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  1. You just know a match is gonna be good when it starts with Kobashi getting his plancha attempt to the outside countered into a nasty powerslam by Dr Death lol. Williams works his back over more by slamming him into the ring post, as well as slapping on a few working holds on top. Kikuchi tries to help out but Doc's more annoyed than actually threatened by the poor guy. Ace tries to continue the trend with some corner shots but Kobashi counters his second one into a big backdrop, which was a well timed spot and quite unexpected. This gives enough room for his partner to take charge, but eventually Kikuchi goes back to his natural role as the whipping boy of the Super Gen. Ace also does that unique bit where he has the guy in the Tree of Woe position, but then goes outside to choke him. It's nothing special, but I like the visual of it and Williams stomping the poor lad while this is happening just looks mean; it doesn't actually help their chances any, they just do it for the sake of bullying the guy. Ace isn't as perhaps explosive as his counterpart but his nasty stiff boots and kicks do get a lot of sympathy for Kikuchi's struggle as well. Eventually Kikuchi counters a suplex but gets grabbed for a Ace Crusher. Kobashi gets in the way, managing to stun him good enough for Kikuchi to land a flush calf kick out of it. Kobashi gets tagged in and has a awesome spot with Ace where he's trying to get his Machine Gun Chops started, but Ace keeps interrupting with his own, even doing a parody of them at one point to set the guy off. Kobashi later takes over with a loose lariat and a weird Dominator-lite move where he gets him in position for the move, but then just runs and then abruptly drops him on his back while there, basically like a Jackknife but instead of a powerbomb position it's a backbreaker instead. It's feels like a botch yet gets a big near fall, which makes me think this was Kobashi trying something new like his infamous "Diamond Head" attempt. Lead to finish has Williams and Kobashi go at it with chop exchanges and a brutal German by the former. He tries for a Oklahoma but Kikuchi dropkicks him mid-attempt. Kikuchi tries virtually everything to save the team, including taking Williams surprisingly close to his limits as well as getting near falls on Ace with a superplex and a big German, but both are kicked out of. He tries for a top rope move but gets reversed into a big Ace Crusher, which only just gets saved by Kobashi! Great timing on that sequence, it got the crowd really going. Kobashi's luck runs out as Kikuchi is pinned with a Doctor Bomb from Ace, being too slow to stop the pin on the outside. All in all, a solid outing and better than the Misawa 6-man. This has some great tension, Kikuchi gets a nice moment in the sun after a drop-off in recent years, being a great underdog and playing up his more agile style perfectly: this is probably his best match for....honestly a good few years, barring his singles with Kobashi or his mythical "lost" match he had with Ogawa in 2000; he doesn't get much big stages to shine after this. Kobashi and co put on expected performances all in all: as much as you'd expect from them at this point but for a beginning of year show there's a lot of just good old-fashioned intensity. Ace carries his share of the match well and steps up to the occasion, which was cool to see given he's a pretty good wrestler when not being insanely overshadowed most of the time.
  2. Introduction The Movement was started off by Johnny Ace in 1998: more specifically, his betrayal of Kobashi and the end of GET on 23.08.1998. Ace filled Kobashi's absence with mostly mid-card Gaijins: Johnny Smith, Wolf Hawkfield, etc, as well as bringing in Bart Gunn (going by Mike Barton) as a enforcer, namely boosted by his shoot knockdown of Steve Williams in the Brawl 4 All. Now Movement is a somewhat complicated faction to describe; while being built from a heel action (namely Ace attacking his weakened and exhausted partner after eating a loss) the actual motive of Movement was built around the premise of foreign talent being neglected. This is namely seen in the build-up to Ace and Kobashi breaking up wherein Kobashi (who was current Triple Crown Champ at the time) was unable to help out guys like Smith and Hawkfield due to his fatigue and injuries and as a result, they typically ended up taking the fall in their respective matches. Ace seen this as a lack of respect and eventually snapped on him after Kobashi accidently hit him with a lariat when he tried helping out for the finish of the match dated above. Ace did cut a promo a year later that outlined the motives for Movement a bit more clearly. Basically they were the Tweener, heel-ish "we are better than you and we'll keep proving that until you get it" kind of deal. Movement have a number of unique qualities that made me want to tot my thoughts down on them- they are during a time where as stated before, AJPW were cutting back on exhaustive King Road-style matches in favour of smaller more compact deals with bomb throwing, just not to the very long extremes of the early 90's. Movement were as such almost built to enforce that: their matches aren't as spotty as examples you might know better and they hone in on momentum-switching and extended slow heat segments. Not only that, but Movement has a unique dynamic in that the Barton/Ace duo are built in such a way where Barton is a clear inferior in a lot of his matches, needing Ace to come in a ton to support and keep him in control. Movement also master the function of isolating out people in tag matches as a lot of their examples generally have them hone in on one person for most of the match with occasional hot tags and switches not included. All of those factors combined make for a uniquely different experience of the AJPW tag-format, which it did admittedly need at the time given the wear and tear of the main players. I'm going to bring up a