After a brief time in the US of A, we are back in Dave Meltzer’s beloved Japan for our next five-star classic. Once again it is a tag team match featuring Stan Hansen, but this time he teams up with Terry Gordy to take on Genichiro Tenryu and Toshiaki Kawada. This match was the final of the bizarrely named World’s Strongest Tag Determination League in All Japan Pro Wrestling.
We kick off with Kawada and Gordy, and the crowd is hot, particularly for a Japanese audience. The two jockey for position with the bigger Gordy using his strength to take control before tagging in Hansen. Watching Hansen work is always slightly terrifying so I can’t imagine what actually being in the ring with him was like. The guy literally pulls no punches.
The two work over Kawada until he hits a spinning heel kick on Gordy and gets the tag to Tenryu who comes in hot and the gaijins flee to ringside. When Gordy returns, Tenryu takes control and shows that Hansen isn’t the only one who can work strong style. In fact, let’s take it for granted from now on that these blokes are all smacking each other silly.
What’s incredible about this match is the speed that everything is being done at. These guys look more like Chris Hero than Roman Reigns, but much like Hero, they show that means fuck all if you can work. They charge around the ring dishing out damage and never once look like they are gassed.
The story of the match is the strength of the gaijin heels allowing them to bully the Japanese wrestlers. When Tenryu and Kawada are given hope spots, it tends to revolve around quick kicks and high impact offence before one of Gordy or Hansen cut them off.
The real star, however, is Hansen. You constantly hear how big of a bad ass he was and this match is the best proof I’ve seen of it yet. The guy screams authenticity. There is a moment when Gordy is in a triangle choke when Hansen comes in to break it up before slapping Tenryu silly. Those slaps look like they could have stopped a bull never mind a man.
Everyone plays a part, though, and Gordy isn’t exactly a weak sidekick for Stan. I’m always a fan of tag-teams that look like teams, and you can imagine these guys going backstage to sink a few beers post-match and beat up a few more folk. And while my star maybe Hansen you can tell that the Japanese crowd is 100% behind the locals. Tenryu and Kawada play a big part in making Hansen and Gordy look like the beasts they are and don’t exactly shirk when it comes to dishing it out themselves.
The finish is set up when Kawada’s leg is injured on the outside, and the heels isolate Tenryu in the ring getting numerous two counts. It’s a wonderfully paced piece of storytelling. Tenryu occasionally looking like he might come into the match but falling victim to the number game as Kawada writhes on the floor. Even when Kawada finally gets in it’s only a short respite before Hansen drags him back out the ring and works over the knee some more.
Sadly, bad guys do sometimes prosper, and it’s all over when Gordy drops Kawada over the ringside barrier before powerbombing Tenryu in the ring. Hansen then does what Hansen does best and almost decapitates the poor bloke with a Western Lariat to win the tournament.
This was one hell of a match. After the spectacle of War Games, this was back to what I think of as a classic Meltzer five-star match. Four men beating the crap out of each other and yet at the same time telling a simple story that you can’t fail to understand. Wrestling doesn’t get better than that.