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[1996-12-06-AJPW-Real World Tag League] Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

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One wonders just how much Baba had things planned out. Here's the Kawada vs Akiyama feud through the year.

 

-March 2nd (not on the set) has Akiyama in his first high-profile match in a while, taking on Kawada & Taue

 

-April 20th also has Akiyama in a high-profile match, and his interaction with Kawada is the highlight

 

-During the CC, Kawada beats Akiyama in no time flat (wasn't taped) with the jumping high kick- which would be a very important move in two future matches

 

-Akiyama's big win in May

 

-The July tag title rematch, which isn't as big a highlight but is still important

 

-The November RWTL league match

 

-The RWTL final

 

The matches hold up on their own while also building to a tremendous climax. This match is, IMO, better than anything that's happened since.

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Whatever I write won't do it justice. It's far and away the best match of the year, and is possibly the best match of all time. My pick for best match ever, Toyota/Yamada vs Ozaki/Kansai from Dream Rush, is right there, but I'd like to make the direct comparison sometime.

 

When all the 90s yearbooks are released, I will watch select stuff again in chronological order, including this. And hopefully at that point, I can do a write-up fitting to such an incredible match.

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Taue going for the nodowa of doom from the apron to the floor on Misawa and then the camera pans down and shows Akiyama desperately clutching at Taue offering up just enough resistance to stop Misawa from being wiped out is maybe my favorite moment in any match ever.

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One wonders just how much Baba had things planned out. Here's the Kawada vs Akiyama feud through the year.

 

-The November RWTL league match

There were two. The other wasn't filmed. Kawada got his pin back in that one.

 

Then they refocused with the second one where Misawa pinned Kawada, hitting us over the head again with the "I can't beat this guy" with 6/95 standing as an island in a sea of the entire rest of their career of Misawa pinning him time after time.

 

My favorite points in this match are where they get that across: a pair of times where Kawada has that lost look of, "I just don't know what I can do to beat him" and tags out to Taue who *has* beat Misawa this year. We can talk about Kawada's off the charts selling in various matches, but those looks are at the top of the list for me in Kawada Work. Then post match where Taue gives him that supportive "You did it" pat on the back. Misawa's look to the corner when there was no Jun was great, but that's closer to a standard spot. The two Kawada ones are a little more subtle, and the Taue one is really nice when you think back not just on the last three years of failure for the team (losing All Japan's last match of the year to blow the tag league), but also their rivalry before that. It's something of a "partner" moment that comes across really nice.

 

John

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Obviously the best match of the year, if not of all-time. What's left to say only that the more immature side of me gets a kick out of maybe the best match of all-time being the anti-morality tale?

 

Also, is there a better heavyweight tag sprint (inc. out-and-out spot fests etc...)?

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Just a great match. I wouldn't call it the greatest match of all time. I liked that the match had no down time at all and the crowd was hot throughout. Having said that, It's not even the best match on the disc. I liked the 2nd Santo tag better. That might be the Lucha mark in me and not really loving the All Japan 90's style.

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When I first saw this, I thought it was really good but clearly inferior to 6/9/95. I began to appreciate it more as I learned more about the context, but I still can't put it in greatest match of all time territory. It took me a while to put my finger on it, but it's mainly two things that don't click for me. First off, the in-ring action is a bit lacking at times. Everything from the Taue neckbreaker on is off the charts, but a lot of the early stuff, like the Akiyama FIP segment, is a bit pedestrian. Second, I wasn't really digging the story it told. Instead of Kawada gaining redemption and continuing his journey to the top, we got Kawada not really holding up his end and needing Taue to bail his ass out repeatedly. Again, it's a great match, but it's not in my AJPW top five.

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Watched this today for the first time in years, only the second time I've viewed it at all actually from what I can remember. It's obviously awesome, I was more involved last time I watched it (jumping out of the chair sort of stuff), but that's probably because I watched it in chronological context, working through the 90s All Japan as I was at the time.

 

My personal favourite moment is when Kawada has Akiyama in the sleeper and Taue strolls in and stands guard, giving Misawa such a disdainful look as he stands stoic on the apron. Taue/Kawada are definitely the coolest motherfuckers ever to team together in terms of the mannerisms and the way they carry themselves. I actually struggled to get engaged for the first half (appreciating it for the art that it is without being especially involved), until the chokeslam to the floor really sucked me in. Everything after that is about as perfect as a match can be really.

 

Not my favourite match of all time though, not sure what is now as it's been so long since I've watched most of the stuff.

 

Is 90s All Japan still regarded as the Greatest Of All Time period these days, or has the proliferation of new footage superseded it? It certainly seems a more complex playing field for the new wrestling obsessive, when I was getting into wrestling online in a deep way it was pretty much All Japan 90s that was the go-to wrestling for the smark discovering Puroresu.

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I just watched it for the first time ever about three minutes ago. Finally showed up on YouTube after two years of searching. I can't really say much about it. It's what I expected. I feel like I reached the Mecca of pro wrestling at about 4 am in the morning on a random day in April. That's my review.

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I thought the early match was pretty incredible as far as setting up the late match. Akiyama yet again shows up Kawada and Taue by merely hanging with them right away. So when they get their first big shot at him, they ruthlessly beat him down. Not playing with him or slapping him, walking away when he wants to fight, but just beating on him. Even after he got the pin on Kawada, they still had yet to really get serious on Akiyama from the beginning of the match, that is until this one. There's so much good stuff in the opening part, too. Kawada, during the Akiyama beatdown, giving Misawa the "stay out of it" look right before putting the seated sleeper on Akiyama. Taue standing between Kawada putting the sleeper on Akiyama and Misawa. The Akiyama/Misawa offense that looks like they are going to have a repeat of the taped RWTL is pretty essential to this match. That and the subtext of Taue vs. Misawa in comparison to Kawada vs. Misawa in terms of WHY Kawada has so much trouble with Misawa.

 

Kawada has always tried to beat Misawa at Misawa's game. He'll go strike for strike, bomb for bomb, won't back down from anything but the occasional rolling elbow. His pride forces him to TAKE whatever Misawa is gonna dish out that won't put him away and get through it like Misawa does to him. Taue has no such delusions. He's going to do what he thinks will beat Misawa. If that's getting out of the way of a flying clothesline and tossing Misawa down on his face, fine. Ducking a running elbow, sure. This really helps him vs. Misawa as far as stopping the big momentum Misawa gets when Kawada or Kobashi try to go strike for strike with him and Misawa wins and hits a few big moves as follow-ups. It also keeps Taue from overextending himself and getting into bad spots. How many times does Misawa catch Kobashi or Kawada after a big whiff during a strike exchange and suplex them over, or at the very least use that to his advantage to swing momentum his way? How many times does he do that to Taue? That's the kind of stuff that really stands out to me in the way they wrestle these matches. How their personality really has a lot to do with their strengths and weaknesses, and what it allows them to exploit in each other.

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What to use my 1K post on? I'll just write about possibly the greatest wrestling match of all time.

 

In the aftermath there were 3 people laid out on the floor; Misawa, Akiyama and me! They'd both taken incredible beatings, I was just drained emotionally from experiencing this masterpiece. If there's a better match out there then it isn't by much. There were several times I wanted to pause it and regroup, so overwhelmed I was by it's splendour.

 

Both teams came out the blocks fast with heavy duty early offence. The quick win was always going to be a long shot, so Akiyama was then worked over a bit. It wasn't one of those matches where the execution was perfect. It wasn't non-stop thrills from start to finish. Yet the end result was perfect in how everything came together.

 

Kawada was such a stoic man that it meant so much whenever his anger boiled over. You could sense the rage at how he felt at the youngster Akiyama had embarrassed him during 1996. His jealousy and frustration with Misawa was almost tangible. He would gain no small measure of revenge on this night.

 

The structure was the height of sophistication. Each man had two energy bars displayed on the screen; temporary and permanent. They went back and forth with momentum switches and 2 on 1 situations. Taue used to be the #2 in the team, but '96 was his year. He'd won the Carny, won the Triple Crown, and he was the man who'd beaten Misawa. Individually Kawada couldn't beat his nemesis, but with his brother by his side he could do anything. Both adversaries were obliterated at the finish with a brutal array of headbumps and powerbombs.

 

Afterwards in the interview Kawada gave props to his partner. Admittedly their affection didn't extend beyond a terse handshake, but it was a beautiful bromance. And appreciation too must go to Akiyama & Misawa. They weren't the focal point, but both delivered amazing performances and were perfect in their roles. Was Jun ever better than at this time? The selling, and just about everything else from all four men was phenomenal.

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Yup. As expected, there's your MOTY. All the good stuff seems to have been mentioned already, but this is another match with twists and turns all the way throughout--it's an odd comparison but I love it for the same reasons I loved Shawn vs. Mankind. At this point Kawada/Taue were looking like perennial second-rate choke artists going in, like the pre-'04 Red Sox or Ohio State or the '80s Broncos. Misawa/partner were the Yankees, the SEC, the NFC. And if they lose a primo player like a Kobashi or a Montana or a David Wells--fuck it, they'll just go and get an Akiyama or Steve Young or Roger Clemens and re-load. This match is the Holy Demon Army's equivalent to the Broncos beating the Packers, to the Red Sox winning the '04 LCS, or Ohio State getting past 'bama. That it takes such a generally unsympathetic team and gets them over as such plucky underdogs is a triumph. But they make sure not to make them *too* sympathetic--Taue is still an opportunistic bastard with pretty much no qualms about doing whatever is necessary, as dawho sums up. Still, even as Misawa is being beaten down 2-on-1, there's a sense of...I don't want to call it justice, but the sense that he's had this coming. Best overall moment here is Kawada's second power bomb, with Akiyama half-dead but still desperately reaching out to make a save and Taue rather casually leaning against him to prevent it. That Misawa manages to kick out anyway is just icing on the cake--one of the best near-falls in history. I'll have to go back someday and give 6/9/95 a re-watch but as of now this is AJPW's peak tag match.

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I never completely understood the story of this match, even though the match is really excellent.

 

From an action/workrate standpoint this is as good as it gets. How they managed to cut that kind of pace while still sold everything for extended periods of time is insane. Also Misawa's performance is out of this world great. He wrestled with even more authority than usual and his selling and display of vulnerability during the 2 on 1 were outstanding. Akiyama's growth was also really good in how he was able to go toe and toe with his opponents and didn't need Misawa to bail him out. Also HDA redeeming their previous tag league failures was also great.

 

Still this match makes Kawada look like a complete chump. He loses almost every exchange against Misawa, has to be repeatedly saved and needs Taue to essentially serve the win on a silver platter for him to take it home. There is a difference between having trouble against Misawa (great post by dawho5 btw) and not being able to hold up your end against him at all. It made Taue look like a worldbeater, which is fine, but Kawada was just kind of there for the ride. I don't think it was the best payoff to a year of matches between the two teams and to the Kawada's year of hell booking.

 

Obviously more good than bad but the Misawa vs. Kawada part of the story just lacked something, especially compared to the other super classics, so this is a tier below them for me. **** 1/2

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This match really is something. It works as a classic just stood on its own in isolation but when viewed as part of the full year of 96 All Japan it becomes really really special.

 

The main points have already been written above, but I'd like to give mention to my favourite moment in the match. At one point Kawada knocks Misawa down with a big kick then tags to Taue who comes in, steps on Misawa's face and just grinds his boot in. It just says so much and it's brilliant.

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It was almost shocking how lacking in narrative this was. It was basically just them exchanging control segments. I popped for the spot where both Kawada and Taue went down and hoped it would lead to something but it did not.

 

The spots and action themselves were great, obviously. They were copied by many later on but the selling and the struggle that made them work was largely ignored. And it's as far away from generic Smackdown vs Raw selling a lot of wrestlers seem to think is expected from them. Just ask yourself what made so many of these sequences work. Akiyama rolling out of the ring after getting hit with a Braibuster. Taue refusing to fall down after getting hit with a quick flurry by Akiyama. The quick blocks they'd do only for them to find a way to go through them the second time.

 

The problem for me is that isn't especially creative and gets tiresome after a while, especially if you've seen a fair bit of work form these four. Oh Misawa is going for a Rolling Elbow, Kawada is going to duck and try a Backdrop. Kawada is going for a Backdrop, here comes a Headlock counter. Taue is going for a Chokeslam? And armdrag counter. A Powerbomb? A Frankensteiner/Hurracanrana counter.

 

And on and on and on it went. My problem with their May match was that the beatdown on Akiyama just went too far for him to make a comeback the way he did. And while the way that match was paced and executed didn't work for me it was certainly ambitious enough that I could understand a ***** rating for it.

 

This one? Nah.

 

It also says something that I didn't bite on a single nearfall despite not knowing/remembering the finish.

 

A very good spotfest but I'm not sure it's better than the last Dragon Lee-Kamaitachi match, let alone the best match of all time. ****

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http://placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-50-1/2/

 

#9

 

*****

 

This match is such a blast and everyone's works it perfectly. A ton has already been said, but it's one of my favorite tag matches of all-time. It's not a knock to say I don't think this (stress on the word think... because I would consider it as far as tags go) is the GOAT, but I won't argue with anyone that says it's in the discussion either. The time flies by watching this. Amazing match. I REALLY love that moment Russian Daydream already called out. So, I have to second that. Kawada wasn't holding anything back in this one.

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It's almost unfair how great this match is. Save some snowflakes for the other boys now. I've watched this maybe four or five times since I first saw it and it only ever got getter. The stiff strike exchanges, the big apron tension, Kawada basically getting sick and tired of young boy Akiyama messing with his match. Misawa being a historically fantastic hot tag. Taue being Taue in all the best ways. Just so much goodness in this match.

 

*****

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This is one of the best matches of all time. It would be considered artwork in my book, along with some other spectacular matches. But it's so good, I'd consider it art.

 

It has a really hot crowd, and encompasses so many stories into it, that it's crazy. Taue's great year, Misawa still being the ace and tough as hell, Akiyama's rise that year, and Kawada's redemption story.

 

The end sequence is amazing, and much of it reminds me of the 6/9/95 match as well. Kawada and Taue work together so well in this match, and do whatever it takes to win.

 

After Akiyama is dispatched via the chokeslam off the apron to the floor, they really concentrate their efforts into destroying Misawa. Akiyama eventually fights back, but is hit with the Chokeslam/Backdrop Combo and then a Dangerous Backdrop as well. Misawa then is further destroyed by a Dangerous Backdrop and two big powerbombs from Kawada to do him in, after suffering through a lot of punishment during the match from both Kawada and Taue. Kawada pins Misawa after the second powerbomb at the end, to finish his redemption story and the quest for the Real World Tag Leauge Final is complete. *****

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Not much more to say for this one other than its one of the 10 or so best matches I have ever seen and like a fine wine, it gets better with age. NO wasted motion whatsoever and the entire arc of Akiyama now having to save his mentor was conveyed so well. Kawada would not be denied and Taue kept the traffic out of the way like any faithful best friend would do for their buddy. ***** (10)

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Yeah, this was pretty good. Right at the start they make it clear that Akiyama will go toe to toe with both Kawada and Taue, holding his own every step of the way in the strike exchanges. Early stages of this just feel bigger than most of the other All Japan matches of the year, with everybody going right for their big bombs without trepidation. Meat of the first half of the match is Akiyama being worked over. Kawada and Taue really go to town on him and it's a big time beatdown. Contrast this with the 11/29 match where they tried to take out Misawa in the first half. Misawa came back because Misawa always comes back, so this time it might be best to get rid of Akiyama early instead. He's not on Misawa's level obviously, but he's legit and he's proved it. First half is all really good stuff and builds well, but I wasn't invested in it the same way I was with something like the 10/30 Battlarts tag. Like, I'm watching it and it's clearly good, but I'm not drawn all the way in.

