Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa v Riki Choshu & Tatsumi Fujinami (New Japan, 3/23/93) - GOOD
One of the lesser tags from this feud, a bit less on the nuclear side, but the last few minutes were what you come to expect from WAR v New Japan. Choshu and Fujinami are a fun unit, suckering Tenryu in at the start and clobbering him from both sides, leading to Fujinami hitting an awesome tope (to a massive pop). Choshu seemed extra pissed off in this and even out-grumped Tenryu. He was in absolutely no mood for Ishikawa's shit and would sometimes take a swing at Tenryu just for being in the vicinity. Tenryu wasn't exactly incredulous, but there were a few points where he looked a little taken aback. Team NJ take the majority of the match, with the biggest heat segment being on Ishikawa, and the crowd were down with that because they hate him. Tenryu tries to do Tenryu things by coming in and kicking someone in the eye, but for the most part Choshu and Fujinami deal with him fine. Then we get to the last couple minutes. I don't know if they planned this out beforehand as one long sequence - it never felt choreographed or anything - but it was damn near perfect. You had Fujinami dropping Tenryu in the corner with a flurry of slaps before putting the dragon sleeper on Ishikawa, Choshu coming in and obliterating Tenryu with a lariat as he tries to make the save, then eventually persistence pays off as Tenryu and Ishikawa manage to separate the New Japan guys. It leads to a surprising finish, certainly one Choshu never saw coming because he nearly rips the referee's shirt off post-match. I loved Tenryu's celebration as well. WAR got away with one, but maybe that made it all the sweeter.
Genichiro Tenryu v Riki Choshu (New Japan, 4/6/93) - GREAT
In some ways Tenryu/Choshu feels a bit like Hansen/Jumbo. I love Tenryu/Choshu as a match-up, way more than I ever liked Hansen/Jumbo, but like the latter I wasn't sure they ever reached that very top level with any of their matches. I remembered this being the closest, if just a step short. It was five years ago that I watched it, and I'm used to my opinions changing wildly after half a decade, but I think I'd stick with that assessment still. It was reeeeeal good, though. The build is slow and it won't be for everyone, but I love how everything they do looks rough and mean. The collar-and-elbow tie ups are all forearm and elbow digging into face, then they'll back away and someone will throw a slap. This time Choshu does it, and there's a hint of a smirk on Tenryu's face because he knows he'll tag him back. I've written about three Tenryu/Choshu matches on this blog over the years, and without checking I'm almost positive I've used "rough" or "gritty" or any other similar adjective as a descriptor of them all. Those are the words that come to mind when I think of Tenryu v Choshu. The matches don't always look pretty (or never look pretty) and at times look downright sloppy, but as always, the sloppiness in Tenryu v Choshu actively adds to my enjoyment. I don't really mind Tenryu not hitting the powerbomb clean anyway, but when he's selling his head and neck at the same time it turns it into a really cool spot, rather than one that just had iffy execution. His top rope elbow was whiffed and his enziguris weren't great, but it wouldn't be a Tenryu match without a dodgy enziguri. This really gets good when Choshu hits a superplex, which is basically the kick start to the finishing run. From that point on it's mostly Choshu on top with Tenryu selling and making a brief flurry or two, but the heat kept building and I love how Tenryu sells the idea that he's being chipped away at, every lariat or kneedrop taking that bit more out of him. Most of his own offence throughout the match felt like it was limited to dismissive kicks to the face, but the crowd were on his back for that and down the stretch he did get to hit some bombs. Finish is great with Choshu winding up for the lariat, Tenryu biting on it and ducking only to get planted with a DDT, then taking a few more lariats before finally going down. The last one looked like it just about took his head off.
Complete & Accurate Tenryu