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Charles (Loss)

[1999-12-03-AJPW-Real World Tag League] Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama vs Stan Hansen & Akira Taue

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I need to do a side-by-side comparison of this and the '98 final. Both are shorter and somewhat unheralded tag league finals that don't touch the very best but are still pretty great on their own. Hansen having his last great match is a lot like Cher and her farewell tours, and one showing up this late shows that he could still rise to the occasion as late as 1999.

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Damn this was good. Hansen firing up and slapping the fuck out of people and forcing everyone around him to match his rage is a well beloved formula and Hansen as an old guy adds a nice different angle to it. Parts of this felt like the Baba/Rusher tag from 10 years earlier. It's trite to talk about Hansens selling and charisma but him putting over his opponent's strikes (to the point where he had people believe he was knocked out by a random Kobashi chop) and gathering considerable response for basic moves was a thing of beauty. By the end the whole crowd was dying to see the lariat and the eventual payoff gets a crazy response. Also I've never ever heard Kobashi getting heel responses like he did here. THAT is how good Hansen was. I also dug Taue as an understated second man on the Hansen team working deliberately heelish. Insane last minute with Akiyama once again bringing it all out for a lightning fast victory.

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Hansen ruled so much in this. He even got Taue to show some intensity and Kobashi to get heel heat. Love the post match with all the tag league guys in the ring and Hansen attacking Kobashi and the gasp the crowd does after it. Good stuff.

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What a fantastic way to conclude a stellar year, and an out of this world decade for Zen Nihon. A celebration of the promotion in general and Stan Hansen in particular. It turned out to be another memorable Tag League final, with a match that surely blew away the most optimistic expectations. The fans were massively behind the veteran duo. You don't get atmosphere's like this anymore. Taue looked like he was still in his prime. Hansen may have slowed down but he still had his strikes. Not to mention all his experience and mental skills. He turned back the clock and gave the Burning all they could handle. The 20m duration was spot on. Only a couple of minor errors. Akiyama still doesn't quite come off as an A lister. The vets threatened before the momentum switched rapidly, with the defending champions putting together a decisive offensive salvo. It's hard to see how this could've worked out any better at this point in time.

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Damn, what a match! Glad to see 1999 still delivering high end MOTYC matches in December. This was a really heated match right from the beginning and they took it to each other with lots of wild strike exchanges and fighting on the outside. Kobashi and Hansen going against each other was always awesome. As good as Hansen was, Taue really stood out to me in this match, busting out a cool arm-trap supelx and a top rope splash. The crowd was really hot throughout and seemed really into Hansen an Taue, booing Kobashi for breaking up falls a couple times. The last minute or so they really took it to another level of intensity, Kobashi and Akiyama launch a lightning fast comeback to take out Hansen, Taue puts up a quick fight and looks like he might win out, but he gets crushed with Exploders for the win. The shot of Hansen in rage right after the bell is great. Top 10 for the year easy.

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Burning (Kenta Kobashi & Jun Akiyama) vs. Stan Hansen & Akira Taue - AJPW 12/3/99

 

I don't know how I left this one sneak up on me again after that bitchin' 1998 Real World Tag League Final. I figured Hansen in 99, Taue & Hansen never teaming and this not being pimped that would be great (I mean these are 4 of the 25 of the best workers of all time), but not a classic. Wrong! This was badass. Another incredible tag league final, not as great as 12/3/93 or 12/6/96, but I would say 98 & 99 are in the Top 5. In the Hansen/Vader final, I thought Vader was the real unstoppable force, but here I thought Hansen contributed a lot more and loved the dynamic with Taue. I would not say the performance from Burning was as urgent (did not need to be because it is not the same bulldozing team), but damn this was wicked energetic and cut a great pace.

 

Hansen sets the tone early by attacking before the bell. Hansen bulldozes Kobashi and DOOOOOOOMMMM!!! KO-BASH-I KO-BASH-I KO-BASH-I! Those would actually die down into outright booing upon every save by Kobashi and cheering for Hansen. Kobashi is being overwhelmed by the sheer might of Hansen & Taue. Akiyama is not forgotten as he eats a big boot over the railing. It kinda feels like 1993 in a good way with Kobashi desperately struggling against the bully Hnasen who is dragging him to the apron by chopping him hard to the head and then hitting a monster leg drop on the outside. There is progression because Kobashi is better than Hansen, but there is still that old relationship. Or how much struggle Kobashi needed to take Hansen over on a vertical suplex. Kobashi with some advantage finally tags in Akiyama who slaps the shit out of Hansen, but eats a wicked elbow well that did not last long. Taue has been great in holding this together and really moving everything along while being the dick we know and love. Hits a nice DDT on exposed concrete. Akiyama finally hits a high knee to Taue and tags out immediately. I love that about All Japan tags. The urgency to make a tag rather than the slow American dramatic crawl. Taue hits an enziguiri as Kobashi enters and then TWO AXE KICKS! Tag out to Hansen to a big pop! Huge chop by Kobashi and Hansen crumples to the match. Hansen is good at making that stuff look great. Immediate cover by Kobashi, love the urgency, quick Russian Legsweep and immediate cover, again this is what I find really compelling. Akiyama fucks up again pretty quickly goes flying over the top rope and Taue pounces and drops him on the railing. Kobashi is pissed and ends up in railing too. Taue is such a great number two heel. Taue drops Akiyama on the top rope and then it is AIR TAUE!!! Flying bodypress from Taue, LOVE IT! Kobashi starts saving Akiyama to boos! WOW! Akiyama gets a middle rope dropkick and tags out to Kobashi. Awesome hot tag even if the crowd has turned on Kobashi out of respect for Hansen. Spinning Back Chops to Taue, Hansen tries to go all Bull in China Shop, but Kobashi him collide on a shoulder tackle. HUGE! DDT on Taue! Powerbomb On Taue! Legdrop! Bodyslam! FIST PUMP! I LOVE ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING!

