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[1998-08-01-NJPW-G1 Climax] Genichiro Tenryu vs Shinya Hashimoto

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I had to think on this one for a while. Until they start bringing the match home, this is pretty much all chops and strikes. It brought back memories of post-2005 Kenta Kobashi being so physically shot that he couldn't do much of anything else. But this was a step above that, even though I didn't love this as much as I expected to love it either. I'd call it a very good match, but it did still look like two guys past their peak trying to recreate something where the best days of the rivalry had passed. I know I'm in the minority opinion on that one, but this was pretty far below their 1993-94 series for me. Lots to love here, but kind of one-note.

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This was an epic war and should have been what the 6/6/97 Misawa vs. Kawada match should have been. I was completely engrossed. There isn't a lot to write about this match except it was two legends duking it out from the onset and not backing down one inch. I loved Hashimoto winning with the DDT that he went for throughout the match and used successfully. One of the best, simple straight bomb throwing matches I have ever seen. These types of matches are all dependent on the situation and the competitors for me and these two guys certainly deserved to have a match like this and it felt perfectly into their overall arc together. (****1/2)

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I liked this a lot more than Loss. If I were booking New Japan now, I'd have all the guys watch this as an example of how you build a strike-based match. They varied the tempo, attacked in different combinations and sold both the individual shots and the accrued damage. I never felt I was watching one guy let the other hit him in a display of empty machismo. And I always love the little Tenryu touches, like the way he slipped a little kick to Hash's face to give himself breathing room after he ate a DDT. This was pretty different than their '93-'94 matches, which felt more like a collective quest for Hash. This was more about certified hosses throwing their best at one another. One of my favorite matches of the year.

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I called their match a week later a Clash of the Titans. It was only half as titanic as the G1 encounter. A relentless strikefest with brutal stiffness, sky high intensity and a superb rivalry. Neither man would yield an inch in this fierce battle. This is the tonic for anyone weary of passionless forearm exchanges. The selling of damage was really good and the action had sufficient variety. Tight pacing and I like how they didn't have to go through the usual series of near falls for a big main event. Everything was to the point. The fans were lapping it up and helped it feel special. One of the most memorable G1 non-finals.

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This was a pretty divisive match back in the day. It's strange how unimportant it seems these days. I guess it's like watching a favourite band go in a different musical direction. Moment to moment, there are a lot of interesting details and the selling is good, but the big picture doesn't have much sting to it. There's a bit too much of the Johnny Valentine/Wahoo McDaniel chop exchanges, and some of the stagger selling from those chop exchanges, particularly when they're on their knees wobbling and staring at each other, is as forced as any of the modern day cinematic storytelling tropes. Hashimoto was a fan of those kind of spaghetti western standoffs, though, and used them to great effect at times such as in the '95 G-1 final with Mutoh. I liked Tenryu breathing on his hand before launching into another round of chops, and I loved the spot where Hashimoto caught him coming off the top. Tenryu's selling is something to draw attention to. When you think of Ternyu, the first thing you think of his the poker face, and the arrogance and maybe some of the shitty heel mannerisms, but he also excelled at selling pain. And in many respects, it's Tenryu's selling that holds this together because it's really only Hashimoto breaking through Tenryu's defences that leaves you with anything to chew on and a bout that isn't as epic a threepenny opera as their previous bouts.

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I really enjoyed this as a slugfest. For me it's all in how the people involve make these kinds of matches work. While I hate most of the modern day strike exchanges for as empty and rote as they seem, this was done in a way that elevates it above that sort of thing. The selling by Tenryu was superb, as well as Hashimoto's dogged pursuit of the DDT. I also thought they used the slugfest nature of the match to really heighten the importance of the bombs they built to. The powerbomb and the elbow drop that follows really shine because of how much had gone into getting to that point using little but strikes. Even the corner lariat by Tenryu was a big deal with this build. It doesn't hurt that I'm much more likely to enjoy a good brawl than a well-worked technical match.

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High-end all-out slugfest. But the real greatness resides in their amazing selling of the pain and damage and in them genuinely trying pound the other into oblivion, instead of it being a pointless pissing match. **** 1/4

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This could well sneak onto the MOTY list--this was a war of attrition in the video-game, energy-bar-selling sense. It's strike-heavy, but they vary the pace and intensity of those strikes all throughout the match so it never really feels that repetitive, while also throwing in a few digressions into submissions or bomb-throwing as a change of pace. Hash wins and does so fairly convincingly, but the DDT finish still feels like a bit of a flash pin in the way it's sold, so Tenryu is protected somewhat.

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Shinya Hashimoto vs Genichiro Tenryu - NJPW G1 Climax 98 Quarterfinals

 

For my money the 93/94 series between these is the best thing NJPW heavies put on in the 90s. We revisit the series in 98 with the return of Tenryu to the promotion. Is WAR dead?

 

Feels like Valentine vs Garvin, two stand up, hard noses ornery muthafuckas going blow for blow. Thought the selling is what really made this feel big. Tenryu's calm contempt vs the fiery rage of Hashimoto. Tenryu punching Hashimoto in the face anytime he was trouble was great. Really works because how sparse closed fists are in puroresu. I thought they did go back to strike exchange too often and after while it felt like the match just was not progressing. Tenryu's kappa kick changed that. Is taking a Tenryu Powerbomb the scariest thing ever? I'm surprise he did not Ganso Bomb Hashimoto. For some reason Tenryu goes up top, Hash hits a spin wheel kick as he dives. Seems weird for Tenryu to do that. Hashimoto unloads with kicks and DDTs to win.

 

Definitely in the vain of a Greg Valentine Match intense, simple and hard hitting. Felt bigger due to the personalities involved. Selling was really good. The basic finish stretch was refreshing after watching so much AJPW. Lack of progression in first ten minutes hurt it. It is Hash vs Tenryu, it is gonna be WAR! ****1/4

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Ultra-minimalist bar fight between the two baddest dudes in japanese wrestling history. Great in the same way as Lawler/Mantell or Flair/Wahoo. The early going is so awesome as it's all about them throwing a whirlwind of nasty chops and selling „FUCK this is overwhelming“. The leaning against the ropes becomes a plot point, as both refuse to go down. Despite them constantly pounding away, there are some nice subtleties: Tenryu gets an advantage when he rolls out the punches at first, so Hash is quick to cut him off when he tries it again for a second time. Tenryu sells his shoulder, not because Hash was setting up a submission or explicitly targetting that body part, but because he just took 97 chops to that shoulder. Hashimoto catching Tenryu with the spin kick may be the greatest spot in history. It's greater than anything Kobashi and Misawa tried in their annual murderfest for sure. Short, primitive and to the point like a sledgehammer.

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