Reminder: This is a guest post from Chad Campbell. Chad is the Assistant Managing Editor of placetobenation.com and the co-host of the NWA/WCW Supercard podcast, Where the Big Boys Play.

In Ring Performer

Dave Meltzer has rated Akira Taue in 14 ***** matches. The caveat to that is that many claim Taue is the 3rd or 4th best guy in a majority of those matches. Taue has 1 ***** singles match according to Meltzer which is the Champions Carnival 1995 final. Still, this is more than inductees Shinya Hashimoto, Hiroshi Hase and Kensuke Sasaki have.

Beyond that metric, a review of http://www.profightdb.com/top-rated-matches.html shows numerous other matches by Taue rated highly by Meltzer throughout the years including impressive  ****1/2 and ****1/4 single matches rankings . I think it is safe to argue that of the matches rated by Meltzer in the WON, Taue has higher rankings than anyone not already in the HOF with the exception of Daniel Bryan.

Furthermore, the notion that Taue was the worst guy in some of these historic tag matches is misleading. All Japan in the 1990’s created in my opinion the greatest in ring wrestling product of all time. Most of the historic matches from this era are rated by numerous sources as some of the greatest pro wrestling matches of all time. Not at one time watching these historic matches, did I think to myself that Taue was dragging things down quality wise. Everyone in these matches contributed to overall greatness of them, Taue included.

Charles (Loss) at prowrestlingonly.com has watched over 1,000 hours of 1990’s footage spanning all promotions. He has compiled his thoughts on the individual matches and given star ratings on matches he sees as *** or above. I decided to study Taue in Charles’ watching compared to other HOF wrestlers that had the bulk of their candidacy resting in the 1990’s: Hiroshi Hase, Shinya Hashimoto and Ultimo Dragon. I feel the biggest criteria of being a great in ring performer is reaching the great match output so I will only focus on matches that Charles ranked at **** or above. I also want to make it known that Charles would be what I consider as a stern grader and much more rigorous than Meltzer at given out a ton of snowflakes. For example the 9/95 Triple Crown match between Misawa and Taue that Meltzer rated at ****1/2 was rated by Charles at ***3/4 and therefore not on the below list. As of the date of this article, Charles has only compiled thoughts up to October 1998.

Akira Taue

1990:

  • Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi & Akira Taue vs Jumbo Tsuruta, Kabuki & Masa Fuchi (AJPW 05/26/90) ****1/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Masa Fuchi (AJPW 08/18/90) ****
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (AJPW 09/30/90) ****3/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada & Kenta Kobashi vs Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Masa Fuchi (AJPW 10/19/90) ****1/2
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (AJPW 12/07/90) ****

Total Matches: 5

1991:

  • Toshiaki Kawada vs Akira Taue (AJPW 01/15/91) ****1/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Masa Fuchi (AJPW 01/27/91) ****
  • Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada & Kenta Kobashi vs Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Masa Fuchi (AJPW 04/20/91) ****3/4
  • Toshiaki Kawada vs Akira Taue (AJPW 04/18/91) ****
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (AJPW 09/04/91) ****
  • Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Masa Fuchi (AJPW 10/15/91) ****1/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (AJPW 11/29/91) ****1/2

Total Matches: 7

1992:

  • Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi & Toshiaki Kawada vs Jumbo Tsuruta, Masa Fuchi & Akira Taue (AJPW 01/24/92) ****1/4
  • Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue vs Kenta Kobashi & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi (AJPW 01/26/92) ****
  • Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada & Kenta Kobashi vs Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Masa Fuchi (AJPW 05/22/92) ****3/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (AJPW 05/30/92) ****1/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue (AJPW 06/05/92) ****1/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa, Toshiaki Kawada & Tsuyoshi Kikuchi vs Jumbo Tsuruta, Akira Taue & Yoshinari Ogawa (AJPW 08/20/92) ****1/4
  • Jumbo Tsuruta & Akira Taue vs Steve Williams & Terry Gordy (AJPW 10/07/92) ****1/4

Total Matches: 7

1993:

Total Matches: 8

1994:

  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (AJPW 05/21/94) ****3/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (AJPW 11/25/94) ****

Total Matches: 2

1995:

  • Kenta Kobashi vs Akira Taue (AJPW 03/21/95) ****1/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa vs Akira Taue (AJPW Championship Carnival 04/15/95) *****
  • Toshiaki Kawada vs Akira Taue (AJPW Championship Carnival 04/08/95) ****3/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (AJPW 06/09/95) *****
  • Mitsuharu Misawa, Kenta Kobashi & Satoru Asako vs Toshiaki Kawada, Akira Taue & Tamon Honda (AJPW 06/30/95) ****
  • Kenta Kobashi vs Akira Taue (AJPW 07/24/95) ****1/2
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Kenta Kobashi vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (AJPW 10/15/95) ****1/2

