This is actually a match I’ve been wanting to review for the site for a while now but never got around it until, well… Now. This, just like Ibushi/Generico from 08, is one of those matches that I hold near and dear. This might not be in the top five of any ‘Top 10 matches of the 2000s’ list but I would definitely put this in mine.
That’s mainly because this match was murder IN THE BEST WAY. Seriously, in the first five minutes you have Tenryu decking a rushing KENTA, repeatedly beating him to a pulp with a steel chair, chopping his smaller body over the barricade, and cutting off a couple of his attempts to gain some offense. The pacing here was just excellent, not just because of KENTA getting completely merked, but also because it involved the mix of two match dynamics I’ve always been fond of; The grizzled vet vs. the brash young gun, and the David vs. the Goliath.
The combination of these two dynamics made things far more interesting than you’d expect and that’s not even accounting for who’s actually in the match. Tenryu was unforgiving to poor KENTA and you could tell he didn’t hold back one bit, although Tenryu not holding back actually made things harder on himself as the match went on when KENTA eventually gained control. You could tell KENTA was trying to get some receipts back for the beating he took earlier on in the match and the strikes he gave to Tenryu had this mix of both desperation and determination to them that made this look more like a fight for survival than just your usual match.
Tenryu has always had this knack of not only bringing out the best in his opponents because of how hard-hitting he can be in the ring, but also their more vicious sides as well. We saw that with Okada in his retirement match and we saw that here with KENTA when he just kept dishing out those strikes on the bigger, more experienced Tenryu.
One critique I can see being thrown at this match is how Tenryu, most likely due to his age, was not the best at selling KENTA’s strikes. Most of the time his selling was real rigid and while I could see that criticism fitting into practically any other match, I didn’t really see the problem with it here. If anything it helped the match, because when you have a big vs. small dynamic like this, the big man not going down immediately works, especially when the big man has dominated the majority of the match and is JUST getting beaten up on. KENTA’s selling on the other hand, wasn’t very stiff at all. The guy was bumping around all over the place and taking every painful chop, brainbuster, DDT, and lariat Tenryu had to offer so much so that this match might as well have been called “The Passion of The KENTA”.
In the end, KENTA’s little comeback was snubbed and after some more ruthless haymakers, he got a disgusting lariat for his troubles to end the match. When all was said and done, KENTA was bleeding from the mouth, his chest was pretty damn red, and holding the back of his head. Fucking brutal. To add some insult to injury, Tenryu tossed a bottle of water at a fallen KENTA before he promptly walked to the back.
Like I said earlier, this match was murder in the best way. If you have thirteen minutes to kill and you haven’t seen this match before, I’d definitely give this a watch. Hell, even if you have seen this match before, give it another watch. One more viewing won’t hurt nearly as much as Tenryu hurt KENTA here.