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Best matches 2000-2005

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Ok, here's what I want to do. Hopefully enough people read this blog so that we can get some sort of reasonable discussion. Lets discuss the best matches from 2000-2005, or early "Match of the decade candidates". Post as many matches as you want, but only if you really think they're truly great enough to be one of the best of the decade. You don't have to provide in-depth analysis, unless you're questioned. And even then, it doesn't have to be long-winded or anything. I'll fire off a few matches that I think are candidates and I will provide analysis if called upon (because then I can rewatch the match with that in mind).

 

Ok.

 

1. Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk (12/04/04) I admit, I thought this was a ***** match the first time I saw it. The story was just utterly fantastic, as they played off of past matches better than their 2nd match, and the blood really played in perfectly with the ending while leaving the door open for more matches between the two. I've been seeing criticism of this match (although nothing credible, because all I saw was a ***1/2 rating, with no analysis given, by a guy who's a crackpot). I don't know if it's a legit *****, as I need to watch it again. And the thing about that, is that I don't have access to it so I can't rewatch it at the moment. I've no doubt it was up in MOTDC territory though.

 

2. Samoa Joe vs. CM Punk (10/16/04) My god, I'm coming across like an ROHbot. Yikes. But this match was seriously fantastic. Probably the best 60 minutes I've seen. Once again, the basis of the match was them playing off the previous draw, and they did it in a way that left no doubt as to what they really meant by it. What makes it even more impressive, is that I believe this match was put together kind of at the last moment, when Steve Corino (who was originally facing Joe) had to pull out of the card.

 

3. Kenta Kobashi vs. Yoshihiro Takayama (04/25/04) This is what happens when Kobashi is involved in a big time match, and he doesn't go crazy with the no-selling/fighting spirit nonsense. That pretty much explains why it's here.

 

4. Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs. Jun Akiyama (8/17/03) I don't remember this match too well, other than the fact that I thought it was the best match I had seen from the period 1999-2003. I haven't seen any talk of this match, so I'm kind of curious as to what others think about it. Hopefully we can get some discussion on this match specifically, as it would give me a reason to watch it again.

 

Essentially that's pretty much it. Those are the only ****1/2 matches I've seen since 2000. Feel free to pick apart any of the matches you see, as long as you're bringing the points.

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Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada (6/3/94) - ***3/4

Misawa & Kobashi vs. Kawada & Taue (6/9/95) - ****

Misawa & Akiyama vs. Kawada & Taue (12/6/96) - ***3/4 (I think)

 

Wow, I've never seen such low ratings for these. Granted, they do play off previous matches (and in some case, multiple matches) but I still think even as complete standalones they're MOTDCs. In fact, those are probably my top 3 matches of all time. I think we're going to have to have it out over these, if you're interested.

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Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada (6/3/94) - ***3/4

Misawa & Kobashi vs. Kawada & Taue (6/9/95) - ****

Misawa & Akiyama vs. Kawada & Taue (12/6/96) - ***3/4 (I think)

 

Wow, I've never seen such low ratings for these. Granted, they do play off previous matches (and in some case, multiple matches) but I still think even as complete standalones they're MOTDCs. In fact, those are probably my top 3 matches of all time. I think we're going to have to have it out over these, if you're interested.

I haven't seen any of these matches in a while. I remember being completely underwhelmed by the infamous 6/94 match, and feeling it was nowhere near this all time classic that just about everyone said it was. I don't remember much about the 9/95 or 6/96 tag matches, so that might be an indication of how good they were to me.

 

I think we're going to have to have it out over these, if you're interested.

 

I'll rewatch all three matches again, and if I haven't changed my opinion on them that much, then can have it out.

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If the Misawa & Akiyama vs. Kawada & Taue (12/6/96) match is their second from the 1996 Tag League, then I gave it ****1/2.

 

I'm still going to watch it again, as I've not seen it for a while.

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If the Misawa & Akiyama vs. Kawada & Taue (12/6/96) match is their second from the 1996 Tag League, then I gave it ****1/2.

 

I'm still going to watch it again, as I've not seen it for a while.

 

Right, the finals. They had a league match on 11/29, which I had at ****1/4.

