Baba vs Destroyer, JWA 3/5/69, 2/3 Falls. Absolute must-see classic. The technical work, Destroyer's great heel stuff, plenty of setups and payoffs, some nasty as hell finger bending, I mean man alive is this ever great. Not *technically* an All Japan match, but a prelude to it.
Baba vs Destroyer, 12/11/72. Just a couple months into the promotion. I have never believed that someone was going to submit to a headlock more than I did in the middle of this match.
Destroyer vs Mil Mascaras, 10/9/73. Not on par with their classic a year later, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't drop what you're doing to watch it. These two have plenty of technical trickery for you to enjoy. 238 MB.
The Funks vs Baba & Tomomi Tsuruta, International Tag Titles, 2/3 falls, 10/9/73, some clipping. I believe this is the earliest Jumbo footage; at this point he was going by his first name. He was just 6 months in and already he's clearly a good talent. The Funks help quite a bit in selling for him, but when he does a spectacular belly-to-belly suplex in the first fall you know he's got the stuff. GREAT crowd, responding to the action and being patient through the matwork. They add to the sense of accomplishment whenever Tsuruta manages to hang with the Funks, and love Terry's selling as any good wrestling fans should.
Jack Brisco vs Dory Funk Jr, 1/29/74, NWA Title. Not quite on par with the Destroyer classics, but still fine old-school grappling. A pity that Jack's brother is the one more people remember, because Jack could really go. Note that the date is given on the screen as "1 29", not 1/27 as it's listed elsewhere.
Jack Brisco vs Jumbo, NWA title, 1/30/74. Baby Jumbo gets a title shot mere months after his debut and (in-between comical amounts of OHs) handles himself quite well. Of course Jack is more the one who makes the match but few rookies ever are as good as Jumbo manages to be here.
Baba vs Pedro Morales, 6/13/74. There isn't a lot of Morales footage around that I know of. I have a feeling he didn't usually work as the small man in a match, but he does admirably in that role here.
Baba & Jumbo vs Backlund & Roop, 7/25/74. Backlund and Jumbo both have just a year under their belts, and both clearly have a bright future. Backlund for some reason attempts to cave in Jumbo's skull towards the end. 166 MB.
The Destroyer vs Mil Mascaras, 7/25/74. Behold the majesty of truly great old-school wrestling. Witness as they milk holds, tease spots and pay them off, and bust out some work that's more advanced than OVW trainees can hope to handle thirty plus years later. Destroyer ruled, Mil is timeless, this is SO great as long as you can handle watching a slower match. Worth every byte.
Baba & Destroyer vs Killer Karl Kox & Dick Slater, 8/29/74. Quality wrestling, big personalities with a ton of charisma, this one is just plain fun!
Dory Funk Jr vs Jumbo, 8/29/74. Dory trained Jumbo, giving the match a dimension beyond 'native vs gaijin'. Also, note the youngster tending to Jumbo after the first fall.
Pat O'Connor & Ken Mantell vs Jumbo & Takachiho, 2/3 falls, 12/2/74. The gaijin carry this like crazy thanks to their selling, skill, and viciousness. Subdued crowd isn't enough to keep this from being very enjoyable. I wish there was more O'Connor footage, because if this is how good he was after his prime then his prime must have been spectacular. Three real falls in this!
Brisco vs Baba, NWA title, 12/2/74. Hugely important match, and once again All Japan Classics offers us great video quality of the bout. There's a real nice close-up on the belt during one of the brief lulls in the action so don't fast-forward.
Baba & Jumbo vs The Funks, NWA International tag titles, 2/3 falls, 3/13/75. Baba & Jumbo won the belts from the Funks in Texas a few weeks before this, so you can be sure the Funks are willing to go to great lengths. The structure of the match is simple, with only a few momentum swings so that each control segment has a lot of importance. Three clean falls, with the third playing off the first. Terry's post-match reaction is fantastic.
Destroyer vs Spirit 7/25/75. Spirit is Killer Karl Cox. The match revolves around Spirit using much the same tactics as JWA-era Destroyer, leading to some fun paybacks. The way Jumbo plays into it, and how the crowd reacts, is even better. I'd give anything for a proper Destroyer/Kox match though.
Destroyer vs Great Kusatsu, World League 12/9/75. Kusatsu, who started in JWA and continued in IWE, had his career damaged when he suffered a knockout against Lou Thesz. I'm not sure what part of "losing to Lou Thesz" is shameful, but I suppose it's hard to overstate how important national pride was in the early days of puroresu. Anyway, he's a perfectly acceptable second-tier guy for Destroyer to guide to something watchable. Clean finish!
Baba vs Race, World League, 12/9/75. At this point Race was still over a year away from his career-defining NWA title win. However, he was no pushover either, having challenged for the NWA and AWA straps, along with taking Baba to a third fall in a PWF title match earlier in the year. This starts slow (very slow) but they do build some momentum and ramp up the action in the second half.
Destroyer vs Don Leo Jonathan, World League '75. DLJ is a great 'big' wrestler, and they play up the size difference quite effectively.
Destroyer vs Hiro Matsuda, Open League, 12/15/75. Unfortunately this match is only available in its current form because it never aired on an episode of AJ Classics. Matsuda is a wrestler who it seems has largely been lost as a result of a lack of footage despite being quite consequential. He was skilled enough to have been considered for NWA Champion while he was in Florida, and he went on to train several big stars like Hogan, Luger, Orndorff and more. He spent most of his career in the US and thus he wasn't a big star in Japan, but he was treated with respect. At the end of the tournament he was tied with Destroyer, Jumbo and Rusher Kimura. These two match up nicely, as they're about the same size and are skilled technicians. Not a barn-burner, but a rock-solid old-school chess match.
O'Connor vs Murdoch, 12/15/75. O'Connor is a former world champ, and even in his early 50s one can see the kind of talent he had. These two are great technical wrestlers with a ton of personality, give it a watch.
Dory Funk Jr vs Horst Hoffman, 12/15/75. Technical wrestling! The Dory elbow versus the European uppercut!
Baba vs Jumbo, 12/15/75. I believe this is their first meeting. And it is good, let me tell you; Jumbo is athletic and full of fire, while Baba is great on the mat.
Destroyer vs Horst Hoffman, Open League, 12/17/75. They TAKE IT TO THE MAT~ and it is hold-for-hold heaven in the first half. Strikes are interspersed in a way that's both organic and painful. Just super-solid and engaging throughout; my only complaint is that there isn't more.
Jumbo vs Dory Funk Jr, 12/18/75. Sadly it's JIP, but you take what you can get.
Baba vs Hoffman, 12/18/75. Also JIP. You can watch a lot of old Baba stuff and still be surprised by some of what he busts out. If Baba wins, he clinches the World League!
Rusher Kimura vs Jumbo, 2/3 falls, 3/28/76. Famous match, as IWE's top star invades and delivers a career performance. The matwork won't make you forget other '70s bouts, but what sets this apart is the closing stretch.
Baba vs Jumbo, Champions Carnival '76. Building from their first meeting. Jumbo does an absolutely amazing dropkick in this. Consider Jumbo's size and Baba's height and the precision on it, that's talent. I'm so glad VLC player has slo-mo capability. Semi-ironic finish to boot.
Terry Funk vs Jumbo Tsuruta, 6/11/76, NWA Title. Jumbo at this point was a young phenom, while Terry was a technician. And he was a great technician. You wouldn't even think Jumbo is a 'young boy' from how incredibly well he wrestles here. This is premium-quality old-school as good as any. 300+ MB.
Baba vs Billy Robinson, 7/24/76. I came in expecting a ton of hold-for-hold mat wrestling, but instead they go for striking and impact moves. It manages to work out just fine.
Jack Brisco vs Jumbo, UN title, 8/28/76. This belt, which was vacated when JWA closed, would go on to become part of the Triple Crown. Over the years it was "Jumbo's belt", the way the PWF title was "Baba's". The question is whether he can get it as early as 1976. At this point Jumbo had yet to beat any of the 'name' gaijin, let alone a top star like Jack. It would be one thing if Jack was an over-the-hill former NWA champ, but he's 34 and a remains a hard man to keep down. Even three years later he was able to beat budding New Japan star Fujinami in somewhat routine fashion. The match itself is quite a contrast with their '74 bout, where Jack was spoon-feeding young Jumbo. Here Jumbo is a legit threat, a point driven home when you see his gorgeous belly-to-belly suplex. The initial falls take a while to get going but the falls do tell a clear story and set up the third fall very nicely. Clean finish!
Dick Murdock vs Karl Kox, No DQ, 12/9/76. Kox, a big influence on Murdock, fights dirty. Dick fights clean most of the way but eventually snaps. Most of the match is them punching each other in the mouth, and these two have world-class punches.
Jumbo vs Billy Robinson, 3/5/77. One of my favorite old-school matches. Both of them are so great at so many things, and this has both fundamentally sound mat wrestling and state-of-the-art heavyweight action by '87 standards let alone '77. 257 MB.Match testimonial
Jumbo vs Billy Robinson, 3/11/77. Equally great rematch. Considering that it's only 6 days later they do a GREAT job of changing things up. 378 MB.
Harley Race vs Jumbo, NWA title, 6/11/77. One year to the day of his NWA match with Terry Funk, Jumbo takes on yet another legend. There isn't even a fraction as much prime Race floating around as there should be... hopefully this helps.
Jumbo vs Mil Mascaras, UN title, 8/25/77. Mil goes nuts with the lucha submissions.
Robinson & Hoffman vs Mighty Inoue & Takachiho, RWTL '77. The first-ever Tag League match is a good one. Takachiho is better known as Great Kabuki, and he uses his gnarly uppercut with abandon. Billy vs Mighty is just wonderful and it's a shame they never had a singles match.
Dory Jr & Terry Funk vs Billy Robinson & Horst Hoffman, 12/6/77. Oh man this match. All of these guys on the mat rule. All of these guys getting surly rules. Robinson's moveset rules. Combining the old-school way of doing things with the tag match dynamic rules. I could watch these four for 90 minutes but sadly the match is only half that long. Big file. If you still have a dial-up modem at this point I have no sympathy for you.
Dory Jr & Terry Funk vs Jumbo & Baba, 12/14/77. Next to last day of the first ever RWTL. Jumbo & Baba lost on the first day of the tournament and need a win here to have a chance of winning the tournament. The Funks can't afford to lose. 350+ MB.
Funks vs Abdullah & Shiek, RWTL '77. Abdullah/Shiek matches tend to be, how do you say, awful. This one works because it stays in the ring, the crowd is molten, and Terry delivers THE performance that got him over as a mega-babyface in Japan. Plus: big nearfalls?!
Race vs Jumbo, NWA title 2/3 falls, 1/20/78. From the original TV broadcast, so the VQ isn't perfect but it's plenty watchable. First two falls are JIP, last is complete. How Jumbo manages multiple deadlift suplexes on Race is beyond me.
The Funks vs Bockwinkel & Lanza, RWTL '78. Hell of a match. Throw four guys who can go in there, give 'em time, and you've got a real winner. Hard to go wrong with the Funks as it is, but when you add in Bockwinkel's talent and heel charisma, and the true grit of Lanza, well... you wind up with something dandy. FEAR THE CLAW!
Bockwinkel vs Jumbo, non-title, 12/12/78, possibly clipped. Textbook old-school wrestling, but due to where it's taking place the crowd sucks. Not as strong a face/heel dynamic as they had two months later; this is largely a technical chess match. They do pick up the pace in the last quarter and put together a solid end run. Clearly, this is not their 'A' match, but they're so skilled that they can sleepwalk to something rock-solid.
Baba & Jumbo vs The Funks, RWTL '78. De facto final. Funks need a win, Baba and Jumbo can get by with a draw. Terry is sporting a bandage, and the natives take advantage. MASSIVE sympathy heat for Terry really drives home how over he was considering that both teams are babyface. Good action in the final ten minutes. This might be the best iteration of the matchup!
Bockwinkel vs Jumbo, AWA title, 2/14/79. This takes place in Hawaii, and features Jumbo as a flat-out babyface who gets tons of crowd support. Weak finish but great wrestling, which should be assumed in any old-school title match.
Jumbo vs Dos Caras, Champions Carnival '79. Somewhat rough video quality because this didn't air on Classics. Lots of good technical wrestling, and a finish that doesn't seem very 1979 (in a good way).
The Funks vs Abbdullah & Shiek 7/15/79. As with the famous '77 tag league match, you have a mix of blood, heat, action, and drama. If you liked the '77 match, get this. If you haven't seen the '77 match, do so.
Race vs Baba, NWA title, 10/31/79. Full match. The start was clipped from the re-airing a few years later I initially posted. To the untrained eye the first portion of the match might be dull, but after coming to understand the style I can appreciate the intelligence of these two. Baba controls with a hold and keeps returning to it. Race goes for too much when he does escape and ends up being cut off as a result. When Race finally tries an easier move it connects and he's able to mount some offense. I can understand why it was clipped but I disagree with the decision. For instance, the move Race used to come back is what's being fought over when the new footage kicks in (and I made it nice and obvious where that is). The second half is straightforward and gets bloody. Plus it has a real finish!
Baba & Jumbo vs Mascaras & Caras, RWTL '79. Whenever Jumbo is in it's GREAT, and they don't go long so the pace is darn good for a '70s match.
The Funks vs Baba & Jumbo, RWTL '79. Having gone through their previous '70s bouts over a weekend, this one is markedly different. Because it's a 30 minute time limit rather than 45 or 60, they cut the drawn-out matwork almost entirely. Also they make sure to put the spotlight on Terry and get huge heat at what I believe is Korakuen Hall. Back when the government didn't give a crap about fire codes and promotions crammed 2300 people in there instead of 1800.
Murdoch vs Jumbo, UN Title 2/3 falls, 3/5/80, some clipping. Dick beat Jumbo for the title two weeks earlier with a tricky spinning toehold pinning combination. The first fall has lots of solid technical wrestling, and the quick second fall sets up a hot third.
Jumbo vs Dick Slater, Champion Carnival '80 Finals. Slight clipping. Slater comes in with a big ol' bandage over an eye and is a huge underdog despite round-robin wins over Baba and Jumbo. He earns his keep and I'd go so far as to say that he's better than Jumbo in this. The way he works holds, sells, and sets up the finishing stretch all give this a big-match feel. Contains the most intense battling over a spinning toehold that the world has ever seen!
Jumbo vs Dick Slater, Champion Carnival '80 Finals. Full match from the original, grittier-looking Samurai airing.
Baba vs Race, NWA title, 9/9/80. Baba beat Race five days earlier with the trusty neckbreaker drop. Race starts off with a bang and within the first two minutes is going for the kill. Granted we know it wouldn't end THAT early, but the match does end up on the short side so don't expect either of them to kick out just because they haven't spent a while working each other over. They do a good job of keeping the action going and when it does end you don't feel like it's too soon.
Funks vs Bockwinkel & Brunzell, RWTL '80. Bock as the ring general, Brunzell as the lackey, and the Funks as super-faces: a recipe for enjoyable professional wrestling.
Bockwinkel vs Robinson, 12/11/80. The company's best match for a couple years in either direction. This is an absolute CLINIC, and it's technical wrestling at its absolute best. Well-paced, well-structured, tons of details to reward those who pay attention, and executed by two masters of the game. Literally the only qualm I have is that I wish they had more time to work with. Considering that I complain about the length of modern matches that aren't even this long, that's saying something.
Baba & Jumbo vs The Funks, RWTL '80. Crowd is just LOSING IT for Terry. I have no idea why but it really makes the match, especially when they do a dramatic angle in the last 10 minutes. ~500 MB.
Dory Funk Jr vs Terry Funk, NWA International Title tournament final, 4/30/81. This was supposed to be Dory vs Brody but Brody didn't make it, so they inserted Terry. This was their only match and it lacked heat because there was no feud and the crowd didn't want to be partial. Terry said it was like wrestling himself because of their similar style. Baba booked the finish as a draw but the brothers decided to have a real ending. To me this marks the end of the long 70s-style technical match in All Japan.
Mascaras vs Steamboat, 2/3 falls, 8/81. For as disappointing as the match is at times (especially the finish), these two are too good for this to not be worth watching. Plenty of nifty matwork with unique holds and counters.
Flair vs Jumbo, NWA title 2/3 falls, 10/9/81. The announcers reference Flair's (very missable) title defense vs Terry Funk from two days earlier where they traded submissions before the inevitable DCO finish. First fall here is mostly dry but the finish to it is great. Second fall generally keeps up the momentum, and the crowd is white-hot any time it looks like Jumbo has a chance. Jumbo's comeback in the final fall, and the fact that there's an actual finish, cap off a solid title match. Both of them would improve, and thankfully we got rematches.
The Funks vs Brody & Snuka, RWTL '81. Memorable leapfrogs, big jumps, and lots of intensity in this. That's BEFORE one of the most historic angles ever in a Japanese match. An angle, I might add, which is only the start of the drama. Neither team has taken a pin or submission in the tournament. One of them does here!
Jumbo vs Tenryu, Champions Carnival, 4/16/82, some clipping. Tenryu is older than Jumbo and doesn't have that much experience, but as of '82 he hadn't made much of an impression. Thus, this match was a STRONG showing for him. It isn't in the same vein as the wars they later had. No, this in many ways is a 'young lion trying to prove himself' bout, which is funny when you consider what Tenryu is known for. Tenryu really holds up his end; it isn't a Jumbo carry-job. I wish we had the full thing!
Flair vs Jumbo, NWA title 2/3 falls, 6/8/82, JIP. I clipped the meandering early part of the match so that you can get right to the meaty portion. When they finally turn it on you can tell that these two are as good as they come.
Jumbo vs Mascaras, UN title, 7/30/82. A rare instance where not much happening early on actually helps a match. That's because it isn't a result of laziness, but rather because both are really on the ball from a defensive standpoint. They get frustrated, leading to an unexpectedly violent second half.
Jumbo vs Race, UN title, 8/1/82. This is superb, and in a way that's quite distinct from their matches in the '70s. They keep the pace up and start with what in lesser hands would be a fun heavyweight spotfest. However, Race brings strategy to the table as he targets Jumbo based on Jumbo's match two days before. The intensity ramps up in the second half, and amazingly enough they have a clean finish to top it off! Keep an eye out for the all-time best neckbreaker drop.
Terry Funk vs Stan Hansen, 9/11/82. Two tough Texans punch each other a lot. And yeah there's no finish, what you expected otherwise? They make up for it with one of the great post-match Hansen brawls, including a DIRTY AS HELL low-blow. So dirty.
Terry Funk, Jumbo & Tenryu vs Destroyer, Jerry Blackwell & Ron Bass, 9/14/82. If the prospect of Terry Funk vs Destroyer is not enough to get you to download this then shame on you. Shame! Also: Jerry Blackwell is so much better than you expect from first looking at him.
Race vs Steamboat, 12/7/82. Harley coming out to the NWA title theme (despite not being champ) is so swank. With Lou Thesz as the ref you've got quite the NWA trio in there. This was before Steamboat was a huge star, but he was big enough that the match is dubbed a "special dream match" by the announcer. I love random English words being used because of pro wrestling. Race, per his norm, is sure to make Ricky look good right from the start. The match itself is clearly 'small-ball' compared to what they'd do if it were a main event. Technically sound, well-executed, but only exciting in the last few minutes. Clean finish!
Baba & Jumbo vs Race & Slater, 12/13/82. From the final day of the RWTL. Race's afro and use of the NWA title theme exudes a level of pimpage that's impossible to create nowadays. Four great wrestlers go at it in front of one of the hottest early '80s All Japan crowds. Lou Thesz as the ref definitely changes things at times, since he isn't someone you ignore if he gets in your way to say 'don't do that'. Race's skull proves to be the driving force throughout. With that hair, how could it NOT be?
Funks vs Hansen & Brody, tag league 1982. Builds from the previous year's league finalie. Big-time heat, fast pace, and four of the toughest men ever to set foot in Texas going at it.
Terry Funk vs Hansen, 4/14/83. They had quite the slugfest the year before, and this is even better. Bigger crowd with a festive atmosphere; longer; a simple, cohesive story; more drama towards the end. Plus all the Texas punch-throwing you could ever want and lots of Stan Hansen being the most brutal bastard alive. This one's for anyone who loves pro wrestling.
The Funks vs Hansen & Brody, 4/20/83. The parts with Dory are fine. The parts with Terry, including the post-match, are PHENOMINAL. Terry Funk does 'face in peril' and 'hot tag' as good as anyone who ever donned the tights.
Koshinaka vs Misawa, 4/22/83. Pre-mask Misawa gets his arm worked over something fierce. Awwwww, baby Misawa.
Flair vs Jumbo, NWA title 2/3 falls, 6/8/83. I watched their '78, '81, '82 and '85 matches and thought, "they have a better match in them". This is that match. Long and very much worth it. 442 MB.
Bockwinkel vs Terry Funk, 7/12/83, JIP. Good matwork, good closing minutes, and also it has Terry Funk and Nick Bockwinkel.
Terry & Dory Funk vs Hansen & Gordy, 8/31/83. Terry's first retirement. Molten heat, great intensity, emotional post-match. This matchup is a no-lose proposition on paper and even better in execution.
DiBiase vs Tenryu 10/23/83. It's fascinating to see Tenryu doing rock-solid technical work: well-executed sequences, working holds, limb focus, then plugging in things like cradles to mix it up. I'm a huge Tenryu fan and I never would have expected him to be so capable in a technical match. The layout isn't done in a way that easily gets the crowd into it, but crowds can be wrong sometimes, and they're wrong here: it's good.
Baba & Dory Funk vs Jumbo & Tenryu, RWTL '83. Every previous tournament had Baba & Jumbo and the Funks. Now Terry is retired (but still on hand) while Tenryu is moving into a degree of prominence. Baba and Jumbo are still tag champs at this time but they're great as adversaries. 400+ MB.
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Hansen & Brody, RWTL '83. Springboards! 450s! Tope con hilos! Are not in this match! There is a clean finish though, and enough superheavyweight action to make your day. This isn't a 'final' but whoever wins the match wins the tournament. 134 MB.
Bockwinkel vs Jumbo, AWA title, Terry Funk as special ref, Hawaii, 2/23/84. Very famous match. The ring mic-ing adds a lot, and Terry is very entertaining, so there's more to this than just Bock and Jumbo on the mat (which is a very good base to build from). I don't think it quite holds up to its reputation, but it's still GOOD and worthwhile.
Hansen vs Baba, 3/24/84. Hansen's selling for Baba early on is remarkable. He sells the strikes, sells the armbars, then throws some rough strikes to remind you who he is. Hansen <3. Baba does some transitioning and countering that would seem to be vastly beyond his ability at this point. Crappy finish but it sets up a rematch with a real finish so I can forgive it.
Race vs Flair, 5/22/84. Battle of the two most recent ex-champions. There's a bit of a slugfest feel at the start. Then they get into the smart, detailed technical wrestling YOU want from them. A clean finish tops it off!
Kerry Von Erich vs Jumbo, 2/3 Falls, NWA Title 2/3 falls, 5/22/84. This is a textbook two-out-of-three-falls match. First fall sets up the second, second sets up the third, and both finishes are used in the finish of the third. They also do a great job of setting up tension between babyfaces. My pick for the top All Japan match from the first five years of the '80s, because it's got so much drama and intelligence.
Martel vs Jumbo, AWA title, 7/31/84. Martel beat Jumbo for the title in May. Really hot crowd, and an incredibly well-worked technical match. They get the most out of the holds, whether it be with counters or selling or execution. Rick Martel in his prime was a world-class talent.
Hansen vs Baba, PWF title, 7/31/84. A somewhat historic match that benefits from not going long. I love the atmosphere. More than that, I love Hansen and Baba busting out submission counters and continuing the story from their March bout. Despite being on the short side they have a hot closing stretch, topped off by a clean finish!
Tiger Mask II vs La Fiera, 8/28/84. Misawa's Japan debut under the hood, as he takes on the man who taught him so much in Mexico. Fiera is better here, but Tiger Misawa is no slouch. He executes difficult spots and sequences very well, especially considering his youth (just 22 here). Still, Fiera's huge bumping and quick thinking are what holds this together. An absolutely spectacular/insane dive is the highlight. There's a couple flubs, but the pace and overall execution (plus the historical aspect) makes this a must-see.
Hector & Chavo Guerrero vs Mighty Inoue & Gran Hamada, 9/12/84. Four very gifted athletes in a fast-paced, '80s-highspot-filled bout.
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Hansen & Brody, RWTL '84. Big dudes slamming into each other! Good pacing and energy! Blood! Godawful finish!
Choshu & Hamaguchi vs Tenryu & Okuma, 1/3/85, JIP. Choshu's All Japan debut, and it's at Korakuen! He and Tenryu mix it up, and we get a good look at the Tenryu we know and love. There's even the 1/2 vs 1/2 tag setup that has become standard for small show matchups. It took a while to get going, thus the clip, and the second half brings the action and fire we can thank Choshu for introducing to the promotion. Everything that made the '90s great starts RIGHT HERE.
Jumbo, Tenryu & T. Ishikawa vs Choshu, Yatsu & Teranishi, 1/6/85. Jumbo vs Choshu, round 1. Note that 'invader' Choshu is the one getting face heat.
Choshu, Hamaguchi & Teranishi vs Tenryu, Mighty Inoue & T. Ishikawa, 1/10/85. My initial predeliction was to think that Choshu and Tenryu were the ones leading the way to goodness. But, no, it's the ex-IWE crew who bring the energy and get Choshu and Tenryu to fit into the style they created in the late '70s. A bit choppy in the first half, but once it gets going they really raise the bar for action in All Japan.
Choshu, Khan & Yatsu vs Jumbo, T. Ishikawa & Fuchi, 1/14/85. Not the strongest of the January tags, but it's still good, especially the second half. Fuchi has sadly not yet developed the grumpy persona we know and love, so perhaps that expectation of Future Fuchi puts a damper on things. Interesting that Takashi Ishikawa pops up as relevant for this feud, then again for NJ vs WAR matches where he was often up against Choshu. Ishikawa is better-suited to the style than Jumbo at this point.
Choshu, Masa Saito & Killer Khan vs Jumbo, Tenryu & T. Ishikawa, 1/24/85. Whole lot of beef in this one. Also a whole lot of... top rope moves?!
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Choshu & Yatsu, 2/1/85. It's fascinating to see how much Jumbo has to be prodded into trading strikes at this point; technical work was so ingrained as his standard offense. Contrast with Tenryu doing things like a run-in enzuigiri. This match isn't on the same level as what they did later in the year, let alone in '86, but the important themes (the fire and double-teams of Choshu's side; Tenryu's feistiness) are all here. I have no clue what the finish is but that's the 80s for you.
Choshu vs Tenryu, 'Japan Pro' 2/21/85. Handheld, but don't let that stop you from watching a heated battle in front of one of the best crowds I've ever seen. Finish is what I would call "80s Clean" because one guy loses as a result of a big move from the other.
Hansen vs Khan, 5/14/85. Watchable handheld. They keep it short, there's plenty of clubbering, and it even has a semi-clean finish! Solid little match from two very non-little men.
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Choshu & Khan, 8/2/85. Khan looks like the best possible Oddjob. He might be the best wrestler in the match, mixing in selling, toughness, and plenty of ring smarts. This is somewhat of a hidden gem, and in my opinion it marks a turning point in quality for the Jumbo vs Choshu feud.
The Funks vs Choshu & Yatsu, 8/31/85. Terry Funk wants Choshu SO BAD that you don't care about how he worked the fans with his retirement two years earlier in the same building. All you want is to see Terry beat up that long-haired punk Riki. Terry Funk is pro wrestling.
Hansen & DiBiase vs Jumbo & Tenryu, PWF tag titles, 8/31/85. Starts slow but once it gets going, look out. Jumbo dishes out a monster of a lariat and it leads to a unique (for All Japan) and clean (for 1985) finish.
Flair vs Martel, 10/21/85. NWA champion vs AWA champion! Notice the HUGE reactions when either of them ends up on the outside; the fans are hip to the probable finish. Well-structured, well-wrestled, and they both come across as equals in spite of Flair wrestling in his usual heel role. It would have been better if they'd cut it down a couple minutes but this is still very good.
Flair vs Martel, 10/21/85, some clipping. Upgrade.
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Choshu & Yatsu, RWTL 11/30/85, JIP. First ten minutes are rather blatant in their filler-dom, so I clipped it. The second ten minutes are good. By that point they've built up a lot of momentum; the rest of the match is the level of quality you expect from these teams.
Hansen & DiBiase vs Choshu & Yatsu, RWTL '85. Last match in the most competitive tag league ever. Stan & Ted win the tournament with a win or time-limit draw, while their opponents must win. Lots of hard shots and a rather fast pace given the length of the match.
Choshu is attacked before a match. Sets up the January '86 tag title bout.
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Choshu & Yatsu, International tag titles, 1/26/86. Yatsu: highspot machine! Jumbo & Tenryu: home-grown heels! Choshu: sporting a bandage after a nefarious attack on a prior show! The first thing to shine through is the crowd. Not exactly Inoki vs Choshu elimination match heat, but much hotter than average for All Japan. Choshu being pissed is understandable, but Yatsu brings the hate from the start as well. Tenryu taking a swipe at Yatsu drives home that every pairing has hate. Remarkable pace; the dramatic spots come one after the next. *Then* comes the psychology part, rather than doing the obvious early as filler. Tenryu's hounding of Choshu is incredible. In many ways this is the blueprint for 6/9/95, my favorite match. I previously thought this was overrated; I am no longer of that opinion. I peg this as the 2nd best match from All Japan in the '80s.
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Choshu & Yatsu, International tag titles, 2/5/86. Rematch from their famous match a week before, and it's certainly on the same tier; this is my second-favorite AJ '80s tag. Tons of hate and a noisy crowd. Frequent tags from team Choshu, which is smart since he isn't 100%. There are lulls but they're much shorter than usual for the '80s. Big-time intensity, big-time selling, and rock-solid psych. Fun finish.
Choshu & Yatsu vs Jumbo & Tenryu, 3/4/86. To sum up this match in 5 words: Hate, action, bad finish, '80s.
Ted Dibiase vs Tenryu, 4/26/86. The themes of the match are Ted's ground work and both men doing a good job of avoiding moves with the word 'drop' in them. Some impressive power stuff here, not what you associate with Dibiase.
Fuchi vs Hiro Saito, 6/12/86. Somewhat overlong beatdown in the first part, but the comeback and second part make up for it. Hot closing run.
Choshu vs Tenryu, 9/3/86. Some unexpected spots, callbacks to their past, and plenty of bombs in the last five minutes. Sum total: a good professional wrestling match brought to YOU via. the magical internet.
Hansen vs Jumbo, International title, 9/3/86. The first 2/3rds are duelling arm work with some chip-shots because they're both stubborn. Then things get more heated as blood gets shed. The non-finish really makes you want to see what would come next, and thankfully the October rematch is a doozy.
Choshu vs Terry Funk, 10/21/86. I'll let the star power do the talking vis-a-vis match quality. Regarding the finish: it looks like it would be a DQ, but the finish that's looking to be prevented actually happens before the DQ would come in. In other words... a clean finish?!
Hansen vs Jumbo, International title, 10/21/86. This one takes it up a notch from their September battle. They start with the clubbering and that is really all I ask for in my Stan Hansen matches. It's one-sided for the first 13 minutes, but then we get a big, furious comeback with lots of justification. So much grit and intensity. A bloodied Jumbo pounding Hansen's bloodied face to fight off a leglock is just the sort of thing I watch pro wrestling for. Annoying finish but it's a finish, and this is by far the best match these two had.
Choshu & Yatsu vs Jumbo & Tenryu, International tag titles, 10/27/86. My heart shall always strive for Jumbo and Choshu; yea, but the crowd has embraced Choshu, and I must turn against them. Jumbo smacks Choshu to start things off and Choshu replies with a takedown; Jumbo wants to throw hands and Choshu is more interested in doing his headscissors resthold. Jumbo was hesitant at the start of the feud but at this point he's more energetic than Choshu. Yatsu has REALLY bulked up since we last saw him, having completed the transition from nimble grappler to proper All Japan chunkiness. The match as a whole has the qualities of the rest of the feud: heat, hate, and plenty of their trademark moves. Hot final couple minutes before the usual '80s crap finish.
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Baba & Tiger Mask II, RWTL '86. Sooooo fun. Jumbo and Tenryu get chippy with Baba, who gets chippy right back. Oh and there's the Tiger Mask character doing big flips, but who cares about that masked loser when you have grumpy superheavies?
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Choshu & Yatsu, RWTL '86. These teams could do no wrong, it was only ever a matter of *how good* the match would be.
Choshu & Yatsu vs The Funks, Tag League 1986. Final night of the tournament! Both teams are positioned in the top four, and Choshu/Yatsu have a chance at taking the tournament with a win. Solid follow-up to the previous Funk/Choshu battles, and Yatsu's selling is a special surprise.
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Hansen & Dibiase, RWTL '86 final. A rare 'final' from before '95. This is a tiebreaker; the teams finished on top in points and had their round-robin match earlier on the show. Because it went to a double-countout, they have to go again. And because there was only one match to give them a rest, this one goes quickly!
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Yatsu & Shinichi Nakano, 1/17/87. The AUDACITY of a nobody like Shinichi Nakano to front on the Jumbo/Tenryu tandem. The punk. He gets what he deserves. 124 MB.
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Choshu & Yatsu, International tag titles, 1/24/87. A tale of hate and arrogance. Interesting to compare this with the matches two years before, as Jumbo and Tenryu are more comfortable with the style and accordingly more over.
Choshu & Yatsu vs Jumbo & Takashi Ishikawa, 1/31/87. Really good example of a smaller Jumbo vs Choshu tag, as they keep the pace up very nicely down the stretch. 118 MB.
Jumbo & Tenryu vs Choshu & Yatsu, International tag titles, 2/5/87. Unto all things, an ending. Choshu left just a few days after the match, never to return. Can Jumbo & Tenryu finish on top?
Jumbo & Tenryu vs The Road Warriors, 3/12/87. The Roadies have somewhat of a reputation as uncooperative/lazy. I think the main issue is they wanted opponents who matched up with them in physicality and didn't respect opponents who worked loose/light. They loved Japan and vise-versa. The Roadies doing heel tagless switching, and a control segment, differentiates this from the what we're used to in All Japan. Lots of fun at the start, after the hot tag, and even the restholds are made interesting by the switching.
Jumbo & Tiger Mask II vs Tenryu & Hara, 6/11/87. With Choshu gone and the Jumbo/Tenryu team split up, Tiger Mask Misawa became much more important. Hara is the one who REALLY stepped up, though.
Hansen & DiBiase vs Yatsu & Nakano, tag titles, 7/17/87. This was DiBiase's last tour of All Japan for some time, so to an extent there's a sense that he and Hansen are doomed to lose. However, there are shows remaining in the tour, and Yatsu/Nakano is a seriously overmatched pairing (on paper). The opening minutes only have their occasional moments, but then DiBiase is put in peril in a memorable way. Lots of desperation, plus they tease the prison lock like crazy, which is a personal favorite. Then in a real twist Hansen is similarly worked over. Not the match you expect coming in, but a good one, and you feel like a Yatsu/Nakano win would be fitting rather than forced by booking.
