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.