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Charles (Loss)

[1999-06-11-AJPW-Super Power Series] Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kenta Kobashi

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It's hard to make sense of all of this. So many things that are absolutely tremendous and so many things that are such overkill. There are too many truly great things in this match for me to be disappointed in it or consider it anything but a great match, but they really go in some questionable directions at times, which makes it hard for me to go all the way and call it a classic.

 

In the big picture, they absolutely got the idea over that Kobashi had pushed Misawa farther than anyone had. You could argue that in losing, Kawada never made as strong of a showing against Misawa as Kobashi did here. It's a different dynamic than Misawa-Kawada, where you're expecting Kawada to finally put the pieces together and figure out how to beat the guy. Instead, it's that they truly are virtual equals, and Misawa just happened to be the wrestler that won this time.

 

As far as the good goes, they laid the foundation for something really awesome in the first 30 minutes of this. It reminded me of Flair-Steamboat at Wrestle War '89 in many ways. In that match, Steamboat was laser focused on Flair's arm with the goal of weakening him enough to apply the chicken wing, which earned him a submission victory at Clash VI a month before. In this match, Kobashi was laser focused on Misawa's arm with the goal of weakening him enough to neutralize his elbow, which seemed to always be Misawa's calling card at crunch time. It was a very strategic performance from Kobashi and it absolutely worked. Misawa did the exact same elbow KO near the end of this and while they didn't milk it for a nearfall, it almost would have been pointless to do so. Kobashi was out at that point from the fatigue as much as he was the elbow shot. He did his job there. I really liked that aspect of the match - the slow building, the Kobashi strategy that was apparent and Misawa's reaction to it.

 

Where the match fell off the rails for me was when Kobashi did the half-nelson suplex on Misawa on the floor. That was the turning point when the match became all about big suplexes and kickouts. Even that on the surface would have been not great, but not a huge issue ... had they stopped with the half-nelson suplex. But then they kept going and going in that direction, and before you know it, Kobashi is kicking out of the TD '91, which goes back to my point about this being a very different feud than Misawa-Kawada.

 

I need more time to reflect on how I'll actually rank this, but I should have it sorted out by the end of June. They are the absolute cream of the crop at certain aspects of their game, but they were pushing way too far. There was a five-star match somewhere in all of this, but it was the equivalent of a great pop song with a 10-minute drum solo tacked on to to end, and this was not at all a five-star match in the end. And unlike a radio edit that can tighten up a song that goes too long, I suspect the TV version of this was JIP and only served to highlight the worst aspects of the match. Talk about a great match in spite of itself.

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This match is definitely bloated. Although I liked the arm work and especially Misawa's later selling of it -- especially his selling of it while going for a tiger driver later in the match -- a lot of the opening stuff didn't really draw me in. In a way I feel like this match needed to be condensed but at the same time the big time epic feel that this does benefit from at the end sort of necessitates the length and the sort of gradual build they were going for. The amount of overkill didn't really bother me so much other than Kobashi kicking out of the TD91. That Tiger Driver spot had been so well built to at that point in the match that a regular one would have sufficed for a big near fall without making everything feel excessive -- and really after kicking out of a TD91 it's hard for anything that comes after that not to feel excessive. I can still forgive that a good bit though thanks to Kobashi's great selling. From that point on it was academic: Kobashi's fire had burned itself out and he'd been hit by a bomb he couldn't fully recover from, Misawa was just waiting til all the lights were off.

 

This is a match where the best parts of it make you feel like it should be a lot better than it turns out in whole. Like I said, bloated is a word that jumps to me about this match. The best stuff here is just incredible and even if they go overboard the bomb throwing in the end stretch is very well done and makes this feel like a huge war.

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I kind of don't get the booking here as I would have switched the kawada and Kobashi TC defenses. Kobashi vs. Misawa was a hotter feud and Misawa getting his revenge on Kawada after dethroning Vader would have been better suited for this match than this feeling like a battle of the titans where neither guy can really afford to lose. This was also the matchup that produced my MOTY in the past two years and the greatest match of all time in 1997. Throw in another ****3/4 match in the October 97 match and expectations were insurmountable for a portion of this.

