REWIND: Kenta Kobashi vs Stan Hansen
Just five years before Stan Hansen would walk off into that dusty sunset, he challenges Kenta Kobashi for his newly won Triple Crown Title. Hansen himself was a 4-time champion by this point, each of his reigns coming between 1990 and 1995.
For Kobashi, this was reign number 1 of 3, though in total his three reigns and 5 defenses fall only 74 days short of Hansen's 4 reigns and 7 defenses. Kobashi is coming off of a championship victory against Akira Taue in July.
With the Triple Crown Title on the line, it's a clash between generations as Hansen, 47 at the time in a 23-year career, challenges the 29-year-old Kobashi just 8 years into his.
Stan Hansen barges to the ring with a fucking ripper of a theme song, starting with a discordant electric guitar before transitioning to 90s Japanese wrestling goodness. Hansen is, of course, cowboyed out in chaps, vest, and hat. Kobashi has a business man's haircut and a jacket any NASA astronaut or night-shift road crew worker would love.
Hansen is imposing with his barrel-chested frame and Kobashi is yoked. As the streamers fly, Hansen rushes in but Kobashi catches him with a knee. They fight into the roes and Hansen riddles him with headbutts before lifting the champion up and dumping him over the top rope.
Kobashi is back in quickly but is peppered with stomps until he can rise up and back Hansen into the corner with chops and kicks. Hansen knocks him flat, timbering him over with an elbow across the jaw. He similarly drops a fired up Kobashi with an elbow and kick combo moments later.
The opening moments make it feel like anyone's game here. As quick and crisp as Kobashi is with kicks and chops, it just takes a blow or two from Hansen to lay him flat on his back. If Hansen can get one strong, striking blow in, he could add another run with the Triple Crown Title to his resumé if Kobashi doesn't catch him first.
Kobashi starts feeling himself as he pounds knife-edge chops into Hansen's chest, but they only work to anger Hansen. The challenger calls for more chops and as Kobashi obliges, Hansen catches him with a pair of slaps to the face. Kobashi does his third delayed drop of the night, this time akin to a Flair flop as he drops flat on his chest.
After some more back and forth and a bit of a tussle on the floor, Kobashi reenters the ring while Hansen is on the apron. Kobashi hooks him with the front facelock and lifts him for a suplex that didn't look like it had any right in actually happening. Kobashi just muscles Hansen up, delays once he gets him completely vertical, and earns a two count after dropping him to the mat.
That glory is only short-lived, though, as Hansen is back at the striking game and knocks Kobashi flat once more with an open-hand slap across the face.
The fight ends up outside once more and this time it's Hansen with a suplex on the floor leaving Kobashi laying on the padding. Kobashi fights his way back into the ring, buckling Hansen and dropping him to the mat with a body shot in the corner. Kobashi is onto something here and lays in a few more of these shots as Hansen clutches his guts and winces in pain against the turnbuckle.
Hansen proves that he's still got cowboy monster vibes as he shrugs off two big boots from Kobashi, challenging him to come with more. Kobashi drops him with a shoulder block but Hansen rolls through to his feet and flattens Kobashi with a shoulder block of his own. This sends the champion to the floor and Hansen into the air with a topé suicida!
Now it's time to get nuts as Hansen pulls up the padding on the floor. He sets Kobashi up for a powerbomb but Kobashi won't let him pull it off. Hansen disengages, strikes Kobashi, and then comes back with the powerbomb on the bare floor with a disgusting fucking splat. They get a close-up of Kobashi and he looks like he's on Mars. That spaceman's jacket may come in handy yet.
The crowd tries willing Kobashi to his feet with "KOBASHI!" chants but he's just not moving, except to try and pull his tights up.
Hansen starts having fun here, whipping Kobashi into the post and cackling at the crowd. Inside the ring, Hansen beckons for Kobashi to get back in which he does... slowly. Hansen fakes a pin attempt, pulling Kobashi's head and shoulders off of the mat to break the count with a chuckle.
The name of the game for Hansen now is to focus on the neck. He drops elbows on Kobashi's neck and drives him into the mat with a DDT, all with a smile on his face.
Hansen has slowed things down to a comfortable pace now, making pin attempt after pin attempt with each blow he lands on the champion. Kobashi is completely out of it, but he manages to wedge his shoulder off of the mat with each cover.
