Genichiro Tenryu & Rocky Hata v Terry & Dory Funk (All Japan, 12/2/77) - GOOD
Pretty sure this is the earliest Tenryu match I've seen (might've seen some clips from Texas, but that seems unlikely and even then I doubt it would've been a full match). He's younger in this match than I am currently, which is just mind boggling because it's Tenryu and hasn't he always been forty six years old? I don't know how long he's been back in Japan at this point, but he's been wrestling for about a year and I guess if you're gonna give him a showcase then it might as well be against his trainers (there's something just RIGHT about Tenryu being a Terry Funk trainee). Tenryu and Hata, kitted out in their rookie garb, got to do more in this than I'd have expected. There's a semi-lengthy spell in the first half where they work the headlock on Terry, and Terry is a master of keeping a headlock interesting so it was a pretty nice stretch. There was one bit where Terry, still in the headlock, hit a shinbreaker on Hata, who sold it by keeping hold of the headlock on the mat while making sure he was stretching his leg out and grimacing at the same time. When Terry wasn't trying to free himself from the headlock he was rolling out some nice offence, especially his gut wrench and vertical suplexes, and at one point he hit a nasty dropkick right to Hata's face. Tenryu never punched anyone in the jaw or booted them in the eye, but he threw a couple meaty chops and got to bulldoze his way out the corner to a big pop. It was pretty surreal seeing him come in at the end to save his partner and take a back step when Dory went to cut him off. If this was WAR he'd have punted Terry in the liver and sent Dory back to the ranch for his horse shit.
Genichiro Tenryu & Toshiaki Kawada v Jumbo Tsuruta & Yoshiaki Yatsu (All Japan, 8/29/89) - GREAT
1989 was a pretty special year for Tenryu. I'd say he put it all together as a worker in '88, but in '89 he had the even bigger performances and even better matches. My favourite Tenryu year is still 1993, because that year you had the WAR/NJ feud and it's the best in-ring feud of all time and Tenryu was incredible in all of it, but in '93 he was a little older, a little more broken down, and it feels like he knew this and altered his style a bit to adjust. By that point he'd perfected his grumpy old bastard persona and came across as a massive star, so he didn't necessarily need to do as much stuff in the ring. Like, you'd never call him a "workrate guy" or whatever, and it's not like he just coasted on charisma alone, but he was able to preserve his body better (evident by the fact he wrestled until he was 66...even if it was pretty rough at the end there). And WAR was a company that was more about the lumpy guys potatoing each other rather than the head drops or King's Road epics. In '89, as All Japan was pretty deep into shaping the style Misawa and co would move forward with, you got to see Tenryu be a miserable bastard and hate everyone to death while ALSO working the longer, bomb-throwing epics. He was great at it, and it really gives you the best of both worlds. Of course he and Jumbo just want to kick each other up and down the place. There were a bunch of times where one would be in the ring and the other would be on the apron, they'd start shit talking, and then whoever was on the apron would come in and Wada would be like "fuck sake, AGAIN with you two?!" At one point Jumbo was so pissed off he sort of swung his arm as Wada tried to grab it, and it wasn't as if he intended to smack him or anything, but Wada got caught in the face and wound up with a bloody nose. There was no malice in it, just an over-boiling of his temper at the time. Jumbo didn't acknowledge it; didn't even know he'd done it. He just went on with the match, knowing full well that it wouldn't be the last time Tenryu came for him. Kawada was a bit of a strange animal around this period. He wasn't quite a junior heavyweight, but he was kind of in that grey area between junior and fully fledged heavyweight while still playing understudy to Tenryu. It means he does a bunch of moves off the top rope, like cross bodies and even a diving sunset flip, but he still hits hard and often. His tights were supreme as well. They looked like something Tommy Rich would wear in his F.B.I days. Match was missing that one big hook to really make it stand out from the pack, but if "these guys do not like these other guys and they're gonna lay into each other" sounds like a narrative you can get behind then you'll very likely enjoy this.
Complete & Accurate Tenryu