Friday, 5 October 2012

When You Play the Game of Tenryu, You Win or You Die. There is No Middle Ground

Genichiro Tenryu & Nobutaka Araya v Taiyo Kea & Kiyoshi Miyamoto (All Japan, 4/27/02) - EPIC

Amazing. About 4 months ago I watched the Tenryu/Fuchi v Kawada/Araya tag from '01, and I was surprised by how much I wasn't blown away by it. I was kind of in a wrestling slump at the time, but it didn't reel me in like a Tenryu match usually does. THIS, however, was everything I wanted it to be. Anybody that is a fan of Tenryu doing his thing needs to watch this, because he is just out of this world spectacular in it. Miyamoto has probably been wrestling for all of two weeks at this point, so the WAR lumpies fucking maul him like this was some sort of hazing for a cult of sadomasochism (without all of the creepy sexual undertones). Araya back elbows him in the face about two minutes in and breaks his nose, and it all really goes from bad to worse for him from there. Blood is streaming out of his snout so the ref' goes to check on him. Tenryu walks over to see what the deal is, then he just punts Miyamoto in the face and casually walks back to his own corner. There's about six Tenryu exchanges with Kea and Miyamoto that are seriously fucking great. Miyamoto slaps him across the face at one point and Tenryu shoots him this look of sheer contempt and you think "oh man he's gonna fucking SLAUGHTER this kid," then his expression changes from rage almost to amusement, mocking Miyamoto and telling him to keep bringing it. And the best part is Miyamoto actually comes out on top of the exchange. When he scoots over to tag in Kea you just know Tenryu is going to give him a receipt at some point...and fuck does he give him a receipt. Really, some of Tenryu's selling of strikes is just indescribable. He's the unequivocal master of this kind of match. Nobody touches him. I could spend two hours trying to talk about all of the amazing moments in this, but I don't have two hours to spare right now. Honestly, this was excellent and pretty much a perfect example of this kind of match. I need to watch Takayama/Misawa again, because I'm thinking Tenryu might be the WOTY for '02 now.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v The Great Kabuki & Masaji Aoyagi (WAR, 1/8/93) - GREAT

Now THIS is what I'm talking about. This is the first Tenryu main event tag I've watched from the WAR stuff so far [EDIT: this was originally written way back in February last year!] and it already feels like something I'm gonna love. Tenryu might be the best wrestler ever when it comes to conveying a sense of contempt; this wasn't on the level of the truly venomous Tenryu performances - although that is such a high bar - but holy fuck does Aoyagi earn his ire here. Aoyagi is yet another one of these WAR guys that I don't remember seeing before, but he kind of looks like current day Keiji Mutoh if he went dressed as Mr. Miyagi for Halloween. He's wearing a gi and ditches the top half when Tenryu starts throwing chops at his chest. Tenryu sees this as a slight and starts hitting him even harder, and before long he's kicking him in the eye and chopping him in the throat while Aoyagi is crawling around the ring bleeding. Hara is pretty great at throwing coconut headbutts, and he fits right in there as a Tenryu teammate. I mean, when you're a heavyweight teaming with Tenryu you really need to be able to throw down. He definitely throws down. Thought Kabuki was really good here, too. All of his uppercuts looked nasty, he catches Tenryu with a superkick to the throat, and is generally a good match-up with both Tenryu and Hara whenever he's called upon. There isn't a ton of him, but when he's in you can't really ask for much more. Post-match has a big pull apart and there's a moment where a chair comes flying into the shot. You notice Tenryu isn't in the ring and know who threw that chair. Tenryu's your star here (I didn't mention any of his selling, but man is that great as well), but everybody brought it this was just a ton of violent fun.

Genichiro Tenryu & Tiger Mask II v Riki Choshu & George Takano (New Japan, 2/14/90) - EPIC

All Japan are INVADING and this crowd is AMPED to the trillionth fucking degree. This was awesome. Absolutely any time Tenryu is in the ring things are incredible and the crowd is completely losing it for every exchange between him and Takano, and even more so between him and Choshu. The Tenryu/Choshu exchanges are especially great because they just obliterate each other. First time Tenryu gets in he charges at Choshu and Choshu is ducking out of the way and dodging him, and Tenryu's continually trying to change directions and grab hold of him so he can break his teeth. He's not so much running at him, but just recklessly bull rushing him in a pissed off fury of black and yellow. Choshu hits a few ridiculous lariats and generally lays a hellish beating on Tenryu. Tenryu throws chops that sound like a shotgun blast and whips out a few lariats of his own with complete disregard for Choshu's face. He kicks him in the eye, stomps on his nose and punts him in the neck. I mean this is just volcanic hatred. Tenryu also seems to have pissed in Takano's cereal because Takano keeps trying to rip his head off with leg lariats and shit. There's one point where he slaps him and Tenryu just starts laying into him with elbows to the face, so Takano literally shoves him on his ass and the pop for this shit is insane. Match actually takes a big dip any time fucking MISAWA gets in, so that tells you how great the Tenryu stuff is. Granted, Tiger Mask Misawa is a far cry from regular old Mitsuharu. He's good as the outmatched underdog hanging and banging with the enemy, though. Doesn't bring the same kind of barbarous stiffness that Tenryu or Choshu bring, but he'll rifle off a kick from time to time that looks real nasty. Also not shocking that he spends a chunk of time being worked over. Structure is sort of similar to the tags on the NJ 80s set that really wore me out, but I thought they were much better at working momentum shifts into this and they weren't nearly as go-go-go here, plus there were no tags on that set with the same amounts of monumental contempt as there is in this; hate is the selling point here. Lots and lots of hate. Stretch to the finish is amazing and I really can't do it justice. It's literally great moment after great moment with it all building to a huge fever pitch, guys trying to murder each other, crowd losing its collective mind, etc. Way too much to try and hit on it all, but the spot of the match for me is where Choshu goes to lariat Misawa in the corner, and Tenryu steps in front of it and just gets beheaded. Finish is arguably anti-climactic, but if you're gonna end it like that then having everyone vaporize each other beforehand is a great way to make it work. Just a terrific, terrific match.

Genichiro Tenryu & Jumbo Tsuruta v Riki Choshu & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 1/24/87) - EPIC

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 [EDIT: finished as my #16].

Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu (All Japan, 9/3/86) - GREAT

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.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

No comments: