All Japan on June 3rd, 1994
review by Kevin Wilson
Date: June 3rd, 1994
So for the last two years, I have really wanted to do a quality review for one of the most famous matches in puroresu history.... Misawa vs. Kawada from June 3rd, 1994. But I only like to review full shows, so I kept putting it off. Finally, a few weeks ago I hunted around and I found the full show that this epic match took place on. It isn't the best angle, and it isn't the best quality, but damnit its there and that's all that matters. As far as I know I am the first person on the Internet to review this entire show, so I hope you enjoy it. Here was the full card that famous day:
- Masao Inoue vs. Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
The play by play for the first few matches will be spotty, as people kept walking in front of the camera as they went to their seats. Why can't they get there on time and just stay seated? Course, most of you probably don't have this, so I could just make up play by play if I wanted to and you wouldn't know the difference. Just kidding....
Masao Inoue vs. Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
Both wrestlers slowly get up, Inoue grabs Kikuchi and elbows him in the back of the head before rubbing his face against the top rope. Snapmare by Inoue and he kicks Kikuchi in the back. Stomp by Inoue, he picks up Kikuchi and rubs his face against the rope again. Repeated stomps by Inoue, he gets Kikuchi up again and pushes him into the corner. Inoue then chokes Kikuchi with his boot and stomps him down to a seated position. Neckbreaker by Inoue, cover, but Kikuchi kicks out. Inoue applies a reverse chinlock on the mat, but Kikuchi hits a backdrop suplex to get out of the hold. Back up, forearms by Kikuchi, they both trade slam attempts but neither can get the other man up. Inoue dropkicks Kikuchi into the corner, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and nails the missile dropkick. Cover, but Kikuchi barely kicks out. Waistlock by Inoue, but Kikuchi rolls him up for a two count. Inoue picks up Kikuchi, he goes off the ropes, but Kikuchi catches him with a quick fisherman's suplex for a two count. Inoue chops Kikuchi into the corner, Irish whip, Kikuchi rolls out of the way and goes for the Zero-sen Kick, but Inoue moves out of the way. German suplex hold by Inoue, but again Kikuchi gets a shoulder up. Inoue grabs Kikuchi from behind and goes for another suplex, but Kikuchi grabs the ropes to stop from going over. Roll-up attempt by Kikuchi, but Inoue reverses it into his own pin attempt for a two count cover. Kikuchi nails Inoue with a forearm as he gets up, drags him to his feet, and nails the Fireball Bomb. Cover, and Kikuchi picks up the three count! Your winner: Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
Match Thoughts: A simple match to start things off, and even though it was technically sound it wasn't particularly exciting either. The ending came really suddenly, as the match was fairly even before Kikuchi hits an elbow followed by the Fireball Bomb for the three count. People were still filing in, so my view was blocked a bit at times, but 95% of it was watchable. A perfectly acceptable opener, but that is about the most praise I can give it. Score: 4.5
The Fantastics (Rogers and Fulton) vs. Yoshinari Ogawa and Kentaro Shiga
Fulton tags in Rogers, Rogers rolls up Ogawa, but it gets a two count. Irish whip by Rogers from the corner, reversed, Rogers goes for a crossbody, but Ogawa moves out of the way. Jawbreaker by Ogawa, cover, but it gets a two count. Ogawa picks up Rogers and hits a fishermans suplex, but it also gets a two count. Side headlock by Ogawa as the holds back Rogers from making the tag, and they do something exciting as the crowd cheers but I can't see it. Enzigieri by Ogawa on Rogers, cover, but it gets a two count. Fulton comes in the ring, double Irish whip on Ogawa, but Ogawa sunset flips Rogers for a two count cover as Shiga comes in to help. Irish whip by Ogawa, reversed, Fulton knees Ogawa from the apron, and Rogers delivers a powerslam. Cover, but Ogawa kicks out. Rogers goes to the second rope as Fulton does the same thing and they both hit a missile dropkick on Ogawa. Fulton picks up Ogawa, scoop slam, he goes to the second turnbuckle and jumps off, but Ogawa gets a boot up. This allows him to