In the last few years I’ve been learning a lot about Japanese puroresu, and two of the staples of that education, which started with Pro Wrestling NOAH on the Fight Network in Canada, were Kenta Kobashi and Jun Akiyama. When NOAH started airing on the Fight Network with English commentary by Mauro Ranallo (Pride Fighting Championships, pretty much every other non-UFC MMA organization) and Dan Lovranski (Live Audio Wrestling), Kobashi was in the midst of his epic two year run with the GHC Heavyweight Championship. He was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Visibly getting up in age, he still beat the absolute living shit out of anyone who stepped in the ring with him in wars that routinely broke the twenty and twenty-five minute marks. The season of NOAH on the Fight Network culminated with Destiny 2005, the show on which Kobashi defeated Kensuke Sasaki in one of the best matches I’ve ever seen. It also included about two straight minutes of a scientific experiment to see if it was possible for either man to chop the other so hard that his hand went through their chest and came out the other side. Results were inconclusive.

NOAH was also where I first saw Jun Akiyama. He wasn’t in a particularly prominent role in the shows I saw on the Fight Network, but when I started watching more puro online and through DVDs (like those available at Rudo Reels. Plug.) he became one of my favourite Japanese wrestlers. His matches with Kobashi, in particular, were outstanding, with Kobashi eventually having to pull out his rarely used Burning Hammer to finally end Akiyama’s threat to the GHC title.

Recently I’ve learned more about All Japan Pro Wrestling in the ’90s, where both Akiyama and Kobashi rose to prominence. In a bit of Twitter luck, I stumbled upon a link to Jun Akiyama’s All Japan debut against his future nemesis Kobashi. And it’s fucking great. This may very well be the greatest debut match of all time. The video I found was in two parts, and as searches didn’t turn up any single videos of the entire bout, I cut the two parts together and uploaded said single video myself. I’m going to shut up now (although I suspect most of you just jumped straight to the video anyway) and let you see for yourself the beginning of the Akiyama/Kobashi rivalry, June Akiyama’s debut from the September 17th, 1992 All Japan Pro Wrestling show.