Friday, 15 March 2013

Let the Trumpets Blow - Tenryu's Back

Genichiro Tenryu & Koki Kitahara v Kuniaki Kobayashi & Masaji Aoyagi  (WAR, 5/30/93) - FUN

I'm not really sure if this was part of the New Japan/WAR feud since I always thought Aoyagi was a WAR guy, but Kobayashi is definitely a New Japan guy and the crowd boo Kitahara like he pumped everybody's mother and...well, Kitahara ALWAYS gets booed relentlessly in this feud, no matter what he does or where he does it. So I'll assume this was a NJ guy coming in and finding a WAR guy who has beef with Tenryu and Kitahara for a partner. Kitahara and Kobayashi had a great little violent match on a WAR card a couple months prior to this and they pick up where they left off here. Right at the beginning Aoyagi and Kobayashi just mug Koki and drag him to the floor. Crowd cheers this because for whatever reason EVERYBODY hates Kitahara. When Kitahara throws a single kick in return they boo him. Eventually he seems to realise he'll be booed no matter what and goes "fuck it, I'll just spit on people instead." And so he spits on people and cares not a single shit about this crowd. There's a great moment late on where he breaks up a pin attempt by casually kicking Kobayashi in the eye with the toe of his boot, and I always love that as a way to break a pin attempt. Aoyagi got to look really strong here (kayfabe-wise), giving Kitahara nothing at points and once or twice he even shuts Tenryu down completely with kicks. Tenryu is fairly low key and doesn't REALLY let loose, but he will still haul off and chop you to shreds and he does that several times. His selling for everything Aoyagi and Kobayashi throw at him is pretty much immaculate as well. I genuinely bought him going down to a Kobayashi cross body, which is ridiculous and awesome at the same time.

Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa v Shinya Hashimoto & Michiyoshi Ohara (New Japan, 6/14/93) - EPIC

Ffffffffuuuuuuuuuuuck me this was terrific. Really, this just plays right into my wheelhouse with the nuclear heat and hate and underdog in peril and 'fighting against the odds to prove' a point story and did I mention the HATE? The pre-match staredowns in this feud even rule. Tenryu spits on Ohara and Ohara steps to him, so Tenryu backs him down like "why would you even try that?" The Tenryu/Hashimoto showdown to kick things off is amazing. Crowd is completely rocking, and if I was following Japanese wrestling at the time I would be PUMPED for an eventual singles match between the two (having seen both singles matches they have from '93 I can tell you they deliver everything they promise). Amazing moment after the first Tenryu/Hash exchange: Tenryu tags out to Ishikawa, so Hash hits the ropes as if he's about to charge him, instead changing direction and taking a sharp right so he can bounce Tenryu off the apron with a lariat. Ishikawa points like "what the fuck was that about?" and then blindsides Hashimoto because he's too focused on Tenryu. Crowd are of course livid with this because NJ crowds seem to despise everybody on the WAR roster (I'm not sure who they hate more, Ishikawa or Kitahara). Team WAR lay a beatdown on Ohara in this, and it is just an absolutely fucking spectacular mauling. He's in the ring for his team most of the match and gets about 6 seconds of offence in total. The rest of the time Tenryu and Ishikawa smash him to bits. There's two extended Ohara in peril segments and they're both completely awesome (crowd are 1000% behind him, too). Tenryu is even more vicious than usual here; he throws brutal looking knees from the clinch and nasty falling forearms right to Ohara's ear. Ishikawa was amazing as well, and this might be his career performance. He dickishly punts Ohara in the face while Ohara's crawling around the mat, cuts him off with stiff elbows and mows him down with lariats. Hashimoto is of course everything you want in a hot tag. He comes in and just cleans house, and at one point he enziguris Tenryu square in the face. Tenryu's take of it is off the charts great, going dead weight like a heavyweight boxer being KO'd in front of the ropes. Finish is great as well. Tenryu is sort of hovering around as if he's ready to pick a fight with someone, then when Hash tags Ohara back in Tenryu runs across the ring and wipes Hash out with a lariat - which is the perfect payback from earlier - while Ishikawa beheads Ohara with a lariat of his own. I'm also probably forgetting a bunch of other awesome moments. This feud just keeps on giving -- even on house shows they bring the goods every time out. And this'll probably sound really hyperbolic, but on first watch I honestly thought this felt like one of the best sub-15 minute matches I've ever seen. Greatest feud ever and you want every second of it.

