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Zen Arcade Reviews: Every Match Dave Meltzer Gave 5+ Stars To (1991-1992)

February 8, 2019 | Posted by Jake St-Pierre
WCW WrestleWar 1992
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Zen Arcade Reviews: Every Match Dave Meltzer Gave 5+ Stars To (1991-1992)  

Bull Nakano vs. Akira Hokuto
AJW January 4, 1991.

Nakano slaps Hokuto’s hand away during a handshake, so Hokuto blindsides her with a German. Nakano gets her knees up on a slap though and overpowers Hokuto, who is still able to keep her head above water with speed. Nakano dirties up the fight by bringing it outside and throwing down there though, hitting Hokuto with a clothesline as she gets back into the ring. Hokuto fires back with a lariat of her own and tries to fight fire with fire, forcing Nakano to kick the hell out of her for her foolishness. Hokuto is able to slip under and around Nakano’s offense and work some submissions though. Nakano methodically grapples her way into a better position though and locks in a Crab of her own. Nakano works her way into a Sharpshooter after getting 2 with a Pump Kick, but Hokuto outquicks her and puts in a Fujiwara Armbar out of nowhere. Hokuto begins building a head of steam, landing a couple big dropkicks for a two count. She even gets Bull up for a Piledriver. Nakano powers out and NECKS poor Hokuto with a pair of Back Suplexes before booting her to the floor for a big Plancha! Back in the ring Nakano hits a big diving leg-drop, but Hokuto kicks out at 2. Piledriver scores for Nakano now, but she misses another knee… TIGER SUPLEX FROM HOKUTO! MISSILE DROPKICK! ANOTHER ONE! A THIRD ONE TO THE FACE! A FOURTH ONE! NAKANO KICKS OUT! JUMPING DDT FROM NAKANO! CHUCK KICK FROM NAKANO! ANOTHER ONE… BUT HOKUTO DROPKICKS HER TO THE FLOOR! SOMERSAULT PLANCHA FROM HOKUTO! Nakano slams Hokuto to the mat and some woman comes in and helps her hit an Avalanche Tombstone, but the referee won’t count the pin. POWERBOMB! HOKUTO KICKS OUT! SUPERPLEX FROM HOKUTO! NAKANO KICKS OUT! NORTHERN LIGHTS BOMB! NAKANO KICKS OUT AGAIN! BACKDROP DRIVER FROM NAKANO! Bull Nakano wins in 18 minutes. **** This wasn’t anything that I haven’t seen before, but I thought they worked quite the successful little bout here. It was the simple David vs. Goliath story you see told in wrestling over and over, but the formula works for a reason. Nakano is a bulldozer (no pun intended) who can throw Hokuto around at will. Hokuto is the fiery babyface who fights through it, but has trouble mounting successful offense unless she can do it in bursts. And so Akira Hokuto made sure to be as persistent as possible in her maneuvers, hitting four straight Missile Dropkicks and following up on simple things like a dropkick to the floor with a major dive. She compounded that with spirited nearfalls and a lack of quit – even when Nakano’s partner interfered – meaning she lasted longer than conventional logic says she had a right to. She still took too much damage in the end though and despite willing her way to some advantages, she couldn’t cope with the power and stayed down at the end. It’s simple, it works, and makes for a compelling match. It’s not rocket appliances.

War Games: Barry Windham, Larry Zbyszko, Ric Flair, & Sid Vicious vs. Brian Pillman, Rick Steiner, Scott Steiner, & Sting
WCW Wrestle War 1991.

