All Japan Pro Wrestling on 6/3/94
review by PdW2kX

Triple Crown Championship Match: Mitsuharu Misawa © vs. Toshiaki Kawada

After some stiffness, Misawa eats a spinning kick but answers right back with a stiff backdrop. Both men are very evenly matched, but Kawada begins to wear down Misawa with kicks, elbows, and submission maneuvers. Faced with an almost-unstoppable onslaught from Kawada, Misawa takes a step off the high road and swiftly targets an old crutch: Kawada's legs. Kawada's hatred of Misawa targeting his weak spot is only matched by self-hatred at how effective targeting the weak spot turns out to be. Kawada fights back with a super-sick Ganmengiri, then a barrage of kesagiri chops. Misawa won't go down, and fights back for all he's worth. Both men, near the breaking point, start tossing out their big offense, resulting in closer and closer nearfalls that eventually leaves both men almost completely drained. Misawa hits Kawada with everything in his arsenal, from the Rolling Elbow to the Tiger Driver. Misawa's final salvo comes in the form of multiple elbow shots, two Rolling Elbows, and the dreaded Tiger Driver '91 to finally and unquestionably put Kawada down. After the match, both men shake hands.

Analysis: No wonder this match has been called "the greatest singles match of all time". If it's not, it comes pretty damn close. In my entire history of reviewing, short though it may seem, the only other match that comes close in terms of singles competition is the classic Steamboat/Savage match from WrestleMania III. This match can be best summed up as the story of a merciless hero taking on a nigh-unbeatable champion. The fans were salivating for Kawada to win this one, and he nearly did, time and time again. But Misawa proved what he is made of, never backing down, taking every advantage possible, and utilizing every last technique in his vast arsenal of moves, including one he hadn't used in years (the Tiger Driver '91) to finally send Kawada down to the mat. Kawada, on the other hand, did everything he could, never surrendered, never backed down, and on any other night, against anybody else, Kawada could have pulled out the victory. The progression of the match is slow and methodic: both men come out firing, Kawada wins out of sheer brutal hatred, then Misawa targets a long-held weakness, sacrificing personal pride and a sense of decency to attack his hated foe's weakest point. Kawada is picked apart piece by piece, but refuses to back down and finally launches an all-out onslaught that, had it been fully powered, would have meant doom for Misawa. But the gradual weakening of Kawada led Misawa to fire off a final salvo of his own, using a last-ditch ultra-move to finally get Kawada to stay down. Simply put, this match has a story as rich and fulfilling as most works of fiction, be it books, movies, or video games. The only real thing holding this match back is a bit of the "big move overkill", but even that figures into the story well: it took everything, and I do mean eeeeeeeeverything, to bring Kawada down. All in all, these two men gave us some of the greatest matches of all time, and this one could certainly be worthy of such praise. ****½

Final Thoughts: Another classic, another prime example why 90's AJPW gave us some of the best wrestling on the planet…as well as some of the greatest matches of all time. Misawa vs. Kawada is no minor storyline…years upon years upon years of gradual development, twists and turns, and exciting match-ups gave us one of the greatest feuds of all time. From humble tag-team origins to a level of hate almost unfathomable, the Kawada/Misawa wars gave us a legacy of sheer brilliance. Not only does my personal Greatest Match of All Time (6/9/95) come straight from the Kawada/Misawa wars, the plain fact is that, in the 90's, any match that featured Kawada and Misawa in it, no matter if it was straight-up against each other or with any assortment of tag partners, is guaranteed to be a fantastic match. 6/3/94 is no exception. Many have called it the greatest singles match of all time. If it isn't, it's closer to that accolade than just about anything I've ever seen.

But like other single-match DVD's, two problems arise in purchasing this. First, being one of the most-known and most-praised singles matches on the planet, it's probably even easier to find this one online than my last review, which featured Kobashi and Misawa vs. Kawada and Taue. Whether it be on YouTube or other streaming media, RapidShare or P2P programs, or even part of a compilation, the way this match utterly captivates both grizzled veteran and questioning newbie means that it is available online in many forms, in many ways. The other problem is that this is one match on one full-price DVD. And yet, that particular fact is countered by two things: first, IVP is cheap anyway. Second, you're basically getting one of the greatest matches of all time. It's a bargain either way.

So, like the review before it, I'm taking off half a point from the match rating and using that for the "overall" rating. The reason is just a bit different this time, though. On my last review, I raised two points: being only one match on one DVD cost it a fourth of a point, and the "why pay for it when I could find it online" argument cost it a fourth of a point. Here, the whole "one match on one DVD" argument is moot, because this one match is one of the greatest matches of all time. But, being one of the greatest matches of all time, it is even easier to find this thing online and not have to pay for it. Just about anyone could find this bad boy with no more than half an hour of digging, if even that. So, that'll cost it half a point.

Yet in the end, let's review the facts: Kawada plays the big anti-hero never-say-die take-no-prisoners challenger with offense that is effective, brutal, and brutally effective. Misawa is the permanently-stoic no-backing-down champion that sacrificed a personal sense of decency to finally prove to Kawada that he was better than him. At the end of the night, Misawa reigned victorious, Kawada knew this fact, so Kawada shook Misawa's hand man-to-man and left to lick his wounds, ready and willing to come back harder and more vicious until he finally proved to himself and all the world that he could defiantly and emphatically beat his hated rival. It's a story so rich and fulfilling that it made 90's AJPW the greatest wrestling promotion to have ever existed, as well as the best promotion during the 90's period, when wrestling was at its zenith. Sure, you can find it online, but IVP has it for dirt cheap anyway, and any online footage will likely be computerized VHS footage, so the video quality lost in the transfer from VHS to DVD won't likely be as bad as the transfer from VHS to computer. This is one of the greatest matches of all time: if you've never seen it, see it now. Even if it has to be online. Your wrestling collection will never truly be complete unless you own at least one Misawa/Kawada match. If you choose to buy this one, you'll never regret taking the plunge. Those new to wrestling and wanting to break into Puroresu would probably prefer high-flying competition from the likes of Hayabusa and Dragon's Gate, but those familiar with wrestling and wondering if Puroresu is right for them? This is, without a single doubt in my mind, the perfect reason to get a Puro collection started.

Final Rating for All Japan Pro Wrestling- June 3, 1994: ****

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