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

Giant Baba's bold, brave and groundbreaking booking had turned a problematic first half of 1990 into a surprising position of strength. Misawa grabbed a legendary victory over Jumbo Tsuruta, Terry Gordy threatened to usurp Stan Hansen as the top gaijin, and the other three of the legendary 'Four Pillars' started being given major opportunities. Was it time for the so-called 'Super Generation' to sweep to prominence, or would the old guard look to strike back against the youngsters looking to take their spots? 

Stan Hansen vs Mitsuharu Misawa - AJPW Triple Crown Title Match
27th July 1990 (Chiba) - I know what you're thinking; that we ended 1990 Part 1 with Terry Gordy downing The Lariat to take the Triple Crown back. Gordy was scheduled to defend against Misawa here - Misawa earning the shot with his historic win over Jumbo - but was hospitalised (the reason for which is easy to research on the internet) and forced to vacate. With the Triple Crown now vacant, Hansen was inserted into this match as the previous holder, with this now to crown a new champion. It is Misawa's first shot at the Triple Crown and, I believe, his first singles bout with Stan as well.

Misawa charges Hansen from the bell and beats on him with his own bullwhip on the outside! When Hansen tries to get his arms up to defend himself Misawa blasts them with a chair! The idea is to target Stan's Lariat-throwing arm - which he violently wraps around the ringpost. Misawa looks so youthful and determined as he cranks in a deep hammerlock which Stan has to leave the ring and start headbutting him to break. He rams Misawa's head into the time-keeping table...only for the youngster to ride that and start twisting his arm around the bottom turnbuckle. There's an awesome little exchange tucked away in here too. Misawa tries to armdrag Hansen, who refuses to play ball and hammers on his neck Misawa cranks a sick armwrench instead which completely drops The Lariat. Again Hansen leaves the ring and again Misawa is the benefactor as he uses the guardrail and ringpost to further weaken the already-injured arm. A shortarm scissors leaves Hansen crying out in pain; literally grabbing his own arm to avoid tapping out. Misawa tries to engage him in strikes...and once again it's a genius plan! He lures Hansen into the corner and ducks a wild attempt at an elbow, causing Stan to whack his own arm against the top turnbuckle. Stan is so desperate you can see him grabbing at Misawa's hair or scraping his eyes and nostrils just to break his grip on whatever armbar variant he works. At the ten minute mark Hansen battles back to his feet and starts trying to cave Misawa's skull in with some close-range knee strikes. But he uses his injured arm for a strike and pretty much collapses in the ropes in pain. Once again he leaves the ring, enduring a barrage of Misawa kicks to the arm. Once again Misawa goes for a chair...but this time Hansen grabs it off him and SMACKS HIM IN THE SKULL with it. That was a heavy chair and it legit bounced off the top of Misawa's head! He tries to rally with a dropkick and snapmares Hansen back into the ring, leaving him in position for the Tiger Body Press. Jumping enzi floors Hansen! RUNNING PESCADO MISSES! MISAWA EATS THE FLOOR! It is the opportunity Hansen has been waiting for and he capitalises by absolutely smashing his face into the ringpost seconds later. Misawa tries a diving elbow...but is rammed head-first into the mat! DDT gets 2; Stan now piling the pressure onto the head and neck. Lariat Misawa can hit a jumping senton across the bad arm for 2. He tries to scale the ropes again but Stan press slams him back down. WESTERN LARIATOOOOOOOOO! Hansen regains the Triple Crown at 16:15

Rating - **** - A thrilling encounter to get our next batch of matches in the King's Road Chronicles underway. It's historic for being Misawa's first attempt at the Triple Crown and for the circumstances surrounding Gordy (they didn't even have the belts to give to Hansen after he won here)...but the actual quality of the bout shouldn't be overlooked. Misawa is hungry and full of confidence, implementing a clear and pre-determined strategy to take down his notoriously dangerous opponent. It completely overwhelmed the more experienced (but therefore more battle-weary) gaijin. He spent the first ten minutes being dissected, seemingly having no answer to the questions posed by the crazily talented youngster who'd defeated Jumbo a month earlier. Hansen has to resort to being an opportunistic predator. He fights from behind, a cornerstone of the King's Road style, grabbing a chance to violently beat on Misawa's head and neck where he can. Finally Misawa's lack of big-match experience costs him; he misses a big dive inspired by his time in the junior division as Tiger Mask II. He might have got away with it in the juniors - but in the heavyweight division Hansen has the punching power to make it a fatal error. He DESTROYED Misawa and loaded up his injured arm for one big Lariat for the win...then marched straight to the back for medical treatment rather than to hang around celebrating. This wasn't aesthetically pleasing and Hansen's chemistry with Misawa is nowhere near what it is with Kobashi. However, one shouldn't forget that they put this together at short notice thanks to Gordy's hospitalisation and the results were extremely watchable. For the leader of the Super Generation Army, his time to claim All Japan's top prize hadn't yet arrived...

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue/Masanobu Fuchi vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
18th August 1990 (Tokyo) - Treachery! Following Misawa's decisive loss to Hansen and failure to capture the Triple Crown, Akira Taue saw cracks in the armour of the Super Generation Army's leader. He sought out a new mentor and crossed enemy lines to become a lieutenant to Jumbo in Tsuruta-gun. This is his very first match as part of Jumbo's squad on the first night of the 1990 Summer Action Series II Tour. It's also our first time seeing Kikuchi in this series. He was a junior heavyweight member of the Super Generation Army, and part of the 'second' team in the stable with Kobashi (the Misawa/Kawada pairing pulling seniority of course). Having taken one of Misawa's trusted allies away from him, Tsuruta now sets about reclaiming what Misawa stole from him in June at the Budokan. He is here to put the Super Gen's back in their place, to beat the respect into Misawa and to prove to everyone that he remains very much the ace of All Japan Pro-Wrestling...

Wow, Korakuen Hall is red hot for this. All six guys get massive pops during their introductions. The juniors start, with Kikuchi firing off wild strikes at Fuchi when the veteran tries to disrespect him. Fuchi walks away clutching his head, unleashing Taue who steamrolls the smaller man with a thunderous lariat. There's a point where he stares over at Misawa and Kawada whilst beating on Kikuchi as if to say 'THIS  is who you replaced me with'?! But he gets over-confident and doesn't spot Kikuchi rolling them towards the Super Gen corner. Before he knows it Kawada is tagged and kicking him in the head! Kawada applies a chinlock with such force it actually looks like he is trying to murder smartly he brings Jumbo in. Kawada doesn't back down and tries to trade strikes with the ace...until he is DESTROYED with elbows and the jumping knee. There are duelling 'Kawada' and 'Tsuruta-oh' chants too! Kawada blasts through Fuchi to tag Misawa...causing Fuchi to instantly tag back to Jumbo. The way they toy with the hierarchy and status between the teams is a hallmark of the Super Gens vs Tsuruta-gun trios tags and is joyous to watch. ELBOWS by Misawa, instantly rattling the mighty Tsuruta. Jumbo tries to back him in the corner, but doesn't spot Kawada coming and falls victim to a flurry of double teams by Dangerous K and Misawa! SLAPS FROM KAWADA! B*TCH SLAP BY JUMBO! 'Get down you little punk' he says! Repaying the favour, he and Taue hit a few combo moves on Kawada before he leaves for the apron. Kikuchi climbs into Taue, trying to negate the size difference by keeping him grounded - but can't do it and finds himself dumped to the floor by Fuchi. There Taue has his revenge by beating him against the guardrails; feeding him back to Fuchi to make the injuries inflicted worse with a high angle single-leg crab. Jumbo tags...and looks like he could kill someone when even Kikuchi tries to knock him out with elbows! The ace dismissively whacks him down and applies a Boston crab. He turns to taunt Misawa...WHO CHARGES WITH AN ELBOW! 

