When you’re in the mood for good matches, there’s nobody more reliable than good old pre split All Japan. Even though things were on a bit of a decline after 1998, they were still more than capable of producing good stuff when given the opportunity.

Toshiaki Kawada . . . doesn’t let a little broken arm stop him from winning the Triple Crown.

Akira Taue . . . beats the high holy crap out of Kenta Kobashi, and it ruled, even though he lost.

Yoshinari Ogawa . . . proves his uselessness by barely escaping with his title after getting the win almost handed to him.


Although this is probably best know for either the Ganso Bomb or the broken arm, it’s still a damn good match and a great example of proof that there was a time when Misawa and Kawada’s worst was better than almost anyone else’s best. And while this certainly isn’t their worst, it’s a far cry from their best, although they do mange to do a number of good things in the twenty-five minutes they’re given. It’s Misawa and Kawada, so they don’t do anything resembling holding back when it comes to the strikes. At one point Kawada kicks Misawa so damn hard that he sells his own leg. And speaking of legs, Kawada does a damn fun job in targeting Misawa’s knee, which starts when Misawa hits an ugly looking Tiger diver, almost a cross between the regular and the ‘91, and sells his knee afterwards. Kawada pounces all over Misawa’s bad knee, and for the most part, Misawa does a respectable job in selling, although there’s an odd moment when he takes a knee buster and blows it off for an elbow.

Again, as fun as this is at times, it’s mostly known for two moments. Kawada’s broken arm is obviously a factor in the match not quite hitting the highs they’re usually able to, and it’s quite the morbid example of karma, considering their 1995 Champions Carnival match and Misawa’s broken orbital bone. Honestly though, the arm doesn’t really seem to make a huge impact on what they do. Kawada never really sells it and Misawa never really attacks it (both of which are for obvious reasons), and Kawada doesn’t have much problem pulling off several powerbomb attempts, the Ganso Bomb, and the brainbuster that finishes Misawa. So while the arm certainly played a factor in the match not hitting the high marks, it’s far from being the only reason.

The Ganso Bomb is easily the biggest spot of the night, with quite the crowd pop, and they were good enough to build up to it in a sense. Considering how long they’ve been working together, they’re more than a bit familiar with one another, so it’s no surprise that Misawa has several blocks and counters to Kawada’s stuff. He stops a powerbomb with a rana, catches several kicks and hits elbows, and blocks the Ganmengiri. If the match was based on a point system, Misawa would be clearly ahead, but the Ganmengiri is pretty much the ultimate burn in that sense, Misawa stopped a good amount of stuff, but Kawada had one counter and it was a doozy. It can be argued that it should have been the finish, but honestly, the way Misawa puts it over is more than able to make up for it. He eats a Ganmengiri that he can’t even try to block and does a long fall, including knocking the ref down, and after that, there’s no doubt that the brainbuster will finish him. The best way to sum this up is that it’s a great example of showing that Misawa and Kawada could both still bring it at this stage, but for several possible reasons, they weren’t able to muster it up this time around. ***1/2

There’s a few brief clips of the yearly battle royal. We don’t see the end, but it’s not important, the point is that it’s established that Kobashi and Vader don’t like each other. They brawl all over the floor, and Kobashi gets some juice. A quick shot of a locker room door with a broken window and the dojo boys sweeping it up leaves enough to the imagination of how much they don’t like each other.


Now this is the good stuff! It’s basically predicated on two things, Taue and Kawada being total dicks about going after the bandage on Kobashi’s face, and the difference in rank between Kobashi and Akiyama. The match often goes back and fourth around those two ideas, but nothing comes off feeling tacked on, or that it was done just to get back in that direction, everything flows nicely and makes sense, even when Kobashi gets a little goofy toward the end, it’s not too bad.

One would only need to watch the first five or so minutes of what’s shown (the first seven or so minutes are clipped) to get a good idea of the difference in rank amongst the champions, the match starts us off with Akiyama trying to get a Scorpion applied, but Kawada (who’s knee must have already been worked over judging from his selling) is able to lie on the mat and keep Jun at bay with kicks. Akiyama tags in Kobashi who takes over on Kawada’s knee, including the ultimate in ironies, putting Kawada in a standing half crab. When Kawada gets the tag is when the fun really picks up, Taue is a magnificent dick with attacking Kobashi’s forehead, and Kobashi does a fine job in putting it over, Taue even holds him for a charging Kawada kick to give Tosh a little payback, as well as nearly breaking the announce table by slamming Kobashi’s head into it. Taue doesn’t always attack the cut just to heel things up though, he’s smart about using to get his team closer to winning, such as his good near fall from the jumping Dynamic kick, as well as using a reverse Nodowa to lead into a Dynamic Bomb.

