Monday, 29 August 2011

I Met Finlay and he Hipped me to Some Life Game, to Stimulate Then Activate the Left and Right Brain

Finlay, JBL & Randy Orton v Rey Mysterio, Chris Benoit & Bobby Lashley (Smackdown!, 2/24/06)

This was a lot of fun. Everybody got a chance to do their thing here; Rey took a beating as FIP and peppered in his hope spots like he does, Lashley got to throw dudes around with his powerhouse spots, JBL got to cheat and act like a prick, Benoit got to come in as a house o' fire and suplex everybody to oblivion, Orton got to bully Mysterio (Orton/Rey is a seriously GREAT match-up in general), and Finlay got to be a nasty bastard and beat the shit out of people. With all of that said, I did not expect to come out of this thinking the best parts were the headlocks. But shit, Finlay and Orton fucking WORK the headlock. You know what to expect from Finlay -- even when he pins a guy it looks like it hurts. When he slaps a headlock on Rey he just cranks and twists at his neck, squeezes his head and pulls upwards like he's trying to rip it off, whacks him in the nose with his free hand, jabs him in the trapezius with the point of his elbow...I'm sure I've already said Finlay's a guy that always does the meanest, nastiest variation of a move or hold possible, and this was a mean, nasty headlock. Then Orton gets in and maaan, his headlock might actually have topped it. Orton's always been great at working a headlock, and it looks like he's about to pop Rey's head like a balloon here. Finish felt a little anti-climactic, but you could make a decent case that two thirds of the participants in this were having a career year, and you can't really go wrong with them getting almost 20 minutes to stretch out and do their thing. Smackdown! was quite the gold mine in 2006.

Finlay Project

Friday, 26 August 2011

Finlay, Disguised as Robin Hood, with his Memories in a Trunk, Passed this way an Hour ago with his Friend, a Jealous Monk

Finlay v Mike Knox (Superstars, 1/7/10)

So a friend of mine told me to watch this aaages ago, and I'm glad I finally did because it's a totally bossy way to spend 7 minutes. Finlay is a guy that always works really snug when he's dishing out a beating, and that's something one tends to pick up on when you watch a bunch of Finlay (because how can you not pick up on that?), but he is also not afraid to eat a nasty beatdown in return (the Benoit and Regal matches were sort of stiff). He takes a powerslam on the floor here that looked super hurty and he leans WAY into a big boot from Knox. I mean this was forehead-denting. I've watched hardly any WWE over the last couple years, so I never got a chance to see much Mike Knox, but he's a guy plenty of people started banging the drum for and it's clear to see why. He looks like Boris the Blade mated with Baloo from The Jungle Book and had an angry baby. He also has a few great cut-offs (the powerslam on the floor being a highlight) and does a big cross body spot called the Flying Bear. Finish is pretty cool, as Knox rips the middle turnbuckle pad off and forgets to throw away the evidence, so as the ref' tosses the padding Finlay sneaks in a shillelagh shot for the win. How many times did Finlay make TV over the last two years? Couldn't have been many, which is a crying shame...

Finlay Project

Monday, 22 August 2011

DVDVR All Japan Set, Disc 11

This was another tremendous disc and I wouldn't be surprised at all if the closer wound up being the overall #1 at the end. It's probably one of those "universal" matches that'll land top 10 on every ballot (I would be stunned if it didn't land top 5 on my own).

Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Tiger Mask & Isao Takagi (7/16/88)
- This was kind of a mixed bag. Not in a “some good, some bad” way, but rather a “some decent, some REALLY good” way. Tenryu provides much of the “really good” by being a total cunt to Takagi and generally being a guy that hates the world and everybody in it. We may have the best break up of a pinfall on the entire set here as Tenryu punts Takagi directly in the eye and then stomps him in the head. He actually stomps him in the head a bunch of times throughout the match and it ruled. Punts him in the kidneys, chops him in the throat...The Blind Boys of Alabama should write an uplifting gospel number about Takagi’s fight for survival and how he throws amazing shoulder tackles. Then Alanis Morissette should write the follow-up about how the world is a cold place and Takagi gets dumped on his neck.

Toshiaki Kawada & Ricky Fuyuki v Shunji Takano & Shinichi Nakano (7/19/88)
- Man, Fuyuki has been totally awesome in all this ’88 stuff and he rules the world as your Japanese Ricky Morton again here. He transitions into his FIP spell by eating a NASTY gutbuster thing after attempting a cross body off the middle rope, and a little later he eats a fucking HYYYUGE boot to the face from Takano. I dug Nakano a whole lot here, too. He’s a big tall dude that doesn’t really do a ton of big tall dude things, but the things he does do can often look real good because of the big tall dude factor. The big boot that I mentioned is one of them, but he also does a King Kong kneedrop and a huge running legdrop and both looked pretty killer. Finishing stretch is really hectic and they’re going Hell on wheels with a bunch of nearfalls and saves. Between this and the 90s WAR stuff, Fuyuki looks to be a dude in need of a serious re-evaluation.

Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen (7/27/88)
- I prefer their 3/27 match by a little, but this was still fucking great and currently sitting in my top 15. Tenryu’s a guy that has taken the blade to his head a few times already, but it’s always produced a mere trickle of blood that’s wound up being hidden by his fringe. Hansen jumps him in the aisle here and Tenryu BLEEDS like a faucet, and not even Cousin Itt’s fringe could hide this. From that point on the story of the match is basically Tenryu fighting an uphill battle against this freight train of violence. Hansen just paints a bulls-eye on the cut like you’d expect, at one point throwing a couple back elbows that looked brutal as all get out, and Tenryu is great at eating all of this and stumbling around like he’s half dead. Hansen eventually goes for the kill, but Tenryu manages to catch him in the ribs with a knee as he’s charging in for the lariat, and that opens a window of opportunity. I don’t know if Tenryu going after Hansen’s ribs was supposed to play off their last match, but it was some cool continuity regardless. Tenryu goes for the elbow off the top to cap off a run of offence, but Hansen moves and just bowls him out to the floor with these nasty shoulderblocks before blasting him with a chair. Still, Tenryu keeps plugging away until Hansen manages to hit the lariat, and Tenryu takes a great bump by flying halfway up the aisle for the count out. Both guys were aces here and this rocked something fierce.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (8/29/88)
- The first half of this felt a little time-kill-y, but these four are generally good at killing time and there’s still the kind of hate that you want from the feud, so it’s better than a lot of “time-killing segments” on the set. About halfway through Tenryu and Hara zero in on Jumbo’s knee for the first real heat segment of note. Jumbo is really good at selling it and at one point he hits a high knee that almost loses his team the advantage (because the knee’s FUCKED). Then he hits another three dozen and keeps selling the damage to his own leg, and well, if my knee was giving me bother because I kept kneeing people in the skull, I personally would stop kneeing people in the skull. But that’s just me. Tenryu kind of powerbombs Yatsu on the floor and that leaves Jumbo on his own for a little while, and the whole finishing run is just really choice in general. Match finishing with a roll-up was pretty boss, too. Feels like an upper half match.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (8/30/88)
- I liked this better than the previous night’s match, and right now it’s sitting in my top 30. Both matches go about the same length of time, but I thought the first half of this, leading up to the first real heat segment, was way better and I never got the same sort of “killing time” vibe that I got from the other match. Tenryu and Yatsu trade slaps in the corner and Tenryu turns around and just LEVELS Jumbo with a slap out of nowhere. It was the greatest. They do another Jumbo in peril segment where Tenryu and Hara work over the leg, but Jumbo doesn’t persist on throwing fifty running knees this time, and Tenryu smacks him in the knee with a table at one point so it was pretty awesome. They go into an extended Hara in peril segment after Jumbo fucking drills him with a lariat, and Hara might have the best lariat bump of any beefy guy in wrestling history. He totally leans into it like a pro and lands like a sack of potatoes. I thought they started to lose a little momentum/direction after Hara makes the tag, but they reel me back in again when Jumbo completely loses his mind and tries to murder Tenryu. Tenryu tries to get in the ring and Jumbo just waffles him with these super nasty looking clubbing blows right to the face, then he throws him over the barricade and starts beating the shit out of him with this big metal box thing while everybody in the vicinity scatters. This was like some “Hansen swinging a cowbell” shit; people just running for their lives, not wanting to get caught in the firestorm. The finishing stretch was pretty fucking great here, but there’s one nearfall that was blown pretty badly (not sure whether it was the ref’s fault, Yatsu and Hara’s fault, or all three’s). Tenryu eating three nasty backdrops and Hara trying to save him by covering him with his body was a cool touch, as was Jumbo going ahead and just pinning both of them. Hell of a match.

Toshiaki Kawada & Ricky Fuyuki v Tatsuo Nakano & Shunji Takano (9/15/88)
- I liked how this was structured, basically a bunch of short, strong control segments with a bunch of great segues and spots interspersed. I liked Takano here about as much as I did in the first match (so a lot) and he does this crazy escape of a dragon sleeper where he almost deadlifts Kawada from his knees while his body is own bent backwards. He also boots Fuyuki right in the teeth. Kawada hits this running flying lariat/right hook to Nakano’s face early on and GOD DAMN did it look nasty as fuuuuck. Fuyuki continues to be a star and he’s probably gonna come out of this set as the All Japan equiv of Kantaro Hoshino. “Hit me with a chair, I’ll burst your kidneys.” Fuck yeah.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (9/15/88)
- 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 math-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.

