It’s been stated that tag staff wrestling is at present present process a renaissance. Ever since AEW opened, its homeowners’ intentions had been to present extra emphasis on tag staff wrestling after a long time of that model chucking up the sponge in North America.
They’ve been largely profitable to date, however should you ask me, AEW and different firms pushing tag groups are nonetheless a great distance off. All of them nonetheless have plenty of work to do earlier than their tag matches attain the identical degree of greatness that was on show through the Nineties. And immediately we glance again at one other highly-praised tag match to see if it nonetheless holds up.
It’s time to revisit the tag match between Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue and Hayabusa & Jinsei Shinzaki from All Japan’s 1997 tag staff event.
As a reminder, I’m reviewing 5 Star and almost-5 Star wrestling matches as rated by Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer. It goes again to the Nineteen Eighties and I’m going to choose completely different matches from completely different eras to see how they appear immediately. Take a look at earlier entries in my 5 Star Match Evaluations sequence proper right here.
All Japan’s annual two-man tag event was the spotlight of the 12 months for a lot of followers. In 1997, the corporate managed to get a bit extra exterior expertise than earlier than. Although they typically acquired gaijins from the US, it was uncommon for wrestler from different Japanese firms to compete within the WSTDL. However there have been two guys that Baba thought of large enough stars to share the ring along with his wrestlers: Hayabusa and Shinzaki. Shinzaki was ‘Hakushi’ in WWF/E and is remembered for having some nice matches with different in-ring workhorses like Bret Hart. As for Hayabusa, he by no means competed in WWE or WCW however he nonetheless turned extremely influential. He labored ECW no less than as soon as and was a pioneer within the hardcore model that preceded ECW turning into what it was. Hayabusa was additionally an modern wrestler for developing with some loopy spots and wonderful strikes. Particularly, the 450 Splash, the Phoenix Splash, and the Falcon Arrow, had been all created by Hayabusa. And plenty of wrestlers nonetheless energetic immediately – together with PAC, Chris Jericho, and Seth Rollins –tribute, borrow, or have stolen from Hayabusa in a roundabout way.
On this match, Hayabusa and Shinzaki had been taking up the very best staff in All Japan: the Holy Demon Military. Since forming in 1993, the HDA had been absolute masters in tag matches. They gained the event in 1996, had been runners-up in each 1993 and 1995, and had been the favorites to win this one. To this present day, tag matches involving Kawada and Taue nonetheless stand as a number of the finest matches ever (you may take a look at a few of these matches right here and right here and right here and right here and right here and right here and right here and right here). Kawada and Taue had been used to the King’s Highway model of match and combating towards heavyweight brawlers.
However how would they fare towards two lighter, high-flying outsiders? Would they proceed their dominance over the tag staff division or would these outsiders be an excessive amount of for them to deal with?
This match initially happened on November 28th, 1997, one evening after this nice tag match by which Hayabusa & Shinzaki fought Misawa & Akiyama. This match was rated ****1/4 out of 5 by the Wrestling Observer’s Dave Meltzer.
Kawada and Hayabusa begin as the group chants for Kawada. Hayabusa lands some elbows however Kawada this again with the identical plus some knee lifts. Kawada knocks Hayabusa down with a shoulder deal with however Hayabusa kips up and hits a dropkick. Hayabusa hits a nook spinkick adopted by a springboard dropkick to the again of Kawada’s neck. Kawada blocks a scoop slam after which lands a slam of his personal plus a soccer kick to Hayabusa’s backbone. Taue tags in and so does Shinzaki. Taue applies a headlock however Shinzaki escapes, solely to get tackled down. Shinzaki does some acrobatic dodging as Taue prices and lands an enormous thrust kick that will get an enormous pop from the group. Shinzaki goes for his ropewalk chop however Taue cuts him off and all of the sudden the group is booing Taue loudly. They actually wished to see that spot from Shinzaki. Taue will get a one-count off a lariat and tags Kawada. HDA land stereo huge boots that ship Shinzaki to the ground. Shinzaki makes it to the apron however Kawada cheap-shots him with a kick to the pinnacle. Kawada tries once more however Shinzaki catches him and tries the ropewalk once more. However this time Kawada escapes to forestall the transfer from occurring.