Total Matches: 7

1996:

  • Toshiaki Kawada vs Akira Taue (AJPW 03/31/96) ****
  • Steve Williams vs Akira Taue (AJPW 04/20/96) ****1/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (AJPW 05/23/96) ****1/4
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (AJPW 07/09/96) ****1/2
  • Kenta Kobashi vs Akira Taue (AJPW 07/24/96) ****1/2
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (AJPW 11/29/96) ****3/4
  • Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue vs Steve Williams & Johnny Ace (AJPW 11/22/96) ****1/2
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (AJPW 12/06/96) *****

Total Matches: 8

1997:

  • Akira Taue vs Johnny Ace (AJPW 10/21/97) ****
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (AJPW Real World Tag League 11/28/97) ****
  • Mitsuharu Misawa & Jun Akiyama vs Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue (AJPW Real World Tag League 12/05/97) ****

Total Matches: 3

1998:

  • Toshiaki Kawada & Akira Taue vs Kenta Kobashi & Johnny Ace (AJPW 06/05/98) ****
  • Akira Taue vs Kenta Kobashi (AJPW 09/11/98) ****1/4

Total Matches: 2

Total Matches as of September 1998: 49

Hiroshi Hase

1990:

  • Great Muta vs Hiroshi Hase (NJPW 09/14/90) ****
  • Keiji Muto & Masa Chono vs Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki (NJPW 11/01/90) ****1/4

Total Matches: 2

1991:

  • Jushin Liger vs Hiroshi Hase (NJPW 05/06/91) ****
  • Keiji Muto & Masa Chono vs Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki (NJPW 07/04/91) ****1/4

Total Matches: 2

1992:

  • Vader & Bam Bam Bigelow vs Keiji Muto & Hiroshi Hase (NJPW 05/01/92) ****
  • Vader & Bam Bam Bigelow vs Keiji Muto & Hiroshi Hase (NJPW 05/01/92) ****
  • Hiroshi Hase vs Kensuke Sasaki (NJPW 06/26/92) ****

Total Matches: 3

1993:

Total Matches: 6

1994:

  • Rick & Scott Steiner vs Keiji Muto & Hiroshi Hase (NJPW Tokyo Dome 01/04/94) ****1/4
  • Hiroshi Hase vs Shinya Hashimoto (NJPW 12/13/94) ****

Total Matches: 2

1995:

  • Masa Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan vs Hiroshi Hase & Kensuke Sasaki (NJPW 03/07/95) ****

Total Matches: 1

1996:

Total Matches: 0

1997:

  • Kenta Kobashi vs Hiroshi Hase (AJPW 08/26/97) ****

Total Matches: 1

1998:

Total Matches: 0

Total Matches as of September 1998: 17

Shinya Hashimoto

1990:

Total Matches: 0

1991:

  • Masa Chono vs Shinya Hashimoto (NJPW 08/09/91) ****1/4

Total Matches: 1

1992:

Total Matches: 0

1993:

Total Matches: 7

1994:

  • Jushin Liger vs Shinya Hashimoto (NJPW 02/24/94) ****1/2
  • Genichiro Tenryu vs Shinya Hashimoto (NJPW 02/17/94) ****1/4
  • Shinya Hashimoto vs Shiro Koshinaka (NJPW G-1 Climax 08/06/94) ****1/4
  • Hiroshi Hase vs Shinya Hashimoto (NJPW 12/13/94) ****

Total Matches: 4

1995:

  • Shinya Hashimoto vs Kensuke Sasaki (NJPW Tokyo Dome 01/04/95) ****
  • Shinya Hashimoto & Junji Hirata vs Masa Chono & Hiroyoshi Tenzan (NJPW 06/12/95) ****1/4
  • Keiji Muto vs Shinya Hashimoto (NJPW G-1 Climax 08/15/95) ****3/4

Total Matches: 3

1996:

  • Shinya Hashimoto vs Shiro Koshinaka (NJPW 09/23/96) ****

Total Matches: 1

1997:

  • Riki Choshu vs Shinya Hashimoto (NJPW Tokyo Dome 01/04/97) ****

Total Matches: 1

1998:

  • Shinya Hashimoto vs Kazuo Yamazaki (NJPW G-1 Climax 08/02/98) ****1/4
  • Genichiro Tenryu vs Shinya Hashimoto (NJPW G-1 Climax 08/01/98) ****