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If the Misawa & Akiyama vs. Kawada & Taue (12/6/96) match is their second from the 1996 Tag League, then I gave it ****1/2.

 

I'm still going to watch it again, as I've not seen it for a while.

 

Right, the finals. They had a league match on 11/29, which I had at ****1/4.

I had their 11/29 match at ***1/2

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Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada – June 6th 1994

 

Things that stood out:

 

There were some teases of big moves right off the bat, showing that both men are familiar with each others moves and know when they’re coming. This would happen a lot during the match.

 

When Kawada is working on his arm with an armbar, Misawa wiggles his fingers to stop them from going numb, and the referee also checks the hand a couple of times. This was one of numerous little subtleties that were littered throughout the match.

 

Misawa started bleeding from his ear about a third of the way into the match, which really added to it.

 

Kawada had a great spot when Misawa was down by the ropes, as he casually stepped on Misawa’s head and applied a half-crab. It was Kawada’s way of telling Misawa, “I don’t sweat you.”

 

Misawa came back not long after, and hit a great, and safe, looking backdrop driver.

 

Kawada took back the momentum in another great spot, where instead of countering some big move or Misawa making a mistake, they wearily locked up, and Kawada slipped behind Misawa and nailed him with a stiff forearm in the back of the neck, which knocked Misawa down to the mat.

 

When Kawada would have Misawa down, you could one of his seconds gesturing wildly for Kawada to make the cover, but Kawada would be too exhausted to take advantage.

 

About 22 minutes into the match, the announcer starts going nuts. Not long after, so do the crowd.

 

There was a brief exchange of really stiff punches and forearms that lit the crowd up, probably because it was playing off of the legit heat the two had and the well known incident from years before where they actually shot on each for a brief moment during a tag match.

 

The match really seemed structured for Kawada to win, and the crowd was going nuts for him as they were totally behind Kawada to win too.

 

Rating: ****1/4. I wanted to rate the match higher at around the ****1/2 range stuff, but what kept it down for me was that I felt Kawada didn’t take enough punishment to get pinned when Misawa took too much punishment to not get pinned. That really bugged me, and it kept the match from reaching the kind of level that almost everyone else seems to have it at.

 

Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue – June 1995

 

Things that stood out:

 

There were lots of teases of spots and blocked spots from Misawa and Kawada.

 

Toshiaki Kawada sells being knocked woozy better than anyone in the business. Even when he’s on the apron, he sells.

 

Kenta Kobashi has some of the best facial expressions in the business. He gets across more with a look than a lot of wrestlers can do with a million crazy spots.

 

Kawada delivers a great dangerous backdrop. The guy taking the move, in this case Misawa looks like he has head bouncing off the mat. It’s safer than it sounds, because the recipient doesn’t take the bump straight down on their neck.

 

The set-up for Kobashi’s moonsault onto Kawada was great, with Misawa seeing off Taue so he could help lay Kawada out with a senton.

 

Taue himself isn’t in the match a whole lot compared to the other three, and the match is probably better for it, as Taue is best in tag matches when he can come in and do his stuff then get out again.

 

Taue chokeslams Misawa off the apron to the floor with help from Kawada who hits Misawa with a forearm to the back of the head to set up the move. Kobashi is almost on the other side of the ringside and valiantly crawls all the way over to Misawa and covers him to protect him for more punishment.

 

When Kawada rolls Misawa into the ring to cover him, Misawa just keeps rolling across the ring all the way to the floor so Kawada can’t cover him.

 

When Misawa is really down, Kobashi crawls back into the ring and covers Misawa again to protect him.

 

Misawa was kept strong in the finishing stretch, as he kicked out of a lot of stuff, but so much as to detract from the finish of Kawada pinning him with a powerbomb.

 

Rating: ****3/4. You really need to see this match to see a perfect example of how to work a tag match where both teams look strong, and how to portray one team as great babyfaces and one team as great heels within the context of a sporting contest, where no rules are actually broken. It sounds like a misnomer, but it works so well.

