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Thread: AJPW: The Golden Years

  1. #51
    Atodaso Strobe's Avatar

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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor View Post
    I'm going to watch and post about any match that is available to watch. When do these matches you are talking about occur? I don't see them in the CC finals show or the first show of the next tour. On another note, what does "JIP" actually mean? I always interpret it as a clipped match.
    JIP stands for "joined in progress". If you look at that Google Drive folder with basically every available All Japan match up to 2000, the first show of the 1995 Super Power Series to have available matches is 5/18/94 and it has:

    Bobby Fulton vs. Kentaro Shiga (JIP)
    Tommy Rogers vs. Masao Inoue (JIP)
    Abdullah the Butcher/Giant Kamala II vs. Heavenly Bodies (JIP)
    Giant Baba/Rusher Kimura vs. Haruka Eigen/Mighty Inoue (JIP)
    Toshiaki Kawada/Akira Taue/Masanobu Fuchi/Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Jun Akiyama/Satoru Asako/Takao Omori/Tamon Honda - Elimination Tag*
    Mitsuharu Misawa/Kenta Kobashi/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs. Stan Hansen/Steve Williams/Johnny Ace

    So that's actually the two biggest matches in full and the rest of the card in seriously clipped form (you see the actual match lengths flash up on the screen after the bell). There probably isn't enough meat to say much, but you could certainly make a few comments and it might help give you a feel for what the under and midcards were like on some of these shows, just in terms of personnel and crowd heat.

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    *This is actually a cool concept. It is not a standard elimination 8-man tag like a Survivor Series match. It is always a 2-on-2 match and as each person is eliminated, they are replaced by the next in line in their team to keep it 2-on-2 until a third person is eliminated from a team to end the match (since at that point it would become a handicap match if it was to continue).

    Since I don't want to spoil you (and don't look at results pages elsewhere, as they will spoil you if you don't want to be), I'll use a classic Survivor Series match (Hogan/Jake/Demolition vs. Zeus/DiBiase/PoP from 1989) to explain how it would be different.

    Match starts as:

    Ax/Smash vs. Barbarian/Warlord (Barbarian pins Smash; Jake replaces Smash)
    Ax/Jake vs. Barbarian/Warlord (Ax pins Barbarian; DiBiase replaces Barbarian)
    Ax/Jake vs. DiBiase/Warlord (DiBiase pins Ax; Hogan replaces Ax)
    Hogan/Jake vs. DiBiase/Warlord (Hogan pins Warlord, Zeus replaces Warlord)
    Hogan/Jake vs. DiBiase/Zeus (Hogan pins DiBiase, Hulkamaniacs win, Hogan hotdogs and grandstands)

  2. #52
    Moderator Emperor's Avatar
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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    AJPW Super Power Series 1994

    It's been a while, chaps, so let's regain our bearings. The AJPW crew have had almost a month off following the conclusion of the Champion Carnival. That tournament was won by Toshiaki Kawada, who has earned the right to challenge the Triple Crown Champion Mitsuharu Misawa. That match will take place at the end of the May/June tour: the Super Power series.

    As Strobe alluded to above, every match from the May 18th show is available online. Ditto for the May 31st show. Otherwise it's only the big matches for the rest of year. This is a remarkable and extremely rare occurrence. I have no idea why those two shows in particular were preserved, especially since cagematch.net doesn't even cite these shows as televised. Nevertheless, this is a real treat, a twice-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the undercard of an AJPW show. I'm excited, but that's not to say I expect these matches to be any good. It's just cool. I'm as much in the dark about most of the roster as you are.

    ---------------------------------------------

    Bobby Fulton vs Kentaro Shiga

    Shiga is an unusual-looking pro-wrestler. He has the build of an Olympic runner. That is to say he's very thin, almost to the point of looking frail or unhealthy, but has clear muscle definition and not a gram of fat. The average-sized Fulton looks monstrous in comparison. We get about three minutes of this match, and they are pretty good. First we see Fulton running over Shiga with a baseball slide, a plancha and a lovely spinning heel kick. Shiga comes back with a powerslam and missile dropkick, but Fulton picks up the win with a Regalplex. Perfectly good closing stretch for an opening match.

    Tommy Rogers vs Masao Inoue

    Tommy Rogers is wearing a sparkly jacket and bow tie on a bare chest. He predates The Dicks by 20 years. Good job. Less than a minute of this match was shown. Rogers gets backdropped, then catches Inoue with a crucifix pin for the three.

    Abdullah the Butcher and Giant Kamala II vs Heavenly Bodies

    Abdullah is a legend, but from what I gather he's not the kind of wrestler I'd like at all, so this is the first time I've seen him. At this point in his career he's a nostalgia act. The video is just over a minute of two huge flabby guys beating up the Heavenly Bodies. Abdullah gets the pin in one of the worst finishes I've seen. He hits a "running" elbow drop, but Heavenly Body #1 puts his foot on the ropes. Abdullah then slowly gets up, drags his opponent a few inches towards the centre, while Kamala is blatantly preparing to enter the ring for an upcoming spot. Abdullah slowly backs away, starts "running" for a second elbow drop. Heavenly Body #2 enters the ring, so that Kamala can catch him with a very good dropkick for a man of his size. Meanwhile Abdullah hits a second crummy elbow drop and gets the pin.

    Giant Baba and Rusher Kimura vs Haruka Eigen and Mighty Inoue

    Rusher Kimura has the look of a grizzled veteran. Is he the inventor of the Kimura submission hold? I have no idea. Now that I think about it, Giant Baba in these undercard matches is a bit strange. When he appears in the main event, he's booked on the same level as the top guys, and even they are never able to pin or submit the guy. So he should be killing these midcarders, right? The match starts with an amusing spot where Eigen and Inoue respectfully bow and shake the hands of their opponents, except for Eigen (in bright pink tights) comically walking behind Kimura as he is bowing. Even Baba grinned at that one. Then we get a clip of Baba applying a hold to Eigen, who grabs the ropes and shouts something, making the crowd laugh. Baba calmly pulls him away from the ropes, and the crowd laughs again. Haruka Eigen is the Toru Yano of his day. The next clip sees Eigen chopping Kimura and selling his own hands. Inoue counterstrikes with a huge chop, sending a "tooth" flying from Eigen's mouth. The final clip is Baba doing what I said he should be doing, killing Inoue with a big boot and a russian leg sweep for the win. Entertaining comedy midcard stuff. I approve. Exactly what a guy like Baba should be doing. In fact, this makes me less disdainful towards his main event spots. He's the owner, the booker, the biggest legend in the company, and he's working on every undercard. Why shouldn't he get the occasional main event tag match? Maybe I won't be so harsh on him in the future. Maybe.

    Toshiaki Kawada, Akira Taue, Masanobu Fuchi and Yoshinari Ogawa vs Jun Akiyama, Satoru Asako, Takao Omori and Tamon Honda (Elimination Tag)

    This is the concept Strobe described in the above post. The match is always two-on-two. When someone loses, they leave the match, and are replaced by someone else. First team to defeat three wrestlers wins the match. Just looking at the match will tell you that Kawada's team have a huge advantage. Akiyama had a great showing at the Champions Carnival, but he's not on the level of Kawada or Taue yet, and I doubt any of Akiyama's three partners are even on Fuchi's level. Maybe Asako is on the same level. Enough splitting hairs, my point is that this should be a slaughter, but the elimination rules open up some interesting possibilities. We get this match in full, which is awesome.

    It seems the orders of the wrestlers are drawn at random, and announced just before the match. Asako and Omori start for Team Akiyama. They're up against freakin' Taue and Kawada. If AJPW hierarchy is to be obeyed, the Holy Demon Army should be killing Akiyama's whole team by themselves. On the other hand, it would be weird if that happened, because why book the match? This may very well be the most exciting and unpredictable starting match possible. Let's see what happens.

    Fall 1: Asako manages to get the better of Taue. He tags in Omori, who hits Taue with a couple of flying moves but is soon neutralised with a powerslam. Taue then hulks up, wrecking both his opponents by himself with neck-first throws on the top rope and big boots. He chokeslams Omori for the first fall at 4:12.

    Fall 2: Akiyama is next up. Kawada tags in, 100% fresh. This is the top pairing for Team Akiyama, but Kawada and Taue are still heavy favourites. Kawada dominates Akiyama in the chain wrestling, but Akiyama stuns Kawada with a couple of hard slaps to the face and gets the better of their strike flurry. Akiyama and Asako smartly use quick tags to keep double teaming Kawada and stop him from recovering. Eventually Kawada manages to tag in Taue. Taue has some fun beating up Asako on the outside, but a well-timed save by Akiyama sees the underdogs back on top with fast double team tactics. Soon all four men are fighting, and Holy Demon Army show their class. They stereo powerbomb their opponents. Kawada could have pinned Asako right there, but he picks him up and locks in the Stretch Plum just because he can. It doesn't take long for Asako to submit for the second fall at 9:48 (timed from the start of this fall).

    Fall 3: Tamon Honda helps a beaten Akiyama to his corner, while Taue and Kawada wait, still in reasonably good shape. Honda is the freshest of the lot, but also the weakest, and it isn't long before he's getting savagely beaten down by Kawada and Taue. Honda manages to make the tag, and Akiyama keeps Taue at bay for a short while with a headscissors, but he's soon getting beat down as well. Akiyama manages to snap suplex Kawada and tag in Honda, who unleashes a beat down on Kawada, using Junkyard Dog headbutts to great effect. Kawada manages to completely neutralise Honda with a well-placed leg kick, and tags in Taue, who takes Honda to the outside and introduces him to the announce desk. Hondaa is dominated once again. However, he catches Taue with a Baba-style neckbreaker drop and makes another hot tag! Akiyama and Honda get a long string of offense on Taue, culminating with a body slam/top rope knee drop combination for a near fall. Honda tries to keep the offense going but is nailed with a vicious big boot. Taue tags in Kawada, and we go live.

    Kawada runs over Honda with a running kick to the face. Chops to the neck. Honda is out. Kawada locks in Stretch Plum. Akiyama a bit slow to enter the ring, and Taue cuts him off. Is Honda submitting? No he isn't! Akiyama disposes of Taue and breaks it up! The dream is still alive! Kawada goes for a powerbomb, but Honda backdrops Kawada! He catches a big boot, and nails a massive lariat! Honda tags in Akiyama! What a hero!! Akiyama hits Kawada with the Exploder! One! Two! Taue breaks it up! Stereo Germans from Akiyama and Honda, but Kawada kicks out a two! Akiyama climbs to the top. Diving cross body! No! Kawada counters with a kick to the stomach. Kawada is selling. He's hurt. But he mows through Akiyama with a lariat for a near fall. Gamengiri! Backdrop! One! Two! Honda breaks it up! Taue in. Chokeslam to Honda! Kawada powerbombs Akiyama and folds him up. One! Two! Three! That fall lasted 15 minutes and 11 seconds.


    ---------------------------------------------

    The AJPW hierarchy is maintained. Fuchi and Ogawa have a night off. I was actually expecting Team Akiyama to score a fall, via Akiyama pinning Taue in the third fall after some serious double teaming and an Exploder. But it didn't happen. The Holy Demon Army are gods. But it was a well-structured match that boosted the stock of everyone except Omori. Akiyama having Kawada pinned if not for Taue was great, and Honma's fighting spirit at the end was also great. I'm a star rating maniac now, so I'm going to go ahead and give it ***3/4. The match concept is really cool and I hope it's repeated in the future, especially with a more competitive matchup. It'd be a great way to freshen up the endless Misawa and co. vs Kawada and co. matches (which are by no means bad or stale, but variety is always good in my book).

    ---------------------------------------------

    Stan Hansen, Steve Williams and Johnny Ace vs Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi

    I've said this many times, but it's worth repeating: the great thing about AJPW tag matches is that they don't follow a formula. Anything can happen, which makes it exciting for the audience, and the wrestlers are more than capable of handling the frenetic, call-it-in-the-ring style. They are so familiar each other and know their characters so well that it's easy for them to integrate the hot singles rivalries of the moment into a tag match.

    Case in point: Steve Williams and Kenta Kobashi, who appear to be continuing their heated rivalry despite the respectful conclusion to their Carnival match (which Williams won). Williams toughs through Kobashi's corner chops, showing no pain, so Kobashi grabs his head and runs it all the way to the opposite turnbuckle. Williams keeps no-selling the chops, so Kobashi does it again, but Williams has had enough and they have a furious chop exchange.

