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Zen Arcade Reviews: Every Match Dave Meltzer Gave 5+ Stars To (1993)

February 22, 2019 | Posted by Jake St-Pierre
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Zen Arcade Reviews: Every Match Dave Meltzer Gave 5+ Stars To (1993)  

Heavy Metal, Picudo, & Psicosis vs. Rey Misterio Jr., Super Calo, & Winners
AAA January 29, 1993.

The tape rip of this match is not in wonderful shape so who knows if this is even going to be a useful endeavor. I’ve never seen Winners before, but you can tell where Big E got his hip thrusting from because this guy’s stroke game is quite impressive. It’s Bonzo Gonzo from the word go, but the ring announcer just speaks over it to introduce everyone. Metal, Picudo and Psicosis are in control early on, triple teaming poor Winners while the babyfaces struggle. Rey Mysterio wins the first fall for his team with a Hurricanrana on Heavy Metal, or I’m assuming given this is Mexico. We come back from commercial to see Heavy Metal and Super Calo in the ring fighting it out, but for some reason Psicosis and Picudo have an argument outside. Calo hits Picudo with a tilt-a-whirl Backbreaker, and Heavy Metal slips and falls on his face on the apron. Psicosis and Rey fight it out now, and it’s not an exaggeration to say Marko Stunt looks 10x more imposing than 1993 Rey Misterio did. Rey dispatches of Psicosis, but Heavy Metal picks up the slack. The heels triple team Rey as Winners tries to get past the two referees to help, which kind of makes you wonder why they’re just standing around watching the heels triple team this poor 5’2″ boy. Heavy Metal cradles Rey off of that to win his team the second fall, tying things up. This is the most disjointed match I’ve ever seen, and I watched a lot of Russo-era TNA. It’s almost impressive how little is happening. The rudos do the awesome Kaientai heel pose standing on the dude’s back, but the technicos break it up and begin their comeback. Rey takes a terrifying bump missing a spear in the corner, and everyone ends up diving on everyone. Winners nearly breaks his orbital bone with a hilo while Heavy Metal comes down with a sweet Orihara Moonsault. Metal and Rey duke it out in the ring where Metal pins Rey with a bridging Exploder to win the match in 15 minutes. DUD Listen, I’m a big supporter of Dave Meltzer and quite admire him as a figure in the wrestling business, but I have to question his judgment with giving this match anything resembling a positive rating. I get it, it’s 1993 and no one’s doing crazy moonsaults to the floor. But to watch this match and proclaim it as a positive ambassador for lucha libre is a staggering insult to the country of Mexico. This was horrendous. There was nothing happening here. Literally, nothing of substance even threatened to make its way onto my screen until the wacky dive sequence. You could tell Heavy Metal and Rey were probably major steps ahead of everyone they were in the ring with, but you have to look good and hard to find something decent despite that. Nothing built to anything. Everyone was walking around like they’d shotgunned a pint of Nyquil. The referees just looked on like goobers while the rudos went crazy. Hell, I think I saw about 6 Tilt-a-Whirl Backbreakers here and 3 of them, Calo nearly dropped the guy he gave them to. I’m a generous boy when it comes to pro wrestling and I generally am able to find good in most everything. Hell, I saw a King Kong Bundy vs. Junkyard Dog match on an old Mid-South show that blew my mind, if that tells you anything. But if there’s a single man or woman in the year of our Lord 2019 that can justify this even getting a single star, you can have my wife, kid, and house. Lucha can be quite amazing when it has the right participants – see the Atlantis match with Villano III for a dirty casual example – but there’s not a style of wrestling on this planet that sucks more at its worst. And don’t be fooled, this sucked something fierce.

I feel like it’s a common misconception that people name the Shinobu Kandori vs. Akira Hokuto match as a five star affair, but upon reading the Observer reviewing the Dream Slam show, he only gave it ****3/4 and as such, isn’t going to be included. For what it’s worth, it’s a ****1/4 match in my dumb eyes and would rank as probably the best Joshi match I’d have watched to date. Really fun brawl with double juice, all that fun stuff. Kandori brought an awesome energy to the Joshi formula that needs to be seen, even if the match is a bit too long to justify itself to the fullest extent. Just wanted to clear that up in case anyone was looking for the match.

Cutie Suzuki & Mayumi Ozaki vs. Kyoko Inoue & Takako Inoue
AJW Dream Slam I.

Praise be to God, a joshi match with good production values finally. Some of the earlier ones are like watching Kevin Dunn on PCP. Ozaki and Takako Inoue start things off, and they starch each other with slaps to kick off the action. Kyoko tags herself in and runs wild on her opponents, picking up Suzuki for a HUGE GIANT SWING~! After about a fortnight, Kyoko drops her and soaks in the warranted adulation from the crowd. Kyoko turns her attention to Ozaki, taking turns with Takako to isolate her and slow the action down. Takako hits Suzuki with a big top rope armdrag, but nearly gets rolled up a few seconds later. Inoue punishes this insolence with a back suplex, but can only get 2. The action spills to the floor, where Suzuki and Ozaki come out on top of the Inoue’s with dives. Both girls nearly murder poor Kyoko with a never-ending barrage of a double stomps, but Takako saves the day. Ozaki pulls out a Twisted Bliss on Kyoko for a nearfall, but runs right into a Powerbomb after charging in wildly. Takako takes the reins a bit, but Ozaki slips under her and hits a Half-and-Half Suplex that Kyoko has to break the pinfall for. Kyoko hits a sweet step up Back Elbow to Ozaki, but can only get 2. POWERBOMB COUNTERED INTO A SUNSET FLIP FROM OZAKI! KYOKO KICKS OUT! HURRICANRANA FROM OZAKI! KYOKO KICKS OUT! SPRINGBOARD DROPKICK FROM KYOKO! LIGERBOMB! SUZUKI BREAKS IT UP! ASSISTED POWERBOMB FROM THE INOUES! Takako and Kyoko pick up the win in 17 minutes. **** At this point, the maturation in the Joshi style is beginning to show in earnest. While the action was still ridiculous and quick, it felt a lot more focused and did so without sacrificing speed. While I kind of feel like JR in my bid to get these girls to slow down, that approach worked wonderfully for these women in this instance. This match felt astonishingly like a PWG tag match would, where there wasn’t much of a heat segment, rather a gradual build in craziness until everything hit a fever pitch. That’s when a spotfest works best. You can start out fast for sure, but pacing it makes a world of difference. The wild four-way at the end was eerily remisicent of a 2009-2010 Young Bucks match even, with everyone having a hand in the wackiness and mixing in the chaos with false finishes. So if you find comfort in watching those sorts of matches, you’ll like what you see a lot here. It’s taken me a bit but these Japanese women are starting to show me why they’re so present on this list.

