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[2000-01-04-NJPW-Wrestling World 2000] Genichiro Tenryu vs Kensuke Sasaki

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IWGP Heavyweight Champion Genichiro Tenryu vs Kensuke Sasaki - 01/04/00


Kensuke Sasaki has a nice slab of symphonic metal as his entrance theme and a bitchin' mullet. Tenryu looks extra lumpy at this point. This match reminds me of how the simplicity of New Japan can be just as beautiful as All Japan's complexity. This match is structured to make Sasaki to look like the conquering hero against the gritty veteran proving himself at every turn as surpassing Tenryu. The match proves that anything Tenryu can do; Sasaki can do better. It really makes Sasaki look like an ace of a promotion.


They do not waste time going into the chopfest. This match reminds me of Valentine/Garvin at first as it seems like they are just stiffing each other for the hell of it. However, this match transcends inane strikes by developing into a well-woven story with a beginning, middle and end. The beginning is a battle of two bulls seeing who can inflict more damage on the other. Tenryu is the first to throw a closed fist in the corner. Sasaki says "Two can play at that game" and levels Tenryu with a wicked closed fist. Even though this match utilizes the closed fist more than any other puro match I have seen; the closed fist still seems really special as they sell it as a big deal. The way Tenryu transitions into his heat segment on Sasaki is be means of the closed fist. Before we get to there, I just wanted to mention that after Tenryu fells Sasaki with a huge chop that Sasaki actually wins a struggle for a vertical suplex. These are the little battles that Sasaki wins before ultimately winning the whole match.


The second act is Tenryu's heat segment, which is concise and is focused on making Sasaki look vulnerable, but resilient. His chops to the throat area look vicious. Sasaki gets a hope spot in sumo slap battle, but Tenryu wins that with his enziguri. He does a super German suplex and follows up with his falling elbow drop from the top rope for 2. He does a powerbomb only gets two. Then he hits Sasaki's Northern Lights Bomb but he cant hold Sasaki down. He goes for the kill by a top rope Frankensteiner, but instead Sasaki powerbombs him in a pretty impressive spot. Then Sasaki shows him how it is done by doing his own top rope Frankensteiner. I fuckin' loved that exchange.


Sasaki is looking for the kill, but Tenryu still has some fire left in the belly and they exchange strikes. Tenryu hits his enziguri again, but this time Sasaki hits his Northern Lights Bomb. Then goes for the second one to polish off Tenryu to win his second IWGP Championship and prove he is King of the Hill.


This match never overstays its welcome clocking in just under 15 minutes and in this "less is more" attitude pervading the internet I feel like this one could do well. They sets this up as a Clash of Titans that Sasaki is looking to prove himself against the Elder Statesman. He wins small battles and displays Fighting Spirit in the face of the deluge of Tenryu's offense. The finish was definitive that Sasaki was the better wrestler in that match and he felt like that night as the Ace of New Japan. There are some issues with no-selling on Sasaki's part and I think they could have done so much interesting stuff with the holds. Those are just some nitpicky stuff. This is a great first match to start off the project. ****

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There was so much SHOCK when Kawada vs Sasaki produced a MOTYC, but this match (which wasn't widely seen overseas initially) shows that Sasaki could bring it with the right opponent. Rock-solid heavyweight slugfest and a perfect example of how to work a Tokyo Dome main event.

 

LOCK for my ballot.

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Not the biggest Sasaki fan, but he plays his role fine in this match. When Tenryu starts chopping, Sasaki decides he's going to outchop him. When Tenryu starts punching, sasaki's going to one-up him there too. Come finish time, it's brainbusters we do this with. Better than I expected, but most of the heavyweight matches in the project work a lot better for me.

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A fantastic match and while Tenryu is the star, Sasaki is REALLY good in this role. It's weird to see him do so well here and then a year later in 2001 he's so underwhelming, but he stepped his game to another level here. Watch this match and the Kawada match 10 months later and you would totally think Sasaki is a world-class worker. Just that those other 9 months in-between get in the way.

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This is a Tenryu singles match and is good for all the reasons one enjoys those. Sasaki is an uneven worker but he has cool offense so it's fun to see him plugged into Tenryu's match. Tenryu is great at putting over this kind of power worker because he's not afraid to let them win a strike exchange. The layout is simple which also works to Sasaki's advantage. Might end up somewhere in the bottom quarter of my ballot.

