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A couple of weeks ago, I was asked by the forum leader of a fairly prominent 'rassling message board to submit a list of what I deemed the twenty best matches of the 90s for some giant-assed mega-poll that maybe ten or twelve people actually give half a shit about. Ever the altruistic sort, I agreed to the nerdling's offer and submit unto him my official ballot. Hey, you have to do something to alleviate the boredom of a cubicle-enclosed existence, right?

So, a day later, I get an email from the ogre-like fatbody saying that my submissions were "invalid".

"How the fuck is my opinion invalid, circle jerker?" I sent in my retort.

From the fingers of a thirty year old that have never felt female breast, he typed the following response:

"All of your matches are Japanese. We only want WWE matches, or maybe some WCW and ECW matches, but no Japanese matches. Nobody knows about Stan Hanson (sic) or Akita Tau (double sic)."

Thusly, that means there's some shitty list floating around Internet-Land that spouts the same old bullshit about Shawn Michaels and ladder matches being "The BEST EVAR!" whilst a truly indicative, thoroughly researched listing sits in the inbox of some neck beard in Denmark. The Internet fans, pathetic? WHAT A MISCONCEPTION.

Well, as I often do, I try to find ways to educate as well as entertain with my etchings. I'm guessing that, since you're reading this at a website called The Wrestling Fan, you are more than likely a fan of some kind, perhaps of wrestling. Well, good. You should be somewhat familiar with the American scene then, no? You know, WWE, and those two companies that were around before 9/11, right? (ATTN: Elder smarks; there's no way in hell I'm going to insert the concept of "territories" at this juncture. These new fans are feeble minded, and we have to teach them how to count to ten before loaning them a Calculus assignment.) Well, across the ocean, there lies a mysterious, magical island. And on that island, they also have wrestling. But it's different than what you are used to, primarily because it's, I don't know, good.

Today, I will give you a crash course in the world of so-called Puroresu by showcasing an epic event from 1997 featuring the three most prominent names in Japanese wrestling of the decade. So sit down, strap on your rickshaw helmet and get ready for. . . ALL JAPAN ANALYSIS!

Our event is from April 19th, 1997, and tonight's gala is the All Japan Professional Wrestling Champion's Carnival finals. You see, AJPW holds a tournament each and every year, based on a round robin format. This particularly year, after a month of contests, there was a three way tie for first place between Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, and Toshiaki Kawada. To determine a winner for the tournament, the AJPW powers that be arranged a one night, round-robin mini-tournament to declare an ultimate victor for the trophy. Misawa and Kawada, childhood friends, college best pals and dojo sparring partners have been locked in a HATE fueled rivalry for the last seven years, a one sided enmity that has seen Misawa triumphant time and time again, with Kawada getting tangibly closer to his first pinfall over his much despised foe in seemingly every bout. Kobashi is Misawa's protégé, an extremely resilient, talented up-and-comer that in his relatively brief career, has begun to surpass his mentor in prowess and technique. And tonight, all three of those highly combustible elements are ignited.

The show begins with all three competitors, bedecked in the traditional (and snazzy, to boot) red Champion's Carnival jackets (hey, it's a step up from Misawa's tacky as all hell customary green and silver windbreaker) opening up their respective envelopes that detail tonight's match order, as the ethereal hand of fate dictates that tonight's opening bout shall be contested by Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi.

Kenta Kobashi enters the arena first, sporting his trademark mid-90s burnt orange briefs and matching Power Rangers-esque jacket. Mitsuharu waits in the backstage area, as "Spartan X" (think of the most generic late 80s Saturday morning cartoon opening theme fathomable and you pretty much have the track down pat) wafts through the PA system. FEAR THE VERMILLION AND GRAY MEMBER'S ONLY JACKET, MOTHER FUCKER.

The conventional introductions are read, streamers are tossed, and the referees scramble to clear the ring of green and orange clutter as the opening bell sounds. Hey, remember when refs used to do the foreign objects inspection / crotch squeezing in American bouts? During the routine pat down, the camera focalizes on a particularly nasty bruise on Kobashi's forearm.

Tie up to begin, Misawa clips Kobashi with some NASTY chops and Kenta returns by uppercutting Misawa hard as all fuck. We get a nice reversal, a feigned kick to the face, AN AUTHENTIC kick to the face, a powerbomb transitioned into a thick ass hurrancanranna, a DROPKICK TO KOBASHI'S FUCKING FACE, some hard ass elbow shots from Misawa and a shoulder tackle attempt from Kobashi that leads to Misawa punching him straight in the face UFC style.

And oh yeah. . . we're only THIRTY SECONDS into the bout thus far.

