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[2012-03-20-AJPW] Jun Akiyama vs Keiji Mutoh


Superstar Sleeze
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AJPW Triple Crown Champion Jun Akiyama vs Keiji Mutoh - AJPW 3/20/12

One of those dream matches that happened ten years too late, but I do recall them having an all-star dream tag match under the NJPW banner in like 2002. 

For two men in their 40s, this is pretty baller. It is two seasoned pros and just going out there and have a really great match because they understand the fundamentals & their limitations (this is only 18 minutes). 

They do an ode to King's Road by starting red hot Akiyama hits a Sliding Knee and a Exploder early. Looks like the rout is on. They even do the apron tease spot that was famous in late 90s All Japan. Predictably, Mutoh Dragon Leg Screws Akiyama off the apron. The main complaint against post-2001 Mutoh is that his work is predictable. Give me predictable over bad any day of the week and twice on Sunday please. His work is logical and makes sense. I will always support that. 

Dragon Leg Screw on the railing, dropkick to the knee as Akiyama re-enters the ring and then Figure-4. All the Mutoh tropes front-loaded. Every spot feels like it means something. Akiyama gets the Flash Guillotine Choke when Mutoh lackadaisically goes for the knee. I really liked that as a transition to Akiyama. It does not use Akiyama's bad knee and it saps Mutoh's energy and it was a believable spot. Akiyama does a great job selling his knee while hitting his offense. Honestly, this is one of the best knee selling performances while on offense I have ever seen and it is the really selling point of why fans and wrestlers should watch this match. He hits a kneedrop on the apron and the way he sells it coming off the apron is great. Mutoh does a great job selling too which is not something he is very good at. Akiyama hits the DDT on the exposed concrete. He has established the neck as what he is working on. He hits a piledriver among other great neck related work. Mutoh hits a dropkick to Akiyama bad knee as he is coming off the ropes. Mutoh goes for the Dragon Leg Screw, but pulls the trigger too late and Akiyama strikes him in the face with his free knee. Awesome spot! It almost feels like they incorporating how Mutoh is old into this match by being slow to pull the trigger and the seven years younger Akiyama beats him to the punch. 

They do the annoying All Japan spot where they each no sell the other's finish. Akiyama hits an Exploder and then it is a Shining Wizard then it is an Exploder and then a Shining Wizard. Good news is that they only do this once and it signals the playing field is levelled and now they head home. They do a nice job letting Mutoh have his stretch and then Akiyama goes into his. I prefer this to the terrible "My Turn, Your Turn" style of home stretches. Mutoh hits what feels like a hundred Shining Wizard variations credit where it is due there were some cool wrinkles. I didnt like the Moonsault directly into the Guillotine Choke as it undercuts the Moonsault. The Akiyama finish stretch was great. Nice mixture of Exploders and knees. I really liked the Mutoh Frankensteiner out of nowhere as a surprise nearfall before Akiyama just rammed his knee into his face. Akiyama busts out his new finish which is a variation on the Michinoku Driver. 

Very efficient match. Hot start, each man worked awesome control segments, Akiyama was the standout with the knee selling while one offense. I thought the home stretch was hot with tons of bombs. Some weird old man clunkiness here & there along with the All Japan no-selling spots bring this down, but I still thought this was a fun match between two of the best to ever do it. ****

 

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