147. Kenta Kobashi & Mitsuharu Misawa (c) vs Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (AJPW World Tag Team Championship, AJPW Super Power Series 9.6.1995)

“The greatest tag team match ever” is just one of the many accolades given to this match, listed in ‘Burning: The Greatness Of Kenta Kobashi’ (click here for the list). An earlier tag team match between Akira Taue/Toshiaki Kawada vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Kenta Kobashi, from 1993 (click here for my review), is also on the list…and while I really enjoyed it, the presence of Taue really distracted me. And, unfortunately, the same occurred with this match. His presence was minimised in that 1993 match; here, thanks to the extended duration of the bout, he’s heavily involved in the action. And he really shook my suspension of disbelief (yet again).

Not to go over ground I’ve covered before, but almost everything about Taue detaches me from the action in the ring. I can get past his odd physique; appearances can be deceiving, as we both know, Mr. Anderson. But everything he does look odd, from how Great Khali-esque chop to the head to his finisher (he seems to be undecided whether it is a normal chokeslam or a more tame version where he doesn’t lift his opponent up). I’ve read it is more about his in-ring presence and storytelling/psychology than his move set, and I’ve only watched two matches with him in, but I’ve yet to see much evidence of that.

Alongside Kawada, Misawa and Kobashi, his deficiencies stand out even more. Just like in the aforementioned 1993 bout, when the action is focused on these three, this match is on fire. These truly are three of the best wrestlers ever. From psychology, to storytelling, to selling, to moves, these three have everything down pat. And, the mid-1993 appears to be the peak for each of them. Their chemistry is otherworldly, after having fought in various combinations so many times (and other great battles between them were yet to come). The truly great 1994 bout between Kawada and Misawa (click here for my review) was perhaps the peak in terms of ‘The Four Pillars’ in action, but some would argue that this was the peak.

I would disagree, however. There’s so much to love in this bout. Even with a rudimentary understanding of the history between the four, the story is simple in its complexity and complex in its simplicity. Kawada had never pinned Misawa before, and after his defeat to Misawa in the aforementioned 1994 bout, he was more than determined to get one over on him. He’d even broken Misawa’s left orbital bone in match earlier on in 1995, yet still lost. Kobashi, the youngest of the four, still had a lot to prove. Yet he went in to this bout with an injured leg. Of course, the heels Taue and Kawada targeted these injuries relentlessly…especially the leg of Kobashi.

That limb targeting, maybe more than anything in the bout, pulls you in. Kobashi is such a fantastic seller that you have to root for him as he fights through the pain. He even makes Taue’s weak strikes look brutally painful. Even something as simple as the way he falls into tagging Misawa in, rather than leaping for the hot tag, makes his exhaustion and pain all the more visceral. Misawa, ever the stoic stony-faced warrior, also sells his facial injury almost as convincingly, especially when Taue and Kawada target his face and neck in a brutal fashion towards the end of the bout.

These three make the match, and even, at times, elevate Taue. But more often than not, it is beyond them. Although Taue has a great dropkick (hitting Kobashi right in the hamstrings), that’s about as much praise as I can give him. And, unlike the 20 minute 1993 bout, this match stretches to 45 minutes, which simply means more Taue and less entertainment. Like the typical sequel (although I am aware the teams had more matches together between 1993 and 1995), this is bigger, louder and more violent…but not necessarily better thanks to the involvement of Taue. However, the last ten minutes are riveting stuff, even with his inclusion.

The story reaches its conclusion as a knackered Kobashi tries repeatedly to save his battered mentor, Misawa, from the heels as they ruthlessly target Misawa’s neck. It’s the kind of performance from Kobashi that brings a tear to one’s eye; at one point he covers Misawa to stop Taue and Kawada pounding the ‘Emerald Warrior.’ Here, even Taue looks formidable, but Kawada looks more than formidable; he wants to beat his adversary, pin him cleanly for the first time ever. So, knowing a little bit about the history between these four furthers enjoyment of the bout. But you’re a better person than me if you can ignore the poor (by the standards of the other three wrestlers, anyway) performance of Akira Taue. Sorry to pour so much criticism on his head, but with a suitable replacement, this bout is a sure 5* match. With Taue’s inclusion, however, it’s reduced to 4*. Every time he enters the ring, I roll my eyes. And I watched this bout twice within a week, just to make sure that I wasn’t missing some aspect of his performance that rose to the standard the other three wrestlers set. If you look at any other wrestling promotions in 1995, very little touches the lofty bench mark this match (among many others in AJPW) set. Just a shame one bad apple spoiled the basket.

Hammy’s Rating: **** (out of 5)

(Click here for more of ‘A Wrestling Match A Day‘)

My Other Reviews of ‘Burning: The Greatness of Kenta Kobashi’ (in date order)

And here are some other reviews of Kobashi’s matches:


8 thoughts on “147. Kenta Kobashi & Mitsuharu Misawa (c) vs Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (AJPW World Tag Team Championship, AJPW Super Power Series 9.6.1995)

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