This tape chronicles some of the last big All Japan events before the big NOAH split, and this was also the SECOND puroresu tape I ever watched!
Steve Williams & Vader VS Takao Omori & Yoshihiro Takayama (2/12/2000)
NO FEAR are coming off a big feud with BURNING, and were basically the sacrificial lambs here to make the gaijin team look more of a threat than they already are. NO FEAR were almost totally squashed as they had very little offense in this OK match.
Match Rating: **
Steve Williams VS Kenta Kobashi (2/17/2000)
This was one of the better singles matches these two would have in modern times, but wasn't as good as the stuff they pulled out back in '93/94. They teased the Backdrop Driver several times with Kobashi managing to escape, and Williams busted out a cool release dragon suplex at one point. Good match.
Match Rating: ***
Vader VS Toshiaki Kawada (2/17/2000)
This was a great stiff affair! Kawada unloaded a barrage of kicks and Vader Hammers relentlessly on Vader, who took a heck of a beating thoughout the match. Vader muscled his way back with Vader Hammers of his own and hit a big release powerbomb. Vader may have been 400lbs, but that girth didn't stop Kawada from twisting him like a pretzel in the Stretch Plum! The only thing I didn't like about this match was the one strike ending when Kawada was making a comeback, but I guess it was to continue Vader's push as a dominant foreign monster to build up his Triple Crown title defense against Kobashi later in the tour. But this was definately a great match if you want to see what stiff striking really is!
Match Rating: ***3/4
All Japan Unified Tag Team Titles (2/20/2000)
Steve Williams & Vader VS Jun Akiyama & Kenta Kobashi
The BURNING squad were the underdogs here as they were overpowered most of the time by the big gaijin challengers. Fun spot of the match was watching Akiyama actually tossing Vader with an Exploder! I also liked the ending as Williams & Vader totaly pummeled and squashed Kobashi with multiple elbow drops and body presses to put away Vader's challenger for the Triple Crown and to win the tag titles. The ending was very logical too, pin the guy after a brutal beat down!
Match Rating: ***1/2
Jun Akiyama VS Mitsuharu Misawa (2/27/2000)
The passing of the torch and Akiyama's big break out match! Akiyama surprisingly led most of the match against his mentor and former tag partner. Misawa took alot of neck-breaking punishment here. Other than a ton of Exploders and some of the best wrestling sequences I've ever seen, Akiyama also busted out a sick looking cradle tombstone piledriver and an insane apron-to-floor Exploder! Cap that off with avalanche-style brainbuster and the rare (back then) wrist-clutch Exploder, and Akiyama scores the biggest singles win of his AJPW career!
Akiyama was obviously destined for a run with the Triple Crown until the NOAH split happened. But it may have been for the better. And the only reason I didn't give this match a perfect 5-star rating is because the match was very one-sided, with Misawa not getting in any of his big moves (Tiger Driver '91 & Emerald Frosion) for Akiyama to kick out of to make the win more hard-earned.
Match Rating: ****3/4
All Japan Triple Crown Championship (2/27/2000)
Kenta Kobashi VS Vader
Kobashi is working with taped ribs, which of course becomes the focus of Vader's attack. This match wasn't as great as their 2000 Champion Carnival Final match, but it's still pretty good. Since Vader was willing to bump for Kobashi, it made the match more enjoyable, as Kobashi even hit a sweet vertical suplex on Vader even! And Vader of course hit all his spots, including a pair of nasty chokeslams. The finished they did was reminiscent of the of the Champion Carnival, but Kobashi came out on top this time as both men charged at each other and Kobashi connected with the Lariat for the win.
Match Rating: ****
The aftermath of this tape is that Kobashi would go on to make two more title defenses, first a 60-minute draw against Kawada, and one final defence of the Triple Crown against Takayama before vacating the title and splitting off with Misawa to form NOAH.
This is a MUST HAVE tape for your collection, and a good tape to introduce you to puroresu like it did for me. The Akiyama/Misawa match alone is the reason to get this tape. I HIGHLY recommend it.