Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue – ‘6-9-95’

‘6-9-95’. You know a match is special when people refer to it by its date. For Misawa, Kobashi, Kawada, and Taue, that date will live in the minds and hearts of Purosesu wrestling fans forever.

This match is widely regarded as one of the best wrestling matches ever, period. It’s considered the peak of the King’s Road wrestling style.

It has aged remarkably well for a contest that took place twenty-five years ago. This match took four legendary wrestlers and made them into heavenly kings.

This is the epic encounter between the Super Generation Army (Misawa and Kobashi) and the Holy Demon Army (Kawada & Taue) from June 9th, 1995.

Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue
– A convergence of many stories

This match was but one of many in a long, involved story that AJPW booker Giant Baba was telling over the course of years.

These four men – Misawa, Kobashi, Kawada, and Taue – had complicated interrelationships between them. Some were strictly professional, while others were personal.

And those rivalries translated into heavily-layered wrestling matches that moved both those individual rivalries and the larger story forward in an organic, logical, and exciting way.

Dangerous K and The Emerald Emperor

The central rivalry was between Misawa and Kawada. The issues between them have been discussed before, so only the main storyline issue will be looked at here.

And that is, that Kawada couldn’t beat Misawa. In a company in which wins and losses matter a lot, Toshiaki Kawada was able to beat everyone except one man: his perennial archrival, Mitsuharu Misawa.

No matter what Kawada did or tried, Misawa always beat him. This put Kawada firmly in AJPW’s #2 spot.

But getting the silver medal simply means you weren’t good enough for gold. Kawada entered this match, desperate to win. So much so that he was willing to do whatever it took to have his arm raised in victory.

The Rise of Orange Crush

Another story was growing at the time centered on Kenta Kobashi. He’s considered by many to be the greatest pro wrestler ever to live, and his involvement in this match’s many stories is one of the reasons why.

Kobashi was the perfect hero in peril, the one that everyone cheered for. More often than not, Kobashi was the guy who would do the right thing, even if it meant sacrificing himself for some greater good.

He protected his tag partners, obeyed the rules, and called out his opponents for being underhanded.

But most importantly, Kobashi was like a runaway freight train. Once he started going, no one could stop him, not even himself. He’d keep going until he was utterly demolished, and even then, he’d muster up some kind of last burst of strength to try and keep going.

Going into this match, Kobashi was still considered the youngest and least experienced of the Four Pillars.

He hadn’t had much success in decisively beating either Kawada or Taue unless he was teaming with Misawa. His biggest singles match against any of them up to this point in time was a 60-minute draw against Toshiaki Kawada on January 19th, 1995.

That match was once named the greatest 60-minute bout in history by the Wrestling Observer. Although Kobashi didn’t win, he put everyone on notice that he was a rising star, especially Kawada.

Misawa vs. Taue

The last big rivalry going into this match was between Misawa and Taue. Taue was (undeservedly) considered the weakest of the Four Pillars, with much of his praise coming from association with the other three.

But he managed to prove he could hang with the best AJPW had to offer in a singles match against Misawa during the 1995 Champion Carnival. Although he lost, Taue showed the world his mastery of wrestling psychology and logic.

For most of that match, Taue targeted Misawa’s eye, making the usually stoic Misawa struggle to maintain control against Taue. T

aue came close to winning many times but failed in the end. Yet he left Misawa a small forget-me-not: some damage to Misawa’s orbital bone that reminded the Emerald Emperor of his last dance with Dynamic T.

The stakes are high

All four wrestlers had something to gain or lose in this match. Kawada and Taue wanted the AJPW World Tag Team Titles held by Misawa and Kobashi. Misawa wanted to maintain his spot as ace.

Kobashi wanted to reach the top level and break away from being seen as only Misawa’s partner. Taue wanted to remind Misawa of what he was capable of.

And Kawada really, really wanted to beat Misawa. He didn’t care about Kobashi at all; he wanted to put one over on Misawa.

Going into the match, Taue was the only one that didn’t have some kind of physical limitation. Both Kawada and Kobashi started having leg problems.

But in this match, Kobashi’s were way worse, as his left leg was taped up so heavily he may as well have painted a target on it. And Misawa had his orbital bone issues, so he wasn’t at 100%.

Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue
– Act I

Taue and Kobashi started things off with a stalemate after a stiff strike exchange. Kobashi showed one of the reasons why his selling is so great by flexing his jaw after getting booted by Taue. Soon after, Kawada tagged in, and his ruthlessness was put on full display.

After a chop exchange with Kobashi, Kawada reversed an Irish whip and took advantage to boot Misawa off the apron with a yakuza kick.

It’s hard to decide what was better: the fans and the commentator’s reaction or the look on Kobashi’s face as his lip quivered, upset over Kawada’s gall to do such a despicable thing.

In comes the Emperor

Misawa tagged in, and the bitter archrivals had yet another one of their trademark epic exchanges. Chops were hit, faces were kicked, elbows were thrown, the pain was absorbed, and signature strikes were ducked.

