NJPW: Antonio Inoki vs. Genichiro Tenryu (January 4, 1994)

I want to try to review all the Wrestle Kingdom main events while they’re free on New Japan World.

This match was an experience. If there’s a story surrounding it, I don’t know it, but I was captivated nonetheless.

After staring at each other for a bit, Inoki and Tenryu slowly lock knuckles. After a bit of struggle, Inoki punches Tenryu with a closed fist and gets admonished. More staring. Tenryu unloads a few legal strikes. More staring. Then it gets weird when Inoki uses a closed fist again and locks in a sleeper. Tenryu immediately gets the ropes, but Inoki won’t break for several seconds. When he does, Tenryu lies there like he’s comatose for a long, and I mean a loooong, time. Not quite as long as that time that the NWO laid out the Giant, but still very long. Referee Tiger Hattori admonishes Inoki and tries to keep him away from Tenryu, but he still manages to get over there and choke him with his knee. Then he smacks Hattori down, but I guess they give a lot of leeway in the main events, because he isn’t disqualified. After long last, Riki Choshu reaches in a slaps Tenryu, finally arousing him. He walks around at ringside for a bit, then beats up one of his young boys before getting back into the ring.

Everything after is kind of a blur, but not because of speed. It’s just that the early parts of the match were so mesmerizing that it’s hard to focus on anything else.

Tenryu is still very loopy. Every time he goes down, it’s questionable whether he’ll get back up or not. Inoki works the Manji-Gatame. He gets another sleeper, but since they’re in the ropes, I guess the fact that Tenryu’s out cold again can’t count towards the finish. At this point, I was wondering if pinfalls were even allowed in the match. Both guys do rolling capo kicks. Tenryu does his strikes and that weird falling enzuigiri. Eventually, Tenryu overcomes the odds and barely pins Inoki with a folding powerbomb.

Winner – Genichiro Tenryu

Rating – Good

It’s a spectacle of a match, for sure. The crowd was into everything. I’m pretty sure it accomplished what they wanted. And I wouldn’t mind watching it again sometime. But I don’t think I want to see this kind of match very often.

Oh, and afterwards, Inoki and Tenryu shake hands and Tenryu bows to Inoki. Go figure.

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