I’ve been a bit bogged down with covering G1 Climax over at Gaming Respawn for the past few weeks, which has limited the time I could spend watching classic All Japan.
However, I’ve got a free evening so I decided to fill it with some hard hitting AJPW action!
I’ve decided to jump ahead to October 1994 to bring the reviews in line with Scott’s Wrestling Observer Flashbacks. If you haven’t read the most recent one yet then you can have a goosey gander by clicking right HERE.
In the spring of 1994, All Japan saw it’s TV show cut from 1 hour to 30 minutes, which severley limited what they could present each week. They wanted to show the recent big Triple Crown Title Match between Toshiaki Kawada and Steve Williams, but due to time constraints they ended up splitting it across two shows.
All Japan TV – 22nd October 1994
The show starts out with the regular AJPW TV theme song whilst clips play of Kawada and Williams brutally assaulting each other in slow motion. The moment that stands out for me is Williams punching Kawada right in the face with a closed fist, in a scene akin to the classic opening of Street Fighter II on the CPS1. The music is strangely jaunty for such vicious imagery.
We get full ring introductions for both men, with Kawada coming down first to audible “KA-WA-DA” chants from the crowd. Personally I’ve never warmed to Kawada as a personality due to him being such grumpy sod and man who regularly beat the crap out of my favourite wrestlers. I mean, Tenryu was grumpy too, but had a genuine charm and likeability to him, where as Kawada just always came across as an unpleasant angry man to me. Still though, let’s see if he can be a believable sympathetic babyface against the much bigger and gruffer Williams.
Williams’ “Love it Loud” intro music makes it intact (The 90’s were clearly less of a minefield when it came to music rights it would seem) and he paces around in his corner whilst Kawada stands contrast calmly in his, with his only movement reserved to occasionally cracking his knuckles. With ring introductions completed we go to a quick advert break before coming back with the opening bell.
AJPW Triple Crowd Championship
Champion: Steve Williams Vs Toshiaki Kawada
The match starts out with some amateur style grappling, which Williams gets the better of before going nose to nose with his opponent and talking some trash. Kawada replies with some leg kicks, clearly thinking it would be better to chop Williams down than try to out wrestle him. Williams manages to get in close to stop the kicks and tries to take it to the mat again, but Kawada holds his own better this time and manages to work a headlock.
Williams is able to power his way out of the headlock so Kawada gets a dropkick to the left leg instead, which causes Williams to roll outside and try to walk it off. Kawada zones in on the leg back inside the ring, kicking at it and then applying a single leg crab after a struggle. I love that Kawada had to work just to get a hold on Williams there, as it made it look like an actual contest rather then two men cooperating to put on a show.
Williams makes the ropes to break the crab, but Kawada stays on his left leg/knee and viciously works it over with kicks and stomps. Williams heads outside again and rolls down his knee pad to try and relive the pressure on the knee itself before manfully getting back in, although he now has a noticeable limp. This is not really the match I was expecting to be honest. I thought Williams would come hot out of the gate and put Kawada right on the back foot, causing him to have to fight from underneath. Instead, Kawada has been controlling things with a deliberate pace.
Kawada goes to an STF back in the ring, but Williams fights up to his feet and almost drills Kawada with the Homicidal Back Drop Driver, but Kawada is able to block it. Kawada goes for a shoulder tackle, but Williams counters it to a drop toe hold before transitioning into a surfboard. Kawada tries to power out of the surfboard, with the crowd cheering him on and he finally manages it to a pop from the crowd. Kawada has really had Williams’ number so far in this one. However, just as I type that, Williams is able to reverse the surfboard back and then turns it into a release Tiger Suplex. Bloody hell, recappers curse! Sorry Toshiaki!
In a great spot, Kawada gets straight up from the suplex and looks like he’ll no sell it in traditional AJPW style, only to then realise he can’t and stumble backwards through the ropes to the floor. Rather than follow Kawada out, Williams uses the time Kawada struggles to get back in to stretch out his leg before pounding away on Kawada when he finally gets back in. This is more what I was expecting from the match at the beginning, as Kawada’s early game plan has fallen apart and Williams is now wrestling his match. Kawada tries a few more kicks to the leg, but he’s too hurt to build on them and Williams is soon back on the attack with a Gorilla Press onto the top rope. That looked really unpleasant.
Williams hammers away on Kawada and things look bleak for our surly hero as the show goes to the closing credits with an announcer hyping up next weeks show in what looks to be a kitchen. Can Kawada get back in this match now Williams is in control? Will the Dangerous K be able to survive a night in Dr. Death’s surgery? Will All Japan pick a different room in the building for the continuity announcer to present from?
Find out next week, same Baba time, same Baba channel!!
(Or alternatively, you can just read my recap of the next weeks show below? Totally up to you. If you want to go away for a week to simulate it in real time then that’s fine by me)
All Japan TV – 29nd October 1994
When we last left our heroes, Toshiaki Kawada was trying to wrest away the Triple Crown from Steve Williams by kicking away at his legs in a vicious manner, but Williams responded by dropping him right on his chuffing head with a Tiger Suplex and things have been getting progressively worse for young Tosh ever since.