Brian Pillman and Barry Windham start things off, and Brian jumps Windham from behind to begin the proceedings. He swings from the cage to hit a headscissor takedown before hitting a missile dropkick. Pillman continues to have his way with Windham, slamming his head into fence for our first blood of the match. Pillman heads up top and dives down on top of Windham with a flying clothesline before nearly killing poor Barry by shitcanning him into the other ring. Pillman just continues to beat Windham into the living death until the period ends, and the coin toss goes to the heel team. This draws Ric Flair into the cage, but Pillman doesn’t go quietly into the night even as the numbers game overwhelms him. Flair and Windham work on Pillman’s bad shoulder, returning the favor from Windham’s earlier crash and burn as they throw him into the adjacent ring. They continue to go after the shoulder until the period ends, and here comes Sting. Sting fires up and cleans house with a big double clothesline, letting Pillman have Flair as Sting takes out Windham. The action spills into the same ring, where Flair’s chops have no effect on the fresher Sting, who beats him down some more as Pillman goes after Windham a few feet away. The period ends though, and it’s Larry Zbyszko, who catches a ring-to-ring forearm from Sting as soon as he gets to the ring. Larry fights back and boots Sting to mush in the corner, and the heels start to use their numbers game to get the upperhand again. The period peters out, bringing out Rick Steiner for some STEINERLINES~! He hits Ric Flair with a Belly-to-Belly and rams him into the cage and surprisingly, Flair bleeds. The action is chaotic now as Pillman works over Zbyszko in the other ring as Rick Steiner continues to bring the pain in his. The babyfaces largely prevail during the period, but Sid Vicious makes his way into the proceedings and assists Flair in low-blowing poor Rick Steiner. Sid clotheslines Sting as Rick Steiner recovers in the next ring, working over Flair with some face-to-cage action. The heels use their numbers yet again to get the upperhand, with Barry Windham even hitting the Noggin Knocker. Flair uses a low blow to drop Sting, and all hope seems lost until Scott Steiner enters to begin the Match Beyond. Scott comes in and murders everyone, hitting Zbyszko with a Tiger Driver of all things before knocking Sid on his butt with another STEINERLINE~! Stinger Splash scores on Flair, and Flair finds himself in the Scorpion Deathlock. Sid works over Brian in the opposite ring and continues to work his shoulder, even ripping the tape off like a dirty heel. The faces turn the tide and put in QUADRUPLE FIGURE FOURS! Sid hilariously just screams “FIGURE FOUR” at Pillman beforehand as if he had any room to be calling spots here. Sting gives Flair a Military Press into the top of the cage and continues to beat him down while Sid drops Rick Steiner on his face after a clothesline. Rick Steiner eats a double clothesline a few moments later from Sid and Barry Windham. Pillman gets cornered, but he has no problem trading chops with Flair as he tries to get his head above water. Sid takes out Steiner with a big boot and pops Pillman up into the top of the cage before NECKING HIM WITH A POWERBOMB! ANOTHER POWERBOMB! I guess one of two isn’t a total loss. El Gigante runs down to the ring and checks on Pillman… and he calls it off for the babyfaces. That was dumb. The heels win in 22 minutes. ****1/4 Given this was Jim Herd’s WCW, I can’t exactly say the finish surprises me, but it really does prevent this match from being the all-time great I was hoping it would be. The match itself (and Beyond!) was War Games down to a beautiful, intense science. The gimmick is most successful when everyone in the match has a purpose, and that was demonstrated wonderfully here with the babyface unit especially. Brian Pillman was the small-but-fiery babyface, never dying and making sure no one left his sight without a mark to show for it. Sting was the ultimate leader, building the team around his energy and making the big comebacks. The Steiners were the ravenous dogs they always were, suplexing and battering everyone in sight to save their comrades. And that’s just the babyfaces, who were a well-oiled unit and timed their comebacks and fire well alongside the more dour notes of the heels and their numbers game. Like I said, the finish was garagntuanly stupid and ridiculous, but if you can take it for what it is (WCW, basically) then I don’t see how you could have a bad time watching this match. And hell, it’s kind of wholesome watching El Gigante carry Brian Pillman’s body out of the cage while Jim Ross calls Gigante his “large buddy”. So it isn’t all bad.

Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada, & Kenta Kobashi vs. Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue, & Masanobu Fuchi
AJPW April 20, 1991. Believe it or not, this is one of the first matches I ever reviewed. It was for the Oratory, pretty much the only place I can still talk about wrestling without wanting to kill myself.

