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Superstar Sleeze

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  1. I am only 15 minutes through this, but I feel like 3/21/95, 7/24/95, 1998 and 2004 are all better matches from the Kobashi & Taue rivalry. Finished the match, second half is much better, but still the matches I listed are superior to this one, which is unfortunate because this one is the most important. AJPW Triple Crown Champion Akira Taue vs Kenta Kobashi - AJPW 7/24/96 I am a pretty big Kobashi fan and I think he's the GOAT but somehow I have never watched this match which is kinda crazy because this is first Triple Crown victory. Also, Kobashi vs Taue is my favorite Four Corners combination. I just love their dynamic because they are such opposites of each other. The Budokan is firmly behind Kobashi. I hate to admit but the first 15 minutes are pretty I dont want to say flat. There is not much struggle. They each take turns ragdolling for the other. There's no hook. They did not establish what Kobashi had to overcome. They just went to work. Kobashi chopped Taue's neck a lot and took the first control segment...delayed vertical...lots of facelocks. Taue spiced things up with a Hotshot, German Suplex combo. Kobashi powdered. AIR TAUE~! Kobashi is selling his ribs they dont really go there. Taue works a typically great control segment, Snake Eyes, Back Drop Toss, Backbreaker. Nodowa of Death? Kobashi fights it off, but catches him diving to floor and Nodowas him there. Taue is poised to take control but Kobashi shrugs off the Nodowa and hits a German, now he goes Sleeper. Kobashi hits a release powerbomb to climax this part of his control segment. I am really glad that Sleeper Neckbreaker that Kobashi does in 1996 didnt get over, it is pretty lame. Taue hits the Baba Neckbreaker Drop and a release Powerbomb of his own. The transitions are fine and the control segments are long enough that each builds momentum. I just wish they were fighting through each other more. This feels like a Bret Hart match very logical but too neat and mechanical. The hook for this match is quite obviously in retrospect the Kobashi title victory. Short of taking a literal dump in the ring, they could have done anything and as long as Kobashi got the three count that crowd would have popped like mad. That's not to say the match is bad, far from it, it is great, but not a classic, when the entire match hinges on the finish it tends to make the beginning less meaningful is all. The second half of this match picks up in a big way. The struggle and the selling get much, much better. Kobashi fights off a second powerbomb and Taue smokes him with a big boot. Kobashi sells his eye and face so well. Taue hits the big elbow drop off the top. Kobashi overdoes it a little with the glassy eye sell given that he is winning. The way he struggles for the ropes on the Nodowa attempt puts over how badass the Nodowa is. When Taue does hit it, the move becomes much bigger and the nearfall much more heat because Kobashi showed us how scared he was of this move. I liked the Kobashi transition the most here. He fights off the Nodowa of Death and as Taue falls from the apron, he immediately leg drops the back of his head. Kobashi had to fight for his life and when he saw an opening he just dove on Taue. No Hulk Up. No It is my turn. He earned it. Kobashi stole the Nodowa proving that All Japan started the finisher stealing before everyone else. Bodyslam! Fist Pump! POP! No Moonsault. Lariat. No! Nodowa! KOBASHI LUNGING LARIAT! It is very cheap All Japan, but the crowd fucking lapped it up with a spoon. Taue drops him with a closed fist a tribute to his partner and big boot. DYNAMIC BOMB~! Massive heat on that! Crowd is so pumped he kicked out. Taue wants the Tiger Suplex, but Kobashi still has the wherewithal to make it to the ropes. Taue Enziguiri and Kobashi is out like a light only the ropes save him from a three count. Taue goes for the Super Nodowa, but Kobashi holds onto the ropes. Kobashi goes back to the chops to the neck, Tornado DDT. The crowd does wild. The people in the front row are awesome, they want Kobashi to win so bad. DDT bought him time but Taue is still the one looking better. Lunging headbutts by Kobashi I love it. He is just charging headlong for the victory literally. TIGER SUPLEX~! Huge heat and a BIG turning point. Taue is fucked. Bodyslam! FIST PUMP! OH HELL YEAH! MOONSAULT! 1-2-NO! I love how Kobashi gobbles him right up and JACKKNIFE POWERBOMB! THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE FINISH! So much heat. They let Taue have one Pop-up Big Boot. KOBASHI SMOKES HIM WITH A LARIAT! Cena style Top Rope Legdrop! 1-2-3 and the Budokan goes MENTAL! HUGE KOBASHI CHANTS! Kobashi is incredulous and for like 3 minutes keeps asking people if it was really a three count. I dont like when people blow off an entire half of the match and just turn it on for the finish run. Every minute should be important. I do realize the finish is more important and this was a rousing home stretch. As a huge Kobashi fan, the finish pop makes me beam with pride and it did make me a little emotional. He is so great at getting you emotionally involved. More of a great moment than anything else ****
  2. I will always go to bat for Kobashi. I think he would have made it work as the pro wrestler with a heart three times its actual size trying to fell the shooter. Misawa is not built for this as he will go back to his formula. Kobashi could work. I see how Kawada is better suited, but I think Kobashi would have succeeded given the chance. Toshiaki Kawada vs Gary Albright - AJPW 7/26/96 The forgotten rematch! Kawada won the last match, which was a classic and since then Albright & Hansen traded the tag belts with Kawda & Taue and Albright got his one & only shot at the Triple Crown in a loss to Misawa. At this point, Albright was still being booked strong while Kawada was in the middle of a losing streak. He lost the tag belts to Misawa/Akiyama and lost to Taue. He would go on to lose a six-man where the team he captained lost to the team captained by his partner, Taue and he drew Kobashi at the October Budokan. Not the best year for Kawada in the W-L column, until the very end of the year where he turns it around. I do not think this is as good as their initial match. The heat and electricity are just not there. I think it comes from a lack of urgency and those key big fight feel moments. This is a great grappling/wrestling match, but it is not a big fight feel match. I liked how Albright was using his suplexes to keep Kawada off balance and then go to the ground with submissions. Albright was obviously suplex machine but like Severn in UFC lacked that killer finish because he was neither proficient at strikes or submissions. There was often a feel ok I have him down on the ground what's next? Kawada for his part was going with the head-hunting strategy using kicks. This worked more to piss Albright off, but like how Albright used suplexes to break Kawada's rhythm so Kawada used his kicks. When Albright got mad enough to charge in, he really let it rip. That showed the genius of Kawada's strategy. They trade armbar attempts but nothing doing. The match picks up when Kawada applies a rear naked choke which is illegal in wrestling. Great selling by Albright and the referee. Kawada SNAPS~! Cowboy Kicks Galore! Wicked Yakuza Kick in the corner! Albright gets pissed, chops exchange and then DEMOLISHES Kawada with a German. That was a death knell. Kawada got two more hope spots, but they just serves to piss off the Suplex Machine. Another wicked German then a Dragon Suplex and then a second DEVASTATING DRAGON SUPLEX! Albright was trying to choke Kawada out as a receipt in between these suplexes and his final hold I guess was declared a sleeper instead of a choke and thats how he won the match. The first match is decidedly better, but this is a great way to spend 12 minutes. Logical, strategic approach at the beginning and then a high intensity finish run. I feel that it could have used a better Kawada "nearfall" to really push this over the edge, but as is this is still a very good shoot-style meets pro wrestling match. ***3/4
  3. Superstar Sleeze

    [1997-10-21-AJPW] Toshiaki Kawada vs Yoshihiro Takayama

