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[1998-07-24-AJPW-Summer Action Series] Kenta Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama

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This is a beautiful wrestling match. Kobashi goes out of his way to make Akiyama look great by giving him so much of the match, and Akiyama does some outstanding work on Kobashi's bad knee. It's the obvious route, sure, but it's also the best route for this match. What impressed me here was the variety from both guys - Akiyama has a lot of varied offense focused on the knee while Kobashi's brief teased comebacks are full of all kinds of great striking and lariats, with the final one being enough to eek out a win for him. If there's a flaw here (and it's debatable that it is one), it's Kobashi getting so decimated in his first Triple Crown title defense. But the flip side to that is that Akiyama looks like a world beater. I thought this was a total classic. I need to reflect more, but I think it's my #2 MOTY right now.

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I got totally swept away by this as well, which surprised me. It struck me as real evolutionary performance for Jun. We've learned that spunk and great talent weren't enough to beat Kobashi/Misawa/Kawada. You also needed tremendous focus. And this was the first time Akiyama really showed that in a big match, with his incredible assault on Kobashi's knee. I loved the way Kobashi fended Akiyama off after he drilled the knee the first time. But Akiyama doggedly went back to it and found every way imaginable to destroy that sucker. Kobashi also delivered an exceptional performance, selling a combination of vulnerability and insane toughness. That sequence late in the match, where he felled Jun with a vicious array of chops after hobbling along the edge of the ring, using the top rope to hold himself, was great, harrowing stuff. Tough choice between this and Kawada-Kobashi for All Japan MOTY and maybe for MOTY period.

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After Childs mentioned this in the Kobashi GOAT thread, I decided to re-watch it last night. It really is a super match. The balance that you spoke about is absolutely great. I'm sure some people will take issue at Kobashi's big offence early on (half-nelson on the floor, etc) but I thought that as a way to put over the precariousness of his injury it was a great idea, and, of course, it had to come before Jun's main attack on the knee so as to put the drama in there. The pop-up sequences were well done too, I thought, what with Jun popping up the first time so as to get one last shot on the knee and give himself time to recover, how he later dropkicked the knee as Kobashi lay prone, anticipating the pop-up, etc... and what also needs mentioning is that, in spite of Kobashi giving Jun so much, this being an addendum to Loss' point, they left themselves plenty of room with which to develop the feud: Kobashi's aforementioned early run of bombs, the vigour with which he chopped the hell out of Jun on his comeback, I was left with no doubt that a healthy Kobashi could've creamed him. They also left the Exploder '98 un-hit too. And as a last point, which scarcely needs stating with these guys, perhaps, is that the execution/etc throughout was fantastic, from the half-nelsons and dragon suplexes, to the standard Kobashi vertical suplex where he too takes a bump on the way down thus emphasising the impact (which is a touch more people should adopt - compare that to, say, Davey Boy's delayed vertical and compare the impact). So, yeah, a great match, third for the year behind Kobashi's TCs against Kawada and Misawa.

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Wow, what a beautiful wrestling match that is the most unheralded classic of the entire 1990's All Japan run. In fact, I think I had only seen this one once before this morning. I loved the narrative of Kobashi being the grumpy parent that was the wild, rambunctious child that tried to do things his way. Now, that he has a protege of his own, he just wants the kid to go to bed already. This makes sense in the way that Kobashi threw bombs at the hint of Akiyama targeting the leg and his sleeper and finishing sequence trying to put Akiyama out. Akiyama targeting the knee is beautiful stuff and pushes the limits of seeing him as having a chance. They built this up well by Kawada finally defeating Misawa and then losing to Kobashi. Would Kobashi suffer the same fate? I find it amazing how invested the crowd was and this felt like a huge stepping stone for Akiyama to use for the future. Fantastic stuff and the 1998 All Japan year continues to run on. (****3/4)

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I might have liked this as much as you guys had there been a bit of clipping in the right place. The opening stages were effective here as they only teased the big moves and showed some restraint. Kobashi had come in with a heavily taped knee, and they were just about to move onto the segment where Aki worked it over as the main body of the match. That they did, but not before 5m of head bumping bullshit. It didn't integrate into the match at all and served no useful purpose except to pop the crowd. Late 90's excess at it's worst. I thought that was going to kill it off for me right there. Thankfully, because of the length they had time to work their way back into my good books. It was well structured apart from the Halloween segment and had a big finishing run. KK's selling was a bit theatrical. Jun was knocking at the door, but couldn't quite break through the glass ceiling if you want to mix metaphors.