 

Opening work sets the tone they are going long. The mat work was engaging to me. Kobashi hones in on Misawa's arm right away. With 1/20/97 we had the ferocious work of the arm where he was posting the arm and hitting it over the guardrail. This is a more calculated, systematic approach. Going after Misawa's arm makes a ton of sense to me from the META sense of the 90's with the elbow being the great equalizer and the micro sense from 5/2/99 resulting in Misawa beating Vader which Kobashi was unable to accomplish. Stuff gets milked to the core in an arm lock submission but I dug the slowed down approach that set the tone. Misawa throws an elbow finally and guess what, it allows him to take over on top. He runs through some of his Tiger Mask offense and then locks in a chin lock. Kobashi fights back that but runs into a nother elbow and a gutwrench suplex. We are seeing some bursts of action and then a slow down. Kobashi keeps trying to utilize his chops but even though he has presented himself as Misawa's equal in most areas throughout the series, the chops are still overall inferior to the elbows. Kobashi has to either combo the chops or or add new wrikles like spinning back chops which is does to the throat to take Misawa down.

 

The next big sequence happens when Misawa gets too flashy for his own good. His bursts of offense had worked so far in the match to gain control but he tries his dive over the top and eats a powerslam to the floor. Kobashi then gets on the apron and slams the arm from the apron intot he guardrail. There goes the systematic approach as now the aggression is on. Kobashi is great working this over and Misawa reaches down and hits an enzuguri to gain some breathing room. Kobashi catches him coming to the apron and works over the arm some more but this time Misawa gets desperate and we get a backdrop onto the floor. My favorite selling of Misawa happens here after the elbow suicida and the frog splash when Misawa covers and winces in pain from the elbow. Misawa angles for a Tiger Driver from the apron. Kobashi comes back with a half and half ont he floor and takes back over.

 

Inside a German from Kobashi gets the closest nearfall of the match as it feels we are entering the finishing stretch with the crowd heat there. Powerbomb, Stun Gun from Powerbomb position and Orange Crush get another near fall from Kobashi. Moonsault gets a really close nearfall and a good argument can be made from me that that should be it and I would label this a strong MOTYC. We are 33 minutes in and stuff has progressed in a natural manner with big moves and logical work for the most part. However, Misawa does kick out. Kobashi looks for his lariat and the Burning Hammer. I enjoyed Misawa figting out fo this as it showed some desperation you typical don't see too often from him. Kobashi gives him the lariat that extinguished him in the Hansen 93 match and Misawa has to do a rope break with his foot. Outside we go which is disappointing and Misawa again pulls out a highspot with a hurricanrana of Kobashi into the railing.

 

Once back inside, things sludge down again as we get more struggle from each other. The Tiger Driver 91 is the next big thing and the nearfall filming is super dramatic with Wadas hand being inches from the mat. That again gives the viewer hope though that there is no way Kobashi will go down this time. He is able to pull out a suplex I don't know that hits Misawa on his dome. Both guys get up dramatically and Kobashi hits a running lariat which without a doubt should have been the finish. Rinse and repeat but this again would have resulted in a MOTYC if it ended there and I still could have followed everything. Kobashi charges again and hits the elbow by Misawa culminating in the rolling elbow. Misawa continues his high spot oriented offense in this match with a rolling senton of the middle rope. He then hits a weird cobra clutch suplex of his own for another nearfall. Kobashi makes one final stand with chops. Two elbows stunt that and we get the Emerald Flowsion to put him away in 43 minutes.

 

I don't know if there is a more perplexing match in the 1990's. I agree with Loss that there was absolutely portions of an all time classic here. Bloated is also a word to use but it didn't feel overly long to me, just that there was 3-4 matches and intertwining themes that never quite came together in a way. As a match, it is as of right now the 4th best match between these two and still great in my opinion but also a match to analyze instead of loving. I did get lost in the nearfalls and the wrong guy won. Kobashi had pushed Misawa to the limit and this should have been his coronation. Part of my osmosis for these matches is thinking about JDW's AJ pimping post and his comments that this technically great match bored the shit out of him. I cant see that at all but this match does have definite flaws. I look forward to watching their 2003 match now again after revisiting this series. ****1/2

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This is another one of those matches I watched twice cause so much was going on. So many headdrops and bumps to the outside. I agree with loss about how some of this was really great and some not so much.Kobashi continues to be my favorite of the ALL japan holy 4. The chops to the throat were tenyru esqe. Good match

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The Tiger Driver '91 kick out didn't bother me too much, because they'd already set that precedent in '97, with the idea that Kobashi used every last bit of strength to kick out of that, and it allows Misawa to put him away with the running elbow. I wasn't a huge fan of the idea, but, at least it had some foundation to it. But, the head drop overkill and Misawa's inconsistent selling is what ruined this for me.