Two Out of Three Falls: Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada vs. Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki
AJW Dream Slam II.

Kansai and Ozaki start off hot, and Kansai wins the first fall immediately by giving Yamada a Splash Mountain in 12 seconds. There you go, then.

Kansai is itching to get going again, waiting for Yamada to struggle up so she can keep the onslaught going. Yamada dodges a back elbow, making way for Manami Toyota to hit about five hundred dropkicks in a row. Moonsault misses for Toyota, but Yamada saves the day and keeps Kansai in position for one to finally land. Kansai is able to escape Toyota’s onslaught and tag out to Ozaki, who slows things down. Yamada saves her partner, but runs into a blitz from Kansai, ending in a DISGUSTING SOCCER KICK TO THE FACE. Eat your heart out, Shogun Rua. Yamada fights back though and kicks her into the living death for her troubles. Kansai breaks Yamada’s hold on Ozaki with some more kicks, softening her up for a Sharpshooter. Yamada is able to land a Backdrop Driver on Ozaki, setting up for a wacky Manami Toyota butterfly submission. Kansai again is the great equalizer for her team here, blindsiding Toyota and joining Ozaki in stereo dives outside of the ring, and eventually stereo diving headbutts in the ring. INSIDE OUT ASAI MOONSAULT FROM TOYOTA! DOUBLE TEAM HEAD DROP SIDEWALK SLAM FROM TOYOTA AND YAMADA! KANSAI SAVES! GERMAN ON TOYOTA! TOYOTA KICKS OUT! GERMAN ON KANSAI! KANSAI KICKS OUT! GERMAN ON YAMADA! YAMADA KICKS OUT! SPLASH MOUNTAIN… COUNTERED INTO A GERMAN FROM YAMADA! KANSAI KICKS OUT! DOUBLE TEAM POWERBOMB ON KANSAI! KANSAI KICKS OUT~! OCEAN CYCLONE SUPLEX!!!! That gives Toyota and Yamada the second fall in 15 minutes of total match-time. That was already the best Joshi match of the entire list so far, and we’re not even in the third fall.

The tables have turned, and now Toyota bumrushes Kansai to get a start on the next fall. 540 KICK FROM YAMADA! ENZUIGIRIS! SOCCER KICK! DIVING ELBOW! Yamada tries a Stretch Muffler now as Ozaki desperately reaches to tag in her fallen comrade. Toyota tags in and absolutely murders poor Kansai with a missile dropkick, but Ozaki blindsides her during a second one and works her over outside, prompting Kansai to do the same to Yamada. Kansai puts Toyota up for a Superplex, but Toyota bridges out. Ozaki follows with Twisted Bliss, but only gets 2 herself. Kansai continues kicking the ever-loving piss out of Yamada with soccer kicks, but can’t put her down with an ensuing Back Suplex. She hilariously even kicks her in the head from the apron while Ozaki has her in an STF. This shit’s approaching Inoki/Great Antonio level stuff. Yamada grows tired of this treatment and fights back, hitting Ozaki with a GNARLY snap Hatch Suplex. Toyota tags in to try and capitalize, but Ozaki isolates her arm just long enough to reintroduce Kansai into the fray… only for Yamada to kick her in the head. Kansai accidentally nails Ozaki with a clothesline and runs into a HUGE TOP ROPE QUEBRADA FROM TOYOTA! ENZUIGIRIS FROM YAMADA! They only get 2. DIVING ENZUIGIRI FROM YAMADA! COP KILLA COUNTERED INTO AN ELECTRIC CHAIR! Ozaki hits Yamada with a Powerbomb, but misses a twisting Senton. COP KILLA COUNTERED INTO A VICTORY ROLL! YAMADA KICKS OUT! STEREO HEADBUTTS! All four women fight up top until Kansai knocks the babyfaces down, but she accidentally dives onto Ozaki! DOUBLE BACK SUPERPLEX! STRAIGHTJACKET GERMAN! KANSAI SAVES! ROLLING CRADLE FROM TOYOTA! OZAKI KICKS OUT! JAPANESE OCEAN SUPLEX! OZAKI KICKS OUT! NORTHERN LARIAT FROM KANSAI! SOCCER KICK TO THE FACE! JACKNIFE ON TOYOTA! LARIATS ON BOTH TOYOTA AND YAMADA! DOOMSDAY DEVICE NEARLY KILLS TOYOTA~! THEY KILL HER WITH A DOOMSDAY RAZOR’S EDGE!!! That gives Kansai and Ozaki the win in about 32 minutes. ***** This is one of the best tag matches I’ve ever seen, point blank. Regardless of gender, promotion, any of that. Everything that is great about Joshi came together in this match, unlike anything I have ever seen before for any style of pro wrestling aside from a few All Japan or New Japan main events. It is not hyperbole when I tell you that this match was 20 years ahead of its time, worked with such an incredible pace that it was impossible to encapsulate everything that was great about this. And as much as I want to babble on about the pace of the match itself, I was just as surprised to see how damn well they incoporated psychology within the madness. Dynamite Kansai was a complete and utter prick in this match, to the point where it was legitimately satisfying to see her get her comeuppance at different points. She was relentless in her bullying and stiffing of poor Toshiyo Yamada, and the comebacks and fire built around that thread alone makes the entire match worth the watch. But that’s not all we got. Manami Toyota’s legendary motor was running high in this match, but it was worked around and used to the match’s advantage psychologically. She often used this insane pace to save her partner from the grasps of the dastardly Dynamite Kansai, kicking off some of the wild exchanges at different points in the match. It gave a legitimate purpose to the craziness that happened, which rewards me as a viewer for investing in the false finishes and nonstop action. That’s the main point in deciding whether or not a match is five stars, or even good really; if I was rewarded for investing. And here, I was given one of the best tag team matches in the history of wrestling as my prize. Seek this out at all costs.