tag in Shiga, who comes off the top turnbuckle with a missile dropkick onto Fulton. Cover, but it gets a two count. Back up, tie-up, Irish whip by Fulton, reversed, and Shiga hits a jumping elbow strike followed by a crossbody off the second turnbuckle. Waistlock by Shiga, but Fulton reverses it and delivers a backdrop suplex hold that would have gotten a three count if Ogawa hadn't broken it up. Rogers runs in to take care of Ogawa and he throws him out of the ring. Meanwhile, Fulton goes for a backdrop suplex, but Shiga lands on top of him for a two count. Rogers comes over to help, Rogers Samoan drops Shiga in front of the corner, and Rogers comes off the top turnbuckle with an assisted senton for the three count pinfall! Your winners: The Fantastics
Match Thoughts: A nice little tag team match that would have been better if people would have SAT DOWN to watch the show. Jerks. At least I didn't have a giant sign in front of me like I did at RAW a few years ago. I always thought of The Fantastics as a very solid team (although not on the level of the Expresses), and one of the things I enjoy about them is they have a lot of double team moves. Which is logical, if you had a friend that could help you in a match... wouldn't you use them as often as you could? Ogawa and Shiga looked fine, but this was about The Fantastics. Nothing complicated or notable, just a fun undercard tag team match. Score: 6.0
Abdullah the Butcher and Kimala II vs. The Heavenly Bodies (Pritchard and Del Ray)
Irish whip by Abdullah to Pritchard and he thrusts Pritchard in the throat. Kamala then comes back in so he can hit a running splash onto Pritchard's leg. Abdullah follows with an elbow drop on Pritchard's now injured leg and then he stands on it. Abdullah continues working on the leg until Kamala comes flying off the top turnbuckle with a body press. Kamala stays in and chokes Pritchard while he is on the mat. Kamala applies a submission hold to Pritchard's leg and tags Abdullah back in. Elbow drop to the leg by Abdullah and he pushes down on Pritchard's leg. Abdullah tags in Kamala, and Kamala kicks Pritchard in his leg. Abdullah joins in and the pair assault Pritchard until Del Ray runs in the ring to try to help. So many people are leaving their seats its not even funny. Kamala gets the submission hold re-applied, but Del Ray runs in and breaks it up with a kick to the face. Pritchard tries to get up, but Kamala trips him and begins working on the leg again. Back up, Kamala chops Pritchard into the ropes, Irish whip from the corner, and he splashes Pritchard. Abdullah follows with a running splash of his own, cover by Kamala, but it gets a two count. Pritchard finally fights back and delivers a jumping DDT, allowing him to tag in Del Ray. Del Ray stomps Kamala while he is still on the mat, goes to the top turnbuckle, but Kamala rolls out of the way of the moonsault. Running body press by Kamala and he tags in Abdullah. Scoop slam by Abdullah, he goes off the far ropes, and he delivers the elbow drop. Cover, and he picks up the three count! Your winners: Abdullah the Butcher and Kimala II
Match Thoughts: At the time of this card, The Heavenly Bodies were actively wrestling in the WWF, so I don't really know how they were here. This is what you would expect. Actually, it was worse then you might expect, as 94% of the match was one wrestler having his leg worked over in an uncreative and boring fashion. Abby has been wrestling on his reputation for about 15 years, and this is a good example of this as the crowd was really into it even though it sucked. Score: 2.0
Mighty Inoue, Masa Fuchi, and Haruka Eigen vs. Giant Baba, Rusher Kimura, and Mitsuo Momota
Boot to the head by Fuchi, and he connects with another one. Fuchi applies a double underhook, but Momota makes the tag to Kimura. Kick to the stomach by Fuchi to Kimura and he throws him out of the ring. Fuchi follows him out and they battle on the outside before Fuchi brings Kimura back to the apron so he can chop him. Fuchi tags in Eigen, but Momota runs in and throws Eigen out of the ring. Kimura then chokes Eigen, but Inoue runs in to break it up. Momota chops Eigen while he is on the apron, Eigen runs around the ring and gets back on the apron, but Baba grabs him and chops him so that he spits into the crowd. Kimura pulls Eigen back in the ring