Tenryu & Hara vs Jumbo & Kabuki, 8/21/87. The match doesn't go as planned, leading to an on-the-fly booking change. A change for the better in my humble opinion. Trust me on this one.
Jumbo vs Tenryu, 8/31/87. The first match in a great series. The opening minutes, RIGHT THERE is a sea change in singles match construction for the company. The teases, the chip shots, the fact that they don't start off with filler. Well, not an extended hunk of filler. Tenryu cranking on a wristlock and forcing Jumbo down isn't even filler, it's GOOD. Later on we get the type of multi-part transition that was at the core of the '90s style. In most old-school matches, a wrestler would take over based on just one move. They're clearly trying to raise the bar with the effort in this. In the context of the offense they reel off in this, frustration, exhaustion and a non-finish makes 100x more sense than is typical for such singles match finishes. They do a hell of a lot right, and it's obvious by the end that this matchup was the future of the company.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Hara, RWTL '87. The first meeting of an all-too-brief tag feud. They really ramp the stiffness up, plus there's plenty of cheap shots and hatred. It's not a masterpiece of structured tag wrestling but that doesn't keep it from being all kinds of fun.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Hara, 1/2/88. Starting the year off with a big tag at Korakuen! You know it's old because Wada doesn't get a "Kohei!" call. You know it's these four by the smattering of chops, lariats, and spite. Tenryu's attempt to rip off Jumbo provides an ample demonstration of how much more athletic Jumbo is. The match is mostly aimless outside of the general "they hate each other and take cheap shots" theme of the feud, but they do unload some of the big guns despite being at a smaller venue. If you like these four, give it a shot; if not you may safely pass.
Hansen & Gordy vs Jumbo & Yatsu, 2/20/88. A long, winding road led to this match being upgraded. Not only was I given the wrong date for this, I was given the wrong YEAR. Add in the fact that this matchup happened a lot, and that it isn't on Lynch's listing for 1988 TV, and it took years to nail down. Then I finally got it by slogging through a 70GB torrent. The things I do for you people! As with a lot of '88 TV the video quality was cruddy, and you can tell I cropped the hell out of it to make it more watchable (and it IS watchable). Anyway, the match. They give away a lot at Korakuen: two big teams go at it hot-and-heavy, there's blood, and there's a clean finisher ending! A rough-looking finisher at that.
Tenryu & Hara vs Yatsu & John Tenta, 2/29/88. Tenta, the future Earthquake, started in All Japan after transitioning from sumo. Fast pace and the novelty of green-but-good Tenta puts this into the "good stuff" category.
Hansen & Gordy vs Tenryu & Hara, 3/5/88. Hard-hitting throughout with one of the all-time classic Stan Hansen moments at the end. Watch the whole file.
Hansen vs Tenryu, 3/9/88. Follow-up to "nobody potatoes me!". Sadly it isn't the slugfest you'd expect based on the setup, but the match in isolation is good. Hansen going to a quasi stump-puller rather than a chinlock shows that he means business (and his business is pain). He works over the back in some very painful ways. At a certain point one wonders if the back focus is just filler, but it does factor in down the line. Hansen's focus, frustration and trademark stiffness are enough to make the match interesting.
Jumbo vs Tiger Mask II, 3/9/88. Their first singles match, and it sets up a lot of what would go down in numerous Jumbo singles matches a few years later with Misawa & Friends.
Jumbo, Kabuki & T. Ishikawa vs Hara, Kawada & Fuyuki, 3/11/88. OH YEAH! That is what I am talking about! H-A-T-E HATE. Kawada starts us off with a mega spinkick, Jumbo and Fuyuki hate each other, Jumbo obliterates Hara, Ishikawa obliterates Fuyuki with a double-team, Kabuki does what he does best (punch)... that is a first half I can get behind. Fuyuki is Kikuchi 0.1, and his pairing with Jumbo is the highlight of the match, though there are a lot of highlights. Weak-ish finish but this being 1988 it beats a non-finish. This holds up well enough that it would be a very high-end match if it happened today.
Tenryu vs Hansen, 3/27/88. In the first match the initial moments were hot and then it settled down. Here it's a good two and a half minutes of battling to kick things off. Tenryu seems to be fighting harder. After a lull Tenryu wins me back with some emphatic kidney shots. Hansen countering with elbows and knees to the forehead is a suitably violent reply. Some very big bombs to finish it up. More of what you want from them, as compared with the first match.
Bruiser Brody vs Jumbo, 4/19/88. NWA Int'l title match, a belt that would go on to be part of the Triple Crown. Brody took the title from Jumbo a month earlier with his patented King Kong kneedrop. This too is a rare decisive Brody match, and both lay it in a bit.
Tenryu & Hara vs Jumbo & Kabuki, 5/24/88. You don't need to worry about backstory, depth, whatever. You don't need to worry about whether this is some sort of all-time great match with lasting ramifications. You don't even need 20 minutes. Just sit back, relax, and enjoy some hard-hitting professional wrestling.
Tenryu & Hara vs Jumbo & Yatsu, 6/4/88. Leg work in the first half plays a major role in the second. You know a match is stiff when you wince in advance because of someone *entering for a save*. Man are the lariats beefy in the interactions of this match, just one after another that send these thick dudes hard to the mat. The fact that two of the lariats stand out from the rest means that they're incredible. In addition to hard-hitting, there are some absolutely brilliant moments. All that and a real finish!
Kawada & Fuyuki vs Takano & Nakano, All Asia titles, 7/19/88. Such HEAT for midcarders! I think current puro is mostly lacking quality-wise, but gosh, it sure would help if guys were getting chants like this. Fuyuki's execution and selling is the best part of the match. The middle with Fuyuki's peril segment is a step up in quality, between Fuyuki's selling and the smarts from the 'akanos. Neat to see Kawada's run-in briefly no-sold, followed by more emphatic kicking; very 'modern' touch. Hot hot finish.
Tenryu vs Hansen, 7/27/88. "Dai happening!" I just love the random mixing of Japanese and English. Good match, with the kind of snugness one expects from them. This features a non-finish that I consider a real finish.
Tenryu & Hara vs Tiger Mask & Takano, 8/20/88. Hara and Takano hate on each other! Tenryu/Hara is quite the fun team with their constant barrage of stiffness. 116 MB.
Tenryu & Hara vs Tiger Mask & Taue, 8/21/88. I heard that Taue was awful as a rookie but clearly this wasn't the case. Tenryu and Hara beat the crap out of him at every opportunity. Hara's lariats are world-class. 142 MB.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Hara, tag titles, 8/29/88. Not much specific direction in the first half but plenty of stiffness and some payback spots. Definite big-match feel; note the huge response to simple moves like Jumbo's dropkick. The crowd is willing to count along for Hara's lariat at the 10 minute mark, which shows they're hot. They do a good job of establishing that there's something to each pairing, which I think is too often overlooked in a tag. Even though Hara and Yatsu are #2 guys, they aren't far off from Jumbo and Tenryu. Same dynamic as Choshu/Yatsu vs Jumbo/Tenryu and Misawa/Kobashi vs Kawada/Taue. Another good comparison point: a leg injury that we saw in a previous match resurfaces. Fun, hot home stretch.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Hara, tag titles, 8/30/88. Another night, another batch of the doughy toughguys smacking each other around.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Hara, 9/15/88. Fresh off headlining big shows back-to-back, Baba decides to give it away to the lucky fans at Korakuen. And we're lucky too!
Rock-n-Roll Express vs Hansen & Kroffat, 10/26/88. Lots to love. Hot crowd, Hansen using his size and providing a different challenge than the R-n-R's normally have, Kroffat providing contrast with his highspots, lots of energy throughout, and a clean finish. Having not delved deeply into '80s southern wrestling I've seen remarkably little of prime R-n-R, and it's good to see they were effective in Japan. Kroffat's moveset and general way-of-wrestling is so distinct from '90s Can-Am Kroffat, it's like a different person.
Hansen vs Yatsu, 10/28/88. Most of what I host from Yatsu is tags, but here he does a fine job trying to take on the 'unsinkable battleship' from the heart of Texas.
Jumbo vs Tenryu, 10/28/88. Tenryu... does damage on the mat? Jumbo... dishes out a harsh powerbomb? A ref gets knocked around in a big '80s match and it isn't Joe Higuchi? Thankfully one thing doesn't go against the norm: Jumbo and Tenryu are worth your while.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Kawada, RWTL '88. Kawada has a tough act to follow after the epic tags that the Olympians vs Tenryu/Hara matchup produced. This one doesn't reach those heights, though it does provide a neat look at young Kawada. Clearly Kawada is outmatched, but he can hit hard and take a beating. The finish is satisfying in an '80s sort of way.
Hansen & Gordy vs Tenryu & Kawada, RWTL, 12/16/88. Absolute must-have match. By far the best bout of Kawada's earlier days. GREAT crowd! Very good pace in the first 5 minutes and all the roles are established. Kawada is put over as capable of hanging with the gaijin but only with a big struggle; Tenryu is a force to be reckoned with; both gaijin hit hard and absorb punishment with little effort. Some HUGE strikes in the second five minute stretch. The way Hansen breaks Kawada's German suplex is FANTASTIC; so measured and dastardly. Then the PERIL is kicked off in grand fashion and there's just so much desperation and drama. The cut-offs, the nearfalls, the stiffness, Hansen's off-the-charts surliness, and they keep it up for such a long time! Plus the cut-offs having their own separate psych. The big boys are so RELENTLESS and RUTHLESS! Rated #2 for AJ in the '80s in a 43-person vote, and I have it comfortably in the top 10.
The Malenkos vs Kabuki & Fuchi, 1/2/89. It doesn't take a psychic to know that a match with Joe, Dean and Fuchi will focus on technical wrestling. What might surprise you is that Kabuki more than holds up his end of things. The match takes a turn for the ACTION in the last few minutes.
Fuchi vs Joe Malenko, junior title, 1/20/89. Fuchi has just passed 2 years as champ. However, he hasn't defended against a fresh opponent in over a year, and hasn't defended at all for about 180 days. Joe is exactly the type of opponent who can beat Fuchi at his own game, and this is just the match to kick off one of the two most active years in the history of the championship.
Jumbo, Yatsu & Fuchi vs Tenryu, Kawada & Fuyuki, 1/28/89, JIP. Curse you joined-in-progress! The first great 6-man in years, the first great 6-man with Fuchi, and we only get part of it. Oh well, some of "great" is better than none at all!
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Kawada, tag titles, 2/23/89. This was set up by a match between the teams in January going well over 30 minutes, which was by far the biggest heavyweight accomplishment in Kawada's career to that point. Said match dragged a lot. This one is shorter and much the better for it. It's also got piles of stiffness. Yes, a stiff match with Kawada and Tenryu in it, will wonders never cease?
Road Warriors & Tenryu vs Jumbo, Yatsu & Takano, NWA 6-man tag titles, 3/8/89. WOW are the Roadies over. Jumbo and Yatsu get booed against them! The pace, heat, big-match feel and uniqueness, plus everyone bringing it, is enough to make this worthy of your time.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Kawada & Fuyuki, 3/28/89, JIP. Why oh why did this have to be clipped down? So much brutality! Jumbo/Yatsu is a hard-hitting tandem, but they usually don't come across as a violent/dangerous team. They sure do here, though.
Fuchi vs Momota, junior title, 3/29/89. Well hey, this match rules. K-Hall gets behind underdog Momota as he tries to upstage Fuchi, and this just might be the best junior title match from pre-split All Japan... or All Japan period!
Jumbo vs Hansen, Triple Crown formation match, 4/18/89. Plenty of stiffness and clubbering and so forth. There were several unification matches before this without a finish, including just two days earlier; this DOES have a finish.
Jumbo vs Tenryu, Triple Crown, 4/20/89. Their previous matches with fewer (or no) titles on the line went 20+ minutes, so it's interesting that their biggest match so far does not. Granted the finish is botched and they might have gone on for another five minutes, but I doubt it. They have a hot start before reeling it in for a somewhat dry middle. Tenryu segues to the last portion in grand fashion and the crowd heats right back up. Oh and as for the botched finish: it's botched because it's TOO BRUTAL. Thankfully the guy on the wrong end was okay. Also, thankfully this was quickly followed by a thrilling rematch.
Tenryu, Kawada & Fuyuki vs Spivey, Kroffat & Furnas, 5/21/89. Energy! Action! Sequences! Bombs! Awful awful crowd! Somewhat of a spotfest, but in general an effective showcase for the gaijins. Spivey beat Sting at Budokan Hall a week later, so this tour was big for him.
Kawada & Fuyuki vs Can-Am Express, All Asia tag titles, 6/5/89. Famous match, and the break-out showing for the Can-Ams. I like how they tease tension with Fuyuki and Furnas, then have the other two actually throw down. Solid content after that. Quite the heat on Footloose, and I can't say I understand why; they aren't THAT heelish. The crowd is memorable, popping huge for stuff like a sidewalk slam. Good build to the hot tag, and a finish that's satisfying despite not being back-and-forth nearfalls.
Jumbo vs Tenryu, Triple Crown, 6/5/89. Well for starters it absolutely CREAMS their April match for quality. Much more than that, this match almost single-handedly serves as a bridge between the Choshu-inspired strikes-and-sprints oriented style of the '80s and the epic grandeur of Misawa et al in the '90s. Taking the '80s style, Jumbo and Tenryu wrestle almost 25 minutes with practically no slacking in pace and a much bigger finishing stretch. Longest Triple Crown match until the Misawa era began, and all the more impressive because Jumbo and Tenryu are chunky. 235 MB, must-see.Match testimonial
Jumbo vs Tenryu, 6/5/89, some clipping. Upgrade.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Hansen & Kawada, tag titles, 6/8/89. Wow, look at Kawada take it to Yatsu! Fun crowd in Chiba (which is just to the east of Tokyo); at points it was so hot I thought it might be Korakuen. Very snug, ornery, battle-of-wills contest. MAN is Hansen pissy. Which is good for Kawada, since he needs the help after getting tagged by some big moves. Will Kawada finally overcome the Olympians?
Kawada vs Kobashi, 7/1/89. Their first meeting! Actually good, not just "wow Kawada vs Kobashi!". Totally different from what they were doing a few years later. There's a really nifty rolling takedown that I'm amazed I haven't seen anywhere else. 111 MB.
Joe Malenko vs Dean Malenko, junior title, 7/11/89. Brother versus brother in a duel of technical wizards.
The Fantastics vs The Malenkos, 7/15/89. I call this a "technical spotfest", because it's wall-to-wall with nifty technical wrestling, but it doesn't really go anywhere. That said, there's some *really* nifty action, and sometimes it's okay to just be FUN.
Tenryu & Hansen vs Jumbo & Kobashi, 7/15/89. First Kobashi main event in Korakuen. Every matchup brings a lot to the table, from the always-reliable Hansen vs Kobashi, to Jumbo against his Triple Crown sparring partners, to the rarely-seen early Kobashi vs Tenryu. Kobashi is a great young lion, Jumbo is a great hot tag, Tenryu/Hansen are freaking Tenryu/Hansen. Sheesh get it already.
Jumbo, Yatsu & Kabuki vs Tenryu, Hansen & Kawada, 7/28/89. Kabuki doesn't get in the way too much, so you're left with the other 5 guys visiting harm on one another. Good enough for me!
Jumbo & Kobashi vs Tenryu & Ogawa, 8/19/89. See the one problem with Ogawa in the Jumbo stable during the early '90s is that we didn't get to see Jumbo manhandling him. But thankfully this match exists. Oh yeah and there's more Jumbo vs Tenryu. Oh and that Kobashi guy. 136 MB.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Tenryu & Kawada, tag titles, 8/29/89. Lots of shots to the face, lots of hard strikes, lots of ill-will.
Kobashi vs Ace, 9/2/89. Very slightly clipped. Kobashi's second Budokan singles match, Ace's first. Kobashi is absurdly over for a young lion. Match goes a bit long for where these two are at but it's still good. 121 MB.
Jumbo vs Yatsu, 9/2/89. A fun crowd and plenty of good action. Yatsu looks good against his partner and takes quite the brutal suplexings.
Tenryu vs Gordy, Triple Crown, 9/2/89. Gordy doesn't care that a guy his size is supposed to stay down after one powerbomb, since it's so hard to pull off. He just wants the belts.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Kabuki & Kobashi, 9/15/89. I do not recall having seen this match listed anywhere before someone named ULTRAMAN put it (and a ton of other Kobashi bouts) on a torrent. Now, I will admit that when this site started I might have given it a quick glance and passed over. But in the year of our lord 2013, having shed my anti-Kabuki bias, I can enjoy this for what it is. Kobashi is in for like 80% of the time and continues to look like one of the best wrestlers ever for under two years of experience, doing absolutely everything right. Jumbo and Yatsu are there as measuring sticks and let the young lion have the spotlight. Kabuki mostly just throws uppercuts, which is precisely what I want out of him. Oh and it's at Korakuen. I love Baba-booked All Japan so much. Here's reason #4792.
Tenryu, Kawada & Fuyuki vs Baba, Rusher Kimura & Fuchi, 9/15/89. Baba anniversary match at Korakuen, so you know the crowd is hot. The first few minutes rule, but then we get a bit too much Baba/Rusher offense. Much better in the second half as the structure switches to Revolution on offense and Team Baba comebacks, as it should be. I can't help but salivate at the concept of a Tenryu/Kawada/Fuchi trio unit. Mmmmm...
Can-Am Express & Shamrock vs Joe Malenko, Kobashi & S. Nakano, 9/30/89. Fine lead-in to the All Asia tag two weeks later. Some big spots for a random midcard 6-man, and the weak link (Nanako) is given the least offense possible, much to our benefit.
Kobashi & Joe Malenko vs Kroffat & Ken Shamrock, 10/1/89. Just as fascinating as Taue vs Dreamer, only much better quality-wise.
Can-Am Express vs Joe Malenko & Kobashi, All Asia tag titles, 10/11/89. Kobashi's first title match as he and Joe go after the All Asia straps. Joe Malenko and Dan Kroffat are out-of-this-world good, combining cutting-edge with sound fundamentals. Kobashi pulls off everything he needs to and hangs with everyone, which considering the level of the guys he's in there with is amazing for a rookie. Lots and lots of good wrestling with nifty spots and an absolutely killer finish to top it all off. Watch and enjoy.
Tenryu vs Jumbo, Triple Crown, 10/11/89. A step down from their super-classic, and it doesn't quite have the ass-beating of the '88 match, but there's enough smarts and smacks and such that this deserves notice. First third and last third make up for a forgettable middle.
Can-Am Express vs Kawada & Fuyuki, All Asia tag titles, 10/20/89. Kroffat and Furnas have won two in a row, so Footloose really needs a win here to stay relevant. The teams vigorously season this meal with hate and leave room for plenty of highspots.
British Bulldogs & Kobashi vs Can-Am Express & Fuchi, 11/19/89. For all the talent in the match I was still surprised by how good it is. They could get by on just athletic ability and running through movesets, but they work in some sub-plots to put some meat on the metaphorical bones of the match.
Hansen & Tenryu vs Baba & Rusher Kimura, Tag League '89. Obviously, Baba and Rusher are too old and feeble to be a serious threat to Hansen and Tenryu. The key to this is that the old lions keep plugging away despite their very real physical limitations, while Tenryu and Hansen counter by being relentless. Very important and nasty finish to boot. Don't skip the intros either.
Hansen & Tenryu vs Jumbo & Yatsu, Tag League 1989. Last match in the tournament, and the winner takes it. Yatsu has been working with a head injury. This, as you can imagine, comes into play. They build to a very high level of tension and keep it up for a prolonged home stretch. Excellent way to close the decade.
Jumbo & Tiger Mask vs Tenryu & Fuyuki, 1/14/90. Tenryu hates Jumbo! Tenryu also hates Tiger Mask! Tenryu hating on things is money in the bank. Utterly brilliant finish.
Tenryu & Kawada vs Jumbo & Isao Takagi, 1/20/90. Isao: spunky young lion! Tenryu & Kawada: one last time (in the '90s)! Tenryu: perhaps overreaches in his hatred! Jumbo Tsuruta: says "oh!" at some point!
Tenryu vs Isao Takagi (Arashi), 1/28/90. Grumpy Tenryu is always good times. Takagi earned his ire in the above tag, and pays dearly for it.
Tenryu & Kawada vs Kabuki & Mighty Inoue, 2/21/90. I was so, so sure that by mid-2012 I wasn't going to find any more '90s All Japan hidden gems. I was wrong. Now, I'm not saying that this is a MOTYC; it isn't. There are some patches of resting, and it doesn't have the importance or epicness of the highest-end All Japan bouts. That said, there is a lot to love. For starters: we are in KORAKUEN HALL and the crowd loves them some Kabuki-and-Mighty. Tenryu/Kawada is a vastly more accomplished tandem, but Kabuki/Mighty matches up reasonably well. Both of the underdogs are willing to chuck a closed fist to the face, and both of them can bust out some athleticism when it's needed. Finish is really fun. Have I mentioned lately how much I love pro wrestling? Because I do.
Tiger Mask II vs Kobashi, 3/6/90. Misawa's last match under the hood at the Budokan, and their first singles bout. Even though Misawa was just two tours away from unmasking he's still Tiger Mask, so this is totally different from their later battles. I think the way Kobashi wins an early sequence rather than going to a rote standoff speaks volumes. Unfortunately, so does the botch not too long either; thankfully both of them tightened things up considerably in the next few months. At around the halfway mark it seems like they're about to act like the first half was filler, until Kobashi smartly returns to his focused attack. Tiger Misawa doesn't sell it the best, but his non-selling doesn't give him a sustained advantage. Kobashi is in control most of the way and it shows just how much faith they had in him. Both of them shine in the closing minutes. Having quality transitions rather than just mindless back-and-forth drives home that they would be capable of elite-level matches in the years to come.
Tenryu vs Taue, 4/16/90. Very solid handheld. Why this match didn't air despite other matches on the card being taped, I have no idea. It's a shame. This is a good look at young Taue, who really seems like he belongs in there with Tenryu. Taue was somewhat of a disappointment in '88-'89, but here you can see the promise of the future. The crowd definitely gets behind him. Tenryu lobs some Tenryu-level chops and is very generous. It's not an epic but I bet if you like these two you'll enjoy it.
Hansen & Spivey vs Jumbo & Kobashi, 4/16/90. Spivey replaces Tenryu as Hansen's partner, starting a quite successful run for them. The match is solid (how could it not be?), but what really makes it worth getting is the wildly entertaining Osaka crowd.
Jumbo vs Tenryu, Triple Crown, 4/19/90. It's 2012, and I watch this for the first time in at least five years. Somehow I managed to miss the FASCINATING context and booking that surrounds it in my previous viewings. Tenryu was going to jump ship, but it's not clear when he gave notice, so maybe this went as planned and maybe it was spur-of-the-moment. Tenryu and Hansen lost the tag titles to Gordy & Williams at the last Budokan show, with Tenryu submitting to an Indian deathlock. This put an end to the Hansen/Tenryu superteam, and Hansen's presence here demonstrates that it wasn't an amicable split. The match itself ends up being on the short side, with plenty of heat but not quite the quality level one expects of them. It's still well worth your while, and you should watch the whole file.
Tiger Mask II & Kawada vs Yatsu & Fuyuki, 5/14/90. Yatsu and Fuyuki are complete pricks. Okay, who cares? Apparently they upset that Tiger Mask guy a lot, and the result would change All Japan forever. 82 MB.
Tiger Mask II & Kawada vs Yatsu & Fuyuki, 5/14/90. Slightly clipped upgrade.
Kawada & Nakano vs Fuyuki & Kikuchi, 5/26/90. Reading between the lines here, I'm pretty sure Kikuchi ran over Kawada's favorite dog with a riding mower. Just a guess.
Gordy vs Kobashi, 5/26/90, JIP. From a handheld of a very important show. Kobashi gets to look good against the #2 gaijin.
Jumbo, Great Kabuki & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kobashi & Taue, 5/26/90. The young generation emerges. The Misawa vs Jumbo interaction in this match would set the table for Misawa's ENTIRE CAREER.
Hansen vs Williams, 6/5/90. One of those rare Hansen-plays-the-face matches that work so well when he's in there with a powerhouse like Williams, who heels like a mofo to boot.
Jumbo vs Gordy, Triple Crown, 6/5/90. To me the theme of this match is parity. Both guys make use of the lariat/powerbomb/backdrop moveset as the match wears on, they're about the same size and they're both very capable. The question becomes, who can figure out a way to trump the other long enough for the winning pin?
Williams vs Kobashi, 6/8/90. Doc makes Kobashi look like a million bucks. Really epic when you consider how low-ranked Kobashi was at this point, and a prelude to what they'd do in the future. 108 MB.
Gordy vs Hansen, Triple Crown, 6/8/90. Gordy hits at least one big DDT, and Hansen hits at least one lariat; which finisher will be the finish?
Jumbo Tsuruta vs Mitsuharu Misawa, 6/8/90. Famous match that really ignited their feud and cemented that Misawa had arrived. 300+ MB.
Kawada vs Kobashi, 6/30/90. Their first match was quality undercard wrestling. The rematch lets you know that they've arrived and are ready to fight for the right to lead the company.Match testimonial
Hansen vs Kobashi, 7/7/90. Hansen is absurdly generous, but that doesn't mean he lets Kobashi off easy.
Jumbo & Yatsu vs Misawa & Kawada, 7/7/90. What would have been a regular matchup wound up being Yatsu's last match of note in All Japan.
Fuchi vs Kikuchi, junior title, 7/12/90. Korakuen is fiiiiiiired up for young Kikuchi trying to pull off a massive upset. Fuchi is all, "nuh-uh!". Only he says that with violence. Spliced together with the JIP airing on NTV and a lower-quality (but complete) local feed. I initially didn't like the complete match, but I came around after giving it a fair shake. Very important match in Kikuchi's career.
Jumbo, Kabuki & Mighty Inoue vs Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi, 7/12/90, JIP. I can't believe that at one point in time I was annoyed by Kabuki. What part of "he uppercuts dudes in the jaw" did I fail to appreciate? Kawada also looks as if he would eventually become, you know, KAWADA.
Hansen vs Gordy, Triple Crown, 7/17/90. Herein I will list the men I believe capable of knocking Terry Gordy off his feet with a slap: Stan Hansen, and... um... that's it. But Gordy gives back some lumps of his own, don't you worry. Plus some really neat psychology has Gordy in the Hansen role, so Gordy counters with a bit of Hansen-ism!
Puroresu News for 8/18/90.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, 8/18/90. Taue's first match with Jumbo Army, as he slides in to replace SWS-bound Yatsu. This serves as a blueprint for the rest of the feud: the rank order within teams, the roles each of them plays, the way certain pairings play out. The opening minutes are rather up-and-down in quality, with brief flashes of intensity followed by lulls. Business really picks up when Jumbo or Misawa enters the fray (and especially when they're both in). Finishing run is understated by the standards of what was to come, but is still good. The *actual* finish... well let's say it was retired fairly quickly.
Misawa & Kawada vs Jumbo & Fuchi, 8/19/90. Handheld from Korakuen Hall. Now, it's one thing for a handheld match to be "good wrestlers have good match". It's another for a handheld to have a finishing run that contains MASSIVE amounts of drama and- I swear- INTRIGUE. If you divide it into quarters, the first is solid, the second is bland, the third is very good, and the fourth is off-the-charts. Thanks to the closing run I'd put this near the top of what All Japan ever delivered as a pure lead-in to a big match. In the wake of Jumbo's humiliating loss to Misawa in June, he decides to go all-out despite the cameras not being on. We miss about 30 seconds of action on the floor, but I don't think that's a big knock when we get a fine look at what matters most. This would have gotten raves if it had been properly taped. If only they had Samurai TV back then.
Jumbo, Fuchi & Mighty Inoue vs Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi, 8/21/90. Just look at how fantastic the opening exchange is. This match is booked as one of many lead-ins to the Jumbo/Misawa rematch, so we get a heated back-and-forth between them to start, followed by a quick tag out. 'Always leave them wanting more' is true for any form of entertainment, and this is accomplished with maximum efficienty. Unfortunately, the ensuing minutes with the seconds going at it isn't high-level in the way one feels entitled to based on how the feud progressed. Thankfully the action improves during the requisite "Kikuchi Gets Mauled" phase. The way Jumbo sells during Team Misawa's comeback is great. The last transition is very non-standard for All Japan, which is a plus in my eyes.
Hansen, Scotty The Body & Embry vs Jumbo, Taue & Mighty Inoue, 8/29/90. Scotty The Body is Scott Levy, aka. Raven. Yes, I'm as confused as you are.
Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi vs Taue, Fuchi & Mighty Inoue, 8/31/90. Jumbo vs Misawa II buildup part 1. Finish is especially worth noting.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs Kenta Kobashi, 8/31/90. Jumbo vs Misawa II buildup part 2. Jumbo takes on Misawa's left-hand man, an at the time unestablished Kobashi. Jumbo makes Kobashi look GREAT, giving him plenty of offense and giving the match as much of a competitive aura as possible. At the same time Kobashi doesn't stand a chance because Jumbo is The Man.
Joe Malenko & Kikuchi vs The Fantastics, 9/1/90. State-of-the-art sprint that gets the crowd rocking. 162 MB.
Hansen vs Williams, 9/1/90, Triple Crown, JIP. After Williams busted Stan open and cost him the title, there's more than a little bit to be settled between them. I'm especially fond of the finishing stretch.
Jumbo vs Misawa, 9/1/90. The rematch. Jumbo is indescribably great here as a man trying to hang onto his place in the world. The balance between confidence and worry and anger on his face tell the story just as well as the move-for-move action, and THAT is great too. Absolute, unequivocal must-see.Match testimonial
Jumbo & Taue vs Misawa & Kawada, 9/30/90. First meeting of these teams, first really great match for either team, first tag in the post-Choshu era to go so long, first match where Taue really shows he belongs with the big boys, etc etc etc. In addition to all the 'macro'-level greatness there's also the wonderful details like Jumbo selling his own leg after delivering a hard kneelift. This sort of match is why I made this site, GRAB IT.Match testimonial
Jumbo & Fuchi vs Misawa & Kawada, 10/4/90, JIP. The Jumbo/Fuchi control in the middle is good, as one would expect, but what sets it up is certainly NOT expected. Also look for an especially nasty Jumbo lariat in the finishing run. Clearly a man who spent a lot of time working with Stan Hansen.
Gordy & Williams vs Misawa & Kawada, 10/7/90. The MVCs beat Baba & Jumbo. They mowed over Jumbo & Taue. Can the fledgling team of Misawa & Kawada stop them? 145 MB.
Jumbo & Taue vs Kobashi & Ace 10/7/90. Kobashi and Ace won the All Asia titles on the last tour, and this tour are facing a string of top teams to really test their mettle. Are the midcard tag champs already prepared to take down the bigshots?
Jumbo, Taue & Mighty Inoue vs Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi, 10/10/90. You can tell how incredibly hot the feud is when old man Mighty can be in the ring down the stretch and the crowd is still going bonkers.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi, 10/19/90. First time this matchup happened and it was awesome every time. This is also the first super-great 6-man in the Jumbo vs Misawa feud. So... go watch it. 215 MB.
Misawa & Kikuchi vs Kawada & Kobashi, 11/15/90. Watchable handheld. One could argue that Kawada and Kobashi are heels for targeting undersized Kikuchi, but I think the main heel is Misawa for only giving Kikuchi like thirty seconds of rest or so no matter what happens. As far as the match is concerned, Kikuchi was and will always be over in Korakuen Hall, and the (brief) times when Misawa is in are very interesting. C'mon. These four guys. I don't need to do a big sell-job here.
Hansen & Spivey vs Jumbo & Taue, RWTL 11/21/90. Considering that both these teams (on paper) need great athletes as opponents, it's interesting that they end up getting so much out of each other. Not sure why I was surprised that a match with Hansen and Jumbo in it was good, but surprised I was.
Misawa & Kawada vs Kobashi & Ace, RWTL '90, JIP. The young All Asia champs are in for another huge test. Is "hot finish" even necessary to say?
Gordy & Williams vs Jumbo & Taue, RWTL '90. Solid heavyweight action with some big bumps. 131 MB.
Gordy & Williams vs Misawa & Kawada, RWTL '90. Deeper into the tournament, neither team can afford a loss and still control their own destiny. 190 MB.
Jumbo & Taue vs Misawa & Kawada, Tag League '90. Yeah, this one rules too. Hot crowd, plenty of hate, and a bit of Jumbo turning it up to 11 down the stretch.
Kawada vs Taue, 1/15/91. Oh hell yeah. The first great singles match for Taue, and unlike their future encounters this is an all-out brawl. Hot crowd, hot match, uber-stiff finish that would become a staple move in matches for the rest of the year. 114 MB.Match testimonial
Kawada vs Taue, 1/15/91. Video upgrade.
Hansen vs Jumbo, 1/19/91, Triple Crown. Interesting that this was their first match following the Triple Crown was created 20 months earlier, after typically having several matches a year before then. In a lot of ways this is a throwback to their mid-80s style, with lots of struggle but not a ton of action. A couple unexpected moves in the final minutes, and with the somewhat flukey booking that the title had from June 1990 onwards there's no telling what will finish.
Jumbo & Mighty Inoue vs Kawada & Kobashi, 1/26/91. Don't think of it as just another good match with Jumbo, Kawada and Kobashi (which it is). Think of it as an opportunity to enjoy MIGHTY. 87 MB.
Misawa vs Taue, 1/26/91. VERY famous finish, which debuts here and is named based on the date.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, 1/27/91. Such a great 6-man, with all the hate and selling and action you expect. Plus it's an extension on Kawada vs Taue. PLUS, a bonus non-complete but still fun Kawada/Kikuchi vs Taue/Ogawa at the end! 267 MB.
Kawada & Kikuchi vs Taue & Ogawa, 2/23/91, JIP. This feud literally could do no wrong. Kawada bleeds, Kikuchi gets hucked around, Kawada and Taue hate each other SO MUCH in '91, and the crowd is so so hot. How did I miss this until deep into 2011?!
Gordy & Williams vs Misawa & Kobashi, 2/23/91, JIP. First of many televised bouts between the teams, and a lead-in to the MVC defending against Misawa and Kawada three days later. These are mostly a showcase for Kobashi, as he has to survive the high-impact offense of the Miracle Violence Connection and somehow manage to effectively return fire. Three-year-pro Kobashi putting a dent in the gaijin monsters always gets a big reaction.
Jumbo & Fuchi vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, 2/26/91. JIP, sadly, but what we get is killer.
Fuchi vs Dean Malenko, 3/2/91. Clipped. This is like Bizarro Dean because he's making with the athletic feats and the crowd interaction and what-not.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi, 3/23/91, JIP. The first half of what we see has Jumbo's army in control, which as usual revolves around Jumbo and Fuchi being sadistic bastards. So that's good. Then Misawa finally interjects himself and the action picks up IMMEDIATELY. It's hard to state strongly enough that a year earlier Misawa was a passable upper-midcarder, and now he could get the crowd rocking with a single swing of his elbow. There's a dive fake-out spot in the final minutes that should be ripped off by any junior team worth their salt, and a really dramatic double-team I'm shocked didn't become a staple in All Japan.
Kawada vs Kroffat, Champions Carnival '91. Dan gives Toshiaki all he can handle.