    Kikuchi is back, one of my favourites. Being the smallest guy in these matches, he's often the subject of an extended beatdown. When he tags in and Johnny Ace immediately takes the upper hand, I think to myself "I know where this is going". But I don't. Kikuchi gets body slammed twice by Williams, but both times pops up to his feet and lands a few fiery forearms. Then we get a lovely sequence where Kikuchi rolls out of three or four elbow drops from both Williams and Hansen before bailing out of the ring. He then re-enters and tags in Misawa. Crisis averted! Later in the match, Kikuchi tags in and soon gets cut off by Hansen. You had your time in the sun Kikuchi, but now it's welcome to pain. No! Moments later, Kikuchi fires off a leg lariat and tags out. In fact, it is Misawa who is subject to a long beatdown later in the match.

    Despite those neat moments and sequences, the match as a whole failed to stand out. That's not to say it's bad: the baseline for AJPW matches is so high that even a below average match is still pretty good. But most of the action wasn't particularly gripping. Misawa was a good face in peril, and the gaijin team displayed excellent teamwork, keeping the beatdown fairly interesting. The post-hot-tag action was frenetic as always, but it was like the rest of the match: a handful of cool moments, but as a whole, nothing special. Stan Hansen picks up the win after meeting Kobashi's leaping shoulder tackle with a walloping lariat, getting a small measure of retribution for his defeat and injury at the Champion Carnival.


    ---------------------------------------------

    A solid and enjoyable six man tag, slightly below average by AJPW tag standards but still far above their equivalents in NJPW or WWE. ***1/4. Those not too familiar with AJPW might watch this match and think much more highly of it, but I've become so accustomed to the top tier work that a match like this fails to stand out amongst the crowd.

  3. #53
    Ravishing Slick Dude KashDinero's Avatar

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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    Just throwing a bit of public praise out there for this thread. Emperor is truly the real Emperor of puro for this shit. Strobe's knowledgable input is a wonderful addition as always.

    Great read, gentlemen. Keep up the amazing work. This sort of documentation of history is far too rare these days. Seeing as this period in AJPW was such an influential time in wrestlin that I've only really delved into through a few "best ofs" and the Kawada vs Misawa and Kobashi vs Misawa RF Video collections, it's been great to finally read up on it in such a thorough and comprehensive format.

    The rise of Kobashi, Kawada and Williams in the company around this time has always been a source of interest for me. Jun Akiyama being such a prodigy is another, as was Misawa refusing to allow his peers to usurp him as the ace, while the legendary Stan Hansen was still hanging around helping to facilitate the rise of the new blood yet still managing to maintain his godlike status in the company. The booking of AJPW around this time is possibly the best ever in a wrestling company period.

    At the risk of bringing things down a tad, one negative note I wanna also throw out there is that the level of punishment these guys put themselves through was insane. Mick Foley took things to crazy levels of physical insanity in the name of wrestling against numerous opponents, most notably and memorably against Vader in 1993 WCW, but a guy like Kobashi allowed himself to be used as a human punch/kick bag on a regular basis for years. That's a level of physical sacrifice very few will ever match, and, truth be told, that's not a bad thing. It worked in this era, and given the ultimate tough guy roster the company had at the time, the personal pride factor must have driven the prominent strong style featured in the company, but I wouldn't want to see guys literally taking years of their careers in AJPW-like fashion again. They were almost like certain members of the mid-nineties ECW roster in regards to having more respect for the match/show/company than their own self well being. As great as I personally found the recent Omega/Okada Tokyo Dome match that top rope dragon suplex was far too much neck damaging impact for my liking. I used to think the insane high angle back drop drivers guys like Steve Williams seemingly used in every match were the greatest thing in wrestling of all the times (!), but seeing how things panned out for these guys physical well being in general (RIP Misawa), I can definitely do without that shit in my wrestling matches these days. Seeing Kobashi allow Kawada to kick him in the head as hard as he can to get a little hard way colour in the match is another thing that has no place in this day and age. The ending of Brock/Randy being a recent example that I found more stomach churning than entertaining. It definitely helped AJPW stand out from the pack, and is far from the only defining trait that earned the company such a legendary legacy, but it was definitely a big part of what they brought to the table.

    Other than that little rant, I just wanna say, Johnny Smith for the win. From his initial teaming with Dynamite Kid as The British Bruisers up until basically the company closed its doors, the guy had, like, a decade plus of continued employment. Of all of the qualities that defined AJPW, loyalty has to be its strongest in terms of morality, which is a very rare thing in the shady business that is wrestling. Johnny Ace is another guy who benefitted greatly from the loyalty of Baba. I actually heard/read that Ace was Mokoto Baba's favourite wrestler, which is probably another strong factor in Ace's long AJPW career when he struggled to find employment as a wrestler elsewhere.

    Anyway, again, keep up that amazing work, Emp. PW is relying on you here... No pressure, though, obviously

    Side Note: Random Johnny Smith Fact--he actually had a half decent match in ECW against Taz back in 96.
    Last edited by KashDinero; 01-11-2017 at 07:55 PM.
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  4. #54
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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    Quote Originally Posted by KashDinero View Post
    Johnny Ace is another guy who benefitted greatly from the loyalty of Baba. I actually heard/read that Ace was Mokoto Baba's favourite wrestler, which is probably another strong factor in Ace's long AJPW career when he struggled to find employment as a wrestler elsewhere.
    What's the deal with Johnny Ace? Everyone seems to hate him as a wrestler, but he's far from terrible. That six man tag demonstrated that he's not as interesting as the top guys he shared the match with (not even Kikuchi), but he's a solid wrestler with a cool finisher. The AJPW midcard is the perfect spot for him.

  5. #55
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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    AJPW Super Power Series 1994

    We head to day 6 of the tour, taking place three days after the show I reviewed in the previous post. There's only one match to cover, but it's a big 'un. About two weeks before Kawada challenges Misawa for the Triple Crown, we have Kawada hoping to claim another one of Misawa's titles. The Holy Demon Army challenge Misawa and Kobashi for the AJPW World Tag Team championships. I can understand the booking of the 8-man elimination match a bit more now. Kawada and Taue running through the lower end of Misawa's stable by themselves re-establishes them as an unstoppable force, the same standing they had when they first teamed together.

    ---------------------------------------------

    AJPW World Tag Team Championship
    Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi (c) vs Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue


    This matchup last occurred in the finals of the Real World Tag League at the end of 1993. Misawa and Kobashi won to become the tag team champions for the first time. This is the first tag team championship match and the first match between these two teams since then.

    Kobashi and Kawada start. They skip the chain wrestling and go straight to trying to knock each other down. Kawada sidesteps a chop, Kobashi dodges a big boot. On the next exchange Kobashi grabs the rope in order to avoid a second big boot, then dives at Kawada with a shoulder tackle, successfully taking Kawada down. Kobashi tags in Misawa. Kawada quickly decides to tag out. He doesn't want Misawa. Yet. The Triple Crown champion shows his skill, nailing Taue with a forearm anda lovely dropkick. Taue grabs the arm and slows the pace down with a wristlock, but Misawa doesn't feel like messing about and hits a number of forearms, a body slam and a senton. Kobashi tags in and keeps up the offense, but Taue is able to catch him with a gamengiri and tags in Kawada. Kawada peppers Kobashi with strikes in the corner, sends him to the ropes and hits his deadly spinkick on Kobashi's return. Kobashi rolls towards Misawa. Kawada, unable to stop Kobashi from rolling to the corner, makes a last minute decision to violently boot Misawa in the face, stopping the tag.

    The Holy Demon Army beat down Kobashi for a couple of minutes. Kobashi reverses Kawada's Irish Whip, sending Kawada towards Misawa's side of the ring. Kawada changes trajectory and charges at Misawa, catching him with a second boot to the face, then turning around and doing the same to Kobashi. Great spot. Misawa showed some restraint after the first shot. This time he enters the ring illegally and nails Kawada with several forearms before heading to the apron. Kobashi crawls to make the tag, and we have our first champion vs challenger exchange. Misawa takes Kawada down with a dropkick followed by a spinkick.

    Now it's Kawada's turn to receive a beatdown. He makes the mistake of getting into a chop battle with Kobashi, who floors his adversary with a chop to the neck. Later on, Kawada counters a Misawa springboard back elbow with a kick to the back, giving him time to tag in Taue. Taue holds Misawa in a vertical suplex position then slams him to the mat, staying on his feet. I'm not sure why more wrestlers don't do this. Saves you landing on your back, and the impact on the opponent is probably greater. Misawa is on the end of a beatdown for a couple of minutes, but he's soon able to tag in Kobashi. Kobashi comes in steaming, but Taue quickly manages to calm the storm with a solid elbow strike. Almost 15 minutes in and neither team have been able to gain a lasting advantage.

    Kobashi hits Kawada with a nice suplex, but Kawada is soon back to his feet and kicking away. However, Kawada is noticeably limping. Presumably he tweaked his knee on the suplex landing, because his legs appeared fine before that point, and his legs hadn't been attacked at all during the match. He tags Taue, who gains a measure of retribution by taking Kobashi to the outside, slamming him shin-first onto a table, then wrapping his left leg over the crowd rail, and kicking away at the limb. Finally, one team has a tangible advantage. Kobashi's leg becomes the focus of the Army's attack. Kawada mercilessly lowers the left knee pad and stomps away at the leg. Taue one-ups his partner by hanging Kobashi in the tree of woe. Boooo! Kawada stretches Kobashi out, Misawa comes in to break the hold. Boooo! He comes in again to break up a Taue half bostom crab. BOOOOO! A typical Japanese crowd: the rules of professional wrestling is the top babyface. Kobashi fights out of a shinbreaker and lariats Taue, but Taue stops the tag by grabbing the leg. Kawada doesn't hesitate to once again force Misawa off the apron, and help double suplex Kobashi for good measure. Kawada tags in and provokes Kobashi with light kicks. Kobashi starts to fire up but Kawada drops him with a gamengiri. Kobashi with a closed fist punch and a dropkick to the knee! He crawls to the corner! Misawa is in!

    Misawa beats on Kawada, then turns his attention to Taue, taking him out with a suicide dive while Kobashi beats up Kawada on the outside. Kawada sent back in the ring. Tiger Driver! One! Two! Kawada kicks out! We're just past the 20 minute mark, and I believe that was the first cover of the match. Kawada resourcefully kicks Misawa from the ground, and hits a gamengiri to buy some recovery time. Taue is in. Trademark throat drape on the top rope. Boooo! Snake eyes! Boo! Misawa shrugs it off and hits a forearm. Misawa swats at his face, then runs the ropes, but Taue counters the flying clothesline attempt by slamming Misawa's face into the mat. Kobashi tries to enter, Taue kicks his knee, then hits Misawa with a boot and a bulldog. The Army once again in full control, establishing their dominance. The crowd are rallying behind Misawa while Kawada wears him down. Kawada hits some Kawada kicks, but Misawa stands up, staring down his future challenger. Great moment. A brief forearm battle does not end well for Kawada.

    Kobashi tags in, and soon they are chop battling for the second time. Kawada diverts with a kick to the leg. Kobashi reels for a moment, then kicks Kawada in the leg. Kawada goes down. Both men are unable to suplex one another, so they release, and Kawada catches Kobashi with a spin kick. Taue tags in and hits a flying big boot for a near fall. Soon they are trading blows, and the fatigue is visible on both combatants. Taue throws Kobashi to the mat a few times and tries a chokeslam, but Kobashi is not worn down enough for that. Kobashi hits two DDTs, slaps some life into his left leg, and hits a legdrop. Body slam. Moonsault attempt. Moonsault connects! But Kobashi hit his knee hard. With an expression of agony, he slowly rolls to his partner and makes the tag. Misawa keeps the offense going with a diving elbow smash and a jumping clothesline. One! Two! Taue kicks out! We're a little over 30 minutes.

    Facelock! Facelock! Kobashi sloppily intercepts Kawada with a sleeper hold, but Kawada is able to throw Kobashi off and break up the Facelock. Kobashi reapplies the sleeper, and Misawa straightforwardly reapplies the Facelock. Taue is not tapping! Taue makes the ropes as Kawada whips Kobashi into the guardrail. Misawa goes for a Frog Splash but Kawada cuts him off. Taue with a superplex from the bottom rope for a two count. Suddenly Misawa is alone with the Army. Kawada whips Misawa into Taue's clutches, but he escapes the chokeslam, only to be dropped with a Kawada lariat. Kawada hits a Backdrop Driver! One! Two! Kobashi makes the save! Stereo chokeslam and powerbomb! Kawada folds up Misawa! One! Two! Kick out! After a bit of effort, Kawada hits a second powerbomb, but Kobashi breaks up the cover before one. Misawa is barely staying alive.