Total Matches: 2

Total Matches as of September 1998: 19

Ultimo Dragon

1990:

  • El Hijo del Santo, Yoshinari Asai & Gran Hamada vs Negro Casas, Blue Panther & Fuerza Guerrera (WWA 1990) ****

Total Matches: 1

1991:

Total Matches: 0

1992:

Total Matches: 0

1993:

Total Matches: 2

1994:

Total Matches: 0

1995:

  • Jushin Liger vs Ultimo Dragon (WAR Super J Cup 12/13/95) ****

Total Matches: 0

1996:

  • Rey Misterio Jr & Ultimo Dragon vs Heavy Metal & Psicosis (World Wrestling Peace Festival 06/01/96) ****1/4
  • Ultimo Dragon vs Shinjiro Otani (NJPW J*Crown 08/05/96) ****1/2
  • Ultimo Dragon vs Great Sasuke (NJPW J*Crown 08/05/96) ****
  • Ultimo Dragon vs Great Sasuke (WAR 10/11/96) ****
  • Rey Misterio Jr vs Ultimo Dragon (WCW World War 3 11/24/96) ****1/4

Total Matches: 5

1997:

  • El Hijo del Santo, Felino, Black Warrior, Silver King, Dr. Wagner Jr., Satanico, Kevin Quinn & Scorpio Jr. vs Ultimo Dragon, Atlantis, Negro Casas, El Dandy, Shocker, Mascara Magica, La Fiera & Brazo de Oro (CMLL 04/18/97) ****3/4
  • El Hijo del Santo, Emilio Charles Jr. & Dr. Wagner Jr. vs Negro Casas, Felino & Ultimo Dragon (CMLL 06/20/97) ****

Total Matches: 2

1998:

Total Matches:0

Total Matches as of September 1998: 10

Looking at this data, the numbers speak for themselves. I would say whereas Ultimo may have been a stronger historical figure than Taue (a debatable point), he without a doubt lacks against Taue in the drawing ability and in ring performer categories. Hashimoto was a better draw than Taue and the ace of New Japan for portions of the 1990’s but where Taue is the 4th guy remembered in the Four Pillars, Hashimoto is the 3rd in the Three Musketeers. I am a huge fan of Hiroshi Hase but I can’t see one argument of how he has any parameter ahead of Taue. Even taking into account Hase’s 1980’s work, I would prefer the output that Taue put out in the 2000’s.

VoicesofWrestling.com - Akira Taue Hall of Fame

Historical Significance

This is the vaguest of the three categories to me and one where it is tough to compare individual candidates. I do think this is the weakest area of Taue’s candidacy but he is not weak overall in this category. Taue once again was a part of one of the most fabled eras in pro wrestling history. The All Japan matches from the 1990’s have near universal acclaim and are consistently touted as one of the best in ring stretches of any promotion in history. Taue was a key cog in that wheel. He also was a member of one of the more famous tag teams in Japanese wrestling history.

Beyond that, Taue worked a high-profile front office job for a promotion (NOAH) that at times was the most profitable Japanese promotion in existence. NOAH has had a lot of financial unrest in the past 5-6 years, but Taue has been an integral figure in the front office for a 14 year old promotion. This gives NOAH a longer tenure than numerous other organizations like SMW and ECW.

I don’t necessarily think Taue is one of the most fondest people thought of when thinking about All Japan and NOAH but I do think he is seen positively and the individuals that watch the footage don’t see him as lucking into a tag team with Kawada and being carried to great matches.

After conducting the research above, I was more convinced than before that Taue is a Hall of Famer. I understand the restraint of putting in the 4th best draw and worker of any given promotion at one point and time, but I do think the evidence suggests that the promotion thrived in part because of Taue not at the detriment of him. Would All Japan have been prosperous with just Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi? Perhaps, but the match quality would have dwindled and I don’t think the overall era from an in-ring perspective would be remembered as fondly. Speaking of in-ring, Taue was a fabulous in ring performer as the statistics back up. If having to make a list of my top 100 in ring wrestlers of all time, Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi would all have a great shot of making my top 10 with Misawa and Kobashi in particular being strong contenders for #1. Taue is not far off this mark and would most assuredly land in my top 50 somewhere. I don’t think this is something to scoff at. Taue is better in my opinion than all but a select few wrestlers in the entire history. His drawing record when asked to step in and be a key component of a singles match main event shows that business did not drop off at any point and in fact increased at times. Taue is a legend on his own and it is time he got the recognition he deserves instead of perpetually being in the shadow of Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi.