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[2004-02-15-NJPW-Fighting Spirit] Genichiro Tenryu vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan

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Tenryu vs Tenzan, New Japan February 15th 2004

 

Background: An impromptu final in a one-night title tournament. Tenzan gave Nagata a legit KO with a moonsault in the second round, which messed up the plan. Tenzan was already busted up in his first round match with Sasaki, while Tenryu has taken almost no punishment thusfar.

 

Why I think it's underrated: This is a big show main event but isn't worked in an "epic" style, so it wasn't going to attract MOTYC attention when considered alongside what was happening in NOAH. Yet it's just the sort of second-tier bout that deserves attention in a vote like this. They do a great job of mixing things up in their strike exchanges. Tenryu chipping at a wounded Tenzan is a great use of the lumpy old man, and the finish is quite satisfying considering the length of the match. All the more impressive in the context of Tenzan having wrestled two physical matches already.

 

What it deserves: Top 100. I think a similarly worked match in WWE would be raved over.

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When you say Tenzan legitmately KO'd Nagata in the semis fucking up the plan does that mean Nagata would have won the title here?

Genichiro Tenryu vs Hiroyoshi Tenzan - Vacant IWGP Championship 02/15/04

Incidentally, Tenzan and Kojima both have their best singles matches against Tenryu. Leave it to Mr. Puroresu to get even better match out of Tenzan than Akiyama by keeping it short and staying on offense. Tenryu starts the match with a terrific kappo kick and digging his nails so deep into Tenzan's forehead that he bleeds (most likely a bladejob, but great way to set it up). Immediately, I am already more into this match than the Akiyama match. There are too many chopfests overall, but as far as chopfests go they are pretty entertaining because Tenryu and Tenzan are different than most wrestlers who engage in this macho behavior. Tenryu has his nasty high chop and punch. Tenzan has his Zinedien Zidane headbutt and double chop. Tenryu bodyslams Tenzan off the apron and here comes the onslaught: Spider German, Enziguiri, Norther Lights Bomb and the worst powerbomb ever. That is up there with the Hashimoto wipe out as the funniest botch. Tenzan meets Tenryu with a big lariat triggering another strike exchange. I have to say I was digging the Zidane headbutts. Tenzan wraps him up in the Anaconda Vice, which won him the G-1 Climax, but Tenryu gets the ropes. One last Tenryu hope spot in the form of a backslide before Tenzan headbutt to midsection -> spikes him with a scoop piledriver -> a diving headbutt secures him his second IWGP Championship. Short, bloody and action-packed now that is a recipe for success for any match. I never expect blood in NJPW/NOAH matches so when it happens it is always a nice treat. Tenryu came out early and just pressed his advantage and eventually Tenzan weathered the storm turned the tide in a strike exchange and unloaded his arsenal to win. It may have just been the blood, but Tenzan's performance seemed way more passionate. So far the best non-NOAH match from 2003 & 2004. ***3/4

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Tenryu working over Tenzan's cut - fucking great on all levels. Tenzan's tepid comeback - not so much. And really, Tenzan takes 10 minutes of offense, gets in a minute's worth of strikes, does 3 finishers and we're done? Apparently Tenryu falls over at the mention of a light breeze. I wish I could rate this match higher for the first ten minutes, but the finish drops it down to bottom 25 for me.

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Tenryu was just crushing it in this match besides the worst powerbomb ever. He worked over that cut relentlessly and was just an offense monster. I loved the Northern Lights Bomb on the outside. Tenryu's weird, lame submission hold and Tenzan's weak comeback knock this down a peg for me. One of the few match where I actually thought the strike exchanges added to the drama because of Tenzan bleeding profusely, Tenryu's selling and Tenzan's Zidane headbutt. If Tenzan could have had a better finishing stretch, I could see this as a 2004 MOTYC. As is, it is a great match that will make the bottom ten-ish of my list. ****

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