 

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Rating: ****1/4. I wanted to rate the match higher at around the ****1/2 range stuff, but what kept it down for me was that I felt Kawada didn’t take enough punishment to get pinned when Misawa took too much punishment to not get pinned. That really bugged me, and it kept the match from reaching the kind of level that almost everyone else seems to have it at.

 

See, the thing about that is, the whole story of the match was that Kawada was on and Misawa was off. Kawada basically had the match won, but Misawa managed to eek out a win because he pulled out his killer move. It's not unlike the 9/04 Kobashi-Taue match where Kobashi uses a wrist clutch burning hammer to beat Taue. At face value, one would think "Why would he use such a big move for Taue?" or "Taue didn't take as much damage as Kobashi". But that's the point. Because Kobashi (in this case Misawa) took so much damage and was dangerously close to losing, they had to pull out a huge move to escape with a victory.

 

Also, this match has numerous plays off earlier matches. I don't remember specifically, but sometime in the near future I'm going to watch all of their singles matches leading up to the 6/94 match and I'll do a review.

 

The tag match is more or less the same deal, lots of playing off of previous matches. The main story in that match was also Kawada and Taue wanting to pin Misawa. They could have won the match a lot earlier than they did, if they had gone after Kobashi. But Kawada in particular wanted to beat Misawa, so they just brutalized Kobashi to a point where he was useless, and then beat the crap out of Misawa.

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The intended story makes sense, but I just think Misawa took too much to not be pinned. If he wasn't going to get pinned, I don't think Misawa should have taken so many big moves. It got to the point of overkill, and it really dragged the match down for me. I thought it was well on its way to ****1/2 level stuff until it got to that point.

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Ok, here's the problem with that argument. In a relative sense, Misawa didn't take all that much punishment. Compare it to how much punishment Kobashi took in 12/23/00. Or compare it to Kobashi kicking out of both of Misawa's super finishers in 1/20/97. (Both of which you rated higher).

 

In the match itself, they also gave perfectly acceptable explanations for Misawa surviving. The big flurry that Kawada put against Misawa was the backdrop -> powerbomb -> release german combo. There was a delay between the backdrop and powerbomb, as Kawada was selling after he hit it. After the release german, Misawa rolled out of the ring, giving himself time to recover. As such, the 2nd powerbomb wasn't enough to put him away. Misawa also rolled out of the ring at a later point, giving him more time to recover.

 

Some other things that weren't mentioned by you.

 

- The learned spots/transitions were worked in beautifully. Misawa blocking the high kick, Kawada blocking the tiger driver etc.

 

- The match was incredibly stiff and believable, enough so to deserve extra credit for it.

 

- The powerbomb had unbelievable build to it, with the guys fighting over it tooth and nail. As such, when Kawada finally hit it, the crowd went bonkers. I can't remember a match that had a better build.

 

The only big negative I've seen with this match after at least 5 or 6 viewings is Misawa's comeback near the end, after taking kicks in the corner. Kawada was laying them in there and it didn't make sense for a comeback at that point. It's a rather small gripe, considering some of the selling issues we see today. Judging the wrestling alone, I'd give it the highest possibly rating that it could get. Adding the story elements and it just becomes one the best matches ever.

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Ok, here's the problem with that argument. In a relative sense, Misawa didn't take all that much punishment. Compare it to how much punishment Kobashi took in 12/23/00. Or compare it to Kobashi kicking out of both of Misawa's super finishers in 1/20/97. (Both of which you rated higher).

 

I'll have to watch those matches again to properly compare the differences for myself. I haven't seen either of them in a while, so it should be interesting.

 

Some other things that weren't mentioned by you.

 

- The learned spots/transitions were worked in beautifully. Misawa blocking the high kick, Kawada blocking the tiger driver etc.

 

That's one of my favorite parts of the Misawa-Kawada interraction in any match they have together; the blocking and anticipation of moves.

 

The only big negative I've seen with this match after at least 5 or 6 viewings is Misawa's comeback near the end, after taking kicks in the corner. Kawada was laying them in there and it didn't make sense for a comeback at that point. It's a rather small gripe, considering some of the selling issues we see today. Judging the wrestling alone, I'd give it the highest possibly rating that it could get. Adding the story elements and it just becomes one the best matches ever.

