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[1993-08-31-AJPW-Summer Action Series II] Steve Williams vs Kenta Kobashi

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I think I'll defend the excess that this match gets criticism for, because it wasn't something being done on a regular basis in 1993, so I think it looks worse in hindsight than it did at the time. This wasn't the best Kobashi match of '93, but it's in the top handful and it's a great performance from both. Kind of wrestled as a battle of the bulls, with some awesome power spots and even some surprisingly athletic big guy stuff. Doc's handspring elbow is a big odd looking, but he did one. Looking forward to the Triple Crown match which I'll be hitting soon.

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Here's what I wrote in late '07:

 

"Coming in I wouldn't have ruled out this placing ahead of Hansen vs Kobashi, but man, this really shows how vital striking was in the best matches. Doc was a great power wrestler but he wasn't one for complex exchanges. Early portion of the match is fine but it isn't GREAT. Kobashi's nearfalls are okay but again, Doc hasn't gotten much in and it's like you KNOW he's going to come back and thus survive the moves. I still love the close with Kobashi's 'flighting spirit', and it's really solid wrestling with not a ton of resting, soooooo... I'm putting it in the same pack as Jumbo vs Kawada, around 25-30."

 

I put it at #26 for All Japan in the '90s. But there's a big gap in how I view 26-30 and 21-25, and there's a clear distinction to me about this being solidly behind Hansen vs Kawada 2/28/93 (#24).

 

The finish could probably have been done with one fewer backdrop driver; I think having the "Kobashi desperately trying to get out but he's too messed up to do it right" moment was really memorable in terms of putting Doc over as a main-eventer. It's important to remember that Doc had been a good hand and was over, but he was the #3 gaijin until Gordy left and needed something to put him on par with Misawa.

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The ending is the best part. This was probably one of the first five AJPW matches I saw and Kobashi's selling stuck with me the same way Foley's face after falling off the hell in the cell is permanently etched onto my memory. Watching it now I think it's the match that comes before it that doesn't hold up. It's fun in that it features two big guys chucking bombs but while I wouldn't say it has no rhyme or reason, there are stretches of this where it feels like a match between two Steiner brothers.

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Meltz: "In my opinion this was even better than Hansen/Kobashi and was an all time classic match. This was the best performance I've ever seen of Williams. A major match of the year candidate."

 

I don't agree with his sentiment, but Kobashi's bump taking here was extraordinary, one of his finest performances for sure.

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Both men brought such intensity from the start, and it never let up. They layed into each other with brutal strikes and high impact bombs. The Doctor had majority offence but took plenty of damage in return. There was back and forth action and the 28m flew by. Kobashi got so close to victory without quite doing it, the theme of his year. At the end there were the two infamous Backdrop Drivers. It was an insanely dangerous move that could've easily broken his neck. Kobashi should never have got up after the 2nd one. There were also occasional move selection and execution issues that held it back from being top tier AJ. A potentially great match with flaws.

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At last! A Steve Williams performance that didn't bore the piss out of me. The closing stretch was borderline overkill but I'll forgive it for the meat to the match was tasty enough. Those headrops were sickening. If that's a sign of how things will go in the mid nineties then my favourite All Japan period may be already over.

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This was one of the first AJPW matches I saw so I definitely had it ranked pretty high on initial viewing. Having watch way more of AJPW since then it is just naturally not going to be viewed as great as I thought. Hansen/Kobashi was so much better than this. I still love the finishing part of this match but I do agree they should have removed the second backdrop driver from this with Kobashi scampering around the ring trying to get to ropes. The first and third versions were perfectly fine. The one with him landing straight on top of his head is pretty sick though. Still think it is one of the better Williams singles matches to the point before he delivers much stronger in 1994.

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This is probably the most famous early '90s AJPW match that I've never seen before. I know it's divisive, which is why I'm looking forward to it, Doc's presence be damned. This is also an ad hoc #1 contenders match for the next Budokan show TC match, as original challenger Terry Gordy has had his OD and is now done as a meaningful full-time worker.

