Features

Match Reviews: A Collection of 5 Clipped Classics (Misawa, Kobashi, Ric Flair, More)

match misawa kobashi 1997

One of the benefits of watching modern wrestling is that you can see matches in their entirety. That isn’t always the case with older matches. Most of the matches I’ve looked at have been found either on YouTube or Dailymotion, and a few have been on the WWE Network or New Japan World.

But even among these four main services, not every match from the past survives to modern times. There are many matches for which video doesn’t exist, and others for which the videos are incomplete. Today we’re looking at five cases of the latter.

These five matches were all considered to genuine classics back in their day. And yet, none of them were ever released to the public in their entirety, so we’re only getting samples of these matches instead. So with that, let’s look at these five clipped wrestling matches and see if the praise they got when they first took place was indeed fully deserved.

5. The Super Generation Army (Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, and Satoru Asako) vs. The Holy Demon Army (Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue) & Tamon Honda – AJPW, June 30th, 1995

Background: This was another All Japan match that Dave Meltzer rated 5-Stars. This one involves all four of the fabled Four Pillars of Heaven plus two more. Teaming with Misawa and Kobashi is Satoru Asako, a lower-card guy that I guess All Japan wanted to give the rub to as a potential future star. Teaming with Kawada and Taue is Tamon Honda, a former Olympic-level amateur wrestler scouted by All Japan following the 1992 Olympic Games.

The match: We start well into the match with Kobashi hitting Honda with corner chops. Honda answers with a head-butt to the chest and the two wrestlers trade strikes back-and-forth. Honda hits one more running head-butt and tags Kawada, who hits a massive running lariat for a two-count. Kawada goes for a suplex but Kobashi blocks and hits one of his own and tags Misawa, who hits elbows and a running crossbody press for his own two-count. a diving spinning lariat also gets him a two-count so he tags Asako. Suddenly Kawada fires up and hits all three of his opponents with elbows but Asako cuts him off and hits a suplex for a one-count. He applies a chinlock and then tags Kobashi, who lands stiff chops and a shoulder tackle for yet another two-count. Misawa tags in and they land a double dropkick, and then Misawa whips Kawada into Kobashi, who hits a running lariat. Then Kobashi whips Kawada into Misawa. A diving elbow smash gets him another two-count so he tags Kobashi again and lands a double-team vertical suplex which also gets two. Then Kobashi and Kawada start trading chops. Kawada hits a high kick and a dropkick that send Kobashi to the floor. Taue decides to capitalize and choke-tosses Kobashi into the barricade. But Kobashi bounces back with a lariat and then powerbombs Taue on the ringside mats. He goes to the apron and catches Kawada’s boot on a running kick…only to walk into a gamengiri kick upon re-entry into the ring. Kobashi rolls to the floor and Misawa comes in but he too gets wrecked by Kawada’s kicks until Misawa starts powering up. He blocks enough kicks and hits a rolling elbow smash. Plus another elbow for Honda as well.

Honda tags in and lands falling head-butts to Kobashi for a two-count. Kobashi hits back with chops but Honda continues to land head-butts and no-sells being smashed into the turnbuckle. He hits a flurry of rapid fire head-butts and then tags Taue. Kobashi tries ot take him out with neck chops but Taue lands a chokeslam. Taue follows with three jumping big boots and goes for a top-rope chokeslam but Asako cuts him off. Taue throws him to the floor, sees Kobashi jumping off, and lands a kneelift on Kobashi’s dive. Kobashi escapes another chokeslam with a rolling chop and tags Misawa. Misawa ducks two big boots, tanks a third, lands behind Taue on a suplex, and counters a DDT with a bridging northern lights suplex. One, two, Taue kicks out. Misawa goes for a diving spinning lariat but Taue ducks. Taue goes for a Samoan drop but Asako kicks him, allowing Misawa to setup a German suplex. Taue elbows out and hits a DDT. Now Kawada tags in. running yakuza kicks into the corner. Misawa traps Kawada’s leg and hits stiff elbows. Kawada reverses a corner whip but Misawa blocks with his foot and turns around and eats another stiff yakuza kick. And then Misawa drops Kawada with another elbow. Kawada resists a Tiger Driver so Misawa ax kicks him and hits a powerbomb for two as Kobashi knocks Taue to the floor and starts brawling with him.

