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Found 587 results

  1. For a while, this is everything the Tenryu vs Mutoh match the year before wasn't : actual hatred and intensity, leg work that looked crisp (thank you Kawada for making it seem so) and actually meant something and better selling down the stretch. Kawada is just as terrific as always here, although the regular no-selling comebacks back and forth I know annoyed the old AJ fans back then. Mutoh is also much crisper than during the Tenryu match and demonstrates a lot more heelish attitude too, as he should because he's still the fucking outsider with a title that should not belong to him, which Kawada reminds him in spades by kicking him in the face. The leg work with kneecaps dropkicks gets much more dramatic here as Kawada refuse to let them take him down, meanwhile letting himself open to Shining Wizards, the most copied spot of 2001/2002. This leads to a moonsault when he just can't take it anymore and lays down the mat, but Mutoh hitting his knee on the way down prevents him from covering Kawada immediately. Okay, so now this whole knee business led us somewhere. Some more cool counters incoming, including an attempt at delayed selling by Mutoh who just pops back up after a backdrop driver and runs to ShiningWIzard Kawada again. Well, if Kobashi can do it, why not Mutoh ? He doesn't do it as well (and by that I mean, he just pops out barely even registering the move he just took), but whatever. You gotta wonder what the hell happened toward the end though. I vote on Mutoh trolling Kawada by not going for the powerbomb then doing a miserable failed attempt at... something. Well, he ended up on his head, so no luck for him. Well, the match is great for enough time, despite this awful botch at the end. So, quite the terrific match with its share of Mutoh goofiness which is acceptable or not depending on your personal tolerance for Mutoh goofiness. Mine is high, so I really loved most of this match. Kawada was the glue, of course.
  2. I think we can all pretty much admit AJPW took a stylistic nosedive after the NOAH exodus. Sure Kawada, Tenryu, and Kojima occasionally had some great matches but, by in large, folks just didn't care to go out of their way to purchase this stuff. Therefore, the internet community didn't have much to go on as far as recommendations. My interest in AJPW post NOAH actually starts when some of the guys went back in 2013 I believe. Akiyama, Shiozaki, Kotaro Suzuki and others decided NOAH was a stagnant pond and head back (at least Akiyama and Kanemaru) to their true home. So, I watched a few matches from that period and saw a couple reviews and whatnot that it caught my interest to explore a little more. I was surprised to find that AJPW was actually pretty darn good...great at times! Mutoh eventually was fading from the scene in ring and stylistically. So, matches that featured athleticism and struggle were being championed over angles and sports entertainment style wrestling. So, I cherry picked a few DVDs from about 2011-2015. I'm a cheap skate so I only got single disc shows so, I'm probably missing out on some big time match ups BUT I was taking a risk. I figure it'd be better to trust my gut with the match-ups than, hope the 2 disc big shows would deliver. Anyhow, for whatever reason I jumped in during the Fall of 2011 and boy was I pleasantly surprised! Let's check out the matches! SUWAMA, Masakatsu Funaki & Takao Omori vs Seiya Sanada, Taiyo Kea & Manabu Soya (09/25/11 AJPW): This is exactly the exciting, hard hitting match that I hoped it would be. It never treads into parody of former AJPW or NOAH territory with unneeded strike battles or meaningless machismo. The characters play their part during the 20 minutes of action. Highly recommended, very good match. Koji Kanemoto vs KAI - Jr. Tournament Finals (09/25/11 AJPW): Holy crap! This was awesome They really beat the crap out of each other. KAI is a guy that I've seen a couple times and liked. I'd not yet say, "Hey gotta search out me some KAI footy!" but, he is one to watch. Koji worked on the leg here, setting up for his Ankle Hold. KAI did very well in selling the leg damage (even though he did do some flying moves). I felt he sold it enough within the narrative: He's young and he's going to work with the moves that got him to the finals. Koji was punk as fuck and the A+ worker that he can be- especially as the tough vet. The match featured loads of stiff strikes, variety and smarts. Both guys were battered by the end. It was a true contest for something important and a classic match in the Jr. tradition. I've never heard anyone mention this match so, I'm glad I got the DVD on this. Stong BJW & Takao Omori vs Manabu Soya, Sanada & Taiyo Kea (10/17): 17 minute match. Things weren't clicking 100% but, that made this bout feel more organic and "real." Strong BJW vs Soya/Sanada is the rivalry at the time and the focus was kept on that here. Kea vs Omori is a struggle that's been going on since the late 90's so, there was something at stake here as well. The action was good with many tags, irish whip moves, and strike exchanges. The finishing segment was fantastic and capped off a very good match. Jun Akiyama & Ricky Marvin vs SUWAMA & KAI (10/17): 19 minute match. I really dug the mind games Akiyama was playing on SUWAMA...not only effecting this match but setting the stage for their 10/23 Triple Crown fight. KAI and Marvin's interactions were rough around the edges and not in the way of the above match. I'll chalk this up to KAI (who I usually like) but, didn't really bring much to the match. He just kept things moving along. It was a very good match with nice action and told a good story. I just remember liking it a heck of a lot more on the first watch a year or two ago. SO, you might disagree with me here...heck If I watch it a 3rd time, I might disagree