    As I was watching I was like the guys in PWO are going to shit all over this for too many resets but glad PeteF3 liked it in his own way. This rocked! Toshiaki Kawada vs Yoshihiro Takayama - AJPW 10/21/97 Turns out All Japan has quite a bit of depth if you go off the beaten path. Black hair Takayama is a blind spot for me even though I love blond Takayama like it is my fucking problem. I watched this and knew it was going to be trashed by others but I loved it. Obviously everything in moderation but if I was to chose between the extremes of perpetual motion action wrestling and wrestling with short bursts of offense and lots of resets, I would choose the latter in a heartbeat. I see people have criticized this as “no flow” and “disjointed” but I totally disagree this match had a great rhythm and told a coherent and cogent story. Your average go, go, go Match May flow but it can easily be disjointed from a narrative perspective. I like my pro wrestling to either be combatively sporting or entertaining character driven. Rollins and Omega are very athletic but they are soulless and their matches while highly athletic are more athletic in a gymnastics or track meet sense, I prefer wrestling that sportingly resembles a shoot wrestling meet or MMA fight. This is the closest All Japan got to doing UWFi and it is a really good version. Takayama is a fucking beast in this match. He dwarfs Kawada. He basically squashes the little dude’s ass. He just pelts with leather. BRUTAL Palm Strikes, huge kicks and real deal million dollar knee lifts. Kawada powdered after each short burst of offense. On the third beating, Kawada has a busted lip. For execution fetishists, Takayama’s strikes are a thing of beauty, grace combined with power come together to make a beautiful sound. I do have complaints. They don’t really progress the narrative and also Kawada takes way too many shots to the head. It undermines the credibility of the match and Takayama that Kawada could last so long. Kawada got his ass beat. Kawada did have some great jelly leg sells here. Then he moved into shooting for the double leg and constantly getting quashed. Takayama starting looking for Cross-Armbreakers to finish Kawada he got one on in the ropes (cheap!) and Kawada now has a bad wing. Kawada caught couple kicks but he missed a Lariat on one, got a back heel trip on the over but didn’t amount to much in guard. The finish rocked! Kawada drills Takayama with a Dangerous Back Drop Driver from a sitting position on the mat and then a proper one. Stretch Plum for two. Takayama roared back with his famous MEATY knee lifts. EVEREST GERMAN! That was awesome. Huge stand up fight breaks out, Kawada explodes...KOPPOU KICK...KOPPOU KICK NAILS HIM...HUGE POP! The two best Jumping High Kicks Kawada ever threw... demolished him. In spite of its flaws I still loved this. It felt electric and had a big fight feel. Takayama felt like a shoot style rockstar. Amazing strikes. Loved Kawadas reactions. The major flaw is they didn’t advance the plot. They overstayed their welcome in the “Kawada is getting his ass beat and can’t get any offense in” story. The finish was gangbusters. The Everest German and those four Kawada kicks to end popped me huge. If you Love high end 2010s Brock like I do, check this out because it fucking bangs, brutha. ****1/4
  4. Wow! This didnt make the yearbook! AJPW Triple Crown Champion Mitsuharu Misawa vs Steve Williams - AJPW 3/1/97 Up to this point, Misawa had only lost the Triple Crown twice, once to Dr. Death in July 1994 and to Akira Taue in May 1996. Due to Dr. Death's Drug Bust in 1995, he has not had a Triple Crown title bout since he lost the Titles to Kawada in October of 1994. Dr. Death spent most of 1996 earning back the trust of Baba and All Japan in the tag ranks putting on some stellar performances with Johnny Ace against Misawa/Akiyama including winning the Tag Team Titles from them. Misawa had won the Triple Crown back from Kobashi on 1/20/97 and is now looking to get his win back against the first man to ever beat for the Triple Crown, Steve Williams. This feels like a huge rematch. The funny thing is if you follow All Japan canon, you would never even know this match exists! Which is shocking to me because it is a huge rematch 2.5 years in the making and Dr. Death showed he could still go in 1996. I got high hopes for this one. They start off with some mat wrestling which is very uncharacteristic for Misawa. Then Doc demonstrates that explosiveness he is known for when he snatches Misawa and drops him with a Dangerous Back Drop Driver! That's his KO Punch! It usually spells the death knell for his opponents and it was the major turning point in the 94 match and how it has been hit 5 minutes into the match. One of the things, I have noticed in All Japan since late '95 is they like to spice things up by hitting HUGE bombs within 5 minutes. I think their idea is the finish run is the best part of the match so they are basically trying to make the entire match one big finish run. Misawa wisely powders. He catches Doc with a wicked slicing Elbow on the outside. I dont think it cut Doc, but he is acting like it did. Constantly touching the spot and asking the ref to check on him. This only serves to piss off Doc who pummels Misawa. Big German. Big Top Rope Shouldertackle. Misawa fires off an Elbow, but Doc is so explosive and cutting everything off with lunges and a full court press. Amazing floatover suplex into a cross armbreaker attempt but Misawa gets the ropes. It is time to ratchet up the offense so he goes for the Oklahoma Stampede. Misawa finds the back door. Great sequence, Misawa goes for the back slide and turns it into the Tiger Driver. Very cool. The Tiger Driver is enough to finally give Misawa a respite and the first major damage Doc has taken. Misawa lands an Elbow Suicida. Misawa is starting to roll. He is looking for a throw, Williams comes back with an interesting counter: dropkicks and one particular one lands on the knee. I was just thinking while I was watching Misawa vs Kawada 7/23/99 no one ever works Misawa's leg, I wonder what that would be like. Guess I will find out. Williams wraps it around the ring post always a good start. He works the leg well varying the holds and blows to the knee and Misawa is selling well. I love the Kneecrusher/Single Leg Crab combo. I am looking forward to seeing where this goes. I like it a lot so far. Then of course immediately after this match gets really clunky. Dr. Death is trying for one his signature bombs, DoctorBomb or BackDrop Driver, but Misawa DDTs him. Doc oversells and Misawa just tees off on Dr. Death with Elbows. Where's the struggle and where's the fights? The escalation gets weird. It is like they lose their place and dont know what to do next. There was some "a second too long" prolonged looks at each other. This was only like 2 minutes before they got their shit together and Doc exploded with a lunge and then clobbered Misawa with a right. Misawa was doing deadweight selling. I was exhorting Doc to pin but he was futzing around and did deliver the DoctorBomb for 2. Doc hits another really good uppercut at one point. On the Irish Whip, Misawa collapses and Doc dives on top and covers with great drive in his leg. Williams hits a MONSTER Snake Eyes that would have made Taue proud and immediately threw him with a German for his biggest nearfall yet. The Budokan dug that a lot. Doc goes Sleeper and into a Tiger Suplex attempt, but Misawa breaks free, back to the Sleeper, like how he gobbled him up. I liked the use of Sleeper to further sap Misawa's energy. Misawa makes the ropes and the ref backs him up. Misawa stiff back elbow and big time Elbow uppercut. You can feel the comeback. Big German by Misawa. This is a bit too easy for Misawa. Doc is really throwing himself into these Germans. MISAWA FUCKING DECKS DOC WITH AN ELBOW! That should have been the finish. HE SMOKED HIS ASS! Misawa goes for Tiger Driver but Doc sandbags and backs drops out. They get a little cute with Misawa Elbow and Doc as he falling nailing an uppercut. The playing field is levelled, you can tell the finish is coming soon. Doc lunges and bowls Misawa over. Dr. Death is selling so well, clutching his head and wobbling. Doc mounts him and reigns down punches. Misawa flips him over and ground & pounds. Stand up Misawa is rocking him. Doc snatches him up with a WICKED Belly to Belly. I loved how sudden that was! Misawa will not be denied. Brutal barrage leads to a Tiger Driver. Doc gets cocky spitting at Misawa in defiance, Misawa evades the closed fist and ROARING ELBOW~! Second Tiger Driver. TIGER DRIVER '91~! Is this a ***** classic? No. Is it as good as their amazing July 94 match? No. Does it deserved to be buried and forgotten about? Hell No. Yes there were some clunky parts and the leg work went absolutely nowhere. I think if you cut out from the 12-17 minute mark and made this a 24-25 minute match it would be much better. As is, it is still great. They play off the July 94 match immediately with the Dangerous Back Drop Driver. It is almost like they picked up where they left off. Misawa rolling out, but this time he survives. He pops him with an Elbow immediately that buys him a lot of time. Doc looked so powerful and explosive in this match. The big drawback in my mind were transitions to Misawa going on offense. They were lazy (Elbows Galore) and Doc didnt put up much of fight. It was just like ok it is Misawa's turn and I am going to be a ragdoll. The action in of itself was great. I dont mind Misawa living on Elbows and Tiger Drivers, literally his only offense. It makes sense because he was digging himself out of a hole because of the Back Drop Driver, it is just I wish it wasnt so easy. From Dr. Death KO punch to the end, this is just classic All Japan, big bomb nearfalls for Williams and then an epic Elbow/Tiger Driver barrage from Misawa. Edit this a bit and increase the struggle and this is an all-timer, as it is it is still awesome and worth watching! ****1/4