 

Hansen stops moonsault and having flashbacks to 7/29/93 with Kobashi on top rope and Hansen on the apron. Taue gets back suplex and tags in Hansen. They do lose a bit of steam here because that felt red hot, but they bring it back down before really kicking off a molten finish sequence. Kobashi tags out to Akiyama and the fun begins. Northern Lights by Akiyama to Hansen is impressive. Hansen headbutts to Akiyama and feels like a war and powerbombs Akiyama, but Kobashi saves to boos. Here is where Taue takes over and kicks all sorts of ass.

 

Jumping big boot into a badass German Suplex. Then he drags Akiyama to the apron to hit the Nodowa and the drama is at a fever pitch. Hansen drags Kobashi away. Taue huge overhead chops on Akiyama. This is crazy. Akiyama elbows him mid-air to block the move! But Taue hits NODOWA on the floor anyway because he is a boss. Awesome last second save. Like it really felt last second. Then there is an awesome struggle over the next Nodowa in the ring. Akiyama tenaciously holding onto the top rope, Taue kicking off the top rope, Hansen hits a wicked elbow to break Akiyama's clasp on the ropes and Taue hits the MOTHER OF ALL NODOWADS!!! KICK OUT!!! WHAT THE FUCK!!! Totally lost my shit! Taue whips Akiyama into Hansen and Akiyama hits a high knee on Hansen! BURNING LARIAT ON HANSEN! Exploders for Taue, knee to back of the head and Wrist-Clutch Exploder with Kobashi counting along does Taue in!

 

Awesome bomb throwing tag team match that harken back to the glory days of All Japan 90s tag wrestling. Excellent pace, everything so urgent, just constant struggle to win the match. Everything was geared towards winning. Again the heels try to feed a babyface in for a Western Lariat, but again Burning thwarts their plans. Thought Hansen was even better than last year. Taue was a great addition that Nodowa drama was off the charts hot. I would say not as urgent or as gripping as Burning trying to overcome Vader/Hansen, but this was a different match but closer to the fast-paced All Japan epics. Loved this! ****1/2

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I actually thought that Taue was the star of this match. He was practically a one-man wrecking crew for his team, to the point where Hansen seemed like a weak link. Excellent match overall, especially with how it managed to confound expectations. When you've watched enough All Japan, you become so used to matches ending with one guy being buried under an avalanche of offense that when someone does manage to turn the tide at the last second, it stands out.

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#257

 

http://placetobenation.com/countdown-top-500-matches-of-the-90s-300-251/2/

 

I absolutely loved watching Hansen in this. He's such a bad ass. That Taue big boot into the German spot was awesome. And, holy shit, the finishing stretch! A fantastic match. ****1/2 I'd agree. I love the zoom in on Hansen's face at the start of this thing while he's leaning on the ropes... the grizzled vet... the man ... it reminded me of watching like the Unforgiven or something where the older Clint Eastwood is here to kick ass... so, watch out.

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#257

 

Burning -- possibly my least favourite good tag team ever. Kobashi and Akiyama together is too much for me to handle. It's like Brandon tagging with David in 90210. I'd forgotten that Kobashi adopted the Tajiri-style facial hair. Not a good look for him. This as a good match. In the beginning I thought it was one of those late period All Japan matches that are decent in isolation but pale in comparison to the promotion's creative peak, but the longer it went the more I thought it would be a good match in any era, perhaps not as the final but definitely as a league match. It suffered from the Japanese disease of too many moves. There were a few things they did like the DDT on the floor that were meaningless a minute later, and I thought Hansen struggled at times with both his movement and option taking. There was that glaring spot where Taue was holding Akiyama for Hansen to strike and the crowd thought maybe a lariat was coming and instead it was an ancient looking boot to the gut that a 60 year-old Baba could have done better. But if you're a Hansen fan (and I'm really only a middling one), this was must watch stuff. The whole "last chance" narrative the commentators were pushing speaks for itself. I hated the finish. I really wanted Taue to win on that spot where Hansen broke Akiyama's grip on the ropes. That felt like one of those classic All Japan touches with the detail work in the match layout. The Burning finishing combo at the end might have excited me if I liked them but instead I felt like Hansen in the commendation ceremony. I loved how he attacked Kobashi even though he'd gotten all the face heat during his last stand. A leopard never changes its spots. I also loved Taue in this. He was a relentless asskicker. It was like watching the Terminator version of Taue. It sucks that he ate the fall. Stupid Burning.

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Damn, this was a blast. Everyone here was great--Hansen as the cowboy on the Last Ride and all the intensity and anguish that entails, Taue as his muscle, and Kobashi and Akiyama as plucky babyfaces in Bizarro World. The final comeback is positively electrifying, with Akiyama desperately trying to hang onto the ropes to avoid a Taue chokeslam and still managing to kick out, then countering the Lariat attempt just when it seems all is lost. For AJPW standards it's a pretty quick babyface comeback to the finish, but the Wrist Clutch Exploder is pretty much instant death whenever it's busted out so it makes sense, and it was cool to see a big AJPW tag that really only has two hot false finishes but doesn't stop being a thrill ride the whole way through. Probably the #2 AJPW match of the year.

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