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  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. 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
  4. 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!
  5. 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!
  6. This was a lot of fun. You got some brief interactions between Kobashi & Misawa, and those were pretty wild as you'd expect, then you got KENTA & Marufuji doing their thing - some fast paced, energetic sequences. My favorite thing though was just seeing KENTA & Kobashi kick Marufuji's ass - my goodness their offense looked so great & Marufuji sold the beating well. Great match. ****
  7. I exhumed a load of reviews from the grooveyard for this one. I'm psyched to do it though. Jun Akiyama is one of my favorites I hope you enjoy reading and you take the time to go back to good old days of 1990's AJPW! OK let's get this started! vs Al Perez, vs Ted DiBiase (1/15 & 10/23/93): Both of these are worth checking out for that fun house show type of match. Both opponents kept the action and pace going for a couple entertaining matches. Its especially cool to see DiBiase back in AJPW after his very good run back in '87. Akiyama & Takao Omori vs The Fantastics (01/29/95): This was a highlight reel match for both teams. It wasn't heavy on the drama or story but damn! it featured quick action Watch for when Jun gets some Hashimoto nose blood. Good match and fans of these guys should take the time to watch it. Toshiaki Kawada vs Jun Akiyama (Champ Carnival 03/21/95): This seemed like that match people were talking about when they were discussing Kobashi vs. Jumbo back in '91. Just an excellent match that really made Jun look like the future star and it made Kawada look tough yet beatable. Really cool match with Kawada getting really stiff at times. Great Match perhaps a Near Classic Toshiaki Kawada, Johnny Ace & Takao Omori vs Stan Hansen, Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (04/15/95): All Japan had some of the best six-man matches that you'd think they were M-Pro in '96. But yeah AJ was doing it in the late 80's & early 90's and if you didn't know they were even doing them in 1995 too. This was a surprise for me but, I'm not going to fawn over it. 4 out of the 6 guys are bonafide greats, and Omori has got the chops and Ace knows how to hang with the group too. I mean he's got some 5 star matches to his credit, right? So, you put all of them together you're going to get something enjoyable. That's always been my rating scale on all of these...how much I enjoyed them There were so many neat stories here with everyone being Champ Carny runners-up for one then you've got: Hansen beating Kawada a month earlier for the belts, Kobashi & Ace at the same show went toe-to-toe during their tag war, then you've got Kobashi against Kawada who not only went to a draw in Jan. but they went to one during the Carny, and then you've got Akiyama vs. Kawada which is always awesome and the story of him & Omori as up & comers as well as being All-Asia tag partners (either around this time or in the past.) AND you've got Hansen, the last of the old guard showing he can still go. Whew! The fact of the matter is that with all of this they didn't need to do too much to make this great but, being the best promotion of the 90's they sure as hell did AND then some. The more AJPW you watch the better the match is. Classic stuff! Mitsuharu Misawa/Jun Akiyama vs Steve Williams/Johnny Ace - (06/07/96 Tag Team Titles): A pure 20 minute plus spree of excitement and near falls. Ace has never looked better, and his chemistry with Akiyama is what made this match so great. Doc once out of the limelight really showed his strength as a brilliant tag wrestler. He and Ace were such a standout team because of this dynamic. Akiyama played his role brilliantly and Misawa was ace but also senpai. This was his role here and it was masterful as ever and touched an emotional nerve. The dynamic with Doc and Akiyama was rough in the early going but as it became more heated, one forgot this segment of the action. It was clear this match was for Ace and Akiyama to shine and they did not disappoint. A classic for sure! Kenta Kobashi, Johnny Ace & Johnny Smith vs Mitsuharu Misawa, Jun Akiyama & Satoru Asako (08/22/97): This started out pretty routine although Johnny Smith was the clear bright point. He was very adamant about making the arm work something special. It was different and helped slow down Akiyama who was the fireplug of his team. Jun wanted to take it to Ace and Kobashi but, Smith wasn’t going to be ignored. He darn near ripped the Blue boy’s arm out of the socket. That’s alright because he was pumped and gave the match a little depth. Stop the burgeoning contender! Now, that’s not to say the other guys were slouches but, no one else brought the intensity like he did. That is to be expected in a match like this. Akiyama, Smith, and Asako are the one’s with something to prove. The story was about ranking and status but, ultimately the athletic competition. This set the outcome in question and was exciting as all hell. The execution, pacing and timing was flawless from all. Great final match for a TV episode…I’d love to be a teenager again and see this at 10:30 at night before going to bed and thinking about it all the next day at school! Reminds me of ECW Hardcore TV in that way. Very good match. vs Mitsuharu Misawa (04/18/98 Champ Carnival): Whoa! Blue Bomber coming in with the game plan! This might be the birth of Akiyama - the genius. Here he is precise like a surgeon opertating on Misawa. Elbows, dropkicks, leg locks etc. but, the Emerald ace is double tough & plenty dangerous. This 20 minute match showcases excellent timing and pacing that crescendos with a badass finishing segment. A near classic match, damn might even be a classic in my book. Smart and violent wrestling in the AJ tradition. vs Kenta Kobashi (07/24/98): What a match! I really enjoyed Jun's persistant focus on slowing Kobashi down. He had a slew of surprising attacks against the Orange Crush's knee. They felt so organic. Of course, this all would be meaningless if it wasn't for Kenta's masterful selling. This is the timeless Kings Road 'blurred reality' selling where its very difficult to tell if the damage is real or imagined. I liked this match much more than than the Kawada vs Kobashi 06/12/98 bout. I feel that match-up had been done to death. Besides, I felt Kobashi never fully clicked in singles encounters with Kawada. Also, Kobashi refrained from hulking up which always has to be noted at this point in his career Anyhow, I thought this match was a classic! vs Yoshinari Ogawa (09/11/98): Two geniuses go at it in the squared circle! This is an all action bout with lightning counter moves from Ogawa with Jun keeping pace and selling just enough to keep Ogawa in the fight. Rat Boy is underrated a hell and such a breath of fresh air. I loved this match and so did the fans. Great match! Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue vs Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (10/11/98) – This was a great little tag match. Kawada was just pissed and brutal. He was beating Akiyama, he was beating Kobashi, and he himself got beaten for good measure too! We all win! Akiyama had a spirited showing as well. Kobashi and Taue do show their wear and tear so, this wasn’t exactly everyone in their prime but, this still kicked a fair bit of ass. It’s that unpredictable appeal of very late 90’s AJPW that had me interested in this one for sure. Anyone can win in these matches and more importantly- anyone can lose. Great bout. Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue vs Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (01/07/99) – The first few minutes (?) were clipped from this match. I’m a little bummed of that but, in all honesty I think AJPW’s clippings are superior to let’s say NJ or M-Pro’s clipping of things. They always seem to pick a nice point to pick up the action and ride it on out. Ok so, it starts with the original “Burning” picking apart Kawada’s knee. From there Taue gets in and brings the fire like it’s 1995! He must have gotten a good night’s sleep because he’s kicking with pep. The man’s throwing dropkicks like he’s a youngster. I love it! This is especially the case since Kobashi is all taped up…I think from a bout with Vader perhaps. Anyhow the Holy Demon Army go rabid over this. Akiyama’s there doing his spots and sequences and it’s nice but, Taue really brought the shit tonight! This is an all action match with bags full of energy and pep. The teams were really feeling the electricity in the air on this one. It wasn’t hall of fame stuff but, I still don’t think anyone was doing matches this exciting in 1999 Japan. Great! Burning (Kobashi & Akiyama) vs Untouchables (Misawa & Ogawa) (03/06/99 AJPW): This was a fantastic must see match. That’s not just for very late 90s AJPW either. This was surprisingly awesome. Misawa and Ogawa’s chemistry is great. Burning has come together as a team in their own right and were equally impressive. Plenty of great tag team maneuvers and teases. This was an AJPW style that went back to the early 90s in terms of surprises and timing. This was not the King’s Road pinnacle style yet, there was a glut of excitement and drama nonetheless. I could see anyone who would want to get into the 90s All Japan style to start out here. It’s got everything. It really encourages me to checkout the late 90s AJ scene more. This was a true gem. vs Takao Omori (09/04/99): If you are a fan of either guy then, damn man, you need to watch this!! Knees, lariats, armbars, attacks off the top rope, man! Why did people thing AJ sucked in '99? It has a big match feel, it has a nice early focus on grappling then, organically transitions to big moves but no MKII finishers which was refreshing. This is very similar to 2012-2015 actually Great match! Burning (Kobashi & Akiyama) vs Untouchables (Misawa & Ogawa) (10/23/99 Tag Titles): This maybe one of the greatest action style tag match ever done. Now they did edit out a portion at the beginning but, I can’t think it was too much. The combat here was hot and hard hitting throughout. Ogawa of course brought his chicanery but, worked so fast and tight that he deserved to be in a true title fight. Misawa was not a slouch either, proving he still has it with multiple dives and splashes. Kobashi was Japanese Hercules and Akiyama had finally grown into his boots. The Blue boy brought the moves and stiffness we didn’t really think he had until NOAH. Other than that I can’t say enough good things about the match. So, I will declare it’s not the same match you would expect in the heydays of 93-96 but, it is just an awesome display of grit, drama, and courage. I would seek this match out without hesitation. One of those matches I slept on for awhile but, so glad I finally got it - classic match! Burning (Kobashi/Akiyama) vs NO FEAR (Omori/Takayama) (10/30/99): I hadn’t heard too much chatter about this match until the 1999 PWO Yearbook. It’s certainly one of those matches an AJPW junkie wants to see just in case it’s an overlooked gem. Well, this is an overlooked gem for sure! Takayama is just about on par with the blonde haired bastard from the 2000s. Omori is just a beefier version of the ass kicker from 95-96 that was giving guys a run for their money. So, to give a summary- This was heated and intense. NO FEAR showed they belonged by handing Burning’s ass to them. Takayama was especially brutal. It’s as we’ve come to expect just, a few years earlier that he’s given credit for. It’s a quick match for AJ standards but, it delivers just how you want it to. Very good! Vader & Steve Williams vs AJ Tag Team Champions Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama (02/20/00 AJPW): Vader & Dr. Death are a hell of a team and Akiyama was ready to bring it. Kobashi dogged it a bit but, took some good shots and nice bumps so it didn't matter too much. This is the time and place where Vader & Dr. Death shine. Near Classic to classic match. Thank you for reading!!! Now go watch some wrestling!
  8. Man oh man I LOVED this one. Such an amazing performance from Fuchi trying to survive against a higher ranked opponent by destroying his leg. His early control segment ruled, he was just viciously slamming Misawa's leg onto the announce table. The legwork set Fuchi up for both his future control segments giving him a good base to work on by stretching Misawa and also provided with him a way to easily and believably transition back into offence. Misawa's selling was sublime, just a perfect example of how selling doesn't have to black or white (and in most cases when such selling is used it takes away from the match more than anything), he limped and slowed down but still went for all his big stuff regardless like you would in a fight and recognized the pain both by not being able to follow up a great looking frog splash with a cover and by modifying his flip lariat (usually he would use a dashing start, here he just kind of threw himself at Fuchi). We get a few nearfalls that didn't use "big" moves but were extremely well set up and the crowd bought into them before a cool and (for All Japan) unique finish. A lot of stars.
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