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Switching the dates for this and the 7/99 Kawada defense sounds like a great idea for me. The explanation I've always heard for the wonky booking of this match was

 

1. They couldn't do a title change because that would be the 5th TC change in as many matches in a row.

2. They still wanted to do a big match up to maintain fan interest coming out of the Tokyo Dome, like the year previous

3. Hence, the only option was to was to have Misawa go over in an epic to maintain credibility of the title, but to do so with them pushing each other so far it feels like either guy could win if they wrestled again.

 

Having Misawa get his win back over Kawada here, though, satisfies both 1 and 2 while also making a Kobashi win more meaningful if he went over in July. About the only explanation I can think of for why they didn't do that was that they weren't confident in Kawada being ready to work a big singles match after having rushed back early from injury the month prior.

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These two were so selfish. Hogging MOTY honours every year. I haven't finished 94, 95 or 97 yet, but it's a possibility Misawa could top my list for 94-98 inclusive. This match for 99 was a fine effort to continue the streak. They went for an epic classic and once more delivered. The 43:40 duration seemed to fly by. There was never a period where I was bored. Sure they could've tightened it up, but the length didn't work against it.

 

There weren't any sections of bad work or moments that annoyed me either. Both men were at the top of their game and crucially, in good shape physically. By this point in time that was a luxury. They built it up slowly, using a wide variety of moves and holds. Plenty of pure wrestling in the first half. Kobashi then had a period working over the arm. He inflicted a fair amount of damage, although it wasn't sufficient to neutralise the weapon. Misawa's selling was excellent throughout. It was over 30m before a realistic near fall, it was always going long. I can appreciate why people might believe the stretch to be overkill. I didn't find it that way because the build was so long. With the type of bout they were going for it felt justified and proportionate.

 

Plenty of big bombs were certainly unloaded. Highlights included the Tiger Driver '91 being kicked out of, they got me on that one. Plus a reference to 7/31/93 which the commentator was kind enough to point out. I just love how Misawa can be 40m deep and still be the thinking man's wrestler. Fighting tactically and logically rather than instinctually and emotionally. He's like the mirror image of Ohtani at the death. With his ultimate champions mentality it makes sense that he wins all the time. To this point my favourite for MOTY, but June ain't over yet.

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Watching this now for the first time in long years, I'd forgotten a bit that happens in the first five minutes. They totally go all RVD/Lynn by trading a bunch of low-level offensive moves in quick succession, sell practically none of them, and then hit the INDY POSE STANCE~! while the crowd applauds for their honor. I literally burst out laughing, you just don't expect to see that kind of nonsense in a main event Triple Crown title match from the 90s.

 

EDIT: and just watching it in general, oh man, they clearly scripted SO many of these spots in the back, and probably rehearsed them in the ring before the show as well. The stuff they're doing and the speed with which they do it are blatant giveaways that these are cooperative, preplanned spots which don't even vaguely resemble a real fight. This is a night-and-day difference from the same guys' matches even just a few years beforehand, when they were much more spontaneous, improvisational, and generally just looked much less fake.

 

EDIT2: maaaaaaan, if you're going to do THAT much work on the arm, then why have they completely forgotten about it by the end of the match? Towards the end, Misawa just stops selling it and is all like "hey, it's not like I'm NOT gonna repeatedly elbow him in the face with zero consequences, amirite?". Boo! Which is the same because the rest of the match, while feeling a bit contrived and self-conscious-epicy, is still very damn good. Misawa and Kobashi have a level of talent, skill, effort, and chemistry which makes it pretty impossible for them to have any singles match together which is less than three stars. And it was kinda cool to see them doing something different and more spotty than their traditional strike-fest. But GEEZ, that selling completely fucking disappeared by the end of the match as if Kenta had never once touched Mitsuharu's arm.

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In the big picture, they absolutely got the idea over that Kobashi had pushed Misawa farther than anyone had.

 

That is basically what I would use to defend the excessive/bloated finishing stretch. The TD91 and Tiger Suplex 85 were enough in the past to put down Kobashi but now he is tougher than ever and not only survives but keeps coming back. So Misawa has to bust out something new to put him away.

