Thursday, February 7, 2019

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 34 Best of Other Puroresu 1989-1995 (Nobuhiko Takada, Genichiro Tenryu, Vader)

Hey Yo Stud Muffins & Foxy Ladies,

Pro Wrestling Love vol. 34:
The Best of Other Puroresu 1989-1995

Objective:  Break up the Greatest Match Ever Project (hosted at into more manageable chunks to help me build my Top 100 List for the project.

Motivation: Contribute to the discussion around these matches to enrich my own understanding of pro wrestling and give a fresh perspective for old matches and even hopefully discover great pro wrestling matches that have been hidden by the sands of time.

Subject: This thirty-fourth volume of Pro Wrestling Love is the Top 6 countdown of the best matches to take place in Heavyweight Puroresu NOT in New Japan, All Japan. Promotions include Genichiro Tenryu’s SWS & WAR, Nobuhiko Takada’s UWFi, Yoshiaki Fujiwara’s PWFG, Akira Maeda’s Fighting Network RINGS, Atsushi Onita’s FMW. The year 1990 of UWF REBORN is covered in Pro Wrestling Love vol. 18. The years are selected to include the beginning of decentralization of the Puroresu promotions starting with Onita’s FMW then continuing with Tenryu starting his own promotion in 1990 and then the splintering of Shoot-Style into three rival promotions. I stopped in 1995 because honestly 1996 is when RINGS gets really good and just wanted to covered that in a different volume. You can revisit past Pro Wrestling Love Volumes at You can check out the full version of these reviews in by going to the forums and finding the folders associated with the date of the match.

Contact Info: @superstarsleeze on Twitter, Instagram &

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Honorable Mentions
Terry Funk vs Atsushi Onita - FMW 5/5/93 Exploding Barbed Wire Time Bomb Death Match
Read the title of the match if that does not sound like the craziest thing you have ever seen then you have seen some crazy shit. With 5 minutes to go a countdown clock appears and sirens are blaring for the impending doom! Also the ref is dressed as the world’s coolest beekeeper!

Wayne (Ken) Shamrock vs Naoki Sano - PWFG 5/19/91
Yoshiaki Fujiwara vs Wellington Wilkins Jr (PWFG 05/19/91)
I only watched three matches from PWFG as it was not too renowned, which kinda bums me out because I love Fujiwara. These matches are from the same show which is the second show PWFG ever did. The Fujiwara match is the closest thing to a Fujiwara exhibition, spotfest you will ever see and it is wicked cool. The Shamrock vs Sano is a total surprise in how awesome it is. It is probably Shamrock’s best worked bout. He looks so explosive. Very technical mat work with an exciting stand up.

WCW World Heavyweight Champion Vader vs Kazuo Yamazaki - UWFi 8/13/93
SUPER Vader vs Kiyoshi Tamura - UWFi 6/10/94
Vader & John Tenta vs Gary Albright & Kazuo Yamasaki - UWFi 10/14/94
Vader just ruled in UWFi. UWFi is the least shoot style shoot style promotion. Basically it is pro wrestling without rope running and Irish Whips, which is my least favorite part of wrestling anyways. Vader vs Yamazaki or Tamura is just excellent because Vader is so, so good at selling. The anguish on his face as he is getting kicked in the leg is magnificent but you know he is only one bear paw away from ending it. Really strong chemistry with both Yamazaki and Tamura.  

Volk Han vs Dick Vrij - RINGS 8/21/92
Volk Han vs Yoshihisa Yamamoto - RINGS 12/19/95
Some people find God, I found Volk Han. I mean I cant believe I waited all these years to finally watch Volk Han. An absolute master at every facet of pro wrestling (well I guess bumping does not really exist in shoot style). He is a magnificent seller (when he scrambles for the ropes it is a big deal or when he crumples in a heap), his character work is awesome (I love his celebrations or when he is pissed he lost) and of course his offense. He is Russian Mat Wizard, he makes every submission move look like the coolest thing ever and his double wristlock rip takedown are so forceful and compelling. If you have not watched this Soviet Maestro perform his craft change that pronto and let his saving grace wash you anew.  