    Kawada tells himself "I've hit two, why not a third?", but Kobashi again makes the save, lariating Kawada before he is able to lift up his opponent. Kawada still has the advantage, and tries a backdrop, but Misawa floats over into the cover. Kawada easily kicks out, but eats a desperation discus forearm. Misawa drops to his knees, slowly crawling towards his partner. He makes the tag just as Kawada is getting up. Kawada may have been playing possum, as he immediately catches Kobashi with a dropkick to the leg. Or perhaps he wasn't. Kawada is slow to recover, and Kobashi drops Kawada with a Backdrop Driver of his own! Steve Williams should have copyrighted that move. Kobashi goes for the Infinity Roll but Kawada counters in fine style with a leg sweep. Taue seems some action for the first time in maybe five minutes, hitting Kobashi with a dropkick and a powerslam for a two count. Samoan drop attempt. Misawa cuts him off, and Kobashi hits a German suplex for a very near fall. Misawa in. The champions pepper Taue with strikes. Tiger Driver! One! Two! Kawada makes the save!

    Kobashi hits the second moonsault of the match. One! Two! Taue kicks out!! Unbelievable! Kobashi goes for another, but Taue rolls out of the way. Kawada decides to strolle in the ring and drop Kobashi with yet another Backdrop Driver. Misawa was apparently slow to react, entering the ring only after the move was hit. He is promptly disposed of by Kawada. Backdrop/chokeslam double team! One! Two! Kobashi kicks out! Taue hits another chokeslam as Misawa german suplexes Kawada. Thus Misawa is able to make a quick save. Kobashi with a neckbreaker drop on Taue, but Kawada breaks it up! Misawa hits a half-botched German on Kawada. Kobashi powerbombs Taue! Jackknife cover! One! Two! Kick out! Kobashi hits a body slam, climbs the top rope, and hits Taue with the third moonsault! One! Two! Three! Kobashi and Misawa retain!


    ---------------------------------------------

    Fantastic match. The action starts right from the get go, and doesn't let up for the 40+ minutes, maintaining a fairly fast and steady pace, which gradually builds and builds until the bomb-chucking finish. Never a dull moment. There were some nice character spots, such as Kawada's relentless cheap shotting of Misawa, Taue's ruthless assault on Kobashi's legs, the Misawa/Kobashi standoff, and Kobashi firing up against Taue (not sure if I mentioned this one in the match description). The finish was great, with all four men battling in the last 5-10 minutes and somehow able to flawlessly coordinate many wonderful near falls, although it didn't reach the dramatic heights of a typical great match home stretch. As great as this match was, to me it lacked that little something, that intangible that pushes it beyond a great match and to the realm of the all-time classics. Nevertheless it's still top tier, and one of the best matches I've covered in this thread. ****1/2. Meltzer gave it *****, and I won't debate that.

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    Atodaso Strobe's Avatar

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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    What's the deal with Johnny Ace? Everyone seems to hate him as a wrestler, but he's far from terrible. That six man tag demonstrated that he's not as interesting as the top guys he shared the match with (not even Kikuchi), but he's a solid wrestler with a cool finisher. The AJPW midcard is the perfect spot for him.
    I think the thing with Ace is that he was in an infamously bad tag team in WCW and then he got to be in all these very good to great matches by working with such superior talent. I don't think it is hate, more than the acknowledgment of his fortune. And the fact that he was the favourite of the boss' wife will always work against him when he is brought up, rightly or wrongly.

    You'll get to see a full Ace singles match on the next show actually. It must be one of the most complete All Japan shows of the 90s in terms of footage.

    Bobby Fulton vs. Kentaro Shiga (0:16 of 15:33)
    Giant Kimala vs. Satoru Asako (5:57 of 7:41)
    Johnny Ace vs. Masao Inoue (10:04)
    Masanobu Fuchi/Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Jimmy del Ray/Tom Prichard (2:40 of 15:26)
    Haruka Eigen/Mighty Inoue vs. Rusher Kimura/Mitsuo Momota (1:07 of 21:03)
    Jun Akiyama vs. Abdullah the Butcher (8:40)
    Stan Hansen vs. Tamon Honda (8:40)
    Steve Williams vs. Takao Omori (9:48 of 13:05)
    Mitsuharu Misawa/Kenta Kobashi/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs. Toshiaki Kawada/Akira Taue/Giant Baba (27:20)

    Footage of all 9 matches, 4 in full, another 2 with around 75% and the other 3 being very short clips.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Misawa hits a half-botched German on Kawada.
    That was actually the classic All Japan counter to a German. Kicking off the ropes or buckles to drive your opponent down and they take most of the impact. Never really looks the best, but is one of those spots that is part of the house style.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    A typical Japanese crowd: the rules of professional wrestling is the top babyface.
    As they always should be!

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Fantastic match. The action starts right from the get go, and doesn't let up for the 40+ minutes, maintaining a fairly fast and steady pace, which gradually builds and builds until the bomb-chucking finish. Never a dull moment. There were some nice character spots, such as Kawada's relentless cheap shotting of Misawa, Taue's ruthless assault on Kobashi's legs, the Misawa/Kobashi standoff, and Kobashi firing up against Taue (not sure if I mentioned this one in the match description). The finish was great, with all four men battling in the last 5-10 minutes and somehow able to flawlessly coordinate many wonderful near falls, although it didn't reach the dramatic heights of a typical great match home stretch. As great as this match was, to me it lacked that little something, that intangible that pushes it beyond a great match and to the realm of the all-time classics. Nevertheless it's still top tier, and one of the best matches I've covered in this thread. ****1/2. Meltzer gave it *****, and I won't debate that.
    I'm higher on this than you, going ****¾.

    - Kawada being such a dick is great as always and the Holy Demon Army working over Kobashi is always money.
    - The Misawa/Kawada interactions are brilliant. Even from the start - they are staring each other down and Kawada starts but Misawa lets Kobashi. So then when Misawa tags in, Kawada just tags out to fuck with him and we build to their first exchange from there and their standoff is especially great. While great in its own right, this is also place-setting for their singles bout that we know is coming in just over two weeks and this match gets you seriously pumped to see that. This includes the tweaking of Kawada's leg that caused him such issues in the 1993 RWTL final. Note that while Kobashi went after it, Misawa the Ace was above such advantage taking.
    - Kobashi's leg is worked over here and he did a grand job with the selling. Some could argue that he shouldn't be able to do some of the stuff that he does towards the end, but I felt he handled it well overall. He wasn't totally immobilised with it, he would go to it enough times, when it was struck it would take him down, but he would partially recover from the blows with time and the adrenaline towards the very end could take him through some of the spots.
    - Kobashi's progression with him going from having to be saved time and again by Misawa in the early-going to him doing saving of his own late on and ultimately picking up the win. He pinned Kawada to win the RWTL (although Misawa did a lot of the work); he pinned Hansen in the Carnival (but Hansen was hurt); and he now pinned Taue. Kobashi is seriously on the rise.
    - The rule of three, which you mentioned. It took Tenryu two powerbombs to defeat Jumbo for the Triple Crown in their 6/5/89 classic. With their two successors though, two does not seem to be enough and this will play into things going forward (and I'll get into a point with this in response to Kash below).
    - These guys just express so much character within their work and it all feels natural. A big failing with a lot of modern wrestling is that guys just come across so obviously that they are acting when in the ring, but when Kawada looks at Misawa, you can feel his disdain. When Kobashi looks like he is almost crying in pain, it looks genuine.
    - Like the best All Japan stuff, this match is not just singular but linking what came before with what is to come. This is also the first time where they went into a super long finishing stretch and it is a significant match in that regard - setting a template. They were able to go so far with it by having a load of pin break-ups so that people weren't just kicking out of everything.

    This is better than any tag that I've ever seen from the US and it actually might only be the third best iteration of this match-up. There is a possibility that if I was to do an all-time match list that this could rate higher than any match from this century.

    Quote Originally Posted by KashDinero View Post
    At the risk of bringing things down a tad, one negative note I wanna also throw out there is that the level of punishment these guys put themselves through was insane.
    In relation to my point above, Tenryu needed two Powerbombs and Kawada is going to need three. That's fine, but after that, can you go to four? Five? When a style naturally evolves like that, it reaches a breaking point eventually and that's when you should pare things back and/or change direction. In the late 90s, they could've decided to make matwork and submissions more meaningful again for instance. Recondition the crowd. Save a big bump or two for right at the very end if need be. Instead they just upped the ante over and over. More headdrops. More and more.

    At its peak, it is my favourite style of wrestling. The stiff shots and the nasty bumps to go along with the psychology and storytelling. None of the hitting each other as hard as you can and frequent headdropping is smart though and I could happily accept a wrestler scoffing at it as "not really working when you are hurting each other". As a fan, I love to watch it though. But it was completely unsustainable. Kobashi had no knees by 2000 and, after one singles match in like 2 years, a wrestler with one of the most expansive arsenals ever returned as Chopbashi. Misawa, struggling to create new stars, kept getting dumped on his head until he died in the ring. It wasn't clever.

    It was a perfect storm to create such a fantastic, potentially unsurpassable, era. You had elite workers, who had developed under the tutelage of elite workers, building on the history and stories of those workers, and given years to develop and tell their own stories, while being willing to work an incredibly punishing style. Wrestlers of today can learn from all the positives of that style and approach, while hopefully not going too far with the punishment.

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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    At its peak, it is my favourite style of wrestling.
    I dunno about absolute favourite, as the early RoH stuff with LowKi REALLY struck a chord with me at the time, but Kawada vs Kobashi vs Misawa vs Akiyama is up there with my favourite things in wrestling history. As much as I kinda resent what they put each other through from a human POV, the matches those guys put on came across as borderline real fights at times, and left me in awe damn near eveey time I watched them. They were so damn good to watch. Especially the striking elements of their matches. From Kawada's kicks to Kobashi's chops to Misawa's ELEBOH! I was a big time fan of what they were doing. I used to try to picture a Steve Austin or a Rock in those sort of matches and just couldn't imagine any of the top US SuperStars trying to hang in that type of environment.

    I also consider Kenta Kobashi to be the best wrestler of all time, but I guess that's another topic for another time.
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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    AJPW Super Power Series 1994

    Recently we saw one AJPW undercard from this tour. Mostly fragments of matches, which gave us some valuable insight into the lower card matches of AJPW shows, which is extremely rare, since only the very best AJPW main events and semi-main events get distributed. This time we will witness the 14th day of the Super Power Series 1994 tour. As Strobe said, the most complete AJPW show of the 90s (and maybe of all time up to this point) in terms of footage. Videos for every single match are available. Some are clipped, but there are also some full-length undercard matches. Enough talk, let's get on with it.

    ---------------------------------------------

    Bobby Fulton vs Kentaro Shiga

    This was the opener of the previous complete show. We saw three minutes of that match. This time we get three spots: Shiga hitting a missile dropkick, Fulton hitting a plancha to the outside, and Fulton pinning Shiga with a Regalplex. Wouldn't be surprised if these guys are working the same match on every show.

    Giant Kimala vs Satoru Asako

    Kimala teamed with Abdullah the Butcher on the last show. Now he's in singles action against one of Misawa's goona: Saturo Asako. We've seen Asako before, most recently getting decimated by the Holy Demon Army in the elimination tag match. The first spot sees the two going for a lockup only for Asako to dart to the side at the last moment. Kimala falls forward, stumbles, and grabs the ropes for support. Then he does it again. Now we know where Naito got his signature match starting spot from. Asako decides to engage on the third lockup, which is a mistake. Kimala flails his arms somewhere near Asako's face, which is apparently an eye rake. Kimala whips Asako, lifts him up like a back body drop, but then places him almost neatly on his feet. Asako falls and sells like he took a chest bump. Must have been a miscommunication.

    The next few minutes is Kimala dominating with weak strikes and nerve holds. Why does every tub-of-lard wrestler use the nerve hold? Asako starts his comeback when he boots the charging (at decent speed) Kimala in the face. Then he hits a bulldog, a low dropkick, and a missile dropkick for a near fall. He climbs to the top again, justifiably because there's not much else he can do against this behemoth, and hits a diving senton on the standing Kimala. This is not enough to put the giant away. Asako runs the ropes and Kimala manages to hit a dropkick. It was impressive that he was able to get the air he did, but there was no force behind the kick, so pretty weak overall. He follows up with leg drop, and that's a wrap. No! Asako kicks out! This is no miracle comeback, however. Fat man hits generic fat man finisher: the running body splash. Now it is, truly, a wrap.

    Johnny Ace vs Masao Inoue

    There are two Inoue's in AJPW. Masao Inoue is the son. The young one. He's very green. Ace offers Inoue a handshake. Inoue accepts with little hesitation. No shenanigans. What a nice guy Big Johnny is. By the way, in his AJPW run, Johnny Ace donned a lovely blonde mullet. Like Hollywoode Blond Steve Austin, except with more hair. Just to help you guys picture the action.

