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.