In Search of Five-Star Matches: Part Four

I return with my review of matches rated five stars by Dave Meltzer, a man whom I hold in high regard. The tale of this batch of ten matches is the rise of Manami Toyota and Kenta Kobashi. Both are starting to emerge asarguably two of the best of their generation in this era and both incidentally make great use of rolling cradles. There is more diversion in the wrestling community about Toyota’s abilities with some thinking her matches aren’t great and some thinking she is the best wrestler of all time. There is debate on whether Kobashi is the greatest of all time but most at least think he is quite good. The rest of the list is made of up variety with a couple of pre-ECW hardcore matches for which it’s not clear if Dave rated them five stars or if it was just someone who wrote in, but they both make appearances on these lists and warrant reviewing. Other highlights include familiar but amazing content from Jushin Liger, Misawa and Company vs Tsuruta and Company and good ol’ War Games. And Tsuyoshi Kikuchi creeps his way in with some awesomeness.

Check out Dave’s past work on this project: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

31) 8/3/1991 Cactus Jack vs. Eddie Gilbert (TWA)

This particular spectacle is from a show that had three separate matches with these guys, a falls-count-anywhere match, a stretcher match and a cage match. In the records I have found for reviews, I have seen that it was the stretcher match that was rated five stars but I will watch all three matches here. It does also appear that the ratings may have just been from a fan but it was later listed as a five-star match. The first match (falls-count-anywhere) starts with punches and a headbutt from Cactus. He hits his double-arm DDT early in the match for a two-count and throws Gilbert outside. Gilbert whips him into the guardrail and then backdrops him on the floor. They brawl up the aisle and Cactus bangs Gilbert’s head on a table and hits him with a chair. They start swinging chairs at each other. Gilbert jumps off a stage with an axehandle on Cactus and then throws garbage at him. Gilbert gives Cactus a piledriver off the stage to the floor and then sets up a table and there is some clipping. Cactus drops the table on Gilbert. Cactus is punching Gilbert and hits him with an elbow on their way back to the ring and Gilbert is busted open. Cactus beats him with an umbrella. Cactus does his elbowdrop off the apron for a two-count on the floor. Gilbert gives him a backslide. Cactus gives Gilbert a sunset flip off the apron. Gilbert starts hitting Cactus with a stick and gives him three vertical suplexes on the floor and gets a two-count. Cactus rolls Gilbert inside and lays in punches. Gilbert gives him a hot-shot. Gilbert goes for a piledriver but gets backdropped over the top rope. Cactus hits him with a flying clothesline off the apron and gets the three-count on the floor. This segment was rated ****1/2 stars and with the footage available here it doesn’t completely hold up in a post-ECW world. The second match (stretcher) starts with Cactus hitting punches and clotheslines on the floor. This feels like it is starting right after the last match and if so |I would consider them one continuous match. Cactus takes Gilbert inside and hits him with an axehandle, punches and two bulldogs. Cactus squashes Gilbert on the ropes and then gives him a facebuster. While the referees try to put Gilbert on a stretcher, Cactus gives him a baseball slide dropkick and knocks him to the floor. Cactus grabs a big plastic garbage container and throws it at Gilbert. Cactus goes to the second rope and does an elbow drop to Gilbert on the floor. We have clipping and come back to Gilbert hitting Cactus with punches around the ringside. Gilbert takes him inside and beats on him with the garbage container. Gilbert breaks a bottle over Cactus’ head in a sick spot that I would hope people don’t try to replicate, which I know Cactus did a few years later. Gilbert calls for Cactus to go out on a stretcher and the referees try to take him but Gilbert continues the brawl outside and gives Cactus a DDT on the floor. Gilbert again calls for the stretcher which does occur as Cactus is carried out. This segment, while quite good, does not hold up to a five-star rating in the current context and I am not sure that it would at the time either. Gilbert is taunting Cactus from the ring and we then get clipping to the start of the cage match. Cactus is in control and slams Gilbert backward from the top rope. Cactus drops a knee on Gilbert’s head. Gilbert runs Cactus’s head into the cage. Cactus slams Gilbert’s head on the mat and then climbs to the top of the cage. Gilbert dropkicks the cage, knocking Cactus to the floor. It is not escape-the-cage rules as the match continues. Gilbert sets up a table at ringside and runs Cactus’ head into it. They brawl to the back and Gilbert runs Cactus’ head into the door. They go outside and the match is clipped to Cactus in control. Cactus hits him with the garbage container and then walks him toward the ring. Cactus takes Gilbert inside and runs him into the cage repeatedly. Cactus jumps off the second rope and Gilbert gets out of the way. Cactus headbutts him and then charges him and hits the cage when Gilbert gets out of the way. Gilbert rams Cactus’ head into the cage and Cactus gives him a low blow. Cactus punches Gilbert but then gets whipped into the corner where he flips and lands headfirst on the turnbuckles allowing Gilbert to beat on him. Gilbert is punching Cactus in the corner but Cactus gives him a reverse atomic drop. Cactus avoids a clothesline and Gilbert hits the referee. Cactus wraps his fist with a chain and hits Gilbert with punches. They go the top of the cage and Gilbert gets crotched on the top rope. Doug Gilbert enters the ring and beats Cactus with a chain. The Gilberts double-team Cactus and the bell starts ringing. A couple of different wrestlers try to help until Bam Bam Bigelow makes the rescue. A double-disqualification is announced. This whole presentation was really good and really set the table for later promotions like ECW. It doesn’t merit a five-star rating in my mind but is really good to watch for action and historical significance.

