Jump to content
Pro Wrestling Only

[1995-03-21-AJPW-Championship Carnival] Toshiaki Kawada vs Jun Akiyama


Recommended Posts

  • 1 month later...

Yay Carnival! I'm really looking forward to watching all of these matches.


This was a war. They had 15 minutes and they went all out, throwing bombs and stiffing the shit out of each other the whole time. While Kawada understandably goes over, he gets quite a bit of offense on Kawada in the process. Considering that the last yearbook I watched was 1993, and the Kawada/Akiyama match on that didn't have Akiyama taking the fight to Kawada to the same extreme it did here, it put in perspective how much he progressed during those two years. I could go through all the spots they hit, but why bother? It is really impressive how much they packed into a fairly short match.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yeah, Akiyama's craft through the years rapidly improved. I wish I knew more about Akiyama's background prior to his debut, but he seemed something like a coveted young boy. And like Ohtani, Jun was talented enough to work at an advanced level relatively early in his career, but was always in the shadow of his mentors. Maybe John can elaborate more on why Jun didn't get his first TC challenge until September '97, as he seemed structurally sound enough to get a TC challenge in '95, '96 at the latest. I think when you see Akiyama in his first TC challenge, and especially his second, and after seeing his evolution over the years, I think you might feel the same way I do and others do: Akiyama was good enough to be the Ace. I've always thought Akiyama got slept on too much.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


Debut: 1988

First TC: 1992 (didn't win until 1996)

First WTT: 1990 (didn't win until 1992)



Debut: 1988

First TC: 1994 (didn't win until 1996)

First WTT: 1992 (didn't win until 1993)



Debut: 1992

First TC: 1997 (GHC in 2001)

First WTT: 1996 (won in first challenge)


That's... about the right amount of time for Jun to get TC title shots given the last two guys who came up and got similar pushes. Misawa and Kawada were too far back as it was a different promotion frankly in the 80s than the 90s, so they're not really comps to Jun.


The WTT has somewhat similar arcs, even if the timeline doesn't all line up:


Taue got rushed and pushed into a role that wouldn't have been if Kabuki didn't leave.


Kobashi got rushed into a role where he could win the WTT because Jumbo went out. He probably wasn't terribly far off the pace of where he'd get that role: it's hard to imagine Misawa & Kawada sticking together as a team through the end of 1994 if Jumbo remained healthy... and even that is probably too long. Kobashi being Misawa's partner was always the natural fit, but if not there, then Kobashi would have been paired with one of the other guys ahead of him and been challenging for and winning the WTT.


Jun got plopped into a role because Kobashi pretty much had to leave Misawa's team: it had run it's course, and to get to the next level (winning the TC), Kobashi couldn't really be Misawa's #2 tag partner. If Jun got the role, of course he was not only challenging, but also winning since Misawa would have runs with the WTT: the Ace gets those belts on occassion.


Anyway... that's round about. Jun's milestones of challenging for the WTT and TC weren't too long. Where they screwed up was on stuff at the level below that. There was no equiv of these 1993 matches for Jun:


02/93 Kawada vs Hansen (under Misawa vs Taue TC)

05/93 Kawada vs Williams / Kobashi vs Gordy (under Misawa vs Hansen TC)

07/93 Kobashi vs Hansen (under Misawa vs Kawada TC)

10/93 Kawada vs Kobashi (under Misawa vs Hansen TC)


Those were big matches on big cards beneath the TC: three Budokans and probably the biggest non-Budokan cards of the year (the Sapporo double shot in May).


There were other, earlier matches for Kobashi and Kawada (and even Taue). There were lots of Budokans in 1994 and 1995 where they could have done something with Jun, and especially in 1996. To a degree he got sucked up into the WTT, and if you're defending that, you're not facing someone in another match. The July 1996 Budokan could have had Jun face Misawa, Kawada or Doc in a singles match. The October 1996 Budokan could have had Jun against Misawa, Taue (since the belt was off him) or Doc.


