King's Road Chronicles - A Journey Through 1990's AJPW - 1990: Part One

Firstly, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude for the support and positive feedback that the Prelude edition for this new series on the McXal's Reviews site received. As I said during that review compendium, I'm going to do my best to cover as much ground and as many of the essential matches as possible - but the list will by no means be comprehensive. If I've missed anything (or if you feel I've missed something important at any stage during the King's Road Chronicles series), please do get in touch via email, Twitter or Instagram. I will happily go back and watch more from a particular year and I would love for this to be a collaborative effort. The goal is to provide a consolidated, in-depth series of reviews for as much content as possible to help people pick their way through what can be an imposing and sizeable body of work. With that said we move into All Japan in the 1990's. AJPW entered the new decade with Jumbo Tsuruta back on top of the promotion, with Genichiro Tenryu and his Revolution stable still in hot pursuit, with Stan Hansen as the top gaijin but with the profiles of guys like Terry Gordy expanding rapidly, and with a crop of rising stars promising a very bright future. But everything would change in April of 1990 when Tenryu broke away to head up the new 'Super World Of Sports' promotion, leading an exodus of AJPW talent that left the promotion at crisis point. They still had some beloved stars but Giant Baba was ancient, stars of the 80's like Jumbo and Hansen weren't getting any younger. A shot in the arm was needed. The stage was set for a new, 'Super Generation' to emerge...

Jumbo Tsuruta/Tiger Mask II vs Genichiro Tenryu/Samson Fuyuki
14th January 1990 (Tokyo) - We begin our journey through 1990 with one final check in on the Jumbo/Tenryu rivalry. It was AJPW's top native talent rivalry in the late-1980's, covering multiple ferocious battles which saw superiority swing back and forth relentlessly. By the end of 1989 Jumbo had recovered his Triple Crown and resumed the role of ace, but was a man forever changed by the hell he'd been through with Tenryu. On this night, in a stark change from what we'd see as the year progressed, he would partner up with a friendly masked face - the young Mitsuharu Misawa under the Tiger Mask gimmick to face Revolution yet again. Tenryu's partner and stable-mate is Samson Fuyuki, who's AJPW run is arguably most notable for his team with Toshiaki Kawada, collectively known as 'Footloose'. They are an iconic team in their own right, but tonight Fuyuki tags up with his leader.

Tiger Mask and Fuyuki start, with Samson gaining the ascendency then feeding the masked Misawa into a real beating from Tenryu. Tiger quickens the pace, dropkicks Fuyuki and smartly tags out - bringing in Tsuruta who violently boots Tenryu's partner in the head, right in front of him. Tsuruta and Mask try to pick apart Fuyuki's Tenryu comes in illegally and beats the sh*t out of TMII in the corner. Jumbo has to literally drag his rival away to save Misawa! The ace has his vengeance too; taking Fuyuki to the floor and dropping him with a GUARDRAIL shinbreaker. To the surprise of no-one, Samson can't stand after that. Jumbo doesn't let up either, continuing to hammer on the injury once they return to the ring. Finally Samson pulls at Tiger's mask and tags out...but the fired up Tiger Mask starts rolling the ropes and puts the boots to Tenryu as well! Meanwhile Tsuruta is still beating the piss out of Fuyuki whilst the ref tries to get them out. Martial arts kicks from Tenryu RIPS AT HIS MASK! Soon half of the mask is hanging from Misawa's face and when he rolls out of the ring to fix it Tenryu meets him with a steel chair shot. Blood is pouring from Tiger's nose as Samson drops him with a bridging German suplex for 2. That is followed by a series of chops from Tenryu that are so violent that Mask's chest starts bleeding as well. Most of his face has been exposed as well but Revolution continue to relentlessly beat on him. Tenryu's diving elbow lands right across the head and neck for 2...and draws Jumbo in for another rescue. He drags Tenryu to the ground, mounts in and hammers on the back of the neck and head. Tiger capitalises with a pop-up dropkick and tags the Triple Crown Champion in. But Fuyuki blocks a jumping knee strike and starts dropping Jumbo with lariats. Tenryu blasts him with Tsuruta elbows him back with just as much fire! Tiger hits a back suplex on Samson then throws caution to the wind with a SOMERSAULT SENTON for 2! Tenryu, meanwhile, boots Jumbo in the head, feeding him into a small package for 2 by Fuyuki. TORNADO SHINBREAKER into a half crab by Tsuruta! Tenryu tries to break it with a lariat...but Tsuruta holds on meaning all Tenryu did was make the half crab worse! Samson taps at 17:10

Rating - **** - It is a shame that Fuyuki wasn't interested in selling the leg at all, because had he done so it really would have taken this match to the next level. There was a lot to like here, from Jumbo and Tenryu flat out hating each other to the clearly identifiable ascension for the likes of Misawa and Fuyuki. They were the subordinate partners of course but unlike, for example, the 1988 RWTL Final where both Gordy and Kawada could only inflict damage when fed by their senior partners, here both Tiger Mask and Samson got real opportunities. It reflected both their own increased status, but also indicated how years of battle have deteriorated the ageing Tsuruta and Tenryu. And the finish played right into that theme; Tenryu was surly throughout but finally made a grumpy misjudgement due to his dislike of Tsuruta...which wound up costing his partner. The other thing about this match was that the middle portion was REALLY interesting; arguably the best segment of the match in fact. Revolution going after Misawa's mask - trying to brutalise, bloody and bully him - made for intense viewing.

Tenryu checks on Fuyuki - who shoves him away. Tenryu turns around and walks out as Samson accepts a handshake and assistance from Jumbo. 

SIDENOTE - That isn't quite the last we'll see of Tenryu on our King's Road Chronicles journey, but it'll be ten years (in the final volume covering the year 2000 and the talent exodus to NOAH) before he pops up again. After he defected to form the Super World Of Sports promotion Giant Baba swore he would never work for All Japan again. It was only after Baba's death (and after the NOAH split) that Tenryu would return; a decision which some called shocking, some called desperate and some called appalling. The SWS venture didn't last too long, but he would continue to enjoy a reputable career - starting his own noteworthy 'WAR' promotion, notching up a couple of WWF Royal Rumble appearances then spending the late-90's in NJPW where he made history by becoming the first Japanese wrestler to have held both the AJPW Triple Crown and IWGP Heavyweight Title. His wars with Jumbo in our Prelude volume were seriously enjoyable to watch - and provided real context for his decision to leave All Japan. He was 40 years old in 1990, had clawed from the bottom of the card to the top, had a run with the Triple Crown...yet still hadn't usurped Jumbo or cemented his legacy as Baba's top star. He wasn't getting any younger, the corporation behind Super World Of Sports were throwing a lot of money his way - SWS represented a chance to earn big paydays and step out of Jumbo and Baba's shadow to be a top guy in his own right. 