32) 3/7/1992 Manami Toyota and Toshiyo Yamada vs. Yumiko Hotta and Suzuka Minami AJW

Meltzer’s review at the time gave this ****3/4 but he later mentioned it as having been five stars. Toyota and Yamada start off working over MInami with Yamada hitting an elbow off the top rope and Minami giving her a back suplex. Toyota grabs a headlock allowing Yamada to hit a backdrop driver. Yamada hits a snap suplex and a dropkick. Hotta comes in and Yamada tags in Toyota who hits five great dropkicks followed by a missile dropkick. There is brief clipping and we see Hotta giving Toyota a burning hammer with Toyota bridging out of a pin. Hotta hits a fisherman’s suplex. Minami tags in and hits a knee-strike off the top rope followed by a kick off the top rope. Minami gives Toyota a tiger-bomb into a cross-knee backbreaker which was pretty awesome. Minami gives her an arm-capture German suplex and then a powerbomb. Hotta tags in and takes a dropkick. Yamada tags in and Hotta hits her with an enzuiguri and a leg lariat. Hotta hits a double-arm suplex into a tiger-bomb and then a bridging German suplex. Yamada tags in and starts nailing Minami with repeated enzuiguri’s and then gives her a back suplex. Toyota tags in and Minami attempts a powerbomb with Toyota floating over into a Manami roll. Toyota takes Minami to the corner where Yamada hits her with a top rope shoulder-block. Hotta then hits Yamada with a leg lariat off the top rope. Hotta bodyslams Yamada who gets out of the way of a top rope senton by Minami. Toyota and Yamada then take Minami to the top rope and give her a back suplex in which she rotates over. Toyota misses a moonsault and Hotta tries twice to powerbomb her but gets stopped by Yamada. Toyota then dropkicks Hotta out of the ring and hits a plancha onto Yamada and a ring girl at ringside with Hotta apparently getting out of the way. Minami then hits a top suicida onto Hotta and a ring girl when Yamada gets out of the way. Toyota hits a moonsault vaulting off the top rope onto Hotta and Minami on the floor. Toyota attempts a superplex on Hotta but gets thrown to the mat where she gets out of the way of Hotta’s senton. Toyota gives Hotta a Japanese Ocean Suplex for a two-count. Hotta and Minami take Toyota to the top rope where Hotta gives her what is essentially a combination between an overhead belly-to-belly superplex from a powerbomb position. Hotta then gives Toyota a sit-out double-arm suplex with Minami doing a diving headbutt on Toyota which interrupts a pin attempt. Toyota hits a mule kick on Hotta. Yamada tags in and she and Toyota hit Hotta with a double side slam. Toyota hits a top rope quebrada on Hotta and Yamada hits Hotta with a spin-kick off the top rope for the pinfall. This was such a ridiculously fast-paced sprint that it was impossible to recap without a LOT of pausing and rewinding. If a sprint is your thing you will love this. If selling is your thing, keep looking. So many of these moves were new at the time that I feel the rating was justified and the athleticism of the performances is awesome. I don’t think the rating holds up today but I did really enjoy this and would rate it probably more the ****1/2 range.

33) 4/24/1992 Manami Toyota vs Kyoko Inoue AJW

This is the second of many Toyota matches on this list. The match starts with both attempting a dropkick. Toyota misses a clothesline and then Inoue does some rope-walking to avoid her and hits a tilt-a-whirl. Toyota monkey-flips her to the floor and hits a springboard crossbody to the outside. Toyota hits a dropkick and a crossbody in the ring and works a wristlock into a cross armbreaker and then a rolling armbreaker. Toyota hits Inoue’s shoulder with elbow strikes and applies a Fujiwara armbar. Toyota puts her in a camel clutch and then gives her a butterfly suplex. Toyota applies a surfboard and transitions into an armlock. Inoue fights back with chops, hits a dropkick and applies a Boston Crab. Inoue puts Toyota in a Romero stretch and then moves into a camel clutch. Inoue puts her into a torture rack and does a running slam and then applies another Boston Crab with Toyota getting a rope break. Inoue then does an Indian Deathlock into a bow and arrow and Toyota throws some elbows. Inoue then goes back to the camel clutch. Inoue takes Toyota to the top rope and slams her to the mat. Inoue gives her a fall-away slam and starts hitting overhead chops. Toyota dropkicks her to the apron and then tumbles to the floor when Inoue avoids a dropkick. Inoue springs off the ropes and hits her with a flying hip attack. Toyota returns the ring and Inoue gives her kicks to the head and then a spinning over-the-shoulder backbreaker. Inoue gives her a fisherman suplex. Toyota hits a push-off dropkick followed by another four dropkicks and a missile dropkick. Toyota hits a crossbody off the top to Inoue’s back. Toyota then hits a suplex that’s new to me, basically a bridging arm-capture suplex. Inoue hits a back elbow and applies a Boston Crab and then a single leg crab. Toyota gets out but Inoue quickly has her back in the crab and then does a crazy roll-through into a Romero stretch. Toyota whips Inoue to the corner and dropkicks her to the outside where Toyota hits a crossbody off the top rope. Inoue does a hip attack off the guardrail. Inoue attempts to bring her in with a brainbuster off the apron but Toyota gets a roll-up. Toyota applies an octopus stretch and then does a rolling cradle for a near-fall. Toyota hits Inoue with four missile dropkicks in a row. Toyota bodyslams her and attempts another missile dropkick but Inoue catches her and gets a single leg crab, then a camel clutch and then a bow and arrow. Inoue gives her a float-over vertical suplex and Toyota bridges out of a pin. Inoue goes back to the Boston Crab. Inoue whips Toyota into the ropes and Toyota comes back with a Manami roll. Toyota does a top rope splash but Inoue gets her knees up and then gives her a giant swing. Toyota bridges out of another pin, stops a submission attempt and gives Inoue a bridging German suplex. Inoue goes outside where Toyota hits her with a tope suicida and then a crossbody from the top. Toyota hits her moonsault off the top rope to the outside. Toyota gives Inoue a tiger suplex in the ring and then misses a moonsault. Inoue then does another roll-through Romero stretch and then hits a big hip attack off the top rope. They trade roll-ups and the Inoue gives Toyota an over-head belly-to-belly off the top. Inoue hits a sit-out powerbomb for a near-fall. Toyota gets the Japanese Ocean Suplex for a near-fall. Inoue gives her a chokeslam. Toyota then gives Inoue a Japanese Ocean Cyclone suplex to get the pin and win the IWA Title. This match had a lot of the moves from the March 1992 tag but stretched over a longer period with better pacing and psychology. I like the idea of Inoue going back to the Boston Crab and other back submissions repeatedly, doing what is effective rather than flashy or innovative, which ends up being innovative. It is kind of like Lesnar using repeated suplexes. Some would complain that Toyota wasn’t selling a body part but she did work underneath a lot and I can totally see five stars for this match, in the context of the time or today.