Taue and Kobashi start us off, and Taue hilariously punches Kawada on the apron with the most blank faced expression imaginable. He does it again before tagging out to Masa Fuchi, but Kobashi is fresh enough to tag himself out to Misawa as Jumbo Tsuruta makes his way in. Tsuruta gives Misawa a knee to the gut and tags back out to Fuchi, who ends up walking right into an abdominal stretch. Taue breaks it up and again goes after Kawada, but Misawa fights off Jumbo a few moments later and makes a big tag to Kobashi, who drops the leg on Tsuruta for an early nearfall. Fuchi tags back in to cut Kobashi off, bringing in Taue to start some work on the arm. Kawada returns the favor and walks in to soccer kick Taue’s back to mush, and Taue jumps him on his way back to the apron, starting a melee. Kawada eats his lunch as their partners try to calm things down, nearly getting in a scuffle themselves. Misawa starts working over Taue and eventually tags in Kawada so he can beat Taue’s ass legally. Taue catches him with a running DDT though after he gets too aggressive, bringing in Fuchi to continue the punishment. Fuchi chucks Kawada to the floor, and Jumbo drops down to put the exclamation point on it with a Piledriver. After some more punishment in the ring, Taue and Tsuruta hit Kawada with a spike Piledriver on the floor for good measure. Tsuruta puts him in a Sleeper as they head back inside, but Misawa breaks it up before Kawada can pass out and lose the match. Taue hits a lariat on Kawada, which would be nice except for his arms make Kurt Angle’s atrophied sticks look like Evergreen stumps. Taue hits poor Kawada with a Samoan Drop, but Kawada explodes into a spin kick and tags out to Kobashi, who totally cleans house on everyone and gives the team a much needed kick in the ass. He gets the big tag to Misawa, who dives out on top of Fuchi with an elbow. Tsuruta breaks up the pin, so Misawa hits Fuchi with a German for a nearfall. The action breaks down as Misawa flips his way in and out of the ring with Kobashi taking out Tsuruta on the floor, capped off by some Kawada kicks inside the ring, followed by a Fujiwara Armbar. Tsuruta brutes his way out of it and tags in Taue, who gets a little careless and gets a Back Suplex countered into a crossface variant. Kobashi tags back in and cleans house, setting Misawa up for a Frog Splash that gets a close nearfall on Taue. Kobashi puts Taue in a Cloverleaf, so Tsuruta boots him in the face for his foolishness to break that up. No problem for Kobashi though, who tags in Misawa to keep the momentum going. Tsuruta again makes sure to stop any momentum from building by breaking up holds, but the babyface team is persistent in bringing the pain to Taue anyways. Kawada tries to pay Taue back with a Powerbomb on the floor, but Tsuruta breaks it up to prevent him from his retribution. Kobashi hits Taue with a Piledriver in the ring though, showing that his team isn’t willing to back down yet. Kobashi hits a second rope DDT on Taue before Misawa dropkicks him to the floor, setting up for Misawa to throw Kobashi onto Taue on the floor! Fuchi comes in and stops this party, and begins working on Kobashi’s leg so Tsuruta can come in and bring the pain. Lariat scores for Jumbo, who feeds him to Fuchi outside for some more punishment to the leg. Kobashi continues to get his knee completely massacared and attempts to kick away from Fuchi’s grasp, but Tsuruta tags himself in and makes his day worse. Taue heads up top and drops the elbow on Kobashi’s leg, but Kobashi resists the Figure Four and boots Taue off. Fuchi tags in though and tries to stop the bleeding after taking a Suplex, but is able to tag in Tsuruta for a Big Boot. Tsuruta measures for a Powerbomb, but Kawada breaks it and allows Kobashi to hit Jumbo with an enzuigiri. Taue tags back in before Kobashi can tag into his partners, locking in a Half Crab to keep him stationary… until he TAGS INTO KAWADA! LARIAT ON FUCHI! CHOPS TO THE THROAT! FUCHI KICKS OUT! Misawa tags in and slugs it out with Fuchi, who cracks him with a good right hand to stop his momentum. Tsuruta tags in and hits a jumping knee on Misawa, but it gets two. POWERBOMB ON MISAWA! MISAWA KICKS OUT! SUPER BACKDROP DRIVER FROM TSURUTA AND TAUE! FOR 2! BACKBREAKER ON MISAWA! COUNTERED INTO A PIN FOR 2! TIGER DRIVER FROM MISAWA! TAUE KICKS OUT! KOBASHI WITH A MOONSAULT ON TAUE!!! FUCHI BREAKS IT UP! TAUE DDT’S MISAWA! CHOKESLAM! KAWADA BREAKS IT! NORTHERN LARIAT FROM KAWADA TO TAUE! TIGER SUPLEX ON TAUE! Misawa pins Taue in 51 minutes. ****1/2 I remember reviewing this match seven years ago and thinking it was just the coolest thing I’d ever seen. I was so in awe with Kenta Kobashi’s selling in particular that 2012 me was jumping out of his boots to award this a five star rating. But with seven years and a lot more wrestling intake, I have to downgrade my rating a little bit. All in all, this is still a total spectacle. For these six to be able to weave in so many cool little plotlines in such a gargantuan match is mightily impressive. They told different stories at different points in the match rather than drag one entire bit of psychology out the entire way. The first 20 minutes or so were carried by the war between Akira Taue and Toshiaki Kawada, with action in the ring consistently being interrupted by their physical spats and cheapshots. That story transitioned into Kawada taking the heat, as Taue’s constant badgering sucked him into being too aggressive, allowing for the cerebral nature of the Taue, Fuchi, and Tsuruta to help dismantle the revenge-minded Kawada. Once Kawada got his hot tag, that story largely drifted away into a slow middle portion. This middle portion is why I can’t take that five-star leap, because it felt like it was wasting time. I’m all for a long match if the time is used wisely and logically, but there were several moments around the midpoint of this bout that I felt they were just waiting for the next storyline to begin. But to their credit, when the next segment of the match began, we got some really intriguing drama. It wasn’t anything spectacular in concept as it was simply Kenta Kobashi having his knee worked over by the heels, but the combination of his magnficent selling and the growing frequency of the heels’ unethical behavior meant it built tremendously. The close calls became more heartwrenching, and it went on long enough that you were looking for any positive movement on Kobashi’s part. Once he tagged in Kawada, the world turned upside down and everything became a blur. All six men were going hell for leather, one last gasp to a finish of a match that was simply too evenly contested to have a winner up to that point. In the melee, Misawa was able to catch Taue with a Suplex and end things, made even better by the fact that there was a long segment of Misawa’s team wearing Taue down to set it up. I think the incredible build-up this got deserved a slightly more epic home stretch, but I can’t exactly complain when everything was set up with that sort of airtight storytelling. Sometimes the primal “movez” guy in you needs to settle down and look for something different, which is what we got here. It’s absolutely a classic match though for the sheer scale of it and while it’s a time investment, I don’t see a self-respecting fan coming out of it feeling ripped off.

UWA Tag Titles: Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada (c) vs. Yumiko Hotta & Suzuka Minami
AJW March 15, 1992. The April 20, 1992 Observer says this was actually a ****3/4 match, but I didn’t check that before reviewing the match, so here’s a bonus!

