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

Jumbo Tsuruta retains his stronghold at the top of All Japan Pro-Wrestling as we enter the second half of 1991. Flanked by his lieutenants in Tsuruta-gun, and in the face of a rising tide of defiance coming from not only the Super Generation Army but also multiple gaijin threats as well, my assessment of the first six months of 1991 was that it was a six month period where Baba established Tsuruta as the 'unassailable kingpin' of AJPW. After the dynamism and tumultuous rise of the Super Generation Army in 1990, the opening months of 1991 weren't necessarily as irrepressibly fantastic - but Misawa's victory over Gordy and the growing threat of Kawada and Kobashi hinted at brighter prospects for the Super Generation in the final months of 1991...

Terry Gordy/Steve Williams vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada - AJPW World Tag Title Match
24th July 1991 (Kanazawa) - Gordy and Williams defeated Stan Hansen and Dan Spivey for the belts at the start of July and the onset of the 1991 Summer Action Series Tour. This is their first defence, putting them back in the ring with the blossoming force of Misawa and Kawada. We've seen prior matches between these two on our King's Road journey thus far - they are always fierce, hard-fought and thus far have always ended with the MVC's coming out on top. But Misawa enters this having defeated emphatically defeated Gordy in singles competition the previous month. Can the Super Generation score a definitive win over top gaijin talent and at last bring gold to their group?

Gordy and Misawa start, drawing an immediate roar from the crowd as they are excited to see them back in the ring after their June classic. Within a minute Misawa has Gordy's head spinning with a flurry of elbows so Bam Bam drags him to the corner where Williams can help out. Doc instantly demonstrates he has the power to defy Misawa's strikes by battering him to the mat. Kawada tags, and Misawa heads out of the ring to tend to a bloody nose. Williams looks to wrestle with Kawada; both he and Gordy keep Dangerous K grounded to negate his bad temper and aggressive kicking. They spend several minutes targeting his arm - until Steve misses a knee drop aimed at said arm. In a flash Kawada tags, and Misawa has Doc on the outside, sprawled across the timekeeping table! It is a direct contrast to earlier matches where the MVC's were the ones trying to take the match to the floor. This time Williams immediately brings it back between the ropes - where Gordy starts punching Misawa in the nose that had earlier been bloodied. It is divide and conquer for the champions - keeping the challengers apart and focusing on them for prolonged periods of attack. Misawa's head and face become such a target that at ten minutes he simply collapses to the arena floor and has to be retrieved by Terry. Kawada comes to the aid of his partner, teaming up on Gordy before taking him down into a Fujiwara armbar as a receipt for the arm work he endured minutes earlier. The fans jeer as Williams invades the ring to rescue his partner. Doc basically lies on top of Kawada to ensure he can't build momentum. Misawa tags at hits a German on Steve, but Terry breaks the pin by kicking Misawa's legs out - then belting him in the back of his already-injured head. Once again Misawa lies prone on the outside needing medical attention - now for both a bloody nose and an injured leg. With him incapacitated the champions are able to beat on Kawada at their leisure, taking turns in the ring to relentlessly attack him. And as soon as Misawa does tag Doc goes right after the leg with a half crab! Kawada Gordy grabs him for a PILEDRIVER IN THE CROWD! This is a strategy the MVC's have used to beat the Super Generation multiple times! Kenta Kobashi retrieves the stricken Kawada from the crowd but he is in no position to help the ailing Misawa inside the ring as Williams tears into his injured leg with an onslaught of submission holds. And when Kawada gets back to the apron Terry grabs him again - to toss him back into the front row! SOMEHOW Kawada claws his way back in and clobbers him with the lariat to the back of the head. Gordy tries a Back Drop Driver on Misawa...who uses the Tsuruta float-over counter into a pin and gets 2! FOLDING POWERBOMB by Kawada! Williams saves Gordy with a lariat! Oklahoma Stampede blocked...spinning heel kick misses. STAMPEDE NAILED! MISAWA SAVES! He flies off the top with the diving elbow on Doc! But his knee gives out and Gordy absolutely steamrolls him with clotheslines in the corner. Torpedo Lariat gets 2 for Gordy. Misawa desperately blocks his powerbomb, only for Williams to illegally deck him with a powerslam instead. Powerbomb...COUNTERED TO A RANA! MISAWA PINS GORDY! The Super Generation have gold at 25:48 (shown)!

Rating - **** - This certainly isn't a flawless match and - like Gordy/Misawa from June - thematically relies on having Gordy and Williams work prolonged, submission-based grappling segments on the mat which isn't necessarily their strongest skill as professional wrestlers. But as a match it undeniably takes you on a great journey encompassing so many key calling-cards of the rivalry between these two teams. Miracle Violence Connection were ruthless in their treatment of Misawa; a direct reaction to his singles win over Gordy the previous month. In scenes reminiscent of that match, it was Misawa having to deal with a bloody injury this time. Once again the MVC dipped into a staple tactic of every match they've had against the Misawa/Kawada duo - namely eliminating one of them with a huge offensive bomb outside the ring. Their clinical, aggressive approach epitomised the struggle it has been for the Super Generation to reach the top, and break through All Japan's glass ceiling. Yet as a match this demonstrated the growth of Misawa and Kawada at every turn. Early on it was actually the MVC's having to fight for their lives as Misawa tried to take one of them out on the floor. The signature elbows and kicks of the challengers were put over extremely strongly here; Gordy and Williams making it clear at every turn how much they were feared. And - unlike in prior matches - this time the strategy of eliminating one of them outside the ring didn't work. Kawada has developed sufficiently that he could withstand Gordy's piledriver in the crowd. It meant that MVC were unable to isolate Misawa (and his catalogue of injuries) for long enough - and with that failure we saw Misawa score a second landmark victory over former Triple Crown Champion Gordy (getting a second big win is something he famously failed to do over Jumbo of course). I don't think this reaches the 'must see' tier of All Japan 90's/King's Road matches - but it is very good, and a major landmark in the ascension of the Super Generation as they defeat the gaijin and bring the Tag Titles to their group.

Akira Taue vs Kenta Kobashi
26th July 1991 (Matsudo) - This early clash between two of the four fabled 'Pillars' comes at a unique point in their development. This match is an extension of the Tsuruta-gun/Super Generation rivalry, at a time when Taue was the second-ranked member of Jumbo's group having come through his bitter sub-feud with Kawada. That means he out-ranks Kobashi, who was very much the third-ranked member of the Super Generation. Yet Kobashi had started to show upward mobility in his own right and possesses a finishing weapon in his arsenal (the Moonsault) which we have seen Tsuruta-gun fearful of and look to evade multiple times in six-man tags. Can the young Kobashi accelerate his own development with a big win over Taue?

Tempers boil over inside the first minute; Taue wafting a disrespectful kick into the back of Kobashi's head, provoking an immediate reaction which sees Kobashi blast him out of the ring and suplex him on the floor! It rattles Taue and, like Misawa has done with Jumbo, Kobashi tries to profit by going after the head and neck. He works a prolonged headlock which Akira has to fight like hell to escape over the course of almost five minutes. When he finally breaks free Kobashi simply takes him back to the outside and body slams him into a table! Taue is pissed - returning to the ring and attacking Kobashi's FACE, only for Kobashi to shut that down with a floatover suplex for 2. DDT ON THE FLOOR by Taue! He follows that with a guillotine over the top rope to inflict more damage to the face and neck. Taue goes to a sleeper and, unlike Kobashi's headlocks earlier, he makes sure he places his forearm and fist right into his opponent's face. Palm strike flurry nailed...only for Kobashi to no-sell and level him with a DDT. FLYING CROSSBODY TO THE FLOOR! Kobashi is upping the stakes, increasing the pace and taking flight in a manner that Taue isn't capable of. Taue senses the danger of course and defends himself with a SHINBREAKER into the guardrails! As he would do so many times in his legendary career, it means Kobashi is now fighting through an injured knee with an opponent aggressively looking to exploit it. We cross the fifteen minute mark with Akira well on top and picking off the leg injury at will. It means that when Kobashi manages to lay in a big lariat, his vertical base goes from under him and he can do little more than collapse alongside his fallen foe. A minute later he lands another lariat and starts to build momentum, levelling Taue with a missile dropkick too. Taue gives him a jumping enzi to the head before crushing him with a Samoan drop for 2. Atomic drop/back suplex combo gets 2 as he sadistically rolls Kobashi over into a half crab. But Kobashi escapes, shrugs aside another play on his injured leg and lands a northern lights suplex. He follows it with a German suplex as well, but none of his bridging pins hold because his ailing leg negates their effectiveness. For a third time Kobashi looks to get ahead by fighting Taue on the floor, sufficiently softening him up to hit the Kobashi DDT. MOONSAULT MISSES! And his knee is toast! He tries to tap Taue out with an abdominal stretch only for Akira to escape by grabbing at the bad leg. FROG SPLASH by Kobashi gets 2! The time limit is almost up here! Taue LARIATS Kobashi in the back of the head and they both collapse as the thirty minute time limit expires (my watch had 27:47 shown).

Rating - **** - Both would get even better at longer form matches, but this was still really damn good. I thought the opening ten minutes - although slow going - were absolutely superb here. The spots on the floor made it clear how intense the dislike between them was, but Kobashi was still technically inferior to Taue at this stage...and the way he bridged the gap to his opponent was extremely good. He used rush attacks on the floor, but knowing he was out-gunned if it came to trading bombs out there he'd always immediately return it to the ring and try to press home his advantage with a ground hold to negate Taue's skills. The match did meander a little bit in the middle portion unfortunately. Taue's work on Kobashi's leg was solid without being overly compelling and the pace became a little subdued. The closing period of the contest would define this match as one of growth for Kenta Kobashi however. Despite being seemingly out-gunned and carrying a leg injury, he was the aggressor for much of the final ten minutes. Taue wasn't exactly hanging on, but it was Kobashi on top - and the match finally ended with a fatigued, ailing Taue hitting a desperate and defensive lariat to ensure they were both down at the finish. Kobashi didn't get a big singles win here, but he wasn't beaten either. It was a sure sign of the skill, tenacity, passion and courage he would show as his legendary career would progress...

