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Charles (Loss)

[1992-09-15-SWS] Ric Flair vs Genichiro Tenryu (2/3 falls)

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Fall #1: Really good. What stands out is how good everything looks. Both guys are laying their shots in. Flair seems to enjoy working a little more stiff. Flair does some stuff I haven't seen from him before. I liked his armbar counter, and putting up both forearms to block a clothesline was great. He should have done that against some of his other opponents. Imagine how lost Lex would be with someone countering his clotheslines. Anyway, Tenryu finishes Flair off with a powerbomb to take the first fall. So far this feels fairly similar to the best Flair/Garvin matches of the 80s.

 

Fall #2: The production values in this match are really strong, so the stiffness and some of the details really stand out in a big way. The biggest example is Flair's repeated attempts to get a pinfall on Tenryu, where he finally gets frustrated and gets up and yells at someone in the crowd. Pretty standard Flair spot, but the camera angles and audio really help get over the struggle because you can hear the breathing and see everything so clearly. Flair finally gets his chance to go after Tenryu's knee, which he tried do in the first fall and was cut off. He does some nice work, including a hold I don't know the name of that everyone uses to work over the knee (usually not Flair) to take the fall.

 

Fall #3: Flair with (almost) an STF(!), except his forearms are criss-crossed on either side of Tenryu's head instead of holding a crossface. But eventually, he slides into it and it becomes an STF. Tenryu's counter to the figure four is an interesting one, grabbing Flair's other leg and taking control of the hold (for lack of a better way to describe it). I love the string of by-the-book Flair nearfalls, especially because Tenryu is wrestling like Kerry Von Erich.

 

Aside from getting slammed off the top rope early in the match and putting himself in position very obviously because Tenryu couldn't reach him, and doing this weird thing where he walks around the ring for way too long to give Tenryu time to get to his feet near the finish, this is a great Flair performance worth tracking down. I don't think this is at the level of something like, say, Sting/Vader, but Flair is much better at certain aspects of his game than anyone, even this late, and even if he's not as good as some guys in others, and his strengths shine when working Tenryu. I'd need to go back and watch the April match, as I'm not sure if it's that this is pro-shot instead of handheld, but this seems much better, even with the DCOR finish, and even if I can't recall enough to say how different it is from the April match.

 

Fuck the WWF, Flair should have gone to SWS after getting away from Herd. I wish MUGA would have existed in 1991-1992.

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This is Vintage Ric Flair 30+ minutes of him taking a beating and dishing it out. Lots of chops and leg work. Too bad it ended on a countout though in the 3rd fall. Also liked Flair dissing the crowd.

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Holy cow was this a match. Very similarly worked if he was wrestling Wahoo or Garvin. This was stiff. Being pro shot really made this match blow away the one from earlier. I loved Flair's mat work. How he worked over Tenyru's leg. If Flair would have done this in the title change with Savage that would have put that match in a much better light. Their were a couple of missteps, but nothing that hurt the bout much. Flair was great at jawing with the crowd. Even the 3rd fall finish came across as good and put the title over. Tenyru looked so desperate to get Flair in the ring before the 10 count and win the title. Just great stuff from 2 legends.

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The strongest Flair has looked on the yearbook so far. He goes toe to toe with Tenryu on the stiff chops. They do the same two finishes from their earlier match but switch the order up. Finish was a bit weak with the double count out after match going so long. I liked when Flair had the figure four on and Tenryu had him in a heel hook at the same time.

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Flair doing his character work in Japan is great, yelling at the ref and crowd and generally heeling it up. The first fall is worked slowly, but stiffly, as they're clearly going long. They are both really laying in the chops. Flair goes for kneebreaker but Tenryu counters, hits the enzuigiri & power bomb for the first fall. Flair goes to work on the knee in the second fall with his trademark spots -- throwing the shoulder at it, the sit down on the ropes, snapping it and winning when Tenryu's shoulders are counted down after a long figure four. Tenryu counters a figure four in the 3rd fall as the crowd gets into Tenryu's near falls before the disappointing but predictable finish. Nevermind that the match was great, but it really looked like Flair loved the chance to put on another NWA world title match.