It was like a microcosm of the many wars these two wrestlers had already had with each other.

Then, as Kawada ducked a spin kick from Misawa, he charged at Kobashi and booted him off the apron. Just like with Misawa moments earlier. Tensions were reaching a fever pitch.

Soon after, Taue came in and tried to regain control, only for Misawa and Kobashi to take turns working him over.

This continued for a while, especially as the action spilled to the ringside area. Misawa knocked Kawada down with an elbow smash in revenge for his earlier cheapshot.

But Kobashi got a bit too cocky and underestimated Taue’s ability to escape at the last possible second. Taue avoided a diving shoulder tackle and tagged in Kawada who, like Taue, was more than willing to exploit a weakness.

He kicked Kobashi’s taped up leg as hard as he could, but Kobashi answered with the same. He refused to go down and tried to kick Kawada’s main kicking leg, despite being almost unable to stand. Kobashi was able to kick Kawada in the face to stun him for a second, but his leg gave out in the process.

Sensing his opponent was now unable to walk, Kawada did what any reasonable wrestler would do: exploited the hell out of the situation to weaken his opponent further.

Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue
– Act II begins

The momentum had now shifted from Misawa and Kobashi, working over Taue to Kawada and Taue destroying Kobashi’s leg. Each time Kobashi tried to defend himself, his opponents would attack his leg, and he couldn’t do anything to stop them.

They brutalized Kobashi with stomps, kicks, a sharpshooter, and one of the most vicious single-leg crabs ever seen. But as Taue prepared to land a knee breaker, Kobashi escaped and hobbled over, getting a much-needed desperation tag to Misawa.

Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue
– Brutality

With the fresher man in, the defending champions still had a chance at victory. Misawa started cleaning house, dropping both Taue and Kawada with his patented stiff elbows.

Even as Taue tried to dodge one of Misawa’s favorite moves—a diving back elbow smash—Misawa adjusted instantly, rolling backwards until he was in a position to land another elbow smash and drop Taue hard. Misawa thought he had control and applied a single-leg crab on Taue.

But danger was afoot…literally.

Kawada came in, walked over to Misawa, and kicked him hard, right in the face, that one kick was enough for Misawa’s adrenaline rush and control over the match to come to a crashing halt.

When Taue tagged Kawada, it was his chance to release his frustrations. Misawa wasn’t in control and thus couldn’t defend himself so readily.

So he kicked and kicked and kicked. Even as the referee told him to back away, Kawada shoved him aside, which was rare in AJPW. Kawada was hellbent on brutalizing Misawa, rules, honor, and respect be damned.

But Misawa didn’t take these kicks lying down. He started hulking up AJPW-style and began tanking these hits like a champion. Once he had enough of Kawada’s nonsense, he started firing back with a volley of his own.

Taue was this and interfered, and so too did Kobashi. As Kobashi tried to weaken Kawada, Taue kicked him from behind. Then, as Misawa tried to regain control, Taue choke slammed Misawa onto Kobashi’s already-demolished left leg.

And to add insult to injury, Kawada landed a diving knee attack onto that same leg. Kobashi writhed in pain, clasping his leg as though it were legitimately broken. He rolled out of the ring, and suddenly this became a handicap match.

The Emperor fights alone.

Misawa spent the next several minutes getting torn apart by Kawada and Taue. They threw a lot at him: wrenching submission holds, heaving throws, and volley after volley of hard strikes.

He was virtually helpless, which is what Kawada wanted. All Kawada had to do was land his Folding Powerbomb finisher, and Misawa would be done.

But Kobashi wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. He hobbled over to break up pin attempts and stop Kawada from lifting Misawsa, only to get thrown back down again.

As Kawada tried to make Misawa tap to the Stretch Plum, Kobashi fought back once more. But this time, as Taue tried to knock him down, Kobashi mustered that burning spirit of his to knock Taue down and save his partner.

But Kawada wouldn’t release the hold, no matter how hard Kobashi blasted him in the head. That’s how badly he wanted to win.

After a merciless beatdown, Misawa tagged Kobashi, who decided it was his time to fight back, even if it meant from beneath. He went toe-to-toe against Kawada, who, as always, had no qualms about attacking a damaged body part.

But Kobashi wouldn’t go down. He’d absorb the pain and stand back up, over and over again. Whether it was Kawada or Raue, Kobashi had become the runaway freight train; he refused to stay down and kept pressing forward.

And the fans adored him for it. He even went for his patented moonsault, knowing full well the risks it carried.

Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue
– Act III begins

Although Kobashi did have the determination to win, he didn’t have the stamina. His body was barely cooperating, so he tagged in Misawa, who once again began to clean house.

He dropped both Kawada and Taue with elbows and started attempting signature moves. He applied a facelock on Taue as Kobashi locked Kawada in a sleeper on the ropes. He’d attack both men at once, going from elbow smashing one face to another.

