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Loss, December 6, 2010 in November 1996
As good as the Doc/Ace vs Misawa/Akiyama match was a few days before this, this is much better. Kawada gets destroyed and sells it beautifully, as they completely decimate his knee. There is probably better Kawada having his knee destroyed, but that's always good.
This match also built heat better. That match had a hotter crowd to begin with, whereas Kawada had to sell his ass off to wake the crowd up here, which they did. Everyone is good in this match, but this is the Kawada show.
I also liked this match. Kawada took a beating and Williams/Ace did a good job. Also liked Taue's selling. What building was that they were in? Never seen it before.
They started off fairly slowly and built it up. Fine by me. Kawada was FIP for a while with his poor old knee being attacked once more. This is Japan so it was just a segment of the match rather than the crux of it. Nice stretch as they wisely kept it south of 20m. There's no need to go too crazy or outstay your welcome, just give the fans a good show and keep something in the tank. As it turned out they were holding back a battalion of tanks for later in the tour.
Odd-looking venue for an AJPW show. This is another terrific bout, that comes off as more of a Kawada vs. Doc singles match with Taue and Ace as ancillary NPC types. Which is fine--Kawada is Kawada and I'm still waiting for Doc to lose a step from his layoff, because it hasn't happened yet.
Great match. I may be slightly lower on it than Pete and Charles in that I may have preferred the 30 min Korakuen draw but this has been a strong tag league so far with Ace and Williams adding that gaijin depth that helps fill out a compelling tournament. Kawada selling his leg is always great and he does his A work here in performing it. Doc also looked really game flying from the top rope and them doing the decapitation to Kawada. I agree that Doc vs Kawada was more the focus here but it was always compelling and it played into the finish with Kawada giving his whole arsenal to Doc including some spot on kicks to put him away. At twenty minutes, this did breeze by. ****
Doc and Ace are having such a damn good year. I'm tempted to call them tag team of the year over Misawa/Akiyama and Kawada/Taue, but after the late November and RWTL Finals matches those two will have against each other, that probably won't be tenable. But man, they've ruled and they rule here too. In the Kawada/Taue matches against Misawa and Akiyama or Kobashi, the theme is usually that Kawada and Taue are superior as a cohesive unit, but here Ace and Williams are working together as a team more solidly than Kawada and Taue, and are mostly in control of the match. Taue gets a great hot tag and just stomps ass; he's got Ace set up for an apron Nodawa but Williams knocks them off the apron -- Taue is still able to land on his feet, pull off the Nodawa on the outside, and then cuts off Williams charging him with a clothesline. In fact, Taue sort of feels like the Misawa to Kawada's Akiyama, being the guy who keeps them in it with bursts of offense and keeps Ace at bay for Kawada to finish off Williams at the end. The last few minutes are really tense with Williams and Ace struggling to get back in control, but once Kawada makes his comeback on Doc he's able to unleash enough firepower to put him away.
Awesome, awesome match. Also of note, Ace has a great running back elbow.
Steve Williams & Johnny Ace vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue - AJPW 11/22/96
A rare meeting between these two teams even though both had existed since 1994. It is ostensibly heel vs heel, but I would imagine Holy Demon Army are the de facto babyfaces and I accurately predicted Kawada would play Ricky Morton. Doc & Ace are coming into this match as the reigning World Tag Team Champions having defeated Misawa/Akiyama for the titles and defended against Kobashi & Patriot. I dont believe these two teams have met.
All four wrestlers are great tag wrestlers and really understand tag psychology. Notice how quickly an opponent makes a tag when they are in there with a fresh man. Taue quickly hits an enziguiri to tag out to Kawada for instance. They dont want to be caught with a fresh man. Twice I thought the Doc/Ace unit was going into peril, but Doc bullied his way out of a front facelock and Ace miraculously whipped Kawada into the railing and suplexed him. This actually started the first heat segment proper because Doc just suffocated Kawada and did not let him make the tag to Taue. Ace was such a great partner running across to Ace Crusher Taue on the ring rope, double teaming Kawada on the outside and running interference to keep Doc in control of the Single Leg Crab. They begin working Kawada's knee, which makes me very happy that I will get some sublime Kawada selling.
And I did, but it did not last as long as I wanted. Doc comes right in and snatches that ankle and wraps the knee around the post. Dropkick to the knee by Ace. Kawada sells so well especially running from corner to corner on Ace's Lariat spots. I cant blame Ace when you got someone the caliber of Kawada on the ropes, you should go for your kill shot. He announces his intentions for the Ace Crusher (I love his commitment to yelling it out), but Kawada breaks free and Spinning Heel Kick tags to Taue.
I didnt know I needed a Taue Hot Tag in my life but holy shit was it glorious. Taue Hot Tag Edition is my new favorite thing. He mowed down Doc & Ace and it was glorious. The match is totally worth it for Taue's hot tag. He was motoring. I think my favorite parts was the Samoan Drop on Ace and after Doc bowls both of them off the apron, Taue keeps his poise, NODOWAS Ace on the floor and turns around and decks a charging Doc! I was like Taue is the fucking man! We need more Hot Tag Taue! All good things must come to an end and Ace DDTs Taue. Taue hits the ropes like he is fucking a lithe cruiserweight and smokes Doc with a Big Boot and then somersaults for the tag to Kawada. I love this Taue.
Kawada is still ginger on his leg. Doc gobbles him up for dinner with a powerslam and then a Spinebuster. Top Rope Oklahoma Stampede. Things dont look good for Kawada. DOOMSDAY DEVICE~! I love that as their big highspot! Taue saves! Great nearfall. TAUE NODOWAS ACE! But he gets Spinebustered. Kawada has powdered after taking four huge moves. You really believe that the Holy Demon Army is fucked. Crowd is firmly behind Kawada.
Doc hits his top rope shoulder tackle and Kawada still kicks out. I think it is time for a Dangerous Back Drop Driver or Doctor Bomb. Doc misses the Splash in the corner and Kawada hits a massive release German. Looks like Doc is fucked now. Doc is deadweight selling. Dangerous Back Drop Driver/NODOWA COMBO! 1-2-NO! Kawada Mack Truck Lariat for two! Crowd is wicked hot! They tease the Dr. Death Back Drop Driver, which Kawada sells his fear so well, Enziguiri and Powerbomb 1-2-NO! That nearfall gets huge heat. I would have ended it there. Koppou Kick! JUMPING HIGH KICK 1-2-3!
Huge win for the Holy Demon Army! Even if they dont win the Tournament, I feel like they deserve a title shot by virtue of beating the champs. At only 20 minutes, it is short by All Japan standards, I think they could have done more, but I really loved this. Kawada & Taue get to show their range by working 100% babyface. Kawada is a great Ricky Morton that could have lasted another 5 minutes easy and who the fuck knew Taue was such an awesome hot tag. Doc & Ace have been a revelation since I first started watching them. Really amazing heel tag team and it is a shame their run ends in January of 1997. This was really cool. ****
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