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[2000-01-17-AJPW-New Year's Giant Series] Toshiaki Kawada vs Kenta Kobashi

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Toshiaki Kawada vs Kenta Kobashi - AJPW 01/17/00


Kawada's big return match falls flat even though he goes onto have 5 ****+ matches in his last truly great year of his career. This felt like their routine good match. They are laying in all their shots and everything looks good, but there is no sense of electricity. They are just going through the motions. Most wrestlers wish that their matches looked like this when they were going through the motions, but still can't be but a little disappointed by what I believe is the last ever Kawada/Kobashi singles match. Kawada levels Kobashi as soon as the bell rings with a big boot to say I'm back, bitch. Kawada plays king of the mountain at the beginning using his feet to keep the fiery Kobashi at bay. In a popular All Japan transition spot, Kobashi wins a suplex battle and takes over with short running knee lifts. Kawada answers in kind with one of his favorite transition spots, the sudden spinning heel kick. Kawada is focusing on the face of Kobashi with all these running big boots. I liked their apron sequence the best where Kawada hits a true axe kick, but Kobashi does the All Japan no-sell and clobbers him with a BURNING LARIAT! At this point, we get that classic Kawada selling that just makes his match as Kobashi begins to unload his offense. Kobashi really wants to hit his moonsault and Kawada really does not want to be hit by it. So Kobashi slaps on a sleeper to drain Kawada's energy, which is pretty effective psychology. Kobashi hits his powerbomb, but cant manage the half-nelson suplex, which Kawada hits an enziguiri out of. Kawada gets his own powerbomb, but when he goes to the well again Kobashi-rana counters albeit very botched. I am surprised Kobashi would do a Misawa spot and not only that fuck it up. Kawada adds a wrinkle with an armbar takedown -> cross armbreaker, which Kobashi sold well while in the hold, but does not have much significance. Kobashi All Japan no sells a back drop driver and wins a double lariat battle. He throws Kawada with a Tiger suplex and the jacknife powerbomb only gets two. Kobashi goes to hit his lariat, but Kawada can't even stand up on his own so Kobashi stands him up just to knock him down with BURNING LARIAT! I feel like the finish is like a metaphor for the like the system, man, you know. :)


It is the best hits of Kawada/Kobashi, but it did not feel like any spots until the very quick finish had any sort of consequence. It was just a fun exhibition of moves. Stuff like the Kobashi sleeper or the Kawada cross-armbreaker really could have added interesting new dynamics to their match. As it stood, it is just par for the course. ***1/2

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I watched this maybe a year ago. I can't remember. In fact, I can't remember much about this at all. Like a lot of the 2000 AJPW matches that came before the split this is just kind of there.

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Aside from lucha as a whole, Kawada is probably the biggest gap in my wrestling viewing history. I've never seen a head to head match between these two so I really enjoyed this and imagine it will rank much higher for me than it will the average voter. I do wish Kobashi had sold the cross armbreaker better, but this was my favorite match so far.

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I thought this was a real quality match. Kawada was the king in 2000 and he was really great here. He really has some of the greatest selling and defensive spots, knows exactly how to make a comeback and when he's on offense he's killing Kobashi. I dug Kobashi, especially his failed fighting spirit attempt after Kawada wasted his mid-section, he also took all the suplexes like a champ and him flying into a Gamengiri was ballsy, but he did kind of make Kawada look like a bitch in the last couple minutes. This ended at just the right time.

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There wasn't a whole lot that was particularly memorable here as much of tthe way seemed to be lacking any focus or build rather trading and going on cruise control until the finishing run. Which means that this was still great by most standards but just good for these guys. Some great, high level counters that these guys work to avoid the other's big moves which is no surprise given their skill and familiarity, but they pull it off so smoothly and string them together at such a pace that its still really something to see even outside the context of a huge match. Some fun fighting spiritTM near the end that many may not be a fan of but I love in limited doses. For some reason I also enjoyed seeing them shake after the match. Maybe because they knew where things would head later in the year?

 

***3/4

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I love both of these guys but this disappointed me to a good degree. This made had a bit of restraint but still some head drops going on in the final third of the match. Up to that though, it just felt lifeless and they didn't do anything to reinvent or make things interesting. The Misawa vs. Kawada 7/99 match is disappointing but does show a different approach. This felt like a by the numbers Carnival match where they did some stuff and then went home. It even had some sloppiness mixed in. I got the same vibe when Kawada returned for injury vs. Hase at the Tokyo Dome so perhaps that is just him easing back into things, but this was about the basement level for these two and it is sad to me this was their last match together. ***

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I don't know, this match hasn't lost much for me. I thought this was a borderline great match. It kind of evolved from All Japan's version of a Tenryu-Hashimoto strike battle to a stalemate. If it's hurt by anything, it's that neither guy was dominant at any point in a way that was truly decisive. I suppose that being a good or bad thing is a matter of interpretation. I loved the drama over the cross armbreaker at the end and the double lariat spot during Kobashi's Hulk Up was a pretty cool twist too. As is customary, Kawada lost in his return match, but pushed Kobashi pretty hard. ***3/4

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Good match. The match was sort of plodding at times without the level of intensity to raise it to a great match, but it was a solid back and forth match. I liked the sequence where Kawada was avoiding the moonsault setup. I wanted to believe Kawada had the match won with the cross armbreaker, but Kobashi survived.