But soon, the numbers game became too much for him as Kawada dropped him with a merciless Dangerous Backdrop. He was barely able to tag in Kobashi, who did his best to regain control for his team.

He even landed a Backdrop Driver of his own on Kawada, but his left leg was still causing him problems. Even though he barely put any weight on it, that suplex was enough to stop him from capitalizing on his latest big move.

The barrage of two-counts

Back and forth the teams went, exchanging pin-falls and submission holds. They’d reverse each other’s big moves, sensing what was coming.

A big move would only land after the victim had taken a double-team attack or got stiffed in the head beforehand.

And yet despite all of that, none of these four men was weakened to the point of getting pinned for the three-count. They were warriors with superhuman endurance and determination.

As Misawa landed a Tiger Driver on Kawada, Taue broke it up and answered a Misawa elbow with an eye poke; just like that, elements from a previous encounter added to this already incredible story.

Kawada and Taue continued to attack Misawa, culminating in a chokeslam from the apron to the floor. That huge move all but neutralized Misawa, and then things reached their peak.

A true hero emerges

Having just taken a massive attack, Misawa, the legal man, was all but defeated. Everyone knew this: Kawada, Taue, the referee, the fans, and especially Kobashi.

He was his partner and friend was in significant peril, so he did something that, to this very day, has not been replicated in a high-profile tag match. As Taue tried to drag Misawa to the ring, Kobashi shielded Misawa with his own body.

Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada
Photo / YouTube

Back in the ring, when Kawada tried to powerbomb Misawa, Kobashi crawled in and grabbed Misawa’s leg to prevent him from being lifted up. Kobashi knew he couldn’t help anymore, so he decided to be a meat shield.

He did whatever he could to save his partner. Even as Kawada and Taue rained stomps on Kobashi’s back, he refused to move.

He was sacrificing his health to save his partner, hoping that Misawa could muster some last-ditch effort to fight back since he could no longer do so.

Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue
– The tireless effort from Misawa

And Misawa tried. With what little strength he had left, Misawa tried to mount a comeback. And he succeeded in getting rid of Taue, but Taue wasn’t the legal man, Kawada was. And Kawada still wanted that win.

So, he punished Misawa even more. A Dangerous Backdrop here, a kick to the face there. And with one final lurch, Kawada landed the Folding Powerbomb for the third time in the match. He put all his weight on Misawa as the ref made his count.

Kobashi, inches away, crawled desperately to break up the pin. Even with Taue holding him by the leg, Kobashi crawled, trying to get closer.

Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada
Photo / YouTube

Then, despite being fingertips away, the referee’s hand struck the mat three consecutive times. Kawada did it! Kawada pinned Misawa.

After over five years of being joined with Misawa at the hip, Kawada had done it. He defeated Misawa clean, in the middle of the ring, without any controversy or dispute.

Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue – 6-9-95
– Legacy

As you can tell from this lengthy description, this was a wrestling masterpiece. The stories told by these four wrestlers in this match were breathtaking. For over forty minutes, they had the audience on the edge of their seats.

They made this feel like a personal fight in which nothing was sacred. And both teams had to put themselves and their opponents through hell just to win.

Many people characterize King’s Road AJPW as being too dangerous due to its emphasis on head spikes. But that wasn’t the case here.

There were two, maybe three big suplexes that looked a little high-risk but nothing overly dangerous. Instead, this match earned its place in wrestling history on the quality of the storytelling.

In watching the match unfold, these four wrestlers told their stories masterfully. Misawa played the stoic ace that never lost perfectly.

Taue cemented himself as a crafty, never-do-well that cut corners wherever possible. Their contributions to this match were great but far beneath what the other two did.

Kawada was desperate to beat Misawa, and it showed. He attacked Misawa relentlessly, dropping him with every conceivable move he had.

And when he landed that final powerbomb, he finally beat Misawa, proving that his spot as #2 in the company wasn’t so clear-cut.

He could be in the #1 spot. After all, he just pinned thew ace of the company. Even the fans – who at times booed Kawada for his actions – cheered his victory because they understood his struggle and had been there for the ride as long as he had.

Misawa & Kobashi vs Kawada & Taue
– The Struggle Pales in Comparison

But even Kawada’s struggle for recognition pales in comparison to what Kenta Kobashi did here. Kobashi played the perfect hero in peril.

Everything he did was spot-on: his facials, his reactions, his selling, his offense, his unwillingness to be ignored by Kawada, his sense of timing, and most importantly, his sacrifice. No wrestler has ever put on such a heroic display in a tag match.

He was so committed to this sacrifice that it took Kawada and Taue planting him with a super double-finisher to keep him down long enough. That was quite possibly his greatest-ever performance in a tag match,

There’s no question about it. Twenty-five years later, and this is hands down the best tag team wrestling match of all time. As to whether it’s the best wrestling match, period, well, we here at Pro Wrestling Post would love to see something surpass this match’s standards.