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Charles (Loss)

[1999-03-06-AJPW-Excite Series] Mitsuharu Misawa & Yoshinari Ogawa vs Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama

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Ogawa with another coming out party. The most interesting parts of the match - and those that get the crowd the most excited - happen when Ogawa gets a surprising amount of offense on Akiyama or Kobashi. The mood is really that Misawa believes in him as a partner and that's good enough for the fans to believe in him as well. He ends up tortured for a long time as FIP with Kobashi stretching him like crazy with some really cool holds, and Akiyama following Kobashi's lead. Pretty cool when Misawa tags in and does way more flying than I'm used to seeing from him, but Kobashi suplexes him to stop him in his tracks. Interesting dynamic to see the Kobashi-Akiyama team take on the Kawada-Taue role. Ogawa tags back in after Misawa takes a beating and goes on a tear. There's a great sequence where Ogawa locks a sharpshooter on Akiyama and hangs on for a long time despite Kobashi throwing repeated strikes at him. Then Kobashi goes on his typical Kobashi fest striking both guys like crazy, and Ogawa casually pokes him in the eye to nip it in the bud. So awesome. I love how he can cheat in an underdog way and make people root for him. The moment where they are able to give him a convincing nearfall on Kobashi is the best moment of the match. The crowd is losing their minds on every close fall he gets on either guy from there. I really thought this was incredible. It will be difficult to unseat this one as my MOTY. It's a five star layout with a few minor sloppy moments that keep it just slightly below that level for me. But it's an awfully close call. Bring on more of Ogawa walking the tightrope against main event guys.

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I really, really like Ogawa in this match. Brings a real unique element. We're so used to these big AJPW matches being super athletic spectacles with cutting edge offense and workrate to the nines, but here Ogawa is portrayed as clearly a step or two below everyone else physically and makes up for it with wits and quickness. I really like him going toe to toe with Akiyama and Kobashi in the beginning. Him and Misawa do some cool double team stuff too. Overall I like this match less than Loss, I think it could have been cut for time and compressed a bit. A lot of stuff in the middle, though perfectly solid, didn't really jump out to me as that great. It's several steps below the better 90s AJ tags in heat and direction. That said the work was always damn good to great, it's just not a super top tier MOTYC for me. Some stuff at the end was really great, I especially liked Akiyama catching Misawa off a double team whip to the corner attempt into an Exploder. Also I really liked him turning an Exploder attempt into a sort of face-smash thing before hitting one for real on Ogawa. There were a bunch of awesome little moments here, I especially liked one extended spot based around Misawa trying to hit a senton on Kobashi. This will register on my MOTY list but not in the top 10 or anything, which is a bit disappointing given Loss' praise and how much I liked Ogawa in the juniors title match had my expectations a bit too high.

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I remember the last time I watched this (for the first time in years) about four years ago for a DVDVR tag team poll. I think Kobashi/Akiyama were against The Rockers, and all I could think was that this match was several levels above anything Shawn and Marty did whilst being every bit as simple for the first-time watcher. This doesn't touch a top 10 AJ 90s tag, but it's a tag MOTDC just about anywhere else.

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I haven't see much of Ogawa before. He always reminded me of Japanese Jerry Estrada without the crazy bumps. It was nice to see him go toe to toe with Kobashi who looked great with the beard and stache. This was a fine match but just not my style at all.

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I'm in the camp that this is a clear top 10 AJ tag from the 1990's. Right now the only ones on the level to me are 9/30/90, 12/3/93, 5/25/92, 5/21/94, 6/9/95 and 12/6/96. I thought this was incredible and completely enriched by Misawa's two former partners going up against his new protege and Ogawa being so unconventional in counteracting everything Kobashi and Akiyama threw at him. Speaking of Akiyama, he looks poised to be the ace in this match and gave a wonderful performance too. This never drug for me just kept building and building to a hot finish. ****3/4

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I loved the opening. Really lively and engaging. The challengers possessed good chemistry as a unit. They were both busting out moves that their partner had taught them in training, or at least that's how it came off to me. After the initial promise it stuttered briefly with a series of rest holds. Your punches still suck Ratboy. He then took a decent FIP segment. After 20m we hit the finishing run. Exciting action and the fans were enthusiastically supporting the underdog. I like him a whole lot better in the tag environment. Despite a game effort Ogawa fell just short. Excellent bout that stands out a lot more in 99 than it would in earlier years. All Japan this year is raging against the fading of the light. Definitely the top promotion thus far.

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Always really liked the dynamic of this match. Misawa's former two tag partners vs. him and his latest protege, whose style is completely different. I think this is the closest Kobashi's come to working as a heel. He is so aggressive and vicious in this with just amazing offense. I also agree with everything Loss and tim said about Ogawa in this match. All the false finishes near the end are some of the best I've ever seen. Misawa' selling was kind of spotty at times but that's my only complaint. **** 1/2

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AJPW World Tag Team Champions Burning (Kobashi & Akiyama) vs Untouchables (Misawa & Ogawa) - 3/6/99

 

A match that is not really a part of the AJPW canon (in 99 I would say only Misawa vs Kawada 1/22 is a part of the canon due to Ganso Bomb), but has been highly praised upon the release of this yearbook. I watched and I thought it was great, but did not think it was the classic everyone made it out to be. Lets go to the match.

