Genichiro Tenryu v Satoshi Kojima (All Japan, 2/24/02) - GREAT
So Kojima is fine and everything here. He hits a great tope, and from time to time will get fed up and start punching Tenryu in the face. But really, this was a Tenryu show. Story coming in is that Kojima has just recently jumped ship from New Japan, and this is him coming out to prove he belongs with the big boys in AJ. Tenryu gives zero fucks about what he's trying to prove and hates everybody no matter what. Kojima backs him into the ropes at the beginning and gives him a half-hearted overhand chop, just to let him know this'll be a fight. Tenryu looks at him with the faintest hint of a grin and does the "brush your shoulders off" bit. Then Tenryu backs Kojima into the corner and Kojima covers up expecting to be hit. Tenryu takes a step back and doesn't do anything, almost daring Kojima to make a move. During the first few exchanges Tenryu starts doing Mongolian Chops (aping Tenzan, Kojima's old partner in New Japan), and a little later he "winds up" for a chop the way Kojima does. Tenryu is basically in prick mode the entire match and it's fucking great. Bit where he blocks a Kojima lariat before punching him in the chin and crushing him with a brainbuster was killer. The crowd don't really seem to buy Kojima as a viable threat for a decent portion of this, which kind of takes the heat out of one or two nearfalls, but by the end they're rocking for him mowing Tenryu down with lariats. So I guess the match succeeded in its goal -- Kojima comes out of this looking like a guy that can hang, even in defeat. Tenryu also punches him in the face a bunch.
Genichiro Tenryu v Taiyo Kea (All Japan, 10/27/01) - GREAT
This is JIP which would normally annoy me, but we only miss the first couple minutes and when we actually join the match the first thing that happens is a Tenryu heel kick to the balls, so really, why would I complain about that? This was pretty much 10 minutes of two dudes that hit like hell, hitting like hell. It was plenty surly. Kea whips out a few crazy looking jumping axe kick-slash-enziguri looking things to the back of Tenryu's head, and I half expected Tenryu's eyeballs to pop out his skull. His sell of the first one is just spectacular -- he sort of does the thousand yard stare that we associate with Kawada, but he puts his arms out to the side and stumbles forward a bit like he's trying to grab onto something before falling on his face. The punch exchanges all looked super nasty as well, and after having seen these guys match up a few times now I'm convinced I could watch them smack each other around all day. Tenryu with the fucking red mist at the finish was just about the very last thing I expected to see, but damn if I didn't dig it. It's a low-end GREAT, but the face punching is enough to take it above GOOD level.
Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Takashi Ishikawa & Samson Fuyuki (SWS, 1/6/92) - GREAT
Man, Tenryu and Hara are such a killer team of beefies. This was more or less Tenryu and Hara working 90% of the match from above while Ishikawa and Fuyuki try not to get dead. Ishikawa can hang relatively well, but take a look at Fuyuki's tights and tell me he's not going to get punted up and down. You can't, and he does. Really, Fuyuki eats a man-sized shitkicking. Tenryu throws him out to the floor, chucks him over the barricade (Fuyuki hurls himself about 6 rows deep and it's pretty clear this guy is way the fuck better than his rep - or lack thereof - suggests) and launches a table at him. Hara potatoes him with coconut headbutts. Tenryu kicks him in the liver and face. And all the while Fuyuki has these great "aw fuck here we go again" expressions. Plus he will try and fight back like a pitbull and he's pretty much everything I want in an underdog working against a Tenryu team in a Tenryu fed. Ishikawa comes in off the hot tag at one point and throws about five dropkicks in a row that hit Tenryu and Hara RIGHT in the mouth. I'm not certain, but I think Hara actually loses a tooth (he definitely bleeds from the mouth). Crowd is pretty dead and looks like it's a kick in the balls off a dying days PWFG crowd, so you don't get the reactions to someone being punted in the chin like you'd hope, but this was meaty and manly and motherfuck do you want one of those 'Light My Fire' hoodies.
Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 12/5/87) - GREAT
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 [wound up with it at #39].
Genichiro Tenryu v Stan Hansen (All Japan, 9/20/87) - SKIPPABLE
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.
Complete & Accurate Tenryu