Asako tags in and starts stomping on Kawada until Honda interrupts him. Then Asako slaps the taste out of Honda’s mouth. Honda hits back and lands a two-handed tree slam. Kawada rolls over and tags Honda in officially. Honda hits more head-butts and a second tree slam. Top-rope falling head-butt. Kobashi breaks up the pin and then gets head-butted for it. Misawa cuts Honda off and sets him on the top rope for Asako. Super Frankensteiner. Honda kicks out again. Kobashi tags in and takes more head-butts to the gut. But this time he answers with a brutal short-range lariat. he goes for a dragon suplex but Taue boots him and knocks Misawa off the apron. Honda switches behind Kobashi as Kawada boots Kobashi’s face. Honda with a bridging German suplex. Kobashi kicks out. Asako holds Honda in place on the top rope to stop another diving head-butt, allowing Kobashi to hits a superplex for another two-count. Folding powerbomb by Kobashi. Kawada breaks up the pin and then brawls with both Kobashi and Misawa. he drops Kobashi and fights on with Misawa until Misawa blocks a chop while Asako rushes Taue. Misawa drops Kawada with a release Tiger suplex and then hits a German on a charging Taue. Kobashi lands a bridging dragon suplex on Honda. One, two, and three! There’s the match!

Winners after 24:00 (officially): The Super Generation Army (Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi & Satoru Asako)

Review: The first ten minutes weren’t shown so we don’t get the complete story here. But even though we basically get 2/3 of the match in this clip, it was still great wrestling. It was typical King’s Road tag mayhem with lots of interference and double and triple teaming going on. It was chaotic with lots of things happening at the same time. and yet, all that stuff was coordinated to tell a larger story. Both sides were desperate to win and thus had to work together more often than not to keep each other at bay. Kawada somehow ended up getting a babyface pop for coming out on top in a two-on-one and a three-on-one brawling situation. Taue tried to be the foil for his side and did whatever he could to stop his opponents dead in their tracks. Honda and Asako, the lower-card guys, both got brief moments to shine. Lastly, Misawa and Kobashi were a well-oiled machine as usual and complemented each other perfectly. Misawa also had some fun brawls with Kawada to continue their feud while Kobashi got to be the babyface with never-ending burning spirit that duked it out with Honda, putting Honda over more than he needed to in the process. Even in such a random throwaway tag match, these wrestlers were masters at creating tense sequences and executing last-minute counters and reversals. It was pretty damn exciting, even with half the match missing.

Final Rating: ****

 

4. Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Kenta Kobashi X – AJPW Champion Carnival 1997, April 19th, 1997

Background: The 1997 Champion Carnival had thirteen wrestlers compete against each other in a round-robin style format. Once everyone faced everyone, there was a three-way tie for first place between Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, and Toshiaki Kawada. These three would face off in a sort of playoff to determine a winner. The first match of this playoff series was the tenth Misawa vs. Kobashi singles match. Going into this match, Kobashi only had two pinfall victories over Misawa, one of which being earlier in this same tournament. But could Kobashi complete this monumental task once again so soon?

The match: They lock-up and Misawa gets a clean break on the ropes. They have a chop/elbow exchange and Misawa avoids a Backdrop suplex. There’s a nice chain grappling sequence followed by some stiff elbows from Misawa. But Kobashi tanks them and hits two nasty rolling chops to the neck. He goes for a powerbomb. Misawa counters with a Frankensteiner. Elbow smash. Misawa charges for a running elbow but Kobashi blocks and teases a Half-Nelson suplex. Misawa elbows out and hits a dropkick. But Kobashi doesn’t fall to the floor. Instead, he tanks it and goes for a running shoulder tackle…only to eat another elbow. Kobashi falls to the floor…and Misawa flies onto him with a corkscrew plancha.

