First off, I’d like to thank Scott for giving me a chance to produce some content for the blog. I stumbled across the YouTube page of Roy Lucier, who has uploaded a tonne of classic All Japan Pro Wrestling episodes, so I thought I’d go a write up for one at random due to the fact they’re little more than 40 minutes long and would probably feature some good wrestling as well considering AJPW was killing it in the 90’s.
All of these matches are from the 1994 Champion Carnival, which is like All Japan’s version of the G1, so it seemed somewhat apt to review seeing as we are currently smack dab in the middle of G1 season.
An announcer opens the show by seemingly informing us that Dan Spivey is out of the Champion Carnival and is going to be replaced with Johnny Smith. I’m not sure why Spivey was out but, knowing his history, it was probably an injury of some kind.
Steve Williams Vs The Eagle
Some research reveals that Eagle is actually George “Jackie Fulton” Hines. During this period he was tagging with The Falcon, who was played by Steve Armstrong. Williams wastes no time bulling Eagle over following some token chain wrestling and unleashes some stiff kicks to his downed opponent. Eagle is able to pull out a backslide for two but Williams catches his follow up spin kick attempt and floors him again. Williams takes Eagle on a tour of the top turnbuckles before going to a chin lock.
Eagle tries to respond with a German Suplex but Williams makes the ropes to block and then squishes poor Eagle in the corner with a Stinger Splash. Eagle is able to dodge another splash though and William bangs his knee in the corner. Eagle tries a figure four but Williams kicks him off and then destroys him with a big spinebuster for two. Eagle has one last attempt at trying to get something going but Williams shrugs him off and then drives him into the mat with the Back Drop Driver to end the massacre.
WINNER: STEVE WILLIAMS
Not much of a match. Basically a Williams squash where he shrugged off all of Eagle’s offence and crushed him with big power moves. It served its purpose of making Williams looking like a killer at least.
Stan Hansen Vs John Nord
Hansen is the defending Champions Carnival…err..Champion. Nord will perhaps be known more widely to some as The Bezerker in the WWF. Interesting that he would take his Bruiser Brody tribute act to Japan where he’d face a former Brody tag partner in the form of Hansen. Nord, complete with furry boots, gets out wrestled in the early going so decides to try and turn it into a striking contest. Hansen is always down for a fight and delivers some big shots before going to a chin lock on his discount opponent.
Nord makes it out of the chin lock and goes to a wrist lock before kicking at Hansen’s arm whilst bending it over the ropes. Outside we go, where Nord hits Hansen in his lariat arm with a chair. Hansen replies with a back elbow back in the ring, but Nord goes back to the arm with kicks and an arm bar. Hansen keeps coming however and head butts his way out of the hold in one of the most Stan Hansen moments ever. Undeterred, Nord drops Hansen’s arm over the top rope and then stays on the injured appendage with head butts.
Hansen fires back with his good hand, delivering chops and punches, but he misses a charge in the corner and takes a big boot from Nord for two. Nord slams Hansen and drops a leg to earn himself another two count. A jumping shoulder block gets yet another two for Nord, as he just can’t keep Hansen down.
Nord gets a piledriver but Hansen is able to get his leg on the second rope for two. Nord goes for a knee drop from the second rope but Hansen moves and then targets the leg with kicks in order to get revenge for the prior arm work. Nord tries to for the piledriver again, but Hansen back body drops out of it and then is able to dodge a Nord a dropkick. Hansen adjusts the elbow pad and floors Nord with the Western Lariat to pick up the win.
WINNER: STAN HANSEN
Decent enough brawl there, although I don’t think the fans ever thought that Hansen was in any real jeopardy. Nord got a fair amount of offence and it didn’t look too bad, but he was pretty bland and didn’t really connect with the fans.
This has been all matches so far with little filler and they all seem to have been fully intact as well without any serious editing (Outside of the cutting of entrances)
Toshiaki Kawada Vs Johnny Smith
Smith never really got a chance in a major American company. He had some stints in ECW here and there but never got much of a push and is more likely remembered by the ECW faithful for having his main event at Anarchy Rulz 99 taken from him after a Balls Mahoney chair shot. Smith starts out by hitting a German Suplex and then sends Kawada outside, where he follows with a dive.
Kawada takes a couple of trips into the guardrail and eats an elbow drop back inside from Smith. Smith gets a side back breaker for two and then transitions to a chin lock. Johnny, you best hope you finish Kawada off whilst you can because when he gets up he’s going to be a tad…upset and that probably isn’t going to end very well for you.
Smith goes to the bow and arrow but Kawada slips out, so he goes to a front face lock instead. Kawada back body drops out of that and starts delivering some stiff kicks and chops before going to a half crab. Kawada makes sure to stand on Smith’s head whilst he’s in the hold, just to be a jerk, but Smith is able to break by making the ropes. Undeterred, Kawada goes to a Boston Crab instead, but Smith is able to make the ropes once again, so Kawada sends him outside for some punishment. After sending Smith into the ring post, Kawada puts him back in and flattens him with a big lariat for two.