    Lock up, Ace pushes Inoue to the corner, clean break. Johnny Ace is a class act. They chain wrestle for a bit. Lock up. Ace pushes Inoue to the ropes. No more clean break, instead a clubbing blow to the chest. Johnny must have decided he's fed up of messing about. They do a running spot, but Inoue hits the ropes really clumsily. He's clearly very green. Ace's left leg is taped up. Inoue sensibly goes after it with a low dropkick and very good limb work. Ace sells well, at least until his comeback. The comeback starts with Ace walloping Inoue with a nasty forearm. If Misawa was watching, he'd have nodded his head in approval. Turns out the reason it looked so good is because he really did wallop him. Super stiff. Inoue is loopy for a few seconds so Ace has to awkwardly stall for a bit. Now Ace is in control, the injured leg that has been attacked for three minutes is perfectly fine. I disapprove of your lack of long term selling, Mr. Ace.

    During his comeback flurry, Inoue climbs the top rope. Ace gets to his feet, and Inoue flies off the top rope, hitting a diving telekinesis attack, a move I've never seen before. What's that, you ask? Let me try to explain. Inoue jumps off the top rope and lands on his feet about a foot in front of Ace. Ace falls backwards, as if he were hit by an actual diving move like a missile dropkick, but no contact was made at all. Thus, telekinesis. Inoue then hits a sort of bridging Exploder Suplex, nearly dropping Ace on his head. Ace is very brave to trust someone so green to hit a move like that. Then again, the top guys are dumping people on their heads all the time, so it would have been part of the routine. Now Ace decides it's time to sell the leg (I'm guessing he actually tweaked it somewhere). There's a bunch of near falls: Inoue's DDT, Ace's top rope clothesline, and Inoue countering the Ace Crusher with a backslide. Inoue then runs into a boot to the stomach. Ace finishes the match with a Doctor Bomb. A shame, because I wanted to make a quip about how this is the only time I'll see the Ace Crusher win a match. Ace shakes his opponent's hand and raises it, showing what a true sportsman he is.

    Masanobu Fuchi and Yoshinari Ogawa vs The Heavenly Bodies (Jimmy del Ray and Tom Prichard)

    I really want to see Fuchi in a full-length match where he's one of the top guys in the match, whether it's a singles match or a tag match like this. In other words, not the henchman of Kawada and/or Taue. Well, if it's ever going to happen, it won't be today, because this is a clipped match. There's about a minute of clips of Ogawa being murdered with double team moves and other high impact moves. Ogawa kicks out of everything. He manages to tag to Fuchi, who gets a huge pop. Japanese crowds universally love Fuchi. We see about five seconds of his comeback, then we cut to the finish. Ogawa kicks out of a Perfect plex, then catches one of the Bodies with a crucifix pin for a surprise victory.

    Haruka Eigen and Mighty Inoue vs Rusher Kimura and Mitsuo Momota

    Replace Momota with Giant Baba and this is the match of the last undercard. But, of course, replacing the invinicible Baba with some shmuck called Momota makes a huge difference. This match lasted a whole 21 minutes, but what we get is a few clips of some lame/slow spots. I'm glad I didn't have to suffer through the whole thing. Kimura wins with a rollup on Eigen that looks like it was supposed to be a two count, but who cares?

    Jun Akiyama vs Abdullah the Butcher

    This is an intriguing match, even if I don't think it will be very good. Akiyama is good. Abby is a veteran and stuff. Perhaps something good will come out of it. They lock up. Abby spams throat thrusts. Five in a row. Akiyama retaliates with four spin kicks in a row. Abby with a headbutt. Akiyama picks up his opponent! It wasn't a full body slam, more of a body drop, but still pretty impressive. Move repetition is the theme of this match: Akiyama hits three leg drops in a row, cover, kick out. Akiyama decides that one more leg drop will do the trick, but it doesn't. Akiyama tries to pick Abby up, but he doesn't really want to get up, so Akiyama sort of drags Abby and rolls him out of the ring.

    The Butcher decides he's had enough of this strike spamming nonsense and shows Akiyama how real wrestling is done, by hitting him a bunch of times with a chair. Abby hits a decent neckbreaker in between face gouging and stuff. Lots of throat thrusts to fill in the gaps. Abby drops an elbow but Akiyama kicks out. Akiyama comes back with a monkey flip! Then a flying forearm, a running knee strike, then he eats some sort of strike to the face. Abby hits a second elbow drop for a pretty underwhelming finish. He didn't even give Akiyama a near fall! Not a terrible match, but not particularly good either.

    Stan Hansen vs Tamon Honda

    Stan Hansen facing a low card guy! Not something you see every day. We all know that Hansen can wallop this guy with a lariat any time he likes, but Hansen is a bit sadistic so he's going to treat us all to some fun clobbering before ending the match.

    Much like the Johnny Ace match, there's a bunch of clean breaks then Hansen gets bored and starts clobbering. Honda is quick to start clobbering back, and Hansen bails out of the ring. Honda hesitates, then decides that you don't get many opportunities to clobber Hansen, and he follows him out. He puts a pretty fiery beatdown on Hansen, clobbering him and whipping him into the guardrail. But, inevitably, Hansen comes back. He boots Honda in the face and runs him over like a rhinoceros. Seething with rage, Hansen reaches over the guardrail, and lifts up the first thing he gets his clobbering mitts on - four chairs linked together. He lifts up this contraption and clobbers Honda with it, in one of the (unintentionally) funniest spots I've seen in a long time.

    Hansen in firm control. He hits a DDT and covers with a smirk on his face as though he's ready to go home. Then Honda kicks out, and you see a little flicker of surprise on Hansen's face before he returns to surly mode. Not the cartoony shock of WWE superstars. A genuine reaction of mild surprise. Emperor approves. Hansen goes for the kill, a powerbomb, but Honda resists and manages to backdrop out of it. Hansen immediately gets up, once again full of rage, and starts clobbering. Honda exploits his opponent's angry state, catching him with a schoolboy, then gains control with a bodyslam and two second rope splashes. This earns a two count. Another body slam and Honda is on the top rope. Hansen telegraphs himself rolling out of the way, but Honda dives anyway, clobbering his own knees into the mat. Even with knee pads, that looks rough. Hansen immediately pounces on the legs. Honda withstands a couple of half boston crabs. He catches Hansen with a DDT, but is not in a position to capitalise. He gets backdropped. Hansen decides he's had enough fun for one evening and signals for the lariat. He doesn't even wait for Honda to get fully to his feet before clobbering him with it. One. Two. Three.

    Did you count how many times I said the word "clobber" and "clobberring" in that match summary? I didn't, but if you did, clobber yourself on the back.

    Steve Williams vs Takao Omori

    No chain wrestling in this match. Williams shoves Omori to the mat. Omori gets up and hits a few chops. Williams throws him down again. Rinse and repeat. Omori wins this strike vs slam battle, Irish whips Williams and hits a dropkick. Doc staggers and then charges at Omori, running him over like Hansen did to Honda in the previous match. Omori catches Williams with an armdrag and grabs an armbar for a few moments. Then they start brawling on the outside. Williams wins this brawl and takes control, but he's selling the arm the whole time. That's a pretty nice show of respect to his opponent, who is far beneath his level and didn't work the arm at all besides that one armbar.

    Williams focuses on his opponent's back, clubbing him on the back, whipping him hard into the turnbuckle, and hitting a vertical suplex. He then wears him down with a Half Boston crab transitioned into an STF. Omori makes the ropes, but is soon in Doc's bear hug. Omori tries several times to fight his way into the match, but Williams keeps knocking him down. Omori finally gets his chance when he dodges a corner splash and hits a backdrop. After hitting a body slam, Omori almost loses his balance on the top rope, but recovers and hits a nice elbow drop for a near fall. In the end, Omori can't overcome Williams' relentless assault. He escapes two powerbomb attempts but is caught with a powerslam and then a Doctor Bomb to end the match. The second Doctor Bomb finish in one night!

    I've sat through a whole AJPW undercard. It's pretty tiring, to be honest. Nevertheless, it's main event time, and it wouldn't be right if I didn't watch this match right here, right now.

    Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs Toshiaki Kawada, Akira Taue and Giant Baba

    If I'm not mistaken, Baba has been on Misawa's team in the last few of these matches, but Baba is a mercenary, the owner, the AJPW god, and he does whatever the fuck he wants. He decides to give Kawada a hand this time. After all, Kawada and Taue did recently lose to Misawa and Kobashi. I'm going to detail this match bullet point style. I've typed enough play by plays.

    - Taue and Kikuchi kick off the match with a fun back and forth scrap.
    - Kobashi and Baba have a chop battle. Baba's chops are terrible but Kobashi has to sell, and Baba wins the battle because he is AJPW god.
    - Baba catches Misawa with a knee to the gut and tags in Kawada. Kawada waits for Misawa to recover before engaging. The crowd chants for Kawada. They have a great exchange on the outside, with Misawa faking dives and doing lucha tricks, but Kawada is able to catch him with a lariat.
    - Kawada becomes the first subject of isolation about 10 minutes in.
    - Baba interferes to break up Misawa's sleeper hold on Kawada. Interestingly, the crowd do not boo this blatant disregard of the rules. They don't really cheer, either. They go "oohhhh". Perhaps the rules of pro-wrestling isn't the top babyface after all. It's tied with Giant Baba. Baba vs the pro-wrestling rulebook. Book it!
    - Nothing interesting happens for the next five minutes, until Team Kawada grabs a hold of Kikuchi. Kawada tries to make his foot touch the back of his head, but doesn't really get close. Kobashi breaks it up, which is met by jeers from the crowd. Only Baba gets away with that shit.
    - Kawada chops Kikuchi so hard he has to sell his hand for at least a minute (after tagging out). Did he break a finger?!
    - Team Misawa gets their comeback in on Baba which is unusual. Misawa hits a backdrop, and Kobashi even manages a vertical suplex. Good job.
    - There's a nice sequence with Team Misawa quick-fire tagging to get some heavy offense on Taue.
    - Kikuchi runs in to stop Baba from hitting Misawa with a Russian leg sweep. Huge boos. Kikuchi breaking the rules and attacking Baba?! Unforgivable! Big pop when Baba hits Kikuchi with a big boot.
    - Kobashi infinity rolls Baba for the first near fall about 25 minutes in. Kawada saves Baba from the moonsault.
    - Kobashi and Kawada have a really hot strike exchange. Kobashi wins with a lariat, then tags Misawa, who hits a Frog Splash for another near fall.
    - The match ends as many of these matches do, with Taue wrecking Kikuchi. A powerbomb and two chokeslams seals his fate, demonstrating that The Holy Demon Army can only beat Misawa's team when there's a Kikuchi to pin.


    ---------------------------------------------

    There you have it. I've watched my first ever full AJPW show. Hopefully it will be the last one. Not that I regret this venture into the unknown, but it's not an experience I'm eager to repeat. It was interesting - if not for this I probably wouldn't have realised that guys like Abdullah the Butcher worked AJPW - but not particularly entertaining.

    The best match of the show was Stan Hansen vs Tamon Honda. Structurally, it was the same as Ace vs Inoue, but it was executed a lot better, for two reasons. The first and most important reason is that Honda is nowhere near as green as Inoue and didn't botch a single thing. I'll go even further and say that Honda was surprisingly good as a fiery underdog. He has just as much potential as Akiyama if you ask me, he's just not as athletic. He's "clumsy", like Taue. The second reason, which goes without saying, is that Hansen is a lot better than Ace. You could see the rage on Hansen's face when he beat up this young punk who dared to get some offense on him, and you could feel it in the violence of his clobberring and mannerisms. Meanwhile, Ace was pretty monotonous, showing little emotion. Williams vs Omori was disappointing. It beats Ace vs Inoue only because of the lack of botches. The main event was pretty lousy outside of a handful of moments. Even the closing stretch was boring outside of the Kawada/Kobashi exchange. One of the worst AJPW tags I've seen.

    The next show is the big one: Kawada vs Misawa for the Triple Crown, in what is regarded as one of the greatest matches of all time. I'm considering rewatching their previous two Triple Crown matches (from 1992 and 1993) because big AJPW matches tend to be pretty deep and play off things in the past. Do you think this is a good idea?

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    Moderator Emperor's Avatar
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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    Misawa vs Kawada Preview

    On the last episode of AJPW: The Golden Years:

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor View Post
    The next show is the big one: Kawada vs Misawa for the Triple Crown, in what is regarded as one of the greatest matches of all time. I'm considering rewatching their previous two Triple Crown matches (from 1992 and 1993) because big AJPW matches tend to be pretty deep and play off things in the past. Do you think this is a good idea?

    Tumbleweed says yes!*

    *Don't take this as an indication that you have to respond to everything. It's fine. I know you guys are reading. I'm not bitter. I'm just having a bit of fun.