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I just went through the Kobashi Triple Crown history (watching all of it back to back for the first time), and this match really stood out. I'm not sure if it's the best, but I do think it is my favorite. The selling wasn't too theatrical for my taste, I really bought into it. The way they work over the knee in this match is just fantastic. Kobashi really sells the final lariat as like the last breath of air he'll ever take. Jun is great and creative with the offense. I also love the segment after the match with Kobashi all iced up and it appears he is unable to walk unaided. Great stuff! I think I'd give this one the full *****. I know it's one of my favorite matches either way. I thought it was great the first time a saw it around a year ago, but I thinking watching this all together made it stand out even more.

 

This hit #12 on the list Loss made for the Top 500 matches of the 90's:

 

http://placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-50-1/2/

 

This is my MOTY for 1998.

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I'm going to be the downer on this and recite jdw from his old AJPW '90s Pimping post: it's a good match, even borderline great, but nowhere near an AJPW Top 20 of the '90s list. My main problem was there was a *lot* of problematic stuff that would really take center stage in NOAH, like an overreliance on apron spots and the "take a move and then pop up and hit a move of your own and then sell" shit that will never, ever appeal to me. I did appreciate Akiyama cutting off one of those attempted sequences by dropkicking Kobashi right in the knee as he was ready to pop up again. It does continue the story of Jun doing anything to win, as he focuses in on Kobashi's bad knee whereas Kobashi's other major opponents left it alone. This could make the MOTY list just because it's a weak year for great matches but it's hardly breathing down the spot for #1.

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AJPW Triple Crown Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Jun Akiyama - AJPW 7/24/98

 

I love that even something as well-defined as the All Japan canon can still be re-evaluated and hidden gems found. Before the release of the 98 yearbook in 2014, I had never heard this match discussed in the same breath as Kobashi/Kawada from this year or as an All Japan classic. Watching it now, I definitely it belongs in the same class as the other All Japan epics.

 

At the Champions Carnival 98 Akiyama developed a penchant for attacking the knees of his opponent and with Kobashi having one of his knees heavily taped, you know this will come into play as soon as the first dragon leg screw is attempted within the first five minutes. Akiyama is aggressive as fuck in this match. The beginning is pure intensity. He just elbowing through everything. Kobashi is fighting back, but Akiyama just keeps coming and coming with those vicious elbows. Kobashi tries his old tricks to slow it down like going to the test of strength, but even there Akiyama eventually gets back to the elbows. Akiyama hits a MONSTER HIGH KNEE to the side of Kobashi's head and Kobashi sells it like death. What is interesting about the beginning is that Akiyama fights so hard to get control, but then does not seem to know how to follow it up. Twice, he goes for chinlocks and both times Kobashi powers out and regains the control. The second time, Akiyama decides this is no time to fuck around and dropkicks the knee. I love the initial struggle to hit the second dragon leg screw attempt with Kobashi desperately chopping Akiyama's neck, but it is to no avail as Akiyama wrenches the knee. Kobashi's fire up after this is fucking so invigorating. I was tired going into this match from a day of hiking and swimming in Greece. Watching Kobashi fire up, fired me up! Kobashi knows his only chance to try to finish this match quickly so they trade big suplexes and then on the outside Kobashi kills Akiyama dead with a half nelson suplex. Akiyama is doing a great dead weight sell. Crisis averted. Kobashi nails a DDT, typically great Akiyama sell. Kobashi's bum wheel prevents the first powerbomb attempt, but he is fucking Kobashi so bites the bullet THROWS AKIYAMA DOWN! He cant capitalize and Akiyama rolls to the apron. Kobashi gives pursuit. Then in what appears to be the turning point of the match, Akiyama whips Kobashi off the apron by the knee. OW! Just like that Kobashi looks like dead meat. Akiyama is able to take his time stalking his prey delivering damage to the knee and while also regaining strength.

 

Kobashi crawling away on all fours in the ring in desperation to get away from Akiyama only to be dropkicked in the knee is why I love pro wrestling!

 

Great figure-4 and then Scorpion Deathlock. The transition here is pretty weak. Others have lamented the half-nelson suplex transition (could be seen as pop-up, no sell) and even the dragon leg screw (overreliance on apron spots), but to me those totally fit in the match. The first one was all about crisis management and the second one was Kobashi giving pursuit and basically falling into a trap. This one is that Akiyama basically had Kobashi dead to rights, but the ref told Akiyama to get off Kobashi, BUT he did not submit. He just wanted to check on him, which is pretty bullshit. Kobashi is able to hit a wicked, desperation lariat that knocks the wind out of Akiyama. They both sell for like a minute. Love they milked that spot.