The clip monster strikes again as all copies I seem to find of the Kobashi vs. Kawada match from April 14, 1993 seem to be clipped. This actually disheartens me as I was looking forward to this, but considering how damn gargantuan this column already is, it’s sort of a blessing too.

Devil Masami vs. Bull Nakano
JWP April 18, 1993.

Neither woman wastes any time getting after it, with Masami getting the early upperhand. Masami just eats Nakano’s strikes like they’re nothing, and instead gives her a taste of her own medicine. It’s a lot slower of a start than your usual 90s Joshi outings, which isn’t a complaint or anything, just a note to make in the context of what has been seen thus far. The action spills to the floor, where we get a COMMANDO BOLSHOI cameo, giving me flashbacks to when CHIKARA was actually good. Masami powerbombs Nakano on the mats, but Nakano battles back and comes off of the apron with a double stomp. Masami clotheslines her over the guardrail though and continues working Bull over as they head back to the ring. Superplex scores for Masami, but she can’t get the pin. Continuing the onslaught, Masami takes Nakano to the floor and whips her hard into the guardrail, heading back into the ring alone to catch a breather. Nakano just brings out nunchucks for some reason and smacks Masami with them, as I guess this apparently is no disqualification. Nakano uses that to hit a Moonsault, but Masami kicks out. This match is going FOREVER. They spill back to the floor of Korakuen Hall, where Nakano smacks Masami with a chair and leaves her in the crowd. Masami gets back to the ring and hits a reverse Tombstone, but Nakano kicks out. Masami follows with a Swanton, but Nakano fires back and powerbombs her before dropping the leg off the top for a two count of her own. Masami counters a Chuck Kick into a wacky leg captured butterfly submission that she eventually gives up on to put in a Dragon Sleeper. Nakano throws Masami onto the announce table at ringside, and hits her with a Tope Suicida as soon as she rises. Nakano misses another leg drop, and Masami takes advantage with a German for 2. Masami hits a leg drop of her own, but Nakano kicks out. Nakano swats her out of the air and hits a pair of lariats, but can’t get the pinfall. They trade nearfalls with powerbombs, but given that they’re nearfalls, they don’t get the duke. Which is ironic considering the quality of the match. Masami tries a Superplex, but Nakano counters mid-flight with a crossbody that gets 2. Leg drop scores for Nakano, but only gets two. Houston Hangover gets Nakano the win in an agonizing 37 minutes. *1/2 While I can’t in good conscience call this an outwardly bad match, you would still have to pay me a year’s salary for me to sit through it again. It’s been ages since I’ve seen a match go so long, but have so little to actually say. The pace was glacial, which would have made sense if they actually did something to justify it, but they just sat in holds for about 25 minutes with a ridiculous break for NUNCHUCK~! spots in the middle. It was illogical, had no structure, and built to one of the most pathetically executed closing sequences I’ve seen in some time. Both women came off as though they were playing wrestler and trying to work an epic match for the sake of working an epic match, but that presented them with a problem; it wasn’t actually good. You can work long all you want, but when you don’t have the talent to do it, you should probably step away from the idea before attempting to execute it. Bull Nakano’s usual aura as a badass was stripped away here, instead going 50/50 with Generic Joshi Wrestler #400 in Devil Masami, which robbed the match of any drama or intensity that could have helped its cause. I guess they tried to make things dramatic with the weapon shots, but those meant absolutely nothing in the context of a match that meant nothing too. It reminds me of a Chris Hero match from 2006 or something, where he wrestled offensively long matches because he thought it was a cool gimmick, but without realizing the thing that would make it a cool gimmick is actually making those matches worth looking at. And I can’t recall a match of his that even touches this one on that scale. I can’t fault their effort I guess, but that effort turned into an excruciating match that stands so far below the other matches on this compilation that it’s a bit unfair. Don’t waste your time here.

Akira Taue, Toshiaki Kawada, & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Jun Akiyama, Mitsuharu Misawa, & Kenta Kobashi
AJPW June 2, 1993.

