ALL JAPAN ON SAMURAI TV
Stan Hansen . . . gives Giant Kimala his best match yet, but don’t get excited, it’s still awful!
Jun Akiyama . . . continues his impressive streak of quality performances with a good showing against Big Johnny!
Toshiaki Kawada . . . has a good match with his partner, even though it’s a big departure from their previous matches.
YOSHINARI OGAWA/KENTARO SHIGA vs. GEDO/JADO
This is fun, but it’s too short to be anything more. Aside from the surprisingly stiff looking exchange between Gedo and Ogawa, with them trading punches and Gedo’s nice selling of the jawbreaker, it’s worked just like any other tag match. Gedo and Jado are a far cry from the Midnight Express, but they’re watchable for this sort of match, where all they need to do is not screw up the spots, and let Shiga’s selling move the story along. They get a bit crazy as the match winds down. There was no reason for Shiga to kick out of the Steiner Bros bulldog on his own, and as nice as his Tornado DDT variations are, they were far too clean looking considering the bump he’d just taken on his head and face. It’s nice to see Shiga get the win, after taking the bulk of the punishment, but they should have found a better way to get there.
GIANT BABA/RUSHER KIMURA/MITSUO MOMOTA vs. HARUKA EIGEN/MASANOBU FUCHI/TUSYOSHI KIKUCHI
Once again, this is mostly the Eigen/Momota show. Their exchanges with each other are, by far, the most energetic and best ones of the match. It’s the only time that the match actually feels like something of a contest rather than an exhibition. Rusher takes some hellish headbutts from Kikuchi, and some chops from Eigen that sound like they’re coming from Ronnie Garvin. Baba pretty much stays out of things until the finish, when his partners attempt to whip Kikuchi into the boot. Kikuchi and Momota work a rather nice finish, but, it’s the sequences between Momota and Eigen that take the match as far as it does.
Champion Carnival: STAN HANSEN (13) vs. GIANT KIMALA (4)
At least this is kept short. Kimala shows just as little here as he did in his match versus Albright, but between Hansen’s selling and the fact that his brawling gels better with Kimala than Albright’s shootstyle work, this winds up being the better match. The finish is funny with Hansen taking a chop and doing a spinning sell job, and spinning himself right into an opening to hit the lariat.
Champion Carnival: JUN AKIYAMA (14) vs. JOHNNY ACE (8)
At first, it seems odd that this was worked so evenly. But, considering that Ace was the most recent Triple Crown challenger, and that it’s arguable that he was the top ranked foreigner at the time (Vader was still with the WWF, and both Doc and Hansen were moving down the card), it makes more sense. It certainly helps that they work together very well. Their exchanges are very smooth, even when they work at a quicker pace, and they both do a nice job of selling for each other. You wouldn’t think a chinlock could come off well, but between Ace’s intensity and Akiyama’s selling, the segment works. Ace does a very nice job of giving Akiyama openings for the Exploder, so much so that when he finally keeps Ace down, it looks like he was able to win by being the better, and smarter, wrestler. ***1/4
Champion Carnival: TOSHIAKI KAWADA (12) vs. AKIRA TAUE (8)
If one is expecting a classic, on par with their tournament matches from 1995 and 1996, then this would be considered a disappointment. But, despite being under ten minutes, this still a rather fun and smartly worked match. Taue’s bad wheel isn’t readily apparent until Kawada takes the first shot at it, but, if you look closely, there’s a few occasions that Taue favors the leg and limps a bit. It also explains why Taue starts the match off in a sprint (well, as much of a sprint as Taue can muster), trying to plant Kawada with bombs and finish him off quickly, and, naturally, Kawada does his part to make it seem like Taue is only one or two more big moves away from pulling it off. The stiffness and intensity shows that he fact that they’re the reigning All Japan World Tag Team Champions seems to be the furthest from either of their minds.
Kawada forcing Taue to submit to a figure four is certainly an unexpected finish. But, Kawada does a rather nice job of building to the finish. He only goes for the leg when he feels like he has no other choice. The first time is when he eats a Dynamic Kick and starts to return fire. But, not only does Taue not go down, but he seems to be on the verge of winning the exchange, so, Kawada switches gears and kicks his leg to take him down. With Taue finally hurt, he goes for the kill and tries to win with his usual methods, including stunning Taue with a flurry elbows and trying to submit him with the stretch plum. But, when Taue blocks a suplex, Kawada decides that he can’t take another big risk. Kawada takes him back down and quickly does the figure four to get the submission. The short length and the relative basic nature of the work both keep it from hitting the highs of their previous matches with each other. But, this is still a fine example of why they were two of the best. ***1/4
Conclusion: Another good pickup from the Champion Carnival, with the only black mark being the Hansen/Kimala match, which was actually Kimala’s best match!