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[2005-04-10-AJPW Champion Carnival] Keiji Muto vs Toshiaki Kawada

Ma Stump Puller

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I like this, but also understand that this comes from a place of hubris as a match. Hear me out. They pace this out smartly, going from a heated and fast-paced (ish) beginning with Muto firing off Dragon Screws and Figure-Fours, while Dangerous K lands a early Gamengiri to get Muto away to recover. Sadly we don't get more of that and then quickly drift into the abyss of "let's do weird half-MMA half-whatever mat-work" as the two stick on lots of holds for a long time to try to pad this one out a bit more. I say weird half-MMA because they do stuff like the importance of mount positions, like the two will take back or side mount and there's a clear importance about positioning and leverage, but then they'll just revert back to pro-wres mode and do something goofy instead. It's certainly not bad given the calibre of talent here, it does start to spell out D-R-A-W right in front of you from the get-go as soon as we start seeing Muto switch from arm to leg without any real gameplan; it just stinks of stalling. Muto works these real good though, and his ability to make these semi-important, like his agency to shove Kawada all the way back down to the mat when he hooks the body for a potential Dangerous Backdrop; smart little stuff like that to reward you for going though the filler. I was actually shocked how washed Kawada looked in certain sections here, gasping for air and landing horrendous strikes. He's not like that for most of the match however, so great! Muto gets a cool bit where he no sells a suplex into a Shining Wizard, Kawada blocks and he messes up his arm (kinda legitimately here, he seems to wave Kawada off slightly just to warn him when he tries kicking it) however they don't really work it in outside of a few stomps and a submission. K goes though his big bombs, including a backdrop and solid powerbomb on the outside.

Kawada's work on the arm is fairly fun, he hits kicks, submissions on the outside and modifies his Stretch Plum to crank it more, typical expectations met. I thought the two legitimately sold their respective limbs really well, especially in the later half when both were fatigued, damaged, barely able to keep control and only doing so via hammering in the effected limb. Even if it was a excuse for the two to have a laydown, it still impressed for what it was. There's some no-selling near the end as the two try to ignore the pain long enough to win, but nothing sticks. Kawada's shit can't work, and Muto's Frankensteiner fails because his shoulder is done; both can't make any pushes here. Seeing the two botch over and over is rough; it's a good kind of rough, and it plays into the match surprisingly well. The finish is....well.....they fucked it up. Kawada lands a brainbuster and great running PK, he goes for the pin and the bell is SUPPOSED to ring before the three, but it doesn't so the ref has to very obviously not make the count and then the bell goes, ruining the match and making the crowd go sour. That absolutely sucks given the outing wasn't terrible. However when I watch this I just see two guys who are trying to work on a level that they simply can't reliably do at this point; they're trying to have a classic 90's Kings Road match in a era where both men aren't really at that physical level to justify such a extensive showing. There's lots of superficial work that looks fine, seems reasonable, yet it's all a cheap trick to get the match to that magic 30 minute mark. That does sting when you realise that's the final aim of this, given the focus on vulnerability and their failing bodies IS a great dynamic! They just don't go all-in on that idea, which is a shame. It's so close to being something actually great. 




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