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[1991-09-04-AJPW-Summer Action Series II] Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue

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Lots of drama in this one, as the crowd is hot, and Jumbo tries to yank Misawa's shoulder off of his body early on, which leads to Misawa needing his shoulder taped up. Meanwhile, Kawada is fighting the good fight for his team. Misawa makes a triumphant save when Kawada is in a crab. The tape ends up falling off right away, which unfortunately hurts the visual effect of what Misawa is doing. Great moment when Misawa gets a tiger suplex on Taue and Jumbo breaks the nearfall by kicking him in the shoulder before coming in to give Misawa some type of weird reverse abdominal stretch thing. The rest of the match is built around doing big damage to Misawa's shoulder and giving Misawa a series of heroic kickouts. Misawa finally rallies a big comeback and the match starts to feel like something special is about to happen when Misawa start getting big nearfalls. He then submits Jumbo (!!) with a front facelock, which gets a huge pop from the crowd. It was about time something big happened, and what a great match and moment.

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My recollection is that earlier in the series (or year) Misawa injured the shoulder, hence the shoulder being an issue here. In fact, I seem to recall there was some thought they would job the tag title here because of it... another reason the submission of Jumbo was such a surprise.

 

They really needed more of these.

 

John

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Yeah, Misawa's shoulder was a reoccurring theme throughout the summer of '91--there was one tag match (or 6-man) where they actually stopped things and restarted with Kawada in his place. One thing I noticed this time around was lots of work around Jumbo's head. Jumbo wasn't in a lot of peril until the final stretch but seemingly every Kawada kick, Misawa elbow, and Kawada's big enzuilariato was targeted at his head or upper body--great way of foreshadowing and building to the big finish. Kawada gets his moments to shine as well, as you get the feeling that Misawa wouldn't have been able to make his comeback without Kawada's timely intervention. Misawa comes back to apply the facelock and gets Jumbo to tap, which comes across as big of a deal as his 4/90 pinfall. Probably the #3 AJPW match of the year at this point.

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Taue gets booed every time he tags in. He seems to get the most heel reaction of anyone in AJPW. Misawa gets treatment on his shoulder which leaves Kawada alone for a while. Misawa looks strong kicking out of some big moves. He already lost to Jumbo during the year and his wins over Gordy weren’t very convincing so this was a big win to get Jumbo to submit in the middle of the ring. Nice ending to good match. Misawa continues his climb towards 92.

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I found this disappointing, mainly because of Misawa. It was going along okay before green tights had his shoulder hurt. He spent ages having it carefully bandaged up on the outside whilst ignoring his partner getting beaten up in the ring. To be fair Misawa not giving a shit about his teammates was in character. But when he comes in it was elbow mania and he tore the bandages off! Horrible. Jumbo did his best to get it back on track but the damage was done. Incredibly the legend tapped out to the crossface. You midcarder!

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All of the submission stuff and the Misawa arm stuff plays off in this match. This was a match that kept building and building and I was unsure of the endgame until it slapped me across the face with the shocking submission. So glad I was able to come in spoiler free and this felt like a refreshing take on how to build up the next chapter of Jumbo vs. Misawa and friends. One of my favorite matches of the year so far.

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This was the story of Misawa coming back from a possible career-ending injury to not only beat Jumbo, but make him submit, which has almost never happened before. Jumbo and Taue were at their most vicious here, working over Kawada in a similar fashion to the way they worked over Kikuchi in the last big tag match between the two sides. But both Kawada and Misawa showed a ton of heart; Kawada for absorbing a seemingly endless two-on-one, and Misawa for ignoring a damaged, unprotected shoulder and executing moves that most similarly injured wrestlers wouldn't have even attempted in an effort to take Jumbo down. To finally get a submission out of him after trying valiantly in singles, tags, and six-mans for so long only to fall short just made the moment all the sweeter, although both sides knew there were more battles to come.

 

One thing that added to the atmosphere was the wrapping on Misawa's shoulder. I definitely bought the idea that the ringboys doing the wrapping saw what was happening to Kawada in the ring and rushed the job so much that it was ineffective and started unraveling the second Misawa went back to action. Knowing that the only thing the tape provided was a weapon for Jumbo and Taue to use against him, Misawa decided to rip it off and take his chances, which only made the battle he fought and eventually won even more heroic. Fantastic storytelling.

 

Which set of tag belts were Misawa and Kawada defending here? I'm a little rusty on my Japanese tag team title hierarchy.

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09/04/91 – Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue

 

Before I begin this review, I would like to give a quick introduction. My name is Nick Ferrante but everyone just calls me Ferrante. I am a young adult who did not start watching wrestling until 2011. Most of you are lifelong fans possessing a deep personal history with the artform. Conversely, I am playing catch up.The history of wrestling and puro in general intrigues me. I reached out to Parv for some help as a mentor as he has been mentioned on twitter as a historical subject matter expert. Since New Japan is my favorite current company, 90s All Japan seems like a solid jumping off point. Parv and his colleague Grimmas recorded a series of podcasts covering the all japan excite series. The link is here http://placetobenation.com/category/podcasts/all-japan-excite-series/page/2/

 

Parv suggested I review some of the matches for the board. My goal is to review the matches before getting any of Parv of Grimmas’ feedback so my thoughts are my own and uninfluenced by others. My goal is to not only learn about the history of All Japan but to also become a better a wrestling critic. Like all of my pursuits, I must go in with my full ass.

 

The crowd is fired up for this match. Big match feel is in full effect. Reactions during the intro are telling. Misawa gets the largest pop followed by Kawada. Jumbo gets a mixed reaction with the boos coming in about a 70/30 ratio. A possible sign of respect yet dislike? During the intros, as Jumbo receives jeers with limited cheers the camera pans to a group of young adult men losing their minds for Jumbo in a snarky, almost ironic fashion. I wonder if the contrarian smark was in full effect in 1991 japan?

