By Sean Orleans
Yesterday, as many of you sat around a table with family and gave thanks before stuffing yourselves full of high caloric garbage and parking your asses on the couch to watch “pro football” to kill time before you could go and trample your fellow man at big box stores that evening for the latest overpriced bauble, yours truly was studying as always. You don’t get to be the smartest man in wrestling by resting on your laurels. No, my task is to learn. To assimilate information. To make myself more knowledgable than everyone else.
Sure, I’m already smarter than most (probably you), but that doesn’t mean I can shirk my responsibility to educate the wrestling public on the finer points of the sport by showcasing fantastic contests.
Such is the case tonight. While everyone looks for a one-of-a-kind deal on this day, I present to you–FREE OF CHARGE–the 2003 Match of the Year: Kenta Kobashi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa. These two won Match of the Year honors in 1997 and 1998 for their singles bouts in All Japan Pro Wrestling. This third encounter would be contested under Misawa’s Pro Wrestling NOAH promotion.
To understand how crazy these two men were in performing the array of moves you’ll see below, consider this: at the time of this match, Kobashi is 35 and his knees are shot; Misawa is 40 and his back and neck are in a bad way.
The next time you’re hanging out with your buddies and downing beers, and one of those knuckleheads looks at wrestling on the TV and says, “that ain’t too hard,” pull up this match and let them see what these men do to each other. Man’s game, folks. Man’s game.
We return to Japan for this installment of Wrestling History Lesson and it’s a doozy. Here is the 1992 Match of the Year: Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi versus Dan Kroffat & Doug Furnas for the All Japan Pro Wrestling Tag Team Championship, in Kikuchi’s hometown of Sendai.
Some important points to take away from this bout:
1. Kroffat and Furnas (the CanAm Connection) disprove the notion that big, muscular men are mere bruisers incapable of technical wrestling. One of them nails a FrankenSteiner in the match; a FrankenSteiner, foks. How these guys didn’t dominate in North America is beyond me.
2. Kenta Kobashi is an absolute god in the wrestling ring. If you don’t spend the 20 minutes of this match marveling at his ring generalship and then spend your free time this week tracking down his greatest matches on YouTube (including his appearances stateside), well I don’t know if we can be friends.
3. The crowd. My god, this crowd. Japanese wrestling fans are typically quieter than most fans. They like to carefully observe and save their cheers and applause for the beginning and ending of a match, rarely breaking out in cheers during a contest. Not this bunch of rabid fans. I’m sure it helped that the match took place in Kikuchi’s hometown, but this crowd is the epitome of what a wrestling audience should be. The fans here lose their collective minds several times throughout and it ultimately makes watching the match more enjoyable. Yes, the match would still be great even if the fans sat on their hands for most of it, but their keen interest and boisterous pops shows how an audience can almost will a great match out of great wrestlers.
Until next time, knuckleheads.
Sean Orleans here…
While it is a well-established fact that the stars of tomorrow are in MMWA & SICW, it is equally important to understand and appreciate the great matches and competitors of wrestling’s past. Since I consider myself a purveyor of fine wrestling prowess, I’m going to take time out of my busy schedule to both educate, enlighten and—frankly—culture the bulk of you wrestling fans out there who believe the “Five Knuckle Shuffle” is the bees’ knees and think wrestling history begins and ends with Monday night television and Sunday night pay-per-view shows.
Today’s trip into the vault is from January 1990, a tag team bout from All Japan Pro Wrestling featuring the British Bulldogs (Davey Boy Smith and the Dynamite Kid) taking on the original Tiger Mask and a young Kenta Kobashi. Sit back and be quiet, knuckleheads; you might learn something.
I plan on posting new “lesson plans” when I get around to it, so be on the lookout.