Jumbo Tsuruta/Masanobu Fuchi/Yoshinari Ogawa vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
26th July 1991 (Matsudo) - This was the main event of the same show that contained the Kobashi/Taue match we just saw. In some ways the status quo still stands; Jumbo sits atop the mountain as the Triple Crown Champion. But Tsuruta-gun just cannot shake off the Super Generation Army, and the Misawa/Kawada duo have taken another step towards the summit of 'Jumbo's mountain' by claiming the AJPW World Tag Championship. With Kobashi and Taue fighting in singles action on this show, their spots in the respective trios teams are filled by young, junior heavyweight representatives of each team. We've seen Kikuchi as little more than a punching bag for Tsuruta-gun teams in the past, so for him this match marks an opportunity to showcase his own progress. Each individual is fighting their own battle and telling their own story within the wider context of the Super Gen vs Tsuruta-gun war.

Kikuchi and Ogawa start with genuine determination, and it is Kikuchi that gets ahead therefore cuing Kawada and Misawa up for a fearsome early strike flurry. But when Kiku tags back, Ogawa is able to escape and Fuchi steps in to pull rank on the Super Generation junior. Jumbo is totally dismissive of him; looking at Kikuchi like trash as he tosses and kicks him around with complete ease. In a repeat of the earlier sequence, it's only when Ogawa tags back that Kikuchi is able to get out of the ring. Kawada tries to break Fuchi's arm in an Ogawa and Tsuruta save by going after Kawada's eyes. As he struggles to retain his vision Tsuruta-gun take turns working him over...until Ogawa gets a little too close and walks into a flurry of Kawada kicks. Misawa almost KO's him with a few elbows, then Kikuchi uses a Stretch Muffler in an attempt to submit Ogawa - which Jumbo breaks by headbutting him! Tsuruta finds he repeatedly has to come in to rescue Ogawa over the ensuing minutes, refusing to allow his enemies in the Super Generation to put down his young partner. It is known that Misawa isn't wrestling at 100% however and to Ogawa's immense credit it isn't one of his team-mates that sees him escape - it is his own resourcefulness. He takes some nasty little shots at Misawa's legs, leaving him visibly limping as Ogawa slithers away and unleashes the Triple Crown Champion. Jumbo and Fuchi take turns working Misawa's leg over. Of course, the famously ill-tempered Kawada does eventually snap - and give Ogawa a disgusting boot to the head whilst he tries to work a leg submission. Unfortunately in the aftermath of that Tsuruta hauls Misawa out of the ring for a SHINBREAKER THROUGH A TABLE! But the trip to the outside means Tsuruta-gun's positional control of the ring is interrupted, allowing Misawa to escape and tag out to his fired up partners. Kenta Kobashi is at ringside trying to administer medical assistance to Misawa's injured leg, and with Kawada out checking on him too Ogawa and Fuchi soon take over on Kikuchi inside the ropes. Jumbo tries to SNAP Kiku with an abdominal Kawada walks in and SLAPS JUMBO IN THE EAR! The ace falls to his knees, clutching his head in pain - and allows Fuchi to take over by throwing Kiku into the barricades. He and Ogawa take turns piledriving Kikuchi, Jumbo almost decapitates him with a lariat too - meaning that Kikuchi is now barely hanging on. He makes one last, desperate lunge towards his corner...and in comes Kawada! HUGE strike flurry on Fuchi, followed by the TENRYU ELBOW for 2! Jumbo boxes Kawada's ear as a receipt for earlier, only for Kawada to no-sell and ELBOW HIM IN THE HEAD! Tsuruta collapses to the floor barely conscious and seeking medical help, forcing his partners to fight at a disadvantage. TIGER DRIVER on Ogawa from Misawa! Tsuruta runs across the ring to keep trading blows with Kikuchi lays out Ogawa with a missile dropkick. KAWADA KICKS on Jumbo! NO SOLD! KAWADA KICKS AGAIN! ELBOW BY JUMBO! He looks like he wants to f*cking murder Kawada! Kikuchi tries to help...but Tsuruta tosses him aside like nothing. And NOW we get Jumbo and Misawa for the first time! Tsuruta blasts him with a chair outside the ring as even his own partners struggle to contain the rage of the mighty ace. BACK DROP DRIVER! Misawa kicks out! BACK DROP DRIVER AGAIN! LARIAT takes out Kawada! ROLLING BACK DROP DRIVERS! JUMBO PINS MISAWA! Tsuruta-gun win at 30:56

Rating - **** - The clear highlight of this one was the scorching hot finishing sequence, which included an incredible 'Jumbo loses his temper and murders everyone' flurry and a huge statement as Tsuruta emphatically takes down his great rival Misawa to win the match. Much of the match felt like it was setting up Kawada to be the next great threat to Jumbo in fact. Dangerous K was promoted heavily throughout. With Kikuchi an out-matched junior and Misawa carrying injuries, it fell on Kawada to spearhead the Super Generation Army and he did it with gusto. He was the aggressor Tsuruta-gun feared, he was the one engaging with (and winning) strike battles with mighty Jumbo - and ultimately it was his partner (the supposed 'leader' of the Super Generation) who took the pin rather than him. With Tsuruta having staved off his challenge and Misawa left licking his wounds and battling a mounting catalogue of injuries it was apparent that we were witnessing the rise of Kawada and potentially his placement as the next pretender to Tsuruta's throne.

Jumbo Tsuruta/Yoshinari Ogawa vs Kenta Kobashi/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
17th August 1991 (Tokyo) - We are back in Korakuen Hall for this, the latest 'reader suggested' entry into the King's Road Chronicles. I could only find a 'joined in progress' version of this one so I was going to skip it, but a reader of this series thus far insisted it should be included. Kobashi and Kikuchi are a respected team in their own right, but are very much the 'B-Team' of Super Generation Army. Whenever we've seen them collide with Tsuruta in multi-man tags they have been pretty out-matched. But tonight Jumbo is teaming not with Taue or even with the wily veteran Fuchi - he has young junior heavyweight apprentice Ogawa by his side. Does that make him more vulnerable, or is the Ace so dominant that he can lead his young partner to victory over a dangerous Super Generation foe?

We JIP with Jumbo all over Kikuchi, cranking on abdominal stretch and choking him in the ropes as Kobashi protests angrily. A colossal atomic drop has Kikuchi skipping across the canvas, seemingly on the brink of defeat. Ogawa is on hand to lay in a cheap-shot to Kobashi as he tries to make a save as well. To his credit Kikuchi escapes the clutches of the Ace...and Kobashi actually takes Tsuruta down with a clubbing lariat. Tsuruta cuts that off in a hurry by repeatedly kneeing and kicking him in the face! And with Kobashi already struggling to see, Jumbo doubles down by gouging his eyes and raking them across the top rope. There is a really neat moment tucked in with Jumbo's dominance - he puts Kobashi in a half crab, then when he makes the ropes Jumbo cocks his head ruefully as if to say 'I tried to give him an easy way out'...then stands brutally on his THROAT! He has to tag out - and in flies Kikuchi with a missile dropkick which rocks even Tsuruta! Jumbo sells his head momentarily, before viciously downing the smaller man with a big boot. Powerbomb nailed, bring in a diving Kobashi to break the pin! Ogawa, meanwhile, hits a sh*tty ass double stomp on Kikuchi to punish that midsection still further. LARIAT from Jumbo to Kobashi! He tries another...and Kobashi ducks into a DDT for 2! Tsuruta is dazed and has to tag but Ogawa isn't powerful enough and Kobashi runs through him with a lariat. Moonsault blocked by Jumbo - clinging to Kobashi's legs in the corner! Big boot/backslide combo by Ogawa and Tsuruta gets 2! Kikuchi saves by elbowing Jumbo in the back of the head, leaving him dazed on the floor...and Kobashi puts Ogawa in a rolling cradle to get the huge win at 13:17 (shown)

Rating - *** - It is hard to assess the overall quality of this as a match when we saw less than half of it. Cagematch lists the official time of this one at more than 24 minutes so we really were getting only an excerpt from a much larger story. But what we got here was great with all four men involved contributing exactly what you'd expect. Tsuruta delivered another beautiful, layered performance as a dominant ace whilst giving Kobashi and Kikuchi just enough to keep everyone interested. Kikuchi was full of fire and speed (whilst mostly taking a huge beating), Kobashi brought passion and fantastic facial selling coupled with his blossoming skill as a pro...and Ogawa was a sneaky, devious toad. This was by far Kobashi and Kikuchi's biggest victory as a team and the roar of the crowd tells you what a significant moment this was. In the last match we saw Kawada's ascension to a place where he can genuinely threaten the guys at the very top of All Japan's pecking order; here we saw that beneath him Kobashi and Kikuchi are also growing in stature. 

Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada vs Stan Hansen/Johnny Ace
17th August 1991 (Tokyo) - Misawa and Kawada's Tag Titles are not on the line here. This is a first appearance in our King's Road Chronicles journey for Johnny Ace (known to most in more recent times as John Laurinaitis), the latest young American star to tour AJPW under the learning tree of 'The Lariat'. Misawa has a singles victory over Terry Gordy, whilst the Super Generation also have a signature victory over the Miracle Violence Connection. Once again we have Misawa and Hansen sharing a ring and it would mark the next stage in their rise to the top if they were able to score a win over Hansen's team here.