 

****

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Uh-oh, nobody show this match to Jerry Lawler. One of his interview staples is now torpedoed.

 

Flair pulls out all sorts of new shit here, most of which Loss mentioned. He also does a thing where he picks Tenryu up for his standard knee breaker and then falls back with a suplex, and at one point Tenryu counters the kneebreaker with a cross body, which sets up the first fall finish. This thing is shot so tightly that the struggle and stiff shots and the verbal stuff (mostly from Flair) really come through, like a studio match. Flair heels it up a bit and in this setting it comes off as fresh. At one point he drops to his knees to beg off and then pops up and pokes Tenryu in the eye. It's a spot we've seen in a million Flair matches but Flair pulls it off with more energy and giddiniess than I've ever seen him do, and it gets a big reaction from the crowd. Tenryu deserves some credit as well, because he sells it like it's Muta's mist.

 

The stalemate over the figure four is fucking awesome, where both guys have dueling submission holds at the same time--I was marking out in my chair watching that. There are other twists--Flair has a counter for when Tenryu tries the standard figure four, so when Tenryu gets him in position later in the match, he does a leg scissors instead that's worked and sold the same way. Tenryu throws some roll-up near falls at Flair in the 3rd fall and then we sort of lose our way, as we meander towards the finish. I groaned and almost laid my head on the keyboard at the DCOR, because I really wanted to see Flair pull out a win (or Tenryu but in a title match that wasn't happening). That said, Tenryu's frantic struggle to get Flair into the ring was well-done and Flair deadweighting himself with no intention of returning to the ring was pretty sound strategy.

 

This really stands out because it's out of a time capsule--other than Tenryu's power bomb there isn't a spot in this that would look out of place in 1975. The first 2/3 of this would put this in the top 10 MOTYs. The closing stretch and ending hurt it slightly, but I'd call it the best Flair match and performance since WrestleWar '90, and the best Tenryu match since leaving All-Japan.

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Ric Flair vs. Genichiro Tenryu (9/15/92)

 

Initially, I had no desire to watch this, but it got a bit of play in the Yearbook for being Tenryu's best match since he left All Japan and Flair's best match since 1990 so I felt compelled to watch it. It's almost Flair's best match by default given how seriously wrestling is presented in Japan. I've never really felt like Flair was all that over in Japan and the lukewarm response to his stylin' and profilin' here seemed further proof that the Nature Boy gimmick fell flat in Japan. It was interesting watch Flair take it to the mat as he wasn't really a great mat wrestler, but then again neither was Tenryu. Flair kept things moving enough that you could ignore the nuts and bolts of what he was actually doing, and mixed in enough strikes that Tenryu was able to put over the physical contest. There was nothing really gripping about the fall, but I loved the way Tenryu sold his jaw. The biggest revelation for me about Tenryu has been how good he is at those small details. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to whiff on the big stuff and I thought the finish to the opening fall was pretty bad. It started with a press slam off the top rope where Flair had to raise Tenryu's hand because it was out of position and followed up with some weak looking offense and another terrible powerbomb from Tenryu. Perhaps he had good reason to lay Flair down on a bed of feathers, but it kind of signaled to me that this wasn't going to be hugely physical.

 

The second fall wasn't hugely compelling. Tenryu took a direct approach to begin with and the transition for Flair to take back control of the match was a poke to the eye, which I thought was lame for a match being held in Japan. Flair ran through a few of his suplexes, which went nowhere as they transitioned into a stand-up contest, and then there was a bunch of legwork from Flair leading into the figure four. The figure four passage took an age, but at least Ric got a submission out of it. Thirty minutes into the video and Tenryu had given most of the bout to Flair, which highlights a tendency that Tenryu had, which was to give too much of the bout to his opponent and work from underneath too much. I think we can agree that the Tenryu you want to see is the guy doing soccer ball kicks and punting folks in the face and not with his back to the canvas all the time.

