King's Road Chronicles - A Journey Through 1990's AJPW - 1991: Part One

1990 was far from smooth sailing for Giant Baba's All Japan. Facing a talent exodus led by Genichiro Tenryu, the man he'd spent the second half of the last decade building up to be his new top star, AJPW's booker unmasked Tiger Mask II to reveal Mitsuharu Misawa; creating a new star to lead a Super Generation of young talent into battle against AJPW's old guard led by ace Jumbo Tsuruta. Battles between the factions have been tense and evenly matched - and produced no clear winner meaning they are very much set to continue as we enter 1991. Thanks to those who took the time to check out the first three instalments in the 'Kings Road Chronicles' series. You guys gave me so many match recommendations for 1991, so settle in as even divided into two parts, these compilations are chunky! Part One will take in the Super Generation making Taue pay for his defection, Jumbo looking to re-establish absolute supremacy by challenging Stan Hansen for the Triple Crown, 'the greatest six-man tag of all time' (even better than 19/10/1990 apparently), plenty of tags featuring the gaijin of Hansen, Spivey, Gordy and Williams, plus the eagerly-anticipated Jumbo/Misawa III.

Akira Taue vs Toshiaki Kawada
15th January 1991 (Tokyo) - As we saw in the 1990 skirmishes, Taue's defection to Tsuruta-gun made him the target of bitter revenge attacks from his former contemporaries. In the month of January he was signed to compete in a trial series to toughen him up, and prove himself as an elite level fighter without his mentor Tsuruta by his side. As well as facing gaijin names like Dan Spivey, Giant Kimala, Abdullah The Butcher and Johnny Ace, he was also scheduled to face Kobashi, Kawada and Misawa. The exchanges between Taue and Kawada in the multiple tag bouts we saw in the second half of 1990 were particularly vicious - so expect this to be similarly heated. Taue wants to prove his toughness and worth, Kawada wants to crush the defector. It doesn't get much more straightforward...

Taue's hair is majestic and seems almost ill-suited to the aggression with which he barrels into Kawada during the latter's ring entrance. He batters his head into the guardrails and ringpost, and all that is before the opening bell. Kawada makes it to the Taue gives him a big lariat to send him packing! TOPE SUICIDA INTO THE RAILING! There was no room there, so Kawada took a rough handing - made worse when his foe clotheslines him into the front row and drops a chair on top of him! Kawada's knee is bothering him, and he looks furious when Taue uses his long legs to start bootscraping him from inside the ring! Finally Dangerous K snaps; hauling Akira out by his aforementioned long leg and violently bashing his head into the barricade. Steel chair TO THE FACE! REPEATEDLY! Taue is busted open in chaotic scenes - the referee, ringside attendants, security guards and camera crew all scrambling for position as the battle rages on. Finally it is in Taue's interests to allow Kawada into the ring, and he does so to allow him to start working over Kawada's bad leg. Even in those submission holds the strike exchanges between the two are savage. CURB STOMP OFF THE APRON by Taue! SHINBREAKER ON A TABLE! Jumbo is watching from the back of the building with a look of satisfaction on his face as his bloody protege cranks on Kawada's leg with a Figure 4. When Kawada tries to escape Taue slides out, rams the leg into the ringpost and starts hammering it with a chair again. FACE KICKS by Kawada in response! Holy sh*t this is intense. He hates Taue so much he uses his bad leg to kick at him, grimacing and crying out in pain as he does. Taue clings to a Kawada visibly kicks him in the face as hard as possible. Headbutts by Taue! SLAPS BY KAWADA! Taue tries to break his skull with a sick facebuster for 2. So Kawada goes for the powerbomb that he beat Taue with in the Tag League! Taue goes to the leg to break then hits the Sumo Rush slaps into the corner, setting up a jumping DDT for 2. RUNNING PUNCH by Kawada! He tries the powerbomb BUT THE KNEES GIVES OUT! Taue flips into a pin for a hot two-count! Tenryu small package by Kawada...for 2! LARIAT TO BACK OF THE HEAD! Kawada wins an absolute war at 11:40

Rating - ****1/2 - A complete hidden gem amongst the litany of classics coming out of All Japan in the 1990's. Stylistically it is different but the struggle and intelligent story-telling are still very much in full effect here. Kawada and Taue have a bitter hatred for each other and have singled each other out for punishment in the televised tag matches that we've seen. In the setting of a Trial Match Series where Taue is trying to prove his toughness, it was a very clever premise to have him rush Kawada during his entrance then try to make a statement by refusing to even let him enter the ring. Kawada's response was to beat him on the floor so badly that he started to bleed heavily - essentially FORCING Taue to let him in because it is safer than brawling outside with 'Dangerous K'. As a transition from one segment of a match to another it doesn't get much smoother, more logical or compelling than that. From there it became a savage, animalistic race to the finish line as Kawada tried to knock Taue out before Akira broke his leg. The sight of Jumbo in the crowd, watching his bloody protege beat the snot out of Kawada - a student of (and clad in the colours of) Jumbo's old rival Tenryu - showed you how deep this rivalry goes. Although Taue didn't win here, his toughness was ably demonstrated when Kawada broke out the classic Tenryu small package pin as well; a concession that he didn't want to stay in the ring with Taue any longer and just wanted to escape with a win. An absolutely great match; short, bloody, intense and one where no knowledge of the back story is strictly necessary to enjoy it. It's easily accessible on the internet and is well worth seeking out...

Taue might be covered in blood, but he is the one back on his feet first. He swings a couple of cheap shots at Kawada (getting medical attention on the canvas) as ringside personnel pull him away...

Stan Hansen vs Jumbo Tsuruta - AJPW Triple Crown Title Match
19th January 1991 (Matsumoto) - After losing the Triple Crown to Terry Gordy in early June 1990, Jumbo spent the second half of the previous year out of the championship picture. The gaijin talents feuded amongst themselves over AJPW's top prize whilst the native ace took some time to deal with his 'Misawa problem'. Having avenged his loss to Misawa in their September 1990 rematch, Jumbo now comes hunting for his old rival, 'The Lariat' Stan Hansen. Can Stan put down his old foe, or does Tsuruta reassume his spot at the very top of AJPW?

Hansen flies out of the blocks and hammers Tsuruta out of the ring. No escape for the challenger outside though - Stan rams him into the rails then hails him back in by the throat! Tsuruta weathers the storm and rocks the champ with a jumping knee though. He grabs a headlock, using wrestling sensibilities to nullify Stan's brawling and strikes. Hansen battles back to a vertical base and bludgeons Jumbo down with a tackle and a reverse elbow - before draping him over the top rope and swinging clubbing strikes at his head and neck. He squeezes on to a high headlock, very clearly targeting the same head injuries that Tsuruta has sustained through repeated elbow-laden battles with Misawa. Tsuruta breaks the headlock with a few armbreakers - taking Stan down into a chickenwing. Again, wrestling sensibilities to negate the strengths of Hansen and, in particular, his Western Lariat finish. he champ leaves the ring trying to escape but Jumbo is on him and charges his now-injured shoulder into the ringpost. Jumping armbreaker nailed! If you needed an indication of how successful the strategy is - he out-strikes Hansen; chopping him to the ground when Stan tries to trade blows with him. HEADBUTT by Hansen to escape, directly targeting Tsuruta's now-known cranial weakness. WOODEN CHAIR TO THE HEAD! That looked savage! Tsuruta tries to escape back to the ring, with Stan in hot pursuit to give him a big back suplex. Is Jumbo selling that with actual convulsions!? Hansen tries to capitalise with another Back Suplex...only for Tsuruta to counter like Tenryu used to by kicking off the turnbuckles! Air Scissors Drop gets 2 and sets Hansen up for a swinging neckbreaker. Jumping knee off the top rope gets 2 as well. JUMBO LARIATOOO! NO SOLD! WESTERN LARIATOOOO! Jumbo is under the ropes! Tenryu small package gets 2 for the ace! Stan charges for another Lariat but Tsuruta ducks and lets him ricochet nastily off the ropes. DDT on the bad head! Tsuruta kicks out! Shoulderbreaker by Hansen...then a tackle. Western Lariat DUCKED into the Baba Neckbreaker Drop! Tsuruta is the new champion at 15:50

Rating - *** - There were parts of this match that I really liked. Hansen going after Jumbo's head - having watched young pups like Misawa enjoy success with that same strategy - was really well played out. Similarly I thought Jumbo's use of wrestling, grappling and arm-work to negate Stan's strengths was really sound psychology. Having Tsuruta rely on tricks made famous by his mentor Giant Baba, or his former partner-turned-rival Tenryu was a wonderful embodiment of how badly the ace wanted his Triple Crown back. This did, however, feel a very dated. AJPW had begun an evolution in its main event scene when it granted the likes of Misawa and Kawada access and, as a consequence, exposed some shortcomings in working an 80's-style heavyweight grap-fest. The lack of dynamism was hard to ignore, as was Stan's complete lack of interest in selling Jumbo's arm work in the second half of the match. There were definitely some good ideas here, and at fifteen minutes it is certainly an easy watch - but it isn't their best work.

Mitsuharu Misawa vs Akira Taue
26th January 1991 (Tokyo) - We pick back up Taue's trial series in his final match, his opponent being Misawa. Both come into this with an agenda. Clearly Taue is looking to prove himself, rise up the card, establish himself as a legitimate threat to Misawa and also demonstrate his worth as an ally to Jumbo by putting a beating on his biggest rival. Misawa, on the other hand, not only wants revenge on Taue for his defection to Tsuruta-gun but also needs a win over him as a gatekeeper to getting another singles clash with Jumbo himself - particularly now Tsuruta once again holds the Triple Crown. Watch out for the finish of this one...

