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.
After the discovery of a whole bunch of 5-star matches that we missed the first time around, Meltzer’s Classics has now dived back into 1985 and to the regular setting of Japan. This is our first women’s match to feature on the list as Jaguar Yokota defends her WWWA Championship against Lioness Asuka. Being honest, I hadn’t heard of either of these women, but a bit of research tells me that they are highly respected in Japan, if not in the West.
After months of steady forward progress, I only went and found an even more definitive list of Meltzer’s five-star matches! So rather than continuing into 1992 and what would have been War Games – we’ll get there eventually – we’ve gone back to Terry Funk vs. Jerry Lawler in 1981. It’s a match that as far as I can tell wasn’t rated by Meltzer but Uncle Dave himself has called it the moment that saw wrestling move from a four-star scale to a five, so it would be a shame to skip it.
Meltzer’s Classics slides into 1992 and a wrestling world that I am more familiar with. Although in saying that, I as of this match haven’t picked up the ability to walk yet, but I’m out there somewhere. Uncle Dave is introducing us to a certain Jushin Thunder Liger who in his full body get up looks exactly the same as he did at the G1 Special. This is the final of what at the time was called Top of the Super Juniors where he goes face to face with El Samurai.
With the G1 Climax around the corner, it is fitting that our latest Meltzer’s Classic takes place at that very tournament. We jump back to 1991 when Keiji Mutoh (perhaps better known to Western fans as The Great Muta) took on Big Van Vader. It’s worth saying that the only footage that seems to be available of this match is filmed by a fan and is made up of around ten pixels. You can figure out what is going on but it fuzzes out occasionally, and some nuances may be missed.
For the second time, a War Games match makes an appearance in Meltzer’s Classics. It also once again features The Four Horsemen with Ric Flair, Barry Windham and Sid Vicious teaming up with Larry Zybysko who is replacing an injured Arn Anderson. On the other side of the two rings are our babyfaces, Sting, Brain Pillman and the Steiner Brothers.
Mitusharu Misawa vs. Jumbo Tsuruta is seen as a turning point for All Japan Pro Wrestling. It was the moment when the supremely talented Misawa stepped up to take his place at the top of the company. I’m by no means an All Japan historian, though, so rather than setting up this scenario myself, I’ll point you in the direction of this article which does the job wonderfully.
You didn’t think we’d seen the last of Ric Flair, did you? Following his iconic series with Ricky Steamboat, it didn’t take the Nature Boy long to find his next opponent. Just minutes after their final match Terry Funk put his boot up Flair’s ass and all roads led to Clash of the Champions IX in an I Quit match.
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.
I’m almost sad to be writing this article for it means we come to the end of Ric Flair vs. Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat. The final match in their iconic series (although not in their careers) takes place at NWA Wrestle War in 1989, a month after their two out of three falls match. That means Ricky is still the NWA Champion and Flair is desperate to get it back.