34) 4/30/1992 Jushin Liger vs El Samurai

Liger goes for the handshake to start and Samurai spits at him instead. They lock up a few times and Samurai gets a drop toehold and starts trying to rip off Liger’s mask. They spill to the floor where Samurai hits him repeatedly with a bottle and then gives him a tombstone on the floor. Samurai takes Liger inside, gives him another tombstone and goes for the mask-rip. Liger kicks at him and Samurai hits a legdrop and applies a camel clutch. Samurai chokes Liger on the ropes. A lot. Samurai stomps on Liger, applies a surfboard and gives him a jawbreaker. And it’s back to mask-ripping. Samurai stretches Liger in a Romero Special and transitions into a dragon sleeper. Samurai charges Liger with several forearms in the corner but Liger knocks him down with a palm-strike. Liger goes to the apron and gives Samurai a fall-away suplex to the floor. Liger gives Samurai a powerbomb on the bare floor and then takes him back to the ring and hits a koppo-kick. And now Liger rips away at Samurai’s mask and exposes a lot of his face. Liger takes Samurai to the floor and bodyslams him. Liger then goes to the top rope and hits a rolling senton to the floor in 1992. They return to the ring and Liger hits a powerbomb. Liger goes to the top and hits a missile dropkick followed by double-knees off the top rope. Samurai is basically unmasked at this point as Liger puts him in a sleeper. Liger gives Samurai a back suplex and then hits a koppo-kick in the corner. Liger unloads some palm-strikes on Samurai and then knocks him out of the ring with another koppo-kick. Liger goes to the top and hits a moonsault on Samurai on the floor. They return to the ring and Liger sinks in a kimura but Samurai gets to the ropes. Liger then goes for another kimura but transitions into a cross armbreaker with Samurai getting to the ropes again. Liger goes for a clothesline but Samurai avoids it and hits a flying forearm. Samurai bodyslams Liger and goes to the top and hits a missile dropkick. Samurai knocks Liger out of the ring with a forearm and hits him with a tope con giro. They return to the ring and Samurai gives Liger a reverse necbkreaker followed by his inverted DDT. Samurai gives Liger a Russian legsweep and applies an armbar/headscissors. Liger struggles out but Samurai puts him in a sleeper with a bodyscissors. Samurai takes Liger to the top rope and goes for a superplex but Liger blocks him, headbutts him to the mat and splashes him. Liger delivers another tombstone and goes up top for a rolling senton but Samurai gets out of the way. Samurai goes for an apparent hurracanrana but Liger powerbombs him. Liger then takes Samurai to the top rope and gives him an electric chair. Samurai then hits a hurracanrana followed by a bridging German suplex. Samurai then goes up top and dives at Liger who swats him to the mat. Liger then sits Samurai on the top rope and gives him a DDT. Liger takes him to the top again and gives him a belly-to-back superplex. Liger then sits Samurai on the top rope and gives him a hurracanrana to get the pin. This was a great match. I think I would be more inclined to give it ****1/2 or ****3/4 but have no problem with a five-star rating. It started a little slower than I might like but that built the match well and the intensity really picked up. The mask-ripping really added to the drama.

35) 5/16/92 El Hijo del Santo, Atsushi Onita and Tarzan Goto vs. Negro Casas, Horace Boulder and Tim Patterson FMW USA

The idea of Onita, Santo and Casas side-by-side is as intriguing as the idea of Horace Boulder in a five-star match. It’s also fascinating that this took place in Los Angeles. All six men start brawling right away and Onita runs Boulder into the back wall and gives him a piledriver on the bare floor. While Casas and Santo are in the ring, Onita comes back to ringside and holds Patterson for a clothesline from Goto. Boulder then grabs Onita and drags him up the stairs of the arena and runs him into a chalkboard!!! Onita beats on Boulder and throws him into the stands where they punch away at each other. Onita hits Boulder with a chair. Casas holds Santo in the ring for Goto or Onita to attack but Santo armdrags him, hits a flying headscissors, a flying armdrag and a tope suicida. Boulder clotheslines Goto in the ring and gives him a backbreaker. Boulder Irish Whips Goto but takes a clothesline from him. Onita tags him and gives Boulder a DDT. Santo tags in and dropkicks Boulder. Casas is in and headbutts Santo to the mat. They criss-cross and Santo hits a dropkick. Santo misses a second one. Casas goes to the top where Santo dropkicks him to the floor and then hits a plancha. Patterson and Goto trade chops and Goto hits a clothesline followed by a face-first piledriver. Goto then scores a pin to win the first fall. Onita attacks Boulder for the second fall and throws him outside. Boulder comes back in and beats on Onita and hits a clothesline. Boulder punches away at Onita while Casas brawls to the floor with Santo. Onita and Boulder start fighting with chairs on the floor and then brawl through the crowd. Casas and Santo criss-cross in the ring and Santo kicks him out of the ring. Santo then gets Casas in the Romero Special. Boulder hits Onita with a chair on the floor. Boulder and Casas double-team Santo and Boulder hits him with a chair. Patterson runs at Santo with a dropkick but hits Casas when Santo gets out of the way. Santo backdrops Patterson and gives him a legdrop. Santo nails Patterson with a rolling senton off the top and then hits a tope suicida on Casas. Santo and Casas return to the ring where Casas gives him a tilt-a-whirl followed by la magistral cradle for a pin to win the second fall. Onita throws Boulder out of the ring and then challenges Casas but faces Boulder to start the third fall. Boulder gives Onita a rolling neckbreaker and beats on him on the mat. Boulder goes for a backdrop but Onita gives him a DDT. Goto comes in with a clothesline on Boulder and hits him with headbutts off the second rope. Santo rolls up Boulder in a small package. Casas attacks Santo but gets tied up in a headscissors. They trade monkey-flips and Santo armdrags Casas who rolls to the floor. Onita and Goto double-team Boulder and hits him with a clothesline and a double DDT. Onita holds Boulder for a dropkick from Santo. Onita then gives Boulder a double-underhook powerbomb and pins him to win the match. This was a fun match that is a fascinating time capsule piece. I can definitely see that it is probably four stars or more but is nowhere near a perfect match, based somewhat on execution at times as well as not everyone shining in the match. Boulder and Onita sure did though and Casas and Santo were of course great. It would have been fun to see more interpromotional work as opposed to feeling almost like two matches happening simultaneously with Casas-Santo and Onita-Boulder. But people should try to seek this out as it is good solid fun. The only reference I have found in old observer issues to it being rated five stars is from a reader who did a ratings list of matches for 1992 including this one which he had seen live, but this does appear in some of the lists of five-star matches.