Misawa tosses Kobashi back into the ring and lands a diving shotgun dropkick for a two-count. He hits a diving spinning lariat for another two-count and then elbows Kobashi into a corner. Kobashi reverses a corner whip but Misawa blocks with his foot, avoids a thrust kick, and lands another stiff elbow smash for yet another two-count. Then Misawa applies a facelock but Kobashi pulls himself to the ropes, so Misawa snapmares him and reapplies the same hold. Kobashi powers through to the ropes again and goes to the floor. Misawa goes for another dive, sees Kobashi move to dodge, and lands on the apron before hitting a back elbow to the floor.

Back in the ring, Misawa hits more elbows and goes for a springboard back elbow but Kobashi dodges. Misawa crashes hard and Kobashi follows with two DDTs and a bridging German suplex for a two-count. Then Kobashi applies a facelock of his own. Misawa gets a ropebreak so Kobashi pulls him to his feet and hits more stiff neck chops. But Misawa absorbs them and hits more elbows. Misawa goes for a spinkick. Kobashi catches his leg and hits a cradle Backdrop suplex. Awesome counter. One, two, Misawa kicks out. Kobashi locks in a grounded sleeper with bodyscissors. Misawa starts fading. His arm drops one…twice…thr – no, Misawa still has fight left in him. Kobashi tightens the hold and then pins. One, two, another kick-out. Kobashi reapplies the same hold. Misawa rolls himself to the ropes.

Misawa tries to find safety at ringside but Kobashi drapes him against the steel barricade and hits a guillotine leg drop. Kobashi gets another two-count in the ring and then lands a double kneelift/Russian leg sweep combo for another two-count. He lands more stiff neck chops and goes for a suplex but Misawa gets to the ropes again. Irish whip into the corner. Misawa goes for another springboard back elbow but this time Kobashi has him scouted and goes blocks with a second-rope Backdrop. But Misawa lands on his feet. Elbow smash/spinkick combo. Misawa ducks a running lariat and a short-range lariat and hits a German suplex of his own. Kobashi rolls to the floor. Elbow suicida by Misawa.

The clip skips way ahead, leaving out around half of the match. Misawa charges for a running elbow smash. Kobashi hits first with a lariat. But he doesn’t pin right away because of the damage to his arm. He pulls himself towards Misawa with one arm and tries to cover. But he can’t even pull his own weight onto Misawa for a pin because of his arm. I’m guessing we missed a fantastic arm-working segment that built up to this point. Kobashi gets to his feet and hits a (left-arm) shoulder tackle in response. Kobashi tries and tries and eventually lands a powerbomb for another two-count.

Three minutes left.

Misawa hits an elbow and Kobashi answers with a spinkick to Misawa’s gut. Misawa blocks a suplex so Kobashi hits more rolling back chops to his neck.

Two minutes left.

Kobashi gets Misawa up and suplexes him into a powerbomb. Orange Crush Bomb connects! One, two, and – no, Misawa survives.

One minute left.

Kobashi hits a dropkick and pins but only gets two again so he hits a DDT.

Thirty second left.

Kobashi charges for a lariat. Misawa elbows his arm. Kobashi still manages to pin. One, two, ropebreak. Then the bell rings. The match is over.

Match result: 30-minute DRAW

Review: This was a bit weird because we basically got the first ten minutes and then the closing moments of the match. A lot was cut out, including the prolonged heat segment that saw Kobashi’s arm get destroyed. It’s a shame, because without that segment Kobashi’s sudden slowness and outstanding selling lacks context and explanation. Because we go from him eating an elbow suicida to him struggling to lift himself to cover Misawa, the match’s story comes across as severely incomplete, more so than any other match on this list. And yet, what we did see from these wrestlers here was more of the same. In other words, more All Japan awesomeness. Misawa and Kobashi have long had amazing chemistry together and know each other so well that they can weave so many intricate and unique segments into their matches without ever getting repetitive. Every single move they did had the chance of being blocked, countered, avoided, reversed, or absorbed. You really have to watch them carefully because control of the match can change within seconds. Even with so much cut from the clip, what we’re left with is still a tense fight between two greats.

