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Reviewing Every Match Dave Meltzer Gave 5+ Stars To (1994)

March 2, 2019 | Posted by Jake St-Pierre
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Reviewing Every Match Dave Meltzer Gave 5+ Stars To (1994)  

Akira Taue, Masanobu Fuchi, & Toshiaki Kawada vs. Giant Baba, Kenta Kobashi, & Mitsuharu Misawa
AJPW January 29, 1994.

1994 Giant Baba looks utterly TERRIFYING. I know I made a comment in an earlier review about Akira Taue’s noodly arms, but Baba is the actual definition of Jim Cornette’s famous “buggy whip arms” metaphor. He was so weirdly proportioned that it’s immediately obvious he’d be a legend in wrestling by looking at him. Kobashi and Kawada start us off, and they forego a tentative start in lieu of shoulder tackles and kicks and all that fun stuff. They stare one another down and go at it once more until Kawada stops Kobashi in his tracks with a spin kick. Baba and Fuchi end up facing off, and this crowd just adores Giant Baba to the point that they audibly GASP when Kawada breaks up an armbar. Baba’s offense here is utterly dreadful, but the crowd loves it to the point that it legitimately doesn’t make a difference. After an abdominal stretch is broken up by Fuchi, Misawa makes his way in to keep working over Akira Taue. Misawa soon runs into Kawada though, who gives him a Backdrop Driver and lets Fuchi help with the punishment. Kawada and Taue hit Misawa with a Backdrop Driver/Chokeslam combo, and that sets up for Kawada to try and put things away with the Stretch Plum. Kobashi tries to save, but that earns he and Misawa stereo Powerbombs by the hands of Taue and Kawada. Giant Baba gets the hot tag and it’s… about as you’d expect. He puts Fuchi in a Cobra Clutch, and his two partners come in to put Kawada and Taue in submissions as well. NODOWA OTOSHI ON BABA! Kobashi saves. STRETCH PLUM ON BABA! KITCHEN SINK ON KAWADA! Kobashi tags in and relieves Baba, but Kawada nails him with a looping right hand that knocks him goofy. Taue takes Kobashi to the floor and undoes the mat, DDT’ing him on the floor. NODOWA OTOSHI ON KOBASHI! MISAWA SAVES! Kawada hits Kobashi with a Tombstone, but can’t get the pinfall. Kobashi walks through a big boot from Kawada and finally gets him down with a lariat, and here comes Misawa! Kawada and co. are still the fresher party, so Kawada is able to get the upperhand with an enzuigiri. Taue mocks Giant Baba with some knees, so Misawa elbows him and tags in Baba to HIT SOME OF HIS OWN! Kobashi tags back in and goes to school on Taue, hitting him with a Jumping DDT for 2. Fuchi tags and tries to work Kobashi over, but Kobashi has none of it and gets the rolling cradle! Kawada puts the brakes on a Moonsault, but Misawa comes to help and allows Kobashi to dive off with a shoulderblock, followed by a leg drop to the back of the head. MOONSAULT ON FUCHI! That gets the win in 39 minutes. **** By far, this was the slowest of the multi-man AJPW matches I’ve been treated to so far, but it was also one of the most simple, leading to one of the more unique of these types of bouts we’ve seen out of this bunch. It undoubtedly comes out of Giant Baba’s presence considering the guy simply couldn’t work even half the pace the other five were capable of, so they wisely worked around a simple formula of getting heat and the ensuing hot tags. It wasn’t rocket science but considering the limitations inherent in Baba’s inclusion, it was the right choice to make for the match and the crowd. And to a purist, I don’t think even Baba’s limited involvement here would garner many positive accolades. Nothing he did looked credible, he was slower than molasses, and in some ways, it made his three opponents look silly for selling his completely inept offense… but it worked. I don’t know how, but it didn’t detract from the match. I’d even say the brief period of Baba taking the finishers from Taue and Kawada and coming back strong was the most compelling moment of the match. With a wrestler that legendary in with the current crop of main eventers, it’s difficult to toe the line, and even though Baba looked a bit rough in there, I think the match was booked magnificently to keep his legend in tact without sacrificing the other men involved. It was part nostalgia fueling the good parts for sure, but the other five’s wonderful ability work with and around him made this match quite the fantastic novelty in the end. I also liked how the inclusion of traditional heat segments played a part in the later moments of the match as the action broke down. Misawa and Kobashi were not fresh after taking their beatings, and when the hot tags came to either of them, they had a limited shelf life before they had to regroup. I love the little things that these All Japan wrestlers do. It helps immersion and gives you something new despite the same guys wrestling so many times. It doesn’t insult your intelligence and develops organically. That’s all I need out of wrestling.

