Wednesday, 20 March 2013

When the Snows Fall and the White Winds Blow, the Lone Wolf Dies, but Tenryu Survives

Genichiro Tenryu v Yoji Anjoh (WAR, 2/21/97) - GREAT

If it wasn't already obvious, Tenryu is my favourite Japanese wrestler ever. Anjoh is probably like top 10, so this is basically a puro dream match for me, and for 11 minutes it was just an absolute truck load of fun. Anjoh is at his smug, douchy best here, grinning and pouting and acting like a shithead. He'll take a powder and stall and Tenryu's expression kind of goes from amusement the first time to annoyance the second time to disdain he third. And you just know he's going to let loose at some point. Then it looks like he's about to do just that, and Anjoh slides out for another powder...and Tenryu's glare would shrivel your testes. Tenryu has clearly had enough and tries to gouge Anjoh's eyes out. Then we get the face punching, which rules. God damn does Tenryu throw amazing punches, straight to the jaw and cheekbone. When Anjoh starts throwing them back Tenryu shoots the ref' a look like, "What the fuck is that all about?"Anjoh's strategy is basically to go for submission attempts and prevent Tenryu from punching and chopping him to ribbons, and the heat for each attempt just builds and build until you're thinking Tenryu is actually going to tap to a kneebar. Final minute or so is outstanding. Tenryu blocks a corner kick and fucking drills Anjoh in the teeth with a punch, a chop to the throat and a HUGE lariat. He hits the powerbomb, but Anjoh pops out of the cradle and grabs an armbar, and I'm right there with the crowd in genuinely buying Tenryu giving it up. He gets to the ropes and forces the break, and when he gets back up to his feet he decapitates Anjoh with another lariat right away. Seriously, this was Finger of God shit right here. Post-match rules as well, with Anjoh wanting a handshake and raising Tenryu's hand in victory before kicking him and making a break for it. Tenryu smiles like, "Oh I totally didn't expect that." I absolutely cannot wait to see their '96 match now (I'm about a month away on the '96 yearbook...although a month in yearbook time could take a year in Boozehound time). And Yoji Anjoh would make a hell of a Complete & Accurate candidate...

Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy (All Japan, 12/16/88) - EPIC

Pretty much a classic. Story is simple enough – Hara is gone and Kawada is stepping into his shoes as Tenryu's partner, but he's clearly not at the "#2" level yet. Hansen and Gordy are two of the greatest ass-kickers of all time (and at this point I'm convinced Hansen is the greatest wrestler ever, period) and will FUCKING KILL YOU. Tenryu is Tenryu. Kawada doesn't have the firepower to hang and bang with the likes of Hansen and Gordy, but he'll try all the same. For about ten minutes he gets the job done (and nukes Gordy's chin with a wheel kick). Then Hansen kicks him in the knee to break a pin attempt and it all goes downhill from there. Hansen and Gordy just destroy him and leave him out on the floor with one good leg to stand on, and Tenryu is left all alone against THOSE two. Kawada actually runs all the way around the ring to pick a fight with Hansen and God damn does Stan fucking eat him alive for his shit. There's a couple amazing moments where Kawada will desperately try to help his partner, like when Gordy powerbombs Tenryu in the middle of the ring and you just see Kawada leaping into the frame to break the pin. Of course Hansen is annoyed and cooks him. GREAT spot where Tenryu busts out a desperation kneebar on Hansen while Gordy is brutalising Kawada on the floor and you see him sprint into the ring to make the save. Hansen's expression at the end is perfect, like he had to dish out more punishment than even Stan fucking Hansen could ever imagine. Tenryu made him do this. He should've just stayed down. Seriously, this is as good as any tag match that happened during the decade and I'm going back and forth on whether or not to put it at #1 ahead of the 1/28/86 tag [wound up finishing as my overall #3].

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v John Tenta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 2/29/88) - GOOD

The commentator constantly referring to Tenta as "Big John Tenta" tickles me for some reason. This wasn't blowaway great or anything, but it's four big lumpy dudes throwing nasty shots and generally wrestling like they don't much care for their opponents. My first thought was that it was a sort of WAR midcard/Nitro style hybrid with guys that just give off that WAR vibe. It's mostly back and forth, but they don't bog it down by going long and cramming it with filler. I liked Tenta as a big brick wall here and there's a few nifty spots involving him. Tenryu chops him at one point so Tenta responds with a big clubber to the chest that lands Tenryu on his ass, and Tenryu's "Well...maybe I shouldn't have done that" look was great. Loved him dragging Tenta out to the floor and hurling him into the barricade as a receipt. Tenryu suplexing Tenta is an impressive looking spot, but as a finish it isn't all that great. Still, this was fun and will probably land somewhere in the middle third.

Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 11/30/85) - FUN

This was really good in parts (Tenryu as FIP, Jumbo/Choshu exchanges, Yatsu's German suplex, etc.), but I thought it also had a fair bit of downtime that made it kind of obvious where they were going with it. I honestly don't think I’ve seen any of the Choshu/Jumbo matches, but the build that goes into a singles match between the two was great here. Tenryu is a bad motherfucker and Yatsu is tough as nails, but at some point Jumbo and Choshu are going to get a hold of one another and that's what it’s all about (at least that's what it felt like they were building to). Using Hansen/Ted v Jumbo/Tenryu as a comparison, the first two thirds of that was a better level of "solid" than the first two thirds of this, and the final third of that was "great" while the final third of this was "really good." That’ll go top half, but I don’t think this will.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

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