few highlights of the Movement in terms of matches that I feel like are best suited for first-time watchers. Akira Taue & Tamon Honda vs. Johnny Ace & Kenta Kobashi (Summer Action Series II 23.08.1998) Ok, so I'm clearly cheating here with this first one but it's kinda necessary to get the background of how Movement is set-up in the first place. Taue is hunting for Kobashi whom at this point was falling apart; the storyline itself brings that up as Akiyama tore his legs to shreds in their last defence and he still hasn't recovered, so Taue here just destroys him mostly with big throws, strikes, and even getting getting stuff on the exposed mat outside. Ace tries to help when he can but clearly isn't happy with how he's having to pick up all the slack. Naturally this ends with the two miscommunicating, leading to Honda and Taue to bomb the shit out of Kobashi until he's down for the pin. Ace post-match beats him up further and that's basically that. This was about 7 minutes clipped if I recall but it is a drama-filled match even left over, with solid performances from Taue and co as they just pick apart the rapidly declining GET until it shatters. Movement (Ace/Barton) W/ Maunakea Mossman vs. Jun Akiyama, Kenta Kobashi & Kentaro Shiga (Real World Tag League 14.11.1998) The debut of Barton in AJPW is a pretty decent showing, actually. Ace annoys Kobashi by doing nasty stiff chops in front of the man to piss him off in particular. Ace also has a really awesome fast paced exchange with Kobashi as they pull tons out of their playbook to fight the other, exchanging boots and kicks, chops and slaps, elbows and shoulder charges, etc. This match establishes that Ace isn't as strong as Kobashi but he's experienced enough to get around most of his offence, namely because he knows all by heart. Ace is great at really being a bully as he works over Akiyama and co with some painful looking holds and shuts down momentum whenever it pops up. Movement get over their signature double team bombs (namely the side slam/standing leg drop and military press into Ace Crusher) here as they manage to smartly isolate out Burning so that they can beat down Shiga into a easy pin for Barton after some surprisingly half-decent bombs from his part. This match establishes how Movement function mostly in that Ace mostly gets the lead with surprise Ace Crushers out of nowhere while Barton wears them down with his strikes and suplexes. They only use the bombs for big near falls and generally don't tend to spam them out. There's some nothing limb work in here involving Akiyama's torso but I think that's covered well by some solid selling by Akiyama, and even Shiga gets the chance to not completely suck here as Barton and co bump around for him. A pretty much perfect introduction to Movement-style tags. Movement (Ace/Barton) vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa (Real World Tag League 21.11.1998) Misawa and Ogawa are the "better" tag team when it comes to pretty much throwing out offence, but Movement are able to get on top of this via their interference antics: Barton in particular despite getting bullied and beaten up by Misawa can't get pinned due to Ace consistently running in to disrupt the flow. Even Misawa can't take this for too long and ends up tiring, allowing the duo to slip in sneaky offence to balance the books. Eventually Misawa is just ganged up on consistently until he has to eat the pin. Ogawa is...fine here, nothing really special. He mostly just plays the backup guy and that's fine. Misawa actually bothers here and as a result Ace milks every interaction between them for everything he can, resulting in enjoyable exchanges. Barton plays the enforcer mostly here and sticks to his usual suplexes and punches, which while good enough as a gimmick don't really add up to much, especially given he's mostly playing the weaker link that Ace has to prop up with his antics. If you wanna see Movement have a conventionally AJPW-house style match with the Ace done fairly well, check this out. Movement (Ace/Barton) vs. Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (Real World Tag League 27.11.1998) Movement just completely neutralise Taue and Kawada's dynamic here and it's fantastic shit to watch. Kawada, who typically softens up opponents for Taue to run over is instead consistently interrupted: I love how Ace consistently gets in shit to keep Kawada from doing any offence to Gunn while Gunn keeps to this and makes sure to hand him over to Ace on the outside whenever necessary. It's just effective tag team psychology and Kawada sells all of it amazingly, with his frumpy flat back bumps after elbow strikes and being so hurt that he can't even run for a Irish Whip, stopping in the middle. Ace even lands a Ace Crusher to a prone chair, which was a silly but cool spot to see. Taue, generally able to rest up for big hot tags is forced to run in multiple times to stop pins, meaning Movement just stick to him like butter for offence and wear him down as well whenever possible. Of course, the Demon Army are able to work through this despite some desperation selling (with Taue even crawling to save Kawada from a pin in a spot incredibly reminiscent of their famous 09.06.1995 match with Kobashi/Misawa) and both teams eventually build really well to a ending stretch, with Ace and Kawada in particular just getting into it with wild spots and sequences with the crowd right in their hands with every near fall. Movement did have a smart plan coming in, but plans tend to fall apart when kicked in the face; this match is more or less proof of that. It's also pretty damn solid as well. Movement (Ace/Barton) vs. Jun Akiyama & Kenta Kobashi (Real World Tag League 04.12.1998) Against Burning we just get a ton of really enjoyable spots where Ace and Barton are just taking the piss with Kobashi and subsequently pissing him off with everything they are doing. There's some astonishing heat here as explained above but it's done so cleverly throughout: Ace