Ladder Match for WWF Intercontinental Title: Razor Ramon vs. Shawn Michaels
WWF Wrestlemania X.

Shawn tries going after Razor’s eyes to get in a hiptoss, but Razor catches him on the flipside with a gnarly Chokeslam. Shawn shitcans Razor after firing off a neckbreaker, and Diesel blindsides him immediately after getting up. Referee Earl Hebner sniffs it out and ejects Diesel, leaving it one-on-one and allowing Razor to finally get an upperhand. Razor sets up for the Edge, but Shawn backdrops him to the floor and goes after the ladder. Razor intercepts him and takes control of said ladder, but Shawn baseball slides it into Razor’s gut. Shawn sets it up to head for the belts, but Razor pulls his tights down and gets an elbow for his troubles. Shawn sets the ladder near the corner and comes down with a HUGE SPLASH! Shawn uses that to try and head for the belt, but Razor shoves the ladder and hotshots Shawn on the top rope. Michaels sets up the ladder parallel to the corner, but Razor whips him into it and sends him barreling to the floor. Razor follows him to the floor with the ladder, sets it up on the apron, and catapults him into it. They head back into the ring where Razor knocks Shawn back to the floor with a ladder shot, priming himself to get the belts. Michaels recovers though and jumps off of the top rope to knock Razor off of the ladder. Both men head to the ladder and slug it out there, but Razor backdrops him down and tries to go it alone again. Michaels recovers and dropkicks the ladder, knocking Razor to the mat before just shoving the ladder onto him for good measure. Shawn mocks Razor and teases a Razor’s Edge, but settles for a jumping Piledriver instead. Shawn grabs the ladder and heads up top, and rides it down onto Razor’s body. Shawn tries to put a finish to it by heading up top, but Razor hits the ropes and knocks him down, crotching Shawn on the top rope. That allows Razor to head up top and grab the belts, winning in 18 minutes. ***1/2 Let’s get this out of the way first; this rating isn’t to tell you that I thought the match sucked. It’s just a matter of evolution. I’m not going to sit here and tell you that the match didn’t live up, because that’s not the point. They worked this match for 1994’s eyes, and you’d have to be a blithering idiot to not see that they were successful doing it. This match is legendary for a reason and to reduce the effort to a star rating and simple match quality is a problematic practice. There are just certain styles and gimmicks in wrestling that have so far evolved through the years that it’s hard for me to go back and watch where it started, and have a higher opinion of it than what that gimmick turned into. As I’ve said countless times, that’s no fault of the wrestlers, it’s just the way she goes. Junior Heavyweight wrestling from this era has that issue because of how accepted smaller, athletic wrestlers have been in the deacdes since and how those wrestlers have been able to use that athleticism to create more compelling and exciting products. This ladder match is no difference. When you start a gimmick from scratch (well, if you don’t count the Stampede/Bret Hart matches with ladders) your first outing is going to set a benchmark, and the participants in any match after that are going to attempt to find ways to outdo it either with risk-taking or psychology. Both of those criterias have been topped and improved upon in the quarter of a century since the match made landfall. That’s how it is with art of any genre. So don’t view me giving this match the rating I gave it as a reduction of their effort or abilities. It’s the big drawback to going back and reviewing these matches. Sometimes, with 25 years of context and evolution, your tastes are suited to the evolution rather than the origin. And that’s where I am on my opinion of this match, but I would never balk at someone’s love of this bout. We’re all different.

Super J-Cup Finals: The Great Sasuke vs. Wild Pegasus
NJPW April 16, 1994.

