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[1993-06-01-AJPW-Super Power Series] Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

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This was a spectacular match! This match in large part seemed to be building to Misawa/Kawada in singles. Their exchanges are awesome, the heat goes through the roof every time they're both in, and the finish has Kawada powerbombing Kobashi twice to get the win for his team. Kawada and Kobashi have some incredibly brutal stuff with each other. They just lay in their shots really hard. And Taue is still developing, but looks good. But it's Misawa who's the big standout for me in this match (and for the whole year so far, actually). I wouldn't say Misawa was wrestling Kawada politely, but he was approaching him the same way he would Kobashi in a singles match. Then my favorite moment of the match comes, when Kawada decides to make it personal and start slapping Misawa and Misawa responds in kind and ends up getting the better of that little exchange.

 

As great as the '94 and '95 four corners tags are, this is a worthy match in the series. And comparing it to the '96 matches involving Akiyama, those are great matches, but this is better than all but two of the four matches (the RWTL final, and the match the week before).

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The problem for this match, obviously, is the same as for any second/third 'tier' All Japan. It's just lost in the shuffle, even though it's their first match which normally gives something an extra touch of fondness or whatever. It probably cracks the Top 25 'Tag Matches Of The Decade', but then the same 4/5 guys are in 15 matches or so above it.

 

What is worth noting though, and I don't think you'd get it now, is their restraint. They didn't go out there to have The Best Match Ever. They stuck within the framework of the company and their characters and storylines etc and so they had somewhere to go with it later.

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I don't think there's a lot of restraint. This is how tags were worked up to that point, and they certainly did set out to have a great match.

 

I think our minds miss some of the context because a lot of us have come to Misawa & Kobashi/Akiyama vs Kawada & Taue (and frankly all AJPW tags) from the other direction: later matches working back.

 

Things changed with the 5/94 match between the teams. Same old structure of working to fill space early before picking it up for the run to the finish. Slightly different in storyline: this was a first match feel while the 5/94 match had teams that had gone around the block with each other, knew their shit and they could get down to something like destroying Kobashi's knee. Then they picked things up.

 

6/93 had what was becoming the standard: 7-10 minutes of run to the finish. Perhaps longer here than some others, but not really standing out... other than they did it really well.

 

5/94 went past the 29:12 mark of the first match... went past 30 as some other Tag Title matches had and lots of RWTL matches got to... at 35 it was a really long run to the finish... it hit 40 and you're in Holy Shit uncharted waters for what AJPW had been doing. And that run to the finish was Really Good, not quite yet at the insane over the top crap we'd see later in the decade (and beyond). It felt like a match that "could happen" given the teams rather than one where they were trying to hard to have an epic... hell, it wasn't even at Budokan.

 

And much of what followed tracked closer to the 5/94 template than 6/93. In a way, 6/93 a bit of climax to where they'd been going, 12/93 was the resolution (very much a story match), and 5/94 started a new series of "books".

 

I suspect it's easier for folks to go back now in something like a Yearbook setting and/or starting at the front of the decade and working forward and appreciate this match than how it's been for much of the past decade and a half:

 

"You gotta check out 6/95 & 12/96, brother. Then 5/94 and 10/95. If you want a story match, get 12/93."

 

Which leaves 6/93 an after thought and only seen in the context of coming after the wrestlers moved onto an entirely new series of books/adventures.

 

We have a little of that with the 1996 yearbook being out first, and it has in the sense the climax of the next series of books: 12/96.

 

John

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Yeah. I didn't mean they weren't trying to have a great match. Perhaps the actual argument is better illustrated with Misawa/Kawada in singles, where they probably could've done, say, a more spectacular and even match the first time out. It might not have exactly fitted into the storylines but that wouldn't stop people nowadays having their best "five-star" spectacular match. But they leave themselves somewhere to go. You can say the same about Misawa/Kobashi 1/97. That's a much bigger, grander match, but you've the entire story of Kobashi overtaking Misawa to play out later. Where have, I don't know, KENTA and Marufuji had to go since their first match together? It's not the same situation exactly (and they're not in the same league outside of athleticism and execution) but... my point is they worked the match knowing it was the first of many and didn't blow their load right away. I don't know how many people have had that patience since.

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Yeah, this was great stuff. This is the first iteration of this match-up I've watched in about 5 years, so it's pretty cool to sort of "start at the beginning" again.

 

How is this generally thought of in comparison to the other matches these teams had together? 6/9/95, the '93 tag league final and 5/94 are the three that stand out as the best matches the series produced...is this one closest to those? I don't know if I'd actually seen this before. Shit, I don't even remember any of their other matches (minus the ones mentioned, obviously) at this point.