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Had that “big fight” feel. Like watching two mirror images go at it, both guys throwing the same stuff at the other in a battle of one-upsmanship. Sasaki's punches are gross. Tenryu sells them great and comes off as the unflappable if a bit punch drunk wiley veteran of the match. The Frankensteiner bait and switch was good stuff. I'm not an advocate of the length equals quality ethos but this one still felt a bit short, although the super physical nature of the match explains why it's not particularly lengthy.

 

I can't imagine 200 some matches better than this, so it'll probably make the ballot, but I preferred the Hashimoto tag.

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I would imagine most people would disagree with me, but I actually enjoyed this more than Hashimoto/Ogawa tag. Hashimoto/Ogawa is an amazing spectacle with a lot of twists and turns, but I think Ogawa and Murakami have produced better matches this decade (Kawada and Nagata). That tag ultimately feels incomplete, but will still make my top 30, this match will be in a similar ballpark, but slightly higher. I just loved the Clash of the Titans, tit for tat one upmanship of the match. Sasaki just looked like he was not going to be denied. You got the feeling from Tenryu from the get go when he pushed the ref down that he was going to go for broke because he knew Sasaki was here to play. Sasaki did not let the veteran champion or the opponent get to him. You want to punch me in the face, well muthaufcka, I have got no problem with that.This is the match Kobashi/Akiyama wished they had. Every spot felt huge and critical to the course of the match and building the star of Sasaki. Probably the second best Sasaki match of the decade behind the Kawada Dome match. He should have NEVER cut the Mullet. ****1/2

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Loved Tenryu's try at a tope rope frankensteiner here and may have just loved Sasaki's more, because I never saw that coming from him whereas nothing Tenryu does at this point shocks me as I've come to expect a few pleasant surprises from him every time out. Tenryu made this with his pacing and grit, but kudos to Sasaki for sticking with the plan and being an able dance partner.

 

***3/4

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Big shoes to fill for these guys. Tenryu doesn’t mess around with the mat work that we saw in the Black Summit as we start with a huge chop exchange and the big bombs coming out. In a rare no sell spot that I enjoy, Sasaki shrugs off a Tenryu back suplex and locks in a tight headlock. The strike exchange that results from that is great and feels like Dundee and Lawler exchanging shots in 1982 Memphis. Sasaki is made to looks really strong here as Tenryu is throwing everything he has at Kensuke and Sasaki has been able to absorb it. Tenryu ups the ante by hitting a release German with both on the top rope. An elbow drop and powerbomb have Sasaki in real danger for the first time. Both go in for clotheslines but this time Tenryu is stronger. A brainbuster gets another nearfall. He is able to have Sasaki really reaching deep but usually this puts everyone else away. This again builds up Sasaki hugely. Tenryu is forced to take a risk going for a top rope rana that Sasaki is able to reverse into a huge super Powerbomb. I really love Tenryu’s selling as Sasaki runs through his offense. Tenryu looks like a businessman that woke up with the worst headache of his life. Tenryu gets an enzuriuri as a last ditch effort but once more Sasaki is able to reverse into a big Emerald Flowsion type move. A fisherman’s buster gives Sasaki the IWGP title and really establishes him as the big man in the promotion currently. ****

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This show has to be on my short list for all-time great cards. Tenryu and Sasaki continue the theme of the night by knocking the crap out of each other for just under 15 minutes, and give us something else we haven't quite had tonight -- a strike battle. This is a crowd that has responded to stiffness all night long, and this match had it in spades. I really loved the audacity of Tenryu trying a top rope huracanrana just to set up Sasaki doing his own. The execution of it was great because it wasn't just athletically impressive, but it actually looked like a painful move to take. It was wise to not go too long at the end of such a long show, and it's impressive they kept the crowd so hot this far in. As we start the decade, Tenryu doesn't look to have lost even a step since January 1990. In fact, he may be better. ****1/4

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I really liked how this match seemed to be Tenryu's years of cuntiness and stiffness coming back to haunt him. When Kensuke is chopping him and punching him in the face, he's got that "I'm too old for this shit" look on his face the whole time. Kensuke treated Tenryu like Tenryu had been treating everyone for 15 years, and it was pretty great. It's pretty crazy that Kensuke retired before Tenryu, and Tenryu was already 50 at this point. As much as I love grumpy ass Tenryu beating the shit out of people, it is very satisfying when someone gives it back even harder.

