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Saturday, April 15, 2017

1988 Match of the Year

Stan Hansen/Terry Gordy v. Genichiro Tenryu/Toshiaki Kawada AJPW 12/16/88

ER: This whole thing is great in every way: Great performances from all four, great story, great build, great everything. Kawada is overmatched from go but he gives a super gutsy and super sympathetic effort. He's up against two of the hossest hosses to ever hoss, and he gets the shit kicked out of him. But damn does he go down swinging. Just watching Hansen barrel down a human makes me afraid, and Kawada just stands up to it, throws his spinkicks that he wouldn't be using a couple years later, and eventually hits one of the hardest lariats I've seen. Eventually Hansen has enough of it and drags Kawada to the floor, stomps his knee into dust, and continues doing so for the rest of the match including one all time brutal spot: Hansen is standing on his foot, kicking at his knee, all the way to the apron, and then gives Tenryu a lariat, knocking both to the floor at once (and Tenryu flying over the railing). Kawada is basically toast at this point and the match then shifts to gutsy Tenryu performance, fighting back against two beasts and doing so gamely. Crowd is LOUD cheering on Tenryu, and he throws some of his all time stiffest chops (think of the ground that covers!), gets a great nearfall by catching Gordy with a small package, hits a gorgeously high arcing elbow drop, wings enziguiris at Gordy (such a great sell by Gordy), bitch slaps freaking STAN HANSEN, but can't overcome the odds. Gordy was tremendous here, putting across just HOW bad he wanted this win, regularly appealing to Hansen but still running this game, always free to drag Tenryu around and  dish nasty overhand chops. But Hansen is the show here, man. It's pretty impossible to take your eyes off him here, he just never stops. He's constantly kicking either Tenryu or Kawada, he's storming around ringside, he's breaking up every pin in nasty fashion (I don't think it's debatable that Hansen breaks up a pin better than any wrestler in history, always crushing with an elbow drop or kicking a guy in the legs or just dragging them away and beating them for having the gall to pin his boy), dropping his better-than-anyone-ever elbows, dropping his better-than-anyone-ever knees, just a total wrecking ball. I love how he noticeably slows during the second half, getting George Foreman'd into tiring himself out by destroying Kawada, but he's still a guy who can pick his shot, and the shots are always devastating. This is elite tag team wrestling right here.

PAS: This was a hell of a fight, it was more simplistic then the classic 90s tag, but if simplistic means Stan Hansen stomping Tenryu so hard that he splits his head open, I'll take simplistic. I am so used to stoic samurai Kawada it was really weird to see him as fired up underdog babyface, but he is really great at that role too, his anguished knee selling on the floor was powerful, and his glee at his big save was very charming. Tenryu is lauded for his brutality, and he was brutal here, but I think Tenryu's greatest skill is his selling and he was awesome here fighting valiantly against the odds, but showing how much each big shot took out of him. This however was a Stan Hansen showcase, a real entry into his GOAT resume, he felt like young Mike Tyson in this match just a primal force of terrifying violence. After he broke up Kawada's german suplex pin, he beats on Kawada and Tenryu and a ring guy, it felt  like he was going to beat up every person in the arena at once.  That final lariat was a show closer, it felt like an explosive posterizing dunk, Tenryu got Mosgoved.


ALL TIME MOTY MASTER LIST


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