Two matches in one week? Either I’m losing it or I have nothing better to do (It’s the latter).
Ths match took place on October 23 1993 in front of the biggest crowd yet in this series (16 300 people) in the famous Nippon Budokan, a legendary wrestling venue in Japan. Akiyama’s opponent for the night is a man who most western wrestling fans are already familiar with, but in a different guise. I’m talking about Ted Dibiase.
Ted Dibiase Sr is an American second generation professional wrestler, best known by mainstream audiences as the evil Million Dollar Man on WWF TV during the Hulkamania era. But Dibiase also managed to clock 30 championships to his name during his career spanning multiple companies. Dibiase worked for All Japan between 1983-1987, and in 1993. This match is from his final run with the company, shortly before he suffers a back injury in the start of the yearly tag league.
The match starts off evenly, with Akiyama showing good fire. Akiyama actually gets the early control segment, forcing Dibiase down and going straight for the arm like it had a bullseye on it. Akiyama works over the arm of Dibiase a lot during the start of the match, hanging on until roughly the five minute mark, where Dibiase gets out and flapjacks Akiyama on the ropes before choking him out on the mat with one hand. Dibiase throws Akiyama out of the ring and chokes him on the guardrail for a while before hitting him with a short arm lariat and a couple of elbows in the middle of the ring. After failing to get the pin Dibiase goes for a long, and when I say long I mean long sleeper hold segment, cutting off the pace of the match for a good while, Akiyama fights out of it twice but to no success, only succeeding to get out of it on his third attempt after a bulldog.
This starts Akiyama’s comeback in this match, and he goes at it hard. Among the things he hits is a crisp northern lights suplex, a top rope plancha to the outside and a flying elbow strike from the apron. The crowd is responding well to this, only for Dibiase to cut Akiyama’s fire with a punch to the gut when Akiyama comes off the top rope in what looked like it was supposed to be a crossbody. Dibiase hits a nice backdrop suplex for a pin attempt, but Akiyama kicks out and tries a sloppy small package of his own to no avail. Akiyama tries for the northern lights again but only gets a two, and Dibiase reverses a running elbow into a powerslam for two himself. Dibiase finally puts the match away with a combination of a sleeperhold and a legsweep.
A decent big stage showing from Akiyama here. He had a few slumps in the match (the small package being the most obvious), but he was working hard throughout it and Dibiase worked well with him, both guys looking good out of this. Selling the point of Akiyama being a prodigy and future star, but just not able to take out the senior Dibiase. I personally thought Dibiase relied a bit too much on the sleeper, but it helped get the crowd behind Akiyama so I guess it served its purpose.
Coming up next in the series: Akiyama takes on another All Japan youngling, and another veteran in today’s All Japan who I adore. The wild man, Takao Omori