Naoki Sano vs Yoji Anjo (UWFI 08/13/93)
Most people prefer this match, I prefer the ’95 match. The best non-Takada/Vader matchup in UWFi by a country mile. Great work and great characters.

Hulk Hogan & Genichiro Tenryu vs Legion of Doom - SWS Tokyo Dome 3/31/91
Hulk Hogan vs Geinchiro Tenryu - SWS Tokyo Dome 12/12/91
Hulk Hogan had quite the violent 1991 between the barbaric Desert Storm match with Sgt. Slaughter and insane out of control brawl with Tenryu against the Road Warriors. Then he goes straight up against Tenryu in a really fun icon vs icon match that most don’t even know exists. It is pretty amazing Tenryu had amazing matches with Hogan and Flair inside a year in the early 90s!

Real World Heavyweight Champion Nobuhiko Takada vs WCW World Heavyweight Champion Vader - UWFi 12/5/93
Real World Heavyweight Champion Super Vader vs Nobuhiko Takada - UWFi 4/20/95
The feud that basically fueled the UWFi fire from 1993-1995 (that Takada vs Gary Albright). Takada used the ‘ol Inoki model taking on big, bad gaijin and vanquishing them. The Vader vs Takada trilogy is amazing shows them both at their best Vader as the monster and Takada as the conquering hero. Vader is so good at playing the wounded bear role. His best individual performance could be the December 1993 match where Takada “breaks his arm” with a cross-armbreaker to win the match. Vader hollering in pain is a sight to below and that is the match that MADE Nobuhiko Takada the top draw he was in the mid-90s. That match is my last cut.

Top Six Matches of Heavyweight Other Puroresu 1989-1995

#6. Volk Han vs. Mitsuya Nagai - RINGS 12/24/94

There is cool and then there is Volk Han cool and none of us will ever be Volk Han cool. Volk Han is just so damn accessible. He makes every takedown and submission look like the coolest thing you have ever seen. I think this may be the best match to introduce someone to shoot style because there is so many cool moments, the point structure gets involved, theres a lot of struggle and some great character work down the stretch. I found this is actually the climax of a series of matches so I kinda feel bad jumping in at the end, BUT theres not much time left before Greatest Match Ever. I guess if you want to introduce someone to Han maybe start at the beginning of the series, but I still think this is a damn good place to start. 

