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[2000-04-08-AJPW] Johnny Smith vs Kenta Kobashi

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A grand match that worked as Kobashi giving an homage to World of Sport. This match really gave me pause to whether Kobashi is the GOAT because he is able to work a Johnny Smith style of match that 100% plays to his strengths (that we haven’t seen much of so far mind you) and yet Kobashi looks completely comfortable and competent. The arm wringers and reversal in the first half of the match were amazing and really played into the big bombs and throws in the second half. A fabulous match overall and one I think everyone should seek out to show how versatile Kobashi really is. ****

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Terrific match with Kobashi working Smith's style and showing a side of his ringwork I hadn't really seen before, going hold for hold with Johnny Smith in a matched that was entirely British style with really fantastic matwork. Kobashi seems right at home, even though this isn't really something he does. I loved the way this built to a hot final stretch of big nearfalls, just because they got there so slowly and organically instead of doing a match that's laid out like a generally accepted great match. ****

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This was all right. I thought Smith looked more like Owen Hart or Chris Benoit working the European style than anything authentically British except for one or two holds. I guess I imagined something different when I read this was worked in the British style. There was more matwork than your average All Japan bout and Kobashi did some neat armwork but this was mostly a physical All Japan encounter with a bit of matwork instead of irish-whipping each other into the guard rails. Smith tried to take the fight to Kobashi in the second half of the bout but he was fighting a losing battle on that front. Korakuen Hall was a wee bit quiet on this night which didn't help inspire Smith. The finishing stretch was fairly standard but I didn't like the finish at all. Smith came off as fairly weak opposition if his German was so soft that Kobashi could counter like that. Not a bad match but I don't think it was a remarkable advertisement for Kobashi as a worker.

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I think I fall more in line with OJ on this one. There was some good matwork in the first half of this, but overall this didn't feel like a WOS match to me. Johnny Smith is a guy that has just never caught on with me for whatever reason. I think he's a decent enough worker, but I've just never really seen him as a good fit in All Japan. I thought this was a pretty good match, but it didn't feel like anything special or a display of Kobashi's versatility.

 

***1/2

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This was a nice change of pace for All Japan. Instead of chops and bombs, this started off worked old school NWA style with Smith throwing in a few British type reversals. The second half veered into more familiar All Japan territory, but Kobashi pulled out a surprise submission for the win. Both guys showed versatility as Kobashi kept up with Smith in the first half and the Smith with Kobashi in the second half. Smith has shown some solid skills in these matches from 2000. He lacks the charisma to be great, but he is fine as a utility player that can step up when needed.

 

****

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This was quite the curve ball compared to the usual AJ big matches from this era. Not a head drop to be found! I enjoyed the different look from Kobashi and Smith kept right up with him. *** 1/2

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Johnny Smith vs. Kenta Kobashi - AJPW Champion Carnival: Day 11 (04/08/00)

 

First time watching Smith, and I was impressed - but, damn, what a boring name. Good match, but suffers from the same pitfalls that S2H vs. Malenko did - opening limbwork that is flagrantly ignored in favor of bombs and stiff strike exchanges. Kobashi’s long-term selling leaves a lot to be desired. I loved the first eight or so minutes with Smith stymying Kobashi with his British style grappling, and it’s a shame he opted to go move-for-move with Kobashi in the second half rather than sticking with his gameplan.

 

Rating: ***¼

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