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Charles (Loss)

[1996-05-24-AJPW-Super Power Series] Toshiaki Kawada vs Kenta Kobashi

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I love the Hogan/Andre-style controversial nearfall at the very beginning of the match. Kawada just completely dominates the early part of this match until Kobashi has enough and snaps. There is some nice attention to detail in the bumping style. In Flair matches, he punches or chops a guy while holding his arm and the guy gets up on his own. In this case, Kobashi pulls Kawada up for each chop himself, which is a nice touch. They both potato each other after tempers flare with some wicked shots, which Kawada sells beautifully. Kobashi's top rope shoulderblock (which is one of my favorite moves anytime anyone does it) is a thing of beauty. Kawada does a takeover into a Fujiwara armbar at one point, which gets almost no pop, which is interesting to me, because it shows the difference in fan education between the two promotions, as it still doesn't get too much of a pop when Kobashi does it as a revenge spot a couple of minutes later. Kawada hits Kobashi so hard in the face with a high knee that he injures his ankle before finally finishing off Kobashi. Another good match between these two, I'm looking forward to the hour draw later on the set.

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This match has never received much hype, but it was damn good. I loved Kawada blitzing Kobashi at the bell and the mid-match sequence built around submission attempts. Kawada did a great job selling the right shin as his weak point, and that made the two brutal kicks at the end all the more dramatic. I know there has been some backlash against the idea of All-Japan as the transcendant promotion of this era. But this set allows us to compare promotions in context, and they really did crank out matches every month that would have been strong MOTY contenders for almost every other company. New Japan also had a strong year to this point. I'm not sure anyone else would even be in the conversation.

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For the time being I've skipped 94-95 in my Yearbook viewing. So it stood out to me how Kobashi wasn't the worker that he was back in '93. Physically slower and more banged up. The fighting spirit was also slipping from charm to annoyance.

 

There was no obvious theme here apart from two evenly matched main eventers going at it. They went full out for 20m and it wasn't lacking in ambition. It would've been improved by better pacing and more pronounced changes in momentum. Though it wasn't the standard they were aiming for it was still a good match with some excitement. Plus it didn't go on for an hour thank God!

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A very good followup to the previous night's tag match. I will agree again with Zenjo that it's a little jarring to see Kobashi still acting like a plucky underdog when he theoretically should be above that sort of thing, but the match only suffers slightly--and he *is* very good at doing it. This seems to be a match all about re-establishing Kawada after his bad loss, anyway.

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This really feels like Kawada being pissed at what happened the night before and taking it out on Kobashi. These guys are really starting to craft their feud for the 1990's as their 1998 match is a ***** classic, 97 had the Carnival match, we have this and the hour draw in 96, the hour draw in 95, and their match in October 93. This feels like an unheralded gem stuck in the middle of that series but it is a welcome addition and a great match overall. Kobashi feels well enough established at this point that he can survive that onslaught from Kawada and return the favor which leads to a nice stunning conclusion where Kawada looks to have the match won but he let the tag match slip between his fingers and it is always possible that could happen again. ****

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Watching these two AJPW matches back to back, no question, 90s AJPW is the best wrestling ever. No other style has come close to how AJPW is able to pull off the feel of a legit athletic competition while still operating squarely in the confines of a traditional pro wrestling style. This isn't one of the AJPW classics but man is it a great match. Loved the beginning with Kawada psyching Kobashi out, and hitting him with the boot when he came running in shortly after. I also got the feel from this match of a pissed off Kawada blowing off steam on Kobashi. The dueling submission bit toward the middle of the match was cool, and I liked how Kobashi working the sleeper was a sort of mini-theme in the match. Awesome ending.

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