  5. AJPW Triple Crown Champion Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada - AJPW 7/23/99 I wasn't even aware this existed until a few weeks ago. I wouldnt say I am a hardcore AJPW fan, but I consider myself pretty knowledgeable and I am surprised I never heard of this. I agree to an extent that if Baba was booking they would have waited until 2000 before another match since they did the title switch in January. I will say since Kawada had to vacate the title due to injury, it is logical to give him a title rematch sooner rather than later. I enjoyed their 98 and 99 match so I was curious to see what this was like. They dont really break any new ground. I would say they substitute some of the athletic workrate of their earlier matches with brutally stiff strikes. Both men were going head-hunting but it was Kawada that was getting the best of it trying to kick Misawa's head off. There was a nice cutoff where normally Misawa stops himself going into the buckles and turns around and smashes someone with an Elbow but Kawada cut if off with a Yakuza Kick. Misawa made his first mini-comeback, elbow immediately into Tiger Driver for nearfall and then Elbow Suicida. Awesome transition when Misawa attempts the Tiger Driver off the apron only to be thwarted and Fireman's Carry off the apron. Very nice exchange and strong transition. Kawada sticks with the kick, punch, knee Misawa in the head game plan. Misawa gets a couple licks in but Kawada stays in control. Kawada tries for Powerbomb but Misawa Elbows his way out of trouble. I got to admit there's not much in the way of highspots. They are working a strong, brutal style thats lean and compact. That Left Elbow was BRUTAL and Kawada's jelly leg sell was perfect! Misawa's comeback doesnt last long and is met a Jumping High Kick. Brainbuster and Powerbomb in short succession give Kawada a strong nearfall. Misawa pants almost come down in the Misawa-Rana. Misawa DRILLS Kawada in the back of the head with an Elbow, fixes his pants and Tiger Suplex. The home stretch is red hot. Misawa just absorbs every stiff to the head including a Closed Fist and returns fire with brutally stiff Elbows. TIGER DRIVER '91~! Misawa is poised to Elbow again, but Kawada never gets back up which is a weird, anti-climatic ending. It is a retread and I think I prefer their 2005 Dome Greatest Hits Nostalgia match to this. I do think it is better than Overkill 97 match but yeah this is the second from the bottom. I still wish 98% of wrestlers could construct such a smartly laid out match around strong, meaningful transitions and building to a home stretch. Every transitions was money and the heat was still there, but this was basically hit each other as hard you can in the head. It is a great match but not one of their classics. ****
  6. Superstar Sleeze

    [1997-07-25-AJPW] Mitsuharu Misawa vs Akira Taue

    All Japan Triple Crown Champion Mitsuharu Misawa vs Akira Taue - AJPW 7/25/97 1997 was a weird year for All Japan they were far from dead as 1998 would prove with (Misawa/Kawada, Kawada/Kobashi, Kobashi/Akiyama, Kobashi/Taue and Kobashi/Misawa all delivering at ****1/2 or better), but they also did not have the benefit of rolling out there and automatically having a classic. A large part of that was "where do we go from here?". The intrigue of All Japan starting in early 1997 was when would Kobashi mature and then later how would Akiyama progress. Taue had reached his potential in 1996 when he upset Misawa for the Championship and was continuing to be a dominant force in the tag ranks. It looked like Kawada's time had come and gone but by presenting Kawada as a challenger in the Tokyo Dome it did breathe new life into the rivalry. 1997 is of course saved by Misawa vs Kobashi on 1/20/97 but it doesnt have the tag team depth that 1996 has to fall back on. It is a year that just serves to transition to Kobashi's big 1998, his best year since 1993. I guess you can say the point of this match is Misawa needs redemption. He has only lost twice in Triple Crown matches and he avenged one of those losses earlier in the year against Dr. Death and now he has to come for Taue. I loved the red-hot start to the match. Taue comes out and NODOWAS Misawa! Misawa is immediately put on his backfoot and trying to play catch up. Taue is going full court press. Misawa thinks he gets a reprieve with a German Suplex, but there are no timeouts in wrestling, big time Taue dropkick. AIR TAUE~! POWERBOMB ON THE FLOOR! Taue came to fucking play. He doesn't think 1997 is a lost year, he thinks it is still 1995, muthafuckas. Nodowa of Death??? This would be the end. Taue has to settle for a Back Suplex onto the floor. Goes for it again. MISAWA BACK FLIPS OUT! LOVE IT! Elbows Taue and back into the ring, but that is still not enough. Taue is still in command, but Misawa elbows out of trouble and he takes it to the floor. Tiger Driver on the Floor! I love that. The Tiger Driver has been a dead in the water move for years, doing it on the floor revitalizes its importance. Now Taue looks sunk. Facelock. Misawa goes up top. Neckbreaker Drop NO Converted into a NODOWA! THATS HOW TAUE WON IN 1996?!?! 1-2-NO! Nice callback, very on brand for All Japan. I'm calling for the Dynamic Bomb to finish, but Misawa-rana. Misawa is poised to strike but collapses. Taue takes his time now and begins to cement his advantage. Snake Eyes. He scouts Misawa Elbow counters and delivers another. Misawa takes a pair of Germans on his head because he is fucking insane. Taue still cant negotiate the powerbomb. Nodowa! Elbow! Misawa is down and Taue is the first up. Taue's offensive performance has been a clinic big bombs with urgency. Misawa's counter game was strong until the end he started die too much and he is vacillating between selling too much and not selling. I would like to see a stronger No Sell if he wanted to go that route. He was doing a lot of sudden burst->collapse which I think undermines the Nodowa more than anything else. Taue is rocking, lets see if he can put him away. I liked how they took a minute where each could not really get anything going. It felt like a dirty struggle and that the person who hit the next big move would win. Two well-timed dropkicks by Taue set up his DYNAMIC BOMB~! 1-2-NO! Great nearfall. I thought this is where the match peaked. I thought Misawa's finish run petered out. Taue continued on offense for a minute with no real purpose and then Misawa just bailed himself out with the Elbow. I just wished there was a better transition than Misawa elbows, cant Taue miss a move or something. Taue is partying like it is 1995 when he goes for the eyes but Misawa does not sell. He keeps going with the Elbows. Some weird release Tiger Drivers and some Germans polish Taue off. Obviously Carny '95 is the pinnacle of the rivalry, but I think their Carny League match from 95, their title switch in 96 and the NOAH 2001 match is better than this but for the most part this is great. It is tough when the finish peters out because it leaves a bad taste in your mouth but the first 3/4ths are amazing and this is a really great Taue offensive performance. ****
  7. Superstar Sleeze

    [1999-03-06-AJPW-Excite Series] Vader vs Akira Taue