36) 5/17/1992 Sting, Nikita Koloff, Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, & Dustin Rhodes vs. Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, & Larry Zbyszko (WarGames Match, WCW WrestleWar ‘92) WCW

I loved the Dangerous Alliance era. Paul E. Dangerously (Paul Heiman) is shown talking strategy in a nice touch. The match starts with Steve Austin vs Barry Windham. They throw some big punches. Windham hits a shoulder-block. Austin tries to throw Windham into the cage but Windham stops and throws punches. Windham bodyslams Austin but misses an elbow-drop. Austin runs his head into the turnbuckle. Windham rakes the eyes and goes for a piledriver but Austin backdrops him and drops the elbow. Dangerously is shown talking strategy again. Windham throws Austin into the other ring and then runs his head into the cage and DDT’s him. Windham tries to rub Austin’s head into the cage. Austin gets out and clotheslines Austin in between the rings and clotheslines him into the other ring. Austin grabs the top of the cage and tries to kick Windham who knocks him off the cage. Windham runs Austin’s face into the cage and then throws him into the cage. Windham rakes Austin’s face on the cage and then runs his head into the turnbuckle. Austin is busted open as Windham hits him with punches. Windham hits a knee-strike just before the toin-coss giving the Alliance the advantage. Rick Rude enters the ring and hits Windham with knees and elbows. Rude runs his shoulder into Windham’s gut repeatedly. Rude tries to run Windham’s head into the cage but Windham stops it. Austin is back up and hits a clothesline off the top on Windham. Rude and Austin throw Windham into the cage and then hit him with forearms. Rude chokes him out and Steamboat enters and unloads on both opponents with strikes. Steamboat DDT’s both Rude and Austin and then runs Rude’s head into the turnbuckle. Austin runs Steamboat into the corner but Steamboat grabs the cage and kicks Austin and gets Rude in a hurracanrana. Windham is bleeding now as well. Windham and Steamboat team up on Rude and Arn Anderson enters the match and DDT’s Windham. Anderson gives Steamboat a spinebuster. Anderson and Rude get Steamboat in a double Boston Crab. Windham makes the save and tees off on Anderson with punches. Anderson and Rude team up on Windham and then Rude gives Steamboat a piledriver. Rude throws Steamboat into the other ring and they then double-clothesline each other. Dustin Rhodes enters and hits Anderson with boots to the face and elbows. Rhodes gives Austin an inverted atomic drop. Rhodes clothesline Anderson as Steamboat has Rude in a Boston Crab. Rhodes gets Austin on his shoulders and drops him in an electric chair. Windham is fighting with Anderson between the rings while Steamboat has rude in a figure four. Rude reverses it briefly but Steamboat regains control. Larry Zbysko enters and Rhodes brawls with him right away. Madusa is shown climbing the cage where she gets on top and gets Dangerously’s phone to Anderson. Sting gets on top of the cage and chases Madusa off. Rude is then shown raking Steamboat’s face and then chinlocking him. Anderson throws Windham into the cage and Zbysko does the same to Rhodes. Rude grabs Steamboat in a sleeper and Sting enters the cage and punches Anderson and gives him a facebuster. Sting then starts gorilla pressing Rude into the top of the cage. Sting throws Anderson into the cage and then backdrops Austin into the cage. Sting rakes Anderson’s face on the cage. Austin hits Rhodes with a clothesline. Everyone is brawling as Bobby Eaton enters the cage. A busted open Rhodes hits a big boot to Austin’s face. Eaton works over Steamboat and then throws Windham into the cage. Zbysko and Rude are seen loosening the turnbuckle but Sting stops them. Steamboat goes after Zbysko. Austin runs Windham’s head into the turnbuckle and they brawl as Nikita Koloff enters and goes after Anderson, throwing him into the cage. Koloff helps Sting up and throws him out of the way to take a clothesline from Austin and Anderson. Koloff and Sting fight back and hit Anderson and Austin with clotheslines. It should be mentioned that in storyline Koloff and Sting had previously feuded and it wasn’t known who Koloff would side with. Rude goes after the turnbuckle again as Sting hits a Stinger splash on Anderson and puts him in the scorpion deathlock. Eaton has the turnbuckle off the top and is shown grabbing the steel portion. Anderson comes off the top but Sting kicks him in the face. Koloff is shown running Austin’s head into the top turnbuckle. Rhodes bodyslams Austin but misses the elbow off the top. Eaton goes after the steel turnbuckle again and Zbysko swings the steel hook at Sting but hits Eaton in the arm. Sting then applies an armbar on Eaton who submits. The Dangerous Alliance then argues with member Zbysko after the match. This was a great War Games match. I actually feel it falls just a little short of five stars based on the action slowing down a bit at the end for the Sting/Koloff storyline and the attempts to manipulate the turnbuckle. Up until then the action was top-notch. This did play in well to a strong finish and makes it a great match but just shy of five stars for me although I can see where some would disagree.

