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[1992-06-05-AJPW-Super Power Series] Stan Hansen vs Toshiaki Kawada

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A crazy start, just like every other Hansen/Kawada match, but it becomes more subdued once the opening stuff settles. Nice for a change of pace. Hansen pummels Kawada's left knee through leg grapevines, stiff strikes and dropping him knee first on a ringside table. Kawada fights back by kicking with his good leg, selling remarkably well while doing so, but Hansen cuts him off. Kawada's struggle to scott across the ring and try to reach the ropes just to get a break also looks great.

 

Like most Hansen/Kawada matches, Hansen goes to great lengths to put Kawada over in losing. But they opt for a different method than normal here. Usually, it's about how Kawada can be so aggressive with Hansen and push him to the limit. This is more about Kawada's ability to come back from a beating. That's not to say he doesn't get in plenty of his own offense. He does, but because his selling is so good and consistent, he stays over because it's obvious he's playing through the pain.

 

I don't want to call this match "basic". It almost seems insulting considering that there are some things Kawada does physically where most wrestlers would struggle. But the layout itself is really basic and good -- Hansen takes it to Kawada early, maybe knowing that if he can take him out early, if the match goes long, even if Hansen ends up in a bind, Kawada is weakened. That's exactly what ends up happening. The ability to look so far ahead and anticipate what may happen later is the mark of a veteran. Even though Kawada outwrestles him, outbrawls him and shows great resolve in coming back from a big beating, Hansen is still the smarter, more resourceful wrestler, which is how he wins this match.

 

The end ... right?

 

Not quite. Hansen ends up making the old standard mistake (if it's possible for a mistake to not have any consequences) of pulling Kawada up from a pinfall position himself. He toys with Kawada for a few minutes, giving him a powerbomb and a lariat before getting the win. They would have blown the roof off the place with one last Kawada comeback mixed in with that, but the match is still very good. Kawada looks completely and utterly destroyed in the post-match.

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I was a little dissapointed by this. I guess I was expecting more and it seemed like the crowd was too. Still it was a very good stiff match and Hansen just killed him with those strikes.

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Not close to their Carny match from April. Kawada had his knee damaged early yet managed to stay on even terms with the champion. There was a bit too much time spent outside the ring. Generally good but the latter stages were a bit of a letdown. In the end the Texan went over with conviction.

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This doesn't rise to their classics, but is still a fine match. Frenzied striking early followed by Hansen attacking Kawada's knee, which he sells throughout. The middle seemed to drag a bit for an AJ main event. The crowd got back into things after Kawada's offensive explosion. Pretty cool to see Hansen mix in a dropkick. After ducking one lariat, Kawada eats a power bomb and a short lariat.

 

***1/2

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Fine match that sort of dies down after a hot start. They weren't quite able to recreate the Kobashi/Hansen magic that also came after a big opening, as there was some meandering outside the ring. The finish puts Hansen over convincingly but does seem pretty out-of-place as he just sort of methodically takes Kawada apart. I guess they figured Hansen needed such a victory after barely eking his way past Misawa twice.

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This was good, but not near the level you'd expect given the people involved. There were smart touches from both, like the way Hansen blocked the enzuigiri, and Kawada switching things up and using a lariat to drop Hansen when the kicks weren't getting the job done, and Kawada takes a monster bump off Hansen's lariat.

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I think to appreciate the finish of the match you have to really be in tune with 1991-1992 All Japan. The enzuilariat was an instant KO when Kawada started using it in early 91. Over time it lost the deadliness to the point where people kicked out of it, but it was still a big move. And it was always used as a surprise tactic to turn the tides late. So when Hansen hits it while Kawada is trying to put him away, it's exactly how the move has been used forever. And in Hansen's hands it's a killer again. So he pulls Kawada up and Kawada is still fighting despite being out on his feet, leading to the lariat for the finish. The enzuilariat was the final nail in the coffin. There's no way Kawada was coming back.

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The 6/92 Hansen match has a strong performance from Kawada. Hansen took an interesting route of trying to work Kawada's leg over, which led to a lot of sustained leg selling (obviously a strength of Kawada's.) He let Hansen throw him around like a rag doll on a big gutwrench suplex and a high release power bomb. Hansen was licking his chops out there by the end of the bout. I wasn't crazy in love in the theatrical bump Kawada took off the final lariat, but one of the better pre-1994 singles matches from Kawada.

