EXCITE SERIES on 3/5/95
review by Mike Campbell
I’m taking a somewhat different approach to this review. VAP released two commercial tapes, each containing one match. I’ve simply combined them into a single review, in the interest of saving time and space.
Johnny Ace . . . tries to be a tough guy.
MITSUHARU MISAWA/KENTA KOBASHI © vs. JOHNNY ACE/STEVE WILLIAMS (AJPW World Tag Team Titles)
Steve Williams and Terry Gordy had been the top gaijin tag team in AJPW in the early 1990's, having held the world tag titles multiple times, and also winning the 1991 Real World Tag League. By 1994 however, Terry Gordy had overdosed on drugs and left AJPW, and Williams needed a new partner. Johnny Ace had previously been paired with Stan Hansen who was the top gaijin in AJPW, but Hansen was getting pushed as more a legend, than the top gaijin. Ace was paired with Williams for the sake of Stan’s legend push, as well as give Williams a new tag team partner.
Misawa and Kobashi had first won the AJPW World Tag Titles on 12/3/1993 by winning the Real World Tag League. Misawa and Kobashi would hold those titles throughout 1994 and defeated Williams and Ace in a title defense on 7/22/1994. However Williams was able to bounce back a week later and get a small measure of revenge for the loss by winning the Triple Crown from Misawa. Williams also got a small measure of revenge on Kobashi when he defeated him in a Triple Crown mach on 9/3/1994. The 1994 Real World Tag League rolled around and Misawa and Kobashi vacated the titles as was the tradition for the Real World Tag League (this was actually the final time that the tradition was honored). Misawa and Kobashi were once again able to win the tournament and claim the titles, and on the final night of the tournament they were able to get by Ace and Williams to finish ahead on points. In January, Misawa and Kobashi held their eternal rivals Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue to a one hour draw and are the champions going in.
The main story of this match centers around Johnny Ace. Steve Williams and Terry Gordy were not only both great wrestlers, but were both bad asses. Johnny Ace is a decent worker but with his toned physique and long blonde hair, he can’t very well pass as a bad ass. He tries his best though as he’s constantly glaring and yelling random swear words at two counts. Ace also sells rather oddly, by thrashing his arms around. It gives the appearance that Ace is really being rocked, but looks odd coming from someone his size. Also, Ace hasn’t had the experience that Doc has had with both Misawa and Kobashi, so Doc has to keep holding his hand. Ace gets in plenty of his little chops and slaps, but he can’t get any real offensive moves on unless Williams helps him. Williams gets tired of seeing Ace getting demolished and finally just tags himself in and goes after Misawa. Kobashi and Ace are holding back their partners. Kobashi, probably for Misawa’s health, and Ace, to make sure Doc doesn’t do anything nuts. Doc attacks Misawa from behind and starts to work on his elbow arm with a short arm scissors. Doc takes a quick cheap shot at Kobashi on the apron, and tags in Ace to see if he can at least follow suit. Ace starts to work over the arm, but the second Misawa gets Ace in the corner to free himself, Ace is on his own. Ace misses a blind charge and gets caught with the spin kick. Misawa repays Doc for his cheap shot on Kobashi and then they hit Ace with their power bomb/body press for two, when Doc saves yet again. Kobashi tries his moonsault and Ace pulls him down. Ace can’t even do his big moves, unless Doc helps him out, as is shown when Ace tries to do his own moonsault and Kobashi pulls him down. Doc slams Kobashi and lets Ace hit the moonsault for two. Ace’ needing Williams to help him isn’t anything groundbreaking. Williams in the top gaijin and Ace is his lower ranked partner. This was a very common theme in AJPW, teams like Baba/Tiger Mask, Hansen/Spivey, and Tenryu Kawada were always formed as a way for the lower guys to try to raise their stock.
Kenta Kobashi plays a big role in this match too, whereas Ace needs Doc to hold his hand and save him an any turn, Misawa trusts Kobashi to get the job done and doesn’t need to save him at the slightest bit of trouble. Kobashi decides to show his growth as a wrestler and goes toe to toe with the former Triple Crown champion (and the man who defeated him five months previous). Doc unloads on Kobashi quite a bit but Misawa never runs in and tries to save Kobashi. The only time Misawa feels the need to is after Kobashi suffers a spine buster from Williams. Kobashi had kicked out of the spine buster, so Williams goes up top and attempts a spine buster. Kobashi blocks in mid air and it turns into a super belly to belly suplex with Kobashi getting the bad end of it. Misawa saves Kobashi from the pin and then gives him some time to recover in dropping Doc with a Tiger driver. Kobashi is able to get his marbles together and tag in Misawa. Ace gets tagged in to and he sells Misawa’s elbows like Terry Funk, with the way Ace is flailing his arms all over the place and staggering around.
