All Japan Presents "Giant Series 1997"
review by PdW2kX
Triple Crown Championship Match: Kenta Kobashi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa ©
Kobashi knows he's facing an uphill battle, so he rushes right out of the gate and begins ruthlessly assaulting his former mentor. Kobashi becomes too overzealous, allowing Misawa to easily counter a powerbomb on the outside with a Hurricanrana. From there, Misawa dominates, which is the exact thing Kobashi was trying to prevent. Alas, a multitude of hard-hitting and high-flying offense begins to take its toll on Kobashi. Somehow, Kobashi nails an insane Avalanche Splash off the top rope to the outside, and follows it up with some chain moves to keep the heat on Misawa. Misawa takes an insanely stiff Half Nelson Suplex outside the ring, and sells it like his neck is broken. Plenty of nearfalls follow, with Misawa working his way back via a variety of offense, including Diving and Rolling Elbows. Misawa's vaunted Tiger Driver gets 2¾, but Kobashi fires back with a huge Powerbomb into a corner of the ring, followed by a Moonsault that gets an ultra-close 2¾! Misawa elbows Kobashi right as Kobashi lariats Misawa, and both are down! Misawa with a Tiger Suplex, Rolling Elbow, and a Tiger Driver… 2¾!!! A Burning Lariat by Kobashi gets 2¾! TIGER DRIVER '91! MISAWA HITS THE TIGER DRIVER '91! Misawa is finally and unquestionably able to hold Kobashi down, pinning him after one of the most insane matches I've ever seen. Both men can barely stand (Misawa needs the help of at least four men to even attempt to stand), and sweat literally pours off of both. Despite the absolute hell these two put each other through, they end up shaking hands and both are literally carried away to recuperate.
Analysis: This, ladies and gentlemen, is what pro wrestling is all about. "Without a doubt in my mind", "bar none", and all my other lovingly-attached cliché's give way to the following statement: this is one of the greatest matches of all time. It is now one of my favorite matches, as I actually feel privileged to watch this thing, no matter how weird this sounds. This wasn't a wrestling match, this thing was a masterpiece of pain. I got goose-bumps watching this match, and the only other time that ever happened to me is when I was watching what I consider the greatest match of all time. The level these two pushed each other toward…nothing can fully describe it. This kind of chemistry and emotion comes by once, maybe twice, in a generation of wrestling. It's an epic battle that fired on all fronts, assaulted my senses, left me breathless, and in the end, I felt just as drained and emotionally spent as the two men that made this match happen. This match deserves to be put on a pedestal…it makes me proud to say "I'm a wrestling fan". This type of magic simply can't be put into words- nothing I say could do justice to something like this. Had I not seen 6/9/95, I truly think this would be my current Greatest Match of All Time. ****¾
Stan Hansen, Shohei "Giant" Baba, and Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Giant Kimara, Tamon Honda, and Fuchi
Baba looks to be enjoying himself as he tangles with Kimara, better known as Kamala of WWE fame. Jumbo and Hansen work over Fuchi, but Honda brings the pain with numerous headbutts to Baba, plus a few slams. Kimara takes a pounding and gives it back, but ends up admiring some fine Japanese ceiling more than once. Honda gets double-teamed, but responds with lots and lots and lots of headbutts. After a cluster-****, Honda ends up taking the finishers of all three of his opponents, so it's basically a mercy killing when he's pinned.
Analysis: Although it's a fun little match, that's really all it has going for it. It felt like "one last run" for the good guys, designed to both put over talent and give the fans some good memories. Although Honda did the job, simply being in the ring with three of AJPW's greatest made the opposing team seem very important. Although, as stated before, this match was far from serious, despite a few points where things got a little heated. Generally, Stan and Jumbo were very laid-back, and Baba seemed to only be in the match to have fun- he seemed to particularly enjoy Kimara's wild-man antics, as I caught Baba smiling openly numerous times. I like that this 6-Man has some of AJPW's greatest talent in it, but in the end, all three greats were pretty much on their way out, and while they gave us a decent match, realistically this encounter is nothing to get especially excited over. **½
Triple Crown Championship Match: "Dr. Death" Steve Williams vs. Mitsuharu Misawa ©
After a bit more "chain" wrestling (it's actually a lot more like two guys rolling around) than I would like, Misawa and Dr. Death work in a small-level brawl until Steve targets the legs. Williams eventually heels it up big-time with underhanded tactics designed to take out Misawa's lower ligaments. Misawa reverses a backdrop into a DDT, then begins making Steve pay for his cheap tactics in a variety of ways, most of which involve gratuitous use of elbows. Somehow, Dr. Death is actually able to Tiger Suplex the former Tiger Mask II, and follows it up with a Doctor Bomb that gets 2¾. After a particularly brutal Dangerous Backdrop, Misawa hits a flurry of elbows, including a Rolling Elbow, and ends up winning the match after no less than three Tiger Driver's.
Analysis: The match had some good animosity, and despite being a mismatch in my eyes, it basically worked. Its psychology was that of the classic "dirty American vs. valiant Japanese" story, a story that has roots in the very foundation of Puroresu. Although the logic is dated, it definitely works, as Williams got a strong heel reaction and everyone popped crazy for heroic Misawa. The only thing I particularly disliked about this match was the stalling…the "testing each other out" part of this match just dragged and dragged. Yet, compare it to a good story and a nice finish. In fact, you'll see that much of the positives counter-balance (and at times, outweigh) the negatives. While it's not a particularly notable or vaunted Misawa Triple Crown defense, it's definitely not a bad one. ***
Final Thoughts: After so much AJPW goodness, there's really not a lot more I can say. When I started, part of me thought that referring to my upcoming set of AJPW reviews as "The Best" was a little presumptuous. Since then, I've watched some of the greatest wrestling that has ever existed, and have tried to be as fair and balanced as possible, despite much of what I reviewed being a wrestling fan's wet dream. None of these sets, even the single-match DVD's, have let me down, not in the least bit. This particular set features one of the highest-rated matches I've ever reviewed, a match I feel is one of the greatest matches of all time.
Although it took me almost a year to finally crack them open, my line of classic AJPW reviews has honestly been the highlight of my time as a reviewer of pro wrestling. Consider this, then consider the fact that I have three shows left. This isn't a joke, or hyperbole, or anything that could be construed as false…now more than ever, 90's All Japan Pro Wrestling is the greatest promotion that has ever existed. As I watch more and more from this era, I feel more and more confident that nothing even comes close to 90's AJPW, at least in my own experience as a watcher and reviewer. If you need a pick-me-up, watch this stuff. I can't even describe how proud I feel at matches like Kobashi/Misawa. Watching a match like that….it restores your faith in wrestling. This is essential viewing, no matter if it's $3 or $30 or even $300. Despite being only three matches long, and despite having one decent and one good match, the inclusion of Kobashi/Misawa leads me to give this DVD one of the highest ratings I've ever given.
Final Rating for All Japan Pro Wrestling "Giant Series 1997": ****½
For more of PdW2kX's reviews, visit http://pdw2kx.awardspace.com