Toyota starts a mile a minute with Minami, bringing the fight until Minami hits Yamada with a Back Suplex in the hooplah. I can already tell this is going to be a son of a bitch to call as Manami Toyota is a house of fire, just dropkicking and diving and dropkicking and diving while Yamada is the one who isolates the leg of Hotta with a Stretch Muffler. Toyota puts inn an AWESOME combination of a Cattle Mutilation and Muta Lock, which I’m going to call the Cattle MutaLock until someone rightfully murders me for it. Hotta tags out to Minami, who finally gets her team a little bit of control. Hotta puts Yamada on her shoulders and hits a reverse Burning Hammer, which is significantly less cool looking. Toyota finally gets the hot tag, which is bad news bears for Suzuka Minami as she gets about three Missile Dropkicks in the span of 10 seconds, and a pair of German Suplexes on top of it. She pulls out the Kobashi rolling cradle for two, and follows that up with a Front Suplex for 2. Toyota then puts on this wacky Butterfly submission where she basically triangles poor Minami’s legs into her face, adding onto the list of dope submissions she just pulls out like it’s nothing. Yamada and Toyota are in firmer control now, but Minami catches Toyota as she heads up top, hitting her with a Superplex. Hotta hits Toyota with a Perfectplex that gets a two count, bringing Minami back in for a diving knee and a diving boot. Yamada breaks up a few pinfalls to save the day for Toyota, who eventually tags back out. Yamada eats an enzuigiri almost immediately from Hotta, followed by a Tiger Driver and German for a pair of two counts. Yamada hits Minami with a couple enzuigiris of her own, followed by a Backdrop Driver for 2. Toyota and Yamada hit a nasty looking double Back Superplex, but Minami is able to get a shoulder up. MOONSAULT FROM TOYOTA MISSES! PLANCHA TO THE OUTSIDE FROM TOYOTA! MINAMI HITS HER PARTNER WITH A TOPE SUICIDA! TOP ROPE ASAI MOONSAULT FROM TOYOTA! ELBOW FROM HOTTA MISSES! JAPANESE OCEAN SUPLEX! HOTTA KICKS OUT! SUPER ALLEY OOP BOMB FROM HOTTA! TIGER DRIVER… INTO A HEADBUTT FROM MINAMI! YAMADA SAVES! TOP ROPE QUEBRADA FROM TOYOTA! DIVING ELBOW FROM YAMADA! Toyota and Yamada pick up the win in 23 minutes. **** I have my reservations about the Joshi style, but I thought it was worked tremendously here. They slowed it down just enough to give it structure, which really elevates this unbelievably quick style and makes it feel purposeful. They worked it as more of a fight too, which is difficult given said style, but I thought it blended together quite well for what they were trying to accomplish. I also appreciated how every woman had a defined role. Yumiko Hotta was the more shoot oriented worker, throwing kicks and keeping things largely grounded while her partner in Minami was slightly more animated, but maybe even more intense given how heelish she worked. It was a really interesting dynamic for the heel team, making it even better for Manami Toyota’s borderline offensive cardio. I swear, the more I see that woman work, the worse it makes me feel about myself. I literally might quit watching some of her sixty-minute matches in the coming years. She’s just ridiculous and it’s not exactly difficult to see why she is given such high praise with her consistency. I don’t want to lie and say I’m not a little iffy on how few of the moves mean anything, but I’m starting to look past it as I look through more of these Joshi matches. I’m thinking it’s just an ignorance thing as I’ve never been the most dedicated Joshi fan, but I’m going to get all of it I can handle as these years wear on.

El Samurai vs. Jushin Liger
NJPW April 30, 1992.

Samurai goes right at Liger’s mask early before shitcanning him to the floor to hit him with some object. He tops it off with a Tombstone on the floor before posturing to the audience a bit, working for a countout rather than trying to win honorably. Liger makes it back in, but the journey is far from smooth thereafter as Samurai keeps turgging at the mask and working Liger over. Liger fights back though and gets Samurai to the apron, where he suplexes him to the floor and pulls up the mats on the floor for a Powerbomb that the director misses something fierce. I think it was a Powerbomb, at least. Liger is on a roll now, taking Samurai back into the ring for a Capo Kick and some mask destruction of his own. He throws Samurai back to the floor and comes down off the apron with a Senton Bomb. The punishment continues in the ring with missile dropkicks and diving knees, Liger in form control as Samurai’s mask hangs from his neck like a bandana or something. Liger works a Kimura to try to put things away now, setting that up with a Moonsault to the floor from the second rope. He tries a Cross Armbreaker too, but Samurai scurries to the rope. Samurai fights back and heads to the top for a Missile Dropkick of his own before knocking Liger to the floor for a Tope Con Giro. Samurai uses some submissions himself to try to end the match in the ring, but Liger is resilient, so Samurai tries a Superplex. Liger resists and knocks Samurai to the mat, coming down on top of him with a splash for 2. He follows with a Tombstone, but Samurai dodges a Swanton and tries a Frankensteiner, only for Liger to counter into a Powerbomb for a close nearfall. Liger hits an Electric Chair from the top rope, but Samurai won’t stay down. RUNNING DRAGONRANA FROM SAMURAI! LIGER KICKS OUT! GERMAN! LIGER KICKS OUT! Liger swats him out of the air on a Crossbody, and puts Samurai up top for a SECOND ROPE DDT. He follows with a Back Superplex and a super Frankensteiner for the win in 21 minutes. ***1/4 Not sure where the hype with this comes from, I’m afraid. This was more than acceptable for a midcard Junior match by all means, but it fell into the bland formula that division sometimes deals with in New Japan today. Everything was done well and with aplomb, but it all felt like it was killing time to get to the cooler moves rather than building something organically. That sort of match can still be useful if the moves are easy to watch, but this match wasn’t worked with any real athletic prowess and thus, the only real chance it had at having its own charm dissipated. It was long for the sake of being long rather than justifying the time its audience put into it, which is not something I like to see in wrestling. And I don’t even think this has to do with the style evolving through the years either; this simply just didn’t have much to sink your teeth into. It really felt like a RAW main event from 2013 rather than a state-of-the-art Junior Heavyweight match, which sucks, because it’s not like Jushin Liger couldn’t have those sorts of matches in 1992. This is one of the more dull inclusions on the list so far and the closest thing I’ve found to a headscratcher, but that’s the fun of these columns.