We get a quick video recap of last week before going straight back to the match with Williams destroying Kawada with clotheslines in the corner. The crowd tries to get behind Kawada, but he’s in a bad way and Williams starts choking him in the corner to boo’s from the audience. Williams actually busts out a Stinger Splash (Dr Splash?) before hitting a nasty looking brain buster for two. I think that was the first pin attempt for the whole match actually.
Williams goes for the Homicidal Back Drop Driver, but Kawada grabs the ropes to block it and then delivers a spinning back kick to floor Williams. He adds some chops but Williams just absorbs those before dropping Kawada with a big elbow strike. Man, it’s no wonder Jim Ross was such a big fan of this guy, he’s an absolute beast! Kawada replies with some big front kicks but Williams fights off an Irish Whip before hitting a shoulder tackle and two big dropkicks (!) to send Kawada crashing into the corner. Williams goes for the Oklahoma Slam, but he rams Kawada into one too many buckles and his knee gives out before he can successfully perform the slam part of the move. Excellent, the leg work had a logical pay off and wasn’t just there to kill time in the early stages.
Kawada sends Williams outside with a dropkick, but doesn’t follow him out and waits for him to get back on the apron where he peppers him with shots. Williams shrugs those off though and goes up top for a diving shoulder block, but Kawada kicks him on the way down. That looked kind of rough and sloppy, but in a good way if that makes sense? This is meant to be a fight after all, and most fights are pretty ugly and scrappy at times. Kawada floors Williams with a big lariat, but Williams is out at one. Yes. ONE!! He seems to be bleeding as well, no doubt from catching Kawada’s foot in his face when he came down from the top rope.
Speaking of Kawada’s feet, he tees off with some Kawada Kicks, but Williams treats them as an annoyance and unloads with some big right hand jabs and an open hand slap. Kawada replies with a big kick to the leg and then gets a big back drop for two. Kawada goes to a Stretch Plum and cinches it in tight before letting go and trying for a pin. Williams kicks out and then rolls outside to buy himself some respite. Kawada isn’t having it this time however and rolls Williams back inside, where he gets a slam and heads up to the second rope with a knee drop. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Kawada do a second rope knee drop before.
In his efforts to try and somehow wear Williams down, Kawada goes to a sleeper and then releases to try for a powerbomb. Williams blocks it however and then counters it into an Alabama Slam, but he’s slow to get to his feet due to his leg injury. Williams drops Kawada with another big Tiger Suplex and then follows up with The Doctor Bomb for a close near fall as the fans go nuts. Williams finally hits the Homicidal Back Drop Driver, but Kawada is able to roll outside before he can be pinned.
Williams lugs Kawada back into the ring and makes the cover, but Kawada has had enough time to recover and manages to kick out at two before rolling outside again. That’s always such a great way to protect someone’s finisher and still give the crowd a near fall. Williams decides to go for the Back Drop Driver outside, but Kawada fights it off by grabbing the ring post and both men end up tumbling back first into the guardrails as consequence.
Williams recovers first and puts Kawada back into the ring, where he hits a nasty looking powerslam for two. Williams made zero effort to protect Kawada’s head on that one. Kawada manages to get a rolling front kick to knock Williams down and goes for the powerbomb. Williams blocks it on the first two tries but Kawada finally manages on the third attempt for two. He only just got Williams up there and it almost became an accidental Ganso Bomb. Kawada tries another powerbomb, but Williams back body drops out and then counters a Kawada lariat attempt with an arm drag. That’s a cool counter actually, more people should do that.
Williams wails away on Kawada with punches and tries the Back Drop Driver but Kawada grabs the ropes to block and hits an enziguri, as the commentator is losing his mind! Williams blocks another enziguri attempt but Kawada manages to successfully get another one straight after followed by a lariat to the back of the head and one more enziguri, which is finally enough to hold Williams down for three. The crowd chants for Kawada as the Japanese wrestlers hold him aloft on their shoulders.
WINNER AND NEW CHAMPION: TOSHIAKI KAWADA
That was an enjoyably stiff battle which built gradually to a strong finish. What I liked about was that it wasn’t really a gigantic near fall fest at the end either. Each guy only really got a handful of false finishes before they took it home, so the finishing sequence didn’t feel overdone. A large part of the match was both men fighting to actually hit moves as opposed to actually hitting them, which I liked. It wasn’t just both men countering each other ad nauseam either, as in most cases they were just blocking the moves in a very basic fashion rather than going through a big countering segment. This really was an “old school” style Japanese main event, and worth a watch if you like your Japanese wrestling but you’ve only really had a steady diet of the modern stuff and want to try more vintage action. You might find it a tad jarring to start, but stick with it and you’ll probably enjoy it.
We get a very early 90’s styled slow motion video package to close us out, showing some of the bigger and more brutal moves from the match. Watching the ring crease up and bend as both men hit it is quite the sight. We even get a shot focused solely on the ref as he winces watching both men destroy one another. The video package ends on a still shot of Kawada with one of the belts.
It was just one match, but it was a darned good one! I watched both of these shows on Roy Lucier’s YouTube channel. If you’re a fan of classic All Japan then I thoroughly recommend seeking that channel out. I’ll post links to both shows below
I’m currently covering the G1 Climax for Gaming Respawn. If you’d like to check those recaps out then you can view my GR archives by clicking right HERE
Thanks for reading