For those curious, Akiyama had only been wrestling for NINE MONTHS prior to this. Akiyama and Ogawa start things off for us, and it’s a fast exchange of potential moves rather than either man getting a decided advantage. Kobashi works his magic with Ogawa for a moment, but Akira Taue makes his presence known by shoving Kobashi to the ground in his first appearance. Taue nails a solid lariat for a two count, and brings Kawada into the proceedings, prompting Kobashi to tag out to Misawa for a huge ovation. Misawa dives off of the apron onto Kawada with an elbow, but Taue stops Kobashi from following up with a dive. No problem though, as Akiyama picks up the slack and planchas down onto Kawada before Misawa brings him back into the ring. The heels are soon enough able to isolate the young Akiyama though, Kawada toying with him in the friendly corner and soccer kicking his spine into dust for daring to fight back. Akiyama is finally able to tag into Misawa, who runs wild on Ogawa and launches him with a Monkey Flip. Ogawa tags back out to Kawada, who starts fighting it out with foe Misawa once more. He knocks Misawa for a loop with a spinning back kick to the face, but only gets 2. Kobashi saves the day and begins working over Taue, but Taue hits him with a DDT to stop the momentum. Ogawa throws a hell of a working punch for what it’s worth, but he can’t be outdone by the KAWADA KICK DUEL between Kobashi and Kawada! Misawa boots Kawada to break up a Stretch Plum, but Kawada cheapshots him with an enzuigiri as the referee tries to break things up. POWERBOMB/CHOKESLAM FROM KAWADA AND TAUE! BROKEN UP! Misawa and Kawada continue to slug it out as the action falls apart, all men just batter one another around ringside until the heels bring in Kobashi for a Taue enzuigiri that gets a two count. Ogawa follows with a Backdrop Driver, but is only able to get two as Kobashi struggles up. Kawada comes back in and hits a Backdrop Driver of his own, but Akiyama saves the day. CHOKESLAM FROM TAUE! AKIYAMA SAVES! Kobashi counters another one into a Russian Legsweep of all things, but they end up in a double down after Kobashi tries his running Sling Blade type move. Kawada and Misawa are back at it now, and Misawa HITS A GERMAN! FOR 2! KAWADA BOOTS AKIYAMA! Taue hits Akiyama with a Stun Gun and a drop from the Back Suplex position, but only gets 2. Kobashi tags back in and dives onto Taue with a shoulderblock before hitting RAPID FIRE CHOPS! TAUE SNARLS AT HIM! Ogawa tags back in, but meets Kobashi’s wrath with the rolling cradle and a Pumphandle Bomb, but Taue saves the day for Ogawa. The action breaks down again until Misawa hits Ogawa with a Back Suplex, and a Moonsault gets Kobashi the pin in 26 minutes. ***3/4 This one doesn’t hold a Great Value brand candle to the best of these All Japan trios matches, but it had a lot of entertaining moving parts to make it a success regardless. The running rivalry between Misawa and Kawada largely buoyed the match during its slow parts, weaving in the more methodical parts of the match in with some super intense slugfests, giving the match an added benefit of furthering a rivalry and letting it fester, but not too much that we’re given the whole shebang in one go. The problem is though, that these men have set such a massively high standard that this comes off as a disappointment. It doesn’t help that Ogawa was clearly several steps below his peers and Akiyama was mostly a warm body, but even with that this felt like a match all six men could do in their sleep. That’s a compliment in a way actually given that this match still flew by like no one’s business, but I just didn’t see the elite quality this match is alleged to have. It kept a pace throughout – a rather torrid one in spots even – but it never really hit that next level of intensity or urgency to really make me feel invested beyond the surface level psychology that you get with the AJPW bunch. But hey, as long as you don’t come into this expecting a classic, I don’t see a wrestling fan worth his salt who wouldn’t find something to like here.

Stan Hansen vs. Kenta Kobashi
AJPW July 29, 1993.

Hansen stomps out a young boy trying to clear streamers, prompting Kobashi to save the day and DDT him on the floor. Hansen fights back with some wild slaps, but Kobashi doesn’t wilt and instead throws some back to wear Hansen down enough to post him. Kobashi even stiffs him with a lariat in the ring for good measure before dropping a leg, using that to slow the pace down and wear the big Texan down. Hansen attempts to catch a breather by rolling to the floor, but Kobashi follows him and continues bringing the punishment, bringing Hansen back inside the ring for a suplex. Kobashi continues to have his way with the Lariat, but gets too sloppy in attempting a running shoulderblock in the corner, instead running into Hansen’s boot, knocking him silly. Hansen follows Kobashi to the floor now seeing this opening, and he POWERBOMBS KOBASHI ON THE CONCRETE! Safe to say, Hansen is in firm control now. Kobashi is fresh enough still to fight back a bit, but not fresh enough to hit Hansen with a Missile Dropkick given that Hansen dodges and hits a splash from the second rope. Kobashi fires up in the face of a big blitz from Hansen, and he STUNS HIM WITH A LARIAT! DDT! Hansen doesn’t stay down off of that, though. LARIAT COUNTERED INTO A SLEEPER FROM KOBASHI! Kobashi tries a Stratusfaction of all things, but Hansen counters it into a Backdrop Driver for a two count. Hansen pulls down the elbow pad for the lariat, but Kobashi drop toeholds him down and HITS A TOP ROPE LEG DROP! HANSEN KICKS OUT! MOONSAULT! HANSEN KICKS OUT! ENZUIGIRI FROM HANSEN! Kobashi gets a Sunset Flip for 2 and then attempts a Schoolboy, but neither that or a pair of Small Packages give obashi the win. LARIAT FROM KOBASHI! HANSEN KICKS OUT! MOONSAULT… STOPPED BY HANSEN! THEY SLUG IT OUT ON THE TOP ROPE! HANSEN LARIATS KOBASHI TO THE MAT~! Hansen picks up the win in 23 minutes. **** Hopefully this doesn’t come off entirely too sacreligious, but this had a few issues to prevent it from reaching classic status in my eyes. One, it felt like a styles clash. Not in a terrible, unseemly way where both men fell over each other. More just that Hansen was older and slower and while that can work to your advantage in an All Japan main event sometimes, it presented some issues here. It felt like Kobashi was working down to his level and as great as Hansen was, that wasn’t 1993 Kenta Kobashi’s modus operandi. He was better working from underneath with a more aggressive foe, and he took almost 80% of the match here. It felt weird, that’s all. Seeing Stan Hansen stomp the heck out of a young boy and get killed for most of the match makes sense on a logic level, but I don’t think that was what was best for the match considering Hansen was put in the more sympathetic role as the match wore on. That being said, this still was everything that’s good about watching Stan Hansen work. He’s realistic to a fault sometimes, but there are few wrestlers in history who work to their persona as well as him. He’s ugly, not very graceful, and hurls slaps and lariats like it’s nothing. But it works and when you can work a match around something that simple and make it work, you can get a ton of mileage out of it. Hansen’s hard-nosed stiffness ended up winning him the match actually, so not only did they work around that style, it paid off in the end after a dramatic fight. So while I had issues with how this match was worked in some ways, I can’t say it didn’t accomplish its goal. And hell, even with its structure, it did a good job of making Kobashi look like a boss in defeat. So the complaints only run so deep.

