This match is now 20 years old - wow! I cannot believe that to be honest. I can do math and probably can remember a few things from each year to prove to myself that 2000 was 20 years ago but, this still seems somewhat modern to me. Perhaps its the green ring mat? That's probably it. But man what kinda gets me is that I've been meaning to see this match for probably 10 years now. Its one of those matches that doesn't quite reach the essential viewing list of many folk like their 2004 match or the one from 1998 or 1999...I can't remember right now. I want to say its 98 though. I'm getting side tracked but maybe that's the point. The Misawa-Kobashi-Akiyama-Taue-Kawada merry-go-round was pumping out great matches at the end of the 90's but, they all start to run together. I think that may be the case with this as well as the fact that Kobashi was in dire need of knee surgery at the start of NOAH. So, he does a few high profile matches and then goes away until 2002 and I think goes away again until 2003. In that regard, not much gets universal praise until the 2003 Misawa match. I'm getting side tracked again...I guess my point is this bout averaged out to middle of the road in folks reviews. I've seen it around ***3/4 to ****1/2. That can be a pretty big difference.
But I wanted to watch it for This Day in Wrestling and I wanted to try and end 2020 with a banger of a match! I think its fair to say everyone has had a crappy year and I guess this was a gesture of ending it with a classic King's Road or Ark Style match. Ah...it was not to be
Don't get me wrong it was a great heavyweight match but, I felt it was more of a spot match than anything else. It didn't seem to really grab me with a story I could believe in. It had nice attempts with Kobashi working on Akiyama's neck after a particularly nasty ramp DDT. Then Akiyama was able to find some breathing room by drop kicking Kobashi's knees. He then went to work on the arm, as is often the case, but he added some nice twists I thought. This was a slow burner but, it was picking up and I was invested for sure. I just wasn't sure who or what I was invested in beyond enjoying the match and the moves. That slow burn never really turned to rapid boiling. It got close especially during some choice encounters - very stiff and head droppy. So, I think ratings may have been inflated back in the day on those 2 things. Kobashi's eye is swollen shut by the end. And you'd better believe Akiyama gets chopped to a pulp. With all that though, I just don't think there was enough substance in between to say there was a purpose to those moves as you would see in a classic match. I don't think there was enough intensity/spirit of competition to make it feel like a brutal fight either. So instead of being slow yet purposeful building to a dramatic ending OR energetic and violent exploding until there is a victor, it came off as above satisfactory. That is to say, I was satisfied with this as a big match Kobashi vs Akiyama match and was overly pleased with a half dozen spots and strike exchanges. But the socks were not blown off Great but not a classic to me.
I'll issue a disclaimer now - I'm pretty burnt out from working customer service and managing late orders and cancellations this holiday season. It has been the worst few months since I've started working this job 8 years ago. If you were waiting on a package or have had some orders cancelled this month, let me tell you there are about a dozen people behind the scenes trying their hardest to get your gifts out. I know its on the news and whatnot but, let me tell you that it has been especially rough with the pandemic both in receiving a flood of online & phone orders and not being able to keep staff or shifting staff because pandemic safety protocols. Let alone the usual Xmas stuff. So, perhaps I wasn't in the best head space watching this match. I am emotionally and mentally dulled right now. Maybe I'm not giving this bout a fair shake. You should take some time and watch this 20 year old match. You may actually be watching it with a clear head. Heck! I might even watch it again after the 25th when my brain can begin to heal Nothing helps the healing process like some lariat-o's!
I hope to get my Best Match Watched and other things of note for 2020 together before New Year's Eve! Thanks for reading this year! Stay safe & happy holidays!