Puroresu Pulse, issue 128: The 4th Layer of Kobashi

In the first three installments we watched Kobashi move from a young lion to Misawa’s right-hand man. Now in the middle of his career (if you don’t count injuries) he rises to main event status and has three of his very best singles matches. Oh yeah, there’s also some stuff to report.

Section 1- Results

All Japan: Suzuki & Kea beat both Mutoh & Suwama and Sasaki & Nakajima to earn a tag title shot on 6/28. Nishimura pinned Suwama several times during the last few weeks to earn a title shot on that show as well. Hijikata defended the junior title against Hayashi.

Dragon Gate: Shingo, Yamato & Gamma won the trios titles on the 14th as part of the big stable change. Shingo and Cyber Kong turned heel, joining Gamma, Kanda, Yamato and Horiguchi to form Real Hazard, which replaces Muscle Outlaw’z (apostrophe-z RIP, you will be missed) and New Hazard. Doi, Yoshino, BB Hulk, Tanisaki and youngster m.c.KZ become a face stable to be named. The makeshift trios title match saw the RH team beat Doi, Yoshino & Hulk.

NOAH: Saito & Smith won the tag titles from Marufuji & Sugiura last Friday. Kanemaru retained the junior title against Magnitude Kishiwada.

Section 2- News

All Japan: Hijikata’s next defense will be against El Samurai on 6/28.

Dragon Gate: CIMA is taking time off due to a serious neck injury. It’s unknown when he can return. Gamma’s reign with the lightweight belt has pretty much become a farce already so I’m not going to bring it up until he loses. Saito & Yokosuka defend the tag titles on Saturday vs Dragon Kid & Pac.

Kensuke Office: Sasaki vs Marufuji and KENTA vs Nakajima are booked for 6/13.

New Japan: The G-1 Climax will run from 8/9 through 8/17, and it looks like either 2 blocks of 5 wrestlers or 2 blocks of 6. The first ever G-1 show in Korakuen will take place on 8/13. A couple big-ish matches are in place for 6/22, with Chono & Tenzan vs Makabe & Iizuka and Nakanishi vs Omori. Nagata & Nakanishi vs Nakamura & Hirooki Goto headlines Sunday’s show, with NakaGata having just taken Zero-One’s Emblem to a 30 minute draw today.

NOAH: Kobashi & KENTA vs Sasaki & Nakajima is set for 6/14. The three ‘random’ singles matches on Sunday will include Morishima, Akiyama, Marufuji, Rikio, Saito and Yone.

Section 3- Shilltoid the Omniscient

I am the champion! Sorta!

Glazer talks musculature!

Glazer talks shoot-style!

Section 4- Kenta Kobashi step 4 of 7

I’m not gonna lie to you: this is a healthy piece of real estate. I mean, these are some great matches for fans of Kobashi and fans of pro wrestling in general to enjoy.

23. Taue vs Kobashi, July 24th 1996
Importance: Kobashi’s 4th title shot, against the 4th different opponent. If he loses here that means he’ll have failed against the rest of the company’s top stars, if he wins he’ll finally out of Misawa’s shadow.
Uniqueness: Kobashi seems stronger, less of an underdog compared to his past shots. He took Taue to a draw in their last two matches and is more able to control things down the stretch.
Why it’s a good match: It isn’t flawless but it’s still really good with a lot of drama in the closing minutes.

24. Kobashi vs Kawada, October 18th 1996

Importance: A reprise of their January ’95 bout, and Kobashi’s best chance yet to finally put one over on Kawada. That said, Kawada has already beaten him twice this year.
Uniqueness: The last great 1 hour match of the ‘90s, and in Japan for that matter.
Why it’s a good match: Even with the slow patches there’s a LOT about this to admire in terms of non-technicians going long. Hard-hitting without going into overkill, some good hold work without straying too far from the established style, several high-quality transitions to reward you for paying attention, and long periods of tension where you *know* that one more big move will end it.

25. Kobashi vs Misawa, January 20th 1997
Importance: The tables are turned. After years of being the second (or third) fiddle to Mr. Elbow, Kobashi comes in with the gold. Is he finally going to pin Misawa?
Uniqueness: Instead of being based mostly on who’s tougher, there’s plenty of strategy and psychology.
Why it’s a good match: A very ‘Kings Road’-style main event with a long (and good) feeling-out process, limb work and control in the middle, and a hot finish. The middle stands out as Kobashi puts Misawa in a deep hole, and the finish stands out because of some huge bumps and huger nearfalls. Considered one of the best matches of the decade, with good reason.

26. Kawada vs Kobashi, April 19th 1997
Importance: Kobashi’s first Champions Carnival final. This is the third of three matches between Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi. Kawada comes in much fresher, having wrestled a far shorter match against Misawa, and Kawada takes the tournament with a draw while Kobashi must win.
Uniqueness: You tend to think of ‘Kobashi singles match in the main event at Nippon Budokan’ as being synonymous with ‘lots of finishers and nearfalls’. This isn’t anything like the epics we’ve been somewhat conditioned to expect yet it still works.
Why it’s a good match: Kawada wrestles a really smart match and that in turn gets you behind Kobashi to try and overcome the odds. Also they beat the crap out of each other.

27. Misawa vs Kobashi, October 21st 1997
Importance: Coming off Kobashi’s first-ever win over Misawa, he’s now proven that he has the firepower to get the job done.
Uniqueness: Despite being over half an hour long it’s got a lot of energy, especially in the finishing stretch. It’s also very self-contained and straightforward, especially compared to the January match.
Why it’s a good match: The finish. Don’t get me wrong, the start and middle are good, but the finishing stretch is one of the very best that the All Japan ‘90s crew put together.

28. Kawada & Taue vs Kobashi & Ace, June 5th 1998
Importance: Last hurrah for Kobashi & Ace, which was the first time Kobashi was the leader in a top-level team.
Uniqueness: Kobashi & Ace had a unique dynamic to them, and while they weren’t as effective as Misawa & Kobashi or Williams & Ace, they were still good together. This match is considered their best effort, thus the inclusion.
Why it’s a good match: I won’t lie, this is maybe the weakest link out of the 50. And that said there’s still plenty to enjoy, with Ace showing fire, good Kawada vs Kobashi exchanges, and Taue busting ass at the end.

29. Kawada vs Kobashi, June 12th 1998
Importance: To many fans, this marked the end of the Triple Crown in all-time classic matches. I for one don’t think any Triple Crown matches in the last decade were on the same tier as this. Don’t feel sad about it; be glad that you have the opportunity to see it.
Uniqueness: Even as it was somewhat of an ‘end of an era’ match (though nobody knew it at the time), it was also the peak of the Kawada vs Kobashi rivalry.
Why it’s a good match: For one thing it’s got a lot of wince-inducing shots spread over the course of half an hour. For another it excels as structurally sound heavyweight wrestling, with long and repeated struggles for control. They keep you guessing as to who will win out in their exchanges and mini-battles, and escalate to several fantastic false finishes. A match like Kobashi vs Samoa Joe is easier to enjoy, but Kawada vs Kobashi 6/12/98 has much more substance to go along with tons of invigorating action.

Next Time: Lots of big results from NOAH! The start of the Super Juniors tournament! Possibly more Kobashi!