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  1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XSONU1F9Uuc Ah yes, the infamous "worst Fujiwara match ever", so bad that it apparently made Phil Schneider loathe Fujiwara for years. I had a really hard time imagining a scenario where these two would have a shitty match honestly. I mean I could easily imagine it being disappointing or dull, but actively bad? No way. Let's see what he had to say about it: Ok. So: "Fujiwara no sells almost everything" "gets kicked in the head, starres at Kawada" "no sells German suplex" hey! I'm the one guy that likes Tatsuhito Takaiwa! I have a thing for wrestlers with recklessly dangerous offence. It adds to their aura I guess. "takes a ton of the match with JYD headbutts" "shitty Choshu finish" Ok. Let's break down the match now. Match starts with Fujiwara playing with the streamers. This is pretty much where I stopped buying this as a potentially bad match. They grapple a little bit. Kawada gets on top to establish dominance and they slap each other around. Re-start. More grappling. Fujiwara grabs a neat wristlock, Kawada gets out, grabs a Sleeper and Fujiwara's selling goes from his usual dismissal of the peril of the hold he is in to selling as he fails to get out of the move. Kawada hits a great looking knee drop. This is pretty good so far. Fujiwara is clearly rocked after the big knee drop. This is what is known in professional wrestling as "selling". He gets up and Kawada starts kicking his head in, Fujiwara quickly fires back with punches and great looking headbutts. Fujiwara grabs a Sleeper, Kawada pushes him back in the corner for the break. Fujiwara breaks it with a big slap and Kawada goes after Fujiwara. Fujiwara moves back to the other corner as Kawada is going after him (you could understand this as either him selling the threat of Kawada or as defensive positioning). Kawada kicks him a bit after which Fujiwara makes awesome "fuck you" facial expressions, grabs Kawada by the throat and shoves him into the other corner and starts rocking Kawada with punches and headbutts. First Fujiwara Armbar tease. Fujiwara transitions into a "regular" Armbar instead. Kawada gets out and start kicking Fujiwara in the back with his signature kicks. Fujiwara gets up and goes back into the corner. Kawada starts kicking him again and right as Fujiwara is about to fight back like he did earlier in the match Kawada rocks him with a big chop that Fujiwara sells the shit out of. Another big chop and Fujiwara falls down. Kawada starts stomping Fujiwara's head but Fujiwara counters it by grabbing his leg. It is a theme in Fujiwara matches (especially against kickers) that he will counter their kicks by grabbing their leg often, I remember that making the 1989 UWF match vs. Maeda especially gratifying as Maeda just shitbeat him to hell. That was also played up in the Super Tiger matches and the Hashimoto matches etc. Fujiwara stretches Kawada a little and hits him with a nasty headbutt to the back of the head. They headbutt each other for a bit and Kawada does his awesome staggering selling after headbutting Fujiwara. IDK much about JYD but these dueling headbutts are clearly making real contact. Fujiwara controls the match for a little bit but does nothing of note before Kawada takes over and slams Fujiwara's head into the ringpost. Come on, you're not going to throw "no selling" at that? That's an awesome signature Fujiwara spot, even if it is tehnically no selling. Fujiwara hits a few more headbutts but Kawada hits a huge slap to fight back (Fujiwara is "selling" again). Slap-off! Those are fun! Big Spin Kick from Kawada knocks Fujiwara down. More "selling". Stretch Plum. Ok Fujiwara is totally guilty of no selling here. He kicks-out at 1 and starts headbuttings Kawada as soon as he gets up. I don't really care for the big boot/headbutt battle BUT! They start slapping the taste out of each others mouth again! He does pop up again after the controversial German but at that point I'm fine with it as Kawada quickly cutting off Fujiwara's futile attempt to fight back fits into the narrative to the match and worked for me. Come on. That's not even top 20 for worst Choshu finishes. It's not even a bad Choshu finish. I mean surely everyone watching Fujiwara's pro style matches has grown accustomed to him doing Choshu finishes but come on. His late kick-out was pretty weak and he continued to lay on the mat after doing so. I was expecting he was going to instantly pop up and put Kawada into a Wakigatame or something. So there you have it. I don't think this was complete shit. Disappointing for a Fujiwara-Kawada match? Sure. But perfectly solid.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. This was the best of the Forgotten Kawada TC Defenses I watched today and a borderline classic. And the reason for that is, of course, Osamu Nishimura. Nish often gets branded as a novelty worker who just does tribute matches imitating Dory Funk Jr spots, which is simply not true, as he does a bonafide job working a true Kings Road style match against Kawadas strike based style here. Not forcing him to work his trademark style at all, just building a really good match around his signature spots while educating the crowd on the importance of Backslides and Abdominal Stretches, telling a story and all while never losing his composure. The opening sees Nishimura ambushing Kawada and targeting his leg, they then proceed to work a basic exchange, Kawada goes for a cheapshot but Nish blocks him and hits back, showing he's prepared. They continue in this vein, with Kawada lacing into Nishimura with strikes only for Nishimura to fire back on him, often punching or headbutting him in the eye. This causes Kawada to actually get fired up and look like a dangerous striker against Nishimuras more toned down offense like getting punched and headbutted in the eye actually shook him after years of getting elbowed, kicked, chopped etc. There is some excellently executed legwork and a flawless build to a Figure 4 which was full of struggle and great. Kawadas selling was pretty hit and miss as per usual during this period but I actually thought it was acceptable. The finishing run was really great, well put together stuff with plenty of neat spots and I thought it was largely carried by Nishimuras amazing charisma, he is such a wrestling master with how he manages to work his stuff with so much urgency, he really yanks on Kawadas neck when he goes for a sleeper, he would also go from an Abdominal Stretch to a pin to an armbar trying to force the tap, like he was trying everything he knew to get that win. His bumping is also up there with the best of the 90s death seekers, as when he takes a back suplex his head and feet touch the ground at about the same time but he folds his neck up. I thought his performance here was close to Hondas GHC challenge in 2003. Kawada had one of his better nights on his TC run too, I really liked how he would sell Nishimuras finer strikes and really liked the Octopus Hold into Stretch Plum as a Fuck You to Nishimuras lineage. Great stuff and one of the few matches where you'll see Kawada carried.
  5. Pretty by the numbers japanese big match but not bad. Sasaki gets the advantage using his power early on, finisher on the floor, some limbwork ensues, lots of stiff shots etc. It's a formula that works and these two are good at it. Sasaki is pretty fly here hitting a big plancha to the floor and really walloping Kawada with potatoes. There is some neck work which ends up not being of much importance but leads to some fun moments. Sasaki cosplays 90s Kobashi by chopping Kawada in the neck and hitting flimsy bulldogs, it also leads to a pretty sick piledriver. Kawada was halfway into lazy mode as he had some nice transitions such as kicking Sasaki in the face when he tried his silly facebuster or slipping underneath for the cheap powerbomb, but he would also just go back on offense at other times. Kind of dumb finishing stretch, but not offensively dumb.
  6. Most overlooked match between two big names in japanese wrestling history? I never even knew this one happened. It was a pretty fun match, altough far in the shadow of their 2000 encounter. You get those two smacking and punching eachother a lot, so that is really fun of course, and also some of Crazy Tenryu with him throwing chairs and making use of the Spider Suplex etc. Unfortunately Lazy Kawada was in effect here with him ignoring some fun legwork Tenryu was doing and no selling his way back on offense later, he also seemed to have a lot of light on his enzuigiris. On the other hand, him coughing after getting chopped in the throat was a nice touch. Perfectly good match otherwise.
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