It is immediately apparent that this will be far more of a traditional wrestling contest than the absolute hate-fest we saw earlier between Kawada and Taue - but also apparent that Taue has everything to prove here. He begins with real focus, trying to make a statement by repeatedly backing Misawa into the ropes. That is until his opponent HAMMERS him with an elbow strike. A second elbow puts Akira on his ass. He gets up and tries to elbow Misawa Misawa hits him even harder! It is a brutal strike flurry; so much so that Taue getting right back up comes off as highly impressive. He pitches Misawa out of the ring then body slams him over the guardrails into a row of chairs. Back in the ring he snap suplexes Misawa onto his neck and lands a diving body press for 2. WALKING PILEDRIVER nailed! Misawa tries to build some momentum by springing off the ropes (something he did so successfully against Jumbo)...but finds Taue poised and ready to counter into a high angle powerslam. Nodowa Otoshi gets 2 and piles the pressure on his neck again. F-5 TO THE FLOOR! And when Misawa tries to get back in he launches his entire body at him with an APRON CANNONBALL! Missile dropkick back in, and you can really sense the buzz of the crowd as Taue builds momentum. He misses his Sumo Lariat...then ducks Misawa's diving lariat...but walks right into a running elbow smash. Tiger Driver blocked then he boots Misawa in the jaw whilst looking for a DDT. Misawa counters that to a northern lights suplex. TIGER DRIVER...but Taue kicks out! Misawa seen enough. TIGER...DRIVER...'91! The debut of his neck drop Tiger Driver variant wins it at 07:24

Rating - **** - This isn't a long match (like Taue/Kawada from earlier in January 1991), but you won't see many all-out sprints with this much quality, nuance and detail packed in as well. This was the conclusion of Taue's trial series and from the very outset it was crystal clear how desperate he was to prove himself at Misawa's expense. In many ways it was like watching Misawa/Jumbo, but with the roles flipped and now Misawa is the alpha male challenged and under attack. Taue tried to intimidate his rival, who was having none of it and tried to swiftly beat him into his place with the elbow smashes which have so troubled Jumbo. But Taue came to fight and unleashed an almighty flurry of offence - bombing on Misawa's head and neck uninterrupted for a full five minutes. Perhaps the biggest indication of how much he threatened Misawa on this night was that Misawa had to innovate a new, even more deadly version of his finisher to put him away. Of the much vaunted Four Pillars, Taue is probably the least appreciated. The two January trial series matches we've checked in on are wonderful demonstrations of just how good he was, even at an earlier stage in his career.

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue/Masanobu Fuchi vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
27th January 1991 (Tokyo) - We now dip back into the Tsuruta-gun vs Super Generation Army six-man tags. In 1990 the Super Generation made gains on Jumbo and his allies and won notable matches along the way. But more often than not when it mattered most Jumbo found a way to assert his position in the pecking order; as the ace of All Japan. Now by this point in 1991 that positioned has been further strengthened by him regaining the Triple Crown. Can the Super Generation earn a high profile win to demonstrate that they remain right on his heels? Can Misawa pin Tsuruta again, rocketing him straight into the Triple Crown picture? What will happen next in the bitter rivalry between Kawada and Taue? We return to the Korakuen Hall to find out...

Kawada starts for his team, so Taue calls Fuchi back and demands to start for Tsuruta-gun. The two rivals run into each other like trucks, and Taue comes out on top with a facecrusher. Kawada yields; tagging in Misawa who rattles Akira with elbows. Confident that he is beaten down, they allow Kikuchi in to take some pot-shots at Taue...who promptly headbutts his way through the junior heavyweight and tags out to Fuchi. Kawada tags and puts the boots to him, so he of course unleashes Tsuruta who almost cuts Kawada in half with a knee strike. What a FANTASTIC two minute demonstration of how AJPW's hierarchy of talents works and plays out in a match like this. Taue wants to profit by attacking Kawada on the floor, but this time Dangerous K runs through him with a lariat out there. Once again Tsuruta helps out by beating Kawada down so Taue can get more of his licks in. Now desperate, Kawada has to tag Kikuchi in as the nearest outstretched hand...which works extremely favourably for Tsuruta-gun as it means the highest ranked (Jumbo) is in with the lowest. He DESTROYS Kikuchi, putting his squad firmly in charge as we pass five minutes. Fuchi plays hatchet man once again; obliterating Kiku's face and arm against the guardrails behind the referee's back. The Super Gen junior is on the ropes, but sneaks away and tags Kawada to savagely attack Taue again. He SPIKES Taue with a DDT and lets Misawa kick him all over the ring. But as with the trial series bout the day earlier, Taue defies Misawa's attacks and strikes back at him. JUMPING KNEE by Jumbo! RUNNING ELBOW by Misawa! He blasts Jumbo into the Super Gen corner where they can mug him 3-on-1; inflicting sufficient damage that Kawada is able to get a nearfall on the ace. Fuchi tries to help his leader, but is thrown from the ring by Kawada...who then scoops up Kikuchi and PRESS SLAMS him into a suicide dive to the floor! Kikuchi isn't done either! He tries to elbow Jumbo! What a punk! Unsurprisingly Tsuruta dispatches him with ease...only to turn and see Kawada doing the exact same thing to Fuchi. 

It means Misawa and Kawada are alone with Taue and, in a familiar scene, Tsuruta is down on the outside needing assistance for a head injury. Body slam on the floor from Kawada to Taue! Yet somehow he recovers and puts Misawa on his ass with the Sumo Lariat! A wounded Tsuruta tags and makes a beeline for his great rival Misawa...except now he is seriously injured! Misawa downs him with an elbow and passes him off for a Kawada Kick flurry. Jumbo covers up and grimaces in pain - but Kawada WON'T STOP KICKING HIM! JUMBO SNAPS! ELBOW STRIKE MASSACRE! STOMPS! KICKS! KAWADA COLLAPSES...SO TSURUTA DRAGS HIM UP AND BOOTS HIM AGAIN! Now he starts killing him on the floor too! Egged on by Taue, the Triple Crown Champion hauls Kawada into the audience and hammers on him with a folding chair too. Kawada's back is toast, and Tsuruta tries to tap him out with a Lion Tamer. Misawa thinks about breaking it with an elbow - sadly the ace sees it coming and beats him down too. What a display of dominance from the injured champion; all the while selling his head too. Having expended a great deal of energy he now needs to tag out and of course Taue is waiting to capitalise on the heavy damage his great rival has sustained. BRAINBUSTER BY KAWADA! An act of sheer desperation, and he collapses into his corner so Misawa can fly in with a missile dropkick. Diving headbutt by Kikuchi gets Taue lays him out with a powerslam which sets up a Fuchi back suplex as well. Jumbo and Misawa go at it again, with the young pretender almost pinning the champ with a backslide. Kawada tags and he is fired up! Palm strikes...kicks...JUMBO LARIATOOOOO! BACK DROP DRIVER! Misawa breaks the pin with pinpoint kicks aimed at Tsuruta's damaged skull. Taue Kawada staggers towards the Super Gen corner. He dropkicks Kawada in the back so hard that it causes him to LARIAT Misawa off the apron! Samoan drop, crushing Kawada's damaged misection, gets 2...before Misawa returns, elbows him in the head and sets up a Kawada lariat. Jumbo lariats the back of Kawada's head to kill his momentum! DIVING POWERBOMB! TAUE PINS KAWADA! Tsuruta-gun win at 20:28

Rating - **** - Even the 'second tier' matches from this feud are SO good. This one was an absolute masterclass in how hierarchy, rank and status play such a key role in King's Road match structures. For the full duration it flowed seamlessly up and down the rankings. Kikuchi was the lowest on the totem pole so got in almost no offence, and certainly nothing without a set-up from one of his partners. Fuchi out-ranks Kikuchi and has enough skill and experience to credibly threaten Kawada...but is comprehensively outmatched by Misawa. Taue and Kawada are far more evenly matched; Kawada arguably the senior but the whole point of Taue's defection, trial series and performance here was to demonstrate that the gap has now closed. Taue is able to threaten Misawa, as Kawada is with Jumbo - but the top dogs of their team dominate. That structure means each interaction is loaded with significance and, on the rare occasions where the top tier two of Jumbo and Misawa come together, it is treated like absolute gold by the audience. But as much as this stands as a continuation of Misawa and Tsuruta's feud, they were not the primary focus here. The central theme was elevation for the lieutenants. Taue, fresh off his trial series, was antagonistic, courageous and violent in equal measure. Sadistically profiting from Jumbo's work, he relished taking the fight to the opposition and was visibly in his element when Tsuruta involved himself in their feud and battered Kawada on the floor. But as Taue demonstrated he was now the equal of Kawada, similarly they both demonstrated they could close the gap on Misawa and Jumbo. The highlight of the match (for me) was Kawada stepping up to Tsuruta, threatening him momentarily...then getting CRUSHED by an insane, devastating strike flurry. This one goes twenty minutes and is far from 'essential' viewing for the series...but it is a fine piece of work which flows effortlessly and breezes through its run-time. The conclusion, with Taue winning to cement his elevation up the totem pole is another significant King's Road milestone too...

Terry Gordy/Steve Williams vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada - AJPW World Tag Title Match
26th February 1991 (Sendai) - The Miracle Violence Connection are the reigning Tag Champions, belts they won with their victory in the Real World Tag League at the end of 1990. On the night of their championship victory, the undercard saw Misawa and Kawada pick up a significant win of their own. They rounded out their RWTL campaign with a big win over Jumbo Tsuruta and Akira Taue and are rewarded with a title shot here. Although the Super Generation Army have been focused on their rivalry with Tsuruta-gun, they still remain below the gaijin pairing in the pecking order as well. Gordy is a former Triple Crown Champion, whilst Doc is an Oklahoman powerhouse who has crushed all before him. Can the rising native stars take the championship and significantly increase their own status within All Japan in the process? Last time we saw these teams do battle within our King's Road Chronicles compilation it was back in December 1990 when the MVC won a Tag League bout between the teams...