and makes the tag to Momota. Chops by Momota, but Eigen headbutts him back. Eigen hits a scoop slam though, cover, but Kimura breaks it up. Eigen tags in Fuchi and he stomps Momota to the mat. Dropkick by Fuchi and he tags in Inoue. Gutbuster by Inoue and he kicks Momota in the lower midsection. Cover, but it gets a two count. Inoue applies a side headlock, but Momota back suplexes his way out of it and tags in Baba. Irish whip by Baba and he knees Inoue in the stomach. Irish whip again, but Inoue ducks the lariat and connects with a flying shoulderblock. Senton by Inoue, cover, but Baba kicks out. Inoue tags in Fuchi, they go for a double vertical suplex on Baba, but Baba reverses and suplexes both of them. Kimura comes in to throw Inoue out of the ring, double Irish whip onto Fuchi, and Baba hits a boot while Kimura delivers a clothesline. Baba picks up Fuchi, but Eigen runs in to break up an Octopus Hold attempt. Big boot by Baba on Fuchi, Momota goes for the pin, but it is reversed by Fuchi for a two count. Irish whip by Momota, reversed, but Momota sneaks in a backslide and picks up the three count pinfall! Your winners: Giant Baba, Rusher Kimura, and Mitsuo Momota
Match Thoughts: This match wasn't as bad as the last one because they did a variety of things and it was designed to be more of a comedy match. That being said, it wasn't very good, and why they decided to give them 20 minutes is beyond me. They could have accomplished the same thing in 10 minutes and I wouldn't have wanted to stick a fork in my eye. You know, 1994 All Japan was great, but they sure did throw some weird stuff on the mid-card. I know all six of these guys had been important to All Japan, but that doesn't mean I want to watch them wrestle for 20 minutes. Score: 3.0
Akira Taue and Tamon Honda vs. Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama
Honda tags in Taue, Irish whip by Taue and he hits a Samoan drop. Cover, but it gets a two count. Taue picks up Kobashi and tosses him out of the ring before going out himself as well. Irish whip by Taue into the guardrail and he nails the running boot to the face. Taue slides Kobashi back into the ring, cover, but Kobashi easily kicks out. Abdominal stretch by Taue, Kobashi gets out of it, but Taue delivers a dropkick and tags in Honda. Honda picks up Kobashi and knees him repeatedly in the stomach. Irish whip, and he knees Kobashi in the stomach again. DDT by Honda, cover, but it gets a two count. Kobashi manages to chop down Honda and tag in Akiyama, Irish whip by Akiyama and he nails the jumping knee. Cover, but it barely gets a two count. Scoop slam by Akiyama, he goes off the ropes and delivers the leg drop. Cover, but again it gets a two count. Akiyama applies a front facelock, Honda tries to get out of it, but Akiyama tags in Kobashi. Vertical suplex by Kobashi, cover, but Honda kicks out at two. Kobashi picks up Honda and drives him into the corner. Irish whip by Kobashi and he hits a jumping knee before tagging in Akiyama. Akiyama chops Honda into the ropes, but Honda headbutts him twice in the midsection. Akiyama regains control, Irish whip, reversed, and Honda hits a back elbow before tagging in Taue. Scoop slam by Taue on Akiyama and he drives an elbow into his throat. Taue picks up Akiyama and hits a lariat, cover, but it gets a two count. Scoop slam by Taue, he goes up to the top turnbuckle and nails a diving elbow drop. Cover, but Akiyama barely kicks out. Taue tags in Honda, Honda picks up Akiyama and hits a butterfly suplex. Cover, but Akiyama kicks out at two. Knee drop by Honda, he picks up Akiyama and tags Taue back into the match. Taue drops Akiyama throat-first onto the top rope, picks him back up, and flings Akiyama back to the mat. Cover, but it gets a two count. Taue goes for a suplex, Akiyama lands on his feet and he drives Taue into the corner, but Taue clubs him in the back. Irish whip by Taue, but Akiyama reverses it and delivers a dropkick. This gives Akiyama time to tag in Kobashi, Taue gives Kobashi an atomic drop, but Kobashi fire backs with a clothesline. Chops by Kobashi in the corner, but Taue fires back with punches to the head. In the other corner now, rapid-fire chops by Kobashi, Irish whip, reversed, Kobashi kicks Taue as he runs in, but Taue grabs Kobashi by the throat and throws him back into the corner.