 

Kobashi using the ropes to stand and hobble over and then hold himself up while violently chopping Akiyama down is why I love pro wrestling.

 

Kobashi definitely gives an all-time selling performance. First it is the freak out about the attempted attack, then it is the selling of the attack and finally it is fighting through the pain. I am lapping this all up. This is a great reminder why I chose him as the greatest wrestler ever. He is teeing off on Akiyama with knife edge chops to the head.

Half nelson suplex...Akiyama back kicks the bad knee!!! Fuck yeah! Akiyama lunges and chop blocks the bad knee as Kobashi is trying to get up using the ropes. He hoists Kobashi on his shoulder and drive the knee into the top turnbuckle to set up the big elbow to back of the neck for two. He signals for an Exploder, gets the first, dropkick to knee and second is unsuccessful. The Budokan is RUMBLING! It is back to the figure-4 smart strategy. Akiyama is giving an all time great offensive performance in his laser focus on the knee. This reminds me a lot of his all-time great performance in the Misawa 2000 match where he was laser focused on the neck. He give sup on figure-4, not my favorite. BRAINBUSTER!!! Only two. Yep he is cooked. He goes for the cover again. Don't like his chances. Kobashi blocks Wrist-Clutch Exploder and as he is on his way down he clubs him in the back of the head. Kobashi needs a Hail Mary. Exploder->Pop Up Lariat. Ok, that was unnecessary and worthy of lamentation. Kobashi sells the knee like a champ and "KO-BASH-I" rings throughout the Budokan. He uses the ropes to hold himself up and applies the sleeper smart move for a man with a bum wheel OH SLEEPER SUPLEX!!! LARIAOTO! 1-2-KICKOUT! BURNING LARIAT MURDERS AKIYAMA WHERE HE STANDS!

 

I was not really much of a fan of the Kobashi/Akiyama pairing in NOAH. The matches were epics and were great just not my favorites. Hands down the best match they have ever had in my opinion. Loved the dragon leg screw and back kick on half nelson suplex as transitions. Akiyama's offense was killer. Kobashi's selling was sublime. The issue was getting Kobashi back on offense. The ref thing was bullshit and the pop-up Lariat was All Japan excess. Enough to keep from that upper echeleon of AJPW classics, but still one of the classics and superb performance from both wrestlers. ****3/4

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I have to confess that I avoided this match like the plague during my peak of watching 90s AJPW stuff. Basically because I saw a YouTube vid that sort of clipped this down to the highlights but still was a 10 minute long vid so you'd get the portions of Akiyama trying to destroy Kobashi's knee, but I also got to see the Kobashi pop-up lariats and headdrops so I just groaned and said "nope" and went to something else. In hindsight, that was a mistake.

 

This to me was like that great Bryan/Sheamus 2 out of 3 falls match cranked up a few notches. They do well early on to show that Akiyama can hang somewhat with Kobashi but it becomes evident that he needs to attack that leg and he does it well. I loved the extended legwork segment here, with the guardrail chucks and Akiyama just dumping him around the ring like he has no care for his well-being. I think there is a lot of Kobashi excess in this, especially early with the half-nelson on the floor, but when he gets destroyed during Akiyama's attacks he sells well (him limping around the ring just to get in to position to chop Akiyama down was something else) and I can even buy late his thinking that he can't put together any real stretch of offense and is gonna need to just get in some very potent bursts. That "fuck you" lariat he does after one of Akiyama's knee attacks is pretty awesome. So yeah, great match, and I think 1998 AJPW, even with all the overkill and excess creeping up in these big matches was a more satisfying year to find stuff than 1997.

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This is a pretty terrific match and maybe the best singles bout of Jun's career. Great story of Jun being good but still not on Kobashi's level offensively so he needs to go for the injured knee. Kobashi does a tremendous job selling the damage and with his mobility compromised, has to rely on chops and lariats. While the chopping got a bit out of hand during Kobashi's NOAH years, they definitely make sense here because they're pretty much all he has with the injured leg. And though Kobashi proves that he's still the better man, Jun looks like an absolute world-beater. My only issue with this match is that the fighting spirit spots get to be a bit much. You have one spot in the middle where the two are suplexing each other back and forth where it doesn't really make sense to do so, and in the end you see Kobashi immediately pop up after an exploder to hit a lariat and then collapse in exhaustion. Other than that, this is a fantastic match and probably the best of 1998.