 

Tenryu being Tenryu he sold the crap out of his leg in the most realistic manner he could think of. It's unlikely Flair ever faced an opponent who put that much effort into selling the effects of the figure four, especially since Ric rarely got a submission with it. There was another lengthy figure four passage, which I think you'd have to be reasonably invested in the match to enjoy. Flair strategy buffs would probably point to the set-up work Flair did throughout the fall, which is fair enough, but while Tenryu did a nice job of hobbling about and hanging on by a thread, I couldn't really get into the spirit of Tenryu taking a constant beating. The finish was straight out of Baba's playbook, though Tenryu desperately trying to get Flair back into the ring on a bad wheel was a novel twist.

 

I'd go about *** on this. Felt like a bit of a chore watching it. I can see whether other people are coming from, though, as Flair had nothing like it from WrestleWar '90 onward. Wasn't a particularly great Tenryu match for me, though.

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We like to play the "If this match had taken place in........" game around here quite a bit. Well, since this was a WWF title match, I can say with reasonable certainty that if this had been, say, the main event at SummerSlam, people would be calling this the best match that the WWF had seen in ages, even with the double countout in the third fall. In other words, this match is hurt by taking place in Japan, which has a reputation for straight athletic contests, little showboating, and clean finishes. Well, Flair wasn't dropping the title in Japan, and I doubt Tenryu wanted any kind of loss in his own promotion, even by countout or DQ, so this was the best we could get.

 

As is so often the case in these older Yearbooks, a lot of the stuff I wanted to say has already been taken, so let me just point out a couple of things that I really liked. First, I've seen Flair work knees before just like everyone else has, but he really applied himself to it over the last two falls in this one. There was a certain viciousness about it that I haven't seen since his Crockett days, and seldom then. That's mostly because Dusty's booking had him constantly begging off and trying to be elusive so the face du jour wouldn't beat him to death. Here he could be the aggressor, and he was wonderful at it. Not only the knee, but the arm earlier in the match, and even the way he laid in the punches in the corner. I saw Tenryu checking his nose to make sure it wasn't bloodied, and how often do you see a Flair opponent do that, at least within the last few years? You could tell he'd been saving this match for a crowd who would appreciate it and an opponent who would stand for it, and he found both here.

 

Second, even though the double countout was a copout finish, the way it was done made it forgivable. They didn't start aimlessly brawling outside the ring and forget the count; Flair didn't try and pull a runner either. Flair knew Tenryu had a bad leg, so he made him have to strain that bad leg (as well as the rest of his body) in order to get him back in the ring and finish him off. Pull this kind of finish too often and it just becomes another piece of bullshit, but under these particular circumstances, with Tenryu trying to go on a possible torn-up knee or broken leg and Flair knowing that even with all of that Tenryu could still land a lucky shot and win the title, it was ingenious. I'm not sure whether Tenryu thought of it himself or if he had help from Pat Patterson, but whoever thought of it deserves a heartfelt salute.

 

Tenryu didn't really do much that stood out to me, which is to say he did what he always does for the most part: stand there and go until he either wins or can't go anymore. The one thing he should get credit for is the heel-hook counter to the figure four, which I didn't really pick up on until I read about it after the match. I've never seen it done before, and I wondered why Flair was howling in pain when Tenryu hadn't tried to reverse the hold yet. I wonder why more guys didn't try a counter like that. None of this is to shortchange Tenryu's selling of the figure four, which may be some of the best I've ever seen, period.

 

This was so different from the WWF stuff Flair was doing that it seemed like a different guy. I was about to say that I wish we could have seen a stateside rematch, but knowing Vince, he'd have jobbed Tenryu out in ten minutes on Superstars, so I'll take what we got (the best singles match of Flair's WWF run) and be glad.

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WWF World Heavyweight Champion Ric Flair vs Genichiro Tenryu - SWS 9/15/92 2 Out Of 3 Falls

Flair has since regained the World Championship from Savage and is about to transition it to Bret Hart. There's such a big fight feel/dream match feel to this even though Flair has been wrestling Tenryu since at least 1981 if not even earlier. I think it feels so different because this is now Tenryu's promotion and Flair is in the WWF with shorter hair. 