 

Then Misawa puts Kawada on his head with a German suplex and that did it. That got me. I'm all on board from then on out. Back half of the match is so very, very great. It's about as good a fifteen minute stretch of any match ever, and it's especially impressive given the fact it's basically one extended finishing run that builds and builds in amazing ways, without ever coming close to being overkill. Seriously, the back half of this is breathtaking.

 

I'm not sure who was the best guy here because everybody was incredible. Kawada's sell of the German is out of this world, the way he stands up and just collapses out to the floor. He never seems to be quite right after it, and there's one bit where he comes in off a tag and he does this little stumble like he's got brain damage. Akiyama lays out Taue to leave Kawada alone against him and Misawa, and there's this audible change in reaction from the crowd, like the Misawa/Akiyama fans know it's time to go for the kill while the HDA fans think it's gonna happen again. For the umpteenth time, Misawa is going to beat Kawada.

 

This is one of Taue's finest hours, despite the fact he's maybe the least spotlighted guy in the match. Any HDA v Misawa & Partner tags have the big underlying story of 'Kawada v Misawa - Eternal Rivals', but Taue is the greatest partner Kawada could possibly ask for in his quest to prove 6/9/95 wasn't a fluke. He wrestles this with such an air of calm about him. There was a great point made already in this thread about how Taue never engages in strike exchanges with Misawa the way Kawada does, primarily because he doesn't share Kawada's pride in the matter and because he flat out doesn't have the strikes to be able to do so. He'd lose those battles, but he's ever the pragmatist, so instead of throwing elbows he'll just pick Misawa up and drop his throat across the top rope. He also knows Kawada NEEDS this win over Misawa, and there are a bunch of moments where he urges his partner to press on. He's there to lend a hand whenever it's needed, but he's the auxiliary unit to Kawada's vanguard.

 

Things really swing in Kawada/Taue's favour when Taue, after teasing it and trying it all year, finally manages to hit Akiyama with the apron chokeslam. That leaves Misawa on his own against two men, while Akiyama crawls around for the remainder trying to come to his partner's aid. It's been established for a while that Misawa is the king of the comeback. In the 11/29 match the HDA tried to take him out early and it blew up in their face, but Misawa's been doing that for years. It's what he does. Now he's on his own, but Kawada and Taue need to make the advantage count while they have it. I'm not really sure how words can do justice to Misawa's performance in this finishing run. He is absolutely fucking perfect, eating offence while fighting and scraping and clawing back into it every chance he can, even if it's just to buy Akiyama time to recover and bail him out. He's like Spartacus on the battlefield, pulling arrows out of his body while continually moving forward, defiant even in the face of certain defeat. It can be easy to make stuff like that seem silly. Guys will take a truckload of offence and keep coming and the selling isn't always good enough to make it plausible or compelling. Misawa walks that line better than anyone I've ever seen. It's mind blowing how good he is. At one point Kawada shoots Taue this "what do I even do here?" glance and that one look sums up their entire rivalry. Akiyama trying to rise up like a fucking zombie just to get dropped on his head every time is almost hard to watch. There's one bit where Taue tries to chokelsam Misawa off the apron and Akiyama desperately grabs his leg to stop it, and it essentially winds up being his last meaningful sacrifice, even if it ends up counting for nothing, because everything he's involved in after that ends with him being dumped on his neck. Kawada hits one backdrop on him that was truly disgusting and Akiyama sells it like he's just been shot in the chest. He feebly crawls over to break up a pin, but Taue casually stands in front of him while Akiyama can only grasp at thin air. It almost breaks your heart.

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