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[1994-07-28-AJPW-Summer Action Series] Steve Williams vs Mitsuharu Misawa

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Doc's improvement is apparent when one compares this to the '93 match. Much more focused and cohesive, better transitions, and it feels like Doc is good enough to win (as opposed to "good enough to be plugged into Misawa's formula"). Misawa is also better in terms of not making easy comebacks like he did in '93. The result is a vastly superior effort.

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This has a super exciting run towards the finish, although I thought Misawa's selling of the first BDD was weird. He retreats to the outside for safety but it happens way too suddenly after the move's impact. The spot should have put him down a bit longer to let him reclaim his senses and also to build heat that the next one will finish him for good. It's a small nitpick since that's what eventually happened (the second BDD was incredibly well done); just thought the first could have been executed a little better.

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And with that, Misawa's two-year run with the Triple Crown comes to an end. They absolutely worked a match befitting of the moment. I agree with Ditch that it blows away the September challenge, as Doc is so much better here than he was then. And Misawa, what can you say? He has so much credibility that getting the crowd involved in every momentum shift and pin attempt looks easy. Those kickouts in the final 10 minutes were a master's class -- surprising without being overdone. The struggle over the backdrop driver was awesome. Misawa sold his ass off and did everything he could to put Doc over as a worthy champion who outwrestled him. There was no fluke feel to the title change at all. Maybe that seems like something not particularly praise-worthy, but Misawa had such a following and was so respected as the top guy that convincing an audience that someone who beat him deserved it is tricky. Doc's post-match celebration is a great moment, even though the comm release overdubbed his music, which took away from it a little.

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Good point on the fact that Doc feels like the better man, who out-wrestled Misawa and deserves the belts. Whereas, Misawa's previous singles losses (to Hansen and Gordy during CC '93) were sorta "there" and seemed more like gaijins happening to hit one big bomb than someone taking down the champ. Much more convincing than the '96 title loss to Taue.

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Couple of things about the stretch run to the first backdrop driver: Misawa went on a three minute run of thrashing Doc, to the point that Doc was out of it:

 

* counter roll into the facelock

* elbows + blocked rolling elbow + rolling elbow = near fall + Doc selling the shit out of it

* Tiger Driver = near fall + Doc selling the shit out of it

* Tiger Splash = near fall + Doc selling the shit out of it

* Senton + Tiger Splash = near fall + Doc selling the shit out of it

 

None of that my turn, your turn shit: Misawa rolled off a submission which wore Doc down, then ran off four near falls that Doc really put over not just with the timing of his kick outs but also how he sold them. The last got across where they were at that point: Misawa really good after it, on his back looking up into the rafters with that Calculating Misawa Look of "okay, that didn't work... need to go deeper into the arsenal to put him away... let's try..."

 

Doc is fucking fantastic, flat on his stomach looking like he's out of it, with Wada down deep checking him out, and you can see the crowd edging forward and up in their seats trying to figure out just how far gone Doc is.

 

There is a major buzz that Misawa is about to plant Doc with the next move, and he goes for another Tiger Driver. Doc drops down to a knee to try to block it, Misawa drags him back up, Doc back flips him but Misawa is up on it and just nails the fuck out of Doc with an elbow that drops him to a knee. He knows he's got Doc rocked, sets to put him away with the rolling elbow, Doc almost on instinct "knows it's coming", ducks and as Misawa spins around grabs his waist for a counter backdrop driver.

 

Despite being "attempted", blocked, countered and avoided earlier in the match, it wasn't used here in the fashion of a grand plan to put Misawa away or coming after a few Doc nearfalls to be the finisher. It was desperate near-flukey near-instinctual countering when Doc is getting his ass handed to him and another rolling elbow might just have been it.

 

There are three things to watch here: Misawa, Doc and Wada.

