Two entries in one day? I'm on a roll of sorts. Or I have too much time on my hands.
Takashi Ishikawa v Ashura Hara (WAR, 2/10/93)
This was everything I wanted it to be -- two tough as nails bruisers that LEAN into everything being tough as nails and LEANING into everything. These guys are deeply in that Tenryu mold where everything they do just looks mean and nasty. This had them ramping the stiffness way up so it all looks even more potatoey. Hara has some brutal looking headbutts at the best of times, but here it looked and sounded like someone was dropping a bowling ball on Ishikawa's head. Ishikawa can throw a real bastard of a lariat, and there's a few here that look ridiculous. There's one towards the end that sounded like he just clotheslined a fridge, and the fact he sold it like that made it ten times more awesome. Also really enjoyed Hara working the headlock in the first half. He wound grind and twist it and I was getting that Butch Reed vibe where it's conceivable that a headlock from someone like that could result in anything from horrendous cauliflower ears to your entire head being popped off your shoulders. Also set up Ishikawa's first backdrop perfectly. I've loved all of the Hara I've been watching recently, but you can tell when he's setting himself up to take a backdrop. He'll grab a headlock that looks pretty out of place in amongst all the clubbing people in the face and trying to cave their skull in with headbutts, so it's obvious he's setting up a transition spot. Here, he continually goes to the headlock as a base in the opening stretch, so Ishikawa's backdrop comes out of nowhere and works as a great momentum shift. And of course it looks like it compressed Hara's spine. Final few minutes feel like both guys are just trying to survive, and they sell everything so well that it manages to come across like a legit war. Just a Hell of a match.
Shinya Hashimoto & Michiyoshi Ohara v Ashura Hara & Hiromichi Fuyuki (WAR, 3/7/93)
Holy shit. This is motherfucking WAR right here. Hara takes the violence of the last match and kicks it up ANOTHER few notches and, well, Hara will fuck you up. I'm pretty sure this is only the second time I've seen Fuyuki, but man has he made an impression. He hated Hashimoto in their singles match a few days before this and he hates him again here. And he hates Hashimoto's partner so he just tries to fucking murder him. He cheapshots Hashimoto before the bell with a lariat and it really sets the stage for the whole thing. Just so much heat and violence and seething fucking contempt. This actually reminded me of the Jumbo/Taue v Misawa/Kawada match from the '91 Tag League (only with the savagery and stiffness turned way up) in how it's laid out. The first half of that had Jumbo and Taue isolating Kawada and working him over. This is a shorter match and the early shifts in momentum are quicker (usually a result of someone getting cracked in the face) and seem more frantic, but they settle into an Ohara in peril segment similar to the Kawada in peril segment in the AJ match. Reason I used that particular match as a comparison is because I felt the same way I did after the initial Kawada beatdown as I did after the initial Ohara beatdown. If the match had ended there I would've been completely happy with what I saw. Except it doesn't end there and they eventually settle into another, longer FIP spell. The AJ match had Jumbo and Taue zeroing in on Misawa's broken face. This has Hara obliterating Ohara with a lariat, then Fuyuki rips the pressure bandage off Ohara's head and tosses it at Hashimoto. And then they just totally motherfucking just fucking MASSACRE him. Hara's face winds up coated in Ohara's blood because he just headbutts him to oblivion. Fuyuki almost rips his head off with lariats. They kick him directly in the face. They throw a fucking table at his head. Ohara is someone I can't remember ever seeing before, but he is fucking great as the lower ranked teammate of the chief ass-kicker that'll punch above his weight and fight like an absolute pitbull and then thoroughly get stomped into the ground by a pair of lumpy Shreks. It gets to the point where Hashimoto's seen enough and winds up coming in and hurling kicks every 30 seconds, and there is a great spot right before the hot tag where Hara is about to powerbomb Ohara, so Hashimoto comes in, measures him and just nukes him with a roundhouse kick to the neck. Hara's sell of it like he just got hit with a sledgehammer was amazing. Hashimoto is one of the all-time great hot tags and there is this sense of impending destruction as he gets tagged in and walks over to behead Hara. I do wish it went a little longer at the end so Hashimoto could run riot some more, but that's a small complaint. The AJ match I used as a comparison went from a match that was "really good" in the first half to flat out terrific by the end thanks to an incredible second half. This is much the same. I still prefer the All Japan tag, but this has a truckload of violence and hatred and I can't really ask for much more. This WAR v New Japan feud is fuggin' tremendous.
Genichiro Tenryu, Takashi Ishikawa & Masao Orihara v Shiro Koshinaka, Kengo Kimura & Great Kabuki (WAR, 3/7/93)
Not as violent as the Hashimoto tag, but still a perfectly good way to cap off a Hell of a WAR card. Could've done with more Tenryu, but everything could do with more Tenryu so it's not much of a criticism. Besides, the Tenryu we do get is as good as you'd expect. He has a few particularly awesome exchanges with Koshinaka and Kabuki. 1992 potato farmer Koshinaka is so much more my thing than the Koshinaka I had to sit through on the New Japan 80s set. 80s Koshinaka generally bored me to tears, but this Koshinaka just punches guys right in the nose and comes across like a hateful, grumpy bastard. Every time he and Tenryu match-up you can buy the idea that they have no problem at all teeing off on one another, and Tenryu's lariat towards the end was ridiculously nasty, full force right under the chin. Tenryu and Kabuki only lock horns a couple times, and it's always short, but man do they lay into each other. There's this great exchange where Tenryu's throwing chops and Kabuki's throwing his awesome uppercuts, neither guy backing down, so Tenryu just hauls off and chops him in the throat. Kabuki sells it like someone did him with a pocket knife and he never forgets for the rest of the match. His revenge suprkick down the stretch felt like a fucking revenge spot. Orihara takes a total shit-kicking here and works THREE extended isolation segments. I thought he was pretty great working as your defiant underdog that refuses to give the invaders the satisfaction of beating him, and of course that prompts the invaders to lay it in some more. The final Kimura running knee he takes was just disgusting.