1993 · Genichiro Tenryu · Riki Choshu · Shinya Hashimoto · Takashi Ishikawa · WAR

Shinya Hashimoto & Riki Choshu vs Genichiro Tenryu & Takashi Ishikawa-WAR 2.4.1993.

There’s no way this lives up to the hype I created for it in my head right? WRONG. Hashimoto and Tenryu start things off and they tease each other for a bit before BREAKING DOWN and they just fucking go at it and throw reackless blows at each other and it totally makes sense that all of them are connecting but none where they should because they’re just manically throwing as many blows as possible and it really comes off like they want to kill each other. I also much prefer Hashimoto’s philosophy of “fuck you, if your sloppy enzuigiri can only hit my shoulder I’m jumping on you and punching you in the face” to selling it like a death blow despite it not looking good. This match kind of represents everything I love about pro wrestling and even with my ridiculously high rating I feel like I’m selling it short. There’s a spot in there when Tenryu starts chopping Choshu and just as he’s about to deliver the third one Choshu backs off and tags Hashimoto in and it’s just so wonderfully pro wrestling. This Takashi Ishikawa guy, let me tell you, he’ll do a Legdrop, nothing fancy about it, won’t wow you with his athleticism, but it is a legdrop that will connect and I wonder how the hell has Hashimoto’s nose remained not broken after it. That seems to piss of Tenryu who makes sure to shoot kick Hashimoto in the nose to break it later on. Who doesn’t love a good FIP segment? This match had a fantastic one, Tenryu and Ishikawa just beat the shit out of him, man if you’re going to hide a blade job I can’t think of a better way to do so than doing one while you’re blocking soccers kicks to the head. Tenryu and Ishikawa will double team and cheat and piss you off whenever in peril and suddenly I find myself incredibly emotionally invested in a match that happened 23 years ago. What’s also great is that these teams really do feel like teams-the aforemention backing off of Choshu was a great moment, but when Choshu finally makes his comeback Ishikawa avoids a Riki Lariat and Hashimoto comes in and kicks him to assure Choshu’s second attempt is successful and they really are making it look like they have each other’s back. The finish is just so great, completely chaotic, everyone swinging at everyone, eventually Choshu pissess Tenryu off so much he goes after him and stars unloading on him with these sickening punches which also leaves Ishikawa alone with Hash and well…..you can guess how that ended up. Post-match Tenryu goes after Hash and they unload on each other once again and then you think ok this was amazing great match everyone but Tenryu grabs the microphone and cuts a “fuck you mate” promo and then throws the mic ONTO CHOSHU’S FACE. ****3/4

1985 · AJPW · Nick Bockwinkel · Riki Choshu

Riki Choshu vs Nick Bockwinkel (AJPW 4.12.1985.)

I think Choshu is a pretty great matworker, this might not be *the* match to showcase, more of a mat-heavy match that showcases why Choshu was so great in general. I loved how Bockwinkel stepped on Choshu’s left leg while holding his right, that’s the kind of neat detail work you want to see from him. Choshu’s repetead counters to Bockwinkel’s takedown attempts were awesome, completely shutting down an opponent’s attempts at offence is something I love but you rarely see in wrestling. Bockwinkel countered Choshu’s Scorpion Deathlocks by pulling his hair and using everything he could, Choshu countered Bockwinkel’s Figure Four by chopping away at him and pushing him off, it was good stuff and the shots we got were all good looking, both Bockwinkel’s knees and Choshu’s chops looked vicious. The build to the Lariat is great but unfortunately it is followed by the ~cheap 80s finish~ (I don’t mind that the finish wasn’t clean but that it was lazily done and didn’t add to the match). At least the post-match brawling was fun. ***1/2

1993 · Ashura Hara · Riki Choshu · WAR

Riki Choshu vs Ashura Hara-WAR 14.2.1993.

There is so much greatness in this match. I absolutely love that 90% of the moves they do are just Lariats. This is living proof you can have a kickass one move match. “My Lariat is stronger than yours fuck you” is such classic dumb japanese machismo I can’t help but love it, but the real difference between how they do it here and how some modern guys do it is in the way they it. There are no weird pauses where they just look at each other-there’s clear hyping up and daring the opponent to give you his best shot. Whenever true peril emerges they fight back. The Lariats themselves look great but the “will they or will they not fall down” selling is done about as perfectly and dramatically as it could be. Hara’s body language after Choshu knocks him down is AMAZING-not only was it amazing after Lariats, at one point Choshu just viciously stomped him and you see why Hara is such a great pro wrestler-he puts the move over in a way that it easily translates to you, the viewer, the move he was just hit hurt as hell but without milking it out so much it becomes a parody of itself AND he doesn’t go overboard with it. That kind of perfectly balanced selling isn’t easy to pull off. Show me Sekimoto or Okabayashi doing that. You can’t. It doesn’t exist. Choshu selling the damage of Hara’s Lariats after he’d win a battle was PERFECT-you don’t want any portion of the match to feel like time wasting, especially in the tight and compact matches Choshu likes to do and if you don’t put over the damage Hara’s previous ten Lariats have done to you why should the crowd care about the next ten? Some really good transitions here too-the “wrestler falls from accumulated damage despite hitting the last blow” is one that always works with the right workers, but Hara’s amazing bumping stood out. The missed corner lariat was set up in the context of the match AND featured an insane bump-and Hara’s bump off the apron after Choshu hit him with his Lariat-which might as well be a shotgun blast-was also mindblowing. Hara’s counter Lariat was a perfect comeback tease and made me want to see Choshu take his head off ever further. And also Hara running away from the Lariat battle once he realised he was losing it was also really cool. ***3/4 but philosophically this might be my favourite match of all time.

