In My Wrestling Journey I will attempt to let you take part in the pro wrestling I’m watching. The match headings below are all clickable for you to see the full match, and I’d love to have your feedback in the comments below, or to brian (at) hardcopy.ie!

Watching this series again was inspired by viewing the 1996 Real World Tag League final between the same teams. Many All Japan Pro Wrestling fans consider the June 1995 bout that replaces Jun Akiyama with Kenta Kobashi as the greatest tag team match of the genre, but this final, with its greater pace, might just be better.

i) Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs. Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (1996.05.23)

It’s a hot start for the babyfaces in a match where the least experienced competitor, Akiyama, shows himself to be the equal of the others. He makes a supreme effort to fight back from a contemptuous beatdown by Taue and Kawada, and only needs Misawa to even the odds. ****3/4

ii) Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs. Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (1996.07.09)

Akiyama is supremely dynamic, and Taue is particularly mean. This is perfectly performed pro wrestling before a couple of truly unnecessary head-drops. That is painful to watch, but takes little away from the spectacle of a remarkable bout. ****1/2

iii) Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs. Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (1996.11.29)

A rare muted beginning where the action struggles to flow, but as Misawa takes a beating, the pace picks up and this almost becomes a Tornado match. There’s lots of big moves but, perhaps in being a Real World Tag League group match, it doesn’t work in nearly the same way as their other classics. ***3/4

iv) Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs. Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (1997.11.28)

Akiyama is taken out early by a brutal and unexpected table spot, and Kawada is all over Misawa, even countering his counters. Akiyama seems to recover until he can’t complete a Northern Lights suplex, which sets up the rest of the bout. There are some fantastic false finishes here. ****1/2

iv) Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs. Akira Taue & Toshiaki Kawada (1997.12.05)

Akiyama is in no mood to be abused this time around, and it’s Misawa who takes the beating. Misawa is notably slower, and the heels can thwart him. That said, Misawa almost entirely no-sells a head-drop, while Akiyama takes an awful one. Each man really looks out for his partner during several brilliant near-falls, until one participant fails to react in time. ****1/2