Mitsuharu Misawa v Jun Akiyama (All Japan, 2/27/00)
This was pretty tremendous, and might be the best singles match of Akiyama's career. He winds up on the back foot early and eats a few teeth-loosening elbows, and Misawa pretty much reminds everybody that he's The Man and won't be beaten by the ex-partner who he had to bail out of a hundred shitkickings at the hands of Kawada and Taue. But then Misawa charges him on the floor and Akiyama hits a drop toe hold, and Misawa goes flying into the railing with a bump that looked like it could've either broken his trachea or lopped his head off. Akiyama more or less works on top for the rest of the match, and he's just awesome as the student that's determined to beat the teacher. All of the neck work is great. The most recent Akiyama match I watched was from 2010 or some shit, but he looked like a killer in that match working dudes over and taking apart body parts. He's ten years younger in this and isn't working as grizzled vet, but the neck work is just as good. Misawa is about as surly as I've ever seen him here. He regains control briefly in the middle of the match by backing Akiyama into the corner and fucking drilling him with a back elbow, then he kind of climbs the ropes and hits a dropkick right to his face. He also hits a kneedrop that even Stan Hansen would cringe at (and it busts Akiyama's nose open), and all of his forearm smashes look extra brutal. When Akiyama takes over again, it really feels like he's out here to prove a point. Misawa has been in deep shit before, but Akiyama's watched all those tapes where Kawada and Kobashi and Taue had him where they wanted him only to wind up losing, and he isn't about to make the same mistakes. Whole finishing run is terrific. Some of Misawa's selling is just off the charts great. He pops up from one Exploder and tries to hit a running elbow, but Akiyama catches him and hits another Exploder. He tries to pop up from that as well, but he gets halfway vertical before falling back in a heap. I have no interest in watching dudes get all FIGHTING SPIRIT and screaming and roaring and popping up from getting suplexed on their neck, but Misawa is a guy (one of the only guys) that can make that spot work, like it was a total surge of adrenaline and nothing more. He also sells a tombstone like it gave him nerve damage. Finish feels like a fucking finish, and this was just a Hell of a match.