Poor Joe Higuchi. He looks completely lost as Misawa tosses the pre-match floral presentation aside and charges into battle. All four men are clubbing lumps out of each other before the bell rings and before the MVC's have even removed their title belts from their waists. Misawa and Kawada get battered out of the ring, meaning we can actually have the introductions now! That lasts about ten seconds before Kawada grabs the belts, tosses them at their opponents and triggers another brawl! Joe gives up and rings the bell; the Super Generation in charge thanks to Kawada bashing Williams into the guardrails. Misawa and Gordy start laying elbow strikes into each other - and Terry can't stand the heat! He crumples, right into a Kawada lariat for 2. The crowd are electric for this which really helps. Doc and Gordy team up to put Kawada down, but the second Williams is left alone Kawada escapes and unleashes Misawa. Once again the MVC team up to get ahead...and once again the Super Gen's hit back as soon as it's one-on-one. Dr Death leaves the ring to escape a brainbuster, then feeds Kawada into a Gordy lariat on the floor. The attack on the outside puts the MVC firmly in charge; the young Kawada increasingly struggling to bridge the gap between himself and the powerful gaijin brawlers. The audience roar with excitement when Kawada manages to briefly put Terry in a bow and arrow stretch but then groan as Williams bundles in to break it up. Literally every Kawada kick is greeted with a loud cheer - which Doc notices and duly takes him to the ground to work a kneebar. But Dangerous K refuses to stay down and headbutts his way through Gordy for a much-needed tag. Misawa puts Bam Bam in a half crab, only for Williams to absolutely DESTROY him with a lariat to the back of the head. Kawada takes over with kicks to the leg though, and thanks to the damage Misawa inflicted Terry goes down. Cloverleaf applied by Kawada...but again only briefly before Dr Death interrupts again. The powerful Gordy takes Misawa's head off with a lariat and bails, with Williams tagging in and crushing his ribs with a bear hug/belly to belly suplex combo. Abdominal stretch next, slowly squeezing the life out of Misawa with a hold so tight only Kawada's interference breaks it. Gordy tags and makes it even harder for him to breathe by dropping him throat-first over the top rope. Misawa finally powers out with a diving elbow into Williams' jaw, getting into a brawl with Terry on the floor as Kawada puts the boots to Doc. RUNNING POWERSLAM by Williams gets 2! But Misawa trips him from the outside before he can hit the Oklahoma Stampede! PESCADO BY MISAWA...MISSES! His damaged midsection smacks into the arena floor, then Gordy starts battering him into the ringpost. In the ring Doc fights to block the folding Powerbomb. BODY SLAM ON A TABLE IN THE CROWD from Gordy to Misawa! POWERBOMB ON THE ARENA FLOOR! MISAWA IS DONE! The crowd are furious, but thunderous in their support of Kawada as he fights to take both champions on at once. GERMAN SUPLEX on Williams! But it barely gets one before Gordy is kicking him in the face. The MVC relentlessly beat on Kawada but he just refuses to quit. He keeps getting up and keeps trying to murder them with kicks, and they get more and more pissed off. POWERSLAM! GETS 2! Williams ploughs through Kawada with a lariat to win at 21:19

Rating - **** - The crowd made this one really special. The match itself was a lot of fun, but the backing of a raucous and enormously partisan audience clearly took it up a few notches. It was deliciously bad tempered from start to finish and was an obvious continuation of what we saw from them in the 1990 Tag League. The MVC's weren't afraid to break rules or piss off the crowd, but most importantly they recognise the threat and strike power that their motivated challengers possessed. There were multiple occasions where Misawa or Kawada threatened to get ahead. Misawa in particular was promoted heavily throughout - winning strike battles with both gaijin and getting a prolonged segment to work Terry over. Misawa in particular became the focal point of the match as Doc and Gordy recognised the danger and devised a plan to eliminate him from the contest. Gordy's powerbomb in the crowd was brutal, and further sets up an ongoing theme in matches between these two teams where the MVC's try to incapacitate an opponent with a massive offensive bomb outside the ring. Once Misawa was eliminated it was just a matter of time before Doc and Gordy retained - but again the hot crowd lifted those final few minutes. It could have felt like a formality, but instead it felt absolutely thrilling as Kawada fought for survival against the foreign brutes. Ultimately it means that yet again the Super Generation have given a good account of themselves, but failed to 'win the big one'.

Jumbo Tsuruta vs Akira Taue
29th March 1991 (Nagaoka) - This is another reader-suggested match, so thanks again and as always please do get in touch if you think there's a match I absolutely HAVE to check out as part of this series. It's a rather unique one and takes place as part of the 1991 Champion Carnival Tournament. It pits Tsuruta-gun master vs apprentice, Jumbo ready to get in the ring with the protege he plucked from the Super Generation Army to mould in his own image. Having spent the first part of the year toughening up in a gruelling trial series, and having blossomed beyond expectation and recognition after being recruited into Tsuruta-gun...does Taue have it in his locker to defeat the Triple Crown Champion?

They shake hands before the bell to signify that this will be a respectful fight. Jumbo quickly goes to work, exerting his dominance with powerful strikes and snug headlocks. He doesn't expect Taue to escape so quickly and put a foot right into his face though. They go to the mat next, and once again Taue surpasses expectations and actually tries to control the ace - clinging to a headlock in the same manner that we've seen the likes of Kobashi and Misawa do in the past. Tsuruta has to battle valiantly to escape that, eventually working into a jumping armbar takedown then trying to take his apprentice to school with multiple stretches. Big boot gets 2 before the jumping knee is delivered with such force that Jumbo limps about afterwards. Yet he is confronted with the site of Taue shaking those big strikes off and tossing him to the ground again with slams. Jumbo's temper looks like it is starting to fray as he drives a knee into Taue's stomach. ELBOW BY TAUE! Running dropkick knocks Tsuruta to the floor. ELBOW SUICIDA NAILED! Using moves which Misawa has inflicted damage to Jumbo before, Taue has left him in real jeopardy. A running DDT and a Samoan drop follow in quick succession, both yielding substantial nearfalls. NOW Tsuruta has seen enough. He flattens Taue with a lariat, then the Air Scissors Drop for 2. TOP ROPE KNEE STRIKE! But once again Taue kicks out at 2. SUMO SLAPS! NO SOLD! SUMO SLAPS AGAIN! LARIAT BY JUMBO! JUMPING ENZI BY TAUE! LARIATOOOOOOOO! BACK DROP DRIVER! Tsuruta wins at 12:38

Rating - *** - I've read that this was their only singles meeting, which seems a shame. A twelve minute match on a smaller show as part of the 1991 Champion Carnival Tour, this wasn't designed to be a King's Road epic. But it was a solid match which showcased Taue's continued growth as a performer, and again acted as a platform for Jumbo's brilliantly subtle, layered portrayal as an ageing ace fighting the inevitable march of time. This never felt bitter like his matches with the Super Generation Army...but despite the respectful tone, as the match wore on hints of the grumpy, desperate Jumbo started trickling through cracks in his armour. The ANGRY strikes every time Taue tried to hit him. The way he viciously kneed him in the gut after a couple of Taue body slams. Outmatched as he was, Taue came to play as well. He was happy to elbow his mentor in the head, just like Misawa does. He was confident enough to trade major strikes with him in the closing stretch. On this night he didn't have enough in the locker to defeat the top man in All Japan. But he did enough to suggest that one day he might...

Mitsuharu Misawa vs Kenta Kobashi
5th April 1991 (Takamatsu) - I picked this match as I think it is an interesting contrast to the Jumbo/Taue match we just watched - even though it's another fan-cam footage bout so not the best VQ. On the other side of the '91 Champion Carnival block, we see one of Misawa's lieutenants step up to face him just as Taue did to Tsuruta. Misawa is among the top heavyweights in All Japan now...but he is still to fully cement himself as a top star on the same level as the likes of Tsuruta, Hansen or Gordy. He may be out-ranked, but already in the King's Road Chronicles we've seen the young Kobashi equip himself capably against the likes of Jumbo, Hansen and Kawada. Can he spring an upset here? 

After a respectful handshake they fly at each other quite literally from the opening bell - running the ropes with aggression and pelting each other with dropkicks. Kobashi DDT scores in the first minute, and when Misawa bails Kobashi hits the TOP ROPE PLANCHA TO THE FLOOR! He appears to have an answer to everything Misawa tries as he dominates the opening few minutes. The leader of the Super Generation smartly tries to keep his powerful, athletic subordinate grounded - working an arm as much to slow him down as to inflict any real injury. He has successfully quelled Kobashi's early fire so now gets to work battering him with elbows...and in doing so allows some distance to be created, which Kobashi capitalises on with a powerslam for 2. Having felt the effect of those elbows, it's now Kobashi's turn to work a headlock and keep it on the ground to negate the power of his adversary. Misawa tries a shinbreaker to escape, only for him to drop straight back into the headlock in scenes very reminiscent of how Misawa tried to take down Jumbo in his Tiger Mask days. Even when Misawa does find a way to lay in some elbows, Kobashi SLAPS HIM IN THE FACE then bulldogs him back down. Back suplex by Misawa...but he is as groggy as his opponent in the aftermath. He snaps off a sidewalk slam then the spinning lariat, but is visibly still feeling the effects of Kobashi's attack. Running pescado misses though, with Kobashi side-stepping to hit a DDT ON THE FLOOR! MISSILE DROPKICK OFF THE APRON! Back in the ring they each miss with big strikes - Kobashi swinging so hard that he turns his back and allows Misawa to hit a German suplex. Misawa treks to the top rope, only to be intercepted by a butterfly suplex! Kobashi to the top...MOONSAULT NAILED! Misawa gets his foot on the ropes! TIGER SUPLEX ON MISAWA gets 2! A second Kobashi DDT is blocked with a vicious flurry of elbow smashes. Tiger Driver lands but only gets 2. Misawa gives his ally one final blast of elbow strikes, followed by another Tiger Driver for the win at 12:55 (shown)

Rating - *** - A Champion Carnival house show main event is very different to a Triple Crown Match. Clearly this was a long way from the dizzying heights they'd reach as opponents later in the decade. That isn't to say this wasn't enjoyable, even on grainy early-90's amateur recording equipment. The vibe was different to Jumbo/Taue. That match felt like Tsuruta tolerating his apprentice in the name of teaching and preparing him for the battles to come. Kobashi and Misawa felt more evenly matched; Misawa still ahead but the gap certainly not as vast. Kobashi fought tenaciously to bridge the aforementioned gap; starting brighter and taking all the big risks in pursuit of victory. Ultimately, though, we saw why Misawa was the leader of the Super Generation - here he took Kobashi's best shots (including the Moonsault), yet beat him eventually without really getting into top gear. This earmarks Kobashi as a formidable foe, and marks a clear ascension from some of the bouts we've seen from him in earlier King's Road Chronicles volumes. But his time was not here yet.

