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[1997-03-01-AJPW-Excite Series] Mitsuharu Misawa vs Steve Williams

Superstar Sleeze

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Wow! This didnt make the yearbook!

AJPW Triple Crown Champion Mitsuharu Misawa vs Steve Williams - AJPW 3/1/97

Up to this point, Misawa had only lost the Triple Crown twice, once to Dr. Death in July 1994 and to Akira Taue in May 1996. Due to Dr. Death's Drug Bust in 1995, he has not had a Triple Crown title bout since he lost the Titles to Kawada in October of 1994. Dr. Death spent most of 1996 earning back the trust of Baba and All Japan in the tag ranks putting on some stellar performances with Johnny Ace against Misawa/Akiyama including winning the Tag Team Titles from them. Misawa had won the Triple Crown back from Kobashi on 1/20/97 and is now looking to get his win back against the first man to ever beat for the Triple Crown, Steve Williams. This feels like a huge rematch. The funny thing is if you follow All Japan canon, you would never even know this match exists! Which is shocking to me because it is a huge rematch 2.5 years in the making and Dr. Death showed he could still go in 1996. I got high hopes for this one. 

They start off with some mat wrestling which is very uncharacteristic for Misawa. Then Doc demonstrates that explosiveness he is known for when he snatches Misawa and drops him with a Dangerous Back Drop Driver! That's his KO Punch! It usually spells the death knell for his opponents and it was the major turning point in the 94 match and how it has been hit 5 minutes into the match. One of the things, I have noticed in All Japan since late '95 is they like to spice things up by hitting HUGE bombs within 5 minutes. I think their idea is the finish run is the best part of the match so they are basically trying to make the entire match one big finish run. 

Misawa wisely powders. He catches Doc with a wicked slicing Elbow on the outside. I dont think it cut Doc, but he is acting like it did. Constantly touching the spot and asking the ref to check on him. This only serves to piss off Doc who pummels Misawa. Big German. Big Top Rope Shouldertackle. Misawa fires off an Elbow, but Doc is so explosive and cutting everything off with lunges and a full court press. Amazing floatover suplex into a cross armbreaker attempt but Misawa gets the ropes. It is time to ratchet up the offense so he goes for the Oklahoma Stampede. Misawa finds the back door. Great sequence, Misawa goes for the back slide and turns it into the Tiger Driver. Very cool. The Tiger Driver is enough to finally give Misawa a respite and the first major damage Doc has taken. Misawa lands an Elbow Suicida. Misawa is starting to roll. He is looking for a throw, Williams comes back with an interesting counter: dropkicks and one particular one lands on the knee. I was just thinking while I was watching Misawa vs Kawada 7/23/99 no one ever works Misawa's leg, I wonder what that would be like. Guess I will find out. Williams wraps it around the ring post always a good start. He works the leg well varying the holds and blows to the knee and Misawa is selling well. I love the Kneecrusher/Single Leg Crab combo. I am looking forward to seeing where this goes. I like it a lot so far.

Then of course immediately after this match gets really clunky. Dr. Death is trying for one his signature bombs, DoctorBomb or BackDrop Driver, but Misawa DDTs him. Doc oversells and Misawa just tees off on Dr. Death with Elbows. Where's the struggle and where's the fights? The escalation gets weird. It is like they lose their place and dont know what to do next. There was some "a second too long" prolonged looks at each other. This was only like 2 minutes before they got their shit together and Doc exploded with a lunge and then clobbered Misawa with a right. Misawa was doing deadweight selling. I was exhorting Doc to pin but he was futzing around and did deliver the DoctorBomb for 2. Doc hits another really good uppercut at one point. On the Irish Whip, Misawa collapses and Doc dives on top and covers with great drive in his leg. Williams hits a MONSTER Snake Eyes that would have made Taue proud and immediately threw him with a German for his biggest nearfall yet. The Budokan dug that a lot. Doc goes Sleeper and into a Tiger Suplex attempt, but Misawa breaks free, back to the Sleeper, like how he gobbled him up. I liked the use of Sleeper to further sap Misawa's energy. Misawa makes the ropes and the ref backs him up.

Misawa stiff back elbow and big time Elbow uppercut. You can feel the comeback. Big German by Misawa. This is a bit too easy for Misawa. Doc is really throwing himself into these Germans. MISAWA FUCKING DECKS DOC WITH AN ELBOW! That should have been the finish. HE SMOKED HIS ASS! Misawa goes for Tiger Driver but Doc sandbags and backs drops out. They get a little cute with Misawa Elbow and Doc as he falling nailing an uppercut.  The playing field is levelled, you can tell the finish is coming soon. Doc lunges and bowls Misawa over. Dr. Death is selling so well, clutching his head and wobbling. Doc mounts him and reigns down punches. Misawa flips him over and ground & pounds. Stand up Misawa is rocking him. Doc snatches him up with a WICKED Belly to Belly. I loved how sudden that was! Misawa will not be denied. Brutal barrage leads to a Tiger Driver. Doc gets cocky spitting at Misawa in defiance, Misawa evades the closed fist and ROARING ELBOW~! Second Tiger Driver. TIGER DRIVER '91~! 

Is this a ***** classic? No. Is it as good as their amazing July 94 match? No. Does it deserved to be buried and forgotten about? Hell No. Yes there were some clunky parts and the leg work went absolutely nowhere. I think if you cut out from the 12-17 minute mark and made this a 24-25 minute match it would be much better. As is, it is still great. They play off the July 94 match immediately with the Dangerous Back Drop Driver. It is almost like they picked up where they left off. Misawa rolling out, but this time he survives. He pops him with an Elbow immediately that buys him a lot of time. Doc looked so powerful and explosive in this match. The big drawback in my mind were transitions to Misawa going on offense. They were lazy (Elbows Galore) and Doc didnt put up much of fight. It was just like ok it is Misawa's turn and I am going to be a ragdoll. The action in of itself was great. I dont mind Misawa living on Elbows and Tiger Drivers, literally his only offense. It makes sense because he was digging himself out of a hole because of the Back Drop Driver, it is just I wish it wasnt so easy. From Dr. Death KO punch to the end, this is just classic All Japan, big bomb nearfalls for Williams and then an epic Elbow/Tiger Driver barrage from Misawa. Edit this a bit and increase the struggle and this is an all-timer, as it is it is still awesome and worth watching! ****1/4

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