Jump to content


fxnj

Member Since 06 Nov 2013
Offline Last Active Today, 01:16 AM
-----

Posts I've Made

In Topic: Wushu - Is this Pro-Wrestling?

13 January 2018 - 07:52 PM

Nice to see a 3-way that isn't a clusterfuck.


In Topic: Undertaker could be coming back

12 January 2018 - 08:58 PM

Hope he does come back. Love me some old man Taker. 


In Topic: Greatest Match Ever Project

11 January 2018 - 09:07 AM

Project been great so far. We need more people participating, though.


In Topic: Toshiaki Kawada vs Kenta Kobashi (AJPW Super Power Series 06/12/98)

11 January 2018 - 07:47 AM

This was actually the match that got me into 90s AJ after some of the pimped 6-mans didn't do much for me (I was stupid). The way this builds is just incredible to watch and even though the matwork has never lit me on fire, I appreciate how uncooperative they make it look and how starting out slow makes what they do later feel even more brutal. I've been meaning to do a long write up explaining how life-changing this match is for me (along with the 20 other 90s AJ matches I'm a huge mark for) but the magic is kind of gone from the many times I've rewatched it.

That moment of making a long write up for this match is today.

 

One of the best matches of all time and one that holds a special place in my heart. This is a match that saved my interest in wrestling, began my first deep dive into 90's AJPW, and which has played a huge role in shaping my tastes as a fan. Back in 2010 I was pretty close to leaving wrestling behind as a hobby between all the news about concussions that was coming out and the quality of wrestling around the world being in a rut. I saw a classics reairing of this match show up on Lynch's mailing list, though, and decided to order it on a whim to get a taste of 90's AJPW and see what all the fuss was about. When the DVD came and I popped it in I sat in awe for the duration of much of the contest as I watched these two warriors lay it into each other in a way that I'd never witnessed before in a wrestling match. The striking and selling on display was on a different planet than anything else I'd seen and the story of Kobashi's underdog victory over a Kawada at the top of his game really stuck with me.
 
I think this is a deceptively simple worked match. The consensus seems to be that it's a supremely well-worked match but one that is kept out of the true upper echelon due to lacking an epic story like you see in the top AJPW matches. I can't blame people for thinking that as the basics are extremely well-done in this match--as mentioned, it might the best worked match from a surface perspective out there--and the moves are kept pretty simple aside from a few big throws in the middle portion of the match. Yet as good as this match is from a surface perspective, I feel that the same depth that separates the truly great AJPW matches is present here if you look for it. The gist of the story is Kawada trying to knockout Kobashi with his kicks only to get worn down by Kobashi's ability to withstand an ungodly amount of punishment. Beyond that, they also play off both Misawa's reign and Kawada's victory the prior month with Kobashi going after Kawada's neck just as many challengers had done to Misawa before and Kawada employing a similar strategy of repeated cut-offs that had gotten him his Tokyo Dome win. As simple as the work might seem, I think it's a very ambitious match combining the high level psychology of peak AJPW with elements from boxing and MMA. 
 
I get why this match isn't as fondly remembered as the best Misawa/Kobashi or Misawa/Kawada. Whereas those matches are seen as happening at the peak of the company, this comes in a down period for the promotion and the decision to have Kawada drop the title on his first defense is one of Baba's most infamous decisions. Even in those conditions, though, Kawada gives a true performance for the ages--maybe the best of his entire career--as if to give a "fuck you" to Baba by showing the incredible matches we missed out on by not giving him a proper ace run at this point. As cool as Kobashi's 1998 run was, there's no question I'd give that up to see this version of Kawada fight Akiyama for the Triple Crown. 
 