I guess I should give a visual aid on how really strange this was. Here's Jun's progression of singles matches at Budokan after debuting:


02/93 Jun vs Gordy

10/93 Jun vs DiBiase

09/94 Jun vs Hansen

09/97 Jun vs Misawa for the TC


I've already said that the last one was in not-so-unreasonable time.


It's that massive gap from 09/94 to 09/97 with *no* Budokan singles matches that was really quite screwed up. It's also the gap from Ted to Stan where they didn't do a hell of a lot either that was wasted, especially when there wasn't a ton going on in 1994:


03/94: Doc vs Nord / Kawada & Taue vs Akiyama & Omori under Misawa & Kobashi vs Baba & Hansen


06/94: Doc & Ace vs Hansen & Omori / Kobashi & Akiyama vs Taue & Honda under Misawa vs Kawada


07/94: Kawada & Taue & Fuchi vs Baba & Kobashi & Kikuchi / Hansen vs Ace under Misawa vs Doc


That leaves out the 04/94 Budokan which was the Carny Final and you don't really pre-book an undercard.


Exactly how hard in 1994 would it have been to give Akiyama this:


03/94: Taue vs Jun (and Kawada vs Omori)

06/94: Kobashi vs Akiyama

07/94: Kawada vs Akiyama


Then on 9/94 he's opposite Hansen.


If not 1994, then some of that stuff should have been going on in 1995.


I made this point before: All Japan's booking was poor long before Baba got cancer. I turned it into a bit of a running joke because I thought when the original claim that the booking only went to shit when he got sick was pretty much a sign of not understanding how long the booking had been mediocre / poor / bad / just plane shitty. But... it's not a joke. About the only thing they did generally "right" was the TC. Even the WTT was poorly handled, and supporting singles matches were airballs.





Link to comment
Share on other sites

On the question of whether Jun was good enough to be the Ace... it's multi-fold.


He had the general athletic ability to do it.


Those in power in the companies (AJPW and NOAH) wanted him to grow into one.


Jun probably on some level wouldn't have minded being the Ace, especially in NOAH.


But Jun was missing something, or some *things*, to become the Ace.


Hard to put a finger on anyone thing, but some of the things:


* the fans didn't buy him as it no matter how many times he was pushed there


Just didn't happen. Folks can try to analyze the booking if they want, but it's not like Kobashi was booked any better at the start of his attempted Acedoms... and the fans still bought Kobashi in the role, and never did Jun at relevant times (NOAH hasn't been relevant since Misawa died).


* Jun didn't fully have "it"


There is no one way to have "it". Misawa certain was an atypical version of "it"... but he clearly had it for AJPW and NOAH fans. Choshu, Hash, Kobashi, Maeda, Takada, Tenryu... they had it. Jun didn't. He was far closer to Taue than those folks in terms of having it.


* Jun didn't fully want to be the Ace


Setting aside the comment above that on some level he wouldn't have minded being the Ace (it's cool to be the top guy), Jun never really seemed to push himself in his AJPW time or his early NOAH period to do what it took to hook the fans as a future ace. I always thought the slide into being Kobashi's partner, and the willingness to have the team feel Kobashi-dominated wasn't even a lateral move away from Misawa: it was a step backwards at a time when he should be taking a step forward. Kawada and Kobashi left Misawa to move upward, while Jun went sideways... and was crushed under Kobashi's massive pull of all things towards him.


He also didn't really seem to push himself like Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi did. It came across more as a forced "I'm suppose to be doing this, so let's try" rather than Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi being some insanely driven fuckers. On a level, those three were driven *too* hard, and it kind of fucked them and the promotions up: they pushed too hard and too far. On the other level, they set a standard and Jun really couldn't step up to it in any fashion other than "I've Got Some Cool Spots I Can Do Too", which really isn't what we think of in stepping up.


The analogy I would use is that he was a pitcher who had the arm, the good fastball, a good breaking ball, and really good mechanics. But he also didn't have a good mind to put the pitches together, wasn't driven to learn the batters, and was perfectly happy to be a #3 starter rather than craft his skills into being a #1 starter. In turn, Kawada was closer to a Greg Maddux: he didn't have that level of natural stuff, but busted his ass and was smart as shit in making himself a great pitcher... and probably looked over at someone like Jun and thought:


"How fucking great would I have been if I had that some athletic ability, natural size and look?"