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The start of a 9 match rivalry that would electrify the promotion for the next 2 1/2 years. The dates were 6/1/93, 12/3/93, 5/21/94, 11/25/94, 1/24/95, 6/9/95, 10/15/95, 11/21/95 & 12/9/95 for arguably the GOAT feud. My old rankings had this as the 5th best match of the series and I'm looking forward to revisiting the rest of the matches chronologically.

 

The tag champs dominated the first half before a more even 2nd half. Having been watching early 90's stuff this seemed like a really long and winding stretch. Four great workers in their prime and the teams had immediate chemistry. There were some high end moments as they gave a glimpse of what was to come. There were however odd errors and it wasn't as polished as later installments. A low end classic. Misawa vs Kawada was now coming into primary focus for AJ.

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It manages to feel fresh with it being the beginning after watching stuff from 1997. The crowd seems to be very excited with the breakup of Kawada/Misawa as a team and them now being rivals. Loved the part where Taue knocks Misawa off the apron which leads to a big tag when Misawa finally gets back in. Him and Kawada deliver some stiff shots at each other and the first free chance Misawa get he goes over and decks Taue who just drops off the apron. Misawa was pissed off. It really is an excellent start to the tag feud.

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For me, Misawa tagging in, Hulking Up through Kawada's kicks, and then getting the better of a super-intense slap exchange is the moment where he really established himself as the Ace. That one little moment, moreso than beating Hansen either time. It was that awesome. The whole match was awesome--Kawada & Taue are finally in their own as a working tag team and Kobashi repeats his performance from last June as the gutsiest bastard ever in teaming with Misawa. Two great near-falls that had me fooled: Kobashi eats a choke slam off the turnbuckles (!) but Misawa makes a perfectly-timed last-second save. Then Kobashi eats a power bomb but kicks out, and then actually teases a comeback before Taue subdues him and he goes down to a second. All kinds of great mirror spots throughout this, to establish these teams as evenly matched and Kobashi approaching the level of the other TC contenders. An excellent coming-out party for everyone involved, as 3 of the 4 guys are in brand-new roles (Taue just keeps on keeping on). Probably the #2 or 3 MOTY. As we approach the halfway point, I'd have this, the Dream Rush rematch, and Sting/Vader all clustered near the top with maybe some other things kicking around too that aren't coming to mind. Time enough to revisit that at the end of the set, though.

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I wasn't too familiar with this one as I had only seen it once around a decade ago. That said, I am really familiar with the feud and would probably have this as 4th out of the series right now. That is astounding considering this is my #3 MOTY and I thought it was absolutely tremendous. The Kawada vs. Kobashi feud reaches a new chapter and the clamoring and delivery of the misawa vs. Kawada sequences was great stuff and had an electric feel every time they interacted. The slap sequence mentioned above had me fist pumping on my couch. The finish was built really well as you think that Misawas team might win after the first powerbomb kick out. Don't get me wrong, Misawa is still the ace here but Kobashi is now the #3 guy on the pecking order and Kawada takes a step forward with a big pinfall leading to the showdown looming vs. Misawa. ****3/4

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Watching it in sequence Kobashi is still #4, which is what makes this work. 1,4 vs. 2,3 is the only way this matchup gets 9 iterations that are as good as they are. Misawa can beat Kawada or Taue on his own, but it's close. Both can take out Kobashi, but he's got the big heart that makes it tough with Misawa around. So it becomes a question of which gives first, Misawa's ability to save Kobashi or Kawada and Taue's ability to isolate the weaker Kobashi long enough to put the match away.

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This was the first truly GREAT AJPW tag since Jumbo left. Although I love the WAR/New Japan feud, this was better than anything that has produced thus far this year. Part of that is because every single guy in this match is an all-time talent performing at a high level while still in their physical prime. In the WAR/NJ matches you've got a bunch of guys at varying levels in different stages of their career. I don't have a lot else to say except that I thought Kawada was the best guy here, while Misawa showed why he is one of the best hot tags tin wrestling and I loved the way the two of them and Kawada played the struggle for the big hot tag while Kobashi was trapped in the the submission. MOTY for me at this point, right ahead of Vader/Sting (which I used to not like) and Hansen/Kobashi.

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This may be the best regulation tag match I've ever seen. I can;t even begin to describe it in ways that would do it justice. It was part grudge match, part championship match, and part war of attrition, with the best elements of all three moxed together. Each side learned early on that they knew each other too well to outsmart anyone, so they just threw down and beat the living hell out of each other for over half an hour.

