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.