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Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kenta Kobashi (AJPW New Years Giant Series 01/20/97)

AJPW New Years Giant Series January 20 1997 Mitsuharu Misawa Kenta Kobashi Osaka Title Changes Misawa vs Kobashi 5*

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#1 Loss

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Posted 10 July 2013 - 06:25 PM

Talk about it here.

#2 Loss

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Posted 24 July 2013 - 09:40 PM

This is the best display of heavyweight offense in a long world title match that I've ever seen. The match is all action from the start, but really settles into a groove when Misawa injures his already padded elbow and gives Kobashi a target. Not sure if it's because I've jumped around in years, but I'm pleasantly surprised at how over Kobashi's arm submissions are as potential finishers. Kobashi's moves and holds to work over the arm are all pretty awesome. The best thing about this match was the shifts in momentum. Every spot that changed the course of the match (Misawa's bump outside that injured his elbow, Kobashi lariat countered by the Misawa elbow, etc) was especially well done. My personal favorite was the spot where Misawa got just enough of an elbow in to block Kobashi's lariat attempt, which started his comeback. That finish of Misawa using the elbow after all the work that was done on it was so perfect in this case, like it was a last-ditch desperation move he was going to give everything he had since he had tried the tiger suplex and tiger driver, and neither was enough to put Kobashi away. I think Kobashi lost the match because he took a risk he didn't need to take. When he attempted the powerbomb from the apron and was countered by Misawa's rana, the match was no longer in his control. Misawa regains the Triple Crown and Kobashi's first reign comes to an end. Fabulous match, and if I see anything that touches this all year, 1997 will be quite a treat.

#3 MJH

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 12:11 PM

When people would ask me what set All Japan on a different level to (especially) the top US guys of the same period, or for an "intro" match, I always used this. Structurally, it's basically Bret/Owen at WMX - the top guy shows he's better, overcomes a short control, only to then accidentally injure himself (which can be overdone - Danielson, especially, would do it all the time at one point) and give the other guy a big opening. Only this match, of course, is on an entirely different level (and the Harts match is still a classic). I'm not implying that Misawa and Kobashi watched the Mania match on a day off and thought "yeah, that'd work for us" or anything, and there are some differences beyond that they go in different directions for the finish, but rather that, for someone coming in cold, familiar with the Mania match, and the way the structures overlap, it's easier for people to see just what set these guys apart. Offence certainly comes into it - your opening sentence is absolutely on the money; the depths these guys had offensively on all levels from low-mid-level through to high-end-finishers is absolutely staggering - but this is a match that only these two guys could have worked; all their strengths are on show and at their peak. That it's been aped, or attempted to be aped, and unsuccessfully, by so many guys since, doesn't take away from just how breathtaking a match this is.

#4 WingedEagle

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Posted 25 July 2013 - 02:20 PM

Matches like this one are why I'm rigidly going back through the yearbooks. I've seen all of these classics but am really looking forward to rewatching them in context after viewing just about everything along the way.

#5 Childs

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Posted 26 July 2013 - 10:05 PM

Misawa-Kobashi has never been my favorite Four Pillars match-up, but this match is undeniable. You start with the dynamic of Kobashi entering as champion. It's interesting to watch this after jumping from '91, because right off the bat, he did everything with so much more weight and purpose. With his early attack on Misawa's ribs, he tried to establish himself as the boss of the match and nearly succeeded. But Misawa still had the great equalizer -- that elbow. And they did a great job establishing its importance in the first 1/3 of the match. Which made Kobashi's long attack on the arm that much richer. First off, the spot where Misawa missed his diving elbow to the floor just looked sick. Then Kobashi did a masterful job going after it, climaxing with a few submission attempts that really had the crowd going. I also can't say enough about Misawa's selling of the elbow. He showed how much harder it was to counter Kobashi without his ace in the hole, and he showed how much it hurt to do anything with his arm, even after he had gained some control. Anytime, he fired the elbow down the stretch, it felt like a huge display of commitment. And fuck, the frankensteiner counter off the apron! Great set-up to the finishing run. Both guys were incredible in the last few minutes, showing how deep they had dug. It always feels true to Kobashi's character when he kicks out of one last huge move, even though his chance to win is gone. And there was a poignancy to him kicking out of the Tiger Driver '91, even as his first Triple Crown run slipped away. These guys had to feel as if they had been through a car crash. In recent years, I've come to love simple, intense matches. But this is a reminder that complexity can be pretty great too. They put on a fucking symphony, and it's hard to imagine anyone topping it, even with 11 months to go. P.S. I've always found it strange that Dave didn't go five stars on this one. Seems like the perfect match for him.