 

It could take me a while to get around to watching this four or five more times. I might rate it higher after watching it a few more times, but I still don't see myself rating any higher than ****1/2, tops. I certainly don't expect to rate this as one of the best matches ever, but we'll see.

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It could take me a while to get around to watching this four or five more times. I might rate it higher after watching it a few more times, but I still don't see myself rating any higher than ****1/2, tops. I certainly don't expect to rate this as one of the best matches ever, but we'll see.

 

Part of the problem is probably context. It's a different match if one is familiar with the history and their past TC matches.

 

When all else fails, I just compare it to other matches. And I don't see any other matches that were as close to flawless as this one, to go along with a great story that is told through perfectly executed and stiff looking wrestling. Bret vs. Owen at WMX for example, didn't have nearly the amount of story, nor was the work as good. I gave that match ****1/2 and a lot of people have it higher.

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The only big negative I've seen with this match after at least 5 or 6 viewings is Misawa's comeback near the end, after taking kicks in the corner. Kawada was laying them in there and it didn't make sense for a comeback at that point.

 

 

This spot plays off of Jumbo vs Misawa from 9/1/90. This is not the match where Jumbo made Misawa with the flash pin, but the rematch where Jumbo got his win back to establish he was still a top guy. (since he jobbed the Triple Crown to Gordy 2 days before he made Misawa on 6/8/90)

 

In the 9/1 match, Misawa is laying a whipping in the corner to Jumbo and Jumbo slowly rises out of the corner, like Misawa did with Kawada, no sells the blows, and then proceeds to lay a beating on poor Misawa and eventually defeats him to show him he's still "the man". Just like Misawa would do to Kawada 4 years later.

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Need to rewatch a lot of the more heralded matches, and even see a lot of them for the first time, but as of today, here are my ***** matches.

 

03/05/69 - The Destroyer v Giant Baba

12/15/75 - The Destroyer v Hiro Matsuda

06/11/76 - Jumbo Tsuruta v Terry Funk

01/28/86 - Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu

07/18/87 - El Hijo del Santo v Negro Casas

06/05/89 - Jumbo Tsuruta v Genichiro Tenryu

11/26/92 - Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada v Mayumi Ozaki & Dynamite Kansai

04/02/93 - Akira Hokuto v Shinobu Kandori

06/09/95 - Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi v Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

12/06/96 - Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama v Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue

 

That's of the matches I've watched this year, so there's obviously a lot of stuff missing.

 

Here's a list of the matches that come very close, but don't quite hit the mark:

 

05/22/84 - Jumbo Tsuruta v Kerry Von Erich

08/22/85 - Chigusa Nagayo v Devil Masami

04/10/87 - Ric Flair v Barry Windham

03/27/88 - Midnight Express v Fantastics

03/18/89 - Ric Flair v Ricky Steamboat

06/05/89 - Doug Furnas & Dan Kroffat v Toshiaki Kawada & Ricky Fuyuki

07/07/90 - Midnight Express v Southern Boys

02/29/92 - Barry Windham & Dustin Rhodes v Steve Austin & Larry Zbyszko

04/30/92 - Jushin Liger v El Samurai

05/17/92 - War Games

02/21/93 - Vader v Sting

01/21/96 - El Samurai v Shinjiro Otani

06/12/98 - Toshiaki Kawada v Kenta Kobashi

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Also, re: Misawa and Kawada fighting over the powerbomb

 

That's actually my favorite part of the match, because you have Jumbo's protege and Tenryu's protege finding themselves in the exact same position Jumbo and Tenryu were in five years before. Misawa had been The Man for about two years at this point (some would argue longer, as everyone knew it was only a matter of time after he beat Jumbo in 1990), a role Jumbo knew too well. Kawada broke away from his longtime partner and friend because he felt overshadowed, a role Tenryu knew too well. If you compare Jumbo/Taue/Fuchi/Ogawa to Choshu/Yatsu/Saito/Hamaguchi where both Jumbo/Tenryu and Misawa/Kawada were aligned, and then you see the falling out happen afterwards ... I just think that's really beautiful storytelling all around. Misawa/Kawada almost transcends wrestling - it's as much a coming of age story of two men as it is a worked athletic contest.