Taue tags in Honda, who delivers a running lariat to Kobashi. Taue follows with a big boot, cover by Honda, but it gets a two count. Waistlock by Honda, but Kobashi gets out of it and lariats him to the mat. Kobashi tags in Akiyama, who comes off the top turnbuckle with a diving forearm strike. Backdrop suplex by Akiyama, cover, but it gets a two count. Akiyama picks up Honda, Irish whip from the corner, and he hits a diving forearm strike followed by the Northern Lights Suplex which Akiyama Taue breaks up. Kobashi takes care of Taue, while in the ring Honda drives Akiyama into the corner. Irish whip by Honda and he delivers a lariat. He goes for it again, but Akiyama knocks him back. Lariat by Honda, cover, but Akiyama kicks out. Honda tags in Taue, Taue picks up Akiyama as Honda goes to the top turnbuckle and they hit a backdrop suplex/top rope clothesline combination. Cover by Taue, but Akiyama barely kicks out in time. Taue picks up Akiyama and nails the powerbomb, cover, but again Akiyama barely kicks out. Taue goes for the chokeslam, but Kobashi knees him from behind and Akiyama hits a quick overhead suplex before tagging in Kobashi. Kobashi charges Taue, but Taue catches him with a powerslam and tags in Honda. Honda comes off the top with a diving knee drop, cover, but it gets a two count. Honda picks up Honda and goes for a German suplex, Taue comes in to help, but Akiyama dropkicks him out of the ring. Meanwhile, Kobashi elbows out of the waistlock and delivers the Orange Crush Bomb. Cover, but Honda barely kicks out before the three count. Kobashi applies an abdominal stretch, but Honda eventually gets a hand on the ropes and Kobashi has to break the hold. Jackknife Powerbomb by Kobashi, but Taue runs in and breaks it up. Akiyama returns to throw Taue back out, scoop slam by Kobashi to Honda in front of the corner and he nails a beautiful moonsault! Cover, and Kobashi picks up the three count! Your winners: Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama
Match Thoughts: Now this was a fun match. It is interesting to watch these guys in a non-main event situation, as the match was structured completely different. They really didn't do any long "single one wrestler" sections and no particular body parts were focused on like you might expect, but it was still established that Akiyama and Honda were the weaker of the pairs and you knew as soon as Kobashi had Honda singled out that Honda was in serious trouble. All four wrestlers looked good here, with Kobashi being the obvious favorite with the crowd. Nothing spectacular, but still very solid and its fun watching these guys in a slightly different environment. Score: 7.0
Stan Hansen and Takao Omori vs. Steve Williams and Johnny Ace
Ace tags in Williams, who chops Omori against the ropes. Omori returns fire, but Williams tosses him to the mat. Omori gets back up and starts swinging, but Omori throws him down again. It still doesn't work though, as Omori quickly jumps to his feet and dropkicks Williams out of the ring. He then dropkicks Ace off the apron as Hansen runs over to Williams and pummels him over the railing. Hansen then rolls back in the ring and raises Omori's arm triumphantly. Williams eventually gets back in the ring, but Omori grabs him and tags in Hansen. Chops by Hansen and he punches Williams down into the corner. Williams kicks Hansen back after a moment and drives him backwards so that he can tag in Ace. Irish whip by Ace on Hansen and he delivers a lariat. Cover, but it gets a two count. Ace applies a reverse chinlock, but after a minute releases it and drives a knee into Hansen. Hansen gets back to his feet, but Ace hits a vertical suplex. Cover, but it gets a two count. Ace goes back to the reverse chinlock, but Hansen struggles to his feet and punches his way out of it. Back up they trade blows, Irish whip by Ace to the corner, but Hansen moves out of the way of the jumping knee. Hansen knees Ace in his injured leg and Ace rolls out of the ring. Omori works his leg over on the outside before rolling him back into the ring. Knee drop by Hansen to Ace's leg and hits a series of mounted punches before tagging in Omori. Omori puts Ace into the corner and drapes his leg over the middle rope before kicking him in the knee. Ace fires back with a series of forearms, but Omori trips him up and applies a leg submission hold. Omori eventually releases it, grabs Ace and tags in Hansen. Again Ace fights back, but Hansen punches him back down to the mat. Knee drop to the leg by Hansen and he applies a submission hold as Ace is inches from making the tag. Hansen drags Ace back to his corner and tags in Omori, but Ace escapes and tags in Williams.