Nagai wants to do this standup pretty much the whole match and I dont blame him as Volk Han is a wizard on the mat. That first armbar takedown is fucking sublime. Sublime is the only word to describe it. Then they both end up with figure-4s on each other. RINGS: Human Pretzel-Making. Han gets an armbar out of this. He is a Wizard, Harry, he is a wizard, I tells ya! Volk Han is also only person who has ever gotten me excited about the bundle of legs lock because he does such a great job selling and executing. His double ankle cross actually looks good. Nagai is the first to use the ropes. Old RINGS rules so it is Two Escapes = One Down. Nagai on reset is all about that stand up game and Volk Han nips that in the bud with a Triangle takedown. Volk Han is also the master of applying the figure-4 from crazy positions in the most organic way possible have them be deep as fuck. Somehow Han ends up in an STF a deep one too and has to go to the ropes. Volk Han happens to be the best seller in shoot style history too. If you did not already realize he was a God from this review. So Nagai just starts blasting him with kicks again so Han just SLAMS him to the mat. Han grabs this tight double wristlock. You know what this match is missing is one of those classic Volk Han double wristlock RIP TAKEDOWNS! Han gets a cross armbreaker for a rope break. It is 1-0 Volk Han. I love that Volk Han can throw an axe kick out of nowhere to create separation. Nagai is stunned and Han makes a fucking pretzel out of him. I dont know how else to describe it. Another rope break, this is too much fun. Volk Han is taking this man to school with a nice hammerlock and suplexes him on his fucking head! For a knockdown! Volk Han 2-0! He is killing this dude. Nagai sneaks in a liver punch and Han crumples to the mat. Volk Han, what a salesman. 2-1! Ruh roh! Nagai throws a wild spin kick, Han avoids but falls over. Intense ankle cross from Volk Han, great selling here from Nagai. Volk Han ends up getting him in this intense front crab with his leg in between for a rope break. 3-1...classic Volk Han takedown single leg and then KICKS OUT THE PLANT LEG! Volk Han is The Man! Volk Han has a double wristlock but for some reason the ref breaks it. Volk Han is starting to throw some meaty strikes. Nice rolling heel hook from Nagai to close the gap 3-2. Nagai does a great job quashing a Volk Han takedown here. Just close contact, gritty holds and wrestles Volk Han down to the mat. Good for him. Han does a bunch of twisting and turning but ends up in a bad position for a cross armbreaker and needs to use the ropes. Now Volk Han starts acting like he has abs of steel and throwing big smacks. Nagai tauns him sticking his face out twice. Han is not fucking around anymore and isnt going to sell shit it looks like. He kicks Nagai off in the face, but is still wrapped up. Nagai is not going away you got to give him credit. Han forces a figure-4 out of nothing and Nagai needs the ropes. 4-2 Han and one more knockdown wins it. Volk Han is Superman now and those fists of fury dont affect him anymore. He is just going to brutally force him to submit to a Full Nelson just wrestles him to the ground uncles him. Volk Han's celebration is just the best! I had the biggest grin of my face. 

I watched that match twice back to back. Couldnt not stop smiling. What a fucking clinic from Volk Han! If you want to get into Volk Han watch this match. I need to go back and watch the Yamamoto '95 and Kohsaka '96 matches because I think underrated those in retrospect.

#5. Naoki Sano vs Yoji Anjoh – UWFi 6/18/95

I feel that RINGS is to UWFi as AJPW is to NJPW, but just as in the AJPW-NJPW relationship, UWFi is occasionally able to come close to their more heralded competitor. This is one of those cases where Sano/Anjoh match RINGS in their ability, energy and organic feel. The opening features an amazing 5 minutes of shooting on the mat in amazing fashion that is gritty as it is intense ending with amazingly muscular Boston Crab by Sano. Where Sano and Anjoh have one up on their RINGS counterparts is their pro wrestling background and as a pro wrestling fan that means good character work and lots of great selling and of course ZEBRA PRINT~! (thanks Anjoh!). I feel like the Sano STF on Anjoh was incredibly compelling in a totally pro wrestling way that RINGS could never duplicate because of their shooty nature. I also loved the story of this match. Sano gets a big knee in the corner and then a dropkick to a head to score a knockdown putting it at 14-11. Anjoh spends the rest of the match digging out of the hole working hard to make it 10-10 through a ton of submission work dripping with struggle. Him getting out of that aforementioned STF and converting into his own submission was huge. I love just as Anjoh worked his way back into the match Sano just blows him out of the water with two huge knockdowns one being a deadlift German suplex. Both of their selling before of this war of attrition was great and Anjoh spent all his energy trying to get back into the match and Sano was able to score. Anjoh was spent and blocked the last German, which would have lost him the match, but falls prey to the deep cross armbreaker for the quick submission. Brutal, flashy, energetic match which used the points system really well to create a compelling narrative, loved it. 

#4. Genichiro Tenryu vs Shinya Hashimoto – WAR 6/17/93

I really need to watch the NJPW vs WAR build to this match. This is the feud that makes Shinya Hashimoto into The Man. Chono may have won the first two G-1 Climaxes and Muta may have been the first one to win the IWGP Championship, but neither was tapped to be the Leader of New Japan to face off against the invading Genichiro Tenryu. Tenryu defeated Choshu at 1/4 Dome show, but lost to Choshu at the April Sumo Hall show. The New Japan vs. WAR feud continued with a greater emphasis placed on Shinya Hashimoto in his quest to defeat Tenryu.

