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Matt D

Match of the Week: 2/3 - 2/9: 5/18/94 All Japan Misawa/Kikuchi/Kobashi vs. Hansen/Williams/Ace

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I think this was Chad's pick. It is not hard to find, but keep in mind you're looking for the 5/18/94 match. I'll have more opinions later but I do want to point out a few things. We're good for the next few weeks but people should fill in their first pick if they haven't already. When I think we're tapped, or if we're getting closer to the end of what we have, I'll ask for a second round of them.

 

I've seen very little All Japan from this era. I know it is sort of the high watermark of workrate style wrestling, the whole King's Road thing, but this was all completely new to me I'm not sure I've ever seen a Kikuchi match and I've seen very little Ace in Japan, and probably less Misawa/Kobashi than anyone on the board. That said, I thought the no-selling was at least relatively contained and logical. There was reason behind it and escalation for the most part. Kikuchi spent almost a third of the match on the apron even though he had his fighting spirit moment earlier in the match. They would build to a move hitting/have impact. Certainly the crowd was into what they're doing. It's pretty obvious to see how this style has gotten warped over the years though. Even back in 94 they were walking a very fine line and I think at certain points they went over it. For the most part, I was satisfied though, at least in this small dose. I'm not sure this is the style for me.

 

It's so weird to me to see Williams/Hansen clapping on the outside. The crowd responded but it was still sort of surreal to see

 

I could have used a bit more traditional tag work. The main story, I suppose, was that William and Hansen were able to overpower their opponents at almost all points, but the Japanese were able mostly get by through toughness and slightly more finesse in their teamwork. There was a lengthy enough heat segment on Misawa, with Hansen stating on back work but then moving away quickly. I did like how they built up the pile-driver through the match though. When they finally hit the spike pile-driver there's a real sense of escalation.

 

The bump Kikuchi took over the corner was huge.

 

What bugged me the most about the match was all of the interference whenever a hold was on. There was a moment where Williams had Misawa in seated chinlock and they show Kikuchi and Kobashi desperately reaching for the tag, dramatic. A moment later, when they don't get it Kobashi just comes in and stomps. i feel like that's how 3/4th of all the holds in the match end and it adds to the craziness of the six man, but I think it really undermines the tag structure, especially when they go back to things like desperately reaching for a tag. It reeks of doing stuff and not having any idea of why they're doing it.

 

They also flip the camera angle at the very end so the Americans' corner is in the bottom right when it was in the top left the whole match. It was pretty weird.

 

I liked the finishing segment, especially Williams' last second save from the floor. I didn't think the last Lariat looked great but they did tease it a lot during the match and I'll take concept over execution any day.

 

I'm glad I saw this but I'm in no rush to see a bunch more of this style right now.

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I have gushed over this match a lot the past few months since I saw it. After completing the 1994 yearbook, I watched around 30 additional matches I could find online to see what I thought looked interesting. This was one of them and I sort of half-assed put it on one evening. After about 10 minutes in, I was enthralled and after the first watch was ready to declare this the best post 1993 All Japan 6 man. I immediately rewatched and have tempered on that claim some but still think it is a great match. I think on its own merits it can appeal to people, but this match is also enriched by where the particpants were heading into this match and where they went the remainder of the year.

 

Misawa is the ace of the promotion and really hasn't looked that vulunerable in over a year. Sure in matches he gets pushed in matches and has to go on the defensive but he has an aura to him around this time of Michael Jordan in 1993 that no matter what, you know he is on a different level from everyone else. He honestly is almost being booked too strong.

 

Hansen is the aging cowboy saddling up for his last rodeo. He knows times is not on his side. After the renaissance of his 1993 year, the residue is dwindling in 1994 with him still being positioned as the top gaijin but losing more and more ground. However, Hansen is not quite ready to relinquish the spot he has held for almost a decade just yet.

 

Williams is a rising outsider. He always has garnered success in All Japan but his run to the 1994 Champion Carnival final and epic battle with Kawada proved that he was a force to be reckoned with.

 

Kobashi is also someone rising up. No longer seen as a liability or upstart young lion with his team with Misawa, Kobashi has had some signature wins in the past 5 months including the 12/93 Tag League, him pinning Fuch in early 94, and his satisfying victory over Hansen in the Carnival.

 

Ace and Kikuchi obviously are the two weaklings in this match storyline wise but Kikuchi in some ways has been the heart of the Misawa and friends teams since 1990 and Ace is someone looking to find his way in All Japan. The way they were portrayed in this match correlates to where they would go from this point forward in their careers.