That was so sudden and explosive, and dropped Tsuruta like a stone! Taue quickly steps in to salvage the situation for Tsuruta-gun and continues to beat on Kikuchi's back. Masa Fuchi then takes him into the crowd for a slam on the wooden floor! Somehow he makes it back to the ring and even returns with a springboard lariat! It knocks Taue into a few nasty kicks from Kawada, but isn't enough to open Kikuchi's route to a hot tag. JUMBO LARIATOOO! Is Kikuchi dead?! He bumped that right on his neck and has the ref checking that he is still conscious. Taue is the one who allows Kikuchi to escape, and when he tags Misawa you can bet that Jumbo is right in to meet him. ELBOWS AGAIN! DIVING HEADBUTT! TOP ROPE ELBOW SMASH! Then he knocks out Fuchi and Taue as well for good measure! The war is already getting personal with Misawa mounting Jumbo and just beating on him - as the other four flail around the ring nearby all fighting each other. Running senton combo by Misawa and Kawada gets 2. Jumbo's head is bothering him and even Kikuchi wants to exploit it! That is until Tsuruta f*cking DECKS him with a big boot. Misawa and Kikuchi start attacking Fuchi's back, largely as a receipt for him targeting Kikuchi's back earlier - but the experienced veteran sees it coming. He suplexes Misawa and tags Jumbo...who mounts Misawa and beats on him until Kikuchi saves! Fuchi launches him head-first from the ring to the railings as punishment for that! Twenty minutes in now with Misawa tagging Kawada who hammers Taue with a wild flurry of kicks. SUMO STRIKES and a DDT by Taue get 2! BACK DROP DRIVER BY KAWADA! Tiger Body Press by Misawa - but the pin is broken by Jumbo. Everyone starts kicking Taue in the corner, and Kikuchi comes desperately close to beating him with a fisherman suplex. Rocket Launcher splash by Misawa and Kikuchi - for 2! Jumbo destroys Misawa against the rails and the crowd is going nuts. NECK DROP POWERSLAM from Taue to Kikuchi! BACK DROP! TAUE WINS! Tsuruta-gun are victorious at 22:46

Rating - ****1/2 - The Super Generation Army revolutionised All Japan's main event style overnight. The sheer energy that oozed from this match when compared to some of the bouts we witnessed in the late-80's Prelude compilation is unbelievable. All the performers, even veterans like Fuchi and Tsuruta, feel so much more dynamic and aggressive. This match was all about escalation. Jumbo's reputation took a hit when Misawa defeated him. His ego was already fragile after what he went through to regain his spot as the ace from Tenryu. This time he fought back and looked to dish out swift, decisive action to the young punks. He recruited one of their own to mentor; so successfully in fact that Taue actually won the match. And crucially, he was extremely violent. He sought out Misawa, taunted his rival and was willing to drop bombs with him. Tsuruta is an experienced, former amateur wrestling prodigy...not that you can really tell when he is climbing on top of one of his opponents and mauling them like a bear. Given that the theme was escalation, putting Kikuchi into the bout was a great call. His fire and energy bounced well off the angry Tsuruta-gun trio. He bumped around and took a brutal beating (which was paid off because he took the decisive fall)...and the Kikuchi/Jumbo spots were actually some of the highlights. We'll be seeing quite a few more Super Gen/Tsuruta-gun six-man tags. They are outstanding; held up by many as the unparalleled best trios matches ever. This is an early example of why...

Jumbo Tsuruta/Masanobu Fuchi vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada
19th August 1990 (Tokyo) - This is our first reader-recommended match for the King's Road Chronicles. As I've said, if you feel like there's anything I've missed from a previous volume or something I absolutely need to check out then get in touch with me and I'll include it. A day after that last classic, we return to Korakuen Hall for an un-taped house show. This is fan-cam footage so is patchy in terms of quality - but is available out there for people who want to check it out. We have Tsuruta coming for Misawa, craving retribution for his June defeat. The rematch has been scheduled for the centrepiece of the Summer Action Series II Tour in the Nippon Budokan at the start of September, so we are very much building up to Jumbo/Misawa II now. Can the young Misawa/Kawada duo take down the veterans of Tsuruta-gun?

So is some guy like...sat in the crowd with a big ass 1990 video camera taping this? Fuchi starts for his team, taking a beating from first Kawada then Misawa (with some double-team attacks thrown in too). He tries to protect himself with an armbar on Misawa...only for Kawada to punt him in the back of the head. Jumbo has seen enough - the ace steps in with Misawa! He is in no mood to mess around tonight and immediately lays into Misawa with repeated shots to the ribs and stomach. A Lion Tamer is applied next and you can hear Misawa cry out in pain before reaching for the ropes. This is a major early statement by the Tsuruta-gun veterans in inflicting a significant injury on the Super Gen leader. Kawada makes a critical tag and lays into Fuchi with some big strikes then feeds him to the wounded Misawa on the floor to shunt him into the guardrail. Misawa tags and tries to take his turn beating on Fuchi - but once more Tsuruta enters the ring and slaps the taste out of his mouth! PESCADO by Kawada instead! Jumbo whips him to the guardrails as punishment...but in doing so turns his back on Misawa and is pummelled into the barricades and ringpost. Guy in crowd with big ass 90's video camera did a surprisingly strong job of following that! Kawada tries to slap at Jumbo - who is in such a bad mood tonight. He viciously stomps Kawada into the ground. Kawada seems to have been busted wide open on the floor and is getting heaps of crowd support. Although that counts for very little when Tsuruta is stomping the sh*t out of his blood-covered head of course. PILEDRIVER ON THE FLOOR by Fuchi! He feeds him back to Jumbo inside the ring, who stomps on his head then gives him a piledriver for 2. Abisegiri by Kawada...which only serves to catapult Tsuruta into a strike at Misawa on the apron! SPIKE PILEDRIVER on Kawada gets 2. Dangerous K is so beaten down now he can hardly run the ropes, so Fuchi throws him out of the ring like garbage. Abdominal stretch by Jumbo, who deliberately turns Kawada's body so he can staredown Misawa as he does it. Inevitably Misawa gets pissed off and breaks it by booting Tsuruta in the face. Jumbo tries to choke him out with a sleeper next; again broken by Misawa and lariat to the back of the head. 

Hot tag to Misawa! He and Jumbo BEAT THE SH*T out of each other! But strike exchanges don't favour the ace, who doesn't have a weapon like Misawa's elbow. The Super Gen leader beats him into the corner, meaning Fuchi gets to come to Tsuruta's rescue for once. MISAWA SLAPS JUMBO even as he tries to get back to the apron! Diving elbow smash on Fuchi gets 2. He tags Kawada back, still covered in blood and still looking fatigued, but with room to beat on Fuchi since Tsuruta is still receiving attention on the floor after Misawa's strikes. Fuchi tries to Back Drop Kawada...who kicks off the ropes Tenryu style to counter it. Misawa thinks about a Tiger Body Press...SO JUMBO ELBOWS HIM TO THE FLOOR! CHAIR SHOT TO MISAWA! They brawl out of the line of sight of the guy shooting it so we miss a few seconds of action, but when they return to the ring Misawa is on his knees with Jumbo ominously standing over him. BACK DROP DRIVER! Rather than cover the fallen Misawa, Tsuruta climbs onto him and clobbers him mercilessly. He tries a second Back Drop, but Misawa flips to a crossbody block for 2. BACK DROP DRIVER AGAIN! Jumbo is straight up trying to destroy Misawa now! RUNNING HEAD KICK BY KAWADA! NO SOLD! Tsuruta chucks him aside so Fuchi can guardrail his bloody skull! A THIRD BACK DROP DRIVER! JUMBO PULLS HIM UP AT 2! Again Kawada tries to save, but again Jumbo throws him away! Even Fuchi tries to get Jumbo to stop - SO JUMBO CHUCKS HIM OUT TOO! THE ACE HAS SNAPPED! Kawada kicks Jumbo as hard as he can and lays on top of Misawa to save him, then almost joins forces with Fuchi to stop Jumbo. This is insane! Fuchi full-on grapples Jumbo to the corner and forcibly tags him out, as Kawada drags Misawa's dead ass to their corner to do the same. But nobody watches Kawada and Fuchi in the ring because Jumbo is still trying to get at Misawa on the outside! Bridging butterfly suplex by Fuchi for 2...and somehow Misawa isn't dead! He levels Fuchi with an uppercut, into a German by Kawada! Kawada and Fuchi jostle for position, ending in a cradle-pin three-count win for Kawada at 28:30 (shown).

Rating - **** - Why on earth wasn't this taped? The Super Generation Army vs Tsuruta-gun feud has some incredible matches, as does the Misawa/Jumbo rivalry, but I've seen few with quite as much drama and hatred as this one. As I've already said a few times in this series; Jumbo Tsuruta is phenomenal. The brilliance of this was that it started like any other house show match...until Jumbo got in. From the second he got involved, whether he was being taped or not, he wanted to f*cking kill Misawa. He is so shaken by his loss to Misawa (so soon after dropping the Triple Crown to Gordy), still bearing the scars of what he went through with Tenryu too - so he gets savage to make sure he keeps his spot. He batters Misawa from the outset, makes Kawada bleed then in the closing stretch administers such a psychotic beating on Misawa that his own team-mate even tries to stop him. If you can stomach the hand-held cam footage this is must-see and unbelievably dramatic. If there was a pro-taped version of this it would be an absolutely beloved bout in this rivalry, solely based on Jumbo's brilliance...

Jumbo Tsuruta/Masanobu Fuchi/Mighty Inoue vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Kenta Kobashi/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
21st August 1990 (Fukushima) - Two days after that mauling in the Korakuen, the builds to Jumbo vs Misawa II continues here. Tsuruta-gun's line-up tonight includes another grizzled veteran ally of Jumbo in the form of Mighty Inoue. Kawada was left injured by Tsuruta's onslaught a couple of days earlier and missed almost two weeks of competition on this tour as a result. This feud continues to intensify with each passing show it seems...

