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Jun Akiyama

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Just curious if anyone would be willing to present Akiyama's best match each year from 1992 to present. I suspect after 2004 it would mostly be matches that haven't gotten much play, but maybe I'm overlooking something obvious.

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I think how someone sees Akiyama is largely dependant on what they appreciate in wrestling, and by that i don't mean style as much as the Parv post Loss brought up on twitter the other day. To me Akiyama's strenght isn't so much in how great his best match in a year is (not to say he doesn't have some that are absolutely epic and would be contenders for a MOTY of a certain year, because he does) but how many other very good-great matches and performances he has. There's also the problem of the traditional notion of a "great match", because people largely associate it with long singles matches, often championship bouts and Akiyama's case isn't built on those imo. Not his case for being a top 10 wrestler of all time anyway.

 

I'll do 2005 onwards:

 

2005-vs. Hashi (can I leave this somewhat vague and say SOMETHING vs. Hashi? a lot of tags there)

2006-vs Masao Inoue 4/23

2007-either the Kobashi return match or Akiyama/Rikioh vs Takayama/Sugiura 4/28 (though best Akiyama performance is probably the Yone sprint)

2008-vs. Morishima 12/11 I guess?

2009-vs. KENTA 5/17

2010-vs. Sugiura for the GHC title or vs. Kensuke Sasaki from the Global League

2011-vs. Suwama for the Triple Crown (s/o to his matches vs. Shiozaki for the GHC and the 7/10 Nakajima match)

2012-Akiyama/Kobashi vs. Kensuke Sasaki/Kitamiya

2013-Akiyama/Shiozaki vs Suwama/Doering 6/2

2014-vs. Omori 6/15

2015-Akiyama/Omori vs Shiozaki/Miyahara 8/29
2016-vs. Jake Lee 1/3

 

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This is why I dismiss formulas and "objective" rankings for projects like this and prefer a holistic approach. Akiyama was in great matches but I have zero personal emotional connection to the guy. When Phil Schneider calls me up and says "Let's watch this El Dandy match or Steven Regal match", my eyes light up and I get excited. Phil has never called me up to watch an Akiyama match.

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This was Akiyama's final BIGLAV score:

 

Jun Akiyama

 

Basic (offense, selling, psychology) 2/3 3/3 3/3 = 8

Intangibles 3

Great matches 8

Length of Peak 1996-2015 = 19 years = 10

 

+1 ability to work heel

+1 ability to work tags

 

Ability to work different styles / roles = 2

 

Variety = 10

 

41

 

I'm going to watch some more 00s Akiyama this week. But he can't really improve on this score since I already gave him credit for it with the maxed out L and V ratings, and doubtful he could improve on the G. He got low-balled on the A rating, but so did the four pillars.

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I would give him 3/3 for offense. I guess you haven't seen much 2000's and modern Akiyama but he developed into one of the greatest on the offensive workers of all time. Great range and depth of offense, executed with tremendous focus. He might have the most focused offense I have ever seen, especially when working over a body part.

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I would give him 3/3 for offense. I guess you haven't seen much 2000's and modern Akiyama but he developed into one of the greatest on the offensive workers of all time. Great range and depth of offense, executed with tremendous focus. He might have the most focused offense I have ever seen, especially when working over a body part.

I think the same thing about Hase so I've no doubt I'd give him that extra point if that is true. As it happens I don't think he'd have moved up even if he had it, at most one place.

 

I'm still curious about who the scoffers are that Dylan mentions. Pretty sure it wasn't me or Chad. Although I do think top quartile rather than top 10 seems "more right" for him. I had him above Taue, which is some pretty high praise.

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Akiyama does have precisely one advantage over most of his AJPW-vet brethren: he's not always afraid to do some really goofy stuff by their standards. Like, I just saw the Misawa/Akiyama vs Hayabusa/Shinzaki from the RWTL '97. Shinzaki grabs Misawa for his "praying rope-walk" version of Undertaker's Old School where he walks two entire sides of the ring; but for some damn reason, he climbs up the wrong side and starts out walking practically right on top of Jun who's standing on the apron waiting for a tag. It's clearly a fuckup on Jinsei's part, like whipping a guy into his own corner during the heat, it's something that just makes no sense and you should never do.

 

But in the half-second he has to react to this, Jun very quickly comes up with an interesting way to cover for Shinzaki's dumbassery. Rather than 1.disrupt the match with an uncalled audible by attacking the helpless idiot who randomly decided to stroll right past him, or 2.look like an idiot himself by going "well, the script says I'm not supposed to hit him now!" and standing there and doing nothing, Akiyama makes the inspired choice to 3.act freaked out by Shinzaki's move, looking startled and scampering down to the floor like he was surprised by a psych-out from an unpredictable madman of an opponent. "Holy shit, that guy almost stepped on my head when I was standing up, did you SEE that?!" is the general tone of his facial expression and body language. I don't think it was a planned spot, Shinzaki seemed like he simply wasn't paying attention and made a boo-boo, but Akiyama was generous enough to fix everything with a reaction of fright which I don't think you would've ever seen from your Misawas or Kawadas of the world.