Akira Taue vs Toshiaki Kawada
18th April 1991 (Tokyo) - The 1991 Champion Carnival Tour ended with a blockbuster show at Budokan Hall, from which the next three matches are taken. It was headlined by Jumbo/Misawa 3, this time with the Triple Crown on the line. But the Super Generation Army vs Tsuruta-gun feud is now about so much more than just the leaders. As we saw from our first match on this volume - the feud between Kawada and Taue is every bit as bitter (if not moreso). Kawada has never gotten over his rage at Taue's defection and left him covered in blood on his way to victory last time they met. But on that night, even whilst being left a bloody mess, it was still Taue throwing kicks and punches on his way out. Can he win a big-time Budokan singles bout tonight?

They do at least contain their aggression for long enough to get to a formal lock-up this time. After he came up stronger last time, Kawada seems tentative of Taue's height and striking so works a headlock before swinging him to the ground in a Fujiwara armbar. His early grounded attacks also demonstrate that he backs himself as the superior technical wrestler of the two. Five minutes pass without Taue being able to escape Kawada's clutches or prevent his arm being subjected to stretch after stretch. He needs to do something different - breaking out of Kawada's clutches to repeatedly STAMP ON HIS FACE! He almost looks sarcastic; trying to one-up Kawada as he drops into an armbreaker of his own - which Dangerous K of course breaks with his own face stomps...and just like that Taue is bleeding again! You can feel the tension simmering to the brink of boiling over now, as Kawada peppers the bloody Akira's face with strikes. Taue tries his sumo strike rush...only for Kawada to duck under and trip him to the floor. SUPLEX ON THE FLOOR by Taue! Kawada tries to get back in - so he lariats him off the apron, then chases him to the floor for another lariat over the guardrail! SHINBREAKER ON THE GUARDRAIL by Taue! In an instant Kawada is struggling to walk, which Taue inevitably seeks to capitalise on by working a half crab. Kawada tries to throw a spinning heel kick, but his leg is hurting him and Taue is able to block it, toss him to the ground and put him in a Sharpshooter - which is converted to a Figure 4 soon after. In the end they both fall through the ropes to the floor still fighting. POWERBOMB ON THE FLOOR BY TAUE! HOLY SH*T! He absolutely drilled Kawada into the ground with that! He returns to the ring and coils ready for his diving lariat spot...which Kawada blocks with a jumping enzi to his bloody face. THROAT CHOPS! FUJIWARA ARMBAR! Taue makes the ropes and rocks the unsteady Kawada with a lariat. Nodowa Otoshi COUNTERED BACK TO THE ARMBAR! Akira makes the ropes and again blocks a big kick using the bad leg. He tries the Tenryu small package on Kawada for 2! Heel kick by Kawada, knocking the ref sideways along with his opponent! FOLDING POWERBOMB GETS 2 - but only because the count was slow thanks to the ref being out of position! They go to the floor again and start tearing up the protective mats. NODOWA OTOSHI ON THE EXPOSED CONCRETE! KAWADA IS OUT! Taue wins by count-out at 15:53

Rating - **** - Not as intense or exciting as the January match. This had a completely different vibe, but actually one which did nothing to diminish the seething hatred between them. After the all-out war in January, both were a lot more cautious. Taue wasn't hitting dives before the bell even rings, whilst Kawada wanted to utilise his superiority as a wrestler rather than get into a straight-up fight. That made complete sense, but did make the first half somewhat low key. However, as I said in PBP, you could FEEL the tension getting closer to boiling over. It was masterful story-telling in that regard. Kawada bloodied Taue just like last time. Taue worked the leg, as so many others have done to Kawada, and in doing so negated Dangerous K's kicking power in a major way. In the end Taue may not have won by a decisive pinfall - but he was victor in more senses than one here. He didn't just survive Kawada, or even beat him - he outright DESTROYED him until even someone with the violent streak of Kawada couldn't get up to keep fighting. The war will continue, but we leave in no doubt that Taue is legitimately dangerous in his own right. Kawada has to be stretchered out...

Terry Gordy/Steve Williams vs Stan Hansen/Dan Spivey - AJPW World Tag Title Match
18th April 1991 (Tokyo) - This is a rematch from the 1990 Real World Tag League Final, when the Miracle Violence Connection defeated the legendary Stan Hansen and his current partner to win the tournament and the Tag Titles. That win also heralded the intention of both Gordy and Williams to usurp Stan's spot as top gaijin and kick-started a tough period in 'The Lariat's career. He'd lost the Triple Crown back to Jumbo in January, then fell to the ace again in the final of the 1991 Champion Carnival. Is he weakened? Can his old partner, Gordy, and the rapidly improving Dr Death accelerate his fall from the top...or do Hansen and Spivey avenge the December loss?

JIP, and from the outset it is clear that Hansen is the red-hot babyface favourite tonight, whilst the entrances see the MVC full-on punching fans to the ground! We join the match with Hansen and Spivey tackling Gordy to the ground and beating on him until an agitated Williams puts a foot through Stan's face, which appears to be busted open. Terry bashes it against the guardrails to make the cut worse; a goal Doc shares as he batters him with headbutts. The MVC spend several minutes relentlessly pummelling Hansen's head wound, leaving the great man in a real mess. It isn't pretty and they don't have a great deal of elaborate offence; they quite simply punch, kick, elbow, headbutt, bite, scratch and claw at his bloody face without mercy. When he finally does get the hot tag, it isn't so much a triumphant sprint to his corner as it is a sad, desperate barrel roll which the MVC aren't quite quick enough to stop. Spivey quickly plants Gordy with a powerbomb for 2 - and gets the same again with his lovably wild, out-of-control diving elbow drop from the top rope. Spivey Spike (DDT) nailed on Williams, only for Terry to break the pin before Joe Higuchi can even make a one-count. Instead he hits a back drop driver on Dr Death - by which point Williams has had enough time and manages to kick out. RUNNING PUNCH from Gordy to Hansen when he tries to get involved! The former partners spill to the floor still brawling - but unlike how Terry was able to take Misawa into the crowd an incapacitate him in the MVC vs Super Gen tag from earlier, Hansen thunders back past and returns to the ring to rescue his partner. Gordy keeps trying to brawl with Hansen on the floor, but Stan just won't let him. Williams tries to tap Spivey out with an Octopus Stretch only for Stan to pop him in the mouth. POWERSLAM by Doc...but Hansen breaks the pin after putting Gordy on his ass in the front row. Terry dives in and takes him out again just as he lines up the Lariat. OKLAHOMA STAMPEDE! Hansen breaks the pin! WESTERN LARIATOOOO! Hansen pins Williams to win at 14:41 (shown)

Rating - *** - Ugly and a real mess, but actually clipping six minutes from the start and condensing the whole thing from the rather bloated 30-minute run-time of the RWTL Final meant this was actually more entertaining too. There wasn't much charm or visual appeal to Gordy and Doc's work here. It wasn't pretty or inventive...they were two human battering rams looking to bludgeon their opponents into oblivion. If you were to be brutally honest, Spivey really didn't look like he could keep up with the other three either. What made this was Hansen's spirited, brilliant babyface performance. It isn't necessarily his 'best' role, but as the beloved gaijin veteran standing up to the two vicious threats to his throne he was incredibly watchable. It is well established that the Miracle Violence Connection like to beat their opponents into the ground outside the ring. They successfully employed the tactic in the 1990 match, and we saw them do it earlier to beat Misawa and Kawada too. Therefore watching Hansen repeatedly defy the tactic; getting back into the ring over and over again to help Spivey even though Gordy kept tackling him to the outside over and over again, was legitimately dramatic. After losing the Tag League, losing the Triple Crown and losing the Champion Carnival this match allowed us to see Stan Hansen's fighting spirit - cheered by the fans as he valiantly defends his spot from the 'next generation' gaijin. It provides a wonderful symmetry to the Jumbo/Misawa rivalry...

Jumbo Tsuruta vs Mitsuharu Misawa - AJPW Triple Crown Title Match
18th April 1991 (Tokyo) - Tied at 1-1 after their epic battles in 1990, it was inevitable that 1991 would bring us Jumbo/Misawa III. Last year saw Misawa toss the Tiger Mask II persona aside and step up to Tsuruta, the man he idolised as a young fan. But the years of bitter battle with Tenryu for his top spot have made Jumbo a wounded, weary and bitter ace. In no mood to relinquish his spot, he and Misawa began a bitter rivalry that now defines All Japan. Misawa's famous June 1990 victory over Jumbo appeared to herald the 'changing of the guard', and perhaps with a lesser man it would. But Tsuruta came back strong, recruited Misawa's contemporary Akira Taue as his Tsuruta-gun apprentice, and roared into their September 1990 rematch to deliver a defiant, powerful, emphatic and quite brilliant victory. It triggered an upturn in fortunes which saw him defeat Hansen to win back the Triple Crown in January (something Misawa failed to do), then beat 'The Lariat' again to win the first Champion Carnival Tournament in almost a decade too. Now Tsuruta looks to silence all the doubts and cement his place as the indomitable ace of AJPW with a second singles win over Misawa as well.