Hansen and Ace jump the Super Gens during their ring entrance, with Stan and Kawada in particular absolutely beating the SH*T out of each other! Joe Higuchi is the referee for this and looks absolutely desperate as he tries to restore some order. The match officially begins with streamers flying everywhere, Kawada laid out on the floor and Johnny taking the fight to Misawa in the ropes. Thankfully Kawada soon returns and gives Ace a sh*tkicking. Hansen tags and smacks the f*ck out of Dangerous K too - this match is wild! The gaijin trap Kawada in their corner and beat him around, before Stan tosses him into the crowd and cracks a chair over his head! Misawa comes out and tackles Hansen into the guardrails, and soon enough both Stan and Kawada are back in the ring violently stiffing each other. Misawa spearheads a raid on Ace, isolating him from his partner and ensuring the Super Generation can enjoy a period of unbroken offensive control for the first time. Kawada, of course, finds time to charge Hansen and clock him with a lariat to the back of the head. This prompts Stan to charge him for a LARIAT ON THE FLOOR! That all comes whilst neither is actually the legal man too. On the other side of the ring Johnny body slams Misawa into the concrete and starts diving at him with a succession of elbow drops. Back in the ring Stan gets in on the act; crushing Misawa's upper body making it increasingly difficult for him to breathe. Kawada makes a vital tag and instantly dumps Ace with a folding powerbomb. Hansen breaks the pin on that before tossing Misawa off the top with a press slam! He then BLASTS Kawada with the ring bell! Tiger Driver from Misawa to Ace - which is enough to win the match for his team at circa 12:45. That comes moments before Hansen lays out both Misawa and Kawada with a chair! He and Johnny leave, with the Super Generation team storming out a couple of minutes later in confusing scenes to end this particular night of the Summer Action Series.

Rating - **** - This is a hidden gem in the AJPW 90's archive. It isn't pretty or clever, it doesn't spend much time serving a larger narrative - it's just four dudes who come out trying to beat the absolute sh*t out of each other. There are some larger canonical elements at play here such as the Super Generation coming for wins over gaijin and the rise of Misawa (and Kawada) as singles competitors...but those are just spectres in the background. The prime focus here is violence from bell to bell, and it was fantastic in that regard. Hansen was in his element in a match which felt chaotic and completely out of control from the outset, Kawada continued to showcase his growth as it was HE who spent most of the match going toe to toe with the legendary Hansen rather than Misawa. Even Johnny Ace got to demonstrate his potential and toughness in some feisty, hard-hitting exchanges. I imagine at the time the All Japan audience found this slightly flat and confusing. A twelve minute main event with a messy, screwy finish (and with all four guys stomping to the back mere seconds after the conclusion of this Korakuen Hall headline bout) - but time has been kind to this match. It still looks and feels brutal and gritty; breezing by for the twelve minutes it runs...

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Kenta Kobashi
18th August 1991 (Tokyo) - The second of a two night stand at Tokyo's Korakuen Hall, here we'll see the Super Generation Army looking to follow up on their success of the previous night. Or perhaps that should read 'deal with the fall-out on their success of the previous night'. In back-to-back matches we saw Kobashi and Kikuchi secure their biggest victory as a duo by defeating Jumbo and Ogawa, then the Misawa/Kawada team overwhelming high-ranking gaijin in the main event. Once again the Super Generation are doing everything in their power to kick through the glass ceiling...and tonight once again it is the Ace, Jumbo Tsuruta, who is looking to keep them at bay.

JIP with Taue and Tsuruta in control having isolated Kobashi in the ring. Misawa rescues his partner with a cheap-shot on Taue, then makes a tag and immediately wipes him out with a jumping elbow smash. He also decks Jumbo with one whilst he stands on the apron, and once again it leaves the Ace reeling on the floor. On the other side of the ring Kobashi kidnaps Taue, escorting him through the guardrails for a suplex in the crowd. He comes back in to put Taue in a Boston Crab - and when Jumbo tries to emulate Misawa with a cheap-shot rescue attempt Kobashi lies in wait and clobbers the champ back to the floor with a big lariat. The Super Generation take turns working over Akira's back and midsection, almost taunting an irate and dazed Tsuruta as he watches from the apron. Finally Jumbo snaps - marching THROUGH a Misawa elbow strike and absolutely decimating him with a BACK DROP DRIVER! He goes for a second, only for Misawa to almost float-over and pin him. Kobashi tagged and he is all over the Ace with tackles and slams, demonstrating how quickly he is rising through the ranks. He is still out-matched though, and with Misawa on the floor seeking treatment for his shoulder his partner is soon once again being dominated by Tsuruta-gun. They aggressively target his face with Tsuruta raking it against the ropes repeatedly before going to the floor and bouncing Kobashi's skull off the guardrails. Inevitably it is Taue that loses control; his punches to the face not impactful enough, allowing Kobashi to PILEDRIVE him into the mat for 2. Misawa tags and delivers his diving clothesline spot, but is forced to immediately vacate again thanks to the damage to his shoulder. It means Tsuruta is free to stomp on Kobashi's face to provide momentary respite for Taue. He drops a double axehandle into Misawa's shoulder which leaves the leader of the Super Generation down and out in the face of a 2-on-1 beatdown. But he refuses to quit...and soon lands a flurry of elbows into Jumbo's face which knocks him to the floor! KOBASHI MOONSAULT! Jumbo dives in to break the pin! Tsuruta rattles Kobashi with a big boot, feeding him into a BACK DROP DRIVER OFF THE APRON BY TAUE! Not content with that he lands a facebuster off the apron as well, going back to the injury they were working on earlier. Misawa rescues with another devastating elbow into Tsuruta's head. NODOWA OTOSHI gets 2! Misawa elbows Tsuruta into Kobashi's rolling cradle for 2 as well. Tsuruta escapes and smashes into Kobashi's face with a big jumping knee strike. BACK DROP NODOWA OTOSHI GETS 2! POWERBOMB by Taue...but still Kobashi won't quit! NODOWA OTOSHI! With Jumbo restraining Misawa, Taue pins Kobashi to win at 18:57 (shown)

Rating - **** - It's devastating that I couldn't find a full version of this one. Cagematch lists the official time at just over half an hour, so there is more than a third of the bout missing here. That is a huge shame because what we got was fantastic. They married some of the central themes of the Super Generation vs Tsuruta-gun feud together with some intriguing new dynamics extremely well. Jumbo is still vulnerable to Misawa's devastating elbow strikes making Misawa his closest rival, the Super Generation still want to dominate Taue for his betrayal...and those elements make this match feel comfortable and easy to understand. Beneath that there is a new edge to the drama though. Misawa would spent the second half of 1991 fighting through injuries, one of which was a shoulder problem which we saw come into play here. It wasn't a central plot point tonight - but it was enough that it negated the threat he posed and gave Tsuruta-gun a free run at Kobashi. And yet we also then got to see how quickly Kobashi is gaining ground on everyone else. We saw he and Kikuchi get a huge win over Jumbo and Ogawa earlier in this volume, we saw Kobashi take Taue to a time limit draw too. His development was again showcased with several key sequences where he not only survived Jumbo - but he was the aggressor. He took the fight to the Ace and rattled the Triple Crown Champion. In a rivalry which has always been about the young stars making marginal gains and wearing down the crumbling forces of Tsuruta's 'old guard' - a step forward like this is significant. 

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
29th August 1991 (Amagasaki) - I hadn't initially included this in my plans for this compilation, but I stumbled across a full version of the match whilst doing some research and the line-up has me intrigued. We've spoken a lot about the Super Generation Army gaining ground, in particular Kawada and Kobashi (that duo actually beat Stan Hansen and Dan Spivey at this show). And we've also spoken about Tsuruta still ruling All Japan as the Triple Crown Ace despite showing moments of real vulnerability. A lot of that talk has marginalised Misawa though. As the leader of the Super Generation feels the heat from a year of intense battle at the top of AJPW's card his body has started to let him down. This match sees him in a main event against the lethal Jumbo/Taue combination - but now without his two most trusted, heavyweight lieutenants. Kikuchi is game but still a junior heavyweight and well behind the ranking and status of the Tsuruta-gun team. Does Misawa physically have enough in the tank to threaten the Ace tonight?

This is interesting before the bell even rings. Misawa looks like he wants to start on the apron, but seems to have second thoughts and beckons Kikuchi out. And the second it is clear Misawa is starting for the Super Generation Jumbo immediately calls Taue over and demands to start for their team. He wastes no time in HEAVING Misawa out of the ring, albeit sustaining a few elbows to the head along the way. Misawa has to fight past Taue just to get back into the ring. Kikuchi does his best to stay out of the Ace's clutches but there is an air of inevitability about Tsuruta smearing him into the canvas as soon as he is able to get hold of him. Misawa re-enters to capture and wear Taue down and only vacates the ring when he has Akira fully grounded. Kikuchi isn't able to maintain his control though and is soon taking another beating at Jumbo's clubbing hands and feet. Tsuruta-gun are remorseless with Kikuchi; tearing apart his back and legs in a sustained beatdown which sees Misawa grow increasingly restless. He feels he has no choice but to invade the ring again - laying Taue out with the rebound elbow smash for 2. Jumbo tries the blind-siding double axehandle smash to the shoulder that he took Misawa out with during the last match we saw in Tokyo...except this time Misawa moves and smirks defiantly as the referee escorts the champ back to his corner. Nevertheless, Misawa soon also tags out and tends to his shoulder on the apron. His respite is only momentary - Kikuchi needs his help in maintaining control of Taue. And this time Jumbo pounces and hits a flurry of big strikes to the shoulder, then an armbreaker which has Misawa clinging to the ropes for a break. Taue picks up the baton to drive the injured arm and shoulder into both the guardrails and ringpost! Misawa lands a desperate elbow strike...but collapses in pain and has no choice but to tag in Kikuchi even though he knows sending him into battle with Jumbo is hopeless. The Ace gleefully scoops Kikuchi up to deliver a stalling atomic drop. A vicious lariat follows leaving Kikuchi almost limp - which Akira exploits by repeatedly throttling him over the top rope. Misawa has to sacrifice his own arm by sprinting in and using it to elbow Taue in the head. RUNNING ELBOW ON THE FLOOR lays out Jumbo! Taue is now so fearful of another elbow strike that he actually falls on his ass trying to duck one whilst Misawa returns to his corner! ARM-SELLING TIGER DRIVER! TIGER BODY PRESS WAY ACROSS THE RING! Tsuruta breaks the pin with SHORT-ARM LARIATS! A frantic Kikuchi saves his partner from a Back Drop Driver, only to be mauled by Taue. BACK DROP DRIVER! Kikuchi breaks the pin! Misawa actually turns away from his corner, declining to tag out even when he is barely able to stand...and it's only another lariat from Taue which physically deposits him within an easy reach of Kikuchi that the tag actually takes place. DDT by Taue - ignoring everything Kikuchi tries to hit him with on the way! Tsuruta almost breaks Kikuchi's neck throwing him to the ground then tries to snap him in half with an abdominal stretch. Elbows from Misawa to save! POWERBOMB from Jumbo to Kikuchi gets 2! He pummels Misawa's shoulder and throws him him one last boot to the injured arm for good measure - then climbs on top of Kikuchi with a sleeper hold. Kikuchi is OUT COLD! He goes completely limp, causing the ref to stop it at 21:35!

Rating - **** - If I gave quarter stars this would be an easy ****1/4 from me, I'm incredibly happy I checked this one out on a whim. It isn't a must-see match from the absolute mass of Super Generation vs Tsuruta-gun tags out there, but everyone absolutely NAILED their respective role here - with an utterly incredible performance from Misawa at the heart of the action. He isn't a man for big gestures and overt displays of emotion or passion (like Kobashi) but in his unique, stoic, understated manner he carried this. Little moments of hesitation or reluctance to tag Kikuchi in knowing how outmatched he was ratcheted up the tension, his selling of the injured shoulder was fantastically layered and believable too. For so much of 1990, Misawa was THE story in AJPW's main event scene. In 1991 his momentum has stalled and he has returned to being part of the wider ensemble it was nice to laser focus in on him here. Tsuruta was impeccable as the bullying, bitter Ace - vicious and mean with Misawa, condescending and brutal with Kikuchi. Taue as his stooge was equally impressive, whilst Kikuchi threw absolutely everything he had into being the whipping boy for this group. Do not sleep on this match, it's one of the best I've reviewed thus far for this 1991 Part 2 collection...

Stan Hansen vs Kenta Kobashi
4th September 1991 (Tokyo) - We are back at Budokan Hall as the 1991 Summer Action Series reaches its closing stages. This isn't the most iconic Hansen/Kobashi match, but the battles between these two men are a famously violent and exciting addition to the AJPW 90's canon. The context here is that we have seen Kobashi climbing the ranks; drawing with Taue and even reaching a level where he is able to take the fight to Jumbo. His reward is a high profile, Budokan singles clash with a former Triple Crown Champion and top gaijin veteran. 

WESTERN LARIATOOOOOO! Hansen KO's Kobashi before the bell even rings! The match finally does begin with Kobashi collapsing to the floor and Stan repeatedly punting him in the head. POWERBOMB ON THE FLOOR! Hansen is out to murder his foe tonight it seems - although Kobashi has enough fight in him to refuse to be pinned. At almost five minutes in Kobashi swings a solitary, wayward slap in Hansen's direction - and the crowd audibly gasp in delight that the Super Generation representative is still fighting. That is until Stan THROWS A TABLE AT HIM! But there is now a visible frustration to Stan's work with Kobashi continually getting back up. He literally holds his opponent down and starts slapping him in the face...but that only serves to fire Kobashi up further. He somehow manages to eject Stan from the ring, and gives chase to bounce his head off the ringpost. DDT on the floor follows, then another inside the ring for a shock two-count at the ten minute mark. MOONSAULT! Hansen kicks out at 2. Kobashi tries a missile dropkick too...only for Stan to swat him aside and apply a Boston crab. BODY SLAM INTO THE F*CKING GUARDRAIL! LION TAMER ON THE FLOOR! Seriously - is Hansen trying to kill Kobashi here?! Even more incredibly, not only is Kobashi not dead, he's still fighting. He climbs on top of the gaijin bruiser with a sleeper hold, clinging on even when Hansen tries to give him a back suplex. Stan throws his body out of the ring trying to break it...but still Kobashi holds on! Hansen dives over the guardrail...but Kobashi WON'T LET GO! He eventually trudges back to the ring having rendered Hansen motionless, yet then leaves the ring to confront him again only to walk into a LARIAT ON THE FLOOR! Hansen thinks he has it won and is amazed to find that Kobashi beats the count and almost pins him by countering a back suplex. Lariat ducked...LARIATOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! Hansen finally puts Kobashi down at 18:36

Rating - **** - Stan's chemistry with Kobashi is much better than anything he shared with the other pillars. They are such a comfortable fit as opponents and this is an early example of precisely what makes them so special in the ring together. Hansen is a savage, murdering Kobashi before the bell even rings making the entire bout an uphill struggle for the rising star from that point. Yet that takes the match directly into Kobashi's wheelhouse. He is compelling to watch when fighting from underneath, his facial expressions, body language and unbridled tenacity make him peerless in this environment. The crowd roared him on with every hint of a comeback, gasped in dismay every time Hansen pulled out something sadistic...then cheered again every time Kobashi defied him. At this stage in his development Kobashi didn't have the weaponry in his arsenal to genuinely threaten Hansen, but he held his own and lasted twenty minutes in a high profile Budokan match despite a savage attack from The Lariat. A sure sign that Kobashi is developing quickly and his time will come...

Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue - AJPW World Tag Title Match
4th September 1991 (Tokyo) - It is the first major clash between this line-up since the 1990 Tag League when Misawa and Kawada were able to beat the Ace and his protege. 1991 has seen the likes of Kawada and Kobashi making gradual gains on Tsuruta-gun, but Misawa has suffered the burden of leading the charge against Jumbo's forces and his ailing body is starting to pay the price. Can Tsuruta-gun re-establish total dominance of AJPW by taking back the Tag Championship, or do Super Generation Army continue to chip away at Tsuruta's crumbling throne by remaining undefeated in this particular tag team rivalry?

The camera ominously zooms in on Misawa's shoulder before the match starts, and unsurprisingly he starts on the apron so Kawada and Taue can rekindle their ferocious rivalry. Akira throws a slap at Kawada, who reacts violently and clobbers him with a lariat. Misawa tags...and Taue instantly throws a strike at the shoulder, drawing jeers from the Budokan crowd. ELBOW SMASH by Misawa, knocking Taue out of the ring where Kawada is waiting to body slam him to the concrete floor. Jumbo has seen enough; tagging in and stomping down on Misawa's injury immediately. Kawada takes his partner out of the firing line and defiantly stands up to the Ace until Tsuruta clubs him to the ground with a lariat. With Misawa incapacitated Tsuruta-gun are happy to work the numbers with Kawada...but find him disagreeable and difficult to keep pinned down. Taue has to rescue his partner when Dangerous K traps him in a Fujiwara armbar and is himself unable to land a piledriver due to more Kawada defiance. Jumbo tries to snuff that out with an abdominal stretch, which Misawa breaks with an elbow to the back of Tsuruta's vulnerable head (which he again sells beautifully). Jumbo even starts taunting Misawa whilst grinding Kawada down again with a sleeper hold. Kawada blasts past Taue, unleashing Misawa for a flying elbow strike right into Akira's jaw. ARMBREAKER from Tsuruta to Misawa! Having negated Kawada they are now free to launch an all-out assault on Misawa's injury - and it is merciless. Taue hoists him up and slams him shoulder-first into the turnbuckles, before Jumbo drills the same shoulder into the metal guardrails. KOBASHI DDT by Misawa! He slithers away, bringing in Kawada who powers through Jumbo with a lariat! KAWADA KICKS! ELBOWS! He is rattling the Ace here! Tsuruta puts a knee into the breadbasket, whilst on the floor Tsuyoshi Kikuchi is hastily trying to bandage up Misawa's shoulder. Kawada is irrepressible; climbing the ropes and hitting the Revolution Elbow drop on Taue for 2. The challengers continue to focus on Kawada's midsection; Taue even hitting his crouching lariat spot into the ribs instead of across the throat. Texas Cloverleaf applied...only for the bandaged Misawa to make the save throwing elbows like a mad-man! After every movement Misawa has to clutch his injured shoulder now though. TIGER DRIVER on Taue! Jumbo breaks the pin (with a kick to the shoulder of course). Cobra Twist on the bad arm...which Kawada breaks with a roundhouse kick to Jumbo's skull. He genuinely has the Ace rattled with his striking, but is powerless to prevent the challengers hitting Misawa with a BACK DROP/NODOWA OTOSHI COMBO! BACK DROP DRIVER ON MISAWA! Who kicks out at 2! Jumbo goes for another back drop, but Misawa rolls through and blasts him with an elbow. Face lock applied, as Kawada charges in and launches Taue to the floor! Tsuruta makes the ropes, and hits the injured Misawa with a superplex. POWERBOMB! Misawa kicks out again! LARIAT TO THE HEAD by Kawada! GERMAN SUPLEX BY MISAWA! FACELOCK AGAIN! LARIAT ON TAUE! Taue is restrained by Kawada...and JUMBO TAPS OUT! MISAWA SUBMITS TSURUTA! The champions retain at 26:34