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Rewatched this and it really is a fantastic match. The psychology around the knee and how the match plays off the Kawada match really is tremendous. You can say Akiyama is playing the heel, but that's way too simplified. Kobashi comes in trying to show off doing shit like delayed suplexes and running the ropes doing knee strikes as if he's confident Akiyama will be like Kawada from last month in ignoring the knee. Akiyama isn't Kawada, though. He has no aspirations about proving as the ace and simply wants to send a message. He knows he can't match Kobashi in a straight what with him not being as big, strong, or experienced in big matches so he takes a shortcut in the form of attacking the knee. Don't really have much else to add about the match after it gets going. As mentioned, amazing selling from Kobashi and offense from Akiyama. I stand by what I said about this being the best NOAH match ever. I can't say in good conscience that it's a good idea to have this many head drops and pop up spots in a match for how that stuff destroyed bodies and led to many failed imitators, but this was really as good as that style can get. Everything head drop has loads of meaning behind in getting across Kobashi's urgency to win and Akiyama sells them like a champ. Especially dig the thousand yard stare he has after eating the half nelson on the floor. Great, great detail work as well with stuff like Kobashi wrenching in on the neck during the facelock or Akiyama dropkicking the knee anticipating a pop-up from Kobashi. Both guys looked tougher coming out than they did going in, especially Akiyama who got put over here much better than he did in any of the Misawa matches. If this isn't *****, it's pretty damn close to it. What a crazy year for Kobashi that a match of this level might be only his 3rd best behind the Kawada and Misawa matches.

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I actually enjoyed these opening exchanges a lot. Resisting and countering basic moves works a lot better for me than throwing out „surprise“ suplexes in the first minute, also really liked the bit where Kobashi sought to rip Akiyama in half with the Octopus Stretch. I think it says something about AJPW that people praise this match while saying that the promotion went off the rails with overkill in the late 90s ---- as in any other promotion this match would be considered insanely excessive. Kobashi hits 3 huge headdrops in the middle of the match – all in a row – and Akiyama's legwork has several big spots of it's own. It has the same problem as Akiyama's earlier match with Misawa – where Akiyama pretty much does as much as humanly possible to put his higher ranked opponent away, but it just doesn't happen. That being said – Akiyama's legwork was super brutal, Kobashi sold fairly well (aside from popping up after eating a suplex once or twice), Kobashi's chops and surprise lariats ruled (he was just smashing Akiyama), and everything made sense. I still thought they could've done a smarter job with the ideas they had (Akiyama putting on the Figure 4 for the second time is an example of a spot that may have worked in a different context but was just killed dead here).

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From the urgency shown from Akiyama with his limb work to the out of this world facials and selling from Kobashi made this a brilliant piece of work. Everything done here had meaning especially Akiyama cutting off Kobashi comebacks viciously going after the knee he worked on earlier. Kobashi put on a masterclass on how to be an effective baby face working underneath and perfectly making the comebacks at the right time, this was a banger of 98. 
 

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This is probably the first time in his career that Kobashi has to take the veteran role in putting the young and fiery Akiyama to sleep. Akiyama is more than able to hold his own during the fantastic and fast paced strike exchanges that open this title fight, but the mood in the venue changes when Akiyama lands a very effective strike to Kobashi's banged up knee. The crowd are in shock as Kobashi crumbles to the mat in agony. The headdrops might be excessive, but they more than make up for it by working in the brilliant leg psychology that is never forgotten about. Akiyama is a monster on control and he shows no remorse when he's taking apart Kobashi's knee. Kobashi is able to make a gloriously comeback by landing some desperation lariats. I love the spot where Kobashi fakes out Akiyama, by setting him up for a Burning Lariat, but going to for a chop instead. A great way to show off your ring smarts! AJPW put out some of the best wrestling ever during the 1990's, and I could easily see this match cracking their top 20 matches of the decade. 

★★½

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I held off on watching this match for a long, long time. That's a lot of anticipation or a lot of reluctance, depending on how you look at it. What it finally delivered watching it today still floored me. As does the overwhelming praise it got here despite this being an era generally not remembered so fondly. There's an electric physical chemistry between these two right away that makes the crowd want to invest in the journey they're about to go on. Which is good, because this is a very ambitious match. They're clever in waiting as long as they do to target the knee, even I forgot that it was obviously the direction they were going. And it's a very hard task to make the crowd buy into the idea that the leg work will actually be Kobashi's downfall, in a promotion where submissions are an afterthought and top stars almost never submit. They find ways around it, how effective it was will probably vary depending on how much you enjoy the style they're wrestling. I totally get the criticisms of some of the sequences and how they fit into the overall narrative. But I thought they beautfully walked the tightrope of overkill, of coherence in psychology, and of maintaining high drama. This was one hell of a showdown and an all-time match in two careers full of them.

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