Williams delivers a belly to belly suplex on Omori, cover, but it gets a two count. Cameraman zoomed in.... cool. Powerslam by Williams on Omori, cover, but it gets a two count. Williams picks up Omori, Irish whip, and he delivers a spinebuster. Cover, but Hansen breaks it up. Williams chops Omori into the corner, Irish whip, but Omori rolls out of the way of the attack. Williams tags in Ace before Omori can make the tag, and Ace hits a pump-handle slam on Omori. Cover, but Hansen breaks it up. Omori is up first and he goes out of the ring with Hansen so they can beat up Williams together on the outside. They then get back in the ring, pick up Ace, Omori goes for an assisted powerbomb, but he is a girly man and drops Ace before he can hit the move. Hansen then picks up Ace and hits an assisted powerbomb on him, since Omori clearly wasn't able to do it himself. Cover by Omori, but it gets a two count. Hansen comes back in the ring, scoop slam by Hansen, and Omori comes off the top turnbuckle with a diving elbow. Cover, but Williams breaks it up. Williams picks up Omori to hit a backdrop driver, but Hansen gets up so he charges after Hansen instead. Ace then grabs Omori from behind and hits a backdrop suplex, cover, but it only gets a two count. Hansen gets sent for a ride by both wrestlers and is double shoulderblocked out of the ring. Ace then gives Omori to Williams, who is on the top turnbuckle, and he slams Omori down to the mat. Cover by Ace, but Hansen breaks it up. Hansen throws Williams out of the ring, but Williams grabs him from the apron. Ace Crusher by Ace on Omori, cover, but Hansen breaks free of Williams and stops the count. Williams grabs Hansen's foot and drags him out, while Ace picks up Omori and nails a gutwrench sit-down powerbomb. Cover by Ace, and he picks up the three count! Your winners: Steve Williams and Johnny Ace
Match Thoughts: Not as good as the last match, but pretty solid all-around. There were parts that dragged, such as the minute-long rest holds that aren't really necessary in a tag team match under 20 minutes, but the last five minutes or so were action-packed. The parts with Hansen squaring off with Williams were fun, as they were the obvious juggernauts of their teams. A decent match, but it didn't reach the level that I think they could have considering the wrestlers and they didn't do much to make the match memorable or special in any way. Score: 6.5
Now to the main event. These two had a storied rivalry already in 1994, and this was actually Kawada's third attempt to end this Triple Crown reign of Misawa. Up to this point, Kawada had never defeated Misawa, even though he had tried many times. Here we go.
