We’ve already featured Jumbo Tsuruta and Genichiro Tenryu in Meltzer’s Classics when they faced off against each other in 1989. Today, however, we are going back a few years to 1986 when they were on the same team defending their NWA International Tag Team belts against Riki Choshu and Yoshiaki Yatsu. This is classic All Japan tag-team wrestling and it’s a whole lot of fun.
Before we get to that, however, things do start out slow. These men seem to be sizing each other up in the opening minutes and there’s a lot of circling around the ring. A few blows are exchanged and the crowd are hot, but it’s not until Tenyru is caught in Choshu and Yatsu’s corner that things take off.
But take off they do as he is caught with a backdrop leg drop combo which Choshu and Yatsu follow up with a spike piledriver. Amusingly, they don’t even go for the pin after that and if Twitter had been around in 1986, there would have been a right old fuss. In my recording of this match, we also went to some very strange adverts for wax at this point which to be honest made watching this worthwhile all by themselves.
When we come back, Tenyru is going for a figure four but it’s stopped by an elbow drop from Yatsu. Things break down which allows Jumbo into the ring and he begins dishing out big knees. His control is to be short-lived, as Yatsu and Choshu come back with a double suplex. Jumbo sets up a theme for the evening by being completely unbothered by this and trades slaps with Choshu before taking control with another knee.
This is the first time in a match where a team is able to assert their control as Jumbo goes to work on Riki with an abdominal stretch. Choshu came into this with bandages on his side and Jumbo rips at them to deliver blows to the spot they were covering. Yatsu finally has enough of this assault and comes off the top with an axe handle to break things up. The resulting chaos allows him to tag in and briefly take over before Tenyru sneaks in behind him and hits a high-angle backdrop to turn the tide back towards the champs.
While this is going on Riki is being taped up on the outside and he manages to make it back to the apron just in time for Yatsu’s tag. He comes in hot with a dropkick but his injury slows him down. Not enough, however, as he manages to get the Sasori-gatame (Sharpshooter/Scorpion Death Lock to you and me) on Jumbo. Sadly the injury is too bad and he is forced to break the hold and tag back out to Yatsu which allows Jumbo’s miraculous healing powers to kick in and get a tag of his own.
Yatsu has a brief flurry on Tenyru hitting a sling blade and a vicious looking bulldog but things quickly break down again and they are all brawling on the outside. It’s around here that Jumbo gets busted open. When we get back in the ring, it’s Yatsu pounding on the bleeding head of Jumbo, probably trying to figure out if it is physically possible to hurt him. He follows up with a piledriver and a back drop both of which get a two. Chosu then comes in and we get another Sasori-gatame in the centre of the ring but Tenryu breaks it up with a huge lariat.
We’re into the closing stretch now as Yatsu hits a German suplex on Tenryu into a bridge for two before following up with a roll-up for another close count. At this point, everyone is clearly knackered and some sloppiness creeps in but it’s all okay because we’re going home. Tenryu catches Yatsu with a powerbomb into a pin for the three.
This match was pure chaos at times as wrestlers threw everything at each other before popping back and throwing everything straight back at their opponents. The more of these old matches I watch, the more I realise that hitting big moves and keeping going is far from a new thing, no matter what Rip Rogers might say. This was great, though, it gets a bit sloppy towards the end and the punishment Jumbo takes before getting up gets slightly ridiculous but if you ignore that you will have a lot of fun watching this match.