Sasuke gives Benoit trouble early with his speed, countering out of the mat-based offense with flippy-do’s and whatnot. Pegasus nevertheless continues to work to keep Sasuke grounded, but Sasuke is adept on the mat too. Pegasus throws the first strike of the match, clotheslining Sasuke down after he floats over a monkey flip attempt. A German Suplex follows, but can’t get the win. Sasuke uses a spin kick to get back ahead, now trying to work Pegasus into a cross armbreaker. Sasuke counters out of a Powerbomb attempt with an ardmrag, but gets clotheslined back down to earth. Benoit puts him on the apron, where he hits a triangle forearm, just like Jericho’s triangle dropkick except with, well, a forearm. Dragon Suplex scores inside the ring for the Canadian, but only for 2. Diving headbutt follows, but Sasuke won’t go down. Big folding Powerbomb lands for Benoit, but Sasuke continues to kick out. Benoit puts in the Sharpshooter now, but Sasuke doesn’t give up the ghost, so Pegasus breaks it and hits a Tilt-a-Whirl Backbreaker instead. Still though, Sasuke kicks out. Sasuke makes something of a comeback, but runs right into a German Suplex for 2. Sasuke perseveres and eventually boots Pegasus to the floor… for a SPACE FLYING TIGER DROP~! Sasuke retains control back in the ring, hitting a German of his own for a two count. Perfectplex for Sasuke suffers the same fate. He goes up top for a Missile Dropkick, but Pegasus swats him out of the air. He tries to suplex him into the ring for more offense, but SASUKE SUPLEXES HIM TO THE FLOOR! MISSILE DROPKICK FROM THE TOP ROPE TO THE FLOOR~! That was ridiculous. VADERSAULT FROM SASUKE! BENOIT KICKS OUT! Sasuke tries another one, but Pegasus intercepts him for a GUTWRENCH SUPERPLEX! That puts Sasuke away in 19 minutes. **** Barring the Liger vs. Sano match from 1990, this is probably the best Junior match I’ve seen in this series thus far. The chemistry between Sasuke and Benoit inherently puts the mat wrestler vs. the high flyer and considering Chris Benoit is legitimately one of the best wrestlers to ever live, it’s not a surprise when I tell you that it worked. Pegasus had a great technical strategy to try and keep Sasuke on his level but failed at multiple points, creating the most exciting moments of the match. When Benoit would try to get it back to the ring, Sasuke would take a wild risk and hit something crazy to throw him off. It’s an easy story and while the match dragged a bit in the middle portions, I can’t say I came away from it without a lot of positive things to say about it. The cruiserweight/Jr. style is much more exciting and refined in the modern eras of a Will Ospreay, Hiromu Takahashi, KUSHIDA sort of talent, but their solid foundations are built off the backs of guys like Benoit and Sasuke and that isn’t easy to come by.

Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue vs. Kenta Kobashi & Mitsuharu Misawa
AJPW May 21, 1994.

Kawada and Kobashi start off, and both men avoid trademark strikes in the opening minute. Kobashi telegraphs a dropkick and gets the first piece of offense in with a shoulderblock, before tagging out to Misawa, which in turn brings in Akira Taue. Misawa squishes poor Taue with a senton and tags out to Kobashi to drop the leg. Kawada makes his way back in to even the score, even knocking Misawa to the floor during his onslaught on Kobashi. Misawa hates this, so he elbows Kawada into the living death to break an abdominal stretch. Kawada no-sells a dropkick when Misawa tags in proper, but a spinning kick knocks him goofy and forces him to roll to the floor for a breather. Kobashi tags back in and gets in a war of chops, which predictably ends badly for Kawada after he gets chopped in the throat. Kawada telegraphs a back elbow off the second rope from Misawa though, booting him in the back and tagging out to Taue to catch his wits. Kawada and Taue eventually zero on Kobashi’s knee, moving the kneepad to expose it further, with Taue putting in a Sharpshooter of all things. Misawa finally gets the hot tag and cleans house, dropkicking both