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Toshiaki Kawada

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I love Kawada. Such a smart worker. While the Albright match in '95 is far from his best match, I think it's the best example of Kawada's greatness because he's doing something out of the norm that other top guys in All Japan either wouldn't have thought to do or cared enough to do. He's not a guy that lets many opportunities to do interesting things slide. I'd definitely have him behind Misawa, but Kawada vs Kobashi is a real toss-up for me.

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Kawada is an incredible wrestler and I think he's gotta be top 5. However, most of what I've seen post-2000 involving Kawada is almost like he's a shadow of his former self. I don't know if he just lost all motivation or he felt like he didn't want to carry guys like Kojima through matches, but his work really fell off after the split. Especially his selling, it got really, really uneven and sometimes nonexistent. Even the 05 Misawa match was really, really subpar as Misawa vs. Kawada matches go on both their parts. Pre-split, he had really fun matches with guys like Albright, a pre-big break Takayama and Kakihara that were vastly different from the matches he had with the rest of the Big 5. Also, his 1996 feuding with Akiyama was easily the best yearlong watch going through All Japan after 1995. It was a huge bright spot for late 90s All Japan.

 

Here's my 90s list for Kawada:

Misawa/Kawada vs. Gordy/Williams 7/24/91
Kawada vs. Jumbo 10/24/91
Misawa/Kawada vs. Williams/Gordy 1/30/93
Misawa vs. Kawada 3/27/93
Kawada vs. Taue 4/13/93
Kawada/Taue vs. Williams/Gordy 5/20/93
Misawa/Kobashi/Akiyama vs. Kawada/Taue/Ogawa 7/2/93
Kawada vs. Kobashi 10/23/93
Misawa vs. Kawada 4/11/94
Holy Demon Army vs. Hansen/Baba 12/17/94
Kawada vs. Kobashi 1/19/95 - first 40 minutes is incredible
Kawada vs. Akiyama 3/21/95
Kawada vs. Kobashi 4/13/95
Kobashi/Hansen/Akiyama vs. Kawada/Ace/Omori 4/15/95
Misawa/Kobashi/Asako vs. Kawada/Taue/Honda 6/30/95
Misawa/Kobashi/Akiyama vs. Kawada/Kikuchi/Ogawa 7/8/95 - Kawada pisses Misawa off with great results
Taue vs. Kawada 3/31/96
Kawada vs. Kobashi 5/24/96
Kawada vs. Taue 6/7/96 - some great interaction, match gets really dull in the middle
Holy Demon Army vs. Williams/Ace 11/18/96

anything involving Kawada vs. Akiyama in 1996, just watch it
Misawa vs. Kawada 4/2/97
Holy Demon Army vs. Kobashi/Ace 5/27/97
Misawa vs. Kawada 6/6/97 - finish derails an otherwise great match
Misawa/Kawada/Hase vs. Kobashi/Taue/Akiyama 9/15/97
Holy Demon Army vs. Kobashi/Ace 10/11/97
Holy Demon Army vs. Shinzaki/Hayabusa 11/23/97
Holy Demon Army vs. Kobashi/Ace 11/27/97
Kobashi/Ace vs. Holy Demon Army 1/25/98
Kawada vs. Akiyama 3/26/98
Holy Demon Army vs. Kobashi/Ace 6/5/98
Holy Demon Army vs. Kakihara/Takayama 7/19/98
Kawada/Omori vs. Hase/Kea 7/24/98
Holy Demon Army vs. Kobashi/Kea 8/29/98
Kawada vs. Kakihara 9/11/98
Holy Demon Army vs. Burning 10/11/98
Holy Demon Army vs. Takayama/Kakihara 10/31/98
Holy Demon Army vs. Misawa/Shinzaki 1/15/99
Hase vs. Kawada 5/2/99 - Kawada's first match back after the arm injury, ring rust kills a lot of what could have been
Kawada/Kobashi vs. Misawa/Taue 6/4/99 - must see
Kawada vs. Takayama 7/17/99
Kawada vs. Kobashi 1/17/00
Kawada/Taue/Fuchi vs. Misawa/Kobashi/Shiga 3/11/00
Holy Demon Army vs. Ace/Barton 6/9/00

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I enjoyed Kawada more in the 80s than Misawa so that would be the big tie breaker in my view. Plus, I think he has a charisma that draws me to him that very few other wrestlers have been able to do. He will be somwhere hanging out with Tenryu on my ballot.