 

This is a weird match. It's technically perfect given how it's structured and paced. But it lacks the beautiful psychology of their best matches so I can't quite call it a classic even though it is pretty great. Also to Jingus point, I don't think it's fair to call it a self conscious epic but the escalation does feel uncharacteristically deliberate (even though that's not really a negative for me). ****

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I watched this match for the first time in several years, and it's actually a lot less bloated than I remembered it being. In fact, it probably has the best slow build of any match I've ever seen. The first big nearfall doesn't come until more than 30 minutes in, which is nothing short of astonishing. And I didn't have a problem with Misawa not selling the arm at the end because Kobashi had long since stopped targeting it. I do agree that the finishing run was excessive-specifically, the TD91 should have ended the match. The Emerald Flowsion being above the TD91 in Misawa's finisher hierarchy has never sat well with me. But the good in this match far outweighs the bad. I'd rate this the second-best Misawa/Kobashi match by a comfortable margin.

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I have watched 10/98 and was blown away on re-watch, but did not have time to write up a review. So I am going to rewatch that again tonight. This is the last major Misawa/Kobashi match that I have not seen before.

 

AJPW Triple Crown Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kenta Kobashi - AJPW 6/11/99

 

Misawa comes into this match the newly minted champion defeating Vader for the title at the Baba Memorial Dome Show (last really great Vader singles match). Since their last meeting in October of 1998, Misawa had lost the titles to Kawada in the infamous Ganso Bomb/Kawada's arm breaks match and Kobashi lost in the Champion Carnival Finals of '99 to Vader. Kobashi is 0-4 in Triple Crown match against Misawa at this point.

 

A decidedly slower build to this 43 minute epic sees Kobashi start off with a quick flying cross armbreaker before settling into a headlock sequence. If you are going to go long, I prefer the slower, NWA-style build they opt for and in addition Kobashi is taking a much more conservative approach. After losing 4 times, I think he realizes him taking chances had cost him so if he could wear Misawa down to set up his bombs he would have a better chance. Kobashi works his way into a hammerlock targeting the arm, which all Misawa opponent know is the bets strategy. I like the teasing of the headrops here, but with nobody landing any. They do some really nice tests of strength here, which I always enjoy as a way to show each competitor's manliness. Misawa is nominal in control and Kobashi invites him into a strike exchange, which is an interesting strategy. Against pretty much anybody else, Kobashi and his chop would have a definitive edge, but Misawa with his elbow is his equal If not his superior. Kobashi does win the strike exchange with a blistering barrage of spinning back chops. That first one was particularly nasty. Kobashi begins work on Misawa's midsection using his knee lift as the primary weapon. He gives Misawa a little too much room to breathe and he fires back with an elbow and Kobashi ends up on the outside. Now this has been where a lot of the turning points in the previous matches have happened. Lo and behold, Kobashi catches him in a power slam off the apron. No Misawa diving head first into a steel railing, but it will do. Kobashi goes for a move off the apron, but when Misawa starts to back sass him with some elbows, he grabs his wrist and JUMPS FROM THE APRON TO THE RAILING WRAPPING MISAWA'S ARM AROUND THE GUARDRAIL!!! OH! That's the turning point.

 

The match actually gets really interesting here and actually had the potential to be the most interesting match of the series in my opinion. It seemed like it was asking the question "What if Misawa did not have his elbow to make the comeback?". Kobashi destroyed the arm, ramming into hard objects, nice hammerlock DDTs, GREAT heat on the cross armbreaker (sold very well by Misawa). Misawa trying to mount a comeback with only kicks was great. Misawa busted up Kobashi's mouth with one of those kicks to the face. Only for Kobashi to start dumping him on his head to set up a Nagata-style armbreaker. Misawa finally stuns Kobashi enough by a wicked kick to the face. Kobashi sells like he has been knocked loopy outside. Misawa is still in a pretty bad way. Outside, he cements his advantage by elbowing Kobashi's bad leg and suplexing him off the apron (successfully doing what he intended to do at 10/97). Then he hits his diving elbow. I don't mind these one-off uses of the elbow and he is selling pretty big. Misawa runs through his stuff: missile dropkick, flying bodypress and then on the Tiger Driver, he releases very quickly because his arm is shot. I love it. He has made most of his comeback through kicks, but when it came time to polish off Kobashi he couldn't. Then he makes a strange decision on the surface. He goes for a Tiger Driver off the apron. Seems silly after not being able to hit the first one properly, but that move was the key to winning 10/98 so if he does hit it, it would seal victory. Showing that Misawa felt he needed a home run now or never.