#6 NintendoLogic


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Posted 27 July 2013 - 01:29 PM

P.S. I've always found it strange that Dave didn't go five stars on this one. Seems like the perfect match for him.

If I'm not mistaken, Dave based his rating on the TV edit that only showed 22 minutes of the match.

#7 soup23

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 06:40 PM

Second puro match I ever saw. First was Misawa vs. Kawada 1/99 which was cool but didn't really hook me in. Watched this match right away and thought it was a step above but honestly at 15 years old it was above my mental capacity to really get it on a meta level. Every time I have watched it since, I have absolutely come to grips with how amazing it is and really flirted with it being my favorite All Japan match of all time even though I knew that was a lesser opinion. Now in the past 2 years I have watched all the general GOAT suspects. I feel confident that as of right now this is the best pro wrestling match I have ever seen. The main takeaway that put it over the top this time was the opening sequence. The rib work was compelling with Kobashi showing dominance and Misawa showing how integral to his overall moveset the elbow was. Of course once that elbow gets injured, it is on and Misawa is in real jeopardy and you feel an "ace" changing moment not unlike some of the feelings you get in 6/8/90. However, this match is able to mix in some of those elements and combine it with "epic" finishing match style that they had worked toward the past three years. That type of finishing exchange reaches its peak in this match and will not be equaled since. Everything kicked out of here made sense and added to the richness of the story being told. This match is truly a masterpiece. Edit: JDW mentions it below me a bit but I find it amazing that Misawa threw out these two masterful performances within 45 days of each other.

#8 jdw

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Posted 30 July 2013 - 06:50 PM

What's funny is that Dave gave matches that were JIP with less time shown on TV the full *****. :) Anyway, this is a great match. I enjoyed each Misawa-Kobashi after this less and less, eventually loathing them. Their matches before this felt spotty at times, formless at others while throwing lots of good stuff on the wall. This really to me is the only time they put everything together, and they just knock it the heck out of the park. It's a long match, but the elbow arm + lariat arm injuries gave them stretches to focus rather than just throwing bombs, which oddly enough makes it a more enjoyable 40 minutes for me than 40 minutes of them going bombs away. I'd say 12/06/96 and 01/20/97 are probably the end of the peak of work in the promotion. There's good stuff afterwards, how good depending on how much one likes the move towards more and more bomb throwing and the AJPW equiv of self reverential epics. But those tend to be the last two candidates for AJPW MOTD.

#9 Kevin Ridge

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Posted 10 August 2013 - 03:37 PM

I thought this match took place in Budokan. Kobashi was throwing the head dropping suplexes around. They are blocking each others big strikes. Kobashi was not even close to having his shoulders down on that Tiger Driver. These guys are just throwing huge bombs at each other. Love the struggle to apply the Tiger Suplex. Kobashi kicks out of Tiger Driver 91! Heck of a match for sure. I don't think it will beat my favorite WWF matches of the year but it's a contender.

#10 jdw

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Posted 14 October 2013 - 05:12 PM

I thought this match took place in Budokan.


#11 shoe

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Posted 05 October 2014 - 12:30 AM

I thought the first 5 to 10 minutes were kind of a feeling out process of sorts. After that though holy cow. This was just tremendous. The arm work from both guys was cool. Kobashi's facials were so great and just added to the drama.

