Meltzer’s Classics: Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Genichiro Tenryu 5/6/89

Start of match
I am looking forward to the matches with decent pictures.

Well, we couldn’t watch Ric Flair and Ricky Steamboat forever. Our latest five-star match sees us heading back to Japan where Jumbo Tsuruta is taking on Genichiro Tenryu. I’ll be honest, this is one of those matches where I hadn’t heard of the competitors. Ten minutes of research tells me that coming into this fight Jumbo Tsuruta is the Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, a title which he unified by winning the PWF World Heavyweight Championship, NWA United National Championship and the NWA International Heavyweight Championship.  While Tenyru only retired a couple of years back in a match against Okada.

The first thing to note is that this crowd are loud. Not in the ‘you don’t normally see this in Japan’ style but in the ‘you don’t normally see this anywhere’ way. The walkouts begin backstage and even before anyone is in the ring the roof is shaking. After introductions, the action gets underway, and they aren’t going for subtlety. Basically, they start slapping each other. Tenryu gets the first of what will be many two counts off a German suplex, but Jumbo then slows things down as he hits a bulldog and locks in a tight hold on the mat.

Top Rope
Victory seemed so certain.

This sets up the theme of the match. Tsuruta controls most of the action, essentially beating the crap out of Tenryu, who responds with occasional hope spots. There’s a period where he is getting two count after two count. There are lariats, knee drops from the top rope, suplexes and dropkicks and every time Tenryu manages to escape. Sometimes it is by kicking out, and sometimes it’s just by getting his foot under the rope. It’s two-count city baby, and it feels like a matter of when not if.

But, this is professional wrestling, and the great thing about pro-wrestling is that you can tell whatever story you want. Just as things seem impossible Tenryu fights back with an enziguri before hitting a huge Folding Powerbomb for the closest two-count yet. Women are screaming in the crowd at this point. However, those young women don’t have to worry because Tenryu hits the powerbomb once again and while Jumbo kicks out on the three he’s not quick enough, and we have a new champion.

Until it’s not.

This was a really fun match. I went in not knowing anything about these two men, but I would happily watch both of them work again. They slapped the piss out of each other and hit some brutal looking moves all while telling the story of Tsuruta being the better man for most of the match but not managing to put Tenryu away. It’s a simple tale, but it’s one that works. It makes Tenryu look like a bloody hero, but no one is going to complain if Tsuruta gets a rematch somewhere down the line. A five-star match? Well, they do tire on the closing stretch, and there are a couple of sloppy spots, but when you take into account the response from the crowd and the psychology involved you’d be harsh to dispute it.

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