Misawa and Jumbo stare at each other intently during the entrances, and the crowd gasp in excitement as they demand to start in the ring together. No trading holds can be seen, they fly into action with strike after strike. Like that fan-cam match we just watched, Jumbo tries to wear Misawa out with body shots but this time Misawa negates those with a flurry of savage elbows to the head. Fuchi and Inoue have to pull Misawa off their leader! Jumbo again has to leave the ring to recuperate after Misawa's elbows and only the presence of Fuchi stops Misawa going after him on the floor. Kobashi tags and we see that he is now climbing the ranks and is arguably senior to Fuchi at this point - dominating the veteran junior heavyweight even in mat wrestling exchanges. He opens up an arm injury which the feisty Kikuchi wants to exploit - but can't keep him down or stop him tagging out to Mighty. Again Kobashi steps in, continuing to show his growth as a performer by dominating Inoue as well. He and Misawa try to injure the old man's midsection, with a degree of success too. But Inoue is a veteran and hits back with a back suplex and a neckbreaker, both of which look like they really hurt Kobashi. Jumbo tags in, knees Kobashi to the ground then charges at Misawa! Misawa takes evasive action, leaving Kikuchi to get splattered off the apron instead. Was that smarts by Misawa, or fear after he was beaten to a pulp in Tokyo two days earlier? Inside the ring Kobashi lays out Fuchi with a rebound crossbody and makes a necessary tag to Kikuchi. Sensing the opportunity, Fuchi and Inoue feed Kiku to the floor where Jumbo dismissively launches him into the guardrails. NECK BUMP LARIAT AGAIN!  Jumbo f*cking up Kikuchi continues to be incredibly entertaining to watch. 

Once again he makes the rest of the Super Gen's watch as he tortures their junior heavyweight partner with a Lion Tamer. Kikuchi actually tries to trade a few strikes with the ace...only for his back to be broken with punishing forearms and body slams right on his ailing spine. The level of detail here is just magnificent. Tsuruta-gun try to leave Mighty to wear Kikuchi down...but quickly have to get him out again because Kobashi keeps raiding the ring and beating on the back/core injury the Super Gen's inflicted on him earlier. It means Inoue is relegated to the role of lurker outside the ring...which admittedly he plays to perfection by giving Kikuchi a PILEDRIVER on the exposed concrete floor. But somehow Kiku returns to the ring with a SPRINGBOARD LARIAT through Fuchi, making the tag to Kobashi. MOONSAULT ON FUCHI! But Inoue breaks up the pin. Tsuruta stomp and strike at the same neck Tsuruta-gun hurt earlier! He works the Lion Tamer at an even higher angle to crank the neck. MISAWA ELBOWS TO BREAK IT! Jumbo is stunned, Misawa tags...BACK DROP DRIVER on Jumbo! Payback for Korakuen of course! He further scrambles Tsuruta's brains with a flying elbow strike as well. Jumbo stays down clutching his head as Misawa relentlessly kicks at it. He drags the ace back into the Super Gen corner so they can all beat on his injured head - even a fired up Kikuchi! JUMBO SLAPS KIKUCHI! Fisherman suplex gets 2 on Inoue, so Mighty gives him a gutbuster into repeated somersault senton splashes across the ribs. Kikuchi MISSES a diving headbutt as Kobashi and Inoue brawl out of the ring. Bridging German gets 2 for Kiku; Misawa preventing Jumbo saving with another big elbow! Kikuchi tries another diving clothesline...but accidentally lays out Kobashi when Fuchi ducks! Misawa and Jumbo are fighting in the crowd! Air Scissors Press from Fuchi to Kikuchi, getting the win for Tsuruta-gun at 19:35

Rating - **** - The speed and athleticism of Misawa, Kawada, Kobashi and Kikuchi makes these main events a complete adrenaline rush. And it only serves to amplify the brilliance of Jumbo as well. He doesn't just hang with them, and isn't just there to be the guy putting them over, he completely integrates into their 'style' of match. He works very few 'holds' in this match. We see very little of the amateur grappler Jumbo here - and when we do it's to inflict punishment on a fallen foe whilst taunting Misawa. Instead he comes to fight...on this night right from the opening bell when he demanded to start with Misawa. This is actually fairly standard in terms of quality for a Super Generation Army vs Tsuruta-gun trios tag - which probably tells you why AJPW did such good business with the feud. The skill and attention to detail here is unparalleled. Little moments which in other matches become throwaway/filler moments have real consequences later in the match. A couple of minutes spent hurting Mighty Inoue's back early on meant that Jumbo and Fuchi had to carry a heavier load later in the match because the Super Gen's could exploit Inoue's injuries to help their partner in peril (Kikuchi). Kobashi showed his ascension here...but also showed his inexperience as he allowed himself to sustain an early injury which made him vulnerable and unable to go toe-to-toe with Jumbo at all down the stretch. Clearly this is mostly here as build to the Jumbo/Misawa match and it is brilliant as that. Every exchange between them is outstanding. But the effort their supporting cast bring to the table is remarkable too...

The end of the match hasn't stopped Misawa and Jumbo by the way. Misawa stomps and elbows at Tsuruta until he is dragged away...

Jumbo Tsuruta vs Kenta Kobashi
31st August 1990 (Osaka) - It is now the eve of Misawa/Tsuruta II. Jumbo's final preparations are to face one of Misawa's trusted Super Generation allies. As we saw in the last match, Kobashi has been climbing the ranks and is a legitimate threat in his own right. On paper his mission here is to wear down the ace so Misawa has an easier time at Budokan Hall the following night. But Kobashi knows he can take the fight to the top stars in All Japan - as we've seen whenever he's had a singles match so far on our King's Road journey. He saw first-hand what a win over Jumbo did for Misawa's career. Does he dare dream that he could do the same thing!?

Jumbo tries to shake hands but the fiery Kobashi swats it away! His loyalty to Misawa is rewarded with nothing more than a jumping knee strike which knocks him out of the ring. Kobashi is clearly the faster of the two, demonstrated when he explodes into a spinning heel kick and tries to keep the ace on the ground afterwards. Even when he trades a couple of strikes, his next thought is to get Tsuruta back to the ground where he can use headlocks to control him. Suddenly this is giving off a real vibe of Jumbo's match with Tiger Mask II (Misawa) in 1988. He fights hard but can't seem to shake the Super Generation Army representative's grip. Of course, Kobashi's focus on the headlock makes even more sense when you consider he's spent most of this tour getting his brains rattled about by Misawa's elbows. Every time Tsuruta breaks the headlock Kobashi starts elbowing, punching or slapping at the head so he can go right back to it. JUMBO LARIATOOOO to break it! The ace is again selling his head but now looks to inflict damage to the same body part of his opponent as he drops him with a piledriver. Jumbo cranks up the pressure - working a Boston crab to make the youngster suffer then battering him with elbows and knees to the gut. The chinks in his armour are showing though. He tries to bully Kobashi outside the ring only to be thrown into the guardrails himself instead. Still recovering from that, Kobashi dives at his neck and shoulders with a pescado. TOP ROPE SUICIDE DIVE TO THE FLOOR! Tsuruta's head bounced off the floor of the arena and his leg buckled beneath him as well. Kobashi spots it and tries to exploit another injury using a Texas Cloverleaf then a Figure 4. When Jumbo makes the ropes to escape that, Kobashi works a deathlock instead which means he can apply pressure to the leg and repeatedly strike at the head too. Misawa is watching from the back of the building, supporting his lieutenant and scouting Jumbo one more time. Double underhook suplex to escape by Tsuruta, followed by a big boot. Of course that hurts his leg so he can't pin Kobashi right away. Bulldog by Kobashi, followed by a spinning heel kick to the back of the head then a back suplex for 2. MOONSAULT NAILED...but only gets 2. He hits a Kawada-influenced Abisegiri...but is caught on the top rope and dragged down for the Air Scissors Drop. Again Kobashi strikes at the back of the head, setting up a German suplex! Tsuruta isn't walking straight now and almost zig-zags his way into another jumping knee strike. Yet he decides to climb to the top, perhaps to deliver a message to Misawa as he destroys his partner with a top rope knee strike. Folding Powerbomb...GETS 2! I wasn't expecting that and it doesn't seem like Jumbo was either. He blitzes Kobashi with a flurry of strikes then drops him on his head with a Back Drop Driver to win at 17:53

Rating - **** - Jumbo's generosity with Kobashi is what made this memorable, and in turn the reason it provided yet another layer of brilliant build to the Misawa rematch. The Super Gens and Tsuruta-gun have worked each other for pretty much the entire tour. Sure Jumbo's gang have won a lot of matches, and there have been nights like in Tokyo where he almost murdered Misawa (and broke Kawada). But that means he has been exposed to night after night of Misawa rocking him with the elbow strikes that we know he is vulnerable to. Kobashi came in knowing that, and also came in having studied Misawa's match with Jumbo two years earlier as Tiger Mask. He revisited the headlock strategy with great success; negating Tsuruta's power and size, whilst Jumbo's existing head injuries meant Kobashi had other places to go with it whereas Tiger Mask didn't have much else back in '88. The second half of this match then became a fascinating battle for superiority. Kobashi reaped the rewards of his smart strategy and pushed Tsuruta to the limit...but in response Jumbo started unloading his arsenal of punishing offensive moves onto his young adversary. It would eventually enough to put Kobashi away (albeit not without the final scare of that powerbomb kick-out). Kobashi loses, Jumbo has another win over the Super Generation, but also leaves you in no doubt that he is VERY vulnerable when he faces Misawa tomorrow night...