with myself! Jun Akiyama vs SUWAMA (10/23): Sorry, I don't have my notes handy for this match but, I remember that is was kinda disappointing. I was hoping for a classic but, recall it being just a very good match (like *** 3/4). I want to say the pacing was slow and probably went 5 minutes longer than it needed to. I'm pretty confident in that recollection. Kaz Hiyashi & KENSO vs Minoru Tanaka & Koji Kanemoto - RWTL (11/26/11 AJPW): KENSO is another guy that I've come to watch for. He's kinda a heel and uses his belt to choke guys. I like this kind of guy in the 2010's. He's got some moves but, is much more of a character than a world class athlete. I'm kinda tired of guys that are young athletes but, rely upon a gimmick rather than their abilities. They work a parody gimmick but, have no idea how their work matches up to their character. So, they do a bunch moves that their character would/should not do. KENSO is a guy where he's got a charisma about him without being a cartoon character with a 100 moves. Anyways, this match was one long finishing run at 11 minutes. Very exciting rush match. Minoru & Koji are cocky jerks taunting KENSO until he has to smack the taste outta their mouths. At this run time, I highly recommend watching this. Its just very good stuff. Takao Omori & Manabu Soya vs Seiya Sanada & KAI - RWTL (11/26/11 AJPW): Here's that KAI fella again! Omori & Soya have teamed up here as Wild Hearts. The thing is Sanada & Soya were tag partners just a few months ago. Not sure who wanted the split but, they square off right at the bell. Seiya goes for speed and shocks Soya. KAI's in there and they go for the double team. These two young guns look dynamic as all get out! Oh shit! They are fighting in the stands now. Old man Omori's out there choking Sanada with a child's parasol! Hahahaha! Back on inside the ring and KAI's trying Soya but, come on dude! Manabu is a freaking caveman...and not the Fred Flintstone type either. Omori gets in there and wisely slows things down with KAI. The K man eventually finds an opening to get Seiya, the fire plug, going. Omori's had enough and puts big Soy sauce in there. Hey, deadlift suplex a motherfucker, Soya! This is a real back and forth match. Omori's trying to Axe Guillotine Driver KAI off the top now. Great! erase his head from existence! Just tons of double team destruction but, surprisingly never goes into bonkers territory. Both teams were very impressive. This was a great match. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi vs SUWAMA & Takumi Soya (11/26/11 AJPW): Strong BJW have the tag belts but, this is a non title fight. It's a RWTL match-up. So here we go- Takumi smartly WRESTLES Okabayashi...fuck...do NOT get into a power battle with him. Daisuke wants SUWAMA. 'WAMA is a beast eating chops for lunch. Takumi gets back in (at some point) and wrestling smartly but, gets sucked into trading hits and early one his chest is a cherry tomato. BJW is stretching him out like a fat lady in a pair of stirrup pants. Quick tags and repeated hard slams only rub it in. Soya is in trouble. Slam, cover, 2 count, kickout, tag, repeat. SUWAMA's waiting... This match was built brilliantly and paid off in a perfect manner. It starts out being like a ***3/4 match then, a great match like a firm ****+ but, damn this just kept getting better and better. So, I'd call this a classic match. I can't give a number or anything like that but, whew! This did it for me! Awesome closer to an awesome night of wrestling. KENSO & Kaz Hiyashi vs KAI & Seiya Sanada (12/03): I wanted to mention that if you get the DVD of this show, it has a really nice recap segement of the highlights and finishes of many (all?) of the RWTL matches that have taken place up to this time. I know as wrestling dorks, we want to see the full matches BUT it is really nice and fun to see some of these things clipped down to the highlights. They make Akebono matches look watchable. Anyhow, I like everyone here but, wouldn't say I would stick around for an 18 minute match of theirs...but, I was wrong. They managed to keep everything fun and exciting. The action was very good and it really was time well spent. KENSO even busted open KAI's chest, giving meaning to the nomenclature- knife edge chops. Very good match Strong BJW vs Get Wild (Omori & Manabu Soya): This is my jam! BJW are tag champs and damn! do they look it here. Omori and Soya can only hope to slow down the juggernaut team. Of course, the AJ team finds a way but, you know Sekimoto and Okabayashi are not going down without a fight! If you're into Choshu/Hashimoto/WAR/Kensuke type stuff then, you must watch this 20 minute RWTL match. It is so simple from a move/sequence perspective yet, the physicality is remarkable. That's what really keeps you hooked and what moves the story along. Matches like this feel like a battle in the true sense of the term. There are ebbs and flows, bits of luck, acts of courage and desperation - This was a classic match to me. Some of these reviews appeared really early on in the blog but, I wanted to consolidate everything for convenience and reference sake. The first post or so was more than a year and a half ago and I know when I'm doing research on wrestling recommendations, it really helps to have everything right in one spot. Anyhow, I was damn impressed by the above matches. Three matches I would call classics (in that ****1/2 star range). Don't be mistaken there is some so-so matches that I had to sit through, some I had to skip but, I've spared you the write-ups on those. Manabu Soya is one guy that I think is slept on especially as a tag team wrestler. If you dig Strong BJW then, you need to see them go up against Soya and Omori. As winter approaches, I want to try and start on 2012 AJPW which I think I have much more of. So, that is a little project goal. We'll see though Fingers crossed! Thanks for reading!
