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[1994-10-22-AJPW-October Giant Series] Steve Williams vs Toshiaki Kawada

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Really good match but behind the Carnival match from earlier in the year. AJPW is all about the long title matches at this point. This one is too long though as they should have tried to be different than the last two title matches and go with a shorter time. The moment is cool though to see Kawada finally win the big one which goes over well with the crowd. The finish sequence was great with Kawada just hitting Williams with all types of kicks. Doc still looks great having to be beat down that much in the end to lose the title.

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This was a really disappointing, even boring, match. They never really seemed to crank it into high gear. They worked the mat quite a bit, which is good, but the matwork isn't particularly interesting. This was just too long and methodical, and they lost the crowd at times. I thought the first two matches in the year that these guys had were great. This one was really lacking. It's a shame, because Kawada winning the Triple Crown for the first time was a big moment that deserved a classic match to go with it.

 

The deadlifting and struggle for Kawada to secure the first powerbomb was so dramatic and well done that it was almost enough to make me like this match on its own. And the finish of Kawada applying so many different types of kicks (kick to Doc's knee to call back to the earlier work, Koppo kick, and more) was pretty great. But sadly, this just didn't grab me.

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Not a thrilling match, and yeah... disappointing given Kawada's first TC win. They really tried to do way too much in these two Doc defenses rather than just go out there working strong 20:00 matches. 6/94 was the "peak", 7/94 a nice resolution (Misawa having run the table falls to potentially the new top gaijin)... and just clusterfucked these two.

 

John

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My God, this was long. That severely hurt this match. And to be honest the work didn't grab me either. I was bored in large parts. The finish was great but this should have been far better than it turned out being. Disappointing match.

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Liked this more than everyone it seems. Tad too long but I thought the matwork in the beginning was really interesting in that everything looked painful and a lot being done was unconventional. Williams gaining the advantage and using great power moves like launching Kawada into the ropes was a nice sequence. the ending was real dramatic and the ending kicks was the perfect knockout moves to beat Doc. Great match overall.

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I hadn't watched this in a long time but also liked it better than most of you guys. There's no question they took it out too slow with some less-than-urgent matwork. But I liked the way Williams sold his knee for the last 2/3 of the match; he was so great at portraying debilitated yet dangerous. Kawada also did a nice job of putting over the threat of Doc's flurries. I loved the way he clutched the ropes after eating three straight power moves; showing the fans that if he took the backdrop driver at that point, he was toast. I liked that they didn't go back to the well of Kawada needing three power bombs to win a big match. Instead, they concocted that nifty finishing sequence with Doc blocking some of his signature kicks and Kawada finding new ways to land the knockout blow. I get the criticism of the match -- the need for editing, the failure to hit the peak they did in April. But I still thought the logic was sound and the performances down the stretch were excellent. Calling it a clusterfuck seems a bit much.

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Put me on board the "Entertaining match, but not a classic" bandwagon. I guess that is problem when you have the expectations of a Triple Crown title defense on your shoulders it is classic or bust.

 

I was glad they started on the mat as it was nice change of pace. I am a sucker for a mean drop toe-hold and Dr. Death delivered a beauty. Doc did the best "fighting through the pain" selling I think I have ever seen. Having watched a lot of New Japan juniors concurrently with All-Japan heavies, it is clear they just turn the selling on and off. Dr. Death does a good job constantly reminding the audience that his knee is fucked, but he is a gamer and there is no quit in him. There were definitely some plodding sections and I think Doc relied on the punch too much especially since how a closed fist in All-Japan is treated. The backdrop driver was super over with this crowd. The booking of that move has been fabulous up to this point. It was lackluster given the expectations, but still fun.

 

So I know Dr. Death/Ace hang around have some killer matches with Misawa/Akiyama in 1996, but how come it seems like Doc's singles push just ends. I feel one of the problems with All-Japan as the 90s progresses is the lack of credible gaijin heavyweight talent with Hansen waning and Doc stalling. When I watched Vader's run there in the late 90s, I remember enjoying it, but it wasnt quite the same. So why kill Doc's push? Drugs? Injuries?