Stan Hansen & Dan Kroffat v Rock N Roll Express (10/26/88)
- What the fuck did Morton do to Hansen? Did he and Gibson pull that rib Jericho mentions in his book where they get you to close your eyes and touch a part of the wall with your finger, only what you end up touching is Gibson’s asshole (I don’t remember if that was the rib exactly, but it involved Robert Gibson’s asshole, anyway)? Did they pull that shit with Hansen? Because Hansen seems to want to murder Morton here for discernible reason, jumping in the ring unprovoked and dragging him out to the floor so he can beat on him, stomping him in the head, and there’s an awesome shot of him cackling like a lunatic when Kroffat grabs Morton’s hair and flings him into the air. Kroffat actually had a ton of awesome looking stuff here, the best of which is a teased Fuerza bump to the floor only to skin the cat back in before getting dumped back out when he turns around. And I know it doesn’t need repeating at this point, but holy fuck is Morton the greatest. His peril segment here has an awkward spot near its conclusion, but other than that I don’t think there’s much in wrestling history that I rather see than Stan Hansen cutting off Ricky Morton in a southern style tag. I wish Morton went on and made the hot tag to Gibson in order to REALLY launch it into my heart, but you take what you can get. I still prefer the ’86 Tag League final as far as total southern style tags on the set, but this’ll probably land in my top 50 as well.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Genichiro Tenryu (10/28/88)
- This was pretty excellent. I slightly prefer the 8/31/87 match, but both are sitting in my top 10 right now. Only real complaint I have is that I thought it could’ve done with being trimmed by 5 minutes or so, because they started getting into “downtime” territory in the body of it. I didn’t love the finish either, but I can’t really bring myself to complain a great deal about Tenryu hauling off and punting someone in the balls before punching him into oblivion. I mean a good DQ is a good DQ, I guess. Finishing stretch – the match in general, actually – really managed to capture a sense of “epic” and both guys were totally selling the shit out of the exhaustion factor the longer it went on. Still, my favourite spot of the match might have happened in the first couple minutes. Tenryu launches Jumbo into the guardrail and tries to get back in the ring, but Jumbo jumps on him and tries to mount some offence. Tenryu is almost dismissive of this and just throws him back into the guardrail, but it only pisses Jumbo off as he responds by running after him and punching him in the kidneys. 6/5/89 is looming on the horizon and I’m eager to see how it holds up, because this has been a great series so far.

Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy v Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada (12/16/88)
- 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.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Cocaine & Wrestling! The Jerry Estrada Show!

Jerry Estrada v Javier Cruz (CMLL, 11/5/89)

How the fuck is Jerry Estrada not dead? This might be my favourite match ever and I've probably seen it 10 times over the last couple years, yet I'm always amazed at the fact he didn't wind up killing himself – or anybody else – here. He is lit up like a fucking Christmas tree. I've seen plenty of matches where guys are loaded. I watched a ton of Shawn Michaels matches for a WWF/E poll last year and there are times where he is pretty clearly wasted. I watched some of the Texas set last night with a bunch of friends and Kerry Von Erich looked about as zonked as my buddy who passed out on the floor. I've seen Juventud Guerrera live and that pretty much speaks for itself. None of those guys were ever as well and truly puggled as Jerry Estrada in this match. He can barely run the ropes, walks around like a plastered zombie (which is really awesome when he starts bleeding, although a guy in that state taking a blade to his forehead is a scary thought), tries to climb the turnbuckle and almost falls off, etc. At one point he walks across the ring apron and winds up falling face first into the turnbuckle. I've only ever seen Estrada and Terry Funk do that spot but it's one of my favourite spots in wrestling. I get the sense Funk did it as a semi-comedy spot, but I'm assuming it was unintentional on Jerry's part and he fell asleep standing up or something. I love Estrada, but Cruz deserves a shit ton of credit for holding this match together. Estrada is as reckless as you'd imagine a guy in his condition would be and I would not have been surprised if Cruz had just thrown his hands up on the whole deal and refused to work with this lunatic. He tries a victory roll at one point, and as he's rolling forward Estrada just throws him off his shoulders. I still don't know how he didn't land right on his head. For the finish to the second fall Estrada does a top rope senton, and it's possibly the most reckless senton in history. He just flies off the top rope, curls himself into a ball and plummets right into Cruz's chest like a ball of coked-up stupidity. Third fall is awesome with both guys bleeding buckets (Estrada somehow manages to bleed in a straight line all the way down his body, like someone's painted a red stripe from his forehead to his dick) and Estrada flying five rows deep into the fixed seats after eating a tope. Cruz also does this crazy missile dropkick thing from the top rope out to the floor that catches Estrada right in the stones. The post-match shaving (this is a hair match) goes on forever because Estrada keeps trying to start fights. Cruz is trying to take this humiliation while retaining some of his dignity and Estrada is slapping him in his half-bald head, talking shit, throwing stuff at him, just generally being a belligerent drunken/tweaked out douchebag. He's like the hammered guy at the bar who throws shot glasses at people for drinking water and calls the barmaid a "filthy scutter". Whenever we get to the DVDVR Lucha set I will be shocked if this doesn't wind up being my number one.

Thursday, 18 August 2011


Jushin Liger & El Samurai v Ultimo Dragon & Norio Honaga (New Japan, 4/6/93)

I was pretty surprised at how much I liked this. It's WAR v New Japan so I shouldn't be, but other than Liger and occasionally Sammy, this isn't a group of guys that I'd see on a match list and find myself getting excited about. That said, Ultimo's actually been fine on the '93 yearbook so far. The Casas match from 3/19 came out of nowhere and was excellent, although I'd be surprised if anybody thought Ultimo's performance was what made it. The Samurai match from 3/7 is good. The Liger match from the 1/4 Dome show has been my least favourite match on the set though, and the only one so far that I thought actively sucked. But this started out with Ultimo dropkicking Liger off the apron and Liger wanting a piece, so we get off on the right foot. Does kind of meander for a little while after the opening, and it isn't bad or anything, but it's WAR v New Japan and there isn't enough violence or guys acting like dickheads. But then Norio Honaga breaks a camel clutch by biting Samurai's fingers and things start to get much better. This is where you'd want it to be JIP'd for TV. Honaga grabs Sammy's hand and drags the webbing between the fingers along the rope and it was awesome. And then Ultimo gets the tag and throws on a figure-four, which signals the end of obscure body part work, but they head into a pretty choice finishing run after that. Honaga was my favourite guy in this, bringing lots of cheapshots, constantly being a thorn in Liger's side, and above all else he looks like a seedy Japanese meth dealer. He breaks up two or three Liger pin attempts in a row towards the end and Liger gets visibly more and more pissed each time. Finish was sort of unexpected as well. We've already seen Ultimo v Sammy, is there a Liger v Honaga match out there somewhere (preferably from '93, because that match happening outside of this feud does not interest me nearly as much)?

Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa v Shinya Hashimoto & Tatsumi Fujinami (WAR, 5/24/93)

Somebody needs to make a comp of this entire feud because it is honestly just about the fucking best thing ever. This doesn't have the same level of violence as the Hashimoto/Ohara v Hara/Fuyuki tag from 3/7 or the Hashimoto/Choshu v Tenryu/Ishikawa tag from 4/2, but the sub-story of Fujinami's arm being injured is a neat addition to the formula. Of course this IS motherfucking WAR, so there's still plenty of violence to sink your teeth into. The Tenryu/Hashimoto exchanges in this are just amazing. They start the match out and you can feel the hatred, from the simple stare-downs to the portions where they're leathering each other with kicks and chops. I love how they'll stop throwing strikes for a few seconds to shit talk each other. Hash backs Tenryu into the ropes and repeatedly headbutts him so Tenryu throws a huge chop just to create some distance, and he has this incredulous look on his face like someone would even try and fuck with him like that. Then he shouts something in Japanese and Hash kicks him in the leg. A little later on Hash is beating on Ishikawa, and when he hits the ropes Tenryu blasts him in the back of the head from the apron. That leads to a short Hashimoto in peril segment before he tags in Fujinami, who comes in and immediately slaps a dragon sleeper on Tenryu. Ishikawa jumps off the top to break it and that segues directly into an extended beatdown on Fujinami. For the next while team WAR go to work on him with the focus being the arm, and God damn does Tenryu rifle off some STIFF kicks to the shoulder. They sound like the ones a million dudes with kick pads throw, except there's no kick pads there to make that sound. This is just leather meeting skin in horrendous fashion. Fujinami takes exception and catches Tenryu's foot and Tenryu has this great "Aw shit" expression before being dragon screwed. Hashimoto is a total whirlwind of piss and vinegar when he gets the hot tag and there's an awesome moment where Tenryu breaks a pin attempt by kicking him in the eye, so Hash follows him back to the corner and beheads him with an enziguiri. Tenryu's KO sell of it is flat out amazing, going dead weight and hitting every turnbuckle on the way down. Finishing run is great, and for a change the violence wasn't my favourite thing about it (although that rocked as well). Ishikawa puts Fujinami in a Scorpion Deathlock, basically as a 'fuck you' to the New Japan team, so Hashimoto comes in like he's ready to cook a fool. Tenryu is having none of that and runs over and lariats him so hard he throws himself out the ring. Hash follows him out and they just start chucking chairs at each other and shit, while back in the ring Fujinami is back on top and locks in the dragon sleeper. Ishikawa breaks it by punching him in the bad shoulder (which was AAAAWESOME), so Fujinami regroups and goes back to it with the *other* arm, leaving Ishikawa no choice but to submit. And then post-match Tenryu and Hashimoto have another pull apart and I am ridiculously excited for the singles matches later in the year. I'm gonna try and come up with a top 50 or so matches of '93 when I get done with the yearbook, and I could absolutely see about 10 WAR v NJ matches in the top 20.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

DVDVR All Japan Set, Disc 10

What a great disc. The '88 and '89 stuff was what I was most looking forward to out of everything on the set, and the '88 stuff on this disc did not disappoint.

Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Yoshiaki Yatsu & Tiger Mask (1/23/88)
- ’88 starts off with a BANG! I dug the SHIT out of this! TENRYU! There’s a lot to like here, but the palpable hatred between Tenryu and Yatsu is what really pushed this into my top 15. Tenryu is grumpy and agitated right out the gate, but he ends up going one step too far and Yatsu just fucking WASTES him with one of the stiffest slaps I’ve ever seen. Tenryu either sells it spectacularly – which wouldn’t surprise me one bit – or Yatsu rung his bell for real – which also wouldn’t surprise me – but whatever the case he swiftly tags out and tries to shake off the effects. You can see him brooding on the apron, itching to get in there so he can hurt someone, and from time to time he’ll just waltz in and take a swing or kick a guy in the teeth. There have been better matches involving Tenryu on the set, but this might be my favourite Tenryu *performance* for the fact it most closely resembles the 90s Tenryu that made me a huge fan of the guy in the first place. It’s almost surreal seeing Kawada and Misawa on opposite sides and *not* being the clear top dog of their team, but both guys are good as the “underlings” here. Kawada takes a pretty hefty beating after Tenryu goes down following that slap, then Yatsu and Misawa isolate him again a little later for another pounding. Misawa wiping out Tenryu towards the end with a dive off the apron taking them both over the guardrail was a great spot. Tenryu powerbombing Misawa on a table for his bullshit was a greater spot. I didn’t have any problem with the finish here, either. I mean Tenryu and Kawada mugging a guy with a chair is as good an excuse for a DQ as any. I’ve been looking forward to seeing the ’88 and ’89 stuff since the match list for the set came out, and this was a great way to kick if off.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Hiroshi Wajima (1/24/88)
- Tenryu’s ring jacket says “CATCH US IF YOU CAN!” He starts this out by jumping Jumbo at the bell, but it backfires and he ends up being the recipient of a beatdown with a busted forehead. Wajima looks pretty decrepit here but he headbutts Tenryu about ninety times upon introduction to the match and that kind of ruled. I actually thought he was fine in general as the old geezer that was out of his league, especially with his willingness to get the shit stomped out of him. He isn’t all that interesting offensively, but there’s one sequence with Tenryu that culminates with him hitting a big backdrop that looked pretty swank. The Tenryu/Jumbo stuff ruled again and Tenryu appears to be REALLY putting it all together at this point. I’m probably overrating this by putting it just outside the top 20, but structurally it was way more up my alley than most of the tags before it and didn’t suffer from being too long. Kept up a good pace, had a good layout, plenty of hate and ill will, stayed focused...yeah, this was good.

Genichiro Tenryu & Samson Fuyuki v Takashi Ishikawa & Great Kabuki (2/20/88)
- I really liked the dynamic of this. Fuyuki is outmatched against Ishikawa and Kabuki, but he’s teaming with motherfucking Tenryu and doesn’t much care as long as he gets to fight with people. Tenryu is of course Tenryu and a Hell of a guy to have watching your back. Ishikawa and Kabuki do the smart thing and isolate Fuyuki, which leaves Tenryu to basically feed off scraps, coming in from time to time so he can thump someone. Kabuki was awesome here, throwing his great looking uppercuts and working super stiff, and Ishikawa is starting to look like the surly little shitkicker he would become in WAR. When Tenryu gets the hot tag he comes in and does a Tito Santana-esque flying forearm right to Ishikawa’s head, and then he repeatedly elbows him above the eye until he splits him open. Tenryu selling his own elbow after bludgeoning Ishikawa was fucking tremendous. The beatdown on Ishikawa is pretty short, but I can’t really complain when it leads to Kabuki coming in and stiffing dudes. There’s a great cut off later where Ishikawa lowers his head and Tenryu just pops him with the point of the elbow on the cut. I initially thought the finish was a bit of a downer, but it was timed well and Kabuki’s superkick looked suitably nasty, so I’m not too bothered. This was really good stuff.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v John Tenta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (2/29/88)
- 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 & Ashura Hara v Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy (3/5/88)
- “NOBODY POTATOES ME!” So this isn’t a great match, but it may have the best “end” to any match on the set. Not necessarily best as in fitting or conclusive, but...well, I’ll get to it in a second. The actual match leading up to it is more or less entirely controlled by Hansen and Gordy. At times it feels a little *too* one-sided, though, which is weird to say considering I can’t think of much I’d rather watch than Stan Hansen cutting guys off and beating them up. Tenryu or Hara will start to fire back, Hansen or Gordy will shut them down within seconds, rinse and repeat. We’re still talking about Hansen and Gordy here, so it’s not like watching those guys beat somebody up is going to be much of a chore to sit through, but I would’ve liked for them to give the natives a little more offence. And then Tenryu and Hara hit Stan with a double enziguiri and Hansen goes dead weight and sells it like he’s legit KO’d. When he wakes up he goes absolutely BALLISTIC, flinging chairs, breaking tables, swinging his bullrope, stiffing the daylights out of Tenryu and Hara (there’s one shot to Tenryu that looked fucking disgusting), running through the crowd while fans part like the red sea, punching Higuchi in the head, etc. I mean you know he’s going crazy when fucking GORDY is trying to talk him down. The match itself feels like a bottom half affair, but the Hansen insanity at the end will hurl it up the ballot some. The close-up camera shot of his face when he gets up and dives out of the ring to get at someone is seriously one of the greatest images in wrestling history.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Tiger Mask (3/9/88)
- Other than the early portion with Misawa working a headlock maybe going a touch too long, this was a fucking great match. I like Misawa going to the headlock because he knows he can’t hang and bang with the big cat, but the match goes 15 minutes and the headlock stuff eats up practically half of it. Still, they work in and out of it well and they do some interesting things when they come up for air, like Misawa’s awesome leaping headbutt out the corner, so it’s honestly a minor complaint. Jumbo getting fed up with the bullshit and just whipping out a backdrop was a really great sudden transition. He really snapped into it and yanked him over quick as you like. Misawa rolls out some of his own bombs in response and hits an awesome looking plancha, but Jumbo’s hotshot cut-off spot topped it. Misawa takes it with his arms at his side and literally goes throat first across the rope; it looked like some brutal shit. I figured it was over for sure at a couple points down the stretch, but Misawa kicks out and sneaks in a roll up for a Hell of a nearfall that actually had me biting. Jumbo hitting another backdrop and hooking every limb possible seals it in the end, but Misawa got to look great here by kicking out of a bunch of Jumbo’s bigger moves and came out looking like a gutsy son of a bitch even in defeat. I could honestly see this landing in my top 20.

Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen (3/9/88)
- Definitely my favourite Hansen/Tenryu match so far, and currently just inside my top 20. Starts out with both guys swinging wildly and Tenryu going right for the enziguiri, so Hansen just bowls him out to the floor with a shoulder block and beats him up. He works Tenryu’s back from here on out and everything he does looks gloriously hurty. Hansen’s kneedrops are the greatest, the way he jabs the knee right into the spine, and from time to time he’ll just start punting Tenryu in the kidneys, which also ruled. Really liked the finish here too – Tenryu goes for a fisherman suplex and can’t lift Hansen because his back is hurt, so he regroups and tries to hit a German suplex only for that to fail as well. Stan has Tenryu where he wants him and goes for the kill, but he lowers his head and Tenryu seizes the opportunity. He may not be able to lift him up for the big bombs, but he can still perform a small package. Post-match Hansen goes nuts, wrapping the bullrope around his arm and hitting the lariat on Tenryu, tearing up the ringside area, chasing after fans, etc. He goes back to Tenryu and Hara jumps in the way so he just cracks him with a cowbell and punts Higuchi in the liver. Then he leaves. Some guy tries to get an interview out of Tenryu and Tenryu’s all “Dude...seriously, just fuck off.” I eagerly await the rematch.