Steve Williams vs. Kenta Kobashi
AJPW August 31, 1993.

Williams ties up almost immediately, and it’s quite a difference from the tentative starts of a Kobashi vs. Misawa match. Williams hits a gnarly Spinebuster after no-selling a few shoulderblocks to accentuate this. Kobashi counters a Surfboard Stretch with a German, and he lariats Williams out of the ring to set up a DDT on the floor. He even pulls out a diving lariat to the floor. This slows Dr. Death down a little bit as Kobashi works him over in the ring. Williams shows displeasure when Kobashi chops him, so he throws a couple back, prompting Kobashi to throw a big boot to poor Dr. Death’s face. He complements it with a running knee into the corner. Kobashi tries more chops, but Williams EATS THEM AND SNARLS AT HIM INSTEAD. Kobashi tries to stick and move, but gets caught and Military Pressed to the floor for his troubles. Williams follows him and hits a CARTWHEEL BODY PRESS against the guardrail. Suddenly, Hanson doing that move seems less wacky. Now Stan Hansen doing it? That’s all you need. Williams busts out a nasty Brainbuster back inside the ring, the momentum turning decidedly in his favor. Kobashi holds on for dear life as Williams attempts a Backdrop Driver, and he has no problem going toe to toe with him as the pace quickens. They slap the living piss out of one another until Kobashi hits a spinning back kick, sending Williams to the floor so he can climb on top of the guardrail and DDT him down onto the concrete. He takes too long to follow up though, and Williams powerslams him on the floor. Kobashi prevents certain death by preventing a Backdrop Driver on the floor, resorting to using a closed fist to break it. Kobashi fires off the rapid chops in the ring, but upon whipping Williams to the opposite corner, Dr. Death explodes out with a dropkick of all things. Three point stance tackle from Williams is countered into a Sleeper, and Kobashi keeps it on for dear life. Williams breaks and hits a sweet Stinger Splash before heading up top, only for Kobashi to intercept him and hit a Superplex. A pair of jumping DDT’s get Kobashi a two count. GERMAN FROM KOBASHI! WILLIAMS KICKS OUT! MOONSAULT FROM KOBASHI! WILLIAMS KICKS OUT! SECOND MOONSAULT EATS KNEES! DOCTOR BOMB… COUNTERED INTO A NECKBREAKER! WILLIAMS KICKS OUT! BURNING LARIAT! WILLIAMS KICKS OUT AGAIN! OKLAHOMA STAMPEDE!!!! KOBASHI KICKS OUT! LARIATOOO FROM WILLIAMS! KOBASHI KICKS OUT! CHOPS TO THE HEAD FROM KOBASHI! SCHOOLBOY! FOR 2! SLEEPER… COUNTERED INTO A BACKDROP DRIVER OF DEATH~! KOBASHI KICKS OUT AGAIN~! BACKDROP DRIVER AGAIN… BUT KOBASHI FIGHTS UP!!!!! BRIDGING BACKDROP DRIVER! Steve Williams wins in 27 minutes. ****3/4 A lot of street fights or blood feuds in modern day wrestling – especially within the WWE umbrella – have a tough time looking like either man wants to destroy the other. They use the token plunder to let you know something is different, but it looks rather phoned in and sanitized. And far be it from me to yell at wrestlers for not taking chances, but there’s a certain lack of intensity in these bouts that becomes much more apparent when you take this match into consideration. Within the confines of an All Japan main event with no weapons, screwy booking, or overthinking, these two men went out there and had one goddamn incredible fight. Steve Williams looked like one of the best wrestlers of all time in this match. I’m not kidding about that either. He struck such an unbelievably exciting chord with his hard-nosed gaijin schtick that not only did he look like a million bucks, but his offense made Kenta Kobashi look like the toughest son of a bitch in the world. He gave him disgusting suplexes, slams, and even popped out a cartwheel or two to try and catch him slacking. Yet through all that, Kobashi tried his damndest to stay up and fight this gargantuan Oklahoman. After one of the most legendarily terrifying Backdrop Drivers in the history of wrestling, Kobashi made an amazing effort to try and act like he could fight through it, but he didn’t have his wits about him enough to avoid a third one. Kobashi didn’t lay down and die; he tried to weather a turbulent blitz and only went down when he was forced to. That makes it so the loss doesn’t hurt him, but at the same time makes Dr. Death look like the worldbeater the match’s structure gave him the leeway to be. It’s proof you don’t need 50/50 booking to protect everyone involved. You can benefit all parties despite one going down clean, and these two were the right workers to do it. I think the one thing that prevents it from a perfect rating is its length, but that’s a nitpick if anything given they still filled it with one of the most entertaining brawls I’ve seen in ages. It’s clear we’re starting to get into the best era of All Japan stuff, and I am 100% here for it.