  3. Entertaining 5 vs. 5 Elimination Match. Not Peak WAR vs. Other Promotion material, though there are some good smacks and thuds here. Problem with the match is the booking, as they get rid of the spry guys first and soon you are stuck with an old, broken down Steve Williams, Arashi and Mutoh here. Williams can still throw a nice punch and not do much else at this point. Match has it's moments especially thanks to Orihara and Tenryu, while Shinzaki was working hard to get something cool out of Williams. Overall this match is symptomatic of the depleted roster AJPW was dealing with at this stage however.
  4. JIP. Only 5 minutes are shown, but there is some awesome shit here. Dean does all sorts of athletic moves. This Dean still has that boyish body, but facially looks the same as Dean always does. Dean is really exaggerated here, flippin' and playing to the crowd. When he goes to the top rope, he poses to pose, then pauses to pose AGAIN, the takes a breath before climbing... he may aswell be carrying a sign that says „I am going to get military pressed off the rope“. The match is a junior's match for sure but they go for pin combos and submissions rather than impact stuff, which I like a lot. Then it really looks like there's no way Fuchi can turn it around and then he pulls out that badass little finish. Great clip.
  5. FMKK

    Kento Miyahara

    The Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion and undisputed ace of All Japan, Miyahara has had some hype as one of the best in the world this year. Dave was pimping him as top three, alongside Okada and Will Ospreay. I've noticed some others in the wrestling journalist/podcast sphere pimping him as a great big match wrestler in title matches. I'm completely unfamiliar with modern AJPW though. What do people make of the guy and the claims that he's one of the best in the world? What matches stand out to make that case? I'll eventually get round to watching some of the pimped matches and posting about them myself but I'd love to hear from some of you who are more familiar with the work first.
  6. This was fun. I had some structural problems with it and the pacing threw me off (too many times where they were just wandering around setting up the next spot, disliked the ringside brawling) but I enjoyed it thoroughly and it had an exciting finish which didn't go overboard with the kick-outs and ended when it should have. ***1/4
  7. It's a slow paced AJPW undercard match with a lot of matwork. Pretty cool eh? Sano is a guy you don't know what to expect from here as he is in between UWFi, KINGDOM, BattlARTS and Michinoku Pro, but he rocks the shootstyle here. Some really cool matwork involving him and Smith which had that clash of styles feel. Smith isn't a guy who does a ton for me but to his credit he sold the fuck out of Sanos kicks and knees and looked like he was struggling with all his might here. Really good moment when Sano was destroying Smith in the corner with kicks and Smith goes for a front headlock only to be taken down easily. Tornado is Richard Slinger in a goofy mask and he looked good here grappling and throwing kicks, did not look so good trying to take a huracanrana. Fuchi is obviously still very good at this point but doesn't go full bore aside from a cool pin.
