Taped 3/22/98


Giant Kimala . . . does his part to drag down the mandatory old-man trios match to new levels of awfulness.

Takao Omori . . . tears down the house, and holds his own, against the mighty Kawada.

Jun Akiyama . . . attempts to rebound from his failure to unseat Misawa by stepping up against Stan Hansen!



The work isn’t anything outstanding, considering that it’s Morishima’s pro debut, but this is still fun to watch. Morishima obviously doesn’t get much offense in, but, it’s still nice to see him somewhat hold his own on the mat with Shiga, and doggedly keep him locked up in a head scissors. Shiga doesn’t get much to work with, but, it’s nice to see him bump for Morishima’s elbow strike and his dropkick. It’s also nice that the crowd knows the score as they head to finish. Shiga gradually ramps up his spots, and every time Morishima kicks out, their reactions get louder and louder, until Shiga has to unleash a springboard splash to keep him down for good. Shiga doesn’t torture the kid, the way Fuchi and others did to him, rather, he works with the rookie in order show that he has some skills.



So the world needed to see all fourteen minutes of this, but not a Doc/Albright tag match? It’s almost nothing except slaps and chops, some headbutts from Rusher, and Eigen’s spitting routine. Fuchi is the only one that seems to give a damn about putting on a show. He lights up Rusher with some surprisingly audible chops and Rusher barely reacts. The match is so engaging, that I found myself wondering what would happen if Takayama gave Kimala, and his horribly out-of-shape physique, one of his knee strikes. Would it hurt Kimala, or would his knee just rebound back? The match eventually ends, but, the pain of my witnessing it will live on.


Champion Carnival: TOSHIAKI KAWADA (2) vs. TAKAO OMORI (0)

Although it isn’t nearly as good as Kawada/Akiyama from the ‘95 Carnival, this is very similar as far as the story that plays out. On his first night of tournament action, Omori draws the defending champion. But, rather than being in awe over whom he’s across the ring form, he does his damnedest to knock Kawada off of that pedestal in order to make a name for himself. Omori’s work is technically sound, if nothing else, working over Kawada’s neck with lariats, the Axe Bomber, and a great moment where he shows some impressive tenacity by keeping Kawada in a headlock, even after Kawada gives him a backdrop suplex in an attempt to break the hold.


As expected, Kawada’s performance is as giving and selfless as one would expect. Omori’s methods of wearing down his neck aren’t high impact or especially dangerous, and Kawada’s selling suits that. Rather than gasp his neck and overdo it, as though he’d gotten spiked on his head, Kawada favors it with one hand after he takes a lariat or finally gets out of the headlock, with a pained facial expression. He shows that he’s hurt and is also somewhat impressed that Omori is putting this kind of hurt on him.


On paper, the finish of Omori tapping out to the stretch plum certainly doesn’t sound like it does him much good, but, the way the finishing stretch plays out does a fine job making Omori look good in defeat. Kawada gets some separation, when Omori misses a diving knee drop, and fires off a couple of chops. Omori doesn’t back down, so Kawada unleashes his kicks to really do some damage, including bloodying up Omori’s nose. The first stretch plum results in a rope break, so Kawada drags him back and puts the hold back on. He thinks he’s made his point and pins Omori, but Omori kicks out. So, Kawada decides that enough is enough, and puts on a third one, and twists Omori as much as humanly possible, giving him no choice but to submit. It’s these sorts of matches that separate Kawada from Misawa and Kobashi. Neither of them could have a match like this with Omori, where they succeed in raising his stock in defeat, and also do it without risking any sort of hit to their aura. A less lopsided match probably would have been better for moment to moment work, but, what makes this match come off so well is Omori’s ability to stand up to Kawada, and maintain control of the match. The handshake that Kawada gives Omori afterwards speaks volumes about just how much Omori showed. ***1/4


Champion Carnival: STAN HANSEN (2) vs. JUN AKIYAMA (0)

Akiyama going over Hansen may have been shocking at the time. But, looking back, it seems like an obvious decision. Akiyama needed a big win, after failing to win the Triple Crown in January, so that the fans would continue to believe in him. Hansen had a history of putting over rising stars during the tournament. The work isn’t on the same level of the matches Hansen had with Kawada and Kobashi in 1993-94, but, both men put on a fine performance.


Akiyama’s arm work, which carries the bulk of the match and leads to the finish, mostly comes off well. It’s not very impressive visually, but, the fact that he can control Hansen by keeping him on the mat with a hammerlock and an armbar is good to see. Akiyama picks up the pace when he needs to, by using the post and the guardrail, and the first time it seems like Stan is going to try making a comeback, he starts kicking his arm and shoulder in order to slow him down. It also helps that Stan does a great sell job for him. When Stan does finally make a comeback and starts rolling out offense, he makes sure that his right arm is playing the integral role. That leads one of their best moments, when Stan decides to see how his left arm is holding up and he gives Akiyama a shoulder tackle with it, and his reaction shows that it’s not holding up very well at all.


Stan’s ability to put the kid over isn’t limited to just selling his arm. Early on, he lets Akiyama tee off on him with strikes, and even lets him dish out a couple of slaps. He takes a few surprising bumps for Akiyama, going up for both a vertical and a Northern Lights suplex. As the match winds down, Akiyama leaves the arm behind and starts throwing out other offense to try to win the match. There’s a great visual of just how desperate it looks for Hansen when he avoids a dropkick, and the only thing he can do is tie him up on the mat and use his good arm to hit him in the back. The finish they use is absolutely flawless. Hansen knows how much it’s going to hurt him to do the lariat, but, he doesn’t have a choice. Jun gets up the knee to block it, and with Stan hurt, he takes the opening for the Exploder. Jun does the suplex and hooks both of Stan’s legs to make the cover as tight as possible and it’s just enough to hold him for the three count, with a great crowd reaction.


From the standpoints of structure and story, this is similar to Kawada/Omori. But, this is the better match due to Akiyama being better than Omori and because, the story has a payoff this time around. Even though Omori controlled the vast majority of the match, it never seemed like he was going to get the upset on Kawada, but, whether or not anyone expected it (and, judging from the crowd’s reaction, they didn’t), Akiyama not only got it, but got it in a completely believable and convincing manner. ***½


Conclusion: The trios match made me want to burn out my corneas (and I’ve got three more TV blocks, each of which apparently shows them in complete form!), but, the two Carnival matches both were good stuff, and are worth tracking down.