men to the floor for an Elbow Suicida on Taue while Kobashi gives Kawada a shinbreaker over the guardrail. TIGER DRIVER ON KAWADA! KAWADA KICKS OUT! GAMENGIRI TO THE NOSE FROM KAWADA! Taue tags back in and gets booed out of the building as he hits a Stun Gun on Misawa for 2. Kawada no-sells an elbow for some Kawada kicks, but Misawa NO-SELLS and knocks Kawada on his ass with an elbow! CHOPS FROM KOBASHI! SPINNING BACK KICK FROM KAWADA! MACHINE GUN CHOPS ON TAUE! TAUE TACKLES KOBASHI! NODOWA… SHOULDER TACKLE FROM KOBASHI! This is craziness. Misawa hits Taue with a spinning clothesline, but can’t get the Tiger Driver. STEREO SUBMISSIONS ON TAUE AND KAWADA! Kawada stops a Misawa Frog Splash just long enough for Taue to suplex him, but Misawa doesn’t stay down. NODOWA OTOSHI… COUNTERED… BUT MISAWA RUNS INTO A LARIAT! BACKDROP DRIVER BY KAWADA! KOBASHI SAVES! NODOWA OTOSHI ON KOBASHI! POWERBOMB ON MISAWA! MISAWA KICKS OUT!! ANOTHER POWERBOMB! KOBASHI SAVES! KOBASHI LARIATS KAWADA! BACKDROP DRIVER ON MISAWA… COUNTERED FOR 2! ROLLING ELBOW ON KAWADA! KOBASHI WITH A BACKDROP DRIVER ON KAWADA! KAWADA KICKS OUT! ROLLING CRADLE… COUNTERED WITH A LEGSWEEP! GERMAN ON TAUE! TAUE KICKS OUT~! ROLLING ELBOW ON TAUE! NOTHERN LARIAT!! TIGER DRIVER!!! KAWADA SAVES!!!!! MOONSAULT ON TAUE! TAUE KICKS OUT!!! MOONSAULT MISSES~! KAWADA WITH A BACKDROP DRIVER ON KOBASHI~! KAWADA BACKDROPS MISAWA TO THE FLOOR! NODOWA OTOSHI/BACKDROP DRIVER! KOBASHI KICKS OUT!!!! NODOWA ON KOBASHI! BACKDROP DRIVER TO KAWADA FROM MISAWA! SLINGBLADE FROM KOBASHI! KAWADA SAVES! BRIDGING POWERBOMB FROM KOBASHI TO TAUE! TAUE KICKS OUT!!!! MOONSAULT!!!! Kobashi pins Taue in 40 minutes. ***** This is the exact kind of match you think about when this combination of wrestlers comes up on paper, and realistically, this probably blew past what your expectations would be. Their 1993 tag match was tremendous, but didn’t pull through with the home stretch I felt its tremendous build deserved, and thus plateaued at a certain point. Putting it lightly, this addition to their rivalry did not have that issue. In fact, this match had one of the wildest, most exciting, and dramatic finishing sequences I’ve ever seen… and it was done so logically that there’s not any other rating I could feasibly award this match because of it. Of all the matches these men have worked with, against, and around one another thus far, this one was clearly the most personally intense. It was immediate within the first couple minutes that the rivalry between Kawada and Misawa was going to be the centerpiece of the match, and it set the pace for its wild nature as a result. Both men took countless cheap shots at one another and any time they were in the ring together proper, the action took a turn. It wasn’t an impressive, carefully crafted set-piece that we expect from All Japan main events. They just threw strikes at one another with reckless abandon and tried one-up the other by no-selling, progressively stiffing each other, and generally just going above and beyond to inflict pain on their foe. It wasn’t a respectful wrestling contest; it was a fight. So it makes complete sense for the rest of the match to follow that sort of carnage, with the sort of false finishes, head drops, and lunacy you immediately think of when AJPW comes to mind. It’s that sort of long-term storytelling that makes you realize how far ahead of their peers these four men were at times. It’s why that even with the language barrier, these matches are so accessible and easily digestible. Their psychological talents create feuds that can be followed with simply matches. And not just that, but matches with clean finishes and decisive winners. No one is hurt. No one has to get their win back. It’s long-term planning with incredible workers, having consistently legendary matches and furthering storylines with the bare minimum needed. I know the meme is that Dave Meltzer overplayed his love for Japanese wrestling at times and that might be true in some cases, but it’s hard to disagree when I watch matches like this. This was just unbelievable.