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I keep thinking of more things to include.

 

It's important to note that Kawada had been working with a knee injury for months that IIRC, he got in the '93 RWTL finals. Misawa had avoided going after Kawada's knee in all their encounters prior to this and here, he actually went after Kawada's knee, which got a strong reaction from the crowd because it was the first time he had done so.

 

I love Doc's role in the '94 part of their feud also. Misawa lost the TC to Williams, someone Kawada defeated twice that year -- once to earn the title shot he got here and once to defeat him for the TC. It made Kawada's loss all the more frustrating, because he could beat others who Misawa couldn't, but for whatever reason, he couldn't defeat Misawa.

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The only big negative I've seen with this match after at least 5 or 6 viewings is Misawa's comeback near the end, after taking kicks in the corner. Kawada was laying them in there and it didn't make sense for a comeback at that point.

 

 

This spot plays off of Jumbo vs Misawa from 9/1/90. This is not the match where Jumbo made Misawa with the flash pin, but the rematch where Jumbo got his win back to establish he was still a top guy. (since he jobbed the Triple Crown to Gordy 2 days before he made Misawa on 6/8/90)

 

In the 9/1 match, Misawa is laying a whipping in the corner to Jumbo and Jumbo slowly rises out of the corner, like Misawa did with Kawada, no sells the blows, and then proceeds to lay a beating on poor Misawa and eventually defeats him to show him he's still "the man". Just like Misawa would do to Kawada 4 years later.

 

Although it plays off a previous story, I still don't like it, because it essentially amounted to no-selling, and I think that no-selling is no-selling, regardless of if it makes sense in the story. It's still a small gripe on my part, considering it wasn't like they were no-selling mid-high end offense (*eyes Kobashi and Akiyama*)

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Need to rewatch a lot of the more heralded matches, and even see a lot of them for the first time, but as of today, here are my ***** matches.

 

06/11/76 - Jumbo Tsuruta v Terry Funk

06/05/89 - Jumbo Tsuruta v Genichiro Tenryu

11/26/92 - Manami Toyota & Toshiyo Yamada v Mayumi Ozaki & Dynamite Kansai

 

These all just missed for me. I thought Tenryu vs. Jumbo was ***** the first time I saw it, but after a second viewing thought it was ****3/4. I had the Dream Rush tag at ****3/4 also, just because of sloppy execution. Everything else in that match was just so brilliant. Jumbo vs. Funk I had a bit lower, but that was the first 70's match I saw, so I really need to watch it again now that I have more experience with that under my belt. All 3 of those matches are still solid choices.

 

 

04/10/87 - Ric Flair v Barry Windham

06/05/89 - Doug Furnas & Dan Kroffat v Toshiaki Kawada & Ricky Fuyuki

04/30/92 - Jushin Liger v El Samurai

02/21/93 - Vader v Sting

01/21/96 - El Samurai v Shinjiro Otani

06/12/98 - Toshiaki Kawada v Kenta Kobashi

 

Good choices here too. I thought Flair-Windham was better than the Flair-Steamboat matches, just misses ***** for me as well. The Can-Am vs. Footloose match I've only seen clipped, something like 12:30ish of 19:30ish or something. Maybe it's full on classics, and hopefully I'll be seeing it when the DVDVR Best of the 80's gets around to AJPW. I agree with the last 4 just missing. Kawada vs. Kobashi for me, was the best match that took place from the period of 1998-2004, but just missed *****, IIRC due to some Kobashi goofiness.

 

Edit - I might post some reviews of upcoming stuff I watch, rather than going back. I wanted to do a bunch of reviews of the stuff I've seen listed, but I just have too much new stuff I need to watch. I've got the differ cup and '05 Destiny coming up, along with the full run of the NJ Cup. I'll have some reviews on those in the future, and when I'm finished I'll go back for some older stuff.

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I just saw KENTA/Marufuji vs. Hidaka/Fujita Differ Cup finals, and I have to say it smokes the hell out of everything else I've seen this year. It's also up there with Joe-Punk II and III as one of the top 3 matches I've seen since 1998. I'll have whip up a review of it sometime.

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