Hayabusa tags in Kawada lands some nasty kicks plus a vertical suplex for a one-count. Hayabusa escapes a facelock with a jawbreaker and hits an underhook suplex for a one-count of his personal and Kawada rolls him over for one more one-count. Kawada carries Hayabusa to his nook, tags Taue, locations Hayabusa on the highest rope, and holds him in place in order that Taue can land a excessive kick to Hayabusa’s chin. Taue sends Hayabusa right into a nook however Hayabusa dodges a cost and hits a leaping spinkick and a DDT for a two-count. Hayabusa applies a facelock after which tags Shinzaki, who hits a scoop slam/delayed vaderbomb splash for a two-count. After making use of a shoulder nerve maintain, Shinzaki tags Hayabusa who lands a springboard leg drop for one more two-count. Taue rushes Hayabusa into his nook and tags Taue, who mauls Hayabusa with vicious nook chops. Instantly, Hayabusa begins hulking up All Japan-style. He fights by means of the immense ache and trades excessive kicks with Kawada. however Kawada’s the stronger kicker (all the time) and Hayabusa staggers right into a entrance facelock. Kawada will get a two-count off a kneedrop and dumps Hayabusa to ringside. Taue tags and sends Hayabusa into the metal barricade. He pulls aside the ringside mats and DDT’s Hayabusa onto the uncovered ground. Nasty touchdown for Hayabusa.
Taue tosses Hayabusa into the ring and covers for one more two-count. Taue does a snake eyes into Kawada’s boot and covers however Shinzaki makes the save. Kawada tags in and locks in a deep Boston crab and when Shinzaki kicks Kawada to cease it, Kawada sinks down and reapplies the maintain even tighter. That’s the way you make a wrestler look robust: allow them to take a full-contact shot with out blocking and so they don’t even loosen their grip. Hayabusa does handle to get a ropebreak so Kawada tags Taue.
Taue hits a delayed vertical suplex for a two-count, after which will get one other two-count off a tossing again suplex. Kawada tags in and hits extra kicks after which goes for his powerbomb finisher. He sees Shinzaki coming in so he releases Hayabusa and kicks Shinzaki Kawada lands his patented stepkicks to Hayabusa and goes for the powerbomb once more. He will get Hayabusa up…however Hayabusa counters with a Frankensteiner. Shinzaki lands a fast kick to Kawada to maintain him down after which tags in because the authorized man. A top-rope diving shoulder deal with will get Shinzaki a two-count. He goes to the highest rope and Taue tries to chop him off however Hayabusa takes out Taue. Hayabusa leg drops Kawada in order that Shinzaki can land a diving head-butt. One, two, Kawada kicks out.
Shinzaki goes for his personal powerbomb however Taue boots him after which Kawada spinkicks him. Taue tags in and hits a working excessive kick and two short-range lariats for one more two-count. Taue goes for his chokeslam finisher however Shinzaki sinks down to dam it. Taue fights again and will get Shinzaki up however Shinzaki flips over to counter. Taue goes for a boot however Shinzaki catches his foot. Taue tries to counter with an enzuigiri however Shinzaki counters that by following the movement with an inverted dragon screw leg whip. Hayabusa tags in and he and Shinzaki hit double facecrushers to Taue. Hayabusa knocks Kawada to the ground as Shinzaki slams Taue. They hit a springboard swanton bomb/springboard kneedrop combo adopted by a quebrada by Hayabusa. One, two, Taue kicks out.
Taue resists a German suplex at first however Shinzaki kicks him in order that Hayabusa can join with a bridging German that solely will get two. 450 splash by Hayabusa. Kawada breaks up the pin. Shinzaki tags in and Taue tries combating again with chops however Shinzaki catches his hand. Taue is aware of what’s coming and tries resisting however Hayabusa hits a forearm to interrupt Taue’s resolve. Shinzaki climbs the ropes and begins his ropewalk however he sees Kawada coming and breaks it early to assault Kawada. he goes for Taue however Taue blocks and lands a punch adopted by a throat-first snake eyes onto the highest rope that will get a torrent of boos for Taue. Taue tags in and hits some working kicks to Shinzaki. He goes for a German however Hayabusa kicks him from behind and Shinzaki hits a backflip enzuigiri. Shinzaki crawls over for a canopy however Taue breaks it up.
Shinzaki tries a powerbomb however Kawada powers out. Hayabusa assaults Kawada and Taue, after which lands one other excessive kick to Kawada’s head. He dives onto Taue on the ground as Shinzaki powerbombs Kawada. One, two, and Kawada kicks out once more. Kawada breaks free and hits extra stiff elbows. He and Shinzaki brawl till Kawada hits three consecutive enzuigiris. Kawada lands another working kick after which locks within the Stretch Plum submission maintain. Hayabusa breaks it up so Taue tosses him to the ground. Kawada winds up and lands a large LARIATO! One, two, Shinzaki survives. Taue grabs Hayabusa and retains him towards the ropes. Folding powerbomb by Kawada. One, two, and three! There’s the match!
