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[1993-12-03-AJPW-Real World Tag League] Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

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From my last viewing of it in '07:

"I've seen lots of people mention Kawada's leg as the selling point, but that's really only the point where they kick it into overdrive. That it happens about 1/3rd of the way in, and that they keep it hot for the rest of the match, is what's key. I didn't get into this the last couple times I watched it, but this time I was waving Kawada over to Taue to tag out in the closing minutes even though I already knew the finish."

 

I had it #7 for AJ in the '90s, and comfortably the #1 of '93 (for AJ). I'm not sure what would even be particularly competitive with it as MOTY; maybe Thunderqueen.

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Top 5 MOTYC at worst. Kobashi/Hansen, Hokuto/Kandori, ThunderQueen. That one could argue they had 3 better matches together (though I'd only take the one) is what happens when you get maybe the three best ever (and an able passenger) working together, and this is when they really hit their peak. It puts RnR/MX in their place (as it should), but that's about the only downside I can think of.

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And there we have it. The MOTY. Not sure what else to say, except for that this is the best selling performance in wrestling history.

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May 1994 in Sapporo takes them in another direction / the next direction, not only of the specific match up, but seemingly where they were headed in terms of work.

 

It's pretty amazing how in five months from this (and a year from the 6/93 match also on this set) that they would reinvent the wheel to such a massive degree. Even when I "think" 6/95 and 12/96 are "better"... I'm not entirely convinced that's right. 12/93 works so well without having to toss the kitchen sink in the ring, you kind of wish there were another 5 of these the rest of the decade rather than how common the spawn of 5/94 became.

 

John

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Even during the introductions there was quite an atmosphere, the fans knew something special was coming. Taue and Misawa both produced strong performances in the supporting roles, allowing the Kawada vs Kobashi rivalry to be the main story. Early on Dangerous K was holding his own yet favouring the injured knee. That became the inevitable focus. His selling was a thing of beauty as he kept on fighting back through the pain. Plenty of drama and near falls. I would say that I never felt like it was over until the final move. That ending was incredible as a dead-weight Kawada was annihilated with vicious headdrops. Kobashi had finally scored his big win, but the night belonged to Tosh. His performance was out of this world. Great match, and the 3rd AJ classic of '93 after 2/28 and 7/29.

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The finishing sequence is one of the best I've ever seen, with great attention to detail and a wonderful Agamemnon's Death vibe.

 

John

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Really not much else can be said. Kobashi striking Kawada's knee with a flurry of punches. The amazing selling by Kawada. It felt more epic than the 24 minutes it went. It is AJPW's year though I have a soft spot for another group. But this is the tops.

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And with the final match for the promotion of the year, this I...well, not strongly, but am fairly sure...is the '93 MOTY. It's in a fight with the Dream Rush tag rematch, Hokuto/Kandori, and Doc/Kobashi (yeah, I said it). And maybe it's sticking out because it's the freshest. But this felt like not only the best-worked match of the year, but the most historically significant. Kobashi earns his biggest victory to date, even if it came as a result of he and Misawa double-teaming Kawada into oblivion. Kenta establishes himself as the year's best worker here--I do think he may have gotten shortchanged by the Yearbook but the RWTL combined with his widespread reputation has put him over the top. A perfect segue into 1994 All-Japan.

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I've seen this match maybe 4 times or so now, and it gets better (if that's even possible), each time I watch it. Kawada's selling of the leg, the teamwork of both teams, Kobashi getting the pin, even if it is after Misawa and Kobashi double teamed the hell out of him. It is also one of the best RWTL Finals ever, along with 1988 and 1996. This is such a great match and should be required viewing for all fans. *****

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Okay, let me be the dissenting voice.

 

This was a great match, no question about that. It was probably the Japanese Match of the Year. But it isn't the runaway candidate for Match of the Year that some of you think it is. I'd prersonally go for Flair-Bret at the Boston Garden in January, but I'm admittedly biased toward American wrestling anyway.

