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Charles (Loss)

[1998-04-18-AJPW-Championship Carnival] Mitsuharu Misawa vs Jun Akiyama

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Going to the Carnival final against Misawa is a really big platform for Akiyama. They do a very different match than they did in January, going all out from the opening bell. I like how Misawa is more offensive-minded when he's in a Carnival match than he is when he's defending his title. It's the difference between wrestling to win and wrestling to not lose. Akiyama goes after Misawa's leg right away, trying the same strategy that helped him go the distance with Kobashi a few days earlier. Akiyama's offense reminds me a lot of Muto with the dragon screw leg whips and figure four. Misawa gives Akiyama quite a bit in this match. I like how they worked the finishing stretch with Misawa just weathering the storm by taking all of Akiyama's best shots and finally mustering his extended comeback until the elbow brought the match home. Great final - not at the level of the classic finals from 1994-1996, but still a great match.

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Misawa wins the Carnival for the 2nd time following 1995. The only reasoning behind his victory I can think of was that other wrestlers had won it twice in the 90's so it Misawa needed to catch up. He certainly didn't need a push, and him winning the tournament doesn't accomplish anything. Uninspiring booking from what had become a stale promotion. Whilst they may have done things in a different order, this ended up feeling like a rehash of their January bout. Only a bit worse. There certainly wasn't any progression with Akiyama's status. Too much time outside the ring early doors. It acquired a foothold with some leg work, if that makes sense. Jun threatens the win, doesn't happen, meandering conclusion. Technically you could say it was a strong match, but it's been done a lot better on so many occasions by this point.

 

As a sidenote Akiyama would eventually win the Champion Carnival. 15 years later! Even if Baba had stayed alive he wouldn't have made him wait that long.

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A worthy Carny final though as Loss said, not in the top tier. Misawa came out harder than he did in their Jan. match but again, Akiyama fought him off and put him on the defensive with an exploder on the floor. Misawa came up with a great counter to a second exploder attempt, pushing off the apron with his foot and driving Akiyama into the barricade. As in other matches this year, Akiyama's control sections weren't always dynamic. But he looked damn good when stringing together big moves to set up near falls. Misawa sold the leg at some opportune moments, lending meaning to Akiyama's mid-match work. So yeah, very good match, but I have to agree that it didn't portray any real progress for Akiyama. I guess it confirmed Misawa's strength going into the Dome defense against Kawada. But it's not like his strength was really in doubt.

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I am really perplexed as why this wasn't Kawada vs. Akiyama as a final helping Kawada gain some momentum heading into the Dome match.

 

As for this match, I thought it was great and commendable of how different this was compared to the September and January matches. The matches between these two keep getting better and better and this one felt right on the brink of being a classic. Misawa had a very different strategy and wasn't going to wait around for Akiyama to take the fight to him. Akiyama still found an opening with the leg and worked it well. Misawa is able to sell damage without being overly expressive betraying his character archtype better than anyone I can remember. The finish was sublime with Misawa throwing out the arsenal and clinching the victory with the vicious elbow strike. Splendid stuff. (****1/4)

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One thread running through this CC was Taue suffering a bad knee injury early on, causing him to forfeit some matches and get his other matches in and over with in under 10 minutes or so. It's possible that that fucked up the planned booking, though I don't know to what extent if at all. In any case, this was an excellent match and may well be the best MOTY so far in '98. All those recurring dragon screws off the turnbuckles could look really contrived, but these two find ways to make it work, make it look organic, and sell it as a major turning point in any match when Akiyama hits it. Both guys bust out some new offense here--for Jun that's been a running theme for the first quarter of the year, but even Misawa busts out a diamond cutter here to set up the stepover facelock. Some of his elbow-based transitions and comebacks are fantastic too, even by his standards.

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I enjoyed this a whole lot more than the January match. Seemed like the perfect time to make Akiyama, but I know the Dome was coming up and it had to be this way. However, what a hell of a way to setup a challenger for Kawada whom he had a good match with during this Carnival. Top level AJPW for 1998.

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I really enjoyed this. Watching it on its own, not thinking about the bigger picture, I really had several heart stopping moments where I thought Akiyama might just win it. After the excitement of the near falls though, the finish did feel a bit flat. I don't think not winning here really hurt Akiyama at all. He came across here as on Misawa's level and only a big move away from victory.