    ---------------------------------------------

    AJPW Triple Crown Championship
    October 21st 1992
    Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada


    If you want to follow along, the match is on Youtube! I'm going to review the match in bullet point form, hitting on the key points that may be referenced in the Triple Crown match to come. The top AJPW guys do callbacks a lot - it's a key component of the King's Road long-term storytelling style.

    This is Kawada's first shot at Misawa's Triple Crown, earned by defeating then-rival Taue in a #1 contender's match. Kawada was the clear second Japanese guy in the company, and at this point in time they were still stablemates and tag team partners. It's hard to believe, seeing endless Misawa vs Kawada tag matches in this thread. You'd have thought they were pummelling each other as babies. That is not the case. Once upon a time, Misawa and Kawada (and Kobashi) fought side by side against the evil forces led by Jumbo Tsuruta, and later Akira Taue. A lot has changed since then. Anyway, let's see how this high-stakes sporting contest between buddies goes down.

    - On the first exchange of the match: Misawa grabs a headlock, Kawada immediately picks him up and hits a backdrop driver! Misawa is up fairly quickly, shaking off the cobwebs. Kawada throws a kick but backs off when Misawa tries to throw a forearm.
    - Kawada grabs an armbar. Eventually he releases, kicking Misawa's back lightly. Misawa springs to his feet, but both men stop and lock up.
    - Misawa escapes another armbar via rope break. Kawada kicks him hard in the face. He backs off, but Misawa has had enough, hitting Kawada with a number of forearms to take control.
    - The aggression does not continue as the wrestlers stick to hold-for-hold wrestling.
    - After a long period of Misawa control, Kawada gets back into the match with his trademark spin kick. Misawa rolls to the outside. Kawada patiently waits for him to re-enter the ring.
    - The match escalates at around the 20 minute mark, with both guys hitting big strikes and attempting high impact moves.
    - Kawada hits the first big move of the match, a powerbomb.
    - Misawa in the Stretch Plum for a long time, but walks to the ropes, causing both guys to tumble to the floor.
    - Misawa hits a German suplex/Tiger Driver combo for a near fall.
    - Misawa with a suicide dive almost 30 minutes in. The first and only move done on the outside.
    - Kawada hits a German suplex and a Dragon suplex, both near falls.
    - Kawada taunts Misawa with light kicks, causing the champion to pop up and nail a few forearms.
    - Kawada kicks out a second Tiger Driver! And a Tiger suplex!
    - Kawada can't stand. He kicks Misawa from the ground, but the champion hits a forearm and a second Tiger suplex to win the match.


    ---------------------------------------------

    This may sounds strange, but the match gains something from future knowledge, knowing how potent their rivalry would become. If 1994 Kawada dropped Misawa on his head 30 seconds into the match, he'd capitalise immediately, perhaps picking him up and going for another big move. 1992 Kawada didn't do that. Not out of naivety or a lack of will to win, but because they are friends. If you didn't know the future, you obviously wouldn't pick up on something like that. But even without that knowledge, there was a great story with both guys reluctant to go all out, told while executing some solid body part work. It took a very long time for the match to kick into second gear. Right to the end, Kawada looked to be on equal terms with Misawa, but his trademark cockiness cost him. Kawada was in full control, and decides to taunt Misawa with light kicks to the face. Misawa explodes to his feet, takes control, and never looks back. Very good match. The generally slow pacing was justified and fairly compelling, but the end of the match was missing something. It felt routine, lacking the drama I would expect from a big match, and there was little emotion besides Misawa's occasional but brief fire-ups. ****

    Misawa and Kawada's next singles match was in the 1993 Champion Carnival tournament. They were still stablemates. I'm not going to cover this match. I'll only say that Misawa won after knocking out Kawada with an elbow smash. Not long after that match, the Holy Demon Army was formed, and Kawada and Misawa became enemies. Four months later, they would meet again.

    ---------------------------------------------

    AJPW Triple Crown Championship
    July 7th 1993
    Mitsuharu Misawa (c) vs Toshiaki Kawada


    Oh look, this one's on the internet too!

    - Misawa teases a forearm on the first rope break. Kawada raises his arms to block, a callback to the 1992 match when Kawada reacted to the first forearm attempt in the same way.
    - Misawa forearms Kawada off the apron, sending him into the crowd barrier.
    - Both guys landing big strikes early on. Notably, Kawada hits a lovely dropkick, a move you almost never see from him.
    - Kawada works over Misawa's right arm for several minutes.
    - Misawa comes back by hitting Kawada with his own style of kicks very convincingly.
    - Kawada hits some Kawada kicks. Misawa grabs Kawada's head and does the same. They stare each other down, and repeat the mutual Kawada kicks.
    - Misawa drops Kawada with an elbow smash, then hits two Frog Splashes in a row.
    - Kawada kicks out of a Tiger Driver.
    - Misawa goes for the Tiger Suplex; Kawada desperately scrambles to the ropes.
    - Kawada hits two gamengiris to the face.
    - Misawa escapes the Stretch Plum by falling through the ropes, just as he did the previous year.
    - Kawada dropkicks Misawa off the apron, sending him into the crowd barrier.

    We're entering the home stretch. I'm going to cover this in more detail because it's rather good.

    Misawa crawls back into the ring, and Kawada hits a powerbomb for a near fall. Misawa hits a forearm, but Kawada finds an effective, if illegal, counter in the closed fist punch. Kawada hits a German suplex. A second closed fist punch aids him in hitting a second powerbomb for another near fall. Kawada tries a third punch, but Misawa blocks it, spins around, and hits a roaring elbow! Kawada manages to roll to the floor. Misawa is recovering from the big moves he just took, and his arm is hurting. Kawada gets back in the ring and is hit with a Tiger Suplex for a near fall. Misawa hits another roaring elbow! Kawada is out! Misawa sells the arm for a bit, and makes the cover. Exactly how the CC match ended. Cover. One! Two! Kawada's right shoulder weakly raises off the mat. Misawa with a second cover. This time it's the left shoulder up. A third cover! Misawa hooks the leg! One! Two! Kawada kicks out with more force.

    Misawa gets to his feet. Kawada desperately dives at Misawa with a double leg takedown. It's all about survival now. He gets on top of Misawa but Misawa easily throws him off. Kawada catches Misawa with a Backdrop Driver! He's too spent to make the cover. In fact, Misawa is the first to get to his feet. Forearm from Misawa! Gamengiri from Kawada! Once again, Misawa is first up. High angle release German suplex! Kawada is out of it. Another desperate tackle from Kawada. Misawa once again easily shrugs him off. Misawa grabs Kawada from behind and hits a nasty release German suplex. Kawada lands almost vertically on his neck. One! Two! Kick out! Don't do this to yourself, Kawada. Misawa straightforwardly hits a third German suplex. This time the camera angle masks the severe landing. Misawa isn't done yet. He picks up the lifeless Kawada, hooks his arms behind his back, and hits a Tiger Suplex, retaining his championship and founding Suplex City two decades before Brock Lesnar did the same in the USA.


    ---------------------------------------------

    Simply put, that match was an upgraded version of their 1992 match. Better in every way. The tone of the match was different right from the very start, as it should be, because they are no longer friends. There was no more hesitation to strike one another, and they dished out the heavy strikes early, sizing each other up. Kawada's arm work made up a significant portion of the match and its presence was felt much later, even if it ultimately didn't work. There were a few nods to previous matches. The one I like the most was Misawa hitting the two moves that finished Kawada in their prior two matches, and Kawada kicking out of both of them. A great demonstration of Kawada's growth as a wrestler. His fighting spirit was also on display, going for desperation takedowns and managing to hit a backdrop despite being snooker loopy. Then Misawa, pretty much the only AJPW wrestler who doesn't drop people on their heads, takes it to the next level and drops Kawada on his head three times in a row. The second German suplex in particular, the one with the best camera angle, tied the Vader vs Inoki suplex for most brutal German suplex of all time. I literally said "oh my fucking god" when he (Misawa, not Vader) hit that. Misawa turns up the uncharacteristicness even further by picking up Kawada for a fourth suplex even thoughthe third one being an certain match ender. Despite Kawada's best efforts and evident improvement (and a couple of closed fist punches), the end result is the same: Misawa is just better. He's more resilient, he's more resourceful, and he hits harder. *****

  10. #60
    Atodaso Strobe's Avatar

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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    I hadn't even realised that there was a new post in here before the latest one, but I would've said yes to the question asked.

    Agreed that the first singles match between them gains something on a return to it once you know how their story has progressed. I think the 93 Carnival match that you didn't rewatch is my favourite of theirs up to 6/3/94.

    Surprised to see you go full five for the 7/29/93 match, especially with you rating the recent big tag half a star less. I remember there being some dropped selling of the arm by Misawa that hurts it, even if it is great overall. In the **** range most likely for me, I'd need to rewatch. It does also make me wonder what matches you've watched before that would get the full five. The match just before it on the same night Hansen/Kobashi almost certainly I'd imagine. Maybe the Jumbo/Misawa rematch, the K&K/Can-Ams tag, Hansen/Kawada 93, Kobashi/Williams 93 perhaps, 93 RWTL final, the best six mans.

    Looking forward to the next review and I'll probably give the match a rewatch myself after. It has been a wee while.

  11. #61
    Moderator Emperor's Avatar
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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    In my mind every Hansen/Kobashi match is ***** Definitely their CC'94 match, and probably the one you mentioned. Earlier Kobashi/Hansen matches would require a rewatch, but I'd be surprised if any fall below ****1/2. I love them that much. The K&K/Can-Ams would get the full five as well. Not sure about the others, my memory of them is hazy. I probably posted reviews of at least some of them in one of the old Match Review threads, but can't be bothered digging them up.

    Now you're tempting me to watch the Carnival match as well. Not sure if I will or not. I'm ready for their '94 epic. Hopefully I'll get to it this weekend.

  12. #62
    Atodaso Strobe's Avatar

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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    In my mind every Hansen/Kobashi match is ***** Definitely their CC'94 match, and probably the one you mentioned. Earlier Kobashi/Hansen matches would require a rewatch, but I'd be surprised if any fall below ****1/2. I love them that much.
    They are one of the most perfect match-ups in wrestling. I don't know if either could find a more ideal opponent.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Now you're tempting me to watch the Carnival match as well. Not sure if I will or not. I'm ready for their '94 epic. Hopefully I'll get to it this weekend.
    I wouldn't worry about watching it. You've just rewatched their latest TC match and you know what happened with the RWTL, their non-tourney match during the Carnival and the May tag.

  13. #63
    Moderator Emperor's Avatar
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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    AJPW Super Power Series 1994

    It's the last show of the tour. We take a short stop in the undercard before witnessing the big Triple Crown match. Let's get on with it.

    ---------------------------------------------

    Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama vs Akira Taue and Tamon Honda

    I always find the stable tag matches interesting when both leaders aren't present. It adds a level of uncertainty as any of the four participants could feasibly be pinned (although you won't see Akiyama pin Taue or Honda pin Kobashi). What's even more interesting is that Honda is given a spot in the limelight, perhaps leapfrogging Fuchi as Kawada's #3 guy. The last time we saw Honda was an impressive showing against Stan Hansen, and I even compared him to Akiyama in terms of being a young wrestler with huge potential.

    Honda and Akiyama fire up the crowd from the start, laying into each other. Kobashi and Taue are soon tagged in. They take things a bit more slowly. Kobashi gets the upper hand and tags out. Taue does what he does best: overwhelm those of lesser stature. He bullrushes Akiyama in the corner and tags Honda. We soon get the final pairing: Honda vs Kobashi. Honda surprises everyone by dominating his more established opponent with headbutts to the stomach, two corner lariats and a suplex. The crowd are impressed. Kobashi is isolated for a short period, then Honda, then Akiyama.

    The match picks up once Akiyama escapes Taue's clutches and makes it to his corner. Kobashi's hot tag doesn't last long: Taue and Honda work together to well neutralise him. Akiyama and Honda are left to their own devices, where Honda's greenness shows by botching a spot and then redoing it after a small transition. Not a huge problem. Taue tags in and jackknife powerbombs Akiyama for the first near fall of the match. Kobashi prevents the chokeslam, allowing Akiyama to hit a Northern Lights and tag out. Kobashi runs into a powerslam. Taue tags in and drops a knee from the top for a two count. That's the last offense Honda gets. Kobashi hits a pumphandle bomb for a very near fall. The crowd were shocked he kicked out of that. I expect Kobashi to go for the moonsault here, instead he applies what I can best describe as a modified abdominal stretch. A new finishing move, perhaps? Honda struggles for a while and finally makes the ropes. Unfortunately, he is spent. Taue is able to delay the inevitable after breaking up the pin after a powerbomb, but Kobashi hits the moonsault and this time Akiyama prevents Taue from saving the match.