From what was shown, the story showcased was that Kobashi was desperate to find a way to win over Misawa. He had control at first but then Misawa surprised him and then took out his lariat arm. Once the finishing stretch was shown, Kobashi was severely disadvantaged but still fought on, even if it cost him his own arm. He wanted to win that badly and busts out any power move that he thought would keep Misawa down long enough. Misawa’s neck was weakened so badly that any move from Kobashi – including a standard powerbomb and an incredible Orange Crush Bomb – could’ve ended the match. Sadly for Kobashi, Misawa was a bit too tough for him and Misawa managed to survive long enough to take a draw. It wasn’t as bad as a loss; at least now Kobashi was able to move one step closer to a win against Misawa, though that goal was still a long way off.

Final Rating: ****1/2

 

3. Ric Flair vs Butch Reed – April 7th, 1982

Background: This is the second of two matches that were rated 5-stars before the Wrestling Observer Newsletter was first created. Before the WON, the star rating system was popularized by a guy named Norm Dooley. The first match to receive such high praise was Jerry Lawler vs. Terry Funk from March 23rd, 1981. A year later, Ric Flair took on Butch Reed and apparently it was considered a surefire classic and was the first widely-recognized 5-Star match before the Observer began rating matches more regularly.

The match: This is for Flair’s NWA World Heavyweight Championship. The contest is already in progress with Reed hitting Flair with a hiptoss and then an arm drag into an armlock. Flair fights to his feet but Reed wrings his arm until Flair gets a ropebreak. Flair hits a chop and then sends reed into the ropes for a back elbow. Flair lands a snapmare into a chinlock but Reed does an amazing job of wrestling out of the hold and to his feet. Flair lands a high waistlock takedown but Reed escapes once again. Flair powers Reed into a corner and goes for a punch but Reed blocks and hits back and punches Flair to the canvas. Flair hits a sudden knee to the gut and tosses Reed to the floor. Reed gets to the apron but Flair drapes him against the top rope and clubs his chest and then suplexes him back into the ring. Flair lands an elbow drop that gets a two-count. The two men fight to their feet and start trading strikes back-and-forth. Reed lands a head-butt and Flair flops down but kicks out at two. Reed applies a front headlock but Flair pushes him to the ropes for a break. Flair does another snapmare followed by two kneedrops and a scoop slam for a one-count. He goes for an atomic drop but Reed counters and lands his own atomic drop.

The clip cuts ahead passed the commercial break to Reed hitting a standing dropkick for a two-count. Reed hits corner punches and then sends Flair into the ropes before landing a military press slam. He pins but only gets two. Reed lands another press slam and goes for a kneedrop but Flair rolls out of the way. Flair punches Reed into a corner until Reed starts punching back. They go back-and-forth until Reed gains the upper hand and lands a back body drop. Flair gets to the ropes to escape a butterfly hold and kicks Reed hard in the gut. Flair tries a suplex but can’t due to the pain in his back, which allows Reed to counter into his own suplex. Reed pins but Flair gets his foot on the ropes so Reed attacks that leg. Red drops a knee onto Flair’s leg but Flair pulls him over and punches his face. Flair hobbles around the ring landing chops and back elbows. He gets another two-count off a gutwrench suplex and sends Reed into the ropes but Reed counters a back body drop with a sunset flip for another two-count. Flair gets up first and lands another kneelift. He goes for a slam but Reed counters into a press pin for another close two-count. Double underhook suplex. Flair kicks out. Reed misses a running elbow drop but manages to power out of a piledriver attempt. Flair tries resisting a corner whip but Reed’s too strong and Flair flips over the rope and onto the apron.

The video cuts again to Flair going for the Figure-4 but Reed blocks it and kicks Flair away. Reed goes for a headlock but Flair counters into a knee crusher and tries the Figure-4 again but once more Reed blocks it. The two men start brawling again when suddenly the time runs out. The ref calls for the end. The match is a DRAW!

