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[1994-04-11-AJPW-Championship Carnival] Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada

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How about that - I really liked this for something different. It's a very methodical match and doesn't feel like much other Misawa/Kawada stuff. They mostly stay grounded and work holds for the first 10 minutes of this. It's not your typical epic with these two but it's a really well done basic wrestling match, and there's a certain charm about it. There's no sequence that even slightly resembles that crazy sequence in the Fuchi tag match the previous year. In fact, this is pretty far removed from that. But it's a very good match, and I love the pacing and layout.

 

Kawada dominates after the 10 minute mark, just working Misawa over slowly in the build to the first powerbomb around 15 minutes. While Kawada largely controls the next 10+ minutes of the match, Misawa's perfectly timed teased comebacks are what generates the heat. Kawada does give a really inspired performance, but I really like the understated way Misawa works this match.

 

Because of the pacing, all of the stiff shots -- and there are tons of them -- really stand out in a big way. Everything gets time to simmer, which is appreciated. I wouldn't call this half speed -- deliberate is a better way to describe it. And even Misawa and Kawada being "deliberate" is nearly peerless in terms of the level of action they do provide.

 

While it's probably the least good Misawa/Kawada match I've seen so far, I don't want to sell it short. I do think this has a worthwhile place in the pantheon. The 10/92, 03/93 and 07/93 singles matches all have Kawada approaching Misawa in different ways, and he isn't successful. Here, Kawada tries slowing things way down. It works better for him than his previous approaches because he manages to take Misawa to a draw, but it still isn't quite good enough, because he doesn't win. In spite of that, it feels like he's on to something, and that on the right night, he's ready to beat Misawa.

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What I wrote in the Carny '94 recommendations posts:

 

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

 

This is prety much their Ric Flair match.

 

Like a long Ric match, there's plenty of stuff where "they're just filling time" in between picking it up for something cool. There's a bit of storyline where Kawada goes after the recent injury (a/k/a The Bad Neck/Back). Like Ric's opponents selling the leg, they don't have a huge desire to run hard with that one. Instead, they generally go with the Flairish "We Have Stuff To Do" and run through a ton of their spots and moves and usual stuff that we've seen them do in singles, tags and six-mans since May 1993. It's Misawa-Kawada, so they have a lot of that stuff and when "on" it's a well oiled machine. In the end, it's not a satisfying finish: the crowd just saw a big "first" right before this, and there was a big one the night before... and if Kawada was going to get his first, the injury was a perfect excuse to have you thinking you'd see it. Like a Flair match you don't really get the finish you want, and instead you need to come back for the next one.

 

Looking at this on two levels:

 

For a Flair-style match, it's really good. Pull it out of the context of wanting/expecting a rich, deep AJPW storyline where 90% of everything you want from a match is delivered. Instead put it in the context of wanting an entertaining match where two guys go at it hard, do a ton of shit, execute it very well, give you drama down the stretch where you're not sure who is going to win (again: this is set up for you to REALLY think Kawada can take it). In that context, it's pretty much a helluva Flair-stye match, without the Horsemen running in or the ref-bump or the dusty finish or some other silly DQ. Times up, and these guys are going to need more than 30 to settle it.

 

On the other hand, if you watch this and then watch 06/03/94 not long after (i.e. a Yearbook setting), or have 06/03/94 etched strongly in your mind from over watching and/or over writing/talking about it, then it crashes in on you: They worked a really good Flair-style match that within the context of their feud/rivalry is (and still will be after watching it on the Yearbook) pretty much an after throught. Then they went out and worked their classic where literally everything came together, and it's light years beyond the Carny match.

 

That doesn't make El Classico "the best of all-time" by default. It's more in the sense that the 4/11 Misawa vs Kawada is something that would be a great match if Flair had it against Steamboat in 1989 or there was a Shawn vs Bret in 1994 at that level or Steamboat-Savage had it in MSG prior to WM-3. With Misawa-Kawada the expectations are higher... it's pretty insane how high they've set them that you watch this and think, "Yeah... there's a lot of good stuff here, but they've got more in the tank."

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Obviously the best is to come between these two later this year but this did it’s job on wetting my appetite for the June match. It felt a bit slow starting out and it was pretty obvious they were going to a time limit drawing considereing the circumstances. Last third of match gets pretty good. They aren’t sprinting to a finish and neither man shows the urgency to get the win but there is some solid back and forth action. Still ends up being the lesser of the matches between the two but more to look forward to.