    ---------------------------------------------

    Great undercard tag team match, non-stop action and a logical progression from start to finish. Honda continues to impress me, clearly outshining Akiyama and probably everyone else too. His corner clotheslines are fantastic, and he took far more punishment than the crowd expected him to take. Looks like team Kawada have found their counterpart to Akiyama.

    ---------------------------------------------

    AJPW Triple Crown Championship
    Mitsuharu Misawa (c) vs Toshiaki Kawada

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rUVA5qchql0

    Both men start the match cautiously. Kawada pushes Misawa to the ropes and breaks clean. Misawa decides that's his cue to take the initiative. He forearms Kawada on the next lockup. They go tit for tat, ending in a standoff when Misawa sidesteps a Kawada big boot. Kawads pushes Misawa to the ropes again. No clean break this time. He throws a chop. They go at it again. Kawada dodges a kick, then successfully hits a big boot. Misawa backs into the ropes and rebounds, only to have his head taken off with a vicious spin kick. Kawada respectfully waits for Misawa to get up. They trade counters, with Misawa getting the last laugh, reversing Kawada's sleeper hold into a high angle backdrop. This time it's Misawa who waits. They start fresh, Kawada grabbing an armbar for a minute or two. Misawa eventually rolls out and staggers Kawada with an elbow smash. The dropkick sends Kawada to the outside, entering familiar territory. Misawa fakes Kawada out, and is able to hit a dropkick through the ropes. However his flying forearm from the apron is countered by Kawada's own forearm. The challenger follows up with a lariat on the floor.

    Back in the ring, Kawada wrestles patiently, wearing the champion down with holds and strikes. Mainly light kicks to the head and chops to the back. Misawa rolls to the floor after eating a few kicks to the chest. Kawada is patient once more. Once Misawa reenters the ring he grabs a sleeper with bodyscissors. Misawa gets to the ropes. Kawada kicks Misawa in the chest. Misawa aims a kick at Kawada's left leg. He connects. His first offense in at least five minutes. Kawada screams in pain. Misawa kicks it over and over, Kawada falling down and rolling around in agony. Just like that, the tables have turned. Misawa grabs a Half Boston crab, but Kawada resourcefully escapes by kicking Misawa's head with his free leg. The next shot reveals that Misawa's ear is cut and bloody. Don't know when that happened. Misawa logically keeps attacking the leg. Soon he lets Kawada to his feet, but Kawada is barely able to stand, never mind resist Misawa's strikes. Misawa scoops up the left leg, but Kawada fights back with a couple of forearms to the back of the head. Kawada is unable to keep the offense going, Misawa easily parrying and connecting with a spinkick. However Kawada still has plenty of gas in the tank as he easily escapes a Tiger Driver attempt. Kawada gets a small amount of offense in before being dropped by a forearm. Misawa sends Kawada to the ropes and catches him with a dropkick. Kawada falls back into the ropes, but rebounds with a powerful boot to the face. Kawada takes a moment to recover, catching his breath and massaging his recently dropkicked face. He picks Misawa up. Misawa throws a weak forearm. Kawada responds strongly with a gamengiri right on the forehead. Down goes the champion. Kawada tries to pick Misawa up, but he's not responding. Cover! One! Two! Kick out!

    Misawa backdrops out of a powerbomb attempt, but he's still loopy from the gamengiri, staying on his knees. Kawada dropkicks him in the back of the head. He hits a secnd rope knee drop and continues attacking Misawa's neck with chops. Misawa looks out of it, but try as he might, Kawada cannot get Misawa up for the powerbomb! Misawa escapes two attempts, the two combatants have a brief strike exchange, ending when Kawada catches Misawa's spinkick only for the other boot to hit him in the face. Both men are down. Misawa gets to his knees, where we see a trickle of blood roll down his cheek. Kawada escapes a Tiger Driver attempt and Tiger Suplex attempt. Both men doing a tremendous job of avoiding the most dangerous moves. Whoever hits the first one will have a huge advantage. Both men fire up, trading strikes. Misawa blocks a gamengiri and dropkicks Kawada in the face. Misawa hooks Kawada's arms for the Tiger Driver. He nails it! One! Two! Kawada kicks out! Misawa to the top. Frog Splash! One! Two! Kick out! Misawa definitely has a huge advantage now. Can Kawada come back?

    Misawa grabs the Facelock. Kawada gets a rope break and rolls to the floor. Misawa wastes little time getting him back in the ring. He climbs to the top once more, but Kawada is ready, perfectly scouting the flying forearm and striking with a gamengiri. Kawada goes for the powerbomb, but Misawa is still resisting. Kawada tries a closed fist punch, but Misawa blocks and drops Kawada with an elbow. Kawada quickly to his feet, trading forearms with the master, winning the strike exchange with a big boot and a lariat. Backdrop driver by Kawada! Kawada goes for the powerbomb. Finally he hits it! Misawa is folded up. One! Two! Misawa kicks out! We know by now that one powerbomb isn't enough to put down the ace, no matter how long it took to hit. Kawada hits two gamengiris and a high angle German Suplex, giving Misawa a taste of his own medicine. Misawa rolls to the floor. Kawada's hit a bunch of big moves unanswered. Much like their most recent match at the Champion Carnival. But there's no imminent time limit to save Misawa this time. Can Kawada make the most of this chance?

    Kawada goes to the outside and rolls Misawa in the ring. Misawa resists a powerbomb, but he can't resist forever. Kawada bombs Misawa and folds him up for a second time. One! Two! Misawa kicks out! Kawada goes for it again. Misawa scrambles to the ropes, but Kawada drags him to the middle and applies Stretch Plum! The crowd chants Misawa's name. After a minute or two, Kawada releases and goes for the pin. Misawa kicks out. Kawada picks Misawa up, but the champion buys some time with a desperate elbow smash. Kawada is up first and boots Misawa in the face. Misawa catches Kawada with another surprise elbow. This time Misawa is up first. He hits a running clothesline. Both men down once more. Misawa is up first, and after a brief struggle, throws Kawada on his head with a German suplex of his own. Misawa hits the Tiger Suplex! One! Two! Kawada kicks out!

    Both men down once again. This is a war. An outright war. It feels like one of them is going to have to kill the other to win this match. Misawa is in control right now. Misawa grabs the waist, but Kawada scrambles to the ropes, and connects with a rolling Liger Kick! Both men are down once again. Now the crowd is on Kawada's side. Kawada hits a second Liger Kick. The champion smartly rolls to the floor. Both men get up at the same time. Misawa pauses on the outside, staring at his arch nemesis. Kawada returns the death stare. Misawa enters the ring, and it's on once more. They trade forearms. Kawada blocks a discus elbow and barrages Misawa with kicks to the head in the corner. Kick! Kick! Kick! Misawa somehow toughs through it, forces himself to an upright position and staggers Kawada with a forearm. Then a discus elbow knocks Kawada down. Misawa picks him up and peppers him with forearm strikes. Kawada is wobbly. Misawa hits a second discus elbow! Kawada is out of it.

    Kawada meekly resists the Tiger Driver, throws some sloppy kicks to the leg, and basically misses a Liger Kick. Misawa capitalises with a running forearm smash. Misawa picks Kawada up. Tiger Driver position. He picks Kawada up, and drops him vertically on his head! Tiger Driver '91! One! Two! Three! Misawa remains the Triple Crown champion! Misawa is awarded his three belts. Champion and challenger shake hands after their latest war.


    ---------------------------------------------

    Holy shit. That was every bit the epic it was built up to be. An absolute war. The match started off slow, but it was never boring. It escalated and escalated, both men pulling out all the stops but not being able to put the other one down, going above and beyond what they put each other through in their previous matches. Kawada was as close to Misawa's equal as he has ever been. If Misawa didn't have his champions instinct and rolled to the floor on two occasions when he was on the brink of defeat - something Kawada never chose to do or was never able to do - the result could have been different. Kawada at least equalled Misawa in strike exchanges, but when it came to crunch time, Misawa's shotgun blast elbow smash proved to be the best strike in either man's possession. There were many great moments. Both men stubbornly going for their favourite powerbomb variant but unable to hit it for so long. The German suplexes. The stare minutes before the end of the match. Most of all, the finish. Everybody was expecting a normal Tiger Driver, but Misawa instead uses the move he invented by accident three years prior and hadn't used since. It took his super finisher to put down his rival, because not even the Tiger Driver or multiple roaring elbows could do the job. That Kawada would have beaten Misawa a year ago, but Misawa is not the only one who's grown. This is considered by some as the greatest match of all time, a match whose date is immortalised in the puroresu community, and I can see why, although I personally don't think it's significantly superior (maybe not even superior at all) to the 7/7/93 match. *****

  14. #64
    Atodaso Strobe's Avatar

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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Both men start the match cautiously. Kawada pushes Misawa to the ropes and breaks clean. Misawa decides that's his cue to take the initiative. He forearms Kawada on the next lockup. They go tit for tat, ending in a standoff when Misawa sidesteps a Kawada big boot. Kawads pushes Misawa to the ropes again. No clean break this time. He throws a chop. They go at it again. Kawada dodges a kick, then successfully hits a big boot. Misawa backs into the ropes and rebounds, only to have his head taken off with a vicious spin kick. Kawada respectfully waits for Misawa to get up. They trade counters, with Misawa getting the last laugh, reversing Kawada's sleeper hold into a high angle backdrop. This time it's Misawa who waits. They start fresh, Kawada grabbing an armbar for a minute or two. Misawa eventually rolls out and staggers Kawada with an elbow smash. The dropkick sends Kawada to the outside, entering familiar territory. Misawa fakes Kawada out, and is able to hit a dropkick through the ropes. However his flying forearm from the apron is countered by Kawada's own forearm. The challenger follows up with a lariat on the floor.
    I love this whole opening. The counters showing how well they know each other. The sequences look great. I enjoy that they are both cautious after landing a big move early, not immediately following up. I see it two ways: (1) neither wants to rush into a mistake; (2) both are respecting the gravity of the match. It is the first Triple Crown match in 8 months and the rivalry between these two has been building and building. Even just those respectful waits gives it a big-time feel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Back in the ring, Kawada wrestles patiently, wearing the champion down with holds and strikes. Mainly light kicks to the head and chops to the back. Misawa rolls to the floor after eating a few kicks to the chest. Kawada is patient once more. Once Misawa reenters the ring he grabs a sleeper with bodyscissors. Misawa gets to the ropes. Kawada kicks Misawa in the chest.
    I like Kawada's confidence growing here. He is using containing submissions, because this is Misawa after all, but he starts hitting more strikes and you get a sense he is comfortable here, in charge of Misawa.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Misawa aims a kick at Kawada's left leg. He connects. His first offense in at least five minutes. Kawada screams in pain. Misawa kicks it over and over, Kawada falling down and rolling around in agony. Just like that, the tables have turned. Misawa grabs a Half Boston crab, but Kawada resourcefully escapes by kicking Misawa's head with his free leg.
    Kawada has been in charge and Misawa shows a sign that he is worried. He never went for Kawada's leg in the 93 RWTL or the recent May tag when Kobashi was going after it. He is the Ace. He is the best. He doesn't need to attack weaknesses or injuries. Except here he feels the need. He knows Kawada is improving, getting closer. This is fantastic long-term storytelling. Misawa going after the leg doesn't mean much at all without this context. With the context, it fantastically frames his mindset.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    The next shot reveals that Misawa's ear is cut and bloody. Don't know when that happened. Misawa logically keeps attacking the leg. Soon he lets Kawada to his feet, but Kawada is barely able to stand, never mind resist Misawa's strikes. Misawa scoops up the left leg, but Kawada fights back with a couple of forearms to the back of the head. Kawada is unable to keep the offense going, Misawa easily parrying and connecting with a spinkick.
    Kawada short-term selling here is typically fantastic and I will address that he goes straight to leg falling off selling and then doesn't continue that throughout the rest of the match. I criticise Okada for this, but there is a good reason why I don't have much of an issue with Kawada's in this match and in fact, think it is pretty great. This may be hypocritical or showing my biases, but hey, we all have them.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    However Kawada still has plenty of gas in the tank as he easily escapes a Tiger Driver attempt. Kawada gets a small amount of offense in before being dropped by a forearm. Misawa sends Kawada to the ropes and catches him with a dropkick. Kawada falls back into the ropes, but rebounds with a powerful boot to the face. Kawada takes a moment to recover, catching his breath and massaging his recently dropkicked face. He picks Misawa up. Misawa throws a weak forearm. Kawada responds strongly with a gamengiri right on the forehead. Down goes the champion. Kawada tries to pick Misawa up, but he's not responding. Cover! One! Two! Kick out!
    So Kawada going straight to huge selling was crucial. It was to drum home the point that "hey, look, look, everyone, Misawa is finally going after the leg to show he is concerned". This wasn't leg work and selling just to fill some time, before they do all the cool stuff they have planned later.