 

This is a total war throughout and in some ways is more effective at setting up Kobashi as a genuine main event/Triple Crown guy than the Hansen match, even though this is more back-and-forth for most of it. Kobashi has almost always wrestled the early '90s as a perpetual plucky underdog who pushes his opponents before falling in the end, but here he simply comes across as Doc's peer and equal. Just as tough, almost as strong, and more agile and versatile. Just not as experienced. Both guys clearly set out to put on a memorable match to try and get past the circumstances of what happened to Gordy, and on that they succeeded wonderfully. I think the ending could have been done better, but it hasn't bothered me nearly as much as various other matches on these sets where the near-falls piled up to the point of absurdity. Kobashi popping up from the 2nd backdrop driver in a total daze and trying to make a tag was unconventional, but I have to ultimately determine that it worked. Sometimes you're just so messed up that you don't even realize you're supposed to be out of it and act accordingly--like Choshu's almost-nonplussed reaction to having his orbital bone broken by Maeda.

 

I dunno...I think I'm gonna have to side with Dave on this one. I thought this was more compelling than the Hansen match--in some ways, Kobashi got so much offense in that, that it almost telegraphed the Hansen comeback. This had more twists and turns to it, and even though Doc isn't as high up on the chain as Hansen, it still would have been a huge win for Kenta. I've been as hard on Doc as a worker as anyone, so fanboyism here, but I have this in the running as a strong MOTY candidate.

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I liked a lot of this match. Sure there was over kill of moves, especially the finish. I thought the guys really brought it with the psychology. Kobashi targets the neck of Doc like a surgeon, while Doc went after the back. The body of work is the meat and potatoes. While the finish is just a triple decker chocolate cake.

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Two jocks that are focused on being the ultimate guy in the locker room. I have to be weary of describing matches like this giving that something like Kandori vs. Hokuto also happened this year and that is a match where gender is replaced by hate, but there is a level of testosterone in this match that I think prevails. Both guys are going to the upmost extremes of their physical limitations to prove they are the best. The only thing at the end with the backdrop driver and the kick out irked me a bit but overall this is an exasperating roller coaster match that is another notch for Kobashi's tremendous year and a great stepping stone for Doc heading into his TC challenge of Misawa. ****1/2

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I'm not sure about this one. First, I agree about the suplexes at the end. Two would have been sufficient, with Kenta doing his crawl aroiund the ring after the first one. That was a compelling visual which needed to remain. I would much rather have seen Doc hit the Stampede to get the win, since that's been his bread-and-butter finisher since he came into the sport.

 

Second, if this match was designed to put Doc over, it did so no thanks to Kenta. I realize that he's now Misawa's number two and the plucky underdog routine really won't cut it anymore, but his no-selling of most of Doc's offense in the first half of the match was ludicrous. It wasn't until Doc hit the powerslam on the floor that Kenta acted like he'd been really hurt, and that was just too long. They should have booked Kenta into a match with someone who didn't have a shot at Misawa coming up in three days if they wanted him to be AJPW's answer to Hogan. Doc sold a ton more for him, to the point where I wondered if he was legitimately injured or gassed, especially since both men were sweating like pigs almost from the start.

 

So this is about the time Bamm Bamm overdosed. Even though he's generally a mess from here on out, he still had at least one run in SMW, plus he was fed to Taker on a pay-per-view sometime in '96 (I think) under a mask as The Executioner. Wouldn't it have been something if Dok Hendrix (Michael Hayes, of course) had been the one to bring him in?

 

Joe Higuchi was a lot more visible and active in this match than he has been most of the time in the Yearbooks. This led to my favorite spot: Doc has Kenta up on the top turnbuckle, and Joe's quite emphatic about wanting them in the ring now. ​As if on cue, Doc hits a superplex for a nearfall. Talk about following orders to the letter!

 

Can't wait to see Doc against Misawa.

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Great match with an incredible final stretch. Big move after big move with great selling from Kobashi along with his great comeback. The rest of the match was pretty good too but a bit bumpy and it sometimes felt like they were waiting to get to the finishing stretch. Still great stuff but oh well. , ****1/4

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Kenta Kobashi vs Steve Williams - AJPW 8/31/93

Important match in the annals of All Japan lore as Doc has his coming out party. With Gordy's OD and Hansen's age, they strapped the rocket to Dr. Death and pushed him hard as the #1 gaijin. Doc would go on to have an amazing 1994 that single handlely makes him a Top 100 wrestler of all time candidate. It all starts here against Kobashi who was coming off a greatest match of all time candidate with Hansen at 7/29/93. Kobashi was at best #3 in the native pecking order, maybe fourth, we can argue his status with Taue at the time. A win for either man would propel them up the ranks for a Triple Crown title shot against Ace, Misawa. 