Akiyama eventually has to tag back in to keep his team in the game, and he’s successful for a short period of time, but he falls prey to his much more experienced opponents, and it forces Kobashi to have to get back in and whether more abuse to keep them in the running, which is what Kobashi does when he more or less makes Kawada a non factor after a big lariat. Kawada isn’t out for good, although he may as well have been, all he does afterward is try to help Taue, and Akiyama holds him back. With the match down to Kobashi/Taue, Kobashi takes the abuse and hands back enough of his own to finally score the win after a Burning Lariat. It’s annoying to see Kobashi not reacting to Taue’s chops and punches to his forehead, but after some of what Taue threw at him, it makes sense that they wouldn’t have as big effect as they had before. Unlike the last match this isn’t an example of their worst being better than most guys’ best, this is just an example of how good these four were. Period. ****1/4


In a nutshell, Vader pounds Kobashi, Kobashi pounds Vader, and then Vader pounds Kobashi for the win. Thankfully the match is more exciting than that, but the fun touches that they add don’t seem to do much to make this all come together, and there’s some typical Kobashi goofiness, and unlike the tag titles match, there’s no awesome Taue stuff to make it seem plausible. The biggest saving grace here is the way Vader puts over Kobashi’s offense, even though he’s got the size and power advantage, not to mention that, even at this point in his career, Vader is walking definition of brutality, Vader sells Kobashi’s strikes and offense very well, but still believably, Kobashi’s chops and slaps have the right effect, and something bigger, like the lariat or backdrop suplex, has a bigger impact. Vader also doesn’t hold back when he’s bringing the pain, although some of Kobashi’s ideas here are head scratching, such as making a comeback *after* taking a powerbomb on the floor and getting a big splash after being rolled into the ring, and making said comeback without any selling at all.

Kobashi isn’t always frustrating though, he’s really good about selling the punishment that Vader dishes out, and he adds one of the best touches in the early portion. Vader, knowing that Kobashi isn’t known for his matwork, and drawing from his UWFI days, takes Kobashi to the mat and tries to crossface him. Kobashi winds up escaping and catching Vader in a hold he’s all too familiar with, both from UWFI and New Japan, the juji-gatame and after several block attempts go wrong, Vader has to bolt for the ropes. Although he wasn’t as good as Taue, Vader was also good about using Kobashi’s injury as a means to put the breaks on Kobashi’s offense and take control of the action, which is how he winds up winning, after a quick shot at the bandage (which by this point is mostly over his left eye as opposed to his forehead) he hits a big slam, two Vader Bombs and a Big Van Crush for the win. It’d be interesting to see what they could have done together in ‘92 or ‘93, but what they did was still decent. ***


Nice job, Ogawa, it takes real talent to make *yourself* look like a chump, even in victory, when coming into the match as the champion. Kakihara spends the first half of the match or so pelting Ogawa with strikes, it’s not overtly interesting, but it’s got a sort of sideshow appeal to it, watching Misawa’s #2 guy getting the cream cheese kicked out of him. Ogawa’s big moment comes when Kakihara kicks the ring post and he’s suddenly got the easiest job in the world, and he totally tanks it. With only one or two exceptions, Ogawa’s assault on Kakihara’s leg isn’t much different from Flair casually setting someone up for the figure four, the only high points are when Ogawa starts to stomp the knee, and when he puts the post to further use. Kakihara milks it for all that he can with selling, but Ogawa’s lack of ability to do anything interesting just tanks it. And the sad part is that Kakihara successfully mounted a comeback, hit his finisher, and Ogawa had to flash cradle him on an armbar attempt to win, so not only could he not even carry his own weight, he couldn’t bother making himself at least win in a convincing manner.


So this needed to be shown in full? Izumida has nothing to offer for passable offense aside from headbutts, and Honda’s only decent looking offense is Germans. The only real standout is Hayabusa, he either brings or is involved in virtually every decent spot or exchange, but it’s just tossing out his spots and not any real storytelling attempt is made. The plancha to the floor was gorgeous and it was impressive to see Hayabusa drill Izumida with that fisherman’s buster, but they didn’t do anything to further the match. The only time it looked like the FMW guys had a prayer was after the best part of the match, when they leveled Honda with a double facebuster and then took turns with various flying moves. Shinzaki’s gusher was a nice touch, but it was throwaway given that it happened so early in the match and that he didn’t really put over any fatigue from the blood loss. One could argue that his delay in the praying powerbomb was a result of that, but only a minute before that he’d had no problem using some of his signature spots (Mandra Hindrei, Stranglehold, flipping enzuigiri, diving shoulder block) on both Honda and Izumida. The delay was only there so Izumida could headbutt him from behind and let Honda take over and finish him off after spiking him with the Dead End three times. The other tag title match has seven minutes cut, but we have to see all of this? Hayabusa and Shinzaki would be invited back on the next tour and win the rematch between these teams, so they must have done something right here.

Conclusion: AJPW was on the decline in the late 1990's, but this is still a pretty decent pick up. Lots of good stuff, and even the not so good stuff at least had something in it to enjoy, thumbs up for this AJPW Commercial release.