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Charles (Loss)

[1998-05-01-AJPW-25th Anniversary Show] Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada

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Misawa fought pretty desperately, but he wasn't at 100% and it showed. Kawada takes most of the offense in this and shockingly finally beats Misawa to win the Triple Crown after six years of chasing him. This was very good, but was pretty one-sided overall with Misawa really taking a heavy beating. Good for Kawada finally figuring this out, I just wish it had happened a few years sooner. This is a match I really liked, although I don't think it was at the level of their other TC matches.

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After 8 years AJ returns to the Dome. How Kawada must have wished they'd done this sooner. Maybe the result here was enough? It certainly wasn't a memorable contest. For 25m it meandered along, never getting out of low gear. Then a few minutes of excitement to finish. It wasn't like Kawada had to do anything out of the ordinary to get the win. Nowhere near the level they were at a month earlier, so you'd have to put it down to injuries.

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This certainly lacked the drama you'd want from a long quest culminated. But honestly, that payoff came in the 6/9/95 tag match. Kawada looked great, hitting some brilliantly timed kicks. Misawa did what he could. It would have been nice if Kawada had won by going a different route somehow. Instead, his old approach simply worked this time around. These are all pretty obvious things to say. I still felt good for Kawada in the final moments as the crowd got juiced for his last big run of offense.

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There are some matches that I know I like more than almost anyone else and this has been one of them. It was when I first watched it as the 4th puro match I had ever seen in 2001 and it still rang true this morning. The plight of Kawada gaining the Tirple Crown win over Misawa seems like a natural reason for my affection, but that has very little to do with it in the overall scheme. I appreciate the length of this. At 28 minutes, it didn't feel unecessairly long and worked hand in hand their 30 minute draw a little over a month earlier. Speaking of which, this match took the concepts laid out in that match and amped them up. The kickouts here were appropriate and not excessive. Kawada does go to the same well he has before but Misawa just doesn't have enough in him to come back this time. That doesn't mean Misawa didnt dry his damndest. I loved his stoic selling throughout this. Misawa isn't backing down and fires back with his elbow as bravely as he can, but you get the sense that after the first high kick, Misawa realizes he doesn't have it in him anymore. This plays off beautifully his struggles and triumph from the Carnival in 1998; Retrospect is almost tragic in a way as this wouldd have been a brillant swan song for Misawa in the 6/8/90 Jumbo vein where he has a few more glory years and then fades away on his own accord. We know that didn't happen to be the case but this match and performance was fitting for a Dome performance. (****1/2)

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I agree with soup that people are underrating this. It took me 4 or 5 viewings (and some Japanese language study) to "get" this match but I now think that this was a perfect fit for AJ's first dome show main event. Sure, they didn't cut a fast pace, nor did it feel as competitive as their prior TC matches, but those weren't things they were trying to do either. The match comes across much better when you realize that it wasn't a secret that Misawa was wrestling with several injuries and in overall bad shape, and the commentator even explains such. Misawa's selling was perfectly adjusted for the occasion, looking less like the stoic ace and moreso a wounded dog desperately trying to stay the stoic ace but, ultimately, finding himself unable to keep up with his old rival. You know shit has gotten real when he writhes out in agony during the figure four segment. The match lacks that big run of offense where you think Misawa might pull it out, but I think it was for the best because Kawada just seemed too powerful on this night and too focused on finally stepping out of Misawa's shadow to let anything get in the way. It's beautiful how the match plays off of Misawa's usual formula where, during the point of the match when he usually starts his big comeback, he's too weak to pull it off and ends up getting pinned. I'd argue it's an unsung epic overall, not in the usual way of having amazing back-and-forth action that keeps you guessing, but in how it serves as an amazing build-up to the unforgettable moment of Kawada winning his first TC in 3 years and at last beating his career rival on AJ's biggest show ever.

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One cute moment was right at the pinfall: first, Kawada goes for the most personally-invasive cover of all time, literally laying on top of Misawa like he's raping him. (You can do all the Freudian analysis in the world of that bit.)