 

Kobashi backdrops Misawa onto the apron. He goes for the Half-Nelson Suplex, but Misawa blocks, but on second attempt Misawa eats it. This is actually when my intrigue was piqued. Misawa had to make the first comeback completely without elbows, what was going to happen here. Kobashi went through dumping Misawa on his head a bunch (the powerbomb, powerbomb hotshot was pretty cool), the moonsault was sweet, I LOVED THE CALLBACK TO 7/29/93 with Misawa as Kobashi & Kobashi as Hansen. Whats Misawa's second greatest defensive move after his elbow, well it is the Misawa-rana out of the powerbomb and that's what he nails on the floor sending Kobashi crashing into railing. Misawa creates a lot of space here, but is in a really bad way. Kobashi is actually the next to hit a move being a jumping high knee in the corner. Misawa stakes his defensive position in the corner. He ducks the lariat. Hits a German. Awesome! Kobashi charges again, Misawa gets double elbows up on the lariat arm (1/20/97, but this time needs two elbows).

 

At this point the match loses its luster for me, Misawa makes his typical comeback elbows included. It just became so routine. I really thought arm work that completely destroyed Misawa's elbow was novel. We had seen Misawa fight through the pain, which I love but making that comeback with kicks was great. The Kobashi finish run was nice and Misawa transition to the real finish run was great, but at the end it became very All Japan same-y. That Tiger Driver '91 was nasty. Cant believe Kobashi kicked out. Nice flash Kobashi hope spot with the sleeper suplex. It was elbows, head drops and Emerald Flowsion. It was awesome, nothing that had not been seen before (well I guess Emerald Flowsion was new, but I was never impressed by that much).

 

First 15 minutes are well-worked NWA-style championship match that I think sets the table as each competitor as an equal and Kobashi trying to be more conservative in setting up for the win. Loved the transition off the apron into the arm work, great drama with both arm-based submission. Misawa making a "no-elbow" comeback was very cool. Thought the half-nelson suplex transition and Kobashi run was tons of fun (7/29/93 callback popped me huge). The Misawa transition to comeback was again very interesting, but the finish run was same 'ol same 'ol even if it was a great fireworks display. I would say this is the fourth best Misawa/Kobashi match, but one that should get praised more and discussed more. ****1/2

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#123 - placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-150-101/2/

 

There were a few places in the match where I fell out of it, but they always brought me back in. It's close to a classic for me, and definitely great. I have it around ****1/4 for myself. I thought the beginning was fine, but once they started with that first brutal elbow and chop exchange, I got pretty hyped. Kobashi remains my personal favorite of the All Japan Holy as well.

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Loss summed up my feelings as well. The first 20 minutes or so of this are *great*, with some nice stiff matwork and really great laser-focused psychology. Kobashi starts off working the ribs with all kinds of shit he doesn't normally do, but the transition to arm work is pretty nicely done as Kobashi opens the door with a big armbreaker off the apron onto the guardrail. Again, we see stuff out of Kenta we simply don't see, and he manages to actually get some attempted arm submissions over as credible "near falls" despite the almost complete abandonment of submissions in the company. That said...it does go off the rails for sure. Not as badly as the '97 Misawa-Kawada match, the other big example of this trope, but it's a similar, better version of that match. Kobashi getting out of the TD '91 *and* making a comeback...I get that they wanted to top 1997 but that seemed to be a bridge too far for me. "Perplexing" is the right word for this, because it's absolutely a MOTY-level bit of work, but it's also problematic in the way that I found the '03 match to be problematic when I watched it (like 12 years ago). This will make the list--the good parts are as good or better than the Misawa-Kawada match and the bad, despite everyone's complaints, isn't nearly as bad. But they were clearly attempting to top the '97 matches and...well, maybe that was an impossible task considering 1/97 is my #1 AJPW match ever, but in the end they didn't do it.

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I don't care about those "selling issues". They did what I expected from them : a long 45 minutes match with a lot of headdrops and kick outs, which I know isn't the cup of tea of many members of this board. As far as I'm concerned, it's the second best All Japan match of all time after their january 1997 confrontation. The 97 match was a little bit better because of the amazing selling's display. I think selling adds to the 97 match but I don't think the "lack of selling" of this match hurts it.

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