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Charles (Loss)

[1995-06-09-AJPW-Super Power Series] Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

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Literally the only complaint I've seen about this is "_____ All Japan match was better". And the ____ is 6/3/94 or 12/6/96 about nine times out of ten. This has everything you could ask for; good pacing, continuity with the past, action, drama, moments of brilliance, and plenty of bombs. It's been my favorite match for about ten years now and I doubt that will change any time soon. Will be interesting to see if it lives up to the staggering amount of hype for anyone new to it.

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Literally the only complaint I've seen about this is "_____ All Japan match was better". And the ____ is 6/3/94 or 12/6/96 about nine times out of ten. This has everything you could ask for; good pacing, continuity with the past, action, drama, moments of brilliance, and plenty of bombs. It's been my favorite match for about ten years now and I doubt that will change any time soon. Will be interesting to see if it lives up to the staggering amount of hype for anyone new to it.

It did for me. I went in for the first time knowing that the match had a ton of hype and without any real knowledge of the backstory. I also have a general preference for singles matches over tag matches. After I watched it, my initial reaction was "Holy shit, this might be the greatest match I've ever seen!" Subsequent viewings (and educating myself on the context) have only reinforced that view.

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JDW fell under that criteria - '12/6, 6/3, 6/9'.

 

 

There isn't a lot to say about this match that hasn't been highlighted or analyzed by someone with a better vocabulary or knowledge of pro wres. But this is the kind of match that catches someone's attention when they watch it for the first time. The work is flawless. It's heated, well-paced, dramatic, and Kobashi martyring himself is note worthy.

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In terms of All Japan the last time I watched all of them and gave it serious thought it was 12/96, 6/94, 6/95, 1/97 and 12/93 in that order as the Top 5. That was 2000... a helluva long time ago.

 

I've watched them all at different times since then, and not really thought about them as comps. Whenever I get around to watching all of AJPW 90's again in a "straight order" project, I'm not sure they'll finish in the same order... or even all in the Top 5.

 

The last time I watched 12/96, it still strikes me the way it did when I watched if for the first time. In a sense, something will have to top it. The last time I watched 6/95, it didn't strike me quite as much as it did (i) when I first watched the TV edit, or (ii) the first time I was the full thing the following year in Japan. Still technically great. The rub of Kawada beating Misawa for the first time... that loses some impact over the years.

 

Oddly enough, the second win the next year *doesn't* since it comes after such a bad year and a half for Kawada where "almost there" is dashed completely into the ground over and over again... redemption played more to me last time that a peak in the Chase that never really gets re-peaked in a fully satisfying way. Don't know if that makes sense.

 

On the other hand, in a straight order viewing, that original vibe might comeback. I could hazard a guess on the others, and probably some others down the list from there. But at some point need to get to that project.

 

John

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Watching this, but paused to ask a question. I'd like some context on Kobashi's taped up knee since it's such a big part of the match. Did he get the injury in a match? If so, what match? Was it the Ace match at the end of May? I guess that was the last relatively high profile match he had before this one, right?

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I don't love this *quite* as much as others, but I do acknowledge and respect its greatness and think it's an all-time classic. This is a match about a team that is sick of Misawa being The Man. Taue just lost to him at the Carnival and we all know Kawada's story. They're willing to push the boundaries of sportsmanship as much as they need to in order to get the win. Simple moves from Kobashi that don't require desperation counters get them anyway. Taue kicking Kobashi in the knee just to break up an armbar early on really sets the tone of the match, and Kawada is a pretty slimy opportunist throughout this. The knee chokeslam is a given, but I also love the spot where Kobashi keeps trying to Irish whip Kawada and Kawada keeps blocking. Finally, Kawada decides to let him and uses the opportunity to cheapshot Misawa. At a certain point, this crosses the line from a team determined to win to a team whose win is inevitable. When Kobashi covers Misawa to just make all this stop and it doesn't stop, it's pretty clear that there's no way Kawada and Taue can't win. They look like world beaters, and in turn Kobashi looks like the big hero for taking so much punishment, even though he failed. And by the way, his performance is not enough to bring down this match, but I thought he was too "attention-seeking", if that makes sense. I wanted the spotlight on Misawa vs Kawada/Taue, but Kobashi kept overly dramatizing and got himself more over than I think he should have. But that's Kobashi, and he's so great at what he does that it's hard to fault him for it too much. All the kickouts at the end are perfectly in context of the match and feud, because Misawa is a guy who can withstand a lot, and of course it's going to take more to put him away than it does anyone else. I am probably the only person on the planet that thinks Misawa/Taue was better than this (if only slightly), but these are easily the top two matches of the year at this point.

