Tamon Honda & Jun Izumida vs. Hayabusa & Jinsei Shinzaki (AJPW 2/13/99, All Asia Tag Titles)

This match took place at an interesting period in All Japan’s history, albeit not a particularly positive one. This match took place just under two weeks after the death of Giant Baba, throwing the promotion’s leadership into disarray and ultimately leading to the mass exodus of talent and the formation of Pro Wrestling NOAH. This wasn’t a particularly hot period for the All Asia tag belts either, a far cry from the days when the Can-Am Express had a stranglehold on them. These two teams had wrestled a few weeks earlier in a match notable mostly for its bloody content, and this one was a bit tamer in that regard. This match trundled along for a while, mostly focusing on three of the wrestlers having hard heads and a willingness to bash each other with them (Hayabusa seemed less keen on this aspect). The indymen eventually did as indymen so often do, making things a bit more exciting with some nice springboard combos and dives, including a cool moment where Shinzaki prepared to dive on Honda (who’d been standing there waiting to be jumped on like an idiot), only to hop back into the ring while Hayabusa jumped off the other post with a moonsault.


I’ve never been a great fan of Honda or Izumida – their very presence just gives me Vietnam-style flashbacks to NOAH undercards that just seemed to be delaying far more exciting KENTA/Marufuji tag matches – but they were good here, especially Honda, and I suspect watching more of them from the late 1990s may continue to change my opinion. Shinzaki and Hayabusa were obviously very exciting but I really enjoyed the contrasting power fighting style of Honda and Izumida here, especially as things progressed. Honda just decided to drop Shinzaki right on his head and that was the sign things were kicking off. Then he started attacking Hayabusa and Shinzaki exclusively with stalling deadlift German suplexes and I realised that Tamon Honda may have invented the modern Big Japan style. Hayabusa did the deal and Honda somehow kicked out, but Shinzaki finally pinned him to win the titles with two flying headbutts following Hayabusa’s phoenix splash. A slow start for this one but it really kicked into gear once Izumida stopped relentlessly headbutting people and it was a lot of fun by the end. Didn’t outstay its welcome when it peaked either, which is always nice to see. ***1/2


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