 

Misawa of course grabs most of our attention. He's toasted by the backdrop driver. He isn't playing it that he's "escaping" to the floor, which is what silverwidow was seeing. Instead, he's down for a couple of seconds prone and motionless before his scrambled brain tells him "I'm okay... get up... I'm fine" grabbing the rope to try to haul himself up, barely gets to two feet before his body says, "Nope... you're fucked" and collapses. He sells it like an *uncontrolled collapse*, down and through the ropes to the floor. It's damn near old school boxing selling where a fighter has been knocked down lethally but the brain fires "get up" before the legs say "oh shit" and shuts down.

 

*Wada* sells it that way as well, instantly getting across that Misawa is screwed up by diving out of the ring cat quick to check on Misawa. And Misawa is totally fucking out.

 

They are both off the charts great here... but rewind and watch Doc.

 

First he's down flat on the mat, still out of it himself, once again getting across that Misawa was probably one and no more than two trusty moves from putting Doc down for the count. It's 40 seconds before he's even able to get to his *knees* He doesn't even know where Misawa is until Wada tells him.

 

Of course we then get my favorite thing in the match, and one of the great moments of All Japan in the 90s to contrast with the 80s:

 

Wada is explicitly getting across to Doc to get Misawa *back in the ring* to finish him, because in 90s All Japan you aren't winning the Belt(s) with a count out.

 

There are any number of 90s AJPW matches that I like better than this one, as great as it is. But I think that might be my favorite moment: the point from the second Tiger Splash until Doc tosses Misawa back in.

 

* * * * * *

 

When you watch this match, you get why Baba did the traditional thing of having the Ace put over the New Top Gaijin, with Misawa going through Kawada before dropping the belt to Doc:

 

* no one else putting over Doc has the impact that Misawa doing it does

 

* Doc at this moment is off the charts good to the point that it's really hard to think of any other gaijin possibly being a better fit opposite the Four Corners

 

* given Hansen's age in his career year of 1993 (43/44) and Docs age in 1994 (33/34), Baba is thinking he has a new top Gaijin for another decade to come

 

* it's a good reward for how hard Doc busted his ass to improve after Gordy went out

 

There are others, but on those levels it made sense from a Baba-think perspective.

 

John

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Great match and nice to see Williams get rewarded for his performance through 1994 so far. I liked the suicide elbow to the outside to match Misawa. Williams looks incredibly strong and takes it to Misawa for most of the match. When Misawa gets going, Williams is able to survive. Ending stretch was great and was nice to see someone convincingly beat Misawa in singles match at this time.

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This was excellent. Doc has really been on another level this year. Misawa does a remarkable job of making the crowd believe that Doc was the better man in this match. The finishing stretch was one of the best so far this year and the BDD is once again put over magnificently.

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Surprised to see someone not like the selling Misawa does for the first backdrop as that is one of my favorite sell jobs ever. Misawa is the ace and this is the first time I can remember that he truly looks out on his feet and was lucky to fall to the outside. The build to that moment was incredible as Doc seemed like someone who had a equalizer in his pocket at all times. This match really grabbed me more after watching other Misawa defenses than it ever has before and to me the match gets better the more you reflect and analyze it.

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I have been going through All Japan chronologically for the first time in about 4 years. This match really jumped out to me as something really special that I seemed to had forgotten. I love how the match is structured around Doc's explosiveness. The Backdrop Driver is of course the big KO punch in his arsenal, but I think the whole match really puts over how his deadly combination of speed and power is what will do Misawa in. Misawa successfully holds him at bay at the beginning with an assortment of facelocks. I think that is a great parrallel to Kobashi/Hansen '93. Where Kobashi chose combat the explosive Gaijin with big bombs rather trying to pick and choose his spot like a Misawa. Only for a quick belly-to-belly to put Doc in the driver the seat. I remember throughout the body of the match that was the story how could Misawa contend not with just the strength, but his quickness. It seemed like every transition was based around Williams' explosive moves. I think this lends this match a great deal of urgency. I think that's what I love about wrestling is urgency. You just get the feeling that Williams is going to bust out a big bomb any second and you want to know what Misawa has up his sleeve (elbows and lots of them). The same can be said of Kobashi/Hansen. Both matches blow-off all this pent-up anticpation with BIG finishes for the gaijins.

