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[1995-10-25-AJPW-October Giant Series] Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kenta Kobashi

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I really enjoyed this match. You could see hints of some excess that I understand plagues some of the late 90s stuff, but nothing too bad, and they're generally on the right side of things. Kobashi in some ways wrestles this match like the World's Greatest Kurt Angle -- throwing suplex variations left and right and dishing out the highspots. In one amazing spot, he does a vertical suplex into a Liger bomb. I'm sure there's a name for that. But it's put over huge by Misawa, who rolls outside, only to eat a powerbomb on the concrete. Well so much for that.

 

I think one reason Misawa and Kobashi work so well together is that Kobashi likes to be the center of attention, and Misawa is fine with that, so they're on the same page. This doesn't have the depth of Misawa/Kawada, but I've never seen a Misawa/Kawada match that can touch this for action.

 

Kobashi eats a crazy headdrop, which he sells for several minutes with glassy-eyed facial expressions. One of my favorite spots in the match is when Kobashi does the second quick moonsault and Misawa is in the process of moving out of the way, and he hits him, but seems to take the brunt of it himself. Once this gets into the final few minutes, it feels like they've already done what they wanted to do and now they're just killing time, but I really enjoyed this. However, aside from the Carnival match that I really liked, I have yet to see a Misawa/Kobashi singles match that is at the level I hope for it to be. I know 1/97 is considered the peak match, and they had some other stuff in later years that people love, but I actually have found Kawada/Kobashi to consistently be a better match-up.

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Kobashi busts out almost all of his big bombs right from the outset--it's Angle-y, yes, but it still makes sense within the context of the match and where Kobashi is in the pecking order. It makes sense for him to try to "steal" a quick win because he's the decided underdog. This goes 36 minutes when it probably could have been wrapped up in 30, and it starts to show by the end, so this isn't quite an all-time Triple Crown classic. But it's a hell of a match with Misawa memorably having to bust out the Tiger Driver '91, which in and of itself seems like a sign that Kobashi is ready to be a champion, but it just wasn't his night tonight.

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AJPW Triple Crown Champion Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kenta Kobashi AJPW 10/25/95

The first major Misawa vs Kobashi match for the Triple Crown takes place at the big October Anniversary show at the Budokan. This matchup would go on to main event two of the next three October Anniversary shows at the Budokan. This would only be Kobashis third title shot of his career (Doc in Sept of 94 and Kawada hour draw in Jan of 95) while Misawa was in his second reign as champion. At the time of this match Misawa and Kobashi were still the lead babyface tag team of All Japan, though by the beginning of 96, Kobashi would graduate to leading his own team while Misawa would take Akiyama under his wing.

The match is wrestled very much in the vein of two tag team partners vying for the most coveted prize in the promotion. I know some people criticize that Kobashi never fully shed his plucky underdog persona, but I think this match represents that last matchup of young Kobashi. Kobashi is always going to be a vibrant, energetic and emotional performer, but this feels like the last time he felt like a junior to the other Pillars. It was his coming of age match. The story of the match is slow and steady wins the race.

Kobashi comes out like gangbusters. He knows Misawa is coming with an elbow and throws him face first into the mat. Great spot to show Kobashis familiarity with Misawa as his tag partner. Hitting a suplex into a powerbomb where Misawa lands back first on Kobashis leg. OW! That had to hurt both of them. Misawa rolls to the outside and is selling his back. Powerbomb on the floor well thats not going to help the back. I love when a match starts off red hot like this. Kobashi as Misawas tag partner knows how damn good he is and wants a quick win. Bodyslam->Fist Pump->But Misawa rolls too far away for moonsault. BOOOOOOOOOOOO! Kobashi starts hitting leg drops to the back of the beck, but misses one from second rope. I like that as a way for Misawa to get some time to recovery.

Misawa comes in and tries to use his trusty elbow to turn the tide. Kobashi actually goes for a cross armbreaker and work over the arm. Misawa elbows Kobashis arm. Here we see the youth of Kobashi and something we will have to see if he improves upon that is his focus. He totally departs from the arm in order to go back to his comfort zone of power offense: surfboard and sleepers. It is conservative and plays to his strength. In a lot of ways the first half of the match feels like it is worked in reverse, finish run, limb psychology, opening holds. I think it tells the story of a young hotshot that is reverting back to a conservative approach. Misawa is just waiting and waiting.