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Watching this, but paused to ask a question. I'd like some context on Kobashi's taped up knee since it's such a big part of the match. Did he get the injury in a match? If so, what match? Was it the Ace match at the end of May? I guess that was the last relatively high profile match he had before this one, right?

From the '95 pimping thread...

 

"Hansen, Kobashi & Akiyama vs Kawada, Ace & Omori, 4/15: Everyone knows the "Misawa's broken face" storyline, but "Kobashi's bad knee" was an even bigger part of the 6/9 match and that's set up here. The Kawada/Kobashi stuff rocks. Plus: grumpy Stan Hansen!"

 

The Ace match continues it but is longer and not quite as fun.

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Haven't watched this since 2009, but back then I thought 6/94 and the Clash Flair/Steamboat were the only matches I'd ever seen competitive with this. It's been two and a half years, and having watched an enormous amount of great matches, I keep the opinion I had back then. I've seen good heap of people on other forums (some of which hadn't watched 10 puro matches in their life), watch this for the first time in the last year and name it the greatest match ever bar none.

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This is my favorite match of all time so it is funny to hear a review where someone calls this match the 2nd best match of the year, and I think to myself, man me and Loss usually have the same opinion on stuff. Once I reread the thoughts again I begin to realize that we both think this is a great match which is really all you can ask for when watching wrestling. Great story, great performances, fully satisfying finish. I started a tradition a few years ago where on Christmas day I carve out enough time to watch this match every year and it never fails to keep me entertained.

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At a certain point, this crosses the line from a team determined to win to a team whose win is inevitable. When Kobashi covers Misawa to just make all this stop and it doesn't stop, it's pretty clear that there's no way Kawada and Taue can't win.

I'm guessing you mean the one after the nodowa to the floor, and not the one in the ring?

 

The cover in the ring is about two minutes before the finish. Then they kill Kobashi dead with the nodowa/backdrop, and it's only about 1:30. to the finish. Can't think that's a problem: a for 42 minute match where it's not inevitable who is going to win until 40 minutes in. :)

 

They don't really start the process of killing Misawa until after he gets in the Tiger Driver on Kawada: Taue breaks it, stomps Misawa, blocks Misawa using the trusty elbows to Misawa up, pops Misawa in the Bad Eye, and then does a quick nodowa. They take time setting up the nodowa off the turnbuckle (Misawa is damn cool in covering the eye to sell it). I'm not sold that even then it's inevitable: Kawada is toasted, and when he hauls up Misawa, Misawa is in good enough shape to fire an elbow... which like the one against Taue is blocked (rather than being show Misawa is out of gas with weaker ones not doing enough damage like against Doc the prior July). So there's still a sense that Misawa isn't anymore out of it than Kawada is at that moment...

 

Rolling Kick... they take a long time & struggle to finally hit the nodowa off the apron... Misawa sells the shit out of it... Kobashi crawls over to cover him with under 5 minutes left in the match. Maybe then...

 

Except they're really slow selling thing given the epic war they've already had. Takes a while for Taue to get Kobashi off, and get Misawa in... and the "Misawa rolls back out of the ring" spot is still so fresh that when he rolls away from Kawada in the opposite direction to plop back out of the ring, you are remembering the last Budokan:

 

Taue hit the nodowa off the apron. Taue got him back in. Misawa rolled out of the ring and survived. Misawa pinned Taue.

 

It's Taue & Kawada rather than just Taue, so maybe there's a better shot. But Kobashi is actually *standing* on the floor in his own corner... so... ?

 

When Kawada final rolls Misawa back in, gets the cover, Misawa kicks out... and when Kawada sets for the powerbomb, Misawa is able to move over to the ropes from a break. We've seen this story before?

