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October 27, 2002 / Ryan Clingman

The Great Muta vs. Genichiro Tenryu from AJPW 2002

Recap from Ryan Clingman:

Genichiro Tenyru and Keiji Mutoh both, in 2001, were far past their athletic primes aged 51 and 38 respectively. However, it was in June of that year that the pair put on not only a great match for two aged veterans, but one of the better matches of a still hot in-ring post-NOAH-exodus early 2000s All Japan Pro-Wrestling. Both men were at the time highly acclaimed performers, turning back the clock to, at times, unbelievable extents – Mutoh, an already outstanding wrestler, even won the Wrestling Observer Newsletter’s “Most Improved” award for 2001. Their mid-2001 match was heated and athletic, a match very much in the mold of a Kings Road All Japan classic. However, when they met again on October 27th 2012, only 16 months later, the results were wholly different.

The 2001 one match was clearly the superior outing on a quality front, however, the two matches, despite featuring the same duo from what was essentially the same time period, were very distinct from one another. Aesthetically speaking, Mutoh was working as the Great Muta in the 2002 match, which of course had far more than a visceral influence. The match’s first ten minutes weren’t worked by two men looking to fight time, as was done successfully in 2001, but rather by two older men, one in his 50s the other near 40, attempting to conserve their aging bodies whilst still producing a memorable and satisfactory match. Muta utilized mist from the onset, Tenryu bladed old-school underneath the ring apron, chairs were thrown haphazardly, and microphones were used to great effect – Tenryu, in fact, went so far as to spit blood into Muta’s face in one of the most memorable spots of the match.

However, as both men worked into the second half of what would only be a 17 minute affair, the physicality escalated. Muta, who had busted out a handspring earlier in the match, threw a shining wizard off of a chair, bumped straight onto his head off of an enzuigiri, landed a leaping shining wizard falling onto his hip, and yes, even used beloved All Japan referee, Kyohei Wada, as a platform for yet another shining wizard. Whilst Wada was perhaps the most over part of the ensuing triple down, Muta and Tenryu were most certainly big enough stars and used their veteran wit to such great effect, that this Budokan crowd could not help but erupt on a number of occasions.

All Japan, whilst beginning its decline following the NOAH exodus in 2000, was producing some of its best matches since at least 1998 during this 2001/2002 period with the likes of Tenryu, Kojima, and Mutoh at its helm. And, whilst this may not have been the very best match of that era, nor was it even the best match that the couple had with one another in a 14 month period, it was still a very enjoyable outing, one worked smart, and very hard at its conclusion – a championship match certainly worth your 17 minutes.

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