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What surprised me most about this was Hansen's skill level. He's mixed in more wrestling holds with his brawling over time, and though I'd hardly call him a technician, his execution is much crisper than one would think it would be for someone his size. I liked his back-to-back dropkicks, and to see him bust out both a gut-wrench suplex and a snap suplex made me think I was watching the Dynamite Kid in his prime. Of course, his bread and butter is still the lariat, and he threw one of his better ones this time if the bump Kawada took for it is any indication. Combine this with some great work on Kawada's knee and you have one of the most well-rounded Hansen performances that I can remember seeing.

 

Kawada was a picture of resourcefulness and pluck. Since his major striking weapon (his knees) was taken away by Hansen, he used kicks and forearms instead, and he had Stan glassy-eyed and ready to be beaten on several occasions before ultimately falling just a bit short. He sold the knee beautifully, and if the story of the match required him to do something that someone with a bad knee would have difficulty doing, such as slamming Stan on the floor, he always sold for a few seconds the first chance he got instead of blowing off the injury like it never happened. His performance has more than earned him another crack at the Triple Crown in the not-too distant future.

 

With Misawa and Kawada breathing down his neck, and others still to be heard from soon, Stan figures to have a hard time holding on to the Triple Crown even with Jumbo having to step aside before too long. This will be an interesting title picture to follow in the second half of '92.

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A great match. Kawada's selling and facials are great throughout and when Hansen smells blood, he immediately begins targeting the leg -- it's cool to see Hansen relax into the legwork, either on the mat or shinbreaking Kawada on the guardrail. Hansen sells strong for Kawada after a big kick folds him over the guardrail. The crowd energy builds around the potential for Hansen's lariat. Several times during the match, you can hear the crowd getting excited for Hansen to signal for the lariat but instead, he kicks or elbows Kawada, and the crowd dies down. Really loved the dragon sleeper struggle, with Kawada switching arms to prevent Hansen from escaping, until they collapse into the ropes. When Hansen finally calls for the lariat, the crowd heats up and he connects with the enzui lariat but he purposely breaks the hold. Throws a little water onto the fire and I get why he doesn't want to end it that way. Hansen's a man. He wants you to see the lariat coming. Great jackknife powerbomb before he just murders Kawada with the lariat. Lots of ups and tons as far as crowd energy goes, but it's a smartly worked match for Hansen and one of his best solo performances.

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I loved this.  It's super hard-hitting and really enjoyed the Hansen's focus on the leg and Kawada's selling of it.  It's a great match for sure.  Hansen had lots of great facial expressions... particularly when he'd give Kawada that "you've messed up now" glare...

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Hansen is all over Kawada’s leg and works it over good. Hansen at one point locked in an STF and because he is so big, he engulfed Kawada’s entire body. Kawada’s selling is usually his strong suit and he does an excellent job here. The little skips and hops he does to keep pressure on the leg to a minimum goes a long way in the early parts of the match, getting progressively more severe as the match progressed. Hasen bullied Kawada with some real violent offense outside of the work of the leg. The knees he’d threw would catch the side of Kawada’s eye socket -- it was pretty gruesome at times. Kawada was great on offense. When you’re on the defensive, it’s hard to really shine when it’s not the finish stretch, but the kicks he’d throw to keep Hansen at bay and the use of the stretch plum was awesome. It gained a BIG reaction from the crowd who was pro-Kawada the entire time. It didn’t have the big pomp and circumstance finishing stretch which I get because it’s the semi main event match but it was just as effective. Hansen shut down Kawada despite all the fight he gave and that was that. This was voted for the Best Bout of 1992 for the Tokyo Sports Awards. I’m not sure it was but I can see why it was voted as such. The crowd was SUPER invested in the match and while it wasn’t the right place for it, they were begging for Kawada to be champion. So it has it's merits. ****1/2
 

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On this watching I really appreciated how much Hansen's work on the leg puts Kawada over.  A year ago he wouldn't have needed king on Kawada's leg to weaken him.  Now Kawada is that much of a threat.  Not as memorable as their super-intense brawls, but great in a more traditional sense and very big in putting Kawada over.

Without Hansen and Jumbo gradually making these guys look better and better we would not look on this period of AJPW or the 4 Pillars the way we do.

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