  8. This part transfers the attention to Kawada & his chance at the Triple Crown in October versus Jumbo. It also puts the Step-over Facelock over as a viable finisher, at least for some period of time. Team Jumbo is at their grumpiest here so the overall wrestling is sacrificed here for stronger psychology. It works beautifully in some matches & in others I pine for the excitement filled matches of 1990. There's probably too much Kikuchi & not enough Kobashi as the low-man on the totem pole for me. Jumbo, Fuchi & Ogawa vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi (All Japan 7/26/91) I didn't really think too much of this match. It was a little jerky and there wasn't the awesome action & nearfalls of the other 6-man matches. The only person that really brought it was Kawada who went ape-shit on Jumbo even hitting a enzui lariat. ***1/2 Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (All Japan 8/18/91) A much better match here. I felt the first match brought the focus of the compilation back to where it started. This one really rekindled the grudge with Jumbo clearly being a jerk here. He & Taue once again try to break Kobashi's face & Misawa hurts his shoulder, and wouldn't you know it! They go after that. This really sucked me into this match. Misawa was really selling his injury here & everyone is working at such a top level. I don't really know why people are hating on Taue, he's not Misawa, Kawada, or Kobashi but, everybody already knew that. ****1/2 Mitsuharu Misawa & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (All Japan 8/29/91) Pretty good tag bout with Kikuchi really stepping up. Unfortunately there's no real damaging offense to Team Olympic so while it's exciting, I wasn't in doubt about the winners. **** Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (All Japan 9/4/91) Really great match with Kawada bringing the violence. The guys do some stuff they were using a year earlier like Taue's sumo slaps, well that's about it...Misawa's shoulder was really beat on here. Kawada could hold up in his absence though. He was hitting lariats to the front & back like a monster. His step kicks to Jumbo are especially vicious. In fact, Jumbo vs. Kawada are the best thing going here. It's not on the level of their 9/30 or 12/7/90 matches but is still awesome. And is the 3rd best tag match on here. Jumbo, Taue & Ogawa vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi (All Japan 10/10/91) Another very, very good 6-man tag team match. They're really gearing up for the Kawada/Jumbo match and it's damn clear that Kawada & Misawa have arrived as real contenders. Taue & Jumbo don't take that much punishment here and I do agree that Taue has gotten worse. Not in the sense that he sucks to watch but, he doesn't have the varied offense as he did early on. He seems to be content doing the stomping game alot & only doing moves against Kikuchi like the Samoan drop. He does amp it up here though as I believe he chokslams Misawa on the floor. Kawada gets better with each match as I understand his character more & more. He is tired of the bullshit being run by Taue & Tsuruta- all of their double teaming, cheap shots, and the benefits that their status grants them. Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Masa Fuchi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (AJ 10/15/91) Filthy, dirty cheats!! Jumbo's team are a bunch of fucking cheats! Misawa attacked Fuchi at the start but soon he was out of the action because they re-injured his nose. So this was a 2 on 3 match but, Kikuchi is one tough SOB and Kawada was really fighting as two men, especially later when you really need him too. He was hitting Jumbo with some of the stiffest elbows! They really had Jumbo & Co. on the ropes but the cheat, injuring body parts & taking turns at stomping & grinding them. I know why they do it too! They're beat! If Misawa was here they would've lost...the facelock would've been in play for sure. Great match especially in generating heat...I was marking out for Kawada to kill the entire other team & some great saves/nearfalls too. Also Kikuchi does his best Toyota impression a couple times... ****1/2 Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Toshiaki Kawada (Triple Crown AJ 10/24/91) This is Kawada's chance at Jumbo for the title and he tries to use his brain to bring down the giant. The early portion he controls the big man with the side headlock, eventually this peters out as Jumbo uses his patented knees on Dangerous K's abdomen. Kawada responds with knees of his own and uses abdominal stretches and even a proto-stretch plum for a moment. Slowly he slides into using the sleeper to finish the Big J off. Eventually Jumbo breaks free and flashbacks to Tenryu. Although, his knee butt is now officially antiquated. With the stiffness of all the other moves, this puppy looks silly. It'd be silly to compare this to 6/3/94 but Kawada doesn't take head-drops for nothing & he takes a couple head drops here...does he ever. Brutal Finishing segment to a really smart match. Not sure what to rate it though at least ****1/2 though... Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (AJ 11/29/91) A really great tag match that sums up the later portion of the year- Misawa's hurt, Jumbo & partner pick on it, Kawada has to kick maximum ass, and Taue's getting lazy. Here they go 30 minutes to show that the teams are equal but in all honesty it's clear that Misawa & Kawada are superior. If Misawa was not injured they'd have nothing holding them back or at least that's the story. He looks like shit in this one too so it's understandable but isn't out of comission like in 10/15/91. This at times looks like they can pin Taue or get Jumbo in the facelock. Maybe next year they'll get their revenge. Very, very good stuff. These comments on the tag matches are in comparison to the 1990 matches. In the later '91 matches it seems like the same match over & over without much play off or growth in terms of having an answer in the form of a counter, sequence, or strategy like we saw a year earlier. Still this is a damn good match & will have to see where it fits in with the other tag matches on here but is probably 3rd or 4th best tag match...nothing can knock the '90 matches from the top 2 spots though. The real thing that I just remembered after writing the rest of this was at the beginning: Misawa's