 

Throughout that heat segment, I was totally taken aback by the acceleration of Doc and just how good he looked. I have not watched much UWF. Is this best Williams has ever looked? How did he decline so fast?

 

I think jdw detailed Misawa's extended comeback better than I ever could. So what of course was the end to that segment, but an incredibly quick "blink your eyes and you'll miss it" Backdrop Driver. I actually bit on that as the finish. Even as Williams is selling (I think he sold fatigue and general battery very well), he still hits the Oklahoma Stampede and Backdrop Driver with such an explosiveness that it blows off all the steam that match has been building.

 

I want to also, as this is my first post, to thank Loss, Goodhelmet and all others who contributed to the Yearbook project. I am a college student, so I do not have the money to buy the yearbooks. But this forum specifically has been such a huge guide in me wading through thousands upon thousands of wrestling matches and forcing me to think more critically about wrestling. I just knew somewhere I place like this must exist. I am glad to have finally found it.

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I thought this turned on Williams' countering Misawa's offense into a spinebuster. Misawa had his spots afterwards, including the Tiger Driver, but Williams was mauling him and seemed in control the rest of the way, building for the BDD> This is one of my favorite examples of Misawa's selling. Just an unbelievable job making his challenger look like the most dominant thing out there.

 

Gordy looked awful here in Williams' corner. Baggy purple sweats aren't flattering on most, but even they couldn't hide how he'd let himself go.

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Most of what needs to be said about this already has been. Misawa took Kobashi's "too out of it to know he's out of it" sell of the backdrop driver to new heights here, popping up for a second and then collapsing outside--admittedly, it's really uncomfortable now to watch Misawa eat a backdrop, go "out," and have a crowd desperately chant his name as that was exactly what happened to him in 2009. But it works here, as does just about everything else in this match. Doc initially focuses on Misawa's back, because that's where his offense is based and because it sets up the Oklahoma Stampede. Misawa has to buy time with elbows, which he does to perfection throughout most of the match, before making the mistake of turning his back on a rolling elbow attempt and eating the first backdrop. Once Doc recovers he has a brand-new strategy. They toss in one last historical nod down the stretch: Misawa countering the backdrop by kicking off the top rope, a spot that was an All-Japan staple going back to the days of Giant Baba defending the PWF title. It's not enough to stop the Dr. Death train, though. It was time for Misawa to drop the belts, and Doc was clearly positioned throughout the fall of '93 and 1994 as the most capable man to do it. This is not the Match of the Year but it's another strong case for Doc as Wrestler of the Year.

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I watched this match for the first time in ages the other night, and was blown away at how good Williams looked in this match. Misawa does his usual great job of selling, as Williams is just throwing one bomb after another at him, before finally hitting him with the Backdrop Driver. Misawa also does his amazing job on offense as well, trying to use his speed and cunning to beat Doc and hold onto his titles. The elbows play a key in this match as well, as usual in Misawa matches, and there are points where it looks like Misawa will be successful yet again. Misawa doesn't bust out any of his big moves though like the Tiger Driver '91 or Tiger Suplex, he sticks to his more basic offense of the Tiger Driver, elbows, face lock, and frog splashes. They may work with lesser competition, but not with Williams on this night. Williams is able to hit two backdrop drivers during the match, to put Misawa away and win the Triple Crown. ****1/4

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This really was the best I think I ever saw Steve Williams look. He was such a beast here. The ease he lifted Misawa for the Dr bomb was amazing. Everything he did looked so solid and I just loved that dropkick in the corner early on. But it wasn't just that. It was his timing and his body language as well. I really enjoyed Misawa here too though. He sold brilliantly throughout and really put Williams victory over as one which was worthy and deserved. The counter of the backdrop-driver by kicking off the ropes was already mentioned, but I also really liked when Misawa blocked the press-slam-into-snake-eyes move that Williams had used in the tag match the previous week. It's always good to see that sort of thing.

