shiozaki out into the crowd and DDTs him in the floor. Akiyama drops Kobashi as well and once back in the ring he hits a jumping knee for a two-count. Both Akiyama and Williams double-team Shiozaki as Kobashi makes his way back to the ring. A back suplex/top-rope kneedrop combo gets Williams another two-count as Kobashi saves his partner. More kneedrops get Williams another two-count as he and Akiyama further isolate Shiozaki from Kobashi.
Akiyama stares Kobashi right in the face as he chops Shiozaki as hard as he can. Williams tags in and puts Shiozaki in an abdominal stretch but Kobashi saunters in and breaks it up with a chop. The commentators question why the referee’s allowing this blatant interference. Simple answer: Kobashi’s bigger than him and good luck telling him no when he’s mad. Akiyama tags in and spikes Shiozaki with a piledriver for still yet another two-count.
Akiyama applies a vicious abdominal stretch, gets a two-count, and tags Williams, who hits a body slam/elbow drop combo for another two-count. Akiyama tags in and attempts a suplex but somehow Shiozaki counters with one of his own. He reaches out for a tag but Akiyama stops it at the last second and sends Shiozaki into a corner, only for Shiozaki to hit a dropkick. Hot tag to Kobashi. Machine gun chop time. The crowd roars and whistles as Kobashi chops both Akiyama and an interfering Williams about 100 times. Double-hand chops to Akiyama’s neck. Akiyama escapes a half nelson and charges for a knee. Kobashi blocks it, Akiyama ducks a discus chop, and lands an Exploder suplex. Kobashi bounces up and hits a lariat. One, two, Williams makes the save.
Williams endures some chops and drops Kobashi with a high knee. Both he and Shiozaki tag in and another forearm exchange ensues. Shiozaki out-strikes Williams and hits a top-rope shotgun dropkick for a two-count. Williams resists a fisherman suplex, charges to the ropes, and runs into a side kick followed by a successful fisherman suplex that gets a two-count. They trade rear waistlocks until Williams traps Shiozaki knee so that Akiyama can land a kneelift of his own. Kobashi half-nelsons Williams. Akiyama exploders Kobashi. Shiozaki Germans Akiyama. All four men collapse.
Shiozaki hits a bridging German suplex on Williams for another close two-count. Kobashi pulls Akiyama out of the ring as Shiozaki moonsaults Williams for two. Shiozaki attempts a top-rope kneedrop but Akiyama breaks free and holds Shiozaki in place so that Williams can hit an avalanche butterfly suplex. Another close two-count. Shiozaki avoids a Chaos Theory with a victory roll for a two-count. They go back-an-forth with lightning-quick reversals until Williams connects with the Chaos Theory. The referee counts one, two, and three! There’s the match!
Winners after 31:12: Doug Williams & Jun Akiyama
Post-match, everyone shakes hands, including Kobashi and Akiyama, which the commentators note doesn’t happen often given their checkered history together.
While this wasn’t on the same level as Kobashi vs. Joe, it was still pretty impressive given how basic it was. Kobashi was the main draw here and he did almost nothing besides chops yet that was enough to make this audience erupt in cheers more than once. He was a textbook case of a wrestler’s name and star power being so over that he was able to get away with doing almost nothing and still get a monstrous ovation.
But he wasn’t the only strong performer here; all four men put on a strong match that was simple yet exciting. It was serious and based on straightforward concepts like partner isolation and building towards hot tags. There were some moments of inconsistency when it came to interference but those were few and far between. If the goal of this match was to leave a lasting impression on this new audience, then these four wrestlers succeeded and then some.
The match followed a basic structure: isolate one partner from the other and wear him down as much as possible. Kobashi and Shiozaki did this with Akiyama as they pummeled him with punishing offense. Neither side was really “face” or “heel”, so fans simply watched the action and the intensity with which both sides attacked each other made both hot tags come across as babyface comebacks. Since Kobashi was getting slower and more limited in this match, he left Shiozaki to do the more athletic stuff while he played the hits. That being said, his chop-based offense still looked credible since he had arms thicker than most people’s legs.
Akiyama took an extended beating – which included several two-on-one beatdowns – only to make a hot tag to Williams who eventually took Shiozaki down and turned the match around. Once things broke down and Akiyama smashed Kobashi on the floor things got more heated and harder to predict. That said, there was only ever once conclusion here and that was that Shiozaki was going to be the fall guy. Since Kobashi was the attraction, Akiyama was more important to NOAH as a world title challenger, and Williams was the local draw, by process of elimination that left Shiozaki as the only man who could be seen as the guy to take the fall.
These four wrestlers recognized that, so the second half of the match was built around the psychology of having Shiozaki try and break that expectation. Even though he was much lighter and far less experienced than everyone else in the match, Shiozaki gave it the old college try and fought with all his might to try and survive. He hit all of his big moves to try and win but he couldn’t hit hard enough. Meanwhile, Akiyama and Williams were able to maneuver around Kobashi and keep him from playing the big brother role once again to leave Shiozaki at Williams’ mercy. And while the finish did come out of nowhere to an extent and lacked the dramatic build to showcase Shiozaki’s fighting spirit, it did enough to sell the idea that NOAH style matches could end at any point and weren’t always that easy to predict.
Final Rating: ****1/4
For an attraction match this was way better than it had any right to be. There was almost no story and the only draw here was the rarity of NOAH’s wrestlers coming to the UK for the first time. And as they had done before in the US, the NOAH wrestlers earned their paychecks and put on a strong performance that left the crowd satisfied and wanting more.
It wasn’t the deepest or most airtight of matches, but it was still enough to leave a good impression with this audience. NOAH’s wrestlers wanted to help the company expand by showcasing what they could do to new audiences. They succeeded with the ~2,000 or so in the building on this night, but unfortunately all the crowd noise in Coventry wasn’t enough to help NOAH turn its fortunes around.