Jumbo vs Cactus Jack, Champions Carnival '91. Short match, but Foley finds enough time to take some hard bumps.
Taue & Fuchi vs Kawada & Kikuchi, 3/26/91. Two great feuds that go great together.
Hansen & Spivey vs Misawa & Kobashi, 3/26/91. I keep seeing the Hansen/Spivey vs Gordy/Williams tags get pimped, but the Hansen/Spivey vs Misawa/Partner matches, to me, are a lot better. When it's four huge gaijin in there things can get a little sloppy; here things come off well and there's still plenty of heated action.
Jumbo vs Taue, Champions Carnival '91. Their only match! Hot finish!
Jumbo vs Taue, CC '91. Source upgrade.
Misawa vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '91. The match is very good. You'll learn to live with the fact that it's from a handheld recording. 133 MB.
Jumbo vs Kawada, Champions Carnival '91, JIP. I clipped off the first half because it drags, but they kick it in gear for the second half the way you expect.
Hansen vs Misawa, CC '91, JIP. Some hard-hitting action and a RIDICULOUS, unique finish. Ow ow ow ow.
Kobashi vs Kroffat, 4/18/91. They could just run through spots and have a fun match based on their athletic ability. Thankfully they do more than that, bringing their personalities to bear, and putting together a proper match. They always work so well together. Now complete.
Kawada vs Taue, 4/18/91. Their third match in the year. Lots of good technical work, some brutality, and an unusual but effective finish.
Jumbo vs Misawa, 4/18/91, Triple Crown. On the one hand it isn't as good as their first matches. On the other hand, it's Jumbo vs Misawa in front of a red-hot crowd.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi, 4/20/91. This is the best 6-man tag ever. It has everything you're looking for in a Jumbo vs Misawa tag, and it has that for an extended period of time with an amazing lack of dead spots. You're at this site for a reason and matches like this ARE that reason.
Jumbo & Fuchi vs Misawa & Kikuchi, 5/17/91. See, the thing about Jumbo vs Misawa is that there were 144 possible 2-on-2 tag iterations, and each one had its own dynamic because they all played their roles so well. For instance, in theory Jumbo's side has the edge, but not so much that it's out of the question for Misawa to get the fall on Fuchi if given 30 seconds alone, or for Misawa to help Kikuchi steal a fall, etc. And in the meantime we get to enjoy them doing their thing.
Jumbo vs Kobashi, 5/24/91, JIP. Missing the first half of the match. INSTANTLY we know the crowd is hot based on their foot-stomping reaction to a rope break off a simple leglock. Considering that they're in the north of Japan, which tends *not* to be a wrestling hotbed, that shows you how on-fire the promotion was at this point. The fact that Kobashi hits the moonsault a couple minutes in suggests we're going home early, but instead we get an extended finishing sequence to really boost the drama. If Kobashi can hang on after having weakened Jumbo, he actually stands a fighting chance of pulling off the upset of a lifetime.
Can-Am Express vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, All Asia tag titles, 6/1/91. Just highlights aired on TV, so this is the only real version. First taped meeting of the teams, and despite a couple rough spots you know these teams were meant for each other.
Kawada vs Williams, 6/1/91. Kawada has yet to get a big win over a big gaijin. He's never the one who gets to kick out of finishers. Enough's enough and it's time for a change! Well, maybe... see Williams is gunning for a shot at the Triple Crown. Who has what it takes to put away his determined opponent?
Misawa vs Gordy, 6/1/91. I love this. Hard-hitting exchanges, steady build to an intense closing stretch, hot nearfalls, good work all-around. The best Gordy singles match on here by a lot. Keep an ear out for the announcers building up a couple moves that are key near the end. Finish would come up a lot in the years to come. 222 MB.
Hansen & Spivey vs Jumbo & Taue, tag titles, 6/1/91. Taue's first title match, and the first of several times a tag title match headlined a Budokan show in June. Even though it's a main event they don't go long, so the pace and energy are good throughout. Plenty of PERIL~ and drama in the second half.
Jumbo & Taue vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, 6/7/91, JIP. I'm bummed that All Japan Classics stopped airing things show-by-show with mid-1990, because this is something I'd love to see in full. Metric tonnes of crowd heat, both teams doing what they do best, and a non-standard finish are enough to make this well worth your while.
Hansen & Spivey vs Misawa & Kawada, tag titles, 6/7/91. Hansen and Spivey have to bounce back from a title defense just six days earlier. In most promotions this match would be a standout, but the All Japan bar is set so high that nobody talks about a match that "only" has a lot of heat, action, strong pacing, and a lot of intensity. In hindsight, the Hansen/Spivey team was even more consistently good against native teams than Gordy/Williams.
Kawada vs Fuchi, 7/18/91, JIP. Interesting to see Fuchi get the second entrance, which I'm assuming is due to his status as junior champion at a time when Kawada had no belts. I like how the match escalates when a frustrated Kawada starts unloading on Fuchi, climaxing in closed fists. The way Kawada and Fuchi used punches in the early '90s was just fantastic. Very gritty, shoot-ish feel to the final moments.
Kawada vs Taue, 7/20/91, JIP. Their fourth match of the year, and naturally it plays off their brief but heated history.
Jumbo vs Williams, 7/20/91, Triple Crown. Back when Jumbo was the one dumping people on the head with backdrops, big gaijin included. Not that he could take Dr. Death lightly.
Gordy & Williams vs Misawa & Kawada, tag titles, 7/24/91. Second title shot for Misawa & Kawada as a team, and neither has held the tag titles to this point. Goooood stuff. 255 MB.
Taue vs Kobashi, 7/26/91. JIP.
Taue vs Kobashi, 7/26/91. Full version in lowish quality.
Jumbo, Fuchi & Ogawa vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, 7/26/91. Yet another great 6-man. Jumbo is great in all three matchups, between his selling and his intensity and everything else. Kawada's great. Everyone's great. Great great great. So how come you aren't watching it right now? Also plays off a lot of the 1/91 6-man with Taue in Ogawa's place. 100 MB.
Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi vs Jumbo, Fuchi & Ogawa, 7/26/91. Higher bitrate but JIP.
Jumbo & Ogawa vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, 8/17/91. Kobashi/Kikuchi are at a disadvantage; Kikuchi and Ogawa are at about the same level, but Jumbo and Kobashi certainly are not. Can the underdogs get their first big win as a team?
Misawa & Kawada vs Hansen & Ace, 8/17/91. Hansen is ten flavors of awesome in this, just tearing it up.
Jumbo & Taue vs Misawa & Kobashi, 8/18/91. 163 MB.
Abdullah the Butcher vs Ogawa, 8/25/91. BLEED OGAWA BLEED! 71 MB.
Jumbo & Taue vs Misawa & Kikuchi, 9/1/91.
Hansen vs Kobashi, 9/4/91. Hansen waylays Kobashi at the bell and it's nothing but a desperate struggle for survival from there.
Misawa & Kawada vs Jumbo & Taue, Double Tag Titles, 9/4/91. Great tag bout with a historic finish.
Kawada & Kobashi vs Taue & Fuchi, 9/7/91. NEWS FLASH: a match with these four is good. I swear that I don't post these matches automatically; they're just all good!
Jumbo & Ogawa vs Misawa & Kikuchi, 9/7/91, JIP. Continuing from the tag title match three days earlier: Misawa gets targeted, the facelock is death, and Jumbo and Misawa hate each other. On the low end of the feud, but it's still objectively good. The 'ranks' really come into play here due to the huge gap between the heavies and juniors on each team.
Jumbo & Taue vs Kawada & Kobashi, 9/27/91.
Jumbo & Ogawa vs Kawada & Kikuchi, 10/2/91. Jumbo vs Kawada buildup? Yes, please!
Gordy & Williams vs Misawa & Kobashi, 10/2/91, JIP. These teams always manage to put together a big finish. 116 MB.
Jumbo, Taue & Ogawa vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, 10/13/91. The road to Jumbo vs Kawada continues!
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, 10/15/91. People talk about how hard puro can be to get into. In some cases I understand, but not here. Very easy to follow, tons and tons of hatred and fire, an injury angle that doesn't get brushed off... what's not to love? A real gem right here.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Kawada, Kobashi & Kikuchi, 10/20/91. Having taken out Misawa, Jumbo's squad takes liberties and tries to repeat that busted nose success. Despite the odds Kawada tries to get one over on Jumbo heading into their match. 260 MB.
Jumbo vs Kawada, 10/24/91. The last stellar singles match of Jumbo's career, the first stellar singles match of Kawada's. Two minor things stand out about this. One, the crowd can be clearly seen doing THE WAVE~~ before the intros. Two, Kawada is rocking his old theme song, which is beyond any description. 197 MB.
Hansen & Spivey vs Misawa & Kawada, RWTL '91. Action kicks off in a big way before the bell. Hansen once again is larger than life and surly as can be.
Gordy & Williams vs Jumbo & Taue, RWTL '91. Wasn't a hot matchup the year before, but now both teams have a lot more experience.
Misawa & Kawada vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, RWTL '91. One and only time this happened. Go Kikuchi go!
Can-Am Express vs Dynamite Kid & Johnny Smith, and Gordy & Williams vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, 11/29/91. Two (heavily clipped) matches featuring eight skilled wrestlers for the price of one download. It's too good to pass up!
Jumbo & Taue vs Misawa & Kawada, Tag League '91. Last meeting of these teams and it's a beaut. FEEL THE HATE! 223 MB.
Jumbo & Taue vs Can-Am Express, RWTL 1991, JIP. The All Asia tag champs face some heavy obstacles. Can their superior speed and teamwork overcome the marked size differential?
Jumbo & Taue vs Hansen & Spivey, RWTL '91. Two top teams battle on the final night of the tournament. What we get is far beyond what you'd expect, aided by a molten Budokan crowd.
Misawa & Kawada vs Gordy & Williams, 12/6/91. NOT the final of the tag league because there was no final... it's just that the winner of the match would win the tournament. As for the match itself? Yeah. It's worth the download, and my pick for the best Gordy/Williams tag.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Jumbo & Fuchi, 1/2/92. I believe this match is the only time where the finish of the match is the finish. Wow that's some mighty awkward syntax. Match sucks of course. Sucks like a fox. 209 MB.
Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi vs Jumbo, Fuchi & Ogawa, 1/10/92. Not one among the top tier of Jumbo vs Misawa tags. But why should that stop you? Bit of an odd finish. 153 MB.
Kawada & Kikuchi vs Fuchi & Ogawa, 1/15/92. It's the little things that make me love this skirmishes in the Jumbo vs Misawa stable feud. Something like Kikuchi briefly stretching out Fuchi as revenge for all the times the opposite happened. Oh and there's also the big things like Kawada exploding on Fuchi after lots of, well, Fuchi. Hey that reminds me: FUCHI RULES.
Misawa vs Fuchi, 1/21/92. On paper Fuchi has no shot, but Fuchi could care less and he really brings it to another level from his various junior title defenses. If he didn't Misawa would end things in a hurry. 112 MB.
Jumbo vs Kawada, 1/21/92. This was part of a 'random draw' set of singles matches between the Misawa and Jumbo factions. Mere days before Jumbo was set to defend the Triple Crown against Stan Hansen, he has to take on the always-tough Kawada. Not super-great like the 10/91 match but just plain ol' great. I mean, Jumbo vs Kawada, c'mon.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi, 1/24/92. By now you should know that it's impossible to go wrong with this combination.
Jumbo & Taue vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, 1/26/92. The underdogs tag it to the big men in a big way and an awesome match results. Jumbo vs Kikuchi interactions are really symbolic of how stellar Jumbo was, because he sells just enough to make Kikuchi look worth cheering for while dishing out offense in retaliation that's hard enough for Kikuchi to sell to death. Good stuff bell-to-bell and a great closing stretch. Finish deserves a couple reviews in slo-mo. 174 MB.
Jumbo vs Hansen, 1/28/92, Triple Crown. Jumbo's final title match before illness forced him to step back.
Can-Am Express vs Kawada & Kikuchi, 2/22/92. Not super-awesome. That said, the chances are that most of the wrestling you watch this week won't be nearly this good. 120 MB.
Jumbo vs Kobashi, 2/27/92. Their final singles match, complete and HQ! 192 MB.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, 3/1/92. From a rare comm tape. It's good, which isn't rare when you're talking about these six.
Can-Am Express vs The Malenkos, 3/4/92.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, 3/6/92. I'm not writing War & Peace to shill this, watch it or don't, but if you don't trust these guys to have a good match at this point I question your sanity. 128 MB.
Kawada vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '92. 169 MB.
Hansen vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '92. 125 MB.
Kawada vs Taue, Champions Carnival '92. Taue: rudo extraordinaire! Taue: master of the proto-chokeslam 'Arm Bomber'! Kawada: ... is still Kawada at this point in his career!
Jumbo vs Misawa, Champions Carnival '92. Drags quite a lot unfortunately, due to them needing to fill time without doing a Budokan-level epic, but it's not without its merits for what should be obvious reasons. 350 MB.
Jumbo vs Fuchi, Champions Carnival '92. Their only match, and it's all kinds of fun as you'd expect. 115 MB.
Hansen vs Kawada, Champions Carnival '92. Somehow they click better in this one than either of their Triple Crown bouts. Really, really stiff. 151 MB.
Misawa vs Gordy, Champions Carnival '92. Takes a little bit to get going, but once it does it gets real real good. 152 MB.
Kawada & Kobashi vs Jumbo & Ogawa, 4/17/92. Another 'average' tag for 1992.
Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Fuchi & Ogawa, 4/18/92. Fuchi absolutely TORTURES Kikuchi, stretching him all over the place. Fuchi > you. 122 MB.
Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi vs Jumbo, Fuchi & Ogawa, 4/19/92. Another solid tag bout. 277 MB.
Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi vs Gordy, Williams & Slinger, 5/16/92. Meet Richard Slinger, a gaijin who throws kicks and is a total unknown outside Japan. This is a nice introduction to him and an 'average' 6-man for '92, which means it's not really 'average' at all. 180 MB.
Jumbo, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi, 5/22/92. A matchup that never went wrong. This is another worthy outing from the 'golden' 6-man combination of all time, though sadly its last. The focus is Taue as he returns from a leg injury. Very slight clipping.
Can-Am Express vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, All Asia tag titles, 5/25/92. Now that Kobashi has retired, they FINALLY decided to show the full match. I don't understand why they clipped it for the previous Kobashi special, because the opening minutes are *perfect* in establishing themes we get throughout. This is an absolute tag team clinic in front of one of the best crowds in wrestling history, with great action and a sense that far more is on the line than just the midcard belts. Any fan of pro wrestling should enjoy this.
Jumbo, Taue & Ogawa vs Gordy, Williams & Slinger, 5/25/92. This match gets largely ignored because of the All Asia classic on the same show, but this is pretty nifty. Slinger and Ogawa make great whipping boys, and the finish is special. 123 MB.
Jumbo & Taue vs Misawa & Kikuchi, 5/30/92. Taue debuts one of his staple moves here. 119 MB.
Hansen vs Kawada, 6/5/92, Triple Crown. Not the main event, nor the match of the night. But the finish, dear friend... the finish is something else.
Jumbo & Taue vs Misawa & Kobashi, tag titles, 6/5/92. Two months prior, Misawa & Kobashi scored an upset victory over the tag champs (non-title) when Misawa made Taue tap to the facelock. This is Jumbo's last Budokan main event and Kobashi's first. Taue has recently debuted the 'proper' chokeslam. Hell of a match as you would tend to expect.
Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Fuchi & Ogawa, All Asia tag titles, 7/5/92. Fuchi & Ogawa won this matchup prior to Kobashi/Kikuchi getting the belts, so it only made sense to book this. And it was good.
Taue & Fuchi vs Kawada & Kikuchi, 7/8/92. 140 MB.
Hansen vs Kobashi, 7/8/92. Ever watch a Hansen/Kobashi match and think afterwards "man, that was a waste of time"? Me neither. 199 MB.
Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Taue, Fuchi & Ogawa, 7/21/92. Jumbo is out hurt. Misawa lands wrong early and never gets back on track. And yet this match COMPLETELY RULES IT. I won't spoil why it's so great, but man, it's really great. The first high-end 6-man without Jumbo. Heck I enjoyed this more than all the Misawa vs Kawada 6-mans. 225 MB.
Misawa & Kikuchi vs Taue & Ogawa, 7/27/92, some clipping. Some real quality, like how Misawa gets isolated early and how much booing Taue gets, but I did clip out a slow patch in the middle. Overall, an effective follow-up to the memorable 6-man from six days earlier. Misawa is still plenty vulnerable and it's up to Kikuchi to try and 'shoulder' the load. Get it? Because Misawa's shoulder... nevermind.
Misawa, Kawada & Kobashi vs Taue, Fuchi & Ogawa, 7/28/92. Follow-up to the match a week earlier where Misawa was injured. He's still hurt, and this time doesn't have the luxury of bowing out halfway through. This exact matchup happened three days earlier and Taue's team won, becoming the first team to beat Misawa/Kawada/Kobashi in some time, so don't just look at the names and expect to know the result! 245 MB.
Misawa & Kikuchi vs Fuchi & Ogawa, 7/31/92. A mismatch on paper, but Misawa comes in with a bad shoulder and takes most of the punishment as a result. Fuchi is such an amazing ring general. 145 MB.
Hansen vs Taue, Triple Crown, 7/31/92. I didn't like it the first couple times I watched it, but I didn't DISLIKE it either. Now I'm able to pick up on things like how Taue looks credible in exchanges with Hansen and how Taue makes sure to get payback when Hansen uses a weapon. Simple moves are impressive at the scale of these two, and both dish out some hard strikes. Stan is on the defensive most of the way but he's able to come back at will because Taue can only do so much damage to the 'Unsinkable Battleship'. This isn't a good 'Triple Crown' match, but it's a solid heavyweight match.
Jumbo, Taue & Ogawa vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, 8/20/92. Jumbo returns after a 'leg injury'. Another one of those really solid Jumbo vs Misawa 6-mans, there's just so much to love here. 222 MB.
Kobashi & Kikuchi vs The Fantastics, 8/22/92. Oh it's shocking that this is good.
Kobashi & Kikuchi vs The Fantastics, 8/22/92. Higher bitrate but JIP.
Jumbo & Taue vs Gordy & Williams, 8/22/92. Here it is, yet another semi-forgotten tag that would absolutely be a top-of-the-year contender were it to occur today. Jumbo has been wrestling only a couple days after his 'leg injury' and has to deal with the Miracle Violence Connection. Taue does what he can to pick up the slack. MVCs are their usual selves, which is a good thing. Considering the combined size of the teams this is remarkably well-paced and well-executed stuff. 211 MB.
Hansen vs Misawa, Triple Crown, 8/22/92. Let me tell you about this match. When I was first getting tapes in 2001, I thought this was awful. A couple years later I still thought it was bad. But now that I understand things with a bit more context and backstory, there's a lot of good stuff in here. Misawa's facelock was just a year removed from submitting Jumbo, and if it doesn't do the job on its own then it still can set up a knockout elbow like his '91 match with Gordy. Meanwhile, Misawa is one month removed from a shoulder injury and Hansen does a really good job of working it over. Plus they even reference the finish of their '91 match. So yes, this is a fairly methodical match, and they use their ring smarts to make up for not doing three dozen finishers.
DDevil's music video covering the rise of the New Generation Army, along with what came before it. Incredibly well done.
Gordy & Williams vs Misawa & Kobashi, 8/27/92. Has some slow parts in the middle but gets real, real good by the end.
Jumbo, Taue & Ogawa vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, 9/5/92. Rematch from two weeks prior.
Kawada vs Taue, Triple Crown contendership match, 9/9/92. Another good one. Shocking!
Kobashi vs Akiyama 9/17/92. Akiyama's debut. Not many wrestlers can say that they looked this good after a full year let alone right from the start. 130 MB.
Jumbo, Baba & Fuchi vs Misawa, Kawada & Kikuchi, 9/17/92. It's pretty rare when the most brutal move in an All Japan '90s match is the piledriver, but man, Kikuchi eats some nasty ones here.
Kawada & Kikuchi vs Akiyama & Ogawa, 10/6/92. Hold milking! Face kicking! Boston crabbing!
Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Can-Am Express, 10/7/92, All Asia tag titles. Last few minutes of what looks like a superb match.
Jumbo & Taue vs Gordy & Williams, 10/7/92, tag titles. Miracle Violence Connection has all the momentum in the world. Jumbo is ailing, and in fact this would turn out to be his final title match. It's up to Taue to make sure that they don't lose the titles before the annual vacating of the belts before the tag league. NOTE: different commentary tracks between 'left' and 'right' stereo.
Kawada & Kobashi vs Hansen & Ace, 10/11/92. Partially clipped. Very unpredictable and at times desperate, which really keeps you on your toes while watching it. I doubt Ace was in a better match than this before '94. 85 MB.
Taue & Ogawa vs Kikuchi & Akiyama, 10/21/92. See, there were good matches besides ones with Jumbo, Hansen, Misawa, Kawada and/or Kobashi.
Misawa vs Kawada, Triple Crown, 10/21/92. The first in their series. A great match. And try to keep in mind that at this point they're still tag partners. They went at it this hard early on, so it's no wonder what happened after the split a few months later.
Misawa & Kawada vs Baba & Kobashi, RWTL '92. Baba had tagged with Andre in the last two leagues, but this time he gives the rub to Kobashi. It's awesome whenever Kobashi is in there, and Baba is Baba.
Baba & Kobashi vs Taue & Akiyama, RWTL '92. JIP to the hot finish.
Misawa & Kawada vs Taue & Akiyama, Tag League '92 'final match'. Not the 'final' because Taue/Akiyama had no chance. This was supposed to be Jumbo & Taue, which is why it gets the main event of the Budokan final night, but Jumbo suffered the injury that ended his 'serious' wrestling career. Akiyama can't fill those shoes with only a few months under his belt, but he does a superb job just the same.
Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Taue, Fuchi & Akiyama, 1/8/93. Jumbo is out of the picture. Taue is in charge now, and Akiyama has emerged as an incredibly capable young lion. This is Akiyama's first big 6-man main event and he doesn't disappoint.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Taue & Fuchi, 1/15/93. Besides the obvious reason to download this, it also builds to the Taue vs Kobashi match later in the month. 225 MB.
Taue & Akiyama vs Kawada & Kikuchi, 1/21/93.
Gordy & Williams vs Misawa & Kobashi, 1/21/93. Quite epic for a build-up tag.
Taue vs Kobashi, 1/23/93. Taue's first big post-Jumbo singles match. Kobashi's first big singles match in a series of them that year. Taue really improved in singles from '92, which was clutch. 181 MB.
Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Akiyama & Ogawa, All Asia tag titles, 1/24/93. The Kobashi/Kikuchi team could do no wrong, but young phenom Akiyama demonstrated in the 6-man on the 8th of the month that he's a threat. Akiyama's first really great performance and a heck of a contest.
Misawa & Kawada vs Gordy & Williams, tag titles, 1/30/93, JIP. Final meeting for the teams. Misawa and Kawada are the champions by virtue of having won the tag league. In addition, they beat the MVC during the league, which was the only time the teams faced off in '92. The match has a very important finish for historical reasons, and it's got a good home stretch, but I clipped most of the it out due to an inability of both sides to get into gear most of the way.
Kikuchi vs Ogawa, junior title contenders match, 1/31/93. I clipped out the slow-ish first half so you can enjoy the hot finish. Some role reversal in here.
Kawada & Kobashi vs Taue & Fuchi, 1/31/93. Drags at points but there's enough hate to make up for it.
Kawada vs Akiyama 2/9/93. Akiyama was one of the best rookies ever, Kawada in '93 was one of the best wrestlers ever, there you go.
Taue, Akiyama & Ogawa vs Misawa, Kikuchi & Asako, 2/19/93. Another "average" 6-man. Heh, average.
Stan Hansen & RVD vs Kawada & Kobashi, 2/19/93. Poor RVD. Poor, poor RVD.
HANSEN SMASH PUNY MASKED JOBBERS.
Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Patriot & Eagle, 2/25/93.
Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa & Kawada, 2/25/93. This match is to 'hate' what Baskin Robins is to ice cream.
Fuchi vs Kikuchi, junior title, 2/28/93. I think at some point Fuchi gets so wrapped up in dropping Kikuchi directly on his head that he forgets his goal is to win the match. But then again Fuchi isn't one to turn down giving a second helping of death when the opportunity presents itself. Or in this case an eighth helping. 82 MB.
Spivey vs Kobashi, 2/28/93. First in a series of Kobashi vs Big Gaijin singles bouts. Spivey won their match in the '92 Carnival with his 'Spivey Spike' DDT, and Kobashi has never beaten him. This is solid throughout, with blood a darn good finish. Odds are this is Spivey's best singles match.
Stan Hansen vs Toshiaki Kawada, 2/28/93. Two tough guys beat the ever-lovin' crap out of each other. And you get to watch. Original TV version.
Hansen vs Kawada, 2/28/93. Alternate version from new AJ Classics airing.
Misawa vs Taue, Triple Crown, 2/28/93. It really says something when a match this good is second-best on the night. And it's good all right; Taue looks so much more polished here than he did a year earlier, and though he isn't able to fully replace pre-injury Jumbo, he brings the goods.
Williams vs Kawada, CC '93. Doc hurts his leg. Kawada doesn't pass up the opportunity and does his best to get his first win over a big name gaijin. Not only does their 6/1/91 finish come into play, but there's also a tremendous build to the Oklahoma Stampede. Last but not least is a tremendous use of the time limit.
Misawa vs Kawada, Champions Carnival '93. They've lost the tag titles. Their relationship is strained. Will either one push the envelope here? Finish seems a bit odd but the extended selling makes it work. 178 MB.
Gordy vs Williams, Champions Carnival '93. Miracle Violence Connection EXPLODES.
Misawa vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '93, JIP. Meltzer almost gave this 5 stars. It's not THAT good, but it's a heck of a lot better than a heck of a lot of matches the same can be said for.
Kawada vs Taue, Champions Carnival '93. Respect is earned; a union is formed. 156 MB.
Hansen vs Taue, CC '93, JIP. Once more, for emphasis: these are two great wrestlers. They know their limitations and go for exactly as much as they're capable of. Rather than trying to match what Kawada and Kobashi did on the same show, or the kind of match Hansen and Kawada had in February, they do a 'clash of the titans' big-man battle. Simple moves become highspots when done by men of this size. No, it isn't a MOTYC, but it's still very enjoyable. They know what they're going for and accomplish it.
Kawada vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '93, JIP.
Misawa vs Gordy, Champions Carnival '93. Gordy hasn't done much in recent years as a singles wrestler, but a win here can change all that.
Hansen vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '93. At this point I've probably seen over one thousand wrestling matches which took place at Korakuen Hall, and I can't recall any that equal this match for heat. Hansen vs Kobashi was always good before, but this is on another level entirely and it's probably Kobashi's career match to this point.
Kawada, Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Taue, Fuchi & Ogawa, 4/21/93. Kawada's final match before leaving Misawa's stable and joining up with Taue.
5/2/93: Japanese rookie sensation Hideki Matsui is a big Hansen fan. At least that's what All Japan wants you to think.
Kawada vs Kikuchi, 5/13/93. Kikuchi knows he's in for the fight of his life, so he takes it right to the black-and-yellow destroyer. And where would you want this match to happen? Korakuen Hall. Love ya, Baba.
Kawada & Taue vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, 5/14/93. The debut (at least on TV) of the Kawada/Taue team. Not just "oh, this is really good you guys, maybe you should watch it". Uh-uh. Kawada goes on a tear against his former stable-mates, Kobashi brings his A-game now that he's Misawa's number-two, and the finishing stretch is utter decimation. 126 MB.
Gordy & Williams vs Kawada & Taue, tag titles, 5/20/93. The first of the only two meetings between these teams, as Gordy left a few months after this. Kawada and Taue have only just joined forces; can they handle the powerful and experienced gaijin champs? 245 MB.
Gordy vs Kobashi, 5/21/93. Kobashi is looking for his first win over a big-name gaijin, while Gordy needs a win to get into title contention.
Misawa vs Hansen, Triple Crown, 5/21/93. Hansen beat Misawa in the carnival final with a powerbomb, thus giving him more than just the lariat as a finisher for what I believe is the first time. The best Misawa vs Hansen match in the eyes of many. 250 MB.
Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Kobashi, tag titles, 6/1/93. The first time this combination ever took place. One of the lesser matches in the series for quality (which doesn't say much since they pretty much all ruled) but huge for importance, since it's the new generation leaders headlining the Budokan.
Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Kawada, Taue & Ogawa, 6/3/93. The first Misawa vs Kawada 6-man, and another one of those can't-go-wrong-with tags. 229 MB.
Gordy & Williams vs Hansen & Deaton, 6/27/93. Completely unique match. The MVCs double-team Hansen into oblivion, and Deaton is placed in the odd position of the guy making saves instead of the guy being saved. Hansen becomes a sympathetic babyface and the crowd gets nice and hot. Short but awesome.
Misawa, Kobashi & Akiyama vs Kawada, Taue & Ogawa, 7/2/93. Yet more great pro wrestling; if those names can't convince you to watch then I sure as heck can't. 219 MB.
Kawada vs Akiyama, 7/9/93. Akiyama hasn't even been wrestling a year at this point, which makes this match that much more special. 177 MB.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Hansen & Bossman, 7/9/93. Bossman in All Japan: can't go wrong.
Misawa, Kobashi & Akiyama vs Kawada, Taue & Fuchi, 7/12/93, JIP. I have no idea why it took me until the 20th anniversary of the match to find it. Interestingly enough this 6-man matchup didn't happen very often, which makes it a pity that it aired JIP. Good action as one would expect, with an especially HUGE finishing run for a 6-man.
Misawa & Akiyama vs Kawada & Fuchi, 7/19/93. I figured that by January 2008, I'd seen all the great '93 matches. I was wrong. Quality start, quality in the middle, AWESOME for the last third. Some of the best Misawa vs Kawada action they ever had.
Kawada & Taue vs Gordy & Williams, 7/26/93. Gordy's last title shot, and by my estimation a much more satisfying match than the one two months earlier. 255 MB.
Gordy, Williams & Slinger vs Hansen, Bossman & Ace, 7/28/93. Quite the sprint, considering these aren't exactly the sort of wrestlers you'd associate with the word 'sprint'.
Team Misawa vs Team Kawada, 'survivor tag', 7/28/93. Four man teams done two at a time until three on a team are eliminated. The day before Misawa vs Kawada for the title and a few weeks following the first meeting of the teams that finish this up. The last matchup is, as you'd expect, the best.
Hansen vs Kobashi, 7/29/93. Total must-see. Probably Hansen's best match, and probably in Kobashi's top 5 for singles.
Misawa vs Kawada, Triple Crown, 7/29/93. Their first singles match as all-out adversaries. 242 MB.
Can-Am Express vs Kobashi & Asako, 8/20/93. Asako gets busted open hardway, which adds to an already good matchup. Once more take note of how good these random little matches were, in addition to the great main events. '90s All Japan was something else. 81 MB.
Kawada, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Akiyama & Kikuchi, 8/20/93. Fine 6-man that includes an interesting bit of revenge from the prior month's title match. 179 MB.
Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Williams, Smothers & Deaton, 8/23/93. Build-up to Williams vs Kobashi a week later, featuring the debut of one of AJ's most famous head drops. 168 MB.
Kobashi vs Williams, 8/31/93, #1 contenders match. Famous for its finish, which is one of the trademark 'oh my god' All Japan moments. Good the whole way through because of who's in it.
Misawa vs Williams, Triple Crown, 9/3/93. Misawa bumps huge and dishes out hellish elbows in reply. Doc Death lives up to his name. 248 MB.
Kobashi vs Akiyama, 9/24/93. Rematch from Akiyama's debut a year before, this shows Akiyama's growth and builds from their last matchup. Kobashi debuts a new move, and it's probably the best I've seen him execute it.
Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Kawada, Taue & Fuchi, 10/3/93.
Kobashi vs Bossman, 10/14/93. Kobashi helps Traylor to one of the best matches of his career.
Can-Am Express vs Kobashi & Asako, 10/17/93.
Misawa, Akiyama & Kikuchi vs Kawada, Taue & Ogawa, 10/17/93, JIP.
Kawada vs Kobashi, 10/23/93. A match that mostly fell between the cracks due to the sheer volume of greatness All Japan had that year. That's a shame, because this is great. The finish is also worth keeping in mind for the Misawa vs Kawada 6/94 title match (and others). 242 MB.
Misawa, Kobashi & Akiyama vs Williams, Bossman & Slinger, 11/17/93. Akiyama gets initiated into the wide world of head drops. 105 MB.
Kawada & Taue vs Can-Am Express, RWTL '93. Having seen several other iterations of this match I kept wondering where the "good one" was. I mean you can't possibly NOT have at least one really good match between these teams, right? Well here it is. 128 MB.
Misawa, Kobashi & Akiyama vs Kawada, Taue & Ogawa, 11/25/93. Handheld. Interesting to see it from the crowd's perspective. Solid like you'd expect, and one of the best-looking handhelds I've seen.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Williams & Bossman, RWTL '93. Bossman has some downright nasty strikes, Williams is Williams, and they manage to build off the climax to Misawa/Kobashi vs Hansen/Bossman. 122 MB.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Baba & Hansen, Tag League '93. Today, in March of 2007, Misawa is considered old and broken down and over-the-hill. He's 45. Baba in this match is 55. He wasn't supposed to be in high-profile matches anymore, but now he's got to fill in as Hansen's partner and he has to see if he can hang with the new young stars. Crowd is 100% pro-Baba. 187 MB.
Kawada & Taue vs Baba & Hansen, RWTL 1993, JIP. There's really only one reason why I didn't post this match sooner: Baba. Old Man Baba brings a lot of positives to the table, but also some real negatives. I now think the positives outweigh the negatives, but YOU might disagree, so let your Baba opinion determine whether you watch. The match layout is really strong, the crowd is hot, and there's a certain "rhyme" with the tournament climax.
Kawada & Taue vs Williams & Bossman, 12/1/93. Bossman's brief time in All Japan was the best run of his career. Throw in that this ties in nicely with the tournament finalie and you've got a winner. 143 MB.
Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Kobashi, Tag League '93. The de facto final of the tournament. Possibly the best tag match All Japan had seen up to this point, and certainly one of the must-see matches in the storied history of the company. Kawada turns in yet another career performance.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Fuchi, 1/7/94. So yeah, a total mismatch on paper. The thing is, Kawada and Fuchi work better as a team than Kawada and Taue. By the time we get deep into the match they're actually doing better than Kawada/Taue were in the RWTL final a month earlier! Masa Fuchi: Ring General.
Misawa, Kobashi & Akiyama vs Kawada, Taue & Omori, 1/20/94. Omori is just starting to get involved with the big guns. Will he let his team down, or will his hand be raised after a main event for the first time? Some slow parts but a hot finish. 246 MB.
Puroresu Newwwwwwws, Feb '94.
Misawa, Kobashi & Baba vs Kawada, Taue & Fuchi, 1/29/94. This might be my favorite old-man-Baba match.
Kawada & Omori vs Kobashi & Asako, 2/19/94. The Kawada/Kobashi exchanges are great, the interaction between the big names and the young lions is great. So good.
