All Japan "Champions Carnival 1997"
review by PdW2kX

The following matches are all clipped:

Akira Taue vs. Johnny Ace (March 22, 1997)
Kenta Kobashi vs. Takao Omori (March 22, 1997)
Toshiaki Kawada vs. Tamon Honda (March 22, 1997)
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Gary Albright (March 22, 1997)
Stan Hansen vs. Johnny Ace (March 30, 1997)
Akira Taue vs. Gary Albright (March 30, 1997)
Kenta Kobashi vs. Jun Akiyama (March 30, 1997)
Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Toshiaki Kawada (March 30, 1997)
Jun Akiyama vs. Stan Hansen (April 2, 1997)
Toshiaki Kawada vs. Gary Albright (April 2, 1997)
Steve Williams vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (April 2, 1997)

There's not much to see for them. It's basically the last thirty seconds of the match, with the maximum time spent on any particular match being about two minutes. It's a real drawback and effectively almost kills the D.V.D., because many of the matches look really enticing, and I'd have loved to have seen them all. To be honest, I only purchased the D.V.D. for the full matches, so here they are.

Kenta Kobashi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa (April 19, 1997)

Kobashi first attempts to dominate Misawa by way of sheer strength and ferocity, but Misawa bides his time and slowly begins to soften up Kobashi with a lot of counter-moves. However, Misawa falls into the trap of trying too hard to end the match quickly and thereby draining himself, and once Kobashi notices this, he quickly utilizes it and nails a big German Suplex for 2¼. Both men quickly become frustrated with their inability to pin the other, and both suffer for it, with both being dropped on their heads and nearly pinned numerous times. Kobashi eventually dominates, and Misawa goes into complete survival mode, kicking out of some of Kobashi's most vicious offense and nailing some of his own. Both men then realize that the thirty minute time-limit is quickly approaching, and hit a lot of do-or-die offense, with many, many almost-wins and false-finishes. Kobashi tries desperately to get in one last Burning Lariat in hopes of putting Misawa down, but Misawa blocks and the time limit expires at 30:00.

Analysis: Truly an epic match, and one of the best I've seen in my more recent DVD reviews. The story of the match was spot-on, with numerous, logical progressions, and many subtle hints and nuances that fully and wonderfully defined the unique clash of personalities and styles between the two men. The moves were expertly paced and seemed to flow naturally, with every move mirroring the progression of the story and seeming to be the exact perfect move for when it took place. The false-finishes and near-falls had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hands, and the frantic rush to put their opponent down before the time limit expired was perfectly captured and executed by both men. Though no one won the match (technically), everyone won by putting on a great performance that captivated the audience and myself. From the great story to the rich psychology to the crisp and always-hard-hitting moves, this match had it all and did it all so damn well. ****

Toshiaki Kawada vs. Mitsuhara Misawa (April 19, 1997)

Since this is the finals of the Champions Carnival '97 and the finals are under Round Robin rules, Kawada immediately comes out as Misawa is lying on the floor recuperating from his all-out match with Kobashi. From the very start, Misawa can barely stand, and Kawada has this killer "your ass is mine" look on his face. Misawa still has fight in him, and he even nails the Rolling Elbow, but most of the match centers around Kawada's complete decimation of Misawa with multiple stiff kicks and knee strikes. After a Ganmengiri, two powerbombs, and two Stretch Plum submissions, one last powerbomb puts Misawa down and out at 6:09.

Analysis: A somewhat cheap victory, but a victory nonetheless. This was actually used to heighten the quality of the story of the match, since Kawada's facial expressions at the start and during the match clearly showed just how glad he was to catch Misawa at such a state and put a bad beating on his arch-rival, but by the end, Kawada seemed a bit disgusted at himself that he took advantage of Misawa's bad condition simply due to his hate. Kawada's inner battle between his long-standing hatred and his pride was the focal point of the match, with the side-story of Misawa trying hard despite having almost nothing left rounding out the rest. Though the match itself was on almost a squash-level of Kawada one-sidedness, the progression and psychology of the match compelled me to give it a good rating. ***

Toshiaki Kawada vs. Kenta Kobashi (April 19, 1997)