Tiger Mask II vs Kenta Kobashi
6th March 1990 (Tokyo) - This would be Misawa's final masked appearance at Budokan Hall facing his contemporary Kenta Kobashi. It is easy to forget that Kobashi is still barely two years into his career at this stage. A new generation of AJPW star comes to the fore here, ready to show the world how close they are to breaking out...

Kobashi is still in the young lion, plain red trunks here. His knee bandaging is already more prominent too, but he makes a strong start - throwing Tiger Mask around with a series of armdrags. Not only is he fast, he is arguably more powerful too, as shown when he mows Tiger down with a running tackle. Misawa ups the stakes and hits his springboard torpedo headbutt, quickly followed by chinlocks, elbows to the neck and a (somewhat botched) neckbreaker. He hits a high crossbody block across the head, neck and shoulders as well to do yet more damage. Kobashi shunts TMII in the corner for some heavy-duty kicks before deciding he needs to weaken his opponent's vertical base by attacking the leg. That gradually transitions into a bow and arrow lock...which Tiger Mask hobbles away ruefully from after he makes the ropes. It leaves him unable to hit a suplex and leaves him vulnerable to a Kobashi spinning heel kick. Young Kobashi climbs the ropes as Tiger leaves the ring to recover...TOP ROPE SUICIDE DIVE TO THE FLOOR! He blitzes TMII as soon as he returns to the ring with a rolling cradle as well, dragging the dizzy Misawa into a toehold as he goes. Texas Cloverleaf applied to do more damage to Mask's back and legs. Even when Tiger escapes, Kobashi simply trips him over into a single-leg crab instead. That goes to a Figure 4 Leglock soon after, pushing young Misawa to the brink of defeat until he musters up some energy to kick Kobashi out of the ring. RUNNING PESCADO NAILED! Both men crawl back into the ring after that, with Tiger's leg injury being so bad that Kobashi is able to hit him with a BACK DROP DRIVER for 2. MOONSAULT GETS 2! BRIDGING GERMAN by Tiger Mask gets 2 as well! Tiger Driver blocked into a running rugby tackle by Kobashi. He charges up the ropes...but as he dives into a missile dropkick TMII dropkicks him out of the sky! Back Drop...countered to a crossbody pin by Tiger Mask (remember that) for 2! He kicks at the neck again before delivering the Tiger Driver and scoring the victory at 15:41

Rating - **** - Yes there was an ugly botch in the first few minutes and yes Misawa could have sold the leg better, but a lot of this was absolutely cutting edge. To repeat again, Kobashi was barely two years into his career and could already be trusted to take the lead for long periods in a high profile Budokan attraction match like this. Obviously this didn't have the insanity of their Triple Crown wars later in the decade - but the blueprints for their success were already here. Everything was seamless and aggressive, every segment of the match effortlessly connected to the one previous; it was a more athletic, polished and intriguing style which the promotion would soon be moulded around. Compare these guys to the limited moveset of stars like Jumbo, Baba or Tenryu. Compare the athleticism of this to the brutish, brawling gaijin stars like Stan Hansen or Bruiser Brody. It feels dated now - but thirty years ago this was revolutionary stuff. We were witnessing two young men offering the fans a glimpse of the future AJPW could expect...if only some slots at the top of the card were to open up for them.

Yoshiaki Yatsu/Samson Fuyuki vs Tiger Mask II/Toshiaki Kawada
14th May 1990 (Tokyo) - This match is a sliding doors moment in the history of not just AJPW, of not just puroresu, but for the entire sport of professional wrestling. on the table, I've never seen the full match. I've seen 'THAT' moment countless times of course, and I've seen clips of the bout before. But this match was completely unwatchable on the AJPW 90's DVD set I had in the mid-00's and wasn't on the VHS set I got in 2000/2001-time. After Tenryu left AJPW in April, the Revolution stable was obviously disbanded. Kawada and Fuyuki dissolved their Footloose team as well, with Kawada now partnering with his long-time friend and contemporary Tiger Mask II. Yatsu and Fuyuki are the senior men here - particularly Yatsu. But that makes them vulnerable. The Super Generation are now very much on the rise. Can Yatsu and Fuyuki beat them down and retain their spots? Can Samson prove he was the superior member of the Footloose team? With Tenryu out of the picture and spots up for grabs...what lengths will Tiger Mask and Kawada go to as they look to break out? 

The former Footloose partners start off against each other. Fuyuki looks to establish dominance sing his power and enjoys the better of the exchange before tagging out to Yatsu. But Yatsu wants no part of Tiger Mask's athleticism or strikes so backs off and brings Fuyuki back in. Double dropkick on him by Kawada and TMII...bringing Yatsu back. His power comes to the fore as he gives Kawada a backbreaker and feeds him into a grounded abdominal stretch from Samson. Kawada tries to retaliate with kicks and elbows at Yatsu - driving him back to his corner where he and Fuyuki hold something of a strategy meeting. Fuyuki drags Tiger Mask to their corner, then unleashes Yatsu who starts absolutely f*cking the young Misawa up with headbutts. The referee tries to pull Yatsu off him - only to be tossed aside for more punishing shots in the corner. Kawada tries to help, but makes it worse since he preoccupies the ref who can't see his partner getting absolutely manhandled. Samson takes over, dotting in a few headbutts but mostly throwing Tiger around by his mask in a sign of total disrespect. Kawada keeps having to invade the ring to stop them from ripping TMII's mask right off his head. SPRINGBOARD headbutt next by Yatsu which leaves Tiger Mask on his ass in the corner looking dazed. Again Kawada helps out; he pulls Yatsu away for just long enough to allow Tiger to blast him from behind with a spinning heel kick. Double back suplex by Tiger and Kawada. Tiger then barks instructions at Kawada. He's undoing the mask...IT'S MISAWA! Instantly the crowd are loudly chanting 'MI-SA-WA' as he unloads on both Yatsu and Fuyuki on the outside. Missile dropkick from Kawada gets 2. You can see fans literally running back to their seats to watch this match now, roaring Misawa on. DIVING POWERBOMB from Kawada to Yatsu. Fuyuki comes in...SLAP DUEL! FOOTLOOSE EXPLODES! Kawada rolls through a springboard crossbody then nails his old partner with a heel kick. Flying missile dropkick by Misawa - who then stands coiled in the ring watching as both Yatsu and Fuyuki wearily gather themselves. Samson is the first man back...and he is quickly beaten down with a double suplex. Desperate to escape, Fuyuki tries a backslide on Misawa...then goes to the ropes to see if his partner is still conscious. Lariat from Kawada to Fuyuki gets 2 - with Yatsu just about dragging himself in to break the pin. Kawada batters him in the corner as Misawa lands the Tiger Body Press on Fuyuki! Yatsu can't stand and looks a broken Misawa kicks him out of the ring like garbage. Bridging German on Fuyuki - earning Misawa the pinfall victory at 18:35