Post-match, Flair cuts a promo demanding special requests as world champion. He doesn’t want his record blemished by Reed or by anyone else, for that matter. As such, he demands five more minutes and he gets it. Announcer Gordon Solie asks Flair to check with the referee, and the referee allows it. Reed is rearing to go and so is Flair. The match continues.

The two men continue where they left off and brawl until Flair takes Reed down. Flair hits mounted punches followed by more chops and another back elbow. Flair hits more strikes against the ropes and Irish whips Reed but Reed ducks down and hits a crossbody block. One, two…and THREE! Yes, three! Butch Reed beats Ric Flair!

Post-sudden death match, Reed is jumping for joy as the fans scream wildly. Reed is joined by several peers, all of whom are so happy for him because he has won the NWA World Heavyweight Championship.

Or so he thinks.

After another commercial break, Flair cuts a promo revealing the stipulation of the contract signed by both him and Reed. The contract states that the match will be thirty minutes. So even though Reed pinned Flair, it wasn’t sanctioned so it doesn’t count.

STILL NWA World Heavyweight Champion due to 30-minute time-limit DRAW and CONTRACT TECHNICALITY: Ric Flair

Review: This match took place 40 years ago and it still holds up incredibly well. The in-ring wrestling is incredibly limited and simple by today’s standards, but back then that was all that was needed. There was no need for crazy dives, silly cartoon characters, or tongue-in-cheek humor. Wrestling was taken a lot more seriously back then and came off as more of a serious athletic endeavor. That was shown through how Flair and Reed wrestled. This was less ‘entertainment wrestling’ and more ‘amateur and professional grappling with a few bits of entertainment’. Flair did all the simple things needed to be a great heel while trying to stop Reed’s nonstop babyface march forwards. Flair hit low, raked the eyes, landed nasty punches, and used the ropes to his advantage. But nothing could stop Reed…except time. Even though we only witnessed about half of the full thirty-minute match, the wrestling was still great. But it was the post-match stuff that really put this match – and indeed, Flair as a character – over the top. Flair was outstanding at playing the heel to get what he wants. He used the time-limit draw to his advantage to goad Reed into accepting another five minutes. Flair arrogantly went in this direction because his pride wouldn’t allow a blemish like a draw to tarnish his reputation. And then things went in the opposite direction of what he intended: he lost to Reed. Reed overcame the odds like he was meant to and got one brief moment of genuine glory.

But then Flair used the same mechanism again, but this time against Reed. Reed may have won, but he fell for Flair’s trap. Flair got what he wanted, which was five more minutes. But just because the action continued doesn’t mean that it was officially sanctioned or would count. So Flair did an incredibly dastardly act by rendering Reed’s monumental victory completely hollow. He won, but no title changed hands and no record book could document it. Flair was amazing here. He complemented his in-ring savvy with an arrogant personality that used logic to stay on top. He was able to use loopholes to maintain his position without actually losing the title or without screwing Reed out of his win.

No wonder Flair’s career is still regarded so highly. His promos and out-of-ring work were just as important as his actual grappling skill. To that end, we have to look at more than just the wrestling here since the wrestling and the promo work are so deeply intertwined here.

Final Rating: ****1/2

 

2. Toshiaki Kawada vs. Kenta Kobashi XIV – AJPW Champion Carnival 1993, April 25th, 1993

Background: Dave Meltzer saw this match live in Japan and rated it 5-Stars. However, the full clip of the match was never released. The only video available anywhere for this match is this clipped version, which was shown for All Japan’s weekly TV show during the 1990s.