Kobashi goes high risk by going to the apron and Misawa hits an elbow. From here it is pretty standard, but awesome Misawa. Elbows from all corners of the ring, Tiger Driver, flying bodypress. But we see what will plague Misawa in this match. Lack of killer instinct something he never has a problem with in the past. The first Tiger Suplex is downright gentle and more of a pinning combination. The second one he chucks Kobashi right on the back of his head. When Kobashi gets back in the ring, Misawa does not know what to do next and all of sudden Kobashi gets a drop toehold and a leg drop to the back of the neck. Misawa takes a suplex on his head and then Kobashi just hurls his body at Misawa knocking him hard back into the turnbuckles. Misawa is down in a heap clutching his neck and shoulder. Awesome, awesome selling by Misawa and the crowd picks up on that it might be the end. Kobashis finish run is awesome with powerbombs galore, moonsault and a second moonsault while Misawa is trying to get up that pops me HUGE! I love shit like that and Kobashis selling for it was great. Kobashi goes for a third powerbomb, but Misawa-rana and ROARING ELBOW~! Again, Misawa cant put Kobashi away. He is elbowing and elbowing, but Kobashi just keeps coming forward. I love how Kobashi keeps ducking into the body trying to get throws and Misawa will beat him off with elbows. One time Kobashi does upend Misawa, but it is too little too late. Eventually Misawa realizes that his tag team partner has too much heart to stay down and has to use the Tiger Driver 91 right on his freaking head to put him down.

Not a perfect match, definitely some parts that dragged, the middle of Kobashis opening control and the finish took longer than necessary. Overall, great first match in the series. Kobashi came out looking elite in the loss. Hot opening, lost the lead, but came back through guts and willpower and just came up short but it was not due lack of effort or heart. Definitely showed he needed to be more focused and disciplined and that his power and strength would not be enough to beat the Mighty Misawa alone. Misawa is living proof slow and steady wins the race. Weathers the early onslaught and sticks to the game plan. Great selling of the back and later the neck. Really great selling down the stretch to put Kobashi over as a threat. I thought his offense built appropriately from I dont want to hurt the kid to Fuck it, my titles are more important than you so I am going to drop you on your head. ****1/2

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I really appreciate the narrative and background from Sleeze above. I've seen most of these matches, but a lot of times out of order, and not exactly knowing the story within. I love the idea of Kobashi as the young hotshot reverting back to what he does best - causing him to abandon the arm. He's going conservative and sticking with what he knows. This is such a great thing to be able to see and point out. The focused attack on the neck of Misawa is awesome. I'm right there with the ****1/2.

 

#437 - placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-450-401/

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#437.

 

These two had a run of matches from '96 through to '97 that I really liked. This felt like a test drive for those bouts. They were obviously trying hard, but when a match like this doesn't click for you it's like watching two wrestlers go through the motions of an epic match. I liked the final few minutes but I could have done without going through 30 minutes to get to them.

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Orange Crush went full out for the quick win, unloading a barrage of suplay. Whilst not succeeding totally, it brought him the early ascendancy. The champion gradually recovered and then took over for a while. Later on during the stretch it was Kenta first threatening the upset before Misawa came through to retain. Changes in momentum were a rarity.

 

This was the first of their 5 Triple Crown battles and clearly established a template for long matches. Whilst this was G-VG it didn't succeed in becoming an epic. Lengthy and deliberately paced with some move repetition from Mitsy and dodgy Kobashi selling. The Tiger Driver '91 being the finish was fucking A. Not quite what they wanted, but a good effort and we all know what would follow.

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Their previous match in 1995 almost put me to sleep. This was much better and livelier, as it starts hot with Kobashi hitting a wad of big moves to take the green and silver tights man down. Kobashi's opening control segment was fairly great, as he was mixing it up, it's always nice to see a simple move like an arm roll between all th head dumping suplexes and neck chops. Eventually, Misawa cross-eyes Kobashi with an elbow, to which Kobashi responds by trying to attack the arm, but eats an elbow to the wrist for his troubles in a really cool spot. Kobashi quits the arm work, which would turn out to be a mistake as Misawa survived his ongoing destruction and eventually ended up dealing the big elbow blow and then just laying waste to Kobashi with a series of near KOs. The second half of the match was fairly drawn out due to the length and thus a bit of a slog. I also felt the amount of punishment Misawa took was absurd (hey, that's nothing new though) and thus Misawa could have done a better job surviving, instead of relying on his inhumanly high HP. Kobashi's overly theatrical selling was also distracting to say the least. All that said everything here made sense and the finish was suitably epic. Their best match so far and a good continuation of their story.

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Rewatched as I plan to rank the Best All Japan Matches of 95-96. I thought this was better than I remembered. I disagree with one part of my review which is Misawa lacked killer instinct in his first finish stretch. They were putting over Kobashi's resilience. I could be wrong but I believe this was the first time someone not only survived the Misawa Comeback of Elbows, Tiger Suplexes and Tiger Drivers but launched his own offensive. This made Kobashi feel like a special challenger. A cut above Kawada even in the loss. They really go overboard in the real finish stretch to prove this BUT at least Kobashi does attempt offense and throws Misawa around a bit in his defiant last stand before succumbing to the vicious Tiger Driver ‘91. This match put Kobashi over huge as THE rival. Offensively Misawa’s rhythm section was awesome as was Kobashi’s big finish run loved the Moonsault as Misawa was getting up. Kobashi’s full court press was a theme from the opening bell to close. He was so great in this. I am upgrading to ****3/4, finish run is still too long and there were some cheap pop All Japan-isms in there. Fantastic first match!

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