Jumbo Tsuruta, Great Kabuki & Takashi Ishikawa v Ashura Hara, Toshiaki Kawada & Ricky Fuyuki (3/11/88)
- Well fuck my face. This sounded really interesting on paper, but I never expected it to wind up being one of my favourite things on the whole set. Ricky Fuyuki was totally awesome in this. He has no qualms punching above his weight and will throw down with anyone. His exchanges with Jumbo are outstanding and probably my favourite thing about this. Jumbo’s an amazing grumpy prick and really lays it in, especially down the stretch when he fucking NUKES Fuyuki with a couple high knees. Everything they do together feels like an earlier version of Jumbo/Kikuchi, which is some real high praise. Actually Fuyuki basically IS Kikuchi here because he gets pounded on during a great FIP section and really excels in that role. Kabuki unloads with a NASTY combo of punches at one point and there’s this awesome cut off spot later on where Fuyuki hits a flash cross body only to get up and walk right into a chin-rattling superkick. Hara was also pretty ace as agitated leader of his team, channelling Tenryu at times by walking in and picking a fight with someone because his boy is being assaulted. There’s a couple moments where he and Jumbo forget about everything else and just start brawling with each other. Kawada is pretty quiet and isn’t involved for very long, but he cracks Ishikawa to break up a submission, and then tries it again later on only for Ishikawa to spot him and put him back in his place. Wasn’t really feeling the finish, but it was at least clean and it’s not like it sucked and hurt the match to any degree. Seriously, this ruled.

Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen (3/27/88)
- Man, with a better finish this might have been fucking with my top 5. Someone picking their opponent’s shoulders up off the mat during a pin attempt is a spot I don’t like at the best of times, but when you’re Stan Hansen and you’ve just drilled a guy with a Western Lariat (dead in the middle of the ring, which is pretty much a guaranteed victory) only to pick him up and then get DQ’d twenty seconds later, I tend to throw my hands up. The fact he tries to maim Tenryu afterwards is small salvation, but this was a total fucking slaughterhouse of a match that ended with the most deflating DQ finish on the set for me personally. Luckily what comes before it is as awesome as the finish is crappy. These guys seriously knock lumps out of each other, especially Hansen who is as violent as I’ve ever seen him. He looks like a rabid animal during the intros, pacing back and forth, itching to take a bite out of anyone that gets close enough. Tenryu charges him at the bell and gets a couple licks in, but Hansen sneaks in a big forearm and levels him with a punch right to the eye, and from that point on Tenryu is fighting an uphill battle. Hansen is just ridiculously vicious, focusing his entire attack on the cut above Tenryu’s eye. There’s a couple punts that would make the FUTEN boys grimace and there’s a great spot where he blocks a powerbomb attempt by dragging Tenryu to the mat and nailing him with one of the nastiest kneedrops you’ll see. This is worked more evenly than their last match. That had Hansen controlling the majority of it by working the back with Tenryu fighting back in spurts. Tenryu ramps up the violence this time out (he’d be dead if he didn’t) and is willing to give just as good as he gets. Hansen starts punching him dead in the face, so he just grabs Hansen’s fist to block it and uncorks with a huge left hand of his own before following up with a monster lariat. He also gears most of the nastiness towards Hansen’s ribs, at one point running all the way across the ring and punting him so hard that he ends up flinging himself out the ring. Really, I know what I like in my pro-wrestling and THIS is it. I am super stoked for the next instalment on disc 11.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Bruiser Brody (3/27/88)
- For starters this had the unenviable task of following the shitstorm that was Hansen v Tenryu, but even watching it in isolation I doubt I’d like it all that much. I mean they do some interesting enough things. Brody throws this really stiff chop in the corner and Jumbo’s sell of it was great, like he’d just had all the wind knocked out of him. And there’s a clean finish, at least. Still, most of it felt really dry and listless. Brody’s sell of the triple enziguiris was pretty hilarious, although not in the same “good way” as his sell of the backdrop after the second Jumbo/Tenryu match. Can’t see this breaking out of the bottom 20.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Hiroshi Wajima v Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara (4/21/88)
- So Wajima is OLD and pretty rubbish at this point (although he was OLD and pretty rubbish the first time he showed up), but if you can handle copious amounts of “OLD rubbish guy getting his clock cleaned” then you shouldn’t have a terribly hard time enjoying parts of this. I enjoyed the whole thing, but I get the sense I’ll be a high-voter on it. Wajima takes three separate turns at getting beat down for an extended period of time, and while he’s not nearly as compelling as Jumbo at eating a shitkicking, Tenryu and Hara still dish one out all the same. Tenryu looks like one of the best in the world at this point and everything he does has this contemptuous vibe to it. It’s like everybody in the company decided to step up huge at the turn of ’88 (even the guys that were already great) and Tenryu looks to have turned his shit WAY up. Hara is throwing some fucking brutal looking punts here as well; I expected old man Wajima’s liver to fly out through his ribcage. Jumbo is really great as the pissed off ace that is simmering on the apron while being forced to watch his decrepit partner get beat from pillar to post. Any time he comes in he’s a total house o’ fire, throwing the stiffest knees and lariats imaginable. He catches Tenryu with a running knee that looked absolutely nuts and Tenryu must’ve been high to lean into it like he did. Count out finish is a count out finish, but Wajima wiping Hara out with a tope was a fine enough setup. Jumbo no-selling a Tenryu powerbomb was far more annoying than one more count out finish, anyway.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu v Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara (6/4/88)
- Totally different dynamic from the last match in that it’s Jumbo who’s the one getting beat down most of the time. It starts early when Tenryu and Hara go after the leg, and while the leg work never truly pays off (that I can remember, anyway), it remains a focus for a large part of the match. There’s a particularly great spot where Jumbo comes in and fucking wastes Tenryu with a high knee and sells the shit out of his own leg afterwards. He also obliterates Hara with a lariat and Jumbo is another guy that has seriously ramped it up since the turn of the year, just mowing guys down and taking zero shit from anyone. Moment of the match might have been Yatsu going for a bulldog only to be rammed into a knee in the corner. Totally came out of nowhere and looked great. I actually liked this a little less than the last match, but this was such a great disc that it’s not out of the realms of possibility that every match on it, other than Jumbo/Brody, could finish in my top half.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

DVDVR All Japan Set, Disc 9

Unfortunately this was one of the more disappointing discs on the set. '87 in general was a disappointing year, actually. There's a lot of shit that looks great on paper, but more often than not it fails to live up to the potential. The first Jumbo/Tenryu match fucking ruled, though.

Stan Hansen & Ted DiBiase v Jumbo Tsuruta & Tiger Mask (7/11/87)
- Pretty forgettable match. As in, other than Hansen killing Misawa with a lariat at the end, I’ve forgotten basically everything about it. Where the New Japan set had a bunch of tags that were structurally pretty scatterbrained, thus giving me a hard time getting into them, this set has had a bunch of tags that have ultimately been largely forgettable. I’m not sure which is better/worse.

Stan Hansen & Ted DiBiase v Yoshiaki Yatsu & Shinichi Nakano (7/17/87)
- This was much better, and I’d call it legitimately great if they had worked towards the finish for a few more minutes at the end. Finish is a double-edged sword in that Hansen pulling a lariat out of nowhere and mowing someone down is always an awesome spot, but that awesome spot just came TOO out of nowhere this time around and wound up deflating me. A few more minutes to build drama beforehand would’ve cured that, but that’s getting into “judging a match on what it isn’t rather than what it is” territory, so I’ll leave it there. Body of the match is all about Yatsu and Nakano going to town on DiBiase’s leg. They’re so outmatched on paper that it’s almost comical, but if one half of the champs is hobbling on one leg then they *might* have a chance. Hansen is spectacular working the apron and getting progressively frustrated, constantly shouting obscenities that don’t even sound like actual words half the time. Then he gets the tag and they run an awesome spot where Ted is holding Yatsu in front of the post so Hansen can drill him with a running knee, only for Nakano to come out of nowhere and save Yatsu while Hansen winds up kneeing the ring post. From there they go into Hansen in peril as Yatsu and Nakano work over his leg, so it becomes a case of the champs having two good legs between them while the clear underdogs mean to take advantage of every opportunity that comes their way. And then it ends.