 

Two structural things make this match unique for me. One, Hansen/Misawa start off as the respective leaders of their teams. This signals that there will be no screwing around in this match. Their opening exchange is heated and great including Misawa cranking on a nasty armbar in the first minute that has to be broken up by Williams. The second thing is the finish and who eats the pin. Looking at the teams and knowing the hierarchy of All Japan, there is two clear candidates to take the loss (Kikuchi/Ace). I don't want to spoil who does here for people who haven't watched but it is not one of them and that was genuinely shocking to me the first time I watched.

 

All the pairings in this match work for me because it is either established history (hansen/Kobashi, Hansen/Misawa), new history (Misawa/Williams) as a singles feud, or a feud really in the fever of its timeline (Kobashi/Williams). Kikuchi and Ace also blend in as inferior members of their teams that have snippets of offense. Williams and Hansen's double team moves look great and they make a great team. I love the spot of Kikuchi rolling out the way of their elbows and the crowd eating it up.

 

Hansen ribs get worked over some and Stan's selling of the ribs is a highlight of 1994. Stan gets beat up a lot in the first 10 minutes showing he may not be as strong as he first was and the tide is turning in All Japan. He is able to flip the momentum by hurling Kikuchi over the top rope in a crazy bump and but Kikuchi uses his quickness to tag out immediately. The natives are looking strong and dominating.

 

Then something crazy happens, Ace chops Misawa and he FOLDS. What the fuck just happened there? That is pretty uncharacteristic. The gaijin then percede to beat Misawa's ass making him look vulnerable. Misawa would turn in quite a few great vulnerable performances in 1994. The 5/21 tag, 6/3 vs. Kawada, 7/94 vs. Doc, and 12/10/94 tag vs. Doc/Ace. This was the onset of all those and really showed him as human. Their beatdown of him is well done and really minimized his impact.

 

Misawa fires back finally in a great spot of him elbowing out the corner. This is neutralized further with a spike piledriver. Misawa is able to overtake Hansen and tag out as we enter the final stretch. Final stretch is heated with all 6 getting showcase moments. Kobashi hits a moonsault on Ace I thought was the finish that gets broken up by Doc at the last second. Doc is overall and animal just wasting people. Hansen is really reeling and looks to be pinned at any moment and then comes one of my favorite spots in a wrestling match. Doc backdrop drivers Misawa. I am on record saying one of my favorite sell jobs all time is Misawa selling that move in their Triple Crown match. This only adds to that match as when Doc hits it here Misawa is a non factor for the remainder of the match. No hulk up or bouncing back he is finished. This leads to a finish that is stiff and satisfying ending the war.

 

We leave the match establishing these things:

 

1. Ace gain prove himself. He was the one that turned the tide against Misawa initially and helped his team in numerous ways. This would lead to his sucessful partnerships the next 4 years in All Japan.

 

2. Kikuchi has great heart and speed but eventually gets caught and neutralized. I love Kikuchi but he really wouldn't be featured in many more high profile matches after this point in his All Japan tenure

 

3. Kobashi is on the rise but not quite there yet and can still be overzealous and make mistakes.

 

4. Hansen is not ready to hang it up yet and even though he is reeling, he can still be resourceful and pull a lariat out at any minute.

 

5. Doc is a main player to be taken seriously and now has a move he knows can neutralize Misawa if he can hit it on him.

 

6. Most importantly, Misawa can be beaten and the Triple Crown is in real danger.

 

I love how you can gather all that from 22 minutes of wrestling action. Great fucking match.

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This match was okay, but nothing special. I liked Hansen's selling in this match. I always appreciate when someone moves around and tries to get out of a hold instead of just sitting in it. I also liked when Hansen tagged out to Johnny Ace in the middle of the match and he just stayed on one knee in the corner for a couple of extra seconds to show how exhausted he was from the beating he had been taking.

 

In terms of tag teamwork, it could have been better. There was a lot of interference, but the teams didn't seem to care. Kobashi would break up holds, but no one would go after him. I also didn't like Kobashi and Kikuchi just standing on the apron and watching while Misawa is being triple teamed and getting the spike piledriver. It seems like you should care if your partner is getting destroyed, but they just stand there like it doesn't matter.

