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[1996-05-23-AJPW-Super Power Series] Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

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Akiyama is phenomenal here, and Kawada and Taue do a great job of selling his offense. He has some really awesome fast-thinking counters to the big moves of the other team. I love the open-handed slap exchanges between Akiyama and both guys, and that being kind of a centerpiece of the match, and the source of many revenge spots. Kawada kinda toys with him and gives him some awesome looking boots to the face. Misawa is reliably great here too, but this is a match about Akiyama. Not knowing the result coming in, I was pretty surprised he got a pinfall over Kawada. So Misawa and Akiyama now have the tag titles! Excellent match. Slightly abrupt finish, but still great.

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The beauty of this was that every guy kept his eye on the big picture of the match (getting Akiyama over as a frontline player) without sacrificing the excitement or execution of the individual sequences. Akiyama obviously got the flashy role and carried it off well. But Misawa was equally great as the ace who could totally reconfigure the picture of the match so his little buddy's star turn would come off. Kawada was great, moving from dismissive prickishness to his realization that Akiyama was a real threat. Taue showed exceptional timing with his big moves, which kept allowing he and Kawada to pursue their 2-on-1 strategy. Just a very well constructed performance that might be my MOTY so far.

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Whenever people say that you need to watch match X, Y, and Z to get a certain match, my usual reaction is to reach for my revolver. But I really think this match is required viewing to truly get 12/6/96. In this match, Kawada and Taue cut off Misawa's comeback and seemingly have victory within their grasp. When Akiyama tries to make the save, they figure he's no real threat and disdainfully swat him away like a bug. But he ends up turning the tide for his team. So in the RWTL final, they make sure to kill Akiyama dead every time he comes to Misawa's aid. I also loved Misawa dragging Akiyama's body over to his corner and then tagging himself in. The only real off note was Kawada's leg giving out on him, which struck me as kind of random. Excellent match overall.

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I think one of my favorite parts of the Misawa & Akiyama vs. Kawada & Taue feud in '96 is how the Akiyama and Kawada's interactions, past and present, play into it. All those years of Kawada kicking Akiyama's ass and trying to get him to "man up" finally push Akiyama enough to score a big breakthrough. And yeah Misawa's Big Brother tagwork here looking out for Akiyama and helping set up the moment (big German to Kawada and then tells him to finish the job, exactly like at the '93 RWTL and to Kobashi) was awesome. Scary that they have 3 superior tags later in the year.

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The clear theme was Akiyama trying to prove that he belonged with the main event crew. By defeating Kawada and winning the tag straps he certainly accomplished that. It wasn't done as a fluke either, so a breakthrough moment for Jun. The action was typically strong with Kawada laying in some nasty kicks to the skull. The pacing didn't always feel right though. It started off a bit too quickly and didn't click until the Akiyama beatdown in the middle. The ending was satisfying and overall it was very good.

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This opens up super-hot and would be a legit frontline MOTY, but as Zenjo points out it sort of bogs down once Kawada & Taue take over for the first time. That doesn't last however, as we get a bunch of great twists and turns in a match that's all about making Akiyama. He's a sympathetic underdog babyface of course, but also shows flashes of badassery in standing up to his bully opponents, with some timely saves by Misawa. We get a little callback to the '93 RWTL final, until Akiyama just murders Kawada with repeated exploders to get his biggest win to date. With AJPW you never quite know if they're really going to pull the trigger on a signature win for a young star, so it's incredibly satisfying when they do it at the perfect time, as I believe this was.

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This started off with a furious pace. We had an elbow suicida and a backdrop within the first few minutes. Holy Demon Army work over Misawa for a bit and do a great job of dealing out punishment. Taue looks good against Misawa to help hype their upcoming Triple Crown match. Akiyama gets tagged in and cleans house of Kawada and Taue. Taue's face after the strike exchange is glorious as he cant fathom this young punk doing this. Finally they take over AKiyama and they do some straight dickish slaps and chops to put him in his place. Kawada's short kicks especially looked annoying as well as Taue standing over Akyama and open palm slapping. Kawada just destroys Akiyama when he gets to his feet at the pleading of Wada to lay off. Misawa narrowly allows AKiyama to escape an apron Nodowa and he drags Akiyama over to tag himself in. Misawa is great as a house of fire here and goes to work offering receipts for the damage laid out on Akiyama. This sort of leads into the final stretch with Akiyama seeking revenge. Akiyama pouncing on the leg damage of Kawada was nice and allows him an opening. A couple of exploders and Akyama gets the huge pinfall over Kawada. Wow what a moment and match for him. ****1/2