Misawa & Akiyama vs Williams & Eagle, 2/19/94. Odd that this match happened five months before the Misawa vs Williams title match, because Doc is FIRED UP and wants to take the champ down.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Baba & Hansen, 3/5/94. Baba's first Budokan main event in a couple years and his next to last. He and Hansen teamed up in the '93 tag league when Hansen's two partners of the year left him high and dry. Now they face the league winners and tag champs in a non-title match. Can the old powerhouses hang with the young guns? A hot crowd is dying to find out. And don't you dare disregard Baba.
Misawa vs Akiyama, Champions Carnival '94. Starts slow, but builds steadily and delivers a MUCH bigger second half than I expected given the gulf between them at this point. Interestingly enough, Akiyama looks better here than he did in their '95 match.
Hansen vs Kawada, Champions Carnival '94. There's a lot I enjoy about this, mostly that they beat the tar out of each other like it's Stan Hansen fighting Toshiaki Kawada. But what I was really interested in while watching for the first time is the result. Because this wasn't on a commercial tape, and aired on TV after 1993 (when TV stopped being traded as much), the winner isn't well-known. I knew coming in that Kawada *at some point* beats Hansen in a CC tournament. I also knew that Kawada takes a step up in the '94 tournament. So: does Kawada score a big win in his career, or does Hansen level him with the lariat again?
Kawada vs Akiyama, CC '94. It's 2010. I've written what feels like nine thousand of these match description thingys. If at this point you're still not interested in the prospect of Kawada vs Akiyama, nothing I say is going to change that. But if you ARE interested, know that I have vetted this match and deemed it worth your while. Thank you, and God Bless America.
Taue vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '94. Another one of those matches that isn't important or extra-great but is still very much worth your while.
Kawada vs Williams, Champions Carnival '94. This is their round-robin match, and is a good primer for the finals.
Williams vs Akiyama, CC '94. On paper this is a six or seven minute match because Doc has it all over Akiyama. In execution Akiyama handles himself quite well.
Hansen vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '94. Can Kobashi finally get a pin on the surly Texan? Can Hansen fend off the younger, fitter Kobashi?
Kawada, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Baba & Kikuchi, 4/10/94. I especially enjoy Kikuchi getting riled up.
Kobashi vs Akiyama, CC '94.
Hansen vs Taue, CC '94. Taue wrestles a very smart, focused match. It ain't pretty, but I enjoyed it.
Misawa vs Kawada, 4/11/94. I can't explain WHY this didn't count towards the Champions Carnival tournament, but it didn't. It does however count towards their ongoing war.
Misawa, Akiyama & Kikuchi vs Can-Am Express & Johnny Smith, 4/15/94, JIP. We start off with Akiyama getting worked over very effectively by the gaijin side. They keep the pace up through the end and Korakuen is plenty hot as a result. Interesting that Misawa's side gets booed when they enter without tags. The finish is a move that was invented earlier in the tour and is now a staple.
Williams vs Kobashi, CC '94. Last round-robin match. They come in tied, and the winner goes to the finals!
Kawada vs Williams, Champions Carnival '94 final, slight JIP. Great match, Kawada especially is incredible here. 173 MB.
Williams vs Kawada, CC '94 final. Full match.
Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Hansen, Williams & Ace, 5/18/94. You can't go wrong with a match like this in 1994. You just can't.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue, 5/21/94. This is a must-see match; I have it at #3 for AJ in the '90s. Big ol' file.Match testimonial
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Taue & Honda, 6/3/94. Honda is fired up! Taue and Kobashi are not fond of one another! Budokan Hall is packed and energetic!
Misawa vs Kawada, Triple Crown, 6/3/94. The definitive Misawa vs Kawada match. The match that raised the bar just like the match between their predecessors five years earlier. You've seen the lead-ins, from the 10/92 title match through Kawada's Champions Carnival win. Now see the climax.
Kawada, Taue & Fuchi vs Misawa, Akiyama & Kikuchi, 6/30/94. Better believe this rocks.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Williams & Ace, tag titles, 7/22/94. This only aired on an obscure TV block. Doc & Ace won a non-title match in May via. Ace's version of the doctor bomb. Hot crowd, solid match that provides a good lead-in to their other two encounters.
Can-Am Express vs Akiyama & Omori, 7/28/94. Omori is kinda crappy, and the Can-Ams get really frustrated and smack him around for it. At least that's how I interpret things. Fun match!
Kawada, Taue & Fuchi vs Kobashi, Baba & Kikuchi, 7/28/94. A match so good, you should watch it.
Misawa vs Williams, Triple Crown, 7/28/94, full match in high-quality. And the match itself is high-quality too!
Williams, Ace & Santana vs Kobashi, Akiyama & Honda, 8/20/94, JIP. This is almost a Doc vs Kobashi singles match with four guys randomly asserting themselves. Not that one is upset by the fact that the top two decide to do most of the work. Great lead-in to their title bout.
Hansen vs Akiyama, 9/3/94. Compact and good. 'Normal' audio is on the left channel if you want to turn off the effects.
Williams vs Kobashi, 9/3/94, Triple Crown. Kobashi's first title shot, and his best try yet to finally beat Dr. Death after many failed attempts. Dr. Death has other ideas. This is the full commercial tape version, meaning you wait until it's done to watch the gorgeous slo-mo highlights. Soooooo worth it. Darn good match, but that goes without saying.
Misawa, Kobashi & Akiyama vs Kawada, Taue & Ogawa, 10/7/94. Not outstanding, but solid.
Kroffat vs Kikuchi, 10/22/94, junior title, JIP. There's a couple botches but other than that it's good. Bruuuutal last two moves.
Misawa & Hansen vs Taue & Kobashi, 10/22/94. Not top-of-the-year caliber, but c'mon, you know the quality floor for this is high. Misawa and Kobashi going at it was a rare treat, as they hadn't been on opposite sides of a match in over 18 months.
Williams vs Kawada, Triple Crown, 10/22/94.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Can-Am Express, Tag League '94. Can-Ams come in as the All Asia tag champs, but Misawa & Kobashi have been thoroughly dominant since winning the '93 league. So Furnas and Kroffat decide to even the odds by heeling it up in addition to using their skill. All kinds of fun.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue, RWTL '94. JIP a couple minutes in, unfortunately.
Baba & Hansen vs Kawada & Taue, RWTL '94. I'm always skeptical of '90s Baba, but he brings it as much as he possibly can, including some darn good sequences. The other three I don't need to pimp.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Williams & Ace, 12/10/94. Misawa/Kobashi come in as the tag champs, and defended the titles against the gaijin duo. However, since that match Williams beat both of them in Triple Crown matches. Starts out with a lot of intensity and builds to a dramatic closing stretch.
Misawa, Akiyama & Asako vs Kawada, Taue & Ogawa, 1/2/95. Hot start, hot finish, enough nasty shots to keep the middle interesting. 174 MB.
Taue vs Tommy Dreamer, 1/19/95. Not so much 'good' as 'interesting'.
Kawada vs Kobashi, Triple Crown, 1/19/95. Big and very memorable match.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue, tag titles, 1/24/95. This match aired 8 times. There is a quality divide between the top four and bottom four matches; sadly this is in the lower half. Now consider that this is still an amazing match; I have it in the top 15 for All Japan in the '90s. THAT is how great this matchup was. 485 MB.
Misawa, Kobashi & Akiyama vs Williams, Ace & RVD, 2/17/95. Doc and Ace are fired up and want a piece of the tag champs! RVD gets face heat! Akiyama dishes out the best jumping knee of his career!
Baba, Jumbo & Akiyama vs Taue, Fuchi & Inoue, 3/4/95. Not great or anything but an interesting look at late-career Jumbo as he faces his former stablemates. 156 MB.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Williams & Ace, 3/4/95. A little background: this is the third of three big matches between the teams. Misawa & Kobashi won both, including the '94 tag league. Misawa & Kobashi haven't dropped a fall as a team in quite some time. And Johnny Ace? At this stage in his career he's a bridesmaid who marks almost the exact middle of the All Japan roster. But Williams beat Misawa and Kobashi back-to-back, and is in the prime of his career. Williams & Ace beat Misawa & Kobashi in an unaired non-title match on 5/28/94. How does it all play out? Only one way to know, and that's by snagging this 450 MB monster.
Kawada vs Akiayama, Champions Carnival '95. Both are in the roles they do best, ass-kicker and underdog respectively. Accordingly this match is, as the French say, 'bon'.
Taue vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '95. Taue faces an unusually grumpy Kobashi and has to keep plugging away to make real progress. In the process he debuts two moves that would become staples throughout his career. The start of Taue Miracle Run '95.
Misawa vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '95. Their first singles match in two years. Given how much Kobashi accomplished in that span, he is now a full threat to Misawa rather than a guaranteed win. The opening minutes establish this quite well: Kobashi dominates right out of the gate. Even once it looks like Misawa is finally in position to take control for a couple minutes, Kobashi refuses to stay down and comes back. That's why the crowd buys nearfalls on Misawa just 10 minutes in, and why Misawa has to struggle with even 'small' trademarks like the facelock. Huge finishing run by tournament standards, which is a fitting end to a hard-fought battle.
Kobashi vs Akiyama, Champions Carnival '95. Sadly it's only the last 5 minutes, but you take what you can get.
Misawa vs Kawada, Champions Carnival '95. So thirty seconds in, Kawada kicks Misawa in the face. Been there, done that, right? Except this time Kawada BREAKS MISAWA'S FACE (orbital bone), and Misawa proceeds to finish the match. Oh and he takes no time off after the match. Misawa: not a wuss.
Can-Am Express vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, 4/8/95. Can't go wrong with this matchup. Also, this is the last time Kobashi & Kikuchi teamed up as a 2-man unit in All Japan.
Misawa vs Akiyama, Champions Carnival '95. The thought process for a match like this isn't "can Akiyama score the upset", it's "how far can he take the champ". Early on we it's clear that Akiyama is bringing his best, showing plenty of aggression. However, Misawa is still able to take control with relative ease after a few minutes, because Akiyama can't absorb nearly as many elbows as the top heavyweights. The middle isn't very inspired, but they kick off the finish in style with a fantastic 10-step sequence. Akiyama does end up with a moral victory as he survives several Misawa trademarks and forces Misawa to bust out something you normally wouldn't expect from him.
Kawada vs Taue, Champions Carnival '95. Throughout their history, Kawada has been the dominant one. Taue Miracle Run '95 has something to say about that this time around. 188 MB.
Misawa vs Taue, Champions Carnival '95 league match. Taue is 0-for-forever against Misawa at this point. However, not only does he have two big bombs to go for, he also has Misawa's freshly broken face to target. The end result is quite different from their previous encounters. 245 MB.
Kawada vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '95. Kawada won with a powerbomb a year earlier, but Kobashi took him to a 60 minute draw in their title match. Another important part of the backstory is that they both completely rule. One of the top few CC league matches ever right here.
Hansen, Kobashi & Akiyama vs Kawada, Ace & Omori, 4/15/95. Yet another 'hidden gem' tag. Hansen is fired up, Kawada is great, and this match even manages to tie into the tag title match on the next tour. 199 MB.
Misawa vs Taue, Champions Carnival '95 Final. Taue fights hard, but he normally doesn't fight dirty. Does 'working over Misawa's broken face' count as dirty? Anyway, this is commonly held as the best singles match of Taue's career and both of them are gunning for their first CC win. 238 MB.
Kobashi vs Ace, 5/26/95. As good a singles bout as I've seen from Ace. Plus there would be ramifications from this at the end of the tour.
Kroffat vs RVD, junior title, 6/9/95. A must-see for RVD fans. A 'you should see this' for everyone. Kroffat brings the structure, while RVD hits his stuff really well. Result is a juniors match that really has everything you want from a juniors match. 147 MB.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue, tag titles, 6/9/95. I don't even know where to start; I'm not even sure this match needs more hype. What I do know is that for as awesome as this is on its own, seeing the lead-ins is immensely helpful. 358 MB.Match testimonial
Kawada, Taue & Honda vs Misawa, Kobashi & Asako, 6/30/95. The main event of the first show after the 6/9 tag title epic. When I saw that Meltzer gave a match with '95 Honda in it five stars, I didn't quite know what to make of it. Then I actually saw it, and while five stars seems a bit much this is a hell of a match. Honda really feels it, Asako mixes it up with the big guys, and I think the other four in the match need no explanation. Hot Korakuen crowd to boot. The last really great All Japan 6-man like this. 109 MB.
Misawa, Kobashi & Akiyama vs Kawada, Kikuchi & Ogawa, 7/8/95. Bizarro Kikuchi! Kawada leaves a big impression on Misawa!
Kawada & Taue vs Can-Am Express, tag titles, 7/20/95. The only 'big' tag titles shot the Can-Ams ever got, and the first title defense for Kawada/Taue. Can-Ams have a nice balance between credibility and being the underdogs to make the match work.
Taue vs Kobashi, 7/24/95. This is part of a 4-man round-robin contenders tournament, and is the last match. Taue comes in 2-0, Kobashi is 1-1. Taue gets the shot with a win or a draw, while Kobashi must win.
Misawa vs Kawada, Triple Crown, 7/24/95. Follow-up to the big tag. And what a follow-up it is! 227 MB.Match testimonial
Kroffat vs Ogawa, junior title, 9/10/95, JIP. Ogawa's third shot at Kroffat in the last 53 weeks. In theory that would make Ogawa a favorite, but consider that Kikuchi went five title bouts in the same reign without defeating Fuchi. Darn good closing stretch.
Misawa vs Taue, Triple Crown, 9/10/95. A lot of people have a hard time getting into Taue. I watch a match like this where Taue lays it all out there, dishes out plenty of hurt, hangs with Misawa in a flat-out high-quality contest, and I can't do anything but love on the lanky bastard. Oh yeah, Misawa isn't too shabby in this either.
Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Kobashi, tag titles, 10/15/95. These guys know how to work a long match better than anyone. I especially enjoy the build to a very small number of nearfalls. 490+ MB.Match testimonial
Kawada vs Albright, 10/25/95. I didn't like this for a long time, in part because I kept looking for "All Japan guy versus UWFi guy". This is more like if Kawada wrestled a match in UWFi, and the crowd reacts accordingly. Kawada adapts very well to shoot-style, and I like this quite a bit more than the Takada vs Albright bouts.
Misawa vs Kobashi, Triple Crown, 10/25/95. Starts off hot and sadly gets real slow down the stretch. Does somewhat set the tone for how much they'd go all-out in future title bouts.
Albright vs Honda, 12/9/95. Two guys with strong amateur backgrounds collide. They keep it simple, and with a hot crowd at Nippon Budokan they're able to deliver.
Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Kobashi, RWTL '95 final. The conclusion of their series, and the last big tag for Misawa/Kobashi in All Japan. During the round-robin, in the only non-taped match of their series, Kawada pinned Kobashi with a powerbomb.
Kawada & Taue vs Kobashi & Akiyama, 3/2/96. This is the first time Akiyama has been given this much spotlight in a Budokan match on purpose, and he makes the most of it. This match sets the tone for the many battles Kawada and Akiyama had over the coming year. Great, great stuff.
Kawada vs Taue, Champions Carnival '96. Tag partners put everything aside to kick each other in the face. It doesn't take long for them to get to a really big exchange, and from there it's a natural progression. The exchange winner takes advantage; there's a big counter to set up the other guy taking over; there's a protracted comeback. It takes sustained effort for either of them to stay on top because there's a block or counter coming down the pike. Although not as intense as the '95 tournament match or as heated as their early battles, I would absolutely rate this higher than the Bret/Shawn ironman match from the same day. They set up the bombs really well and build to a couple gigantic nearfalls in the final minutes.
Misawa vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '96. This got the main event slot over Kawada/Taue, and they definitely bring a main event level effort. They would top this later in their series, but it says something that they produce a much tighter match that their title bout 5 months earlier while still bringing plenty of impact and heat. I love how intense Kobashi gets when he smells blood in the final minutes, wanting so badly to get his first-ever win on Misawa. Does he have enough to fend off The Misawa Comeback and fell the ace, or will Misawa triumph as usual? Also, take note of the finish.
Misawa vs Kawada, Champions Carnival '96. The last few minutes, proving that it was taped. Hey, they eventually showed the Can-Ams vs Kobashi/Kikuchi 5/25/92 almost in full, there's still hope!
Kawada, Ace & Albright vs Misawa, Kobashi & Akiyama, 4/20/96. As happened the year before, this is at the end of the Champions Carnival tour and features 6 participants. Unlike the '95 iteration, there is no super-weak loss post, which means any result will feel important. What makes this especially worthwhile is the Kawada/Akiyama pairing, which REALLY sets the table for the rest of the year. Big finish to boot. Get on it!
Taue vs Williams, Champions Carnival '96 final. Not a match about 'grace' or 'nuance' or 'beauty', though Doc gets in some really amazing power moves on Taue. 161 MB.
Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Akiyama, tag titles, 5/23/96. Hell of a match. Akiyama's biggest match in his career to that point. Gotta love the beating he takes. He recently debuted the Exploder suplex; can it bring him up to the level of the Holy Demon Army?
Kawada vs Kobashi, Triple Crown contendership, 5/24/96. Winner gets a shot at the Budokan just two weeks later. Kawada beat Kobashi in just under 30 minutes during the Carnival. What's more, Kobashi hasn't gotten a fall on Kawada since '93! So you could either say that Kobashi is overdue for a win, or that Kawada just has his number. Maybe Kobashi realizes he needs to up his game, as evidenced by the stuff he busts out around the 1/3rd mark of the match. This match isn't their A-game, but they still deliver what would be a notably great match for 99.9% of wrestlers. Dramatic exchanges, big moves, callbacks, stiffness, an amazing finish; it's all there. One of them even busts out a variant on the GOLDEN ARM BOMBER~. I remember Hiroshi Wajima and I care. Wait, no I don't. But I do care about Kawada and Kobashi, and I'd wager you do as well, so watch this.
Misawa vs Taue, Triple Crown, 5/24/96. Taue had just won the Champions Carnival. Finish plays off of Misawa's matches with Taue and Kobashi during the tournament.
Misawa & Akiyama vs Williams & Ace, tag titles, 6/7/96. Won MOTY honors. I don't think it's quite that good but it's still a heck of a ride as Akiyama tries not to let down Misawa two weeks after their title win, while Williams & Ace try for the third time to win the belts. 181 MB.
Taue vs Kawada, Triple Crown, 6/7/96. Oddly enough, this is their only title match. A pity, too, considering that they don't pull off what they're capable of. The layout is like a standard '90s Triple Crown match, but with everything compressed by 30%. The result is efficient yet not quite satisfying.
Misawa & Akiyama vs Taue & Kawada, tag titles, 7/9/96. Was last time a fluke, or does young Akiyama really have what it takes to hang with the headliners? Making that proposition even murkier than the first time is Taue's title win over Misawa, meaning the challengers come in with an advantage in both team experience and individual capability. Taue and Kawada waste no time taking it to Akiyama; no feeling-out process here. Having Akiyama in Kobashi's place produces a completely different dynamic, and Akiyama's underdog role allows them to produce a great match with a fraction of the bombs that were dished out a year before. Make no mistake: this is a GREAT match. In any other promotion it would be a standout by virtue of the action, layout, and finish. All Japan was just so loaded that anything short of 'ultra epic' wasn't a MOTYC. Going back and revisiting matches like this proves how special '90s All Japan was.
Fuchi vs Kikuchi, junior title, 7/24/96. Their 6th and final title match. How much does Fuchi have in the tank? How much can Kikuchi survive? Not a perfect match, but there's some good drama and it definitely feels like the climax of their rivalry.
Taue vs Kobashi, Triple Crown, 7/24/96. Of the nine title bouts Taue was in during his All Japan run, this went the longest. It certainly feels like the most epic. 309 MB.
Kobashi vs Kikuchi, 8/18/96. Heavyweight champion vs junior heavyweight champion (not to mention former partners facing off), from a rare comm. This match would have been vaguely competitive in '91 or '92, but in '96? Can Kikuchi even get something going? At this point we've seen Kobashi in one epic after another, while Kikuchi hasn't progressed a lot. Even Kikuchi's title win, though good, felt like it could have taken place in 1993. That's what makes the match interesting to me: Kikuchi must struggle to so much as take Kobashi off his feet, let alone survive and get nearfalls. But when he DOES do something it feels like a real accomplishment. Remember kids, it's the journey, not the destination.
Misawa & Akiyama vs Williams & Ace, tag titles, 9/5/96, slightly clipped. Heck of a match. With, you guessed it, an epic finishing stretch. Definite contrast with the Misawa/Akiyama vs Kawada/Taue bouts, as this is more about pace and bumps rather than story. There are some unlikely highlights, including a nasty back elbow and a nastier back-bodydrop bump. This is the fifth time Johnny Ace has been in position to win the tag titles. Will he finally come out on top?
Kawada, Taue & Ogawa vs Misawa, Akiyama & Asako, 9/28/96. Asako is hilarious at times in trying to hang with the big boys. Opening is okay but the finishing stretch is REALLY epic for a 6-man.
Kikuchi vs RVD, junior title, 10/12/96. Interesting matchup during Kikuchi's only singles title reign. RVD continues to be better in All Japan than ECW!
Williams & Ace vs Kobashi & Patriot, tag titles, 10/12/96. I love how the crowd collectively pronounces 'Patriot' as 'patori'. Kobashi and Patriot earned the title shot by taking Williams and Ace to a 30 minute draw on the last tour. This is clearly a step below the classic tags of the decade, especially with a slow first half, but they do build to a sufficiently big finish to make this worthwhile. A tag title match with the last ten minutes they deliver here would stand out in pretty much any other promotion, but now it's an afterthought just because '90s All Japan was so loaded.
Taue, Baba & Dory vs Misawa, Jumbo & Akiyama, 10/18/96. Baba and Dory add way more to this than you'd expect. And in case star power doesn't sell you: Akiyama doesn't drop the fall!
Kobashi vs Kawada, Triple Crown, 10/18/96. Very, very lightly clipped, with the finishes of Kobashi's last two title matches worked in to cover the clips. This match is famous for its length, and I'd say they do a better job of spreading the dramatic moments across the duration. Tons of big moves, trademarks, and massive nearfalls. At the same time, this would have benefitted quite a bit if they'd gone a good 20 minutes shorter. It wasn't easy to go this long using old-school mat-based wrestling, let alone when both of them are throwing and eating nasty suplexes. It's amazing that it was their knees rather than their necks that would haunt the remainder of their career considering some of the car wreck bumps they take in matches like this.
Williams & Ace vs Misawa & Akiyama, Tag League '96, 11/16/96. The other iterations of this matchup were good. And, shock of shocks, this one is good too. Some downtime but the finish is hot. Which is yet another shock.
Kawada & Taue vs Williams & Ace, Tag League '96. All Japan in the '90s didn't have clear-cut face/heel roles, but in general you'd say that Misawa's crew were more sympathetic than the opposition. To that extent, this is a heel vs heel match, especially at a point where the gaijin vs natives dynamic was no longer significant. This pairing also wasn't likely to result in an action-packed sprint. How, then, will they put together something compelling? The answer is sound fundamentals and basic tag match structure. It isn't a barn-burner from start to finish, but it does show how good they are that even a second-tier match in the middle of the tour gets a hell of a lot right. The area they're wrestling in is one of the harder parts of Japan to get heat, and when they get the crowd riled up, it's because they earned it. Trust me: the crowd is plenty riled up by the end.
Misawa & Akiyama vs Kobashi & Patriot, Tag League '96. The first 2/3rds are fine, but the final third is what makes this. You would neeeeeever expect nuclear-heat nearfalls involving the Patriot, let alone several. Welcome to '90s All Japan.
Kobashi & Patriot vs Albright & Sabu, Tag League '96. Well that's about as random a combination of wrestlers as you could ask for, and they manage to mesh very well.
Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Akiyama, Tag League '96 league match. Escalates early, putting Misawa and Akiyama on their heels. Kawada and Taue dominate in grand fashion but can they stave off yet another Misawa-led comeback, something they failed to do earlier in the year? 171 MB.
Misawa & Akiyama vs Williams & Ace, RWTL '96, 11/30/96. You'll open the file and say "darn, they clipped it". You'll be WRONG. They effectively lop off the first 2/3rds of a big match and skip to the juicy part.
Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Akiyama, Tag League '96 final. This is the final part of the coveted '90s trinity of great matches. No small number of experts consider this to be the best tag match ever. I think it's 'only' #2.Match testimonial
Hase vs Shiga, 1/2/97. Good little rookie discipline match, and Hase's All Japan debut.
Taue vs Akiyama, 1/20/97. I waited too long to post this. A very unique match in that they start fast and end 'early' by All Japan standards. Akiyama looks like a world-beater.
Misawa vs Kobashi, Triple Crown, 1/20/97. The definitive Misawa vs Kobashi match. Featuring a classic Kings Road structure, layered strategy from Kobashi and an epic but not absurd closing stretch. Great quality.Match testimonial
Kawada & Fuchi vs Fujiwara & Kikuchi, 1/26/97. It's not mindblowing; Fujiwara was past his peak and Kikuchi was in his late '90s funk. But you still have Fujiwara vs Fuchi ON THE MAT and Fujiwara and Kawada bringing the SPITE. Korakuen was mostly dead on this comm tape (?!) but brought it here.
Misawa & Akiyama vs Kobashi & Omori, 1/26/97. The last matchup of a Misawa vs Kobashi tag gauntlet. Kobashi/Omori is somewhat random, so they don't have much of a chance, but there is plenty of intrigue in seeing Misawa vs Kobashi a few days after their singles epic.
Williams, Ace & Kea vs Misawa, Akiyama & Asako, 2/16/97, JIP. A lead-in match to a Misawa vs Williams title match, only in this case the prelude is better than the climax. Doc really brings his A-game at Korakuen.
Taue vs Akiyama, CC '97, JIP. Second half of a very watchable handheld. Will Taue get his revenge after the big upset in January, or will Akiyama stun the big man yet again? Quite the finish for a house show.
Kobashi vs Akiyama, Champions Carnival '97. While Taue vs Akiyama was big for Akiyama as a singles wrestler, this did even more to announce his arrival.
Misawa vs Kawada, Champions Carnival '97, league match. Once more to war they go. I like this a fair amount more than their title match from two months later. Great intensity and lots of top-notch exchanges.
Misawa vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '97 final, match 1. Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi tied one another and thus had singles matches with one another to determine the winner. Kobashi beat Misawa with a lariat in an untaped match during the tournament, his first win over Misawa, so he has the momentum going in. 252 MB.
Misawa vs Kawada, Champions Carnival '97 final, match 2. Due to the luck of the draw, Misawa has to fight Kawada immediately after the harsh match with Kobashi. That's not a good thing when Kawada is still looking for his first singles win over Misawa. 90 MB.
Kawada vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '97 final, match 3. Kobashi had the rest but Kawada's match didn't go as long. Who has the most left to win an incredibly stiff finalie? 186 MB.
Misawa/Kawada/Kobashi round-robin, CC '97 final. Slight clipping. Quality upgrade.
Misawa & Akiyama vs Williams & The Lacrosse, 5/18/97. Lacrosse is one of the many Jim Steele gimmicks. Not the most appealing matchup on paper, but Dr. Death makes things interesting as only he can.
Kawada, Taue & Omori vs Kobashi, Ace & Patriot 5/18/97. Holy Demons (plus one) versus Global Energy Team! Lead-in for the first Kawada/Taue vs Kobashi/Ace clash. Although each side has a weak link, it isn't a rookie or a junior, so it's going to take serious effort for either team to win. Kobashi's crew seems to understand this better and is much more aggressive, both in cutting off the ring and using bombs. Will Kawada and Taue's team experience dig them out of the hole?
Misawa vs Akiyama, 5/27/97, JIP. The last time we saw this matchup was in 1995, and Misawa was able to beat Akiyama with minimal effort. Much has changed, and Akiyama can now hang with the reigning Triple Crown champ. This would lead to a series of bigger matches between the two over the following year.
Kawada & Taue vs Kobashi & Ace, tag titles, 5/27/97, JIP. High-quality version that recently aired on NTV.
Kawada & Taue vs Kobashi & Ace, tag titles, 5/27/97, JIP. The original (grainier) TV version, which is JIP'ed one minute sooner (ie. there's more).
Misawa vs Kawada, 6/6/97, Triple Crown. Kawada comes off his second carnival win, with pins on Kobashi and Misawa in the 'triangle' final. Kawada employs the 'explode Misawa's head with backdrop drivers' strategy here.
Hase & Akiyama vs Shinzaki & Smith, 7/25/97. Shinzaki's first match in All Japan and Hase's first All Japan match at Nippon Budokan. "Interesting" as much as "good". Each of them has a moment to shine, which benefits Smith most of all. Shinzaki takes a nutty and very unexpected bump about halfway through. What really stands out is a sense that Team Suplex is (at times) legit frustrated working with Shinzaki.
Misawa vs Taue, 7/25/97, Triple Crown. Taue really takes it to Misawa at the start and throughout. Plays off their '96 match (naturally) and sadly, like the Kawada match, it breaks down just a bit right at the end. Still well worth seeing as you'd expect. 172 MB.
Hase & Shiga vs Nakano & Ikeda, 8/22/97. Just can't get over this matchup. You've got pudgy, over-the-hill UWFi jobber Nakano; a budding young Ikeda; ultra-skinny but respectfully-treated Shiga; and Hase, who is three tiers above all of them. Is Baba trying to out-random WAR? Anyway, the Hase/Nakano interaction is fascinating, and Hase gets to show off his Olympic-level grappling against the shoot-stylers.
Kobashi, Ace & Smith vs Misawa, Akiyama & Asako, 8/22/97, JIP. Global Energy Team! Misawa & Akiyama! And... Asako! ...yeah! Good finishing run following a forgettable ~15 minute start.
Kobashi vs Hase, 8/26/97. Hase, only able to wrestle part-time, comes in and hangs with Kobashi with ease.
Williams & Albright vs Misawa & Akiyama, tag titles, 8/26/97. The last title shot Misawa & Akiyama wound up getting. Really compact as they dispense with the usual long title match format.
Kobashi & Shiga vs Hayabusa & Shinzaki, 9/6/97. The Kobashi/Hayabusa matchup is really interesting.
Misawa vs Akiyama, 9/6/97, Triple Crown. This match speaks volumes about both men. In the case of Misawa, he has a chance to really put over young but enthusiastic Akiyama by means of selling, match length and general effort. He mostly doesn't. In the case of Akiyama, who is really good in his first title shot, he doesn't get the same gentle touch that Jumbo gave to Misawa et al, and partially as a result of this he never becomes quite the star he was supposed to. It's still a good match.
Misawa, Kawada & Hase vs Kobashi, Taue & Akiyama, 9/15/97. Not mind-blowing but it's these six guys so you know there's plenty of goodness.
Kobashi & Ace vs Kawada & Taue, 10/11/97. Really unique situation in All Japan as newly crowned tag champs face top contenders in a non-title match. This is also a lead-in to Taue vs Ace, and having a lead-in to a secondary singles match also kinda stands out.
Taue vs Ace, 10/21/97. They do a pretty good job of making it feel important. Can Ace actually get a big singles win at Budokan Hall?
Misawa vs Kobashi, 10/21/97, Triple Crown. SEGA SATURN~. Ahem. In the wake of the epic war they had in January, the temptation would be to try and top the previous effort. Thankfully, they don't go for quite as ambitious a match, while still bringing tons of action and a sufficiently big finish. Kobashi comes in having beaten Misawa with a lariat during the Champions Carnival, and in the closing minutes he has a one-track mind. Misawa counters many attempts, but can he dodge them all?
Misawa & Akiyama vs Johnny Smith & Wolf Hawkfield, RWTL '97, JIP. Smith, formerly the #2 man in the 'new British Bulldogs'. Hawkfield, playing a character from a video game. What chance do they have against Misawa and Akiyama? You'd think none, but they never say die and Korakuen backs them all the way. Awesome closing stretch.
Kawada & Taue vs Hayabusa & Shinzaki, Tag League '97. Crowd is solidly behind Team FMW, match is all kinds o' fun. Complete!
Misawa & Akiyama vs Kobashi & Ace, tag league '97, slight clipping. Good action throughout, building to a GIGANTIC finishing run. Massive effort for a mid-tour tag.
Kawada & Taue vs Kobashi & Ace, RWTL '97. Sadly it's clipped way down, but some of a good match is better than none at all. Can Kawada & Taue finally get a win on Kobashi & Ace?
Misawa & Akiyama vs Hayabusa & Shinzaki, RWTL '97. Team FMW pulls out all the stops, and I mean ALL the stops!
Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Akiyama, Tag League '97 league match. These teams haven't faced off since their classic in the '96 finals. Akiyama takes some serious punishment but keeps on coming, refusing to give up.
Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Akiyama, Tag League '97 final. Not on the same level as their match a year earlier. During the round-robin portion Kawada pinned Akiyama after sapping his strength with a stretch plum; can Akiyama make good? 256 MB.
Misawa, Baba & Mossman vs Kawada, Kobashi & Fuchi, 1/23/98. Realy rare due to a listing error from a certain gentleman in Pennsylvania. The 60th birthday celebration for Baba, and what better present than leaving him with red chest welts from stiff chops? I dare say it's impressive how little Baba had lost from '94 to here, but it's not as if he was an athletic dynamo at that point. If you can enjoy '90s Baba, you should enjoy this. Otherwise... buyer beware.
Kobashi & Ace vs Kawada & Taue, tag titles, 1/25/98. Kawada & Taue won the tag league. Kobashi & Ace won the last decisive meeting between the teams, and with Ace pinning Taue no less. 266 MB.
Misawa vs Akiyama, 1/26/98, Triple Crown. Here both guys bust out new moves (in particular Misawa at the end) in an effort to put each other away.
Kobashi, Ace & Smith vs Misawa, Akiyama & Kea, 2/14/98, JIP. Ace is two weeks away from his first (and only) title shot. He's out to send a message.
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Takayama & Kakihara, 2/28/98. Lots of talent and a short(ish) match time equals compact goodness.
Kawada vs Akiyama, Champions Carnival '98. Their final singles match, and only the 4th to be taped. Crowd is quiet but the match is good, and Akiyama certainly shows how far he's come since 1995.
Misawa vs Kawada, Champions Carnival '98. At first you think "oh, here comes a few minutes of their usual stuff as they feel things out". Then BAM, a big counter (missed by the camera) followed by a big impact move to break things wide open. This leads to their eternal theme of control and the battle of wills to maintain it. There's a certain amount of "not bringing the A game because it's a tournament match", but that reliance on the fundamentals actually makes for something that holds up darn well. Certainly more than their June '97 title match, which had way more bombs but without any more drama than they build to here. They draw the maximum amount from every big move, and even after so many years of them going at it they still manage to pull out some surprises. That's incredible.
Kobashi vs Akiyama, Champions Carnival '98. Akiyama has done progressively better against Kobashi over the years, and finally in January got a pinfall over him in a tag. Now Akiyama comes in with more points, and with just a week left in the tournament neither man can afford a loss.
Misawa vs Akiyama, 4/18/98, Champions Carnival final. Akiyama took Misawa, Williams and Kobashi to a draw and pinned Hansen among others in the tournament, demonstrating his growth. But was it enough for him to finally put down Misawa one-on-one?