Rating - ****1/2 - I love this match. It is a hard one to rank against the two predecessors in this series though. The 45-minute draw is a sprawling, intense epic, whilst the December 1990 clash is fantastically crisp and precise. In a strange way this lacks some of the elements that made those last matches great...but in their place comes a palpable sense of progression and dynamic growth. Like with Misawa's win over Jumbo in June 1990, whilst this wasn't necessarily the very best match in the series, it is incredibly historically significant and marks the next step in the genesis of the Super Generation. Misawa at last proves his win over Tsuruta wasn't a fluke. After a traumatic and difficult year he reaffirms his position as the top native star gunning for Jumbo's spot by tapping him out clean - even in the face of the incredible adversity his shoulder injury created. Similarly Kawada showed that he isn't just Misawa's second any more - and is a threat to Jumbo in his own right. On multiple occasions he actually out-gunned Tsuruta in strike exchanges, he repeatedly got the best of Taue in their encounters and was only quietened when Tsuruta-gun were able to work him over at a 2-on-1 disadvantage. If 1991 thus far had been the year of Jumbo tightening his iron grip on the All Japan throne, this is the match which once again turned the tide in favour of the Super Generation. 

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue vs Toshiaki Kawada/Kenta Kobashi
27th September 1991 (Tokyo) - After a difficult year, the 1991 Summer Action Series Tour ended in success for the Super Generation Army. Misawa historically forced Jumbo to tap out as he and Kawada retained the AJPW World Tag Titles, and the tour ended two nights later at Korakuen Hall in event where the top of the card saw back-to-back Super Generation tag victories over Tsuruta-gun. One of those victories included Kawada and Kobashi joining forces to defeat Taue and Masanobu Fuchi. We have seen Kawada and Kobashi develop all year and there is an argument to be made that Kawada now absolutely is a viable contender to Tsuruta's Triple Crown. He and Kobashi now face the Tsuruta-gun 'A-Team', with Jumbo no doubt keen to snuff out another potential threat to his throne.

Taue strikes first and levels Kawada with a dropkick...but Dangerous K gets right back up and nails a lariat. He then tries to throw an elbow at Jumbo on the apron (Misawa-style), but the Ace evades it. Quickly Tsuruta takes control though by repeatedly elbowing Kobashi in the guts then blasting Kawada off the apron. Tsuruta-gun work over Kobashi's ribs, only for Kobashi to show his tenacity by fighting past Akira and tagging out. ELBOW STRIKE from Kawada to Jumbo! And sure enough that sees the champion on his haunches, on the floor, nursing his head. Not content with that, Kawada scoops up his old rival Taue and body slams him over the guardrail into a row of chairs! Kobashi works a Boston crab to further aggravate Taue's back, and when Tsuruta tries to make a save Kobashi LARIATS HIM TO THE FLOOR! Tsuruta, once again, is masterful in his selling at this point - with a brilliant, glazed expression to sell the impact of the heavy strikes to his head. Kawada throws a middle finger in Jumbo's direction too as the Super Generation grow in stature and confidence. Taue desperately needs a tag and gets it after laying out Kobashi. Tsuruta goes straight to Kobashi in turn and thrashes him with a payback lariat from earlier. So Kawada charges the ring and BEATS THE SH*T OUT OF JUMBO! He batters the Ace into the corner with a flurry of violent knee strikes, which the referee frantically tries to curtail since Kawada isn't legal. Tsuruta gets a manner of revenge by putting the Cobra Twist on Kobashi whilst throwing visible abuse in Kawada's direction. Tsuruta-gun work on making it impossible for Kobashi to breathe, with Tsuruta only deviating from that to launch a vicious attack on Kawada; bludgeoning him to the floor and then over the guardrails. Having lost focus on Kobashi though, he is able to land a DDT on Akira, then tag out to a pugnacious Kawada who just refuses to quit tonight. Jumbo batters him with a lariat which barely gets a one-count before Dangerous K is kicking him in the head again. SLEEPER HOLD! In the same month where Misawa tapped Jumbo out, this is a serious situation for the Ace! He needs Taue to rescue Kawada kicks and chops lumps out of him. Revolution Elbow drop gets 2! Taue desperately blocks the Folding Powerbomb...and Tsuruta takes a big run up before kneeing Kawada right in the head! LARIAT by Kawada! Kobashi piles in too with a shoulder tackle then the Kobashi DDT. MOONSAULT...BUT JUMBO GETS THE KNEES UP! That went right into Kobashi's injured ribs! Kawada lariats Jumbo in the back of the lead...but Tsuruta no-sells and LARIATS HIM THROUGH THE ROPES! Back Drop Driver blocked by Kobashi! POWERBOMB INSTEAD...GETS 2! Taue is peppering Kawada with strikes on the floor as Tsuruta muscles Kobashi up for a second powerbomb. Tsuruta-gun win at 20:18

Rating - ****1/2 - I'd not seen or read a great deal about this one, but I thought it was phenomenal. They accomplished so much in a relatively succinct twenty minute run-time, making this a comparatively quick and easy-to-consume sprint as opposed to some of the more sweeping, grandiose epics of this period. Clearly the rising tension between Jumbo and Kawada was front and centre here. By this point it was apparent that a Triple Crown showdown between the two was on the cards and the work they did in setting the stage for that was fantastic. Kawada is incredibly fun to watch as a full throttle bad-ass, Tsuruta is impeccable as always in how he portrays vulnerability within the role of the apparently indomitable Ace. Their supporting players were really good here too. Kobashi sold his injuries beautifully, and also showed a real awareness of what was required from him when it was time to move beyond the 'whipping boy' role. Key flashpoints in the match - like his lariat on Jumbo - were made to feel more significant not only because Jumbo sold it so perfectly, but also because Kobashi had the presence, theatricality and poise to own that moment for himself as well. 

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue/Masanobu Fuchi vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
15th October 1991 (Tokyo) - My copy of this includes a brief news excerpt from before the match which shows stills of Misawa suffering a bloody broken nose in a trios match against Tsuruta-gun (it seemed to have been the previous evening in Osaka but I may be wrong). It is another set-back in a troubled year for the leader of the Super Generation but he is here tonight, despite his busted up face, ready to lead his team into battle. Meanwhile tension is simmering between Kawada and Tsuruta as they prepare to do battle for the Triple Crown...

Misawa has to shield his face from fans during his entrance, which should tell you just how sore his nose injury is. Fuchi grabs the mic to taunt him before the bell and we are immediately underway with Misawa wildly throwing elbows at all members of Tsuruta-gun. Jumbo cuts it off with a punch to the nose...and in storms Kawada! KAWADA KICKS! Taue tries to save Kawada kicks the sh*t out of him and hits the Revolution Elbow for 2! Fuchi is almost last man standing for Tsuruta-gun, and Kawada cranks him in an abdominal stretch whilst hurling abuse at Jumbo. Even when Taue and Tsuruta try to break the hold he refuses to let go - buying ringside attendants vital time as they tend to the injured Misawa. Kikuchi tags in to face up with the Triple Crown Champion; ending exactly as you'd expect with Tsuruta smearing him into the canvas. Taue throttles him over the guardrails to further increase Tsuruta-gun's advantage as they recover after a ferocious start from the Super Generation. Fuchi, ever the bastard, starts giving Kikuchi atomic drops over the top rope, as the camera picks up Misawa finally climbing back up to the apron. Kawada tags, soon joined by Misawa who is roared on by the Korakuen crowd. Jumbo is right in the ring to confront Misawa (who adopts a stance covering his nose). PUNCHES TO THE FACE! ELBOW BY MISAWA! He needs to get away, bringing in Kawada to storms past and lands a spinning heel kick on Tsuruta. He starts pulverising Fuchi next, which only relents when once again he has to tag Kikuchi in...and immediately the tide turns back in favour of Tsuruta-gun. Jumbo and Fuchi seem hell-bent on snapping Kikuchi in half - of course until Kawada marches in and tries to KO Jumbo with a brutal kick through the back of his head. Fuchi hits a body slam on the floor then applies a half crab, whilst Misawa once again drags himself back towards his corner to rejoin the match. Middle finger from Fuchi to Kawada - a receipt for the volume of times Kawada has done that to Tsuruta-gun...which brings in Dangerous K for a brawl. Unfortunately it's a dastardly ploy as it allows Jumbo to violently beat on Kikuchi behind the referee's back (plus swing a kick through the ropes at Misawa's face). Kawada tags in legally...and OUT-STRIKES JUMBO! ELBOWS! CHOPS! Tsuruta reacts with fury and finally bludgeons Kawada to the ground. Taue defends his mentor by smashing Kawada in the ribs with a chair, as Fuchi delivers a well-placed kick into Misawa's face so he doesn't even think about intervening. But Misawa is back! Stomps to Jumbo...cut off with savage gouge to the face by Taue! Yet again it leaves Misawa needing medical attention on the floor whilst Tsuruta-gun relentlessly attack Kawada's midsection. Kikuchi tags and attacks Taue and Fuchi like a wild animal. RUNNING DROPKICK ON JUMBO! The crowd goes nuts for that! Unfortunately Taue immediately kills Kiku's momentum with a flapjack over the ropes, then tags in Jumbo who comes in looking to murder the junior heavyweight. Kawada comes to the rescue; tossing Kikuchi into a rocket launcher splash on Taue for 2. LARIATOOOOOO from Tsuruta to Kikuchi gets 2. The Ace moves to finish it only to find that f*cking Misawa is here again; stomping him in the head! Taue rakes Misawa's nose again, whilst Jumbo nails a BACK DROP DRIVER! He pins Kikuchi to finally win at 23:54