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You wouldn't want a long match to feel like one but this one did. There were a lot of individual moments and sequences that I absolutely loved and I wish I loved the match as a whole as much as I loved them. Misawa's Elbow Suicida early on was just transcendental. It's the type of thing that would totally be done in a parallel universe where something as ridiculous as wrestling can be real. I liked Misawa almost finishing Taue early on as it happened but wonder if it hurt the match for me in the long run (not that it was bad by itself, but due to the way the match was structued I don't think it was fitting for it to be done so early). Misawa in peril wasn't particularly interesting as he wasn't allowed to do...anything really, and Taue beating on him was much more interesting than Kawada doing so. Match peaked in the middle with Akiyama's hot tag, he was just insane, Kawada can beat on someone really well but I'm starting to think I overrate him because of that, Akiyama totally makes their exchanges next level here, he is phenomenal at firing himself up and the ways he avoided and countered Kawada's strikes and kicks were incredible. Then you get Akiyama's FIP segment which just ventures off into absurdity and from then on a match is a collection of cool moment I wish I could make myself care for more. I found it amusing how Taue's downfall was slipping on a Chokeslam attempt (if it was a botch-which it probably was-it added to the match for me) and Kawada's was hurting himself on his own kick. It was a well done match no doubt, but even with Misawa clearing the path for Akiyamato finish the job it didn't feel right to me. ***1/2

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The best match between these two teams, IMO. Outstanding performance by Akiyama, Misawa is Misawa while the HDA are absolute dicks. So much disrespect and arrogance. To the point that Kawada getting embarrassed by the kid at the end is actually a feel good moment so he did an excellent job making himself that unsympathetic. **** 3/8

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This is an old favorite that I haven't watched in forever. Actually, I knew there was another Misawa/Akiyama vs. Kawada/Taue match other than the RWTL finals that I especially liked, but I wasn't sure of the date. This is it! Akiyama truly is the star of this. He starts it off at a quick pace that never really lets up, hitting an exploder on Taue about a minute into the match. Akiyama is so on his game this match, getting the best of most of the exchanges and dishing out a lot of offense. For the first portion of the match it seems like everyone sustains some damage except him. Until Kawada and Taue finally get him alone. And it's an awesome spot when they do -- Akiyama suddenly finds himself just sandwiches right between Kawada and Taue and they go in for the kill; Misawa tries to save him but it's too late and he finds himself in the same situation. I loved Kawada and Taue working on Akiyama. He had such a hot run of offense punching above his weight class for a long while, but now he gets a sort of comeuppance. Akiyama worked a lot of awesome slap exchange in this match so when Taue finally has him down, he unloads from above with big slaps.

 

Although this was Akiyama's match, Misawa is still the coach. He saves Akiyama at key moments and often seems to be directing traffic. Akiyama gets a big run of offense to pin Kawada, but it's after Misawa sets him up with a big German suplex, and even sort of directs him to follow up. Coming out of this match I really want to see an Akiyama/Kawada singles match.

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All Japan World Tag Team Champions Holy Demon Army vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama - AJPW 5/23/96

My initial impression of the Misawa & Akiyama team is that Akiyama is a much more strategic wrestler than Kobashi. He is more active in double teams, guarding Misawa's covers and wrestling a more strategically sound tag team match. Misawa & Kobashi were two great singles wrestlers that won on the sheer force that they were two greatest of all time. Akiyama being the young gun overcame his youth by wrestling more textbook. Watch the opening, he stays in the ring almost the entirety of Misawa's portion. He is helping out with double teams and guarding against Kawada. Another moment later on after Misawa face in peril and a hot tag, Misawa had returned and he was having trouble hitting a bomb on Taue originally he wanted a Tiger Driver, but that morphed into a Tiger Suplex and he still couldnt hoist him over and he called out maybe one word in Japanese  and Akiyama was on it and kicked Taue and boom Tiger Suplex. Never saw that out of Misawa/Kobashi, not trying to disparage Misawa/Kobashi who had great matches not just with Kawada/Taue, but also Doc/Ace and Baba/Hansen so they worked, but I liked how quickly the Misawa/Akiyama unit gelled.

