Ric Flair vs. Genichiro Tenryu (9/15/92)
Initially, I had no desire to watch this, but it got a bit of play in the Yearbook for being Tenryu's best match since he left All Japan and Flair's best match since 1990 so I felt compelled to watch it. It's almost Flair's best match by default given how seriously wrestling is presented in Japan. I've never really felt like Flair was all that over in Japan and the lukewarm response to his stylin' and profilin' here seemed further proof that the Nature Boy gimmick fell flat in Japan. It was interesting watch Flair take it to the mat as he wasn't really a great mat wrestler, but then again neither was Tenryu. Flair kept things moving enough that you could ignore the nuts and bolts of what he was actually doing, and mixed in enough strikes that Tenryu was able to put over the physical contest. There was nothing really gripping about the fall, but I loved the way Tenryu sold his jaw. The biggest revelation for me about Tenryu has been how good he is at those small details. Unfortunately, he has a tendency to whiff on the big stuff and I thought the finish to the opening fall was pretty bad. It started with a press slam off the top rope where Flair had to raise Tenryu's hand because it was out of position and followed up with some weak looking offense and another terrible powerbomb from Tenryu. Perhaps he had good reason to lay Flair down on a bed of feathers, but it kind of signaled to me that this wasn't going to be hugely physical.
The second fall wasn't hugely compelling. Tenryu took a direct approach to begin with and the transition for Flair to take back control of the match was a poke to the eye, which I thought was lame for a match being held in Japan. Flair ran through a few of his suplexes, which went nowhere as they transitioned into a stand-up contest, and then there was a bunch of legwork from Flair leading into the figure four. The figure four passage took an age, but at least Ric got a submission out of it. Thirty minutes into the video and Tenryu had given most of the bout to Flair, which highlights a tendency that Tenryu had, which was to give too much of the bout to his opponent and work from underneath too much. I think we can agree that the Tenryu you want to see is the guy doing soccer ball kicks and punting folks in the face and not with his back to the canvas all the time.
Tenryu being Tenryu he sold the crap out of his leg in the most realistic manner he could think of. It's unlikely Flair ever faced an opponent who put that much effort into selling the effects of the figure four, especially since Ric rarely got a submission with it. There was another lengthy figure four passage, which I think you'd have to be reasonably invested in the match to enjoy. Flair strategy buffs would probably point to the set-up work Flair did throughout the fall, which is fair enough, but while Tenryu did a nice job of hobbling about and hanging on by a thread, I couldn't really get into the spirit of Tenryu taking a constant beating. The finish was straight out of Baba's playbook, though Tenryu desperately trying to get Flair back into the ring on a bad wheel was a novel twist.
I'd go about *** on this. Felt like a bit of a chore watching it. I can see whether other people are coming from, though, as Flair had nothing like it from WrestleWar '90 onward. Wasn't a particularly great Tenryu match for me, though.