The two great rivals can barely stand to look at each other up to the moment the bell rings. Jumbo tries to bully Misawa; backing him to the ropes and rattling off a few chops. But Misawa is confident enough to shake those off now, battering Tsuruta to the floor with elbows then DIVING off the apron for one more crunching elbow smash to the head. Jumbo's head bounces off the guardrails on the way down, and once again he is in a position where he's having to battle Misawa with a head injury. Credit to the ace though - he returns to the ring and almost breaks the challenger in half with a knee to the gut. Punishing elbows and knees to the ribs follow, making it clear that Tsuruta is looking to make it hard for the explosive younger man to catch his breath. REBOUND HEADBUTT by Misawa! Jumbo's efforts weren't enough - the challenger chases him outside to whip him through the guardrails, and once again Tsuruta is left selling his head. Clearly the attack on his midsection did have an effect though, as Misawa tries to slow the pace and control the champ on the canvas whilst he regains his breath. The younger challenger is making all the early running - now smashing at the back with elbows and converting the ace into a Boston crab, looking to exploit any weakness he inflicted by tossing him through the guardrail. Tsuruta escapes AND SLAPS HIM IN THE FACE! He goes outside and tries to whip Misawa through the rails too. Even though the thud of Misawa's impact is substantial, it clearly wasn't as potent as Misawa's earlier; the challenger leaps from the floor and ELBOWS THE SH*T out of Jumbo! MISAWA STARTS SLAPPING JUMBO! JUMBO SLAPS HIM BACK! NO SOLD! MISAWA ELBOWS! JUMPING KNEE BY TSURUTA! That was hit with such force it almost caved Misawa's chest in and the champ follows up with a Lion Tamer, returning to his focus on the challenger's midsection. SHINBREAKER ON THE TIMEKEEPING TABLE! The Budokan crowd loudly boos Jumbo for that, but it shows just how determined Tsuruta is to cling to his spot. Unlike their last match, Misawa doesn't need the help of Kobashi...he gets up on his own and marches determinedly back into battle, albeit now with a noticeable limp. 

Jumbo of course attacks the leg straight away and tries to submit him with a kneebar, then an STF. With typical Misawa stoicism, he simply lies in the ring and refuses to submit...until Jumbo lets him up and starts bombing on his back with forearms. That offers Misawa the distance he needs to HAMMER Jumbo with another elbow strike. Tsuruta crumples holding his head, with Misawa all over him driving home kicks and knees as the champ tries to cover up. Misawa goes for a crucifix pin, which Tsuruta counters by dropping all his weight south for a sadistic Samoan drop for 2. That is significant because it's the same way Stan Hansen beat Misawa during the Champion Carnival (you can hear the commentators reference it too). Taking another page out of Hansen's book, Jumbo starts destroying Misawa with a series of lariats. Back Drop Driver COUNTERED to a float-over pin, just like June 1990...but this time Tsuruta kicks out! Misawa desperately fights Jumbo BACK DROP DRIVERS HIM INTO THE TURNBUCKLES! Tsuruta starts gesturing at the fans as they chant for Misawa - a moment of hesitation which sees the challenger counter a powerbomb with a rana and nail another violent elbow smash. TENRYU ENZI'S TO THE HEAD! Jumbo collapses to the outside, almost unable to stand. TOP ROPE ELBOW STRIKE NAILED! FOR 2! DDT by Misawa, another move which has beaten Jumbo in the past, but still the great ace kicks out. Tiger Body Press scores, but still Jumbo refuses to quit. In scenes mirroring Misawa's aggression in their first match, Tsuruta dodges a running attack and hangs him in the ropes using his own momentum to snatch the advantage. Lariat ducked...GERMAN SUPLEX BY MISAWA! Tsuruta frantically blocks the Tiger Driver into a LARIATOOO! BACK DROP DRIVER! MISAWA WON'T STAY DOWN! ELBOW STRIKE NAILED! BACK DROP DRIVER AGAIN! Misawa is getting up! BACK...DROP...DRIVER! Jumbo retains at 23:27

Rating - ****1/2 - Absolutely stunning. This match is an under-appreciated gem compared to their beloved classics in 1990. I can understand why; it lacks the wow factor of the June match, whilst also missing the relentless aggression and brilliance of their September rematch. But what it lacks (comparatively) in regards to excitement it more than makes up for with brilliant story-telling. Fans already know Misawa can beat Jumbo and, after a year of seasoning in the AJPW main event scene, there was genuine intrigue as to whether he now had what it takes to defeat him with the Triple Crown up for grabs. They played with that premise wonderfully, letting Misawa carry the first half of the match suggesting that his speed, athleticism and strike power would be too much for the ageing Jumbo. But, as we've seen time and time again, Tsuruta isn't one to relinquish his spot without a fight. No matter if it pissed off the Budokan fans, he would stop at nothing to keep Misawa at bay once again. He inflicted a leg injury on the floor (and willingly exploited it), and when the younger man refused to play ball with his finishing move he tried to cripple him with a Back Drop into the turnbuckles. The final act here was so good. They referenced key moments from earlier matches (Misawa trying the float-over pin again, Jumbo stealing Misawa's trick of using momentum against him)...and then started using successful techniques from other competitors too. Jumbo used Stan Hansen's moves against Misawa, so the challenger used Tenryu strikes or Terry Gordy DDT's back at him. Ultimately on this night, Jumbo still had enough power to survive Misawa's youthful fire and relentless elbows to the head. He was given a tough fight, but he leaves the Champion Carnival Tour having proven beyond doubt that the 'Ace' very much still sits atop his throne.

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue/Masanobu Fuchi vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada/Kenta Kobashi
20th April 1991 (Tokyo) - Two days after the end of the 1991 Champion Carnival Tour All Japan returns to Korakuen Hall for a rematch of the 19th October 1990 six-man classic which many hailed as the greatest trios match of all time. Things look bleak for the Super Generation Army. Misawa failed to dethrone Jumbo for the Triple Crown, meaning Tsuruta stands tall and proud as AJPW's Triple Crown holding, Champion Carnival winning Ace. Kawada lost his grudge rematch to Taue on the same night in the Budokan as well, and in that October 1990 clash it was Jumbo's team who left victorious. Tsuruta-gun remain the dominant force, and a mighty foe for the Super Generation Army to overcome. 

Taue starts and is clearly full of confidence; ignoring Kobashi in the ring with him to slap Kawada off the apron! Next he decks Kobashi with a lariat, before turning around and smacking Kawada off the apron again with a lariat to him as well. It leaves Dangerous K on the ground selling his head, as we've seen Jumbo do in the past. Speaking of the Ace, he tags in and calls out Misawa! Misawa comes out swinging and rocks Tsuruta with elbows, but just like in the Budokan days earlier Jumbo shuts him down with an attack on the stomach and ribs - with Taue on hand to jump Misawa from behind when he threatens to fight back. Misawa hits the diving headbutt and this time has Kobashi available as an escape route. The fiery youngster starts dropping legs across Jumbo's head only to be roundly dismissed by the champion. Jumbo doesn't even grace Kobashi with his presence for long, vacating the ring and allowing Fuchi and Taue to work him over. In doing so, Akira hasn't seen Kawada return to the apron though. He tries to work an armbar on Kobashi...only to be bludgeoned with a series of violent kicks from the illegal Kawada. A brawl between those two breaks out, so intense and violent that it takes all four of their team-mates to break them up - scenes reminiscent of Jumbo and Misawa in 1990! In the end Misawa and Kobashi agree to work Taue over just to keep themselves from being disqualified by their partner. But when Taue starts slapping Misawa, the Super Gen leader realises he has no alternative - he has to unleash Dangerous K. Those two beat the snot out of each other...and in a sign of Akira's development he survives the onslaught, DDT's Kawada on his head then gets out of the ring intact. Tsuruta-gun take Kawada outside...PILEDRIVER ON THE FLOOR by Jumbo! The heel team are targeting the head and neck with real aggression. Jumbo and Fuchi are innovative about how they do it, whilst Taue simply stomps his head into the canvas. Fuchi summons Akira to the outside again. SPIKE PILEDRIVER OFF THE APRON! It is no necessary for Kobashi and Misawa to invade the ring and break up submission holds, such is the proximity to defeat for Kawada now. It means Taue escorts his rival out of the ring, away from the rest of the Super Gens for a LARIAT INTO THE CROWD! 

From almost nowhere Kawada unleashes a spinning heel kick on Taue, collapsing into a critical tag to Kobashi. The youngest member of the Super Gens throws Fuchi around the ring for a bit before feeding him into a diving elbow smash from Misawa. Bridging German by Misawa gets 2, only for Taue to lariat him into the mat before he can hit the Tiger Driver. Tsuruta wants a piece of Misawa - but he gets dismissed from the ring! In a moment of complete genius, Misawa teases the spot where he hit a diving elbow on Tsuruta from the apron in their Triple Crown Match, but instead produces a double fake-out, rolls back into the ring to smack the sh*t out of Fuchi whilst Kobashi instead dives at Jumbo with a pescado! The level of details in these matches is completely insane. Tsuruta is rocked, and now Kawada wants a piece! KAWADA KICK FLURRY! Tsuruta tries to throw him aside, but instead is hauled to the mat into a Fujiwara armbar! Tsuruta starts punching and kicking Kawada in the f*cking Dangerous K drops him into the armbar for a second time! Jumbo has no choice but to tag out just to escape him. Kawada's momentum is such that even the combined forces of Taue and Fuchi aren't enough to stop him. Even Kobashi gets a chance to shine, spotting Jumbo trying to break up a submission hold and absolutely NAILING him with a lariat, sending him packing to the floor selling his head. The Super Generation are working over Taue's midsection it seems, and he is only saved by Tsuruta coming for a receipt for Kobashi's lariat earlier. Misawa feeds Taue to the outside, where Kawada is waiting to escort him through the guardrails for a BODY SLAM IN THE CROWD! That particular calling card of the Kawada/Taue rivalry continues! Fuchi comes to Taue's rescue by bashing Kawada's injured head against the ring apron. It necessitates him having to tag Kobashi in, and they continue to batter Taue's back and ribs with kicks until he lies in the ropes refusing to get up. Misawa applies a camel clutch, deliberately positioning him so he can stare defiantly at Jumbo and Fuchi whilst he does so...which Tsuruta f*cking hates. Kawada works a half crab to make the injuries worse, and now Jumbo is visibly hesitant to get into the ring with Dangerous K as he knows he needs to protect his head. 