Rating - ****1/2 - Another brilliant Tsuruta-gun/Super Generation trios match, with circumstances necessitating something which became very different from many other matches in the series. Misawa's nose injury meant he was only minimally involved, and since Kawada's other partner was Kikuchi - who has been proven to be hopelessly out-ranked by everyone else - there were points where this was essentially a handicap match. Yet in the context of build to Jumbo/Kawada, that made complete sense. Tsuruta-gun snapped at Misawa and Kikuchi as the weak links, but were continually kept at bay by the constant excellence and tenacious violence of Kawada. If there were any doubts as to his worthiness as a Triple Crown contender they were surely extinguished here as, even in the most trying of situations, none of Tsuruta-gun were able to get the best of him. There were multiple sequences where it was actually Kawada running through all three opponents one after the other too. The way they squeezed the absolute maximum out of the limited amounts Misawa was able to offer was also fantastic. He features in less than five total minutes of this match but EVERY involvement he has is significant, whether it is getting heat on Tsuruta-gun, saving a partner, even down to starting the match with an incredibly heated strike flurry. I don't think this is necessary the most essential Super Gen/Tsuruta-gun six-man to seek out, but it is incredibly easy to watch - and also one where Misawa's injury means you don't need a great deal of prior knowledge to comprehend and react to the drama inside the ropes.

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue/Masanobu Fuchi vs Toshiaki Kawada/Kenta Kobashi/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
15th October 1991 (Nanao) - The last match was the last time All Japan would see Misawa in the ring for a month as he took time off to heal from the broken nose and shoulder injuries which had dogged him in recent months. Having succeeded in putting Super Generation Army's leader on the shelf temporarily, Tsuruta-gun now look to pick off this trio of his lieutenants. With the Jumbo/Kawada Triple Crown showdown now looming large, can Tsuruta and his squad deliver a killer blow to Dangerous K in their last televised encounter before they meet one-on-one? 

Tsuruta and Kawada start in an exchange full of tension. Kawada rocks Jumbo with a spinning heel kick, but the Ace dismisses him repeatedly. Sleeper Hold applied - and Tsuruta-gun recognise the threat of their leader being submitted so quickly pile in to stamp Kawada away from Jumbo. Fuchi disrespectfully even puts him in Misawa's Facelock! Kikuchi and Fuchi do battle; Kiku landing a missile dropkick to put his team in the ascendancy for the first time. Kawada uses that advantage to charge across the ring and rattle Jumbo with an elbow strike to the head! Tsuruta takes matters into his own hands and kicks Kikuchi square in the head to restore order momentarily...but it's Kawada who shakes things up again by stamping on Taue's face and trying to break his legs in a cloverleaf. He and Kobashi appear to target Akira's Fuchi gets in and starts trying to break Kobashi's nose! Misawa has been shown watching in the crowd, and having taken out the leader it now appears that Tsuruta-gun have decided to remove Kobashi in the exact same manner. On the outside Jumbo starts smashing his face into the ringpost, amidst repeated and target punches to the nose. All three opponents take turns working over Kobashi's face, with blood now visibly falling from his nose. Kobashi actually escapes Tsuruta to make a hot tag - bringing in Kawada to chases the Ace all around the ring with a flurry of kicks. Fuchi tags so Kawada makes an example of him as well...and it is left to Taue to disrupt the Super Generation as he hot-shots Kikuchi over the ropes. He guillotines Kiku over the guardrail as well, effectively leaving Kawada once again fighting a trios match against Tsuruta-gun at a pronounced disadvantage. Nevertheless he marches back into battle, countering Taue's attempted sumo strikes with a Gamengiri and the Revolution Elbow. FOLDING POWERBOMB on Taue...although of course Fuchi is quickly in the ring before he can make a pin. Kobashi DDT gets 2 on Taue, as does a Kikuchi fisherman suplex, all whilst Tsuruta is outside nursing a head injury. Fuchi hits Jumbo's Air Scissors Drop for 2! Kawada goes outside and gets into an almighty brawl with Jumbo - climbing on top him with a sleeper hold! Inside the ring Kobashi intervenes as Fuchi and Taue try to finish Kikuchi with a back drop/lariat combo. NODOWA OTOSHI! Taue pins Kikuchi to win at 28:33

Rating - *** - Probably not among the best matches from this rivalry. It's still a fascinating watch some really compelling moments of drama such as the work on Kobashi's face (which was extremely visceral and even uncomfortable to watch) and the flickering break-outs of violence between Kawada and Tsuruta. But at almost half an hour this was a little too long, with a little too much time spent in the lower gears and with plenty of stalling as the lower rung players in the rivalry spent the majority of the time in the ring. 

Jumbo Tsuruta vs Toshiaki Kawada - AJPW Triple Crown Title Match
24th October 1991 (Yokohama) - This is only the third time Tsuruta has defended the belt in 1991. Coming after the championship changed hands five times in 1990, Jumbo has been a stabilising and dominant presence in the Triple Crown picture. The relative infrequency of championship matches also makes this feel like an even more prestigious and momentous occasion. For now Jumbo has staved off the attack of Mitsuharu Misawa, as far as his challenge for the Triple Crown and position as the singular native 'Ace' of All Japan is concerned. But in Misawa's place, the second half of 1991 has seen the rise of Toshiaki Kawada. He has wins over Tsuruta-gun in tag settings, he holds the Tag Championship with Misawa (having dethroned the Miracle Violence Connection) and - perhaps most importantly - in the series of matches that built to this encounter nobody from Tsuruta-gun has been able to stop Kawada. As a disciple of Tsuruta's great rival Genichiro Tenryu, Kawada's presence in a Triple Crown encounter opposite Jumbo is particularly poignant. Clad in the yellow and black of his mentor he stands as a living reminder of how close Tsuruta came to losing his spot as Ace in the late-80's to Tenryu. Can Kawada do what Tenryu did before him - and take down the mighty Jumbo?

Jumbo looks to send an early message but Kawada blocks his elbow strike and instantly grabs a side headlock, as he has seen others do to Jumbo with success in the past. It irks the champion so much that he tries to toss Kawada from the ring...only for Dangerous K to swarm right back in, flinging elbows at the Ace and grabbing the side headlock once more. Tsuruta eventually frees himself, but not without cost and despite it still being early in the match he now staggers around clutching his head in a daze. It means Kawada has room to pepper him with more strikes...then dive into yet another exhausting headlock. Abdominal stretch applied next; Kawada repeatedly going to submission holds to wear down the Ace knowing that he is vulnerable after Misawa tapped him out a month earlier. Jumbo tries to take the fight to the floor, but even out there he has to deal with Kawada trying to put him in submission holds! Tsuruta covers up in the ropes so Kawada instead grabs a leg and cranks onto a half crab instead. LARIAT by Jumbo! He looks to assert himself, but Kawada gets up and NAILS the Gamengiri, rocking Tsuruta once again. Kawada Kicks...SLAPS by Tsuruta! Jumping knee floors the challenger - and Jumbo looks to choke him out with a sleeper hold. Kawada judo throws his way free and counters to a sleeper of his own though! That is a counter which Jumbo has been using on him throughout this tour by the way. SLAPS BY KAWADA! The camera zooms right in on Tsuruta's face at the exact moment he finally snaps and bludgeons Kawada with an elbow...but even then Kawada has enough in the locker to survive it and climb back into a sleeper hold. TENRYU REVOLUTION ELBOW gets 2! Tsuruta must feel like he is reliving a past nightmare as a yellow and black-clad foe flies through the air at him. Even an old dog can learn new tricks though and Jumbo almost beats Kawada moments later by using the infamous Misawa float-over cover on Misawa's own team-mate. LARIAT TO THE HEAD! Kawada locks in a rear naked choke - with such force in fact that the ref initially breaks it up because he thinks it is a choke. Jumbo is frantic but somehow makes it to the ropes before being forced to submit. He blocks the Folding Powerbomb...but is actually dropped straight on top of his head in doing so! Back Drop Driver COUNTERED to a Russian legsweep by Kawada, once again dipping into Tenryu's bag of tricks! JUMBO LARIATS THE HEAD! BACK DROP DRIVER! GETS 2! Kawada charges at Jumbo looking for one last fiery offensive blast...but Tsuruta absolutely decapitates him with a lariat. Air Scissors Drop follows, then a violent dropkick. BACK DROP DRIVER AGAIN! Jumbo retains at 19:05

Rating - ****1/2 - Plenty consider this the final legendary singles match of Tsuruta's career (as well as being a break-out bout for Kawada of course) - and it is fabulous. I actually watched this twice back to back as I was considering going even higher on my rating. I don't know if I have the time or inclination to put down in words all the things I liked about this match because there were so many marvelous touches of detail; taking references from their own rivalry, plus nods to Jumbo/Misawa, Jumbo/Tenryu and more. They riffed on spots and sequences they'd been working together for the majority of the Tsuruta-gun/Super Generation tags and were both phenomenal within the role they were assigned to portray. Tsuruta's depiction of a weary, vulnerable Ace atop a crumbling throne was stunning here. The story of the match was that Jumbo has never been more vulnerable (and dangerous) after Misawa tapped him out...and they worked that central premise brilliantly. Kawada's strategy was built entirely around stunning Jumbo with flurries of strikes then going for a submission hold (usually the head, neck or back) and looking to exhaust the fatigued champion. And it was the vulnerability which Tsuruta displayed that made the closing sequences all the more dramatic. Jumbo has been in matches like this for years, whilst Kawada has never challenged for the Triple Crown before. As good as Kawada was, as much as he has closed the distance between he and Tsuruta in 1991, and as vulnerable and damaged as Tsuruta had become - when it came to the decisive moment Jumbo's experience, will to win and firepower simply dwarfed that of Kawada at this stage. Tsuruta-gun vs Super Generation Army became a war of attrition marked by periodic bursts of marginal gains by the young guns, usually snuffed out by a show of dominance from Tsuruta. In so many ways this match was the very embodiment of that struggle. On another day I may even have gone to 5*

Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada vs Kenta Kobashi/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
21st November 1991 (Osaka) - I've included this as it is the only time this line-up did battle. The four top members of Super Generation Army are now brought together in combat by the format of the 1991 Real World Tag League Tournament. Misawa and Kawada entered as the World Tag Champions, with the rules mandating that they forfeit the belts and look to win them back with victory in the Tag League. They enjoyed a strong start and were undefeated in the tournament up to this point, whilst Kobashi and Kikuchi were still seeking their first victory.