Kobashi quickly rolls to the outside, and Misawa responds by saying "No, fuck YOU!" and barrel rolling over the top rope to the floor below. Misawa rolls Kenta back into the ring and expediently hits him with a top rope dropkick to the titties. An awesome spot ensues in which Kenta gets lodged in the corner and attempts throw a stiff kick right into a jogging Misawa's face, but the Emerald Elf simply spins around and throws a fist sandwich straight into Kobashi's snout. It is glorious, if an unbiased gent such as myself may state so. Misawa locks in a grisly face lock and Kobashi, slowly, painfully inches his way to a rope break. Snapmare, and Misawa locks in the sonofabitch AGAIN. Kenta powers forth with all he can muster and makes another dramatic rope break. Wisely, Kobashi rolls out of the ring for a much-needed breather. MISAWA DOES NOT ALLOW FOR TIMEOUTS, BITCH!

Feigned splash to the outside as Kenta jumps up on the apron and eats a Misawa elbow that sends him flying back to the guardrail. Back in the ring, and Misawa is lobbing punches, and Kenta strikes back with chops. After a missed springboard body vault, Kenta capitalizes on Misawa's eff up by planting him with TWO single arm DDTS and a German Supplex that would've killed a lesser man, and probably most buffalo. Of course, what would murder 95 percent of the Earth's populace only results in a two-count for Japanese wrestlers. Kobashi says "VENGEANCE IS MINE!" by clamping on his own dastardly-looking face lock. "How you like THEM apples, MITSI?" After Misawa makes it to the ropes, Kenta unleashes a barrage of chops, including some heinous knife edges to Misawa's jugular. Mitsuharu throws some haphazardly aimed elbows and gets single-leg, overhead supplexed for his faux pas. Kobashi follows up by sinking in a rear naked choke. Somehow, Misawa perseveres, and Kenta tries to parlay his success into a quick-and-easy three-count. Use your own judgment to determine the effectiveness of that particular decision. Kobashi says "You know what? Fuck that, I'm going to lock you in a choke hold AGAIN!" Kenta wrenches back on that sumbitch as Misawa sells like the hypothetical coalescence of Ric Flair, Chris Benoit, Bret Hart, Steve Austin and a guy that has his foot caught in a bear trap COMBINED. Misawa does some desperation rolling and FINALLY manages to tactically feel ring rope fiber. A reeling Misawa rolls out of the ring, and Kenta follows suit. Jaw + Guardrail + an Orange Boot = bad things, kids. Pinfall? How I scoff at your inaccurate estimations. Kobashi feeds Misawa two knees to the lower intestine before providing the Great Green One a Russian leg sweep dessert. Just a two, of course. Kobashi goes ape shit with the chops and tosses Misawa to the turnbuckle. Mitsuharu pulls off a back flip escape and clips Kenta in the back of the head with an enziguri. Misawa squelches Kenta's offensive bombardment with a release German supplex. Kobashi rolls to the outside, and well, you do the math. Post Suicide Dive, Misawa hits Kobashi with a rolling body splash off the top rope. TWO. MISAWA FROG SPLASH! TWO. No dice on the initial Tiger Driver attempt, so Misawa improves a top rope clothesline. TWO. Harrowing as all fuck Tiger Driver-feigned-sequence leads to Misawa getting back dropped. Misawa leaps off the top rope, and Kenta says "I REFUSE!" and chops him in midflight instead. Dropkick massage to Misawa's vertebrae. FUCKING BRUTAL RELEASE GERMAN SUPPLEX TIME! Kobashi positively MURDERS Misawa with not one, but TWO of them and what is the result? You guessed it, TWO-count. FUCK, these Japanese guys are BEYOND tough. Must have something to do with Hiroshima giving them atomic powers or something. Supplex - Counter- Counter - CLUB TO THE BACK OF MISAWA'S FUCKING HEAD. TWO absolutely DEADLY looking power bombs in succession from Kenta, with a rolling bridge pin attempt? Yeah, only a two. JE-HEEZ-US. Misawa fends off two clothesline attempts, hitting KENTA on his glaring PLEASE DON'T HIT ME HERE forearm bruise, which sends the mighty orange one plummeting to the mat in agony. Misawa fights back with THE EMERALD ELBOW! And Kobashi collapses on the ropes. Mitsuharu goes ballistic on Kenta with TWO Tiger supplexes. JUST A TWO. TIGER DRIVER! AND KOBASHI KICKS OUT!