I liked the beginning. Hashimoto was raring to go, but Tenryu is tentative. In a lot of ways, this was Tenryu first major contest against a star of the 90s. He had matches with Misawa, Kawada and Kobashi but he left before any of them were pushed. In the New Japan feud, he was faced against his old rival, Choshu. After leading that Revolution against Jumbo, the tables have been turned and it now Hashimoto who is the upstart and Tenryu is the establishment. He has become an elder statesman and now he has to weather that storm of rage that he knows all too well that causes a man to throw off the chains and topple the establishment. There is a great lock up in the corner where you see Hashimoto give Tenryu the death stare. Hashimoto throws a barrage of kneelifts up against the ropes and Tenryu has to powder. Hashimoto is pissed and throws a wild overhand chop. Hashimoto finally gets a hold of Tenryu starts to blast him. Tenryu goes to the eyes and just rips into Hashimoto. That chop to the throat was just nasty. Reverse top rope elbow. Tenryu wants the win early. Tenryu headbutts Hashimoto in the midst of headbutts, Hashimoto kicks Tenryu's leg and LEG SWEEP! Hashimoto does a great job working holds on the legs and using strikes against the legs. Hashimoto has the best standing elbow drop this side of Lex Luger. Tenryu did a great job selling all the leg work. Tenryu has two hope spots built around Sumo Slaps which of course draw blood from Hashimoto's nose. I love how Hashimoto used the weakened leg to set up his big bomb offense: DDT, powerbomb and rainbow heel kick. He goes for the death sentence the jumping DDT but Tenryu shoves him off. Enziguiri from Tenryu! I love how all of Tenryus offense has been targeting the head during his comeback. Powerbomb 1-2-NO! Tenryu is in shock. Hashimoto hits his own enziguiri; I like how Hashimoto has used the powerbomb and enziguiri in this match. Tenryu hits a couple really bad enziguiris, but thats Tenryu for you. The finish sequence is absolutely amazing. Tenryu tries with all his might to get Hashimoto up for his second powerbomb, but cant do it. Kawada kicks by Tenryu and then two BADASS CHOPS! Hashimoto kicks him in the head with a roundhouse kick and Tenryu responds with a KAPPO KICK! That popped me! POWERBOMB! 1-2-3!

One of those matches where Hashimoto gained as much in a loss as he would have with a victory. Helluva effort from him. Totally in the zone once the bell rang, great job working the leg and hell he had Tenryu where he wanted him after the finish sequence and was one move away from winning. Tenryu showed his veteran poise giving a totally selfless performance selling so well for Hashimoto and giving so much of the match to him. Then coming back with the perfect amount of vulnerability and credibility. You come away feeling that is not a matter of if but when Hashimoto will upend Tenryu and take his place among legends of puroresu and the Ace of New Japan Pro Wrestling.

#3. WWF World Champion Ric Flair vs Genichiro Tenryu 
SWS 9/15/92 Two Out Of Three Falls

Flair has since regained the World Championship from Savage and is about to transition it to Bret Hart. There's such a big fight feel/dream match feel to this even though Flair has been wrestling Tenryu since at least 1981 if not even earlier. I think it feels so different because this is now Tenryu's promotion and Flair is in the WWF with shorter hair. 