Triple Crown: Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada
AJPW June 3, 1994.

Misawa tries to tough out a Kawada boot early, but he’s decidedly knocked loopy after a spinning back kick. Misawa powers through and hits a Backdrop Driver, forcing a dazed Kawada to roll to the apron as the referee checks on him. This forces both men to take a break on the intensity a bit, feeling each other out rather than throwing caution to the wind. Misawa stuns Kawada with an elbow and dropkicks him to the floor, but gets hit out of the air when he attempts an elbow from the apron. That earns Kawada his first bit of real control in the match so far, and now Misawa is forced to roll to the floor, bloody ear and all. Kawada tries to continue the punishment, but Misawa goes low with some leg kicks and a half crab to destabilize him. Kawada slips under takedown attempt and plants an elbow to the back of Misawa’s head, stunning him for a moment and creating separation. Misawa responds by rolling through an armbar attempt though, whipping Kawada off of the ropes on the back of that for a spin kick. Kawada eats a dropkick and ends up booting Misawa’s face off his head, but Misawa doesn’t go down for more than a couple seconds until Kawada knocks his head off with a GAMENGIRI! Misawa backdrops out of a Powerbomb, but eats a dropkick to the back of the head and an ensuing diving knee to the neck. Misawa tries another spin kick, but settles for a Gamengiri of his own after Kawada catches the inital kick. Kawada tries another Gamengiri, but Misawa blocks it and sends Kawada to the mat with his bad leg. TIGER DRIVER! KAWADA KICKS OUT! FROG SPLASH! KAWADA KICKS OUT! Misawa heads up top for a diving elbow, but Kawada kicks him out of the air. Powerbomb doesn’t work, so Kawada just smacks Misawa instead. He tries smacking him again, but Misawa elbows him down to counter. Kawada returns favor, followed by a BOOT AND A LARIATOO! BACKDROP DRIVER~! POWERBOMB~! MISAWA KICKS OUT! GERMAN SUPLEX! POWERBOMB AGAIN! MISAWA KICKS OUT! POWERBOMB… BUT MISAWA SCOOTS TO THE ROPES! STRETCH PLUM! MISAWA GETS THE ROPES! SITTING STRETCH PLUM IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RING! ELBOW OUT OF NOWHERE FROM MISAWA! BOOT FROM KAWADA! ELBOW AGAIN! TWISTING CLOTHESLINE! RELEASE GERMAN FROM MISAWA! TIGER SUPLEX~! KAWADA KICKS OUT~! ROLLING CAPO KICK FROM KAWADA!!! CAPO KICK AGAIN! ROLLING ELBOW COUNTERED INTO HEADBUTTS! KICKS TO THE HEAD FROM KAWADA! MISAWA POPS UP INTO AN ELBOW! ROLLING ELBOW!!!! ELBOW FLURRY! ROLLING ELBOW AGAIN! TIGER DRIVER… COUNTERED INTO LEG KICKS FROM MISAWA! CAPO KICK BLOCKED! RUNNING ELBOW! TIGER DRIVER 91!!!!!! Misawa wins in 36 minutes. ****3/4 I do expect slight blowback from not giving this the full monty, but it’s a quarter of a star and I also shouldn’t have any credibility to you, so oh well. The rating still should indicate to you that this match was a total epic, and an absolutely incredible fight. It’s one of the slower-paced AJPW main events you’re likely to see, but the match was worked to make that pace mean something. It’s two elite, war-torn competitors who want to fight to the brink of exhaustion to win their prize. Of course they’re going to be more deliberate and winded with those sorts of stakes. They tried going balls to the wall in the opening minute after all, and neither man came out of that exchange unscathed. So they had to adjust their gameplans accordingly, making for a methodical fight that made the most of its style. You had Misawa going after Kawada’s knee, which has given him problems in the past. Misawa’s scouting of the Powerbomb was well-done, as he was initially able to prevent it, but even when it actually hit, it didn’t keep him down. Misawa’s elbows were the big turning point by the end though, as he was able to wear Kawada down enough to finally put him away, but he couldn’t put him away by traditional means even then. He had to pretty much end Kawada’s life with the new Tiger Driver, resorting to sadistic means to keep his crown. Both men couldn’t even get an advantage without mounting moves on top of moves, and only with an extreme variant of a move could one of them win. That’s the mark of a legitimately epic fight, where both wrestlers scratch and claw for the slightest bit of advantage in an environment where getting that advantage seems like the most difficult thing in the world. I think the match could have been tightened up a little bit to really get the pacing down to a science, and I’m not sure I was a fan of the leg-work being totally ignored, but I’m not going to sit here and nitpick a classic match to death. It was incredible and doesn’t need much more said than that.

Cage Match for WWF Title: Bret Hart (c) vs. Owen Hart
WWF Summerslam 1994.