In the end Fuchi tries to dart in...but Kawada isn't even interested. He throws a middle finger in the Tsuruta-gun junior's direction and walks away! We're passed the 30-minute mark now, with Misawa dropkicking Taue through the ropes then beckoning Kobashi over for a ROCKET LAUNCHER SUICIDE DIVE TO THE FLOOR! Fuchi dropkicks Kobashi's bad knee from under him to block the Orange Crush, and Taue slithers away for a tag whilst Kobashi is still writhing in pain. SHINBREAKER ON THE TIMEKEEPING TABLE by Tsuruta - just like he did to Misawa two days earlier. Fuchi is impressed with that and tops it by giving Kobashi a SHINBREAKER ON A CHAIR! Female fans literally scream in fury at the veteran's treatment of the young Kobashi! Back in the ring Jumbo returns the favour to Misawa from earlier - working a half crab on Kobashi in a position where he can stare down the Super Generation leader too. Fuchi starts contorting the injured leg in the ropes, then tosses him out of the ring where Taue is waiting to NAIL the injured knee with a steel chair! TOP ROPE ELBOW TO THE KNEE! Taue locks in a Figure 4, as the camera pans to Kawada and Misawa who shuffle anxiously on the apron clearly discussing at which point they are going to need to interfere. Somehow Kobashi levels Fuchi with a brainbuster...but can't get away before the ominous presence of Tsuruta arrives to boot him in the head. Jumbo wants to finish it...but is prevented when Kawada charges and KICKS HIM IN THE FACE! Fuchi tries to take over, but Kobashi has the power in that duo and elbows him down before making a desperate tag to Kawada. He CHOPS THE SH*T OUT OF FUCHI for 2! Misawa thinks he can finish it with elbows...BUT OLD MAN FUCHI IS ON FIRE! BIG SLAPS TO MISAWA AND KOBASHI! Jumbo tries to finish Misawa with the jumping knee strike but only gets 2. POWERBOMB! MISAWA KICKS OUT! DIVING NODOWA OTOSHI/BACK DROP DRIVER COMBO! Argentine backbreaker by Taue...broken with kicks to the ribs by Kobashi! TIGER DRIVER! TAUE KICKS OUT! KOBASHI MOONSAULT ON THE BAD RIBS! FUCHI BREAKS THE PIN! NODOWA OTOSHI! KAWADA BREAKS THE PIN! LARIAT TO THE BACK OF TAUE'S HEAD! TIGER SUPLEX! MISAWA PINS TAUE! At 48:31 (the official time has 51:32), the Super Generation have won!

Rating - ***** - An absolute must-see for 90's AJPW fans. Putting my cards on the table, I marginally prefer the 1990 match (it's as packed with great story-telling, however the shorter run-time makes it feel like a more punchy package), but this is unbelievably superb too. The near-fifty minutes speed by, packed full of wonderfully nuanced details and building blocks in this phenomenal, multi-layered rivalry. What is particularly interesting here is how little Misawa is actually involved. He gets the win and it is clear that Tsuruta-gun fear him the most but with injuries reportedly starting to bog down the rising superstar attention turns to the other members of the Super Generation. In particular Toshiaki Kawada, who had the kind of performance here which mirrored Taue's brilliance in the October 1990 six-man. The match goes to great lengths to demonstrate Kawada's ascension since 1990. He isn't quite on Misawa's level, but he is now a real threat. His kicks threaten Jumbo as much as Misawa's elbows, and his hate-filled rivalry with Taue threatens to supersede even Misawa/Jumbo too. In October 1990, it was Taue's decisive interference which allowed Jumbo to pin Kobashi (when he took out Kawada). The roles were reversed here - Kawada's decisive intervention, hitting the same lariat to the back of the head that he beat Taue with in January, was what set Misawa up to win. As I said during play-by-play, the level of attention to detail here is stunning. There were so many beautiful moments of real significance I can't list them all. Taue, Kawada, Tsuruta and Misawa bouncing off spots they did with each other just two days earlier was marvellous. Ongoing themes like the Super Generation targeting Jumbo's head, Kawada and Taue trying to kill each other in the crowd or Fuchi being a devious little sh*t were all woven into the fabric of this match without necessarily becoming the focal point. We saw Kobashi's knees being REALLY worked over here, a newer element but one we'll become immensely familiar with as the 90's wear on. Most crucially, the Super Gen army win here markedly advances this storyline. After their (Misawa's) early successes, Tsuruta-gun have largely been in the ascendency. Wins have been at a premium, nobody has toppled Jumbo and they have consistently failed to win either the World Tag Titles or the Triple Crown. After the end of the Champion Carnival Tour marked perhaps their darkest hour - this monolithic victory puts them back on the map and re-establishes them as a threat as we move into the next period of 1991.

Steve Williams vs Toshiaki Kawada
1st June 1991 (Tokyo) - We go back to the Budokan for the next three matches, all coming from the June 1st 'Super Power Series 1991' event. The theme of this show seems clear as, with a couple of exceptions it is entirely made up of native talent taking on gaijin workers. This was a big night for the stars of both Tsuruta-gun and the Super Generation Army. Taking a momentary pause on their rivalry, tonight they all pursue personal ambition and career progression. Misawa and Kawada face the Miracle Violence Connection in duelling singles matches (kicking off with this one), whilst in the main event Jumbo and his apprentice Taue challenge Hansen and Spivey for the Tag Titles. We jump in with this bout, as Kawada chases a landmark first major victory over a gaijin star. We've seen him go toe-to-toe with Dr Death in tag matches, but in the singles arena Doc ranks higher than him - which is a gap he'll be intent on closing here...

The crowd seem ready for a Kawada upset, but from the opening bell Doc quells that by smacking him around the head with real authority. In fact, Williams is so confident that he starts running the ropes like a cocky Kawada lifts his leg and boots him in the skull before clocking him with a lariat. FOLDING POWERBOMB gets 2! What a great first minute, and it ends with Doc flat out on the Budokan floor. Dangerous K pummels his head and neck, but then tries to work the mat with Doc - who clearly has an edge there. He easily slips out of a front facelock and tries to break Kawada's arm using various submission holds. FACE CHOPS by Kawada to escape, only for Williams to double leg him back to the mat. Big lariat lands for Williams, then for a second time he gets over-confident. He sets up the Oklahoma Stampede but way too early, allowing Kawada to counter with a snug sleeper hold piling pressure on the neck he has already weakened. Doc leaves the ring to escape and is happy again brawling on the floor - where he smashes his opponent against the barricade then chases after him for a lariat into the crowd. OKLAHOMA STAMPEDE ON THE FLOOR! Somehow Kawada makes it back to the ring after that and since Williams knows his back is now seriously damaged he doesn't wait a second before attacking it again. He throws the Japanese star around the ring effortlessly, delivering repeated belly to belly suplexes. Indeed, Williams thinks he has it one as he sets up in the corner for a Gordy-inspired Torpedo Lariat. GAMENGIRI by Kawada to block him mid-run though! Williams looks seriously pissed off by that and puts real snap into a vicious abdominal stretch whilst mugging to the pro-Kawada audience. He looks to finish it with a spear only for Kawada to dodge, leaving him to spike the ringpost! Kawada chases him to the floor and sets up a powerbomb, but it is COUNTERED to an overhead suplex, causing Kawada's damaged back to be crushed against the hard ground. He escapes an attempted Oklahoma Stampede on exposed concrete, slides down Williams back and gives him a POWERSLAM ON THE FLOOR! LARIAT TO THE BACK OF THE HEAD! Williams kicks out! Kawada has won matches with that move so is devastated that Doc kicked out, so clings to another sleeper hold like a maniac trying to throttle the life out of his foe. TENRYU ELBOW DROP gets 2! Kawada Kicks...then straight up PUNCHES TO THE FACE! Doc stands and looks at him, so Kawada takes a run up and knocks his block off with an elbow. NO SOLD! POWERSLAM gets 2 for the gaijin. Oklahoma Stampede nailed again...but Kawada kicks out! With one last rush of energy he leaps off the top rope at Williams, who catches him in mid-air then dumps him with another crushing overhead suplex. It extinguishes the last of Kawada's fight for the evening. Doc wins at 15:54

Rating - **** - Matches like this are why I'm loving this King's Road Chronicles journey. Not a seminal classic or must-see by any means amongst AJPW's vast body of great work in this decade - but if you do take the time to check it out you're rewarded as it is REALLY good. I prefer Williams' singles work to the Miracle Violence Connection, and generally his singles bouts with the Pillars are easily consumable, smash-mouth fun. This certainly falls into that category; it doesn't go long (although Cagematch lists this as having a twenty minute run-time so there may be some clipping), they keep a brisk and aggressive pace throughout and they really beat the snot out of each other. What it did particularly well was embody the 'gap' in ranking/status between them. Kawada was given enough to keep fans fully invested in his progress and looked superb in his vicious attacks on Williams' head. But at no point did he ever feel truly 'ahead' of Doc in the contest. Even after Kawada would land a major bomb like the Folding Powerbomb or the Gamengiri, Steve's retaliatory blow was never far away. The formatting means Kawada gains respect, but he does so by fighting valiantly against the tide of the might of the superior gaijin bruiser - for now.

