Thursday, 7 March 2013

Through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, There Walks Tenryu

Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Stan Hansen & Taiyo Kea (All Japan, 7/23/00) - EPIC

Good golly Miss Molly, this is EVERYTHING you want it to be. Three of the greatest ass kickers in wrestling history plus Kea who will hit like a fucking train, all kicking ass and hitting like fucking trains. Hansen is broken down like he's 80 years old at this point and completely RULES the universe. Tenryu is only about 2 years younger than him, but Tenryu is timeless beyond explanation and HE rules the universe as well. Kawada was probably the best wrestler in the world in 2000, so he rules the universe. Kea isn't a guy I've ever paid a great deal of attention to, but this is almost certainly the match of his life and...yeah, fuck it, for this night at least, he ruled the universe too. Every possible match-up just flat out works. This has to be the first time Tenryu and Hansen have been in the same ring in about 10 years and they just thump the shit out of each other. The first time Hansen drags him out to the floor there's a clear "oh shit it's going DOWN!" reaction from the crowd, then Tenryu ducks a chop and Hansen breaks every finger on his hand by chopping the ringpost like a total fucking psycho (I was hoping they'd do more with that afterwards, like some FINGER BITING or something, but it's whatever. Like, some finger biting would've made this twelve stars as opposed to just eleven and three quarters, but I can't really complain about an eleven and three quarter star match). Kawada and Kea thump the shit out of each other even worse than Hansen and Tenryu. Kawada is really exceptional at establishing the fact he's the big man on campus while simultaneously making Kea look like a killer. Doesn't hurt that Kea is just blasting folks left and right, but plenty of dudes in Japan these days blast folks left and right, and most of the time it looks like dudes are standing there hitting each other just because. Kawada actually makes it matter. Then towards the end he fucking nukes Kea with maybe the sickest roundhouse kick I've ever seen. I think Kea's brains squirted out his ears. "That's for every time you kicked me in the pancreas." Kea cheapshots Tenryu with a superkick at one point and Tenryu just stares at him like he's going to murder him. Kawada and Hansen punch each other dead in the face and Kawada does the out-on-his-feet/thousand yard stare sell before crumpling in a heap in the corner. Multiple times I thought Hansen had been smacked so hard he was going to have a stroke. Then he'd retaliate by smacking someone else even HARDER and I thought *I* was going to have a stroke when he hit that Western Lariat out of nowhere. God damn that was a fucking incredible spot. Final few minutes are amazing. There's the lariat spot, which was pretty much as good a spot as any in history, but Kawada nonchalantly coming in to break up the pin afterwards was awesome as well. And that finish. Did that break Kea in twelve or what? This is pro-wrestling, motherfucker.

Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa v Shinya Hashimoto & Tatsumi Fujinami (WAR, 5/24/93) - EPIC

Somebody needs to make a comp of this entire feud because it is honestly just about the fucking best thing ever. This doesn't have the same level of violence as the Hashimoto/Ohara v Hara/Fuyuki tag from 3/7 or the Hashimoto/Choshu v Tenryu/Ishikawa tag from 4/2, but the sub-story of Fujinami's arm being injured is a neat addition to the formula. Of course this IS motherfucking WAR, so there's still plenty of violence to sink your teeth into. The Tenryu/Hashimoto exchanges in this are just amazing. They start the match out and you can feel the hatred, from the simple stare-downs to the portions where they're leathering each other with kicks and chops. I love how they'll stop throwing strikes for a few seconds to shit talk each other. Hash backs Tenryu into the ropes and repeatedly headbutts him so Tenryu throws a huge chop just to create some distance, and he has this incredulous look on his face like someone would even try and fuck with him like that. Then he shouts something in Japanese and Hash kicks him in the leg. A little later on Hash is beating on Ishikawa, and when he hits the ropes Tenryu blasts him in the back of the head from the apron. That leads to a short Hashimoto in peril segment before he tags in Fujinami, who comes in and immediately slaps a dragon sleeper on Tenryu. Ishikawa jumps off the top to break it and that segues directly into an extended beatdown on Fujinami. For the next while team WAR go to work on him with the focus being the arm, and God damn does Tenryu rifle off some STIFF kicks to the shoulder. They sound like the ones a million dudes with kick pads throw, except there's no kick pads there to make that sound. This is just leather meeting skin in horrendous fashion. Fujinami takes exception and catches Tenryu's foot and Tenryu has this great "Aw shit" expression before being dragon screwed. Hashimoto is a total whirlwind of piss and vinegar when he gets the hot tag and there's an awesome moment where Tenryu breaks a pin attempt by kicking him in the eye, so Hash follows him back to the corner and beheads him with an enziguiri. Tenryu's KO sell of it is flat out amazing, going dead weight and hitting every turnbuckle on the way down. Finishing run is great, and for a change the violence wasn't my favourite thing about it (although that rocked as well). Ishikawa puts Fujinami in a Scorpion Deathlock, basically as a 'fuck you' to the New Japan team, so Hashimoto comes in like he's ready to cook a fool. Tenryu is having none of that and runs over and lariats him so hard he throws himself out the ring. Hash follows him out and they just start chucking chairs at each other and shit, while back in the ring Fujinami is back on top and locks in the dragon sleeper. Ishikawa breaks it by punching him in the bad shoulder (which was AAAAWESOME), so Fujinami regroups and goes back to it with the *other* arm, leaving Ishikawa no choice but to submit. And then post-match Tenryu and Hashimoto have another pull apart and I am ridiculously excited for the singles matches later in the year. I'm gonna try and come up with a top 50 or so matches of '93 when I get done with the yearbook, and I could absolutely see about 10 WAR v NJ matches in the top 20.

Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa v Tatsumi Fujinami & Hiroshi Hase (WAR, 2/14/93) - GREAT

Man the NJ/WAR feud was fucking great. Every Tenryu match has copious amounts of piss and vinegar by virtue of the fact it's a Tenryu match in the first place, but the inter-promotional stuff I've watched so far just ramps it up even more and I cannot get enough of it. And it's in fucking WAR where EVERYTHING is violent. How could I not love that? This has as much cheapshotting and hatred as you expect right from the get go, then Hase gets isolated and Tenryu and Ishikawa just take him to the cleaners. There's a ton of New Japan crowd support even though it's in WAR, and Ishikawa gets some huge heat at points. There's a great moment where he comes in illegally to drop a knee or an elbow on Hase, and a large section of the crowd goes totally nuts. Ishikawa's actually been one of the great discoveries that's come out of watching all this WAR stuff, and this is probably his best "big match" outing yet. There's some great Tenryu/Fujinami interactions here, too. Fujinami has Ishikawa in a dragon sleeper at one point and turns him around so he's facing Tenryu so he can taunt him while he chokes out his teammate. Of course Tenryu makes him pay for it later by punting and stomping him in the kidneys. Stretch run here is fantastic. Hase and Fujinami take Ishikawa out of play and reel off a bunch of NASTY suplexes on Tenryu -- there's a couple urunages from Hase that he takes right on his neck. Tenryu hanging tough long enough for Ishikawa to come back and clear house was amazing, and holy fuck can Ishikawa clear house; his last lariat to Hase to save Tenryu from another German suplex might have been the moment of the whole match. Even the post-match stuff in this feud is perfect. The build to an eventual Hashimoto/Tenryu match has been so great and I can't wait to see the payoff.

Genichiro Tenryu & Samson Fuyuki v Takashi Ishikawa & Great Kabuki (2/20/88) - GREAT

I really liked the dynamic of this. Fuyuki is outmatched against Ishikawa and Kabuki, but he's teaming with motherfucking Tenryu and doesn't much care as long as he gets to fight with people. Tenryu is of course Tenryu and a Hell of a guy to have watching your back. Ishikawa and Kabuki do the smart thing and isolate Fuyuki, which leaves Tenryu to basically feed off scraps, coming in from time to time so he can thump someone. Kabuki was awesome here, throwing his great looking uppercuts and working super stiff, and Ishikawa is starting to look like the surly little shitkicker he would become in WAR. When Tenryu gets the hot tag he comes in and does a Tito Santana-esque flying forearm right to Ishikawa's head, and then he repeatedly elbows him above the eye until he splits him open. Tenryu selling his own elbow after bludgeoning Ishikawa was fucking tremendous. The beatdown on Ishikawa is pretty short, but I can't really complain when it leads to Kabuki coming in and stiffing dudes. There's a great cut off later where Ishikawa lowers his head and Tenryu just pops him with the point of the elbow on the cut. I initially thought the finish was a bit of a downer, but it was timed well and Kabuki's superkick looked suitably nasty, so I'm not too bothered. This was really good stuff.

Genichiro Tenryu & Ashura Hara v Takashi Ishikawa & Hiroshi Wajima (6/8/87)  - GOOD

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 off 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.

Complete & Accurate Tenryu

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