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One of the greatest title reigns in the history of wrestling comes to an end. It was also the greatest moment of Steve Williams career.

 

I really appreciated the restrained pacing as they moved slowly through the gears. There was never a point where the work wasn't captivating. Williams had come such a long way with his knowledge of match construction and timing. Regularly being in the ring with great opposition had taught him how to fully utilise all his strengths. I liked how he forgoed the usual no selling spots. Attempting to psych out Misawa was a total waste of time. They battled back and forth until crunch time. The previous month Kawada had thrown absolutely everything at the champion, and it still wasn't enough. At the end here Williams was unloading his full arsenal, and it was enough. The Dangerous Backdrop was the key weapon that ended the battle. Misawa never had the chance to hit his top end offence so the result was totally believable. Joyous celebrations from Doc afterwards with past and present teammates Gordy and Ace.

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Misawa was so good at selling during his peak. He was maybe the best seller of all time at his absolute best. 

 

Anyways this match is pretty damn good. Great build and everything after the first backdrop driver is crazy good. ****1/4

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#119 - placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-150-101/2/

 

I really love this match. The pacing of the match is fantastic. I love the way it builds. Also, Misawa is so on point with all of his offense. It looks incredible. The strike exchanges in this match are delivered and sold so well. I love the way they are selling the exhaustion within the striking towards the end, as they fall down after delivering a blow. The finish looked awesome. I agree, fantastic ****1/2.

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On 10/17/2012 at 12:32 AM, Superstar Sleeze said:

I have been going through All Japan chronologically for the first time in about 4 years. This match really jumped out to me as something really special that I seemed to had forgotten. I love how the match is structured around Doc's explosiveness. The Backdrop Driver is of course the big KO punch in his arsenal, but I think the whole match really puts over how his deadly combination of speed and power is what will do Misawa in. Misawa successfully holds him at bay at the beginning with an assortment of facelocks. I think that is a great parrallel to Kobashi/Hansen '93. Where Kobashi chose combat the explosive Gaijin with big bombs rather trying to pick and choose his spot like a Misawa. Only for a quick belly-to-belly to put Doc in the driver the seat. I remember throughout the body of the match that was the story how could Misawa contend not with just the strength, but his quickness. It seemed like every transition was based around Williams' explosive moves. I think this lends this match a great deal of urgency. I think that's what I love about wrestling is urgency. You just get the feeling that Williams is going to bust out a big bomb any second and you want to know what Misawa has up his sleeve (elbows and lots of them). The same can be said of Kobashi/Hansen. Both matches blow-off all this pent-up anticpation with BIG finishes for the gaijins.

 

Throughout that heat segment, I was totally taken aback by the acceleration of Doc and just how good he looked. I have not watched much UWF. Is this best Williams has ever looked? How did he decline so fast?

 

I think jdw detailed Misawa's extended comeback better than I ever could. So what of course was the end to that segment, but an incredibly quick "blink your eyes and you'll miss it" Backdrop Driver. I actually bit on that as the finish. Even as Williams is selling (I think he sold fatigue and general battery very well), he still hits the Oklahoma Stampede and Backdrop Driver with such an explosiveness that it blows off all the steam that match has been building.

 

I want to also, as this is my first post, to thank Loss, Goodhelmet and all others who contributed to the Yearbook project. I am a college student, so I do not have the money to buy the yearbooks. But this forum specifically has been such a huge guide in me wading through thousands upon thousands of wrestling matches and forcing me to think more critically about wrestling. I just knew somewhere I place like this must exist. I am glad to have finally found it.

This was my first post?!? Weird, I could have sworn it was to defend the criminally criticized Brock Lesnar vs HHH -Summerslam 2012. Anyways, over 4000 posts and 7.5 years later lets watch this match again. 