Jumbo Tsuruta vs Mitsuharu Misawa
1st September 1990 (Tokyo) - We have spent three months building to this colossal rematch. Misawa's win changed the landscape of All Japan. With Tenryu gone it was a sign that Jumbo's position at ace would not go unchallenged and hinted that as he approached his 40th birthday, Jumbo may even be over-taken by the Super Generation. But through the second half of the year we have seen the old guard hit back strongly. Misawa failed to win the Triple Crown against Stan Hansen, Tsuruta-gun recruited one of his allies (Akira Taue) and have won plenty of high-profile multi-man tags throughout the Summer Action Series II Tour. Even when the Super Generation did win (like the fan-cam Korakuen match), it came with Jumbo massacring Misawa and bloodying Kawada so badly that he missed a fortnight of action. Misawa needs a win to prove June wasn't a fluke and cement that he is now the top native star in the company. Jumbo has been in this position before though; scrapping for his spot and looking to re-establish his dominance after defeat to a pretender to his throne. He is motivated, violent and extremely dangerous...but vulnerable to headshots, and may not be able to withstand Misawa's strike power. In case you couldn't have guessed, the Budokan crowd for this rematch are electric...

Misawa goes right for an elbow, which Jumbo knowingly blocks with a deadpan expression on his face. But then Misawa blocks the exact same strike from him. Misawa dodges a jumping knee moments later as well, only for Tsuruta to see him coming and jam a big knee into the stomach instead. He batters the leader of the Super Generation around the ring, delivering hammer blow strikes to his midsection. But Misawa remains far faster and springs off the top rope with an effortless rebound headbutt. He clings to a chinlock, as much to stay away from Jumbo's strikes as to damage his known head injuries. We go to a stalemate when Jumbo escapes and Misawa dodges another knee to the stomach with a schoolboy pin for 2. Tsuruta's face just oozes 'I f*cking hate this kid'. He tries to press home his dominance over Misawa's midsection, but finds the kid continually able to counter him. Yes, counter HIM; the bigger, more powerful and former Olympic amateur grappler. Misawa actually somersaults into a kick to escape - Jumbo sneers at him for that. ELBOW by Misawa! Instantly Jumbo is staggered...and he rocks the ace with several more powerful elbows as he backs away into the corner. Jumbo is rattled, having had his skull bombed with elbow smashes all tour. He quickly retaliates by booting Misawa in the face and dropping him with the jumping knee for 2. The Boston crab and abdominal stretch submissions come out in short order; Tsuruta now looking to keep Misawa grounded to stay away from his strikes. He looks around the Budokan as deafening chants of 'MI-SA-WA' are heard, and ponders if this is like when the public turned on him in support of Tenryu in 1989. It fuels him to dial up the aggression - pounding Misawa's ribs before nailing a swinging neckbreaker. Misawa sneaks in a few more violent elbows and pulls Jumbo to the ground, working the head and neck with a grounded headscissors. Tiger Mask kicks send Jumbo spinning across the ring next, before a few jumping enzis hit him right in the face. Tsuruta has had enough! RUNNING ELBOW TO THE FACE! PILEDRIVER! And still Misawa gets up to give him a spinning heel kick in the face. 

Springboard headbutt again...COUNTERED by Tsuruta splattering Misawa's head into the canvas! Air Scissors Drop gets 2! Back Drop...rolled to a crossbody by Misawa...BUT JUMBO ROLLS THROUGH! That was Misawa's method of victory in June, but Jumbo can't seal the deal - the Super Gen leader kicks out. Elbows by Misawa...JUMBO F*CKING KILLS HIM! SLAPS! KNEES! MOUNTED PUNCHES! The ref has to pull him off and Misawa collapses to the floor. The ace isn't letting up; chasing him to the floor where he mauls him against the rails then goes into the crowd to NAIL HIM WITH A CHAIR! Kenta Kobashi has to peel the fallen Misawa off a row of seats to get him back into the action. When he returns Jumbo simply tosses him back out like garbage (whilst still selling his head to show the effects of Misawa's elbows). DIVING ELBOW BACK INTO THE RING! Misawa needs to increase the pace! RUNNING PESCADO SCORES! Jumbo is reeling and walks into another flying elbow smash for 2. They go into the corner where Misawa pummels the ace with elbow after elbow. Then he goes FULL TENRYU and stomps the sh*t out of him! It is almost a mirror image of Tenryu beating on Jumbo in the corner in October 1988. But this time Tsuruta gets back up and starts HEADBUTTING Misawa! Even though his skull is f*cked up he is using it as a weapon - that's how angry the young pretender makes him. Folding powerbomb...countered with a hurricanrana (just like Jumbo did to Tenryu) for 2. ELBOW! BRIDGING GERMAN! Jumbo kicks out! The crowd is just deafening now. Tsuruta blocks the Tiger Driver, and when Misawa tries to jump on his back he simply DROPS MISAWA ON HIS HEAD! JUMPING KNEE! NO SOLD! JUMPING KNEE AGAIN! Misawa tries another top rope elbow...COUNTERED WITH A SUPERPLEX! BACK DROP DRIVER! MISAWA F*CKING KICKS OUT! This is insane! Tsuruta screams in fury...ELBOW BY MISAWA! The kid just will not quit. JUMBO LARIATOOOO! BACK DROP DRIVER! JUMBO WINS! The time was an epic 24:50...

Rating - ***** - Incredible stuff, probably the best match we've seen in the King's Road Chronicles thus far. Many people prefer the June match and understandably so. Misawa's win is a defining moment in professional wrestling history; an iconic moment to end a fantastic match. But as a standalone wrestling encounter - this is better in my opinion. For one thing they have both had a few months to firm up their characters and how they want to work together. Where the first match had some 80's-style prolonged hold sequences, this match was loaded with hate from the outset - driven by another impeccable display from Jumbo as the bitter, desperate ace. Even looking at Misawa appeared to complete disgust him, judging by the expression on his face. If Misawa did a flashy move or elbowed him in the head he looked like he wanted to murder the kid. The moment that he finally snapped, after absorbing all the bone-crunching elbows to the head he could stomach, is a spine-chilling piece of brilliance. His monstrous strike flurry is incredible, leading to the attack in the crowd that Misawa may not even have gotten up from had Kobashi not been there to help. But then - the way Misawa responded is equally f*cking fantastic. He used his athleticism AND strike power - jumping off the top rope into an elbow. It led into a sequence where Misawa paralleled the last challenger to Jumbo's throne. As the bitter Jumbo clings to his spot, Misawa grew irate and pummelled him in the corner unrelentingly - just as we saw Genichiro Tenryu do. There isn't a second of this match I'd change. EVERY moment is loaded with significance. They channel the themes of their last match, bring in incredible character work from Jumbo, imperious timing from Misawa, referenced the Jumbo/Tenryu war brilliantly - building to a raucous crescendo as Tsuruta furiously beat on Misawa, with the kid desperately clinging on to the knowledge that he was always one knock-out elbow away from victory. I've seen this one multiple times over the years - and it gets better with every single viewing.

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada
30th September 1990 (Tokyo) - So Jumbo had rebounded from the humiliation of his defeat to Misawa in June with a spectacular victory in the rematch. With Jumbo and Misawa tied 1-1, the brewing war between their two factions continued to rage. This is the first time we'd see these four in this configuration, and we should expect it to be intense. Tsuruta and Misawa are still bitter enemies. Kawada and Misawa haven't forgiven Taue for defecting from the Super Generation to align himself with Jumbo. Kawada (who wrestles in the Tenryu-inspired black and yellow for the first time in our series here) is presumably still pissed at Jumbo for busting him open and causing him to miss action during the last tour too. Speaking of busted open, you'll notice that Taue enters with a pre-existing head wound...

Jumbo almost throws Taue into the corner and demands to start with Misawa...who paces the ring and SLAPS HIM REPEATEDLY! The couple of minutes here are almost entirely Misawa manipulating situations to slap Jumbo - until he snaps and tries to drop bombs with Misawa. The Super Gen leader knows he has Tsuruta's number there and floors the ace with a precise volley of elbow smashes. Not to be left out, Kawada tags and grinds on Jumbo's suspect head and neck with a ferocious headlock. BACK DROP DRIVER! Tsuruta is like 'these f*cking kids'! Taue takes over and tries to injure Kawada's head and neck...but Dangerous K spitefully kicks the traitor outside where Misawa is waiting to drop bombs on him. He rams his head into the ringpost, tearing the bandaging from Taue's head. Kawada is predictably merciless; kicking and stomping on Akira's head until it starts oozing blood. Incredibly, Taue can trade elbow strikes with Misawa better than Jumbo - visibly rocking Misawa on his way to a tag back to Tsuruta. Just like their last singles match Jumbo starts hammering at Misawa's midsection with strikes...but doesn't see the rebound headbutt coming and loses control of his foe. Kawada is tagged, but quickly negated by Taue grinding onto an abdominal stretch. Tsuruta-gun spend the next couple of minutes working over Kawada's midsection...until a remarkable sequence which sees Kawada trading HUGE strikes with Jumbo. He is a Tenryu-esque bulldog; beating on Jumbo in the corner with such force that the ace has to throw him from the ring for respite. Kawada lies on the mat clutching his ribs in pain and a concerned Misawa has to invade the ring to cheap-shot Tsuruta just to stop him working submissions. Taue is equally precise in working over Kawada's midsection as the clock ticks past fifteen minutes. 