 

Kobashi breaks the next powerbomb attempt by grabbing the leg. We get the great visual of the nodowa on Kobashi and powerbomb on Misawa... and perhaps at *that* point how Misawa just rolls out it seems clear that he's fucked beyond the point at which he's been fucked before against these two.

 

Even then, Misawa does do that little leg sweep to try to buy time. You get the similar "weak elbow" about a minute from the finish, which send Kawada down, but doesn't damage him like the usual trusty elbows... and Kawada drops him on his head pretty specifically because there's no one in the corner for Misawa to tag out to: makes the move there, brief gesture of reaching up even though he's at some distance, almost coming across as an instinctual move rather than like in 12/06/96 when he has his brain together and knows they're know Jun in the corner.

 

One would have to go back and look at the 1/95 and 5/94 matches to see if there are other moments when Misawa reaches similar points that here might be seen as the point of no return. I'm not sure even while mapping this out just where that point is here. I guess I've seen that fucker come back too many times. :P It would get far, far, far worse over the next decade and a half where he'd willing eat all sorts of stuff from opponents before making the big comeback. :/

 

I kind of get the point you're making. But we also have a match where Misawa is still kicking the living shit out of Kawada more than 35 minutes in (the last Tiger Driver), and it's a while after that before he's in any situation that he hasn't gotten out of before. Damn... I'm not sure if he ever gets into a position until the 1-2-3 with these two that he hasn't gotten out of before because he's *always* gotten out of it with Kawada and/or Taue in the past when they've beaten the snot out of him. There is still the smallest of possibilities until Kawada & Taue give Kobashi the Nodowa Backdrop Combo that Kobashi will tag in and eat the fall. :) That's just 1:30 before the fall.

 

Sorry if this is rambling, but re-watching the closing run on Youtube for the first time in 5+ years... I'm pretty stunned by how well they laid it out. I'm not the biggest fan of Kobashi's mugging in it, and am with those fan who boo it. :) But it's exceptional well laid out, and Kawada and Misawa sell the fuck out of everything, and New Taue is really nailing his spots and role perfectly. Kobashi does what he's suppose to do down the stretch, and does it well. Not my cup of given where Kobashi is at in 1995, whereas I think Jun's performance down the stretch in 12/06/96 is much more fitting of where he was... and perhaps not done as overly theatrical.

 

I think perhaps the contrast for me to Misawa-Taue is *that* one has the inevitable finish from the time the bell rang: Misawa was going to beat Taue. :/ That's not really the case of 06/94, 06/95 or 12/96: in all of those there's doubt over who was going to win... until very late.

 

I'll need to rewatch the whole thing at some point. The end run was better than I remember it... that's not *at all* what I expected... frankly 180 degrees the opposite from what I expect. Yow...

 

John

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I always watch this match with a skeptical eye, thinking it might not be as great as I remember. But fuck that -- it's the greatest match of all time. I started counting the moments I love as I watched it last night, and the number got well into the 30s. In other words, I found about one moment per minute that would be the highlight of most other matches. Kawada booting Misawa off the apron, Misawa receipt-elbowing Kawada off the apron, the overzealous murder of Kobashi's leg, Misawa fighting his way up from Kawada's kicks in the corner, Kawada setting up for the stretch plum and instead grinding his forearm across Misawa's eye, Kobashi's gimpy moonsault, Taue hitting the pivotal move after taking a backseat for most of the match, Misawa starting to rally anyway, Kawada's look of absolute hunger throughout.

 

I better stop, but two last things responding to Loss. First, I totally get how Kobashi's performance could strike people as over the top. I find his refuse-to-die schtick annoying in other matches. But it worked for me here, I guess because his leg was set up as a key story point early, and it seemed like such a Platonically ideal Kobashi thing to fight through it the way he did. It was a very broad performance in a match that was telling a very BIG story. Plus, it didn't work, which is kind of a great little kick in the ass. Second, I didn't think Misawa was clearly going to lose until the last minute of the match. He had come back from Taue's apron nodowa in April, and he did the same shit here that he did to kick off his rally then. It was only Kawada's desperate need to win that finally checked Misawa, and I can't think of a better possible ending.

 

So yeah, this is still it for me, the be-all and end-all.