All Japan Triple Crown Champion Mitusharu Misawa vs Steve Williams - AJPW 7/28/94

My sleeper pick for the best All Japan match of the 90s. Incidentally this match was the subject of my first post at PWO 7.5 years ago. How time flies! Also history does render certain things murky I thought for sure it was to defend the awesome Brock Lesnar vs Triple H match from Summerslam 2012, but nope it looks like this was the match inspired me to join PWO, which I am ever grateful for. Besides the my initial viewing of wrestling and WrestleMania XIX (which brought me back into the fold permanently), I dont think there was a more important moment in my pro wrestling fandom than finding and joining Pro Wrestling Only. Thank you Loss (Charles) & Goodhelmet (Will) for founding such a badass, invaluable website. 

What makes this match special in my opinion is how Dr. Death is able to combine speed, power & precision into one unique explosive package. I think what makes Williams different from Hansen is Hansen has a lot of energy, but he is not as quick to snatch someone. I think thats what it is that Doc is quick whereas Hansen is energetic. Also, Doc's amateur and athletic comes into play in how fluid, precise and coordinated his attacks are. The way he can gobble Misawa up and with one of pop of the hips turn that into a Spinebuster is crazy. 

I compared this to Kobashi/Hansen and how Kobashi approach was bullheaded offense. Whereas Misawa's approach was to try to contain the explosive Doc with the facelocks. I really liked the struggle within these holds. It would be easy for this portion of the match to become boring or listless, but it never does because they are always working within the hold. They are always flexing and struggling. You can see how much strain it puts on Misawa to restrain the explosiveness of Dr. Death. On the flips side, you can see Dr. Death work hard to throw off the shackles. You see that the first time Doc is able to make a dent in Misawa is when he bullies him into the turnbuckles hard and Misawa is left clutching the back. Doc hits a great dropkick back into the turnbuckles and then a bodyslam with a HUGE running elbow and then a Cowboy Kick. I think another thing this match does exceptionally well is how they set up Doc's offense so that he looks like an absolute monster.

Twice Misawa goes for running/charging offense and twice it is converted into either a MASSIVE powerslam or spinebuter by Doc who snatches Misawa up and turns these into big time power offense. This works well with Misawa's preferred method of working which is underneath with a lot of hope spots that build to a grand finale. Now Misawa did get more offense in than just front facelocks in this front half. Anytime it did look like Doc was going to run away with the match, Misawa always had his trusty elbow. This is another thing that made Doc look like a monster was his ability to absorb these massive elbows and keep on tickin. Misawa hits his Elbow Suicida and the diving elbow from the top. In fact Misawa looks like he strung enough Elbows together to make short work of Dr. Death. However, Doc back drops out of the Tiger Driver. This is when that aforementioned Spinebuster took place. This is what makes Doc so lethal. That rare combination of size, strength, power and speed when you mix that into a concoction it becomes explosive. We are left at the 15 minutes with Dr. Death decidedly in control as he pops off a wicked belly to belly suplex. Then in a great moment that I cant believe I forgot, he does Oklahoma Stampede on the outside using the Steel Ring Post. Again working that back, so much happens in the next five minutes. 

Dr. Death works a heat segment that everyone wishes they could work. It is focused, varied and energetic. Focused on the back. Slamming Misawa into turnbuckles, trying for the Oklahoma Stampede, a massive powerslam, Boston Crab, a huge Stinger Splash in the corner, Backdrop Driver teases, Suicide Dive to the floor (yes Doc did that!), top rope shoulder tackle and an explosive DoctorBomb for a red hot nearfall. It was incredible and it feels so urgent. Misawa for his part was selling well but also really struggling. He was scrambling for the ropes on the Oklahoma Stampede and the Back Drop Driver. When Doc deadlift pressed him high over his shoulders, Misawa caught the ropes before Snake Eyes and turns around SMOKED Doc with an Elbow. It was just enough to stun Dr. Death, but he started to make in-roads. Here comes the Misawa Elbow combination only for Doc to resort to a four or five loopy right closed fists to put Misawa down. Really excellent burst of energy from both men in this 5 minutes.  