37) 5/22/1992 Jumbo Tsuruta & Masanobu Fuchi & Akira Taue vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi & Toshiaki Kawada AJPW

The footage opens to Kobashi chants as Kobashi blocks a vertical suplex attempt by Fuchi and then gives him a vertical suplex. Kobashi dropkicks Fuchi out of the ring and then gives him a facebuster to the floor from the apron. Kobashi rolls back inside and tries to suplex Fuchi in from the apron but Taue attacks Kobashi from behind. All six men are in and Misawa hits a pescado on Fuchi on the floor followed by Kobashi and Kawada doing the same to Taue and Tsuruta. Taue starts clutching his knee as Kobashi gives Fuchi the rolling cradle in the ring. Misawa tags in and hits a dropkick and then a bodypress. Tsuruta elbows Misawa from the apron and Misawa elbows him to the floor. Fuchi catches Misawa in the corner and Tsuruta tags in. Misawa and Tsuruta do a massive elbow exchange. Misawa jumps to the second rope but Fuchi holds him in the corner and Tsuruta gives him a back suplex. Tsuruta starts chopping Misawa and then throws him out of the ring. Fuchi lifts the mat from the floor and Taue gives Misawa an STO on the bare floor. Fuchi rolls Misawa inside and Tsuruta gets a two-count. Tsuruta gives Misawa a Thesz Press. Tsuruta and Fuchi then get Misawa in a hangman on the ropes with Taue lying on his back for extra pressure. Taue drops Misawa in a hangman on the ropes and Fuchi gets him in a sleeper. Tsuruta tags in and clotheslines Misawa. Misawa fights back with elbows but Tsuruta hits a knee and grabs him in a sleeper. Taue tags in and picks up Misawa for a bodyslam and lawndarts him into the corner. Fuchi tags in and stands on Misawa in the corner and then chokes him on the ropes. Fuchi wraps up Misawa in a headscissors in the ropes. Tsuruta tags in and Misawa fights back with elbows and does a sunset flip only to get punched in the head. Tsuruta holds Misawa while Taue tags in and chops him. Taue gives Misawa a piledriver and then Misawa comes back with kicks to Taue’s knee. Kawada tags in and kicks Taue’s knee some more and hits a clothesline. Kawada throws Taue outside and gives him a shinbreaker onto a table. Kawada rolls Taue inside and Kobashi tags in and continues with kicks to the knee. Kobashi applies a kneebar that is broken up by Fuchi. Kobashi knocks Fuchi to the floor and then gives Taue a back suplex. Kawada tags in and hangs Taue in the tree of woe and stands on his head. Kobashi dropkicks Taue’s knee and then Kawada hangs Fuchi in the tree of woe and stands on his head. Kawada goes back to Taue and stomps his knee into the mat. Kawada puts Taue in a bow and arrow that is broken up by Tsuruta. Misawa tags in and gives Taue a leg lariat. Misawa hits Taue with elbows and then tags in Kobashi who bodyslams Taue and gives him a legdrop. Kobashi then applies a modified figure four with a front facelock. Fuchi breaks it up and Kawada tags in and puts Taue in a scorpion deathlock after Misawa splashes him. Fuchi breaks up the hold and then Misawa tags in and gives Taue jumping kicks to the face. Misawa then works over Taue’s knee on the ropes and Kobashi tags in and gives him a shinbreaker. Kobashi goes for a Boston Crab but Taue grabs the ropes. Taue blocks a single leg crab attempt and Kobashi slaps and kicks him. Taue fights back and goes for a chokeslam. Kawada tags in and trades strikes. Taue throws him to the mat and knocks Kobashi to the floor. Kawada attacks Taue and stomps him repeatedly in the face while attempting a single leg crab which is broken up by Tsuruta. Fuchi then throws Kawada to the floor where Tsuruta rips up the mat and gives Kawada a piledriver on the bare floor. Tsuruta rolls Kawada back inside where Fuchi hangs him in the tree of woe and stands on his head. Tsuruta tags in and puts Kawada in a nasty abdominal stretch. Fuchi grabs Kawada’s arm for leverage and then Tsuruta and Taue get Kawada in a hangman on the ropes. Taue and Tsuruta hang Kawada up in the ropes again while Fuchi stands on him. Tsuruta whips Kawada into the ropes and Fuchi puts him in a sleeper. Fuchi wears him down and goes for a pin. Tsuruta tags in and goes for a suplex but Kawada floats over and grabs him in a sleeper. Taue breaks it up by stomping on Kawada. Taue tags in and bodyslams Kawada and gives him two elbow-drops. Fuchi tags in and hits Kawada with two enzuiguri’s. Fuchi starts kicking Kawada in the face while Kawada fires up and starts slapping Fuchi. Kawada clotheslines Fuchi but Tsuruta comes in and stomps Kawada. Misawa then knocks Tsuruta to the floor. Taue tags in and Kawada kicks him in the head and knee. Kobashi tags in and kicks Taue in the chest and starts chopping him in the corner. Kobashi whips him to the opposite corner and hits a clothesline. Kobashi goes up top for a DDT but Taue fights him off. Taue gives Kobashi a chokeslam and tags in Fuchi who gives Kobashi two back suplexes. Kobashi then hits a flying shoulder-tackle and gives Fuchi the rolling cradle. Kobashi gives Fuchi a bridging German suplex for a pin attempt. Kobashi then bodyslams Fuchi and legdrops him. Kobashi goes up top for a moonsault but gets stopped by Tsuruta. Misawa goes after Tsuruta and Kobashi gives Fuchi a twisting bodypress off the top rope. Misawa hits an elbow from the top rope to a standing Fuchi. Misawa elbows Tsuruta to the floor and goes for a rear facelock on Fuchi but ends up trading elbows with Taue. Misawa puts Fuchi in the rear facelock and goes for a tiger suplex but gets driven into Tsuruta’s knee. Tsuruta tags in and hits Misawa with forearms and a running knee-strike. Misawa avoids a second one and hits an elbow. Tsuruta avoids a second elbow and slams Misawa to the mat. Kobashi stops a suplex attempt by Tsuruta who then hits a big boot to Misawa’s face. Tsuruta gives Misawa a back suplex. Tsuruta goes for another one but Misawa counters into a bodypress. Kawada tags in and kicks Tsuruta in the face. Kawada chops him in the corner but Tsuruta knees him in the stomach. Kawada fights back with strikes. Tsuruta hits a kick to the gut and another knee-strike. Taue tags in and DDT’s Kawada. Taue lifts him in a fireman’s carry but gets cut off by Kobashi. Kawada then goes for a powerbomb on Taue who kicks him in the head and then gives him a chokeslam. Taue powerbombs Kawada for a two-count. Kawada hits another chokeslam and Kobashi breaks up the pin. Fuchi takes Kobashi outside and Tsuruta takes Misawa outside. Taue charges Kawada and gets kicked in the head. Kawada applies a dragon sleeper that is broken up by Fuchi. Kawada then kicks Taue in the head and powerbombs him. Kawada applies a dragon sleeper while Kobashi and Misawa apply sleepers to Tsuruta and Fuchi. Taue submits giving Kawada, Misawa and Kobashi the victory. This was a really great match but it is clearly the least of the three five-star-rated matches between these trios. The intensity wasn’t there as much as it was for the other two. That being said, Misawa, Taue and Kawada all had great peril segments. The triple pescado spot at the beginning was brilliant as was the triple sleeper spot at the end. And grumpy Jumbo is great glue to hold a match together. I would rate this ****1/2 which might be effected by the greatness of the two previous matches of these teams.