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Literally the only complaint I've seen about this is "_____ All Japan match was better". And the ____ is 6/3/94 or 12/6/96 about nine times out of ten. This has everything you could ask for; good pacing, continuity with the past, action, drama, moments of brilliance, and plenty of bombs. It's been my favorite match for about ten years now and I doubt that will change any time soon. Will be interesting to see if it lives up to the staggering amount of hype for anyone new to it.

 

I saw the 96 match and it was very good. Haven't seen the 94 match and I"d say the 96 match was better than this.

 

Don't know what to say about this that hasn't already been said. It was certainly very well worked and had a lot of emotion. Going into it, I was dreading watching this cause few things I hate more in wrestling than long 90's All Japan matches. The final 10 minutes or so really caught my attention. All the neck drops to Kobashi and Kawada kicking Misawa right in the face with the Dangerous Kick was great. It's just, I know I should love this match and think it's MOTY but I just don't feel that way. It felt just like a match that was happening that I had no emotional investment in. Maybe I should try watching it again?

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I feel that way watching lucha. No match is great for everyone, but you're at least open-minded enough to see what they're doing right.

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Maybe I should try watching it again?

Probably not. Or at least until you hit a spot where AJPW of the era works for you.

 

I hated 80s WWF for a long while. There might have been a match here and there that I thought was alright at the time, but it still was 80s WWF and I didn't care for it and there would eventually be something in the match that reminded me that I was watching 80s WWF that I hated.

 

There's no way in the 80s or 90s that I could ever have watch the Hogan-Orndorff at the Big Event and enjoyed it. Just a guy I hated in Hogan and it wouldn't have worked for me.

 

After the DVDVR set and watching other WWF... I've come to enjoy a lot of WWF stuff. Not in the sense of thinking that it's GREAT~!, but in enjoying it... finding it was perfectly entertaining.

 

Hogan-Orndorff isn't GREAT~! unless you're a massive fan of 80s WWF and it really rocks your world. I'm not, and it doesn't for me. But... I was entertained, found it well worked for the two, damn did it have a big match feel, and even the screwy finish worked for me. Plus I'd watched a lot of the Hogan-Orndorff stuff to refresh myself of the feud. It wasn't just a match that laid there and I forced myself to get through it because it was important: I enjoyed the shit.

 

Will 90s AJPW ever get even to that level for you?

 

Maybe, maybe not. It's really nothing to worry about. There's plenty of other wrestling that you enjoy. If in a decade or two you're going through your stuff and find yourself enjoying it, cool. If not... not worth given much thought to.

 

John

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I'm going to go ahead and say that if 6/9/95 doesn't click for you, then 90s All Japan probably isn't for you. Which is fine. There's no law that says you have to like everything.

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I don't know that that's true. I recognize it as an all-time classic GOAT contender, but there are matches that aren't quite as good that I'd rather watch, even with these four. This doesn't have the emotional hook for me that some of their lesser matches do. The 5/94 match is one of those, which I'll talk about shortly.

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Some of that may come from how one watches them, and probably what the hooks are. If you were watching them in order at the time (or can now and put yourself in that mindset), 6/95 is a climax in a major chase: Can Kawada pin Misawa?

 

10/92? No, Misawa pins him.

 

4/93? No, Misawa pins him.

 

6/93? No, Kobashi eats that one.

 

7/93? No, Misawa pins him.

 

12/93? For fucks sake, Kobashi pinned Kawada?!?!?

 

4/94? Even with a "injured" neck, Kawada can't pin him.

 

5/94? Kobashi gets tossed another, all be it lesser, bone and gets to pin Taue.

 

6/94? Kawada pushes Misawa to the brink, but it's explicitly clear that it's Misawa who sucks it up and pins Kawada yet again.

 

1994 Tag League? Draw.

 

1/95? 60:00 tag draw.

 

4/95? Kawada breaks Misawa's face... *literally*... and still can't pin him.

 

11 major singles and tag matches.

 

0 Kawada pins on Misawa, 4 pins by Misawa on Kawada in singles matches, even Kobashi got to pin Kawada.

 

A lesser chase: Kawada & Taue started as the "top" tag team in the rivalry.

 

They won the tag titles in the first series that they started teaming in, from the top gaijin team of the decade. They then beat Misawa & Kobashi in the first meeting of the teams in 6/93. They retained the titles against Gordy & Doc in 7/93... then?