    Vader vs Akira Taue - AJPW 3/6/99 Historically the first Budokan of the year has the weakest Triple Crown defense and this continues that lineage unfortunately. At least they keep it short. As a Vader fan, I am happy that he was able to add this post-script to his career after the "fat piece of shit" bullshit. Vader winning the Triple Crown and being treated as a dominant main event act one they built their second Dome show around is the respect Vader deserves. In the post-match interviews, you can tell how much it means to Vader to have won this match and the Triple Crown. An interviewer asks him how he feels and Vader says "I feel like the best in the world" that's just great to hear. There's not too much to this match, it is just two big bulls colliding. Vader takes most of the match. Not too much in the way of signature Vader highspots more just his mauling and brawling style, the meaty lariats, the bearpaws, the body attacks using that size and girth to his advantage. Taue, as the biggest of the Pillars, does offer a more unique challenge to Vader in being able to use his length at times to keep Vader at bay. There is a clunky patch in the middle which draws some laughter from the Japanese crowd and there's a moment where it looks like it going to go to shit, but Taue salvages it all by going on offense. Vader getting way up for the Nodowa and Taue feeding the crowd saved the entire match. The crowd was right back in it and it effaced the miscues. After a couple Nodowas, Vader rolled to the apron. They tease the Nodowa of Death, but Vader backfists his way out of it. Vader hits MONSTRUOUS splash from the apron to the floor and I dont how much Taue was selling and how much Vader shoot landed on him. Another splash in the ring and Vader is rolling. The next back stop is Vader eats a HUGE big boot to the mush coming off the middle rope, which is Taue's big nearfall. Vader rips off his mask and starts throwing those massive haymakers in the corner. VADER THROWS TAUE DOWN WITH THE POWERBOMB! 1-2-3 in under 15 minutes. Honestly, not the most auspicious start to the reign and if I was Misawa who was pinning the hopes of the May Dome show on Vader, I would be a bit worried, but it all turned out alright as the Vader vs Misawa Dome match is my favorite Vader All Japan singles match and Vader looked like his old Mastodon self. There's enough good to check it out, but it may be the worst the Triple Crown match of the 90s.
  8. Superstar Sleeze

    [2000-01-23-AJPW-New Year's Giant Series] Vader vs Jun Akiyama

    I have been meaning to watch this for years ever since Nintendo found this and hyped it. It did NOT make Ditch's eligible nominations for Best of Puroresu in the 2000s, but this would make my Top 100 if it was to do it again. All Japan Triple Crown Champion Vader vs Jun Akiyama - AJPW 1/23/00 All Japan went back to the Vader well to use him as a transitional champion to get the title from Misawa back to Kobashi. The writing was pretty much already on the wall for All Japan at this point, it had been about a year since Baba's death and behind the scenes, the wheels must have been already set in motion for NOAH. I am always excited at the prospect of hitherto unseen Vader and this does not disappoint in the slightest. Akiyama had not yet won the Triple Crown and was the perfect sacrificial lamb to promote Vader as more than a lame duck champion for Kobashi. On top of that as the youngest of the Pillars, he could supply more energy to the Vader matches. The first five minutes of this match are the best part as they are furious. Akiyama sets the tone by popping Vader right in the moment with an elbow and earning the knockdown. Akiyama was relentless moving forward with a varied attack, elbow to the face, dropkicks to the knee, two HUGE Rainbow German Suplexes (Vader got up for those). Akiyama believe the best defense is a great offense. There is a tension here because you can tell Akiyama believes his best shot to fell the giant before he ever gets his paws on him. It is a race against time. The longer Akiyama takes the more time one of those wild bear paws will land a mortal blow. Akiyama knocks him around on the outside. BOOM! Vader Body Attack. I love when Vader uses his weight. CHOKESLAM THROUGH THE TABLE WITH AUTHORITY! Powerbomb on the outside! Just like that everything Akiyama did was erased and Vader is in command. Vader settles into his usual control segment just mauling his opponent. Vaderbomb! Akiyama has a bandaged arm so we get a Fujiwara Armbar. This is Vader at his best just using his size to dominate. One thing I love about Vader is you can count on him to use logical transitions to get back to the babyface because he does not want to be undermined. You get the Vaderbomb into the knees or the missed charge into the turnbuckles to set up Akiyama's comeback. Missed moves are great plot device to transition. Akiyama again comes with the varied attack, chopping down the knees (dropkick and submissions), aerial attack with knees and elbows to give his offense more momentum and oomph and finally the power-based drop Vader on his head with some Exploders. He even signals for the Wrist-Clutch, but I think Vader is so big and old that he shoot couldnt apply that version properly. The transition back to Vader is fun for any longtime Vader fans. Vader typically gets powerslammed off the middle rope in his matches near the finish. Here and the Misawa match he turns the table and he is the one who catches his opponent off the middle rope and powerslams them. They do the extended finish run to show Akiyama as the valiant challenger with Fighting Spirit but for all intents and purposes it is over. It is a mixture of Powerbombs and hellacious Chokeslams that put Akiyama down. I thought the Vader control segments were a little too neat would have liked more tension especially down the stretch. The whole have to hit three awesome bombs to win can be a real drama-killer if it just feels like they are going through the motions which I thought they were. Vader was probably in pain and I think he was more focused on hitting his moves and he didnt let his charisma shine through. It was a mechanically and logically great performance, but Vader did not have his charm in this match. Akiyama also had to pop-up no sell twice once to powerbomb Vader off a Vaderbomb and the cross-armbreaker at the end. Didnt like either of those. Besides that this was a fun Vader mauls his valiant opponent match and the first five minutes are really excellent. ****1/4
  9. All Japan World Tag Team Champions Steve Williams & Gary Albright vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama - AJPW 8/26/97 If you love lean, mean power wrestling, watch this, clocking in at under 10 minutes yes thats right an All Japan title match in under ten minutes, this will hit the spot. In 1997, Johnny Ace turned face because he is the beloved gaijin since Terry Funk because he is so awesome and became Kobashi's regular tag team partner. Dr. Death formed the Triangle of Power with Lacrosse (for some reason I think is a badass wrestling name, best known as Jungle Jim Steele) and Gary Albright. If you are a casual fan of 90s All Japan, you've probably been led to believe that Albright came into the promotion had a stellar match with Kawada where he lost in 1995 and never was heard from again, but you'd be wrong. I am shocked he only got one Triple Crown shot in his run, he was pushed and protected. Doc & Albright are an amateur wrestling dream team. Dr. Death & Albright just unleash hell on the Super Generation Army. Within seconds, Albright DEMOLISHES Misawa with a German Suplex. Fucking Brutal. Doc wastes no time coming in illegally and throwing Misawa down with a Powerbomb. Akiyama cant do anything. Albright throws the best Double Underhook Suplex I have ever seen in my life in this match. Doc looks to polish MIsawa off with a Tiger Suplex when Akiyama soars from the top and decks Doc. He runs back over gets the tag. Misawa hits a Tiger Driver and Akiyama a quick Snap German with a bridge but Albright kicks the leg out of the bridge. Dr. Death hits an explosive Spinebuster and the Super Generation Army is right back to square one. Albright throws Akiyama down with a powerbomb. Misawa has seen enough and goes on an Elbow Rampage. Akiyama tags out. Misawa is diving everywhere hurling his body off the top and through the ropes. He almost gets the Tiger Driver on Alrbight but Doc interferes and powerbombs him to hell. The Super Generation Army never recovers. Doc/Albright steal the Nodowa/BackDropDriver combo and hit it on Akiyama wiping him out for the rest of the match and while Misawa flips out of his attempt, Doc smokes with a Dangerous Back Drop Driver. Brutal Dragon Suplex by Albright ends it mercifully. This was a shit-kicking supreme. This is Head Drop All Japan at its zenith. It was Misawa taking a ton of punishment. I dont think Dr. Death would have been a great challenger for Stone Cold in the Attitude Era, but under ten minutes the dude could still go and was a powerhouse. Fun in a very brutal way. ***3/4