    Then Misawa drops the leg work, which is fitting as well, because he did that to get his footing in the match but now returns to his "I'm the ace, I don't need shortcuts" stance. Normally it would be strange to stop working the leg, but with Misawa that's not the case.

    Kawada does keep selling the leg throughout, but in a nuanced way at odds with his initial big selling. He stretches and shakes it off when he gets back on offence after the initial work, which helps, as does Misawa not returning to it. He braces his body in certain ways that indicate that it is hurt. He grabs and rubs at it occasionally. He keeps using his kicks, because he knows they are his best weapon, but it means he can't follow up quickly at times. It also helps that he isn't running about all over the place. The reason for him not keeping the big selling (which we know he has done right through to the end in matches before) is that the story is not his leg. That was just a device to help sell the big story, that Kawada is closer than ever.

    And on a personal note, I can relate to a situation like this. I recently got hurt in a tackle early into a game of 5-a-side football, initially could barely put weight on it, walked it off, adrenaline takes over, played fine with some soreness for the rest of the hour and have now spent almost two weeks with massive bruising covering most of my lower leg and struggling to walk. So I can buy that it was in a lot of pain when initially being worked over, he walked it off, it wasn't worked on again and adrenaline helped him but it was still hurt.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Misawa backdrops out of a powerbomb attempt, but he's still loopy from the gamengiri, staying on his knees. Kawada dropkicks him in the back of the head. He hits a secnd rope knee drop and continues attacking Misawa's neck with chops. Misawa looks out of it, but try as he might, Kawada cannot get Misawa up for the powerbomb! Misawa escapes two attempts, the two combatants have a brief strike exchange, ending when Kawada catches Misawa's spinkick only for the other boot to hit him in the face. Both men are down. Misawa gets to his knees, where we see a trickle of blood roll down his cheek. Kawada escapes a Tiger Driver attempt and Tiger Suplex attempt. Both men doing a tremendous job of avoiding the most dangerous moves. Whoever hits the first one will have a huge advantage. Both men fire up, trading strikes. Misawa blocks a gamengiri and dropkicks Kawada in the face. Misawa hooks Kawada's arms for the Tiger Driver. He nails it! One! Two! Kawada kicks out! Misawa to the top. Frog Splash! One! Two! Kick out! Misawa definitely has a huge advantage now. Can Kawada come back?
    The powerbomb build is fantastic, such a well-teased move. The ear bleeding just makes this thing look like the battle it has been. Misawa getting the first big bomb (after many had been avoided by both) gives Kawada something to overcome now.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Misawa grabs the Facelock. Kawada gets a rope break and rolls to the floor. Misawa wastes little time getting him back in the ring. He climbs to the top once more, but Kawada is ready, perfectly scouting the flying forearm and striking with a gamengiri. Kawada goes for the powerbomb, but Misawa is still resisting. Kawada tries a closed fist punch, but Misawa blocks and drops Kawada with an elbow. Kawada quickly to his feet, trading forearms with the master, winning the strike exchange with a big boot and a lariat. Backdrop driver by Kawada! Kawada goes for the powerbomb. Finally he hits it! Misawa is folded up. One! Two! Misawa kicks out! We know by now that one powerbomb isn't enough to put down the ace, no matter how long it took to hit. Kawada hits two gamengiris and a high angle German Suplex, giving Misawa a taste of his own medicine. Misawa rolls to the floor. Kawada's hit a bunch of big moves unanswered. Much like their most recent match at the Champion Carnival. But there's no imminent time limit to save Misawa this time. Can Kawada make the most of this chance?
    And overcome it he does. He is sick of not getting this powerbomb and uses a closed fist to try to help himself out. When he goes for a second, Misawa is having none of that shit. But Kawada finally gets his powerbomb, after needing to use a dangerous backdrop to soften Misawa up for it, and gets a nearfall. The crowd is molten now. Misawa knew how to work as stoic ace perfectly. He so often showed weakness that when he did it meant so much more. Just rolling to the floor here gives a great insight into his mindset. He is worried.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Kawada goes to the outside and rolls Misawa in the ring. Misawa resists a powerbomb, but he can't resist forever. Kawada bombs Misawa and folds him up for a second time. One! Two! Misawa kicks out! Kawada goes for it again. Misawa scrambles to the ropes, but Kawada drags him to the middle and applies Stretch Plum! The crowd chants Misawa's name. After a minute or two, Kawada releases and goes for the pin. Misawa kicks out. Kawada picks Misawa up, but the champion buys some time with a desperate elbow smash. Kawada is up first and boots Misawa in the face. Misawa catches Kawada with another surprise elbow. This time Misawa is up first. He hits a running clothesline. Both men down once more. Misawa is up first, and after a brief struggle, throws Kawada on his head with a German suplex of his own. Misawa hits the Tiger Suplex! One! Two! Kawada kicks out!
    Here is something that I prefer with this style than a lot of modern matches. Misawa is on his comeback, hits a big move and is down selling before managing to hit another. Today, you often find someone who has eaten a number of big moves just come back and hit three, four big moves in a row, all fast, as if they aren't struggling too much.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Both men down once again. This is a war. An outright war. It feels like one of them is going to have to kill the other to win this match. Misawa is in control right now. Misawa grabs the waist, but Kawada scrambles to the ropes, and connects with a rolling Liger Kick! Both men are down once again. Now the crowd is on Kawada's side. Kawada hits a second Liger Kick. The champion smartly rolls to the floor. Both men get up at the same time. Misawa pauses on the outside, staring at his arch nemesis. Kawada returns the death stare. Misawa enters the ring, and it's on once more.
    This does feel like a war. An epic. And the stare is fantastic, setting us up for our finalé.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    They trade forearms. Kawada blocks a discus elbow and barrages Misawa with kicks to the head in the corner. Kick! Kick! Kick! Misawa somehow toughs through it, forces himself to an upright position and staggers Kawada with a forearm. Then a discus elbow knocks Kawada down. Misawa picks him up and peppers him with forearm strikes. Kawada is wobbly. Misawa hits a second discus elbow! Kawada is out of it.
    This is my favourite no-selling spot of all time. Kawada is just kicking his face in relentlessly and you think "shit, he's going to do it". Then Misawa is all "nope, I'm the Ace, fuck you Kawada", blocks the pain, stands up and uses his great weapon - the elbow - to end this last surge from Kawada. Kawada is great, he has improved, but Misawa is still better, still more resilient, still with that little something more.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Kawada meekly resists the Tiger Driver, throws some sloppy kicks to the leg, and basically misses a Liger Kick. Misawa capitalises with a running forearm smash. Misawa picks Kawada up. Tiger Driver position. He picks Kawada up, and drops him vertically on his head! Tiger Driver '91! One! Two! Three! Misawa remains the Triple Crown champion! Misawa is awarded his three belts. Champion and challenger shake hands after their latest war.
    Kawada is finished here and this is where a certain sloppiness can work perfectly. He is running on empty, just pure desperation, trying the koppu kick and coming nowhere near. Then the Tiger Driver '91 is one of the most iconic finishers ever. A move that puts someone over in defeat. Misawa likey didn't need it, a Tiger Driver or Tiger Suplex at this point would probably be enough. But Kawada had put up such an effort that he just wanted to be absolutely sure.

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor
    Holy shit. That was every bit the epic it was built up to be. An absolute war. The match started off slow, but it was never boring. It escalated and escalated, both men pulling out all the stops but not being able to put the other one down, going above and beyond what they put each other through in their previous matches. Kawada was as close to Misawa's equal as he has ever been. If Misawa didn't have his champions instinct and rolled to the floor on two occasions when he was on the brink of defeat - something Kawada never chose to do or was never able to do - the result could have been different. Kawada at least equalled Misawa in strike exchanges, but when it came to crunch time, Misawa's shotgun blast elbow smash proved to be the best strike in either man's possession. There were many great moments. Both men stubbornly going for their favourite powerbomb variant but unable to hit it for so long. The German suplexes. The stare minutes before the end of the match. Most of all, the finish. Everybody was expecting a normal Tiger Driver, but Misawa instead uses the move he invented by accident three years prior and hadn't used since. It took his super finisher to put down his rival, because not even the Tiger Driver or multiple roaring elbows could do the job. That Kawada would have beaten Misawa a year ago, but Misawa is not the only one who's grown. This is considered by some as the greatest match of all time, a match whose date is immortalised in the puroresu community, and I can see why, although I personally don't think it's significantly superior (maybe not even superior at all) to the 7/7/93 match. *****
    I think it is a couple levels higher than any of their other matches up to this point. One of the few matches I sprinkle the full portion on. You mention almost all of the important points here and each time I watch, it continues to hold up. *****

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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    Quote Originally Posted by Strobe View Post
    Kawada has been in charge and Misawa shows a sign that he is worried. He never went for Kawada's leg in the 93 RWTL or the recent May tag when Kobashi was going after it. He is the Ace. He is the best. He doesn't need to attack weaknesses or injuries. Except here he feels the need. He knows Kawada is improving, getting closer. This is fantastic long-term storytelling. Misawa going after the leg doesn't mean much at all without this context. With the context, it fantastically frames his mindset.
    I am aware that Kawada's knee has been banged up for a while, but when and how did it happen? Is it a legit injury or kayfabe? Is it permanent? Like a video game boss having a permanent weak spot?

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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    Quote Originally Posted by Emperor View Post
    I am aware that Kawada's knee has been banged up for a while, but when and how did it happen? Is it a legit injury or kayfabe? Is it permanent? Like a video game boss having a permanent weak spot?
    Kayfabe as far as I know. The earliest big match I know where Kawada's knee being worked is a big deal is the classic deciding match of the 1988 RWTL. And it then crops up every now and then throughout the following years.

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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    AJPW Champion Carnival 1994 Revisited

    Ladies and gentlemen, it's time to make history. It's time to do something that has never been done before. It's time to go out of sequence!

    I hear your cries of agony, "Why, Emperor, why? Stick to the timeline!"

    Let me tell you why. It's all Strobe's fault. You see, he kindly alerted me to a Youtube channel that uploads full AJPW TV shows. Recently he has uploaded a few shows from the Champion Carnival tour. That means we get to see the lesser wrestlers facing each other and facing the big guns. It's all very exciting. The most exciting part of all is that the English representative Johnny Smith will make a grand return! Hooray! Long live the queen!

    ---------------------------------------------

    Day 1

    Steve Williams vs The Eagle is as squashy as a match can get in AJPW. Williams never appears to be particularly keen on selling for those beneath him. This attitude is on full display here. The Eagle hits a dropkick in the first minute. Doc staggers back then bullrushes his opponent full force. Eagle goes down. Who wouldn't? There's not an awful lot of selling in this match. When The Eagle gets a chance to go on offense, he takes his opponent's approach, forgets about selling the beatdown and does his stuff. His stuff doesn't last very long because Doc cuts him off very quickly. He wins after hitting two spinebusters and a backdrop driver. The crowd weren't into it. Not a very good match. Fortunately it's not a sign of things to come.

    Stan Hansen vs John Nord is a quality match between frequent teammates. It's not a bad way to spend ten minutes. Watch it before reading my summary.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HL9EOPy7oAE

    They start the match off cautiously but it isn't long before they are clobbering the crap out of each other. Surprisingly, Nord is the dominant force, taking an opportunity to attack Hansen's lariat arm and relentlessly targeting it for most of the match. He isn't afraid to break the rules, using the ropes and the crowd rail to his advantage multiple times. Hansen is on his back most of the time. A couple of times he gets up and starts clobbering, but Nord outclobbers him and stays on top. Soon Nord is able to start hitting the big moves. A bodyslam and a legdrop net a two count. Then he connects with a piledriver! Unfortunately, he hit the move too close to the ropes and Hansen gets a foot on the ropes. Hansen backdrops out of the second piledriver attempt. Hansen isn't on offense for very long before he's able to hit a lovely Western lariat and win the match.

    Kawada vs Johnny Smith is not quite as good but still worth a watch.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=grVkBXmXoNQ

    Smith immediately goes on the attack during the first lock up, catching Kawada with an early German suplex. Kawada bails to the outside, but Smith follows him out and does a great job of staying in control despite being whipped into the barricade. You'd think Kawada would take exception to being punked from the bell, but when he takes control he's uncharacteristically composed. The rest of the match is a nice back and forth affair. Unfortunately Smith's greenness knocks the match down a peg or two. There's a hilarious moment where he hits a dropkick and tries to kip up. He fails, then Kawada runs and kicks him in the face as he's getting up. Smith then tries to kip up again, does an even worse job of it, then somehow scrambles to his feet in time to catch the running Kawada with a nice lariat. Kawada soon finishes him off with a spinkick of death followed by the Stretch Plum for a quick tapout.