Akiyama vs Hase, 5/1/98. Part-time Hase brings his A-game for the Tokyo Dome. Akiyama has struggled in big matches over the last year, losing three Budokan main events against Misawa. He backed his way into Champions Carnival final as well. That means he's going to have to not only hang with Hase throughout, but also step up his game in the clutch. 221 MB.
Misawa vs Kawada, 5/1/98, Triple Crown. Misawa vs Kawada headlines the Tokyo Dome for the first time. Some nice exchanges and a great, determined 'dammit you are NOT making the big comeback this time' attitude from Kawada. Oh and head drops. Coming in, Misawa had his legs worked over during the carnival and Kawada beat Taue with a figure-four.
Kawada & Taue vs Kobashi & Ace, tag titles, 6/5/98. Lead-in to Kawada vs Kobashi, and the last time Johnny Ace would be in a match of this caliber. Fun fact: Kobashi and Taue met in a match for the tag titles on 6 of 7 'super power series' tours between '92 and '98. This match and the '92 match have a little symmetry going on.
Kawada vs Kobashi, Triple Crown, 6/12/98. So this is pretty much considered to be their best match. And many consider it the last truly great Triple Crown match, myself included. Kobashi blasted through Kawada during the Champions Carnival in an untaped match for his first singles win over Dangerous K; can Kawada fend him off now?Match testimonial
Kobashi vs Kakihara, 7/15/98. Kakihara uses his one relative strength (submissions) to its maximum effect. Lord knows he's not gonna make Kobashi tap, but he does inflict damage that sets the table for Kobashi's troubles later in the tour.
Akiyama vs Kea, 7/18/98. Akiyama comes in expecting a simple tune-up for his title shot a week later. Instead he finds that Kea brings with him a do-or-die attitude, backed by the usual pro-underdog Korakuen crowd. Another in a career-long line of singles sprints for Akiyama.
Kobashi, Ace & Hase vs Albright, Tamayama & Kakihara, 7/18/98. A rare all-star trios bout! The UWFi alums have a variety of shoot-style skills between them, but Kobashi's side is a murderers row. Good action and a *very* memorable finish.
Kawada & Taue vs Takayama & Kakihara, 7/19/98. Lots of hard hitting, and the short-ish time means the match flies by. 102 MB.
Akiyama & Hase vs Kobashi & Kea, 7/19/98. Akiyama is headed for his 5th big main event in the last year, having lost the others. As such he's not interested in playing nice with Kobashi. I'm amazed they could join up a month after this.
Albright & Takayama vs Taue & Izumida, 7/24/98, JIP. The NTV airing of this clips to exactly the right part. Izu takes the UWFi veterans head-on and Budokan is right there with him!
Kawada & Omori vs Hase & Kea, 7/24/98. Clipped, and that's a good thing because it drags in full.
Kobashi vs Akiyama, Triple Crown, 7/24/98. They weren't tagging at this point. Akiyama has recently created the Exploder '98, the sort of move he needs to finally start winning big matches. He also has come up with a zillion ways to work the legs. Kobashi... I think we all know what Kobashi likes to do.
Kobashi & Ace vs Taue & Honda, 8/23/98, clipped. Lead-in to Kobashi vs Taue that winds up being anything but predictable.
Misawa, Akiyama & Asako vs Kawada, Ogawa & Omori, 8/23/98, JIP. Unique matchup with a hot finishing run.
Kawada & Taue vs Kobashi & Kea, 8/29/98, some clipping. More Kobashi vs Taue buildup, though the match is a good stand-alone piece as well.
Kawada vs Kakihara, 9/11/98. A short match that I'm guessing Kakihara wishes was shorter.
Akiyama vs Ogawa, 9/11/98. Ogawa, having just won the junior title, looks to prove what he's capable off. They do the contrasting styles perfectly, and this is my favorite Ogawa singles match by a fair amount.
Kobashi vs Taue, Triple Crown, 9/11/98. Taue has pinned Kobashi several times over the course of the year, and is still looking for revenge from their July '96 match. Unlike Akiyama, who tried to out-wit Kobashi, Taue has a different strategy: brute force.
Kawada & Taue vs Kobashi & Akiyama, tag titles, 10/11/98. First big match for Burning, and naturally it's a good one. 300 MB.
Kobashi & Shinzaki vs Misawa & Omori, 10/24/98, clipped. To this point Kobashi has never pinned Misawa on a televised match. It took something real special to finally pull it off.
Kawada & Taue vs Takayama & Kakihara, 10/31/98. Semi-main at Nippon Budokan, but non-title. Team UWFi aren't in contention either, having lost quite a bit over the course of the year. That somewhat diminishes the ceiling of the quality due to a lack of drama. However, the four of them deliver enough good action to make it a satisfying battle.
Kobashi vs Misawa, Triple Crown, 10/31/98. This match is famous for the final ten minutes, which features about as big a run of finishers as you can imagine. What I think makes this match worthwhile is everything that comes before the finish. The slow trading of control, the comebacks and cut-offs, the counters and payoffs; all are done far better than you'll see elsewhere. They're so good at putting simple moves and strikes to use. They fill over 20 minutes compellingly without digging into their big bag of bombs. That's no small feat.
Hansen & Vader vs Misawa & Ogawa, RWTL '98. Neither Hansen nor Vader was happy with teaming up, because they figured they were too much for any opponents to handle realistically. I think they had a point.
Kawada & Taue vs Ace & Barton, RWTL '98. Mike Barton is in All Japan! And he has suddenly become an athletic, powerful, and capable wrestler! Kawada and Taue do a great job of seeming desperate and having to go all-out despite being considerably more capable on paper (and in reality).
Kawada & Taue vs Kobashi & Akiyama, RWTL '98, JIP. I'm not sure why RWTL '98 matches like this were clipped to hell even on Samurai TV, but they aired a bunch of Headhunters matches, and the tournament was bookended by lots of full-show undercard crud. Argh. ANYWAY, some of a good thing is better than none, and this match is a good thing.
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Ace & Barton, RWTL '98. Last round-robin match of the tournament, and Burning needs a win (or draw) to advance to the finals. Movement has enough firepower to pull off the upset. Can Ace's new partner hold up his end better than Kobashi's new partner?
Hansen & Vader vs Kobashi & Akiyama, RWTL '98 final. You know a team is badass when their opposition is Kobashi and Akiyama and the problem is how unrealistic it is for Kobashi and Akiyama to even be competitive. I mean, damn. This was literally Vader's only complaint about All Japan: that his team with Hansen (and later Steve Williams) was OP. But are they *literally* unbeatable...?
Kawada & Taue vs Kobashi & Akiyama, tag titles, 1/7/99, some clipping. Burning won the tag league, and beat Kawada/Taue during the round-robin. However, Kawada/Taue is still Kawada/Taue.
Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Shinzaki, 1/15/99. Shinzaki didn't do so well as far as wins and losses in All Japan, yet he hangs with the big names pretty well. The key is Misawa vs Kawada as they're a week away from a title bout.
Kobashi vs Vader, 1/15/99. Vader's first big singles match in All Japan, after looking impressive during the Tag League. Kobashi's first big singles match since losing the Triple Crown three months earlier. Can Vader jump from jobbing to a young Edge on Heat to toppling Kobashi in the space of a year? Find out!
Honda & Izumida vs Hayabusa & Shinzaki, All Asia tag titles, 1/16/99. Team FMW goes for big-league gold. Honda & IZU have other idea. Namely, ridiculously hard headbutts and suplexes.
Kawada, Taue & Inoue vs Kobashi, Akiyama & Shiga, 1/16/99. In theory, the draw is seeing Kawada/Taue vs Kobashi/Akiyama. In reality, the Kawada vs Shiga pairing is by far the most entertaining. Shiga is SO overmatched but he wants it SO badly! C'mon Shiga, you can do it! Well, probably not, but it's worth trying!
Misawa vs Kawada, Triple Crown, 1/22/99. Similar to the 5/98 match in that Kawada seems keenly aware of how urgent it is that he prevent a final Misawa comeback. This match does have a couple of advantages, like not having the over-long legwork, and one especially memorable spot. Kawada no-sells breaking his arm legit on the back of Misawa's head about 1/3 of the way through.
Misawa, Ogawa & Kakihara vs Hase, Takayama & Omori, trios tournament round 1, 2/13/99. Start of a one-night four-team tournament for a "fan appreciation" show. Several interesting pairings in this, and I would say Kakihara brings the most to the table. Also an early look at Team No Fear starting to get a tiny bit of spotlight.
Misawa, Ogawa & Kakihara vs Kobashi, Akiyama & Shiga, trios tournament final, 2/13/99. Includes the final moments of the Team Kobashi vs Team Taue round 1 match, in which Shiga gets injured. He would be enough of a target at 100%, so now he's a seriously weak link. Love that finish.
Honda & Izumida vs Hayabusa & Shinzaki, All Asia tag titles, 2/13/99. Follow-up to the first match.
Misawa, Ogawa & Marufuji vs Kobashi, Akiyama & Kanemaru, 2/20/99. Baby Marufuji! Baby Kanemaru! Marufuji doing spots that focus on being athletic rather than being 'creative' is considerably more interesting to me. Kanemaru, on the other hand, is completely in over his head. With the big names headed towards a tag title bout, which side can best cover for their rookie?
Vader & Hansen vs Misawa & Taue, 2/28/99. Lead-in to Vader vs Taue, and a rematch from a week earlier. The first time around (untaped), Hansen pinned Misawa in just under 10 minutes. Vader/Hansen is one of those all-time badass tandems, but even they will struggle to repeat against a superteam like Misawa/Taue. Both sides stick to bombs, which is exactly what's called for.
Jumbo Tsuruta retirement ceremony, 3/6/99.
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Misawa & Ogawa, tag titles, 3/6/99. Wait, wait, Misawa replaced Akiyama with... Yoshinari Ogawa? Misawa finished in the bottom half of the '98 tag league, something that didn't happen since '88? Pfft, match will be over in five minutes. Unless that Ogawa guy is more than meets the eye, but what are the chances of that. 280 MB.
Vader vs Taue, Triple Crown decision match, 3/6/99. Granted it isn't the match these two would have had three years earlier, but it's still enjoyable.
Taue vs Akiyama, CC '99, JIP. Yes, Akiyama beat Taue one-on-one in '97. Yes, Akiyama made it to the Carnival final the year before. But it still feels as though he has something to prove. Taue is fresh off headlining at Nippon Budokan, so he damn sure doesn't want to go down to that pretty little punk.
Vader vs Misawa, CC '99. Their first battle. Not quite as 'epic' as the ones they have later in the year, but you still get that big match feel and plenty of action.
Kobashi vs Akiyama, Champions Carnival '99. Their final meeting in All Japan, and only meeting as partners in Burning. Akiyama has been eliminated from contention, but he fights to the last like always.
Vader vs Kobashi, Champions Carnival '99 final. They went to a 30 minute draw during the tournament. Does that mean Kobashi has what it takes to down the reigning champ? 158 MB.
Kawada vs Hase, 5/2/99. Kawada's return after his first injury in '99. Hase brings his usual big match effort, Kawada brings a willingness to take the most ungodly uranage bumps ever.
Vader vs Misawa, Triple Crown, 5/2/99. Heck of a match, as Vader really brings his A-game and Misawa has the Tokyo Dome crowd in the palm of his hand.
Hayabusa & Shinzaki vs No Fear, All Asia titles, 6/4/99. Omori held the belts quite a while (with Akiyama), but they weren't usually facing opposition on the level of Team FMW. Will size or skill win the day? 225 MB.
Misawa & Taue vs Kawada & Kobashi, 6/4/99. This is the only time these four met in a configuration other than Misawa/Kobashi vs Kawada/Taue. It's the last time they fought in any form. It's a special farewell match for the Nakajima Sports Center, which was the venue for events like the double-header on Super Power Series '96. It's yet another big Kobashi vs Taue tag on a Super Power Series. It's the main lead-in to the Misawa vs Kobashi title match a week later. And, oddly enough, this is the first Taue match I ever saw.
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Johnny Ace & Mike Barton, tag titles, 6/9/99. Wait, wait, Ace replaced Kobashi with... Bart Gunn? Wait, Bart Gunn is actually decent?! What's the world coming to? 187 MB.
Misawa vs Kobashi, Triple Crown, 6/11/99. Their fifth title match, and it builds in several ways off the predecessors. The heat they get for even basic moves and sequences early on makes it obvious that the crowd will go bonkers towards the end (and they do). Not their best match, but they still get a hell of a lot right. Some amazing nearfalls down the stretch.
No Fear vs Kobashi & Shiga, 7/4/99. Kobashi is not at 100% and NOOOO FEYAH doesn't hestitate to target him. 121 MB.
Kobashi vs Kakihara, 7/16/99. Kaki does better than the first time, showing that skill can manage brute force.
Kawada vs Takayama, 7/17/99. Takayama is fresh off pinning Taue at the last Budokan show. Kawada is gearing up for a title shot. Short with a ton of hard hits and an odd finish.
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Vader & Albright, 7/23/99. Burning lost the tag titles a month before and can't afford another loss. Meanwhile, Vader/Albright is a team that could easily dominate the division if they get momentum going. A similar situation to the '98 tag league final, only Albright isn't nearly as limited as Hansen.
Misawa vs Kawada, Triple Crown, 7/23/99. The last and least of their title bouts. There's quite a contrast between this and Misawa/Kobashi from the month before in terms of build and effort, with this seeming very small by comparison. That said, the struggle for control seen in previous bouts remains central here, and the last few minutes keep you guessing as to whether there will be one last big comeback.
Kobashi, Akiyama & Shiga vs Ace, Barton & Kea, 8/29/99. Ace starts off with an absolutely incredible spot that is old-school as hell. Wow. Decent back-and-forth before they get to the inevitable Shiga-In-Peril segment. A better crowd would help, especially in responding to a couple big moves towards the end. It really does show how much All Japan's support dropped off in the rest of Japan compared to Tokyo.
Misawa vs Takayama, 9/4/99. After years of mediocre matches in All Japan, Takayama cuts loose and delivers in a high-profile slugfest against the champ.
Kobashi vs Gladiator (Mike Awesome), 9/4/99. Not exactly rocket science right here, but I think Awesome does try to work the back a little bit for a vague sembalance of psychology.
Kobashi, Akiyama & Shiga vs Takayama, Omori & Fuchi, 10/9/99. Fuchi was great in one 6-man after another in the early '90s. Then the appearances we saw tended to be in dreadful 'old men' comedy bouts. So it was a bit of a shift to get a chance to see Fuchi with good opponents, and it's no surprise that the results are quite good.
Misawa & Ogawa vs Kobashi & Akiyama, tag titles, 10/23/99. Follow-up to their March tag only with the roles reversed. Misawa & Ogawa recently had all the gold in the company before vacating the All Asia tag belts to "give other teams a chance".
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Takayama & Omori, tag titles, 10/30/99. Kobashi is pissed due to No Fear's dishonorable tactics during the tour. He's so very pissed. Keep in mind that No Fear just recently had both the All Asia and world tag titles, AND that a week earlier Omori beat Jinsei Shinzaki and Takayama beat Gary Albright in singles matches, so they should normally be able to fend for themselves. But Kobashi is really, really pissed...
Misawa vs Vader, Triple Crown, 10/30/99. A heavyweight bomb-fest in line with their bout at Tokyo Dome.
Vader & Smith vs Misawa & Ogawa, RWTL '99, some clipping. This was certainly not what I (or the fans) expected. The main event of the first night of the tournament kicks things off with a bang! Vader and Smith were somewhat of an after-thought coming in, but they deliver a big-match performance. Ogawa takes easily the biggest bump of his life. The first night of the '98 tournament saw Vader & Hansen beat Misawa & Ogawa, and while Vader & Smith aren't as dangerous they do match up well with the Untouchables. Late '90s All Japan has somewhat of a bum rap, I think, as the company was still able to deliver matches like this.
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Misawa & Ogawa, RWTL '99. The fourth and final meeting of these teams. Ogawa adds a completely different dynamic to these tags due to his style and size. Even basic moves from Kobashi and Akiyama seem nasty when Ogawa is on the wrong end, and any offense he sneaks in seems like a real accomplishment. Somewhat bland opening section leads to a solid US-style middle and a hot finish.
Kobashi, Akiyama & Shiga vs Vader, Smith & Kea, 11/27/99. Some clipping. Shiga in his skinny days is well below even young Kea, and that disadvantage makes the match work.
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Hansen & Taue, RWTL, 11/30/99. Fun match with just the right amount of bombs at the end for a main event, while saving something for the final.
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Taue & Hansen, Tag League '99 final. Hansen's last chance! Taue is over the hill but still a force to be reckoned with! Hot crowd! Hansen and Taue dominated the league, beating everyone including Burning. Can the team so similar to the popular Baba/Hansen combo pull it off?
Kobashi vs Omori, 1/9/00. Omori's biggest singles test since No Fear took off in mid-99. Kobashi is aiming for a title shot and a loss here would take him out of contention. Omori shows his growth in the opening minutes; he's not an easy out the way he was in years past. A couple really good nearfalls down the stretch. To me, this is the earliest singles match where Omori looks close to being 'ready' for a big spotlight. That spotlight wasn't far off.
Misawa & Akiyama vs Vader & Taue, 1/17/00. I think this is the first Misawa/Akiyama team-up since Akiyama left to join Burning in the summer of '98, since Kobashi is busy with Kawada and Akiyama needed a good partner to go against the champ and Taue. Of all four pairings in this the one you most want to see as a singles match is Vader/Akiyama, which is precisely the point. There's no pretense of depth or structure, just big heavyweight action at a reasonably fast pace.
Kawada vs Kobashi, 1/17/00. Kawada's return after his injury in late '99. Their final meeting. Kawada wastes no time in asserting himself. Lots of heavy striking throughout and some big moves every few minutes. Watching in 2013 I find myself repeatedly surprised at move-by-move developments, which is impressive considering how much I've seen from these two. Not on the same level as the '98 Triple Crown match, a solid heavyweight battle nonetheless.
Vader vs Akiyama, 1/23/00. Clearly Vader can beat Akiyama; he can do so any number of ways. The issue at stake is whether Akiyama has it in him to take down the big man before Vader gets a chance to throw the big bombs. 138 MB.
Vader vs Akiyama, Triple Crown, 1/23/00. New cap.
Vader vs Kawada, 2/17/00. Their only singles match. Not "if it had happened in 1993" good, but still "Vader and Kawada beating each other up" good.
Misawa vs Akiyama, 2/27/00. Japan in 2000 produced several match-of-the-decade candidates, and this one I think gets overlooked for that category. The opening minutes of Misawa in control and cutting off a fired-up Akiyama are so Kings Road and great. Akiyama creating a big opening for himself and exploiting it aggressively but technically: Kings Road. Akiyama busts out some really nifty things, and unlike his leg work vs Kobashi in July '98 it can lead to a finish. There is some downtime but it's not much given the length. The most memorable thing is the last minutes, where Akiyama gets closer and closer to winning and the crowd senses that this isn't like '97-'98 when Akiyama just didn't have it in him to put the green one away. This was Akiyama's best singles match to this point (maybe ever), and his best match since 'arriving' in '98.
Vader vs Kobashi, Triple Crown, 2/27/00. Clearly Kobashi can beat Vader, right? I mean he's beaten Mike Awesome, Kawada and Steve Williams since his last title shot. That said, Kobashi is 0-2-1 against Vader to date, so it seems Vader has his number. 192 MB.
Akiyama vs Shiga, 3/11/00. Short, heated, and a precursor to what would make Shiga (briefly) a great babyface in NOAH.
Misawa, Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Kawada, Taue & Fuchi, 3/11/00. I won't lie, this disappointed me. Even though this is the last Misawa & Kobashi 6-man, and the last time Kobashi or Kikuchi faced Kawada on film, it's FUCHI who makes it worthwhile. Ten years earlier he was busting up Kobashi's nose; now it's all he can do to not get destroyed. Korakuen Hall backs his will to survive, and we get a taste of what Battlin' Old Man Fuchi would bring after the split.
No Fear vs Kobashi & Shiga, 3/24/00. Takayama & Omori won in dominant fashion the fall before. Kobashi is now the champ, but Shiga is still a skinny dweeb. Can he rise to the task? I'll note that in an untaped rematch later in the tour, Takayama pinned Kobashi.
Akiyama vs Omori, Champions Carnival 2000. A defining moment in both their careers, done in a very unusual way for All Japan.
Misawa vs Kawada, Champions Carnival 2000. A compact conclusion to their series in All Japan. At this point they were 2-2-3 in the last 7 matches going back to '96. Their matches at five consecutive Champions Carnivals went to a 30 minute draw, but this by necessity has a finish. Kawada lost to Kobashi and Vader to start the year but by now the ring rust is off and he's ready to go. A pre-debut KENTA watches from ringside. The first bomb is thrown early, leading to much more urgency in the first half than any of their previous encounters- and the first half of their shortest match no less. In many ways this is a 'Cliff's Notes' version of their usual match, with the trademark spots and exchanges and match structure all compressed. Kawada's sell of the rolling elbow is soooo great, and his run of offense starting around the ten minute mark is red-hot. I wouldn't put this near the top of their matches but it's certainly not the least either.
Kobashi vs Johnny Smith, Champions Carnival 2000. Smith does a very smart match and eventually the crowd realizes that he's not going to be an easy win for Kobashi. Unique finish that was later ripped off in a prominent New Japan bout.
Kobashi vs Misawa, Champions Carnival 2000. Their last All Japan match. Misawa comes in having beaten Kobashi in their five Triple Crown matches, including the previous June. He beat Vader and Kawada earlier in the tournament. Kobashi comes in as champion, and he pinned Misawa in an unaired match at last year's tournament.
Kobashi vs Omori, Champions Carnival 2000 Final. Omori has knocked off some big names, including Akiyama and Steve Williams, with his cheesy axe bomber. Kobashi isn't in the mood for cheese. The result is good clean fun for everyone for Omori.
Kobashi vs Takayama, Triple Crown, 5/26/00. There's a lot to see here. First off, Takayama emerges from mediocrity and brings plenty to the table, with the crowd buying it despite his years of jobbing in All Japan; it's the emergence of the awesome Takayama. Second, this feels a LOT like their GHC match four years later. Finally, this is the last pre-split title match.
Hashi vs Kenta Kobayashi, 5/31/00. Look at that skinny loser, who let him in? Wait that's KENTA?! Why indeed it is, and KENTA just a week after his debut no less. Hashi is a 2 year pro, and although he's near the bottom of the roster that still puts him way ahead of a fresh-faced rookie. Kenta shows off his athleticism and has very good execution for someone at this stage. Hashi counters the flying with a focused "destroy the back" approach. The crowd really gets into it down the stretch, as Kenta shows he won't be put down with a few token moves (like is usually the case in New Japan).
All Japan June 9th 2000, part 1. The final pre-split Budokan show was dominated by a four team tournament to crown new tag champs after Vader got hurt and vacated the belts. This block features Misawa & Ogawa vs Takayama & Omori, and Kawada & Taue vs Ace & Barton. As it turned out that would be Ace's final scheduled wrestling match, though he did have the ability to earn one more with a trip to the finals.
All Japan splits.
All Japan June 9th 2000, part 2. The tag tournament final, and a very heated Akiyama & Kea vs Kobashi & Shiga battle.
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Misawa & Taue, 2/3 falls, 8/5/00. Main event on the debut show that sets the table for the rest of the year. Keep watching after the finish.
Kobashi vs Akiyama, 8/6/00. From NOAH's second show ever, this match does a lot to establish that these two are the top guys in the promotion and that Akiyama is no longer in Kobashi's shadow. Good action, interesting middle-point between the kind of match they'd wrestle today and the kind of match they'd wrestle in All Japan. Kobashi isn't completely broken down at this point and it really shows with the amont of *wrestling* he does; probably his last big singles match before he became semi-immoble Chopbashi.
Akiyama, Takayama & Kanemaru vs Kobashi, Rikio & Kikuchi, 9/15/00. Despite appearances this isn't a random 6-man at all. Rookie Rikio is all kinds of fun, Kikuchi has his best showing in years, and we get our first good Kobashi vs Akiyama 6-man.
Akiyama & Takayama vs Kobashi & Kikuchi, 9/16/00. I'm not going to pretend like the outcome is much in doubt, but it's the journey, not the destination.
Akiyama, Takayama & Shiga vs Kobashi, Rikio & Kikuchi, 9/25/00. Not quite as good as the one from 10 days earlier, but close. Lots of wonderful pairings as the match progresses. Rather unusual finish.
Takayama vs Kikuchi, 10/7/00. Granted, these two can only have 'so' good a match given the size difference... but it can't NOT be good either.
Kobashi & Rikio vs Akiyama & Kanemaru, 10/7/00. Oh for those early days of NOAH, when the booking was really interesting. This is almost more of an angle than a match, but the bottom line is that it REALLY makes you want to see Kobashi get a rematch with Akiyama, which of course was the entire focus of the company at this point.
Kobashi vs Omori, 10/11/00. Kobashi doesn't need functional knees to murder you.
Akiyama vs Hashi, 11/16/00, clipped. A pity they clipped this in half because it's the first relevant Hashi singles match, the start of their series, and it looks like a good vet vs young lion bout. On the plus side, the clipping means there's no downtime.
Akiyama, Morishima, Shiga & Kanemaru vs Kobashi, Rikio, Kikuchi & KENTA, 12/2/00. The first two pairings are fascinating. Kobashi and Akiyama do their thing, to a decent response, and are followed by a HOT Morishima/Rikio exchange. Rookie Rikio was darn impressive, though he was a sumo veteran and thus not a typical young lion. The generally fast pace and a few other really good exchanges keep this interesting. KENTA is the presumed whipping boy, but someone else takes the fall.
Aoyagi vs Marufuji, 12/15/00. Pretty sure this match is from an alternate universe. Aoyagi started the '90s as someone known for intense matches with Onita, and later with assorted NJ and WAR guys. A few years after this he was a jobber. Marufuji, meanwhile, was a budding star. This match a few years earlier would have been an Aoyagi squash, and a few years later would have been a Marufuji squash. In December 2000, it's an open question how it will turn out. They have such totally different styles on paper, but Marufuji is quite grounded here and plays it straight, so this really feels nothing like a Marufuji match. Especially the finish.
Kobashi, Kikuchi & KENTA vs Akiyama, Shiga & Kanemaru, 12/15/00. Burning vs Sternness, always good times. It's kinda remarkable how much the Kanemarus of the roster stepped up in NOAH.
Shiga, Morishima & Kanemaru vs Inoue, Rikio & Sugiura, 12/23/00. Sugiura's debut and a really solid 6-man considering the randomness. 130 MB.
Hashimoto vs Omori, 12/23/00. Hard-hitting, to-the-point. This was a very important match for several reasons. One, it marked Hashimoto's first appearance since leaving New Japan to start Zero-One. Two, Omori felt that Hash was being uncooperative and decided to have the match end early; this led to Omori being put in the doghouse, and less than two years later he was gone. I included some nifty pre-entrance backstage footage.
Misawa vs Vader, 12/23/00. Old guys huckin' bombs at each other.
Kobashi vs Akiyama, 12/23/00. This was the main event of the first big NOAH show, and it was the last big singles match Kobashi would have for two years. He's an absolute wreck but still gives it his all, and tries to put Akiyama on the shelf in the process.
Misawa & Ogawa vs Hashimoto & Otsuka, 1/13/01. Misawa and Hashimoto DESPISE each other. Hashimoto makes Ogawa his woman and it's everything wonderful about Shinya Hashimoto. Pre-debut Zero-One almost starts a riot in NOAH-land. Glorious.
Akiyama & Vader vs Kobashi & Taue, 1/13/01. Kobashi is about to go out for knee surgery. So imagine this as the scene early in a cop movie right after the old veteran says he's retiring in a week.
Kobashi's face on 1/18/01 in the aftermath of the big matches he had in the previous weeks. The real reason to download this short clip is the preview of the GHC title. Especially the 'G' part.
Kobashi & Taue vs Misawa & Marufuji, 1/18/01, JIP. Young Marufuji has something new and special up his sleeve for the veterans. Also, this is Kobashi's last match before the knee surgery.
Misawa vs Marufuji, 3/3/01. The day after Marufuji's big coming out party in Zero-One, he faces his mentor and throws out everything he's got.
Takayama & Omori vs Morishima & Shiga, 3/3/01. On paper this is a by-the-numbers squash, but the underdogs take over early and keep plugging away. And keep plugging away. And eventually it gets to be the underdogs doing the squashing, at which point you're hooked! An odd choice for a main event, but they deliver.
Akiyama, Morishima & Shiga vs Ogawa, Rikio & Marufuji, 3/18/01, some clipping. I never expected a 6-man featuring Ogawa as a team leader to be heated, let alone one taking place in Differ Ariake, but this match proved me wrong! And man, there was just no going wrong with Morishima vs Rikio at this point.
Takayama vs Izumida, GHC title tournament, 3/22/01. Short-ish battle between two tough dudes.
Takayama & Omori vs Vader & Morishima, 3/30/01. Morishima did well against No Fear with scrawny Shiga at his side; imagine what he can do with the Beast from Boulder!
Akiyama vs Omori, GHC Heavyweight Title Tournament. A year earlier Omori beat Akiyama for the first time in a matter of seconds with an axe bomber flurry. Akiyama wants revenge, but Omori has progressed to the point where he can win in non-fluke fashion.
Misawa vs Akiyama, GHC Heavyweight Title Tournament semifinal. Their first match in NOAH, and it was assumed from the start that one of them would win the tournament.
Misawa vs Takayama, GHC Heavyweight Title Tournament final. Takayama has been pinned just twice in the last year, both times by Kobashi. His German suplex and kneelift have been enough to put down everyone, including Kobashi, and he beat Taue in a singles match with a roundhouse. That said, he's facing Misawa. HQ cap.
Misawa vs Takayama, 4/15/01. Lesser VQ but more pre and post match.
Misawa vs Taue, 5/18/01. First-ever GHC title defense. Somewhat low-key but still good. Watch for Taue's jumping boot, which put Misawa away in their last match.
Rikio vs Izumida, 5/25/01, JIP. I've seen Izu singles matches against the likes of Kobashi and Kawada in All Japan, and none of them had near this good a finish.
Akiyama vs Morishima, 5/25/01. By far the biggest match of Morishima's career to date, headlining a mid-size venue in a singles match. Akiyama wants a shot at Misawa and won't hesitate to pull out the big guns.
Rikio & Morishima vs Akiyama & Saito, 6/9/01. The first time Akiyama and Saito teamed up. The big boys only had a couple matches together, so both teams have something to prove. They really go at it, and the finish sets up another match later in the tour.
Akiyama & Saito vs Omori & Sugiura, 6/16/01. Only the second match for the Akiyama/Saito team. Sugiura is, as usual, most interesting when going against heavyweights. Oogly finish.
Misawa, Ogawa, Ikeda & Marufuji vs Akiyama, Saito, Shiga & Kanemaru, 6/20/01, slightly clipped. Wave vs Sternness! Lead-in to Misawa/Ogawa vs Akiyama/Saito at the end of the tour, not to mention Misawa vs Akiyama the following month. The interplay between the teams really makes this, not to mention the super-responsive crowd. I'd also say there isn't an obvious loss post, which helps keep the finish from being anticlimactic.
Ogawa vs Modest, 7/27/01. Modest is so great in this, and Ogawa is really the best opponent to show off his technical ability.
Misawa vs Akiyama, GHC title, 7/27/01. Having split the last two matchups against each other, and with a draw before that, this could go either way. Both debut big moves for the occasion of NOAH's first show at Budokan Hall.
Rikio vs Hashi, 8/15/01. Hashi should be a piece of cake even for rookie Rikio, but Hashi's spunk and skull make him competitive.
Morishima vs KENTA, 8/15/01. Before they were awesome, but after they were good. If that makes sense.
Akiyama, Saito, Shiga & Kanemaru vs Misawa, Ogawa, Sano & Marufuji, 8/15/01. The first Misawa/Akiyama battle after their title match. Some really clever team spots and a rare outdoor venue event make this standout from run-of-the-mill multi-man bouts. As with the June match, this is helped by a lack of a glaring weakness for either team. Unlike the June match, the finishing run here is big and climactic.
Akiyama, Saito & Hashi vs Rikio, Morishima & Ikeda, 8/27/01. Some clipping, but I did patch in some extra footage by merging the TV and comm tape versions. Rikio, Morishima and Ikeda are all in a four-man contenders tournament later in the tour, so that means Akiyama is an even bigger target than usual.
Honda vs Morishima, GHC #1 contenders tournament, 8/28/01. An interesting clash of styles, as Honda's grappling skills try to contain Morishima's explosive power.
Akiyama, Saito & Shiga vs Vader, Modest & Morgan, 8/28/01. A really fun match that focuses on Modest. This is fascinating for several reasons. One, he's over as hell after one tour. Two, he's someone that veterans like Vader and Akiyama are willing to give the spotlight to. This can be credited to Modest's great showing against Ogawa at Nippon Budokan. Good pace, lots of heat, and an unexpectedly harsh finish.
Takaiwa vs KENTA, 8/31/01. KENTA, having just over a year of experience, is smart enough to realize that unless he starts things to his own advantage he won't stand a chance.
Akiyama, Saito & Shiga vs Takayama, Omori & Asako, 8/31/01. Asako is just a few days from his first (and only) GHC junior title challenge, so he riles up champion Kanemaru who's at ringside to support his stablemates. Oh yeah and also Akiyama and Takayama are in this. Whatever, you know and I know that you're here to see some Asako.
Akiyama vs Honda, GHC title, 9/5/01, JIP. How well can Honda do in his first singles title bout? This is a good preview of what was to come in '03 from Honda.
Ohtani & Omori vs Rikio & Morishima, 10/6/01. The budding superheavies must contend with a cobbled-together but highly capable tandem in Omori and Ohtani. Double Takeshis actually do quite well for themselves, refusing to be bullied and doing very serious damage. Granted, the veterans get plenty of shots in, but this is not the rote semi-squash one would expect given their respective levels of experience; it's a real contest!
Misawa & Ogawa vs Ohtani & Omori, tag title tournament, 10/12/01. The quality of this match is roughly 95% about the Misawa/Ohtani interaction. Considerably more 'Ohtani' chants than one would expect, and he gets a ton of heat for hanging with Misawa. Can a makeshift team upset the Untouchables?
Modest, Morgan & Slinger vs Ogawa, Marufuji & KENTA, 10/16/01. So much FUN! Modest starts off with a number of moves that are still nifty in 2012 and should be stolen/borrowed by active wrestlers. The crowd responds to pretty much everything and thus proves that this is in fact taking place in Korakuen Hall. The finish is not what one would expect.
Ohtani, Omori & Asako vs Akiyama, Saito & Kanemaru, 10/16/01. Watch from the start, because it's fantastic before they even ring the bell. Ohtani's charisma is absolutely off-the-charts, and his clashing with both Akiyama and Kanemaru is very entertaining. It's a pity he only returned to NOAH a couple times after this tour.
Ohtani vs Shiga, 10/17/01. There really isn't any question as to whether Ohtani will be a total bastard to an up-and-comer from another promotion. The question is whether Shiga will bring it on his end, and he does! The result is a really solid outsider vs underdog bout.