#12 PeteF3

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Posted 13 June 2015 - 09:16 AM

Darn. 1996 was building all the way up to the MOTY at the end and '97 blows it off in the first month. But what a fucking match it is. Kobashi's the champion but he feels throughout this contest like the challenger, because in essence that's what he is. Misawa will have to fight to keep his spot but it's Kenta who really has something to prove. He comes through with probably his best performance to date--his selling, his timing, his comebacks and aborted comebacks, and his work on Misawa's arm are all top-notch--the arm work particularly stands out because Kenta's not really a "grab a body part and go to work on it" kind of guy, but he works that sequence perfectly here. And in fact his usual formless offense actually adds to the dynamic here--you're wondering in a kayfabe sense, "Uh-oh, Misawa blew out his arm...but does Kobashi know how to capitalize on that? Oh, shit, yes he can." MJH compared this to Bret-Owen earlier but the US match analogue I actually saw here was Shawn-Mankind, in terms of how the match built and progressed through a series of mini-matches. Misawa shines to start, Kobashi gets a token run of control where he never *really* seems to take control, Misawa shines again before blowing out his arm, then Kenta blows out *his* arm, etc. Over the course of 42 minutes this thing never went off-track and always felt like it was going somewhere. It's a close call, but I really think I enjoyed this more than 6/3/94--the suspense down the stretch was greater as both guys were working with one arm and it seemed impossible for either to put the other away.

#13 fxnj

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Posted 27 August 2015 - 10:01 AM

To me, this match isn't about all-time great offense so much as it is about all-time great selling. Kobashi was pretty much 1 defense from becoming the de facto ace, so Misawa's first big run of offense, I think, is actually a great way of selling his respect for Kobashi and that he wants to assert himself as still The Man. It's an interesting counterpoint to the 10/95 match that had Kobashi as the one trying to prove himself through throwing out the bombs early. 10/95 also saw Kobashi lose due to being unable to capitalize on said early run of offense and control the match for long periods, but here we see how he has learned from that as takes a page out boxing's playbook by working over Misawa's mid-section with the purpose of slowing him down later in the match. We also see some nice cut-off spots from Kobashi, again selling that he understands the importance of control. Kobashi actually comes across as the smarter and the more focused of the two, as when it's Misawa's turn to control the match again he just goes back to his usual hard elbow strikes, and pays dearly for it when he hits the guard rail and Kobashi takes advantage. Kobashi's arm work looks brutal and the submission attempts come at the perfect time of the match in terms of being late enough for the crowd to seriously buy them as potential finishes but still early enough to leave room for the real stretch run. They're also a great way of showing Kobashi's growth with him following up on a big suplex with an arm bar because he knows not only that it's still too early to pin Misawa but that working on the arm is his best chance at maintaining that important control of the match. Misawa's selling on his comeback of not just the arm but his general exhaustion from the earlier body work is seriously amazing stuff and some of the best selling I've ever seen. Him being unable to hold Kobashi down for a tiger driver beyond a 1 due to his arm, him botching a German suplex again due to his arm, and him struggling to climb the ring post just might be my 3 favorite moments of the match overall. To add to what Loss hit on, Kobashi's undoing seems to have been that he was a little too zealous to maintain control and keep Misawa down, and that was what led to those unnecessary risks. Not only is there the powerbomb-hurricanrana counter mentioned, but the fluke injury that turned the tide of the match happened when Kobashi foolishly went for the lariat a second time after it got countered on his first attempt. Even in those last few minutes surrounding the TD '91, on this viewing I actually felt like Kobashi was never really out of the match given that Misawa had to struggle to hit it while Kobashi still had energy left afterwards to attempt some weak lariats on a Misawa who could barely stand. It's just that zealousness led to him basically feeding himself into a TS '85, and that standing up immediately afterwards gave Misawa the perfect opening to knock him out with a running elbow.

Incredible match overall. An absolutely beautiful story told through breathtaking brutality and selling. I've seen it several times a year since my first viewing around 5 years ago and I still notice new things or come up with different interpretations on every rewatch. By the end of this viewing, I thought I had seen the best match ever, but I've also felt that way at points about several of their other matches. At least I have this solidly pegged as the best singles series ever, even as my mind keeps changing on what their true masterpiece is.

#14 rzombie1988

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Posted 05 May 2016 - 10:13 AM

My thoughts on this:


From: http://prowresblog.b...ta-kobashi.html

Mitsuharu Misawa beat Kenta Kobashi at 42:05 with a running forearm smash. I honestly didn't like this. Neither guy knew whether they wanted to do a technical match or an AJPW head dropping bonanza, so they just combined the two.