and Kobashi have stiff and nasty sequences between them but Ace noticeably has to use Gunn as reinforcement to sustain any lasting advantage, and they get a early lead with a Ace Crusher/military press bomb in on Kobashi. Akiyama spends most of this feeding the duo solo, leading them to just ground him down with some brawling and outside spots: namely a Snake Eyes on the guardrail and a follow-up Ace Crusher over it to damage his throat. Ace particularly is top notch here with his heel shit, little things like him painfully cranking the neck in a abdominal stretch by forcing Akiyama's neck down further or beating Akiyama down with forearm blows until he needs to be forced away, using GET's old back suplex/Ace Crusher combo on Kobashi himself.....just great work in general. There's a great spot where Akiyama gets stuck in a delayed suplex by Gunn right in front of Kobashi and he just has to stand there and watch, getting progressively more annoyed the longer it goes until he explodes on the apron. Honestly, it's simple stuff but it's super solid mind games by the pair to tick off Burning's lead player, which pays off when he tries to beat down Gunn excessively and overextends allowing them to get their extra shots in. This has a good flow to it and never feels slow despite it being one of the longer matches here as Burning's comebacks and hot tags are kept to a minimum and the crowd really stay on top of this from start to end, namely because of how Movement can keep this fresh without the need for a million near falls. Of course we get the usual Kobashi-isms and whatnot alongside the expected structures, but I think the natural heat and easy to follow format gives a ton of credence to how Movement could change that kind of style for the better here. A lot of fun and probably the best match Movement ever had. Their second match together next year is worth a watch as well. Movement (Ace/Barton) vs. New Triangle of Power (Masahito Kakihara & Yoshihiro Takayama) (New Year Giant Series 02.01.1999) I picked this one out in particular because it has a really unique format and structure. The UWF Triangle team turn this into a shoot-style exhibition for the first half, with Barton having to essentially just scrap it out to survive against the two. The crowd gets into this somewhat......and then Ace runs in to land cheap shots and a backdrop lol. He basically just plays the role of the spoiler here, focusing on outside attacks and the usage of chairs whenever Kakihara and co get too much of a lead. His antics aren't overused but just last long enough for the audience to get real sick of his nonsense, and they cheer massively when he gets demolished by Takayama's knees. Ultimately this is paced around Barton's trial by fire as he has to mostly contend for himself in the ring against two killers, which I think despite being the obvious weak link of the duo, he's actually not half-bad at all and manages to showcase some surprisingly good stuff on top of that when push comes to shove. This definitely isn't a big classic but for versatility-sake I do feel like Movement showcase a more subdued style that's less about the big shots and more about just slowly peeling back their opponents with isolation and plenty of shenanigans, making this a entertaining romp. Movement (Ace/Barton vs. Jun Akiyama & Maunakea Mossman (Champion Carnival 15.04.2000) Akiyama has been shoved out of Burning after his angry antics, so we get a more aggressive version of him here alongside Mossman against Movement in a nice burst of action. Both teams really just feel like they don't like each other as Akiyama and co destroy Barton's leg with some nasty limb work (in particular them sticking it in the guardrail and dropkicking it, which was just brutal). Ace is the key player here: he's experienced enough to get around the younger guys with his Ace Crusher counters and vicious strikes to stay in the game. Movement mostly on the defensive here as Akiyama and co bomb them well and keep control with said leg work paying off later on when Barton tries getting Ace out of stuff. Things tend to slow a bit during the middle half but this being about 15 minutes long means it's a breeze to go through and keeps up the counter-heavy antics all the way to the end to add a ton of unpredictability. There's definitely a feel of management trying to push Mossman/Kea over more at this point, which depending on your tendencies may rub you the wrong way given he wasn't exactly lighting the world on fire at this point. It's a lean package, but shows that Movement could have solid bouts without needing extended heat segments to do so, which can be seen as a misconception of what I've shown so far. Extra matches you may want to watch if you liked these: Vs. Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (Super Power Series 09.06.2000) Vs. Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama (Summer Action Series 23.07.1999) W/ Wolf Hawkfield vs. Takao Omori, Takeshi Morishima & Yoshihiro Takayama (Real World Tag League 03.12.1999) W/ Road Warriors vs. Hakushi, Jun Akiyama & Kenta Kobashi (AJPW Giant Baba Memorial Show 02.05.1999) Conclusion All in all, Movement were a pretty impressive addition to the AJPW tag scene, having numerous solid to great showings in the space of about two years despite the fact that AJPW TV time was massively waning so they had a lot less footage to work off than in earlier times. I think the fact that Barton was always the weak link in these matches makes Ace's performances that much stronger given how much he was juggling, but it never feels disorganised or "off" in any measurable way like he's openly carrying him. I would say that Movement (and by extension Ace's work) isn't going to be to everyone's tastes, but I would implore those that only know the more traditionally known Pillars matches to check these selected ones out and how they are able to work with different facets of their style. Surprisingly very good results despite the styles clash.
