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Phil Schneider

Heads Up Battle 1998: Kandori v. Hotta v. Vader/Hansen v. Kobashi/Akyama

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HOW HAVE I NEVER SEEN VADER AND HANSEN TAG TOGETHER?! 

Watching both of those when the net time rolls over at midnight

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The story of this is great. Kobashi and Akiyama come in as underdogs even though Vader is getting old and Hansen is way old by this point. And what does Leon do? Immediately just short-lariat the shit out of Kobashi to start taking out the strongest person on the team. One of the things I've always loved about Vader is him screaming when you hit him in the gut. He's like the King Hippo of wrestling (only in that respect, because if I can beat King Hippo in Punch-Out! then you should be able to. Vader, not so much). Another thing I love about him in this is using his weight advantage; every time he falls it's fast and brutal and he just smushes you. He takes Akiyama at the start and faceplants him and you think he's unconscious after it. After awhile it turns into Akiyama having heart because the crowd clearly knows he's the weak link and he's just getting splattered -- Vader even busts out the Inoki-Killer German and the crowd is like "he dead". Then they boo when Kobashi makes the save! It turns back to Kenta being the target after they murder Akiyama on the outside and he regains the crowd sympathy. 

Then the end

Spoiler

The overhead camera gets a perfect shot of Akiyama finally regaining his senses to hit Vader with a knee of the top while he's holding Kobashi for the Lariat, and Kobashi runs in with his own Lariat that nails Stan right behind his ear for the pin. And then Vader and Hansen just murder them some more and stomp off like the kaiju they are into the night. 

That was so fucking good. And I didn't even mention Stan punching, stomping, elbowing, and kneeing everyone right in the face. If I played Fire Pro, Vader and Hansen would be my team every time. 

This is gonna be a battle indeed

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Okay, well now. 

Even though I'm writing less about it, there's less to say. You have the two biggest crowbars in joshi acting like someone made a pass at their lover at an after-hours party but yet there's still that tinge of professionalism. Somehow, it's there... but it is way, way buried. This was one of the most violent things possible. And yeah, it was sloppy, but it was fucking awesome, and had so many sick reversals into submission that I'm gonna have to show it to my friends who just got into UFC. This is pretty much everything I love about joshi and shootstyle in one package. 

Battle, shit, this is more like Sophie's Choice. Though I could watch either match every damn day, I feel like going with Kandori/Hotta. My opinion could change in a second but that's what I'm going with. 

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This was my choice as a contender, and I too noticed it because I hadn't ever actually seen Hansen/Vader team before. And it only happened a handful of times anyway, right around this point in AJ. I was just expecting a fun mauling, but was shocked at the storytelling going on. I've actually watched this match three times this year now. It's really simple and great, and has most of the things I love about wrestling in it. 

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Can you imagine Vader/Hansen mauling the Rock and Roll Express or having a punch out with the Steiners?

Hansen actually worked a match against the R&Rs in 1988 (Dan Kroffat was his partner). All-time great asskicker Hansen against all-time great asskickee Morton sounds awesome on paper, but it didn't really work for me because neither R&R could conceivably pose a credible threat to Hansen. They should've just brought in Morton and had him team with Jumbo or Tenryu.

Anyway, if you liked this match, the 1999 version with Hansen and Taue teaming up against Burning is even better.

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That 1999 tag sounds like an awesome challenger

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It is. It's a RWTL Final, and the Taue/Hansen team was billed as Hansen's "LAST CHANCE" at glory. Thus Hansen is treated as super babyface and everything Kobashi does gets booed to the moon.

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