They match was most focused on Kobashi working Misawa's arm before it became the usual head drop fest. Kobashi worked it for the entire middle portion of the match but the arm work ended up meaning nothing anyway as Misawa ended up winning with the same injured arm, like I knew he would. The kicking out of the Tiger Driver '91 infuriated me. Following it up with Kobashi getting up from a dragon suplex didn't help matters either. I honestly was starting to think that a Tiger Driver off the building wouldn't have mattered at that point.

I also didn't like the length of this match. It went 42 minutes and could have used about 10 minutes or so less. These two didn't need the extra time and all the extra time did was allow things to escalate more than they needed to. It  felt like it could have went all night with the way things were going.

I'm going to hold off a rating on this one. I used to think it was a great match back in the day but this viewing totally soured me on it. There were some good things and the story was good up until the end, but they just had to blow it. At least the crowd was hot and ate all of it up, while I was here throwing it up.


#15 Microstatistics

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Posted 11 May 2016 - 11:15 PM

The level of complexity in this match is just mind blowing. Someone during one of the GWE podcasts said that no other two wrestlers ever could have had a match like this and I think it is definitely true. What I had said about about Misawa's arm selling and Kobashi in some other thread.



That was one thing that had always bothered me about the match because I thought he used the bad arm for throwing elbows too many times so I used to have it around **** 3/4. But on rewatch a few months, I noticed his subtle selling of the pain every time he threw a rolling elbow (crumbling in the corner from the pain, his arm going limp on his side) was a thing of beauty and also fit his character so I bumped it up to *****. And really Kobashi's performance and the rest of the match is too good for it not to be five star.

#16 The Russian Daydream

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Posted 26 June 2016 - 01:14 PM

This really was just a wonderful, timeless piece of wrestling. In a sort of Beethoven, Mozart, Shakespere sort of way, superficially it might not be somebody's cup of tea but if you take your time to really watch it, you see why this match is held in such high regard. Every move, hold, action and reaction has its place in the story, both within the match and the wider picture of All Japan at this time. Not only that, but the timing of each 'event' in the match was placed so perfectly too.

I don't really mind Kobashi's kick-outs at the end. It is not like he kicked out and came back. After the Tiger-Driver 91, he was a beaten man. His character was such at this time that unless he was rendered unconscious, he was not keeping his shoulders down regardless how damaged he had suffered. This was further emphasised by the length of time he lay motionless after the final fall.

#17 Zenjo


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Posted 08 October 2016 - 09:13 PM

More so than the other AJ Super-Classics this wasn't so much about the rivalry as it was about being an utterly extraordinary wrestling match. The structure, the move composition, the timings, the pacing, the match psychology. I was even sitting back thinking how great the transitions were. Fundamentally everything was near enough perfect. Then you've got the brilliant selling, strong execution and an audience that totally appreciates the splendour of what they are witnessing. Any criticisms I could make would be nit-picking considering the length and sheer physicality of the contest.

Despite going 42m it never felt like they were stalling for time. The opening 15m were of a brisk pace and action packed. Yet they didn't overdo it and held back the biggest moves. Then you had the memorable arm work on Misawa. Having not watched this for a long time I thought it was a bigger focus than it actually was. Whilst a fundamental aspect of the match it didn't take up that high a proportion of the time relatively. Misawa's philosophy of 'I don't care if I get injured, the Triple Crown is more important than my health' really stands out. It was a true epic with plenty of exhaustion selling and near falls. Kobashi kicked out of the Tiger Driver '91. In a rare display of emotion Misawa unleashed a guttural roar before delivering the killer blow.

I'm with Pete in that it kind of sucks in a way having the MOTY 20 days into 1997. Plus both guys had a better match the previous month. Just.

#18 Superstar Sleeze

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Posted 17 October 2016 - 08:31 AM

AJPW Triple Crown Champion Kenta Kobashi vs Mitsuharu Misawa AJPW 1/20/97

A lot has changed in the last 15 months, namely, Kenta Kobashi is the Triple Crown Champion having won it from Akira Taue in the middle of 1996. Misawa had dropped the title to Taue. Baba used Taue like he would a gaijin as the transitional champion between two major native stars. Kobashi main evented the October Anniversary show going to a draw with Kawada. Thus the hierarchy had become Kobashi and Kawada are equals (60 minute draws in 95 & 96) and that Misawa was superior to Kawada. Until Kobashi beats Misawa one on one in a singles match, Misawa will be considered his better. So even though Misawa is coming in the challenger, no one should mistake Kobashi for the favorite, he is the definitive underdog to Misawa The Ace.

