Jun Akiyama . . . takes the fight to the Triple Crown holder in every way that he possibly can.

Kenta Kobashi . . . receives a king-sized ass-stomp from the kings of ass-stomping.

Hiroshi Hase . . . stretches out a junior heavyweight, just for kicks.


The way that this match plays out isn’t exactly fresh, Misawa takes a monumental beating and then makes the comeback and wins, but, this is still quite a step up for Akiyama. Akiyama has to carry the offense, and he does just that, throwing damn near everything, except the proverbial kitchen sink, at Misawa. But, Jun also adds a fair share of smart touches to things as well. One of his biggest spots is the Tombstone on the floor, it’s an impressive spot on its own, but, after Akiyama gets Misawa back into the ring, he keeps focusing on Misawa’s neck with a pair of swinging neck breakers as well as a nice headlock segment, to show that he’s trying to not fall into the head drop routine. The problem, though, is that the head drop routine is the only way that anyone is giving Akiyama a prayer of winning, Akiyama’s near fall from the Northern Lights plays to crickets, but, the Osaka crowd comes unglued for the German suplex.

As critical as I’ve been of Misawa’s performance in these sorts of matches, this is one case where he deserves some credit. He mostly leaves the match in Akiyama’s hands, for better or worse, but, he doesn’t completely take the match off. He brings some Tsuruta-level grumpiness in the form of a senton on the floor, and then follows that with a plancha while Jun is still down. Misawa’s stoicism has rarely allowed for great selling, but, he’s about as good as he can be here, after the near fall from the Rolling Germans into the Blue Thunder driver, the look on his face says “I’m getting too old for this.” The finish puts over Akiyama as much as possible, with Akiyama surviving the Tiger driver (which had beaten him in September) and the running elbow (which had won Misawa the titles), and needing to invent the Emerald Frosion in order to finally put Akiyama away. If nothing else, this serves as an example of how well a motivated Misawa could use his ‘by numbers’ formula to make someone look good in defeat, which is miles better than most of his similar matches in NOAH. ***1/2


There only seem to be two goals for this match to accomplish: to pass the titles to Kawada and Taue, and, to make Ace look like Superman for his Triple Crown challenge the next month at Budokan. Thirty-two minutes just for that is way too much. They could have easily chopped off a couple of the near falls during the final stretch (there isn’t any good reason why the Nodowa/Powerbomb combo wasn’t the finish), and a good bit of the early portion, and not lost anything. The really fun part to this is watching Kawada and Taue bust up Kobashi’s knee, Taue kicks things off with two knee busters on a ringside table, and they’re both as nasty as ever, the only thing missing was Kawada’s face-stomping half crab, he does the crab, but not the stomping. But, that only leads to frustration, because Kobashi only bothers to sell when it’s convenient for him, and that pretty much stops when he gets the hot tag to Ace, and, it only briefly returns to explain Taue’s counter to the powerbomb on the floor, the events of which led to the Nodowa off the apron.

Protecting Ace to lead into the Misawa match makes sense, but, the ways that they go about it cause them to shoot themselves in the foot. His run after Kobashi’s hot tag is pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a southern tag match, only more clunky and awkward, because he’s trying to emulate Robert Gibson and Steve Armstrong instead of Doc and Hansen. He gets a decent run with Kawada where even after getting worn down from Kawada’s kicks, he still has enough strength to block the powerbomb, counter a backdrop, and surprise Kawada with an Ace crusher, and, that’s the best thing they do. Ace saves Kobashi from being double teamed and has some success against both Kawada and Taue, but, he needs to be out of the way so that they can keep working over Kobashi, and it takes a simple backdrop to put him out. It’s the same story later on, when he saves Kobashi, and eats a ganmengiri and a Nodowa, only Taue loses him in the middle of it, but, once again, he has to sell it like death to allow them to keep beating on Kobashi. The finish (after entirely too long, and, with too many near falls) is Kobashi getting pinned after a jumping Dynamic kick from the top, and it was a simple kick that put Ace out of commission and allowed the title loss. Ace doesn’t get any sort of meaningful run against Kawada or Taue to give the impression that he can save the titles for his team. He’s content to leave things to the three natives, and, while that might have made for better overall, work, it doesn’t make it seem plausible that he’s got a prayer against Misawa. ***1/4

There are some clips of Misawa/Baba/Mossman versus Kawada/Kobashi/Fuchi, but, aside from Kawada lighting up Baba with chops, and Baba getting the pin on Fuchi, nothing shown was all that interesting.


If this was Hase versus Kakihara, Takayama, Albright, or Doc, then it’d probably be worth the twelve minutes spent on it. But, nobody believes that Kikuchi is going to be any sort of challenge on the mat to an Olympian like Hase. Granted, Kikuchi’s All Japan career had been defined by him getting beaten on, so, this is par for the course. It’s a nice demonstration of Hase’s mat skills, but, that novelty wears off with nine minutes left in the match.

Conclusion: A good, but flawed, tag match, and a very good Triple Crown match is good enough for a recommendation in my book.