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What bugged me the most about the match was all of the interference whenever a hold was on. There was a moment where Williams had Misawa in seated chinlock and they show Kikuchi and Kobashi desperately reaching for the tag, dramatic. A moment later, when they don't get it Kobashi just comes in and stomps. i feel like that's how 3/4th of all the holds in the match end and it adds to the craziness of the six man, but I think it really undermines the tag structure, especially when they go back to things like desperately reaching for a tag. It reeks of doing stuff and not having any idea of why they're doing it.

I could not disagree more with this. Interference is one of the things that makes All Japan tags great. The fact that guys are doing more than just standing on the apron makes it feel like more of a team effort than other forms of tag wrestling. And it can take so many forms (breaking up a pin or submission, cheap-shotting the guy on the apron, the illegal guys fighting outside) that it never feels stale or formulaic. Plus, it enhances the drama because more thought has to be put into setting up the hot tag.

 

Note that I'm speaking in general and not specifically to this match, which I'll watch later.

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I had in my notes how much I liked Hansen's attempt to get out of holds early on, so I absolutely agree with that.

 

I did think I was missing a lot of the context, so thanks for pointing it out. I remember seeing a Tenta tag in UWFi where I was impressed by how many things they accomplished coming out of the match. Here I didn't see it as clearly but some of that stuff, even without context,is crystal clear.

 

NL, I think we're going to have to disagree. Obviously it's stylistic, but why should we care about the guys reaching for a tag when they're just going to come in and break the hold up a moment later. I don't get hose these things jive.

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NL, I think we're going to have to disagree. Obviously it's stylistic, but why should we care about the guys reaching for a tag when they're just going to come in and break the hold up a moment later. I don't get hose these things jive.

The number of tags built straight-forwardly around the "hot tag" as in America is pretty low... it factors into it, but it's not *the thing*. Take the American idea and put it this way: if your partner is getting beaten up, constantly double-teamed, cheated on, and you're just standing there holding the tag rope because you haven't been tagged in... what kind of partner are you? There's only so much anyone can stand "good morality" before it becomes unpalatable.

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No, that's an interesting thought and one that I never really considered. This match didn't have a face/heel structure, I don't think, or if it did, then I didn't pick up on it well enough. The "heat" segment was with Misawa taking the beating, but the Americans were the ones doing the clapping and also, I think, receiving the most chants, so..

 

Is it an honor thing? A good morality thing? That you wait as long as you can for your opponent to fight back before you simply can't take it anymore? If that's the case then there should be some sort of cost to giving in and interfering. I'm not sure what that would be, whether it's loss of face or karma or an admission of shame or whatever. I'm not even sure how that would pay off. Does it generally?

 

In southern tags, when you get pissed off enough to interfere anyway, the consequence is immediate and tangible. The ref chastises you and the heels get a chance to illegally double team. Instant karma. Here is it more of a spiritual thing over time?

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In the best All Japan matches, there is usually a logic to the saves. I would need to rewatch in order to go into more detail, but a large part of the Misawa/Akiyama vs Kawada/Taue feud in '96 was the saves. Throughout the year, Misawa bailed Akiyama out when the going got tough. When it came time for the tag league final, he made clear that there would be no more saves. The payoff to that is pretty great.

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Well, OK, I re-watched the match.

 

First of all, I'm not sure how the face/heel is unclear. For one it's native/gaijin, you have Hansen and Doc stooging (admittedly not very gracefully) for Kikuchi, Doc and Ace attacking Kikuchi outside and pleading innocence to Joe Higuchi, the gaijin attacking Misawa's recent neck injury, regular double/triple teaming... it's All Japan, they're not gonna be blinding the ref and using Hansen's cowbell on him, and so what if they clapped? Cornette, Sherri, Heyman, Heenan, they all clapped/slapped the apron when their guy/s were in trouble. They're popular, too, especially Hansen who'd been with the company for longer than any of the natives, so they're going to have fans, and the fans want everyone to do their best and fight hard, "Hansen ganbare!" etc...

 

I also didn't see "there was a moment where Williams had Misawa in seated chinlock and they show Kikuchi and Kobashi desperately reaching for the tag, dramatic." For one, the seated sleeper comes really early in their control and isn't dramatic anyway, but I just saw Kobashi and Kikuchi stood on the apron, watching, and then when it became clear Misawa wasn't escaping, Kobashi came in to break it up. In kayfabe/story terms to stop Misawa's neck injury being re-aggravated; in real terms because it was long enough in a spot no one was buying as dramatic and one that there wasn't an easy out of other than Doc just releasing it.