War Games: The Dangerous Alliance (Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, Larry Zbyszko, Rick Rude, & Steve Austin) vs. Sting’s Squadron (Sting, Barry Windham, Dustin Rhodes, Nikita Koloff, & Ricky Steamboat)
WCW Wrestlewar 1992.

Seeing Paul E. talking strategy with his team alongside a diagram is so amazing that I can’t believe people aren’t doing stuff like that these days. Paul Heyman is a genius of proportions that terrify me, mostly because I’ll never be as good at anything as Paul E. is at wrestling stuff. Steve Austin and Barry Windham are our first two starters, and it’s a Pier Sixer as these two had tussled over the TV Title prior to this matchup. They largely work around the idea of trying to rake each other’s faces in the cage, and Austin escapes before diving over the ropes to clothesline Windham into the adjacent ring, only for Windham to finally get Austin into the cage. The last minute of the period sees Windham working over a bloody Austin, even biting the cut as he puts a hurting on him. The coin toss goes to the Alliance, and in comes Rick Rude. Rude saves Austin and has it out with Windham, who doesn’t take kindly to Rude’s interference. Soon enough, he doesn’t have a choice as the numbers game proves to work nicely with both Rude and Austin cornering Windham and running his head into the cage. The period winds down, bringing in Ricky Steamboat who cleans house on Rude and Austin! Steamboat hits both men with DDT’s and the crowd is out of their MINDS for this guy. Windham is busted open, but Steamboat is saving the day for him, using the cage to hit a Hurricanrana to Rick Rude as Windham fires back against Austin directly beside him. The action spreads out to both rings as the period trickles down, bringing Arn Anderson to reestablish the Alliance’s advantage. Anderson DDT’s Windham and hits a GORGEOUS Spinebuster on Steamboat before Rude helps him with a Double Boston Crab. The Alliance has its way with the babyfaces, Rude giving Steamboat a nasty Biel into the other ring as Windham takes a beating from Anderson. Sting’s Squadron has a savior in the form of Dustin Rhodes though, who comes in and works over Arn and Austin specifically. He gives a bloody Stunning Steve an Electric Chair, and Windham hilariously puts AA’s head in between the rings. Steamboat meanwhile has a Figure Four in the opposite ring, but Rude fights with him and turns it over. That pretty much brings the period to an end, and Larry Zbyszko makes his way in. Madusa climbs up on top of the cage and slips Paul E’s phone to the heels, but Sting climbs up to meet her, sending her back to the floor in fear. It works out for the heels though, as the phone makes its way into the proceedings. The period ends with some more clubbering, just in time for Sting to head in and beat some fools down. He gives Rude a Military press into the top of the cage and volleys everyone into cage, giving Austin a scary looking backdrop into it even. Madusa tapes Bobby Eaton’s fist at ringside as Sting leads the charge. Steamboat and Sting wishbone poor Rude’s legs as his head is between the rings, but almost immediately after, the last of the Dangerous Alliance comes in the form of Bobby Eaton. Everyone and their mother is bleeding now, and a fresher Bobby Eaton feasts on them as Larry Zbyszko loosens the top turnbuckle in one of the rings. It’s pretty much chaos now, and the Match Beyond starts as Nikita Koloff makes his way inside to even the odds. Koloff and Sting have a bit of a contentious moment, but Koloff steps in the way of a double team to save him, and they high five to confirm they’re on the same side! The Alliance continues to lossen the top rope on the left ring, but Sting and Koloff continue their onslaught as Sting puts Arn in the Scorpion. Bobby Eaton breaks it up and takes the top rope down, giving the carnage an added aesthetic as the brawl continues. Zybszko and Eaton take the steel part of the turnbuckle, but Sting moves and forces Larry to hit Eaton in the arm! Sting puts Eaton in an armbar, and that’s it in 24 minutes. ****1/2 Probably the cream of the crop when it comes to War Games matches, and after seeing this, it’s kind of impossible not to see why. It fosters such a unique environment for carnage that when you have two teams with a legitimate grudge, it takes it to a special level a simple hardcore match cannot achieve. It feels like human cockfighting rather than a pro wrestling match. Everyone is bleeding everywhere, and until the last few minutes, they can’t even end the match. It’s all about death and destruction, and it’s a little bit of a bummer that wrestling has largely moved on from that sort of intensity. This match came off as such a brutal fight that you started to feel a little sympathy for Steve Austin, who was obviously kind of a dick. But all ten men worked as if they gave everything to the cause of winning this match. They tore down the ring, bled all over one another, and created a sort of chaos that only this sort of spectacle can provide. There was even a little bit of psychology between teammates as Sting and Koloff weren’t sure about teaming together, but once they found out they had a common bond, it was pretty much game over after that as the united front became too much to overcome. There was character development inside such a nasty brawl and that’s an aspect of this match I have to commend, especially when it felt like the Dangerous Alliance had their stuff all the way together with Paul E. at the helm. This was a beautiful match in some ways and after seeing it (and the first 20 or so minutes of the 1991 bout) you start to realize why it was such a big deal when NXT brought the gimmick back in 2017. Because when it’s done right, you can’t find many better spectacles than War Games.