Akiyama & Saito vs Misawa & Ogawa, tag title tournament, 10/17/01, JIP. Third meeting between the teams in just four months, and in the first two Misawa and Akiyama traded pins. Who will take it now that something is on the line?
Modest & Morgan vs Takaiwa & Hoshikawa, 11/18/01. APW versus Zero-One! I remember when both of those were fresh, relevant promotions, rather than lurching zombies like today. Coming in, I wondered how an outsider vs gaijin match would work. It turns out: pretty darn well! A mix of personality, action, and a couple of hellish bumps are enough to get even a Differ Ariake crowd into it. The finish came as quite a shock to me.
Akiyama, Shiga & Kanemaru vs Rikio, Morishima & KENTA, 11/18/01. An interesting matchup, because Double Takeshis would beat Akiyama & Shiga but Kanemaru solidly trumps KENTA at this point. Yet another solid match from a largely overlooked period for the company.
Kanemaru & Hashi vs Honda & KENTA, 11/27/01. A snapshot of a singular moment in time, because Kanemaru/Hashi are favored by virtue of KENTA being a fledgling. Honda is quite a bit bigger than the others, but he's not the sort of high-impact guy that can squish the other team after getting a hot tag. That means KENTA needs to both deliver some offense and survive some big moves if they're going to win. This match didn't stand out to me the first time I watched the show, but the second time through I was drawn in by the remarkably hot Korakuen crowd, and the end result is better than it looks on paper.
Takaiwa & Hoshikawa vs Marufuji & KENTA, 11/30/01. Ah, the days when KENTA was a weak link, gas was $1.25 a gallon, and nobody knew who Zac Efron was. Those were good times.
Takayama vs Morishima, 11/30/01. What happens in this one? They play hopscotch, WHAT DO YOU THINK HAPPENS.
Akiyama vs Rikio, 11/30/01. A year earlier, rookie Rikio faced NOAH's best in a series of matches. He lasted longest against Akiyama, but fell to the front neck lock. Now Akiyama is champion, while Rikio has three times as much experience as he did before and loads of power. Isn't exactly a match of the year but it has its moments.
Takayama vs Hashi, 2/10/02. Poor Hashi. On one hand, if he doesn't try his hardest, he gets squashed like a bug. On the other hand, if he actually makes Takayama break a sweat he might get the ever-lovin' crap beaten out of him. This being Hashi, he takes the latter route.
Taue, Honda & Inoue vs Saito, Shiga & Hashi, 2/17/02. Sternness fights without their leader. HASHI~ steps up big-time, marking the start of his good run.
Liger & Wataru Inoue vs Kikuchi & Kanemaru, 2/17/02. New Japan invades and it is AWESOME. Budokan Hall is absolutely on fire. Kanemaru and Wataru aren't known for their intensity but both of them turn it up in a big way. Kikuchi has his best showing since '93. Liger's best match from '97 through today. Absolute must-see.
Misawa & Kobashi vs Akiyama & Nagata, 2/17/02. Kobashi's return from the big knee injury. The reunion of the Misawa/Kobashi team that dominated All Japan for years. Nagata's first match in NOAH. Akiyama's first chance to show up Kobashi after winning the GHC title. Accordingly, everyone kicks it up a notch.
Vader vs Morishima, 3/14/02. This was juuuust before Morishima developed enough to where taking on Vader would be a dream match. It's five minutes of Vader and Morishima going at it, so you know what you're getting: a straightforward slugfest.
Akiyama & Hashi vs Ogawa & Marufuji, 3/14/02. Lead-in to two tour-end title bouts, Akiyama vs Ogawa and Marufuji vs Hashi. Heck of a match, the first standout performance from Hashi. This wound up being considerably better than the payoffs.
Akiyama vs Hashi, 3/24/02. Hashi wants nothing more than to prove himself to Akiyama. It's Akiyama's job to make that as difficult as possible.
Akiyama vs Shiga, 4/6/02. Shiga has had it with being the 3rd man on Akiyama's crew, and he takes it right to the champ.
Modest, Morgan, Slinger & Superstar Steve vs Honda, Inoue, KENTA & Suzuki, 4/7/02. Fast pace, and the gaijin make it fun.
Liger & Minoru Tanaka vs Kikuchi & Kanemaru, 4/7/02. New Japan juniors heel it up like there's no tomorrow! Kanemaru fights fire with fire! Kikuchi Comeback 2002 continues!
Misawa & Ogawa vs Akiyama & Hashi, 5/11/02. Akiyama and Hashi have only one option: go all-out.
Morishima vs Hashi, 6/5/02. Hashi does shockingly well toe-to-toe with the beastly Morishima, thanks in part to his iron-hard dome. In response, Morishima busts out some nasty submissions that he never should have stopped using.
Rikio vs KENTA, 6/5/02. Although similar to Morishima/Hashi on paper, the match progresses differently as a result of the more dramatic size difference. KENTA has to rely on speed and strategy at all times if he's going to avoid being squished. However, does he have anything in his arsenal to trouble the ex-sumo?
Kobashi & Kotaro Suzuki vs Inoue & Kanemaru, 7/5/02. Kobashi's Korakuen return during his first comeback, and really his proper return after the aborted February match. Once again it's all about the Kobashi/Kanemaru interactions.
Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Scorpio & Slinger, 7/14/02, JIP. I clipped out a slow first half so you can get the quite good second half. Niigata loves them some Kobashi.
Akiyama & Kanemaru vs Taue & KENTA, 7/14/02. One might expect the Akiyama/Taue pairing to be the highlight, but no, it's all about baby KENTA taking it right to Akiyama. Worth emphasizing that we typically didn't get this much heavyweight vs junior focus in All Japan (or New Japan), and this is an excellent demonstration of NOAH's different philosophy. Somewhat of a breakout performance for KENTA in terms of showing his fire.
Morishima & Ikeda vs Takayama & Bison Smith, 7/26/02. Fun entrances! Lots and lots of beef! No blatant loss post! Hot crowd! This could easily have been plodding and low-effort, especially given its low placement on the card (3 of 9), but the four of them bring the goods. Definitely one of Bison's strongest showings.
Sano & KENTA vs Akiyama & Suzuki, 7/26/02. Building from the tag two weeks earlier, KENTA once again tries to prove his mettle against Akiyama. This time, he's not the weak point in the match, giving him more leeway to take potshots. At least that's what he'd like to think.
Misawa, Kobashi & Asako vs Taue, Inoue & Hashi, 7/26/02. Asako's retirement, featuring retro-tights for Kobashi and a feel-good ending.
Rikio & KENTA vs Kobashi & Suzuki, 8/14/02. Clipped. Kobashi squares off with a more grown-up Rikio! The first ever Kobashi vs KENTA interaction! Also featuring Kotaro Suzuki as Loss Post Pete.
Rikio, Morishima & KENTA vs Misawa, Sano & Suzuki, 8/15/02. Clipped. A battle in the pouring rain!
Kobashi & KENTA vs Misawa & Suzuki, 9/1/02. The first time Misawa and Kobashi got to face off after Kobashi's return, and they do so alongside their students.
Kobashi, Shiga, Kikuchi & KENTA vs Akiyama, Saito, Kanemaru & Hashi, captain's fall elimination, 9/5/02. The first proper Burning vs Sternness tag, and it's the longest of the feud! We only get about half of it though. Shiga looks to prove he's capable of being a #2 after leaving Sternness in the spring. He just took Nishimura to a 30 minute draw. For Akiyama, it's his 10th anniversary of debuting in the same building against Kobashi. For Kobashi, it's his first big match after the summer '02 return. Lots on the line, and with a guarantee of Kobashi or Akiyama taking a fall!
Ogawa vs Takayama, GHC title, 9/7/02. For some reason, Ogawa saved his best for the end of his title reign. He uses some very nice strategery in contrast with Takayama's full-steam-ahead approach. 177 MB.
Kikuchi & Kanemaru vs El Samurai & Naruse, IWGP junior tag titles, 9/23/02. Big crowd heat as usual for the NOAH vs NJ feud, nice compact match that keeps up the momentum through the hot finish. 129 MB.
Rikio & Morishima vs Akiyama & Saito, tag titles, 9/23/02. It's important to put this match in context. This is the first really high-end match for Wild 2, the GHC tag titles, and (for my money) Saito. They absolutely tear the house down. Go out of your way for this.
Takayama vs Misawa, GHC title, 9/23/02. Really stiff, to the point where Misawa injured Takayama with elbows. I don't recall any other match where that happened.
Kanemaru & Kikuchi vs KENTA & Sugiura, IWGP junior tag titles, 10/12/02. The first big NOAH vs NOAH junior tag. Not quite on the level of what they were doing a year later but certainly a big step up.
Kobashi & Shiga vs Akiyama & Kanemaru, 10/17/02. Kobashi and Shiga look to send a message before their tag title shot, and Kanemaru stands to pay the price. Really good lead-in, as it sets up the Akiyama/Shiga dynamic very well.
Akiyama & Saito vs Kobashi & Shiga, tag titles, 10/19/02. Shiga was bumped from his spot as Sternness' number 2 in favor of Saito. Now with Kobashi's help he has a chance to make good in the biggest match of his life! This is the climax of numerous Akiyama/Shiga matches over the years, and it's easily the career bout for Shiga. Akiyama does a submission that's now well-known but I don't think was seen prior to this match or for years afterwards. There are some lulls in the body of the match, but the home stretch is top-notch.
Lion, Marufuji? & Kevin Mask vs BLAZE, Sasakaman & HALIMAO, 10/31/02. Halloween, NOAH-style. I especially love all things having to do with 'Marufuji'.
Kobashi, Shiga & KENTA vs Akiyama, Saito & Kanemaru, 11/20/02. I spent quite a lot of time scouring the internet to find every last Burning/Sternness match that got taped. This is maybe the most obscure one, and it's good enough to justify the effort.
Kobashi vs Taue, #1 contenders match (I think), 11/24/02. Kobashi's first big singles match since returning, and their first singles match in three and a half years. Taue brings out the big guns in a way he hasn't since NOAH began. 102 MB.
Kobashi & Shiga vs Misawa & Sano, 12/1/02. Both teams lost in a tag title challenge in the last few months, and thus need a win to have any hope of getting another. Also, Kobashi is fresh off a win over Taue and can make an impression on the champ.
Kikuchi & Kanemaru vs Jado & Gedo, IWGP junior tag titles, 12/7/02. Considering how effective regular NJ juniors were in getting heat, there was really no way to go wrong with two guys who actively work heel. Jado and Gedo deliver their annual big-match effort, the crowd gets suitably behind the home team, and they build to a really satisfying finish. Not quite as good as the Liger tags, but not far off either.
Misawa vs Ogawa, GHC title, 12/7/02. Misawa's losses tend to be by knockout after a high-impact finisher. Ogawa clearly isn't going to win by turning the lights out. However Ogawa does the rarely-used strategy of trying to *wrestle* Misawa, and it pays dividends because 2002 Misawa isn't exactly the mat-wrestlingest guy around.
Kobashi & Taue vs Misawa & Chono, 1/10/03. Kobashi and Chono take it to each other. Big Match Taue delivers the goods as only he can. Misawa does his thang. This dream match doesn't disappoint!
Akiyama & Saito vs Ohtani & Tanaka, tag titles, 1/10/03. Emblem, fresh off reaching All Japan's tag league final, get to headline Budokan Hall. That makes it the biggest match the tandem ever had. Sternness will have all they can handle to keep the belts from going to Zero-One.
Kobashi & KENTA vs Ohtani & Tanaka, 1/13/03. This was a few months before such a match would be a 25 minute plus main event at Korakuen, but still it's nifty enough. Kyoto KBS Hall sure looks badass.
Kobashi & KENTA vs Misawa & Marufuji, 1/26/03. Big lead-in tag for the title match. It's worth noting that while KENTA was slowly gaining stature, at this point he dropped falls in tag matches all the time and was a full step behind Marufuji. Also worth noting is that this took place at Kobe World Hall, which was just too big a venue for the card and hurts the heat. The finish is much more decisive than we normally see in this sort of tag, and sends a big message for March 1st.
Kikuchi & Kanemaru vs Liger & Kanemoto, IWGP junior tag titles, 1/26/03. JIP. The climactic conclusion to round 1 of the NJ vs NOAH juniors feud. 101 MB.
Hidaka & Orihara vs Takaiwa & Y. Sasaki, Differ Cup '03 round 1. The best match of the first night of the tournament was, somehow, this. Orihara can go when he wants, Hidaka can go under almost any circumstances, and Takaiwa is at his wrecking-ball best. Well worth watching despite the lack of, you know, NOAH.
KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki vs Mikami & KUDO, Differ Cup '03 3rd place match. The tiny DDT juniors go toe-to-toe with the big-shot NOAH guys. Lots of disrespect and stiffness and then a ladder comes into play.
Ultimo Dragon & Yoshino vs Takaiwa & Y. Sasaki, Differ Cup '03 final. Yoshino goes from being a T2P guy who does freaky submissions to Ricky Morton rather well. Takaiwa was born to put pretty-boys in peril. That Ultimo guy, he's okay too.
KENTA & Sugiura vs Kanemaru & Hashi, 2/16/03, JIP. This match and its aftermath would form the foundation of NOAH's junior division for years to come.
Kobashi, Honda, Kikuchi & KENTA vs Akiyama, Saito, Kanemaru & Hashi, 2/18/03. Honda's second match as Shiga's replacement in Burning, and it's in his hometown with his mom watching! He meshes darn well and this really is a heck of a match. Just loads of hate.
Marufuji & KENTA vs Kanemaru & Hashi, 3/1/03. A hot start, a middle with some spite peppered in, and a good finish. That might not seem like much in light of the later works of KENTAFuji, most notably the rematch between these teams six months later. Yet this match, at the biggest NOAH show to this point, set the table for making the NOAH junior division relevant from within. Previously, Zero-One, New Japan and gaijin stars were a focal point. By getting a strong reaction from the crowd, they proved that something special could be produced with the young home-grown talent.
Akiyama & Saito vs Honda & Sugiura, 3/1/03. Almost an angle more than a match, with an unusual beginning and a lot more intensity than one would expect from a somewhat throwaway tag with a (seemingly) obvious result. Honda had started teaming with Burning earlier in the tour, so I suppose the Sternness top two decided to try and take him out while Kobashi had more important things to work with. Certainly this makes you want to see more Honda vs Sternness, and more is what we got!
Takayama vs Masao Inoue, 3/1/03. All kinds of fun. Inoue is completely out of his depth and fights accordingly; Takayama is game to have a good match with anyone. 175 MB because I couldn't find a way to shrink it, but it's in DVD quality.
Music/entrances before Misawa vs Kobashi 3/1/03. Now that's a hot crowd.
Misawa vs Kobashi, GHC title, 3/1/03. Everyone knows this match for the slew of big moves used. What I think makes it good is the KINGS ROAD~ structure during the first 2/3rds. Control segments that take a lot of momentum to shift; internal continuity, teases, and payoffs; gradual build as things progress. Oh and then they use a lot of big moves in the last third.
Morishima, Rikio & Ikeda vs Akiyama, Saito & Izumida, 3/16/03. An unexpected amount of hate and intensity makes this all kinds of entertaining. Not only do we get effective brawling and sustained energy, but also good structure in the middle. This is the first lead-in to the April 5th tag title match and it definitely makes you want to see the conclusion. Plus: a sneak-attack! A hot finish between two guys you wouldn't expect a hot finish from! Crowd reactions in Differ Ariake! Oh yes.
Saito vs Honda, #1 contenders match, 3/30/03. Honda has developed quite an array of finishers, but Saito is hungrier because he hasn't had a title shot.
Morishima & Marufuji vs Akiyama & Hashi, 3/30/03. Morishima and Marufuji are a week away from a tag title shot against Akiyama and Saito. So they're going to get a lead-in win by steamrolling Akiyama and his young sidekick, right? Not if MAKOTO HASHI has anything to say about it.
Kobashi, Sano & Kikuchi vs Takayama, Ikeda & Sugiura, 4/5/03. You might look at that list of individuals and say to yourself "well there's six men who have no qualms about getting hit really really hard and hitting really really hard in exchange." And you would be correct.
Akiyama & Saito vs Morishima & Marufuji, tag titles, 4/5/03. Biggest match of Marufuji's career to this point, and he leaves it all in the ring. Flabby in the middle (not unlike some of the participants) but a very hot finish.
Sugiura & Kanemaru vs KENTA & Kotaro Suzuki, 4/13/03. A NOAH juniors tag that's highlighted by limb work and dramatic submissions? Sure, why not. Sugiura/KENTA is the best matchup in this and accordingly it's the most productive.
Takayama vs Rikio, NWF title, 4/13/03. I'm very glad that though the segment goes over 20 minutes, the match does NOT. These two are not going for 'technical masterpiece'; they're going for 'King Kong versus Godzilla'. Really simple, effective superheavyweight match. There are some blatant restholds but no more than needed, and less than we'd typically have with two giants slugging it out. Takayama busts out some unexpected counters in-between the bombs, but ultimately it's the bombs that make this fun.
Kobashi vs Tamon Honda, 4/13/03. Kobashi's first title defense. Kobashi doesn't do anything you couldn't see in a dozen other of his 'big' matches from the last ten years. But Honda, ah, now he's the story. A jobber in All Japan with a strong amateur background, dumpy ol' Tamon has been quietly on a tear and has developed an extensive set of finishers. He's finished off some very notable NOAH names with techniques ranging from knockout suplexes (the Dead End German) to cradles (fireman's carry pin) to submissions (shoulder hold). He's also quite tenacious on the mat. He also bumps like an absolute maniac for Kobashi's suplexes. This set up everything Honda did since. 222 MB.
Takayama, Ikeda & Sugiura vs Kobashi, Honda & KENTA, 5/9/03. Takayama has just won the IWGP title, which makes Korakuen red-hot for the prospect of him tangling with Kobashi. 244 MB.
Kikuchi, KENTA & Kotaro vs Sugiura, Kanemaru & Hashi, 5/11/03. KENTA is in this the least and it's still really good thanks to Kikuchi being surly and going through walls. 159 MB.
Honda/Kobashi/KENTA/Kikuchi vs Saito/Akiyama/Kanemaru/Hashi, Captain's Fall Elimination, 5/14/03. A team loses if either its captain (in this case Honda and Saito) or 'everyone else' drops a fall. The match runs a bit long by virtue of having several falls instead of one. Each fall has its own finishing run and leads to a new dynamic in the match, but they struggle to maintain momentum over the full course of the match. They're smart to let the juniors handle the early work so the heavies are fresh for the second half, and there are also a few occasions where 'wrestling logic' would dictate a rote elimination but they defy convention. The match ends when it should and leaves plenty on the table for the big tour-ending climax.
Kobashi, Honda, KENTA & Kikuchi vs Akiyama, Saito, Kanemaru & Hashi, 2/3 falls, 6/1/03. Last of the Sternness vs Burning full-stable battles. As with the captain's fall match, this one drags at times due to length, but still contains all kinds of action. Watch for yet another trick from Honda's seemingly endless supply of cool moves that he stopped doing later that year.
Marufuji & KENTA vs Kanemaru & Sugiura, 6/6/03. A preview of the junior tag division. Interestingly enough, these teams were kept apart for two years after this, despite being the logical 'top four' in the promotion. The first half is a bit choppy, but they string together some big moves in the closing minutes and pull the crowd in nicely.
Takayama vs Morishima, 6/6/03. Short but very sweet. And by sweet I of course mean brutal.
Misawa vs Sano, 6/6/03. I like how obvious it is that Sano's theme was done in-house, because it sounds just like the GHC title themes. It wasn't necessary, given how badass his SWS song was. ANYWAY. Misawa beat Sano in rather routine fashion just after Sano joined the company. Now, with Sano more established as a heavyweight, he's able to hang with the emerald boss. The interest isn't "can Misawa handle the overwhelming theat of Sano?", but rather, how will Sano hold up his end of things in a high-profile singles match? For the most part, the answer is 'well', especially when coupled with Misawa's selling and ability to take punishment.
Taue vs Nagata, 6/6/03. Taue is ridiculously awesome here, dishing out hell from bell-to-bell to stop recently-deposed IWGP champ Nagata.
Akiyama & Saito vs Kobashi & Honda, tag titles, 6/6/03. Following Honda's career performance against Kobashi on the last tour, he was welcomed into Burning as the #2. Over the course of this tour the Burning vs Sternness feud has been rekindled, and they traded wins in two big stable vs stable tags (with Honda and Saito getting falls on one another in the process). Now, Honda is in his first and only Budokan main event and he has to step up now or likely return to mediocrity for the rest of his career. Akiyama, of course, has no desire to lose the tag titles to Kobashi. Dirty little secret: Honda beat Akiyama seven months before this in a 4 minute singles match. Akiyama isn't about to let that happen either. 230 MB.
Liger, Murahama & Ricky Marvin vs KENTA, Marufuji & Kotaro Suzuki, 6/29/03. Dig the mixed reaction for Liger! God bless you, NOAH fans. Lead-in to the junior tag tournament, and Marvin's first match in the company. EVERYTHING even vaguely related to Liger get a huge response, which gives this a big-match feel despite being a 6-man at the start of a tour. Great set-up for the tournament final.
Takayama, Makabe & Sugiura vs Akiyama, Saito & Hashi, 7/1/03. Makabe hates NOAH, and Akiyama, and Kobashi, and you. YES YOU!
Takayama, Makabe & Sugiura vs Kobashi, Honda & KENTA, 7/2/03. Lead-in to Takayama & Makabe challenging Kobashi & Honda for the tag titles. Makabe is despised by the NOAH crowd and he feeds off it. Tons of heat, tons of hate.
Akiyama vs Nagata, 7/16/03. Nagata, having recently had his year-plus long IWGP reign ended, bounced back with a win over Taue. Now he's got Akiyama, who downed him on the biggest stage in puro the year before. Akiyama needs a win if he wants a shot at Kobashi any time soon; Nagata needs a win to keep from being a 1-hit wonder in NOAH.
KENTA & Marufuji vs Liger & Murahama, 7/16/03. Finals of the junior tag title tournament, which headlined the show ahead of Akiyama vs Nagata and a heavyweight tag title match. Hot crowd, somewhat of a trailblazing match in terms of being the first 'epic' junior tag match in NOAH. Quite the harrowing finishing sequence.
Kobashi, Honda, KENTA & Marufuji vs Akiyama, Saito, Kanemaru & Hashi, 8/23/03. I wasn't sure that Marufuji would fit in with the Burning vs Sternness style but he does very well. In fact, I'd put this up there with the best multi-man tags of the 2000s. Pairing after pairing deliver quality action. Marufuji is in for most of the middle and really shines. The finish sets up the big tour-end junior tag, meaning that this match works in its own right and as a lead-in. Oh and Korakuen is HOT. A hidden gem. Do yourself a favor and watch it!
Marufuji, KENTA, Suzuki & Momota vs Kanemaru, Sugiura, Kikuchi & Hashi, 9/6/03. Kikuchi joins the heel team per the end of the match above. Not a blowaway match but it's worthwhile for fans of NOAH juniors, and it does a good job of building towards KENTAFuji vs Kanemaru/Hashi.
KENTA & Marufuji vs Kanemaru & Hashi, junior tag titles, 9/12/03. The first tag title defense for KENTAFuji, and it's a doozy. Tons of action, escalating nearfalls, the works.
Kobashi vs Nagata, GHC title, 9/12/03. A really huge match, as Nagata just came off his long IWGP reign and had the never-escaped Nagatalock III at his disposal, not to mention the reliable backdrop hold and a bevy of hard kicks. Kobashi holds nothing back, nor does the crowd.
Kikuchi vs Aoyagi, 10/5/03. Very unique match as Kikuchi does a lot more shoot-flavored stuff to counter the martial arts of Aoyagi. They beat the tar out of each other while Differ Ariake watches mostly in silence because it's Differ Ariake. Friggin' Differ.
KENTA, Marufuji & Kotaro vs Kanemaru, Sugiura & Hashi, 10/5/03. This runs a bit long for a juniors 6-man, which leads to some over-long control segments, but the crowd is darn hot otherwise. Interesting to see so many of their staple moves get a big response, as opposed to a few years later when they were seen as routine. Sugiura/KENTA is the best pairing, as expected.
Kobashi, Akiyama & Rikio vs Misawa, Taue & Morishima, 10/5/03. Perhaps the greatest frustration one has with NOAH is a lack of all-star tags during the company's prime. The big names always team with second-tier guys like Saito, Ogawa, Sano and Honda. Unfortunately, a 6-man at Differ is not really the best way to do a dream match. This isn't even the best match on the card, let alone any sort of MOTYC. And yet I still believe it's worthwhile for several reasons. One, we get some pairings that NOAH didn't serve up much. Two, we get a chance to see that these six are capable of stringing together engaging sequences in the absence of an overarching story. Three, one wonders how well Kobashi and Akiyama can get along. Four, they finish the match with the biggest pairing possible. Stick around post-match for more Kobashi/Akiyama.
Takayama & Sano vs Misawa & Rikio, 11/1/03. Now here's a sign that NOAH really loaded up the card: they have an all-star heavyweight tag 4th out of 8. Takayama/Sano is a regular tandem with a darn good win/loss record, but Misawa/Rikio is a powerhouse duo. This match really makes me wish there were more Misawa vs Takayama tags, because their exchanges always feel huge.
KENTA & Marufuji vs Guerrera & Marvin, junior tag titles, 11/1/03. One might go so far as to say the amount of spots in this match is a veritable festival.
Morishima vs Yone, WLW title, 11/1/03. They go all-out here and not only do you get the usual awesome Morishima stuff but you also get Yone back when he was still pretty good. Very compact match as well.
Kobashi vs Ogawa, GHC title, 11/1/03. I hated this match the first time because I just wanted to see Kobashi dumping Ogawa on the skull, and it never happened. I loved this match the second time because it's good in a different way; they play roles and develop a story. Early on you really get a sense of uniqueness to the matchup. Where Misawa vs Ogawa from 12/7/02 was a technically fine but dry match, Kobashi is more energetic and a better foil for Ogawa's technique and cheating. Ogawa's leg work is solid and feels fresh relative to the usual stuff you get in Japan. Kobashi's revenge is also something special. This match is wonderfully old-school, but US rather than Japan old-school. It might not have the slew of bombs one expects from a Kobashi main event but you should watch it anyway.
Kobashi, Honda, KENTA & Kikuchi vs Akiyama, Saito, Kanemaru & Hashi, 11/16/03. How can this possibly not be good? I think I have yet to be let down by a Burning vs Sternness tag.
Takashi Sugiura vs KENTA, 11/30/03. The first title match of the more grown-up KENTA we're familiar with today. Solid, very competitive match with a real 'big match' feel. 106 MB.
Sugiura vs KENTA, junior title, 11/30/03. Upgrade, though incomplete.
Kobashi vs Yone, 12/6/03. I just love Yone's reaction to the finish. And the finish itself.
Nagata & Tanahashi vs Rikio & Morishima, tag titles, 12/6/03. The POWER and FIRE of Wild 2 versus the skill of New Japan's usurping duo. Crowd is really responsive, and really look for any opportunity to get on Tanahashi's case. Not that I blame them; just look at his absurd hair. The match would benefit from not having quite as much time to fill, but there's plenty of action and drama to make up for the lulls.
Kobashi, Rikio & Hashi vs Akiyama, Morishima & Kikuchi, 1/10/04. Kobashi vs Morishima rocks. Kobashi vs Akiyama rocks. Morishima vs Rikio rocks. But the real reason why you get this is HASHI, as this marks the first time he's in a big match opposite Akiyama. Plus Kikuchi gives him a skull-puncturing headbutt. Trust me on this one.
KENTA & Marufuji vs El Samurai & Wataru Inoue, junior tag titles, 1/10/04. NOAH vs NJ juniors action is so reliable. Wataru manages to do 2000% better in NOAH than he typically does in NJ. El Samurai, on those occasions when he's on, rules. KENTA and Marufuji at this point are in the middle of their peak as a team. Good match? You betcha.
Kobashi, Honda & KENTA vs Taue, Sano & Hashi, 2/20/04. Background: Taue vs Rikio is taking place in a few days to determine Kobashi's next challenger. Taue is thus all fired up and out to show that he'll be the guy to dethrone the champ. However the real star of this match is Makoto Hashi, who doesn't hesitate to go toe-to-toe with Kobashi himself and who generally does what he does best.
Akiyama vs Hashi, 2/21/04. Two years earlier, Akiyama toughened Hashi up before a Hashi junior title shot. Now it happens again, and this time Hashi does quite a bit better against his mentor. Slow early on but intense down the stretch.
Morishima, Taue & Sano vs IZUMIDA, Takayama & Akiyama, 3/6/04. This match is insanely fun. Izumida and Morishima are the core, with Izu going after the leg and overcoming his own general crappiness with the help of his teammates. Morishima sells like a champ, leading to a rewarding finish.
Kobashi vs Rikio, 3/6/04. Rikio's first shot at Kobashi. Some nice exchanges and clubberin' and so forth.
Morishima vs IZU, WLW title, 3/13/04. Building off the 6-man a week earlier. IZU has a shot at the biggest win of his career, but that's quite a hill to climb. Lots of beef, lots of... psychology?! 131 MB.
KENTA & Marufuji vs Yoshinari Ogawa & Kotaro Suzuki, junior tag titles, 4/3/04. Ogawa slums it in the junior division. Some jumbo nearfalls and a big result.
Akiyama & Hashi vs Rikio & Suzuki, 4/25/04. Good start as the underdog team comes out firing, including the use of Hashi as a weapon. Hashi lobs some SICK headbutts, getting Rikio all pissed off. Both of the heavy vs junior matchups are what make this worthwhile, and this was a big step up in quality for Kotaro. Hot finish even with a prominent botch.
Misawa & Ogawa vs KENTA & Marufuji, 4/25/04. Lot going on here. You have an all-juniors team making a challenge to the heavyweight tag straps, you have Misawa and Ogawa being total pricks to the young'uns, and you have a spectacular finish. Widely considered one of NOAH's best tag title matches ever.
Kobashi vs Takayama, 4/25/04. King-sized heavyweight war. The first minutes scream 'epic'. The teases, the tension, the use of Kings Road standbys like the anchor hold. Takayama picks things up with his hard kicks and segues very naturally to the arm work rather than arbitrarily targeting it. Said targeting forces Kobashi to settle for second-tier offense, which is especially problematic when facing a beast like Takayama. Neither one of them can just run through their standard moves and keep the other down, leading to each man tossing out big moves they otherwise avoid. I liked this the first time I saw it, and it's even better the second time.
Akiyama vs KENTA, 5/14/04. Akiyama mixes it up a bit, with some nasty looking knee strikes and exploders. KENTA = KENTA.
Kobashi & KENTA vs Taue & Sugiura, 5/21/04. Rather evenly matched teams, though Double Kenta has the edge on experience with each other. KENTA and Sugiura match up so well.
Morishima vs Ikeda, WLW title, 6/1/04. Morishima is able to force Ikeda into Battlarts-level stiffness, for our enjoyment.
KENTA & Marufuji vs Ricky Marvin & Kotaro Suzuki, 6/1/04. That ol' KENTAFuji magic. 160 MB.
Marufuji & KENTA vs Kotaro & Marvin, junior tag titles, 6/1/04. Higher bitrate & bigger screen size.
KENTA vs IZU, 6/11/04. IZU manages to rip off both Hashimoto and KENTA in hilarious fashion.
Rikio & Morishima vs Takayama & Izumida, 6/23/04. Somewhat of a lead-in to the Dome show, where Double Takeshis would take on Takayama and Minoru Suzuki. Only... Izumida is a tad different than Suzuki. This works in much the same way as the March 6-man where Morishima and Izu tangled; Izu is still loveable and chunky but is clearly outmatched. When Takayama is in we get superheavyweight clobbering, and when Izumida is in we get a charming underdog tale. All that along with a minimum of downtime is enough for me to point out what might have been a forgettable undercard match on a mid-tour show.
Kobashi, Honda & KENTA vs Akiyama, Saito & Hashi, 6/23/04. The final Burning vs Sternness match, and appropriately enough it's used to build to the feud's ultimate climax.
Kobashi, Rikio & Marvin vs Akiyama, Morishima & Hashi, 6/27/04. Final (taped) show before the Dome, and naturally it's a Kobashi vs Akiyama 6-man. Lots o' good pairings besides the obvious one. Rikio/Morishima is teammates who are willing to go at it hammer-and-tongs. Kobashi/Hashi is ever-reliable. Marvin and Hashi are effective whipping boys. It doesn't reach the stratosphere, but it's a solid tag bout with good heat and it makes you want to see the Dome main event. Mission accomplished.
Takayama vs KENTA, 6/27/04. In a word, stiff. In two words, really stiff. Looove the extended first exchange. Takayama brutalizes KENTA in grand fashion, and even his mid-range offense feels like it could turn out the lights. KENTA goes the extra mile throughout in making his comebacks because otherwise he'll get cut off. Takayama's selling is right where it should be given the size difference. Plenty of hellish strikes along with some quality counters. End isn't one of the 'usual' finishers, but it's brutal regardless.
Modest & Morgan vs Kotaro Suzuki & Ricky Marvin, 7/10/04. In theory this seemed like a junior tag title contenders match, but as the follow-up Modest promo demonstrates that wasn't the case. The story of the match is flash and speed versus impact. Modest and Morgan, who had yet to do much as a team in three years with the company, finally get to show what they're capable of. That said, don't count out the Suzuki/Marvin tandem that showed so much ability in June versus KENTAFuji. Lots of cool spots, fast-paced, and perhaps most impressively a LOT of heat from the Dome crowd (for a juniors match).
Modest & Morgan promo after their match at the Tokyo Dome.
Taue & Sano vs Ikeda & Yone, 7/10/04. Very much a bomb-fest, with nearly every big move these four have crammed into a tight window. Yone in particular takes a boatload of bumps. One highlight that most people would miss is Taue connecting really solidly with a big boot, in that he has an extended follow-through after contact. Ow.
Marufuji & KENTA vs Sugiura & Kendo Kashin, junior tag titles, 7/10/04, JIP. Kendo Kashin in 2004 was nobody's idea of an elite juniors wrestler, let alone an elite juniors *spotfest* wrestler. Thus the announcement of this match drew a puzzled reaction. I suppose that the Sugiura/Kashin tandem represents a more "legit" pairing than KENTAFuji. Anyway, the first half doesn't really get going, but the second half holds up on its own. Kashin's "problem child"/trickster persona adds a dimension we don't normally get in KENTAFuji bouts, and Sugiura delivers the big finish one expects in this situation.
Takayama & Suzuki vs Morishima & Rikio, IWGP tag titles, 7/10/04. A tale of two matches, both of which earn great reactions from the Dome crowd. When Takayama is in, we get superheavyweight clubberation. When Suzuki is in, we get the cocky, speedy prig trying to avoid being swatted by the hometown heroes. The last two moves are absurd given the sizes involved.
Misawa & Ogawa vs Mutoh & Kea, GHC tag titles, 7/10/04. Fun match thanks to the Misawa vs Mutoh sections and a good effort by Kea. And also Misawa nearly kills Kea a couple times but let's not focus on that.
