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Toshiaki Kawada

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Kawada being a bad 70s wannabe may be the most alien thing I've ever heard. Sure you are talking about the guy who spin kicks, stomps people on the back of their heads when doing a leg crab and doesn't do worked punches at all? Or is "doing holds and going long" something that belongs in the 70s in general? I don't recall him doing any Destroyer-style teases of the Stretch Plum. Atleast now I have a motivation to watch those 60 minute matches again....

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I guess the point is that I don't think he's particularly great at "doing holds and going long".

 

I mean, to my own list, it won't matter a whole ton, he's lock top 10.

 

But I'm just putting some of my conclusions from watching the stuff out there.

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Kawada is currently a top 2-3 contender for me. He was arguably the best of the pillars '90-'92 with his rivalry with Taue really being the driving point of those amazing trios matches.And even if Kobashi and Misawa surpassed him later on, he was still right there in the conversation for best in the world. He was also the one most likely to try different things, mainly due to his desire to work more submission and shoot-based stuff in matches which butted heads with Baba. That's why I love his post-pillars run so much. He would have awesome pseudo-BattlArts matches with guys like Naoya Ogawa and Nagai while also having terrific Kings Road-esque bouts with Kojima, Tenzan, Tenryu, Sasaki, and Omori. The Holy Demon Army is also one of the greatest tag teams of all time. Sure, most of their best matches were against Kobashi, Jun, and Misawa, but those are still arguably the greatest tag matches ever. Not to mention he and Taue would also put on bangers against teams like Shinzaki and Hayabusa.

My only main criticism of Kawada would be that his leg selling, which he was once very good at, pretty much fell by the wayside later on in his career (*stares at the Mutoh matches). The Misawa matches also lost a bit of their luster in the late 90's, but most of them were still very good.

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1 minute ago, Boss Rock said:

 

My only main criticism of Kawada would be that his leg selling, which he was once very good at, pretty much fell by the wayside later on in his career (*stares at the Mutoh matches). The Misawa matches also lost a bit of their luster in the late 90's, but most of them were still very good.

Kawada's leg selling reputation is the most undeserved in wrestling history. 1 extraordinary performance (12/3/1993) doesn't compensate for multiple wildly inconsistent, if not outright poor, performances. Kobashi was magnitudes better.

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One thing I never understood was why he had a reputation as being a stoic guy. Misawa is obviously the stoic one and Kawada was very prone to intention emotional outbursts in matches all the way from the Revolution days to the end of his career. 

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The most consistent pillar, the one with the most longevity as a good-top performer and the most versatile (as much as those guys could be). Only reason I tend to put him below Misawa is because of the elbow throwing bastard's ridiculous 90-97 run which I still believe is the best peak ever but every time I read or hear a case in favor of Kawada I end up agreeing with basically everything.

18 minutes ago, strobogo said:

One thing I never understood was why he had a reputation as being a stoic guy. Misawa is obviously the stoic one and Kawada was very prone to intention emotional outbursts in matches all the way from the Revolution days to the end of his career. 

First time reading about this. Kawada always seemed to be seen as the "pissed off one" out of the pillars as far I can recall.

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If I had a criticism against Kawada, it would be how his selling became more of a self conscious thing that'd he put into a match just to have it. It was basically one of his signature spots. If you're going to a show to see Kawada, that's one of the things you're paying for essentially. Perhaps that's a little smarky for the 90s All Japan audience (maybe not). It's the equivalent of getting your shit in. Other than that, I love almost everything about him and his matches.

Similar to how I think about Hansen, Kawada is someone who, not matter the match quality, is someone always value for time. I can watch one of his famous Misawa matches or a random match against Tamon Honda and get so much enjoy out of watching Kawada doing his thing. And of course, he has the incredible match resume on top of being a must see wrestler. Excellent in tags, excellent in singles matches, had a very good post peak career, having quality matches against Sasaki, Kojima, Hashimoto, the tags with Fuchi, and there are some gems of his before he became the wrestler we know Kawada to be. I don't think anyone will displace him from my #1 spot. It'll depend on how I see Okada in a few years time. 