    Day 9

    Kobashi vs Johnny Smith is the longest of these matches and an excellent showing for the Brit. The match is structured in traditional fashion, with a feeling out process, then one guy (Smith) taking control, then the comeback, and the finish. It's not as exciting as Hansen/Nord or Kawada/Smith but it's a solid match that elevated Smith's stock. Smith showed the word that he is able to do a kip up. He kips up successfully twice in this match! He also gets to kick out of a burning lariat and a powerbomb. But the moonsault is able to put him away.


    ---------------------------------------------

    There's a couple more shows uploaded but those feature matches I've already covered. So that's it for Champion Carnival Revisited. Hope you enjoyed the show. Next time we commence Summer Action Series!

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    Default Re: AJPW: The Golden Years

    AJPW Summer Action Series 1994

    All Japan runs two Summer Action Series tours that run from July to September with a break in the middle. Not an awful lot of matches available from these tours, but we do get to see some new blood in the Triple Crown scene. I'll cram two shows into this post.

    ---------------------------------------------

    Kenta Kobashi and Tamon Honda vs Stan Hansen and Takao Omori

    I thought Honda was in Kawada's stable given that at the last show he teamed with Taue against Kobashi and Akiyama. He must be freelancer. A poor man's Baba. Hansen pinned Kobashi in a tag team match not too long ago, but there's still some bad blood between the two following their crucial match in the Champion Carnival. In fact, the only standout points of this match are the interactions between these two. Besides those moments, the action was subpar. Everybody seemed to be off their game, there were some timing and coordination issues. The best moment was about halfway through the match. Kobashi is beating on Omori when Hansen strolls into the ring and boots Kobashi in the face. At this point the referee normally ejects the illegal interferer, but Hansen wants more. He throws Kobashi out of the ring, whips him into the rail, rolls him back in the ring and hits a DDT. All while being the illegal man. Honda wasn't idle during this time. He gets in the ring and suplex Omori, but the net gain is clearly with Hansen's team. Later on Kobashi finds an opening when he kicks Hansen's leg, triggering a long period of pretty dull leg work. The finishing stretch is OK but underwhelming. Hansen wins after lariating Honda. **1/2

    Toshiaki Kawada, Akira Taue and Masanobu Fuchi vs Mitsuharu Misawa, Jun Akiyama and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi

    Interestingly Kawada's name is announced second, before Taue. If Taue were Misawa's next challenger, that would make sense, but he isn't. Perhaps they are pushing him to be a future challenger. I'm not going to read too much into that. As far as I'm concerned Kawada is still the #1 man in his faction.

    The match starts like a typical American tag. The face team (Misawa et al.) dominate the heels. Taue suffers some triple team offense. Fuchi and Kawada try to interfere but get thrown out of the ring and dived on by Akiyama and Misawa respectively. Taue manages to fight off Akiyama and tag out, but Fuchi is soon on the receiving end of a beatdown. He eventually gets out of trouble by kicking Akiyama's knee and tagging Kawada. Kawada kicks the leg some more, something that is becoming a common theme in AJPW matches. Shortly after there's a cool spot where Taue has Akiyama in a heel hook near the ropes and Misawa breaks it up with a slingshot body press.

    Akiyama tags out, but when he's next in the match about five minutes later, Fuchi is quick to remind him that his leg is a target. Kawada tags in and continues the leg offense. Taue tags in and does not. He'd rather bludgeon Akiyama with lariats and slams, and beat him up on the outside. After that his teammates forget the leg and stick to brute force. Akiyama manages to survive some double teams, escape Kawada's clutches and tag Misawa. The pace picks up here. Misawa and Taue have a nice heated exchange, as do Akiyama and Taue. Then Akiyama tags in Kikuchi and it all goes to shit for Misawa's team.

    Kikuchi tries to suplex the much bigger Taue but gets suplexed himself. Kawada tags in. He toys with his opponent with light kicks. Kikuchi gets up and slaps Kawada multiple times. Kawada doesn't budge, then kills him with an overhand chop. Followed by two closed fist punches. Misawa enters and the two rivals engage in a forearm battle. Kikuchi throws a dropkick at Kawada's back but amusingly misses by a mile because Kawada took a step forward in the strike exchange. Kawada sells it anyway and the match goes on. Kikuchi gets on top and starts pummelling Kawada. Kawada rolls out of the way, starts striking, but Kikuchi hits a leg lariat. Kawada staggers to his corner but doesn't tag out. Instead he turns around and boots Kikuchi in the face a bunch of times. Kicks to the chest. Kikuchi is down stomach first. Kawada soccer kicks him hard in the side of the head. So hard that the crowd groans and the referee holds Kawada at bay for a few moments. He tags Fuchi, stops at the ropes, turns back and hits a similar kick for good measure. Ruthless as fuck. Kikuchi is the best punching bag in the company, there's no need to hit him for real. Kikuchi is snooker loopy. Fuchi backdrops him, more gently than he's accustomed to (when Fuchi pities you, you know it's bad) and goes for the pin. Akiyama runs in, tosses Fuchi to the outside and drags Kikuchi to his corner. Nice plan, but Taue runs in and stops it. Fuchi tries to backdrop Kikuchi again. Misawa enters, but Kawada drops him on his head with backdrop driver. Finally Fuchi is able to cover Kikuchi, but Akiyama makes the save, unnecessarily extending Kikuchi's suffering. Team Misawa is hanging on by a thread. Taue cuts the thread by tossing Akiyama out of the ring. Fuchi backdrops Kikuchi once more and pins him for the win.

    Kawada immediately leaves the ring and walks to the back. Fuchi and Taue get their hands raised, both looking rather sour. Yeah, something went wrong there, but it at least generated an exciting finish out of what was otherwise a pretty uninteresting match. ***


    ---------------------------------------------

    World Junior Heavyweight Championship
    Masanobu Fuchi (c) vs Dan Kroffat


    Masanobu Fuchi has been the head of the AJPW's junior heavyweight division for a very long time. He is by far the longest title holder in history, having the gold for 2443 days over five reigns. This is his fourth reign. He's already held it for over 2000 days in total. Except for a brief interlude by Kroffat in 1993 he has held the belt exclusively from October 1989. He's the Bruno Sammartino of the division! I find Fuchi a lot of fun to watch, but he's getting on a bit in age and his style can hardly be described as exciting. Very slow, and very technical. Stuck in the early 80s, although there's something to be said for him making his style work in the faster-paced 90s. Maybe the sole reason it works is because it's different. OK. I've waffled enough. I have a point besides giving a history lesson. If you choose Fuchi to be the ace of your division, it can hardly be described as thriving or groundbreaking. It's worlds apart from what was happening in their rival company. At the same time NJPW's junior division was setting the world on fire with charismatic, larger than life masked wrestlers, the best foreign juniors in the world, and thrilling tournaments. I don't know why AJPW's junior division was such a failure. Both AJPW's and NJPW's junior titles were introduced in the same year. But the talent flocked to New Japan. I have no idea why. It's not like AJPW had trouble attracting heavyweight gaijins. Food for thought.

    The match is clipped. Footage starts with Fuchi applying a hold that is best described as a cross between an STF and a butterfly lock. Kroffat makes the ropes. It becomes clear that Kroffat's leg has been worked on for some time. Fuchi has a laser focus shared by few other wrestlers. 95% of his offense is directed towards the injured leg. Kroffat's selling is commendable. He manages to body slam Fuchi but nearly falls over, staggering to the ropes and nursing his leg. Fuchi gets up and kicks it from the back. This is how the rest of the match goes. Kroffat struggling to sustain offense and Fuchi being the dirty old veteran. The match ends quite abruptly, a rope-running sequence ends with Kroffat rolling Fuchi up for a surprising three count. New champion! Hooray...

    Toshiaki Kawada, Akira Taue and Yoshinari Ogawa vs Jun Akiyama, Takao Omori and Tamon Honda

    Misawa, Kobashi and Kikuchi (who cherishes every night he's not across the ring from Kawada) are busy in the main event, so the Holy Demon Army will have to deal with the scraps. Recall that Kawada and Taue beat these three guys and Saturo Asako on their own in a gauntlet-style match. Yet, strangely enough, I'd say that Akiyama's team have better odds in this match. Let me explain. The first axiom of AJPW booking is that no wrestler can defeat a wrestler above their hierarchy. That means that none of team Akiyama could pin Kawada or Taue. That result was inevitable. However, there's a fellow called Ogawa in this match, who could be pinned, certainly by Akiyama and perhaps by Omori as well.

    Team Akiyama are fully aware of this. When Ogawa throws Omori to the outside near Akiyama's corner, all three of them jump Ogawa and beat him up on the outside. Kawada and Taue watch from their corner without a care in the world. Ogawa takes some pain for a few minutes and then manages to reach his corner. You'd think that Taue and Kawada would have some fun and win the match, but it's not so easy. Akiyama resists Taue for a while, then Team Akiyama starts to dominate with some prolonged illegal double and triple teaming. Notably they pick Taue up and drop him throat first on the top rope, as Taue loves to do to his opponents. The referee hilariously lets all this happen while patrolling near Kawada's corner to stop Kawada and Ogawa from entering. He must be a Kikuchi fan.

    Kawada eventually tags in, and now you think it's smooth sailing, but nope! Team Akiyama again use the numbers gain to overwhelm the former Triple Crown challenger. Taue tries to stop it but gets knocked off the apron. Ogawa does nothing. The referee does nothing. The mugging culminates with Honda hitting a top rope knee drop. One! Two! Kawada kicks out! Omori tags in and forearms Kawada a bunch of times. He runs the ropes. Kawada snaps and boots Omori in the face. He hits a wicked lariat and barely gives him time to hit the mat before twisting him in the Stretch Plum. Both of Omori's teammmates save him. Near the end of the match both Akiyama and Honda get a near fall on Taue on their own. Honda backdrops out of a powerbomb attempt, only for Kawada to stroll in the ring and lariat him. Taue chokeslams Honda. Kawada and Ogawa enter the ring to stop the pin from being broken up, and that's that.

    A match that is a lot better than it had any right to be. The caveat is that in order to buy into the way they worked the match, you have to accept that the referee either has been paid off or is a complete doofus, but I'm willing to do that. It was a lot of fun. ***1/4

    Stan Hansen, Doug Furnas and Tom Zenk vs Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi

    I'm sure you were all dying to know how poor Doug Furnas would make it onto the card when his tag team partner was winning singles gold. Here's your answer. He's in the main event! Teaming with Stan Hansen! And Tom Zenk! Tom fucking Zenk!!

    Kikuchi and Zenk start the action. Kikuchi does a forward roll before the lockup to a mild pop. That's the only offense he'll have all match. Yeah, that's right. Kawada ain't the only one bullying Kikuchi today. There's a funny spot at the start with Furnas coming in illegally to double team Kikuchi, Kikuchi evading them by zipping out and back in the ring, pointing at his head to tell the world how clever he is, only for Hansen to enter the ring, wallop Kikuchi from behind and throw him to the wolves on the outside. Once Kobashi tags in the action becomes lightning fast. Lots of running around and quick tags everywhere. Another funny spot at the 10 minute mark. Kobashi whips Hansen into the rail on the outside. Hansen headbutts Kobashi. His head turns to Kikuchi standing on the apron like a bull seeing red. He forgets about Kobashi, charges, and clubs Kikuchi from behind. You can't make this stuff up. This must be the bully Kikuchi tour. Maybe he knocked over Giant Baba's coffee.

    Kobashi is beaten down for a long time. Particularly by Hansen, who DDTs him on the unpadded floor and then again in the ring. Hansen goes for a powerbomb. The annoying fly named Kikuchi buzzes in the ring. Hansen swats him away, giving Kobashi enough time to hit a dropkick and tag Misawa. They have a brief exchange. Tom fucking Zenk has his career highlight by hitting a top rope crossbody and covering Misawa for a two count. Misawa backdrops Zenk and makes the mistake these guys never stop making: tagging in Kikuchi. Furnas German suplexes him so hard that he flips over and lands on his stomach to a huge reaction. That's likely the first time the crowd ever saw that spot. It looked spectacular even to me. Kikuchi fires off a leg lariat and tags Kobashi. A lucky escape. Super athlete Furnas tries a standing hurricanrana but Kobashi drops him with a powerbomb. The pin following a second is broken up by Hansen. He DDTs Kobashi because he's Stan fucking Hansen and he loves to DDT Kobashi. A third funny spot here. Misawa throws Hansen to the outside, clubs him on the back once, returns to the ring to KO Furnas with a forearm, then goes back out to club Hansen some more. Kobashi finishes the demolition with a bodyslam and a moonsault.

    I'm disappointed with that finish. Kikuchi being pinned would have been the perfect end to this post. Especially if Tom fucking Zenk did the deed. Solid match. ***

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