Jumbo vs Misawa: Part One
Jumbo Tsuruta/Genichiro Tenryu vs Giant Baba/Tiger Mask II 11/28/86
This is the first interaction between Tenryu and Misawa. I have a feeling Misawa is going to get murdered. Baba and Tenryu begin. Baba immediately throws Tenryu to the floor, then tags Misawa to do a plancha (that he mostly misses). Interesting strategy. Jumbo is certainly not using kid gloves tonight, as whatever advantage Misawa had with Tenryu is immediately negated. Baba is definitely past his prime, and as such, his flurries of offense are scattered. At the same time, he can't just let his recently turned heavyweight partner work most of the match against two heavyweights. LOL at the cheap shots to Baba. Baba repaying the favor is great, too. Misawa does what he can, but he's still basically a junior and clearly below his opponents on the pecking order. Baba throws some pretty hard strikes, especially for this stage of his career. Tenryu and Jumbo do not take it easy on him at all. Jumbo rolls through a cross body to get the win. This was a lot of fun. The cheap shots to Baba, Baba throwing them right back, Tiger Mask holding his own with top heavyweights. Very fun.
Jumbo Tsuruta/Tiger Mask II vs Genichiro Tenryu/Ashura Hara 6/11/87
Riki Choshu has left the company, and Tenryu has split from Jumbo. Tiger Misawa's role and importance in the company have been raised considerably. Tenryu seems content to stomp him out before he gets a chance to make it to the top levels of the company. Actually, so does Hara. And Jumbo HATES Tenryu, so you've got a lot of mean shit in this. Simple things like breaking a pin turns into Jumbo stomping Tenryu's head about 8 times. Misawa hits a crazy top rope plancha on Tenryu. I have to giggle a bit at young Kawada being at ringside in green and white. Jumbo is just straight hateful when in the ring with Tenryu. So many head stomps. And nasty lariats. Tenryu's in particular sound like throwing a baked potato against a wall. Even Misawa is throwing them. Misawa totally had a win over Tenryu, but Tenryu's foot, though no action of his own, was in the ropes. I'm not sure if the match was a time limit draw or a DQ, as Hara and Tenryu double teamed Jumbo for quite a while and then the bell rang. Misawa continues his rise in the heavyweight ranks, and Jumbo/Tenryu continue to hate each other.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs Tiger Mask II 3/9/88
The first singles encounter. Tiger Mask is now a firmly established heavyweight and rising star, but not to the point where Jumbo has to be worried about his spot. Yet. However, Jumbo is clearly surprised and frustrated at how tenacious Tiger Misawa is with the headlocks. Jumbo finally gets sick of it and hits a snap back drop, and the mood here has changed. Jumbo now realizes this dude is more of a threat than he thought, and adjusts accordingly. Misawa realizes this and kicks up the speed, which he has a clear advantage on. Fans are super into Misawa's near falls, and the momentum seems on his side to score the upset. All until a disgusting stun gun puts a halt to all that noise. A brutal back drop can't end it. Misawa is still alive! The next back drop ends it, but the entire foundation of the promotion was rocked with this match. Jumbo now sees Misawa as a serious threat both as a competitor and in fan support. The fans see that Tiger Mask can hang with the top guy, and they supported him over Jumbo in the match.
Jumbo Tsuruta/Tiger Mask II vs Genichiro Tenryu/Ricky Fuyuki 1/14/90
The lower ranked guys start the match. Tiger Misawa has integrated more green into his gear. A sign of things to come. Guess who Tenryu doesn't like? ANYONE. Misawa and Jumbo focus on Fuyuki's leg. God, Tenryu is such a dick. Even breaking a pin is the most dickheaded thing I've ever seen. Wonderful. I think Tenryu hates Misawa more than Jumbo in this. See when Misawa kicked him and his response was to attempt to rip his eyes out and tear the mask apart. Such an overreaction. And so hateful. SO hateful. Tenryu just beats the shit out of Misawa. Fuyuki continues to rip the mask apart, which is now about half off. Grumpy ass Tenryu is something I can watch all day. He's so great in this. Beating the dog shit out of poor Tiger Mask, and killing all of Jumbo's momentum with cheap shots. Fuyuki submits to a Jumbo half crab. Tenryu leaves his partner in the ring in disgust. Misawa shows the damage of the match with his torn mask and bruised chest. Jumbo and Tiger Mask show some respect to Fuyuki after the match.