NOTE: The May 25, 1992 Observer lists a match between Atsushi Onita, Tarzan Goto, & El Hijo Del Santo vs. Negro Casas, Horace Boulder, & Tim Patterson as a five star match. This is not a Dave Meltzer rating, as it was just a star rating in the report sent to him. This happens a LOT in these old Observers and can be quite confusing, so just wanted to clear that up. Also because there’s no fuckin’ way Horace Hogan was in a ***** match.

Kenta Kobashi, Toshiaki Kawada, & Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Akira Taue, Jumbo Tsuruta, & Masanobu Fuchi
AJPW May 22, 1992.

Welp, we are joined in progress here, and it looks like Kobashi’s taken something of a beating with how they’re moving, as he and Fuchi spill to the floor so Kobashi can give him a Bulldog. Kobashi tries suplexing Fuchi into the ring, but Taue and Tsuruta make their presence known before all hell breaks loose, with both Kobashi and Kawada hitting pescados on their foes. Misawa tags in proper and has his way with Fuchi, hitting a High Cross for 2 before taking Tsuruta off the apron. Jumbo soon tags in proper to have his revenge, and they slug it out to the delight of the crowd. Tsuruta’s team ends up the advantage as they take Misawa to the floor, with Jumbo resuming the punishment back inside. One of the pescados earlier seems to have taken its toll on Taue’s knee, as he sells it tagging back out to Fuchi during the heat. Kawada finally tags in after a schmozz and takes it out on Taue, knocking him flying with a lariat for 2 before taking him outside to continue punishing his knee. Kawada hangs Taue in the tree of woe and holds him as Kobashi fires off a dropkick and when Masa Fuchi tries to interfere, Kawada and Misawa do the same thing to him. The babyfaces just ruin Taue’s night, working his knee and stomping his face in at will. Jumbo Tsuruta does not like this, in case you were wondering. He picks up the mats on the floor and piledrives poor Kawada on the concrete for his troubles. Kawada is able to catch Tsuruta quickly with a Sleeper, but Taue saves the day and stomps Kawada out of that position. Kawada goes back after Taue’s leg to scoot his way into a tag, and Kobashi comes in to chop poor Taue into the living DEATH. Taue limps away to tag in Fuchi, who suplexes Kobashi for a two count despite his partners guarding the potential pinfall. Fuchi takes a bit too much time though, and Kobashi rocks his world with the rolling cradle that Tsuruta is forced to break up. Kobashi attempts a Moonsault, but Tsuruta grabs his feet, only for Misawa to shove Tsuruta off to allow Kobashi to hit Fuchi with a CROSSBODY! FUCHI KICKS OUT! DIVING ELBOW FROM MISAWA! CROSSFACE! Fuchi is able to pull himself to the ropes, and he further escapes a Tiger Driver before tagging Tsuruta back in. ELBOW FROM MISAWA! FLYING ELBOW COUNTERED! BACKDROP DRIVER BROKEN UP! BIG BOOT! BACKDROP DRIVER! MISAWA KICKS OUT! BACKDROP DRIVER COUNTERED FOR 2! KITCHEN SINK ON KAWADA! NORTHERN LARIAT ON TAUE! POWERBOMB… COUNTERED INTO A CHOKESLAM! KAWADA KICKS OUT! POWERBOMB! KAWADA KICKS OUT! CHOKESLAM AGAIN! KOBASHI SAVES! ENZUIGIRI FROM KAWADA! STRETCH PLUM! FUCHI SAVES! POWERBOMB! TAUE KICKS OUT!!! TRIPLE SUBMISSIONS~! TAUE GIVES UP! Misawa, Kobashi, and Kawada win in 34 minutes shown. ****1/4 I’m sure it will surprise you to know this, but these guys tore down the house… even with the clipping. This wasn’t quite the sprawling epic of their legendary 1991 outing, but I thought they built on their cumulative rivalry in a tremendous way. This match felt remarkably different from their other ones, mainly because it was blatat that tempers were flaring high here. It was not the slow paced affair that 4/20/1991 was, and it was clear that these six had fought way too much to take things lightly. Pins were broken up with more frequency. Tsuruta’s team was relentless in its isolation of Toshiaki Kawada especially, reverting to overt heel tactics that don’t come easy in 1990’s All Japan. It just felt dirtier and more intense, which makes sense if you’ve followed the progression of the rivalry. Jumbo Tsuruta and Misawa sniped at each other more too, kind of bringing the entire match together under the roof of their rivalry, while also letting different ideas branch out from the other participants. You had Akira Taue’s knee being one of the sole focuses of the match and the origin of the babyface team’s success, while the hard-nosed interference of Jumbo Tsuruta was able to bumrush its way into advantages whenever the castle was threatened. All six men had a defined role so when someone tagged in, you saw a different sort of fight than what their partner brought to the table. Compare Kawada’s fierce perseverance with Misawa’s composed speed. Compare Tsuruta’s brutish knees and elbows to Fuchi’s more old-school heat garnering. Many different styles were represented and that’s the beauty of these trios matches more than anything. The time flies by because of it and on that basis alone, this match deserves a beneficial rating. It just so happens it was buoyed by some great storytelling and fantastic pacing too.