Owen jumps his big brother during his entrance and tries to get a hot start going. Bret battles back with a Manhattan Drop and gets Owen off his feet with a clothesline. Bret hits a DDT and attempts an early escape, but Owen cuts him off and gives him an enzuigiri. Owen uses that to try and escape himself, but Bret is much too fresh for this to work, grabbing Owen off the top rope for a Back Suplex. Bret tries to escape now, but Owen press slams him back down to Earth. Owen tries to escape and gets on the other side of the cage, but Bret grabs him and pulls him back inside just in time. Owen knocks Bret back down to the mat though and comes back down with a gorgeous Missile Dropkick, kipping up to try and get a head-start for an escape. Bret of course sees this and puts a stop to it, and they slug it out atop the cage until Bret runs Owen into it, sending the Blackhart to the mat. Bret attempts to escape again, but Owen catches a stomp and pulls Bret down, crotching him on the top rope. Owen takes too much time trying to escape, but Owen dodges a second rope elbow from the Hitman despite this. Owen uses that to try and escape, but Bret gets there right as Owen drapes a leg over. Owen tries to just drop, but Bret pulls him by the hair and prevents it, bringing Owen back in for a press slam into the ring. Bret is able to get a leg draped over the cage, but Owen drags him down and hits a Shell Shock of all things. Bret runs Owen’s head into the cage and tries to escape, but Owen brings him back in with a Back Suplex from the second rope. Owen hits a Piledriver in the ring, but he’s too slow to follow through and escape, so Bret intercepts him. Owen punches him off, but when Bret falls, it ends up crotching Owen, allowing Bret to try and escape through the door. Bret starts kicking and kicking, but Owen just BARELY pulls him back in and turns it into a slugfest. Bret pulls Owen back in further and catapults Owen into the cage. Bret tries to go after the door, but Owen DIVES AND STOPS HIM! Bret is able to use Owen’s momentum to rush him into the cage, but Bret’s knee smacks the cage too. Bret tries climbing out, but Owen pulls him back down to the mat and hits him with a spinning heel kick. Owen climbs and gets to the other side of the cage, but Bret forces him back in by his hair, and they fight on the top rope until Bret throws Owen back down. Owen pops right back up and drags Bret down, hitting him with a clothesline in the ring. Owen tries going over now, but Bret SUPERPLEXES HIM FROM THE CAGE TO THE MAT~! Bret is knackered so he tries to crawl through the door, but Owen pulls him back and puts in the Sharpshooter. Bret reverses into one of his own and tries to escape, but Owen pulls him back down. Bret meets Owen on the outside of the cage, where Bret puts Owen’s leg in the cage and drops down to retain in 31 minutes. ***3/4 This match polarizes me, and really always has. I’m a huge fan of Bret Hart and I feel like his matches hold up surprisingly well over the years considering his style, but there are parts of this match that infuriate me a little. First, I’m just not a fan of a cage match centered around two guys running away from each other. I think the escape rule is useful in certain situations, but given that was the only way it could end here, it kind of betrayed the ‘fighting champion’ attitude Bret Hart always went into his matches with. It didn’t feel like they were fighting each other out of a feud built upon bad blood; they just felt like pawns in a weirdly booked match that could have been tweaked to be a legitimately classic match. While that harms the match significantly for me in regards to looking at it with a five star rating in mind, I thought they did the best with the limited avenue they were given to travel on. They timed escape attempts and used them as nearfalls almost, substituting a trope from a regular match for something different here. That’s the mark of a good wrestler; adaptation. They adapted to their surroundings and made the best with what they were given, and the crowd responded as such. In all honesty, my lack of overwrought glowing for this match probably comes down to a philosophical difference in cage matches. If a feud’s been brewing for nearly a year and the wrestlers are at one another’s throats, I want a cage match to be a FIGHT. This just didn’t come off like a fight to me, and fell streets behind their Wrestlemania match in terms of palpability to me. Your mileage will obviously vary and for what they did, it was quite great at spots, but it needed a little better context and correct psychology to be something special for me like their Wrestlemania match was. But with that being said, if you can look past that and see the story they told around the cage, you won’t have much to complain about.

Masks vs. Hair – Two Out of Three Falls: Los Gringos Locos (Eddy Guerrero & Art Barr) vs. El Hijo Del Santo & Octagon
AAA When Worlds Collide.

Guerrero and Barr are unhappy at the “Mexico” chants from the crowd, but eventually they return to start things off with Eddy and Santo. Neither man gets an advantage, and that brings in Octagon and Love Machine, which is an awesome sequence that ends in Eddy blindsiding a rolling Octagon. Los Gringos Locos win the first fall first by pinning Santo with a Doomsday Rana, and Octagon with a Superplex/Frog Splash combo. You have to win falls by pinning both men as it goes, which is needlessly complicated and unecessary, but then again it wouldn’t be AAA if it was simple, would it? Eddy is on a roll as the first fall begins, and he heels out on Octagon with an eyepoke as he and Love Machine keep the momentum going. Santo saves the day for Octagon, and they clean house with dives and headscissors to turn the tide. STEREO TOPE SUICIDAS! Eddy and Santo fight it out back in the ring, where Eddy hits a second rope Frankensteiner for 3. Mind you, they still need to pin Octagon to win the fall. Octagon fights back and pins Eddie with a Frankensteiner and taps out Barr to win the second fall. Eddy and Santo begin the second fall, and Barr stops a Hurricanrana pin in the early seconds. Turnabout is fair play as Octagon breaks up an Eddy Camel Clutch. Barr is not one to be outdone though, superkicking Santo out of his own Camel Clutch attempt. Eddy tries putting Octagon in the Gory Special, but Santo breaks it up and hits Eddy with a super Electric Chair later. Suddenly we get clipping for some reason to a Sunset Flip from Santo to Eddy on the floor, while Barr hits Octagon with a Spinning Tombstone to get a 3 count. Extra heel, because the Piledriver is banned in Mexico and the dastardly Barr hit it behind the ref’s back. Certainly not the worst thing he ever did in his life. As ever though, he needs to pin Santo to take their masks. LARIAT/GERMAN FROM LOS GRINGOS LOCOS! FOR 2! SUPERPLEX/FROG SPLASH! SANTO KICKS OUT! Antonio Pena is at ringside with the medical team looking over a hurt Octagon thanks to the outlawed Piledriver. Santo ducks another Lariat/German and DIVES OUT ON TOP OF GUERRERO! BLUE PANTHER PILEDRIVES BARR! ONE, TWO, THREE! Eddy meets a worn-out Santo in the ring, and he gives him a Ligerbomb in the ring for 2. BELLY-TO-BELLY SUPERPLEX! SANTO KICKS OUT! SUPER RANA FROM EDDY! SANTO KICKS OUT! DRAGON SUPLEX! SANTO KICKS OUT AGAIN! VICTORY ROLL FROM SANTO! HE WINS!!! Los Gringos Locos lose their hair in 23 minutes. ****1/4 I remarked in the play by play about how ridiculous I thought the “pin both men to win the fall” rule was and I was about as wrong as wrong could be. It made for some fantastic drama and twists as the match wore on, and I apologize posthumously to Antonio Pena for my ignorance. Eddy Guerrero and Art Barr were unbelievable here. I’m not going to pretend that watching rapist Art Barr doesn’t kind of provide a little uncomfort to wade through, but I can usually watch Chris Benoit without issue so what am I even talking about. These two had such phenomenal chemistry together, using their animated racist gimmick to establish a great face/heel divide and unite one of the most passionate crowds you’ll find on any continent. At first, the lack of reaction to the false finishes at the end took me out of things, but it made sense after thinking about it. These fans have no desire to see these xenophobic pricks take the masks of their heros. They’re obviously going to wait with baited breath and hope it turns out okay. And when it did, they came unglued and were overjoyed that their hero Hijo Del Santo overcame the odds after his partner was hurt with the illegal Piledriver. It’s easy, old school booking but that’s the charm of it. It works, and makes everyone involved more significant as characters and within the story being told. Wrestling is at its core about good guys vs. bad guys, and this was the perfect example of it… with a little convoluted drama thrown in for good measure.