The basic narrative of the match is that Misawa is the challenger so he is going to start hot. Kobashi has learned from his mistakes of October 95 is much more focused (midsection, arm). However, each man makes pivotal mistakes in the match that create meaningful momentum shifts and lots of drama surround dueling arm psychology (Misawas elbow & Kobashis lariat have been compromised).

First 15 minutes: Misawa gets off to a fast start because he is the challenger. He lands his diving elbow. Misawa is on point and wants to win back HIS titles. Misawa goes for a quick Tiger Driver. Kobashi does not let the match get away from him and scramble. He manages a DDT. Misawa powders and grabs neck. Back in and Kobashi hits some lethal spinning back chops. Brutal. He works over Misawas midsection; thats different. Punches to midsection, shoulderblocks, front suplex and ab stretch. Misawa getting an elbow here and there but Kobashi is cutting off by going to the midsection. More focused.
Kobashi Irish whips Misawa, dumb move basically creating separation for Misawa. Misawa puts on brakes and elbows him. Small mistakes against Misawa matter. Misawa is able to get a surfboard. Good control, but feeds into Kobashis strength. Misawa mule kicks out once Kobashi reverses. Kobashi comes running at him with a shoulder block and elbowed out of the sky. Another dunderhead move by Kobashi this time macho pride gets the best of him. Small mistakes will cost you against Misawa. You need wrestle a nearly perfect match.


Misawa karate kick and Kobashis powders. Misawa waits for him and gets butterfly suplex. Misawa in command grabs facelocks. Starts kicking Kobashi but doing more to fire him up. Great sequence where both men are unleashing strikes and it feels like a pivotal moment like whoever wins this exchange will take a big lead. Misawa wins and Kobashi ends up on the floor. At this point, Misawa is sticking to the game plan of slow & steady wins the race and after a couple Kobashi mistakes. It seems like a routine finish.
Misawa goes for his diving elbow again (ruh roh say all seasoned wrestling fans), but he ends up flipping over on apron. He kicks Kobashi into guardrail and then DIVESEATS STEEL!!! OW! That look like it hurt! Misawa comes up clutching his arm as Kobashi takes the high ground. Kobashi made some serious mistakes, but Misawa made the biggest in the first 15 minutes! Just like that the entire complexion of the match changes.


Second 10 minutes: Big lariat takes Misawa off apron. Big Misawa chants. Kobashi rolls Misawa in the ring to pin him, but only gets two. Barely lifts a shoulder. In one ten minute stretch, Kobashi works like the best Taue and Misawa in one awesome package. Focused with great counterwrestling! Misawa throws a weak elbow to show his elbow is hurt. Big knee from Kobashi crashing into the bad elbow and then a dropkick too the elbow. Then just ramming the elbow into hard objects. Great armwork that is laserfocused. Misawa is throwing elbows no effect. All three of Kobashis arm submissons are well set up. First Half Nelson suplex set up by all arm work leads to an armbar with lots of heat. Then Kobashi counters an elbow into a Fujiwara armbar. When Misawa blocks a German and charges Kobashi counters that into a cross armbreaker. Misawa tries a spin kick and Kobashi catches and throws and dumps him on his head. Laserfoucsed like Taue and excellent transition of Misawas offense into arm-related offense for his own purposes like Misawa would do. FANTASTIC Kobashi control segment!