Rating - **** - I've long read that this match isn't particularly special and it's really all about the iconic moment that Misawa unmasks. I actually thought this was a really strong bout, brilliantly laid out to get the most out of that historic unmasking and to really put over the new 'Super Generation'. Kawada and Misawa were in the ascendency for most of the opening exchanges, which frustrated their more 'established' opponents. After a brief strategy meeting, Yatsu and Fuyuki went apesh*t on Tiger Mask - trying to bully, batter and destroy the former junior heavyweight. It was a power play, designed to beat him, his colourful mask and his flashy moves down. They tried to pull rank...but in doing so provoked one of the most important moments in professional wrestling history, and found out that their spots were being forcibly taken by the next generation. The last third of the match is superb. Misawa and Kawada stand tall; almost goading their opponents to come at them, particularly Yatsu. You get to watch the slow, painful destruction of two men desperately fighting to keep their spot even as their skillsets are eclipsed by younger, faster, hungrier, BETTER wrestlers. Yatsu's face as Misawa bludgeoned him out of the ring in the final sequence was unforgettable. 

Jumbo Tsuruta/Masanobu Fuchi/Great Kabuki vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Kenta Kobashi/Akira Taue
26th May 1990 (Tokyo) - Tiger Mask II's big reveal as Mitsuharu Misawa took place on the first day of the 1990 'Super Power Series' Tour. After that unforgettable moment, he looked to cement the arrival of the 'Super Generation' by laying down a challenge to the ace, Jumbo Tsuruta, at Budokan Hall on the last night of the tour. Much of the rest of the tour was spent with Misawa and his young gun contemporaries; Kawada, Kobashi, Taue etc facing Jumbo and his allies (who would go on to become known as 'Tsuruta-gun') in six-man tags. Wins were traded back and forth, with this one taking place in Korakuen Hall and taped for TV. It's our first look at Fuchi, Kabuki and (most significantly) Akira Taue. Fuchi is predominantly a technically skilled, vastly experienced junior heavyweight worker. Kabuki is most famous for being the innovator of the Asian Mist. Taue is the fourth and final of the fabled 'Four Pillars Of Heaven' to appear on our King's Road Chronicles journey. Recruited after a sumo career, he was very much a protege of Giant Baba - bearing a slight physical resemblance and also competing in the red trunks. The Super Generation are hungry; they want to take down the ace. What does Jumbo, the Triple Crown Champion, have left in the locker to keep them at bay?

Everything feels a lot more familiar now - Misawa is in green and white and enters to Spartan X, whilst Kobashi is in orange trunks. Taue starts, quickly using his size to impose himself on Fuchi. Kobashi is in next, flying at Fuchi with speed and aggression. But Fuchi has an answer for that - taking Kobashi to ground with an armbar then unleashing Jumbo. The ace looks thoroughly unimpressed with the whole situation, blasts Kobashi with a jumping knee then pastes Misawa and Taue off the apron to show his dominance. Misawa is pissed and the fans loudly chant for him. JUMBO LARIATOOOOOO! That was right across the face and a clear reminder of the AJPW pecking order! Kabuki isn't so fortunate, with Misawa easily kicking him out of the ring before playing to the crowd. Kabuki and Fuchi join forces to put Taue on the ground...but the second Fuchi is left alone Akira's size once again comes into play and allows him to hammer the junior heavyweight. Misawa tags, leading to Tsuruta trying to take a cheap shot at him from the apron. KNOCK-OUT ELBOW STRIKE BY MISAWA! Jumbo tumbles to the floor and lies motionless. Misawa continues to beat the sh*t out of Fuchi, as Kabuki leaves the apron and tries to revive Jumbo. Even when Kabuki returns and starts striking at Kobashi against the ropes, concern remains around Tsuruta's health as Fuchi tries to help him. Jumbo finally gets back to his feet...then CHARGES AT MISAWA! He doesn't even care that there's a match going on; he takes Misawa to the mat and they just start beating the piss out of each other. It takes all four of their partners to separate them in an absolutely chaotic scene. Tsuruta is still very clearly suffering from the head injury inflicted with that elbow...but he shoves his partners aside and charges again! Misawa lands a few more shots to the head in the process and prowls the apron like a caged lion whilst Jumbo clutches at his skull looking disorientated. Fuchi and Kabuki start working over Kobashi's arm - again with Jumbo nursing his head on the floor. Springboard crossbody by Kobashi (already from the second rope rather than the top)...but Kabuki rolls through into the Thrust Kick then applies a Fujiwara armbar. Taue breaks that...but scarpers as Tsuruta tags and puts a big boot through Kobashi's face. Jumbo tries to work an armbar...until of course Misawa comes in and stomps on his head! 