  10. All Japan Triple Crown Champion Akira Taue vs Toshiaki Kawada - AJPW 6/7/96 A surprise Budokan Title match and one that has almost been completely forgotten about. Kawada defeated Kobashi to win the No. 1 Contendership and everyone assumed this meant Misawa vs Kawada for their annual Summer title match. Except on the same show, Taue shocked the world and upended Misawa to win the Triple Crown. Kawada vs Taue as a rivalry is not heralded they are mostly known as a great team. I think their most famous and best match came back in 1991 when Kawada was one of the good guys and Taue was in Jumbo's Army. Since they have had great matches in the '95 and '96 Carnivals so even though they were loyal tag team partners it was not like they were incapable of having a great match together. The first 2/3rds of this was great to the point where I was like why does everyone have a stick up their ass, but the last 5 minutes or so features terrible transitions and an anti-climatic finish. Lets start with the good. Kawada was full-bore into his shoot-style offense phase. Taue was going with the power game. Kawada tried to goad Taue into making a mistake by refusing to lock up and stretch instead. Taue is not Kobashi and did not fall for it. Taue would have waited the time limit out probably. Kawada threw some check kicks to the leg. Taue's response to mock Kawada's stretching routine which gets a nice reaction from the crowd. Taue throws some big boots to the mush and there is an early head drop German Suplex. Snake Eyes on steel railing and top rope. Taue is not fucking around. Tag partner or not he is out to win. He goes for the Nodowa, great Fujiwara Armbar takedown by Kawada and transitions nicely into the cross-armbreaker which he applies and Taue gets to ropes and powders. Great transition. Kawada works the arm well. Loved the frustrated Cowboy Kick when he couldnt get the Cross-Armbreaker a second time. Taue tries to block the Jumping High Kick but hits his injured arm and with his guard down. Kawada nails the next one. All Japan tends to use No-Sell/Hulk Ups as a transition which I dont have a problem with. When Kawada plays King of the Mountain, Taue gets pissed and Hulks Up. This leads to the most heated exchange of the match which Kawada wins with a sudden Koppou Kick! Nice! I love how Kawada's reaction is ok dont fuck this up...Powerbomb now...theres a bit of struggle and he nails it. Kickout. So I am thinking lets transition back to Taue, but this is when the match goes off the rails for me. Taue doesnt really Hulk Up. It is like the most casual one ever. A No Sell is visual expression you are absorbing the pain and working through it. A "No Sell" is a sell. He just plain stopped selling. Shoulder tackle, Neckbreaker Drop. Part of it is I just dont except the Neckbreaker Drop as an equal to the Roaring Elbow or Koppou Kick, but because it was Baba's finish, I think that's how it is treated because all of sudden after this one move Kawada is fucking dead. Apron Nodowa piques my interest because I love that, but Kawada kicks his way out of trouble. Terrible transition to the final finish run, Kawada hits his Jumping High Kick and Taue does the All Japan No Sell and Nodowas him. Ugh. Kawada never comes back. It takes a Dynamic Bomb, German and some Nodowas to win. They should have climaxed at the Dynamic Bomb instead of ending with Nodowa. I really enjoyed the first 15 minutes or so, but the end leaves a bad taste in my mouth. It is very short by All Japan standards, 18 minutes. I have no issue with the time, I dont think they needed more. Just needed a better finish run. ***1/2
  11. All Japan World Tag Team Champions Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Dr. Death & Johnny Ace - AJPW 9/5/96 Clipping rears its ugly head again. Can I just watch these four badasses in peace? Akiyama and Ace do a great opening teasing their finishers on each other. After that it gets a little workrate-y for me. Johnny Ace is the lost workrate wrestler of the 90s. Ace tags out to Doc and I love how Akiyama evades the splash in the corner and immediately tags out to get the fresh man in. I love little things like how Doc uses his amateur skills to position Misawa in the hostile corner and how Misawa reacts to it like he is spooked and needs to get out of the bad part of town. I also love Misawa's reaction to getting popped in the face. There is a rush of anger that overwhelms his face shortly. Speaking of interesting countenances does anyone else think that Steve Williams' resting face is quite doleful. I wonder why he is so blue? This was the explosive Doc of 1994 on full display. Watch how throws himself into the feed for the powerslam or his ground to air missile dropkick on Misawa. Dude was so explosive. Then we get a shitty clip to Akiyama in peril. How we got there I dont know. Oklahoma Stampede caps off this heat segment. Akiyama tags out to Misawa. Misawa gets OWNED by a Wicked Dangerous Back Drop Driver. I love how Akiyama defends Misawa who has rolled to the outside and hits a Northern Lights Suplex on Doc before anymore damage can happen. Akiyama rolls Misawa in to tag himself in. Akiyama sets to work on Doc, but Williams just explodes out of the corner with a lunging thrust. Johnny Ace goes all workrate sprint king on us, just killing it. No Ace Crusher, but gets a Rocker Dropper and a Top Rope Oklahoma Slam. Then the match grinds to a halt and a hush fall over the Budokan. Doc lays in some of the tamest, weakest boots to Akiyama and Ace does an abdominal stretch. Akiyama evades a double team, hits a High Knee and here comes the Elbow Express courtesy of Misawa. I really liked the opening. Again the clipping really broke my rhythm. We see Doc again as a massive force to be reckoned with. So far, I think I have liked the initial match better by a hair. Finish run is fucking excellent and puts this over the top of the initial match. Misawa is a one man wrecking ball. He is just going from one side of the ring to the other beating the shit out of the Americans. There is some great drama on the apron/ropes. Ace hooks up for an Ace Crusher on the ropes, but Misawa almost pops off a Tiger Suplex, but Doc saves and it is ACE CRUSHER TO THE ROPES! WOW! Doc cant capitalize and Misawa tags out. Akiyama is cruising at first poping off Exploders on Doc like he has this on lock. Then Ace decides to become the MVP I always knew he fucking was. Breaks up a pin, THROWS AKIYAMA DOWN WITH A POWERBOMB and dropkicks Misawa all so Doc can tag out. Last four minutes are the Johnny Ace show. DOOMSDAY DEVICE~! Doc runs into an Elbow and Misawa breaks up. Akiyama rolls out. DOOMSDAY DEVICE ON MISAWA~! Doc & Ace got this! Lets Go Ace! Go Ace! Go Ace! He rolls in Akiyama. Oklahoma Stampede by the illegal Williams and only two for Ace. Thats ok we wants this for Ace by himself. ACE CRUSHER~! 1-2-NO! I was so pissed! Misawa wipes out Doc on the floor. Cmon Ace go for it. Super Ace Crusher? No here's Killjoy Misawa with a German. Fuck No! Not this way! 1-2-KICKOUT! HELL YEAH! Exploder, Exploder Again, Shit No, Shit No, KICKOUT! OH HELL YEAH! DOCTORBOMB BY Williams! Roaring Elbows to Doc...Doc ducks low and DEMOLISHES MISAWA WITH A BACKDROP DRIVER! HOLY FUCKING SHIT! Doctor Bomb by Ace 1-2-No! Are you shitting me? SLEEPER SUPLEX~! 1-2-3! HELL YEAH! JOHNNY ACE! JOHNNY ACE! JOHNNY ACE! YEEEEAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! The greatest moment in Johnny Ace history. I am fucking Supacharged now! I like 12/10/94 better as a match as a whole. The last 8 minutes of this are fucking glorious. Johnny Ace is the fucking man. Easy Top 100 Greatest Wrestler Ever Locked Up! ****1/2