 

But look at the "hot tag". When Misawa finally gets an opening, he makes the tag with no fuss; there's no "dramatic" crawl to the corner race going on. Misawa rolls outside to sell the beating for a bit whilst Kobashi comes in and works a nice sequence with Stan. He gets the Baba clothesline for the pop, and it's serving the same purpose, but it's not a "one fresh face beats two near-flesh heels" stooge routine, he's still having to work for it.

 

That said, it's really a nothing match on a C/B-level show tucked away on the fourth comm for the tour. It's a solid enough little match but very much of a house show level; fine for what it is but nothing remotely out of the ordinary or even a "hidden find".

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Past the heat segment on Misawa, I'd probably call the gaijins the faces in that match, from what I saw. They received the bigger pops at the beginning. And they weren't just clapping like Heenan or Cornette, but the fans were clapping along with them. They were leading the fans in the claps and Hansen and Williams are wildly different characters/personalities than Sherri or Heyman.

 

I can pull out the exact moment where they were desperately reaching if we need to. That's definitely how I took it but I'll admit it might have been a different hold.

 

There are certain other effective ways to work a tag match and even the specific elements of a tag match (such as the hot tag, etc) than the Southern Style. And I admit that I wasn't totally familiar with what I was seeing, but all I could critique the match on was someone with the background that I have, and that's what I did. I thought Chad's response was really helpful in sorting out the subtext that wasn't apparent from the match itself in a vacuum.

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First of all, re-reading my post, there's a far bitchier undertone to it than I intended...

 

Face/heel in All Japan tends to be subtler than in America (though how couldn't it be?), but I'm not sure of anything remotely heelish that the natives did there.

 

Kobashi broke up a few holds on Misawa, Misawa stopped a powerbomb on Kobashi... their partner's in trouble, of course they're going to help him, and there needn't be any moral/karmaic reprimand for it. After all, they're well within the rules to enter the ring for five seconds, or indeed, to stand inside the ring and not interfere for as long as they like (such as on shielding pin spots), though they're can't be tagged in from there of course.

 

Looking at things morally, the '96 Tag Final is all about "if you cheat enough and do it well, you will win".

 

Besides, in this match, Doc did it first.

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I think I was mainly focused on crowd reaction, babyface clapping (and the response), and maybe Ace's pluckiness. I think it was worked fairly evenly from a face/heel perspective. I'll give you that me trying to work through that match is a lot like trying to use babelfish to understand an Italian document when you have college level Spanish under your belt. I'm sure some things are getting lost.

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I just watched the match. The crowd did seem to be behind the foreigners to a surprising degree (as an aside, I find it interesting how many of you still consider "gaijin" to be an acceptable word to use), but they were clearly the heels. You can see that in the beginning when Doc flips off the crowd because he didn't think he was getting enough heat. You shouldn't put too much stock in crowd reactions. A while back, I saw a match from Georgia where Giant Baba defended the PWF belt against Terry Gordy and the dumbass hick fans booed Baba even though he worked face and Gordy worked heel.

 

My overall thoughts on the match echo MJH's. It's nothing you'd have to force me to watch at gunpoint or anything, but it's not worth going out of your way to see at all. One surprising thing to me was how distracting Kikuchi's size was. He looked like a child in there against Hansen.

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Watched this when I was half asleep, but I absolutely see why Matt would be confused by face/heel structure. It's one of the reasons I have always thought that without jdw and others laying out so much of the back history and details of AJPW I may never have been a huge fan of it. Having said that, I need to watch this again when I'm more clear headed

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I thought this match was pretty good, but I didn't see it as being great or particularly special. The interference throughout the match didn't bother me and I didn't really think anything of it until I read the comments here. It's probably because it's something that I have become accustomed to since it is done ad nauseum on the indies these days.

 

I thought all the guys came out looking good in this match and it had a strong finishing stretch. Everyone played their role well, but Kikuchi was the standout for me as I thought he played the role of the underdog/weak link of his team perfectly. This match actually made me want to go and watch more of Kikuchi as hee is a guy that I've always thought was pretty good, but he just seemed to get lost in the shuffle and was overshadowed by other guys in this All Japan era.

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This is a commercial tape that I've never tracked down. How was the Kawada & Taue & Baba vs Misawa & Kobashi & Kikuchi that main evented the second card on the tape?

 

John

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Natives/gaikokujin then, if you must. But if they're happy to call themselves such...