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Although it would've been much better about 8-10 minutes shorter, I thought this was a smartly worked and fun match. Kawada did a great job on Williams' knee in the early portion which paid off when he couldn't finish the Stampede due to the knee. I would've liked to see it stop him from landing a doctor bomb or another big move later as well.

 

Down the stretch the struggle over the power bombs was great and the finishing sequence of enzuigiris was also a ton of fun. Somehow it still felt anti-climactic for a title change after everything Kawada had been through up to this point.

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Hoo boy, the Doc of old was resurfacing here, and Kawada for a large chunk of this wasn't much better. I actually did like the first part of this, but the middle dragged really badly, starting from Doc's bump outside the ring. His knee injury there should have been treated as a dramatic turning point, but it wasn't at all, with Kawada standing in the middle of the ring with his thumb up his ass instead of rushing in to capitalize. It made it look like a legit injury that threw both guys off their game, rather than the opening Kawada needed. And for awhile, the injury seemed to come and go based on what it was convenient to move the match along. This picked up at the finish, and they regained the crowd in a big way. But there was still a lot of downtime between moves. Overall not a terrible match but a gravely disappointing one from the guys who were in the running (and may still be considering the state of wrestling) for Wrestler of the Year and Most Outstanding Wrestler. The historic nature of the win would be the only reason to include this on a Kawada comp because it sure isn't one of his standout performances.

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Triple Crown Champion Steve Williams vs Toshiaki Kawada - AJPW 10/22/94

Much to my surprise, I have seen this before! I have zero recollection of that. Not to my surprise, I pretty much agree with what I wrote back in 2012. I liked this match more than most people and I thought it was a good change of pace from the usual Triple Crown Budokan King's Road main event style.

I appreciated the opening 5 minutes of chain wrestlers. Lots of good takedowns. Kawada gets a good kick square in the knee early. They keep wrestling, I feel like Kawada is showing up the Champ a little which makes sense as Kawada is the native babyface. Dropkick to the knee sends us into the next phase. Doc sells the knee really well on the powder. Tells the ref to get the challenger back as he re-enters but Kawada pounces. Great knee work by Kawada here, punishing. Again great selling on the outside by Doc taking off the knee pad and inspecting his knee. I will echo my comments from 2012 that Dr. Death's Dangerous Back Drop Driver is so well-booked. He is able to counter a Facelock by getting to his feet and then teasing the Back Drop Driver which whips the crowd into a frenzy. This freaks Kawada out and makes him make a mistake. Nothing has changed since 2012, I am still a mark for a mean drop toehold and Doc has a beauty here. He starts working the knee. This turns into the classic All Japan Surfboard spot which has been absent from recent matches. Amazing test of strength. Kawada does a great job vocally selling. Doc ends up winning and throwing Kawada with a Tiger Suplex. Great sell by Kawada who acts like he is going to no-sell only for it to take effect and drops out of the ring. First big bomb goes to Doc. I enjoyed the first 15 minutes. Lets see how the match progresses but this has been a good change of pace thus far. 