Manami Toyota vs. Aja Kong
AJW November 20, 1994.

Toyota blindsides Kong with a dropkick early, and tries to put her away with a Sunset Flip to no avail. She tries a crossbody, but Kong catches her and turns the tide. Toyota tries to use her speed to move around Kong, who doesn’t have any of it and instead piledrives her. Toyota hits a pop-up dropkick and tries kicking Kong in the face, and Aja just gets up and stares her down for such idiocy. Kong punishes further with an avalanche Powerslam, but Toyota bridges out at 2. Kong takes her out to the ramp – they’re in the Tokyo Dome and have an elevated ramp to the ring – and KILLS TOYOTA WITH A DOMINATOR! Kong ties her up in the ropes and gets a big running start for a shoulderblock to the gut. Kong hits a jumping Piledriver in the ring, hilariously shutting a shrieking Toyota up for a moment. Kong takes too long setting up a splash though, allowing Toyota to pop up and boot her to the floor for a BIG PLANCHA! MISSILE DROPKICK TO THE FLOOR! Toyota grabs a table from outside the guardrail and sets Kong on it for a BIG SPLASH FROM THE TOP ROPE! JAPANESE OCEAN SUPLEX! KONG KICKS OUT! GERMAN FROM KONG! CODE RED… COUNTERED INTO A POWERBOMB BY KONG! FOR 2! SECOND ROPE SPLASH! TOYOTA BRIDGES OUT! TOYOTA WITH AN AVALANCHE REVERSE CRADLE~! KONG KICKS OUT! OCEAN CYCLONE… COUNTERED! MOONSAULT EATS KNEES! MISSILE DROPKICK! KONG KICKS OUT! SUNSET POWERBOMB… BUT AJA COUNTERS WITH A BANZAI DROP~! TOYOTA KICKS OUT! SPINNING BACKFIST! STEINER SCREWDRIVER! Aja Kong wins in 18 minutes. ****1/2 While it was a little short to reap all its rewards, this was still quite the fantastic David vs. Goliath battle. Manami Toyota fits perfectly into her small babyface role here, because she has a persona and style ready-made for it. She is persistent, durable, and works with the right amount of speed to outmaneuver her opponents in precarious situations. And against a brutal machine like an Aja Kong, this style only works better because it provides an even greater speed difference. That’s not to say Kong isn’t quick or nimble, but comparing her agility to Manami Toyota is a bet I don’t think a sane man would take. And they worked that story here in a very simple match, but the movesets and timing of both women turned that simplicity into something memorable. That’s the mark of a great worker. Any mechnically decent wrestler can go out there and throw some clubbering shots to their smaller foe, but it takes a great worker to take that story and fill the blanks in with something special. Whether it was the wilder offense of Toyota bringing out tables, stiff kicks to the face, and the like… or Kong using the Tokyo Dome ramp to try and break poor Toyota’s neck. It felt like this match meant something to these girls, and that meant Manami Toyota’s perseverance had an added element to it rather than it just being her usual style. Great matches take normal tendencies and give meaning and context to them, and that’s what we got here. Add that on with the aforementioned big/little psychology and you’ve got the best singles match out of the Japanese women so far.