 

Sasaki+punches+Tenryu.gifSasaki+punches+Tenryu+again.gif

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This was a very stiff match with a lot of jabs and punches. Tenryu looks awesome here and his skill hasn't aged one bit. It's hard to believe that he is 50 at this point. I've never been a fan of Kensuke, but he holds up his end on the match as well. Great top rope powerbomb in this one. This is an easy watch as it's not an overly long match.

 

****1/4

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Cant say I loved this match - the concept of it was greater than the reality. I love guys going at it giving no shits at all, but for a relatively short match, the pace was a bit plodding. When it was good, it was really good and they did beat the snot out of each other. Tenryu's attempted Frankensteiner from the top rope was somewhat unexpected! Sasaki had a ***** mullet. Tenryu was ****** grumpy. The match was ***1/2

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This was ugly and nasty in the best way possible. I've always loved the highs of this anyway, but on re-watch it had less downtime than I remembered as well. There was the headlock segment early doors, but that's really the only point I can think of where they weren't at least smacking each other in the mouth. Old man Tenryu being a bastard to people is the guy I'd pick if I could only watch one wrestler for the rest of my life, so obviously I loved him chopping Sasaki in the throat and punching him in the jaw, but Sasaki being as much of a bastard right back was equally great. He was laying in some of those shots even harder than Tenryu was, and it led to that great moment where Tenryu just sits on the bottom rope, half in a daze, with this amazing "fuck my life already" look on his face. On top of it all you had the meaty lariats, the one or two bombs being used to full effect, and the sub-15 minute length so as to prevent much fat. This is pretty much shorthand for Tokyo Dome main event to me and I don't think I'll ever not love it (and it isn't even the best match on the card).

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Great match. Nothing starts off a hoss battle like a great chop exchange. The punches these guys were throwing were intense. My favorite part was probably Tenryu going for the top rope rana only to get powerbombed by Sasaki who followed up with his own top rope rana. Tenryu easily has the best enzuiguri I've ever seen and furthers that argument a few times in this match. Sasaki earned his stripes here. Great stuff.

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As with the other great match from this show, I don't have a lot to add. But I had this No. 44 for the decade in the Ditch project, so I'm a big fan. This was just the first of many indications that Tenryu in the 2000s was every bit as good as Tenryu in the '90s, and Sasaki had finally started to come into his own as a top guy.

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This was good while they were punching each other but slow going when they worked holds. The layout was simple and the near falls generic, which wouldn't have been so bad if the transitions hadn't been working in and out of a resthold. Wouldn't make it anywhere near my list of the best Tenryu matches.

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I thought this was an awesome match. It was compact and went just the right amount of time for the crowd. All of the strikes looked great, and I loved Tenryu's dazed selling towards the end. I also thought the top rope huracanrana reversal by Sasaki followed up by his own was great. Perfect Dome show title match considering how the teo match up. ****

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I think what was most exemplary in this bout was Sasaki wrestling with a high fever. This was a good Dome main, that built itself well and created the aura of Sasaki being the, now, bigger ace but it didn’t quite break that ceiling. They delivered a myriad of closed punches, especially to start, but, at the very least, the move was kept important and both men sold them as they should be. The same goes for their chop exchanges. When the flow hits the mid-point, in setting up Tenryu’s heat section, the match starts to get a bit nutty. From powerbombs, to Frankensteiners to suplexes, both men are hell-bent on one-upping the other with vicious tendency. I wasn’t particularly paying attention to the first, but the second enziguiri didn’t come clean. At least that nitpick can act into the pivot of control, though, in that the first allowed Tenryu to sweep up, yet the second allowed for Sasaki to finish things off. Worthwhile 15 minutes, but it wasn’t the best match on the card and will not be something I’d come back to in a hurry.

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I can watch Tenyru punch and chop dudes all day. I liked him just sitting on the ropes drunk selling Sasaki's punches and them coming back with his own. That top rope rana to a powerbomb looked scary but they made it work. Fun match but the finish was kinda out of nowhere and anticlimatic.

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Really good big show main event type match. The strength of the match is obviously the strikes. Tenryu's selling is off the charts. So many stories told in just a simple facial expression. That "oh fuck I'm too old for this shit" face. So great. Sasaki's no sell spot at the beginning is actually really great. Tenryu's frankensteiner reversed into the powerbomb was great and Sasaki following it up all I'll fucking show you old man and going straight back to the top rope to do the move himself. Finish is kind of sudden but I'll take too sudden and too soon over went too far past their peak.

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