 

But more importantly, right after the three count: he leaps up and raises his arms in triumph. Hurling his clenched fists towards the heavens, as if trying to punch God in the face. He never did that in his OTHER victories over Misawa, either in 6/9/95 or in the 97 CC finals. Before, there was always some excuse that kept it from being a totally decisive victory: Taue did most of the work for Kawada, or Akiyama bungled the match for Misawa, or Misawa was already exhausted from wrestling previously in the evening. After those pinfall victories, Kawada just sat there with a rather blank look on his face. But here, for once, Toshiaki straight-up kicked Mitsuharu's ass, which had never happened before; and after the ref counts three there's an exultant feeling of "FINALLY~!" in Kawada's body language that looks absolutely real.

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It's at least a year too late, but this was a satisfying effort in the end--in fact it might be the match I've enjoyed the most in 1998 so far. It's kind of a Kawada carry-job, but it works--and I actually kind of like the idea that Kawada just went out and executed his game plan and won. The big gimmick for this, as big of a gimmick as AJPW gets, was that this match had no time limit. That brings to mind visions of an overindulgent 45-60 minute "epic" and we didn't get that here. In a way the relatively perfunctory victory served as a sort of swerve in its own right, even though this conclusion seemed pretty foregone (what could you possibly do with Misawa if he wins again?). MOTY for the first 5 months, though certainly off of these guys' mid-'90s peak.

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AJPW Triple Crown Champion Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada - AJPW Tokyo Dome 5/1/98

 

It has been about a decade since I saw this. With the advent of Youtube in 2006, the Misawa/Kawada rivalry was one of the first things that grabbed me. For all those that argue that story of All Japan should be told through the eyes of Kawada this is validation and for their hero vindication for being the ultimate choke artist. On the main event of the first AJPW dome show with the Four Corners at the forefront, Baba booked Misawa vs Kawada not Misawa vs Kobashi and it was Kawada FINALLY scoring the pinfall victory over his archrival in a Triple Crown match that was the story of the Dome show.

 

I was unaware going into this match that Misawa was very badly injured. It explains the sluggishness of the match and why a lot of the match did not really stick with me on first viewing. Kawada kicks the leg of Misawa at the beginning and Misawa fired off some kicks of his own, but he still sold his leg. This told me something was up I thought it was due to the Akiyama match, but perhaps he was nursing an injured leg. I would say Misawa was generally in control of the beginning and had an answer for everyone of Kawada's shots and ultimately hitting his massive suicide dive elbow to the outside. Kawada turned the tide with his trademark close range spinning heel kick. I loved Kawada quick follow ups anytime Misawa looked poised to make a comeback, he would fire off a big kick to the face. He seemed more tempered in this match and only became urgent when he felt like it may slip away. This is not a bad narrative to cover up the sluggishness due to Misawa's injuries. Misawa mounts his first comeback with his elbows. He looks for the Tiger Suplex that won him the match at 6/3/94, but Kawada gets to the ropes and finally kicks the bad knee of Misawa. I like that Kawada felt he was in danger and finally pulled out trump which was attacking the bad wheel. Great knee work single leg crab, figure-4 good struggle over the holds and great Misawa selling, facially and verbally. Given his health, this was the best and smartest work until the finish sequence as it required little movement, but created big drama.

Misawa ELBOWS THROUGH A BLOCK! I love that shit. Misawa is obsessed with the Tiger Suplex, big elbow to the back of the nexk and finally hoists him over for two. Misawa goes to block an enziguiri and hurts his arm. Damn, he can win. Elbows, but wrings his arm out. I wonder if Kawada notices. He kicks Misawa's arm off and then tries a cross armbreaker. He noticed. :)

 

I didn't feel like the cross armbreaker was being respected here. Misawa elbows, but his arm is shot and now he cant follow up. Now he is moving onto the Tiger Driver nice backdrop, pinfall, reverse Tiger Driver sequence. Kawada blocks elbow and Misawa's elbow is very damaged. This is something Kawada has tried to do for five years, finally destroy Misawa's base, his elbow. Misawa fires off a couple suplexes for two. Without his elbow, can Misawa finish off Kawada? Kappo Kick by Kawada and Enziguiri right on the forehead swings the momentum in Kawada's favor. Misawa backdrops out of first powerbomb, big lariat and throws him on German, enziguiri. Misawa not stirring. Kappo Kick to the head, headrop German and enziguiri. Kawada is just repeating headshots to lead to Brainbuster! Powerbomb struggle this is the story of Misawa/Kawada right here. He drops him down for two and then powerbomb again and THROWS HIM DOWN FOR THREE!!!! KAWADA WINS! KAWADA WINS! KAWADA WINS!