Fucking amazing stuff here. More elbows and Misawa goes up top. He launches with an attempted top rope clothesline which Kenta counters with a clothesline of his own on terra firma. These two have killed one another over the last fifteen minutes. Misawa lands ANOTHER tiger driver. . . TWO! Sweet Mohammed Eating an Egg McMuffin is this ever Awesome! Misawa takes a running dive at Kenta and catches a Kobashi clothesline. Fucking NASTY shoulder charge into the turnbuckle by Kobashi sends Misawa face first into the turnbuckle at about 110 kilos per hour. KOBASHI DROPS MISAWA WITH THE THIRD BIGGEST BOMB JAPAN HAS EVER EXPERIENCED. . . FOR ANOTHER FUCKING TWO COUNT! This is awesome beyond verbiage, folks. If anybody has the gall to say that an Undertaker bout is a "five star classic" after viewing this bout, you have the legal right to punch them straight in the dick. It's on the books, look it up. Misawa: I'll hit you in the face with a spinning elbow! Kenta: That's OK; I'll just kick you right in the spleen afterward! Kobashi delivers unto Misawa some more chops, and flatlines him with a fusion high angle supplex - into a one handed power bomb MOVE OF DEATH. AND MISAWA FUCKING KICKS OUT! If this goes another ten minutes, somebody's going to have to scrap my brain remnants from the ceiling tiles. Kobashi drops Misawa with another single arm DDT but clutches his forearm afterward. Kobashi waits in the corning, screams like a warrior, and runs straight into Misawa for the LARIAT . . . and Misawa blocks it! As Kobashi crawls towards his fallen adversary, wouldn't you just know it? The time limit expires. Wow. An obvious [Terminator 2: Judgment Day] draw there.

Post bout, the All Japan trainers storm the ring and check out the war ravaged trunks of both competitors. Kobashi manages to walk back to the dressing room, still clutching his obviously injured forearm. Misawa on the other hand? Not so lucky, because as part of the agreed upon round robin format of the tournament, he has a match scheduled against Toshiaki Kawada right about. . . NOW.

Misawa is still writhing on the mat as Kawada makes his entrance in his patented Yellow Jacket garb. After the Pittsburgh Steelers-hued confetti is swept from the ring, Misawa achingly stretches up against the ring post, knowing full well that he's several levels of fucked right now. Kawada absolutely PULVERIZES Misawa with some sick ass kicks. Seriously, those things make Tajiri's punts look like Bischoff swats. Chop-kick-chop-kick and Misawa is receiving the anus end of a decisively one-sided ass crushing. Misawa counters a power bomb into a hurrancanranna and goes on the offensive, desperately throwing everything he has at Kawada. Misawa no sells a Kawada German, but EATS a killer heel kick from Toshiaki on the rebound. Kawada fans Misawa with some HATE FILLED chops before stuffing him with a powerbomb. . . and son of ten bitches, Misawa KICKS out. Strikes are exchanged; Kawada scores a takedown and locks in THE OCTOPUS HOLD! Escape by Misawa. Kawada stuffs Misawa with ANOTHER powerbomb. . . TWO COUNT ONLY! Dude. . .

Kawada spends NO time before locking in the Octopus Hold again, shining his beautiful, Jerry Saggs like smile at the camera as he feigns ripping Misawa's arms out of their respective sockets. Kawada CREAMS Misawa with yet ANOTHER powerbomb and this time anchors his pelvis into the pinning predicament. Finally, Kawada picks up the 3 count! Standing ovation for Misawa as the crimson bedecked All Japan mangers cart him to the back. Erstwhile, Kawada stoically downs a bottled water as he awaits the reemergence of Kenta Kobashi.

An incredibly momentous bout, as Kawada scores his first singles match pinfall over Misawa, and in under seven minutes, no less! Toshiaki has little time to celebrate, as in mere moments the most talented young lion in the industry is soon to walk past the curtains.

Cue The Sega CD music.

Kenta enters the ring once more, as the contest for the 1997 Champion's Carnival Crown kicks off. Kobashi is sporting a mug full of mean, whilst the impossibly callous Kawada sits perched in the adjacent corner. The bell rings, and this is going to be some kind of awesome.

Tie up to begin and Kawada immediately shoots into an Armbar attempt. Kobashi quickly escapes and raises his dukes up for some good old fashioned Iwata Prefecture fisticuffs. Sweet Judo sweep by Kawada, as Kobashi sinks in a brief head scissors. Kawada takes a step to the corner and Kobashi chases him, fists a swinging. The manliest fucking chops exchange you've ever seen follows, with Kobashi scoring a dragon screw before Kawada pops back up and flosses Kobashi's pearly whites with boot lace. Kawada takes over from the side mount and knees the fuck out of Kobashi's inflamed bicep. Kenta darts up and says "No, it is YOU that is fucked!" and locks in a single leg crab WITH head stomps before Kawada effortlessly crawls to a rope break. Now it's turn for Kobashi to go to work on Kawada's knee. Kobashi's figure four attempt is squelched, so he improvises by doing a Butcher job on Kawada with spinning chops. SICKENING. POSITIVELY SICKENING. High angle supplex for just a one count. Kenta aims for a piledriver, and Kawada diverts it into a Reverse Fujiwara Armbar. Brief break and Kawada locks in ANOTHER Armbar as Kobashi grimaces in hellacious twinges. You WILL cringe in horror as Kawada WRENCHES ALL THE WAY BACK on the hold. It is truly a ghastly sight, made even more unnerving by Kobashi's blood-curdling yelps. Kobashi scurries to the rope, and Kawada begins dropping heinous knee shots on the downed Kobashi.