back! He went all out in the beginning with his flying & did a couple moves in the middle to near end that were showing, you need him here to have an awesome match. Kawada just hadn't come into his own here just yet. There's more feuding that I'm going to skip over in order to get to what I consider to be the end of the feud despite it not having a proper conclusion. Misawa & Kawada & Kobashi vs. Jumbo & Akira Taue & Fuchi (05/24/92 AJPW) ****3/4 Although this got a ***** by the Wrestling Observer, I can't agree. It misses the mark as there is a little bit of a let down on the performance side of things from Kawada- there are some weak striking moments and a couple airballs which killed the momentum. In all honesty if he lived up to Dangerous K potential then I would have given this *****. Towards the end he comes in to take on Jumbo and you think it's going to be vicious but it doesn't match the intensity of the previous few minutes of Misawa/Jumbo. If he had hit Tsuruta with blistering strikes then this bout would've erupted. Everyone else impressed me though and if Taue wasn't really injured, I'd be surprised. Just too bad Kawada wasn't performing at his full potential. Still a fast paced and exciting match and Jumbo's team act as vicious heels here which was unique. A must see match even if it's not Kawada's finest hour. It and all of these great 6-man matches of the early 90s are benchmarks in wrestling history. This is one that'd I'd like to rewatch to see how it stands today. Its a fantastic feud that perhaps overstayed its welcome but, could still deliver the drama and excitement up til the end. I think this program has been lost to time in terms of essential Japanese wrestling. So, I hope that I've shed some new light on it and folks who are familiar with the current stuff take a step back and check out this classic work. Thanks for reading!
  9. In the Secret Santo thread, @Jetlag gave me Toshiaki Kawada vs. Tamon Honda (AJPW 1/21/96). I once again can’t sleep and this is long overdue, so here goes… The match starts off with some amateur type wrestling before morphing into a series of suplexes (very reminiscent of Taz, who obviously borrowed heavily from guys like this) to strong style kicks. Then some nice psychology with Honda trying to ground Kawada to prevent more of those devastating kicks and nice selling from Kawada. Everything looks snug and tight. No one was calling these guys fake, that’s for sure! Kawada turns the tables by grounding Honda in return. These two seem pretty even, matching each other move for move and strategy for strategy. Following more hard kicks by Kawada, Honda goes on a crazy flurry of flopping headbutts with an insane airplane spin along the way for good measure. After a few more minutes of back and forth action mixing strikes with submissions, Kawada gets the hard-earned tapout victory. Really fun little match. The only disappointment is that I didn’t get to see the “Kawada smile” made famous on this board by @KawadaSmile.
  10. Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi (All Japan 4/20/91) Whew ! Nearly 52 minutes of action! This was really just awesome stuff with Kawada really stepping into his character & Fuchi being the real-standout of his team. He was the real bone cruncher here & getting quite a few chants too. He deserved them too. Kobashi was getting beat on for a good portion & although this slowed the action down, it made the closing 5 minutes sheer joy. Awesome finish too. I can't wait to see Taue & Kawada go at it in tag. Jumbo Tsuruta & Masa Fuchi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (All Japan 5/17/91) A nice little tag match where Misawa has an injured arm & Kikuchi is in the place of trying to protect his boss, Misawa. Very good in putting the Jr. over. Fuchi was quite good again too, Jumbo & Misawa did nothing special but, coming from behind Misawa used his facelock & made Fuchi quit. Another first time move appearance? Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Kenta Kobashi (All Japan 5/24/91) Watched this one a couple times and I really don't know how it's a MOTY candidate or could be nominated for Top 20 but, it's certainly top 50. The start is clipped to where both guys are sweating pretty good. Kobashi's offense is the highlight and he nearly gets Jumbo but, really he wasn't going to win. Still, you really feel for Kobashi & his facial expressions never seemed to get mentioned but he's one of the best. Better organized than the Kawada carny match but not as brutal & believable that the underdog could pull it off. Still Top 50 stuff that should be seen. **** Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Terry Gordy (All Japan 6/1/91) Now if you want a viable MOTYC for this point in 1991, this would be one of mine. So, far nothing except 4/20/91 has been a blow-away classic unlike the 1990 stuff but, there's been a lot more singles matches & more matches in general so, that's misleading. Anyhow this is the Triple Crown match of the year thus far & top singles match. It's more Gordy's style than Misawa's but, those aren't too different other than the pacing. The beginning & middle are fairly basic but each transition is pretty seamless & the ending gets great but, in a little different way than Misawa's King's Road style he was developing. Reading Ditch's AJPW, I agree that this was Misawa's match in the sense he was stepping out from underneath Jumbo's shadow, showing he could have great matches without him. The same kinda goes for the Hansen carny match. It show he didn't need the feud's heat, his ringwork & star power could get it for him. Gordy's a real pro too. Best singles match thus far in '91. ****1/2 Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs. Terry Gordy & Steve Williams (All Japan 7/24/91) Awesome fun stuff here with Miracle Violence Connection looking like the toughest tag team ever. They went after Misawa's face and then his leg which I'm sure both were legitimately injured. Tremendous selling from Misawa & is what made it very special. Kawada was a very good number two playing the part of being Robin to Misawa's Batman. Cool, cool stuff. **** or maybe **** 1/4 AJPW 1991 is slept on but, this is a great place to jump in. All of the big players facing off in tags and singles competition and a couple classic matches - you can't go wrong! Thanks for reading! Part 5 is in the works!