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I thought you thought I should put Jumbo on my ballot? If I elevate importance of emotional connection he goes to worst wrestler of all time status.

 

I have Akiyama in my Top 40. It's to his credit that he made it as high without the emotional connection. I don't loathe Akiyama the way you loathe Jumbo. I don't loathe him at all.

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Jingus's post is an interesting point. I think you could argue that Akiyama, more than any of the other AJPW guys, really thrived in NOAH with its less dry, more traditionally "pro wrestling"-y booking and character work. He came into his own as the dick faction leader in the Burning vs. Sternness feud (incidentally, if someone wants to make a list of the best Burning vs. Sterness multimans that would be cool).

 

That story also makes me think of another display of Akiyama thinking on his feet I mentioned on Twitter recently: upon seeing Makoto Hashi and Ricky Marvin blow a spot, Akiyama comes in and stomps the shit out of Marvin, then goes after HASHI (who he had a kinda comedic father/son-esque relationship with) and starts stomping him too, before dragging him to the corner to tag himself in. Pretty much saves the match in the process. Would be interesting if there's many other examples of that kind of adapting on the fly.

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Haven't seen that particular match, but I feel like Akiyama has been rescuing and elevating throwaway tag and multi-man matches for something ridiculous like 15 years. He has his enormous pool of great matches, and then even more great performances and rescue operations on top of that. The VOLUME is absurd.

 

I feel that Akiyama might have the largest amount of under-the-radar matches and performances of any top-level Japanese candidate. He hasn't been in the spotlight since NOAH had any real buzz circa 2005-06. The MOTY talk and Meltzer ratings dried out a very long time ago, as did a lot of Akiyama's audience for a list like this. Akiyama has yet to experience any serious decline, and has spent a decade STILL being very good to excellent with the lights turned off, carrying a lot of less talented wrestlers in a business downturn. Maybe Otani is a similar case, but I don't quite have the complete picture with him.

 

I also think Akiyama's matches from the early 2000s, the closest thing to his peak I suppose, have aged really well, whilst a lot of NOAH from this period is on the very opposite end of the spectrum. I feel a retrospective look at his 'best years' (aka time spent in a hot promotion) reveals yet another layer of under-the-radar goodness in addition to an entire decade of good work gone unseen AND the gigantic list of well-known matches and performances. I'm sensing that a serious comparison of Misawa vs. Akiyama as a peak vs. longevity thing (Misawa's sublime peak, 80s afterthought, trailing off into excess vs. top-level for a quarter of a century without a world-beating run) would be considered heresy, but probably shouldn't be...

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If anyone doesn't know Jun won the DDT Openweight Title (basically their world title) a couple of months ago and yep he's still yet to show any serious decline. His match against Kazusada Higuchi on 03/28 was one of my favourite matches of 2021 so far. He may have the strongest longevity/duration of quality case of any Japanese wrestler in history at this point.

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Some may quibble about the peak but I doubt many would argue about the longevity. He has a real shot to be top 30 on my list, and might crack the top 15. And yes, he has to be one of the best rookie wrestlers ever. 

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The fact Akiyama is still building his legacy as a GOATC is amazing to me, considering he worked the same style as the Pillars. He's with guys like Rey, Fujiwara, Liger and Flair as kings of consistency and longevity. I might have him above guys like Kawada, Taue, Hashimoto, Fujinami, Jumbo and Tenryu... Hell, the only japanese heavyweight wrestlers I think would rank higher than him in my book would be Kobashi, Misawa and Tanahashi. He's that good, and has always been. Clear top 10 contender.

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Well shit, I also had Akiyama at number 50 in 2016! I have similarly little to say about him right now, but part of that is because I want to make a concerted effort to watch more Akiyama for the next deadline before I figure out where I'm at on him (I mean, broadly, where I'm at right now is that he was great, or I wouldn't have had him at #50). I watched a bit of his 2010 stuff before 2016 and liked it, but I feel like I should go a bit deeper, and to be honest he's one of the only guys who've been prominent in Japan for the last 10 years that I feel that way about. I wouldn't need to watch another match of Misawa, Kobashi, Kawada, Taue, Kikuchi, Fuchi, Jumbo...basically any of the 90s All Japan crew to know where I stand on them. But Akiyama sort of has a whole entire OTHER career that I'm not nearly as familiar with, and enough people whose opinions I value have been banging the drum for him for long enough that I probably shouldn't ignore it. So yeah, I don't know where he'll land in 2026, but even if I'm lukewarm on stuff from the last 10 years he still feels like solid top half candidate. 

