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[1997-11-27-AJPW-Real World Tag League] Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

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Things go awry for Misawa and Akiyama in a hurry, as Kawada and Taue attack quickly and even put Akiyama through a ringside table. Then they isolate Misawa, who takes a beating for the first several minutes. Akiyama tags in and tries a fiery comeback but is still hurt from the table bump and can't sustain momentum for very long -- his back goes out when he tries an exploder. This puts a bullseye on his injury, which Kawada and Taue pick up on and work over like clockwork.

 

There are some terrific moments of assholery here. Taue does his release belly-to-back suplex and Akiyama tries to roll outside to buy time, but Taue stops him. In another fun moment, Kawada toys with Akiyama by letting him get inches away from tagging then blocking him from doing so. In the end, they manage to neutralize Misawa and Kawada pins Akiyama after an extended stretch plum.

 

This is the most fun I've had watching All Japan since the Misawa vs Kobashi match in January.

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Taue was treating Akiyama like Kikuchi the way he was throwing him around. I think 1997 has had the most table breaks for Japan compared to all other yearbooks combined. I figured we were getting a draw with the teams involved so was pleasantly surprised to see a decisive win. Nice aggression by both Kawada and Taue.

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Really liked this match and the way it was set up with Akiyama getting taken out early and Taue/Kawada showing off their dick heel tendencies unleashing some prick violence on Misawa and then Akiyama's damaged back. We just saw Misawa look like the ace and the man in the FMW tag, so seeing him get beat up badly here was a treat. Stretch Plum being used as the finish was smart for the play on the back work and also good at getting over that submission as a finish. I have really enjoyed this tag league.

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Another really strong match as AJPW suddenly feels hot again after a 10-month cold streak. This is one of Akiyama's better performances so far in his career, selling the fuck out of his lower back as the Demon Army just relentlessly brutalize him. All in all sort of an abbreviated version of the 12/96 classic, with Akiyama out on the floor for an extended period and Misawa having to go it alone.

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Holy Demon Army (Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue) vs Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama - AJPW 11/28/97

 

Holy shit! This was incredible! Like how I have never heard or seen this before, Tremendous individual performances by everybody. When Taue is the least impressive in a tag match, you know you are watching something really special. The urgency, the unique set up, the selling of Akiyama, the will to win from Misawa and the outright sadism of Kawada make this an elite AJPW tag match, which says a lot about this.

 

This has to be a contender for the hottest opening two minutes in pro wrestling history. Just dripping with urgency and struggle. Both teams want to land a death blow early and they are all running around. Loved the double dropkick from the babyfaces, that massive Spinning Heel Kick by Kawada that sends Misawa to the apron. Of course, the climax, Taue depth charging Akiyama through the table. I love a match where the beginning matters. This beginning sets up everything.

 

Misawa is left to fend for himself. This is a great heat segment on Misawa. Nice hope spot the reverse springboard headbutt but then realizes he is all alone with Akiyama still out over by the table. All by myself, don't wanna be all by myself. Good balance between Misawa showing life to stave off Holy Demon Army's big moves and Kawada & Taue kicking the shit out of him with their basic, but hard-hitting arsenal. It is basically a great Misawa extended comeback handicap style with the endgame being the hot tag. He finally tags out and Akiyama hits this massive diving elbow, but is clearly favoring his back. He tries Northern Lights but his back gives out. From there, you see some of the best back selling and back work you will ever see. It is cold and merciless as Kawada and Taue zero in on his back and just pound the shit out of it. One of the best vertical suplexes ever by Taue, Kawada stretches Akiyama and two double stomps to the back. Kawada RIFLES Akiyama's back with kicks. He sets up the stretch plum right in front of Misawa, cocky or just bad strategy. That "will he or wont he tag" is so dramatic and when Misawa gets the tag, if you don't get Misawa, this is the match to watch. He comes in just blasts muthafuckas with that elbow. You really feel that sense of pride and that sense that winning means everything to Misawa. I love how he elbows Kawada off the apron of one side of the ring and then goes flying out the other side of the ring with a diving elbow. Insane sequence in terms of electricity. Tiger Driver for Kawada. Taue saves and here come the double teams on the isolated Misawa, NODOWA~! Misawa blocks the next two and a Tiger Driver allows him to tag. Lets see what Akiyama can do. Akiyama mans up hits Northern Lights but no bridge, Exploder and Kawada stomp his bad back on the cover. OW! Akiyama hits a massive high knee which I lost my shit for. Just a great babyface spot. Exploder attempt but Taue hits a Rock Bottom Nodowa. Massive Kawada bodyslam and kicks him really fucking hard in the back. In the background, Taue hits a DDT on Misawa on the exposed concrete so now it is Akiyama by himself. Akiyama has one less gasp when he tags Kawada in the head and Kawada drops ot his knees running the ropes (great Kawada selling) Dropkick to the back of the head, German, on second one, Kawada does his reverse kick to the bad back and Taue attacks the back. Wicked lariat, how is that not the finish. FUCKING HUGE AXE KICK TO THE BACK! That Powerbomb Goddamn! How s that not the finish. Misawa has nothing left and Akiyama succumbs to the best stretch plum ever.

Everyone gives an all star performance. Best Kawada match that I have seen in forever. He has had great matches in 98-99, but not those next level performances that I remember when I ranked him #10 of all time. This was that next level extraordinary performance. Incredible sadistic, hard hitting, energetic, great selling down the stretch. One of the all time greats at working on top. Awesome selling by Akiyama. Misawa trying to dig the team out of the hole was awesome. Loved that early hook, that hot beginning and the table spot totally hook you in. Everything follows naturally and effortlessly from that. Really having trouble reasoning why this is not ***** so it is *****.

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Got off to a scorching hot start-o as Taue sent Jun crashing through a table. A spectacular highspot for sure. Of course you see plenty of spectacular one off moves through the year. The massive difference here was how that one move impacted the rest of the bout. It presented the Holy Demon Army with an early 2-1 advantage and Misawa took a beatdown. When Akiyama finally recovered enough to tag in he immediately began selling the back heavily. At that moment I knew it was going high end. Jun then had his injured back worked over. When Misawa got back in he was refreshed and making a comeback. Yet then the moment came when he wanted to tag out, but couldn't. Immediately momentum shifted. The timing was absolutely perfect. The stretch had the youngster showing a lot of toukon and coming close to victory. I would've preferred a more one sided conclusion given the layout. Certainly the powerbomb should've ended things. Still for the most part outstanding, and the #2 AJ MOTY.

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This match is fucking choice! Best heat segment in tag match ever I think! Akiyama's back selling is so damn good. Kawada is incredible! That Cowboy Kick is insane. It is almost never a hot nearfall and it was here.The AXE KICK TO THE BACK AND THEN THE POWERBOMB! The raucous start to the whole match which sets up Akiyama as injured but a gamer. This match never lets up. Having seen and reviewed a lot of All Japan recently this is still ***** BABY and one of the most underrated matches of all time!

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