Kobashi vs Akiyama, GHC title, 7/10/04. Dare I say that this needs no particular explanation? Yep, but here's one anyway. The first two thirds are good stuff, bottom line. The start has proper 'big main event' pacing; wonderful use of the test of strength and the first strike exchange to get the crowd into it; REALLY effective transition to Kobashi working the neck; a REALLY good extended sequence for Akiyama's transition; and Akiyama's control segment escalates things without delving into finishers. The last third is what makes the match famous, but to me is the weakest part. If you're big on AJ '90s style, the first chunk of the match is as good an example as you got in NOAH. If you're big on head drops, the last chunk is right up your alley. Keep in mind, I'm *more critical than average* about this match.
NOAH 7/10/04 part 2, TV version. Picture isn't as sharp as the comm DVD but it's got commentary. Contains the junior tag title match, Liger vs Kanemaru, and the IWGP tag.
NOAH 7/10/04 part 3, TV version. Picture isn't as sharp as the comm DVD but it's got commentary. Contains the top two matches.
An unlikely duo forms. AND THE WORLD WOULD NEVER BE THE SAME.
Akiyama & Hashi vs Honda & Shiozaki, 7/24/04. Go Shiozaki's debut match, and very interesting to see how well he does right from the get-go.
Kobashi, KENTA & Marvin vs Misawa, Marufuji & Kotaro Suzuki, 7/24/04. Fun match thanks in large part to the juniors switching up from their usual partners.
Takayama vs Sano, 8/1/04. Hard shots, nasty suplexes. This match was so rough that it almost single-handedly put Takayama on the shelf.
Misawa vs Taue, 8/1/04. The two of them are 1-1-1 in their last three matches. Whoever comes out on top is almost certain to be Kobashi's next challenger.
Kobashi & Honda vs Saito & Inoue, 8/20/04. Both teams are gunning for a tag title shot. Can Dark Agents overcome a team far stronger on paper?
Akiyama, Rikio & Kikuchi vs Kobashi, Sano & Kanemaru, 8/28/04. A 'parejas increibles' 6-man more than a Kobashi vs Akiyama one. Lots of Kobashi/Kikuchi and Akiyama/Kanemaru. For a tag with some comedy and a generally restrained tone, Kikuchi sure isn't afraid to potato Kanemaru with a headbutt. Speaking of them, it's interesting to see the former IWGP junior tag champions square off.
BAH GAWD IT'S BREAKING LOOSE IN DIFFER.
Misawa vs KENTA, 8/28/04. This one is almost entirely about KENTA, between throwing everything he has out there and doing his best Misawa impression. Plus, the debut of a big move.
Sano & Izumida vs Yone & Trevor Rhodes (Trevor Murdoch), 9/10/04. Trevor in NOAH equals fun. Plus IZU~.
Akiyama & Shiozaki vs Rikio & Hashi, 9/10/04. Works off the strength of Go and Hashi in the underdog role.
Kanemaru vs Low Ki, 9/10/04. One of the better juniors singles matches from Japan in recent years, because it manages to mesh big moves with logical selling and psychology. They don't go overboard with finishers but manage to keep it entertaining.
Misawa & Ogawa vs Akitoshi Saito & Masao Inoue, 9/10/04. You know the big heavyweight names: Misawa, Kobashi, Taue, Akiyama. They go back to All Japan. But what about the guys you don't hear about? Masao Inoue is one of those. He debuted in the early '90s and hardly ever made a commercial tape or a TV airing. Not much to look at, no particular physical gift, not much in the psychology department... Masao was most notable for being on the floor and watching great matches rather than being in them. But not this night, oh no. This night Masao Inoue gets his chance to shine. He fights his little heart out and says "I'm not laying down tonight! You have to beat me!" while Saito urges him on. Granted he's still Masao Inoue during the match, but damned if it isn't the performance of his career by a factor of ten.
Kobashi vs Taue, GHC title, 9/10/04. Taue is physically limited but tweaks his offense in order to hang in a big match. For instance, the way he wins the first exchange. By the time we're about a minute in it's obvious that Taue is putting it ALL out there. The finishing run is sufficiently big for this to be a satisfying conclusion to their rivalry, and it's capped off with a nasty climax.
Kobashi vs KENTA, 10/9/04. Kobashi gives his boy a lot of punishment but also lets him look like he belongs.
KENTA & Marufuji vs SUWA & Ricky Marvin, 10/22/04. SUWA's first big match in NOAH as he becomes Marvin's third partner within a year to take a shot at the straps. Really lays out the groundwork for the KENTA vs SUWA match eleven months later.
Kobashi vs Saito, GHC title, 10/24/04. I didn't like this the first time I saw it, but the second time (with better video quality) it holds up. Saito brings the kind of performance he needs to: hanging with Kobashi in exchanges, controlling things effectively, tossing out credible offense and surviving some big bumps. Kobashi's final response to Saito's striking is icing on the cake. There are exciting nearfalls without going overboard, and the match is consistent enough that it beats out the last few Kobashi defenses for space on the site.
Marufuji vs Shiozaki, openweight title, 11/21/04. Go gets a title shot, and all he has to do is last 15 minutes. Quite fun.
Kobashi vs Gladiator (Mike Awesome), GHC title, 12/4/04, JIP. I clipped this because for some reason they decided to book Mike Awesome to go 28 minutes when he got famous for 10-15 minute sprints. Thankfully they do kick it into gear for the last third, with plenty of the bombs one would expect from the two of them.
Akitoshi Saito, Yoshinari Ogawa & Haruka Eigen vs KENTA, Kishin Kawabata & Kikuchi, NOAHFUL GIFT IN DIFFER 12/24/04. A match not so much memorable for its wrestling as... well, you'll just have to see.
Marufuji vs Eigen, Openweight title, 1/23/05. Eigen wins if he can take it to a 10 minute draw OR by countout in addition to pins and submissions. Match is like 95% about Eigen and that's why it works.
Kobashi vs Shiozaki, 1/23/05. End of Shiozaki's singles match 'trial series' on the first tour of '05. Kobashi, the champ, gives Go the most time of anyone. And I'm assuming the most chops.
Kobashi, Yone & Shiozaki vs Rikio, Morishima & Marufuji, 2/20/05. Grudges! Suplexes! Tauntings!
SUWA, Kanemaru & Sugiura vs KENTA, Low Ki & Marvin, 3/5/05. Very unique match with several frenzied exchanges and an injury angle.
Misawa & Kotaro Suzuki vs Ohtani & Takaiwa, 3/5/05. OHTANI IS SO EXCITED ABOUT BEING A HEEL AGAIN! Ohtani punks out Kotaro several times, though Kotaro is no longer a harmless young lion and gets some retaliation. Misawa/Ohtani is off-the-charts great. Everyone does what they're best at, there's plenty of heat, good pacing, classic tag structure, and an exciting close. Start, middle and end all have memorable moments.
Kobashi vs Rikio, GHC title, 3/6/04. Rikio's first Budokan main event. Clearly, Rikio will not be trying to emulate a late '90s All Japan-style epic, but he does have the strength to credibly go toe-to-toe with Kobashi. Some big exchanges and hot nearfalls once they get past the middle section. Much 'bigger' finishing run than Rikio had the year before with Takayama, demonstrating his growth.
Kobashi, Misawa & Akiyama vs KENTA, Marufuji & Hashi, 4/2/05. The old guard versus the new. Grumpy vets versus spunky upstarts. You know the drill. Drags a bit during the middle, but there's plenty of fire and stiffness and hope spots to make up for that.
Scorpio vs Shiozaki, 4/3/05. My favorite Scorp-in-NOAH match, as he has to be focused in order to guide young Go.
Akiyama vs Hashi, 4/3/05. The Akiyama/Hashi relationship continues.
Kobashi, KENTA & Marvin vs Misawa, Sugiura & Kanemaru, 4/3/05. There's lots of good pairings here that we don't get much of, like Kobashi/Misawa (they rarely faced off on TV after 2003), Kobashi/Sugiura, even Misawa/Marvin. Hot KENTA vs Sugiura start. Kobashi/Misawa feels big even if they were paired with juniors in a non-main match. Misawa dishes out an extra-nasty elbow early on to remind you why his elbow is not to be messed with. In addition to the pairings, there's also more urgency here than one would expect, with outside-the-ring save attempts, a hot second helping of Kobashi/Misawa, and a strong sprint to the finish. I vividly recall how much this match surpassed my expectations in 2005 and it holds up.
Kobashi & Shiozaki vs Misawa & Yone, 4/17/05. GoBashi = reliable goodness. Misawa & Yone work out pretty good for a totally random one-shot.
Marufuji, KENTA, Marvin & Suzuki vs Kanemaru, Sugiura, SUWA & Hashi, elimination match, 4/17/05, JIP. I clipped out most of what happens before the first fall because it's pretty dead, but afterwards there's a lot of quality action.
Taue & Sano vs Yone & Morishima, 4/24/05. Yone, the 'hardcore' champion, hopes to avenge his loss at the Tokyo Dome. Trading Ikeda for Morishima is a lateral move, so Yone has no excuses if he falls short. There's lots of Taue-related fun, and a bigger run of finishers than I expected. This match flew under the radar at the time, and although it's not a MOTYC, it's compact and enjoyable.
KENTA vs SUWA, 4/24/05. At the time this match was a big letdown, because it's a Budokan match that goes short and lacks a decisive finish. But in full context, it's a great lead-in to their climactic battle later in the year. This makes you want to see a rematch based on the strength of the hate, not based on an epic stretch of nearfalls.
Akiyama & Tenryu vs Kobashi & Shiozaki, 4/24/05. Tenryu is so great in this. The contempt for Go; the selling for Kobashi. He makes Kobashi look *dangerous* rather than just tough like everyone else tries for. Shiozaki is all "yay I get to tee off on the old man!" and Tenryu pops him in the mouth. Shiozaki is all "I'm turning the tables on Akiyama, yay!" and Tenryu swats him down. Tenryu's glares at Kobashi while he beats on Shiozaki are fantastic. Kobashi guarding but also yelling at Go to get up is a wonderful touch. Kobashi gets the hot tag and takes over, and only then do we get the big Kobashi/Tenryu strike exchange you expect at the outset of the match. The way Tenryu sets up and milks a nearfall on Shiozaki is exactly the sort of detail that shows why he's one of the best of all time. Haven't seen this yet? Snap to it.
KENTA & Marufuji vs KUDO & Kota Ibushi, Differ Cup '05 round 1. Similar to the 2003 third-place match in that KUDO and KENTA have interpromotional hate. Different in that Kota has a real breakthrough performance, busting out some great highspots. 157 MB.
KENTA & Marufuji vs Kaz Hayashi & Spanky, Differ Cup '05 round 2. Here, KENTAFuji must deal with a 'peer' team that's very capable of putting the match away.
KENTA & Marufuji vs Ikuto Hidaka & Minoru Fujita, Differ Cup '05 final. Top junior teams face off. KENTAFuji go mostly heel despite being in NOAH's home building and somehow it works.
Kikuchi vs Hashi, 5/13/05. Oh the headbutts. Dear lord the headbutts.
Akiyama, Tenryu & Shiozaki vs Rikio, Yone & KENTA, 5/17/05. Tenryu and KENTA utterly despise each other and go at it. And it's awesome.
Kobashi & Honda vs Minoru Suzuki & Marufuji, 5/17/05. Honda gets targeted as the weak link on Burning, but he damn sure isn't going to be anybody's victim.
Minoru Suzuki vs Sano, 6/5/05. I like that NOAH references their match from 1991 in PWFG. Sano does really well in staying with a focused attack. At the end when it seems like Suzuki will go through the motions to win, he finds that he can't, which gives Sano the opening he needs at pulling off the upset...
Kobashi & Kikuchi vs Honda & Shiozaki, 7/2/05. Burning vs Burning! Kikuchi is a loon! Honda takes one of his rare (for good reason) mega-bumps!
Minoru Suzuki & Marufuji vs Akiyama & Hashi, tag titles, 7/18/05. The biggest match of Hashi's career, as he goes after the heavyweight tag belts at NOAH's biggest show ever. Match is great in its Hashi-ness, and it adds to the also-great 8/19/05 Korakuen main event.
Kobashi vs Sasaki. Epic slugfest to end all epic slugfests, including the endless chop battle to end all endless chop battles.
Misawa vs Kawada, 7/18/05. Their first meeting in 5 years, quite possibly their last. Watch for the Kawada post-match promo, which because it was unscheduled during a live broadcast caused he and NOAH to have a falling-out.
Akitoshi Saito, Takashi Sugiura, Kishin Kawabata & Mushiking Joker vs Yoshinari Ogawa, Low Ki, Richard Slinger & Mushiking Terry, 8/19/05. This match blows on paper, like numerous throwaway NOAH undercard matches. Yet somehow, some way, they make it work. Dark Agents do an effective beatdown on Terry for the body, the pace is kept up, and the Slinger vs Kawabata finishing stretch fails to suck despite all logic. I was amazed to see that this holds up on tape.
Rikio vs Inoue, 8/19/05, JIP. This was supposed to be Mike Awesome, but he got hurt. Crafy veteran Inoue survives a lot more than you'd expect.
Morishima vs SUWA, 8/19/05. SUWA is heading into a title match and needs to brush up on his cheating skills. And his 'not getting obliterated' skills.
Taue & Sano vs Misawa & Shiozaki, 8/19/05, JIP. Go gets to look darn good here.
Bison Smith & Scorpio vs Izumida & Kikuchi, 8/19/05. Kikuchi hates Scorpio's mask! Can Bison's claw hold work on the thickest skulls in Japan?
Minoru Suzuki & Marufuji vs Honda & KENTA, 8/19/05. This was such a great show, and this here is a fine semi-main match. From what I can tell, Suzuki ran over KENTA's mother and fed her to a wood chipper, based on KENTA's seething hatred. Oh and some old lady in the crowd tries to cause a rift between the tag champs. I love Korakuen.
Kobashi & Hashi vs Akiyama & Kanemaru, 8/19/05. This was an amazing match live and it sure does hold up on film. Hashi and Akiyama had just lost a tag title shot so Akiyama ended his long tough-love partnership with Hashi. Hashi, however, hasn't given up on proving himself. Red-hot Korakuen Hall gets behind him and everyone plays their role perfectly.
KENTA vs SUWA, junior title, 9/18/05. I can't think of a match in recent years that was loved so universally and unconditionally. SUWA delivers a heeling tour-de-force, just being the god-king of Jerk Mountain and reveling in his own vileness. The pre-match is memorable, SUWA's inventive and non-stop cheating is memorable, and the finish is big enough to pay the whole deal off. Any pro wrestling fan should be able to enjoy this.
Kobashi & Taue vs Akiyama & Tenryu, 9/18/05. Really hot start between Tenryu's stooging, Kobashi being pissed, and Taue taking care o' bidness. Tenryu's chop exchange selling is great as always. He proves that sometimes the only way to win is not to play. Watch how Taue sells the impact of *giving* a DDT on the ramp, to a lot of crowd response. Tenryu's hot tag is both awesome and hilarious. Things really pick up from there, and we get a huge feel-good finish. This sort of "dream tag" often falls short of the combined talent in the ring, but they deliver here.
Tenryu vs KENTA, 10/8/05. Let's see, what do we want from Tenryu vs KENTA. Stiffness? Check. No restholds? Check. Total lack of respect and sportsmanship? Check. More stiffness? Sure, why not. Oh and it's at Korakuen to boot. Somewhat anticlimactic, but that can't be helped.
Akiyama & SUWA vs Kobashi & Hashi, 10/22/05. The booking of this makes perfect sense based on what happened with the particulars from the Tokyo Dome onwards. I won't say this lives up to the full potential of the August 19th tag and the September 18th SUWA match, but when every matchup has something to offer and all of them have a clear role there's really no way to go wrong. Also, there's about as much heat as possible given that they aren't in Tokyo. Really solid match that would get raves if it happened in WWE.
Minoru Suzuki & Marufuji vs Akiyama & Koshinaka, 11/5/05. Hidden gem from the best show of 2005. Marufuji's bumping is vital to this, but more important is the DETAIL of it. Little things like Akiyama idly cutting Marufuji off from his knees, Marufuji doing his run-over-the-back stomps with a different target, Suzuki doing a ton of work to set up two slaps at different parts of the match and Akiyama's callback to it, etc. Hardly any downtime, lots of charisma on display, lots of fun, and a big finish.
Sasaki & Nakajima vs Kobashi & Go Shiozaki, 11/5/05. Kobashi and Sasaki come off their chop war for the ages, while the young guns had both impressed in the first ten months of '05. The result here is my current match of the year, one that I think will hold up better than a number of bouts getting hype as 'five star'. Great action, as every single pairing brings a lot to the table and everyone clicks and the crowd is hot and... geeez. Honestly I can't think of a wrestling fan who couldn't enjoy this.
Morishima & Yone vs KENTA & Shibata, tag titles, 11/5/05. Great match with a bunch of hatred and stiffness and huge bumps, plus it's paced well. Everyone does what they're best at.
Rikio vs Taue, 11/5/05. Can Taue, aided by a rabid Budokan crowd, end the tyranny of the Takeshi Rikio title reign? Well, can he? More 'emotional' than 'good' due to Taue's physical limitations (and Rikio's for that matter), but Taue really does go all-out.
KENTA & Kikuchi vs SUWA & Kanemaru, 11/18/05. Stemming from KENTA vs SUWA. And, accordingly, 'tis good.
Akiyama & Koshinaka vs Kobashi & Shiga, 11/18/05. This match is worth it just for how Kobashi counters the hip attack. Shiga returned two months earlier after a long injury absence (longer than any of Kobashi's!) and this is one of the few good showings he'd have in the years to follow. Plus: headlocks are more fun when you share! Koshinaka has a rapid-fire ass! I swear that will make sense when you watch the match. Finishing run is a bit understated, but post-return Shiga is not one for epics, and it ends when it should.
Akiyama vs Sugiura, 11/27/05. Sugiura tries to hit above his weight class and does quite well for himself, as Akiyama has to throw out just as much offense here as he did two months later against Taue.
Taue, Kobashi & Misawa vs KENTA, Marufuji & Mushiking Terry, 11/27/05. Similar to the old vs young 6-man in April, only this is a bit more on the 'fun' end of things. Taue, having just won the title, is a good sport not to murder Terry about a minute into this.
Kobashi & Izumida vs Tenryu & Koshinaka, 12/4/05. As soon as I saw the 12/4 card I knew I'd like it. Nothing was out-of-this-world great, but it had matches like this that to me are just enjoyable. Witness Koshinaka's ass-power going against Kobashi's chops. Witness Tenryu being his usual grumpy self. Witness IZU taking his lumps like a man and doing his best.
Sasaki & Nakajima vs Akiyama & Kikuchi, 12/4/05. Not blowaway-great like the tag from 11/5, but still nifty because each matchup brings something to the table. Good ol' Kikuchi.
Shibata & KENTA vs Misawa & Shiozaki, 12/4/05. Once again, not anything to make you go gaga over, but plenty good thanks to the matchups. Sadly this was Shibata's last match in NOAH and Shiozaki got his jaw busted a month later... by KENTA.
Taue vs Morishima, GHC title, 12/4/05. Morishima's first big chance and he makes the most of it, while Taue is forced to debut a new finisher in the hopes of fending off his chunky challenger.
KENTA & Ricky Marvin vs Marufuji & Kotaro Suzuki, 1/8/06. Regular partners go against each other. Some interesting spots.
Taue, Izumida & Kikuchi vs Akiyama, Kanemaru & Shiga, 1/8/06. Lead-in to the Taue vs Akiyama title match. I'm of the mind that the value of this match is almost entirely derived from Taue's team, but then I'm an IZU mark.
Kobashi & Izumida vs Akebono & Rikio, 1/22/06. Fun match with the most ungodly finish in the history of wrestling.
KENTA vs Marufuji, junior title, 1/22/06. JIP. The first half dragged quite a lot, which is why I lopped it off. Coming in, Marufuji hadn't received a title shot since vacating the belt in early 2002. He had also beaten KENTA in all of their previous matches, most recently 2004. As a result this was a pretty big deal, getting the semi-main slot at Budokan. They deliver what we're looking for from them: athletic sequences, cool moves, and big nearfalls.
Taue vs Akiyama, GHC title, 1/22/06. Rather than throwing bombs, which Taue showed a remarkable ability to take, Akiyama focuses on knocking him out. Taue is his usual loveable self. They make sure to work in the 9/18/05 tag finish as well.
Kobashi, Tamon Honda & Kanemaru vs KENTA, Morishima & Yone, 2/17/06. Kobashi and KENTA have a match upcoming on March 5th so they decide to attempt to soften each other up. By that I mean they maul each other every chance they get. Morishima is awful surly as well, including post-match violence. Honda spikes Yone on his noggin a couple times to round things out. 70 MB.
Kobashi, Honda & Kanemaru vs Morishima, Yone & KENTA, 2/17/06. Better VQ, though some post-match stuff is missing.
Taue vs Marufuji, 3/5/06. Marufuji really steps up here, perhaps being reeled in by Taue. Smart, fun match; one of the best of '06.
Misawa vs Morishima, 3/5/06. Morishima rocks and Misawa actually makes a good effort himself. Also Morishima dumps Misawa with his backdrop a bunch.
Kobashi vs KENTA, 3/5/06. KENTA does a good job of using agility, strategy, and cheapshots to chip away at his mentor. Lots of hard shots as one would expect. Note the way they build to the finish of KENTA's match with Marufuji at the previous Budokan, which pays off in a big way.
Rikio & KENTA vs Morishima & Sugiura, SEM 3/21/06. NOAH delves into Biblical trivia, naming their new youth-focused offshoot promotion after one of Noah's sons (Shem). This being a small show they don't go all-out, but these four were solid enough to deliver plenty of heavy-hitting action at Differ Ariake.
Kobashi & Kikuchi vs KENTA & Marufuji, 4/2/06. Not quite the epic inter-generational dream match this would have been a few years earlier, but yet at the same time it IS a dream match.
Akiyama & Kanemaru vs Kobashi & Honda, 4/16/06. Kanemaru is in way over his head but fights admirably, and creates some fun interactions with Kobashi. Plus a decent amount of Kobashi vs Akiyama is to be had herein.
Kobashi vs Marufuji, 4/23/06. Marufuji makes with the high-spotting and the actual wrestling. Kobashi makes with the Kobashi-ing.
Akiyama vs Inoue, GHC title, 4/23/06. Masao gives MAXIMUM EFFORT~ and the crowd rallies behind him, with sometimes funny and sometimes awesome results. Godawful booking behind this match but it's so much better than it has any right to be.
KENTA & Kikutaro vs Scorpio & Marvin, SEM 5/7/06. It's a Kikutaro match. You know what you're getting.
SUWA, Kanemaru & Low Ki vs KENTA, Marufuji & Ishimori, 5/19/06. Juniors get the main event slot at Korakuen! It could stand to be tighter (see the 8/19/07 6-man), but there's enough action and SUWA to make this worthwhile.
KENTA vs Sugiura, junior title, 6/4/06. Stiff exchanges, some nifty spots, and a rarely-seen finish (at least in NOAH).
Morishima & Yone vs Kobashi & Honda, tag titles, 6/4/06. This is allllllll about Morishima. Somewhat plays off what they did in the six-man earlier in the year too. But mostly it plays off of Morishima being awesome.
Rikio, Morishima, Yone & Shiozaki vs Kanemaru, Sugiura, KENTA & Marufuji, 6/9/06. A Captain's Fall elimination match with over-the-top also causing elimination. Match ends when Rikio or Kanemaru is eliminated. This is more of a 'fun' match than a typical big-moves-and-stiffness NOAH main event. Note that Sugiura vs KENTA for the junior title took place just before this. 297 MB.
SUWA vs Momota, 7/16/06. All that is right about professional wrestling. Plus post-match antics!
Taue & Nakajima vs Ogawa & Ippei Ota, 7/16/06. The young lions are pretty good in this, but Taue is so completely king-sized and awesome that he's veritably Jumbo-esque (albeit a gangly, awkward Jumbo). Trust me, you'll enjoy this.
Rikio & Morishima vs Marufuji & KENTA, 7/16/06. You've just gotta love Morishima.
Akiyama & Misawa vs Takayama & Sasaki, 7/16/06. He's BACK, baby.
Sano & SUWA vs Honda & Kikuchi, 9/9/06. SUWA and Kikuchi going at it, of course it's good!
KENTA & Shibata vs Taue & Shiozaki, 9/9/06. KENTA, Shibata and Go are all bright young stars with good-looking offense and crowd support. But this is the Taue show, and everyone else is along for the ride.
Morishima & Rikio vs Takayama & Sugiura, 9/9/06. Junior double-champ Sugiura shows NO FEAR amidst Japanese giants, and when you start to realize just how much of a very physical match he wrestles he comes off that much better.
Akiyama vs Marufuji, 9/9/06. Marufuji is only there because Kobashi got struck with cancer. Akiyama has never been pinned by one of the NOAH juniors. Yet somehow, some way, Marufuji hangs with Akiyama and evades big moves long enough to actually have a real chance of winning. The last ten seconds are something else.
Misawa, Sugiura & Ota vs Murakami, Usuda & Hara, 10/6/06. Hate and a bit of un-cooperativeness on display in this one as the shoot-stylists INVADE. 129 MB.
Akiyama vs Kikuchi, 10/13/06. After Akiyama's title loss to a mere junior, old grumpy Kikuchi told him to MAN UP. Just not in those words. They smack each other pretty freaking hard with elbows because Kikuchi is there to force Akiyama to ratchet up the stiffness.
Takayama & Sano vs KENTA & Saito, 10/13/06. So there's just A LITTLE stiffness in this. A tad. A wee bit.
Marufuji vs KENTA, GHC title, 10/29/06. It's what you expect. Huge file.
Shiozaki, Nakajima & Sugawara vs Sai, HARASHIMA & KAZMA, GPWA, 11/14/06. GPWA is essentially run by NOAH so I'm putting it here. I was glad to see lots of hate and fire and stiffness in this rather than just a trillion overwrought spots.
Morishima & Yone vs Rikio & Sugiura, 11/17/06. Good in that Morishima-y Sugiura-ish kinda way.
Akiyama, Hashi & Kanemaru vs Ohtani, Murakami & Takaiwa, 12/2/06. Plenty of hate, plenty of Hashi goodness, and even hardway blood. 169 MB.
KENTA vs American Dragon, 12/2/06. Two points against this match: slow start and lethargic crowd. Two points for this match: hot finish and its participants.
Morishima & Yone vs Takayama & Sano, 12/2/06. Even Yone ratchets up the stiffness in this one, so there's plenty of brutal shots and exchanges to go around.
Morishima vs Go Shiozaki, 12/10/06. Go is ambitious, taking it to the big man and trying to end the match quickly. Morishima isn't interested in losing in five minutes, but does share the desire to go home early.
Akiyama & Hashi vs Saito & Taniguchi, 12/10/06. In addition to the usual Hashi fun, Taniguchi shows a lot of heart and spirit and so forth. The Akiyama/Hashi interaction is especially good.
Taue, Mushiking Terry, Ishimori & Aoki vs SUWA, TARU, Kondo & Yasshi, 12/10/06. Voodoo Murders Max can heel it up like nobody's business, and the NOAH team makes it clear that they are not welcome. Taue has not stopped being Taue.
Rikio, KENTA & Yone vs Minoru Suzuki, Takayama & Sano, 12/10/06. Not quite wall-to-wall awesome, but still plenty of hard-hitting action.
Akiyama vs Go Shiozaki, 1/21/07. Akiyama shows that he respects Go's strength after their initial exchange by focusing on ripping apart the right arm, which sets the base of the match.
SUWA, Takayama & Minoru Suzuki vs Marufuji, KENTA & Rikio, 1/21/07. SUWA's last match in NOAH. Lots of hate and stiffness and then SUWA decides he wants the spotlight all to himself. 135 MB.
Shiozaki, Honda & Kikuchi vs Kawabata, Inoue & Aoki, 3/4/07. Closing minutes. Probably the best minutes of wrestling in Kawabata's career.
Bison Smith, Chris Hero & Bobby Fish vs Rikio, Saito & Ricky Marvin, 3/4/07. Quite the random teams. This could have easily been a forgettable throwaway 6-man, but Bison and Marvin decide to bring THE GOODS and deliver something entertaining. I think they serve to motivate the others, because the effort and pace are much higher than one would normally get from something so low on the card.
Takayama & Sano vs Taue & Marufuji, 3/4/07. Interesting to have Taue and Marufuji teamed up a year after their great singles match. Unfortunately for them, the it's against the double-tough UWFi veterans. Some unexpected spots and exchanges, leading to an even more unexpected finish.
Akiyama vs Yone, 3/4/07. It's a sprint! Just the match these two should have. 76 MB.
Morishima vs KENTA, 3/4/07. So first they work the headlock, then they do a nice series of headscissors spots, and... oh who am I kidding, you know what happens here.
KENTA, Saito & Ota vs Danielson, Joe Legend & Ted DiBiase Jr, 4/1/07. Ah the fun Korakuen 6-man, how I've missed you. Ted junior looks great and is a fine tribute to his father. Just Joe is no slouch. Ota is a good underdog, especially after taking a certain bump a bit too hard. Danielson returns and doesn't seem to have missed a step. That KENTA guy is in this one, too. 161 MB.
Morishima & Yone vs Akiyama & Rikio, 4/1/07, tag titles. First time a NOAH heavyweight title gets defended in Korakuen, and the crowd is accordingly hot. What might be a lifeless affair elsewhere is good as a result. 210 MB.
Kotaro Suzuki vs Tsutomu Hirayanagi, SEM 4/4/07. Hirayanagi totally makes the match, heeling it up like crazy and getting actual fire out of the uber-bland Kotaro. Good match to fill a few minutes with.
Danielson & Ishimori vs Marufuji & Aoki, SEM 4/4/07. It's all about Danielson vs Aoki. He clearly enjoys having a chance to work in stuff like d'arce chokes, though the ever-cruddy Differ Ariake crowd doesn't bother to respond to his awesomeness. Friggin' Ariake. Nothing mindblowing, just lots of solid wrestling content.
Saito, KENTA & Aoki vs Bison Smith, Danielson & Ricky Marvin, 4/14/07, slightly clipped. For as world-class as Danielson is, was, and will be, I'm still impressed by how quickly Aoki developed. Along those lines, the final minutes build very nicely from the SEM tag ten days earlier.
Takayama & Sugiura vs Akiyama & Shiozaki, 4/14/07. Takayama and Sugiura bring the pain, Akiyama is awesome in selling the damage, and they keep up the pace rather than go longer just because it's the main event. Big finish. 122 MB.
CIMA, Yokosuka & Dragon Kid vs Marufuji, Marvin & Ota, 4/28/07. Dragon Gate invades! CIMA targets the new guy! Crowd is stoked! Why is it that the Dragon Gate guys do so much better outside their home promotion lately? 147 MB.
Akiyama & Rikio vs Takayama & Sugiura, tag titles, 4/28/07. The best tag title match NOAH has turned out in quite some time, another great showing for Sugiura, and (until December) the runaway leader for NOAH's best of the year. 216 MB.
KENTA vs Tsutomu Hirayanagi, SEM 5/5/07. Hirayanagi once again brings the goods as a heelish young lion. KENTA beats the crap out of him every chance he gets. Very enjoyable. 103 MB.
HARASHIMA & Kota Ibushi vs Hara & Usuda, Differ Cup '07. All kinds of stiffness. Just gobs of it. 145 MB.
HARASHIMA & Kota Ibushi vs Kagetora & Hercules Senga, Differ Cup '07. Senga doesn't look like a 'Hercules' and takes the beating you expect. More towards the 'cool stuff' end of the spectrum. 95 MB.
Hidaka & Namiguchi vs Kengo Mashimo & Makoda, Differ Cup '07. I've been lukewarm about Mashimo, who is the current ace of K-Dojo. However he wins me over here with his selling, and Hidaka helps make him want to sell. Makoda busts out a must-see move. 153 MB.
KENTA vs Go Shiozaki, 6/3/07. An action-packed second-half of the match as you'd expect from these two.
Murakami vs Marufuji, 6/8/07. Short and intense with action before and after the bell.
Saito vs Shiozaki, 6/8/07. Go had his arm picked apart earlier this year, and thus relishes attacking Saito's cast. The core appeal, however, is that they really lay it in throughout. 122 MB.
Nigel McGuinness vs Kotaro Suzuki, 7/1/07. Nigel has what it takes to drag Kotaro to the best singles match of his (Kotaro's) career. 120 MB.
Morishima, Yone & Hashi vs Sano, KENTA & Ishimori, 7/1/07. This could have been rather bland, but everyone is on-point and there's enough fire to make it special. 147 MB.
Danielson & Richards vs Romero & Aoki, junior tag league, 7/1/07. Not only is it good, it also manages to do so without being a total Danielson carry-job. 157 MB.
The Briscoe Brothers vs Marufuji & Ibushi, junior tag league, 7/1/07. Okay, see, THIS is how you do a spotfest: just do a bunch of cool stuff in vaguely coherent fashion with a minimum amount of downtime. The Briscoes going over 20+ minutes tend to lose me. Get closer to 15 minutes (like this) and we're talking. Marufuji/Ibushi lack fraternal-level teamwork, but they have more raw talent. Is that enough to get the win?
Marvin & Suzuki vs Romero & Aoki, junior tag league, 7/6/07. Decent opening sections (with a lifeless crowd), then they bring it home in a big way. I just love how quickly Aoki got to being competitive with the veterans.
The Briscoe Brothers vs KENTA & Ishimori, junior tag league, 7/6/07. I clipped the first 2/3rds or so, and what's left is the exciting conclusion.
Marufuji & Ibushi vs KENTA & Ishimori, junior tag league, 7/15/07. Better than any GHC junior tag title match in a looooong time. 190 MB.
Misawa vs Taue, GHC title, 7/15/07. Compact match with Taue dishing out his biggest shots and Misawa dishing out something especially nasty. 133 MB.
KENTA vs Aoki, SEM 8/10/07. Decent enough match, but it's must-see because of the super-cool location just outside the Tokyo HQ of the TV network. 113 MB.
Marvin & Suzuki & Ota vs KENTA, Ishimori & Romero, 8/19/07. Been a while since the NOAH juniors really clicked in a 6-man. The junior tag league seems to have given the division a kick in the pants, and if this becomes the norm we're in for good times. 159 MB.
Morishima vs Shiozaki, 8/19/07. The big guy sorta goes through the motions. This match is all about Go, as he does a great job of hanging with Morishima in striking, putting together a great strategy, and thinking on his feet. Shiozaki in this match looks very close to being a main event caliber talent. 180 MB.
Takayama, Morishima & Yone vs Misawa, Taue & KENTA, 9/2/07, JIP. Quite the random teams. The vast majority of juniors wouldn't fit very well amongst heavyweights, but KENTA's attitude means he isn't a drag on his team.
KENTA & Ishimori vs Kanemaru & Aoki, 9/9/07. Kanemaru carries this. Wait, KANEMARU carries this?! 132 MB.
Akiyama vs Morishima, #1 contendership semifinal, 9/9/07. Morishima has done a fair amount in his career, but he's never pinned any of NOAH's top 5 (Misawa/Kobashi/Akiyama/Taue/Takayama). If he can't do it now, with the biggest win streak of his career, he never will. 162 MB.