 

The finish is the best part. Even if Misawa and Kobashi have surpassed Kawada as my favorites, you cant help but rooting for Wile E. Coyote and his neverending quest to get the Roadrunner. He finally did it here. Good for him! The last 15 minutes are great, but the first 15 are pretty passé. Once Kawada kicks Misawa in the leg because he is scared of the Tiger Suplex, I thought this picked up. It never felt like that super epic AJPW match nor did tell this great narrative within the match, but it was a strong episode in the greater Misawa/Kawada story. Kawada finally achieves damaging Misawa's elbow almost by accident. Misawa just wanted to block a kick and from there his arm is shot. Misawa never really recovers, which shows Kawada's strategy was right all along he just needed executed it this well. Between his elbow gone and other injuries, Kawada goes in for kill with a barrage of shots to the head, every kick, throw is targeted at knocking Misawa out. Great finish. The Loveable Loser is the Champion! ****

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#381

 

I really liked this. It may have been Kawada beating up a banged up Misawa and the result may have come too late for some folks, but when you hear the Japanese call and the crowd erupt it's pretty special. To me it felt like Misawa's injuries meant they reeled things in and had a really solid minimalist bout. I don't know how I'd feel if I watched it in its linear context, but I watched their 7/93 match a few days ago and then this and I didn't think there was any tremendous drop off.

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#381 - http://placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-400-351/

 

I knew I was going to love this within the first sixty seconds. The selling from Misawa was fantastic throughout and Kawada really brought the high impact offense to him the entire time. There was an incredible shot of the crowd with about five minutes to go, and by watching this cranked up in my headphones I really got the feel for this molten crowd. I think I'm closer to Chad with this one at probably around ****1/2. I really loved it.

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I liked this match, but it really seemed like they didn't know what story they were trying to tell. Obviously it was meant to be Kawada finally getting the job done after years of coming up short against Misawa, but how the route they took felt rather disjointed. First Kawada works over Misawa's leg, which I suppose could have been done to take away Misawa's flying maneuvers and leverage for using the Tiger Driver, but then it gets dropped in favor of working the arm. OK, take away the rolling elbow. But then that gets dropped in favor of going after Misawa's head and neck. This one at least stuck until the end and the finishing stretch is an awesome bombfest. Still, it felt like they took way too many needless detours to get to the finishing stretch. I could buy it if the story was supposed to be that Kawada was so desperate to win he used every strategy he could think of until he found one that worked, but I don't think that's what they were going for.

 

Still a great match but definitely one of the lesser encounters between these two.

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Finally, a bit of a return to form for Misawa. This wasn't a bad match and had plenty of neat exchanges throughout. I really enjoyed Kawada selling the elbows and Misawa did a neat job putting his banged up leg over early in the match (not that it was much of a factor later on... but I liked it!). On the other hand, it was yet another near 30 minute epic that took a long time to get hot. The work was less randomly thrown together than their match earlier in the year, but still left something to be desired. Also, I thought there could have been a better layout. Much of the early part of the match is Kawada trying to hang on and finding a way to isolate Misawa's weaknesses and Misawa cutting him off. Then at the end Kawada gets a sudden run of big moves together to put his rival away. I think the match would've been more effective if it were Kawada working over Misawa and cutting off his comebacks, then putting that brilliant sequence together. Yeah, I can armchair book too! I don't know whether to love or hate Misawa eating a series of armbreakers and then hitting elbows with that exact arm and then having it hang like a limp noodle. Armbreakers were used much better in GAEA and BattlARTS for sure.


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I believe Misawa is going into this very messed up, and it unfortunately shows. Misawa doesn't do anything bad, but he is just a passenger really that can only offer his best moves, which is still fun to watch in all fairness. Kawada steps up big time though to help carry the load by beating hell out of Misawa. The finish was amazing, a nice homage to the Tenryu/Jumbo finish as well. ***

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