Just some notes, I wanted to cover that I didnt in the opening paragraph. I liked how Akiyama was out to prove his mettle from the outset. He was confident and was out there to win. I love when people at least attempt or hit their finish early in this case an Exploder on Taue. It makes me believe you arent out there putting out a performance you there to win. A wrestling match doesnt have to go 30 minutes, it could be 2 minutes make me believe you want the "W" not a great match. I love how Misawa was right out there with an Elbow Suicida as soon as Taue powdered. He was on it. After the Misawa in Peril, Akiyama stood up and won control against Kawada, slaps, jumping knees even a punch. Akiyama proved he belong. He bested Taue too, great double dropkick and then it goes into the Tiger Suplex sequence I discussed. Akiyama tagged back in and was going for the Exploder. Now let's talk Holy Demon Army. 

I have been focusing on Akiyama because he is shiny & new and he is the focal point. Kawada was taking a very Misawa approach to this match. He was hanging back letting Taue eat some pretty big bombs (Exploder, Elbow Suicida, Tiger Driver and Tiger Suplex) but whenever it almost got of hand he was there. The initial shine climaxed with a Tiger Driver and I was like Kawada/Taue are due. Kawada launched his sortie and freed Taue. Kawada hits a Dangerous Back Drop Driver, pretty wicked headdrop bump from Misawa. They worked over Misawa's neck together. Kneedrops, kicks, Snake Eyes and Stretch Plum. Transitions out to the hot tag was a little weak...I think just some Misawa elbows. We covered Akiyama's hot tag which was very effective in Akiyama proving his mettle. After the Tiger Suplex when Taue was about to take a Exploder is when Kawada struck again from the apron. He broke up the attempt and more importantly took Misawa out of commission with a Jumping High Kick that led to a NODOWA~! Kawada and Taue have been licking their chops as they have played with their food as Akiyama is at their mercy. Pretty damn perfect opening.  

Damn they put Akiyama over huge! Big balls on the booking and it paid off. Akiyama takes a lickin but he keeps on tickin'. Taue Powerbombs Akiyama, but it is not Dynamic. Taue wants to finish the punk off with a Nodowa of Death. Misawa's hand is forced and he comes in, Kawada cuts him off at the pass, but he fights through it to save Akiyama and pulls him back to the sanctuary of their own corner. 

Misawa's hot tag is glorious as he lights Taue up, nice German suplex. This match is so efficient. On the Tiger Driver attempt, Kawada TRUCKS him with a Lariat. Now Kawada is in and they tease the big finish run is going to be Kawada putting his archrival away. Powerbomb. Dangerous Nodowa/Back Drop Driver Combination. Akiyama is there to save. The Second Powerbomb is thwarted by the Misawa-Rana. Blocks Jumping High Kick! ROARING ELBOW~! Kawada is out cold! This leads to the Akiyama hot tag. At first, it looks like it is going well, nice Northern Lights. German, nope, Kawada does his standard Pele kick save. Trademark Jumping High Kick...whats this Kawada has injured his ankle! Taue rushes in to try to pull him safety. Misawa intervenes and throws Taue out and SPINNING PLANCHA BY MISAWA! Crows has been whipped into a frenzy! Akiyma dragon leg screw to Kawada's bum wheel got a huge pop! Misawa hits a massive German Suplex on Kawada. Akiyama buries him with Three Exploders! Akiyama PINS KAWADA!??!? HOLY SHIT! Kobashi did NOT even do that! WOW!

Kawada was a total pro here. Selling his leg like only he can and boy oh boy did he feed Akiyama on those Exploders great job. He made Akiyama right there. So selfless, hats off to him. Akiyama is an instant overnight sensation. What a coming out party! Love the new dynamic that Akiyama brings to these tag matches, very strategic and he definitely was a new wrinkle for Kawada & Taue who are usually the ones exploiting the double teams and being the better tag wrestlers. Misawa & Akiyama immediately are amazing tag team not because they are each individually great because they really executed a smart tag strategy throughout the match. They times their double teams and saves so well. Misawa was still the leader it was his Roaring Elbow that put Kawada in a hole and it was his wise blocking of Taue that stopped Kawada from tagging out and it was his German on Kawada to set up Akiyama. Really excellent tag team wrestling! ****3/4

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This was an excellent Akiyama performance topped off by him getting the result. He and Misawa worked well a team initially but then once HDA were in control, he had some good success in countering both Taue and Kawada’s offence for a short bit. And then Akiyama was the one who regained the advantage and put the finishing touches on Kawada, who was really good in his own right. He was very petty and measured with his offence, opting to play with Akiyama and Misawa rather than actually destroy them like he'd do normally. It was a character driven performance and he was excellent at it. Taue and Misawa were strong in their roles, teasing some of what's to come while keeping the match narrative in focus. Great tag team match. ****

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