Marufuji vs (winner of Akiyama/Morishima), #1 contendership final, 9/9/07. Marufuji would normally be a big underdog, having gone through Saito earlier, but he comes in RIGHT after the finish and clearly got some time to rest. This sets the table for the match, as Marufuji's speed and energy tries to wear down his tougher, stronger opponent. 105 MB.
Misawa, Takayama & Akiyama vs Marufuji, KENTA & Shiozaki, 11/24/07. Dig that old vs young rivalry! Takayama/KENTA is always great, Shiozaki looks like a young Kobashi and gets some respect, I think you'll want to give this a look. 100 MB.
Honda, Shiozaki & Kikuchi vs Sugiura, Yone & Ito, 12/2/07. Burning is back, and Shiozaki looks as good as he ever has. Kikuchi gets surly, Ito goes all-out for the sold-out Budokan crowd, this is good. 127 MB.
Kanemaru & Aoki vs Suzuki & Ota, 12/2/07. I wasn't expecting much, but thanks in large part to the youngins this is a heck of a match. 95 MB.
Kobashi & Takayama vs Misawa & Akiyama, 12/2/07. A match that should need no introduction. Includes full pre and post-match. 309 MB.
Morishima, Izumida the Butt-Biting Bug & Taniguchi vs KENTA, Ota & Fake Ota, 12/24/07. NOAHFUL GIFT IN DIFFER delivers thanks to Fake Ota.
NOAH Christmas Carols '07.
Morishima, Marufuji & Yone vs Misawa, Shiozaki & Ota, 1/6/08. Morishima vs Misawa buildup! Go's chops are absurdly hard! Ota is a loveable screwup, and Yone kicks his head off!
Kobashi, Honda & Shiozaki vs Akiyama, Shiga & Kanemaru, 1/13/08. Kobashi and Shiozaki dish out some chops that are just plain nasty. Kanemaru interacting with Kobashi once again brings out the best in both of them. And Akiyama, well, his neck can't be glad Kobashi is back.
Takayama & Aoki vs Saito & KENTA, 1/20/08. On one hand, it's almost as if everyone involved knows that what YOU really want is the Takayama/KENTA pairing. On the other hand, we do get quite a bit of those two teeing off on one another, and the match doesn't overstay its welcome. That's enough to earn my seal of approval.
Sugiura, Marufuji & Shiozaki vs Takayama, Sano & Ota, 2/15/08. Lots of nasty, nasty stuff dished out in this one. Takayama and Sugiura set the tone early, and everyone- even Marufuji!- gets into the act. Somewhat anticlimactic ending but that's just something one has to learn to live with in most 6-man tags.
Kobashi, Honda & Taniguchi vs Morishima, Sugiura & Marufuji, 2/21/08. Like I need to hype this. Lotsa MB.
Taue & Izumida vs Hero & Castagnoli, 3/2/08. I'm actually *not* a fan of Chris and Claudio as a team, but this is just way too fun. 108 MB.
Kobashi, Honda & KENTA vs Takayama, Sano & Aoki, 3/2/08. Kobashi and Takayama go AT IT. Aoki shows NO FEAR. And Takayama/KENTA is as awesome as ever. 320 MB.
Misawa vs Morishima, GHC title, 3/2/08. Misawa is the master of coming back from big deficits. Morishima over the last year has learned how to get ahead and stay ahead in the title match. With Misawa's experience and elbows fell the monster one more time, or has Morishima finally become more than the old man can handle? 194 MB.
Marufuji vs Kikutaro, SEM 3/5/08. Kiku does some NOAH trademarks, with varying degrees of success.
Taue, Marvin & Taniguchi vs Inoue, Izumida & Ota, 3/29/08. Enjoyable enough thanks to Marvin and IZU. It's not about stiffness or bumps, just clever little spots. A matchup like this isn't going to tear the house down, but if they can put some smiles on peoples' faces, they've done their job.
Sasaki & Nakajima vs Taue & Shiozaki, 4/4/08. Worth it for Sasaki vs Shiozaki, the rest is icing.
Kobashi, KENTA & Taniguchi vs Sasaki, Nakajima & Yamaguchi, 4/13/08. Rather long 6-man that sets the stage for the similarly long (but better) Kobashi vs Sasaki tag battles in months to come. Yamaguchi was a short-tenured Kensuke Office young lion who pretty much just takes up space. Amazingly, he isn't even on the receiving end of a mid-match control segment, which violates all laws of Kings Road booking. At one point Taniguchi either gets legit KOed or he has way better selling than anyone gives him credit for. Also, if you are wondering whether this match contains chops, the answer is 'yes'.
Kobashi, Honda & KENTA vs Takayama, Sano & Shiozaki, 4/27/08. Progressing from the March 6-man, Takayama's team gets a big upgrade. If you know anything about Shiozaki you know why his addition makes this must-see. 183 MB.
Akiyama & Rikio vs Sasaki & Nakajima, 4/27/08. Akiyama and Rikio take the tournament with a win; Sasaki and Nakajima fight for pride. In the same vein as the memorable Akiyama/Rikio vs Takayama/Sugiura battle from 2007, this well-paced and loaded with great exchanges, and has a finish that's both dramatic and tight.
Danielson vs Aoki, Aoki trial series, 5/15/08. Aoki is only a two year pro at this point, meaning we won't get a Danielson epic. That said, Aoki beat Davey Richards in January and thus won't be a pushover. Lots of solid technical work and good execution throughout. Considering how good this is with Danielson somewhat holding back, I'd kill for a rematch today.
Kobashi & Kikuchi vs KENTA & Marufuji, 5/24/08. Better than the '06 version, and a very underrated bout. Several Kobashi matches were highly touted by the end of the year, and those tended to be done in a very 'epic' style. This one is more about storytelling, roles, and emotion instead of raw testosterone. Considering how worn-down Kobashi and Kikuchi are it's remarkable how little downtime there is. I can't promise you'll enjoy it *as much* as I do, but odds are you'll enjoy it.
Kobashi & KENTA vs Sasaki & Nakajima, 6/14/08. Great video and audio helps to make the stiffness that much more real. Going into this match you're expecting a lot of heavy strike exchanges, and boy-oh-boy does it deliver precisely that. Matwork? Strategy? Get that crud outta here. It's all-hitting, all the time.
Kobashi, Takayama & Nakajima vs Misawa, Sugiura & Marufuji, 7/18/08. Kobashi and Takayama pair up after months of clashes. It's a rocky marriage. As with any such partnership it's the kid who suffers.
Sasaki vs KENTA, 7/18/08. There are chops and kicks in this professional wrestling match. If you want to see Sasaki and KENTA pelting each other with strikes, well, here you are.
Morishima vs Rikio, GHC title, 7/18/08. Lotsa beef and collisions and stuff.
Ishimori vs Hirayanagi, 8/1/08. NOAH is back at the cool NTV open area thingy! Hirayanagi is back doing what he does best, punking out junior prettyboys!
Kobashi, KENTA, Aoki & Ito vs Sasaki, Nakajima, Okita & Miyahara, Survival Tag, SEM 8/17/08. One of the very best of the year. Long, but so worth it. Fired up young lions, fired up Korakuen, and the epic conclusion of another of the year's best tags. 400+ MB.
Briscoe Brothers vs Nakajima & Ibushi, junior tag league '08, 9/6/08. An exciting sprint for your ocular cavities to feast upon.
Morishima vs Sasaki, GHC title, 9/6/08. A match layered with backstory and psychology. Okay I'm lying; they mash each other with lariats and try to huck each other around as much as possible. Can Morishima survive his biggest test as champion? Can Sasaki chop the big man down? It's not a technical dream match but it delivers pretty much what you'd expect.
Ishimori vs Takanishi, SEM 9/8/08. Takanashi started as an Ultimo Dragon Gym trainee, but wasn't able to graduate and had to finish his training at DDT. Here he faces not just any Ultimo trainee, but one of Ultimo's most prized pupils. The resulting match is... a matwork clinic? Yep! And they're quite generous in giving Takanashi, an indy nobody, over ten minutes to show himself.
Akiyama, Rikio & Ito vs Sasaki, Nakajima, & Okita, 10/5/08. Heck of a tag. Akiyama/Rikio vs Sasaki/Nakajima is proven goodness, and you throw in a couple hungry young lions, you got yourself a fine outing.
Kanemaru & Suzuki vs KENTA & Ishimori, junior tag titles, 12/11/08, JIP. Blood is shed! Genba haunts the outside! Hot finishing stretch!
Akiyama vs Morishima, #1 contenders match, 12/11/08. A sprint in the same vein as their '07 match.
KENTA vs Suzuki, junior title, 1/25/09, JIP. Continuing their feud from the December match.
Sasaki & Ibushi vs Akiyama & Ishimori, Kensuke Office 2/11/09. Jaw-dropping exchanges! Logical limb work! Crowd heat! Big finish!
Kobashi vs Inoue, 3/1/09. Not emotional like the '07 return, but a fun match thanks to Inoue, who is Mr. Clutch.
Ishimori & Ota vs Okita & Miyahara, 3/1/09. Yellow Fever (my name for Ishimori/Ota) takes on Kensuke Office. Fast, energetic start... then a couple minutes of filler. Okita livens things up, and I'm so sad his career ended early. Ota's career I feel less strongly about but you have to give a *little* love to someone who brought the airplane spin back to Japan. Good finish that manages to feel 'big' but ends when it should.
Shiozaki & Sugiura vs Nakamura & Milano Collection AT, 3/1/09. Milano looks better than he has in YEARS, Nakamura and Sugiura are still great against each other, and the last 8 minutes or so are stellar.
A tour of the NOAH dojo. Note where ring gear is stored and where the young lions sleep.
Kobashi & Ito vs Tenzan & Okada, 5/6/09. A broken-down Kobashi takes down a not-100% Tenzan. Kobashi is a quasi-Baba, cheerleading from the apron and using his presence when needed. Okada, fresh off a good showing the day before, brings it once again.
Sasaki & Morishima vs Misawa & Shiozaki, 5/6/09. De facto final for the tag league. Go wrestles 90% of the match (because Misawa was in such bad shape) and takes a hell of a beating, but he's still able to bring it at the end.
Akiyama vs KENTA, 5/17/09. Heavy champ versus junior champ. I love the struggle for control at the start. Some hard hits and big bombs. This is Akiyama's best singles match in years.
Sasaki & Nakajima vs Taue & Hirayanagi, 6/4/09. Genba gets to wrestle with his mentor. The result is never in doubt, but that's often the case in puro. What matters most is how enjoyable the match is, and this is very enjoyable. Old Man Taue's involvement is limited, so naturally that means it's good when he does get in. Genba takes his expected share of punishment, but he has no problem giving Kensuke Office the business. I'm not sure it's wise to raise the ire of a team that hits so hard but that's apparently his plan.
Shiozaki vs Hero, 6/4/09, JIP. Chris Hero finally BRINGS IT in Japan and the crowd responds accordingly.
KENTA vs Marvin, junior title, 6/4/09. Closing minutes of Marvin's biggest singles match to date. Marvin won a #1 contenders match with a powerbomb-to-lungblower, while KENTA of course looks to his trusty bedtime story.
Hero vs Ito, 6/22/09. It really is a shame that Hero was never made an every-tour guy (and that Ito retired). Beyond the whole "boyhood dream" aspect, I'm sure he would have gotten progressively more over as time passed. Here he does a fine job making Ito pay some dues, which is interesting because Hero was somewhat paying dues himself in the company. Crowd starts off dead but they come alive as things progress. The finish is a tribute to one of Hero's heroes.
Takayama & Sano vs Morishima & Sugiura, 6/22/09. Takayama and Sugiura starting gets a big reaction from the crowd because they know butt-whoopin' is soon to start. And indeed, butt-whoopin' is what they get. None of them are the type to shy away from punishment, and since the match doesn't go long they generally stick to the striking YOU want out of this. There's an overall theme of Sugiura trying to prove himself against the UWFi toughguy veterans, often to the point of recklessness. Another theme is "Morishima is so fat he dwarfs Takayama". I mean he SPLATTERS Takayama with some lariats. Nastiest spot of the match comes just before the 11 minute mark of the file, but there's plenty of nasty to go around.
Sasaki & Nakajima vs Shiozaki & KENTA, 6/22/09. A treat for the senses as Kensuke Office battles NOAH's singles champs. Heaping helpings of hurtin' in front of an eager and sold out Korakuen Hall.
Shiozaki vs KENTA, 7/5/09. A legit random draw produced this matchup. KENTA has his second chance to beat a heavyweight champ in a month and a half, and uses a bit of strategy to overcome Go's edge in power. Shiozaki lost their matchup two years earlier, and this is his first big test as champ. Is he up to the task now?
Kanemaru & Suzuki vs Nakajima & Miyahara, 7/12/09, JIP. This one goes too long but the second half is worth watching, and by the end they actually look like they could have gone another couple minutes easily.
KENTA & Ishimori vs Ibushi & Aoki, 7/12/09, JIP. Last year this would be an easy win for KENTA and his insanely jakked-up partner (Ishimori was set for a bodybuilding contest soon after this). However, Ibushi and Aoki both went to the semis of the Super Juniors tournament and scored some big wins in the process. They make things more than competitive between Ibushi's flying and Aoki's submissions.
Kobashi & KENTA vs Shiozaki & Ito, 8/2/09. Man alive that is some loud chopping from Kobashi and Shiozaki. I mean, some SERIOUSLY crazy chops. Ito shows some fire! Atta boy. Too bad he retired shortly afterwards. Not overly deep, but I think it's energetic and entertaining in a straightforward enough way to please pretty much anyone who can enjoy a Chopbashi match.
KENTA & Ito vs Aoki & Fish, 9/12/09, JIP. Aoki looks to do damage heading into his title shot against KENTA.
Kanemaru & Suzuki vs Nakajima & Miyahara, junior tag titles, 9/12/09, JIP. As in July they take a while to get going. As in July they finish strong.
KENTA vs Aoki, junior title, 9/21/09. Really smart match that builds from their encounters in recent months, and has a hot finish without going overboard.
Bison Smith vs Taniguchi, 9/27/09. One of those rare matches where two inconsistent wrestlers both click at the same time. Bison looks like a beast; Taniguchi looks impressive in being able to pull off some significant offense on him. Both of them look much better by the end than they did coming in, thanks in part to the fast pace and responsive crowd.
Sasaki, Morishima & Nakajima vs Tenryu, Ogawa & Suzuki, 9/27/09. Tenryu is 59 and a half years old, and he RULES. There are three main elements to the match. One is "Morishima the monster", because nobody on the other side can handle him physically. Two is "Tenryu as quasi-Misawa", where he does some teamwork with Ogawa in the vein of the Misawa/Ogawa team (since this is a Misawa tribute show). Three is Tenryu's fighting spirit as he tries to go toe-to-toe with Sasaki, who was too much to handle when Tenryu was a spritely 49 and is more so now.
Kanemaru & Suzuki vs Jado & Gedo, 10/3/09, junior tag titles. You know what works good in tag team matches? TAG WRESTLING. I'm not sure why J&G so rarely channel southern-style tactics (as opposed to generic time-killing), but when they do bring their A-game it's almost always worthwhile.
Takayama vs Sugiura, 10/3/09. Stiffffffff. But also a very 'complete' match within an under 10 minute frame. It never ceases to amaze me how often they get put in main events for 25+ minutes, when they can just go out and tear the house down *every time* if they aren't forced to fill a bunch of time. Bottom line: *this* is the two of them doing what they do best.
Kawada & Taue vs Akiyama & KENTA, 10/3/09. Kawada vs KENTA lives up to expectations. And those are some great expectations.
Kobashi, Akiyama, Taue & Honda vs Sugiura, Rikio, Yone & Taniguchi, 10/15/09. Taniguchi takes it to Kobashi! Sugiura takes it to Akiyama! Yone and Honda... um... Sugiura! Yes, let's focus on Sugiura being in this.
Kobashi & Akiyama vs Takayama & Keith Walker, 10/31/09. A lot of huge bumps in not-a-lot of time.
Takayama & Sano vs Sugiura & Taniguchi, 4/10/10. What it lacks in execution, it makes up for in really really hard elbowing. Takayama's strikes are so brutal.
Sasaki vs Akiyama, Global League, 4/10/10. Sasaki suddenly has ultra-effective elbows?! Akiyama makes it work and they put together a match that's about a thousand times better than the title switch a year earlier.
Shiozaki, Saito & Ishimori vs Akiyama, Ogawa & Kikuchi, 4/25/10. KIKUCHI-FEST 2010. He brings the crazy and the awesome while taking it right to Go.
Kawada vs Morishima, Global League, 4/25/10. Eleven years ago, Morishima was a young boy doing ring duty while Kawada was a headliner. Now Morishima is all grow'd up and Kawada has everything he can handle. Perhaps more than he can handle?
Kawada vs Saito, Global League, 5/2/10, very slightly clipped. Can Kawada carry Saito to his first good singles match in ages? Yes. Yes he can.
Takayama vs Morishima, Global League, 5/2/10, JIP. Features the nastiest legdrop in wrestling history. Ye gods.
Takayama, Akiyama & Sasaki vs Shiozaki, Morishima & Inoue, 5/22/10. Mighty Inoue's retirement from refereeing, and Korakuen decides that Masao Inoue should be the focus. The result is that rare super-fun Masao Inoue performance, and when he's not in we get bunches of hard-hitting action.
Takayama, Yoshie & Saito vs Sasaki, Morishima & Okita, 6/6/10. Most of the matchups here are straightforward smash-mouth heavyweight wrestling. Okita adds the 'young guy trying to prove himself' aspect. To top it off, it's got a fast pace because it's shorter than most 6-mans. Check it!
Minoru Suzuki, Takayama & KENTA vs Ikeda, Yone & Hashi, 6/13/10. Suzuki and KENTA hate each other! Hashi in the underdog role! Yone adds nothing! What, did I go back in time to 2005 or something?
Sugiura, KENTA & Yone vs Takayama, Sasaki & Nakajima, 6/26/10. Lots of HITTING and so on and so forth. KENTA eats a pretty good beatdown.
Sasaki vs Shiozaki, 7/24/10. It drags in parts, and they botch the only big spot they try for, but when it's clutch time they pull through. The way the match is structured and sold is excellent, and it leaves the door open for a rematch in the way that Kobashi vs Sasaki kinda didn't.
Akiyama & KENTA vs Nagata & Taguchi, 7/24/10. Taguchi is a nonentity. Nagata vs KENTA makes up for this and then some. HOT HOT HATE.
KENTA vs Aoki, 8/22/10. Aoki gets all up in KENTA's grill and KENTA is all "yo get off my grill" and Aoki is all "make me dawg" and they proceed beat the living crap out of each other.
Ishimori & Marvin vs Kanemoto & Tiger Mask 4, junior tag titles, 8/22/10. Kanemoto and a handful of New Japan fans invade NOAH and bring the big-time hatred!
Shiozaki & Morishima vs Sugiura & Taniguchi, 8/28/10. Most of the match is solid-to-good, and some fantastic exchanges between Sugiura and Go make this really worth your while.
Shiozaki vs Kotaro Suzuki, 9/11/10, JIP. I wasn't sure how well these two would match up, since Go is much bigger and a headliner while Suzuki is a second-tier junior. But once they got into the home stretch, they started clicking.
Sugiura vs Shiozaki, GHC title, 9/26/10, JIP. Hard hits & high drama. Match took a while to get going, but once it did... oh yeah.
Nakajima, Ishimori, Marvin & Satoshi Kajiwara vs Yasu Urano, Atsushi Kotoge, Daisuke Harada & Kenbai, 10/30/10. Sprinty! Rather than giving them 15-20 minutes and forcing structure on guys who aren't good at it, we get an under-10-minute action-fest. The finish might seem out-of-place on paper, but the bump off of it is more than enough for it to be a fitting end.
KENTA & Aoki vs Strong & Edwards, junior tag league final, 10/30/10. Strong/Edwards is a much tougher duo than they would be at any other time, as they hold both of the ROH singles belts. Edwards especially comes out of this looking great as he holds his own in the epic finishing run.
Takayama, Nakajima & Inoue vs Shiozaki, Saito & KENTA, 12/24/10. The heavy hitters hit each other heavily. An out-of-his-element Masao Inoue has little chance of surviving even if he can manage some light treatment from former partner Saito.
Kanemoto & Tiger Mask 4 vs Marufuji & Aoki, junior tag titles, 12/24/10, JIP. The last section of the match, focusing on Aoki trying to make good against Kanemoto.
Takayama vs KENTA, 1/15/11. If you've found this website, odds are you know how this one goes. And if you're new: welcome to puroresu.
Sasaki & Nakajima vs Morishima & Taniguchi, 1/29/11. I find this matchup really interesting. Taniguchi is probably 'higher ranked' than Nakajima by virtue of his size, but Sasaki/Nakajima is a quality long-term team. Taniguchi really brings it as best he can, Sasaki and Nakajima dish some pain at him, and Morishima throws his weight around effectively.
Morishima vs Hashi, 3/5/11. Weird match. I think Morishima blasts Hashi hard enough to ring his bell, and he seems generally pissed. Poor Hashi.
Suzuki vs Nakajima, junior title, 3/5/11, JIP. Kotaro is getting good at stringing together his elbow combos, and they put together a suitably big finishing run that has above-average flow thanks to the strikes.
Sugiura vs Minoru Suzuki, GHC title, 5/8/11, JIP. These are two of the smallest heavyweight champions Japan has seen, but they're credible because they're two of the most legit. The first chunk of the match was Suzuki working over Sugiura's legs to kill time (which is why I clipped it out). In the second portion they get to the violence, and it's a lot better finishing run than I was expecting. They are certainly man's men.
KENTA & Kanemaru vs Kotaro Suzuki & Aoki, junior tag title decision match, 5/25/11. The titles were held up due to Marufuji's spinal injury. The first half is okay, but it's the usual big second half that got my attention. Aoki really turned out to be quite the find for NOAH.
Shiozaki vs Morishima, #1 contenders match, 6/11/11. Starts slow and builds to a hard-hitting finish. Morishima's hammer blows are all kinds of brutal.
Shiozaki vs Bison Smith, 6/13/11, JIP. As much as anything, there isn't much Bison on the site because he doesn't usually bring the level of impact that past big-men like Hansen and Vader did. Thankfully he does bring the beef in this one, making for a hot finishing run. Emotional post-match as they pay tribute to Misawa, which is especially sad considering what happened five months later. RIP Bison.
Akiyama vs Nakajima, 7/10/11. Akiyama, the rookie phenom of the '90s, faces Nakajima, the rookie phenom of the '00s. Nakajima takes the fight to him and Akiyama replies in kind. Tight, hard-hitting battle with some big nearfalls down the stretch.
Sugiura vs Shiozaki, GHC title, 7/10/11, JIP. The home stretch has lots of struggle-for-control-in-strike-exchanges, which is everything I love about Japanese heavyweight wrestling. A fitting follow-up to the finish of their 2010 bout.
Sugiura vs Sasaki, 7/23/11. You'll note I haven't raved about any of Sugiura's title matches. That's because I don't think he's effective in long bouts. This one stays under 20 minutes and thus avoids excessive downtime. The booking here is tricky, with Sugiura having lost the title and Sasaki overdue for a shot. I think the end result is perfect, as both (especially Sugiura) come out looking tough-as-nails and leave you wanting more. They really lay into each other. I mean REALLY lay into each other.
Shiozaki vs Akiyama, GHC title, 8/6/11, JIP. The first chunk of the match totally fails to get going. I clipped it to shortly before an incident that instantly makes it interesting. They build momentum from there and deliver a big-time finish at small-time Differ Ariake.
Sugiura, Morishima & Yone vs Sasaki, Nakajima & Miyahara 8/24/11. Sugiura and Kensuke renew their feud from the July slugfest, and everyone else gets in on it, especially Nakajima. Miyahara is sorta the odd man out, which doesn't stop him from getting clobbered. Also, Morishima is getting in shape, which for him means 'obese' instead of 'morbidly obese'.
Shiozaki, Sugiura & Taniguchi vs Takayama, KENTA & Kanemaru, 9/11/11. This match interested me when I saw the lineup. Who wins? One might dismissively say "the all-heavyweight team", except KENTA and Kanemaru are the junior tag champs, and their side is the top three members of the company's heel stable. It's not like Genba is in there as a blatant loss post. The top four guys in this all match up well with one another, and Sugiura/KENTA is a pairing that's delivered often enough over the years that I don't think I have to describe exactly why it works. Meanwhile, Shiozaki and Takayama are headed towards a GHC title battle. As a bonus, this has a darn good crowd for NOAH-outside-Tokyo. Plus I left the start intact so you can experience No Mercy's entrance song.
Sugiura vs KENTA, #1 contenders match, 10/10/11. Takes a bit to really get going, but man-o-man do they go to war in the finishing run.
Sugiura vs KENTA, Global League, 11/13/11. Short, sweet and to the point.
Shiozaki vs Yoshie, Global League, 11/14/11. I'm a gloomy gus when it comes to more current wrestling, but this is an instance where something from 2011 tops something from before. In this case it's their singles match from 2007. At this point Yoshie has lost so much in NOAH that he shouldn't be much of a threat, but he matches up especially well against Shiozaki. He's thicker, so Go can't overwhelm him with strikes. He's nigh impossible to throw. He hits hard enough to hang with the champ in exchanges. And he proved in 2007 that even a moonsault won't keep him down. Can Shiozaki beat the rotund warrior before the big man caves in his ribcage with a splash?
Sasaki vs Sugiura, Global League, 11/14/11. All the ridiculously stiff strikes of their first match, plus a lot more structure, plus a decisive finish. Get allll this!
Akiyama & Kobashi vs Sasaki & Kitamiya, Diamond Ring 2/11/12. Kensuke Office has rebranded itself as Diamond Ring. Kitamiya is a new Sasaki trainee, and he really gets put through a wringer. Kobashi's chops are one thing, but the absolute highlight is how Akiyama schools him in very basic ways. Akiyama was a top-class amateur wrestler but he rarely shows that side in the ring. In this bout he stuffs takedown attempts and dominates the mat with ease; I wish he'd show that kind of effort/mindset more often. Anyway, the 'young lion shows his fighting spirit' story is strong here, so if you're at all a fan of that story you should watch.
Akiyama & Saito vs Morishima & Nakajima, tag league, 4/22/12. Akiyama and Nakajima had an enjoyable singles match last year. This works along the same lines, only with a bigger feel to it because the outcome isn't inevitable like the singles was. A strong finish as well.
Shiozaki & Honda vs Sasaki & Miyahara, tag league, 4/29/12. I was skeptical about putting Miyahara in the heavyweight division, but he brings the goods. Specifically, the Shiozaki/Miyahara matchup makes this worthwhile, as the Kensuke trainee tries to prove himself against NOAH's top star.
Morishima & Nakajima vs Ohtani & Daichi Hashimoto, tag league, 4/29/12. The pairings mirror each other: experienced heavies and fiery kick-based young guns. Daichi continues to bring it, and I have a good feeling about his future.
Gallows, Strong & Fish vs Sabre, Nichols & Haste, 6/13/12. Luke Gallows is SO ANGRY and Sabre pays dearly for being within arm's reach of him. The extent to which the smaller team is outmatched (a lot) helps get Korakuen into it. But mostly this is the Luke Gallows Show.
Akiyama, Saito & Shiozaki vs Morishima, Sasaki & Koshinaka, 6/13/12. Misawa Memorial all-star 6-man. Sasaki's team might seem underpowered because of Koshinaka, but it's actually two wrestlers he's held tag titles with (as the NOAH production team lays out). Koshinaka isn't just there to get a cheap pop for his hip attacks; his surly side comes out. The Korakuen crowd is somewhat of a detriment (!), because the wrestlers give a solid effort and get tepid responses at times. Big finish.
Sasaki & Nakajima vs Taue & Hirayanagi, 7/22/12. Not much to it; Team Diamond Ring hit hard, and it's up to Taue & Son to avoid death for as long as possible.
Kotaro Suzuki & Aoki vs Marvin & Super Crazy, junior tag titles, 7/22/12. Fast-paced sprint. The challengers are DOGGED, throwing bombs/highspots and going for the win relentlessly. The champs survive long enough to get in some shots of their own, but is it enough to overcome the frenzied Mexicans?
KENTA vs Kotoge, 8/9/12. KENTA's return from injury. Kotoge, being a much younger, much smaller junior... his odds aren't too good. Except he decides that he's NOT interested in losing in a by-the-numbers squash, and actually brings a solid fight. Both of them rely one strike throughout the match that you wouldn't expect and have great success. I was very, very skeptical when NOAH signed Kotoge but he seems to get it based on this.
Nagata vs KENTA, Global League, 11/17/12. This isn't an epic "big event" level match they're capable of because they have to leave something in the tank for the rest of the tour. That said, they deliver a solid, hard-hitting bout.
Shiozaki vs KENTA, Global League, 11/23/12. Last day of the tournament, and this will help decide who wins their block. Compact match with a very dramatic second half. ATTN NOAH: more matches like this, fewer attempts at half hour epics.
Sugiura vs KENTA, Global League final, 11/23/12. In line with their big match a year earlier: lots of heavy-hitting and bombs. Some *really* strong nearfalls in the closing minutes.
Kondo vs Ishimori, junior title, 1/27/13, JIP. Two top dragon system students with quite distinct styles go at it. I especially like the last minute or so as the winner steadily plugs away.
Morishima vs KENTA, GHC title, 1/27/13, JIP. Morishima retained over KENTA in September, but KENTA beat Morishima during the fall singles tournament and ended up winning the whole thing. We know that Morishima's path to victory is the backdrop. KENTA has both the G2S and GAME OVER lock, but is either enough to bring Morishima's best career run to an end?
Sasaki & Nakajima vs Sugiura & Kotoge, tag league, 4/27/13. Sugiura's team started the night with a match against Y. Sasaki and Shinya Ishikawa of Big Japan, and I put the finishing run of that on the start of the file. After a break of just one match they have to deal with Kensuke Office. This would be rough going to begin with, let alone after a full match earlier. Kotoge is a good Ricky Morton and Sugiura would eat Robert Gibson for breakfast, plus it's at Korakuen for maximum underdog crowd support, so this is a nifty tag bout.
Kobashi retirement special greetings, 5/11/13. They save the best for last.
Kobashi, Akiyama, Mutoh & Sasaki vs KENTA, Shiozaki, Taniguchi & Kanemaru, Kobashi retirement match, 5/11/13. I admit to shaking my head when the match was announced, since the weak links are obvious. That said, KENTA and Go hold up their side, and Kobashi's support team are effective in their limited role. The spotlight, of course, is on Kobashi. He's physically shot but has enough fire to make up for it.
Kobashi retirement post-match.
KENTA vs Sugiura, GHC title, 5/12/13. These two have violent tendencies in regards to one another. That has not changed, and I doubt it will change despite the fact that they joined up afterwards. I really enjoy the "okay, enough screwing around, I'm ending this" sections that they go through.
"Misawa vs Taue", 6/13/13. A touching tribute to the fallen legend.
Ishimori vs Sabre, junior title, 8/4/13. Ishimori mostly works as a high-flyer, but I think his best talent is technical work. Sabre's British style brings that out wonderfully, as they bust out all sorts of nifty counters and reversals. Plus we get a lot more focus, struggle, and setups/payoffs than a typical juniors match. When you can get Differ Ariake to care about a juniors match in 2013 you're doing something right.
KENTA & Sugiura vs Nakamura & Marufuji, 8/24/13. Fantastic whenever Nakamura is in; less so when Marufuji is in. Nakamura's mix of cockiness and shoot ability is perfect for interpromotional battles, and KENTA/Sugiura is the best possible NOAH tandem to exploit that dynamic.
Sasaki vs Morishima, 10/5/13. Morishima returns from injury. Not a heck of a lot to this besides bombs, which is certainly playing to their strengths.
Nagata vs Sugiura, Global League, 10/26/13. They hit each other really frigging hard, and do so quite a lot. That's the stuff.
KENTA & Sugiura vs Nagata & Sekimoto, 11/27/13. A desperate NOAH finally starts bringing in Big Japan guys with regularity, which sets up a very nifty tag. Sekimoto and Sugiura do a good job of leaving KENTA and Nagata the spotlight, since this is a lead-in to their title match. The match could have been a bit shorter but it's pretty much the four of them clobbering each other the whole time so who am I to complain?
Taue retirement ceremony, 12/7/13. TAUE~
KENTA vs Nagata, GHC title, 12/7/13. On paper, this is a terrible matchup for KENTA. Nagata has considerably more size, uses a similar striking style, and is better on the mat. KENTA does have agility and speed on his side, but he won't avoid trying to win strike exchanges. Can he beat Nagata at his own hard-hitting game, or will Nagata end KENTA's long title run?
Sugiura vs Kotoge, 2/3/14. I had a feeling that this would turn out the way it did. Kotoge brings the PRIDE and UNDERDOG FIRE he did against KENTA, and Sugiura brings the BEING SUGIURA. I'm still surprised that Kotoge, an Osaka Pro-trained junior, has such a good grasp of how to work a match like this.
KENTA & Takayama vs Sugiura & Masato Tanaka, tag league, 4/12/14. Sugiura and Tanaka have formed a multi-promotional stable, Dangan Yankees. They face arguably the top NOAH duo possible to start out the tournament. Everyone's tough, everyone hits hard, and anyone getting beat seems important.
KENTA & Marufuji vs Sugiura & Nakajima, 5/17/14. KENTA's farewell to NOAH. Thankfully, the focus of the match is him trading strikes with two dudes who can throw hard. I have to say, I'm a bit skeptical that he will do much in WWE, but he has a better shot at success than Yamamoto did.
Tenryu, Koshinaka & Ogawa vs Morishima, Taniguchi & Ohara, 6/13/14. Misawa: dead for 5 years. Kawada: retired for 5 years. Tenryu: still wrestling. Huh. Tenryu does fine in a Baba-esque/late Kobashi role of absorbing punishment and throwing chops, and Morishima relishes beating down the old man.
Sugiura & Takayama vs Nagata & Sekimoto, 6/13/14. Misawa memorial night has strong semi-main tag. Very much a slugfest, which plays to their strengths.
Misawa vs Kawada Music Video by DDevil.
Kobashi career retrospective by DDevil.
All Japan Finish Collection 1. The endings of Race vs Baba 9/4/80; Can-Am Express vs Kawada & Kikuchi 5/20/91; Gordy & Williams vs Misawa & Kobashi 5/20/91; Smith vs Akiyama 1/30/93; Kawada vs Kikuchi 5/20/95.
NOAH Christmas Fun-Time Special Compilation. This... this is two hours of GOLD, spanning 2000 through 2006. And superb quality for the length and size (228 MB). Stick with it through the slow parts because the hits just keep on coming.
NOAH Finish Collection 1. The endings of Sugiura vs Akiyama 5/2/10; Sugiura vs Takayama GHC title 7/10/10; Suzuki & Aoki vs Nakajima & Kajiwara 7/23/11.
NOAH Finish Collection 2. The endings of Misawa, Ogawa & Sano vs Jun Akiyama, Saito & Shiga 2/10/02; Misawa & Ogawa vs Taue & KENTA 5/9/02; Kobashi, Honda & KENTA vs Ikeda, Yone & Sugiura 11/20/03; Shiozaki vs Takayama GHC title 9/23/11.