(c) Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada
With his ear now bleeding, Misawa rolls out of the ring to think things over. He eventually gets back in, but Kawada kicks him to the mat as soon as he does so. A sleeper hold is applied by Kawada, but Misawa makes his way to the ropes and Kawada breaks the hold. Punch by Kawada, but Misawa responds by kicking Kawada repeatedly in his leg. Another kick to the leg by Misawa and he applies a single leg crab hold. Kawada gets out of the hold with a kick to the face, but Misawa quickly re-applies a leg submission hold. After a moment Misawa releases the hold, Kawada gets up, but Misawa kicks him in the leg until he crumbles back to the mat. Stomps to the leg by Misawa and he drives his knee into Kawada's leg. Misawa twists on Kawada's leg, Kawada tries to kick him off, but Misawa bats him away and locks it on further until Kawada reaches the ropes. Back up, Kawada tries to get feeling back into his leg, but Misawa surprises him by delivering a high kick before going back to the leg. KA-WA-DA chants start as he struggles back to his feet, Misawa grabs his leg, but Kawada forearms Misawa in the back of the head. Elbow drops by Kawada, he goes for a vertical suplex, Misawa blocks it, so Kawada goes for an armbar. Misawa gets out of it though, Irish whip by Misawa, and he delivers a kick to Kawada's chest. Misawa goes for the Tiger Driver, but Kawada drives him backwards. Chops by Kawada in the corner and he rams Misawa into the corner on the other side before kicking him in the face. Back to the other corner goes Kawada, but this time Misawa elbows Kawada and he falls to the mat. Irish whip by Misawa and he goes for a dropkick, but Kawada avoids it and takes off Misawa's head with a vicious kick. Kawada picks up Misawa, avoids a strike, and nails the gamengiri! Cover by Kawada, but it gets a two count. Kawada picks up Misawa and goes for the powerbomb, but Misawa back bodydrops out of it.
Kawada gets up quickly however and dropkicks Misawa in the back of the head. Knee drop by Kawada off the second turnbuckle, he picks up Misawa and chops him back to the mat. Another neck chop by Kawada, he then picks up Misawa and gives him a few more. Cover, but it gets a two count. Kawada goes for the powerbomb again, Misawa blocks it, so Kawada kicks him in the face instead. Kick to the back by Kawada, he picks up Misawa and sets him up for the powerbomb, but Misawa kicks his way out of it. Forearm by Kawada, Misawa comes back with elbows and goes for a kick, Kawada blocks it, but Misawa delivers an enzigieri. Misawa goes for the Tiger Driver, Kawada backdrops out of it and the two trade strikes. Kawada goes for a high kick, but Misawa blocks it. Dropkick by Misawa and he delivers the Tiger Driver. Cover, but Kawada kicks out at two. Misawa goes up to the top turnbuckle and hits the diving body press. Cover, but again it gets a two count. Front arrangement sleeper by Misawa, but Kawada eventually makes it to the ropes. Kawada rolls out of the ring, but Misawa goes out and rolls him back in. Misawa goes up to the top turnbuckle, but Kawada delivers a high kick as Misawa jumps off, catching him right in the chest. Kawada picks up Misawa and gives him a right hook, knocking him back to the mat. Kawada goes for the powerbomb, but Misawa blocks it. Kawada releases him and goes for a strike, but Misawa elbows him down. Kawada quickly gets back up and trades blows with Misawa, and he gets the upperhand after a boot to the face and a lariat. Backdrop suplex by Kawada (landing Misawa right on his head), but he is too tired to make a cover. Kawada drags Misawa to his feet, nails the folding powerbomb, but Misawa barely kicks out at two. Enzigieri by Kawada, he picks up Misawa and delivers a high kick to the face. Release German suplex by Kawada, and Misawa wisely rolls out of the ring to try to get a chance to recover. Kawada goes out after him, picks him up, and rolls him back into the ring. Kawada goes for another powerbomb, Misawa tries to block it, but Kawada nails it anyway for another near fall. Kawada goes for another powerbomb, but Misawa makes it to the ropes. Kawada applies a modified stretch hold to Misawa, but again Misawa reaches the ropes. Stretch Plum by Kawada, he releases it so he can make a cover, but it gets a two count. Kawada picks up Misawa, but Misawa fires back with an elbow smash to the face.
