Monday, 16 March 2015

Tenryu's Stumbled and Knows He's Made Mistakes, but Tonight He's Gonna be Playin' for All the Stakes

Genichiro Tenryu & Nobutaka Araya v Kazuo Yamazaki & Takashi Iizuka (WAR, 11/9/96) - EPIC

Well this was awesome. Actually feels like a bit of a lost classic. Match pretty much had everything I want in a Tenryu tag – hate, a central match-up that delivered, every other match-up working, plenty going on on the side, PERIL, bunch more hate, etc. I don't know if this was setting up a Tenryu/Yamazaki match for some point down the line, or even if that match ever happened, but it would've ruled if it did. They were tremendous together in this. I'm not sure if Yamazaki playing up the rib injury was a deliberate call back to the IWGP Tag Title win from June, but his selling was pretty wonderful either way. The opening Tenryu/Yamazaki exchange was phenomenal, with Yamazaki battering him with strikes leading to Tenryu swinging a chair. There's something going on with Araya and Iizuka in the ring, then a cameraman gets upturned as Tenryu runs him over to get at Yamazaki with the chair, and we see all of this from that cameraman's angle. It was like something from a snuff film where the camera fizzles out just before someone gets murdered with a claw hammer. Tenryu's really a whirlwind after being humiliated in the first exchange. He throws ungodly chops – genuinely some of the nastiest of his career – temple punches, reckless lariats, countless cheapshots; the whole repertoire. Great moment where Yamazaki is trying to crawl back onto the apron so Tenryu just steamrolls him with a koppo kick to the ribs. Araya was a pretty great understudy bully in this. He was like Nelson Muntz. He saves Tenryu on a couple occasions by coming in and nonchalantly breaking something up, completely revelling in the boos (because every WAR guy other than Tenryu gets booed in these inter-promotional feuds, even when the match is happening in WAR). Best sequence of the match comes when Tenryu throws a home run chop, which Iizuka ducks and follows up by grabbing a leg lock. Araya comes in and casually breaks it up, like he's happy to snatch away the one last hope Iizuka has of not dying. Tenryu then goes for an enziguiri, but Iizuka ducks that and goes to the leg lock again, then when Araya comes in to break it up a second time Iizuka cuts him off and lays into him. But of course that's still enough time for Tenryu to regroup and punch his face. Really an excellent match; one that never seems to get talked about at all, which is sort of the story with WAR in general. 

Genichiro Tenryu, Ashura Hara & Takashi Ishikawa v Shinya Hashimoto, Tatsumi Fujinami & Masa Chono (New Japan, 8/2/93) - GOOD

Tenryu v Hash is such a can't-fail prospect. Whole NJ/WAR feud is a can't-fail prospect, but Tenryu/Hash is one of those match-ups that absolutely rules every time single time they're in the ring together. This is a week before their second singles match of the year, so of course they do what you want them to do. That being fucking leather each other, obviously. I mean, they leather everyone else as well, but they save the nastiest stuff for each other. 90s Fujinami is a pretty different beast from 80s Fujinami, but he’s always fun against the WAR guys. At times he kind of comes across like a broken down old dude, which makes for a cool dynamic when a bruiser like Hara is headbutting him in the face, but then he burst into life like a badass war vet and lets you know why he used to be The Man. Thought Chono was clearly the weakest in this and never really brought anything worthwhile. He was a lot of fun in the July tag, but there were points here where he'd eat a bunch of offence then just do a takedown and drag a guy into the corner so he could tag out. Like all the offence he'd just taken never actually mattered. His involvement provided a couple great moments, though, like when Ishikawa puts him in a Scorpion Deathlock to a chorus of boos, then Chono’s own STF to even more boos. Finishing runs in these matches don't have the same sort of build or are as nearfall-heavy as the matches over in All Japan, but they're always really hectic and capture a sense of chaos that those in All Japan don't (or can't). What you could probably point to as a "stretch run" in this lasts about two minutes, but they cram in a bunch of awesome spots. Tenryu and Ishikawa try to double powerbomb Chono, so Hash comes across and enziguiris Ishikawa while Fujinami eats about half a dozen lariats. Not one of the real high end matches from this feud, but still a cool instalment.

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