Tsuruta is so preoccupied with Misawa that he doesn't even notice Kobashi escape and tag Akira...who levels him with a lariat. Back suplex by Kobashi. That is reminiscent of Tsuruta's move and it seemingly pisses him off even more. He tosses Kobashi to the floor where Fuchi gives him a SHINBREAKER INTO THE CROWD! It means that young Kobashi is now battling both arm and leg injuries - which is a pretty bleak embodiment of how he'd spend most of his career in truth. He drops Kabuki with a desperation lariat and almost FALLS into a tag to Taue. RUNNING SUMO SLAPS by Taue, setting Kabuki up for the diving clothesline from Misawa. The Super Generation show some inexperience by allowing Kobashi back in. Instantly Tsuruta spots it, tags and starts bombing on him. REPEATED HEAD STRIKES! That was brutal! Somehow Kobashi isn't unsconscious...but he probably wishes he was as Fuchi tags and cranks on the bad leg with a half crab. Kneebar by Kabuki next - broken by savage kicks from Taue. Jumbo tags and acts like he's trying to break the ring with Kobashi's body; delivering some of the most violent body slams you'll ever see before putting him in a Boston crab. Taue is in again...slapping the SH*T out of Tsuruta. Misawa joins him and 2-on-1 they beat the ace to the ground! HEEL KICK TO THE HEAD! TIGER BODY PRESS! Tsuruta needs Fuchi to break the pin there! But again they foolishly tag Kobashi...who promptly misses a missile dropkick and walks into a LARIATOOOOO! But he kicks out! Charging lariat by Taue for 2, quickly followed by a jumping DDT on Kabuki. BACK DROP DRIVER from Kabuki to Taue! He retorts with an atomic drop/back drop combo on Fuchi for 2. This is incredible stuff now! Kobashi tags in with Fuchi trading pinning combinations back and forth until Misawa joins him. They double dropkick Tsuruta out! BRIDGING GERMAN by Kobashi...BROKEN by Tsuruta! Tiger Driver BLOCKED WITH A JUMBO LARIATOOO! TIGER SUPLEX ON FUCHI! MISAWA WINS! MISAWA WINS! With Kobashi and Taue blocking off Tsuruta and Kabuki, Misawa gets another huge win at 23:10

Rating - ****1/2 - The Tsuruta-gun vs Super Generation Army six-man tags are legendary; garnering widespread critical acclaim for their quality, action and drama. This is an early example of precisely why. It was, relatively speaking, just the initial skirmish in the war between Misawa and Jumbo but still a captivating, must-see match. So many of the themes that would become staples of Misawa, Kobashi and Taue's entire careers were laid out here. Misawa showed the power of his elbow strikes and had no fear stepping up to the legendary Tsuruta. Kobashi showed incredible fighting spirit to battle through arm and leg injuries. Taue looked weird and awkward...but continually found ways to be a dangerous and effective fighter. The real star here, however, was Jumbo. I endlessly praised his performances in putting Tenryu over in the late 80's...he was even better here. Here we saw a Jumbo who had already seen his top spot briefly taken from him by Tenryu before. He wasn't about to allow another snot-nosed group of punks to come for him. From the very first time he entered the ring he was looking to dominate; knocking Misawa and Taue off the apron, skittling the Super Generation Army like bowling pins. He then produced an unbelievably complex, subtle and detailed sell-job on that elbow strike. He spent the rest of the match clutching his head between spots - still trying to appear as the alpha male even as the cameras continually capture him in pain. Even at the end, his look of pure unadulterated frustration as Misawa got one over him was a real picture. We saw it with Tenryu before, but the Jumbo is an absolute MASTER at putting someone over. I was honestly in awe of him here. Individually it was one of the best displays of professional wrestling I've ever seen. So good it basically carried the match to greatness. It certainly wasn't flawless, but it is ESSENTIAL viewing...

Jumbo Tsuruta vs Terry Gordy - AJPW Triple Crown Title Match
5th June 1990 (Chiba) - Exploring 90's All Japan isn't just a deep dive into the back catalogue of the Four Pillars. We must also take the time to explore the careers of the legendary gaijin talent who toured the promotion. We saw Gordy a couple of times in the Prelude compilation review and saw glimpses of his rise to prominence. He exists in an era where the preeminent gaijin of the time is Stan Hansen. Initially he teamed with The Lariat (as we saw in the 1988 Tag League final bout against Tenryu and Kawada), but by the end of the decade was becoming a force in his own right; including a battering ram of a performance in challenging Tenryu for the Triple Crown. Just as the likes of Misawa and the Super Generation Army are chasing for the top spots...Gordy has his eyes on one too. Jumbo is in his second reign as Triple Crown Champion - his first started when he defeated Hansen to unify the belts. Can Terry succeed in taking the famous three belts away from Tsuruta; a feat that the so called 'top gaijin' Stan Hansen has been unable to achieve?

JIP with Tsuruta looking to control the bruising gaijin on the canvas...with Misawa ominously watching on from the back of the building. The champ blasts Gordy with a jumping knee with such force that Terry is propelled out of the ring. The recovery time is well spent; he returns to the ring and hammers Jumbo with a lariat then parks his full weight on the champ's head and neck with a double chickenwing. Misawa is being interviewed at the same time as all this is going on. He meets Tsuruta in a few days time and watches now the champ looks to mitigate Gordy's power by giving him a shinbreaker and going for a Boston crab. Gordy escapes, tosses Tsuruta aside with a body slam then crouches in the corner to unleash a running football tackle which gets 2. They take turns smashing into each other with lariats, the force of which smacks loudly through the arena. Once again Gordy looks to mount the champion and put all the pressure on his neck front facelock. BACK DROP to escape that by Jumbo - but he is visibly slow to capitalise and only gets 2. Air Scissors Press gets a nearfall as well and the champ almost has a smirk on his face as he hoists Gordy up for a jumping piledriver. Terry's neck is clearly a target and it is further exposed when Tsuruta hits a swinging neckbreaker then the folding powerbomb. But again Terry marauds out of the corner, lumbering at Tsuruta with a lariat before decking him with a Back Drop Driver of his own to get a 2-count. Shades of the Jumbo/Tenryu bouts as he drops Jumbo right on his neck with a big powerbomb. He uses an old Tenryu counter to the Back Drop as well - kicking off the ropes to drive both of their bodies hard into the mat. Tsuruta goes for the Air Scissors again...but this time Gordy counters with a flapjack into the top rope! RUNNING DDT! GORDY WINS! The commentator is audibly shocked, screaming the result of the match over and over. Terry has dethroned the ace, and is the new Triple Crown Champion at 11:40 (shown).

Rating - *** - It's always hard to rate these JIP  matches. According to Cagematch this one went almost seventeen minutes so we lost around five on the cutting room floor. Although obviously a step down from the high level of the Team Jumbo vs Super Gen 6-man we saw before, I liked the themes they were working on here however. Jumbo is a skilled amateur at his core so was trying to work the mat to negate the thuggish, brawling of Gordy. In turn Terry - having seen the damage Misawa's elbow could do - just looked to beat the sh*t out of Jumbo. He clobbered and clubbed at him with lariats and strikes, then when the champion was down he would climb on top of him and work a submission hold which punished the head and neck as well. The way he busted out some Tenryu in the latter stages was a nice touch as he channelled the last man to dethrone Tsuruta on his way to victory. With Misawa watching on the intent here is obvious; crowning Gordy creates a new top gaijin star and creates the illusion that Jumbo is an ageing ace, losing his grip on his throne. It gives Baba two separate main event feuds - Gordy with the Triple Crown and Jumbo warring with Misawa (meaning he doesn't need to rocket the young Misawa into the championship picture right away). The match itself, what we saw of it anyway, was solid but unspectacular. But after a tough first half of 1990 for All Japan, the conclusion was a bold new creative direction and part of a story-telling process which would go on to refresh and revitalise All Japan's product...