Misawa once again tries to charge the ring to help his partner, and B*TCH SLAPS Taue multiple times for trying to stop him. These aren't elbow strikes now - he throws straight-up punches at Taue's lacerated forehead. The melee frees up Kawada to tag out and Misawa flies out of the corner to kick and punch at Tsuruta's head. Jumbo Misawa cracks his skull against the ringpost and bounces it off the arena floor too. ABISEGIRI by Kawada! Jumbo can't take any more shots to his head and tags out. Taue gets some payback on Misawa by elbowing him to the floor...but turns his back on Kawada who DESTROYS him with kicks and knees to the head. TAUE FIGHTS BACK! SUMO SLAPS! What spirit from the lowest ranked guy on the totem pole in this match before the elbows and boots of Misawa put him back on the ground. Kawada drags the defector out into the crowd, literally beating him all the way back to the curtain! Jumbo shows his caring side by leaving the ring and assisting his younger partner back; arm around his shoulder talking strategy the entire time. Of course, the second Akira gets back he is met with a flurry of savage Kawada kicks. Combo attacks by the Super Generation scatter Tsuruta-gun; Taue being dumped one side with a double baseball slide before Misawa elbows Jumbo off the apron with such force that he ends up half-way over the railings. Taue is a bloody mess but you'd best believe he still wants to fight. LARIAT ON THE FLOOR! Misawa goes out like a light! Next Taue goes into the ring and trades bombs with Kawada; headbutting him even though he knows Dangerous K will kick the sh*t out of his bloody head. Kawada's yellow kickpads are stained red at this point and still Taue finds a way past him to make the hot tag to Jumbo. He steamrolls the Super Generation, relishing being able to out-strike Misawa who is still feeling the effects of that big bump on the floor. 

BACK DROP DRIVER gets 2. Misawa tries the springboard headbutt but Tsuruta once again counters to crush his face into the canvas. FOLDING POWERBOMB on Kawada only for his partner to break the pin. Top rope elbow drop across the ribs by Taue gets 2 as well. BACK DROP DRIVER BY KAWADA! THEN MISAWA! He looks almost sadistic as he drops Akira with a neckbreaker as well - before feeding him into a Kawada brainbuster. We are more than 30-minutes deep now. Everyone is hurting, everyone is carrying injuries...and of course the ace Jumbo stands tallest with lariats and boots for his opponents. He tries to tap Kawada out, capitalising on his core/back injuries with multiple submissions but can't force a submission before Misawa lunges at him with the flying elbow smash. Quebrada by Kawada gets 2! Taue tags in having had the blood cleaned from his face...and almost points at Misawa as he floors his partner with a running elbow of his own. ELBOW SUICIDAAAAA! Jumbo legit celebrates his partner's success with his arms aloft, roaring him to his feet as well. Misawa tries to help...DDT on Misawa (his own head still hurting) gets 2. Atomic drop/jumping knee/Saito suplex sequence by Tsuruta-gun! GERMAN SUPLEX BY MISAWA! JUMBO BREAKS THE PIN! Kawada grabs Jumbo so Misawa can give him the diving elbow! HART ATTACK FLYING ELBOW ON TAUE! WHO ROLLS THROUGH INTO A PIN ON KAWADA FOR 2! SMALL PACKAGE BATTLE between Kawada and Taue! TIGER DRIVER! Tsuruta STOMPS on Misawa's head before he can pin though. Kawada steams into Tsuruta with an enzi and the Abisegiri...only for Jumbo to no sell into a BUTTERFLY BACKBREAKER for 2! Neckbreaker Drop gets 2 for Taue! SUMO SLAPS! NO SOLD! PALM STRIKES BY KAWADA! ELBOWS BY MISAWA! TIGER SUPLEX! Taue gets his feet in the ropes! There are just seconds remaining in the time limit now. BOMBS AWAY KNEE by Kawada! But the time limit expires! It's a 45:00 draw!

Rating - ****1/2 - What an intense, draining and almost emotional 45-minute war this was. If the six-man tags we saw earlier in our 1990 Part II compilation were about escalation, this one was all-out war. Hatred spilled out of every combination and pair and it just didn't let up. Akira Taue was an absolute hero and the undeniable MVP of the bout. It was an early glimpse as to why he is a beloved part of the 'Four Pillars' despite lacking some of the skills that Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi possess. He is dogged, determined and completely brilliant at telling or selling a story. When he needed to be he was a tough, devious bastard, in particular showing his cunning with his part in the work on Kawada's back in the first period of the contest. But when he needed to show toughness; he had it in abundance. The Super Generation Army wanted to make him pay for his defection. They beat him to a bloody pulp and even tried to throw him back into the locker room...but he wouldn't back down. He could absorb the kicks of Kawada, the elbows of Misawa and actually achieved something that Jumbo hasn't been able to - he used his striking to seriously injure Misawa. The lariat on the floor inflicted the kind of head injury on Misawa that we've seen Jumbo struggle with in every match. The last 10-12 minutes are a little ragged, but in many ways that added to the drama. As I said in PBP - there was a point where all four guys were beaten senseless; Taue bleeding, Kawada's back in bits whilst Misawa and Tsuruta were seeing cartoon birds spinning round their injured heads - but all four had too much pride to back down. The final image was one of Taue SURVIVING the Super Generation Army onslaught. We started September with Jumbo re-establishing his dominance over Misawa. We end it with Tsuruta-gun once again clinging on desperately. They SURVIVED the rising tide of the Super Generation Army here, but only thanks to heroics from (ironically) the young Super Generation army turncoat. How much longer can Jumbo and his troops hold down Misawa et al? 

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue/Mighty Inoue vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada/Kenta Kobashi
10th October 1990 (Aichi) - Just under two weeks removed from that 45-minute epic, we pick up with yet more Super Gens vs Tsuruta-gun six-man action. Misawa and his troops are now relentless in their quest to surpass Tsuruta at the summit of All Japan. They have the advantage of having their 'best' trio in play for this October Giant Series Tour event, whilst Tsuruta-gun have the slightly less effective grizzled vet Inoue in their line-up, rather than the devious Masa Fuchi. And what is Akira Taue's physical state after bleeding all over Korakuen Hall just days before?

JIP with Taue on the mat attacking Kobashi's leg. Jumbo tags, throws Kobashi back towards his corner and calls out Misawa. Instantly Misawa blasts him with a series of elbow strikes which seriously rock the ace. Kawada doesn't let up either and clocks Jumbo across the face with a lariat. Tsuruta is visibly pissed at that and dumps Kawada on his neck with a lariat of his own. Taue practically demands a tag, relishing the chance to throw down with Kawada in a weakened state - clocking him with a lariat and softening up the neck for an Inoue swinging neckbreaker. In response Kawada dismissively boots Mighty from the ring and clears him out with a wild running pescado. Inoue retaliates with a back suplex on Kobashi which leaves him in prime position for more aggression from Jumbo. KOBASHI TRADES STRIKES WITH JUMBO! JUMBO LARIATOOOOO! What a moment of defiance from Kobashi...but it is punished with tandem knee strikes by Taue and Tsuruta. Diving elbow missed by Akira though, allowing Kobashi to escape and Misawa in to elbow the sh*t out of him. Kawada then drags Taue out into the crowd again for a body slam on the floor! He dishes out some disrespectful kicks and walks away, leaving Taue on the floor in a heap. Clearly his back isn't in great shape after that - creating an injury that the Super Generation want to exploit. In a role reversal from previous matches, Misawa turns Taue to face Jumbo as he stretches on him with a camel clutch...bring Tsuruta in the ring to slap the piss out of Misawa to break it! Just like the last match we saw, Taue briefly shows he is equipped to trade strikes with Misawa...eventually tumbling into a hot tag to Jumbo. And the ace CLEANS HOUSE! Kobashi is despatched, before he dishes out some nasty and unexpected shots at Kawada and Misawa as they stand on the apron. Inoue gives Kobashi a piledriver...then a PILEDRIVER ON THE FLOOR as well! The lowest ranked member of the Super Generation is now seriously wounded, and dropped on his head again soon after via a Taue DDT. JUMPING piledriver by Tsuruta gets 2. Kobashi evades a jumping knee strike but is in such a mess he staggers wildly into a forearm smash by Jumbo instead. Back suplex on Taue though and of course Kobashi tags Kawada to take the fight to his fierce rival (and future partner. Kicks by Kawada...SUMO SLAPS BY TAUE! PALM STRIKES BY KAWADA! Tiger Body Press from Misawa gets 2, and he goes right back to the top for a flying elbow as well. Taue kicks at Kobashi's injured head to escape and Jumbo puts him on the canvas again with a swinging neckbreaker. Lariat by Kobashi...NO SOLD! JUMBO LARIAT! BACK DROP DRIVER! MISAWA SAVES! Air Scissors Drop nailed, only for Misawa to break that pin as well - both with vicious stomps to Tsuruta's exposed head. HART ATTACK ELBOW on Inoue gets 2. KOBASHI MOONSAULT MISSES! Crucifix pin by Mighty gets 2, but Kobashi lariats him back down. MOONSAULT NAILED! Kobashi pins Mighty to win at 20:58 (shown) - whilst Misawa is kicking Jumbo square in the face to stop him breaking the pin.