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This was a very good to great match between these two. It's a lot of basic wrestling and it's at a much slower pace but I liked it. Misawa's comebacks were spaced well and Kawada put on his usual outstanding performance. This doesn't compare for what's to come but I was satisfied for sure.

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When all the yearbooks are done, it will be interesting to see where this ranks on the Misawa/Kawada all time scale. I can see it finishing last or being in the bottom three. That being said, this is still really good. Methodical, but not boring pace and I think Kawada was showing some patience with dealing with Misawa. This was a big growth moment and really helps build up his credibility for the 6/3/94 match.

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Man, am I getting tired of this overdubbed home video synth music for every damn wrestler's entrance.

 

So, jdw or whoever else happens to see this: how did Misawa's injury affect the booking of the Carnival? Meltzer in the '94 Observers seemed to think he would have been the winner, and that Baba would then have to do something "special" like have Kobashi go over Hansen in the finals. My own thought (even though I bitched about him doing two jobs in '93) is that having the TC ace winner win the Carnival is redundant, and that Kawada should have/would have won it anyway. He was in far, far greater need of a signature win at this point in time. Not saying he needed to go over Misawa, just book an extra draw for the champ and have your Kawada/Doc match to wrap things up as what actually happened. Is it at least possible that Kobashi's win was "moved up" to add a little something special to the tour, though?

 

This is assuming Misawa's injury was legit. I tend to believe it was because voluntarily taking him out doesn't sound like what's Best for Business ™, but it ended up being a pretty serendipitous injury from a booking standpoint.

 

Anyway, yeah, this was very good as a change of pace in the rivalry--and a hell of a good match if Misawa was really too hurt to work the Carnival proper. Some of it is sort of fall-out-of-bed-ish, with some standard Misawa/Kawada sequences and counters like Misawa escaping from back body drops, but they throw in some wrinkles like Kawada having an answer for his feint-dive-through-the-ropes spot. This has been a good Carnival when it comes to throwing some different "styles" of matches at us by AJPW standards.

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Didn't see Pete's question before.

 

The injury wasn't legit. It was a closely guarded secret at the time, to the point that once he found out, Dave wouldn't talk about it for quite some time in the WON. I don't know the first time Dave let the cat out of the bag. It certainly was in the Furnas obit. Might have been in the Misawa obit. Might have been mentioned earlier, but not much. I recall doing vague references online to it being worked, and at some point putting the quote marks around "injury".

 

I think Dave talked about in the Furnas bio that it was done because he wasn't going to the finals and to avoid having him to do the jobs needed for in the math. The math really isn't a problem in the sense of avoiding the jobs. Just have him job to Hansen, and draw Kawada, Williams, Kobashi and Taue and he ends up with too few points. It actually would be a fine storyline as well: Misawa had a really shitty Carny where he couldn't put away any of the top guys. Other than Hansen, they couldn't beat him. But the killer Misawa of the past two years looks a little shaky.

 

The math for the other guys isn't too hard either.

 

I do think he was banged up a bit. His work in the series wasn't up to snuff before going out, and even with the rest it wasn't all that great later in the series. He seemed to be in better form come May and June.

 

To me it was Baba taking an easy route to do two things:

 

* Give Misawa a less intense Carny given he was banged up

 

That's an assumption, but Misawa happened to be banged up all the time through the 90s, so it's not really a stretch and is consistent with his poor and indifference work in the Carny series.

 

* eliminate Misawa to make for a simplified booking for Kawada & Williams getting to the Final

 

It made things fairly easy: all the big boys got 2 points off Misawa via default, so you don't have to worry about who gets 2 or 1 or 0 points off him. Just easier to deal with given no one other than Hansen had a singles win over him at that point.

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Man, am I getting tired of this overdubbed home video synth music for every damn wrestler's entrance.

You can never get enough overdubbed home video synth music if you ask me. Bad 90's production FTW.

 

The best way I can describe this is Misawa vs Kawada: House Show Edition. Not necessarily the worst match in their rivalry, but certainly the least exciting. Throughout the half hour there was never any real prospect of a finish. It felt like they were just doing stuff while wishing the time away. Nothing they did was bad as such, just through the motions and lacking passion. Less than 2 months away from their supermegagoatclassic I found it mildly depressing.

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