Akitoshi Saito v Nobukaza Hirai (WAR, 1/8/93)
This was a lot of fun. I'm assuming Hirai is sort of your enhancement talent guy because Saito beats the shit out of him and doesn't really sell much of what Hirai throws at him in return. I mean, I would've liked this even more if Saito had sold a little better, but they're clearly not working "even" and Saito bringing the ass-stompery outweighs the questionable selling, anyway. Because Saito really brings the ass-stompery. The kicks he's rolling off would look nasty enough to begin with, but this is in WAR and Saito's invading and there's the violence that comes with those two things, so they looks extra painful more often than not. I dug Hirai's strategy of going after the kicking leg, but Saito is having none of it and repeatedly caves his chest in. There's one powerbomb that probably would've killed Hirai if he never managed to tuck his head in at the *exact* second he did. Saito looked like a first class brick shithouse here and I'm hoping there's some Saito/Tenryu interactions at some point.
John Tenta & Koki Kitahara v Haku & Curtis Iaukea (WAR, 1/8/93)
This was kind of disappointing. Earthquake looked real good for the most part and Kitahara already feels like someone who's been shamefully overlooked, but the match never really ventured into the territory that you expect when there's four guys like this having a match in WAR. Iaukea looked pretty crummy and has really weak strikes that you notice right away if you've been watching a bunch of WAR for the last few days. The Haku/Tenta exchanges has me looking forward to a singles match, though. Haku really clams him with a superkick to the chin at one point. Tenta has this sort of less mentally challenged Lennie Small type charisma where he might seem like a big dope on the surface, but he can pancake you in a second if you force him to. The ref' tries to break up a Tenta/Haku altercation and winds up getting belly bounced across the ring. Wasn't even a bump. Earthquake just walks into him and he goes flying. A little re-casting and this feels like it could be pretty boss.
Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v The Great Kabuki & Masaji Aoyagi (WAR, 1/8/93)
Now THIS is what I'm talking about. This is the first Tenryu main event tag I've watched from the WAR stuff so far and it already feels like something I'm gonna love. Tenryu might be the best wrestler ever when it comes to conveying a sense of contempt; this wasn't on the level of the truly venomous Tenryu performances - although that is such a high bar - but holy fuck does Aoyagi earn his ire here. Aoyagi is yet another one of these WAR guys that I don't remember seeing before, but he kind of looks like current day Keiji Mutoh if he went dressed as Mr. Miyagi for Halloween. He's wearing a gi and ditches the top half when Tenryu starts throwing chops at his chest. Tenryu sees this as a slight and starts hitting him even harder, and before long he's kicking him in the eye and chopping him in the throat while Aoyagi is crawling around the ring bleeding. Hara is pretty great at throwing coconut headbutts, and he fits right in there as a Tenryu teammate. I mean, when you're a heavyweight teaming with Tenryu you really need to be able to throw down. He definitely throws down. Thought Kabuki was really good here, too. All of his uppercuts looked nasty, he catches Tenryu with a superkick to the throat, and is generally a good match-up with both Tenryu and Hara whenever he's called upon. There isn't a ton of him, but when he's in you can't really ask for much more. Post-match has a big pull apart and there's a moment where a chair comes flying into the shot. You notice Tenryu isn't in the ring and know who threw that chair. Tenryu's your star here (I didn't mention any of his selling, but man is that great as well), but everybody brought it this was just a ton of violent fun.
Shinya Hashimoto, Keiji Mutoh & Akira Nogami v Genichiro Tenryu, Takashi Ishikawa & AshuraHara (New Japan, 2/5/93)
Oh man, Hashimoto and Tenryu just hate each other and I cannot wait to get to their singles matches later in the year (actually I'm stoked about any interactions between the two, period). Hashimoto just wants to fight and kill someone and Tenryu just glares at him and from time to time this little smirk will appear on his face like he's enjoying the thought of unleashing Hell. And of course I see that and I do more than just smirk. Tenryu really has an incredible aura; he just feels like the most badass motherfucker on the planet. There's a great moment where Hashimoto clobbers him with a kick or something (I don't recall exactly, something stuff anyway) and then Mutoh flies into the screen and floors him with a bulldog out of nowhere. They they both start dropping elbows on him, then Nogami joins in and all three are dropping elbows, and the crowd totally come unglued for it. Nogami was actually pretty awesome in this, not just when it came to punching above his weight, but also as your underdog eating a boat load of punishment. Hara is cracking him with headbutts and Ishikawa is hurling lariats at him, then Tenryu gets the tag and starts rubbing his hands together and you feel sorry for the guy because you just know he's about to receive a grade-A potatoing. And sure enough he gets chopped right in the Adam's apple. Mutoh's over like crazy here, cheapshots Tenryu on the apron a couple times and generally doesn't suck, but he really feels like the least of the three guys on team New Japan. Tenryu/Hahsimoto is the match-up you want to see after this. Tenryu/Nogami is a match-up I really hope is out there somewhere. Tenryu/Mutoh isn't quite as enticing.