Genichiro Tenryu & Koki Kitahara v Tatsumi Fujinami & Jushin Liger (New Japan, 8/3/93) - GOOD

Didn't think this was spectacular or anything, but fuck man, look at those guys and tell me it couldn't be real fucking good. Well, it was real fucking good. I'm not sure I've ever actually seen Kitahara before [I originally wrote this at the beginning of 2011 - I have since watched more than a few Koki Kitahara matches, but it's cool to see that this might've been first first, especially since I've come to think he's fucking boss and one of the more under-appreciated wrestlers ever], but he's wearing a WAR t-shirt and jeans and looks like some scummy asshole that just walked in off the street. Crowd really, really do not like this guy. Liger's a blast as the babyface junior, especially when he's punching above his weight against old man Tenryu. TENRYU is fucking Tenryu and that means you get him hucking lariats and chopping people in the throat and arrogantly kicking people in the face with the toe of his boot. Match only goes about 12 minutes and there isn't as much seething hatred as the Tenryu/TM II v Choshu/Nakano match I talked about a couple weeks ago, so this doesn't quite reach the promised land of sub-15 minute matches like it could have with the same level of contempt as the '90 tag, but what we do get is the kind of thing that you really can't be disappointed with either way. The way Tenryu sells for Liger is pretty spectacular, too.

Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu (All Japan, 6/22/85) - GREAT

I really love this match-up. Almost everything they do together seems really uncooperative in a way that I dig the shit out of, and even when they mess up a spot here or there it adds to my enjoyment rather than detracts from it. The first half of this is paced much slower than the two '93 matches I watched recently, but I actually liked it a lot. Tenryu is really good at milking the Scorpion teases while working on Choshu's lariat arm. There isn't the same sense that they could get up and start cracking each other in the face at any moment that the '93 matches have, but it's a slow build that feels like it's leading to a big climax. And that's what we get when Tenryu drops Choshu right on his neck with a powerbomb. Momentum shifts when he hits a running bulldog out of the corner before trying another one only for Choshu to put the brakes on and plant him with a backdrop. There's this great moment where Choshu hits a lariat with the bad arm and "winds up" for another, but the first one has taken more out of him than expected and he's left buckled over in pain, like "Oh shit, that hurt me more than I thought it would." Eventually Tenryu gets busted open and Choshu zeroes in on the cut like a shark smelling blood. When the ref' tries to check the cut and Choshu starts manhandling him you know what's coming, but Tenryu's selling is pretty incredible and one guy stomping another guy into oblivion resulting in a DQ is a DQ finish I can always live with. 

Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta v Riki Choshu & Killer Khan (All Japan, 8/2/85) - EPIC

Oh yeah, this was fucking GREAT. In some ways it felt like a precursor to the awesome WAR tags of the 90s, just full of piss and vinegar and palpable hatred. It starts out relatively civilised, but Khan and Jumbo slap the TASTE out of each other's mouths and the civility is soon tossed out the window. This is the Jumbo that had me thinking he was the best ever a few years ago. In the beginning he's content to try and grind it out with a headlock, but once Khan pisses him off with that slap he wants blood. Except he's the one who ends up bleeding all over the place. First he hits an awkward looking lariat with his bandaged arm and sells it like he's hurt himself, so Choshu and Khan go right to work on it. Then he gets posted and the blood FLOWS, so you've got Khan biting him in the head while twisting and pulling at his elbow. Tenryu's hot tag leads to the greatest slap flurry of ALL TIME. You can literally see the sweat flying off of Khan's entire face as Tenryu slaps the shit out of him. I thought Jumbo got tagged back in way too quickly considering he was covered in blood and had his face bitten off by a bald psycho and Tenryu had only been house o' fire for about a minute, but it probably made the finish seem more dramatic. Tenryu running in to save his partner and Choshu completely obliterating him with a lariat was an amazing cut-off. I'll be shocked if this leaves my top 40 [it didn't]. 

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

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