Kawada and Kobashi start...with Dangerous K immediately extinguishing any thoughts of friendly competition by PUNTING Kobashi in the head! Misawa tags and is similarly forthright with his striking and quickly they have Kobashi ailing on the canvas. Kikuchi tags to give his partner some respite and ducks some of Kawada's strikes...that is until Kawada starts chopping him IN THE FACE! Kobashi returns and tries to get right in Misawa's face, but gets bombed to the ground with elbows and kicks as the 'top team' in the Super Generation continue to pull rank. Misawa looks to end it early with the Facelock on Kobashi (which draws audible gasps from the crowd, keenly aware that he tapped Jumbo out with that hold) but he makes it to the ropes. Kikuchi in - fighting desperately to put Kawada in a half crab. Kobashi applies a Stretch Muffler moments later as they continue to target Kawada's leg and back. Kiku unleashes a barrage of elbow strikes at Kawada...who delivers some impeccable facial selling as he gets angrier and angrier at his pesky stable-mate. Finally he snaps and KICKS KIKUCHI TO THE FLOOR! Kobashi helps him up and rolls him back Kawada scoops Kikuchi up and BODY SLAMS HIM BACK OUT - right on top of Kobashi! Misawa and Kawada go to work on the wounded Kikuchi; Dangerous K stomping on his head repeatedly before leaning way back into a cloverleaf. Misawa almost knocks him out cold with a violent elbow to the back of the head when Kikuchi dares to hit back too. Kobashi makes a vital tag and immediately almost pins Kawada with the rolling cradle. RUNNING ELBOW by Misawa! He boots Kikuchi in the head before soaring off the top into a flying elbow on Kobashi...but Kiku charges back to save Kobashi from the Tiger Driver, then lays Misawa out with a missile dropkick for 2. LARIAT from Kobashi to Kawada! Revolution Elbow gets 2. PALM STRIKES BY KOBASHI! KAWADA KICKS! Kobashi defies those to land a neckbreaker drop on Kawada...MOONSAULT GETS KNEES! Misawa tags...but Kobashi lariats him into the corner and plants him on his recently-injured face with a springboard bulldog. He then whirls Kikuchi into a top rope splash for 2. ELBOW FLURRY by Misawa! RUNNING ELBOW! KIKUCHI KICKS OUT! TIGER DRIVER! With such force that the camera man takes a tumble! Misawa pins Kikuchi to win at 18:50

Rating - **** - This was fascinating to watch, firstly as our only opportunity to see this line-up of Super Generation Army talent do battle amongst themselves, but also secondly as something of a glimpse into the future direction of King's Road/All Japan tag main events. The pace here was discernibly faster from the outset, and in the second half they really dialled up not only the aggression but also the number of false finishes and high octane spot exchanges. It definitely more akin to something we'd become used to seeing by the mid-90's in AJPW, rather than 1991. Beyond that, one really has to marvel at the performance of Kikuchi here. He took a real sh*tkicking; Misawa and Kawada pulled no punches and appeared determined to pull rank and prove themselves the dominant team in the Super Generation from the very beginning (when Kawada absolutely blasted Kobashi with a kick to the head). And in turn, Kikuchi's fiery shows of defiance - even kicking out of Misawa's running elbow - at the end really lit the crowd up too. I can't call this a must-see match, but it isn't long and as the only opportunity to see this line-up do battle it is worth checking out...

Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue
29th November 1991 (Sapporo) - This wound up being the final meeting of these two teams. For all Jumbo's dominance as Triple Crown Champion in 1991, he and Taue have been out of the Tag Title picture and are yet to defeat the team of Misawa and Kawada. After a time-limit draw in their first meeting, Misawa and Kawada have won their last two matches - with Misawa defying an injured shoulder to famously tap Jumbo out when they last fought, in September. This is part of the 1991 Real World Tag League; Misawa and Kawada entering with a 100% record up to this point as they look to win back the Tag Titles they vacated at the start of the tournament. Jumbo and Taue's record isn't as strong; with a time-limit draw against the Miracle Violence Connection and a loss to Giant Baba and Andre The Giant making their chances of winning the tournament now increasingly unlikely. A win here is essential for Tsuruta-gun...

Misawa has a visible facial injury with his right eye almost swollen shut, which seems like a fitting way to end an injury-riddled year for the leader of the Super Generation. It doesn't stop him starting with Jumbo, to the delight of the crowd. Tsuruta tries to throw punches at the damaged eye but Misawa keeps blocking them, to the Ace's irritation. ELBOW FLURRY! RUNNING PESCADO! Misawa is on fire; battering Jumbo against the guardrails too. It is a dominant opening salvo from Misawa, indicative of a man starting to regain his confidence ready for a fresh challenge at the top of AJPW's singles scene in 1992. Kawada and Taue tag...and Akira turns his rival's lights out with a savage slap across the ear. FOLDING POWERBOMB by Kawada! Tsuruta quickly sprints in to break the pin, recognising that it could all be over early. The Super Generation stay on Taue with a double DDT though, as they continue their impressive start to the contest. Jumbo takes matters into his own hands and CRUSHES Kawada with a running knee to the abdomen as we approach the ten-minute mark. Even injured Kawada is a threat to Tsuruta though - rattling his fragile head with a volley of kicks even whilst lying prone on the mat. Tsuruta-gun continue to target Kawada's now-injured midsection though, controlling the next few minutes...until Kawada charges through Taue with a lariat to unleash a rejuvenated Misawa. Tsuruta PUNCHES HIM IN THE EYE to break the Facelock on Taue. That leaves Misawa struggling to see, and therefore necessitates the still-injured Kawada having to tag back in. He devices he can't suplex Taue due to his injuries - so DDT's him instead whilst Misawa recovers in the corner. Eventually Misawa tags and decimates Akira with relentless elbows to the head. DDT by Taue! Lariat by Jumbo...who then sprints to the opposite corner and smashes Kawada off the apron with a lariat just as the Super Generation have done to him so often. 

Kawada returns just in time to break a pin on Misawa following a big Tsuruta powerbomb. STRIKE DUEL between Kawada and Tsuruta - which Jumbo wins using a massive jumping knee to the sternum. Kawada defies it though, powering Taue down into the Revolution Elbow drop. Misawa goes up too, landing a SOMERSAULT SENTON for 2! TIGER DRIVER! Jumbo breaks the pin at twenty Misawa goes right into the Facelock! TSURUTA RAKES THE EYES to break it! Not content with that he scrapes Misawa's injured eye all along the top rope as well. The attack on the eye is sustained and aggressive, leaving it bloody and pretty much swollen shut. Even Taue gets in on the act - bouncing Misawa's head off the canvas with a running facebuster. Misawa leaves the ring for respite...where Tsuruta is waiting to scrape his face along the guardrail too. But Misawa is still fighting hard and refusing to be pinned, now with just five minutes remaining in the time limit. Jumbo bombs on him with lariats, then the BACK DROP DRIVER! BUT KAWADA KICKS HIM IN THE HEAD ON THE WAY DOWN! It critically delays Jumbo from pinning - meaning it only gets 2! Misawa blocks a Taue powerbomb and makes the hot tag to Dangerous K. He hauls Akira down into a Sleeper hold...and Jumbo helps his partner out by preventing Kawada from landing a powerbomb. JUMBO LARIATOOOOO gets 2! Air Scissors Drop gets 2 as well! Tsuruta is emptying the tanks but Kawada is defying him! LARIAT! TOP ROPE ELBOW BY MISAWA! FACELOCK! TAUE SAVES! Less than 90 seconds remaining! GERMAN SUPLEX BY MISAWA...FOR 2! FACELOCK AGAIN! ONE MINUTE LEFT! JUMBO HITS THE EYE TO ESCAPE! BACK DROP DRIVER...BLOCKED! POWERBOMB...COUNTERED TO A RANA! The 30-minute time-limit expires! 

Rating - ****1/2 - All the matches between these two teams are absolute classics. And they are all quite different as well; the epic 45-minute draw in 1990 contrasts vividly with the compact, rapid-fire 1990 RWTL bout...whilst the September 1991 Tag Title clash sees Misawa injured and Kawada's emergence as a dangerous foe to Tsuruta. This one is marked by perhaps the most complete Super Generation Army performance against Tsuruta-gun thus far. Misawa and Kawada didn't win, but large parts of the match saw them as the aggressors - and even when Jumbo and Taue were on top, it rarely felt like they were on the cusp of beating Misawa and Kawada. Sure Tsuruta was a bullying asshole in how he targeted Misawa's eye and sure they were brutal in their attack on Kawada's midsection, but at no point did they feel like victory was immediately within their grasp. And in the context of the 1991 Tag League - that is significant. They NEEDED to win, whilst the Super Generation came in with a 100% record so could afford to take a draw here. Despite that, when it came down to the final minute it was STILL Misawa as the aggressor; suplexing Jumbo, almost tapping him out to the Facelock then countering all of his signature finishers. The illness that would strike Tsuruta in 1992 means we'd never see this tag team pairing again, so Misawa and Kawada end this rivalry undefeated with two time-limit draws and two victories over Tsuruta and Taue.

Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue vs Stan Hansen/Dan Spivey
6th December 1991 (Tokyo) - So to Budokan Hall for the final night of the 1991 Real World Tag League. Tsuruta and Taue are out of the running, entering with 18 points - but Hansen and Spivey are on 20 points and could win the tournament and the AJPW World Tag Titles if they win (or draw) here since the final match of the tournament pits Misawa and Kawada against the Miracle Violence Connection - both of whom currently sit on 19 points so could go to 21 points with victory. Hansen and Jumbo are, of course, old enemies. Stan would no doubt love to get back into the Triple Crown picture in 1992 too, so for a number of reasons the gaijin team simply cannot afford a loss here.

Jumbo orders Taue out of the ring so that he can start the match with Hansen. He takes Stan to the canvas, as we've seen him do before, to negate The Lariat's unpredictable firepower. Taue tags and joins his mentor to hit a DOUBLE ARMBREAKER in an attempt to negate the Lariat altogether. Spivey tags, but is quickly put into the Cobra Twist by Tsuruta until Stan comes to his aid. Taue repays the favour by breaking up a Spivey dragon sleeper but Tsuruta is in trouble for the first time and Hansen wants to capitalise. They land a few big shots to Jumbo but can't keep him down before he tags to Hansen cheap-shots Taue from behind, sending him into the Spivey Spike. LARIAT knocks Jumbo out of the ring onto his weakened head, whilst Dan almost taps Taue out with a cobra clutch. Back Drop Driver gets 2! NECK DROP DOUBLE BACK DROP DRIVER! TAUE KICKS OUT! How is he even alive after that?! Assisted powerbomb gets 2 as well, this time with Tsuruta returning to break the pin. Hansen shunts the Ace back to the floor...but he battles back just in time to save Akira from the Lariat! Tsuruta tags and goes crazy on Hansen and Spivey. They join forces to barge him out of the ring and put the boots to him on the floor, before Hansen hits a Vader Bomb for 2. Spivey Spike nailed...but Taue breaks the pin! SPIKE PILEDRIVER on Jumbo, only for Taue to again break it up. LARIAT FLURRY ON HANSEN! NO SOLD! WESTERN LARIAT...TAUE DUCKS! Stan KO's his own partner with the lariat! Jumbo hits a flying crossbody on Spivey to win at 12:12

Rating - *** - I'd go to ***1/2 if I rated on such a scale because this was more lively than a 3* rating might suggest. It's nice to see Jumbo in the babyface, gaijin-fighting native Ace of All Japan role, because we've spent so much of this collection watching him as a bitter veteran trying to beat down pretenders to his throne. I loved the finish in particular as it conveyed just how much more dangerous Taue is becoming as well. Recent months have focused on the emergence of Kobashi and Kawada, but Taue's defiance of Hansen in the closing moments here reinforced that in 1991 he too has become even more dangerous. 

Terry Gordy/Steve Williams vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada
6th December 1991 (Tokyo) - Tsuruta-gun beating Hansen and Spivey ensures that both teams finish on 20 points in the Tag League. Both teams enter this one with 19 points, meaning whomever wins will be victorious in the RWTL and therefore crowned the new AJPW Tag Champions. Misawa and Kawada were the champions to vacate those belts going into the tournament; a reign which went back to July when they dethroned their opponents this evening. The rivalry between the Miracle Violence Connection and the Super Generation's top team has been ferocious and both teams will be desperate for the win here. Gordy and Williams will be looking to prove that the losses the sustained to Misawa and Kawada over the summer were aberrations; the Super Generation ready to cap off a difficult but progressive 1991 with a decisive win over the top gaijin tag team.  

Williams and Kawada start; Doc looking to grapple and overpower his foe, Kawada hoping to use his kicks. Misawa and Gordy in next, with Terry still clearly sore at his singles loss to Misawa earlier in the year. Their exchanges are visibly bad-tempered - and finally boil over with both men hammering each other with big elbows. Misawa has the edge in that setting of course, meaning the Super Generation assume control for the first time. Williams quickly breaks that up with a knee into Kawada's neck, before grounding Dangerous K with all his weight on top of him in a sleeper. But Kawada isn't someone who can easily be bullied or dominated now and he engineers a quick counter into a sleeper hold of his own. Gordy has to march in and punch Kawada in the head as he sets up an abdominal stretch; Williams following up with an emphatic lariat which knocks him to the floor (and has him heaving and retching out there). The MVC start working leg submissions on Kawada in an attempt to nullify his potent kicks. Misawa can do little more than watch helplessly as Dr Death and Gordy take turns working over the legs of his partner leaving him struggling to even walk. It is reminiscent of the job Gordy and Stan Hansen did on a young Kawada when he partnered Tenryu in the 1988 RWTL finals. Except this time Kawada is a better fighter and finds a way to tag out. Misawa rattles Terry's jaw with a running elbow, clobbers him to the floor and hits an ELBOW SUICIDAAAAAAAAAAAA! I've never Misawa hit that spot more beautifully and more brutally than that! Williams recognises the danger and attacks Misawa from behind, allowing Gordy to tag out though. Three Point Stance blocked. Kawada tags...and COUNTERS another Three Point Stance with the Gamengiri for 2. Top rope flying elbow by Misawa gets 2 as well...and Gordy has to rake Misawa's injured eye to stop him putting Doc in the Facelock. He BRUTALISES Misawa in the corner with elbows and punches, then takes him outside. POWERSLAM ON THE FLOOR from Williams to Kawada! ASSISTED POWERBOMB ON THE FLOOR TAKES OUT MISAWA! Throughout this rivalry the MVC have used big spots on the floor to punish the Super Generation and we see that return in the most brutal of fashions there. Kawada is on his own - but still blocks the Oklahoma Stampede into a small package for 2. Gordy blocks the Folding Powerbomb so Kawada LARIATS him to the ground and puts him in the Sleeper. FOLDING POWERBOMB! Gordy kicks out! Kawada sets up another one, but Williams returns and saves his partner with a running powerslam. ASSISTED POWERBOMB! MISAWA BREAKS THE PIN! GERMAN SUPLEX on Gordy gets 2! GORDY POWERBOMB! He pins Kawada to win the 1991 RWTL and the Tag Titles at 25:24

Rating - ****1/2 - This is my favourite Misawa/Kawada vs MVC tag. It contains all the elements of their rivalry that I've enjoyed; the intense physicality, the contrast between heroic native Japanese young athletes and the brutish, brawling gaijin, high spots on the floor becoming a turning point in the match...and a raucous crowd. Where this was even better was that it had so many extra touches of detail, or pay-offs to some of the action we've seen not only through 1991, but also going further back. Gordy hitting the powerbomb to pin Kawada, where he failed to do so on Misawa - who countered him to a rana to win the titles back in July - was a brilliant finish. Attacking Kawada's leg like Gordy and Hansen did in 1988 - except this time Kawada is much better and much more dangerous so was able to tag out and avoid any lasting damage - was superb detail. Pretty much every single Misawa/Gordy exchange was incredibly cantankerous and ill-tempered in reference to Misawa's June victory over him. 

Tape Rating - **** - On the surface 1991 doesn't feel like as much of a dynamic, exciting year as 1990 wound up becoming. On paper the year ends with the status quo very much maintained. Jumbo Tsuruta is still the Ace, having dominated the Triple Crown picture for the entire year. With their victory in the Real World Tag League, the Miracle Violence Connection regain the AJPW World Tag Championship and resume their spot as the top team in All Japan. Misawa, the great hope for the Super Generation's future in 1990, failed to defeat Jumbo for the Triple Crown and spent much of the second half of the year battling nagging injuries. But scratch beneath the surface and you will see that the Super Generation Army's marginal gains were starting to mount up and that Jumbo and the old guard's position at the top of the company was starting to crumble. Misawa has a singles victory over Terry Gordy, Misawa and Kawada have wins over gaijin teams like MVC & Stan Hansen/Johnny Ace, Kenta Kobashi continues to emerge as a rising threat, Toshiaki Kawada fought for the Triple Crown and pushed Tsuruta to the limit...and Misawa did the unthinkable when he made Jumbo tap out; proving that his win in 1990 wasn't a fluke and that he remains a major threat to the Triple Crown in 1992. 1991 wasn't perhaps as exciting or unpredictable as the latter months of 1990 - and in all honesty I did find this Volume something of a slog to get through at points as matches started to blur together without much to differentiate them and tangible progress or character development at a premium. But by the end of the year Baba had moved his chess pieces around the board into fascinating strategic positions, leaving you with just enough to think that 1992 would be the year that the Super Generation finally assume the top spots in All Japan. Sometimes, however, desperately unfortunate circumstances can tamper with even the best-laid plans. Jumbo Tsuruta ends 1991 as the Triple Crown Ace; 1992 would, tragically, not be as kind to him...

Must See Matches
Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue (04/09/1991 - ****1/2)
Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue/Masanobu Fuchi vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada/Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (15/10/1991 - ****1/2)
Jumbo Tsuruta vs Toshiaki Kawada (24/10/1991 - ****1/2)
Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta/Akira Taue (29/11/1991 - ****1/2)
Terry Gordy/Steve Williams vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada (06/12/1991 - ****1/2)

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