Steve Williams rushes the ring and almost mobs Gordy, hoisting him high into the air as the Miracle Violence Connection celebrate Terry's win. 

Steve Williams vs Kenta Kobashi
8th June 1990 (Tokyo) - The next three matches all come from the Super Giant Series Tour final event at the Nippon Budokan. In fact, they are the top three matches on the card. Having just seen 'Dr Death' Steve Williams celebrating his tag partner's Triple Crown victory, we now see him in action for the first time in our King's Road Chronicles. He faces a young Kenta Kobashi, rising star of the Super Generation Army, looking for his first major singles win over a top level gaijin talent...

The staredown between these guys at the bell is intense! SLAPS! PALM STRIKES! They go to ground still throwing strikes like wild-men! Doc is keen to use his size and grappling skill to keep the fiery young Kobashi on the ground...but Kobashi fires a warning shot that he is a threat on the deck too with an early rolling cradle. He flicks a little kick at Williams' knee too...which Doc acknowledges, before grabbing his arms and DUMPING him with an inverted tiger suplex. He tries to bully Kobashi in a test of strength next, but the young lion jumps skyward and flings him backwards with a monkey flip. He tries the move a second time only for Steve to drop him on his again he quickens the pace with a spinning heel kick and a dropkick. They go to the floor, where Kobashi charges Williams looking for a clothesline only for it to be countered with a back body drop over the guardrail. When the Japanese athlete makes it back ringside Dr Death scoops him up for repeated spine-first blasts against the ringpost. Bearhug...into a belly to belly suplex...and Steve holds on to maintain the bearhug after that as well! Kobashi keeps trying to fight back so Williams keeps battering him back down with another belly to belly. Finally Kobashi creates some space - tossing Doc into the corner for a running dropkick then nailing him with a Saito suplex for 2. But he is worn down and weakened, leaving him unable to capitalise before Williams runs him through with a clubbing clothesline. Three Point Stance COUNTERED to a German suplex! So Doc PUNTS Kobashi in the face. He tries the running tackle again...right into a LARIAT! MOONSAULT! DOC KICKS OUT! The frustrated Kobashi tries to finish it with a powerbomb but it's countered into the most violent back body drop ever seen. Three Point Stance tackles get 2. OKLAHOMA STAMPEDE! ONLY 2! The Budokan is rocking! Williams goes to the top for a flying tackle...and that's enough to get the win at 11:28

Rating - **** - As we go through this project you'll see that I'm a huge Doc fan, and Kobashi is quite possibly my favourite wrestler ever. These two in the same ring, even so early on in Kobashi's career, is always magical. Right from the opening bell the intensity of their face-off let you know that you were going to be watching a hell of a fight. The short run-time meant they could empty the tanks and really beat the hell out of each other. It was such an elegantly crafted, but simple story too. Kobashi, pre-knee destruction, was fiery and fast - so Williams looked to use his grappling and power to wear him down. He opened up a back injury on the outside and would ultimately exploit it for the victory...but not before Kobashi gave him an almighty scare. The moonsault was a spectacular nearfall. The Oklahoma Stampede kick-out was exceptionally dramatic. In truth the actual finish of the top rope football tackle felt a little flat after what came before. What I've learned from checking out more of his earliest work is that Kobashi was a total, once-in-a-lifetime freak. The guy was impossibly good, almost right out of the gate...

Terry Gordy vs Stan Hansen - AJPW Triple Crown Title Match
8th June 1990 (Tokyo) - Just days after defeating the mighty Jumbo Tsuruta to win the Triple Crown, Gordy comes to the Budokan to make his first defence. Of course his challenger is his former partner Stan Hansen. Stan blazed the trail that Terry now walks...but Gordy was the first to hold the Triple Crown. Will he back up his win over Jumbo with a definitive victory over The Lariat, proving himself beyond any doubt the #1 gaijin in All Japan? 

JIP on this one with, according to Cagematch's run-time anyway, more than half the match already gone. We see Hansen decking Gordy with a Western Lariat, but the champion smartly rolling to the floor so he can't be pinned. Stan hauls him back in then ominously loads up his elbow pads again. Terry first clings to the ropes, then ducks the Lariat to land the running DDT - the move that won him the championship. It gets 2 this time, but has Hansen's eyes rolling around in his head. Stan tries to cling to the ropes now, but Gordy climbs on him and repeatedly punches him in the face...then relentlessly kicks his neck when he rolls away again. The champ relentlessly strikes the sh*t out of Hansen even as he clings to the bottom rope. Referee Joe Higuchi seems powerless to stop him and seems almost relieved when the challenger falls to the floor. The crowd rally behind Hansen but fall to a hushed silence when Gordy tries his best to knock him out with the ugliest, most brutal-looking facecrusher you'll ever see. But there is fight in Hansen yet - popping out of the corner with a pinning combination which almost snatches victory. Gordy slaps him! WESTERN LARIAT out of nowhere! Hansen wins! Stan now has the Triple Crown! 06:18 (shown) 

Rating - N/A - I can't rate this, as we barely got a quarter of the full match. As with the Jumbo/Gordy match though, I liked what I saw though. Gordy isn't a pretty wrestler to watch and he isn't the most physically expressive or emotive of performers either. But he never fails to come off like a tough motherf*cker and that really shone through in this brief little encounter. He was DESPERATE to prove himself the top gaijin in AJPW. With Joe Higuchi imploring him to stop, the champion mercilessly beat on Hansen until he seemingly could not take anymore. But the power of The Lariat is such that it can bring him victory at any time. In many ways this was like watching the March '88 Tenryu/Hansen match in reverse. Gordy played the Hansen role in relentlessly pummelling his opponent, with Hansen playing Tenryu - finding a way to grab a win even when all seemed lost. 

Hansen taunts the fallen Gordy with the Terry and Steve Williams (who had rushed to ringside to check on his partner) CHARGE HIM! A chaotic scene ensues as the three gaijin brawl around ringside...