Winners after 18:05: The Holy Demon Military (Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue)
Anytime you need to see easy but entertaining wrestling with none silliness or BS, watch some Nineties All Japan. As soon as once more this was professional wrestling at its purest. It was a back-and-forth athletic contest between two extremely expert groups. It had an excellent crowd. The wrestling was clean and stable. There have been nice near-falls. The strain constructed up and up till it reached a fever pitch through the remaining couple of minutes. This was a throwaway match that wasn’t meant to be taken significantly but it was nonetheless a superb throwaway match all the identical.
First off, it had excellent pacing. There wasn’t this sense of back-and-forth between blistering pace and sluggish and plodding restholds. The match moved at a singular stable tempo that made it really feel thrilling from bell to bell. Hayabusa and Shinzaki did their high-flying daredevilry and all of it was clean. They acquired to point out the All Japan crowd what they had been able to with none of their work coming throughout as extreme. Every transfer of theirs was given respiratory room in order that the followers might digest what they simply noticed. That’s one thing of a misplaced artwork in newer instances: there’s an excessive amount of of this perspective of ‘getting all of your s**t in’ in a single match and touchdown every part in fast bursts that make viewers ask ‘what simply occurred?’ That’s not all the time a great factor; it’s higher to strike a stability between hitting plenty of strikes and spacing issues out in order that viewers aren’t bombarded with a lot in so little time as if they’re observing a strobe mild. On this match, each transfer had a goal and the important thing spots had been all justified; there was nothing superfluous or wasted right here, which is why this match went underneath twenty minutes and never over thirty, like some later matches involving similarly-styled wrestlers would.
Story-wise, the match had its attention-grabbing moments. Shinzaki confirmed the advantage of teasing a transfer and constructing it up as a substitute of hitting it instantly. The viewers was determined to see his ropewalks chop and each Kawada and Taue knew this. Though they had been the native heroes, the followers REALLY wished to see Shinzaki try this transfer. So to maintain Shinzaki from getting any momentum, and to remind the All Japan crowd who the tag aces had been, Kawada and Taue resisted, blocked, and prevented that transfer as a lot as attainable. It took a number of makes an attempt, with each getting nearer and nearer to getting achieved. However as soon as Shinzaki began strolling the highest rope, he, the outsider, was getting larger reactions than the native AJPW wrestlers. Since wrestling concerned controlling the group and their reactions, it’s higher and extra satisfying for the group to construct a spot up and wrestle to finish it as a substitute of touchdown it completely on a regular basis. That provides the wrestler one thing further to combat for and provides the followers further cause to need to see that specific wrestler succeed.
There was additionally an attention-grabbing story with Taue. He was wonderful at going from babyface to heel in seconds. He was cheered at first as a result of he was teaming with Kawada. However as quickly as he began wrestling soiled the group let him have it. He acquired booed loudly and went with that. He did precisely what was essential to get the group behind Shinzaki and Hayabusa, just for his associate to take the victory away from these outsiders.
As for Hayabusa and Kawada, they had been nice because the face-in-peril and the bullying heel, respectively. Kawada simply demolished each opponents however particularly Hayabusa along with his brutal kicks and different punishing strikes. He appeared like a tricky bastard for taking a full-contact strike to the pinnacle whereas making use of the Boston crab and refusing to let go. Small particulars like that assist promote the concept that these guys will not be solely convincing as robust guys however decided opponents. He was so decided to win that he ignored the ache from that headshot and saved doing what he was doing.
In the meantime, Hayabusa took an absolute shitkicking and fought again like a valiant underdog. I do know it’s ironic to name him an excellent babyFACE, however that’s what he was right here. He acquired the group to rally behind him and he strung collectively a formidable comeback alongside Shinzaki in direction of the top. It was a frightening problem for these two MPW flippy guys to compete in an All Japan ring alongside the very best wrestlers on the earth on the time. And but, neither Hayabusa nor Shinzaki appeared misplaced. Sure, they did extra flips and dives, however apart from that they paced their match and competed in a King’s Highway form of manner. They didn’t do something flawed right here. For an early event match, this was fairly rattling stable.
Last Ranking: ****1/2
The match by no means actually reached that increased degree just because Kawada and Taue by no means took their gloves off. There wasn’t this sense that Hayabusa and Shinzaki might win, regardless of their finest efforts. Kawada and Taue had been merely a extra cohesive unit and superior wrestlers general. They’d extra expertise in tag matches and knew when and how you can assist one another most.
And but, that is one other actually enjoyable match. In order for you easy wrestling with out angles, gimmicks, promos, or storylines, this must fulfill you. It’s virtually twenty minutes of simple motion, plain and easy. You don’t want any greater than that.
Thanks for studying. You may e-mail me with any questions or feedback, and remember to take a look at my 5-Star and Nearly 5-Star Match Evaluations sequence right here.