Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu (New Japan, 1/4/93) - GOOD
So this isn't for everybody. It's kind of "sloppy," and some of the things they do look like they barely connect. But everything they do looks reckless and violent, so when Choshu throws a lariat and it only grazes the top of Tenryu's head, it's because Tenryu was trying to duck out of the way of a wild lariat. The things that don't connect well don't not connect because they're throwing them lightly or because they look shitty. They look crazy, like they're thrown with complete disregard. Not everything in a fight is going to land perfectly. Sometimes you'll swing and miss. Some people would dislike that about this match. It's rough around the edges and...well, it's ugly. But that's part of what draws me into every match these two have together. The ugliness and roughness just appeals to me. It feels like an actual struggle. I don't want two guys performing pre-rehearsed sequences that look like street dance routines. I don't want everything to look pretty. I want two burly bastards to knock lumps out each other. And Tenryu and Choshu ALWAYS knock lumps out each other. The flubbed powerbomb right before the finish is what it is (although Tenryu looks fucking exhausted, so in a way I think it's kind of cool and adds to the whole deal), and the first big transition being a whiffed lariat is sort of jarring, but they stomp each other clean in the face and throw a million nasty looking shots, and that's about all I want out of Tenryu v Choshu. Isn't the best match they've had together (shit, it isn't even the best match they had together that year), but this is a match-up that I'm always going to get something out of.
Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Yoshiaki Yatsu & Tiger Mask (1/23/88) - GREAT
'88 starts off with a BANG! I dug the SHIT out of this! TENRYU!
There's a lot to like here, but the palpable hatred between Tenryu and
Yatsu is what really pushed this into my top 15. Tenryu is grumpy and
agitated right out the gate, but he ends up going one step too far and
Yatsu just fucking WASTES him with one of the stiffest slaps I've ever
seen. Tenryu either sells it spectacularly – which wouldn't surprise me
one bit – or Yatsu rung his bell for real – which also wouldn't surprise
me – but whatever the case he swiftly tags out and tries to shake off
the effects. You can see him brooding on the apron, itching to get in
there so he can hurt someone, and from time to time he'll just waltz in
and take a swing or kick a guy in the teeth. There have been better
matches involving Tenryu on the set, but this might be my favourite
Tenryu *performance* for the fact it most closely resembles the 90s
Tenryu that made me a huge fan of the guy in the first place. It's
almost surreal seeing Kawada and Misawa on opposite sides and *not*
being the clear top dog of their team, but both guys are good as the underlings here. Kawada takes a pretty hefty beating after Tenryu goes
down following that slap, then Yatsu and Misawa isolate him again a
little later for another pounding. Misawa wiping out Tenryu towards the
end with a dive off the apron taking them both over the guardrail was a
great spot. Tenryu powerbombing Misawa on a table for his bullshit was a
greater spot. I didn't have any problem with the finish here, either. I
mean Tenryu and Kawada mugging a guy with a chair is as good an excuse
for a DQ as any.
Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta v Road Warriors (3/12/87) - GOOD
I liked this a good deal. The Roadies hit their stuff and it all
looks nasty, and Jumbo and Tenryu are willing to eat it all and make
them look like a couple of dudes that ought not to be fucked with.
Animal has a super cool looking flying shoulder tackle, Hawk's gorilla
press slam on Jumbo was impressive as Hell, the Doomsday Device looked
sweet, and there's a great spot where Tenryu whips Hawk into the ropes
only for Animal to scoop Hawk up and launch him right back at Tenryu.
There's a chinlock segment that kind of drags, but they do the "fake tag
behind the referee’s back" shtick and I always dig that. I was probably a high voter on this.
Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta v Giant Baba & Tiger Mask (11/28/86) - FUN
I thought this was a lot of fun the last time I watched it, and my
thoughts haven't changed much after this go around. I loved pretty much
everything involving Baba, from booting Jumbo from the apron as he's
running the ropes to the way he reacts to Tenryu and Jumbo cheapshotting
him while he's minding his own business. Tiger Mask Misawa doesn't
really set the world on fire, but I kind of dug him as the guy that
would provide the flash and athleticism for his team (because Baba sure
as shit won't) even though he's still the most likely target of a
beatdown. Him flying around is all well and good when it's working, but
if he misses then Jumbo and Tenryu won't hesitate to pounce. Tenryu
mocking Baba at the end was great.
Genichiro Tenryu v Ricky Steamboat (2/23/84) - GOOD
Sort of a dream match – arguably the best Japanese wrestler ever
against arguably the best American wrestler ever. I would rather have
seen the match-up take place ten years later, but I've always been a fan
of this. Like Jumbo/Harley it goes longer than it probably needs to,
but I was way more interested in what these guys were doing the whole
time than I was in what Jumbo and Harley were doing (again, you can
credit the Tenryu love. And I like Steamboat way more than Race, too).
Steamboat blocking an enziguiri with his "karate" early on was cool as
shit. Made the spot later on when Tenryu manages to hit it successfully
even better (and it's a great spot besides, thanks in part to the camera
angle and Steamboat's awesome KO sell of it). The peaks in this
probably aren't as high as the peaks in Jumbo/Race, and I can totally
see someone thinking this dragged more in the early parts as well, but I
find these sets far easier to rank based on pure enjoyment and I
enjoyed this quite a bit. So there. Probably won't be top third, but top
half is likely.
Complete & Accurate Tenryu