Stan Hansen & Ted DiBiase v Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara (7/23/87)
- Another great performance from Ted here, selling the ribs rather than the knee this time, but selling like a total champ either way. Tenryu and Hara don’t reel off a ton of “high end offense”, but Ted’s selling is always terrific and makes something as simple as Hara stomping him in the gut seem vicious (well, it’s Hara, so it’s vicious to begin with, but still). When Hansen gets the tag DiBiase is more or less useless from that point on, so Stan has to go it alone. Tenryu running around and throwing Ted into the barricade from time to time, just to make sure he won’t be making a recovery, is always great. Thought the finish worked fine here as well, like Stan knew he was on his own against two bruisers and would happily take a double count out if he had the chance. Tenryu accidentally hitting his own partner with a lariat was that chance.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Genichiro Tenryu (8/31/87)
- Hell of a way to kick off the Jumbo/Tenryu series. This feels like the closest thing to King’s Road yet, from the early blocking of strikes to the general layout. I really liked how they started it out, with both guys clearly wary of getting too close to each other for fear of getting popped in the mouth. They know how each other ticks as a tag partner, but as a singles opponent it’s a different ballgame and you can’t be too careful. First great spot comes when Jumbo cracks Tenryu with a few nasty back elbows in the corner, so Tenryu responds by RIFLING off a slap right to Jumbo’s ear and the look of utter contempt that Jumbo shoots him in return is glorious. I though Jumbo was really great here as the big man on campus, busting out a few of Tenryu’s own signature moves and generally ramping up the violence because he refuses to give up his spot to the guy that used to play second fiddle to him. The first real stretch of offence comes when Jumbo tries to hit a lariat which Tenryu partially blocks, but the force still has him reeling enough that he staggers into the corner. Jumbo rolls down the knee pad and follows up with a high knee, and while Tenryu’s blade job isn’t the craziest thing you’ll see, Jumbo goes to work on the cut anyway. They kind of tease a finishing stretch after Tenryu hits a German suplex, but Jumbo’s still too fresh and keeps up the assault. That leads to him going for another high knee in the corner, but Tenryu knows it’s coming and counters by ducking and ripping the turnbuckle pad away in the process so Jumbo winds up kneeing steel. That was a fucking awesome transition spot that I don’t remember ever seeing before. Jumbo’s comeback with the HUGE backdrop was fucking great as well. I don’t dislike the fact they went with a count out for the finish, but I wish they hasn’t made it so painfully obvious. Still, all of the bombs and shots they were throwing down the stretch ruled and this is currently sitting in my #4 spot.

Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen (9/20/87)
- Hansen flipping his lid and throwing chairs and chasing people around ringside for no apparent reason whatsoever was AMAZING. That was at the intros. When he calms down and they start the match for real Tenryu just goes right for him and winds up dropping him with a big palm strike to the ear. Unfortunately they slow it way down after that and, other than Hansen repeatedly shouting “ASK HIM”, it never hit the level the opening few minutes promised. I mean they both work the arm and it’s all solid enough stuff, but this is Hansen and Tenryu and this isn’t the kind of bar fight you want out of them. Hansen going postal post-match was a nice return to form, but this was one of the more disappointing matches on the set.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Genichiro Tenryu (10/10/87)
- Thought this was also really good, but not on the level of the first match. It still has the great moments where one guy will slap the shit out of the other and there are some hugely dramatic “peaks”, but there are also some pretty awkward parts and it isn’t as focused as the August match. I thought Tenryu’s early headlock was great here, the way he’d hold on like a vice no matter how Jumbo tried to shake him. Only letting go because Jumbo had backed him into the ropes and the ref’ called for the break felt like a cool little “Fine, I’ll let go...but only because *I* choose to” moment. There’s a terrific stretch after Tenryu counters a Thesz Press with a hotshot where he’s rolling out a ton of big bombs in an effort to put Jumbo away, getting progressively frustrated at not being able to get the job done while the crowd loses its shit. Jumbo’s backslide hope spot looked pretty shitty, though, and while the two whiffed powerbomb attempts from Tenryu didn’t bother me that much (I actively liked the first one), they still felt out of place and awkward. Finishing stretch was fine and still very heated, but I was far more engaged in the final run in the first match (even after the cross body spot that took both guys to the floor, which initially took me out of the match). Brody’s sell of the backdrop post-match is either awesome or goofy as shit. Probably a bit of both.

Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy v Bruiser Brody & Jimmy Snuka (11/22/87)
- Crowd is totally amped at the beginning here and want a Hansen/Brody exchange to start things out. Both guys approaching the exchange by running a cross-cross and ducking a few big hits from the other was a great way to go, I though. Crowd losing its shit helped, of course. I certainly wouldn’t call this a great match, but it was better than I expected. Snuka and Brody have that awesome tag against the Funks from ’81 (that’s still in my top 10), but 1987 Jimmy Snuka is a prospect I don’t look too forward to and, despite the fact I’ve had no issues with him on the set (at times enjoying him quite a bit), Brody showing up again after the multi-disc absence didn’t do a whole lot to get me excited. Still, Hansen might be the best ever and late ‘80s Gordy is awesome, so that’s generally enough to offset the Brody/Snuka-ism. Snuka’s isolation period was pretty pedestrian, but I liked more of this than I disliked and it’ll get bonus points for being in the “I was shocked at how much I dug this” category.

Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (11/26/87)
- I thought this was really disappointing. There’s some stuff that would’ve been really awesome if they hadn’t detracted from it with something silly or unneeded. Like the spot where Yatsu puts the figure-four on Hansen (even if it looked pretty crummy) and Hansen is selling it so well that I’m legitimately buying him possibly giving up. Then Jumbo and Gordy start trading bombs in the middle of the ring while this is going on and I can’t understand why Gordy won’t just break the hold when he has the chance. The finish is another “double-edged sword” in that we get the awesome out of nowhere lariat that leads to a super goofy count out. The lariat itself looked SUPREME and the commentator’s reaction made it even better (Baba is mid-sentence and all you hear is “AAAHHHHHHH!”). Yatsu struggling to get back in the ring and succeeding a second too late would’ve been a fine count out, but Jumbo comes across with about 7 seconds left and starts “willing” Yatsu to his feet, shouting at him to get back up. The ref’ is at 9 there, Jumbo. JUST THROW HIM IN THE FUCKING RING, ALREADY. ’87 has churned out a couple corkers that seem destined for the top 30, but on the flipside it’s produced an awful lot of middling matches that really should be better.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (12/5/87)
- As far as telegraphed half hour draws go, I liked this a good deal better than any of the Jumbo/Tenryu v Choshu/Yatsu matches. I mean I figured they were working to the bell eventually, but it didn’t seem as obvious here and I definitely preferred the things these guys were doing to kill time. Jumbo and Tenryu playing mind games in the first half was really cool and I thought it built to Tenryu’s big time cheapshot well. You knew it was only a matter of time before one guy REALLY let loose because they weren’t satisfied with just throwing a slap or a chop here and there, and Tenryu pulling open the ropes while Jumbo was running into them was a great spot. Jumbo getting massively pissed off was also great. Lots of “burly dudes throwing down” stuff throughout, possibly culminating with Jumbo pasting Hara with a lariat. Tenryu in peril towards the end while Jumbo and Yatsu go to work on his cut forehead might have been my favourite spell of the match, and Hara mowing people down after the hot tag was pretty boss. I *might* have this in my top 40.

Stan Hansen & Terry Gordy v Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara (12/11/87)
- This wasn’t “bad” or anything, but...well, I’m reeeealy glad I’m moving onto the ’88 stuff after this, because ’87 just seems to be a year that has a ton of ‘on paper’ great stuff that ends up disappointing. There are stretches here that have some good shit going on, but they don’t really GO anywhere and ultimately feel like time killing. Still, everything after Hansen breaking an abdominal stretch by nailing Tenryu in the head with a cowbell was good shit and made for a dramatic closing stretch.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

DVDVR All Japan Set, Disc 8

This had some more great shit on it, including the best Jumbo/Hansen match I've seen, an AWESOME sub-ten minute Hansen tag, and another two Jumbo/Tenryu v Choshu/Yatsu matches that ruled. Tenryu also breaks away from Jumbo on this disc, and while I don't think he TRULY hits his absolute grumpy best until '88, there's a good deal of pissed off Tenryu to sink your teeth into.

Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu (9/3/86)
- I dug the shit out of their ’85 match so I was looking forward to this, and it didn’t disappoint. The early matwork feels pretty gritty and manages to capture a sense of struggle, and well, this whole match basically feels like one big struggle. What they’re doing on the mat isn’t amazing or anything, but it’s fought for and they even bust out some things I don’t recall seeing from them before (Tenryu’s bow and arrow, for a start). Once they hit the ten minute mark they switch gears with an awesome double lariat spot. They both wind up on the floor, and that leads to Choshu hitting a backdrop on the apron that looked suitably kidney-crushing. Tenryu beats the count so Choshu goes for the kill, but Tenryu manages to counter the lariat by just booting him in the ribs as he’s rushing in. Tenryu working the ribs is the focus for the next few minutes, and Tenryu punting people up in down is something I can always get behind. Finish being the exact same as their first match was kind of a downer, though. Feels like a top 50 match.