 

JUN AKIYAMA YOU SHOULD WATCH:

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

w/Kenta Kobashi v Vader & Stan Hansen (All Japan, 12/5/98)

v Mitsuharu Misawa (All Japan, 2/27/00)

v Katsuyori Shibata (Wrestle-One, 8/4/05)

w/Genichiro Tenryu v Kenta Kobashi & Akira Taue (NOAH, 9/18/05)

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For more recent Jun matches, I'd recommend these:

vs. Kai (4/29/2013)
vs. Kento Miyahara (7/23/2016)

w/ Takao Omori vs. Shuji Ishikawa and Suwama (1/3/2018)
w/ Atsushi Aoki vs. Takashi Sugiura and Daisuke Harada
vs. Suwama (4/15/2018)

vs. Zeus (4/21/2018)
vs. Naomichi Marufuji (4/25/2018)
w/ Joe Doering and Yuji Hino vs. Zeus, the Bodyguard, and Shingo Takagi (4/30/2018)

w/ Daisuke Sekimoto vs. Kento Miyahara and Yoshitatsu (11/20/2018)
vs. Keisuke Ishii (12/16/2018)
vs. Tetsuya Endo (2/14/2021)

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Jun is a weird one.

In the last decade or so, it seems he'll randomly pop up in a recommended match and everyone goes "this guy's the best in the world right now" before we go back to forgetting about him again. It's a shame that he doesn't get the coverage he (probably) deserves, though I'm guessing a lot of it has to do with the loss of interest in Japanese wrestling by those who would see Jun as a transcendentally great guy. His longevity is unreal and list of great matches stretches almost 3 decades. Boss Rock has a pretty lengthy list there but I can still see a couple obvious omissions - that's how bolstered his work is.

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6 hours ago, Rah said:

Jun is a weird one.

In the last decade or so, it seems he'll randomly pop up in a recommended match and everyone goes "this guy's the best in the world right now" before we go back to forgetting about him again. It's a shame that he doesn't get the coverage he (probably) deserves, though I'm guessing a lot of it has to do with the loss of interest in Japanese wrestling by those who would see Jun as a transcendentally great guy. His longevity is unreal and list of great matches stretches almost 3 decades. Boss Rock has a pretty lengthy list there but I can still see a couple obvious omissions - that's how bolstered his work is.

I would love more recs if you have them!

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As Rah suggested, Jun is hurt by the fact his career has been somewhat incoherent over the last decade. He's never settled in as the great elder statesman in one promotion ( though I guess that's sort of what he is in DDT), but he also doesn't feel like a great marauder in the Tenryu mode. He's probably a non-factor for your average fan of modern New Japan. He gets a lot of credit for his late career on this board, and I don't know whether to feel bad for him, because for all I know, this was the path he wanted. You can't even really say he failed to escape the shadows of Misawa and Kobashi, because at some point, he stopped engaging with his career on those terms. He's looked good in the ring for 29 years, which is a hell of a thing, no matter the context.

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I've basically dissected everything there is to with Akiyama in this thread already, but to tie it all together, his 2010s-onwards career is basically a mix of carrying uninteresting but mechanically capable workers to the best work of their career and having better than average but incosequential modern japanese wrestling matches that are very much immersed in the contemporary style.

If you want to be fair to Akiyama, don't ignore his great work in recent years, but he's definitely not a Hashimoto/Tenryu match where you're gonna get the same Akiyama that turned Kento Miyahara into a legitimate main eventer in something like two tags and one singles match in some random tag, or even singles match, or even a singles match that may be of higher profile. Judging it from the perspective of how good his shtick is (which would translate to how good matches with his uninspired performances are), I thin Rolling Savate Sano is much better than him.

But, if you want to be *really* fair to him, watching random early 2000s NOAH tags is exactly where his case lies. That's where he shined as a complete main event character, and if you were to take one period of him as much watch, it's much more telling of what he was capable of and how he operated as a prime worker than 90s All Japan or his old man run.

 

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I'm a longevity and adaptability guy so for me Jun is an elite candidate. I don't think there's a single stretch of his career I'm not a fan of but I'll dig deeper to see if that's indeed the case. I love his ability to bring the best out in an opponent and his dynamic working with younger talent over the years like Hashi, Suwama, and Miyahara. His style is a great balance of classic fundamentals with a modern approach that really works for my tastes in particular. Basically Akiyama was my kind of wrestler from day 1 and never stopped being my kind of wrestler. There are very few candidates with his type of career that I can say that about.

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Akiyama has had an incredibly long career working various roles, whether singles or tag, and with an incredible array of opponents given the generations and promotions he's crossed.  I was trying to pinpoint just why I don't regard him as highly as his peers from AJPW/NOAH and other GOAT candidates and think its because he rarely, if ever, made me feel the way they did.  And I mean literally feel.  Kobashi, Misawa, Kawada, Tanahashi, Bryan, even Flair -- whether through their fiery comebacks or the way they'll work the crowd, wrestlers of that level can get me can get me invested in a match at a level that others simply can't.  I won't just enjoy what I'm watching but will actually care about what's happening -- whether for a fleeting moment or more.  Akiyama has been great at this for nearly 30 years.  He's probably no worse than a top 20-25 candidate.  But he didn't make me feel the way those I'd consider at #1 ever did and that's why I can't look at him as a top 10 candidate.

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