All Asia Tag Titles: Dan Kroffat & Doug Furnas (c) vs. Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
AJPW May 25, 1992.

This match contains, without question, one of the greatest crowds in the history of pro wrestling. I believe that pretty much stems from this being in Kikuchi’s hometown, but still, this audience dashes the “quiet Japanese audience” cliche that still gets batted around for some reason. I’ve reviewed this match before and have watched it several times since and even if it wasn’t a great match (it is) it’s worth watching for the crowd alone. I’m not kidding about that either. Kroffat and Kikuchi start things off, and Kroffat fires off an early bitchslap. Kikuchi doesn’t like that and fires up with elbows, beating the piss out of poor Kroffat to the point where he has to take a breather outside. Kobashi tags in and trades chops with Kroffat, who learns to regret this after he takes a big boot. Furnas makes his way in for the first time and sends Kobashi reeling with a double shoulderblock though. Dude’s built like a tank. Kikuchi tags in and cleans house on everyone to the most asinine crowd pops you’ll ever see, eating the heels’ lunches with dropkicks. Furnas soon is able to overpower Kikuchi though, bowling over him with a shoulderblock and slamming him down when he dares to fight back. Kroffat tags back in, but Kikuchi manages to give him a Snap Suplex before tagging back out to Kobashi, who hits a big shoulderblock of his own to turn the tide. The action breaks down as the heels take back over, and Furnas takes Kikuchi to the floor and Military Presses him over the guardrail onto the timekeeper’s table. Furnas and Kroffat hit a top rope Hart Attack as Kobashi helps Kikuchi back into the ring, but they can’t get the win. Kroffat hits a trio of AWESOME Snap Suplexes, but Kobashi boots him out of the pin attempt, allowing for Kikuchi to recover and catch Kroffat with a quick Back Suplex. Kroffat does a good job keeping his wits about him, grabbing ahold of poor Kikuchi’s hair to keep him from the tag. Kroffat puts in a Bow and Arrow, so Kobashi just saunters in and drops the leg to stop the hurting for Kikuchi. Kikuchi uses that to recover just enough to dropkick Furnas as he tags in, and he finally gets the big tag to Kobashi! Kobashi cleans house on everyone and hits Furnas with a Backdrop Driver, but only for 2. The numbers game overwhelms Kobashi a bit though as Furnas and Kroffat are the fresher duo, until Kroffat finds only Kobashi’s knees on a splash attempt. Kikuchi tags back in for a DIVING HEADBUTT! KROFFAT KICKS OUT! PERFECTPLEX! KROFFAT KICKS OUT! SUPERKICK FROM KROFFAT! TIGER DRIVER… SANDBAGGED! DOOMSDAY DEVICE ON KIKUCHI! KIKUCHI KICKS OUT! COBRA CLUTCH ON KIKUCHI! KOBASHI STORMS PAST FURNAS AND BREAKS IT! DOOMSDAY DROPKICK FROM KIKUCHI~! ASSISTED MOONSAULT! KROFFAT KICKS OUT~! FRANKENSTEINER FROM FURNAS! KIKUCHI BREAKS IT UP WITH A FLYING HEADBUTT~! SUPERKICK FROM KOBASHI! POWERSLAM!KROFFAT KICKS OUT! KOBASHI MOONSAULT… MISSES~! EUROPEAN CLUTCH FROM KROFFAT! KOBASHI KICKS OUT! DOUBLE ARMED DDT!!!!! KROFFAT KICKS OUT!!!! MOONSAULT!!!!! ONE, TWO, THREE! Kobashi and Kikuchi pick up the win in 22 minutes. ***** It’s very, very rare in wrestling to find a match or moment that clicks perfectly. You can always find a great match with a good crowd. You can find a great promo. But rarely do multiple elements in wrestling blend together to make for one of the most memorable matches of all time. Now to be fair, you could give this crowd Kikuchi wrestling a broom and it would probably be over, but that’s not the appeal here. Not only were they head over heels for the babyfaces… they were given a reason to be as the match progressed. The men in the ring knew the audience they were working for and not only timed their biggest spots according to it, but took them on one of the most incredible journeys you could want. The extended heat from Kroffat and Furnas on Kikuchi was spectacularly done, blending the cocky persona of Kroffat with the bread-and-butter strongman gimmickry of Doug Furnas. Kikuchi got the tar beaten out of him, and the close calls to the hot tag were given the most hopeful of gasps only to be wrenched away at the last millisecond. The drama built exquisitely and turned an already eager crowd into a mob of obsessed fans, making this finishing stretch one of the most exciting I’ve ever seen. The false finishes were timed unbelievably, using that pre-established drama of Kikuchi’s plight to its advantage and setting up the bigger Kobashi as the savior, while also not sacrificing Kikuchi’s dignity as a competitor. There was once a time I wasn’t sure this was a five star match, but I’m totally on the other side of the fence now. This is one of the most unforgettable pieces of wrestling I’ve ever watched and one of my favorite matches of the entire compilation to this point. Seek it out immediately.