Stan Hansen v Jumbo Tsuruta (7/31/86)
- Well this was excellent. Their first match was disappointing and felt like it fell way short of what they were capable of, and while the rematch came much closer to giving me what I wanted, this one REALLY hits the spot. Everything they do just seems meaner and nastier than before, from the strike exchanges to the far less subtle “bleeding all over the fucking place”. When they spill out to the floor around the 17 minute mark I’m thinking there’s a good chance they’re going to a double count out. Then Jumbo tries to hit a high knee and Hansen moves out of the way so he winds up crashing into the ring post, and instead of taking it home like I thought they might, they head back in the ring and move on to a blood-soaked Hansen going to town on Jumbo’s leg. Felt like a bonus track on an already stellar album. This really was everything I wanted it to be. It’s been a while since I saw any of their matches from the 90s, but right now I’m not sure I’d put any of those above this one. My working #10 and should be a lock for the top third.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Giant Baba & Tiger Mask (11/28/86)
- I thought this was a lot of fun the last time I watched it, and my thoughts haven’t changed much after this go around. I loved pretty much everything involving Baba, from booting Jumbo from the apron as he’s running the ropes to the way he reacts to Tenryu and Jumbo cheapshotting him while he’s minding his own business. Tiger Mask Misawa doesn’t really set the world on fire, but I kind of dug him as the guy that would provide the flash and athleticism for his team (because Baba sure as shit won’t) even though he’s still the most likely target of a beatdown. Him flying around is all well and good when it’s working, but if he misses then Jumbo and Tenryu won’t hesitate to pounce. Tenryu mocking Baba at the end was great.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (12/6/86)
- I probably would’ve liked this less if I didn’t already have a pretty good idea that it was going to a draw beforehand, because it becomes pretty clear early on that these guys are killing time. It’s worked almost 50/50 right down the middle in terms of how much each team take on offense and it’s basically your turn/my turn the whole way through. Really, it’s these four “doing stuff” for half an hour. Not really a match dynamic I tend to get much out of, but these guys have a ton of shit to fill time with and the general level of hatred and intensity is always high. Basically, I liked what they were actually bringing to the table, if not the way they went about bringing it. Or setting said table. Whatever; the SICK strike exchange between Tenryu and Choshu is reason enough to watch this.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen & Ted DiBiase (12/12/86)
- I fucking LOVED this! When it ended I initially thought it felt like the first half of a match that would’ve likely been my #1 had there been a second half as good as the first. But there wasn’t a second half, so I settled on it being a terrific match for what it was and probably one of my favourite sub-ten minute matches ever. It’s seriously getting to the point now where I find myself saying “that might be the best opening to any match on the set” whenever Hansen shows up. His opening charge at an unsuspecting Tenryu was truly epic and the following beating he and DiBiase dished out was great, with awesome cut-offs and nasty looking offense. This is about the closest thing on the set to a “traditional southern style” tag that I’ve come across, and well, southern tag style with Stan Hansen and Genichiro Tenryu is pretty much an instant hit with me. I thought Tenryu was making the tag for sure at a couple points, but then Hansen would run in and knee him in the face while he’s crawling towards Jumbo and I’d legitimately mark out. When the hot tag does come, Jumbo is a fucking king sized house o’ fire. He lariats DiBiase right in the chin and Ted takes a couple monster bumps just to make me fall in love with this match even more. Hansen trying to lariat Tenryu on the floor only for Tenryu to duck and Hansen to blast DiBiase instead was a great spot to lead to the finish. This isn’t the best match on the set, but I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed anything else as much as I enjoyed this and I’m gonna try and find a spot for it in my top 25.

Riki Choshu v Rick Martel (12/29/86)
- I liked their first match more, but this was still a super neat little match. I was digging the matwork and most of it looked pretty snug. Martel especially was good going after Choshu’s leg, and I liked how Choshu would respond by going after Martel’s when he got the chance. Clean finish is another plus. I could see the first match sneaking into the top third...this won’t go that high, but it might land somewhere around the middle of the pack.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (1/24/87)
- Man, when this match-up is clicking it is fucking CLICKING. This was awesome and, to me, felt like the real coming out party for Tenryu on the set. He’s been in some good matches and some great matches (and one that reaches “transcendent” level), and he’s had some good performances and some great performances, but this is the one where it seemed like he was well and truly Jumbo’s equal. Before he still felt like “Jumbo’s partner” to me. A Hell of a partner, no doubt, but I was still waiting for him to truly break through and hit that level that I’ve seen him hit so often. The Jumbo/Tenryu feud kicks off shortly, and after this I’m definitely buying Tenryu stepping up to “1a” from “number 2”. The Tenryu love aside, all four guys rocked here. There is an amazing sequence where Tenryu runs full speed at Choshu and swings for the lariat, Choshu ducks it and comes back with an attempt of his own, Tenryu ROLLS under that, Choshu comes back with another attempt, Tenryu blocks that one, and finally takes Choshu down with a Russian leg sweep, moving right into a cross armbreaker. At this point you also start to pick up on the spots they like to roll out each time, like Jumbo putting Yatsu in a prison lock and repeatedly slapping him in the face or Jumbo and Choshu doing a double lariat KO spot. The new stuff they’re busting out is great (like the aforementioned Tenryu/Choshu sequence), but the “signature” stuff rules just as much. Finish is a little weird, but I liked it if for no reason other than the fact it made Jumbo voluntarily pulling Choshu’s shoulders off the mat during a pin attempt a tolerable spot. Not on the level of the 1/28/86 match, but of all the Jumbo/Tenryu v Choshu/Yatsu matches, this is my second favourite and currently in my top 10.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (2/5/87)
- Another excellent match, and a fitting way to end the series. By this point I don’t really have a whole lot more to say about this match-up. There’s the hate that you want; there’s the heat that you want, and they’re constantly adding new touches to an already winning formula. I’ve got this behind two of their other matches, but it’s still sitting in my working top 20 and should comfortably place in the top third at the end (unless the ’88-’89 run exceeds my already high expectations).

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Road Warriors (3/12/87)
- I liked this a good deal. The Roadies hit their stuff and it all looks nasty, and Jumbo and Tenryu are willing to eat it all and make them look like a couple of dudes that ought not to be fucked with. Animal has a super cool looking flying shoulder tackle, Hawk’s gorilla press slam on Jumbo was impressive as Hell, the Doomsday Device looked sweet, and there’s a great spot where Tenryu whips Hawk into the ropes only for Animal to scoop Hawk up and launch him right back at Tenryu. There’s a chinlock segment that kind of drags, but they do the “fake tag behind the referee’s back” shtick and I always dig that. I’ll probably be a high voter on this.

Masa Fuchi v Pete Roberts (5/5/87)
- This sort of felt like the “Tatsumi Fujinami v Johnny Londos” match of the All Japan set. It’s not as good as the Fujinami/Londos match on New Japan, but there was plenty of neat WoS style matwork. I thought Fuchi clasping his fingers together behind his back to keep Roberts from really cranking on a hammerlock was cool. It’s been a few days since I watched this so I don’t have a whole lot to say about it, but I’ll take pretty much any Fuchi I can get a hold of and this was an environment I had never seen him in before.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Takashi Ishikawa & Hiroshi Wajima (6/8/87)
- Man, Hara just about looks like the greatest “enforcer” in wrestling history. Legs like tree trunks, barrel-chested, scowl that could make children cry...does a Hara v Masa Saito match exist? Because I feel like I need to see that. He’s been awesome in all of the ‘93 WAR stuff I’ve watched, but he’s 6 years younger here and a fair bit sprier as a result. He takes a monster bump of a lariat at one point that I rewound about 8 times. Tenryu and Wajima not being the best of friends is the story here and Tenryu screwing around with him in the early stages was great. He’ll goad him into the ring then he’ll tag Hara because Wajima is unworthy. Ishikawa is right there with Hara in all of the WAR stuff, but he’s not quite as burly and bullish at this point. He’s already learned how to eat a mean lariat, though. Really, this wasn’t a great match, but all of the nigliness and moments of guys losing their tempers will launch it up past a good amount of the earlier stuff that didn’t have a whole lot of content that sticks out to me, even if some of those matches are “better” as a whole.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Yoshiaki Yatsu & Shinichi Nakano (6/9/87)
- Hara breaking up a Yatsu bridge attempt by headbutting him in the gut was the Hara Moment of the Match and really warrants several stars on its own. This was probably better than the last match even though this lacked Tenryu fucking with some dude because he feels like it. One of the “little things” I did love about this was the way Tenryu dodged a missile dropkick from Nakano, like he was legitimately surprised to see Nakano flying at him and just barely jumped out of the way before getting thumped. Tenryu and Yatsu hating each other never gets old.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Tiger Mask (6/11/87)
- This was pretty great and definitely my favourite of the three Tenryu/Hara tags to round out the disc. I’m not sure if this is the first match post-Tenryu turning heel that he and Jumbo were on opposing sides of, but it did a Hell of a job setting up what would no doubt be quite an explosion at some point down the line. They don’t go all out or anything, but you know they eventually will and you absolutely want to see it. There’s a spot where Tenryu slaps Jumbo right in the mouth to break an abdominal stretch and Jumbo’s “Motherfucker I will KILL you” look was amazing. This is also the best Misawa has looked under the hood so far, by a pretty big margin at that. He ramped up the stiffness with his strikes, blasted Tenryu in the face with a baseball slide (which Tenryu took an insane back bump into the barricade off of) and later wiped him out with a crazy plancha. Finish will probably annoy some folks, but I thought it was fine. I mean as far as DQ finishes go, this wasn’t close to being the worst or most deflating on the set. Top third is unlikely, but top half seems possible.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

DVDVR All Japan Set, Disc 7

This was a great disc, with a few matches I could see as outright #1 candidates. The 1/28/86 tag might be an all-time top 20 match for me.