You can tell you're in for something special from Kawada just by looking at him in the ring introductions. I think this and the Misawa match at the Dome might have been the only times I've seen him with visible abs. Playing off their prior matches that went the distance, they start things slowly to conserve their energy. The play-by-play commentator mentions something about the ace of the promotion and Baba runs through some potential challenger for whoever wins this. After a test of strength sees Kobashi the victor, they go to the mat and do some cool stuff. Highlights were Kawada getting Kobashi's back and driving his elbow into Kobashi's ribs and Kobashi later escaping into side control to attempt a keylock. It's pretty basic compared to the RINGS stuff from this period, but they make up for that with working in such a great sense of grittiness to it that I love it all the same. Kobashi solidifies his advantage with a headlock that he does an awesome job of wrenching in. It really looks like he's trying to rip Kawada's head off his shoulders. Kawada decides he's had enough and initiates a (great) strike exchange that Kobashi wins with a chop to Kawada's neck. It's hard enough that Kawada has to go outside for a breather. Back in and Kobashi goes back to work on Kawada's neck until Kawada gets some relief by putting everything behind a hard yakuza kick. It's as if Kobashi is saying with the neck work that if you want to be the ace you've got to take a beating like Misawa took when he was the ace. Kobashi manages to get back in control with a knee to Kawada's ribs that Kawada does an awesome sell for. They go back-and-forth for a bit until things break down into a slap exchange that Kobashi wins when a scores a knockdown on Kawada. It's been awesome watching how they've escalated things from the opening matwork. They're now far removed from wanting to conserve their energy and now it's just about seeing who's tougher. Both guys look to be going for the knockout.
 
First big momentum shift comes when Kawada manages to come back with a hard lariat. Kobashi looks rocked and Kawada follows up with some hard knees to the back of Kobashi's head. Kobashi manages to find his way to his feet, though, and we see the beginnings of his rope-a-dope strategy as he positions himself near the ring ropes and uses them to hold himself up in the face of an onslaught of kicks to the head from Kawada. Kawada manages to get a knockdown when he lands a kick hard enough to send Kobashi crumpling into the corner. Love Kobashi's selling and how they've been making such great usage of knockdowns so far to give it the feel of a big prizefight. Kobashi gets up again and Kawada does some kicks to Kobashi's good leg, which is interesting. The injured leg is right there as a target and would get attacked next month by Akiyama, but here I guess Kawada really wants to leave no doubt that he deserves to be the ace. Anyway, Kawada quickly goes back to kicking Kobashi's head while Kobashi keeps using the ring corners to hold himself up, and it's awesome with the kicks looking stiff as hell and Kobashi's selling on point. 
 
Kobashi mounts a bit of a comeback when he powers his way into landing a half-nelson suplex despite Kawada's attempts to block it. Kobashi looks like he can barely walk with his bad knee so, perhaps sensing the urgency of his injury, quickly follows up with a powerbomb and tiger suplex. Kobashi's comeback is short lived, though, as Kawada nails him square in the forehead with an enzuigiri to counter an attempted top rope shoulder block. I could see some bemoaning Kobashi not even getting a control segment off all those big moves, but Kawada's selling is so good and he looks like such a badass coming back that I barely care. Kawada goes back to work on Kobashi, landing more brutal kicks and a backdrop driver. Not looking good for Kobashi at this point. Kawada goes for his own powerbomb and they do a great struggle spot. Kawada hits it after softening up Kobashi with some kicks to the head while bending him over, but Kobashi kicks out. A second power bomb after more struggle and another kick out. Really seemed Kawada expected that to be the finish as he went for the same rape looking cover he used in his victories over Misawa. Kawada follows up with a stretch plum and the crowd noticeably dies down as no one expects that to be the finish, and it actually adds to the match to me by making Kawada feel that much more desperate in going for it. Backdrop driver after Kobashi reaches the ropes and stretch plum again, and people still aren't buying it. He keeps at it, though, and a Kobashi chant breaks out. He goes for a pin after Kobashi looks out of it, but Kobashi kicks out. Powerbomb attempt to follow and they do an amazing job of milking the struggle over it. It really feels like this is Kobashi's last chance to avoid losing. Kobashi keeps the hope alive when he finally reverses it, but Kawada stays in control by following up with another head kick before collapsing into the ring ropes. Incredible spot. Kawada is trying the same strategy that worked on Misawa of cutting his opponent off whenever he looks to be gaining momentum, but it might not be working quite as well this time. Kawada stays in control but he does an awesome job of selling his growing exhaustion and there's a feeling that the tide may be turning even as he continues to brutalize Kobashi. 
 
Kawada kicks Kobashi into the corner again and there's a great spot where Kyohei looks to be asking Kobashi how many fingers he's holding up while he looks glassy eyed. Kobashi's selling has been fantastic the whole way through so far. Kawada continues landing some hard kicks as Kobashi sits on the turnbuckle for more rope-a-dope and Kawada's facials are so good. It's as if with every kick he lands he's thinking "Just fucking die already!" When Kobashi grabs Kawada's leg it feels like the biggest moment in the match so far, which is quite the accomplishment given the head drops they've done already. Kobashi hits a dragon screw to Kawada's leg only for Kawada to try to fight through the pain and eat a LARIAT! HOLY SHIT! Kobashi only gets a 1 count but the crowd is going nuts. Awesome touch that Kawada is so intent on proving himself that he denies Kobashi of a 2 count even at this stage. Kobashi hits a few leg drops but seems to aggravate his injured knee. He goes up top anyway for the moonsault, but Kawada rolls out of the way before he can even attempt it. They do a chop exchange and Kobashi wins with a chop to Kawada's neck as a callback to the neck work from earlier. Awesome. Jackknife powerbomb from Kobashi gets 2. He follows up with another powerbomb and finally gets the moonsault, but Kawada kicks out. He slaps some feeling into his bad knee and fires himself up into standing position. In 6/9/95, hitting the moonsault with an injured leg was what took Kobashi out of the match, but he's grown since then. Kawada tries to fight his way back into the match, and they work an amazing sequence with him repeatedly trying to use his kicks to block a 2nd lariat until Kobashi hits it anyway. Kawada manages to muster just enough energy to stand up and fake out Kobashi to hit an enzugiri in another awesome sequence.  They both lay on the mat for a while and there's a great camera shot of Kawada where it looks as if he's wondering "is my ace run really ending before it begins?" Kobashi stands but Kawada catches him in a surprise arm bar in another awesome near fall that has the crowd going crazy. 
 
Probably my favorite moment of the match comes after Kobashi reaches the ropes and stands up. Kawada just unloads on him with some of the stiffest kicks I've ever seen, which is saying something as the match is full of really hard shots from him. It looks like he's putting everything he has into in a last ditch effort to take Kobashi down (but still refusing to hit the injured knee!), but Kobashi steam rolls him with a 3rd lariat using the same arm that Kawada just hurt. Kobashi collapses immediately afterward selling his arm, but Kawada definitely looks the worse for way. They get up and both look to be on chicken legs, but Kobashi is the more alert of the two manages to score a 4th lariat. Kawada kicks out, but he's clearly done. Kobashi signals to the crowd before lifting a Kawada who can't even stand on his own up for a 5th lariat. With that, a new era begins with Kobashi as the undisputed ace of the promotion for the first time.
 
This match has long been a favorite, but going through it as I've just done makes me think this might be the best singles match I've ever seen. Both guys give career performances here in their selling, struggle, and offense, whilst playing their roles to perfection. Some of the best exchanges and fight for control segments I've seen in a match, and it's masterful how organic they make the escalation feel. The storytelling is as compelling as any I've seen with Kawada pulling out everything to prove himself as the ace and Kobashi coming back from an ass whooping of epic proportions to seize victory. Kawada was great in selling his growing desperation as the match progressed and it's so poetic how he lost not long after Kobashi managed to eat the hardest shots he had. Also, I'm a fight fan, so I also loved all the little touches they worked in like the knockdowns, the rope-a-dope, and the fake-outs. No real flaws to speak of with even the excess of this period being worked into the match very tastefully and arguably even adding to the match. I love how after all those big head drops and a moonsault it's something as simple as the trusty lariat that serves as the main difference maker. Such a great match. Easy 5 stars.

In Topic: Greatest Match Ever Project

05 January 2018 - 11:24 PM

Every time I've sat down and tried ranking wrestlers I freeze up when I start asking myself some questions about the whole thing and end up concluding the whole thing is bunk.

 

"How can I factor in the contributions of agents and trainers into my list?"

"How can I make a list without ridiculously over-privileging guys with tons of taped matches over those less fortunate?"

"How do I compare guys working shoot-style schedule to WWE schedule?"

"Is it possible to make a list that isn't simply a ranking of guys with most taped great matches/Is it possible to make a list that isn't simply a ranking of styles?"

"Is the whole thing a waste of time when I've never worked a match and have no idea how easy or hard any of these guys actually are to work with?"

 

The whole ranking wrestlers thing seems very emotionally based to me, hence the grudges. It's impossible to agree on a solid criteria of how to do it and there's always gonna be a lot of issues, so emotions end up dominating. Ranking taped matches is comparatively much more simple and less problematic, so I doubt it will be anything like what we saw with GWE.