It has been said that the greatest era of wrestling was the 1990s in All Japan Pro Wrestling. So it stands to reason that the greatest match of all time must come from that place in that time. You just have to narrow it down. Even amongst a litany of the most amazing wrestling matches ever there are three matches that by consensus stand above. It is these three matches that will be the subject of this edition of Defrost Reviews.
AJPW 6/3/94 (Tokyo Nippon Budokan)
Triple Crown Championship
Triple Crown Champion Mitsuharu Misawa vs Toshiaki Kawada
AJPW 6/9/95 (Tokyo Nippon Budokan)
AJPW World Tag Team Championship
AJPW World Tag Team Champions Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi vs The Holy Demon Army
1996 Real World Tag League Final
The Holy Demon Army vs Mitsuharu Misawa and Jun Akiyama
Now it is not as simple as just watching these matches and comparing what does and does not continue on or is played off of from match to match as is usual in these reviews. The style of All Japan booking dictated that there is a ton of baggage leading into all these matches. Kenta Kobashi’s leg in the tag title match, or what Kawada pinning Misawa meant. So instead we’re going off format and will instead give you the reader the case each match makes as being the best of all time. With the cases made we will then give you the Defrost Reviews verdict on this matter.
Before that it should be noted that going into this it was the opinion of Defrost Reviews, no idea why I am acting like that is more than one person but whatever, that the final of the 1996 Real World Tag League was the greatest match of all time. However, this was not an opinion come to after watching all three matches in a row.
- This is the finest hour of Mitsuharu Misawa. He was at the peak of his athletic abilities and everything he does in this match looks so fluid and so crisp. He is perfect in this match.
- The psychology is pitch perfect. Kawada has been less than Misawa ever since Misawa beat Jumbo 4 years earlier. Kawada has never beaten Misawa in a singles or a tag match. Kawada has had enough of the existence of Misawa. His frustration boils over at points where he stomps on Misawa’s head instead of going for the win or his disgust when Misawa works over his leg
- Speaking of the leg when Kawada takes a clear advantage Misawa goes to the leg that he, and his regular tag partner Kenta Kobashi, had been attacking for months.
- Kawada’s main striking are kicks. The style of selling is that the matches involve a struggle and as time goes on one man is worn down more than the other and eats one finisher too many and loses. So since Kawada’s leg had been worn down over months his kicks had nothing left at the end so there was nothing to stop the onslaught on elbows and suplexes from Misawa until being finished by the Tiger Drive ’91 a move Misawa had not used since the year of its name.
- Special consideration must go to the crowd. The crowd is awesome. Chanting for both guys at just the right time. The whole atmosphere makes it feel huge
- Have to begin at the end. Kawada pins Misawa for the first time. For half a decade Misawa had been the #1 native talent and Kawada #2. And Misawa had beaten him like a drum. Like Bugs Bunny to Daffy Duck beaten. No matter what Kawada would do Misawa always made the comeback. No matter the punishment in the end Kawada would be taking elbows to the face, getting suplexed on his head, and Tiger Driven to death. Not here. He finally breaks through.
- There are heels and babyfaces in this one! That was never the case in All Japan. It was pure sports. But here Kawada and Taue attacking the injured leg of Kobashi incited the wrath of the crowd.
- Kenta Kobashi is amazing in this match. The best performance of his career and he is in the shortlist of greatest wrestler ever. Misawa and Kawada are also on that list. Kobashi is great at selling being the weakened warrior, but his greatest contribution is during the finish. Kobashi’s leg is shot to the point he is of no use to Misawa. All he could do was lay on top of Misawa and act as a human shield as Kawada and Taue rained blows from above. Great drama during the finish
- The leg work is the crux of the thing. Kobashi had his leg worked over in a six man tag leading up to this show by Kawada and Taue and he had his like wrapped like a mummy in this match which just made it more a target. As mentioned the crowd hated when Kawada and Taue attacked it, and attack it they did. Taue chokeslammed Misawa onto Kobashi’s leg and then Kawada came off the second rope onto it. Whenever, Kobashi gained any momentum they’d go straight to the leg including a sneak low dropkick by Taue for which Kobashi in his comeback would get his revenge and do to Taue. Kobashi’s comeback consisted of going ape on both his opponent’s legs and teasing the one legged sault. After many thwarted attempts Kobashi did finally come off the top with a one legged sault onto Kawada for his last bit of offense. However, in the end he was a one legged man in an ass kicking contest.
1996 Real World Tag League
- Akiyama was not yet a main event guy. A plucky young guy ,who happened to be amazing, was where he was at. He had been working a lot with Kawada developing a rivalry and had started using the Exploder as his big move not long before this. Kawada had beaten him in their matches, the only guy Kawada was beating in 1996, but the early part of this match shows Akiyama’s growth with him getting the better of Kawada to start out.
- Taue was having a great year in 1996, winning the Champion’s Carnival and the Triple Crown, and he saves Kawada from a beating from Misawa and then takes out Akiyama with a chokeslam off the apron to the floor which takes Akiyama all but out of the match.
- The last ten minutes of this show was the greatest finishing stretch of any match ever. As mentioned Akiyama was gone, and Misawa was left to the wolves. Or Demon Army. Whatever. So Misawa fights. He fights both of them at the same time. He had spent the entire year saving Akiyama from beatings and now when he needs Akiyama he is nowhere to be found. So he takes suplexes and chokeslams and powerbombs, but he still keeps coming. It is easy to lose count of the elbows to the faces of Kawada and Taue. It was like Die Hard if Alan Rickman won in the end.
So there are the cases. After careful deliberation Defrost Reviews has come to a verdict
Results and Ratings
Triple Crown Champion Mitsuharu Misawa defeated Toshiaki Kawada via pinfall at 35:50 with the Tiger Driver ’91. Mitsuharu Misawa retained the Triple Crown Championship (Star Rating: *****)
The Holy Demon Army defeated AJPW World Tag Team Champions Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi via pinfall at 42:37 when Kawada pinned Misawa with a Powerbomb. The Holy Demon Army won the AJPW World Tag Team Championship (Star Rating: *****)
The Holy Demon Army defeated Mitsuharu Misawa and Jun Akiyama via pinfall at 31:37 when Kawada pinned Misawa with a Powerbomb. The Holy Demon Army won the 1996 Real World Tag League. (Star Rating: *****)
Average Rating: *****