Kenta Kobashi begins the match by working over Toshiaki Kawada's knees, with Kawada responding by focusing on Kobashi's arms. Kawada gets chopped, badly, by Kobashi, but Kobashi is soon resorting to using his legs since Kawada made sure his arms are shot. Both men nails plenty signature offense, with multiple Ganmengiri's and Burning Lariats, including a spot where Kobashi tries the Lariat and runs right into the Ganmengiri. Kawada then hits another Ganmengiri, a pinning powerbomb, and a bunch of kicks, and still Kobashi won't go down. One final Ganmengiri gets Kobashi down for the count, and Kawada gets the pin, giving us our 1997 Champion Carnival winner.

Analysis: Another great match that simply had way too much going for it to not be called anything short of fantastic. Though it wasn't as good as the Misawa vs. Kobashi match, it was still one hell of a ride, and played off numerous story arcs and emotions. Kawada knew that even though he had to face Kobashi right after his match, Kobashi was still almost spent since he had wrestled for thirty minutes and barely had six minutes to recover. Kawada went right for the arm, and when that didn't work, he just kicked the **** out of Kobashi like he always does. Kobashi put up a great effort and nearly won the match, but the shot his ego took from not beating Misawa lead to him running back to his old, tried-and-true offense, when he should've focused on tearing apart Kawada's knees. And so, while Kawada was able to set aside his feelings of self-disgust from beating Misawa at his worst, Kobashi just couldn't let go of not being able to beat Misawa at his best, and this inevitably led to his downfall. The great sequence and pace of the match mirrored the subtle, very interesting psychology, producing one more main event that kept alive the notion that no one does main events better than A.J.P.W. in the 1990's. ***¾

Hayabusa and Yoshinobu Kanemura vs. Kentaro Shiga and Yoshinari Ogawa (April 19, 1997)

Everyone involved puts forward a good-though-basic showing in the early moments of the match, and Hayabusa hits some of those nice spots of his, including a springboard somersault senton followed by a moonsault onto Ogawa. Shiga and Ogawa soon play dirty to isolate Yoshinobu Kanemura, with Hayabusa forced to save him multiple times and then, inevitably, getting the tag and cleaning house. After more highspots, Ogawa pins Kanemura with a holding backdrop to get the win at 13:53.

Analysis: Another good contest, with another good story. Shiga and Ogawa basically had no respect for Hayabusa, and even less for Kanemura, who they viewed as a rookie and the weakest of the two. To that degree, Shiga and Ogawa cheated to get the advantage and enjoyed irking Hayabusa and dismantling Kanemura. While the story was solid, the match itself was a bit lacking and felt slightly disjointed, but some good highspots helped ease it up into good-match status. ***

Final Thoughts: To be perfectly honest, the sole reason I purchased this event was for the Kobashi/Misawa and Kobashi/Kawada matches. If you hate clipping, this thing is a nightmare, since it covers eleven matches in under twenty minutes. If you ignore the obviously left-out matches and focus on what the DVD is, instead of what it could or should be, it doesn't disappoint. All four un-clipped matches had great stories, and the Kobashi/Misawa and Kobashi/Kawada matches delivered everything I could've hoped for. The Kawada/Misawa match was a good, though likely very small, footnote on the Misawa/Kawada feud, and helped add to the feud at the time. The tag match was good as far as junior heavyweight tag matches go, but I've seen better.

Still, it's a good addition to the D.V.D. Kobashi/Misawa was an absolute blast and Kobashi/Kawada complimented it perfectly. All together, it's a nice, and most likely cheap way to get two great matches and two good ones. If you can find the entire thing, it looks to be a great tournament, but if only this can suffice, you might just not be all that disappointed. To re-iterate, if you can stand the clipping, there's two quality wrestling matches here, earning the DVD a good score. But, of course, two great matches and two good ones still can't help but be overshadowed by there being only four un-clipped wrestling matches. If you're thinking of getting it, you most likely won't be disappointed, but it's a bit of a tough call if you've got something better to purchase. Overall, though, I liked it, and besides giving it a word of caution, I'll also give it a good recommendation.

Overall Rating for A.J.P.W. "Champions Carnival 1997": ***

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