 

For someone who's used to Southern tag formula, this may be a bit of a departure, as there were no extended face-in-peril sequences (although Kobashi took more of a beating than Misawa did), but I didn't miss them. They have their place, but this was more about four almost-equals getting together in a clash of the titans. Maybe they'll work a more traditional match next time, and I'll bet it'll be a classic of its kind as well.

 

I loved all the last-second saves, which were so well timed that they added to the drama rather than detracted from it. There wasn't much doubleteaming, but what there was was very well done. My favorite spot, though, might have been the best hot tag I've ever seen, as Kobashi manages to reach Misawa while trapped in Kawada's stretch plum. Kawada turns him away briefly several times while still applying the hold, and just when it seems that he'll get the submission out of Kobashi just before he can get to Misawa, Kobashi just reaches him in the nick of time. I'd love to see Rock 'n' Roll copy that move, as I think it would be tailor made for Ricky Morton. Even though Kobashi eats one too many finishers and goes down to defeat, everyone knows that there will be another day for these four, and I for one can't wait to see it.

 

Kawada and Taue must have given a humble postmatch interview, because the crowd sure popped for them. Then again, who wouldn't want to show their appreciation for a classic like this, regardless of who won?

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AJPW World Tag Team Champions Holy Demon Army vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi - 6/1/93

Let the Four Corners of Heaven Era Begin! Misawa & Kawada had run its course and with Jumbo headed into semi-retirement, it came time for Kawada to spread his wings. He shook hands with nemesis Akira Taue and just a couple weeks prior to this won tag team titles from the Miracle Violence Connection. Kobashi at this time was still All Asia Tag Team Champs with Kikuchi but would drop the belts to The Patriot & Eagle the day after this match cementing his graduation from his junior tag team with Kikuchi to being the main event tag team partner of Misawa. 

My one complaint is the audio has two tracks of commentary. On the left side you have an announcer & Baba and the right side it is an announcer & a girl. It drives me nuts because they are two tracks and two people are talking at this same time and it creates a cacophony that distracts from the match. I really like Japanese commentary even though I dont speak a lick of Japanese because their cadence really matches the rhythm of the match. This two track thing is annoying, but we press on. 

My recollection of this match is they let it rip and it was gangbusters from jump. Thats not the case. I am ok with that. They start with Kobashi vs Taue to whet the Budokan's whistle and then they give them Misawa vs Kawada. There's a big reaction for that. They clearly had something there. Misawa and Kawada would go onto main event the next Budokan show in late July. It is interesting it is very even and intense in the beginning but there are no real big highspots. The first highspot is on the second go-round Kobashi gets a semi-delayed vertical suplex on Taue. Taue serves the role of game changer. Taue has been heel longer than Kawada and always felt more like nefarious scoundrel of the two. Taue really gets this party started by rolling Snake Eyes which always draws boos from the Japanese faithful. Kawada WRAPPED his Spin Heel Kick around Kobashi. I loved the struggle and urgency from both men to get the Stretch Plum on and to escape the Stretch Plum. Taue dumped him to the outside and kicked some ass. Strong heat segment. Kawada wants an abdominable stretch, they tussle and Kobashi drops down into a ROLLING CRADLE! Perfect use of the move, this discombobulates Kawada long enough to tag out.

I have noticed in All Japan hot tags dont last long. Even though Misawa came to kick ass, Kawada rifles Misawa's knee with a couple precision kicks that destabilize him so Kawada and can take him down with a single leg crab. Theres a nice sequence where Taue wants a kneecrusher so Misawa clamps on a headlock to stop it so Taue switches to a waistlock and takes him over with a Back Drop Driver. Great organic build to the move. Misawa flips out of a back suplex, ELBOWS Taue, and gingerly tags out. 

Again, Kobashi can get a legdrop and a cover but his hot tag does not last long. Kawada ends up picking him and chucking him out of the ring. Then Kawada does a very impressive delayed vertical suplex on him. Two very impressive feats of strength from the smaller Kawada. Kawada reminded me why I liked him so much as a teenager. It was his nonchalant stiffness. He threw some really great kicks, chops and lariats during this part of the match. Taue comes in and just tosses Kobashi around. Great suplex slam and I LOVE when Taue just picks guys up in the Back Suplex and tosses them! I love when Kawada feeds a wrestler to the wolf. NODOWA~! Kawada & Kobashi really ramp up the desperate urgency on the struggle over the Stretch Plum. At the halfway point, this has been all Holy Demon Army. They have isolated the junior partner and are kicking his ass while Misawa may have a knee injury stemming from Kawada kicks. Kawada and Taue have great chemistry together and it has been great getting back to watching them do their thing.  