  11. This part is comprised more of single matches than tags & isn't as awesome as the first two but does an excellent job of showing just about every one of the main players going at it alone. There may be some spoilers ahead by the way. Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Akira Taue (All Japan 1/26/91) Misawa is such a dick here. He slaps Taue during a rope break & when they go to lock up he hits him with a stiff elbow shot. Taue gets his revenge though throwing up some mean boots, dumping a couple Samoan drops & even throwing our little superhero on a row of chairs. Misawa only get pissed and gets his comeback mojo going by countering the DDT with a northern lights suplex (never seen him do that one!) and getting a nearfall with the Tiger Driver. This is the first time I believe he's done that on the tapes, also Taue does the first chokeslam on the tapes too. Still it's not enough for Taue! Then Misawa does the unspeakable, whether it was planned or improvised, he performs the first Tiger Driver '91!!! It's still the most dangerous finisher & establishes it's reputation soundly. Taue isn't kicking out or really even moving that afterwards. Me thinks Jumbo & Taue want payback...bad. Relatively short match but all action. ****1/4 Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi (All Japan 3/23/91) This one started out a little slow & without too much intensity. Kikuchi was really being introduced as an ally of Misawa and he got whooped on. Fuchi is also in a bit in this early section & while some of his offense is dated in it's impact, his submissions are top notch. Once Misawa got the tag, this thing blew up & you really can identify with Kobashi & Kikuchi as almost brothers. That & it makes one wonder why their so rough on Kikuchi & Kobashi when Misawa & Kawada are the ones the really want. This is a little bit of a sentiment switcher since the two K's are just a couple of young guys, there's no good reason to beat them so hard. The story here's pretty good but the beginning is a bit dull but the ending really saved this & kept the heat on. I can't wait to see these guys go at it again! ****1/4 Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Toshiaki Kawada (All Japan 4/6/91) Slow starting match but it picked up with Kawada showing his toughness and his hard hitting offense. Jumbo really had to go all out here to put Dangerous K down. Very nice Champion Carnival match. **** Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Stan Hansen (All Japan 4/6/91) This one here is a lost classic or close to it. If you don't get this on a compilation, I'm sure most people would never see it. And that's the problem I have with all of these Best of the 90s AJPW lists. People should do a forgotten classic AJPW list or something like that...matches that are spectacular but don't get a fair look. This certainly is one of them. I've never seen this on any list & it really deserves to be mentioned. Incredibly stiff, there's a neat story with Hansen being tied to Misawa's progress...an indicator if he's ready to take on Jumbo man to man. I'll have to re-watch this but it was better than the Jumbo/Kawada match for sure. Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Stan Hansen (All Japan 4/16/91) This is the type of match you want to see between two of the biggest wrestlers in Japan. They were just slamming into one another & Jumbo was working Stan's arm very well. Hansen once again show's that he's a hell of smart performer by using other attacks while his arm "heals." I didn't care for the finish but since they wrestled this in more of the 80's style it was excusable & special but not really up to par with most finishes in this time period. **** Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan 4/18/91) I didn't really think this match stacked up with their earlier matches & wasn't up to snuff with the Champ. Carnival matches. It really took awhile to get going and the strikes weren't as good as the previous matches. I wouldn't be surprised if someone was injured or something. Still the last five minutes were pretty damn good & I wonder if there's some parallel to the Dr. Death/Kobashi match in '93? **** Thanks for checking this out! Go see some of the great matches! I'll be back with more of my absolute favorite feud shortly
  12. PWF Heavyweight Champion Giant Baba vs NWA Missouri Champion Harley Race - AJPW 12/9/75 Harley Race is still in Handsome Harley Race mode with his bleached blond hair. During one of the long headlocks early, I was thinking about Race's tattoos and how unique they are, but do they depict exactly? They just look dark blobs on his arms. The first half of this match is dullsville. Baba works the headlock well and anytime Race gets up it is usually chop, throw, and headlock. Race is able at one to get a kneelift to set up a chinlock, but it is not sustainable. They establish Baba's dominance especially in terms of stand up over Race. The match gets good once Harley takes over. It develops into actually the most heated 70s puro match yet, which offers an interesting departure from the consistently great Brisco matches and the escalation towards a hot finish. Harley is able to turn Baba over on his side in a headlock and bury the knee thus negating the stand up advantage. Harley gets a pair of kneedrops to head, his headbutt and a piledriver to set up a wicked headscissors. They both worked really hard in this hold and the struggle of Baba to get out between Harley's thighs was compelling as it was a bit funny. When he came up gasping for breath and discombobulated, it was amusing. Baba