Section 1- Results
Dragon Gate: Doi defended the lightweight title against Tanisaki in an impromptu defense on Saturday. Earlier today, Magnitude beat CIMA in a singles match to further build to his title shot on Friday.
New Japan: The tour has been about wins traded between the teams of Nakamura/Tanahashi, Tenzan/Chono, and Nagata/Nakanishi. The most important of those happened Sunday, and featured Tenzan & Chono winning the tag titles for the fifth time, ending the reign of the young prettyboys. Nagata & Nakanishi seem to be the number one contenders. Also on Sunday, Black Tiger defended the junior title against Kanemoto.
NOAH: Morishima & Yone captured the tag titles from Suzuki & Marufuji on Friday, second time Yone pinned Marufuji for a title this year. They’ll go on to defend the titles against KENTA & Shibata on Saturday. Meanwhile, KENTA routinely defended his junior title against Mushiking Terry on Friday.
Section 2- News
All Japan: A notable match for their 11/19 show is Akebono versus Albert. That’s gonna be a whole lotta man in one ring.
Dragon Gate: A couple interesting matches are signed for the 13th. Doi will defend his strap against Dragon Kid once more. In a rather more important under card match, Tenryu & Magnum Tokyo square of with Kensuke Sasaki & Mochizuki.
Section 3- Best of All Japan vol. 2, part 1
I’m pre-empting Mr. Fitzgerald on this because I’m rather lacking in topics to cover.
–Jumbo Tsuruta vs Mitsuharu Misawa, 6/8/90
I already covered most of the backstory in discussing their rematch. Though this one has much more historical significance, I find it to be the lesser of the two matches for reasons of intensity and the finish. The backstory is very simplistic: Misawa recently unmasked and is leading the young generation against Jumbo, who just lost the Triple Crown. It was built up by a single televised 6-man tag two weeks prior, which helped set the stage for the broad generational feud.
This match got the main event at Budokan Hall ahead of the Gordy vs Hansen title match, and I get the sense that there wasn’t much controversy in doing so. The match is all about spunky young Misawa (how odd to think of that today) against established ace Jumbo. Again, simplistic. No need to worry about what move finished who in what match, or what body part was injured a few months ago. All you need to do is keep in mind Jumbo’s backdrop suplex, Misawa’s tiger driver, and a handful of their other trademarks. That’s it. This match is a good starting point to the feud, though the May 6-man mentioned above is even better. Excellent wrestling match absent its importance.
–Kenta Kobashi vs Stan Hansen, 7/29/93
The pinnacle of young, fiery Kobashi and the pinnacle of Hansen in the ’90s (if not ever). Kobashi was facing a string of big-name heavyweight Americans during the middle of ’93 during his quest to get established as more than a right-hand man. Hansen, the Champions Carnival winner, wanted to move back into contention for a title shot. During the Carnival their round-robin match was exceptional and got molten heat from the house show crowd, but it isn’t very important to see in order to enjoy this match. In fact you could have no idea who either man was and still enjoy it.
It’s a straightforward battle between two heavy hitters that doesn’t have much downtime and builds to incredible drama down the stretch. The TV version I have features a post-match image of the damage to Kobashi’s face… in a word: brutal. In addition to the stiffness the match has a very solid structure and milks both men’s best traits for all they’re worth. In many ways this would be right at home taking place in the US south because the brawling is so good and not the typical Japanese strike trading. Not only do I recommend this heavily, but I recommend it to absolutely everyone.
–Steve Williams vs Toshiaki Kawada, Champions Carnival ’94 Final, 4/16/94
This particular date in Japanese wrestling history is mostly remembered for featuring the Super J Cup with Benoit vs Sasuke in the final. I’m not alone in thinking that Benoit vs Sasuke wasn’t the best match of the night. Though it featured some graceful juniors-style action and plenty of odes to Dynamite and Sayama, it falls short of what Kawada and Doctor Death pulled off.
For starters, keep in mind that Williams was in the midst of the best All Japan run of his career. From debuting the homicidal backdrop driver, to beating Kobashi in a long singles match, to battling Misawa in a very good title match, Williams accomplished plenty the year before. His run in the Champions Carnival was an impressive 9-1-1, with the draw coming to Kawada. Kawada, meanwhile, also had quite a run in the tournament en route to the final. After Misawa fell short in the ’92 and ’93 finals against Hansen, Kawada could get an edge on his rival with a win. Of course it wouldn’t be easy; he’d never beaten Williams one-on-one in several tries.
The standout part of this match isn’t the beginning, with a very good feeling out process much like numerous other All Japan ’90s bouts. It isn’t the middle with Williams in control either. No, the match is memorable for the amazing performance of Kawada, one which managed to go beyond any that Misawa ever did. By selling properly for Williams before, during and after his comebacks, Kawada added to the depth and volume of his eventual triumph. By making Williams look like a nigh-unbeatable monster, Kawada looked heroic. The final comeback stretch is maybe the single greatest wrestling comeback I can think of. Williams does very well for himself and sells logically, but in the end this is the Kawada show. And because of that historic performance, Kawada was primed for the 6/3/94 showdown with Misawa.
–Kawada & Taue vs Misawa & Kobashi, Double Tag Titles, 5/21/94
Following their classic at the Tag League ’93 final, only this time Kawada was a bigger deal as per the big win over Williams. Where the ’93 match was mostly an extension of All Japan tag title matches over the years, this is where it really broke away and hit another level, which in turn led to the five-star masterpieces in following years. Assuming that this isn’t five stars itself, and many people have given it that kind of praise. These four heavyweights put on a match with a longer finishing/impact move stretch than had previously been seen, following an opening twenty minutes that was far from leisurely. The previous tag title record was thirty-one minutes; this bad boy lasted forty. Such great action from bell-to-bell, such an overlooked match.
Next Week- Akira Taue, shin champion! At least I hope so.