38) 5/25/1992 Dan Kroffat & Doug Furnas vs. Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi AJPW

This is a legendary match that I have watched before, but I believe this is more complete footage. Kobashi and Kroffat start with a mighty chop exchange. Kobashi whips Kroffat hard into the corner and kicks him in the face. Kobashi hits a shoulder-block. They tie up and Furnas tags in to hit a double shoulder-tackle with Kroffat. Furnas bodyslams Kobashi who comes back with a dropkick. Kikuchi tags in and hits leg lariats on both opponents. Furnas takes over with a shoulder-block and kicks away at Kikuchi. Furnas chops Kikuchi in the corner but Kikuchi fights back with elbows. Furnas gives him a spinebuster and tags in Kroffat who hits a back-kick. Kroffat attempts a vertical suplex but Kikuchi blocks it and hits a snap suplex. Kroffat kicks him in the face but Kikuchi hits a knee-lift. Kobashi tags in and hits a flying shoulder-tackle. Kobashi bodyslams Kroffat and legdrops him. Kobashi elbows Kroffat in the face and then snapmares him and applies a chinlock. Kroffat escapes with head-kicks and then kicks Kobashi in the chest and hits a leg lariat. Kobashi hits a clotheslilne. Furnas tags in and Kobashi lariats him. Kikuchi tags in and hits a double dropkick with Kobashi. Kikuchi throws forearms into Furnas’ back. Kikuchi charges Furnas in the corner but Furnas hits a clothesline. Furnas military presses Kikuchi out of the ring. Kroffat goes after Kobashi and Furnas goes to the floor and military presses Kikuchi onto a table beyond the guardrail. Furnas picks up Kikuchi in a bearhug and Kroffat hits him with a top rope clothesline. Kroffat puts Kikuchi in a Boston Crab but Kikuchi gets the ropes. Kroffat gives Kikuchi three snap suplexes and Kobashi breaks up a pin attempt. Kikuchi catches Kroffat in a back suplex but Furnas tags in and gives Kikuchi a tilt-a-whirl slam. Furnas puts Kikuchi in a Boston Crab that is broken up by Kobashi. Furnas gets it on again and Kobashi breaks it up again. Kroffat tags in and gives Kikuchi a Finlay Roll and then ties him up in a bow and arrow that Kobashi breaks up with a legdrop. Furnas tags in and Kikuchi hits an elbow and a dropkick and tags in Kobashi who hits superkicks on both opponents. Kobashi bodyslams Furnas and then Kroffat and this them with a double lariat. Kobashi gives Furnas a back suplex and hits a lariat in the corner. Kobashi goes to the top rope for a DDT but gets slammed to the mat by Kroffat. Furnas lariats Kobashi and bodyslams him. Kroffat tags in and comes off the top rope with a splash but Kobashi gets his knees up. Kobashi tags Kikuchi and gives Kroffat an enzuiguri. Kikuchi nails Kroffat with a diving headbutt and then a fisherman suplex. Kroffat whips Kikuchi into the corner and hits a superkick, Kroffat fights off an interfering Kobashi and then he and Furnas give Kikuchi a doomsday device. Kroffat grabs Kikuchi in a cobra clutch and Furnas fights off Kobashi who eventually gets through and saves Kikuchi. Furnas and Kobashi fight on the outside while Kroffat takes Kikuchi to the top rope. Kobashi returns to the ring and puts Kroffat on his shoulders for a missile dropkick by Kikuchi. Kobashi then back suplexes Kikuchi into a pin attempt on Kroffat. Kobashi attempts a shoulder-block but Kroffat gives him a facebuster. Furnas tags in and gets Kobashi in a Frankensteiner. Kikuchi breaks up a pin attempt with a flying headbutt. Kobashi whips Kroffat into the corner and they trade superkicks followed by Kobashi giving Kroffat a powerslam. Kobashi goes up top for a moonsault while Kikuchi fights off Furnas. Kobashi does a moonsault but Kroffat rolls out of the way. Kroffat rolls him up but Kobashi kicks out. Kobashi hits a double underhook DDT followed by a moonsault for the pinfall and title win. This is just a classic match that is about as five-star-ish as it gets and is among my favorite matches of all time. Upon seeing this match again, it is clear to me that it deserves the praise it has always gotten, including from me. There seemed to be comparisons of Kikuchi to Dynamite Kid on commentary and that certainly fits. Kobashi was great as always and this is a defining match for Furnas and Kroffat.

39) 7/5/1992 Masanobu Fuchi & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi AJPW

Meltzer reviewed this match as better than the Kobashi and Kikuchi vs Kroffat and Furnas. That could easily set up false expectations but I will try to use fresh eyes. There is some clipping initially and the match apparently was over 30:00. We start with Kikuchi in a chinlock by Ogawa with Kikuchi fighting out. Ogawa grabs him in a sleeper that is broken up by Kobashi. Ogawa applies a headscissors and tags in Fuchi. Ogawa and Fuchi lay Kikuchi out on the top rope and stretch him with Kobashi making the save again. Fuchi chokes Kikuchi on the ropes. Fuchi punches and stomps on Kikuchi and then crotches him on the top rope. Fuchi stands him up and hits an enzuiguri. Fuchi lays in some punches and tries to whip Kikuchi who holds onto the ropes. Kikuchi fires back with forearms and gets the hot tag to Kobashi who dropkicks Fuchi. Kobashi chops him repeatedly and hits a shoulder=block. Kobashi applies a sleeper. Ogawa tries to make the save but Kikuchi comes in and puts him in a sleeper. They get broken up and Kobashi follows up with chops and a clothesline in the corner on Fuchi followed by a tornado bulldog. Kobashi goes for a brainbuster but Fuchi blocks him and dropkicks his knee. Ogawa tags in and works on Kobashi’s leg with knee-drops and elbow-drops. Fuchi tags in and hangs Kobashi in the Tree of Woe and dropkicks his knee. Ogawa drops to the floor and rams Kobashi’s knee into the ringpost. Fuchi continues with the leg-work. Ogawa tags in and stops the tag to Kikuchi. Ogawa gives Kobashi a drop toehold and applies the STF. Kikuchi gets up and hits an enzuiguri. Kikuchi then gets a hot tag and unleashes elbows on Ogawa. Kikuchi gets the mount and continues raining elbows. Fuchi breaks it up and eats some elbows as well. Kobashi runs in and clotheslines Fuchi out of the ring and hits a pescado. Meanwhile, Kikuchi hits Ogawa with a dropkick, a leg lariat and a northern lights suplex. Kobashi bodyslams Ogawa and then gives the assist to Kikuchi for a top rope splash. Kobashi and Kikuchi give a double suplex to Ogawa. Kobashi bodyslams him and then helps Kikuchi with the assisted moonsault. Kobashi then goes up top and hits a moonsault but sells his knee. Kikuchi tags in and hits a diving headbutt. Ogawa kicks Kikuchi in the gut and gives him a fisherman suplex. Fuchi tags in and dropkicks Kikuchi and then gives him a backdrop suplex. Kobashi spills outside with Ogawa. Fuchi hits two more backdrop suplexes on Kikuchi for a near-fall. Fuchi goes for another one but Kikuchi floats over into a pin attempt. They do the same again and Kobashi tags in and hits a shoulder-block on Fuchi and knocks Ogawa to the floor. Kobashi bodyslams Fuchi and hits a legdrop. Ogawa trips Kobashi from the outside. Ogawa tags in and Fuchi bodyslams Kobashi allowing Ogawa to double-stomp him. Kobashi whips Ogawa into the corner and Ogawa kicks a charging Kobashi in the face twice. Ogawa comes off the top but Kobashi catches him in a powerslam. Kobashi gives Ogawa the awesome rolling cradle but Fuchi breaks up the pin attempt. Kobashi kicks Fuchi in the face and we get another glorious rolling cradle for a two-count. Kobashi then holds Fuchi who gets out of the way for Kikuchi to hit Kobashi with a missile dropkick. Fuchi gives Kikuchi an enzuiguri and a Thesz Press for a near-fall. Kikuchi floats over a suplex attempt. Kobashi superkicks Fuchi into Kikuchi’s German suplex. Fuchi does an O’Connor Roll on Kikuchi but Kikuchi rolls through and bridges back for the pinfall. This is not as good as the match vs Furnas and Kroffat in my mind but still clocks in at ****3/4 and is definitely a hidden gem. Perhaps it could have been even better without the clipping.

40) 8/15/1992 Manami Toyota vs. Toshiyo Yamada AJW

I’ve done some reading on this and apparently the story is that these two were regular tag partners after a couple of years as opponents. Toyota was upset over a loss and challenged Yamada to a match for her title. It was also a Kamikiri Death Match (hair vs hair). Credit both to Meltzer as well as Flik at prowrestlingonly.com for the background. Toyota tries for a suplex to start but Yamada blocks her. They both miss a leg lariat. Yamada goes for a Fujiwara armbar and then does a butterfly suplex. Yamada bodyslams her and gets a waistlock but Toyota transitions into a headlock. Toyota bodyslams Yamada and hits a leg-drop. Toyota dropkicks her twice and gives her a butterfly suplex. Toyota applies a chinlock and then a legscissors. Yamada gets up and takes her down with a judo throw. Yamada applies a sleeper and transitions into a camel clutch. They get up and Yamada whips Toyota into the corner and hits her with a clothesline and kicks. Yamada gives her a sideslam and applies a stretch muffler and swings her in it. They get to their feet and Toyota blocks a headkick and takes Yamada down. Toyota puts her in the Romero Special. Toyota bridges back and releases. They jockey for position and Yamada attempts a powerbomb. Toyota whips her into the ropes but eats a boot to the face. Yamada hits head-kicks on a seated Toyota and hits her with a spin-kick. Yamada continues with leg-kicks and back-kicks. Yamada gives her a snap suplex and continues with many, many kicks. Yamada rolls her over into a single leg crab and sinks it in deep. Yamada lets her up but gives her a backbreaker and more back-kicks before returning to the single leg crab. Yamada misses a dive from the top allowing Toyota to follow up with four missile dropkicks in a row. Toyota takes her to the top rope and hits a butterfly superplex. Toyota then hits a cross-arm suplex that I have never seen before. Toyota hits a moonsault on a standing Yamada. Toyota then gives her a straightjacket suplex and the action is really picking up. Yamada blocks a clothesline and gives Toyota a German suplex. Yamada hits a clothesline in the corner. Yamada misses a second clothesline attempt and Toyota grabs her in the rolling cradle. Toyota goes up top but Yamada knocks her off. Toyota rams Yamada’s head into the corner but misses a top rope splash. Yamada hits a German suplex for a two-count. Yamada then hits a dragon suplex. Toyota fights back and hits a dragon suplex of her own. Yamada then rolls up Toyota and then goes to the top where Toyota dropkicks her to the outside. Toyota dropkicks her off the apron and then does a top rope moonsault to the floor. Toyota gives Yamada a bridging German suplex in the ring followed by a double underhook suplex. Toyota bodyslams her and hits a top rope moonsault. Toyota whips Yamada into the ropes but Yamada fires back with a spin-kick and a back suplex. Yamada hits five more back suplexes. Yamada misses a leg lariat but rolls up Toyota. Yamada goes up top and hits a flying kick on Toyota who rolls outside. Yamada hits a plancha from the top rope. Yamada takes Toyota to the top rope and gives her a belly-to-belly superplex but Toyota bridges out of a pin attempt. Yamada goes for the Gori Special Bomb and Toyota reverses into a Japanese Ocean Cyclone Suplex. They trade attempts until Toyota hits the JOCS for the pin. This was every bit of ***** for me. The post-match gets a lot of deserved attention from people as Toyota became emotional trying to stop officials from cutting Yamada’s hair but she is prevented from doing so. Toyota even starts to cut her own hair but Yamada insists on following through with her trim. Classic stuff here and I have it as my highest rated joshi match, and I’ve loved the joshi matches. Incidentally, it is also probably the smoothest job I have ever seen of a haircut in wrestling outside of Mexico. Yamada and Toyota hug after the haircut.