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I'm gonna have him in the Top 10-15 range, and chances are he and Misawa will be back-to-back. As much as I've grown to appreciate Misawa more over the years, I'm not sure if I can put him above Kawada. Will be the toughest decision I make on my ballot, probably.

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I've got him at #1 right now and that's unlikely to change. He's one of those very few guys for whom I hardly feel I need to make an argument for putting at #1, but at his best (let's say 12/93-6/95) he's simply the best wrestler I've ever seen.

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I'd be interested in hearing you talk about the match where he won his first TC within that stretch. Are you a fan of that match? It didn't seem to come together.

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That's an interesting one that I'm due a rewatch of. Misawa had the best TC match of the three without question; nor do I think anyone will doubt the Doc/Kawada classic is the Carnival Final. But in spite of that, I do recall aspects of that match reinforcing just how great Kawada was at that point, and thus it's a great match to look at for this poll.

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I liked how Kawada came into the match looking to do a bunch of amateur style wrestling against Doc. Kind of a "I know you're good at this, but I can do it too" to get inside Doc's head. It at the very least made the match interesting and different from their CC Final match, even if that was the better of the two.

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It helps him in the sense he was still clearly one of the best in the world in the early 2000s. The last five years wouldn't help or hurt him for me. He could still dial it up for a really good performance but didn't very often. You could say the same for the vast majority of great wrestlers in history.

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My feeling is that he stopped caring unless he was across from somebody he felt was worthwhile. Even then he wasn't the same Kawada. Most of his post 2000 matches I have seen are really disappointing. There are bright spots where he flips the switch back on, but for the most part he's like a shadow of his former self.

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What's the consensus on Kawada's post-NOAH split work?

 

Does his work in the 2000's help or hurt his case in your eyes?

 

 

He has glimpses of excellence especially in the New Japan feud but his Hustle stuff is a joke (same with Tenryu).

 

Will's Kawada set has 15+ discs with 99 matches covering his post-split career. Looks like 14 Hustle matches. The rest are AJPW, NJPW, Z1, IWA, NOAH, Kaientai Dojo, U-Style, Dragondoor, Muga. Really a wide variety, getting extremely close to the end.

 

It looks like there were only three tv/ppv matches after the end:

 

Jul-14-2010 NOAH: Takuma Sano & Yoshihiro Takayama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Masao Inoue (13:08)

 

Jul-19-2010 NOAH: Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue & Yoshinari Ogawa vs Genba Hirayanagi & Mohammed Yone & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (15:37)

 

Aug-15-2010 NJPW: Genichiro Tenryu & Tiger Mask & Toshiaki Kawada vs Riki Choshu & Super Strong Machine & AKIRA (8:17)

 

Will's timing was pretty amazing. Set came out as he walked away.

 

Anyway, that's a ton of matches to make the cut.

 

I wasn't a big fan of the post-split stuff, even that stuff that was pimped like Muto-Kawada. But I also wasn't a fan of the NOAH stuff that was pimped even more.

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Even the Misawa/Kawada NOAH Dome Match, which is a billion magnitudes removed from 6/3/94 is a pretty good match. I wouldn't call it great, though.

 

I'd say his last great match was with Hash, even though the leg selling gets a bit weird. A really epic match that delivered on first watch and stood the test of time on a recent re-watch. I liked some of his stuff from 2001, but nothing really stood out outside of leading Kojima and Tenzan to some pretty good matches. The first Kawada/Mutoh match was fine, too. But after the knee injury and his return, it just wasn't the same guy outside the Hash match, which it looked like was him trying to have one last great match, whereas the Misawa match was very much so Misawa by the numbers at that point.

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I wasn't around during the release of the 80s AJ set. But watching it I imagine the consensus is still Kawada was better than Misawa in the 80s. At what point do people think Misawa became a better worker than Kawada?

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I wasn't around during the release of the 80s AJ set. But watching it I imagine the consensus is still Kawada was better than Misawa in the 80s. At what point do people think Misawa became a better worker than Kawada?