sold disoriented well and they end up doing the best head collide spot yet. Harley picks up and slams the Giant, but Baba comes back with the big boot and then stands on Harley and jumps on him. Throughout the match, they used rope escapes well to protect finishes. Harley throws a beautiful suplex. Harley was definitely a trend setter. He follows Baba to the outside, which was a bad decision as Baba throws him into the post and he is left bloody. Baba tries to finish off with a pair of dropkicks, but Harley hooks the ropes on the second one and he is bleeding a gusher. Again, Baba is using the chop to set up his offense like t]he Russian Legsweep which won a fall over Brisco and then the backbreaker. He is pouring it on, but Harley comes back with punch to throat, second piledriver, a pair of headbutt and now seeing this is his best chance goes for the top rope headbutt, but crashes and burns! I totally bite on this being Baba's opportunity to win the match. He starts throwing awesome overhand chops to the cut. Baba is frustrated and Harley is hanging on for dear life. Baba nails a big boot, but it is too late as time has run out. This match definitely had the hottest finish of the 70s puro matches I have watched so far, but the first half of the match was pretty dull. I thought they did an excellent job with the headscissors, which sadly would be an anachronism in today's landscape. Harley was definitely a forward thinking wrestler taking the press slam off the top, blading and throwing suplexes and slams at will. His piledriver is not Backlund piledriver. Baba is great as hero and giant of All Japan. He uses his size well and throws a mean chop. The last half is really high quality stuff so check it out for that. ****
  13. Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan 9/1/90) ****1/2+ In this match-up Misawa tries to use his elbow strikes to go toe-to-toe with Jumbo. He finds out that he's no Tenryu and gets a beatdown. It's not that Jumbo isn't really messed up by this attack but it's not enough to transition into a serious pinning predicament. Still Misawa uses his quickness & flying but not in conjunction with much other than his strikes. So Jumbo does what he can to shift momentum and work Green Jeans over. I would've liked I little more variety other than a elbow battle to make this 5 stars like some say but, still it's awesome but not like their match in June. Re-Watch: This is a pretty great match but stylistically I preferred the June match. Misawa tried to be Tenryu to Jumbo, you know to try and slug it out. Misawa had much greater effect with his flying moves but wanted to get the big shot in. In the end he got caught and flat out beat. Still I would have liked a match with more variety in offense since Misawa slung 40 elbows or so in this one. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada (All Japan 9/30/90) Wow! An awesome time limit draw match that was one of those matches that were so well paced that you could have watched it all day. It wasn't a sprint so there wasn't a bunch of unbelievable sequences or crazy moves although by the end things were getting quite interesting. Kawada did blow a couple kicks and he took a double arm suplex like a Tiger Driver but everyone was worn out & hurt so mistakes like these were excusable because they were insignificant in the grand scheme of things. Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi (All Japan 10/19/90) It took me some time to get this one started as I was having some problems getting this to play just right. Once I got it going I'd seen the first 8 minutes a couple times. This match went nearly 30 minutes and I distinctly recall saying to myself, "This is the greatest match ever." That's pretty cool considering I thought I'd seen all of the great AJPW stuff. Greatness is only a state of mind. As an aside, Fuchi is a sadist but his striking offense is weak, Kawada hasn't quite found his Dangerous K persona & moves, Taue is impressive despite the conventional notion that he didn't get good until '95, Kobashi is already the baby-face you just can't pin, and Misawa is an upstart jerk. Jumbo is the old guard, he is the elder & Misawa doesn't give him the respect he's due. It's like a youngster taking on tradition. At this point I'm rooting for Jumbo but, I like seeing Taue & Kawada go at it, and feel sorry of Kobashi, & well Masa Fuchi's there grinning while breaking your bones. That's really neat that they're telling 3 different stories at the same time. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada (All Japan 12/7/90) Maybe I'm just a sucker for tag-matches but this was amazing. The timing was really brilliant stuff & showing Akira Taue's toughness was a great little story here too. I wasn't sure he could take all that Misawa & Kawada were dishing out. Although this was clipped a little bit on the front end since I think it was a TV episode (complete with commercials!), it didn't effect the greatness of the match. They're building off of past confrontations or adding neat twists. Kawada really comes into his own here too. I felt that in the couple months since the last match he's got his intensity dialed up. Great stuff! Stan Hansen vs. Jumbo Tsuruta (All Japan 1/19/91) A solid Triple Crown match between two of the biggest, toughest guys around. Things got a little loose at the end with Hansen & Jumbo trying some sequences but, it came off in a way. Hansen went down to a Baba neckbreaker drop which was cool. I don't know how believable it was though ; ) ***3/4 These are some of my desert island matches. You've got to watch these!
