Genichiro Tenryu vs Riki Choshu , (New Japan 4/6/93)
Overall this was really really good, atmosphere was absolutely fantastic whenever Choshu looked to be on top and him basically wrestling the match of his life to try and put an end to Tenryu was a really engaging story. First half of the match is rather tepid but its all about building to the explosion and making the crowd wait for them to start throwing bombs and lumping the shit out of each other. Tenryu's punts looked vicious and I love how during this time they're really put over as lethal and dangerous on top of his usual offence. Bit where Choshu slaps the shit out of him after an intial lock up was brilliant and Tenryu's shocked 'oh that's how we're gonna do it' expression just sealed it. Second half of the match really kicks into another gear like you want this to. Choshu lands a fucking hideous (in a good way) superplex which looked to have collapsed Tenryu's spine on impact, and he follows this up with some really good consistent lariats targeting Tenryu's damaged neck and head before hitting one of the nastiest knee drops I can recall seeing: looked absolutely filthy and Tenryu's superb selling just added to the horrific visual. Tenryu sort of progressively staggering after each blow and looking more and more hampered by his injury really added to the heated atmosphere and really got you behind Choshu, in many ways the way they explored this actually made me not hate Choshu's surprise backdrop after Tenryu hits his diving elbow: really felt like it was timed well enough to come off as an important spot to highlight Choshu's resolve and make him a continuing thorn in Tenryu's side.
Thought the way they teased the struggle in hitting the powerbomb was really well done, especially when Tenryu managed to hit it later on but got only get marginal impact because of the strain it put on his head and neck. Last couple of minutes are amazing, crowd loses their shit for everything Choshu throws at Tenryu who staggers and looks more and more beaten with every blow he takes and the finish is suitably satisfying for the crowd reaction alone (though from a booking perspective I probably do question the choice in winner).
Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa vs Shinya Hashimoto & Michiyoshi Ohara , (New Japan 6/14/93)
The first Hashimoto/Tenryu singles match takes place 3 days after this, so its really more aimed at making you want to see these two monsters lump seven shades of shit out of each other, but in amongst all the hatred and contempt for the other's existence they work a really great pseudo STF tag built on Ohara getting mercilessly mauled by Tenryu and Ishikawa. Tenryu's just an absolute cock to poor Ohara and lays into him with a barrage of stiff chips, knees, lariats, slaps and numerous other attacks. Hashimoto though isn't one to be outdone and he manages to connect with a few scorching kicks, especially one on Tenryu when he's against the ropes which looked to have dislodged a couple of teeth. Ohara to his credit sells everything well from the WAR team and really brings this overwhelmed by the occasion passion to everything he hits, and he and Ishikawa have this neat little sub story developing with Ohara looking to topple Ishikawa and allow Hashimoto entry into the ring. Last few minutes are pretty chaotic with Hashimoto roundhousing any motherfucker in sight, and Tenryu hitting one of the filthiest enziguri's of his career which looked like it bent Hashimoto's skull upon impact. Tenryu and Hashimoto fighting amongst themselves lead to a nice completion of the bubbling Ishikawa/Ohara sequences with Ishikawa just having a little bit more to put away the resilient Ohara.
Have to say as well the opening few minutes were about as good as I've seen the 'two guys blatantly ignoring the rules and just trying to fight one another' story done in a ring. The tension and atmosphere helped make the standoffs seem much bigger and Hashimoto taking the time to lariat Tenryu on the apron the minute he and Ishikawa are about to lock up just really cemented me wanting to see them fight like yesterday.
Genichiro Tenryu vs Shinya Hashimoto , (WAR 6/17/93)
Well shit on a stick, just when you think your expectations may be too severe and hinder whatever enjoyment you can get out of a match, these two go and do their thing and wouldn't ya know it...it rules. First few minutes really establish this Clash of the Titans atmosphere and both men sell the caution in their game remarkably well, the visual of Hashimoto in the corner not taking his eyes off of Tenryu as the ref drastically tries to force a break...god damn. They really pack a lot of explosive violence into short bursts to really get over the threat each other poses with their offence, but Hashimoto targeting the leg really creates an intriguing second half of the match with Tenryu rendered practically immobile and having to find a new gameplan to escape from his growing nemesis. A few people could argue the leg selling doesn't go anywhere near the end, i.e Hashimoto not going for submissions but I thought it served a great purpose in not only getting over the threat of Hashimoto but also in the way it forced Tenryu to have to pick his moments and really take an ass-kicking in a bid to win. Hashimoto also always using the leg as the base of any attack whether he was on the offensive or defensive also helped keep the limbwork relevant in the grand context of the match, and of course Tenryu sold it like death and really established the physical pain and battle he was in.
Last few minutes are just astonishingly dramatic and electric with very few kickouts. Both men's occasionally sloppy but always destructive looking offence as well as the resultant bumping really make you feel the match could end at any moment, and I loved how both men would use their striking to establish an opening to hit a bigger move: i.e Tenryu using his chops and kicks to ground and weaken Hashimoto long enough to hit the powerbomb. There were a couple of outstanding nearfalls that were sold superbly by both men, and Tenryu's facial expression immediately after the match is over perfectly summarised the preceeding 18 minutes of war he'd just gone though. Tenryu's pained facial expression mid powerbomb due to the strain his injured leg was being put under was also a really bossy little touch that added so much in the grand scheme of things I thought it would be rude not to mention it. For those who have seen the additional two singles matches after this, which is generally considered the best? I'm pretty sure antoniomare007
prefers their February 1994 encounter but I'm almost adamant the 8/8 match from 93 is usually brought up as their best?