Rating - **** - We only lost a minute or so on the cutting room floor here according to Cagematch. Although not at the level of the very best Super Gen/Tsuruta-gun trios tags this was still great fun. Every one of these matches seems to be geared up to showcase a different talent and this time it was the turn of Kobashi. He got the high profile victory which is great for him, but the real story is the beating he had to absorb and fight back from to attain it. Momentum swung back and forth at pace between the two factions, but the longest period of dominance was enjoyed by Tsuruta-gun when they isolated Kobashi and tried to destroy him with repeated piledrivers and head shots. So whilst Kobashi may not have the strike power of Misawa to takedown Jumbo, or Kawada's genuine sense of 'danger' as he savagely beats on Taue - we see that Kobashi's heart, tenacity and willingness to fight, which him a dangerous foe. Those are qualities he'd continue to embody to the very last time he laced up a pair of boots. It meant that even when Jumbo was destroying him he would try to take down the ace with slaps, chops or lariats. It meant that even when Mighty moved out of the way of the Moonsault once, he wasn't afraid to go up top for a second time. In the last match we praised Taue for surviving; for doggedly clinging on for a time-limit draw even with the Super Generation Army were on fire. That provides great context for the quality and ascension of Kobashi. He wasn't just surviving and refused to be a whipping boy...he was defiant and now surpassing the likes of Inoue and Taue. Simple but hugely effective world-building story-telling. Certainly not a must-see match but another example of how this feud churned out classics even on an 'easier' night...

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue/Masanobu Fuchi vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada/Kenta Kobashi
19th October 1990 (Tokyo) - Dave Meltzer gave this one 5*, and to some it is considered the greatest six-man tag of all time - rivalled by another bout these six would have in 1991 which we'll get to in time. By now we have an idea of the rivalries in play. Misawa has his eyes on the top spot in All Japan that Jumbo is vehemently defending. Taue defected from the Super Generation to declare his allegiance to Tsuruta-gun, raising the ire of Kawada in particular. Kobashi is gaining traction as a rising star, giving established main event talent like Hansen and Jumbo genuine challenges in singles competition and winning the six-man we saw last with a pin over Mighty Inoue. Fuchi is Jumbo's trusted ally; a crafty veteran who although a junior brings cunning and a pronounced mean streak into their matches. 

Kobashi starts to thunderous applause, and steams into Taue with a brutal forearm in the corner. Taue puts him down with a tackle and gives Kawada a Dynamic Kick off the apron just for fun! Of course Kobashi tags the now ultra-grumpy Kawada straight in. TAUE SLAPS HIM! Kawada goes apesh*t with kicks causing Taue to back away in a hurry. Big kick by Taue before Misawa tags and almost decapitates him with a dropkick. Misawa's arrival in the match quickly prompts Tsuruta to tag in as well. There's a BRILLIANT spot here where Misawa teases doing the springboard headbutt spot, but instead simply turns round and THUMPS Jumbo with an elbow. Jumbo responds by kneeing him in the stomach so hard that it hurts his own leg. It quickly opens up a rib/core injury on Misawa which Fuchi and Taue try to exploit like total bastards. But when Taue tries to work an abdominal stretch Kawada walks in and nails him with a brutal kick which allows Misawa to tag Kobashi. Jumbo tags and gives Kobashi the same treatment; a devastating knee to the gut which almost breaks him in half. This time rather than let Taue or Fuchi come in right away he presses home the advantage for his team by working a Lion Tamer. Kobashi tries to use his speed to get the better of Fuchi...but the crafty veteran grinds a boot into his face. Taue punches him in the nose as well...and when Kawada tries to drag him into the crowd TAUE COUNTERS! BODY SLAM IN THE CROWD ON KAWADA! What a brilliant counterpoint to the spot Kawada has done to him a few times! Kobashi retrieves Kawada from the crowd just like Jumbo did for Taue previously too. Dangerous K returns to the ring carrying a back injury which Tsuruta-gun are happy to exploit. Half crab applied by Fuchi, once again Taue being an asshole and dropping an illegal elbow into Kawada's back as well. Misawa tags and knocks Taue out of the ring...and Kawada KICKS THE SH*T OUT OF HIM! Literally stomps on his head like he's trying to cave his skull in! SUPLEX IN THE CROWD BY KAWADA! And he won't stop kicking him! Kobashi tries to exploit his now-injured back with a half-crab, but again finds Fuchi punching him in the face. He refuses to break it, and when Jumbo tries to deck him with a running elbow he instead counters by springing out of the hold into a lariat - hit with such force that the ace is blasted out of the ring! Misawa and Kawada take turns rocking Taue's back with kicks and elbows, sending him into a Kobashi powerslam for 2. Running DDT by Taue though...and he lunges into a desperate tag to Jumbo. 

Kobashi tries to give him another running lariat, but Tsuruta has that scouted this time and DECKS him with a lariat of his own. PUNCH TO THE FACE! Kobashi goes down in a heap with blood trickling from his nose. And if wasn't bleeding after that it definitely is after Fuchi smacks his face into the guardrails then STEEL CHAIRS HIM IN THE FACE! REPEATED FACE STOMPS! Then Fuchi starts camel clutching him and belting him full force across the nose. Of course Taue saunters in and makes it worse with a simple bootscrape too. Kobashi's nose is splattered all over his face! JUMBO LARIATO IN THE FACE...gets 2! And still he keeps fighting! Spinning heel kick on Tsuruta - but in his weakened state it doesn't take the ace off his feet and Kobashi finds his face smeared into the canvas again with a Taue bulldog moments later. BACK DROP DRIVER! Kawada tags and unloads on Taue's back! SUMO SLAPS BY TAUE! ELBOWS BY KAWADA! TAUE STOMPS ON HIS HEAD! KAWADA KICKS! The ref tries to intervene and gets thrown aside, allowing Taue to hit a big lariat. Tsuruta tries to restore order with a knee, but Kawada keeps him at bay and hot tags Misawa. Elbows rock the ace before the flying elbow smash gets a hot nearfall. Jumping knee puts down Misawa, but the game Kobashi runs in and attacks Jumbo before he can hit the Back Drop. Misawa and Tsuruta just start brawling on the floor...broken up by an ELBOW SUICIDA BY TAUE! RUNNING ELBOW from Misawa to Taue! Kobashi is rejuvenated and steamrolls into Taue with a tackle - but makes an error and tries the same spot again moments later allowing Taue to counter with a powerslam. Fuchi hits him with a dropkick, only for Kobashi to fire back. MOONSAULT! TAUE BREAKS THE PIN! Kawada and Taue go to war on the floor, as do Misawa and Jumbo on the other side! Inside the ring Kobashi gets another 2 with a bridging German on Fuchi. Tsuruta tags. LARIAT TO THE F*CKING FACE! Misawa tries to break it up...ELBOW ON MISAWA! FOLDING POWERBOMB! KAWADA BREAKS THE PIN! Back Drop COUNTERED to a crossbody for 2! Kobashi refuses to quit and bombs on Jumbo with leg drops! He wants a moonsault but Fuchi stops him by raking the face! TOP ROPE BACK DROP DRIVER BY JUMBO! KOBASHI KICKS OUT! BACK DROP DRIVER! Kawada tries to save but TAUE MOWS HIM DOWN! Tsuruta pins Kobashi to take the win at 25:48

Rating - ***** - I don't even know where to begin. What was enormously apparent here was how quickly these two groups were creating layered, progressive, reactive movesets and sequences within these matches. Take Misawa's rebound headbutt spot; he has seen Jumbo counter it a few times by ramming his head into the ground in this match he TEASED the headbutt, but instead stopped and pelted Jumbo with an elbow he didn't even see coming. The way Taue played on Kawada's aggression of previous matches and receipted him by dishing out his own assault in the crowd was complete brilliance. Down the stretch, the way Jumbo and Taue reacted to Kobashi hitting the Moonsault on Fuchi - knowing that he'd pinned Inoue a week earlier with that move, was such smart wrestling. Down the stretch Misawa thought he could save Kobashi with a running elbow...but Jumbo has fought Misawa enough to know what was coming, so cut him off with a violent elbow of his own. And not only do they riff and play with sequences from past encounters - they continue to build in new elements too. Taue dialled up the 'asshole factor' in his performance significantly here. He was a straight-up dick, to the point that even the super-aggressive Kawada struggled with him (Taue even ended with the upper hand as it was he that stopped Kawada breaking the decisive pin). The way Tsuruta-gun decided to put the rising star Kobashi back in his place by violently breaking his nose was sadistic, violent - and entirely in keeping with the continually escalating nature of this rivalry. Not a single second of action is wasted, all six guys contributed enormously. I'm in awe of the bout we just witnessed. 

Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada vs Terry Gordy/Steve Williams
1st December 1990 (Sapporo) - We jump ahead a couple of months into the year-ending Real World Tag League. Competition is particularly fierce this year as the AJPW World Tag Championship has been vacant since July when co-holder Great Kabuki defected to the new SWS promotion. We are deep in the tournament here and neither team can afford to lose and remain in control of their own destiny if they are to end the year as Tag Champions. These four have been major breakout successes for AJPW this year. Misawa/Jumbo has been a scorching hot feud, Kawada has been a revelation as Misawa's surly lieutenant - and we've barely scratched the surface of the gaijin battles as Gordy and Williams pursue Stan Hansen, the Triple Crown and his spot as top gaijin. Can Misawa and Kawada claim the scalps of two major foreign stars? Or do the Miracle Violence Connection have the edge on the Super Generation?

Kawada starts with Williams and is clearly respectful of the power Doc possesses. He clamps on a headlock like a vice in an effort to empty Doc's tank and negate his power. Unfortunately the flaw in that tactic is that Williams is also a lethal grappler; demonstrated when he works Kawada into a violent back body drop which causes him to leave the ring to gather his breath. Misawa and Gordy in next - and their exchanges are incredibly tense. They look almost nervous to come within each other's reach...until Misawa DESTROYS Gordy with a few elbows in the corner! The camera pans to show Jumbo Tsuruta is on commentary, calling the action on his great rival (and the man who beat him for the Triple Crown). Steve misses a running football tackle and is blasted with a flurry of kicks by Kawada, sending him to the outside to regroup just as he'd done to Kawada minutes earlier. From the outside he devises a new plan - and rams Kawada's legs into the ringpost to stop him using his kicks. Misawa comes to save with a few elbows, seemingly in the nick of time as Kawada is still able to knock Williams loopy with another nasty flurry of kicks. Torpedo Lariat from Gordy to Misawa gets 2. Terry has clearly decided to up the physicality with Misawa and blitzes him with clubbing strikes. He has no choice but to tag out...and again Kawada utterly decimates Doc with kicks! Terry actually has to rescue his partner this time, hauling Kawada out of the ring and throwing him into the railings. Misawa tags and levels Terry with the twisting lariat - as the staunchly pro-native talent crowd are starting to get increasingly agitated by the gaijin and their repeated illegal invasions of the ring. Williams cheap-shots Kawada from behind drawing still more heat. Their attack becomes more and more focused on Kawada's back...and eventually the MVC give up all pretence of following the rules to haul him out of the ring for a full-on gang assault on the outside. They stomp the hell out of him on the arena floor as the crowd vehemently jeer and boo, and Misawa argues with the ref. A double football tackle thunders into Kawada's growingly injured midsection and gets 2, then Doc looks to make him tap with an abdominal stretch. Considering he is usually so stoic and expressionless, Misawa is doing a great job as the frustrated babyface partner on the apron. He legit looks like he wants to murder the MVC - and when Kawada finally makes the hot tag he EXPLODES into the fray. He lines up a monkey flip on Williams...BLOCKED WITH A GERMAN BY GORDY! GERMAN ON WILLIAMS gets 2. Terry and Misawa take turns slapping each other! RUNNING PLANCHA ON WILLIAMS! WHO CATCHES MISAWA IN AN OKLAHOMA STAMPEDE ON THE FLOOR! FOLDING POWERBOMB BY KAWADA! DOC BREAKS THE PIN! What a crazy sequence that was! Kawada clings to the top rope to block the Oklahoma Stampede, but is now fighting 2-on-1. ASSISTED POWERBOMB by the MVC...which gets 2 before Misawa dives in to break it. He and Williams brawl to the outside. Spinning heel kick by Kawada COUNTERED to a neck-drop single-leg powerbomb by Gordy! He pins Kawada to take the win at 19:21

Rating - **** - This was more of a slow-burner than some of the other matches we've checked out in our 1990 Part II compilation, but an awesome crowd and a stunning finishing stretch really make it worth watching. It was the archetypal Japanese heroes versus gaijin villains battle. Gordy and Williams used their power and willingness to cheat to totally overpower Misawa and Kawada - who consistently got the better of them within their individual 1-on-1 battles. The crowd grew audibly more and more annoyed by the MVC, spurred on by a superb babyface performance by Misawa on the apron. Everything after Kawada's hot tag to Misawa was molten hot, in particular the sequence where Misawa tried a plancha on Doc, only to eat the Stampede on the floor. The Miracle Violence Connection taking Misawa out with big moves on the floor would become an ongoing theme within this mini-rivalry so it was interesting to see it come into play even here in 1990. 

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada
7th December 1990 (Tokyo) - This is the final AJPW show of the year and again part of the 1990 Tag League. Neither team make the top two so this is effectively a 'dead rubber' as far as the World Tag Championship is concerned. It certainly won't feel that way to the participants though as it progresses the Tsuruta-gun vs Super Generation Army rivalry which has continued to escalate since May. It is a rematch of the 45-minute time limit draw at the end of September and a final chance for these hated rivals to claim bragging rights over the other for the year.

Taue's bouffant hair is spectacular, and his team with Jumbo is hugely over here - even more so than the Super Generation. Misawa calls out Jumbo to start the match with him, a nice role reversal from recent matches where Tsuruta has made that challenge. Even better - Jumbo refuses and sends Taue in his place. He starts with a fiery slap and an emphatic tackle...then chops Kawada off the apron when he tries to take a cheap-shot from the apron. Kawada tags and swings a flurry of kicks in Taue's direction, but he survives that and knocks Kawada down with a lariat. Tsuruta tags and nails an even harder lariat as well. The ace tries to work a half crab on Dangerous K - but finds the man clad in black and yellow using his free leg to repeatedly kick him in the face. Kawada returns the favour with a half crab on Taue before releasing it solely so he can batter him with more kicks and body shots. Taue shows all his tenacity by dumping Misawa with a Samoan drop...then tags in Jumbo to lay out his great rival with the jumping knee. Rebound headbutt by Misawa, followed by a missile dropkick for 2 - both of which land because Jumbo is on his heels anticipating a different move based on earlier matches. The Super Gens want to press home their advantage but Tsuruta starts attacking Kawada's midsection again. But then Jumbo thinks it's ok to tag Taue in...causing the momentum shift back to the Super Gens as Kawada kicks lumps out of him again. He works a cloverleaf whilst taunting Jumbo...then when Tsuruta steps in to try and rescue his partner Kawada HAMMERS him with a lariat! JUMPING ELBOW OFF THE APRON BY MISAWA! Jumbo is down! Just like the May six-man tag, Tsuruta isn't moving. Masa Fuchi is at ringside trying to revive him as Kawada and Misawa take turns beating on Taue. There's a wonderful moment of drama when Taue drops Kawada with a Tenryu-esque jumping enzi and dives to his corner, then sinks to his knees when he sees nobody there to tag. The Super Generation continue to work over his leg and back, almost adopting the role of heels as the crowd roar Taue on. Meanwhile medics appear to have packed Jumbo's ear with cotton and gauze in an attempt to get him back into the action. 

He finally returns to break up a pin from a Tiger Body Press by Misawa...and is promptly met with some savage close-range knees and kicks by Kawada. Then Dangerous K takes it out into the crowd, giving Taue a SUPLEX ON THE CONCRETE! The way these two now trade crowd spots in every match is really awesome. Back in the ring Taue uses wild knee strikes to evade the Stretch Plum, as Fuchi assists Jumbo back onto the apron at last. He returns as Taue tries to back suplex Kawada out of the corner only for Kawada to do the Tenryu kick-off-the-ropes counter to further injure Taue's back. HOT TAG TO JUMBO! Misawa tries to elbow...and Tsuruta smears him face-first into the ground. RUNNING ELBOW ON KAWADA TOO! All whilst still selling the head! LARIATOOOOO gets 2! POWERBOMB nailed and this time Kawada has to break the pin. Misawa's respite is only temporary and he staggers into a brutal running elbow by Tsuruta, then the Air Scissor Drop for 2. But Jumbo is still fighting hurt and collapses into a much-needed tag to Taue after exerting that energy. Taue and Kawada's subsequent showdown is epic - tearing into each other with insane strikes. SUMO SLAPS BY TAUE! ELBOW SUICIDAAAA! Jumbo starts tearing protective mats up so Taue can receipt Kawada with a body slam on the floor too. Misawa lands a couple of shots on Taue to quieten his momentum but can't prevent him from dropping Kawada into a DDT. Jumbo gets involved with a top rope knee strike, toppling Kawada and drawing Misawa back in to break the pin. HART ATTACK ELBOW SMASH by the Super Generation. Misawa tries to rush Jumbo with an elbow on the apron, but Jumbo COUNTERS with a big elbow of his own. BACK DROP DRIVER on Kawada gets 2. Kawada back flips through a Back Drop by Taue to propel him into an ELBOW SMASH/GERMAN SUPLEX COMBO! LARIATOOOO! JUMBO LARIATOOOOO! MISAWA ELBOWS TSURUTA IN THE BACK OF THE HEAD! FOLDING POWERBOMB ON TAUE! KAWADA PINS TAUE! The Super Generation Army end the year on top, winning at 22:54