This is a Bill Watts' dream match. Just two big muthas bowing up to each other and daring to the to hit him hard. They were really slashing one another with those chops. I always like how Williams chopped. He just whip those arms like they were belts. He really slice and dice you. Kobashi returned fire with some murderous chops and lariats of his own. There were definitely some really impressive feats of strength in this match. The number one spot that stood out to me was Doc pressing Kobashi over his head. I have seen big, strong wrestlers have trouble doing a press slam if their opponent does not feed right coming off his feet. So for Doc to press Kobashi TWICE from deadlift position shows how FUCKING strong Dr. Death was. That was a gnarly bump Kobashi took when Doc just let him fall to the floor. Not to be outdone, Dr. Death decided to do a back handspring elbow out on the floor. All sorts of athleticism on display from the Boomer Sooner! 

It was definitely a very bomb heavy match. Kobashi loved DDT at this point in his career, lots of those. Lots of suplexes. Kobashi was using the legdrop a lot. Dr. Death was using a lot of slams. I would say there were three main stories to this match. Would Kobashi finally get a big win? Could Doc apply the dreaded Backdrop Driver? I think they did a great job selling this with two teases and how Kobashi scrambled for the ropes and railing. Each occasion the announcer really did a great job selling how it would be curtains for Kobashi if Doc hit this move. The last story was this big, dumb, jock meathead wrestling. A lot of the transitions were just them No Selling like there were Luger of Sting and bowing up to the other and then taking over. I think my major issue of the match wasnt that there were too many bombs. It is that they were too easy. Each man let themselves be ragdolled for a couple minutes. Then they would hulk up and take over. There were not a lot of missed moves or missed opportunities. It was too "my turn, your turn" for my tastes. This was especially cemented after Kobashi's lengthy sleeper and when it was over and Kobashi went to move to the next spot, Williams just broke and threw his arms up and hit his move. It felt like Smackdown Here Come The Pain where I successfully hit Square at the right time to break my brother's grapple and go on offense. That's how I felt about the body of the match, it was very Kurt Angle. The difference is the match breathes more because people stayed on offense longer, BUT the transitions were piss poor. 

The finish run was definitely the best part because they played into their characters a lot better than in the body. Plucky underdog Kobashi desperately going for covers after the superplex first with DDTs and then legdrogs then German then finally the fist pump moonsault 1-2-NO! When you first dont succeed, try, try again, this time the moonsault eats the knees. I thought this was the best part of the match because there was some meaningful struggle in who would gain the upper hand as Kobashi was still valiant. Doc counters with the Oklahoma Stampede. Kobashi tries to bring him down after the kickout with a sleeper, but Doc wrangles him into an insane Back Drop Driver on his fucking head. WOW! That should have been the finish, but this being All Japan we need two more, but goddamn those were wicked! 

Most people take umbrage with the finish, I loved it. I thought there was great escalation, awesome nearfall for Kobashi with moonsault, good competition after the failed moonsault leading to an cool way into first Backdrop Driver. My issue is with the body of the match, I thought it lacked struggle and the offense was NOT earned and it was too "my turn, your turn". Offense looked great and I love power offense but with so much good wrestling these things stand out. Fun match, but not an elite All Japan match. **** 

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This is the type of match that will grow hair on your balls. It's incredibly intense from bell to bell. Williams shows that he's actually got loads of charisma as acts like a total jock to Kobashi. Watching both guys hype themselves up during the chopping segments kicked all kinds of ass. I have no idea how Kobashi didn't break his neck on those three Backdrop Drivers. I didn't find this excessive at all. Everything felt earnt and it didn't feel like they were dropping each other on their heads for the sake of it. Kobashi isn't able to win the Triple Crown on this night, but he won the hearts of the AJPW fans. ★★★★¾

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