Overall ratings:

1) 4/2/1989 Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat

2) 6/8/1990 Mitsuharu Misawa vs. Jumbo Tsuruta

3) 5/7/1989 Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat

4) 6/5/1989 Jumbo Tsuruta vs Genichiro Tenryu AJPW

5) 12/16/1988 Toshiaki Kawada & Genichiro Tenryu vs. Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy AJPW

6) 5/25/1992 Dan Kroffat & Doug Furnas vs. Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi AJPW

7) 1/28/1986 Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichrio Tenryu vs. Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu AJPW

8) 4/20/1991 Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada & Kenta Kobashi vs. Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue & Masanobu Fuchi

9) 2/14/1986 Ric Flair vs. Barry Windham (NWA Battle of the Belts 2) CWF

10) 2/20/1989 Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat

11) 2/24/1991 Ric Flair, Larry Zbyszko, Barry Windham, & Sid Vicious vs.Sting, Brian Pillman, Rick Steiner, & Scott Steiner WarGames

12) 8/22/1985 Lioness Asuka vs. Jaguar Yokota AJW

13) 7/31/1987 Road Warriors, Dusty Rhodes, Nikita Koloff and Paul Ellering vs. Ric Flair, Arn Anderson, Tully Blanchard, Lex Luger and War Machine War Games JCP

14) 10/19/1990 Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue & Masanobu Fuchi vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada & Kenta Kobashi

15) 11/15/1989 Ric Flair vs. Terry Funk (“I Quit” Match, NWA Clash of the Champions IX: New York Knockout) NWA

16) 8/15/1992 Manami Toyota vs. Toshiyo Yamada AJW

17) 2/26/1987 Chigusa Nagayo vs. Lioness Asuka AJW

18) 1/20/1987 Ric Flair vs Barry Windham

19) 3/18/1989 Ric Flair vs Ricky Steamboat

20) 4/24/1992 Manami Toyota vs Kyoko Inoue AJW

21) 1/23/1991 Bull Nakano vs Yumiko Hotta

22) 1/31/1990 Jushin Liger vs Naoki Sano

23) 1/4/1991 Bull Nakano vs Akira Hokuto

24) 12/5/1984 Kazuo Yamazaki vs. Nobuhiko Takada UWF

25) 1l28/1989 Genichrio Tenryu, Toshiaki Kawada & Samson Fuyuki vs. Jumbo Tsuruta, Yoshiaki Yatsu/Masanobu Fuchi AJPW

26) 4/11/1987 Ric Flair vs Barry Windham JCP

27) 3/9/1985 Tiger Mask II vs. Kuniaki Kobayashi AJPW

28) 4/21/1983 Tiger Mask I vs. The Dynamite Kid NJPW

29) 4/30/1992 Jushin Liger vs El Samurai

30) 7/5/1992 Masanobu Fuchi & Yoshinari Ogawa vs. Kenta Kobashi &Tsuyoshi Kikuchi AJPW

31) 3/20/1987 Keiji Mutoh & Shiro Koshinaka vs. Akira Maeda & Nobuhiko Takada NJPW

32) 9/30/1990 Mitsuhara Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta and Akira Taue

33) 3/7/1992 Manami Toyota and Toshiyo Yamada vs. Yumiko Hotta and Suzuka Minami AJW

34) 5/17/1992 Sting, Nikita Koloff, Ricky Steamboat, Barry Windham, & Dustin Rhodes vs. Rick Rude, Steve Austin, Arn Anderson, Bobby Eaton, & Larry Zbyszko

35) 5/22/1992 Jumbo Tsuruta & Masanobu Fuchi & Akira Taue vs. Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi & Toshiaki Kawada AJPW

36) 8/3/1991 Cactus Jack vs. Eddie Gilbert (TWA)

37) 4/19/1986 Sheepherders vs. Fantastics (Bobby Fulton/Tommy Rogers) JCP

38) 12/8/1984 Stan Hansen & Bruiser Brody vs. Dory Funk & Terry Funk

39) 5/16/92 El Hijo del Santo, Atsushi Onita and Tarzan Goto vs. Negro Casas, Horace Boulder and Tim Patterson FMW USA

40) 12/6/1987 Lioness Asuka/Mika Komatsu/Kazue Nagahori/Mitsuko Nishiwaki/Etsuko Mita/Sachiko Nakamura vs. Chigusa Nagayo/Yumiko Hotta/Mika Takahashi/Mika Suzuki/Yachiyo Hirata/Yumi Ogura AJW

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