The match: We join the match in progress with Kawada step-kicking Kobashi’s face. Kawada goes for a spinkick but Kobashi blocks and throws him to the canvas. Kobashi charges for a corner kneelift but Kawada throws him down. Kawada hits stiff elbows. Kobashi fights back with punches. Kawada hits even harder elbows and lands a jumping kick but Kobashi choke-tosses him down once again. Kobashi hits a DDT and a scoop slam to setup his moonsault. He climbs to the second rope but Kawada kicks him to the floor. Kawada tries suplexing Kobashi over the rope and into the ring but Kobashi lands behind him. Rolling cradle. Kawada kicks out at two as the commentator announced the fifteen minute mark, meaning that we’ve missed over half the match. Kobashi lands a Backdrop suplex. Kawada kicks out again. Kobashi tries another moonsault. Kawada cuts him off by kicking the back of his knee and then hits a lariat for his own two-count. Kawada tries a powerbomb but Kobashi powers out. Kawada kicks Kobashi’s bad knee and goes for his Stretch Plum submission hold. Kobashi blocks it at first but Kawada hits elbows and then locks it in. Kobashi reaches the ropes as the crowd chants his name. Kawada tries a powerbomb. He gets Kobashi up…but Kobashi reverses into a pinning press. One, two, Kawada kicks out. Kobashi staggers over but Kawada lands a nasty elbow. Kawada charges but Kobashi boots him first and hits a running neckbreaker for two. Pumphandle powerbomb. Kawada kicks out. Kobashi goes to the top rope for a diving shoulder tackle. He dives…and eats a gamengiri kick to the face. Kawada hurts his own leg in the process but he still manages to hobble over to maintain control.

Kawada tries the Folding Powerbomb again. And this time it connects! But he can’t pin. He staggers as his own strength leaves him and Kobashi rolls over to safety. Kobashi uses that momentary delay to kick Kawada’s jaw and dropkick his weakened leg. Kobashi locks in a single leg crab but Kawada escapes by using his free leg. Kobashi answers with a knee smasher/back of the knee stomp combo and reapplies the single leg crab. Kawada gets a ropebreak so Kobashi applies a Texas Cloverleaf. Kawada crawls to the ropes again so Kobashi stomps away on his bad leg. Kawada uses the ropes to lift himself up and baits Kobashi into hitting more stomps. Kawada blocks one stomp and hits a sudden lariat. Kawada swings for a lariat but Kobashi ducks and goes for a German. Kawada elbows out. Kobashi answers with a dropkick followed by a successful bridging German. One, two, Kawada kicks out. Jackknife powerbomb. Kawada kicks out again. Diving moonsault press…misses. Kawada crawls over to pin. One, two, and – no, Kobashi kicks out at 2.99! Desperate, Kobashi resorts to chops but Kawada hits him with an enzui lariat to the back of the head. One, two, another kick-out. Kawada’s second Folding Powerbomb connects. Kawada almost keels over due to the damage in his knee but still fights on to pin. One, two, and th – no, Kobashi kicks out. That split-second delay saved Kobashi. Kawada lands a stepkick and tries another powerbomb. Kobashi literally kicks out and then spinkicks Kawada’s gut. Kawada hits back with a rebound yakuza kick. Folding Powerbomb #3. One, two, and three! Kawada beats Kobashi!

Winner after 23:44 (officially): Toshiaki Kawada

Review: It’s very disappointing that the full-length version of this match doesn’t exist anywhere because the ten minutes shown here were nothing short of amazing. Had there been a full-length version of this match available, there’s a very good chance this match would get the full 5-star treatment from me as well. But I can only rate what I saw, and the ten minutes shown here were spectacular. This match was basically a sampler plate of the kind of tremendous wrestling 1990s All Japan had to offer. There was incredible psychology, believable near-falls, a hot crowd, unpredictable twists and turns, and a much-needed sense of realism. Kobashi was the perfect underdog here and Kawada was the master at selling limb damage and incorporating it into his match. Kawada was so desperate to turn Kobashi’s momentum against him that he landed a kick so hard he hurt himself in the process. Kobashi had to use whatever avenue to win, including trying to take away Kawada’s signature kicks and taking advantage of the damage Kawada did to himself. That worked for a while but Kawada simply hit harder and had more left in the tank. He withstood intense physical pain and managed to put Kobashi away with three finishers. And Kawada sold like an absolute boss. He made each pin attempt following the powerbomb tense and meaningful because it took so much effort for him to land those powerbombs. He couldn’t pin right away on the first two, which saved Kobashi. So when he finally mustered enough strength to float over and pin, he finally managed to overcome all the damage and pin his worthy challenger.