Terry Gordy vs Mitsuharu Misawa
1st June 1991 (Tokyo) - On the heels of a fierce battle between their partners, the 'senior' in their respective tag teams now take to the ring. Gordy still has aspirations of usurping Hansen as the top gaijin in AJPW. He is a former Triple Crown and Tag Champion and has been a major force in the promotion for years. Almost a year ago we were supposed to see this battle with the Triple Crown on the line, before Terry was forced to vacate the championship. In the year since, Misawa's reputation has only grown. He has led his 'Super Generation' with pride, courage and tenacity...but in the year since his career-defining win over Jumbo on 8th June 1990, he has yet to really produce another definitive singles victory. He lost two rematches to Jumbo and failed to wrest the Triple Crown from either Tsuruta or Hansen before him. It means both enter this match NEEDING something. Gordy wants a victory over the leader of the Super Generation to maintain his spot near the top of the gaijin totem pole, and get into position for a shot at Jumbo's Triple Crown; Misawa needs a major singles victory over a high ranking gaijin to legitimise his own position in All Japan's main event scene. Not to mention he's pretty pissed off at getting powerbombed in the crowd by Gordy when they met in tag competition earlier in the year.

Neither man wants to let go on their first lock-up. It lasts more than a minute and goes all the way around the ring before being broken with Misawa raining elbow strikes down on Terry's skull. It seems that Gordy fears that strike power and quickly sets about slowing him down with some mat work. Even after that a single emphatic elbow smash from Misawa visibly rocks the former Triple Crown champ. Gordy clings to a front facelock, only for Misawa to escape and blitz him with shots to the back and head again. To the mat Gordy takes it again, using an armbar to soften his opponent up then grabbing the bad arm to drag Misawa into a close-range lariat for 2. Just when Terry's methodical, strategic approach appeared to be yielding dividends, yet again Misawa is on him with a flurry of elbows and kicks. He is happier to get on the mat with Gordy now and tries to further weaken the head and neck whilst doing so. However, that means is vulnerable to Gordy's preferred strategy and Terry quickly uses an armwrench to put himself back on top. Misawa breaks ground and tries to hit a springboard Terry LARIATS him across the back of the head before he even gets off the ground. Superplex nailed; the gaijin now starting to stretch his lead as we hit ten minutes. Indeed, he even starts innovating moves, suplexing Misawa into a bizarro cutter for a 2-count. But without realising it he is slowly working towards what Misawa prefers to do - stay on his feet and drop bombs. Eventually the man in green squirms out of a suplex and kicks Gordy square in the face - busting him open. Misawa is like a shark now; swarming Gordy as he tries to cover up in the ropes and pounding the cut with countless kicks and knees. It means Terry has to leave the ring to seek respite...but finds Misawa in no mood to offer it. Looking to avenge his treatment in repeated tag matches, he chases Gordy to the outside looking for a Tiger Driver! Gordy blocks with a back body drop...and now he's pissed off too. Misawa blocks another powerbomb to the concrete, but walks into a LARIAT ON THE FLOOR! Gordy's blood is splattered all over the camera lens. Having apparently injured the back with a big strike on the outside, he returns to the methodical and mat-centric approach by trying to tap Misawa out with a Sharpshooter. DDT gets 2! Misawa again batters the bloody head with elbows, before scaling the ropes for the FLYING ELBOW SMASH which gets 2. He looks for a Tiger Body Press as well - only to dive straight into Terry's knees and further injure his midsection. POWERBOMB! FOR 2! Astonshingly, Misawa shakes Gordy off and hammers him with spinning heel kicks and elbows. TIGER DRIVER! GORDY KICKS OUT! FACELOCK! Misawa really leans on it to maximise damage to the bloody head, but in doing so almost pushes Terry into the ropes. Gordy tries a running crossbody, but finds Misawa in place and ready to bust out the Jumbo float-over pin counter for 2! LARIAT by Terry, who looks desperate now. Misawa survives that and hits a BRIDGING GERMAN for 2! Facelock again! But Gordy won't quit, nor will he be pinned even when he seems unconscious! RUNNING DEATH ELBOW! MISAWA WINS! He slays the former champion at 21:18

Rating - ****1/2 - I've seen this a few times now and I find it quite an under-rated match. I don't mean that people don't like it, but it quite as beloved as other seminal classics from this decade and is therefore skipped by some. Whilst it's not quite a top tier, 5* clash, I think this is a stunning match and surely in the running as the best singles match of Gordy's entire career. What makes this so fantastic is that it is such a key cornerstone on Misawa's rise to becoming the true ace of All Japan. In the ring with a former Triple Crown holder, it marks a clear change in his presentation. MISAWA is now the danger. Gordy changes up his entire smash-mouth style through sheer fear of Misawa's speed and strike power. Clearly not a comfortable or accomplished ground worker, his only available option in the (admittedly slow) first half to halt Misawa's onslaught of elbow smashes is to keep him on the canvas. His discomfort is apparent and even if the old 'Bam Bam' power and offensive bombs are there, on this night they are no match for the growing force and presence of Misawa. The leader of the Super Generation makes him bleed everywhere and, as the tension and drama mount - it is apparent that we aren't watching Misawa cling on against Jumbo or snag a lucky victory (although he does try the Jumbo counter). We are seeing Misawa, ascending to the next level and DESTROYING Gordy. At a certain point victory for Misawa seems inevitable. For Gordy, a fearsome main event level competitor, the match becomes as much about survival as he is out-gunned by Misawa. Some of this is slow and Terry can be clumsy, but the drama of this match is palpable and it is such a significant match on Misawa's road to immortality. It's one of my 'King's Road' favourites.

Stan Hansen/Dan Spivey vs Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue - AJPW World Tag Title Match
1st June 1991 (Tokyo) - This main events the show over Gordy/Misawa, and gives us a chance to check in with a couple of different things. Firstly it reignites the Jumbo/Hansen rivalry which spans years, and we know Stan would like nothing more than to avenge his Champion Carnival Final defeat to get back into Triple Crown contention. And it also allows Jumbo's apprentice, Taue, an opportunity to pit his wits against the might of the gaijin brawlers too. In his battles with Kawada, Taue has proven himself a competent (even dangerous) brawler himself...but this is a step up in quality. Roared on by a partisan crowd, Tsuruta-gun are the native heroes in this one as they challenge for Tag Title glory.

JIP with Hansen and Spivey teaming up on young Taue; bullying him with their aggression and power. Hansen's entire body language changes when Tsuruta sneaks a tag though - far more respectful of Jumbo and unable to prevent having his jaw rattled with a jumping knee strike. That strike has such a profound effect on him that he leaves the ring to recover, then actually tries to wrestle with Jumbo just to avoid getting knee'd in the face again. Even then he relies on plenty of help from Spivey to keep him in charge of the ace. When Dan does eventually tag Jumbo absolutely NAILS him with a lariat, but Spivey shows his skill as a tag worker by grabbing a leg on the way down to prevent Jumbo from tagging out. Gradually the gaijin start to wear down Tsuruta's back and midsection, and when Taue steps in to help his partner out Stan absolutely BATTERS him back to the floor. Tsuruta-gun seconds gather round Taue and try to rouse him from the mats as Spivey and Hansen continue to put the boots to the Triple Crown Champion. Spivey almost breaks the guardrails by throwing Jumbo into them, as on the other side of the ring Hansen is once again beating down Taue. Next Stan throws Jumbo around the ring with a flurry of suplexes, pausing only to cynically beat on Tsuruta in his own, empty, corner. Finally Jumbo lands one final, desperate lariat on Spivey...and lunges to his corner where Akira has returned. TOPE SUICIDA ON HANSEN! Back suplex on Spivey gets does Taue's lovably ungainly diving elbow drop from the top. Spivey curtails Taue's charge with a pancake into the ropes, once again setting Stan up to absolutely maul him. SPIKE PILEDRIVER gets 2 before Tsuruta breaks the pin! DOUBLE POWERBOMB...Tsuruta saves again! Hansen SLAPS THE SH*T OUT OF TAUE! Jumbo trips him before he can hit the Western Lariat though, setting Taue up for a DDT on Spivey. SPIVEY SPIKE! TAUE KICKS OUT! SPIKE AGAIN! With Stan holding Jumbo down, Spivey pins Taue to win the match at 13:46 (shown)

Rating - **** - According to CageMatch we lost a couple of minutes to clipping, which isn't a big deal. This was possibly the most fun we've had from a Hansen/Spivey tag thus far; they were very enjoyable as gaijin bullies to the native team. The crowd's support seemed to pinball between all four men at random which gave the whole affair a slightly bizarre atmosphere, but if you can get past that the real joy of the match was (as is becoming a theme for AJPW matches in the early 90's) the way they played within the rankings of status of each athlete. Hansen and Spivey brutalised Taue, showing him no respect and outright trying to knock him out almost constantly. But the tone was completely different when Jumbo was in there. Hansen, a veteran of wars with Jumbo, was like a different worker - giving Tsuruta space and respect, whilst requiring Spivey to help out. Indeed, most of the champs offence on Jumbo came when they had a 2-on-1 advantage...and, as he was lower on the totem pole, Jumbo would frequently nail Spivey any time he was left alone. Ultimately, the damage Taue sustained was too great which in turn set the champs up to do JUST enough to keep Jumbo at bay whilst they polished off his game apprentice. Ungainly and rugged at times (as Stan's matches usually are), and I personally found the crowd quite off-putting...but there was a neat, compact story at the heart of this feisty main event which I enjoyed. Not one to specifically seek out, but if you have the time there's some likeable content here.

Stan Hansen/Dan Spivey vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada - AJPW World Tag Title Match
7th June 1991 (Yokosuka) - After out-manoeuvring and over-powering Tsuruta-gun a week earlier, it is another big tag title defence for Hansen and Spivey to round out the Super Power Series Tour. Having failed to get the job done against the Miracle Violence Connection earlier in the year, the Super Generation are back in the hunt for Tag Championship gold and high profile gaijin scalps. Misawa has a growing rivalry with Hansen but thus far notable only for his failure to beat Stan across multiple matches. However, as we saw a week ago in Budokan Hall - Misawa is now a growing threat and was capable of blowing former Triple Crown Champion Terry Gordy out of the water. 