 

09/93: lost the titles to Hansen & DiBiase

 

10/93: failed to regain title from Hansen & DiBiase

 

12/93: Kawada jobs to Kobashi as Misawa & Kobashi win the Tag League and Tag Titles

 

05/94: Taue jobs to Kobashi as Misawa & Kobashi retain

 

11/94: draw with Misawa & Kobashi in the Tag League

 

12/94: Kawada & Taue need to beat Baba & Hansen in the Last Match of the Year to win the Tag League & Tag Titles... and fail

 

01/95: 60:00 draw with Misawa & Kobashi to fail to regain the tag titles

 

4 straight failures against Misawa & Kobashi (0-2-2), two straight failings in the Tag League, six straight failing when the Tag Titles were there for the taking.

 

Kawada's chase of Misawa had been going on since 10/92, Kawada & Taue's string of tag team shortcomings started in 9/93. That's massive emotional hook.

 

I'd be surprised if there are even five other AJPW matches in the 90s that have that level of emotional hook to them. The only one that clearly does is Misawa-Jumbo, and that one doesn't have hooks that have been paid for over two years prior to it.

 

I love the storyline of 12/96, and probably was the first person who rated it higher than 6/95, but it never hit me as having better emotional hooks... just that it nailed everything just about perfectly inside the context of a great, great, great storyline.

 

Kawada-Misawa at the Dome tried to have the hook, but to me it had been tarnished by the handling of Kawada-Misawa *after* 6/95 and 12/96.

 

5/92 has a certain emotional joy because of the crowd going bonkers for Kikuchi... but is it really an emotional hook from start to finish, or just a real blast of a match with a hooky finish?

 

There are matches I probably also enjoy popping in more, such as 11/30/93, just because they make me smile or just feel good watching them. But from an emotional hook, I don't think anything is up there with 6/95 other than 6/90... and that was something that was built up in a *month*... not two and a half years. :/

 

Not to take anything away from 5/94. I've pimped it for ages, and as a match that was rated ***** from the day it washed up on US shores, it's not even a lesser match. Maybe it's just a match that people don't talk as much about... but don't look at me since I've always talked about it and tried to put it into its special context. :)

 

John

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So yeah, this is still it for me, the be-all and end-all.

This pretty much describes it for me.

 

First of all it's my favorite match from a personal standpoint. It's the first tape I ever bought -- I guess it was late 2004 when I was 15, I found goldenboytapes.com and ordered a one-match VHS because the tag line "Greatest Tag Team Match Ever" hooked me. Had only a vague knowledge of AJPW at the time and didn't yet recognized the names Misawa, Taue, Kobashi or Kawada. Right away I loved it. Obviously it was like nothing I had ever seen. I didn't know all the intricate back stories etc, but the drama and emotion was plainly evident and the action was amazing on its own besides. This part will sound like a cheesy line people just make up to over-play how good something is, but I remember at the end of the match thinking "Wow, shorter than I expected", then the 40 minute time mark came up on the screen and I was like shit. I was just that completely entertained by the match.

 

So with all that in mind even trying to looking at it objectively, I'd still have no problem saying and arguing that it's the GREATEST match of all time. Aside from the sum of all its parts coming together as being amazing, as Childs said, there are so many constituent moments that stand alone as being amazing themselves, and really there's just SO many of them. My favorite spot is this moment where Kobashi is down by the corner, Kawada is on the ropes about to come down on his knee, Misawa tries to interfere, Taue catches him, PUSHES him down on Kobashi's knee, Kobashi sells it like death, the announcer is CRAZY, the crowd is just INSANE, and and then Kawada comes down with a knee to the leg. It's almost a sublime moment in wrestling, it's the cap of a cool, energetic exchange, it's important in the story of the match, it feels like Kobashi has just been completely destroyed, and the crowd hit a crazy fevered pitch. And really there's a couple moments like that.

 

When I was really getting into watching a bunch of new wrestling and was seeing the Sacred Cow matches for the first time there were a couple times I saw a new match where I initially said "Okay, now THIS is the best match of all time." -- 12/96, some classic lucha, 6/94, etc. But then when I watched this match again I always came to the conclusion this was definitely better.