The set of matches I’ve been using to watch these doesn’t seem to have the Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs. Yoshinari Ogawa & Masa Fuchi match, and it’s proving difficult to find as I search the interwebs. Had the RealHero AJPW archive not been taken down, this probably wouldn’t be an issue. The August 3, 1992 Observer has the writeup about this match and it’s not like it’s hidden, which is ponderous considering this is the first time I’ve even read about the match. If someone finds it, please comment below as the one link I found appears to be both clipped and not working. Apologies if this comes off lazy, but you should be happy I’ve been looking at these Observers to see what I’ve missed!

Hair vs. Hair: Manami Toyota vs. Toshiyo Yamada
AJW August 15, 1992.

Toyota tries an early suplex, but Yamada fights out and figures out that it’s on. She hits a suplex of her own and tries to put the match away early rather than deal with Toyota’s onslaught. She slows things down with a Camel Clutch before transtioning into a BROCK LOCK~! Toyota is able to scramble away from her and use her speed to get a step ahead, but Yamada kicks her around to put a stop to it. She works some leg kicks ad eventually puts in a Half Crab, but gets greedy when she tries to jump off the top rope and pays for it with four straight missile dropkicks from Toyota. Toyota fires off some suplexes, including a Straightjacket Exploder (!) for 2, followed by a Moonsault Press for another 2. Yamada has no problem throwing suplexes back, hitting a German for a nearfall of her own. The referee is wearing horizontal stripes and it’s a travesty. They trade some more suplexes before Toyota boots Yamada to the floor for a TOP ROPE ASAI MOONSAULT! She scores with the Japanese Ocean Suplex for 2, and goes up top for a Moonsault proper for yet another nearfall. Yamada explodes into a Backdrop Driver and eats Toyota’s lunch with more and more suplexes, but Toyota won’t stay down. Yamada drops down into a cradle after a furious exchange for two, and hits a spin kick from the top to send Toyota to the floor to top it off with plancha. Belly-to-Belly Superplex scores, but Toyota bridges out at 2. COP KILLA… COUNTERED INTO AN OCEAN CYCLONE… COUNTERED INTO A VICTORY ROLL! YAMADA KICKS OUT! OCEAN CYCLONE SUPLEX!!! Down goes Yamada at the 19 minute mark. ***3/4 This one was disappointing in a sense, considering they ended the match just as things kicked into the next gear. The job they did of countering in that last sequence was a thing of beauty and really ramped up the story of Manami Toyota being the faster entity in the match. It’s just unfortunate they abbreviated the match, because it was on its way to being something special before the finish. But as always, Manami Toyota’s constant motor kept this match alive, rarely ever giving downtime before something big happened. Like a lot of AJW matches though, that kind of makes some of the moves seem insignificant, but it contributed to a larger plot here to make those concerns largely irrelevant. Great stuff to be sure, but it needed a bit more drama and gravity to make the stipulation and ensuing post match segment hit harder.

Post-match, the haircut begins much to the chagrin of Toyota, who doesn’t want to see her opponent and partner shaved at her hands. She attacks the shaver and has to be held back by the dojo girls (Young Girls? Lionesses? I don’t know) as it happens. Yamada is humiliated, but takes the mic to seemingly address Toyota tearfully before embracing. Can’t say they didn’t follow through. Awesome segment to round this batch off.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
I found myself slightly let down with a few of the bouts in here (Liger/Samurai in particular) but there's not a bad apple in the bunch. I'd even say this couple years of matches features the most diverse listing yet with War Games all the way down to a Joshi hair vs. hair match. Barring the War Games matches though, again the All Japan men take the cake with some of the most satisfying trios matches you're ever going to see, and one of the best tag matches in the history of wrestling to boot. Something tells me that's not the last we'll see of AJPW down the road. The score here doesn't really matter, but this is all great stuff obviously.