Takashi Sugiura vs. Trevor Murdock
21 March, 2011
Fukuoka International Center; Fukuoka, Japan
GHC Heavyweight Championship Match
Awhile back, I reviewed the Misawa vs. Samoa Joe match from 1997, and I talked about how one of the things that made the match interesting was that NOAH seemed fresh out of challengers to Misawa, and Joe actually had enough of a rep and credibility to take the title, even if it was unlikely.
In many ways this match is similar, but also very different. Everything that worked about the Misawa/Joe match doesn't work here. While Misawa was an obvious transition to someone else that it seemed like the next "chosen one" would beat in order to legitimize themselves as being a champion, Sugiura has been booked as nearly unstoppable as champion, at a time when there are no credible challengers. So, while it seemed like Joe could possibly have a chance to beat Misawa, Murdoch seems like just another guy being thrown in front of Sugiura.
In addition, Joe had a very impressive run in Ring of Honor where he fought guys like Kobashi and Morishima, and looked impressive doing it. In addition, he was probably the hottest star in TNA at the time, and had competed in Zero-One before. Murdoch, although he does have a credible background, his biggest run was as a Tag Team Champion in the WWE about five years ago - and he was hardly used on television when holding the title. Since then he has been an enhancement worker in TNA, and has toured Japan as a protege of Harley Race. Now, anyone who knows wrestling can tell you that Murdoch is a pretty damn impressive wrestler, but he doesn't have the credibility to be the top wrestler in NOAH.
And that hurts this match.
From the get-go, the crowd is quiet, even for the Japanese. They aren't really getting into anything that Murdoch is doing, because they know that Sugiura is going to win. I do not think it helped Murdoch either that, after ambushing Sugiura at the start, he would toss him outside and then just let him come back in to beat the count. Murdoch needed to get the cheap heat early, which makes the attack at the handshake understandable. However, why ambush a guy and then let him take his time? Murdoch should have stayed on him, and then gone after him on the outside. Why have Murdoch pull the chain out of his boot (and get caught with it) later in the match? Wouldn't it have perhaps gotten more sympathy for Sugiura and created doubt if, on the outside, Murdoch bloodies up Sugiura with the chain, and then tucked it in his trunks?
Murdoch definitely brought the pain with the suplexes and the big beefy clotheslines and forearms, but none of it seemed enough, really. Sugiura was obviously a smaller opponent who was willing to bump his ass off for Murdoch, so it seems like this match was just a huge waste of time, because nothing in the match really got either man over. Sugiura didn't seem tough-as-nails for taking Murdoch's offense, and if you were to do this match again next week, Murdoch doesn't come off as a more credible challenger.
Plus, I automatically hate any match where a piledriver is kicked out of... but more on that tomorrow perhaps.