Genichiro Tenryu vs. Riki Choshu (AJPW Summer Action Series II N17 9/3/86)

Match Reviews

This review was commissioned by Lance Garrison over on my Ko-fi account.

This match acts as a real great sequel to the bout these two have in 1985. In that previous match, these two work something a little closer to the mat, building the bout around a dueling limbwork storyline in the style that’s much closer to All Japan’s ties and roots to the NWA championship house style. Here in 1986 though, the effects of Chohsuism and the seeds of what that would lead to down the road for All Japan as a whole can be felt already. It’s an interesting match from that kind of historical standpoint, sort of laying out a path for what the Pillars and other King’s Road greats would accomplish in the 90s. Without ever entirely being a part of that same tradition this match does lead us in that direction with its emphasis on big back suplexes, more time spent wrestled standing instead of on the mat, and even a big dramatic apron bump towards the finishing stretch.

Beyond that though, it’s also still just a great ass match all on its own.

It’s not entirely perfect, especially when it stays on the mat. Tenryu’s never awful in that kind of setting, but one can tell that’s it’s not exactly his strong suit. That manifests here in an attempt to control Choshu’s arm and wear it down to potentially neutralize the lariat, but it’s never the most intricate or exciting mat work in the world. It’s worth noting that they both still get a hell of a lot of struggle out of these moments on the mat, there’s visible efforts to power through and figure out the leverage needed to escape a hold, but I don’t think it would hold up among the greats of any particular era.

It’s luckily all in service to a really simple narrative. What’s being told is the progression that Tenryu’s made even in just the year since their match in 1985. Tenryu controls so much of this, and does such a great job of keeping Choshu in check that it forces the latter to often go right to major offense to get any footing in this match. It’s Choshu who hits that first big back suplex early on, and then later he’s the one looking to escalate by taking things to the floor or nail Tenryu with a suplex to the apron.

It reads as a more desperate approach to the match especially when he already comes into the bout banged up with bandages on his ribs. Choshu makes a big show of stripping those bandages off before the bell, but it’s an injury that haunts him basically the whole way through. Tenryu’s so great at finding the opportunities to go for those ribs too. I especially love that short knee he catches Tenryu with in the corner early to start the attack on the ribs, but he also becomes much more focused on that avenue on attack the deeper the bout goes, sometimes just punting Choshu right in them. It also has a doubled effect of not only wearing down Choshu but also making Choshu pay every time he nails one of those big back suplexes.

It’s such a focused and wonderfully escalating attack from Tenryu that Choshu’s only recourse is cutting off with the suplexes–which he pays a physical price for–and trying to sneak in the Sasorigatame. When none of those strategies start paying off in the long run, he decides to take the dirty way out by blooding up Tenryu as he did before, then shoving the referee down to cause the DQ.

Nicely escalating stuff, bolstered by a hot crowd, and made even richer by Tenryu’s continued development as a worker. The only regret is that it does feel inconclusive thanks to the DQ finish, but Tenryu earns himself both a moral and on paper victory here.

Rating: ****1/4

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