While I can’t in all honesty rate this match a perfect 5-stars since well over half isn’t shown, this is still one of the best finishing stretches out of any match I’ve ever seen. As a small added bonus, I’m including links to some other Kobashi vs. Kawada matches that I’ve reviewed before. Those matches include some of the same elements seen here, and in some cases surpass them. Truly, people tend to forget about the Kobashi/Kawada matches because they’re largely forgotten compared to Kobashi/Misawa and Misawa/Kawada. But that doesn’t make this Kobashi/Kawada any less awesome.

Final Rating: ****1/2

 

1. Manami Toyota vs. Aja Kong – August 20th, 1997

Background: Manami Toyota and Aja Kong have fought each other many times over the years. We’ve covered two of their best singles matches before: one that was part of a one-night tournament and another that was a title match. Here, they faced off in simple singles competition. No higher stakes or special story, just two bitter rivals fighting each other once again.

The match: They go to shake hands and Kong immediately lands a bridging German suplex for a two-count. She sends Toyota into the ropes and lands a Vader-style body block. Then Kong sends Toyota into the opposite corner and lands a massive corner clothesline for another two-count. Kong locks in a facelock and Toyota tries escaping by pulling/scratching Kong’s face, so Kong does the same to Toyota. She locks in a camel clutch and then arches backwards to do maximum damage, and then goes to switch into a sleeper but Toyota slips out and smacks the hell out of Kong’s face. This angers Kong, who kicks Toyota as hard as she can and then lands a stiff slap for a one-count. Kong applies a single leg crab and Toyota trash-talks her, so Kong tightens the hold and then kicks Toyota’s leg. Kong follows with a scoop slam/elbow drop combo for a two-count as Toyota bridges out. Toyota tries avoiding another Boston crab by grabbing Kong’s legs but Kong overpowers her and locks in a deeper version of the hold called a Torture crab. Toyota gets a ropebreak so Kong sends her into the ropes. Toyota tries to counter into a rolling cradle but Kong counters that into an abdominal stretch and then into a modified dragon sleeper. Toyota escapes like a slippery eel and stomps on Kong’s head. She threads Kong between the ropes and lands a huge running dropkick that sends Kong to the floor. Toyota sends Kong into the steel barricade but Kong rebounds with a lariat and then does the same to Toyota. They brawl into the stands and some fans are forced to leave their seats. Kong throws Toyota into some chairs and then both return to the ring. Toyota has some metal object in her hands to use as a weapon and Kong just dares her to use it. But Toyota decides ‘screw this, I’m beating you with my own two hands’ and throws it aside, leading to another tense stare-down.

They do the Greco-Roman knuckle lock and Toyota tries hitting head-butts but Kong completely no-sells them and knocks her down. Then Kong grabs that metal pail and smashes Toyota right in the forehead with it and then lands a piledriver for a two-count. That’s followed by a package piledriver that also gets a two-count. Kong goes for a back suplex. Toyota lands behind her and lands a bridging German suplex for two. Toyota’s snap moonsault misses and Kong goes for a diving splash but Toyota gets her knees up. Kong rolls to the floor and Toyota runs to the topes. She jumps onto the top rope, balances herself on it, and dives…onto someone other than Kong. Toyota starts getting up when Kong charges. Suicide dive through the ropes. Wow, that was crazy.

Back in the ring, Kong lands a diving splash and pins but Toyota bridges out again. Kong goes for a superplex but Toyota counters with a sunset flip powerbomb for two. Toyota charges for a lariat. Kong ducks and lands a Backdrop suplex. One, two, Toyota kicks out. Top-rope back elbow drop. Toyota kicks out again and Kong signals the end. She goes for her Uraken spinning backfist. Toyota ducks two of them and goes to the ropes for safety. Toyota reverses an Irish whip and lands a Japanese Ocean double-hammerlock suplex. One, two, Kong kicks out. Toyota follows with two diving shotgun dropkicks. Kong kicks out once more. Rolling cradle. Kong kicks out yet again. Toyota charges but Kong counters with an overhead suplex. That’s followed by a nasty Backdrop suplex. One, two, Toyota bridges out. Kong goes for another diving splash but Toyota kicks her to the floor. Top rope shotgun dropkick to the floor. Toyota grabs a table and puts Kong onto it. She jumps onto the top rope and lands a somersault senton onto Kong. But the table doesn’t break. Kong takes the full impact of that dive.

