Tuesday, 19 March 2013

It's One Thing to be Clever and Another to be Tenryu

Genichiro Tenryu, Jumbo Tsuruta & Terry Funk v The Destroyer, Jerry Blackwell & Ron Bass (All Japan, 9/14/82) - FUN

If nothing else, this match makes YOU want to see a Terry Funk v Jerry Blackwell match. Blackwell was pretty much awesome in this, and every time I see the guy the more convinced I am that he has an honest to goodness case for being the best obese wrestler ever (and yes, I'm including Vader in that). Terry, Jumbo and Tenryu all take turns grinding a headlock on him like they're trying to really cauliflower his ear, and when Blackwell finally manages to create some breathing space he does his weeble-wobble sell where he's standing with such a wide base for balance that he's almost doing the splits. He and Terry trade headbutts on all fours and it was probably the moment of the match. He also smashes Terry with GREAT elbow drops, right to the big old bandaged area of Terry's neck. He kind of comes down vertical on all of them, not from the side, and the point of the elbow goes straight into the collarbone. Terry is your FIP here and sure enough he's good in that role. The Blackwell interactions are the best, especially when Jerry will just jump through the ropes like a glorious fat man to stop Terry from crawling over to make the tag, but the exchanges with Destroyer don't make you think a Terry/Destroyer match would suck. Tenryu is more or less a bit part player in this -- in 1982 we had no super grump Genichiro Tenryu and he hadn't even started wearing the black trunks yet. Plus he looks lean and not chunky and doesn't have any sort of saggy cleavage. What he does do is eat a pasting for a bit and Jerry Blackwell CRUSHES him with the greatest Samoan Drop in history (is Jerry's Samoan Drop the best ever in general?). I totally dug the quasi-WAR-like randomness of this, which is appropriate given the fact one of the participants would be that company's founder and unquestioned cantankerous leader.

Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 1/28/86) - EPIC

Tremendous match, as good a candidate for the overall #1 as any. Not only did I come away from this thinking it was the best match so far, but I thought it was the best performance from every guy involved so far as well. The early feeling out segment is great as the simmer leading to the inevitable boil. It sets the table really well. It starts out with Jumbo and Yatsu and they establish the fact Yatsu will slap you right in the fucking face and that Jumbo will have none of it. When Yatsu slaps him Jumbo's expression barely changes, but you can tell he's going to repay in kind, and when he does he's satisfied enough with that to toss Yatsu into his corner like a piece of garbage and demand that Choshu get in instead. Choshu comes in and subtly sells the bandaged ribs (that were busted up from a Jumbo and Tenryu attack not long before this) and that injury eventually becomes a big focus of the whole match. Tenryu's first appearance is awesome, circling Choshu and winding up within striking distance of Yatsu, so he casually chops him just for the Hell of it. They move into a Choshu in peril segment after a sweet double lariat spot and Jumbo and Tenryu are just great at working him over. Tenryu punts him in the ribs; Jumbo tears off his bandages and puts him in an abdominal stretch; while he's got him in the abdominal stretch he starts punching him in the ribs, etc. There's this great moment where Yatsu tries to come in to do something about the mugging, and while the ref' is trying to get him back out Tenryu just casually strolls over and slaps him in the face. Eventually Yatsu can't take any more and nails Jumbo with a double axe handle off the top, and that buys Choshu enough time to make the tag. I love how Choshu just lies face down on the apron after making the tag. I love Tenryu running around to throw him into barricades and blast him in the ribs with a chair even more. Tenryu's constant assault on Choshu is actually a really awesome little sub-plot all the way through this. There's times where he'll start laying into him for seemingly no reason other than the fact he hates him, and when things break down and all four guys are brawling he'll always zero in on Choshu. Choshu's sell job is probably the best of his career as well. There's an especially cool spot late on where he manages to get the Scorpion on Jumbo but has to release it because the strain is too much. He isn't really a guy that springs to mind when thinking of folks that add neat subtle touches to selling, but he even rules on that level here as well, at one point hitting a dropkick and selling the ribs because he landed on the side that's hurt. He and Yatsu finally manage to score an advantage by posting Jumbo. Jumbo bleeds and Tenryu tries to murder Choshu again, and this match pretty much fucking rocks. Jumbo gets worked over for a spell until Tenryu decides enough is enough, and JESUS does he go about shutting Yatsu down in the greatest way possible. Yatsu has Jumbo in the Scorpion and Tenryu is so pissed off that he forgets how to run the fuggin ropes properly. But he runs them anyway and just fucking nukes Yatsu with a lariat. That spot is right up there with Hansen and DiBiase trying to cut off the circulation to Terry’s brain with a bullrope. Yatsu's response by German suplexing him right on his motherfucking head was AMAZING and might be the best nearfall on the set. It had been so long since I had seen this that I had forgotten who even won, and that spot totally had me. Finishing run being capped off by one of the few clean and decisive finishes (up to this point) doesn't exactly hurt, either. I watched this twice over the last couple days and after the first watch I pegged it as a good shout for the top 10. After the re-watch I'd be surprised if it drops out of the top 5 [it wound up being my #1].

Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 2/5/86) - GOOD

This starts out with Yatsu telling Tenryu to be a real man and get in the ring while Choshu shit talks Jumbo from the apron, and when Jumbo's attention is focused on Choshu, Yatsu dropkicks him to the floor where he and Choshu plant him with a spike piledriver. And well, that's a Hell of a way to kick off a rematch. It's not as good as the 1/28 match, but that might be a top 20 match of all time so it'd probably be unfair to expect something on that level. What it is, though, is a really fucking good match between two teams that are prone to having really fucking good matches. The opening mugging leads to a fairly lengthy Jumbo in peril segment. It's not as heated as any of the previous week's isolation segments, but Choshu is still nursing the bandaged ribs and there's a great moment where he locks in the Scorpion but still struggles to keep hold of it, so he tags in Yatsu who picks up the slack and puts Jumbo right back in the hold. Yatsu and Tenryu really hate each other. When Tenryu gets the hot tag he and Yatsu start a really potatoey exchange of slaps that practically devolves into them both repeatedly punching each other in the face. Neither guy backs down an inch (they just keep hitting each other) so it's left to Jumbo to actually come in and calm his own partner down. Choshu is pretty great at selling the injured ribs again here. He gets worked over for a spell much like in the last match, and Jumbo and Tenryu really zero in on them. One thing this does have over 1/28 is the finish. This has an AWESOME finish. Tenryu tries to behead Yatsu with a lariat and Yatsu manages to duck it and grab a waist lock. He's trying to get him over for a German suplex and Tenryu is clinging onto the ropes for dear life, so Choshu runs along the apron and blasts him with a lariat. Tenryu's grip is broken and Yatsu spikes him with the German while Jumbo flies out the ring in a fit of rage to get at Choshu, seemingly oblivious to the fact his partner just got dumped on his head. Won't finish nearly as high as the 1/28 match, but I'd peg it as likely finishing in the top 50 all the same [wound up as my #59, which says a whole lot about how great the '88-'89 run was...because there is a ton of matches from '88 and '89 in my top third].

Genichiro Tenryu & Samson Fuyuki v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 8/25/86) - FUN
Fuyuki's trunks are truly spectacular. They're like the ones Austin would wear in the early 90s only more hideous. This had a decent enough first half, but it's the spot where Choshu lariats Fuyuki off the top rope leading to a CRAZY Fuyuki blade job that shoots it up the ballot. I mean Choshu hits him with another lariat later and you can literally see the coat of blood on his face explode on impact. The whole second half is basically Fuyuki getting his ass handed to him while Tenryu assumes the role of chief ass kicker teaming with a much lower ranked partner who is out of his depth against Choshu and Yatsu (and being bloodied to shit doesn't help, either). There's a great spot where Yatsu tries to bulldog Fuyuki only for Tenryu to come in and put a stop to it with a lariat. As far as "decent first half, much better second half" matches on the set go, this wasn't as good as the Jumbo/Tenryu v Hansen/DiBiase match from 8/31/85, but I still thought it was at least solid enough to land around mid-table.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 9/15/88) - GREAT

Fuck me, the opening stretch of this was loaded with some nasty, nasty looking shit. Tenryu and Yatsu just SHRED each other with chops and Yatsu starts cracking Tenryu in the head with horrendously unpulled forearms. He wasn't throwing them like pro-wrestling forearms; he was bringing his arm down full force in a kind of downward stabbing motion. Jumbo completely nukes Tenryu's face with a running dropkick as well. I thought his nose was going to be spread across his forehead. This didn't have the layout of the 8/30 match, but of all the outings this match-up has on the set, I'd probably put this one third. Finish was pretty crappy, though. Tenryu and Hara walking away like it ain't 'bout shit was pretty bossy, but still, walking away from a title match after that finish like it ain't 'bout shit might not be the best thing.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

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