First Fall: Two distinct differences from Flair right off the bat is that there is a lot more American Flair heel character work in this match than in his previous matches. Lots of trash talking and bravado. Second, he wrestles this match completely differently from an offensive perspective. Tenryu gets absolutely zero shine. Yes, folks you read that right, heel Flair did not bump 'n' run for his babyface opponent. This was NOT a fire fight either initially. This was a domineering Flair performance. Put that in your pipe and smoke, Flair haters. Flair works the arm with a ton of great holds and lots of tight pinning combinations. Flair shows how you are supposed to actually pin a man by cradling the leg & neck and then clasping your hands! Can we please bring back good pinning! Flair starts working these nasty short punches to Tenryu's face, repeatedly. Tenryu sells as if his nose has been broken. Tenryu had another good delayed sell of a chop. Flair uses his kneedrop on the injured nose and again that tight cradle pinning combination. Flair tries to use the sleeper to no avail. Tenryu armdrags him off and as he comes in Flair throws a wild chop and catches him in throat. This match is really damn good. Tenryu finally nails a lariat that causes Flair to powder. I love how Tenryu always had the puncher's chance. Flair could pour on all the offense he wanted but it was just one lariat that could change the complexion of the match. Tenryu press slams Flair off the top and NAILS an enziguiri. Flair blocks the Lariat! Flair tries for a kneecrusher to stymie Tenryu's momentum, but Tenryu shifts his weight and they topple over backwards, another enziguiri and Tenryu is rolling. Powerbomb...1-2-3! Tenryu up 1-0. Awesome first fall!

Second Fall: Wow! I waited far too long to watch this match! This could be heel Flair's best offensive performance ever. Babyface Flair has great offense, but for everyone who has wanted to see offensive-minded Flair needs to check this out. This starts with Tenryu refusing to break on a sleeper and even gets some boos. The Japanese are sticklers for rules. A great fire fight breaks out. This has not been Flair vs Garvin in terms of sustained chopping, but the chops that have been throws have been brutal. Flair begs off and Tenryu is like "C'mon, brutha" and Flair pokes him in the eye! Flair is just firing on all cylinders. Tons of great suplexes and tight pinning combinations. Tenryu tries to mount a comeback and then it is an eyepoke. Flair chop block. Flair works a clinic working the leg and even busts out a new leg move. He looks great. I wish Flair worked full-time in Japan in 1993 instead of going back to WCW. Imagine Tenryu & Flair invading New Japan together! They battle over the Figure-4 maybe the most compelling use of the Figure-4 ever. Eventually succumbs to the Figure-4 via pinfall. It is important that he is does not tap out. I love 2 out of 3 falls matches because moves that are badass like the Figure-4 actually get put over as real finishes. I am loving this match!

Third Fall: They fell back to Earth in this fall. I think if they went 5 minutes in this fall instead of close to 15 minutes they would have been much better off. There were a lot of stilted moments where they were sort of thinking of what to do next to fill time. Flair just started strutting around for no reason to kill time. Here's a complaint you never thought would be written...I thought Flair was too focused on working the leg. There was not much forward progression. Also the urgency was lost. The finish was kinda lame. Flair was just on the apron for no reason strutting and Tenryu enziguiris him and Flair hits the post and it is a countout loss. I have no problem with a countout. It was the finish I was expecting. Negative complaints done, there is some good from this fall. The chops are brutal and the leg work is good. The best part is the first five minutes. Flair applies an STF, AN STF!  He then goes back to the figure-4. This is just smart. Tenryu gets a kneebar! Flair is hollering in agony. Flair comes up limping. There is this great fight and then Tenryu applies the kneebar on Flair and what a sell! Great job! If they went home right after that, I would be tempted to give this the full monty *****, I really thought the first two falls were spectacular. They bite off a little more they can chew and go longer than necessary, but 35 minutes out of 45 minutes being ***** is still fantastic and I highly recommend watching this very unique Flair performance oh and that Tenryu guy is pretty damn fantastic himself.

#2. Volk Han vs Yoshihia Yamamoto – RINGS 6/17/95

To me what separated Han from Yammamoto was his selling. When he got trapped in a submission hold, the way he squirmed, lunged for the ropes or would quickly counter made that hold matter so much more. Yammamoto is just 24 at the time of this match and at the beginning it shows in a completely kayfabe way. He is just doing things that are stupid and giving Han opportunity after opportunity to put him away. He drops to his back like he is a fucking Gracie and Han shows him up completely stepping on his ankle and applying the craziest single crab. He was all over Yammamoto before he got to the ropes. For a while Yammamoto just felt outclassed by the technical wizardy of Han (the way he finds organic ways to put on pro wrestling holds is great) however Volk Han does get caught napping. In a Scorpion Deathlock, Yammamoto picks the ankle and applies a heel hook that sends Hand scrambling for the ropes. I love that selling there. Treat the holds with respect and the match gets treated with respect. That is the story of the match in a nutshell, Han is clearly superior, but he is giving Yammamoto enough rope to hang himself. You see Yammamoto come up with some very nice counterwrestling that makes you believe Han could lose. I really liked the Han STF. Han loves using the double wristlock as his base to create offense and one time just rips Yammamoto down in the hold. Wicked takedown that gets the doctors involved. I thought this was a red herring and that Yammamoto was going to get the win. BOOM! Blast him in the face with a palm strike and Han was down for a 8. Han gets right up shakes it off, but is clearly woozy. Yammamoto actually applies a tight guillotine choke that looks to be it, but Han wriggles out and gets the cross armbreaker for the submission victory.

Told a great little story of Han's dominance, but Yammamoto perseverance through counterwrestling, but ultimately coming up short. The last 90 seconds after the double wristlock takedown was sweet and you totally did not know which way it was going to go. Great shoot style match!

#1. Real World Heavyweight Champion Nobuhiko Takada vs Super Vader – UWFi 8/18/94

What if Goliath wins? 

Yngwie Fucking Malmsteen of all people is there to present Takada with the flowers. I did a little digging and I guess Malmsteen composed/plays Takada's theme. That has to rank as one of the most Japan things ever. Lou Thesz says that his Original World Championship is on the line. I think viewing this through a shoot style lens is pretty unfair. It is an old school pro wrestling in the sense that there are no Irish whips and rope running, but the idea was to present realistic pro wrestling as opposed to realistic fighting in my opinion. It is all a work anyways. I am choosing to watch this as if I am watching a New Japan match rather than get hung up on the fact that Vader ain't Volk Han out there. Interesting start as there is no shine. Takada is trying to avoid early, but gets caught in the corner with those rhythmic Vader forearms. Vader THROWS HIS ASS DOWN not once, but twice. Takada is starting in a hole. Takada goes after the legs and anytime he can he is trying to apply the cross-armbreaker, which had won him the match in December,. Takada is such a great valiant babyface in this match. This reminds me of a Puroresu version of Vader vs Sting from GAB '92. Sting & Takada get in their hope spots, but neither one has a chance when Vader is in this zone. I think they told a tremendous story of for every three Takada shots, one Vader shot could put Takada down. This is some of the best stand up you will ever see. It was hard hitting and dramatic. Vader was lighting Takada up with palm strikes and forearms. Takada's kneelifts were vicious. Of course, Takada caught him a couple times with that trademark kick combo where the left foot catches you right under the chin. Really strong stand-up. On the mat, I liked it. It was not Volk Han vs Kiyoshi Tamura. It was ugly but effective. Vader used his weight well and when ever he was in trouble he would just palm strike Takada in the face. Works for me! At one point, Takada got pissed about this and just start blasting Vader in the face. Takada never did get his cross-armbreaker applied. It really became a great stand up battle as the match worn on. Just a slobberknocker. The turning point was when Vader was getting rocked and he just grabbed a waistlock on Takada and hurled him in a wicked German suplex. Takada would get a few more hope spots, but they were few and far between. Vader just dominated from there on out with some massive forearms. That deadlift powerbomb as insane. I remember that as the finish, but Takada stood up. The finish was inevitable and eventually succumbed to the might of Vader. 

Goliath won with exactly what brought him to the dance, raw, unadulterated power and brute force. Vader really sold Takada's attacks well. His register is so good. He would take three heavy shots and then come back with a wild swipe and knock Takada's ass down. Takada would have to start from square one. I think Takada got enough "nearfalls" in his few knockdowns to make it dramatic, but Vader was on fire here, very much like GAB '92. So what happen when Goliath wins? Well David gets a rematch of course. 

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