1986 · AJPW · Killer Khan · Riki Choshu

Riki Choshu vs Killer Khan-AJPW 31.7.1986.

This is the stuff right here. Beginning is about what you’d expect from a big Choshu match with these two gauging the distance between them and carefully attacking, awesome lock-ups etc. I’m certain I heard the commentator react to Khan not wearing any paint, which-idk, I don’t remember ever seeing Khan wear paint but let’s build the narrative on him not wearing paint as he’s decided to paint his face with CHOSHU’S BLOOD. Ahem. Match really picks up when Khan starts stomping Choshu in the head-the stomps look really good and are reminiscent of the kind of head stomps you’d see in high end lucha matches, the kind of stuff Santo did during his rudo run. Khan misses a Knee Drop on the floor for the big transition which looks just ungodly brutal. Choshu’s reaction to this opportunity if to just thorougly beat Khan’s ass with awesome punches, kicks, and of course head stomps because fuck you Killer Khan Riki Choshu is the greatest wrestler of all time. Choshu really makes sure you buy into Khan bleeding here-most guys would just be done after one ringpost shot and get to the bleeding part as soon as possible but Choshu slams Khan’s ringpost into the head a couple of more times and hits him with the awesome lucha through the ropes kicks and punches to make sure you really believe Khan should do a blade job for this. And it rules. The big hope spot for Khan comes when he reverses a Choshu Lariat with a big boot-a counter that would be very predictable in say, a modern WWE or New Japan match, but the way All Japan uses rope running moves and irish whips in the 80s is that they have a much bigger chance of working so you buy into the sequence more, plus the actual counter looks great and is timed well. Khan’s big nearfalls are some of the most brutal knee drops you’ll ever see and his delusional heeling complements them perfectly. Choshu uses the awesome looking Backdrop both as a means of coming back into the match and as a means of wearing down Khan and setting him up for the finish-which included one of best nearfalls I’ve ever seen, it couldn’t have been timed any better. ****1/2

1991 · NJPW · Riki Choshu · Shinya Hashimoto

Riki Choshu vs Shinya Hashimoto-NJPW 10.8.1991.

I can’t stress how much I love the commentary from the crew who filmed this. People tend to put japanese crowds on pedestals and draw comparisons to theater and whatnot, but this is an excellent reminder what you hear is just the collective sum of all the noise and that many people in the crowd have small talks like “what the hell is that idiot doing taking so long to make his entrance”, yelling “kill him” and what not. The match is pretty much perfectly laid out. So much is accomplished in so little time. Choshu’s inital flurry is amazing and sets the manic pace of the match-his offence looks great as is, but him busting out a Dropkick when after taunting for a Lariat was both a great shocking moment and a nice way to put over how big of a threat Hashimoto was to him. The way Hashimoto came back was absolutely stellar-he pretty much bulldozed through Choshu after taking his best shots and kicked him out of the ring. This could’ve easily come off as Hashimoto just totally no-selling and then an that awkward period which follows after a wrestler gets sent outside the ring, but he smartly sold during and after the comeback in a way that still somewhat protected Choshu’s offence and logically filled the “empty” time. Once Choshu got back into the ring Hashimoto had already recovered, and he started laying on one of the most memorable beatings in a wrestling match I’ve ever seen, completely dismantling Choshu with brutal kicks, Choshu sold it like an action movie star on death watch, and just as I’d start to think they’re running out of ideas something incredible like Hashimoto’s spin kick, brutal arm ddt or a Choshu comeback attempt would happen. Choshu throwing the towel out of the ring was a beautiful moment of machismo, pride and stubbornness, and it’s hard to imagine a better puchline to such a great spot than immediately getting beaten out by a brutal spinning heel kick. While already marvelous, you do see Hashimoto isn’t a *completely* formed worker by this point, as thoughts of repetition never even once entered my mind during some of his later matches which also have large control segments of him pretty much doing the same thing over and over again. some of it was probably how many variations of simple moves he came up with, and that’s the only thing preventing me from labelling this as nearing perfection. ****3/4