Kenta rolls to the outside, and Kawada follows lead just to torment him with a few kicks before heading back into the squared circle. Once in the ring, Kobashi battles back with some desperate kicks as he holds his forearm in writhing woe. LARIAT with his INJURED ARM! Basically wrestling one-handed, Kenta lands some vicious stomps on Kawada before dropping him with a wrist clutch German Supplex, which Kawada NO SELLS! Kobashi takes Kawada down with another Lariat, but the move takes more out of the sender than the sendee. Kawada rolls to the outside for a breather as the Red Jackets check up on Kobashi's well being. KENTA IS UP! SO IS KAWADA! Kenta takes a swing at Kawada on the apron and Kawada slams the blue fuck out of Kenta's injured arm on the ring rope Oops. Kawada locks in a picture perfect, PRIDE Fighting Championship-caliber Armbar before Kenta breaks free with the tried and true KOBASHI CHOP OFFENSIVE SCHEME~ Single Arm DDT from Kenta. And another. ATOMIC LEGDROP! KOBASHI BOMB WITH BRIDGE! JUST A TWO COUNT! FUCK! TOP ROPE GUILLOTINE LEGDROP. . . ANOTHER TWO COUNT! SHIT! KOBASHI GEARS UP FOR THE LARIAT AND. . . KAWADA STUFFS HIM WITH A STIFF KICK! SHIT FUCK PISS ALMIGHTY!

Oh, no. We're not slowing down ONE bit. Kawada drops Kobashi with a FATAL single arm Supplex and Kobashi pops right back up. KAWADA KICK~ only a two count. No dice on the powerbomb attempt, so Kawada says "eff it" and locks in another cringe-worthy Armbar in the interim. Kobashi goes for a roll escape, and Kawada simply sinks it back in DEEPER. Fan-fucking-tastic. OCTOPUS HOLD! Vicious X E99. Kawada gets a 2.99999999999 on a quick pin attempt. KAWADA KICK! Honest to God, I'm starting to get short of breath. Rollercoaster designers should be taking note of this bout. Missed Kawada kick, Lariat attempt, ARMBAR! Kobashi rolls, and Kawada lands a Lariat of his own! Another 2.9999999999999999 count. POWERBOMB! What follows is the absolute closest 3 count you'll ever witness. Seriously, four knuckles were on the mat at the last possible microsecond. To say that the Japanese crowd is on the verge of collectively splooging itself would be the understatement of '97. Another Kawada Kick, chops get exchanged, Kawada lands two spinning wheel kicks and ANOTHER Kawada kick for good measure. 1. . . 2. . . 3! Kawada has beat Mitsuharu Misawa AND Kenta Kobashi in the SAME night to win the Champion's Carnival trophy! Massive "KO-BASH-I" chants as Kenta is accompanied back to the locker room, whilst Kawada reveals in his victorious performance. Post bout, Kawada sips Apple Cider and poses with the trophy as that snoopy Japanese press interviews him about the evening. I have no idea what is being bantered, but one doesn't need a translator to understand Toshiaki Kawada, for ASS KICKING is the universal language.

Well, that was fucking amazing, but that was to be expected. So, over the course of an hour, we had two competitive, heat-filled, psychologically satiating heavyweight [Terminator 2] level matches and one brief, historic, storyline propelling [Predator] bout. That alone is impressive beyond just about anything the U.S. promotions were churning out at the time, but chew on this, dear reader: These were, comparably, lackluster bouts for the three men involved. If Misawa / Kawada / Kobashi on their nights off are capable of blowing away the American scene, don't you want to taste those three going full speed forward? Of course you do, because you are not a retard. . . maybe, because I've met some real mongoloids on the message board here. Do yourself a favor, not only as a fan of wrestling, but as a decent, well rounded human being in general and do some research on the Japanese wrestling scene. Bored with your current lot in life? Tired of all the mundane bullshit that's been forced down your throat for the last decade? Knowledge is power my friend, and self-instigated research is its huge ass Billy club.


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November 2006


by Sean Carless

With Christmas just around the corner, what better way to spend your few remaining dollars (left over after the seemingly infinite line-up of fucking pay-per-views ) then on the following "quality WWE merchandise!" After all, if they don't move this stuff, and fast, stockholders just might get time to figure out what "plummeting domestic buyrates" means!... and well, I don't think they need to tell you what that means! (Seriously. They're not telling you. Everything is fine! Ahem.).