Misawa and Kawada are absolutely mobbed by fans as they make their entrance. Hansen and Spivey have no such issues, not least because they actually start whipping fans with the actual title belts! That leads to Kawada grabbing one and flogging Stan with it as he tries to get into the ring. Hansen throttles Kawada with his bullrope as Spivey clobbers Misawa with a lariat...and this is all before the bell! And when officials think they've separated them sufficiently to start the pre-match formalities Kawada grabs another belt, launches it at Hansen and starts brawling again. Joe Higuchi looks completely forlorn as he tries to martial four huge brawling wrestlers in a ring clogged with officials, streamers and all manner of debris. The bell finally rings with the champs clobbering Kawada on the mat with streamers still covering big portions of the match. Misawa muscles in and takes Spivey down, whilst the veteran Hansen recognises the danger of Kawada's feisty strikes and bad attitude so tries to incapacitate him in the crowd. With his partner in the front row, even Misawa struggles to contain the champions. Crucially he holds on long enough for Dangerous K to get back onto the apron...before launching a major attack on Stan's arm. Kawada bashes it into the ringpost; loitering on the floor for Misawa to repeatedly feed Stan back to him for more lawless arm attacks on the outside. Spivey senses Hansen is in trouble and is already having to run in repeatedly to break up submission holds on his partner. Misawa takes a turn attacking Hansen on the floor, but after bombing on the injured arm with an elbow strike, the desperate Stan lifts Misawa up for a BACK SUPLEX THROUGH A TABLE! It's another huge spill on the outside for Misawa; something gaijin have repeatedly used against him! Before Kawada can help him out Dan has already jogged around the ring to dump him into the fans laps again too. The champions start working over Misawa's leg; Spivey propping another table up against the ropes of the ring, for Hansen to a deliver a SHINBREAKER INTO THE EDGE OF THE TABLE! Figure 4 Leglock applied by Spivey...with Hansen almost booting Misawa's head off his shoulders when he refuses to tap. That prompts Kawada to storm in and give Danny the same treatment. However, in a nice pay-off from earlier, when Dangerous K tries to take a cheap-shot at Stan in the same manner that he did in the opening seconds, this time Hansen moves and reels off a stream of profanity. With one last burst of energy, Misawa absolutely batters Hansen's head, neck and shoulder with elbows - freeing himself just enough for a tag to Kawada even with Stan still clinging to the injured leg. Hansen is on his knees, meaning Kawada can deck him with an enzi to the back of the head and really work him over with a sleeper hold. Misawa tags but is still visibly selling the bad leg which causes him to almost immediately miss a jumping elbow drop. POWERBOMB by Hansen gets 2! Spivey tags and attacks the neck, looking to set up the Spivey Spike. DOUBLE SLINGSHOT SUPLEX gets 2 for the champs. FACE CHOPS by Hansen! Spivey follows that with a sidewalk slam, but in doing so seems to injure his own shoulder. Misawa tries to capitalise, only for Hansen to sneak up on him with a BACK DROP DRIVER! DDT ON THE FLOOR BY KAWADA! Facelock by Misawa! He breaks it to elbow the F*CK out of Hansen, allowing Dan to get up and hit the SPIVEY SPIKE! Kawada kicks on both champions, and when Stan blocks a powerbomb Kawada grabs the bad arm for a cross armbreaker. FUJIWARA ARMBAR! He came close to tapping Jumbo out with this move, so the fans are hot for this...but Stan grabs the ropes. Diving elbow missed by Kawada! Misawa tries to save his partner but walks into the WESTERN LARIATOOOOOO! If Misawa weren't dead after that he is when Dan gives him a SPIVEY SPIKE ON THE FLOOR! WESTERN LARIAT ON KAWADA! Hansen and Spivey retain at 18:24

Rating - **** - This was a real war, and all kinds of fun as a result. Some of the psychology felt a little scattered; injuries attacked and sold when it was convenient rather than with any great consistency for instance. But at the core this became a real battle between confident, dangerous rising native stars and hulking gaijin invaders who want to beat them down. Kawada's aggression was something to really marvel at, it made him so dangerous that it was actually mostly Misawa who took the beating for their team such was the threat that Kawada posed. It was only once Misawa was worn down were the champs able to double up on Kawada to silence him. It's the same trick they used the week before on Jumbo and Taue...but tellingly Kawada was in the 'Jumbo' role tonight. 

Jumbo Tsuruta vs Steve Williams - AJPW Triple Crown Title Match
20th July 1991 (Yokohama) - We end this compilation with one last check-in on Jumbo and the Triple Crown. With Hansen blown away and Misawa downed, a new gaijin star has emerged in the form of Dr Death. Williams has been a growing threat throughout 1991, has won a number of high profile singles bouts and at the start of the 'Summer Action Series' Tour he spearheaded the Miracle Violence Connection regaining the World Tag Championship from Hansen and Spivey too. Is he ready to follow the likes of Hansen and Gordy to the very top of the All Japan mountain?

The sight of someone actively trying to get Tsuruta down on the ground to grapple is slightly strange, but Williams has the bulk and skill to make that a viable strategy. Jumbo almost looks like he is taking Doc lightly as he smiles to the crowd, loudly talks to his opponent and hits a couple of vaguely dismissive strikes. But every time he tries to exert control Williams is equipped with more than enough power to defy him. Tsuruta starts popping him in the face with elbow smashes...but again gets cocky and plays to the crowd, offering Williams a brief opportunity - which he takes with a thudding lariat. DEAD-LIFT powerslam by Doc, performed whether Jumbo wanted to go or not. We notice that once again Tsuruta starts to nurse his head and neck...and he is NOT happy. He levels Williams with a big lariat, stands over him and starts bludgeoning him with ugly, clubbing strikes. Facelock by Jumbo, putting some of Misawa's own moves into his rotation it seems. Back Drop Driver nailed, but when Tsuruta thinks he has an early night Doc kicks out and, like Misawa in 1990, uses Jumbo's momentum against him with a hotshot onto the top rope. Jumbo rolls to the outside trying to recover, but finds Steve on him immediately; clubbing him with an elbow from the apron then hanging him throat-first over the guardrail. PILEDRIVER ON THE EXPOSED CONCRETE FLOOR! Three Point Stance tackle back into the ring, followed with a super knee drop to the back of the head for 2. Cobra Clutch applied - and Doc positions himself so he can look right into Tsuruta's eyes as he tries to choke him out. Oklahoma Stampede COUNTERED TO A BACK DROP DRIVER! NO SOLD! Williams tries to spear Jumbo in the corner, but the Ace moves and leaves Doc to wreck his shoulder on the ringpost. Seizing on the opportunity, Tsuruta batters the injured arm against the guardrails too. Chair shots TO THE SHOULDER! They return to the ring where Tsuruta ceremonially winds up for an armbreaker, dropping the challenger to his knees. Not content with that, we go back to the floor where he bashes the injured shoulder against the timekeeping table and starts swinging chairs into it again too. Cross armbreaker applied...which Doc escapes by using his good arm to smash Tsuruta in the head. He tries to lift the champ for the Stampede...but the arm is so badly hurt he simply collapses in pain. Doc keeps fighting like hell...but despite ragged striking he is muscled into the BACK DROP DRIVER! Tsuruta retains at 20:33

Rating - *** - Diving more deeply into these early 90's All Japan matches has me more convinced than ever that Jumbo Tsuruta could perhaps be considered THE greatest of all time. He lacks flash and thrills, but when it comes to selling, emoting and making you FEEL the story of a match there can't be anyone better. The depth to his performances as a bitter, grumpy, ageing ace are truly a joy to behold and totally carry lower tier matches like this. I love Steve Williams, but he wasn't 'there yet' as far as Triple Crown contention goes. He looked out of his depth and the times he took the lead on offence were by far the weakest part of the match. But even they were made interesting by Jumbo's selling; an occasional grimace, a clutch to the head, a dazed stumble - all subtle little touches but all play such a crucial part in his ongoing narrative as Triple Crown Champion. This match also gave us 'cocky' Jumbo - smiling, waving and not taking his opponent seriously through the first half of the match. That all changed when he got piledriven on the concrete. It marked a turning point in the match, he took it seriously from there and almost broke Doc's arm in pursuit of victory. This match is slow, nobody bought into Doc as a viable champion and the lack of crowd investment was such that they barely reacted to the finish. As a masterclass in character performance, Jumbo made compelling viewing throughout though...

Tape Rating - **** - Arguably the weakest compilation in our King's Road Chronicles journey thus far, which probably gives you an idea of how high the standard was. There are some cracking matches matches here, but after an electrifying second half of 1990 as the Super Gens vs Tsuruta-gun rivalry really heated up this collection didn't seem quite as dynamic. Kawada, Kobashi, Williams and Taue all grew in stature and Misawa fought gallantly as he tried to break through the glass ceiling but there is an overwhelming feeling of stasis. Misawa does at least beat Gordy (in a classic)...but beyond that Jumbo still rules with an iron fist. Hansen still stands as the top gaijin. Tsuruta-gun still retain the ascendancy over the Super Generation. Undercard bouts like the punchy, bloody Taue/Kawada brawl or the seven minute Misawa/Taue sprint (that birthed the Tiger Driver '91) feel as memorable as some of the more 'epic' matches we saw (i.e. Jumbo/Misawa III). Thematically though, the first half of 1991 feels geared around re-establishing Jumbo Tsuruta as the unassailable kingpin of All Japan - and he makes for fascinating viewing in every single match.  

Must See Matches
Toshiaki Kawada vs Akira Taue (15/01/1991 - ****1/2)
Jumbo Tsuruta vs Mitsuharu Misawa (18/04/1991 - ****1/2)
Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue/Masanobu Fuchi vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada/Kenta Kobashi (20/04/1991 - *****)
Mitsuharu Misawa vs Terry Gordy (01/06/1991 - ****1/2)

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