Kobashi escapes to the apron, but Hansen follows and clutches him for a back suplex. Kobashi escapes and backs against the post, drawing Hansen in with a lariat attempt which is avoided causing Hansen to wrap his arm around the post. Kobashi now has a glimmer of hope!
For the first time in several minutes, Kobashi now stands confidently on his feet and is in the ring awaiting Hansen to return to the ring with his damaged left arm. Just as Hansen did before, Kobashi now focuses on a body part in an attempt to wear down his opponent.
Hansen stalls on the floor for a lot of time here, holding his arm close to his body, as Kobashi is conserving his energy in the ring. Once Hansen reenters, it's a bit of a stalemate like we saw in the beginning with each man landing blows until Kobashi rocks Hansen in the corner with a clothesline to gain the advantage.
Despite a cross arm breaker threatening to pull a submission out of Hansen, Kobashi's advantage is brief. With Hansen in the corner, Kobashi charges in but is rocked with a driving forearm to the jaw which sees both men collapse in a heap on the mat.
Hansen looks pissed now, essentially challenging Kobashi to stay conscious as he lays in knees and kicks to the head of the champion. Kobashi eventually breaks away and finds a path to the top rope, leaping off first with a clothesline and then a missile dropkick. Hansen, however, still has a big kickout in him.
Kobashi musters up everything he can to slam Hansen and follow up with a moonsault that connects perfectly. He struggles to hook the leg which may be the only thing that allows Hansen to kick out before the three count. Kobashi misses an attempt at a legdrop which allows Hansen back to his feet, prepping for the Western Lariat with his injured left arm.
As Hansen charges in, Kobashi kicks away the left arm but Hansen spins out into a discus lariat with the right arm! He covers, and the referee is the only thing saving Kobashi from a three-count here. Kobashi looked late in kicking out, the referee basically stopping himself before Kobashi moved toward the kickout.
Hansen pulls Kobashi back to his feet and drops him back down with a backdrop. This time, Kobashi clearly kicks out before the three.
Hansen readies the canon one more time but Kobashi ducks, twisting into a backdrop of his own. Hansen powers up to his feet and is met with a big lariat from Kobashi for a two! Kobashi hits the ropes for a second lariat but Hansen boots him away; Kobashi returns a third time and clobbers Hansen with a lariat and a tight pin earning him the victory!
A scowling Hansen leaves the ring for a moment but then rushes back, dropping Kobashi with a Western Lariat to the back of the head. He lays in a few stomps before whipping Kobashi with one of his three belts, absconding with one-third of the Triple Crown and his trusty bull rope in hand.
As the camera cuts away, I think Hansen throws the belt into the crowd. Some unfortunate fan ends up with it, and Hansen approaches to rip it from his hands before throwing it back into the ring as Kobashi is presented with an insane trophy for his efforts.
This would be one of only two successful title defenses in this reign for Kobashi. He would go to a time limit draw with Toshiaki Kawada in October before dropping the belt to Mitsuharu Misawa in January of 1997. Kobashi wouldn't hold the belt again until 1998, and Hansen would retire in 2001 just 5 years after this match took place.
For a 47-year-old Hansen on the edge of retirement, he's truly magnificent in this match. He's still believable as a monster challenger and comes out with some surprises for a man nearing 50, like a topé suicida with zero runway.
I love the selling of the left arm as a means to take away Hansen's biggest move and love even more that Hansen was able to still find a way to clean Kobashi's clock with a discus lariat from the other arm.
Kobashi looks great here as well, holding his own with the veteran just 8 years into his career. His strength in muscling Hansen up multiple times is just bewildering, especially the inside-out suplex from the apron.
Ranking of REWINDs
As a new little thing here, I'm going to start ranking the individual matches I've watched for this series. This won't include full shows like the first episode of Nitro, but just one-off matches. So let's go to the big board!
- Jaguar Yokota vs Lioness Asuka
- Keiji Mutoh vs Shinya Hashimoto
- Nikita Koloff vs Magnum TA
- Kenta Kobashi vs Stan Hansen
- Jumbo Tsuruta, Masanobu Fuchi, and Mighty Inoue vs Kenta Kobashi, Mitsuharu Misawa, and Tsuyoshi Kikuchi
- Brock Lesnar vs The Rock
- Cactus Jack vs Terry Funk
- 2 Cold Scorpio vs Sabu
- Big Van Vader vs Davey Boy Smith
- Masahiro Chono vs Kazuyuki Fujita