Jumbo Tsuruta vs Mitsuharu Misawa
8th June 1990 (Tokyo) - This was the main event, over the Gordy/Hansen Triple Crown Match. As soon as Misawa tore his mask off back in May, Baba must have known he'd struck gold. The reaction of the crowd was passionate and immediate. Tiger Mask II, talented junior, then aspiring heavyweight was no more. Misawa had arrived and had aspirations of reaching the very top. And it set about a catastrophic tour for Jumbo too. The Ace is still scarred from having to scrap for his spot with Tenryu from 1987-1989. Now he has a whole stable of young wrestlers gunning for him, spearheaded by the outrageously popular Misawa. And, as we saw in the May trios match, Misawa has no fear. He isn't going to be bullied by Tsuruta and in his elbow has the striking power to seriously injure him. This feels like another sliding doors moment. Does Misawa cement the arrival of the Super Generation with victory? Or does Jumbo strike down yet another pretender to his throne?

Jumbo appears to offer a pre-match handshake to Misawa, who dismissively walks away from him to await the bell. As you'd expect, the ace tries to establish his dominance early on by overpowering the smaller man. Even when Misawa tries to use his speed he does nothing but run straight into big boots and lariats. Even body slams ooze total disdain for his opponent. But Misawa retains his focus, counters the Back Drop and baseball slides Jumbo to the floor. MISSILE DROPKICK OFF THE APRON! RUNNING ELBOW INTO THE CROWD! It is clear that Misawa knows where his chances of victory lie here - speed and elbows! Tsuruta drags himself back from the front row to the ring apron where his rival is waiting to bombard him with more elbows. Running pescado scores as well, completing a spectacular couple of minutes for the young pretender. Just like the May six-man, Jumbo now clutches his skull in obvious pain. Misawa tries to make it worse by riding him in a front facelock, vaguely resembling the strategy he deployed when he faced Jumbo as Tiger Mask two years prior. The extent of Misawa's control is laid bare as he is able to keep Tsuruta on the canvas through a prolonged series of surfboard exchanges. He is working on the arm Tsuruta likes to throw lariats with, then SLAPS JUMBO when he gets the ropes to break it. The crowd react loudly to that! Jumbo stomps out of the Misawa grapples him back and slaps him again! Jumbo is pissed and nails him with the jumping knee. He tries to break Misawa in half with an abdominal stretch...then hiptosses him over the top rope when the youngster's speed prevents him from maintaining the hold. Whilst out there he dumps Misawa into the guardrails in another attempt to slow him down. It works, as for the first time he is able to keep Misawa down and completely eradicate his athleticism.

He hits a big pancake to crush Misawa's ribs...but tries it for a second time and eats dropkick to the face. Missile dropkick next; Misawa piling on the pressure since Jumbo has let him up from the canvas again. Tiger Body Press gets 2...and leaves Tsuruta looking weary. He isn't beaten yet though and catches Misawa going for a running crossbody to flapjack him in the ropes. JUMPING PILEDRIVER for 2. That is followed by the Air Scissors Drop for another nearfall, and Misawa isn't even back up off the ground before Jumbo starts driving repeated knee drops into his neck. He climbs the ropes, pulls down his knee pad and gives Misawa a bare knee smash to the face! They battle to the top rope again seconds later though, with Tsuruta pounding on Misawa's neck just to save himself. FLYING KNEE STRIKE gets 2. FOLDING POWERBOMB! Misawa kicks out again! And he still has enough about him to BELT Jumbo with another elbow leaving the ace near unconsciousness on the arena floor. Misawa climbs the ropes...TOP ROPE SUICIDE DIVE NAILED! Back inside the younger man almost nabs the victory with a bridging roll-up. He tries the Tiger Body Press again...but dives into Jumbo's knees! Already winded, Misawa then has to battle a Boston crab...then a punishing lariat across the throat when he escapes. He tries to back off into the corner but Jumbo piles into him with another lariat there. Back Drop countered by kicking off the top turnbuckles...and both men are down. GERMAN SUPLEX gets 2 for Misawa! He desperately tries to lift the ace for a Tiger Driver but just can't get him up and he is hammered with another jumping knee. Rebound headbutt BLOCKED with an elbow by Jumbo! But that hurt his arm as much as it did Misawa! RUNNING DROPKICK MISSES! Jumbo ricochets violently off the ropes. Jumbo tries a suplex...Misawa tries a back suplex...Jumbo rolls through...MISAWA ROLLS OVER! THREE COUNT! MISAWA WINS! A star is born! The Super Generation have arrived, and Tsuruta has been bested at 24:23

Rating - ****1/2 - That finish is just so iconic. The counters, the float-over, the roar from the crowd as Misawa gets the pin, the semi-shocked smile on the face of the usually expressionless Misawa. It is one of the most pivotal moments in professional wrestling history. Tsuruta, the ageing ace of All Japan, is downed by someone younger, quicker, more athletic and with a greater striking power thanks to his elbows. As the 90's would progress Giant Baba's conservative, slow-build and at times insular approach to booking would start to draw criticism both externally and from within. But the way Baba responded to the loss of Tenryu - the man he spent years building up to succeed Jumbo - is one of the most sensational periods of pro-wrestling booking ever. I truly mean that. The urban myth around this match is that Baba only decided Misawa was going over on the day of the show, swayed by Misawa's merch sales and hoards of fans chanting his name as they queued to get into the building. The other rumour that has traction is that when he learned Misawa was going over, Jumbo wanted to do an 80's-style count-out finish...but Baba overruled him. AJPW started this tour in some turmoil after a somewhat flat start to 1990 and the loss of one of their stop stars. They end it with a new gaijin force in Gordy, a new Japanese superstar in Misawa, heaps of momentum and some truly remarkable matches. For a booker who became renowned for conservatism, Baba's foresight, adaptability and willingness to embrace change is quite astounding. There is a slight lull in the action which drags this match down a tad. They start so brilliantly, but slacken off to work a relevant and enjoyable, but somewhat more dated exchange of mat holds. It does make sense and carries the story they wanted to tell - but so much of the rest of the match was loaded with drama, passion and, at times, real heat. It is a shame there was a little five minute period where they let that momentum slip. It is a minor criticism. This is a legendary match. Meltzer gave it 5*, it is absolutely essential viewing. But you'll enjoy it even more if you took the time to check out some of the source material which led into it...

Kobashi and Kawada lift Misawa on their shoulders and run victory laps of the ring. The crowd are thunderous in their chants of Misawa's name...whilst Jumbo leaves the ring looking incredibly frustrated. It is an incredibly emotional scene...

