Segunda Caida

Phil Schneider, Eric Ritz, Matt D and occasional guests write about pro wrestling. Follow us @segundacaida

Monday, May 07, 2018

Andre is an Exquisite Dead Guy Rotating in His Display Case

Andre the Giant/Giant Baba vs. Mitsuharu Misawa/Toshiaki Kawada AJPW 12/2/91 - GREAT

PAS: I am a big fan of immobile end of the road Andre, and it is pretty cool to watch him match up with future puro legends Misawa and Kawada. At this point Andre can only really play a brick wall to knock down (there is an attempted elbow drop which goes really badly), but he is really great at playing a brick wall to knock down. He actually does some pretty cool arm work on Kawada which isn't something he did much outside of his early French work. Andre isn't really leaving his feet, but is willing to take some sharp kicks from Kawada and tight elbows by Misawa. Baba takes all the bumps, which is always a bit jarring because he looks like a giant bag of fragile bones and always looks like he is going to Humpty Dumpty himself every time he lands. Well paced match, which builds well to the big moments by the legends

ER: I've seen much of the Baba/Andre RWTL '91 stuff and this is easily the best match of the bunch, with no close contender. Andre is very much not a mobile human being at this stage, and you can tell just how much pain he's going through in a match from this era based on how often he enters/exits the ring over the top rope, or through the ropes. He went through the ropes in this match more than I've ever seen, so his body must have been absolutely screaming. When Baba has to be the bumper of any team, you know that's a bad sign; as Phil points out, Baba looks like he's going to shatter when he falls, like an old man shoved to the sidewalk by a mugger. But there are two major, important things that set this match apart from others on this tour, and one is that Misawa and Kawada really take it to our two sympathetic broken Giants. Other matches on the tour essentially see opponents being good sports, with even Terry Gordy working gentle. But Kawada throws some big kicks (love him starting with Baba and winging a high kick towards his big head) and Misawa threw big elbows; it was a kick seeing Kawada throw great sidekicks to the chest, even soccer kicks, and man it was cool seeing Misawa throw nasty elbows and uppercuts to Baba, and even throwing elbows on Andre! They suplex Baba a couple times, Misawa gets Baba in his facelock, Kawada body slams Baba and drops a big top rope elbow, even attempts his folding powerbomb! I love that the fans really start booing these punk 20-somethings as they rudely kick at the weakened Giants, and Baba seems to really be trying against these punks, starting out the match with a surprising schoolboy, and breaking out offense he wasn't doing much by this point, like a sharp DDT on Kawada.
The boos really amp up  when Andre gets stuck in the ropes and they begin teeing off on him, and Andre gets a great resurrection moment as he rises up to his feet through the storm. Now the key moment that kicks this match another notch, is when it surprises us: there's a lot of value in establishing a formula, establishing expectations, and then suddenly veering from those expectations. It makes a special moment. Every Baba/Andre win ends the same way, with Andre whipping someone into a big Baba boot, then - if he's up for it - Andre drops an elbow; if he's not up for it, he usually just clobbers them to set up Baba's neckbreaker drop. There isn't always build to the finish, it usually just happens when Andre wants things to go home. So Baba hits the big boot, and Andre lumbers in for the elbow drop...and Misawa moves! Andre crashes down to the mat and suddenly the plans have changed! If Andre was going to leave his feet at this point, it was going to be for the finish. Here the format is shifted as the missed elbow allows a double dropkick to tie him in the ropes, leading to our great finishing stretch with Baba and Kawada highlighted above. Andre smothering Misawa so Baba can sneak in a small package was a nice change of pace, and the match was filled with a bunch of fun surprises. I cannot believe this didn't air on TV. It's the only time Andre would have been in the same ring as Misawa, and it was great to see these future legends taking to these icons.


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