First Fall: Two distinct differences from Flair right off the bat is that there is a lot more American Flair heel character work in this match than in his previous matches. Lots of trash talking and bravado. Second, he wrestles this match completely differently from an offensive perspective. Tenryu gets absolutely zero shine. Yes, folks you read that right, heel Flair did not bump 'n' run for his babyface opponent. This was NOT a fire fight either initially. This was a domineering Flair performance. Put that in your pipe and smoke, Flair haters. Flair works the arm with a ton of great holds and lots of tight pinning combinations. Flair shows how you are supposed to actually pin a man by cradling the leg & neck and then clasping your hands! Can we please bring back good pinning! Flair starts working these nasty short punches to Tenryu's face, repeatedly. Tenryu sells as if his nose has been broken. Tenryu had another good delayed sell of a chop. Flair uses his kneedrop on the injured nose and again that tight cradle pinning combination. Flair tries to use the sleeper to no avail. Tenryu armdrags him off and as he comes in Flair throws a wild chop and catches him in throat. This match is really damn good. Tenryu finally nails a lariat that causes Flair to powder. I love how Tenryu always had the puncher's chance. Flair could pour on all the offense he wanted but it was just one lariat that could change the complexion of the match. Tenryu press slams Flair off the top and NAILS an enziguiri. Flair blocks the Lariat! Flair tries for a kneecrusher to stymie Tenryu's momentum, but Tenryu shifts his weight and they topple over backwards, another enziguiri and Tenryu is rolling. Powerbomb...1-2-3! Tenryu up 1-0. Awesome first fall!

Second Fall: Wow! I waited far too long to watch this match! This could be heel Flair's best offensive performance ever. Babyface Flair has great offense, but for everyone who has wanted to see offensive-minded Flair needs to check this out. This starts with Tenryu refusing to break on a sleeper and even gets some boos. The Japanese are sticklers for rules. A great fire fight breaks out. This has not been Flair vs Garvin in terms of sustained chopping, but the chops that have been throws have been brutal. Flair begs off and Tenryu is like "C'mon, brutha" and Flair pokes him in the eye! Flair is just firing on all cylinders. Tons of great suplexes and tight pinning combinations. Tenryu tries to mount a comeback and then it is an eyepoke. Flair chop block. Flair works a clinic working the leg and even busts out a new leg move. He looks great. I wish Flair worked full-time in Japan in 1993 instead of going back to WCW. Imagine Tenryu & Flair invading New Japan together! They battle over the Figure-4 maybe the most compelling use of the Figure-4 ever. Eventually succumbs to the Figure-4 via pinfall. It is important that he is does not tap out. I love 2 out of 3 falls matches because moves that are badass like the Figure-4 actually get put over as real finishes. I am loving this match!

Third Fall: They fell back to Earth in this fall. I think if they went 5 minutes in this fall instead of close to 15 minutes they would have been much better off. There were a lot of stilted moments where they were sort of thinking of what to do next to fill time. Flair just started strutting around for no reason to kill time. Here's a complaint you never thought would be written...I thought Flair was too focused on working the leg. There was not much forward progression. Also the urgency was lost. The finish was kinda lame. Flair was just on the apron for no reason strutting and Tenryu enziguiris him and Flair hits the post and it is a countout loss. I have no problem with a countout. It was the finish I was expecting. Negative complaints done, there is some good from this fall. The chops are brutal and the leg work is good. The best part is the first five minutes. Flair applies an STF, AN STF!  He then goes back to the figure-4. This is just smart. Tenryu gets a kneebar! Flair is hollering in agony. Flair comes up limping. There is this great fight and then Tenryu applies the kneebar on Flair and what a sell! Great job! If they went home right after that, I would be tempted to give this the full monty *****, I really thought the first two falls were spectacular. They bite off a little more they can chew and go longer than necessary, but 35 minutes out of 45 minutes being ***** is still fantastic and I highly recommend watching this very unique Flair performance oh and that Tenryu guy is pretty damn fantastic himself. ****1/2

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