Stan Hansen & Ted DiBiase v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (12/12/85)
- I wasn’t really in the mood to watch this when I noticed how long the chapter on the DVD was, but I powered through it and actually came out the other end thinking it was one of the more pleasant surprises on the set so far. It’s 30 minutes and at times it feels like they’re losing direction or struggling to come up with ways to kill time, but I thought they did a MUCH better job at not straying into “we’re going to a time limit” territory than the previous match. Everybody gets isolated for at least a little while in this and Yatsu was probably the star in that regard. Hansen having his arm torn up felt like a more memorable segment, but Yatsu sells like a clear underdog and Hansen and Ted respond by giving him a whooping. Stan continues to rule the world and there’s a great moment where Yatsu is working over Ted in the ring, but veers to close to the wrong corner and Hansen just yolks him in and pounds on him. A little later Choshu does the same thing to DiBiase, which I thought was a pretty cool receipt of sorts. Finishing stretch felt really dramatic as well, and Hansen breaking the Scorpion Deathlock by staggering into the ring like he’s blotto and blasting Choshu with a lariat was a Hell of a spot. This should do really well on my list.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (1/28/86)
- 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.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (2/5/86)
- 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.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Higo Hamaguchi (3/13/86)
- ‘Grumpy Top Dog v Take-no-Shit Mid-Carder in way over his Head’ is a great match dynamic. Honestly, I was a little disappointed with this, but it was still a ton of fun and should safely land in the top half. The pre-feud-with-Choshu Jumbo generally didn’t do a great deal for me, but this is the Jumbo I fell in love with. He gives Hamaguchi a lot of time to beat on him, but he will also dish it out with a degree of almost dismissive contempt when he wants to. There’s a couple times where he’ll pick Hamaguchi’s shoulders off the mat to break a pin because he’s not done hurting him just yet. I usually hate that spot in matches because more often than not it makes no fucking sense, but it works in a situation like this. Dug the spot where he hoists him up for a piledriver and circles around the ring before finally dropping him on his dome, too. Was there ever a Jumbo/Kikuchi singles match? If not, WHY?

Genichiro Tenryu v Ole Anderson (4/5/86)
- This is pretty much the definition of “short and to the point”. It goes about 5 minutes and has Ole pounding on Tenryu’s arm before Tenryu decides enough is enough and kills him dead with a powerbomb. I liked how Ole would go about targeting the arm; punching him in the shoulder, throwing him into the post, waffling him with a chair, etc. He busts out quite a lot of stuff considering how little time they get. I won’t have this terribly low, because I dug it for what it was, but I can’t see it cracking the top half, either.

Masa Fuchi v Kuniaki Kobayashi (4/6/86)
- Oh man, FUCHI! This fucking ruled. Kobayashi starts this out like he did the Tiger Mask match by jumping Fuchi before the bell. Difference between this match and the Tiger Mask match, however, is that this Kobayashi pre-match ambush WAKES THE DRAGON! I mean Fuchi just turns around and fucking murders him. He beats on him with chairs, throws him into the post, and Kobayashi apparently takes an Irish whip into the barricade as good as he gives one because he totally SAILS into one here. He’s bleeding all over the place and Fuchi keeps on torturing him. He cocks his fist and looks to the crowd like he’s about to punch Kobayashi in his bleeding head. Then he punches Kobayashi in his bleeding head. This is the Fuchi you know and love. Underdog babyface Fuchi from the Chavo match was a cool novelty, but contemptuous dickhead Fuchi is the greatest and this is contemptuous dickhead Fuchi. I actually think it was Kobayashi that was working heel at the bell but he’s effectively turned babyface after Fuchi tries to slaughter him. Kobayashi seems to feed off of Fuchi’s recklessness and his comeback felt pretty vicious in its own right. He gets his revenge with the chair, but Fuchi is having none of that shit and piledrives him on the same chair. Finish is what it is, but if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times – if you’re going to do a DQ finish, you might as well do it with one guy trying to maim the other guy. And well Fuchi tries to maim the other guy and KICKS THE REFEREE IN THE UTERUS because he gets in the way. God damn I loved this.

Jumbo Tsuruta, Genichiro Tenryu & Tiger Mask v Super Strong Machine, Shunji Takano & Hiro Saito (4/6/86)
- Hiro Saito has to be one of the scuzziest motherfuckers in wrestling history. I really don’t remember much of anything about this now, but Tenryu plays FIP for a while and scumbag Saito beats him up. Given the fact the Tenryu/Tarzan Goto match that was one of the Schneider Comps totally ruled, I can only imagine a Tenryu/Hiro Saito match being similarly bossy. I’m gonna have to toss this on the re-watch pile because I seriously remember so little about it that I don’t even know where to rank it.

Stan Hansen v Jumbo Tsuruta (4/19/86)
- This was fine, I guess. Still, it’s probably my least favourite Hansen match so far. It’s Jumbo who shoots out the gates here and attacks Hansen before the bell, which has to be the first time Hansen hasn’t gotten the jump on someone on the whole set, but it settles into a long-ish section with Jumbo controlling that I wasn’t really feeling. There’s some decent struggling over a headlock and it isn’t bad or anything, but not all that compelling, either. Second half picks up with Hansen going after Jumbo’s arm, wrapping it around the post, slamming it off chairs, etc. I love Hansen twisting the arm over the top rope and using his head to gain some extra leverage by pushing it into Jumbo’s shoulder. Then there’s a double count out. Feels like they have a much better match in them, and this won’t do particularly well.

Masa Fuchi v Hiro Saito (6/12/86)
- FUCHI!!! AGAIN!!! IS AWESOME!!! This was another really great performance from him, although completely different from his performance in the Kobayashi match. In the Kobayashi match he was a surly motherfucker that abused an opponent that dared jump him at the bell. Here, he’s wrestling a scumbag that manages to jump him at the bell and actually stay on top for an extended period of time from that point forward. He works the majority of this from the bottom as a result, but he’s equally great getting his ass kicked as he is kicking someone else’s ass. He bleeds from the ear all Terry Funk-like and the way he’ll sell his equilibrium being out of whack when he’s trying to mount a comeback is amazing. He staggers, throws a punch, staggers again, falls to one knee, struggles to regain his balance, slaps his ear to try and shake out the cobwebs...just great stuff. Finishing stretch is really good as well. The ref’ takes a spill and gives Saito a chance to cheat, and I was buying the nearfall it set up as being the actual finish. The fact Saito went on and won anyway was another cool twist. Saito wearing a t-shirt with a Canadian flag on the back gives this bonus points and Fuchi is the motherfucking greatest.

Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen (7/26/86)
- My thoughts of “I’m thinking they have a better match in them” at the end of Jumbo/Hansen mirrored my thoughts at the end of this, but the difference here was that I thought this was still pretty fucking choice in its own right. Hansen is back to his old ways and rushes Tenryu at the bell, which means we’re already off to a good start. First half wasn’t spectacular (although we get a great close-up of a NASTY Hansen kneedrop), but once Tenryu takes over and goes to work on Hansen’s arm things pick up in a big way. I especially dug Tenryu kicking at the arm to shut down any momentum. Eventually Stan gets busted open, and the way he staggers around outside the ring is immaculate. I think Hansen is my favourite ever when it comes to selling exhaustion, stumbling around sucking wind with his mouth open wide enough to catch a seagull. He’s awesome at selling blood loss here as well. Finish is whatever, but the desperation lariat was a GREAT spot to set it up, as was the way Hansen wound up hurling himself out the ring after hitting it. Looked like he threw absolutely everything he had left into it. I’m really looking forward to seeing their matches from ’88, but as a sort of “toned down” version of Hansen v Tenryu (at least toned down from what I have in my head), I was happy enough with what I got.

Riki Choshu v Killer Khan (7/31/86)
- Christ, when Khan shows up to work he REALLY shows up. The Andre match from the New Japan set was terrific, the Gordy match from the Texas set was a bloody masterpiece, and this is another excellent match/performance. Choshu was really good in his own right, but I thought this was made by Khan’s facial expressions and general awesomeness. I love how he screams like a big maniac whenever he throws those Mongolian chops or stomps some dude in the head. And God damn are his kneedrops the best ever. He hits the big kneedrop off the top and it looks fucking spectacular, and a little later he hits a standing kneedrop to Choshu’s neck that looked pretty deadly as well. His missed kneedrop from the second rope to the floor was also an absolutely ludicrous bump for a guy that size. He spends the second half of this a bloody mess and does a Hell of a job selling the blood loss. My favourite moment of the match comes after the nearfall off the top rope kneedrop. He’s adamant it was a three count and can’t seem to get his head around the idea it was only two. Think the Ultimate Warrior talking to the Gods after Savage kicks out of the splash, only Khan is running around ringside covered in blood shouting “THREE!” at people in the front row. Most people that have been participating in the 80s project and picking up/watching the sets will probably have started to come around to the idea that Khan could be fucking awesome, and this only adds to his case. I’m not sure how he’d come across in a match to match basis, because I just haven’t seen enough, but the top tier Khan performances are legitimately fantastic.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Stan Hansen (7/31/86)
- Definitely preferred this to the first match, and honestly, if this turned out to be the best Jumbo/Hansen match on the set (although having watched the October match I can safely say it’s not) I wouldn’t have been too disappointed. They sort of hint at building this around duelling arm work, but Jumbo gets the knees up to block a Hansen splash (which was basically a Vader Bomb, which was basically awesome) and Hansen sells the shit out of the ribs, so we get lots of Jumbo offense targeting the ribs while Hansen tries to fight back by going to the arm. Jumbo slaps on an abdominal claw at one point and Hansen appears to be trying to shake him by going for an arm wringer at the same time, although that might not actually have been the case and I just bought into it because the idea sounded cool in my head. Have to mention Stan’s selling as well, because it was king sized the whole way through. Finish looked a little flubbed, but it was clean and Jumbo sold the arm in a way that suggested it was a result of the injury. I can’t see this landing top third, but top half is very likely.

