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[2002-02-24-AJPW-Excite Series] Keiji Mutoh vs Toshiaki Kawada

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For a while, this is everything the Tenryu vs Mutoh match the year before wasn't : actual hatred and intensity, leg work that looked crisp (thank you Kawada for making it seem so) and actually meant something and better selling down the stretch. Kawada is just as terrific as always here, although the regular no-selling comebacks back and forth I know annoyed the old AJ fans back then. Mutoh is also much crisper than during the Tenryu match and demonstrates a lot more heelish attitude too, as he should because he's still the fucking outsider with a title that should not belong to him, which Kawada reminds him in spades by kicking him in the face. The leg work with kneecaps dropkicks gets much more dramatic here as Kawada refuse to let them take him down, meanwhile letting himself open to Shining Wizards, the most copied spot of 2001/2002. This leads to a moonsault when he just can't take it anymore and lays down the mat, but Mutoh hitting his knee on the way down prevents him from covering Kawada immediately. Okay, so now this whole knee business led us somewhere. Some more cool counters incoming, including an attempt at delayed selling by Mutoh who just pops back up after a backdrop driver and runs to ShiningWIzard Kawada again. Well, if Kobashi can do it, why not Mutoh ? He doesn't do it as well (and by that I mean, he just pops out barely even registering the move he just took), but whatever. You gotta wonder what the hell happened toward the end though. I vote on Mutoh trolling Kawada by not going for the powerbomb then doing a miserable failed attempt at... something. Well, he ended up on his head, so no luck for him. Well, the match is great for enough time, despite this awful botch at the end. So, quite the terrific match with its share of Mutoh goofiness which is acceptable or not depending on your personal tolerance for Mutoh goofiness. Mine is high, so I really loved most of this match. Kawada was the glue, of course.

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These two guys had a great trilogy of matches 2001-2003. They all kind of blend together for me with them all involving fantastic bodypart work and Kawada serving as a great foil for Mutoh's trademark explosiveness. The ending is actually what makes this one stand out to me. I'm pretty sure it was Kawada intentionally doing the ganso bomb and wasn't a botch at all.

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If it wasn't for the constant no selling this would have been a close to great match. Plenty of struggle and I kind of liked Mutohs „I'm held together with glue and rubber band so I gotta be extra careful not to blow out my knees“ selling. Still seeing guys constantly jump up after receiving moves makes me zone out of a match fast.

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I am surprised you all liked this match as you did. This seemed to get praised at the time as part of the Mutoh 2001 Renaissance, but I thought the 2001 match was much, much better. This match was filled with so many odd, odd choices. This felt like one of those Cena/Owens matches where it was just my turn, your turn but just with more pop up to it. Oh and Mutoh didnt fuck Kawada over. I could tell they were going for the Ganso Bomb and I think Mutoh had a mini-freak out. He is NOT Misawa and wanted to take it more safely. Then the second attempt he did the Ganso Bomb, but it was a safer version than the famous Misawa one. Of course, it didnt finish. It was a normal powerbomb that finished. 

AJPW Triple Crown Champion Keiji Mutoh vs Toshiaki Kawada - AJPW 2/24/02

Mutoh 2001 loves to work the knee. Kawada loves to sell the knee. This should be easy. At minimum it should be great and their ceiling is match of the decade. Somehow, they deliver something that is just peculiar. I hesitate to call it bad, but it is not great that's for sure. They did have a classic in 2001 so they have it in them I have seen it, but this match was not it. This reminded me of the Kawada vs Hashimoto match which I wanted to love so badly, but was just weird at times. This was just plain bizarre. 

The match was riddled with pop-up no-selling. I don't mean like I am nitpicking like for a good twenty minutes they just do pop-up no-selling. I mean you could just call that a no-sell was coming. It felt like Cena vs Owens at times in how they would use one wrestler's offense to create another's offense. Mutoh just got done hitting his standard 90s offense Back Handspring Elbow and Power Elbow. Then he can just sits. I am like ok. Kawada suplexes him. Mutoh pops up and Shining Wizard so that Kawada can do the All Japan fall out of the ring sell. That's just a microcosm of the match. They pretty much do this style for the next twenty minutes. It is just bizarre. I don't know what they were trying to accomplish.  It being 2001 Mutoh there are 8 million dropkicks to the leg and dragon leg whips, which I love. I know it bothers a ton of people because it is so repetitive. It is actually the repetition that I like. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Then when the pattern breaks it becomes interesting. So I approve. I did think that's best part of the match. Kawada's selling in the moment was great per usual. However, he would keep no-selling and then he would be running around and kicking Mutoh in the head. The other thing is there were way too many Shining Wizards. I love that the idea behind the knee psychology is that the opponent struggles to get back to his feet and BANG SHINING WIZARD! But that should be a knockout blow not constantly blown off. I loved that Mutoh who is usually terrible at selling decided he was going to sell his own figure-4 (Kawada did reverse the pressure for a while). I am like neither one of you want to sell, but now you decided you are going to sell something that no one sells besides Flair in the 80s. The match was so bizarre. The cardinal sin of the match is not the weird pop-up no-selling head kicks and Shining Wizards, it was when Kawada did his glassy eye sell of the Shining Wizards. He died and it made it so that I couldnt believe in his comeback. I bit on the Moonsault because it seemed like the logical conclusion after a barrage of Shining Wizards because it was one level up. but when he kicked out. I knew Kawada was winning. It was so lame. Mutoh hits another Shining Wizard and Kawada sorta blocks it, but Mutoh sells like he is hurt. It was an incredibly lame transition. Then Kawada did a bunch of powerbombs including a Ganso Bomb. On the first attempt, Mutoh had some second thoughts and deadweights him. Mutoh is NOT Misawa and wanted to take the move safely. He hits the Ganso Bomb but it is safer than the Misawa one and of course just like in the Misawa match it is not the finish. Powerbomb wins the match for Kawada and he wins the Triple Crown for the fourth time. The curse of Kawada continues as he gets injured a month into his reign and is forced to vacate it. 

This match defies rating. It is utterly bizarre. 

 

 

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