Link to comment
Share on other sites

In turn, Kawada was closer to a Greg Maddux: he didn't have that level of natural stuff, but busted his ass and was smart as shit in making himself a great pitcher... John

Interesting analogy. I always think guys like that are underrated as athletes. Kawada looked like a dumpy little dude, sure, but you don't have the timing he did (I'm thinking of the leaping kicks to the faces of running opponents) without terrific natural coordination. I think he was a better natural athlete in many ways than Kobashi and Misawa (who, as you know, took five years to look comfortable executing his big spots.) Akiyama might have been a better natural athlete than all of them, given how quickly he fit in.


Is Taue Tom Glavine? I don't think any one of them is Smoltz, exactly. Maybe Akiyama could be Kevin Millwood.


Tom Boswell wrote a really good profile of Maddux for Playboy that talked about his underappreciated athletic ability. I'm rambling, but I'm fascinated by great athletes trapped in visually unimpressive bodies.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I agree that Maddux and Kawada were great athletes.


In terms of pitchers, Clemens and Johnson are examples of two who *weren't* dumb as rocks but happened to have insanely better shit than Maddux. For lack of a better term, they were more athletically gifted arms. There are almost certainly a hundred dumb as rocks pitchers who passed through the majors who we also more gifted than Maddux. I mean... whose natural stuff would you rather have: Maddux or Dibble. You have to think that Maddux looked over at Dibble and though:


"I think I'd win 400 games if I had that arm."




It's similar to Pete Rose where people like to say he wasn't a great athlete. Bullshit: he was. Relative to the vast majority of people who've played baseball, Pete was a great athlete. But his baseball athletics wasn't going to get him to 4000 hits. It was the drive, focus, insane obsessiveness, etc that push him to get better and sustain it.


Kawada was like that.


Misawa was more gifted. Probably not quite as smart, though I suspect the time as Tiger Mask forced him away from a more traditional native style of work where he could take Jumbo as an example. I'm not sure how much I'd blame that Tiger stuff on him since it was the promotion probably putting him into something not best for how he worked.



Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

This match is the one I always use to introduce people to Kawada who haven't seen him. It's such a glorious shitkicking, as he finds a hundred different ways to make Jun wish he was never born. Even has a submission finish, which is something you didn't see too often in this company at the time. Yet you guys are right, it's not entirely one-sided, Akiyama gets juuuuust enough offense to make it seem competitive and not like the world's longest, most brutal squash. Kinda like the mid-90s AJPW equivalent to the Samoa Joe/Necro Butcher match.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 months later...
  • 2 years later...

Finally, a balls-to-the-wall FIGHT in All-Japan instead of a 35-minute epic. 35-minute epics are cool but too many of them in a short time are not. Akiyama is very good here and shows a lot of fire but in the end I can barely remember much of what he did, which in a way feels like a drop-off from his performances in the '94 Carnival. This is more of a Kawada Show, setting up Jun's offense and killing him dead in response, and a damn good one it is.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...

Jun gets the jump start and enjoys some early success. Thereafter it plays out just how I anticipated. Akiyama working from underneath, Kawada laying the smack down. The youngster took his licks (and kicks) before fighting back and showing toukon, before succumbing. There was a minor surprise when it ended with a submission. There was a certain status level in AJ where wrestlers would never submit. Akiyama hadn't quite reached it yet. Rock solid all around.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • GSR changed the title to [1995-03-21-AJPW-Championship Carnival] Toshiaki Kawada vs Jun Akiyama
  • 4 years later...

It's refreshing to watch these high-calorie, low-runtime matches from All-Japan instead of another attempt at a protracted epic. Akiyama blitzes Kawada -- who is fresh off of a title loss to Stan Hansen, and is more ornery than usual -- in the beginning again, but pays dearly for it afterwards (again).


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...