  12. All Japan World Tag Team Champions Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Holy Demon Army - AJPW 7/9/96 The World Tag Team Title Rematch but now Taue is the Triple Crown Champion having defeated Misawa and made his first successful defense against his own partner, Kawada. There seems to be no lingering hostilities as expected in Japan between the two. In fact, I remarked a lot in their first match that Misawa and Akiyama were really gelling as a team, Kawada & Taue really show that off here. Especially Taue, who is almost telepathic in how he responds to Kawada's movement, Kawada attacks Misawa on the apron, Taue knowing this will draw Misawa in, heads him off at the pass and scoops him up for Snake Eyes. Also, he knows Kawada is looking for a double team and steps in the ropes no signal and delivers the blow to Akiyama. It is very good tag team wrestling. As can the be the case in tag team wrestling sometimes, one man can take over. After Kawada landed a big Powerbomb on Akiyama minutes after the opening bell, the Misawa Express came into town and steamrolled everything Holy Demon including a Spinning Plancha. I thought Misawa/Kawada felt like they were going through the motions of Misawa teasing his big moves... Taue well-timed interference. Once Kawada tagged out, it was all Taue. AIR TAUE~! He was rolling Snake Eyes everywhere including the railing. He tries for the Top Turnbuckle. Misawa catches himself, Quick Elbow and tag out. I like the addition of Akiyama a lot because he add some pep and zip to everything. The Misawa pairing do feel old hat and too comfortable. Sometimes they recapture the old glory but more often it feels like a dance routine where each man knows the steps and sleepwalks through it. Akiyama adds dynamism. Akiyama fares well at the outset scoring a Northern Lights Suplex. He is full of piss & vinegar. Taue ultimately chops him down and the Holy Demon Army settles into a groove of pummeling Akiyama. The only instance when they lose their cool is when Akiyama fights back with some slaps and Kawada SNAPS at this insolence just pummeling him in the corner with furious strikes. Otherwise, it is business as usual for the Holy Demon Army. Taue does it back suplex toss, which I love and a Powerbomb, not Dynamic to climax here. Misawa starts to worry and bails Akiyama out. Misawa comes in for a routine hot tag you know the drill, Elbows, Spinning Clothesline, Facelock. Taue hits a Neckbreaker Drop though and tags out. Kawada lights Misawa up with kicks and chops. Stretch Plum! Tags out to Taue as they consolidate their advantage. Kawada & Taue commence to working their third face in peril segment, second on Misawa. Good double teams to start, foot on head Single Leg Crab by Kawada, Taue even busts out the Piledriver to show how Southern they are. Kawada is beating back Akiyama's interference. Misawa is able to block a suplex with his own, but cant capitalize in a great hope spot. He tries to Elbow out of the Back Drop Driver, but eats a particularly DANGEROUS BACK DROP DRIVER! Kawada gets a good nearfall and then goes for the Cross-Armbreaker. Akiyama leg drops Kawada and Misawa tags out. This match is very Southern-Fried. The finish run is typically great All Japan. Kawada heads Akiyama off at the pass with a massive boot to the mush and Kawada Kicks. Akiyama would not be denied. High Knees for everyone! Akiyama and Misawa hit stereo dives that put them back in the driver's seat. Exploder on Kawada! Great selling by Kawada. He really rules at putting someone big. JUMPING HIGH KICK! Just like in the previous match he hurts his ankle, but unlike last time, he tags out to Taue! Taue wants to put the punk out with his biggest weapon, Nodowa of Death, but Misawa saves. Taue hits the DYNAMIC BOMB~! for two and the biggest nearfall of the match for the Holy Demon Army. Misawa just comes in as a One Man Wrecking Crew and KOs everything in sight. He tags in and he just goes to town. I loved the missed Kawada Spinning Heel Kick seamlessly into the Roaring Elbow. Misawa basically treats this like a Triple Crown match and runs through his biggest bombs...Tiger Driver...German Suplexes...TWO Tiger Suplexes to finally pin the Triple Crown Champion, Taue and get a modicum of revenge for losing the Triple Crown. Akiyama was great holding Kawada at bay with Exploder and German Suplex. He was playing defense really well. A lot of people call the Doc/Ace match the great Southern Style match, but man does it get more Southern Fried than this with two meaty extended face in perils with the best heel tag team of all time, Kawada/Taue on offense. Southern Style Tags produce great matches consistently but for me not as many classics. I always enjoy them, but they never really reach the stratosphere. It something like I to groove to rather than knock my socks off. Finish run was great after two big Akiyama wins, it was time for Misawa to get his and he had a score to settle with Taue. That felt more routine and comfortable. Kawada putting over Akiyama by the way he sold his bombs was great. Falls short of the 5/23/96 epic but there's no shame in that, this was still fun. ****1/4
  13. All Japan World Tag Team Champions Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Dr. Death & Johnny Ace - AJPW 6/7/96 Besides Dr. Death himself, no one was as hurt by the Williams drug bust as Johnny Ace who disappeared from the main event scene in 1995, but he is back with a vengeance here. Do you remember 50 First Dates with Adam Sandler & Drew Barrymore? It is the same premise with Johnny Ace and pro wrestling fans. Everytime pro wrestling fans watch a Johnny Ace match from All Japan they are surprised at how good he is. Then some time goes by they watch a second one, but they act like it is the first time they have ever watched him wrestle and again much to their shock, he is good! I am here to say Johnny Ace is a great pro wrestler and someone I would definitely consider for my Top 100. I still think his best performance I've seen is 12/10/94 but he was good here again. I'll admit the clipping really broke my rhythm watching this match and part of it was I didnt expect it. At 23 minutes run time, I thought it was just an All Japan sprint it didnt occur to me 7 minutes is clipped and worse still there are two clips. I think I would rather they cut the same amount of time and just joined in progress. The way they did it just caused start-stops in my head. What we did see is Misawa & Akiyama work well as a team again. Doc & Ace were the first to double team but that triggered stereo top rope dives from Misawa and Akiyama. Great chemistry. Misawa ate a crazy Tiger Suplex head drop. Clip. Ugh. Ace goes for the Kobashi Moonsault, but Misawa rolls away and ultimately tags Akiyama. Akiyama fares well, but Ace evades and throws him head first into the canvas. They start working over Akiyama pummeling him, but there's another clip. Misawa saves when Ace goes for the Powerbomb after he a couple signature moves like the Spin Heel Kick in the corner and Rocker Dropper erroneously called an Ace Crusher by the announcer, no respect, no respect. Misawa goes off on his hot tag...Spinning Plancha...Tiger Driver. Dr. Death THROWS MISAWA ASS DOWN WITH A GUTWRENCH POWERBOMB! HOLY SHIT! I think one of the main reasons I love All Japan is because I am a such a Powerbomb Mark and that was a great Powerbomb. That feels like a game changer. They build to Doc's Back Drop Driver but Akiyama dropkicks him in the head...great dropkick. Akiyama is game, but Doc hits a DANGEROUS BACK DROP DRIVER on him! Again what a game changer! Dr. Death feels like he is partying like it is 1994 again! Such a force of nature! Misawa senses Akiyama is in grave danger, Elbows out of trouble and rolls Akiyama out. I dont think he would have ever done this with Kobashi. He always let Kobashi sink or swim. Misawa tries to hold the big, burly Americans at bay only to eat a DOOMSDAY DEVICE~! Doc & Ace look poise to win. They threw two huge bombs and landed them perfectly. Ace Crusher on Akiyama! Powerbomb! Misawa saves. This may sound weird about a 30 minute match but I feel like they rushed the end. With 5 minutes to go, Akiyama and Misawa were out cold on the floor. They needed a game changer like how Doc & Ace hit their bombs or maybe a Doc & Ace mistake. This felt too forced like all of sudden Akiyama and Misawa were revived. I really liked the Tiger Driver on the floor on Dr. Death as a way to take him out of commission. I thought Ace started selling discombobulated too early. If he stayed on offense and then Misawa decked him & hit that Tiger Suplex that would have been perfect. The way they did do it with Misawa hitting the Tiger Suplex and Akiyama needing multiple Exploders was great. It shows Akiyama has gotten the pinfall in both title matches but each time it was enabled by a big Misawa bomb with Akiyama following up with Exploders. Clipping hurts it, finish is a tad bit rushed, very surprised this won WON Match of the Year honors but then I remembered December matches count for the following year, honestly I dont know what the second best All Japan match of 96 is. I thought 5/23/96 was hands down better than this. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed this came in with a bit of rep and I was hoping this would be the Doc & Ace match I could really hold up to the light. I still love 12/10/94 the most. The segment where Doc Gutwrench Powerbombs Misawa then Back Drop Drivers Akiyama and the Doomsday Device is fucking fire, the most heat in All Japan since 6/9/95, he looked like a total beast. Cant go above ****.