Rating - ****1/2 - The shorter, more compact run-time led to a tighter narrative making this a (marginally) better match than the 45-minute draw in September for me. The way this rivalry develops, evolves and builds really makes watching these matches in order rewarding. Misawa calling out Jumbo, only for the ace to refuse set the tone right away. The Super Generation Army were the aggressors here, in front of largely pro-Tsuruta-gun audience. After Misawa lost the rematch to Jumbo and the Super Gens have struggled to gain high profile victories in tag settings, it genuinely felt like Misawa and Kawada wanted it more. Their aggression and tenacity yielded a quite brilliant BABYFACE performance from Taue too. As I've said, what he lacks in athleticism and charisma, he always makes up for with tactical nous and a keen sense of what is needed from him to really get a match over with an audience. He has taken beatings from Misawa and Kawada throughout the second half of the year after defecting, and here showed incredible courage to survive even though he fought solo for prolonged stretches. Revisiting the theme that Misawa's elbow can force Jumbo to seek medical attention, established in the May trios match, was a superb set up for that. If I were being ultra-critical I thought the first few minutes were, whilst good, a step down from their best work. It took the Misawa's flying elbow to the floor to ignite things. Still a superb match (again), a scorching hot finish to the year and a feud which promises so much more as we enter 1991.

Stan Hansen/Dan Spivey vs Terry Gordy/Steve Williams - AJPW World Tag Title Match
7th December 1990 (Tokyo) - This match main evented over the Super Gen/Tsuruta-gun bout we just saw. It is the climactic bout in the Real World Tag League, with the winning team here claiming victory in the tournament and therefore the vacant Tag Championship. The rivalry between this gaijin foursome has intensified through the second half of the year. Hansen and Gordy are former partners, but this year have been at war over the Triple Crown - in a battle which has expanded to include their new partners. Spivey makes his first appearance in the King's Road Chronicles. He stepped in as Hansen's partner in 1990, bringing with him a wealth of experience having previously formed regular teams with the likes of Scott Hall, Sid Vicious and a pre-Undertaker 'Mean Mark Callous' in the US. He is big, tall and an intimidating foil for the wild and unpredictable Hansen. Can the Miracle Violence Connection complete a remarkable year by downing the Triple Crown Champion and his partner to win the Tag League?

Spivey's mullet really deserves it's own ring entrance. Stan tags him (and his mullet) out so he can start with Williams - powering Doc to the ground with repeated tackles. Williams gives as good as he gets though and returns fire with lariats and clubbing strikes. Gordy tags and is too quick for Spivey, leading to a neat little exchange where Terry works from underneath as the smaller guy having to use his speed and (relative) athleticism to outmatch Spivey. In the end Dan is driven out of the ring...only to beat the sh*t out of Dr Death on the outside instead. Williams uses his smarts to cut down Spivey's height by battering his leg into the ringpost. The MVC go to work on Spivey's legs, earning a few token jeers from the Budokan crowd, but then the leg work doesn't go anywhere anyway. Stan gets a tag, but gets shoved into the ringpost by Terry then decked with a Torpedo Lariat. Stan tries to strike and brawl with Williams...who f*cking GRAPPLES him down and cleans him out again with a lariat. If I've not already made it clear, I effing love Steve Williams! Next Hansen and Spivey try to stomp Gordy into the mat but are staved off by Williams who gets into another fantastic little brawl with Hansen in the corner (which ends when they break off to take cheap-shots at each other's partners). Spivey tries to give Doc a bulldog but it is COUNTERED to a dead-lift back suplex for 2. Cloverleaf by Terry...inevitably broken by Hansen belting him in the back of the head. Stan is savage with Gordy, so much so that Terry has no choice but to back out. Cue more Williams brilliance as he dominates Spivey in the canvas then TACKLES Hansen out of the ring. Gordy dumps him over the guardrails, visibly wounding Hansen and allowing Steve to control him on the mat (even when Spivey takes a couple of shots at him). Body avalance/running lariat combo in the corner by the MVC, with Williams bouncing over the top rope and beating the hell out of Hansen as he lies prone on the apron afterwards as well. Spivey is having to invade the ring more and more often to help Stan out now - much to the annoyance of referee Joe Higuchi. Finally Stan collapses when being whipped into the corner...but that in turn trips Gordy over the top rope and allows Spivey to maul him against the guardrails. Back in the ring he hits a piledriver and Williams has to put Terry's foot on the ropes to break the pin. Not content with that, Stan takes Terry back to the outside and whacks him in the head with a TABLE! Literally an entire table! From there Terry faces an uphill battle to survive - taking a real beating for the next several minutes. As we approach the final five minutes of the match he tries to go back to using his speed...but this time Hansen and Spivey catch him for a DOUBLE fallaway slam! Stan leaves the ring, and dives out of the way as Williams tries to take him out with a Three Point Stance, leaving Doc careering into the guardrails at full speed. UGLY powerbomb from Gordy to Spivey gets 2. Spivey Spike gets 2 in response, with Williams required to break the pin. Dan then almost decapitates Terry with a lariat...but that inadvertently sets him on a trajectory for his own corner and a hot tag to Dr Death. RUNNING TACKLE by Hansen to prevent Steve from hitting the Oklahoma Stampede! We are down to the final minute...SPIKE PILEDRIVER by Spivey and Hansen gets 2. Western Lariat blocked! OKLAHOMA STAMPEDE! Doc pins Hansen! AJPW's time has it at 29:59, with the time-keeper seemingly ringing the bell as the third count went down. I had it at 29:46...

Rating - *** - There was a lawless, physical and rugged charm about this match. It wasn't pretty, went far too long and their limitations were badly exposed by having to go on after the brilliance of the Super Gens vs Tsuruta-gun tag...but I found this to be a fun watch. Spivey is very limited and did drag the action down when he was involved but the other three brought some really high quality stuff. Williams laid down a clear marker that he too should be considered a top tier, main event level gaijin with his performance - most of the highlights of the match were anytime he used his power and grappling skill to put big dudes like Hansen and Spivey on their asses. The chemistry between Hansen and Gordy was sizzling too. It really felt tense, with Stan in particular merciless in his beatings on Gordy - intent on clinging to his own spot as top gaijin, just as we've seen the veteran Jumbo Tsuruta beat on Misawa to maintain control of the battle for native talent supremacy. The finish was a bit of a mess, with timing issues and visible miscommunications, but the actual visual of Williams lifting Hansen into the air for the Stampede was a memorable one. Gordy, Misawa, Kawada, Taue and Kobashi have all been given moments to shine this year - and this was Doc's. Pinning Stan to win the Tag League and the World Tag Championship instantly elevates him...

Tape Rating - ****1/2 - The first half of 1990 was tough for All Japan to navigate. Baba's brilliance, bravery and foresight as a booker was integral in holding the promotion together as Tenryu's defection sparked a talent exodus. What Baba did was position all his pieces effectively so that they could deliver a spectacular end to the year. And that's where, in our 1990 Part II compilation, it is the talent that deserve the credit. The way Tsuruta-gun and the Super Generation Army challenged each other, stimulated each other, competed with each other and bounced off each other to produce an escalating series of wonderfully deep, layered and engaging bouts is testament to the skill and work ethic of all involved. Jumbo Tsuruta has been a top star in AJPW since the 70's, but somehow found a way to evolve and take his game to an even higher level. Misawa started the year as a competitive undercard talent under a mask - and ends it leading a faction of young superstars in a rivalry which is quite literally revolutionising the landscape of the promotion. As I write this in 2020, 1990 is THIRTY years ago. But matches like Jumbo/Misawa II from September 1st, Misawa/Kawada vs Tsuruta/Taue from 30th September or Tsuruta/Taue/Fuchi vs Misawa/Kawada/Kobashi from 19th October are as every bit as moving and powerful. Even the 'lesser' matches between the Super Gens and Tsuruta-gun have an unfathomable level of attention to detail. Not every match in this 1990 Part II compilation is a classic - but I hope I've offered a snapshot into just how hot and productive a time this was for AJPW. It was a time of change and great creative innovation. These wrestlers, veterans and younger stars alike, were at the forefront of something very special - producing some truly magnificent pieces of performance art along the way. And they were nowhere near done as we prepare to enter 1991...

Must See Matches
Jumbo Tsuruta vs Mitsuharu Misawa (01/09/1990 - *****)
Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada (30/09/1990 - ****1/2)
Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue/Masa Fuchi vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada/Kenta Kobashi (19/10/1990 - *****)
Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue (07/12/1990 - ****1/2)

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