Toshiaki Kawada vs Kenta Kobashi
30th June 1990 (Tokyo) - A year ago these two met in singles action for the first time, shortly after Kobashi's first ever career victory. We covered that during the Prelude compilation. It was a competitive and spirited undercard match which, whilst limited in scope, did much to showcase their blossoming talents. A year later they are part of the break-out 'Super Generation' and now get a chance to prove themselves in the semi-main event of a special 'one night only' show at the famous Korakuen Hall. Misawa's win over Jumbo proved that their time is very much now. Which one of Misawa's lieutenants will take their next steps in breaking out alongside him...

Neither man pulls any punches from the opening bell with Kawada rattling off kicks and Kobashi decking him with a lariat. PESCADO MISSES for Kawada...then Kobashi spinning heel kicks him into the crowd! He tries to get back Kobashi dropkicks him into the guardrails too. TOP ROPE SUICIDE DIVE TO THE FLOOR! What a start! Full of fire and ambition, Kobashi tries to press home his impressive opening flurry by controlling Kawada on the canvas with headlocks. SLAPS in the corner! Kawada BEATS THE SH*T out of him! Headbutts, chops, kicks and punches rain down on Kobashi leaving him motionless in the corner. Not content with that, Kawada hauls him out of the ring and gives him a body slam onto the wooden floor of Korakuen Hall then returns to the ring to watch as Kobashi hauls his hurting body back to the ring. The back has become the focus of Kawada's work, using both strikes and submission to both injure and slow down the more explosive Kobashi. He demonstrates the danger he poses with another swift spinning heel kick...but this time he stays down because it hurt his back in delivering the strike. Kawada misses a second rope knee drop aimed at the back though - and Kobashi instantly looks to capitalise by putting him in a cloverleaf submission. He is like a pitbull on Kawada's leg even as Dangerous K tries to kick him away, working through three different leg submissions in the same sequence without Kawada being able to free himself or find the respite of the ropes. Eventually Kawada leaves the ring to Kobashi pursues and gives him a SHINBREAKER ON A TABLE! He then lies in wait for Kawada to return to the ring before unleashing more leg submissions including another Texas Cloverleaf, then a Figure 4 Leglock. Horse Collar stretch next - but Kawada shows his toughness by refusing to tap out for so long that Kobashi gives up and switches to yet another hold. Kawada frees himself with an enziguri strike then the Abisegiri, which of course hurt his leg to execute leaving him struggling to get back to his feet. He elbows Kobashi in the Kobashi backdrops him to the floor. PESCADO BY KOBASHI! Kawada's knee absolutely crumpled under him, but pulling that move off at this stage took its toll on Kobashi as well. Gutwrench powerbomb gets 2 for Kobashi...prompting Kawada to kick him in the guts. Rolling cradle (with Kawada's knee wrenched as well!) gets 2. Kawada dropkicks him out of the ring to escape...and flies after him with a SPRINGBOARD SOMERSAULT SENTON! Kobashi kicks him in the head to block the folding powerbomb. FACE KICK! SLING BLADE BY KOBASHI! Crucifix pin by Kawada for 2. BACK DROP DRIVER by Kobashi! MOONSAULT GETS KNEES! They battle over suplexes, then start countering like crazy on the mat, with Kawada finally arching into a bridging pinfall to score the win at 24:17

Rating - **** - Was there ever a point in Kenta Kobashi's career when he wasn't incredible? He was an amazing rookie, a brilliant young lion, a spectacular midcarder and now we see him here absolutely killing it as he (and Kawada) demonstrate to a vocal Korakuen crowd that they are ready for the main event. When we saw them in their 1989 singles match on the Prelude compilation it was ten minutes of feisty midcard combat. This was a BIG step up, and is a really refreshing watch for fans who are familiar with their late-90's classics - since at this stage they still retain plenty of their young lion, junior heavyweight-inspired offence and dive sequences. In fact, the first ten minutes were pretty much flawless and supremely exciting. There was a little lag as Kobashi's prolonged work on Kawada's knees killed some of the momentum...and neither man did much to sell their respective injuries. But those are minor criticisms, and they recovered to produce a thrilling final stretch as well; getting big reactions without overstepping their status or killing the crowd with wild or excessive false finishes. What this match did well was promote the competitive nature of All Japan's roster. These two are stable-mates. But the Super Generation are hungry. It is why Misawa stepped up to Jumbo, and it is why even as allies they were willing to beat the sh*t out of each other in a major semi-main event on a Korakuen Hall show. Certainly not a perfect bout by any means - but despite being 25-minutes long it flies by in a heartbeat and has some seriously cutting edge stuff for a match north of 30 years old...

Stan Hansen vs Kenta Kobashi
7th July 1990 (Saitama) - The last match demonstrated that Kobashi is very much a star on the rise. But Kawada's victory proved that he was still the third-ranked guy in Super Generation Army. Misawa had scored his iconic, career-defining singles victory over Tsuruta a month earlier. Here we'll see Kobashi looking to score an even bigger upset as he looks to take down the top gaijin (and Triple Crown Champion). Kobashi/Hansen would go on to become a storied King's Road rivalry; lets check out an early example of why...

Kobashi's facials, even at the opening bell, are brilliant. He is twitchy, anxious...and fired up at the prospect of facing The Lariat. The hunger to prove himself oozes out of every movement of his body. He swings a little slap at Stan - who predictably reacts by battering him out of the ring. From there Hansen thinks he can take it easy, working headlocks on the canvas...and is surprised when Kobashi overpowers him and tries to put a cross armbreaker on his Lariat-throwing arm. Stan is pissed, but his mistake has already been made. He hurts his arm further missing a running tackle into the corner and allows Kobashi to mount him with another armbar. In the corner Kobashi absolutely unloads on Stan's arm with chops, kicks and elbows. Hansen dumps him with a snap suplex...only for his fiery young opponent to maintain hold of his arm and start dropping HEADBUTTS on it! He tries to inflict more damage with a kimura - but can't maintain his leverage against Hansen's size. Stan is PISSED this time and violently kicks him in the back of the head. Again Kobashi clings to a kimura though, correcting his mistake of a minute earlier and applying it from an advantageous position on the canvas. Kobashi is now so confident he starts receipting Hansen - and giving him a few savage kicks in he head and neck. BACK HAND TO THE FACE by Hansen...right into a piledriver for 2. BACK HAND! NO SOLD! SLAP DUEL! HEAD DROP SUPLEX by Hansen! Somehow Kobashi isn't dead and actuall retaliates with a spinning heel kick then repeated leg drops from the second rope. FROG SPLASH gets 2! But as he lunges towards Stan going for a lariat, Hansen counters it by ramming his head into the mat. WESTERN LARIATOOOOOO! Hansen wins at 12:09

