I have a unique Dream Matches column for you today, as I take a look at one of All Japan’s biggest matches of the 1980s, with Ace, Jumbo Tsuruta taking on Genichiro Tenryu- can the grumpiest man in wrestling unseat the younger, ex-sumo upstart? It’s not a weirdo match like I usually post on here, but hey- it’s considered one of the best matches of the 1980s!
Following that, I have more standard stuff for this column, as there’s a throwaway match with two guys’ worst gimmicks, as Flash Funk takes on the legendary ROCKABILLY, in a bout you’d never guess would have major repercussions for the Attitude Era… but there it is. Also, there’s Steve “Mongo” McMichael vs. Jim Powers (with a MANAGER!), and poor Haku deals with his early ’90s de-push as he gets fed to Tugboat, maybe the dumbest gimmick of the Hogan Era!
TRIPLE CROWN TITLE:
JUMBO TSURUTA vs. GENICHIRO TENRYU:
(All Japan, June 5th 1989)
* The big match of All Japan in the ’80s, as their two top natives go against each other. Jumbo, the super-Ace of AJPW, is well-established as the top dog and looks to be at Peak Grumpiness here. Like a grizzly bear that got woken up from hibernation early and wants to just beat this fool’s ass as quickly as possible so he can go the f*ck back to bed, god damn it. Like he looks pissed off just to be awake. The crowd is just ROARING through the introductions, proving that Japanese crowds aren’t ALWAYS quiet and “respectful”. Both guys are in black, but Tenryu has yellow boots and curly hair, and a bulky sumo physique, revealing his origins. Jumbo’s big moves are the Jumping Knee & Jumbo Lariat, while Tenryu uses an Enzuigiri & Folding Powerbomb.
The crowd goes nuts as they just tee off on each other, Jumbo missing his Jumping Knee and taking a Bridging German for a close count! Jumbo complains about a hairpull, then works a headlock with proper application (his legs are spread FAR apart for balance)- a brief chopfest turns into a bulldog for two and he works a Million Dollar Dream. Tenryu fights up and dodges Jumbo’s strikes, but runs right into a boot! These guys are putting so much into every move- like every chop or knee has this huge flourish put behind it like it’s meant to be a death-blow. Tenryu comes back with some huge chops, but Jumbo just calmly goes back into the ropes and puts him down with another boot. The crowd rallies behind Tenryu in another Dream, so Jumbo just releases and lays the boots to him to a chorus of boos. Jumbo stays on him relentlessly, but Tenryu catches him back in the ring with a lariat and then charges him off the apron to the floor! Crowd is loving this, and Tenryu works the leg, spreading the legs out and working a pin as Jumbo tries to hammer at him to release it. Tenryu eventually just climbs on top and SLAMS him with forearms, ending in a running fistdrop. He tries to press the advantage, but gets too close and Jumbo just belly-to-belly suplexes him for two.
Jumbo goes back to the Dream, trying to put the fight out of this kid, and the Jumping Knee gets two. He keeps cuffing at Tenryu with every free moment, but tries a powerbomb and gets backdropped out in a big spot. But Jumbo just stays on him, Tenryu dramatically unhooking his leg out of an abdominal stretch. He chops Jumbo out of the ring to buy himself some recovery time, then hits the meatiest damn lariat ever for two. Tenryu throws chops, but Jumbo elbows him straight in the ear and keeps it up, Tenryu barely resisting a Backdrop Suplex but eating a Jumping Knee in the corner- Jumbo calls for the end, but Tenryu kicks off the turnbuckles to bring them both down from the Backdrop! Jumbo’s up first from the double-down, and throws the single greatest lariat ever, running with the same cadence as “Get off my LAWN!”. Just bowls him right over and keeps running on the follow-through. Tenryu luckily rolls into the ropes on the sell, and Jumbo hauls him down with a hooking variant to ensure he’s flat on his back, getting two. Bulldog! Two! Knee off the second rope to the head! Foot in the ropes! Increasingly “UGGHHHH- fine!” about it, Jumbo throws two more, but Tenryu can still reach. The crowd chants “TENRYU!” but Jumbo hauls him down with a Thesz press, desperately holding both arms down- two!
Jumbo kneedrops him again and blatantly pulls him up by the hair to be an asshole, and throws everything he has into a huge Backdrop Suplex, finally putting Tenryu down. He’s too wiped out to recover (he’s been getting up more slowly from every single move), and that costs him the pin. He tries to finish with another Thesz press… but runs into a stungun! For two, as the entire hard camera side stands up, thinking it was the finish! Jumbo, about done with all this sh*t, throws the mother of all dropkicks, getting two. Jumbo climbs for a Flying Knee Smash, knocking Tenryu all the way over to the other corner, and drops his kneepad for a final Jumping Knee… but Tenryu moves! Enzuigiri and a rollup get two! Lariat & powerbomb… is reversed for two! Jumbo climbs to finish, but misses, still stunning Tenryu with a lariat. Tenryu blocks a belly-to-belly… and misses a flying back elbow! Jumbo is reduced to an amateur-wrestling takeover for two, but keeps throwing shots until he builds up to a Jumbo Lariat, which misses and gets him lariated in return! Enzuigiri into the Folding Powerbomb… for TWO, as the crowd completely shits itself! The fans are in disbelief, but Jumbo has nothing left, and Tenryu finally hauls him up after three tries for a SECOND Folding Powerbomb, and that’s the three at (24:05)! New Triple Crown Champion!