Perhaps Will can introduce a politically correct filter to PWO. Something like gaikoku no senshu. Considering how everyone misuses words like puroresu and joshi at least they get the usage of gaijin right.

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You shouldn't use the word "gajin"....."dumbass hick fans" from Georgia.

 

Just sayin

I use the term "gringo" for myself relative to native lucha fans, and "gaijin" relative to native puroresu fans. I don't really have a problem with it. The wrestlers call themselves gaijin as well.

 

John

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This is a commercial tape that I've never tracked down. How was the Kawada & Taue & Baba vs Misawa & Kobashi & Kikuchi that main evented the second card on the tape?

Entirely skippable. One of the very least Misawa/Kawada 6-mans.

 

 

edit: Some thoughts on THIS 6-man. I think it's a good match, but not one I'd consider a hidden gem or a good intro-to-All-Japan bout.

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I've just watched this and my usual philosophy for these sorts of threads in the 80s project is writing down my thoughts and then reading what everyone else said to see what consensus is just before hitting "post". I don't want to fake anything just to go along with the crowd, because I think that's dishonest.

 

Here though, I had to see what everyone else had said before writing anything. My immediate thought was that this match was a little messy and I know soup's a big structure guy so I had to understand what made him nominate this. From what he's said, the appeal of this match is chiefly about the subversion of expectations and hierarchy as a means of realigning things for the future. I thought that was some interesting analysis, and clearly context is everything here. So what I'm going to say is with the caveat that I watched this without most of that context -- although just from knowing a bit about All Japan and watching it was CLEAR that Hansen and Misawa were the big dogs, Kobashi and Williams next rung down and Ace and Kikuchi the junior partners.

 

I enjoyed the early segment with Kikuchi being chased all around the ring by Hansen and Williams as they missed serial elbow drops after him. That made me laugh out loud and the commentators seemed to find it funny too.

 

The Dynamic Dude, Ace, seemed to come out of this match pretty strongly as a guy who could sort of hang with Misawa and Kobashi. Misawa had a long FIP section and Ace gave him a number of suplexes and things -- I was expected Misawa to come back and take his head off, but that never really happened. In the main I felt moves were undersold, especially by Kobashi.

 

The thing that really struck me about this match though is that -- and this is coming off the back of watching Steamboat vs. Flair trilogy again -- the stiffness isn't there. I mean the work is stiff relatively speaking compared to the average American match, but nowhere near the levels I have come to expect from All Japan based on the 80s matches. I have been "saving" 90s All Japan for the yearbooks but on this little sampling, I have to say I was little disappointed.

 

Hansen was good, as expected and he had one nasty kick on someone's back that made me wince at one point. But there were quite a few things Kobashi did in this this match that I didn't like. His chops seem weak. I think his multiple forearm smash thing looks silly. I didn't buy his "hot tag" from Misawa from about 20 minutes in when he unloads on Hansen. None of it seemed to have much impact. Again, this might be a little unfair because I'm comparing it to Steamboat-Flair and stuff like the high end Jumbo-Tenryu matches, but if this is indicative of Kobashi -- combined with all of his underselling -- he doesn't look like a guy who is going to be on that level.

 

Also, man it took guys a long time to work up the card didn't it. In 89 Kobashi was a plucky youngster in a little over his head who had a lot of fight and spirit. Here he is 5 years later and he's still not a top dog.

 

There were a lot of things I liked, some of the double-teaming was cool. Steve Williams was aggressive and dangerous looking. Hansen sold his ass off for the Japanese, and looked sufficiently brutal on offense. Misawa's selling was really good. Kickuchi and Ace played their roles well. But if this is "the best post 1993 All Japan 6 man", then I'm not sure it's saying a lot. I am also hoping this was an off-night for Kobashi.

 

Re: Face/ Heel - In my experiences of watching All Japan -- which are mostly confined to the 80s set -- it's mostly a mistake I think to look for a face / heel dynamic. The crowd always responded to Hansen. I never heard them really boo anyone. Even when Tenryu was at his most dickish, they still cheered for cool stuff he did. Sometimes Revolution were cheered more than Jumbo and co. Sometimes Choshu's crew were cheered more than Jumbo and co. Sometimes Hansen was. I might be wrong, because let's face it, I always am, but I don't think Japanese crowds work like American crowds at all.

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...and once again, this REALLY isn't any sort of classic/stand-out match, thus it would tend to be a letdown as an intro to AJ '90s, whether it be for moves, stiffness, or depth.

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