 

There are two things keeping it from Match of the Year status in my eyes:

 

1) Not enough work on Kawada's knee. They should have had Misawa and Kobashi try to tear the knee out if they worked on it at all. I understand Kawada was legitimately hurt, but if the knee was going to be a part of the match they should have gone all in and really brutalized it, with Kawada doing a stretcher job at the end and thus being unable to take part in the ceremony. If Kawada didn't feel comfortable with that, they should have ignored the knee altogether. As it was, a back suplex, no matter how well executed, being enough to get the pin felt like a cheat to me.

 

2) Too much time with all four men in the ring. There were some great four-man sequences, particularly with both members of one team working submissions on both members of the other team at the same time. But tag team matches, especially at this level, are supposed to be about tagging in and out and exhibiting teamwork, and that got lost a bit toward the end here. What they did instead was unquestionably exciting, and maybe even needed given the ongoing feud between the two sides, but it wasn't strictly tag team wrestling.

 

Kobashi was indeed an excellent FIP in the first half of the match, and Kawada showed his toughness by not only persevering despite his bad knee, but still managing to be effective offensively. Taue covered brilliantly for his partner when he had to. I don't have a whole lot to say about Misawa; he was good when he was in, but he didn't really get into the flow of the match much. He seemed slightly above it all, as he probably should be given that he's the Triple Crown champion and the ace of the company.

 

So there you have it. The farthest I'd go in the ranking for this is Top 5. As I said, if I have any excuse to rank a WWF or WCW match ahead of a match from a foreign country, I'm going to take it, and this match gave me the two excuses I listed above. It was still tremendous, but not the Match of the Year.

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Of all the blowaway AJ classics from the 90's that get talked up (this, 6/8/90, 6/9/95, 6/3/94, RWTL final, 1/20/97) this is the one I have watched the least in that I have probably only seen it 1-2 times before watching it this morning. That is strange because it is probably the most compact and succinct of all the matches mentioned. This goes at 24 minutes and feels like it ended at exactly the right time and the viewer is also left wanting more. I found it outstanding that over the course of 1993 in the wake of Jumbo being pushed out, we now have all four of these men as the cornerstones of the promotion that can be interjected into the main events against each other in Budokan and the results are still outstanding both from a quality and box office standpoint. Kobashi in particular is now maybe the #2 man on the totem poll beating Kawada here. That makes Kawada the tragic figure that becomes so attractive to many as he firmly is the other guy now in the rivalry and the fly in the ointment. His knee selling is sublime and played with ridiculous realism. My favorite two moments of the match is when Kobashi short punches in rapid succession the knee and the final wave of Misawa to Kobashi at the finish to end this thing. Man I love this match and it may just edge out Hokuto and Kandori because of the finish being just a smidge better. *****

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Kobashi is a really, really great FIP; love how he got out of the situation too by going after Kawada's bum knee - that first kick to the knee popped me (& the crowd) big time. Misawa coming in & elbowing the crap out of Kawada was awesome & then Taue coming in and just throwing Misawa & Kobashi around was even more awesome, but what truly puts this over the top as a true classic is the story of that damn knee of Kawada's - he sells it perfectly throughout, and it creates for some great, great drama. Basically everyone played their roles to perfection, but Kawada was on that one level above the rest w/ his all-timer performance. Classic tag match. *****

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Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs Holy Demon Army  (Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue) - AJPW 12/3/93

The match is famous for Kawada's sublime knee selling. I think what enhanced it this go around for me is watching the Holy Demon Army vs Doc & Bossman tag match that precedes this by two days. Knowing that Kawada is coming in with an injury rather than it happening in the middle of the match was a game changer. 

In their first tag match together and in their six-mans, traditionally it is Kobashi vs Taue that starts off. Misawa starts off this time. Very strategic. Misawa & Kobashi know that Taue cant tag out because Kawada is injured so this allows them to put heavy hitting Misawa in there first. They immediately reap rewards. Misawa smokes Taue with an elbow. Double Dropkick! Kobashi baseball slide! Misawa diving elbow! Great babyface shine. 