Doc works a great heat segment here very explosive. That Military Press Onto The Top Rope! BATSHIT INSANE! He fucking Javelin Threw Kawada! It was scary. Loved the rushing behind an Irish Whip Clothesline in Corner ala the Hulkster and then his version of the Stinger Splash. On the Brainbuster his knee gives out a little. We get a Dr. Death Back Drop Driver, this causes the scramble and in the chaos...BANG! Spinning Heel Kick! Kawada's trademark transition. Now from there, we do get a really stand up fight, lots of intensity and stiffness. I really like how Doc sells his own dropkicks. You can see he is in a lot of pain from his knee and he guts through it to hit the dropkick.I dont need someone to necessarily sell the knee the whole time pain ebbs and flows, but it was clear after Brainbuster something was up and I am glad he started to sell it on his own moves. He goes for Oklahoma Stampede hits both ring posts, but his knee gives out before he finish the execution. Great stuff! Kawada dropkicks him out. Doc tries to come back in with a Flying Shoulder Tackle, Kawada hits a Jumping High Kick. Better in theory than execution. Kawada TRUCKS him with a Lariat and draws blood (more likely from the previous kick). Kawada hits his own Dangerous Back Drop Driver but it is not quite as Dangerous as Dr. Death's. Only gets two. Lots of Stretch Plumming going on. There is a great moment when Kawda goes for his second Back Drop Driver, Dr. Death breaks free and tries running by starts hobbling and Kawada catches him in a sleeper. Kawada ever the cheating prick turns this into a choke twice. I liked that touch of heel vs heel. Kawada cant get him up for the Powerbomb yet. Dr. Death powers up and throws him down with a vicious double leg takedown. Tiger Suplex! Great sell by Kawada ass in the air! Doc snatches him into the Doctoromb for the first really hot nearfall. My big complaint thus far is that there has been a lot of inconsequential punching by both men, moreso Dr. Death. Closed fists are illegal and when used sparingly can draw a big reaction and be meaningful turning points. They were throwing them out like candy. Much like the Doc/Kobashi '94 criticism of this being long, I think is overstated. This has been moving throughout and is entertaining. 

Dr. Death hits a quick, snap Dangerous Back Drop Driver. I liked how he hit it through Kawada's struggle and defense. Made it feel sudden and earned. Kawada had an amazing sell of this. On the outside, Kawada countered a Dangerous Back Drop Driver on the floor by pushing off the railing so they both took a nasty bump against the railing with the back of their heads. Doc did hit a wicked snap powerslam as his last nearfall. 

Kawada threw a couple kicks from his back to Williams' head. Then stood up and bowed up. Crowd reacted big. It felt like it was Kawada's turn. I wish there was a better transition. KAPPO KICK~! (Great callback to the Carny Finals) He smoked with his heel to the temple. Kawada looked poised for victory of course this being All Japan it takes a bit longer than necessary but he gets there. The Powebomb almost ends up being a Ganso Bomb. There is a great moment when Doc is mounting a comeback and Kawada is holding onto the rope for dear life. He lets go with his right and turns it into a THUNDEROUS Back Fist to the face. I loved Doc showing some Fighting Spirit until the end...blocking the Jumping High Kick and blocking the Kappo Kick, but finally Kawada broke through nailing a Jumping High Kick, Axe Bomber and a Jumping High Kick under the chin to win his first Triple Crown!

I wish that Thunderous Back Fist to the face was the transition to a Kappo Kick and the final Kick barrage to win the match but beggars cant be choosers. Lots of great stuff here. Transitions could have been tighter and the action more efficient but there are more hits than misses. Dr. Death has the decided power advantage. Kawada negates that with the attack on the knee. Doc overcomes because he is a freak superhuman and unleashes some really badass offense. When it comes times, Kawada just goes back to the basics and what brought him to the dance kicking people's heads off. Underrated match. ****

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So naturally I was excited to witness this. The match doesn’t have a great reputation as the Misawa or Kobashi match, mostly because Doc’s strengths lie in his signature high-impact offence which also is All Japan’s bread and butter. This feels a more stripped down, methodical match that I can see coming off as dull and not as captivating to some as it was to me. It went a bit too long in parts and they could’ve gone home earlier but I enjoyed the ride they took us. I thought they did a tremendous job in teasing and building up their biggest hits that the match exploded when they finally went for them. Whether it was Kawada going for the kill shots at the end or Williams hitting the Stampede, Doctor Bomb and the Dangerous Backdrop for many great false finishes. Kawada’s strikes were timed perfectly as well. I don’t remember him hitting as many spinning backfists before to such great effect. They were the turning point for his eventual win. And I must point out how great Williams’s selling was towards the end. Even when he was blocking the kick attempts, he was staggering around, clearly out of his feet. Just great stuff. There were a few people in the front row crying when Kawada won the title. I felt that. Loved this wholeheartedly. ****1/4 
 

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