Rey Misterio Jr. vs. Juventud Guerrera
AAA November 30, 1994.

The match starts on the mat, neither man taking much of a risk in the earlygoing. Both men try to catch a quick fall with cradles, but they don’t stay down. It’s all your usual dancy lucha matwork, but it’s good stuff. Rey kicks a running Juvi out of the ring as he tries to rush, forcing Juventud to adjust outside. The action speeds up from there, and Rey nearly gets a pinfall off of a Hurricanrana early. He puts Juvi up top for a gorgeous double jump Super Rana, but Juvi finds the ropes at 2. Rey wins the first fall with a Ligerbomb. The second fall starts with a rolling Juvi, hitting a springboard missile dropkick that knocks Rey for a loop. He throws Rey all around with Powerbombs and Fallaway Slams, but the little guy doesn’t stay down. He even fires off a couple All Japan worthy Backdrop Drivers before winning the second fall with a German Suplex. Rey starts the last fall on a roll, hitting Juvi with a big step-up twising senton, but Juvi doesn’t stay down. Juvi fights back with a wacky Gory Special variant, turning it into a pinning combination for a few two counts. Rey nearly gets the win with a Sunset Flip, but can’t get the duke. He dodges a Juvi dropkick into the corner and clotheslines him outside for an INSANE SENTON SUICIDA~! It appears Juvi dodged him because Rey landed HARD. Juvi uses that to hit a sweet springboard twisting senton to the outside, and the announcer decides to INTERVIEW HIM directly after it. Rey catches Juvi with a quick Rana in the ring for two, but Juvi fights back with a Tope Suicida. Rey dodges a charging Juvi in the corner and hits a huge plancha from the top rope to the floor on him and nearly gets the win with a Sunset Flip in the ring. Juvi necks him with a German Suplex, which gets no reaction from the crowd. That’s so weird after all these Japanese matches. Juvi gives Rey a Superplex, but drags him up at 2 so his lackey can punch Rey a bit. Rey reverses another Superplex, but the referee gets distracted long enough for aforementioned lackey to punt Rey in the nuts. Rey’s manager beats up Juvi’s and… the ref rewards the win to Rey? Well, fuck you too Antonio Pena. ** I’ve largely been in broad agreement with Dave Meltzer’s assessments on all the matches I’ve reviewed thus far. Either I understand them and see why he loved them at the time, or in some cases completely agree some three decades on. But with these lucha matches, I have asked myself on two occasions what eyes he saw them through to give them a perfect rating. Frankly, once Rey and Juvi both went to the US and got some American-ized psychology in their routines, they improved greatly. I compare this to Rey’s US matches just 9-10 months later in ECW and it’s night and day. Now, they’re working for different audiences and that’s absolutely something to consider, but I just can’t find anything special or standout about this match. The Japanese juniors were doing similar acrobatics with much tighter structure, psychology and based on the horrendous finish, better booking. The two out of three falls structure lends itself to drama in occasions where it’s warranted, but it felt so boring and rigid here that it came off as a complete time-waster instead of an avenue to help the match. Both men got useless pinfalls that meant nothing. It was a “don’t bore us, get to the chorus” moment and that’s a cardinal wrestling sin for me. I don’t want to be sit for ten minutes and not have those ten minutes be useful to the minutes it builds up to. That’s the problem with a lot of lucha. It doesn’t build, and has no semblance of structure or pacing to it. Of course, both men would learn those skills in earnest as their careers blossomed, but it was absent here. They were buoyed by the predictably great acrobatics and some solid destruction from the Juice, but I wouldn’t dare call it a good match, much less a five star one.

9.5
The final score: review Amazing
The 411
While 1993's compilation of matches might have been more consistent, this one was probably the most diverse list of the bunch so far. Any style you could want is represented here, and despite some misses (the Rey vs. Juvi match in particular) it's hard to complain when you've got that much ground to cover. The Misawa/Kawada match is obviously legendary but in my eyes doesn't match up to its preceding tag match, which is kind of incredible when you consider the quality of match we're talking about is already so high to begin with. That pretty much says that All Japan continues to rule the roost - and only seems to be getting better - but the inclusion of some American wrestling is a welcome inclusion even if some of it doesn't really stand the test of time. Either way, you're likely to find something to tickle your fancy here given how many regions and styles are represented.
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