Genichiro Tenryu & Giant Baba v The Sheik & Bugsy McGraw (All Japan, 5/29/81) - FUN
Well, for better or worse, this was a Sheik match. That means you get some stabbing, some blood, and if you're lucky some brawling that's more chaotic than meandering. We obviously got lucky because this had a hint of pandemonium about it. Tenryu was the focal point and much of the match was built around him getting stabbed with a broken bottle and poked in the eye with a stick. By this point Sheik really needed someone who was willing to play the game for his shtick to be interesting. Tenryu was willing, as he bled and came back with his own stabbing while Baba (who also took a stabbing) acted as back up. The crowd even started throwing stuff in protest to the pieces of wood being jabbed into eyes and Bugsy grabbed a piece of it and conked Baba in the head. Tenryu as spunky underdog will never not be at least a wee bit surreal and this was a fun spunky underdog Tenryu performance.
Genichiro Tenryu v Shinya Hashimoto (WAR, 6/17/93) - EPIC
This is not a perfect match. There's some downtime in the first half and it's pretty minimalist, which might not be everybody's cup of tea even if I personally thought it worked. In fact, you could probably argue that the minimalism is what makes it so good, as minimalism to these two usually involves smashing each other in the teeth. The early parts are tentative, like neither wants to play his hand too early. They've matched up plenty of times in the build up to this so they know each other well enough, but that was in tags and trios and mano a mano is a different enterprise. Few in history convey a sense of contempt like these two, though, so the hatred is palpable even from the way they look at each other never mind the rough tie-ups. Hash was actually way more of the aggressor in this than I remembered. It's him who lets loose with the first strikes and he's the one who takes most of the match. Maybe he had something more to prove. The leg work was really good, and in the moments of inactivity the selling and charisma from both still carried it through. When it picks up down the stretch it turns into the slugfest you expect, from two of the greatest sluggers there ever was. Tenryu's sell of the leg until the end was great, and even if some sloppy execution was unintentional you could at least buy the bum leg being the reason for it (thus, progressing the narrative and such). It's hard enough to powerbomb Hashimoto to begin with, but on one leg? You shouldn't expect that to look pretty. By the end the whole building is a cauldron and it's partly down to how they paced the whole thing, letting it simmer before it really went off. Plus you had a bunch of great individual moments throughout, like Tenryu palm thrusting Hashimoto in the nose, the desperation enziguris and high kicks, Hash going back to the leg with a sweep kick (one of my favourite Hashimoto strikes) when he was in the shit, Tenryu dickishly punting Hash in the eye the second he gained a foothold in the match (as if it's in his nature or something), etc. I've seen people say this wasn't the match they expected them to work. I guess I can see that based on how deliberate the build is, but I thought they set themselves up for future encounters really well and it's not like it doesn't stand on its own as something great.
Complete & Accurate Tenryu