All Japan Pro Wrestling on 1/19/95
review by PdW2kX

Akira Taue vs. Tommy Dreamer

Dreamer gets the early advantage, but Taue release-presses Dreamer over the top rope to assert himself. Dreamer hits a flurry of offense but almost none of it affects Taue. After battling back into the lead, Taue hits a quick Nodawa Atoshi to score the pinfall.

Analysis: And so we're off to a bit of a slow start. It's a rather plodding match, with no real flow and a definite lack of charisma or emotion. Tommy felt greener than a forest, even Taue sensed this. The bad thing is that, instead of pushing Tommy to bring out his best, Taue figured he had an easy night and put the match on the backburner. Nothing much happened here, so there's no real reason to watch this except to pass the time. Although there's nothing particularly wrong with it, lazy Taue and green Tommy does not a good match make. **

Stan Hansen, Doug Furnas, and Dan Kroffat vs. Steve Williams, Johnny Ace, and Johnny Smith

Stan and Steve brawl and trade elbow drops, then Doug and Ace trade kicks. Outside, Johnny Smith dodges a powerbomb only to get clipped with a flying clothesline. Doug Furnas is isolated from his teammates, even taking a pretty nasty Piledriver. Stan tags in and tears into Ace, which prompts a mini-cluster that sees Stan tease the Western Lariat. After a bit, Stan manages to hit the Western Lariat and picks up the victory.

Analysis: This was a good "big man" match, in the promotional style and with the promotional flare of mid-90's AJPW. All six men were larger than life, ranging from huge powerhouses to burly brawlers to muscled men that could move. You'll get a lot of power moves in this match, but you'll also get some good drama that helps evens things out. Although it stunk a little bit of the dreaded "Let's put six random guys together so everyone can get camera time" mentality, the overall quality of wrestlers involved means we still get an enjoyable encounter. ***

Giant Baba, Mitsuharu Misawa, and Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Jun Akiyama, Omori, and Tamon Honda

Akiyama is able to dominate Misawa in the early going, but barely manages to hold on to his lead, and Honda loses the lead altogether after a big elbow. Baba tags in and isn't afraid to rough up Honda, causing Honda to headbutt his chest repeatedly. Jumbo tags in and manages to hit a few Jumping Knee's, but Omori is able to incapacitate Misawa even though he expends a lot of energy doing so. This draw on Omori's energy takes its toll, as he falls after only one well-placed elbow. Jun and Baba mix it up, with Jun really laying into Baba. After Omori is double-teamed, Baba gets double-teamed a bit as well, but Misawa ends up taking the victory after a Tiger Driver on Takao Omori.

Analysis: Other than Honda mysteriously disappearing halfway through the match, this was another good six-man tag pairing two of AJPW's legends with a legend-in-the-making (at the time) while the opposing team consisted of the newest generation of AJPW stars. Although they lost, Baba and Jumbo made their opponents look and feel like major threats. Just competing in a match with the likes of Baba and Tsuruta elevates your status, but the unselfishness of Baba and Tsuruta made Akiyama, Honda, and Omori look like they could be major players given time (this, of course, would prove true for the most part). Baba and Tsuruta certainly got their shots in, it wouldn't make sense if they didn't, but when it was time for them to be on the losing end, both legends bumped and sold their butts off for their opponents. Misawa did neither, but then again, he's Misawa- he's the biggest star of AJPW's 90's era, so he wasn't quite ready for the "passing the torch" role that Baba and Tsuruta took. Misawa was all about being Misawa, and at this point in time, just being himself guarantees us a good outing. All told, everyone in this match (including the losing team) looked great and gave us something worth watching. ***

Triple Crown Championship Match: Toshiaki Kawada © vs. Kenta Kobashi

Before the match even starts, you can practically feel the hatred oozing out of these two. Both bring out their big guns early on, and both go into stand-offs frequently. Kawada looks to attack Kobashi's bum leg, but Kobashi is ready for him. Lots of grappling follows, with Kawada finally getting a lead after nailing a German Suplex and immediately going to attack Kobashi's leg. Kobashi battles through the pain, part of his strength lies in BURNING SPIRIT~ and part of it is good 'ol hate-induced rage. Kobashi goes after Kawada's head and neck, leading into a long line of stiffness. Both are evenly-matched until Kawada gets a dose of his own medicine: Kobashi begins to relentlessly pick apart the knees of his opponent. Kawada is reduced to attempting short flurries of offense followed by quick pins; they do some damage but not enough to put Kobashi down and out. Kobashi begins a series of final salvo's, hitting Kawada with everything he has left in the hopes of finally putting down his rival. After numerous nearfalls and some highly-dramatic submission spots, the 60-Minute Time Limit expires, giving neither man the victory. However, they do mange to shake hands post-match, and Kawada even raises Kobashi's hand.

Analysis: Although it wasn't Kobashi's night to win the Triple Crown, everything about this match carries the strength and wonder of 90's AJPW. It's a classic of epic storytelling, a constantly-shifting story that changes to suit some very contrasting styles. Both men had a game-plan, but were forced to adapt time and time again, to the point where the start and end of the match felt completely different. Kobashi and Kawada hated each other so much during the opening bouts that you could practically feel their rage transmit through the television screen. They completely annihilated each other, and a sense of respect was slowly forged from their repeated beatings. Kawada, usually stoic despite the direst of situations, began to lose his calm as Kobashi wouldn't go down. Kawada wanted that big victory, and you could sense his frustration and growing urgency as time ticked down and Kawada still couldn’t beat his rival. This match is a testament to Kobashi's enduring character- the whole "Burning Spirit" thing isn't an act. Kobashi is legitimately one of the toughest wrestlers I've ever had the pleasure to watch, and his will to survive is only matched by the way he draws you into his relentless assaults and epic comebacks. Kawada's character is just as fantastic, an amazingly brutal anti-hero that does not know the meaning of "give up" or "stay down". Everything you love about wrestling is here, loud and clear, giving further credence to my belief that AJPW during the 90's was the greatest promotion to have ever existed. ****

Final Thoughts: With the inclusion of three matches, this edition holds up slightly better than the other "single-match only" AJPW DVD reviews I've done. Although one of those reviews did feature what many regard as one of the greatest matches of all time, this set still features some classic goodness, rounded out with a somewhat-subpar singles match and two good tag-team matches. Taue/Dreamer was nothing major, but it's something, at least. The first six-man match pitted six huge guys beating the crap out of each other, while the second six-man match featured two legends putting over the newest generation of AJPW stars, further proof that Baba and Tsuruta should be commended for their altruism at creating new stars as well as their long history of fantastic matches. And in the main event, Kobashi and Kawada absolutely tore the house down and proved that there was nothing finer in the 90's than a big AJPW main event. With two good matches, one slightly bun match, and one match that excels in sheer brilliance, this one easily deserves a place in your collection. My love and appreciation at this era of AJPW continues to grow, so pick this up and see for yourself why there is no "greatest match/wrestler of all time" discussion without a mention of folks like Kawada, Kobashi, and Misawa.

Final Rating for All Japan Pro Wrestling- January 19, 1995: ***¾

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