 

Ogawa is definitely more of a babyface here in this match than Rat Boy of NOAH. He shows up Akiyama (his rival from last fall) on the mat and then throws him into Kobashi climaxes with a drop toehold. I love those types of sequences. Lots of fun. Both tag out. Misawa and Kobashi have a great sequence where Misawa elbows Kobashi out who then with the tenacity of a pitbull keeps trying to climb back into the ring and each time Misawa smashes him with an elbow and then finally hits a diving elbow. Another great sequence that really epitomizes the two characters. There is a nice square dance spot where Akiyama goes to whip Misawa into the railings and Ogawa hooks his arm like a square dance and allows Misawa to be whipped back into Akiyama. Definitely something that needs to be stolen.

 

One thread of this match is that Ogawa is the master scout. He sees Akiyama middle rope dropkick coming (common Akiyama transition to tag out). Chinlocks drag here a bit. Akiyama uses his size advantage to reverse atomic drop Ogawa and tag out. Ogawa then avoids Kobashi spinning back chop. Ogawa, master scout. He actually knocks Kobashi down with punches, which surprises the hell out of me. He is smart enough to tag out to heavy-hitting Misawa. Ogawa back in and he avoids the Kobashi atomic drop. He is learning. However, he cant avoid Akiyama on the apron. Finally, Burning gets their hands on the little pipsqueak. They just beat the shit out of him. Burning is definitely heeling themselves, but God if those are not glorious chops. Ogawa gets his own middle rope dropkick and tags out. I think extended heat segment would have been nice there. Misawa needing three tries to hit a senton was a nice touch. Then in 1999, Misawa busts out a crazy athletic, flippy, workrate sequence I have never seen him do before. Kobashi quashes that with a Sleeper Suplex. Even Misawa feels extra babyface now, which is weird with Kobashi who is usually the ultimate babyface. Kobashi tags out and now it is an Exploder/Tiger Driver tease, Exploder wins and big German, Ogawa saves. Here comes the finish run.

 

Misawa takes the turnbuckle powerbomb (vicious), Akiyama high knee and double arm DDT. Misawa has a great transition out of the heat with his Ricky Morton-esque headlock/headscissors takeover or both and then elbowing them both. Ogawa's hot tag is fucking awesome. Eyepokes, backdrop driver, OGAWA TIGER DRIVER, Sharpshooter on Akiyama and he then takes Kobashi's chops like a man while holding onto the hold. Fracas and we are left with Kobashi & Misawa. Kobashi finish sequence now with half-nelson suplex, powerbomb, but Misawa blocks moonsault and hits an elbow as Kobashi is diving. Missed Spinning Back Chop ROARING ELBOW~! Misawa ends up with Tiger Driver after multiple tries, Ogawa hits a double stomp 4 times and Misawa with a nice flying bodypress and back drop driver, but Akiyama saves. Elbow/Backdrop Driver combo only gets two. Ogawa accidentally swings Misawa into an Akiyama exploder. Kobashi tags out and here is the real finish stretch.

 

Ogawa gets his eyepoke on Akiyama and tries a barrage of nearfalls especially then one that got him the upset victory last year. Akiyama hits his Exploder. Kobashi beats off Misawa with Spinning Backchops and a Burning Lariat where he also clotheslines himself on top rope. One last Ogawa hope spot when Akiyama misses charge into the corner and Ogawa gets the school boy, which got crazy heat. Akiyama hits the Exploder for the win.

 

Incredibly great action-packed match, but I did not feel like it was that unique compared to a lot of AJPW 90s. It was a really strong beginning (Ogawa, Misawa shine), kinda lull with chinlocks, Ogawa heat segment was pretty short (I think that's what gets most of the praise), Misawa heat segment was very good, Ogawa hot tag was fucking awesome and then a typically awesome AJPW finish run. I did not feel there was a unique narrative to this, just a bitchin tag team match by four pros. ****1/4

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I agree that this slowed somewhat in the middle. But my goodness, what a beautiful opening period of wrestling and a true holy-shit finishing stretch that had me practically bouncing in my chair, not knowing what the result was going to be. It's been a long time since I watched a match that provoked a reaction like that in me. This is an AJPW match where anyone could conceivably have pinned anyone else the way these guys worked and the way the story was told--Ogawa was overmatched, but he's so darn SMART that he holds his own and actually gets an awesome credible near-fall on Kobashi. The trading of holds to open was great and so was the way he leveraged his way to an advantage--drop-toe-holding Akiyama onto the ropes, knocking Akiyama into Kobashi on the apron, do-se-do'ing with Misawa on the outside as a countermove, and of course all those awesome roll-ups. Then he gets put into holds for awhile in a FIP segment that's not quite as compelling as it should have been as Burning sort of does their MVC impersonation--part of that is the holds aren't worked that great and part of it is that holds and submissions have taken such a backseat in AJPW in the latter half of the decade. That's a minor nitpick though, the kind that separates MOTYCs from MOTDCs. This was as great as anything in 1999 and on a level just below the all-time great '90s All-Japan tags. It really started in '98, but Ogawa is practically a lock for my Most Improved in the year-end awards.

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About the first half of this was solid AJPW style action with lots of fun Ogawa-isms thrown in for a breath of fresh air. BURNING rudo it up! Misawa uses lucha moves and comebacks to counter the double teams! Ogawa beats Kobashi in a strike exchange! (apparently the trick is to just punch him). Kobashi rewards him with one of the nastiest stretches ever! The 2nd half was about as great as any AJPW style finishing stretch with Misawa being taken out and Ogawa having to step up big time, and the added bonus of Ogawa's cradles and jawbreakers being a nice change from the usual bombs and stiff movezzz. Plenty of great double team/partner help spots like you only see in those AJPW epics. How they could put all that stuff together so well in a 30 minute match is beyond me, but that's the magic of pro wrestling!

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