 

There's a lot of great matches out there and I can surely appreciate people liking other matches more. But even when I try to divorce my personal attachment to the match, for me this comes out heads and shoulders above everything else, and the gap even between it and the group of matches I'd consider "2nd best match ever candidates" is appreciable.

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I am not well-versed enough to really go into a lot of the detail people have in this thread (and likely elsewhere) about this match. However, one thing that really struck me about this match that hasn't been mentioned yet is the Kobashi quest for the moonsault in this match. It's clear that early on Kobashi is not going to stop trying to get that moonsault. Every time he does, that bum wheel is just making him too slow and he ends up eating more damage, but Kobashi being Kobashi, he's not EVER giving that up. Admitting defeat is just not in his nature. So eventually Misawa comes in, seeing the struggle Kobashi is going through, and when Taue/Kawada still resist allowing Kobashi to get his moonsault, Misawa goes to the extreme step (and possibly one of the most selfless things I've ever seen in a wrestling ring) of using his frog splash to set up the moonsault. Not many main event wrestlers will put one of their big spots as support to allow a similar spot by their teammate. I admit, it's not like he used a tiger driver to do it, but it's still a big thing. Then Kobashi FINALLY hits that moonsault and the crowd is all over it. Honestly, I knew that he wasn't getting the win with it but after all that work I had this little glimmer of hope that it might pay off big.

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I am not well-versed enough to really go into a lot of the detail people have in this thread (and likely elsewhere) about this match. However, one thing that really struck me about this match that hasn't been mentioned yet is the Kobashi quest for the moonsault in this match. It's clear that early on Kobashi is not going to stop trying to get that moonsault. Every time he does, that bum wheel is just making him too slow and he ends up eating more damage, but Kobashi being Kobashi, he's not EVER giving that up. Admitting defeat is just not in his nature. So eventually Misawa comes in, seeing the struggle Kobashi is going through, and when Taue/Kawada still resist allowing Kobashi to get his moonsault, Misawa goes to the extreme step (and possibly one of the most selfless things I've ever seen in a wrestling ring) of using his frog splash to set up the moonsault. Not many main event wrestlers will put one of their big spots as support to allow a similar spot by their teammate. I admit, it's not like he used a tiger driver to do it, but it's still a big thing. Then Kobashi FINALLY hits that moonsault and the crowd is all over it. Honestly, I knew that he wasn't getting the win with it but after all that work I had this little glimmer of hope that it might pay off big.

Great point. Kobashi moonsault teases were pretty standard, but that Misawa had to pretty much set the table for him after multiple attempts is an interesting payoff.

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Yeah, Kobashi chasing the moonsault was pretty common. The 1994 tag has 4 of them, and comes up with interesting ways to deal with them: Kobashi's damaged knee prevents him from pinning, he airballs, deeeeeeeep 2.9 kick out, then finish.

 

As far as Misawa doing stuff in support, that is the Agamemnon effect at the end of 12/03/93: who really "beat" Kawada?

 

John

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NOTE: This is taken from the remedial wrestling thread at DVDVR, so some of the comments might be a little out of context or refer to the project as a whole, which watched a number of matches leading up to this match as well. I've done minimal editing.


What to say about this?


Alright, it was a perfectly wrestled match for the setting and the style. The narrative was excellent. The execution was brilliant. The selling was perfect and it all built into the story. Was it a little bloated? Sure, but it had to be because this match wasn't wrestled in a bubble. It followed up upon the previous matches. There's a point midway through the match that if I was watching this in a bubble, then I would have wanted them to take it home. Maybe two points. That clearly happened in the first of these tag matches. Here, though I was prepared for it and they didn't lose me like they did in previous matches.


The narrative, though I don't really need to recap, was this. It was even to start, like most of these matches, with Kobashi and Misawa having a bit of an edge. Kobashi made a mistake and they worked over his damaged leg. He made the hot-ish (never hot enough) tag to Misawa. They started to damage the orbital bone and then use Misawa's body to damage Kobashi's leg to really take over. They beat on Misawa's orbital bone for a while. Kobashi finally came back and was utterly unleashed, shrugging off everything, making these crazy facial expressions, just an unstoppable dynamo. For a while they went tit for tat, with the hurt man recovering at a key moment to break things up. Misawa and Kobashi had the ultimate advantage and it all came to a head with Kawada down and Taue trapped in the corner unable to break up the pin. I guess that would be the start of the finishing sequence in a normal match. Kawada WOULD kick out and they would go around in a circle or two until they hit that moment again and this time, he didn't.