Jumbo Tsuruta/Great Kabuki/Masanobu Fuchi vs Mitsuharu Misawa/Kenta Kobashi/Akira Taue 5/26/90
Misawa had unmasked earlier in the month, and is now the de facto leader of AJPW's younger generation. Taue is still basically a rookie, Kobashi has just recently started to win matches, and Misawa is on the cusp of being the next break out star. Taue throwing dropkicks is weird. Fuchi starts for the vets, and is quickly outmatched by speed and size. So he takes it to the mat, where he has the advantage. Kenta takes it right to Jumbo and pays. And so do his teammates, who get BLASTED off the apron, especially Misawa. Misawa wants in, and now Jumbo is face to face with his former partner and biggest threat. How does Jumbo handle such things? By trying to lariat the frog man's fucking head off, of course. Christ. He just absorbed all of Misawa's knees and blasted him with that lariat. Kabuki is obviously the weak link here, even more so than rookie Taue. But what he does (punches to the throat), he does pretty well. Misawa repays that cheap shot from earlier. Once Jumbo recovers, he tries to MURDER Misawa, and the two end up rolling on the mat with punches and elbows while not the legal man and both teams (and the ref) having to pull them apart. The match basically stops because of hatred. And then as soon as things calm down, Jumbo jumps back in to get at Misawa. Both dudes ended up with mouses and lumps on their heads. Kobashi ends up as something of a FIP for a bit. Then Misawa and Jumbo go at it again. TAUE interrupts this to take it to Jumbo. Jumbo's complete shrugging off of anything Kobashi does is great. He can't do that shit as much to Misawa anymore, and Taue is bigger, so he takes out his frustrations on Kobashi. Even Jumbo's bodyslams are spiteful. Misawa pins Fuchi with the tiger suplex. This was AWESOME. Everything about it. It set up the next 2-3 years of Jumbo/Misawa interactions, set up Taue and Kobashi's future spots in the company, and basically made it clear that the next generation was coming, no matter how much the vets resist. So great.
Jumbo Tsuruta vs Mitsuharu Misawa 6/8/90
This is their first singles match without the Tiger Mask gimmick involved. Playing off the intense interactions of the 6 man tag last month, a singles match was booked. Misawa had had NWA and AWA title shots at this point, but this is the biggest match of his career. Kobashi and Kawada are seconds for Misawa. Misawa refuses a handshake at the start of the match. Misawa thought he was cute having the jumping knee scouted. He paid for it with big boots and lariats. Misawa's first major salvo was a dropkick off the apron, which probably did about as much damage to him as it did Jumbo. Misawa's clean break fake out into a slap really shows the lack of respect the two have for each other. And then he does it again. Don't worry, Jumbo laid in the jumping knee. It's really pretty interesting to me how Misawa can be both young and disrespectful, but not come off like the bad guy in his interactions with Jumbo. That's how much of a dick Jumbo has become. If you want to see mean as fuck, look no further than Jumbo taking his knee pad down and hitting Misawa full force in the face while on the ropes. That was no joke and sounded like it broke an orbital bone. On the third try, Jumbo hits the top rope flying knee. You know shit is real when he pulls that out. Crowd is losing their shit to Misawa's near falls. Because now, unlike the last time they had a singles match, Misawa actually CAN win this. But now, the familiarity the two have for each other as partners and opponents comes into play. Moves that worked in other matches have been scouted and countered. Both have to start resorting to rare moves and counters to get the advantage. Misawa counters Jumbo's counter of a suplex to get the shocking win. Crowd and announcers absolutely lose it. Even Misawa loses it, breaking down in tears after the match, and he's the most stoic dude to ever live. Jumbo hobbles to the back in shame as the new generation celebrates in the ring, the audience chanting for Misawa. Misawa has truly arrived, and Jumbo (and his generation) has been put on notice. This is also awesome and is a must see. The legend goes that Jumbo was originally supposed to win this match, but Baba called an audible due to the crowd reactions. It paid off.