Back in the ring, Toyota goes for her Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex but Kong slips out and kicks her nose. Kong tries a suplex. Toyota lands behind her. Kong tries another Uraken. Toyota traps both of her arms and hits a bridging JOS for two. Toyota charges…and runs into a Northern Lights bomb! Kong spikes Toyota on her head. One, two, no, Toyota bridges out again.

Two minutes left.

Kong goes for another superplex and Toyota tries the sunset bomb counter. But this time Kong keeps her body on top and lands in a pinning position on top of Toyota. One, two, another kick-out. Uraken connects! Kong almost decapitates Toyota with the Uraken. One, two, and thr – NO, Toyota kicks out at 2.99!

Ninety seconds left.

Kong smacks the ring in frustration and screams something along the lines of ‘what do I have to do to keep you down?’

One minute left.

Kong pulls her up and lands a second Uraken. One, two, Toyota kicks out once more! Uraken #3! Another kick-out.

Thirty seconds left.

Kong pulls off her gloves.

Twenty seconds left.

She pulls Toyota to her feet.

Ten seconds left.

And hits a fourth Uraken! But she’s exhausted! She eventually covers Toyota. But the bell rings before the ref can finish counting. The match is a DRAW!

Match result: 30-minute DRAW

Review: This match was a bit confusing in terms of editing. The video is just over 20 minutes long but the official record for this match lists it as a 30-minute draw. And unlike the other videos listed here, there are no clear transitions or distinctions that show how much time has passed. One minute they’re beating each other up and all of a sudden the announcer starts calling time cues. And yet, despite there being around ten minutes of wrestling cut from this clip…holy s**t, was it good.

As I’ve said before, AJW was the peak of women’s wrestling from an in-ring perspective. Toyota and Kong had amazing chemistry once again and told an awesome story. Kong just wrecked Toyota like a behemoth without effort while Toyota kept showing her spitfire personality and never-say-die-attitude. The story was Toyota kept surviving no matter how hard Kong hit her. Nothing worked for Kong: not suplexes, piledrivers, or even a rarely-seen metal object straight to the head. And when Toyota kept bridging out of pins even after all of Kong’s hard work, it showed how much Toyota still had left in the tank. That left Kong with no choice: if she was going to win, she was going to have to basically go into overkill territory, knowing that doing so was necessary given Toyota’s persistence. So she smashed Toyota with three straight Urakens (keep in mind that Kong was once famous for using this same move on a jobber on WWE programming in 1995 and broke her nose with this same move) but that still wasn’t enough. She had to take her own glove off and hit Toyota with everything she had. But by that point Kong had almost succumbed to pure exhaustion from everything Toyota had done to her. Even though Kong was on offense for around 65% of the match, Toyota still hit her pretty hard with all those dives, kicks, and suplexes. So at the very last moment, Kong’s body gave up on her for a few seconds. But that momentary delay saved Toyota from being pinned and stole a win from Kong.

That’s what made this match special by 1990s joshi standards. Usually, these matches are so chaotic and wild that the wrestlers do so much without ever slowing down, to the point that the finishes really do come out of nowhere. That wasn’t necessarily the case here: the match had the typical 1990s joshi craziness but it also built to a clear and tense finish. Kong tried one Uraken after another but Toyota just wouldn’t lie down and die. And as time ran out she was forced to hit one final ‘unprotected’ Uraken as the final crescendo. These two women have wrestled each other before and many of their matches were likewise awesome. This one also gets a similar nod, even though I’ve seen some of these same spots before. Though what really sets this contest apart is the climactic finish (which was great), and the inconsistent pace and timing (which was not so great). It’s still a truly must-see match, even though it’s incomplete.

Final Rating: ****3/4

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