Oh dear, poor Johnny, he’s getting brutally beaten down by a very angry Kawada here. Smith shows heart by delivering some chops and goes to a chin lock in hope of wearing his terrifying opponent down. Kawada gets out of the chin lock by dropping poor Johnny on his head with a back drop, but Smith is able to kick out. Kawada delivers some stuff kicks but Smith is able to block one and get a modified suplex for two.
Smith heads up and comes down with a missile dropkick (That Kawada doesn’t even bump from) and then shrugs off a boot to the face by delivering a lariat straight after. Smith slams Kawada and heads up for a backward splash, that only just makes contact, and then follows with a German Suplex for two. Kawada delivers an enziguri and then follows up with a spin kick for two before transitioning to the Stretch Plum for the submission win.
WINNER: TOSHIAKI KAWADA
Energetic match there, with Smith getting a few moves in before getting run over by the Kawada juggernaut. Watching the 6 Foot 230 Pound Kawada chewing up his opponent and no selling stuff at will like he was Vader or something was a sight to behold though. The scary thing is that he actually made it look rather convincing as well.
As with the previous match, there are no entrances here and it just cuts straight to the opening bell.
Mitsuharu Misawa Vs Jun Akiyama
Akiyama had been wrestling for less than two years at this point and he was a decent worker for someone with relatively little experience. Akiyama hits Misawa with a dropkick early, which sends Misawa outside, and then follows him out with a dive. Back inside, Akiyama gets a lovely arm drag and holds on into an arm bar. Akiyama works the hold whilst Misawa tries to get out and tries to transition to a cross arm breaker, but Misawa blocks it. Akiyama is finally able to straighten Misawa’s arm, but he can’t get it all the way and Misawa doesn’t tap, so he transitions into a Fujiwara arm bar instead, where Misawa finally makes the ropes to break.
Misawa hits some big elbow strikes with his other hand, and then delivers some kicks to the chest for added measure, before knocking Akiyama down with a dropkick. Misawa keeps bringing the elbows and then gets a lovely side gut wrench suplex for two. The crispness and execution of the holds and moves here have been excellent. Akiyama gets impudent and tries to throw some forearms at Misawa, who replies with a series of stiff kicks and then flattens him with a senton back splash for two. The Misawa exhibition continues with a jumping twisting clothesline and a running cross body for two.
I’m so used to watching Misawa do these 30-40 minute long matches with slow beginnings and epic finisher sequences that it’s quite refreshing to see him get a showcase match over someone lower down on the pecking order to him. Misawa gets a spinning back suplex for two and the tries a brain buster, but Akiyama lands behind and gets a powerslam against the run of play for two. Akiyama gets a lovely Northern Lights Suplex (The execution was absolutely spot on) but Misawa is out at two. Akiyama misses a charge in the corner but is able to counter Misawa’s German Suplex attempt with one of his own for two.
Akiyama heads up top and comes down with a diving elbow to a standing Misawa for two once again. Akiyama floors Misawa and then hits a leg drop to the back of the head for another two before flattening him with a lariat. Akiyama manages a powerbomb and gets his closest near fall of the match so far.
Oooo, fans were buying that as a possible finish! Akiyama goes for an Exploder Suplex but Misawa is able to counter with an awesome judo like take down and then tries to go for the face lock but Akiyama makes the ropes before he can properly cinch it in. Akiyama manages to hit the Exploder when he gets back up and both men are down.
Akiyama gets another Exploder and goes for the pin, but Misawa is just able to get his foot on the bottom rope to stop the cover. Akiyama runs right at Misawa to try and get him down again, but eats a series of elbow strikes, followed up by a Tiger Driver, and that’s enough to keep him down for a count of three. Misawa shows good sportsmanship afterwards by helping Akiyama up and shaking his hand
WINNER: MITSUHARU MISAWA
Akiyama wasn’t quite capable of doing a full on All Japan epic main event yet, but he was clearly getting there and this was an excellent showing from him. I liked how he went charging in there at the end following the last Exploder, as he had Misawa on the ropes and almost panicked that he might not make it count, only for that to ultimately be his undoing. He deserves a lot of credit for hanging so well with Misawa here though, considering his first match was in September 1992 and we were in March 1994 here. Misawa was his usual excellent self, back before he got really broken down after years of punishing All Japan style. Watching him here Vs his later years in NOAH was like watching a completely different wrestler.
We end with an advert for an All Japan VHS tape, where they show that it isn’t just a great tape of wrestling action but that the video case can also be used as a makeshift ruler whilst drawing, as well as keeping your pot of noodles warm. I’m honestly not making any of that up.
This was a very easy watch, as most of the wrestling was to a high standard and they did a good job of making Williams, Hansen, Kawada and Misawa all look like contenders for the tournament, whilst also raising the profile of Smith and Akiyama by making them look plucky in defeat. Definitely worth your time if you like Japanese wrestling and have a spare 40 minutes to spend on it.
The link for the show is below
I’m a regular contributor to Gaming Respawn and am currently trying to keep up with this year’s G1 Climax. You can access my archives below
Cheers once again to Scott and thank you all for reading!