Both wrestlers slowly get up, Kawada goes off the ropes and boots Misawa in the head. Again Misawa comes back with an elbow smash, he goes off the ropes and hits the corkscrew jumping lariat. Misawa picks up Kawada and elbows him in the back of the head before nailing a release German suplex. Misawa picks up Kawada and delivers the Tiger Suplex hold, but Kawada barely kicks out in time. Back up, waistlock by Misawa, but Kawada elbows out of it and connects with a front flip kick to Misawa's head. Kawada is up first, and he delivers another front flip kick. Misawa once again rolls out of the ring. Misawa returns under his own power, but Kawada elbows him in the head as soon as he does so . Misawa fires back with his own elbows, but Kawada headbutts him into the corner and lays in the kicks. Misawa fires back with a pair of elbow smashes. Misawa picks up Kawada and hits rapid fire elbow before nailing the rolling elbow smash. Misawa gets Kawada to his feet and goes for the Tiger Driver, but Kawada drives him into the ropes. Kicks to the leg by Kawada, but Misawa blocks his high kick and elbows him to the mat. Misawa gets Kawada to his feet, sets him up for a Tiger Driver, and just kills him with a Tiger Driver '91! Cover, and he picks up the three count pinfall! Your winner and still champion: Mitsuharu Misawa
Match Thoughts: To begin, I think it is impossible to call a match "the best match ever." There are just so many different variables and so many different types of matches that to call one match the best match ever would be an endless debate and difficult to defend. Even if I did have to label a match "the best match ever," however, I don't think that it would be this one.
That is not to say that this isn't a good match, in fact it is an absolutely incredible match. Probably the best match that I have ever reviewed, although it has some very close competition. I mentioned that there are different types of matches, well this is clearly a strike-based match as most of the moves were elbows, punches, forearms, and kicks. For these two that works splendidly as both have very convincing strikes and both are great at selling the strikes of the other one. Misawa has the better strikes (which was shown a few times during this match), but Kawada is more then able to hold his own.
This match was about more then strikes, however, and Kawada seemed to doom himself early. In the middle of the match, Kawada delivered not one but two powerbombs. That is his main finisher (he uses a brainbuster too) and after it failed twice he was clearly frustrated and had to re-group. The last five minutes of the match he never went for a finishing-type maneuver, while Misawa still had a bag full of moves to finish Kawada off. Because of this, Misawa never seemed to be in any serious danger towards the end as there weren't any real near-falls for Kawada. Kawada's strikes were doing very well, but his strikes were not going to finish off Misawa. This was his ultimate downfall.
One of the fun things about this match is even though it is 35 minutes long, there are no pointless rest holds at all. Even when they apply a submission hold, they really crank them on and it doesn't seem like they are just filling time. Misawa rolled out of the ring quite a few times, but that is smart wrestling as he was hurt and needed a few minutes to recover. It is rare to see a match this long where you can't think of any time during the match they were trying to make the match go longer by simply wasting time.
If I had to be critical of some part of the match, the one and only thing I didn't understand was Misawa working on the leg early, but then completely abandoning it. This isn't Kawada's fault, he sold the leg as long as he should have in relation to how long Misawa worked on it. But since Misawa had Kawada limping around at the 10 minute mark, it seemed odd that in the last 25 minutes he never went back to it. It's nit-picking a little, and the logical reason is that Misawa simply doesn't have any finishers that focus on the legs so he decided to shift his focus to the chest and head area, but the leg section lasted long enough that it couldn't help but catch my attention.
Overall this is, I have no doubt, one of the best matches of the 90s for all of professional wrestling. It had everything you could ask for: a hot crowd, compelling action, brutality, and a deadly finisher that gave the match that perfect exclamation point. From my far-view angle I could see the crowd go nuts and rush the guardrail as soon as the three count was given, and the screams of "COUNT TO THREE! COUNT TO THREE!" will probably be in my head for a long time. It was just that kind of match... it gripped you from the opening bell and even if you didn't know the story you were still drawn to Kawada as he is clearly the underdog who just can't figure out the right combination to pick up the biggest win of his career against his old friend and foe Mitsuharu Misawa. Once again he fails here, but even though he didn't get the belt he can walk away knowing that he put on one hell of a show. Score: 9.5