 

Taue and Kawada have a nice gentile lock-up that lasts for all of 10 seconds before Taue bitch slaps Kawada. Taue and Kawada’s feud is in full effect at this point. Why bitch slap Kawada just to unleash the attack dog? The battle lines have been drawn here: Taue hates Kawada and Misawa wants to prove he’s the top dog.

 

I loathe reviews that simply break down the sequential action so I am going to focus on the major takeaways.

 

There are two throughlines in this match: Misawa’s shoulder, and Misawa/Kawada working as a team contrasted by Taue and Jumbo being fueled by personal vendettas.

 

There is a medium length segment of shoulder work by Jumbo on Misawa which eventually leads to him being taped up by some trainers/young boys. Misawa’s shoulder is the centerpiece of this match. Jumbo uses a bunch of abdominal stretch variations to work the shoulder. Additionally: Jumbo makes sure every backdrop he does on Misawa lands on that diminished shoulder. Everything Jumbo does looks impactful: even the basics. Gringas mentioned this: his bodyslams look like finishers. This is no easy feat. The shoulder taping segment reminds me of the classic WWE stretcher jobs, but a little more tasteful and believable. Athletes has to exit all the time to get taped up. If you’re on a stretch: chances are you’re done for the day. Misawa ripping the tape off is a classic moment. Wrestling is all about the big moments and this is one that will stick with me.

 

Misawa and Kawada do a much better job of working as a unit. They watch out for each other and break up pins/holds. To contrast this, if Taue or Jumbo break up a hold or pin it’s typically to get an unprotected lick in on the guy they are feuding with. It appears to be coming more from a place of ill will towards the opponent vs care for the partner. M and K also hit a bunch of classic tag team tandem moves: duel drop kicks, dual suplex, flying stereo strikes. Taue/Jumbo hit one tandem move the whole match: a brutal doomsday device backdrop meant to destroy the shoulder. This is almost as if they do not realize they are a tag team until the closing minutes.

 

The finish is the main takeaway from this match so let’s unpack. Jumbo’s head and neck area is focused on throughout the match by Misawa and Kawada. There are multiple facelock attempts by Misawa which at the time just seem like attempts to wear down Jumbo. I was not buying them as a finish. Jumbo eventually succumbs to the face lock. Shocking. The crowd explodes!

 

One issue I had with this match was that when non-feuding partners were in the ring I would check out a bit and just wait for the feuding partners to get in there. The clearly drawn battle lines were a net plus in this match greatly enhancing the storytelling. This was a minor annoyance, yet pervasive.

 

All in all, I loved this match. The in ring action was great, but not all time All Japan standards. What truly made this match was the multiple layers of psychology at play. You have two young bucks proving this is their company now and that the old man has to take a step back. Additionally you have two men blinded by anger and blood-lust allowing their personal feuds to distract them from the prize. Kawada and Misawa prioritize love and care for partner coupled with a desire for greatness to triumph over personal beef.

 

4 ½ stars. Great but not all-time elite in ring action. Amazing psychology. Big soaring moments.

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#372

 

I've always liked Misawa & Kawada vs. Jumbo & Taue as a match-up, so I thought I'd treat myself to a rewatch of this. 1991 All Japan was a simpler style of wrestling than the years that followed but Misawa & Co. were younger, and quicker, and more athletic. They weren't as banged up as in the years to come and there was a crispness to their work than you don't find in their later work. The best thing about this match is watching Kawada and Misawa deal with the Jumbo problem. They try their damnedest to knock his block off and for once they actually succeed. The only misstep in this was Misawa's tape falling off. They took forever to tape his shoulder up and it was about as effective as if they'd used the pre-match streamers. This wasn't as deliberately epic as a lot of other All Japan tags but more fun, IMO.

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http://placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-400-351/2/

 

#372

 

I really really enjoyed watching this tonight. This was great! At first I was thinking about how awesome Kawada was firing up and selling, then I started leaning towards Misawa as MVP... his selling of the right arm etc... but Jumbo was so good in the closing moments... grabbing onto to the refs shirt and not letting go... not wanting to submit... I loved this. Everyone delivered perfectly in my opinion. ****1/2

 

I wasn't bothered by the length of time Misawa spent getting taped, and I probably wouldn't have thought about it had I not read the other comments. Personally, I found it added some drama to the match seeing Kawada basically trapped in there. When the tape came off, Misawa acted super fired up like he was going to strike through the pain and I loved that. He went back to selling it after he was cut off, which I also appreciated.

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Taue's facebuster out of the corner is a really awkward spot and probably should go. Misawa getting taped up for all that time to just rip it off as soon as he got back in was kind of a misfire, but it ended up making it look even more like an epic struggle. Jumbo paid off his own little sleeper thing on Kikuchi from earlier on Kawada, but way way too early to make a difference. Kawada looks great and the first 3/4 of the match are more about him being at a high enough level to keep things held down while Misawa is pre-occupied with his useless tape. Easily one of the better tags in this feud for drama and action. Misawa getting the submission win over Jumbo is basically his 6/9/95 win. He is right at the doorstep of putting Jumbo away definitively in singles.

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The older Jumbo gets, the more grumpier he gets. His pairing with Taue has a teacher/student dynamic. Jumbo even tags himself in just to show Taue the correct way to stretch out Kawada! Misawa's arm is targeted, and he's eventually taken out of the match for a while, leaving Kawada to fight alone yet again. Misawa even ends up getting booed when he can't stop himself from interfering when's not the legal man. Misawa eventually being able to get a clean, submission win over Jumbo came as a big shock to me. Yet another good match from four of the best wrestlers in the world at the time. 

★★★¾

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