Man, these guys were AWESOME. I’ve never seen wrestlers put so much into every single move, where everything looks like it was done with maximum killing intent. Jumbo keeps hauling down his junior with the Dream so he can wear him down, and keeps doing… not EVIL but sneaky, mean shit to stay in the lead, cracking Tenryu every time he gets an opening, between big moves, etc.- even releasing holds to throw a boot into his head. Really playing himself up to look like a grumpy veteran dealing with this damn kid on his lawn. The way Jumbo just leaped straight into his knee smashes and lariats was tremendous- check the knee off the second rope bringing Tenryu’s head two feet down into the mat. And Jumbo stays on the offense for like five minutes straight, never letting up, but Tenryu keeps getting saved either by luck or mobility, able to get the ropes. Jumbo tries to deal with THAT, but it’s with lower-impact moves like the hooking clothesline & Thesz press, and he still can’t get him. Finally Jumbo has just punched himself out, and he takes longer and longer to get his stuff in, and Tenryu has enough grit and fire to avoid attacks (almost all of his offensive flurries come from reversing big Jumbo moves) and finally hits two finishers in a row to finally become Triple Crown Champion.
Rating: ****3/4 (absolutely ridiculous build into a great finish)
ROCKABILLY (w/ The Honky Tonk Man) vs. FLASH FUNK:
(WWF New York, Oct 11th 1997)
* Oh yeah- nothing says “Dream Matches-worthy” like two guys in their worst incarnations wrestling each other on a pointless D-show. Billy Gunn is wearing denim and doing a weird imitation of an “Elvis sneer/dance” that’s just shaking his head awkwardly while curling his lip. Poor Flash is literally just standing there in the ring already- I hope they just cut that out in the YouTube video. He’s in pink bodysuit with white lightning bolts on it.
They do some basic reversals (save Flash backflipping off the ropes), then Flash works the arm but gets Samoan dropped. Rockabilly stands around and throws the occasional stomp until Flash fights up from a chinlock and spinkicks him for two. He misses a reverse flying crossbody, but Honky sets up cheating and accidentally trips his own guy- Rockabilly grabs at him in response, and turns around and gets rolled up for the pin (3:21)- surprise win for Flash Funk! And then Jesse James comes out, announces himself as the “Road Dog”, and calls Honky out as being a dinosaur “So old, Elvis Presley stole HIS gimmick!”. He dismisses himself & Billy both as curtain jerkers “looking at the lights” (“you like it? You like doing it on Shotgun every week?”), disses Jeff Jarrett as a “loser” he took to the IC Title, and promises together that they’re money… and unlike most heels, he turned out to be RIGHT! And when Dog tells him to think it over, Honky goes to brain him with the guitar… at which point Rockabilly steals it and shatters it over HIS head! So yeah, this is the weirdo formation of the New Age Outlaws, the biggest tag team of the early Attitude Era.
Rating: *1/2 (standard short, plodding RAW-style match with a banana peel finish)
STEVE “MONGO” McMICHAEL vs. JIM POWERS (w/ Teddy Long):
(WCW Pro, Oct 12th, 1997)
* Oh yeah- the wild days of “Jim Powers: The Only Jobber With a Manager” as he comes out with TEDDY LONG, and is roided to shreds with a Steiner-tier physique.
Mongo easily knocks Powers away when they collide, but takes a cross-body after some loose shots. Powers misses a corner charge and way sells a backdrop suplex like a crippling blow- he gets choked, but Long actually provides a distraction and he gets a schoolboy for two. Weird to see the babyfaces use traditionally heel tactics. Mongo immediately takes back over and beats the hell out of Powers, hitting two terrible shoulderblocks to the upper thigh (as a legit football player, he probably has to hold WAY back on those), and the Tombstone finishes at (3:16).
Pretty basic back & forth, with Powers getting more offense than you might expect, but given Mongo was never any good, it makes sense that Powers would have to get some stuff. Mongo’s offense was way too loose and slow, which I guess is better than the alternative, given how dangerous guys like Bret Hart found him.
Rating: 1/2* (basic jobber bout with weak offense)
HAKU vs. TUGBOAT:
(WWF Prime Time, July 30th 1990)
* Two of the WWF’s most lame-duck acts of 1990 square off in a “Featured Match”, as it’s the worst gimmick of the era in Tugboat (a man who maybe thinks he’s an actual boat… not a ship captain, but the actual boat) vs. Haku when they had completely jobbed him out to everyone. To that point, he’s literally already in the ring when the clip starts, getting the jobber intro. He’s in long, pink/green airbrushed tights here.
The “match” is almost entirely just stalling, as Tugboat keeps doing his “BEEEEEEEEEP!” taunt out of lockups, and a test of strength. Haku just leaps up and starts kicking him, but gets slammed. He dodges an elbowdrop and takes some shots, but blocks Haku and smashes him into the corner. Haku quickly fires back with a thrust kick to the gut, but Tugboat reverses on him, hits an avalanche, and finishes with the Running Splash at (3:15), making quick work of Haku.
Man, you ever wanna see how far Haku was tumbling down the card in 1990? Watch a new babyface demolish him with ease in three minutes after a single missed move. There was almost nothing to the bout- just some basic blocked shots as reversals.
Rating: 1/2* (almost nothing to the match)