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Jetlag

[1990-01-28-AJPW-New Year Giant Series] Genichiro Tenryu vs Isao Takagi

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This is an awesome, heated 6 minute eruption where they waffle the shit out of eachother nonstop. Continues from the previous tag - Isao hasn't forgotten, so he goes at Tenryu like crazy. Tenryu, accordingly, treats Takagi like a piece of shit again. Tenryu's selling was utterly brilliant here, as it was between being pained and annoyed by the little punk. Quite possibly the greatest Arashi has looked in a match.

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For a seven minute match with a result that was never in question, this was fucking great. Tenryu is pretty much the best ever in this kind of setting and I could watch him wrestle scrubs all day. You know he's never gonna lose (unless it's a G-1 or a tournament of some sort, I guess), but he's as unselfish a top star as you'll see in the ring. Sometimes he might even give some guys more than he should, but more often than not he strikes a perfect balance between letting the opponent look good while reinforcing who the guy at the top really is. Doesn't hurt when the opponent is game as well. Takagi has an awesome shoulder tackle where he lunges at Tenryu like a linebacker, then Tenryu backs him into the ropes and offers up the clean break only for Takagi to slap him across the face. Tenryu fucking kills him. He kicks him in the eye, chops him in the throat, then throws him outside and beats on him with a chair. It's the dynamic you know and love. Tenryu going on a rager and trying to bend a guy in half with a Sharpshooter is something I wish we saw more of. Tenryu going on a rager and kicking the shit out of someone is something we saw plenty of and it never gets old.

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This is one of the best sub 6 minute matches I've ever seen. I have no idea who Isao Takagi is, but he gets an A for effort and a D for brains. Takagi slapping Tenryu off the clean break was just an amazing moment, one that was made by the slow, exhaling patience from Tenryu as he decided he was going to show mercy, and Takagi just tossing all of that away. It came so early in the match, but I can't understate how well Tenryu portrayed his effort at self-control there. One facial expression. One slap. It can just mean so much. Then Takagi did everything he could to make the most of the moment. When he couldn't get him up for that pile driver, there was a visceral sense of the other shoe dropping, of impending doom. There was a collective inhale when Takagi slapped him and an ensuing exhale when Tenryu hit the back body drop reversal. Wrestling is all about build and payoff and while the build was short, it was meaningful and the payoff was everything you'd want it to be. There's a moment shortly in the beating where Tenryu chops him twice and goes for a pin and I loved this as it was just another moment of mercy. He gave Takagi a chance to stay down. He doesn't and he even fights back a few times, but all he really manages to do is reignite Tenryu's fire. The shoot struggle-laden DDT followed by Tenryu choking Takagi in the pin was something. The wild chairshots (and Tenryu almost pulling the fan over with his chair) was something. As much as the beating is glorious, it's Takagi's last burst that puts this over the top. The belly to belly he hits out of nowhere is huge and then he follows it with these brutal, desperate headbutts. Obviously the back brain kick (or front brain kick) was the move of 1990; there's about seven of them in this match and they all look nasty. Anyway, Tenryu cuts off the last desperate charge, snaps Takagi in half with a Scorpion and everything carries through right to the end with the ref throwing his whole body into Tenryu to get him off and Takagi pounding the mat in frustration after the break. This was a hell of a thing.

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For a six minute match, I thought this was a great match that combined Tenryu’s hot spit fire and Takagi’s willingness to try. Like the tag match with Kawada and Jumbo, Takagi sprints at Tenryu, looking to get a quick advantage but Tenryu JUST gets a boot up to stop him in his tracks. Then Tenryu slowly beat Takagi with slaps, kicks and punches. Takagi had some moments but he failed to make them count, leading to his eventual loss. Tenryu didn't wait for any announcement and headed to the big. It was just another day in the office. ***1/4

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My goodness what a beautiful thing this is. For the most part, you get what you expect, which is Tenryu brutalizing Takagi & being a mean cranky bastard to him-- but it doesn't come without a super sweet, fiery, spirited & straight-up fucking awesome little run by Takagi. The match is really probably perfect for what it was meant to be. ***3/4

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