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[1998-04-11-AJPW-Championship Carnival] Kenta Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama

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This was an excellent match. Kobashi doesn't do it very often, but he really is excellent at working holds. He does some really nice arm work and gets a crossface (a simple forearm lodged into Akiyama's face - not the Benoit version) over big time by really cinching it in, also later applying it from almost an abdominal stretch position. He also does a really beautiful vertical suplex, maybe one of the best ones I've ever seen. He is completely dominant early. Akiyama turns the tide with a dragon screw leg whip on Kobashi's knee as he's coming from the top rope, which was a really cool transition. Akiyama goes right for the knee and stays on it. He's not as dynamic as Kobashi on offense, so the match suffers a little bit when he takes over, but he's very good by any other human standard. When Kobashi starts to rally back, Akiyama manages to catch him with yet another dragon screw leg whip. From there, they moved into a hot final few minutes of trading falls with Kobashi still heavily favoring his knee. This was a great match - one of my favorites of '98 to this point - but it also showed that Akiyama had an impossible act to follow in being positioned to carry the next generation. The knee stuff was completely made by Kobashi's selling of it.

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It could say something about that match quality of 1998 that this is my #2 match 1/4 of the way through the year. That takes nothing away from this match as it was great and Kobashi seemed particulary inspired to help put Akiyama over but this wasn't presented as much more than a stepping stone type match to be developed within a Champion Carnival tournament. The leg work was great from Akiyama. and Kobashi was gritty and showed restraint to sell the damage and not do too much in his comeback. The 30 minute draw actually snuck up on me. (****1/4)

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30m of mainly good action, no real bad moments and a hot crowd. Another notch for All Japan in the top matches of 1998 long list. Whilst I can't deny the quality it did feel very formulaic. A little stale and a draw all the way. Compared to the Mis vs Kaw 3/29 match they had loads more big moves and near falls in this one. Both men unloaded the big guns and threatened at different points. The structure felt very mindful and deliberate. As I said in the aforementioned bout I prefer an organic structure for draws. Jun did some pointless work on the unbandaged knee. Previously he had been the rising young star. Now in 1998 he was feeling like part of the furniture. They really could have done with another rookie from the early 90's to come through. When the four corners rose to prominence it was a whole new generation. With Akiyama it was only one guy to add to the main event pool.

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I really liked the way this one built from the working of holds to Kobashi selling the leg to the run of big moves at the end. Felt like the best All-Japan match of the year to this point. I didn't find the draw severely telegraphed, though I knew it was coming.

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Yeah, this is a low-level MOTYC, or it would be in most other years--here it may finish strongly. It's a hell of a match and Akiyama feels like a winner just for withstanding Kobashi's final assault. There were at least 4 or 5 kickouts that blindsided me, and yet the match never felt overindulgent. 3/4 of this is similar to the Misawa TC match earlier in the year, but Kobashi actually appears to be in danger at times before his big comeback, and said comeback isn't entirely successful, so all in all this makes for a better match.

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Kenta Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama - AJPW 4/11/98

 

Kobashi, my man, welcome back to my life! He totally dominates the first ten minutes as he should because he is the greatest offensive wrestler in history and he proves in these ten minutes. I liked the early blocks from each man. Kobashi blocking the knee and Akiyama blocking the chop. Kobashi getting Akiyama to fall for the test of strength only for Akiyama to outmaneuver him was great. The rest was all Kobashi as he landed the first heavy blow in the form of big chops. He threw some heavy hands with great sound. Those running kneelifts were awesome and so was the Russian Legsweep. He crossfaces Akiyama ferociously and then hits a picture perfect delayed vertical. Boston Crab that looks great with plenty of struggle and back to crossface in ab stretch. Kobashi looks to run away with this, will Akiyama make a comeback or is he just all hype?

 

Well you knew things were going to break Akiyama's way. Kobashi is perched on top and Akiyama dragon leg screws him from the top. Kobashi sells like his knee has been blown out. I realized how much I missed having Kobashi in my life. Absolutely great knee control segment. Awesome selling by Kobahsi, Akiyama always going to knee for cutoff anytime Kobashi tries to chop his way out of trouble. Good use of Texas Cloverleaf. Kobashi able to block a high knee in corner by throwing him down and then hotshotting him. Kobashi looks to headdrop his way to victory with two awesome DDTs made awesome by Akiyama selling and a Dragon Suplex. Goes for killshot with moonsault, but Akiyama dragon leg screws him off. Awesome! Great work on the knee again kneecrusher, dropkick that sets up some big time Germans and elbow to the back of the head. Akiyama has successfully come from behind and made the most of his opportunity will he get the biggest singles win of his career or will the fighting spirit of Kenta Kobashi prevail!

 

Love the work into the Exploders. Kobashi grabs ropes, then armdrag out then tries spinning back chop and then Akiyama finally hits Exploder that's great wrestling. Big high knee sets up Second Exploder only gets two. Third Exploder and Kobashi elbow and nice STO takedown to stymie Akiyama. Kobashi gets the half nelson suplex and gets a second one for a big two count. Anybody's ball game right now! Loved the struggle over the powerbomb Kobashi really struggled hard. He threw Akiyama down. Akiyama has been taking Kobashi's offense like a champ. Kobashi wants the lariat badly, but Akiyama looks for the Exploder. Kobashi hits a DDT and then this absolutely sick Vertical Suplex into Powerbomb! ALL HAIL KOBASHI THE GOD KING OF OFFENSE! As time is winding down, Kobashi wants the moonsault, but Akiyama rolls away and the crowd audibly groans. Akiyama begins kicking the knee just to survive, they work one more half nelson suplex as a nearfall before time limit expires.

 

Big time draw for Akiyama to show his growth. Much like Kobashi drawing Kawada in the mid-90s. Akiyama is gradually working his way the top. Kobashi worked really strong here with great offense and selling. Thought Akiyama ate Kobashi's offense like a champ and when it came time to work the knee he did a great job. Thought the finish sequence was exciting, lots of struggle and drama down the stretch. Not an all-time All Japan classic, but definitely one of the mid-tier, under the radar ones worth checking out. ****1/4

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Jun Akiyama has a mustache! „Maybe if I grow this beard, I will finally be taken seriously as a main eventer?“ Man, what the FUCK is going on in AJPW with every match going 30 minutes?? Make this a little more compact, and you would've ended up with a serious MOTYC. Peppering things up with some holds and teasing spots rather than hitting them adds a lot to the usual AJ formula. Akiyama going for Dragon Screws after getting punished with crossfaces and boston crabs was so much better than Akiyama hitting a bazillion exploidas and heinys. The same can be said for Kobashi who came back with a big chop that nearly broke Akiyama's face. They miscalculated the match pacing, so they were forced to do a bunch of laying around between nearfalls and the last 10 minutes of this were just really stretched paper thin and somewhat forced. Still, the struggling and teasing over big moves was world class (of course being 1998 they also throw out a little too many big moves. Man, it's weird when the Orange Crush is just another move to throw out for a nearfall). Kobashi had one of his better days, hitting an awesome STO and being on point with his leg selling.


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