1) Stan Hansen v. Takao Omori- 2
Our first match of this epic round robin was a quick one, Hansen surprisingly giving up a lot of offense to Omori, who immediately went to work on Hansen's arm presumably to negate the lariat, but Hansen fights out of every attempt. Couple ill convceived dropkicks and the lariat still works, and puts down our Liu Kang lookalike and we're off!
2) Doug Furnas v. Mitsuharu Misawa- 4
This was a cool matchup, Misawa was just as devilish with his elbows in his young days as he was till his final match. Actually this match was more about strikes than anything, with Furnas kind of using his power advantage for much of it, suplexes, slams and such but everytime he went to his brutal chops, that was Misawa's opening, he'd always fire back. Furnas didn't make many covers though, which bothered me since he was on offense so much. He also blew a couple spots, once at the beginning of his control then leading towards the finish. The ending though was completely mind boggling as Misawa hit some big elbows, then took Furnas down and wrenched on a very loose leglock that got him the submission, maybe Mits wanted his new leglock to be over so he figured he'd win with it, i don't know, but it didn't make any sense in the match.
3) Jun Akiyama v. Toshiaki Kawada- 7
I really dug this matchup, can't say as I've seen these two going singles before, except at that Speed Dating mixer in Kyoto back in '91. This had the classics story of underdog up and comer fighting his heart out against tough badass top star. Both guys played the role perfectly, Kawada delivering some serious face breaking kicks and Akiyama just absorbing loads and loads of sweet punishment. He was like a Japanese Wall-E in this, getting slammed, kicked, and wrenched (Kawada's submission from a Camel Clutch position where he instead takes the arms out full stretch then bends them down past Jun's head was Vietnam prison type torture) Some people might think this goes too short for it's story, but it actually was perfectly timed at around 17 mins, with Jun sufficiently evading mutliple big moves and hurty locks to finally succumb to the stretch plum after several times. Awesome exploders here too and Kawada, not known for his thespian chops, was playing surprise very well.
4) Akira Taue v. Kenta Kobashi- 6
This was All Japan at it's finest, it alleviates the soul to go back to this time period and re-watch what has made most of these guys legends for all time, the hard hitting style here was just unbelievable, nothing really can compare to it in the States. The whole first 15 minutes or so was just a dogfight that would even scare Michael Vick shitless. Just sickening chops and elbows from both guys, it had a real untrained look to it with sloppy moves and them brawling on the ground like the scene from Christmas Story. I also loved both guys really hard bumps and shoves they utilized throughout, like a spot to get a breather and create space between them. It kind of hindered the plot of the match but it became how tough Taue was where he actually just took over and really brutalized Kobashi to the point of sympathy. Fantastic ending, long in the tooth like most 90's AJW fare, but certainly worth tuning up on your laptop for instead of rewatching a Lady Gaga Youtube clip for a nipple slip.
5) Dan Kroffat v. Doug Furnas- 4
This was conceptually kind of cool, long time partners that were playing off that they knew every move the other was going to do. Furnas totally playing the strange looking powerhouse who just left the circus circuit with Kroffat throwing really mean kicks to his ribs and grinding him on the mat. This ended with a flash pin on a not so spectacular move so wasn't impressed with that but for what happened leading up to it, pleasantly surprised. Has breathed far better than some of their ECW work but not as well as a bottle of Conde de Suibraits Brut Cava circa 1927.
6) Jun Akiyama v. Takao Omori- 5
This was a fun match with the youngsters of the tournament, both felt anxious and energetic, probably sweating palms, shortness of breath and slight rise in trunks but they kept the fast paced. One thing that stuck out i was bothered by is Omori basing a lot of his transition and offense around lariats, when he was like the 9th best guy doing lariats in the fed, so it was really illogical. You could see they would be able to have a much better match in the future from the potential shown.
7) Dan Spivey v. Johnny Ace- 1 (clipped)
Damn thing was clipped way down, but even here I could see Spivey still hadn't advanced that far in the game. Really slow sluggish slamming and he took bumps like an elephant working the late shift coming down off an Amped Energy Drink high. Finish sucked balls too.
8) Giant Baba/ Toshiaki Kawada/ Akira Taue v. Mitsuharu Misawa/ Kenta Kobashi/ Stan Hansen- 6
I struggled with a 5 or a 6, the score between recommending this and not, but I def. probably have to recommend purely for the sheer number of face smashing shots from various elbows, knees, and kicks, some awful kicks, esp. one where Misawa tried to stand up after Kawada did a hook kick to his face and it sounded like someone dropped a bowling ball from an airplane, but he just withered. One thing you'll notice (probably in a lot of AJW stuff during this time) is the easiness of attacks on Baba when he's in the ring, except Kobashi, Hansen was the worse culprit. But other than that, he didn't slow the pace down terribly or stink up the match. My big complaint with it is the match went (SPOILER ALERT!!!!!!!!!) to a 1 hour draw and it really didn't need to, 25- 35 mins. would have been fine, but this was more or less a giant exhibition where everyone just went out there and wrestled for fun. No coherent story was really formed, two long beatdown sections and some individual matters were implemented but the last 15 minutes there was some ugly blown spots even from the accurate Misawa, who really needs to be seen in his hey day to be believed how great he was and how vicious. Still this is 6 of the top guys in the world at the time and who wouldn't want to see them fuck around busting each other's noses up for an hour? Much better than catching a double shot of Everybody Loves Raymond on TBS(which they certainly do not! Anyone notice he had 3 blonde kids on that show? His wife was def. fucking the mailman)
Peace- back with Part 2 soon!