In this match though, it went like this: Kawada and Taue were just too much. They weren't too much for Kobashi and Misawa in general, but given their opponents natural fighting spirit, it took too long for Misawa and Kobashi to beat them, and because of that, due to the weaknesses they had coming into this match, that meant that they ultimately could get overwhelmed. It felt like the result was inevitable before the match even began. Kobashi got nailed in the leg. Misawa got nailed in the eye again, and the momentum shifted and this time, finally, it was Misawa that lost the battle of attrition. It was compelling in leading up to a rematch on fair footing; on that level it was absolutely brilliant, but it felt cheap as a pay off to "THE BEST TAG MATCH EVER" and in that context I'm a little shaky on it. They sure protected the hell out Misawa. I'm not sure they really made Kawada and Taue look better in the process, though.


The biggest real issue I had with the match was the Kobashi superman run. That's exactly what it felt right. It's funny that I've always heard that this stuff was somehow "more real." Personally, I don't mind it all that much. It felt like something out of a cartoon or comic book or sci fi, but I like those things. Actually it felt like the kid who got the Charles Atlas correspondence course and beat up the guys who kicked sand at him, or even more like it should have come after a montage with "Simply the Best" in the background. What it felt like most of all was some sort of kung fu movie (and Kung Fu Hustle came to mind) where the hero finally found his inner power and peace of mind and was able to develop super powers. It was hugely entertaining and kind of emotional, but not in the same way 99% of wrestling, even comebacks like Hogan's and Cena's are. It felt anything but real. The issue to me wasn't even that, but that it ultimately didn't really matter. Kobashi had this once in a lifetime comeback, this sort of thing that stretches credulity so far past the breaking point that his hair should have turned hot blonde and energy waves should have been coming off of him, and it was awesome, and ultimately, they still lost. It just seemed like a story element that belonged in another match, maybe? Not the one where they were finally putting Kawada/Taue over.


I had thought I might talk about how the escalation here was the sort of thing that could burn out a territory and set impossible expectations. From what I understand, that eventually happened. It's a fair thing to judge a match on, I think, since they were breaking a bunch of "rules" and stretching things further than ever to accomplish what they were trying to do. It's really more than that here though: Everything had to be wrestled perfectly in this match to work. Things had to be balanced. Each move had to mean the right amount relative to the other moves in the match and the promotion in general and the fans had to buy into that. It's like exchanging currency. The edifice of the match needed every part to support it or else the entire style of wrestling would collapse, and frankly, it took both a miracle and genius performers to manage that. They did it here far, far more than they should have been able to but I almost don't think it was worth it.


That's the tragedy of this match to me. They have such attention for detail, such thought in the layout, such care in their selling, such intensity and willingness to just give themselves to pro wrestling. If they worked this match in a style I actually like, it could be like nothing I'd ever seen before, because of the talent and the work put into it. Instead, we get something that is exquisitely beautiful, but that manages to succeed despite its loudness and brightness and not because of it.

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Well, it was touch and go with the joshi greatness earlier if this would hold up as MOTY. I'm sure there's more great joshi to come but at this point, the answer is "Yes. Yes it does." There are too many great moments to recap here and most of them were touched on already. I will say that about 35 minutes in, having dismantled Kobashi's knee but being unable to put him away, and while yet another Misawa opponent is on the verge of gakking up a winning opportunity and about to give into another comeback, Taue goes back to a recent standby--popping Misawa in the eye. I think it's an even greater moment than his attack on the eye in the Carnival final, precisely because it doesn't really draw attention to itself. He doesn't need to grind a boot in the eye or drop him on the turnbuckle--one shot completely stops Misawa's momentum cold, and then it's a matter of unleashing the heavy artillery and grinding him into defeat with that. It's one of my favorite moments in any wrestling match. I don't think this is quite the Greatest Match Ever, as the best joshi tags still eclipse this. I do think it's the best AJPW match of the '90s so far--the best combination yet of super-advanced offense and sequences and psychologically deep, dramatic storytelling.

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