Rating - **** - The chemistry between Hansen and Kobashi is a thing of beauty. None of their matches are pretty, but they are full of violence and physicality - contested between two guys who are absolutely BRILLIANT with their facial expressions and body language. This wasn't designed to be a big or bombastic offensive blast, but instead told a tight and compact twelve minute story of the hungry Kobashi desperate to prove himself against a Triple Crown Champion who overlooked him. It is a stunning showing from Kobashi, aided by Hansen in absurdly generous form. Kobashi made him look foolish for two thirds of the contest and, momentarily at least, even threatened his ability to dish out his signature Lariat at all. Finally at the ten minute mark Hansen snapped and hit a disgusting back hand to the face, followed by a piledriver...then got even more violent moments later with that sickening head drop snap suplex. We will see far better matches from his pair down the line of course, but for where they both were in July of 1990 it was a brilliant little bout that is worth seeking out if you have the time.

Stan Hansen vs Terry Gordy - AJPW Triple Crown Title Match
17th July 1990 (Kanazawa) - It was a momentous moment when Gordy took down Jumbo to win the Triple Crown. An occurrence which potentially heralded the fall of the mighty ace Tsuruta...and also potentially signalled Gordy's ascension to the spot of #1 gaijin. But Stan didn't like the thought of his former partner taking that spot. In Terry's first title defence, Stan put him down and secured his first Triple Crown Championship. Fittingly, therefore, Stan's first defence is a rematch against Terry. Can he repeat the victory he scored back in June, or can Gordy pull out the kind of performance that saw him beat Tsuruta?

The opening exchanges here are outright cagey. It's a change of pace considering how brutish and violent these two normally are. The gloves do finally come off - Gordy firing the first strike away, but getting smacked down by Stan as punishment. Terry starts looking totally overwhelmed and out of his depth as Hansen spends minutes battering and smacking him around. That is until the five minute mark when Gordy f*cking explodes - slapping the champion over and over. Hansen looks rattled, backing away into the corner but then rallying back with a series of nasty headbutts which quickly put Gordy back on the ground. Terry kicks at Hansen's legs and traps him in a leg grapevine, serving the double purpose of wounding the champ whilst also giving Gordy precious time to recover from the beating he has taken. Even then Stan keeps nailing him with headbutts and boots to the face. That continues until Gordy full on punches his opponent in the face! In the end they both get back to their feet and COLLIDE in the middle of the ring so hard that they both fall to the ground. Terry's elbow and arm took the brunt of the impact; something which Hansen spots and immediately attacks. He even leaves the ring and starts belting it with a steel chair. Terry cuts a forlorn figure as he leaves the ring nursing his arm...with Hansen in hot pursuit wanting to ram his arm into the guardrails and ringpost. Gordy tries a lariat...and SMASHES his arm into the ringpost! The tables turn from earlier in the match; Gordy repeatedly headbutting Stan to get him to release a prolonged arm submission. Steve Williams runs to the ring and tries to help his partner out by bandaging up the injured arm! Revitalised, Terry boxes the ears of The Lariat and uses the arm to drop an elbow - Hansen style! GORDY DDT gets 2! But Stan tricks Terry into bashing his arm against the turnbuckles and brings the challenger to his knees again with another armbar. Even Misawa has stepped out of the locker room to witness the conclusion to this match! Weary from twenty minutes of intense combat, the two gaijin resort to slapping each other wildly. Tackle by Hansen...but Terry still has enough to counter the Western Lariat. Stan whips him looking for the Lariat again, only for Williams to trip his own partner over (so he avoids getting hit with the Lariat)! That's f*cking genius! TORPEDO LARIAT! Gordy covers Hansen to win back the Triple Crown at 21:03

Rating - **** - A fascinating, fantastic match to end Part 1 of our look at All Japan in 1990. Stylistically this felt more old-fashioned and reminiscent of an 80's main event, rather than the direction the likes of Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi were driving the product, but that isn't to say it was bad at all. It was a titanic struggle as two big, powerful monsters fought to overpower and tactically out-manoeuvre their rival. Hansen appeared to have the strike power early, so Terry negated it by attacking his leg. Stan felt threatened but opportunistically and brutally destroyed Gordy's arm. It looked good enough to win...but unlike Stan, Gordy has a partner watching his back. Dr Death's arrival shifted the momentum once more, performing running repairs on Gordy's injury before quite literally saving him from defeat - and in turn lining Stan up for Gordy's decisive blow. It was a more cerebral and tentatively paced bout than you may expect, but one that always felt like a monolithic struggle between two brute forces vying for superiority. Most importantly, it was a dynamic performance from Gordy who started looking somewhat overawed and intimidated by Hansen, but survived his attacks and actually found a way to beat him (with a lariat no less). If ever there was to be a changing of the gaijin guard this was it...

Tape Rating - **** - The first half of 1990 was a turbulent time for AJPW, which I think is reflected in the lack of content from January through to April within this compilation. The promotion lost Genichiro Tenryu, a man they'd spent years building to be a top draw alongside Jumbo, and faced a talent exodus at all levels of the card as Super World Of Sports recruited heavily. However, as we saw here - despite his reputation for being a cautious, conservative booker, Giant Baba had faith in some rising stars on his roster and was ready to do something radical. By mid-July, Baba had engineered a situation where he had a new breakout superstar in Mitsuharu Misawa, an imposing but weakened ace in Jumbo Tsuruta, genuine rising stars on the undercard like Akira Taue, Steve Williams, Kenta Kobashi and Toshiaki Kawada...and through careful manipulation and management of the Triple Crown it also felt like he'd successfully positioned Terry Gordy alongside the legendary Stan Hansen as a genuine contender for his role as #1 gaijin. A time of trouble for sure, but a time of revolutionary change and a period of new talent breaking out in a major way. But, as we'll see in Part 2 of our journey back to 1990, the old guard weren't ready to relinquish their spots without a fight...

Must See Matches
Tiger Mask II/Toshiaki Kawada vs Yoshiaki Yatsu/Samson Fuyuki (14/05/90 - ****)
Mitsuharu Misawa/Kenta Kobashi/Akira Taue vs Jumbo Tsuruta/Masa Fuchi/Great Kabuki (26/05/90 - ****1/2)
Mitsuharu Misawa vs Jumbo Tsuruta (08/06/90 - ****1/2)

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