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Kawada was my number 6 in 2016. He won't be that high next time, but he's someone I think is very good at the pro wrestling despite me being at the point where I don't really love the sort of style he was great at. He had lots of very good matches! He'll be someone's number 1, or perhaps the number 1 of many someones. There's really nothing else I feel like I need to say about the guy. 

 

TOSHIAKI KAWADA MATCHES YOU SHOULD WATCH:

w/Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy (All Japan, 12/16/88)

w/Ricky Fuyuki v Can-Am Express (All Japan, 6/5/89)

w/Genichiro Tenryu & Ricky Fuyuki v Giant Baba, Rusher Kimura & Masa Fuchi (All Japan, 9/15/89)

v Akira Taue (All Japan, 1/15/91)

w/Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi v Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Masa Fuchi (All Japan, 4/20/91)

w/Mitsuharu Misawa v Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (All Japan, 11/29/91)

v Stan Hansen (All Japan, 2/28/93)

v Jun Akiyama (All Japan, 7/9/93)

w/Akira Taue v Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi (All Japan, 12/3/93)

v Steve Williams (All Japan, 4/16/94)

w/Akira Taue v Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi (All Japan, 5/21/94)

v Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan, 6/3/94)

w/Akira Taue v Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi (All Japan, 6/9/95)

v Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan, 7/24/95)

v Gary Albright (All Japan, 10/25/95)

w/Akira Taue v Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama (All Japan, 12/6/96)

v Kenta Kobashi (All Japan, 6/12/98)

w/Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen & Taiyo Kea (All Japan, 7/23/00)

v Kensuke Sasaki (New Japan, 10/9/00)

v Genichiro Tenryu (All Japan, 10/28/00)

w/Nobutaka Araya v Genichiro Tenryu & Masa Fuchi (All Japan, 6/30/01)

v Naoya Ogawa (Zero-1, 12/14/03)

v Shinya Hashimoto (All Japan, 2/22/04)

v Katsuyori Shibata (New Japan, 11/3/04)

v Satoshi Kojima (All Japan, 2/16/05)

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I love Kawada, but as great as his wrestling was it was moreso his overall arc as a wrestler and character and man in the shadow of Misawa. His tragic character arc was what bought my investment and made his inevitable long title run so cool. I also always appreciated that he was the one pillar/Japanese wrestling legend in general who didn't go out as a miserable shell of himself who could barely move. He was still having good matches and still Kawada until his very last year, even though he wasn't where was a decade-2 decades prior, he still held up pretty well. It says something that he has that kind of longevity over his contemporaries and makes him a worthy top 5-10 pick.

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I would argue Taue went out far less miserable, Kawada looked like he was cashing checks and nothing more for a good bit towards the end, but I get your point. Taue looked consumed with grief and was much more broken down but I still think he was enjoying working up until the end.

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Oh yeah I just meant in terms of match quality and how they wrestled. Taue was completely broken down for years and more like the president. On a personal level Taue's retirement show was very good and ended with a great moment. But his last "Taue" performance was with Maru in 2006. Kobashi & Misawa both shells of themselves. Even Kawada's mentor Tenryu who was also an incredible old guy wrestler before went out barely being able to move and Okada having to work around him. Kawada still had a really good match with Sekimoto at the start of 2010 with Sekimoto in Zero1 and he still looked like himself, just older.

 

I remember he did one of those talk battles with Tenryu at one of his Produce shows where he was talking about how he was hurting and Misawa's death took a lot of his passion out. I definitely don't think he was passionate anymore (and it's hard to blame him) but I don't think he ever stopped being Kawada in the ring compared to the other guys, at least to me.

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I've been thinking about Kawada recently. While last time's GWE talk was about Kawada-Kobashi, I would say, to me at least, Kobashi is pretty confortable ahead of him, and Kawada is a lot closer to Misawa in my provisional list. They both feel like top 10 contenders that might be right outside of it.

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