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Charles (Loss)

[1998-10-11-AJPW-October Giant Series] Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

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The first big match for Kobashi and Akiyama as a team. It makes sense that Kawada and Taue - the most seasoned team in All Japan - is dominant for most of this. While this is technically great, a lot of it is also retread. We've seen Akiyama as the junior partner against Kawada and Taue where he has to be bailed out before. Even though this is a fresh match, the only truly fresh thing about it is seeing Kobashi as a team leader, which is a fairly new dynamic from him, outside of time with Americans like Johnny Ace and The Patriot. And Kobashi does a very good job in that role, despite his reputation for never quite getting comfortable there. He does all the right things in terms of making saves and setting up scenarios where Akiyama has a chance of getting a pinfall. The problem is that this has all been done before. Akiyama has grown since 1998, but in this match, he's still Akiyama in 1996. So this is technically great, but doesn't break new ground. There's nothing wrong with that, but it had the potential to be so much better than that.

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Great match that while it does feel like a retread, it was a welcome change of pace as what has been a little lull for good action overall in the footage watching for this year. This really amped up with Kawada and Taue targeting the leg of Akiyama and everything from that to the end run was superb. The Kobashi/Akiyama team has a more even feel to it to me than Kobashi/Misawa ever did even though Kobashi was clearly the senior based on this match. (****)

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Whilst you could argue it was technically a good match I did find it boring and at times a chore to sit through. The fans sat there in stony silence for the first 20m as they know there's no chance it's going to finish within that time. Everything about the match was stale and a worse version of how things used to be. Below par execution, move repetition, stiffness and big moves were nothing special. The selling was slightly annoying with Kobashi's goofiness, Kawada too stylised and Akiyama's delayed sells. AJ had more strong matches than anyone in 98, but I would absolutely not want to watch it in further depth.

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I'm between Loss and Zenjo here. It's a good match with some good spots near the finish, and some neat sequences like Akiyama and Taue dueling it out on the apron, but "good" is all it is. The Holy Demon Army's control segments in the first half are shockingly below-par and this sort of feels like a reset button is being hit on Akiyama's push.

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AJPW Triple Crown Champion Holy Demon Army vs Burning - AJPW 10/11/98

 

I can see people's point that this is a retread and that there shows a clear lack of progress. Akiyama goes from Misawa's junior partner to Kobashi's junior partner. At best it is a lateral move, at worst he is being demoted to being the junior partner of the second best babyface rather than the Ace. I actually think Akiyama is best suited to being a slight heel like Kawada and that NOAH got it right in 2000. I think Akiyama leading a second heel army would have been great.

 

I thought this was great as we have seen many times before. Holy Demon Army overwhelms Akiyama by cutting him off as he is getting in the ring with DDT and then double teaming on the floor. Holy Demon Army both had been recently defeated by Kobashi in Triple Crown match so you know they are looking for revenge. They work over Akiyama's leg and then Kobashi saves in the submission holds. Taue runs into a belly to belly and here comes Kobashi.

 

Spinning back chops for everyone! Kobashi goes sleeper and Kawada comes running at him. Taue wants the NODOWA and we go into the long, very entertaining finish stretch. I will say the back end of this while very familiar is a ton of fun and great stuff. The Nodowa/Backdrop Driver combination is attempted but Akiyama saves. Kobashi powerbomb & Akiyama double arm DDT on Kawada, but Taue saves. Kobashi bodyslams, fist pump, but crashes and burns on moonsault. It is a pile up of bodies. Akiyama EXPLODER on Kawada! Great dead weight selling by Kawada. NODOWA BELLY TO BELLY! DDT ON APRON! NODOWA INTO TURNBUCKLES!!! NODOWA OFF TOP ROPE! DYNAMIC BOMB~! That was fucking awesome. God Bless Taue! Kobashi saves. Akiyama tries an Exploder on Kawada, but Taue comes flying in with a NODOWA! Taue is the MVP of this match. NODOWA/Backdrop Driver only gets two! I feel like they are toast but this has been pretty much all Holy Demon Army. Kawada powerbomb is broken up by Kobashi and BURNING LARIAT TO TAUE! Well that solves that problem. Powerbomb, elbow out of Exploder, Brainbuster, Akiyama does stagger around sell before an enziguiri drops where he stands for the victory.

 

Super hot finish run. Holy Demon Army looked impressive against the newly minted super team of Burning. No new ground was broken, but it was good fun. ****

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Another AJPW match that feels way too damn long and played out. At this point I admit late 90s AJPW might be the most unwatchable good wrestling recorded. That being said this was a fine match with lots of quality exchanges throughout. Kawada hit some huge kicks and did some amusing selling which almost feels Terry Funkish at this point. I especially liked how he would axe kick Akiyama repeatedly as if getting out of bed. Taue worked his usual magic. There was some quite vicious legwork on Akiyama which he blew off easily to undermine himself further in my book. Also really liked Kobashis sleeper for an obvious filler spot. It's kind of amazing how a match like this with this much excellently timed moments and good exchanges can be kind of boring.

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