Holy Demon Army's only hope really is for Taue to get an advantage have Kawada come in and consolidate & isolate one of them preferably Kobashi. We see Taue able to knock Kobashi down. Kawada wisely goads Kobashi into a chopfest wins and that and hits his famous Spinning Heel Kick. He nails, but if you watch carefully he comes up gingerly which I think I missed. This brings me to my favorite part of the psychology of this match...Holy Demon Army try to sprint to the finish line. This is not la dee da lets build to finish. This Kawada's knee is fucked...lets get the hell out of Dodge. 

So we get Kawada's Mack Truck Lariat (good knee sell from Kawada here too, great subtlety) and Stretch Plum and the SIngle Leg Crab with Kawada stepping on his head. We get Snake Eyes galore from Taue. We get the bodyslam on the floor. We bodyslams and Cowboy Kicks! This was a ferocious ass kicking Kobashi took. It all made sense. The idea was to hit every bomb and get the win as fast as possible. This made for a very urgent match which I love. The game changer is Kawada lets his foot off the gas. This time it is a clear hubris flaw. He thought he had it in the bag so he playfully kicks Kobashi in the head. He chops the neck but Kobashi fires up. As Kawada would he snaps off a kick to Kobashi's leg. What is the immediate, natural response, Kobashi rifles Kawada's injured knee. Kawada flies into a FURIOUS RAGE! That is incredible. Kobashi has SPOOKED Kawada as much as he has hurt him. Kawada knows he is vulnerable and needs to snuff this out. Kawada translates that fear into ANGER and unloads on Kobashi pelting him with illegal closed fists. It is an amazing moment. Once the initial anger subsides, Kawada is left hobbling & powerless and Kobashi POUNCES on him and starts punching the hell out of the bad knee. This is one of all time favorite sequences. So awesome and emotional!  

Taue tries to stop the bleeding by knocking Misawa off the apron, but Kobashi traps Taue and Misawa knocks him out and Kobashi tags in Misawa with Kawada still on his ass. Kawada looks like easy pickin's. Kawada tries to fire up and tries to potato Misawa. Misawa absorbs and smokes him with an Elbow. Tiger Driver gets two, Taue saves Kawada on the Tiger Suplex otherwise it may have been a short day at the office for the Holy Demon Army. This affords Kawada the opportunity to hit a Lariat and crawl to make a tag. Taue is rolling Snake Eyes on everything that moves. Misawa and Kobashi are just feeding him. Taue looks like a world-beater and he understands the dire straits his team is in. NODOWA/BACKDROP DRIVER COMBO! Gets two! Not as hot of a nearfall as I was expecting. I thought it was red hot in my living room. Kobashi saves. Taue hits a powerbomb on Misawa, but it is not quite the Dynamic Bomb so it is only a 2 count. He feeds Misawa into Kawada's lariat. Kawada's selling is so, so good. Kawada tries to feed Misawa in for a Nodowa, but Misawa elbows out of trouble and tags in Kobashi! This match rocks! 

Kobashi is a house ablaze...chops...DDTs...he even Snake Eyes Taue! Which I popped huge for! I think the fans hate that move so much they didnt pop for it, but I loved Kobashi throwing that in Taue's face. Taue has used that move SIX times in this match. It was high time he got a taste of his own medicine. We also found out that Taue is a load. Kobashi had a hard time getting him up. Leg Drop...MOONSAULT! 1-2-NO! This match has been at a break neck pace but everything still feels logical, earned and it is breathing. Really incredible. Taue chops and lariats his way out of trouble. Here comes Kawada. Lets see what he can do on a bum wheel. Taue bough him about 5 minutes to recover will that be enough? 