  14. All Japan World Tag Team Champions Holy Demon Army vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama - AJPW 5/23/96 My initial impression of the Misawa & Akiyama team is that Akiyama is a much more strategic wrestler than Kobashi. He is more active in double teams, guarding Misawa's covers and wrestling a more strategically sound tag team match. Misawa & Kobashi were two great singles wrestlers that won on the sheer force that they were two greatest of all time. Akiyama being the young gun overcame his youth by wrestling more textbook. Watch the opening, he stays in the ring almost the entirety of Misawa's portion. He is helping out with double teams and guarding against Kawada. Another moment later on after Misawa face in peril and a hot tag, Misawa had returned and he was having trouble hitting a bomb on Taue originally he wanted a Tiger Driver, but that morphed into a Tiger Suplex and he still couldnt hoist him over and he called out maybe one word in Japanese and Akiyama was on it and kicked Taue and boom Tiger Suplex. Never saw that out of Misawa/Kobashi, not trying to disparage Misawa/Kobashi who had great matches not just with Kawada/Taue, but also Doc/Ace and Baba/Hansen so they worked, but I liked how quickly the Misawa/Akiyama unit gelled. Just some notes, I wanted to cover that I didnt in the opening paragraph. I liked how Akiyama was out to prove his mettle from the outset. He was confident and was out there to win. I love when people at least attempt or hit their finish early in this case an Exploder on Taue. It makes me believe you arent out there putting out a performance you there to win. A wrestling match doesnt have to go 30 minutes, it could be 2 minutes make me believe you want the "W" not a great match. I love how Misawa was right out there with an Elbow Suicida as soon as Taue powdered. He was on it. After the Misawa in Peril, Akiyama stood up and won control against Kawada, slaps, jumping knees even a punch. Akiyama proved he belong. He bested Taue too, great double dropkick and then it goes into the Tiger Suplex sequence I discussed. Akiyama tagged back in and was going for the Exploder. Now let's talk Holy Demon Army. I have been focusing on Akiyama because he is shiny & new and he is the focal point. Kawada was taking a very Misawa approach to this match. He was hanging back letting Taue eat some pretty big bombs (Exploder, Elbow Suicida, Tiger Driver and Tiger Suplex) but whenever it almost got of hand he was there. The initial shine climaxed with a Tiger Driver and I was like Kawada/Taue are due. Kawada launched his sortie and freed Taue. Kawada hits a Dangerous Back Drop Driver, pretty wicked headdrop bump from Misawa. They worked over Misawa's neck together. Kneedrops, kicks, Snake Eyes and Stretch Plum. Transitions out to the hot tag was a little weak...I think just some Misawa elbows. We covered Akiyama's hot tag which was very effective in Akiyama proving his mettle. After the Tiger Suplex when Taue was about to take a Exploder is when Kawada struck again from the apron. He broke up the attempt and more importantly took Misawa out of commission with a Jumping High Kick that led to a NODOWA~! Kawada and Taue have been licking their chops as they have played with their food as Akiyama is at their mercy. Pretty damn perfect opening. Damn they put Akiyama over huge! Big balls on the booking and it paid off. Akiyama takes a lickin but he keeps on tickin'. Taue Powerbombs Akiyama, but it is not Dynamic. Taue wants to finish the punk off with a Nodowa of Death. Misawa's hand is forced and he comes in, Kawada cuts him off at the pass, but he fights through it to save Akiyama and pulls him back to the sanctuary of their own corner. Misawa's hot tag is glorious as he lights Taue up, nice German suplex. This match is so efficient. On the Tiger Driver attempt, Kawada TRUCKS him with a Lariat. Now Kawada is in and they tease the big finish run is going to be Kawada putting his archrival away. Powerbomb. Dangerous Nodowa/Back Drop Driver Combination. Akiyama is there to save. The Second Powerbomb is thwarted by the Misawa-Rana. Blocks Jumping High Kick! ROARING ELBOW~! Kawada is out cold! This leads to the Akiyama hot tag. At first, it looks like it is going well, nice Northern Lights. German, nope, Kawada does his standard Pele kick save. Trademark Jumping High Kick...whats this Kawada has injured his ankle! Taue rushes in to try to pull him safety. Misawa intervenes and throws Taue out and SPINNING PLANCHA BY MISAWA! Crows has been whipped into a frenzy! Akiyma dragon leg screw to Kawada's bum wheel got a huge pop! Misawa hits a massive German Suplex on Kawada. Akiyama buries him with Three Exploders! Akiyama PINS KAWADA!??!? HOLY SHIT! Kobashi did NOT even do that! WOW! Kawada was a total pro here. Selling his leg like only he can and boy oh boy did he feed Akiyama on those Exploders great job. He made Akiyama right there. So selfless, hats off to him. Akiyama is an instant overnight sensation. What a coming out party! Love the new dynamic that Akiyama brings to these tag matches, very strategic and he definitely was a new wrinkle for Kawada & Taue who are usually the ones exploiting the double teams and being the better tag wrestlers. Misawa & Akiyama immediately are amazing tag team not because they are each individually great because they really executed a smart tag strategy throughout the match. They times their double teams and saves so well. Misawa was still the leader it was his Roaring Elbow that put Kawada in a hole and it was his wise blocking of Taue that stopped Kawada from tagging out and it was his German on Kawada to set up Akiyama. Really excellent tag team wrestling! ****3/4
  15. Ya'll are super harsh. Holy Demon Army vs Super Generation Army - AJPW 12/9/95 Real World Tag League After 2.5 years and eight matches later (we only have seven of the eight), here's the last match of the most celebrated tag rivalry in history. This is generally considered one of their least regarded efforts. I am only 15 minutes into it, but I am surprised to say the least. The October 1995 match which is generally considered their fourth best affair was a slog of maximalist overdrive reminiscent of NOAH. To me, this is the leaner, meaner version of the October 1995 match which I appreciate and on top of that it is distinctly more memorable than the ultimately forgettable 1994 Tag League match. The first five minutes is the demolition of the Super Generation Army. Kawada does his best Larry Zbyszko and disengages from lockups to casually stretch. When he does engage he hoists Kobashi into a DANEROUSSSSSS BACK DROP DRIVER! Smokes Misawa on the apron and Jumping High Kick to Kobashi (Kawada's Roaring Elbow). It is off to the races as loyal henchmen without any urging knows it is his duty to keep Misawa at bay. When