Not sure Misawa ever became better. I'd take Misawa's output over Kawada's in a few given years--1995, 1997--but not because he'd clearly surpassed him.

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I wasn't around during the release of the 80s AJ set. But watching it I imagine the consensus is still Kawada was better than Misawa in the 80s. At what point do people think Misawa became a better worker than Kawada?

Not sure Misawa ever became better. I'd take Misawa's output over Kawada's in a few given years--1995, 1997--but not because he'd clearly surpassed him.

 

 

This is kind of what I was thinking. I agree with Dylan that Kawada wasn't a blow away great worker in the 80s and he wouldn't crack a top 100 "80s only" list for me. But I can't see an argument for MIsawa before 1995. And any post 95 year feels more like opportunity/footage than Misawa really being better.

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I think what really hurts Kawada is his 2000s run. It just hit me tonight that the thing I hated about watching him for the 2000s Japan project was the lack of Kawada being Kawada in a lot of his matches. It was as if he had lost all interest in putting his own stamp on any given match and just wrestled the other guy's match to a T. The only time I really thought he gave a shit was the 2009 Misawa tribute tag where he and Taue bludgeoned KENTA for being such a prick. Beyond that and a few matches with Hansen, Fuchi and Tenryu around he was on cruise control once Misawa and co. left All Japan.

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Through to 95 and I'm veering on the side of thinking Kawada may be a bit overrated. He's certainly a guy I don't see criticised nearly as much as any other top tier candidate, and times I have criticised him on All Japan Excite series it's almost like I'm committing a heresy.

 

Kawada more than any other guy seems to be haloed in a way that Flair, Kobashi, Misawa, Jumbo, Tenryu, and Funk are not. Although Hansen is a close second for halo effect.

 

For me, he's had a number of disappointing performances. Times when he goes to the mat, I don't think the work is all that. He is a logical worker a lot of the time, good at focusing on specific body parts, and possibly the most *oppertunistic* wrestler ever. He has a genuine cheeky horrible little bastard vibe when he equalizes by going back to an injury to regain momentum. Better at that sort of thing than practically anyone I've ever seen, but this is not the only thing to consider.

 

I don't think he's particularly great at going long. Whether in singles or tags, I really really haven't enjoyed the hour broadways that clog up 95. There is a pervading sense of "out of ideas, out of tricks" in all of those matches past the 30 minute mark. It's weird, like they can go 40 mins no problem but not the full 60.

 

Has to be a knock against Kawada. Flair, Jumbo, Bock, these guys were masters at going 60, but Kawada it seems to me could not master that. Another thing I thought about was that, for example, Flair vs. steamboat seems like a 5-star affair every single time out, especially 89 series, not just trilogy but the others too. Misawa vs. Kawada is not five stars every time out. It might be an unreasonable demand, but we're right at the top end talking fine margins here, and things like that should be considered I think.

 

He's great at a lot of things, but I don't think he should be put on a pedestal beyond criticism.

 

One thing I am keen to do is see Kawada outside of his highest end four pillars stuff. I want to see the equivalent of his Flair vs. Ricky Morton or Flair vs. Kerry or Flair vs. Koko Ware, Flair vs. Sam Housten even. Any number of "lesser" guys. I'd be fascinated to see what Kawada could do against some real scrubs too.

 

If anyone has a list of Kawada vs. Randomers they'd like to share, I'd love to take a close look.

 

This is another thing that for me is a knock on he All Japan guys. It's alright having 5-star classics with other all-time elite workers, but what about working with the mortals like some other candidates had to do?

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We do a have a Kawada vs Gary Albright match coming up on the Excite Series Parv.

 

Also, I don't think going 60 is something that is needed. Flair, Harley those guys had way more practice doing it. Kawada does not and quite frankly nobody really should. There is no need to go 60 more than a few times in your career.

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That was not the only criticism I made, but I do think when comparing across time, the ability to go 60 especially with someone who have experience and chemistry with (as Kawada did with Misawa) is a good like-for-like comparison. It's a way you can measure anyone from Bryan to Lou Thesz, since the hour Broadway was a staple for so long. And a very good test of what a worker is made of.

 

He needs more than Gary Albright, I want a whole list.

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