Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Tenryu's Blood Runs Cold as Ice...and Burns With the Fire of a Thousand Suns

Genichiro Tenryu v Kensuke Sasaki (New Japan, 1/4/00) - EPIC

I had this in the GREAT pile when I initially watched it, but after a recent re-watch I'm tossing the full EPIC at it. It's the kind of thing I could just as easily see someone hating, but the striking is something everybody should be able to get behind. The PUNCHES: good grief. Vicious chops, stiff lariats; honestly, the striking is stellar. I guess I could see people being iffy on it structurally, though. Actually, structure might not be the issue, either -- it's just a really gritty and ugly match. There's the story of Tenryu being the cunt he always is, only this time Sasaki refuses to put up with any of his bullshit. Tenryu will throw nasty little corner punches, so Sasaki will haul off and straight crack his jaw. At one point Sasaki slabbers him and it leads to Tenryu sitting on the bottom rope, half in a daze, with this amazing "fuck my absolute life" look on his face. It's not a pretty match -- execution is rough and at times sloppy, but that really adds to it. It's similar to the Tenryu/Choshu matches in that respect. I love shit like that, so I was cool with it here. There's a brief segment early on where they hit the mat and lie in a headlock for a minute or two, but they get back up and instantly start thumping the shit out of each other again to make up for it. The stand up is Griffin/Bonnar while the ground work feels like exchanges between two guys that need any sort of respite from Forrest Griffin v Stephan Bonnar stand up. And well, if you're willing to put up with a couple minutes of Shamrock v Taktarov for thirteen minutes of Griffin v Bonnar, you should watch this. It's pretty much exactly what I want in a Tokyo Dome main event. Vegetarians need not apply (on account of the MEATINESS).

Genichiro Tenryu, Takashi Ishikawa & Mighty Inoue v Riki Choshu, Animal Hamaguchi & Isamu Teranishi (All Japan, 1/10/85) - GREAT

So Choshu and his army have arrived and the difference in style between this and a large chunk of the 50+ matches on the set up to this point is pretty clear (it's the first all-native match as well). This is paced a lot faster and there's a general sense of potential chaos that only the Hansen matches have really been able to capture (only with Hansen it's not "potential"). In some ways it's a taste of what’s to come, but it still stands up as a pretty great match in its own right. It's also the first sign of grumpy Tenryu as he and Choshu are the marquee match-up. He's not quite storming the ring to punt people in the eye yet, but he cheapshots Choshu while he's standing on the apron and the cocoon of nice guy babyface is beginning to crack. Lots of great moments, like the Teranishi/Inoue slap battle while Inoue has him in some leglock...thing, Choshu (who was probably my favourite guy in this) creaming Ishikawa with a lariat because he dares to rip off the Scorpion Deathlock, Ishikawa responding by breaking Choshu's own attempt at the hold by running him over with a shoulder tackle, and Tenryu chopping Hamaguchi in the throat as a partner save. I would've liked a longer FIP spell at some point to really sink my teeth into, and the finish is whatever, but this was a great intro to the feud and right now it's sitting in my top 10 [EDIT: it finished in my top 50 at the end, and top 50 on a set like that is nothing to scoff at].

Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v John Tenta & Shunji Takano (All Japan, 1/5/89) - GOOD

This was a super fun sprint. It's been so long since I've watched any wrestling at all [EDIT: I initially watched and wrote about this after taking a multi-month break from watching and writing about anything...obviously] that I almost forgot how awesome grumpy Tenryu was/is. His exchanges with Earthquake were pretty great, really laying into the big guy with nasty chops while Tenta flings him around with suplexes and CLUBBERING. There's a cool spot where Kawada is being worked over and Tenryu gets in just to start some shit with Tenta long enough for Kawada to recover and tag out. The Tenryu/Kawada wheel kick/enziguiri combo on Takano looked BRUTAL here...probably the best version of that double team on the set. It was like two bumper cars crushing a watermelon. Tenryu running face first into a HUGE boot soon after wasn't much lower on the nutty scale. Finish was maybe a little anti-climactic, but overall I dug this a lot. Not "top 50" dug, but certainly not bottom 50, either.

Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 1/22/89) - GOOD

I liked the story here and they brought plenty of good shit to the table, but this went longer than it really needed to and dragged at points as a result. This is largely "Jumbo and Yatsu beat on Kawada while Tenryu's grumpiness festers like a horrible incubus." Kawada spends most of the match eating a shitkicking, and the moments where Tenryu throws his hands up and intervenes are really great. Jumbo has Kawada in an armbar or leglock or something and Tenryu just walks in, measures him and stomps him right in the face. Jumbo's "You son of a bitch, I can't believe you just did that" expression was awesome, as was him mowing Tenryu down with a lariat a little later. 36 minutes was a bit too long, though. I mean, there are peaks that are high, and this is absolutely a good match, but shave 10 minutes off (I'd say more Tenryu would've been welcome, and it would have, but that then kind of screws with the story of the whole I'm not sure) and we're looking at a top half lock. Right now, it's probably just outside that.

Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 2/23/89) - EPIC

So this basically does everything the first match did right, only WAY better. Also has higher/better peaks, loaded with hate, and doesn't drag at any point. And has a molten hot crowd. Feels like a real top 10 candidate, even with some of the great shit still to come. Kawada gets his ass handed to him again here, but he seems even more fired up when he's fighting back and Jumbo and Yatsu are better at dishing out the violence this time. Tenryu is just on another level with his contempt for the opponents. He and Yatsu REALLY hate each other and there's about a million awesome pissed off facial expressions. Great moment where Yatsu has Kawada in a prison lock while shit talking Tenryu, and Kawada is dragging himself and Yatsu's body weight over to the ropes while Yatsu continues the verbal ping-pong with Tenryu. Came across as such a dismissive, dickish move. The Tenryu/Jumbo exchanges are fucking supreme here as well. Bunch of moments where they both just forget about everything else and start laying into each other. At one point Tenryu drags him out to the floor, grabs him by the head and starts walking around the ringside area while punching him in the head. Then he picks up a chair and Jumbo literally has to sprint back into the ring just to get away. But of course Tenryu hurls it at him, anyway. Final few minutes have a few great nearfalls that I totally bought. Awesome match [EDIT: wound up as my #11 for the whole set].

Complete & Accurate Tenryu 

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