The Ace story takes a twist towards the end when Misawa has Ace in position for a monkey flip and Doc grabs Misawa from behind and does a backdrop that sends Misawa right on his head and almost unconscious. Ace is clueless and winds up tagging Doc when he should have just gone for the cover, Doc knows that Misawa is recovering somewhat so he puts Misawa on his shoulders and Ace does a lariat. Kobashi makes the save though, and then brawls with Williams outside and Williams hurts his knee. Ace still opts to not go for the pin and goes back up top to hit another lariat, only Misawa elbows him on the way down. Misawa knows Ace needs Doc to help him and with Doc on the floor holding his knee, Ace is in trouble. Misawa tags in Kobashi, Misawa already has a couple pins on Ace, so getting the pin will do more for Kobashi. Kobashi tries the moonsault, but Ace pulls him down. Kobashi switches gears and hits a Tiger suplex and Doc rushes into still make the save. Misawa and Doc start to brawl and Doc throws Misawa over the top and then tries a pescado and further hurts his knee. Kobashi hits a guillotine drop for two, and then he comes off the top with a second one and nobody is around to save Johnny Ace. The champions retain and Kobashi’s stock goes a bit higher as he showed he could go toe to toe with Williams. Ace still needs some work though since he couldn’t even go toe to toe with Kobashi. ****½
STAN HANSEN vs. TOSHIAKI KAWADA © (Triple Crown)
I think it would be quite the fair assessment to say that 1994 was pretty lousy for one Toshiaki Kawada. More often than not, Kawada found himself on the losing side, and on the rare occasions that he didn’t, it set him up for a bigger loss. Kawada started 1994 fresh off losing the Real World Tag League with his partner Akira Taue. Kawada and Taue lost their final league match to Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi, even worse is that Kawada was pinned by the much lower ranked Kobashi. Kawada experienced a brief run of success when he was able to pull out the victory in the Champions Carnival that year. Kawada and Taue took another crack at the tag titles on 5/21/94, but were still unable to take the gold. Kawada’s Carnival win earned him a shot at Mitsuharu Misawa and the Triple Crown on 6/3/94, but Kawada still was unable to win the gold and to score the pin that he was so desperate to score. Finally in October, Kawada was able to defeat Steve Williams (who defeated Misawa in July) to obtain the Triple Crown and end the year on a somewhat high note. Kawada started 1995 bittersweet as he and Taue were still unable to take the titles from Misawa and Kobashi, but Kawada was able to fend off the challenge of Kobashi and hold him to a 60:00 draw. Kawada spent the better part of three years trying to defeat Hansen and he’s only done it once. If Kawada makes it two tonight, it will be a big step in showing that he has what it takes to be the top guy in Zen Nihon Puroresu.
Stan Hansen is a definition of a legend, he’d been with AJPW ever since the final night of the 1981 Real World Tag League, Hansen is a multi time Triple Crown champion, two time Champion Carnival winner, winner of numerous Real World Tag Leagues, and has held tons of titles. Defeating Stan Hansen was what cemented Mitsuharu Misawa as the number one man in the company. In the here and now though, Stan Hansen isn’t the superstar he once was. He’s getting up in years and younger guys are taking over the top spots. Hansen is finding himself more often in teams with Giant Baba than as a viable title contender anymore. A win here will show that Stan Hansen may be getting up there, but he’s still a force to be reckoned with in Zen Nihon Puroresu.
Despite being the champion here, Kawada is at a big disadvantage here. Hansen is much bigger than Kawada, so Kawada won’t have his two best moves, the Dangerous Backdrop, and High Angle Powerbomb at his disposal. Hansen has many wins over Kawada, so he knows exactly what he needs to do to secure the win. Although he’s only got one win, Kawada knows what to expect from Hansen. Hansen combats this by using some moves you don’t see too often. After a stiff exchange, Kawada is sent to the floor and Hansen dives out doing a shoulder block suicida, very reminiscent of another wrestler Kawada can’t seem to beat. They brawl on the floor and Kawada realizes that its not 1990 anymore and that he can’t let Hansen just bull him around, so Kawada uses his high kicks and fights off Hansen. Kawada throws Hansen into the ring, only for Hansen to come flying off the apron with a shoulder block, once again very reminiscent of that same other person Kawada can’t beat. Hansen sends Kawada back into the ring, and now that Hansen knows he’s into Kawada’s head with his strange offense, he goes back to what worked before and that is brawling and using his size to his advantage. Kawada fights back and uses his famous high kicks at Hansen’s face, Kawada also mixes with the same move that won him the three titles in the first place, the jumping head kick. Kawada tries for the power bomb too early and Hansen take him right over, Hansen does a power bomb of his own, and then a power bomb with a leaning pin, just to rub it in Kawada’s face. The #2 man in the promotion can’t be expected to take that lying down though, and as Hansen tries for the lariat, Kawada kicks him in the arm. Kawada proceeds to work over Hansen’s arm with more kicks and an arm bar. Kawada takes another chance with his big moves and tries a brain buster, but Hansen won’t budge, so Kawada switches gears and goes to a Fujiwara arm bar. Hansen is holding his arm in agony. Kawada has now got himself inside Hansen’s head by not using his normal moveset, so Kawada goes back to what he knows will work for him, and that’s the Ganmengiri.
Kawada though makes the mistake that costs him dearly. Kawada went for some personal revenge and gave Hansen a lariat. In a way you can’t blame him, because he’d been through so much failure and disappointment, that it was only fitting that he get a little bit of personal glory. Kawada has Hansen in a weakened state and he uses a lariat, now although Kawada has used a lariat to win matches, it can’t be a coincidence that he does that, after Hansen used a folding powerbomb earlier in the match.
Kawada using the lariat unfortunately has awakened the sleeping giant and Hansen starts to kick at Kawada, Hansen attempts the Western Lariat, but he goes easy to try to protect his arm, and Kawada barely goes down. Hansen’s twenty two years experience have taught him that winning is the important thing. Hansen’s arm will eventually heel, but he may never have this chance again. Hansen does the full charging Western Lariat and Kawada goes down like a tree. Hansen rolls around and holds the arm, then crawls over to pin. Kawada doesn’t have a prayer, and even Hansen’s momentary pause to sell his arm won’t help him out. The ref counts to three and Kawada’s first reign is over. Once again, the momentary high he got from winning it, and subsequently being able to hold back Kobashi, served to set up yet another loss. ***1/4
To read Mike Campbell's puroresu reviews, visit his site at http://splashmountain.150m.com