  3. Slow start to this--not the usual Doc/Gordy/Ace kind of slow with a lot of laying in holds. Just deliberate. And there's good stuff to be found, like the little football tackle dick-waving contest between Doc and Patriot. This picks up and turns into a hell of a match, with a closing stretch that wouldn't be totally out of place among the great early-'90s All-Japan tags. Kobashi works as sort of the juniory, in-peril member of the team, which I could see being a source of criticism, but...well, that's what Kobashi does. And while Patriot is fine, he's best served as an apron cheerleader who just comes in to hit his big spots. There's lots of neat counter-wrestling in between all the big bombs and some cool double-teams. It's probably too long to have been included on a pretty loaded Yearbook in full but this is probably the best AJPW match not to make the cut.
  4. Cool trios match which had some matwork and for once, ended without a gazillion bajillion nearfalls. The highlight was obviously Hase working the mat against he shooter cats. Though, the goal of the match was to put the UWFi crew over strong, I thought that considering AJPW always gets praised for it's psychological brilliance, they could've done a better job. I'm not sure I by Hase easily taking down and dominating Albright on the mat. It made him look like a fat dude with nice suplexes rather than an unstoppable beast. And Kobashi was taking some really stiff knees from Takayama, but was fine a minute later. Johnny Ace was fired up but kind of threated everyone like a jobber. Ah, to nitpick forever! It was a fun match and that's what counts.
  5. Johnny Ace – least talked about 90s AJ guy? He was a pretty good stand in for Misawa as Kobashi's tag partner here. His stuff is not as overexposed as the rest of the AJ crew and his games around hitting Ace Crushers and DDTs are neat. I really liked the parts where they beat the shit out of eachother. Lots of kicks and slaps to the face. The early going was around the Holy Demon Army trying to exploit weaknesses, and the Dynamic Dudes trying to, you know, prevent them from doing that. Eventually though Kawada almost decapitates Kobashi with a nasty headkick which allows Taue to set up some leg work. The leg work ended up being filler but was gritty enough and didn't go long. Quite the epic destruction of Kobashi towards the end with a great build to an apron spot. Some neat sequences around Kobashi & Ace trying to prevent the inevitable. The main thing I didn't like was the tendency to absorb a strike, and then hulk up and hit a strike of your own, which had crept into All Japan at this point. There's nothing dumber than making an angry face after you got kicked in the face. Other than that, good job crew.
  6. JIP with a struggle over an apron suplex. Ace hits a rope-assisted Ace crusher while dropping off the apron that looks brutal. Kobashi can't seem to make anything stick for a while afterwards despite the usual 150% effort, and this sequence seems really well done. Ace gets caught during this part while going up for a moonsault. Kobashi is able to interrupt but Ace kicks him a few times and goes back on offense. Ace hits the moonsault but doesn't get 3. Kobashi takes over and hits a series of finisher level moves that he can't follow up on fast enough to make them a finish. It's a good sequence but Kobashi working from underneath is way better than Ace working from underneath. I liked Ace interrupting Kobashi's first moonsault attempt and using the taped , injured leg to drive it home a lot. It's down to one minute left and Kobashi is still on top, but can't keep much moving forward without having to sell the leg. Kobashi hits the moonsault with a little bit to spare, does he get the 3 or is it a draw? Really good way to finish a match with these two. I have some quibbles with Ace's corner lariats and knees. But they told a really good story for what there was (9 minutes). Wouldn't mind seeing the full match at all.
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