April 16, 1999


The tape begins with the usual, massive, clip job showcasing the various matches of the tournament to explain the path to the finals. Takao Omori is the token jobber, losing by submission to Akiyama (not even Exploder worthy) and his only non loss being a time limit draw with his partner, Takayama. The important things here are Misawa’s win over Vader (which led to Misawa challenging for the Triple Crown at the Tokyo Dome) and Kobashi bouncing back from his loss to Vader in January and taking him to the time limit.


VADER vs. KENTA KOBASHI (Champions Carnival Finals)

The booking here isn’t anything special, but it makes enough sense. The loss to Misawa and the draw with Kobashi during the tournament was the first chink in Vader’s armor since joining All Japan. A second win over Kobashi helps reassert Vader as the top dog, and it gives Kobashi a new hurdle to clear en route to becoming All Japan’s ace. The Carnival winner is typically the next Triple Crown challenger, but with Vader already holding the titles Misawa got the nod, which gave Vader the chance to avenge his loss during the tournament.


Their first match was a fun, and hateful, affair with Kobashi getting over the power and brutality of Vader, which had all but vanished after his time in the WWF. But, instead of playing off that match, they almost go in the opposite direction here. It’s like Kobashi and Vader seem to think that because they’re the main event, they need to have a “Budokan Main Event” sort of match, which only results in making this come off like they’re both holding back. It makes sense for Vader to be tentative at first, he’s the one with the most to lose here, so it’s understandable that he doesn’t take the fight to Kobashi straight away. It’s nice to see Vader take Kobashi to the mat early to try to win that way, but it didn’t wind up meaning anything other than a little nod to Vader being a former champion in UWFI.


It also doesn’t help that Kobashi feels the need to show off some of his goofier tendencies instead of making the match more plausible (a.k.a. stupid no selling for no good reason). It starts with Kobashi getting hit with two short arm lariats and staying on his feet, followed up by him ducking the third and hitting a kick to the gut. That itself is fine, but then he gets hit with the third lariat and drops like a safe anyway. It gets worse when Vader hits a big avalanche in the corner and Kobashi blows it off and hits a running lariat, and then proceeds to start unloading on Vader culminating with a DDT on the floor. Why not just have Vader miss the avalanche? It’s not like Kobashi got hit with an avalanche from Kentaro Shiga. There is a nice stretch from Kobashi where he attacks Vader’s knee and tries to make him submit, with some great selling and reactions from Vader, but instead of doing something potentially interesting, Kobashi drops it in short order.


The finish they work seems to be a nod to the Misawa/Kobashi series, with Kobashi surviving the big guns and then falling to something simple. But Vader’s running tackle is nowhere near the level of Misawa’s running elbow, so all this accomplishes is wasting his big guns. Six or seven before this, Vader vs. Kobashi would be an absolute dream match, but there’s almost no doubt in my mind this is the worst Champions Carnival final of the decade.


Conclusion: It’s not totally worthless, but it’s quite a step down from their match from January (which itself wasn’t anything outstanding). No reason to seek this out at all.