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This was a match of two halves. Both Kobashi and Kawada are masters at their trade at this point, and you can see that in how they form their matches. For the most part, they create the allusion of reality within their holds. Their facials and body expressions sell even the most simplest of sleepers to us as the audience. Kawada so visibly contorting his face when Kobashi has him down can do nothing other than driving the vocal crowd into rallying behind him and screaming for him to make his comeback. Yet, sadly, both men would walk a fine line between creating drama through emotions and through high-impact moves to pop the crowd rather than logically fleshing them out. Kobashi, for instance, works a beautiful upper game on Kawada yet when Kawada makes the enziguiri to Kenta on the apron, Kobashi simply acts as if nothing had happened and followed it with a deathly lariat. Fighting spirit is a wondrous tool to use within the Japanese setting (hell, in any wrestling match), yet it’s one that is far too relied upon in moments that do not need it or, as is most often the case, a tool that is used in too much of a contrived manner.

 

This would be the last encounter between these two all-time great wrestlers which, considering, is a sad fact of reality. In what I would personally have hoped to be a great culmination to their meetings, the match rather delivers an allusion to a gourmet meal that’s sadly been tainted with the junk food of contemporary Japanese wrestling.

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This felt like their routine good match. They are laying in all their shots and everything looks good, but there is no sense of electricity. They are just going through the motions.

 

This is exactly how I felt during and after the match. Still a very good match even after saying that.

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It became clear that the style & direction of the promotion had changed after Giant Baba's demise. It seems that Kobashi turned himself into a hulkster as he restricted his selling & seemed to rejuvenate like that of a tanned, bandanna wearing, spray-on beard sporting fella. Kawada on the other hand was still great albeit a little thinner but maybe even a little stiffer...at times. He took the Japanese Sterling Golden to town with his kicks & didn't let up until he was concussed by Kobashi's deadly suplexes & powerbombs. At 18 minutes it was criminally short but seeing how the match had little build-up, it ended just in time for it to be a real winner.

 

Stylistically one could consider this an interpromotional AJPW/NOAH match, as in spirit it was. It was Kawada vs. Noah Kobashi...and was very enjoyable.

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This had everything I want out of a All japan singles match: short, all action and no Misawa. This wasn't epic but very hard hitting. Those slaps reminded me of the Oney Lorcan/Danny burch series. The finish was abrupt but didn't hurt the match. The thing that seems apparent to me watching these 2000 All Japan matches is how checked out/bored the guys seems. Especially Misawa and Kobashi.

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I wasn't too excited about watching this, but I gave it a go since it's their last match (and in the spirit of the project and whatnot) and wound up liking it quite a bit. Kawada was the best wrestler in the world in 2000 and he was exceptional in this. I don't think he took a great deal less of the match than Kobashi did, but the way he sold told you who the dominant one was. I mean, I wasn't in love with Kobashi Hulking Up or doing the fighting spirit spots, but they were almost worth it to see how Kawada would sell for whatever Kobashi would hit him with afterwards. All of Kawada's kicks were great as well. It felt like he always had the kicker's chance and I loved the enziguri to fight off Kobashi's dogged attempt at the German suplex. He can hit those kicks from anywhere and that if nothing else leaves him in the fight. And we also got some of his dead on his feet, thousand-yard-stare selling for good measure. The way he just kind of crumpled at the end was probably my favourite example, partly because it led to Kobashi's monster exclamation point of a standing lariat.

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There’s not a whole lot to sink your teeth into with this, aside from some stiff chops and big bombs. I mean, Kobashi gets dumped on his head with a backdrop within the first 30 seconds. There’s a little bit of story surrounding Kawada going after Kobashi’s leg to set-up some offense but not much else. I liked the little squabble on the apron, and the big repeat neck chops from Kobashi, which Kawada sold really well with his crumple into the ropes. In general, I thought he sold really well for Kobashi’s offense. And I always love Kawada’s little combo spurts. But the transitions felt wonky and the finishing stretch was mostly just Kobashi being Kobashi without much retaliation from Kawada before he falls to the lariat.

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Kawada's selling just made this for me, such a goddamn maestro of putting over moves, drunkenly stumbling, grimacing his face, threatening to pass out on a sleeper, etc. He really just gave a shit about every move, y'know? The fighting spirit stuff I usually can't stand but I tend to make exceptions for those moments where a guy pops up, hits one big move, and falls flat down in exhaustion/pain right away. Buuuuut doing it like ten time in a few minutes wares on me super quick. Kobashi getting dropped on his head was massively unnecessary too, especially at the beginning of the match. I loved that little failed kick + near-collapse Kawada did right at the end, like that was the signal that that was truly it - he had nothing left on this night, time to pack it up. I liked this, I did, but it's hard not to feel some sort of upsetting feeling watching this kind of thing knowing what All Japan was a few years earlier.

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How unfortunate is it that this is their last meeting? 

This isn’t bad -- it’s actually kind of good in a greatest hits sort of way -- but it’s marred by the excesses that had pervaded AJPW’s house style around this time, and lacked the intensity/drama to elevate their indulgences. A head-drop bomb almost immediately to start the match, and then a finishing stretch rife with head-drops that are poorly sold in the name of FIGHTING SPIRIT~~. I’m pretty numb to this shit in 2021.

Kawada looked great coming off of injury, though. His usual awesome strikes and tremendous selling were all readily present. And despite my reservations with his style here, Kobashi works very hard, and takes some lumps to make a returning Kawada look like a force to still be reckoned with.

***¼
 

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