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Mitsuharu Misawa vs Jun Akiyama - AJPW 4/18/98

 

Much better than their January match. Far more energetic. Akiyama looks to start off hot like in January, but Misawa comes roaring back with elbows, no selling every vicious shot to say he is here to win as much as Akiyama. He even gets the Tiger Driver early. Akiyama powders which seems smart as Misawa is raring to go, which is unusual given his penchant for slow starts, extended comebacks. However, as pointed out, he is not the champion in this match as it is a Carny final so he needs to win. Akiyama hits a Northern Lights Suplex on outside and big diving elbow from top to outside. On an Exploder attempt, Misawa kicks off apron to crush Akiyama's ribs into the railing. Really nice counter. Misawa's control is pretty straightforward, he lays everything in and front facelock. Match picks back up again when Akiyama catches Misawa with a dragon leg screw off the top. The first move Akiyama tried in this match was a dragon leg screw so he definitely came in with a game plan coming off the big Kobashi draw. You don't see Misawa's legs targeted too often. Thought this was a great mix of selling from Misawa and work by Akiyama. Suplex struggle turns into a dropkick to the knee by Akiyama cements his control, good work on outside before transitioning into the inside working holds. Akiyama tries the dragon leg screw from the top but Misawa counters with a missile dropkick to the face! Right on the button! Misawa works the front facelock and Akiyama is able to get back to the leg to turn the tide. In return for the missile dropkick, Akiyama rides Misawa's face down with the knee. Here comes the big finish run for Akiyama: Spike Pedigree, top rope diving elbow to back of head, reverse powerbomb quick snap German, takes out knee, Exploder only gets two. The knee work has served Akiyama well and he is getting in position to hit multiple Exploders, but it just does not feel like he something that would fell Misawa. He comes rushing in for that trademark high knee in the corner, but is met by an elbow. Couple absolutely wicked Germans (Akiyama takes them and sells them well) and Misawa does a great job registering the previous damage but moving on. The Tiger Suplex which defeated Kawada at 6/3/94 is now just a nearfall move before the Tiger Driver, weird. Misawa is really flicking the sweat from his eyes. Akiyama's brainbuster is his last stand. Akiyama goes for Exploder, his one bomb, but Misawa hits a massive elbow combination (Roaring, Spinning Back, Roaring) and a sweet Kappo Kick before the blowaway elbow wins it for the Man.

 

The decline of Misawa is already evident at this point to me. He still has plenty of classics left in him and his matches are great, but he is missing that spark in his control segments. He has it in the finish runs. His selling is still top notch. This felt routine but with good energy. Strong beginning, lull (Misawa control) until the hook of the knee attack by Akiyama, lull (Misawa control), finish stretch. One of those this would be great for everyone else, but for All Japan this gets lost in the pack. ****1/4

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This is a match that left me really dry. You can only watch so many AJ epics before it gets irritating. The "fast paced opening with surprise big moves" would be a lot more exciting if those big moves didn't get no sold constantly. Then a bunch of filler stuff ensues and Akiyama out of nowhere almost breaks Misawa's face with the reverse calf branding and drops him straight on his head with the GANZO PEDIGREE and you wonder what the hell the point of all this is. The one cool thing in the match was Misawa countering the attempted exploder outside the ring.

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I went into this hopeful, having enjoyed their January match for the 3-Crown, and also having enjoyed Akiyama's Carnival matches against Hansen, Kawada, Kobashi, and Ace. But, I can't say that this did a whole lot for me. It just didn't strike me that Misawa really cared to make Jun look good this time around, he totally no-sells the opening Dragon screw. Later on, when Akiyama works over the leg for a bit, Misawa makes his comeback by kicking him away and him doing a dropkick of all things! The knee doesn't factor into his having trouble doing any of his usual moves, including a bridging Tiger suplex for a near fall.  Akiyama gives Misawa his best shots, and Misawa just sucks it up and makes it look easy to put him away.

 

And I echo the sentiments on why Misawa even needed to be here in the first place? Given that he was taking some time off after the Dome, there's a storyline right there of having him miss the finals and lose the titles, leading to his time off.

 

 

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