Let the All Japan workrate bonanza begin! This is what everyone has been trying to replicate for the past 25 years but still nobody does it better than originals. 

That Stretch Plum on Kobashi is just dripping with drama. Kawada is torturing the very expressive Kobashi right in front of Misawa, just inches from making a tag. When it does happen! If you could bottle the electricity in this moment, you could power the world for years. God Almight! Goes crazy that camera rumbles. Kawada tries to head Misawa off at the pass by kicking him as he comes through the ropes. Misawa Walks Tall! MOWS DOWN KAWADA WITH ELBOWS! This was raucous! Taue comes in to feed to and Misawa mows him down too. Misawa Is The Man! There are some really nice touches during this segment that show the difference between the two teams. When Misawa clamps on his FACELOOOOCCCKKKKK Taue comes into make the save. Misawa never did that when Kobashi was in the Stretch Plum. When Taue cant get Misawa over in the NODOWA~! Kawada comes in kicks Misawa in the back of the head. These little things go along way in Puroresu where heels are more often understated. It all builds to next NODOWA when Kobashi comes in and breaks it up because he is pissed off at the cheating. I really dug that. 

The babyfaces finally have a chance to let it rip down the stretch. Misawa sends Taue flying off the apron with a dropkick. You know that famous gif of the Lucha Blue Gorilla mascot going flying off the apron thats what Taue was like! Kobashi dropkicks and then Taue-seeking diving elbow from Misawa extends the rally. Kobashi looks to press, but Taue kicks off twice and NODOWA~! I love that majority of Taue's offense is just dropping guys throat first on the top rope and chokeslams. He is the best.

I love how Kobashi earns his own comeback. After the Nodowa, he is down and Kawada starts chopping him. Kobashi MANS UP on his own and earns his finish sequence. I think thats important as Kobashi was graduating to their ranks and was low man of the four on the totem this shows everyone he is all man. Kobashi Hulks Up chops through it and then clobbers Kawada with a Lariat. He goes to town with DDTs so Taue comes to save only for Misawa to come in and they hit Stereo DDTs. Thats one of those things that would have gotten over huge in Charlotte but in Tokyo not so much. Is there anything pumps you up more for than the fist pump before a Kobashi moonsault? I love that. The dastardly Taue breaks up the pin after Kobashi lands a perfect moonsault. Misawa attacks Taue and Kobashi hits a true Jackknife Powerbomb (Kevin Nash eat your heart out) for two. Kobashi believes if at first you dont succeed try, try again as he goes for the moonsault, but Kawada yanks down. Misawa tags in and the place is rocking all over again. I think it is very interesting that in these last minutes Kawada gets the last laugh going into the title match. He blasts Misawa with a jumping high kick to the head which ends the rally. Taue comes in and just starts lawn darting Misawa into turnbuckles. Misawa actually recovers using his spin kicks. In comes Kobashi and he knows all he has in his arsenal is the moonsault so he goes all in on that. Taue knows Kawada cant handle one more so comes to save. Misawa goes to attack Taue on the apron and Kawada blasts Misawa off the apron. SUPER NODOWA~! Misawa saves! NODOWA ON MISAWA! POWERBOMB ON KOBASHI! 1-2-NO! That should have been the finish. Kobashi is valiant in his defiance but Taue blasts him from behind hits another Nodowa and then Kawada blasts him for good measure with a kick and then a Powerbomb for the win. 

Wow! They went all out on the finish stretch! The Holy Demon Army came out looking like monsters. Misawa & Kobashi were great valiant babyfaces, but Kawada & Taue looked like killers. I really felt like Taue and Kobashi came off as the MVPs. I think Misawa had the biggest single moment off the hot tag from the Stretch Plum and Kawada looked vicious, but in terms of bringing the action it was Taue and Kobashi. Taue was the game changer. He was the one willing to get his hands dirty. He was dropping fools on their throats or chokeslamming him to hell. The reason Holy Demon Army won was he stopped the Moonsault and then Super Nodowa on Kobashi. Kobashi is always a show-stealer especially in stoic All Japan because he brings so much emotion but he was the one who could look weak. Misawa had to have his offense protected because he was the Man. So the match relied on Kobashi hitting his big offense and letting that get kicked out of. Also everyone knew Kobashi was eating the fall but they did it in the most badass way possible with a ton of NODOWAS AND POWERBOMBS! Excellent balls to the wall workrate dash that All Japan excels at! ****1/2

 

 

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