Kobashi starts to stir, he gets a NODOWA for his troubles, Cross-Armbreaker! DOOMSDAY NODOWA TO THE FLOOR!!!! HOLY SHIT! Taue throws Kobashi from the apron to the railing on his injured arm! Misawa is fucked and now Kobashi's arm is fucked too. It seems after 6/9/95 that the believe the only way to create drama was to put the Super Generation Army into a massive hole at the start, just have them get routed. Then watch them claw back. This is far from my favorite layout and made the October match a slog, BUT at 30 minutes long, this does not get as long in the tooth. In addition, the 6-7 minute heat segment has much more purpose than the first heat segment on Kobashi in October. There is great arm work and Kobashi selling, which we dont see until the back half of October. They are cutting out the filler and keeping the best parts of October. Kawada and Taue are a pleasure to watch on offense but they dont feel like fools not trying to kill Kobashi like in October when they were not going for the kill. In October, they were aimless, here they have a focus. The double Cross-Armbreaker when Kawada cant break Kobashi's clasp is great. Misawa has awoken and has the Holy Demon Army in his crosshairs. Pissed off Misawa is great. Misawa smokes everyone. German on Taue! HUGE TIGER SUPLEX ON KAWADA! Kobashi tags out and Misawa crushes Kawada! Tiger Driver! Frogsplash! FACELOCK! Taue breaks up and saves Kawada. Kawada tags out. Efficient, condensed version of October with more energy and heat. I watched the last 15 minutes and the haters are crazy. This blows the October 1995 match out of the water. I need to get ready for tennis but I will come back and do a full review. In the meantime, the last 15 minutes were an insane tour de force. Taue earns his control back and the heat segment on Misawa is dripping with drama and urgency. Kobashi comes in and it is rock n roll. Misawa bails Kobashi out twice once with Elbow Suicida on Taue and then later with the Tiger Suplex on Taue. The brawl on the floor between Misawa and Kawada is epic. Blocking the powerbomb and closed fist to hit the Tiger Driver on the floor. I liked how chippy Misawa and Taue is. It is non-obvious who is in control. Taue really has to use his size advantage to bully Misawa even then doubles up his dropkicks using the ropes to make this very even. He tries for Tiger Driver and Tiger Suplex, well-timed interference by Kawada and a Nodowa regains the advantage for the baddies. Kobashi breaks up the first Kawada powerbomb. DANGEROUS NODOWA/BACKDROP DRIVER COMBO! Nice nearfall. I will say the heat is not great even though the action is. Misawa-rana prevents first powerbomb. Kawada finally muscles him up and throws him down. Again a very good nearfall. I like how they really built their control over Misawa. Kobashi blocks the potential Doomsday Nodowa by attacking Taue. Taue comes back in and illegally NODOWAs Misawa. Stretch Plum was the next logical step. Kobashi has had enough of this bullshit and Lariats Taue and punches Kawada. Kawada releases the hold and kicks Kobashi in the bad arm repeatedly. He catches the kick and cleans Kawada's clock. Misawa tags out. Kawada Fujiwara Armbar takedown, nope, cross-armbreaker. I like how Kawada did not just fold. Kobashi back drops out of Powerbomb, but a Jumping High Kick and the Holy Demon Army remains firmly in control. Kobashi sandbags Taue on a powerbomb, but Taue gets him up for DYNAMIC BOMB~! Misawa breaks it up. This is better than October match as Super Generation Army is in trouble but it does not feel insurmountable. Misawa saves Kobashi from the Nodowa Of Death (Apron Nodowa) and hits an Elbow Suicida on Taue. This shifts everything back to the good guys. Kobashi sells his bad arm so well, dangling at his side. Jackknife Powerbomb...Bodyslam...Fist Pump...MOONSAULT! 1-2-NO! Tough crowd! Kawada kicks Kobashi in the face to stop the second Moonsault and kicks Misawa in the face. Powerbomb to Kobashi and Taue needs to make the cover. 1-2-NO! The best part of the match is when Kawada's obsession gets the best of him. He wants to Powerbomb Misawa on the exposed floor, but Misawa blocks. Kawada goes for punch, but Misawa blocks elbow...TIGER DRIVER~! Taue NODOWA ON KOBASHI! NODOWA ON MISAWA! It is 1995 can Taue do this on his own? Taue looking at Misawa doesnt see Kobashi German Suplex him! Kawada is out. This is all on Taue. Misawa TIGER SUPLEX! 1-2-NO! Misawa handing Kobashi the win would have been so 1993. MOONSAULT! 1-2-3! Amazing match! I don't want to complain too much about this but the Kawada supporters are incorrigible. Kawada is Wile E. Coyote. He is not supposed to succeed. He was never supposed to capture the Roadrunner and don't let others convince you otherwise. He was a fucking asshole prick in 6/9/95 and how anyone can come out of 6/9/95 not burning with passion to see Kawada get smoked is beyond me. That was his glimmer of hope and a moment of doubt in the good guys. You never give up on the good guys! He got struck down in 7/24/95. Misawa & Kobashi did not get their win back as a team. That's what this was! Triumph for all that was good in the world! I know there is a time-honored tradition of going out on your back. First it was just Misawa & Kobashi tag team that was being broken up, both were continuing. Furthermore, it would have been just sad if the heels won the last encounter. It just wouldnt feel right. If there was a team like Akiyama and another young buck that would be a cool moment, but why should we be rewarding assholes like Kawada & Taue. I was very happy that Misawa & Kobashi got the win. It is sheer madness that this not more well-regarded. I watched the last 15 minutes again and the crowd heat is missing even though I think there is plenty of struggle and earning the moves. These were not just four men going through the motions, they had a lot of pep in their steps and zing on everything. The match-up had grown stale and there was not much room to grown. It did not feel like a true blowoff. Misawa hitting the Tiger Driver on Kawada on the floor felt good after all the torment Kawada put Misawa through the constant exploitation of the eye injury. I would have liked something more rousing. The 6/9/95 match is so emotionally draining and so brutal to watch. I would have liked Misawa/Kobashi to really beat the pulp out of them in retaliation. Regardless still a great match. I need to watch it again, but I think this might be better than 5/21/94, which I think is a superb workrate match but lacks the heat/stuggle/hate of 12/3/93 and 6/9/95. It never reaches the heights of 12/3/93 or 6/9/95. I am not that confident yet. I will rate as I would 6/1/93, ****1/2. Here is my official ranking of the eight: 1. 6/9/95 2. 12/3/93 3. 5/21/94 4. 1995 RWTL 5. 6/1/93 6. 1/25/95 7. 10/15/95 8. 1994 RWTL (The most forgettable)