Kawada back drops Kobashi immediately. Trainer helps him work out his leg. His second attempt on the Back Drop Driver his knee gives out causing him to smack the back of his head on the mat hard. What a nice touch! Kobashi has the opening to tag out. Kawada grits his teeth through out and hits trusty Spinning Heel Kick to stun Misawa but his knee is all sorts of messed up. He cant hold on the German Suplex bridge. He has to release the Stretch Plum gets two. The Powerbomb ends up with Misawa sitting on his face. It was all bad for business. Kawada is trying to be a gamer but he is fucked. Kobashi dropkicks the knee. This is the first time Kobashi can really get a hold of the knee. Misawa is more sporting perhaps or maybe more pig-headed that it is elbow or death. Kobashi has no shame and dropkicks the knee to a smattering of boos I believe if my ears dont deceive me. Kawada the babyface who wouldve thunk it. Kobashi throws the Single Leg Crab complete with stomps to the head back in Kawada's face and then switches to a Texas Cloverleaf. Great stuff! Jackknife Powerbomb for two! WOW! Kobashi crashes & burns on the moonsault! 

Kawada desperately needs to tag out, but Kobashi drop toeholds Kawada. Instead Kobashi is the one that tags out, oh shit! Misawa sention...frogsplash...TIGER SUPLEX! 1-2-NO! Misawa exits like he has taken a beating, lol, dude you dont know the half of it and here comes Kobashi. Kobashi lunging flying shouldertackle eats THE JUMPING HIGH KICK! One more, but Kobashi hits the Lariat that is not yet Burning! Kawada has had two cracks in the sky but cant get that tag out. Stereo Germans! It doesnt look good. Misawa ROARING ELBOW TO TAUE! ROARING ELBOW TO KAWADA! Kawada goes full limp seel on German Suplex. Misawa Diving Elbow. Backdrop Driver and Kobashi gets the pin on Kawada! They win the Real World Tag League and the Double Cup (World Tag Team Championship)!

Can you say greatest match ever? Because I sure can. Ok, maybe a little hyperbole, I had have to give it a good think. It is definitely Top 20 all time and probably Top 10. It is my 1993 Match of the Year over either Hansen/Kobashi. Kawada's knee selling is so sublime, but it is so much more than that. It is Kawada/Taue urgently trying to close this out early. It is Kawada's reaction to the first kick to the knee. It is Taue desperately trying to salvage the match. It is Kawada trying to be a gamer and grit through this. It is Kobashi trying to close it out and prove he belongs. Outstanding. *****

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This was unrelenting in pace, action and drama. It’s hard to point out who was the best out of Kawada or Kobashi in this match. Kawada brought some sublime selling to his knee which came after Kobashi did the unthinkable and attacked his knee, which he was slightly favouring upto that point. Kawada’s deadweight selling for the finish after being laid out with the rolling elbow (and two subsequent suplexes from Misawa and Kobashi) was incredible stuff. Kobashi was so great on offence whether it was on top or working from beneath. He was so compelling. Kawada and Kobashi’s exchanges were spectacular. Kawada being a dismissive prick to Kobashi, kicking him in the face in a petty way and then stepping on his face during the high angled single leg boston crab only for Kobashi to turn it around and doing the same was awesome. Taue and Kawada had some great double team work as well, working over Kobashi with their underhand tactics. Taue was quite great in this himself, as an individual. He sold the opening barrage from Kobashi and Misawa perfectly with his selling and defensive work. Later when he was snake eye-ing people, he brought some great malice in his facial expressions. Misawa worked as cover boy for Kobashi and did a great job at it. Him and Taue had their own little game in who can attack each other on the apron the most. Everyone played their roles perfectly. Easy watch that left me borderline breathless. *****

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Kawada's turned his back on Misawa and Kobashi and has joined forces with his former enemy, Akira Taue. Kawada starts this one off as a arrogant yet in control turncoat, but as soon as Kobashi starts returning his leg kicks, Massive Dickhead Kawada comes out in full force. Those uncharacteristic leg kicks from Kobashi sends Kawada to ground, clutching his leg in agony. It's redundant to say what a great seller Kawada is at this point, but this match might feature his best sell job. Him not being able to bridge on a German suplex because of his hurt wheel might be my favourite piece of singular selling ever. Taue plays his role as Kawada's heavy well by holding the fiery Kobashi back while Kawada stretches out Misawa. The finishing stretch is all kinds of fun, with non-stop action and constant momentum shifts. Excellent stuff.

★★★★¾

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