  14. This is one of my all time favorite feuds in puro. It probably won't get much attention nowadays but, that's time for ya! This isn't a definitive match list but, it covers most of the seminal puro program. These are my original reviews and star ratings when I was watching my DVDs as if the matches were weekly episodes. I've been in a wrestling rut lately so I hope this will get me out of it! Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Tiger Mask II (All Japan 3/9/88) ****1/2+ What an amazing little match. Misawa mainly keeps Jumbo contained with a side headlock for the majority of the middle portion. This would be risky nowadays but back then, it works. Wrestling is still the focus and the psychological direction is strong. Misawa can't trade blows or throws but he can contain Tsuruta & possibly score a quick pin. Jumbo won't be so easily wrangled and breaks the hold a few times. First, he is respectful by using the ropes. Next he, frustrated, peppers Tiger's ribs with short elbows. Finally, the champ shows the youngster who's boss & slings Misawa onto his back. From there, the match is wide open with a foreshadow of the action to come for AJPW in the 1990s. Fantastic! Tiger Mask and Toshiaki Kawada vs. Yoshiaki Yatsu and Ricky Fuyuki (All Japan 5/14/90) - Nothing really special move-wise but this is the match where Misawa decides that the gimmick & mask are holding him back. Jumbo, Kabuki & Fuchi vs. Misawa, Kobashi & Taue (All Japan 5/26/90) ***3/4 A good 6-man match but the real focus is on Fuchi & Jumbo putting the upstart team in their place. Kabuki to some extent too but Fuchi & Tsuruta are not impressed with the team of Misawa, Kobashi, & Taue...all look like Muppet Babies. It's wild. What's even more wild is that Misawa has the gall to elbow Jumbo off the apron (unprovoked) and that Kobashi isn't killed in the ring. Taue strangely supplies most of the action and is quite adroit in his execution. It really proves what a great tag-teamer & wrestler he is. He really lets Misawa/Kobashi work the story aspects by keeping the match going. This was a smart move on his part as early on it really was losing direction other than Jumbo is pissed. Still, the finishing portions were quite good, enough to build the excitement for the win. Suffice to say big old Jumbo is not pleased with the results. Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan 6/8/90) ***** This is the epitome of a big match without doing anything "big." There were plenty of teases to finishers and all of that but, that's not where the match lay. It was a story of Misawa's speed & guile against Jumbo's brutish strength. Misawa's biggest attacks were his dives to the outside & his top rope moves. Tsuruta in contrast used his more pedestrian offense but with the weight & stiffness he is known for. Things such as stomps, axe handles, scoop slams were done with intensity that really few can rival. Just a fantastic athletic match that was really one of the best of all time. Tsuruta, Kabuki & Inoue vs. Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi (All Japan 7/12/90) **** A very exciting match in a small venue that teased and played off the new rivalry between the old guard and the young guns. Kawada even kept his feud of sorts with Kabuki going and putting his kicks over with the fans by knocking Kabuki out (legitimately?) & Kobashi showed that he could definitely hang with the top guys. We already knew that but, hey it's 1990 and he's not quite throwing the lariats & chops yet. Honestly, he's really interesting because his body of work is split in two distinct periods yet, both are really good. Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Stan Hansen (All Japan 7/27/90) ***3/4 A simpler old style match that saw Misawa control Hansen for three-quarters of the time. He had his arm tied up in locks and would strike it with knees & elbows. In fact Misawa was as much a Heel as I've ever seen from him. He worked the arm over against the post and even a chair! Anytime Stan broke free though he really hit the crap out of his opponent. There were 3 or 4 really stiff shots that Misawa caught including a back elbow & from a chair. What's also pretty remarkable is how well Hansen sells the injured arm & really is on the short list for best seller. He does it so that he won't use the injured arm for really the entire match. It's a basic program that Hansen & Misawa worked in the next few years but, it's really smart & pretty great when executed by two intelligent & talented performers. Overall, this is an excellent start with 2 absolute classic matches & really fun six man outings. Pick a few, watch, and enjoy! Thank you for reading! Part 2 coming soon!
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