It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

Yes, it’s Voices of Wrestling Secret Santa time again, everyone. The brainchild of JR Goldberg (@wrestlingbubble), VOW Secret Santa sees all participating website contributors give their fellow contributors, the greatest gift of all: wrestling matches!

VOW Secret Santa Archives:

Kenta Kobashi vs. Steve Williams
August 31, 1993

Reviewed by Rich Kraetsch (@richkraetsch)

Gifted by Jeff Martin (@HEATcomic)

This is one of those matches that is dangerous to watch as it will make you hate modern wrestling. It’s not that modern wrestling sucks, it’s actually pretty damn good (clap crowds and COVID outbreaks aside). The problem is modern wrestling can never be… this. Crowds will never sound like THIS again. It is unlikely wrestlers will ever look like “Dr. Death” Steve Williams ever again. Guys like Kenta Kobashi will never have to wait a half a decade to finally get their big break. As such, a match like Kenta Kobashi vs. Steve Williams from August 1993 just can never happen again and that’s horribly depressing. 

This is a brilliant match that tells a very simple story. Two guys on the come-up trying to win a #1 contendership match for the Triple Crown Championship. It’s a champion that is as prestigious as any title ever at this point and these guys will do everything in their goddamn power to win it. Williams has had a few shots at the Triple Crown already (September 1990 vs. Stan Hansen and July 1991 vs. Jumbo Tsuruta) so he’s no stranger to this spotlight. Kobashi, on the other hand, he’s never had a shot. Never once had a chance. This is it. If he doesn’t win this match now, if he doesn’t capitalize on this moment, who knows the next chance he’ll have. Hell, look at Dr. Death across the ring—he’s waited some three years to get back to this spot. 

The bell rings and the intensity never slows or waivers for the 27:19. Blow after blow, bomb after bomb, neither man willing to give an inch, neither man willing to let go of this once-in-a-lifetime chance. The fans are living and dying by every move here, clearly, Kobashi comes in as the favorite and the fans in AJPW want nothing more than for Kobashi to finally break free and enter the title picture. Dr. Death, desperate to cling to his spot, is not going to give it up easily. The fans know Kobashi has weaknesses, they know he’s vulnerable but they want to believe. They want to believe so, so badly. Each time Dr. Death teases his patented backdrop, the fans shriek, knowing if he hits it… that’s it for their young upstart. Kobashi does survive a backdrop of two (including one RIGHT on his goddamn head) finally, 27 minutes into this brutal war it’s over. And with it, the emotional dump from the crowd. They don’t boo, they don’t cheer, they go silent. They thought this was it. They thought they were finally going to see Kobashi earn the shot. 

It wasn’t to be on this night. Instead of running to Twitter to talk about Giant Baba BURYING Kobashi or wondering if they missed the window on their young superstar, they stayed the course. The fans, Giant Baba, All Japan Pro Wrestling. Kenta Kobashi would not win his first Triple Crown Championship until May 1996—just under three years after this match. He would go on to be one of the biggest stars in Japanese and pro wrestling history. 

The loyal fans stuck with him the entire way and were ultimately rewarded for their patience. 

A match like this, a build like this, characters like this… they can’t and they won’t exist in today’s pro wrestling world. That’s a shame but ultimately, we live in a very privileged world where we can watch classic wrestling with just a few clicks. Still, I can’t help but end this review sad and annoyed that 2021 pro wrestling for as great as it is… it’ll never be Steve Williams vs. Kenta Kobashi in August 1993, it’ll never be Kroffat & Furnas vs. Kobashi & Kikuchi, it’ll never be June 9, 1995. ****1/2