Kenta Kobashi & Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada
AJPW December 3, 1993.

Misawa and Taue are the first two in, and Taue tries to get the upperhand early by cheapshotting off of a clean break. He even has the gall to try an Atomic Drop, which Misawa no-sells and with the assistance of Kobashi, dropkicks Taue to the floor for an Elbow Suicida. Taue is able to get one up on Kobashi as they head back into the ring, and that allows Kawada to tag in for some punishment. Spinning leg lariat scores for Kawada, getting an early 2 count. Misawa saves the day as Kobashi is able to get the tag, hitting Taue with a spinning clothesline. This works momentarily, but when Kawada finds his way back in against Kobashi, things change once more. Kobashi is less than enamored with the soccer kicks Kawada lays into his back, but finds himself unable to do anything about it for the time being. Taue even fires off a Chokeslam on Kobashi, but can’t keep him down. Kawada even pulls out the chops to the neck to give Kobashi a hard time, but Kobashi fires back and stumbles Kawada with a leg kick. This pisses Kawada off, who BRINGS THE PAIN with punches and knees. Kobashi tackles him and continues throwing punches at the knee, but Kawada breaks off and hits him with a limping enzuigiri. Even with that though, it buys Kobashi enough time to make the tag to the fresher Misawa, who gets 2 off of hitting Kawada with a Tiger Driver. Kawada lariats Misawa down though and tags back into Taue, who cleans house and hits a Chokeslam/Back Suplex combo alongisde Kawada. Taue hits Misawa with a Powerbomb to get a 2 count while Kawada keeps Kobashi at bay on the outside, but Kobashi finds his way back in and hits Taue with a shoulderblock. MOONSAULT FROM KOBASHI! Taue kicks out. Taue fights away and tags in Kawada, who NECKS poor Kobashi with a Backdrop Driver, trying to get the young boys and ref to help him get his bad leg working. Kawada tries working on it and succeeds for a bit, but can’t bridge on a German Suplex, allowing Misawa to escape without being pinned. Kawada puts Misawa in the Stretch Plum, with Taue putting a Sleeper on Kobashi to prevent him from breaking it up. Kobashi struggles through it though and saves the day for Misawa, and he starts targeting Kawada’s leg proper as the action slows. This time Taue tries to break the Half Crab of Kobashi, but Misawa puts him in a hold to prevent him from doing so. PSYCHOLOGY~! Kawada makes the ropes as Taue can’t break it, so Kobashi breaks and Powerbombs Kawada… only for a Moonsault to miss! Misawa tags in before Kawada can follow up, hitting him with a Frog Splash for 2. TIGER SUPLEX! KAWADA KICKS OUT! Kobashit tries to tag along in the offense, but Kawada hits a couple enzuigiris… only for Kobashi to WALK THROUGH TO HIT A LARIAT! STEREO GERMAN SUPLEXES FROM MISAWA AND KOBASHI! FOR 2! Taue ruins the fun by interfering, so Misawa ELBOWS EVERYONE in response. HEAD DROP GERMAN ON KAWADA! ELBOW SUICIDA ON TAUE~! BACKDROP DRIVER ON KAWADA FROM KOBASHI! That’s it for Kawada in 24 minutes. ****1/4 This was developing into quite the juggernaut of a match, but ended a little too early for me to really commend it as such. You can really tell that this duo of teams had outlandishly great chemistry even here, almost two years away from their legendary June 1995 match that’s coming up in a couple reviews. It’s really like the best of the trios matches we’ve seen so far, but even more focused with less bodies to keep track of. It made for a much more succinct bottom line, and even though the action maybe wasn’t as frenzied as it was in those bouts, it was made up for in spades by the tighter structure and psychological base they had. Upon reading back on the Observers during this point, it was talked about that Kawada had a legitimately bad knee going into this World Tag League tour and wasn’t working up to his usual standard. That was turned on its head here, as the story around his knee was done fantastically. He sold it like a total pro; not by hamming it up or anything, but trying to not show weakness like a competitive athlete would, only for it to backfire and lose him the match once he lost his mobility to compete. And even though he lost, he still powered through it like a champion and made an awesome account of himself before succumbing to his fresher opponents. For as many crazy head drops and false finishes and the like we see in AJPW matches, these guys could sell a body part like no one before or since. I also loved Akira Taue generally being a thorn in everyone’s side too, getting his ass beat for doing things like Atomic Drops and taking cheap shots whenever he saw fit. In a promotion where there aren’t overt heels, his comeuppance was a welcome addition to this match as his partner struggled mightily. The contrast between that was really great. The match itself had the makings of a five star affair, but the finishing stretch left a little too much to be desired for me to put this on the level of its contemporaries. But like any All Japan main event, this was jam packed with enough psychology and whatnot to make it more than worth your while.

Dynamite Kansai & Mayumi Ozaki vs. Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada
AJW December 6, 1993.

It’s a fast start for Kansai, who necks poor Yamada with a Backdrop Driver immediately. Toyota tries to save, but Ozaki kills her with a German and sets her up for a Doomsday Device. Toyota and Yamada fight back, hitting Ozaki with a pair of double teams before Yamada does a STRETCH MUFFLER GIANT SWING. Toyota gets a bit too eager and misses a senton on Ozaki, bringing in Kansai to dish out some punishment. Kansai goes to work on her back, setting up for an Ozaki twisting senton and STF that continues the onslaught. Yamada gets a much-needed tag after Toyota dodges an Ozaki senton that ends up hitting Kansai instead, shifting the tide for the time being. Yamada actually wins the battle of kicks with Kansai, and just PELTS HER with more kicks to the chest as Toyota holds her in a Camel Clutch. Toyota hits Kansai with her usual gorgeous Moonsault Press, but Kansai flips out of an abdominal stretch and tags in Ozaki. Yamada evens up the numbers, allowing Toyota to give Ozaki the rolling cradle. Kansai tries a Splash Mountain on Toyota, but Yamada is able to break through Ozaki’s reinforcement to break it up, even if Kansai follows it with a naaasty double stomp to Toyota’s gut. Kansai finally hits the Splash Mountain, but Yamada breaks the pinfall. Kansai and Ozaki try the Steiner Doomsday Bulldog, but Toyota rolls Kansai up in a Victory Roll for a close 2. Ozaki hits a twisting senton to the floor on Yamada, but Toyota counters out of another Splash Mountain and gets the tag to Yamada, who reverses a Backdrop Driver for two. ROLLING ENZUIGIRI FROM YAMADA! EIGHT BACKDROP DRIVERS ON KANSAI! DIVING ENZUIGIRI FROM YAMADA! KANSAI KICKS OUT! COP KILLA COUNTERED… BUT TOYOTA HITS A MISSILE DROPKICK! DOOMSDAY ENZUIGIRI~! OZAKI SAVES! COP KILLA ON KANSAI… BUT OZAKI SAVES! OZAKI DIVES INTO A KICK! STEREO HEADBUTTS FROM YAMADA AND TOYOTA! OZAKI KICKS OUT! MOONSAULT FROM TOYOTA MISSES! HALF AND HALF ON TOYOTA! YAMADA SAVES! TWISTING MOONSAULT INTO TOYOTA’S FEET! OCEAN CYCLONE SUPLEX… COUNTERED INTO A VICTORY ROLL! TOYOTA KICKS OUT! TOYOTA DROPKICKS KANSAI TO THE FLOOR! ORIHARA MOONSAULT ONTO KANSAI~! DOUBLE BACK SUPERPLEX ON OZAKI~! KANSAI SAVES!!! OCEAN CYCLONE SUPLEX ON OZAKI!!!! KANSAI SAVES!!!! MISSILE DROPKICK TO THE FLOOR FROM TOYOTA~! Manami pins Ozaki with a bungled cradled Alabama Slam in 26 minutes. ****3/4 These two teams are absolute dynamite (pun for sure intended) together, in a way that’s hard to compare with any other set of teams. Maybe Taue/Kawada vs. Misawa/Kobashi or DIY vs. Revival, but even then I haven’t seen a one-two punch like this. It’s so incredible how far ahead of their time these four women were when it came to finishing sequences. This would fit like a glove on any PWG card and these days, would probably be the best match the company saw all year. The pace these women are capable of setting is borderline virtuosic, but the way they’re able to escalate it is nearly inhuman. And if you can believe it, it wasn’t even nearly as impressive as these women doing it for 35 minutes at Dream Slam 2 and it still came out as one of the better tag matches you’ll ever see. That isn’t to downplay this match either, just to tell you how incredible these four are that even this wasn’t their all-time best performance. That’s freaky. This one wasn’t as reliant on psychology as their Dream Slam match was, but it still had a few solid story threads to keep you invested. I loved how the tags ended up changing the landscape of the match every time they happened. It wasn’t a heat segment-hot tag-finish formula, but the tags were worked so logically it’s almost amazing you don’t see it worked like this more often. When the girls tagged out, their fresher opponent took control because they had the benefit of rest. The tags weren’t just to fill time; they furthered the plot of the match and made a difference. It wasn’t four women just thrown together to have a barnburner, even if that’s what it ended up being at the end just becuase they all worked so well together. You also had the usual psychology of Toyota’s relentless speed and pace flustering her more brutal opponents – well, Kansai anyway – as well as working against her when she got a little too excited. It wasn’t a woman doing moves; it was a woman’s style making those moves – and misses – matter and the moves being the cherry on top. When you can mix that sensibility with the incredibly put-together false finishes they ended the match on, you have one of the most rewarding tag matches of all time at the end. Heck, if they’d have nailed the finish, we’d probably be talking another five star affair here. That’s how good this ended up being. It’s just one of those “live by the sword, die by the sword” things. When you can’t hit that last awesome note, the composition suffers a bit, even if it’s a small gripe in the grand scheme of said composition being so great. Track this down when you have the chance, because it’s a fabulous companion piece to their magical Dream Slam II match and almost as good in the end.

Manami Toyota & Akira Hokuto vs. Toshiyo Yamada & Kyoko Inoue
AJW December 10, 1993.

Toyota starts off hot with a pair of dropkicks to Inoue, capping it off with a double dropkick alongside Hokuto. Hokuto hits Inoue with a pair of nasty snap Piledrivers, but Toyota finds herself on the defensive after running into an Inoue Exploder. Yamada and Inoue continue working on Toyota, hitting her with a wacky double team Stretch Muffler. Toyota pops up into a dropkick, tagging in Hokuto for a big spinning heel kick that gets 2. Toyota makes her way back in, but misses a missile dropkick and finds herself and Hokuto up shit’s creek, Inoue giving Toyota a big Giant Swing for her troubles. Toyota tries the Japanese Ocean Suplex, but Inoue escapes and ducks a dropkick, sending Toyota to the floor. Toyota recovers and hits a big top rope Plancha, Hokuto following with a flipping senton. Both Toyota and Hokuto continue the onslaught in the ring, hitting Kyoko with stereo Missile Dropkicks. Hokuto nearly gets pinned off a cradle reversal to the Northern Lights Bomb, and she takes a pair of enzuigiris from Yamada directly thereafter. Yamada and Inoue hit Hokuto with stereo Missile Dropkicks of their own, but it only gets 2. Hokuto hits Yamada with a sweet Doctor Bomb, but a follow-up Toyota moonsault gets feet. Toyota fights out of a double team Powerbomb, but Inoue fights out of an Ocean Cyclone and powerbombs Toyota to win in 15 minutes. ***1/2 Not a chance at a five star rating, but looking at it without that idea in mind, this was quite the good little sprint. Everyone worked a good pace – obviously with this being a Joshi match – and made their meager time allowance count. I don’t know how you could feasibly look at this match alongside the Kansai/Ozaki vs. Toyota/Yamada matches and say it’s on their level, but that’s why analyzing wrestling is interesting, so I wouldn’t waste too much time thinking about it. Diff’rent strokes and all. This isn’t the end of the night for these women though…

Manami Toyota & Akira Hokuto vs. Toshiyo Yamada & Kyoko Inoue
AJW December 10, 1993. This isn’t a typo by the way. This was a part of a one-night round robin tournament and these four wrestled twice. All Japan Women had such a maddening schedule.

It’s another crazy start, this time with Yamada and Inoue with the hot opening, Yamada nearly murdering Toyota with five Backdrop Drivers in a row. Inoue gets so sick of dealing with Hokuto that she just takes her to back of the building and throws her into a trashcan so they can deal with Toyota alone. She makes it back though just as Toyota hits Inoue with a German, Hokuto following with one of her own for 2. Yamada and Inoue are able to isolate poor Hokuto though, with Yamada doing her Giant Swing Stretch Muffler to boot. Hokuto eventually escapes and tags in Toyota, who takes Yamada down with a variety of suplexes. She tags Hokuto right back in like an idiot though, and Hokuto limps back inside just to get her ass kicked some more. I HATE that. You just watched your partner get her knee ripped apart for 5 minutes and you’re not even back inside for two before you tag her back in? If this was real, not only are you an idiot, but a lazy partner to boot. Yamada and Inoue are in control once more, hitting both Toyota and Hokuto with Tombstones on the floor. Yamada takes Hokuto back into the ring and hits her wacky bridging Cop Killa, but Toyota saves. Inoue tries a Powerbomb, but Hokuto counters into a neckbreaker and tags Toyota back in. Toyota nearly kills herself on a Quebrada, but successfully lands a Moonsault on Inoue for 2. Hokuto dives onto Yamada as TOYOTA HITS A JAPANESE OCEAN SUPLEX! INOUE KICKS OUT! STEREO MISSILE DROPKICKS MISS! DIVING ENZUIGIRI FROM YAMADA! TOYOTA BRIDGES OUT! TOYOTA HOPS TO THE TOP FOR A CROSSBODY! NORTHERN LIGHTS BOMB FROM HOKUTO STOPPED! DOUBLE SUPERPLEX… COUNTERED WITH A CROSSBODY! ORIHARA MOONSAULT FROM TOYOTA TO INOUE! BACKSLIDE FROM HOKUTO! YAMADA KICKS OUT! NORTHERN LIGHTS BOMB! Akira Hokuto pins Toshiyo Yamada in 15 minutes. ***3/4 Pretty much an improved version of their earlier match, but still not a patch on the best of the best I’ve seen out of the All Japan women. There just isn’t enough of a story element or build for me to really get invested, largely reducing these matches to sprints that serve their purpose well, but hit a certain ceiling due to their structure and/or length. That’s not to say that it wasn’t worth invested in or watching, because it was. Aside from some of the tag silliness and largely irrelevant limbwork, this was a blast to watch. Manami Toyota especially is just a blast to watch in these matches as it kind of compartmentalizes her wacky yelling and constant offense, rather using it in bursts to accentuate the high octane parts of a match and make room for better structuring. That’s not to imply she’s a bad singles wrestler in any way, but I’ve noticed in these matches thus far that she’s been fabulous in a tag team setting, and it seemed worth mentioning. Like I said in the previous match, I don’t really see where these matches get their lauded five-star ratings from just because they are minuscule compared to the incredible tag matches before, but I like to think they ended the “year” off with a heck of an effort nevertheless.

The final score: review Amazing
The 411
Given the sheer amount of 5-star matches that happened in 1993, it makes sense that this was the best year of the bunch so far... even with a duo of unfortunate squibs to keep it slightly grounded. The two Ozaki/Kansai vs. Toyota/Yamada matches are the crown jewels of the set, being some of the most exciting stuff I've ever seen point blank and a very welcome evolution to a Joshi style I'd been back-and-forth on. The Dr. Death vs. Kobashi match was a glorious bit of violence and while it was completely different to the high-octane Joshi matches, it was just as good in the end. A few matches underperformed here and there, but given they were working for a 1993 crowd, it's difficult to penalize them enough to make a difference. So aside from the dreadful Lucha match and overlong Masami vs. Nakano outing, you're only getting quality here. It's a wonder to watch these styles of wrestling evolve.