Dr. Death mimes the Back Drop Driver to the audience and there is a big reaction. Misawa hooks the leg and this trips Doc causing him to land hard on the back of his head and this knocks him loopy. Misawa is able to take advantage of this with his Trusty Elbow. Tiger Driver gets two. I think what makes this match work so well is because Misawa's reign was over 700 days old at this point so when you enter this portion of the match theres a certain rhythm to it. A comfort. That all will be well in the world and Misawa will reign victorious. It is the same rhythm Patriots fans feel when Tom Brady would drive down the field with two minutes left to win the game. So we get the Frogsplash 1-2-No, thats ok Senton, Frogsplash another 2 count. Everything is under control. It is time for another Tiger Driver. Doc deadweights. That's fine, Misawa will blow him away with a bunch of Elbows and we will get out of here. First elbow, Misawa winds up for the BIG ONE and Doc ducks under and in one fell swoop HOISTS MISAWA OVER FOR A DAAAAANNNNGGGGGEROUS BACK DROP DRIVER! You ever want to hear 16,000 people collectively lose their breath at once watch that spot. Brady threw an interception at the goal line and everyone is in shellshock. 

Misawa's sell is terrific. The way limply collapses to the outside. Now the game is only tied so Dr. Death has to complete the drive down his field on his own. As you would expect that first Back Drop Driver was not enough. Misawa had too much time to recover. It was the beginning of the end. Misawa got token elbows to give the fans some hope and half-countered the next Back Drop Driver, but when Doc hits the Oklahoma Stampede and then a final Back Drop Driver, the historic Misawa Triple Crown reign was over. The unlikely, burly Oklahoman had unseated the Ace!

Steve Williams sure as hell picked a great time to have the match of his life. He was explosive throughout the match. He worked an excellent heat segment that was the perfect combination of focus, energy and variety. It built to a great climax with the Doctor Bomb and then Misawa's Back Drop Driver Block. It lulls you into a false sense of security. Thats what this match does so well. You believe you have seen this story before. You fully believe Misawa will comeback and win. It was actually an Elbow that did Misawa in. Throughout the match, Doc had been quickly and explosively countering Misawa and we see it here when he ducks under and in one motion drops Misawa on his head in the single greatest Back Drop Driver spot. Dont make me choose between all the classics. Just know this match is right up there with 6/3/93, 7/29/93, 12/3/93 and 5/21/94. It should be a match known by its date, 7/28/94 the day Dr. Death shocked the world! ***** 

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Not like other big Misawa matches. He's taken on a monster heel and he's well and truly the underdog here. The first ten minutes of this felt slow and lifeless, things are good once Williams starts tossing Misawa around like a small child. The entire match is built around Dr Death's Backdrop Driver and the crowd go apeshit once Williams is able to land it, with Misawa using all the energy that he had left to throw himself to the outside in an effort to prolong the inevitable. This might be Steve's Williams' best match. 

★★★★½

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This was a brilliant match and a brilliant Dr Death performance to conclude Misawa’s first Triple Crown Title reign. Almost everything Williams did in this match looked great. So much fire and prowess in his offence whether it be strikes, slams or mat-work. It’s definitely a great example of his growth as a wrestler over the past two years, previously being one of the more boring wrestlers on the roster and now being very exciting. He was excellent on offence as well. Everything Williams pulled out was to target the neck of Misawa, which was injured throughout the year, and was used to maximise his signature moves even further. Misawa can sometimes get overshadowed in his matches, for whatever reason, but he delivers an immense performance complimenting Williams perfectly with his selling and how his comebacks feed into Williams regaining control and eventually the win. The struggle and fight for the Backdrop Driver was gripping for everyone. Misawa is trying his best to get out of any attempts, at one point even thwarting the momentum of Williams mid-flight using the ropes, hitting many close elbows but Williams continued to ride through them all to hit the Backdrop Driver. Loved the finish with Williams yanking Misawa’s arm into the Backdrop Driver position while Misawa was throwing elbows as well. Misawa was using the elbows to defend the whole match but it failed to work in the end. ****1/4

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