Third Ten Minutes: KOBASHI goes for the kill shot: a LARIAT. Misawa gets up a lucky elbow that cripples Kobashis arm in one blow. He rolls to outside. Misawa hits a corkscrew plancha to outside that wipes up Kobashi. Misawa cant use the elbow might as well use whole body. Blocks Kobashi Lariat with double elbow. OW! Release German right on his skull! Then Tiger Driver, but in too much pain to get a proper cover. He goes up top for an elbow but Kobashi Lariats him out of the sky. Kobashi writhes in pain before covering. Kobashi selling his ass off. Powerbomb and the Orange Crush. Neither get him the duke. Kobashi is frustrated and in a lot of pain. Lariat blocked, but Misawa just rolls to outside. Kobashi stalks prey and is wounded himself. Powerbomb on apron NO MISAWA-RANA! Huge spot! Kobashi sells. Very critical stretch here. Misawa finally is able to make in roads by getting a desperation elbow to Kobashis arm that basically levels the playing field. However, Misawa is having a hard time capitalizing and when he goes for a high risk move (diving elbow from top) Kobashi makes him pay, but now he cant capitalize. It all comes down to the apron spot. Kobashi, bad arm, tries a powerbomb off the apron which would have been the home run shot, but a timely Misawa counter pretty much seals Kobashis fate.


Last 5 minutes. Misawa elbows. Shitty German due to bad arm. One Roaring Elbow, Two Roaring Elbows, Third One NO Lariaoto! Kobashin in pain. Dumps Misawa on head with headdrop German. It is on! Misawa ducks low and headbutts him in abs when he comes in charging. Roaring elbow to back of head. Tiger Suplex gets two. TIGER DRIVER 91~! ONLY GETS TWO! Kobashi chants. Kobashi clubs Misawa from knees and lunges again, but has nothing behind them. On third one, Misawa gets a Sleeper SUPLEX! AND Blowaway Elbow gives Misawa the win!


Stone cold classic. Everyone and their mother knows that. Selling by both men was off the charts great. Offense was incredible. Excellent transitions between segments. Every move had consequence and everything had a purpose. Love the story of ramping up mistakes. First it is small stuff like charging at your opponent with a shoulder block then it is diving from the apron into the steel railing and then it is the hurricanarana off the apron! The dueling arm psychology was tremendous especially when you have Misawas elbow and Kobashis lariat in play. Loved the inability to follow up down the stretch due to their injuries. Basically it came down to two things, Misawa got a lucky elbow that landed in just the right place to render Kobashis arm useless. Kobashi was running away with the match. When Kobashi had re-established himself, he went for that high risk move (powerbomb off the apron) thats how you have to beat Misawa with big time high risk moves and he paid for it. The last five minutes is pretty great you have to kill me before you beat me stuff that All Japan does well. Kobashi looks great in a loss and Misawa proves that when Triple Crown is on the line he will stop at nothing to retain and he just always has a little extra.
Greatest match of all time? No, I dont think so. Lock for top ten of 90s All Japan and pretty easy Top 25 match of all time. If someone has it as their greatest match of all time, I have no problem with that. *****

#19 JKWebb

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Posted 14 March 2017 - 08:32 PM



Well there you have it. The MOTD. On my short list for GOAT. An incredible match with an incredible story. Kobashi had me so sucked in. I'd say this is the third time I've seen this match, but it felt like the first. Sometimes something hits you at the right time and moment and this one did that for me this time. I always had it as *****, but I used to have Misawa/Kawada ranked higher in my mind. I don't think so anymore (not taking away from how awesome they both are). A few moments I love...
-Kobashi catching Misawa with that monster lariat after he has tried to recover on the outside (knocking him back down to the floor)
-Kobashi's perfectly timed fatigued kick out at 2 9/10 after the Tiger Driver '91
-How bad ass Kobashi looks standing beaten half to death taking the final blow from Misawa
I really loved the moments when Kobashi had those submissions locked in on the arm of Misawa. So much has been reviewed. It's all great. I have three more matches to go on this countdown, and I'll be surprised if this is topped for me, But hey, I've never actually seen the three ahead of me. So, that's exciting.

#20 Boss Rock

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Posted 01 August 2017 - 10:50 AM

One of my favorites from either man. Like Loss said, tremendous offensive heavyweight match, possibly the best ever. And while Misawa hitting that last forearm after Kobashi spent most of the match brutalizing it seems weird, it actually works. Despite how much punishment Misawa was put through, he still had JUST enough power to make it lethal. Like Hansen hitting a lariat with an already-damaged arm. A wounded animal is still dangerous. It's been a few months since I've seen this one but I was absolutely blown away. Perfect example of why these are two of the GOAT's.



Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: AJPW, New Years Giant Series, January 20, 1997, Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, Osaka, Title Changes, Misawa vs Kobashi, 5*

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