Genichiro Tenryu & Samson Fuyuki v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (8/25/86)
- 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.

Friday, 12 August 2011

DVDVR All Japan Set, Disc 6

So Choshu's finally arrived and there was some real good stuff on this disc. You can see the shift towards the Choshu inspired style right from the moment he first appears, although the real top shit from the Choshu's Army v Jumbo/Tenryu feud is still to come.

Jumbo Tsuruta v Terry Gordy (10/29/84)
- Talk about a match of two halves. The first half didn’t do much for me at all, but Jumbo winds up getting posted and starts bleeding and from there things pick up quite a bit. The layout is pretty weird, especially when they’re going to a slow duelling figure-four spot after the stretch run appeared to have kicked off, but there’s a revenge posting and Gordy hits a bastard of a powerbomb so there’s always that. Crowd seemed strangely flat, though. These guys are rolling out some of the better spots I’ve seen so far and the heat for them is just not where it deserves to be. Finish is truly awful, but the second half was good enough to probably keep it floating somewhere around mid-range.

Genichiro Tenryu, Takashi Ishikawa & Mighty Inoue v Riki Choshu, Animal Hamaguchi & Isamu Teranishi (1/10/85)
- So Choshu and his army have arrived and the difference in style between this and a large chunk of the 50+ matches on the set up to this point is pretty clear (it’s the first all-native match as well). This is paced a lot faster and there’s a general sense of potential chaos that only the Hansen matches have really been able to capture (only with Hansen it’s not “potential”). In some ways it’s a taste of what’s to come, but it still stands up as a pretty great match in its own right. It’s also the first sign of grumpy Tenryu as he and Choshu are the marquee match-up. He’s not quite storming the ring to punt people in the eye yet, but he cheapshots Choshu while he’s standing on the apron and the cocoon of nice guy babyface is beginning to crack. Lots of great moments, like the Teranishi/Inoue slap battle while Inoue has him in some leglock...thing, Choshu (who was probably my favourite guy in this) creaming Ishikawa with a lariat because he dares to rip off the Scorpion Deathlock, Ishikawa responding by breaking Choshu’s own attempt at the hold by running him over with a shoulder tackle, and Tenryu chopping Hamaguchi in the throat as a partner save. I would’ve liked a longer FIP spell at some point to really sink my teeth into, and the finish is whatever, but this was a great intro to the feud and right now it’s sitting in my top 10.

Tiger Mask v Kuniaki Kobayashi (6/21/85)
- Kobayashi generally doesn’t do much for me and his juniors stuff on the New Japan set didn’t really do anything to change that, but he starts this out by spin kicking Misawa in the face and throwing him into the barricade so hard that it collapses, so that’s as good a way as any to turn me around on him. Unfortunately they hit the mat after that, and my interest doesn’t exactly plummet, but it certainly wanes. I mean this was not Fujinami/Kimura levels of juniors matwork. Eventually they put the foot down and the stretch run, while short, has another Misawa tope con giro that looked fuuucking sick. I think he had managed to injure his knee on a flubbed spot (must be the mask) not long before it which makes it even nuttier. And then we get the finish and that’s that. Didn’t hate this (the first minute and Misawa’s dive saved it from the absolute dregs of the ballot no matter what), but I can’t imagine it moving out of the bottom fifth.

Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu (6/22/85)
- 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 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.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu & Killer Khan (8/2/85)
- 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 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.

Stan Hansen v Terry Funk (8/23/85)
- This is just about the perfect pro-wrestling match-up; Funk might be the best ever at taking a shit kicking and Hansen might be the best ever at dishing one out. Terry’s let his hair and beard grow during his retirement and kind of looks like that homeless guy from The Simpsons that created Itchy and Scratchy. He wrestles this like Rambo if Rambo was a wino, all punch drunk and crazy yet dangerous. He could whip out a cleaver and gut you at any second. Hansen is your iron-fisted sheriff that will rid the town of vermin that live in bins and sleep with newspapers in their socks. Terry showed Hansen’s high school buddy’s nephew how to roll a joint out of A4 paper with a straw for a roach. Hansen is all “Don’t worry God dammit, I’ll take care of it.” Ted DiBiase is Hansen’s old high school buddy and Hansen wants to give him the satisfaction of ending this piece of shit. “He’s the reason Bobby’s clothes smell of dope. Kill him.” “Well hold on now, Stan...I didn’t mean for you to kill the guy. Can’t you just throw him in jail?” “Fuck that, we need to make an EXAMPLE. Won’t nobody miss him. Look at him fer chrissakes.” “Uh, I dunno Stan. I don’t feel entirely comfortable with this.” “Fine. Then let’s do it together.” And so they each grab an end of bullrope, wrap it around Terry’s neck and pull so hard it looks like his head’s about to pop off. Then Terry’s homeless brother hits the scene looking like Red Foreman – also rocking the hobo beard – and all Hell breaks loose. “God dammit, Stan, I thought you said nobody would miss him!” “Fuck it, we’ll kill him too.” “Aw Hell...” Not as good as the ’83 iteration as a match, but it might just be the greatest story ever told.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen & Ted DiBiase (8/31/85)
- Fresh off their slaughter of Terry the Hobo with a Shotgun, Hansen and DiBiase team up against the two top dog natives. Thought this chugged along nicely for about two thirds, then Jumbo posts Hansen on the floor and DiBiase gets briefly isolated, and from there it gets awesome. Jumbo reels off a string of big bombs on Ted and Ted just tries to survive long enough for Hansen to recover, and when he does they drag Jumbo out to the floor and paint a bullseye on his lariat arm. They basically do whatever they can to break his arm while keeping Tenryu as far away as possible. Great moment where Tenryu comes in to try and break up a double team only for Hansen to murder him with a lariat that Tenryu takes an amazing, almost Rock-taking-a-Stunner, bump off of. When he’s recovered a little later he gets back up on the apron and Hansen just pops him in the teeth with a punch that leaves him dead for a while longer. Finish was great, and unexpected to boot. This probably would’ve landed around mid-ballot if the last third was as “solid” as the first two thirds. But it goes from “solid” to “great” and that should keep it floating around the top 60.

Riki Choshu v Rick Martel (10/19/85)
- Aside from the strangeness of a World Title match having a 15 minute time limit, this was really damn good. Felt more “US than Japan” in the way it was structured, which was a nice change of pace. Choshu controls early by going after the arm and Martel is great at working around it, coming up to quicken the pace at the right moments, finding neat ways to get dragged back down, etc. I’m assuming this must be the first time Martel’s seen the Scorpion Deathlock because he sells the initial application (Choshu stepping his leg through, crossing Martel’s over) as if it’s a submission hold on its own, rather than just the struggle before “turning over”. Choshu letting go of the hold when Martel has nowhere to go seems like a pretty goofy thing to do, though. He does it twice here and I think he did it in the Tenryu match as well. Stretch run is really heated and the crowd are awesome and this was just a ton of fun.

Ric Flair v Rick Martel (10/21/85)
- In some ways this is my favourite Flair match on the set. Like Choshu/Martel, it was structured more like it would’ve been had it happened in America, and well I usually much prefer US Flair to Japan Flair. Martel was really fucking good yet again and I’m looking forward to seeing some more of him on Portland and AWA. Starts out with both guys working “clean”, Martel controlling most of it and coming out on top of exchanges. Flair is getting more and more frustrated and eventually takes over with an inverted atomic drop out of the corner, and this is definitely the most animated he’s been on the set. This is “You shut your mouth” Flair, which is awesome because I can’t imagine whoever he’s shouting at understanding a word of it. Thought the “opponent puts Flair in the figure-four” stuff was great here. Martel sells the leg like a champ when Flair’s working it over, and there’s a GREAT moment (after Martel’s had Flair in the hold) where Flair jumps on Martel’s leg and then crumples in a heap holding his own knee. Finish is pretty much a foregone conclusion, although it’s funny to see how much the crowd at the time were expecting it as well. Any time they spill out to the floor it’s like they sense it coming, and when someone gets back in there’s a huge pop because it means it’s continuing. Flair’s ’85 might be my favourite year for any wrestler ever, and this only adds to his “best in the world” (at the time) case.

Jumbo Tsuruta & Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (11/30/85)
- 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.