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Scout Report by Wrestlingscout

Keiji Muto vs. Genichiro Tenryu (6/8/01)

I received a copy of "All Japan vs. New Japan 2001" a few weeks back and knew this great match awaited me. I watched a variety of other traditional puroresu before putting this match on late on a Monday Night. Usually I watch wrestling in correlation to my website, but this time it was purely entertainment. I didn't know really what to expect from these two as not an overwhelming fan of either, though I generally enjoy their matches. This match was so well done and unique to All Japan that any fan has to love it.

The tape shows some background, including Tenryu's 10/28 capture of the Triple Crown by way of Northern Lights Bomb. His nose bloodied and his face racked with pain, Tenryu has just shown the fans why he is "Mr. Puroesu." Then a title defense against Taiyo Kea from 3/3, though it is prior to their feud, it is a huge match for the young Hawaiian. Then the 4/14 Muto win over Kawada, which puts him in the number one contender's seat. Though this is only a brief background, Tenryu and Muto have a more storied past. It was 12/10/99, the final date of the Final Battle `99 tour, where the two went almost thirty minutes before Tenryu became the only native to capture both the Triple Crown and IWGP Heavyweight titles. It's been over a year and Muto's earned his chance to avenge that loss.

The opening is very appropriate for this meeting between Muto, the recently born-again king of New Japan, and Tenryu, the traditionalistic legend of puroresu. Muto comes out with his kick ass BATT theme, brandishing his new look, and walks down the New Japan-esque ramp. Tenryu comes out second to his old school music, emerging from the Giant Baba curtain in his black sweatshirt.

The actual match is initiated well with Muto getting in an early knee dropkick going after his prime target: Tenryu's 50-year-old knee. Tenryu tries valiantly to defend it, but is knocked stupid with a Shining Wizard. Some really good selling by Tenryu, who is ready to slow the match down now. Their styles begin to clash well as Muto works his slow-to-fast explosions and Tenryu just hangs on. After turning it around Tenryu gets in some of his favorites, but Muto strikes right back.

Tenryu's second rest, following another headshot, is interrupted by a pescado (actually two knees to the head). While trying to shake the cobwebs lose, Tenryu leaves his knee open and Muto resumes his attack. I really like Tenryu's selling, but he doesn't show it all yet. Muto gets suplexed off the apron to the floor, giving Tenryu a short break. The champion goes for an ill-fated suicide dive that helps Muto more than it hurts him. Banging his knee during the move, Tenryu is in trouble. The challanger smells blood and picks it up bringing Tenryu back down with Dragon Screw Legwhip off the apron, followed by a knee dropkick from the apron, then a missile dropkick to the knee once their back in the ring.

Tenryu now has to fight back - dodging and defending, but he finally is succumbed by another Legwhip and a Figure-Four. When a part of your body has been attacked, you naturally want that same part of your opponent to hurt. Tenryu retaliates with his own assault on Muto's very bad knees. He hooks a Figure-Four and a Texas Cloverleaf, but his own battered joint hinders his application. The champ has no time for holds, he needs to put this one away. A top-rope German Suplex and a Flying Elbowdrop aren't enough and Tenryu seems in trouble. He gets a second flurry with some punches and a Northern Lights Bomb, but again no dice.

Firmly in control now, Tenryu takes a big risk that pays off – a top-rope huracanrana. He goes for yet another Bomb, but Muto's knees help him out this time. Tenryu comes back with some chops and jabs, but takes another headshot. Muto beats him up and hits two Shining Wizards, but neither gets the three. Tenryu is totally out of it and Muto hits a backbreaker followed by a big moonsault. Tenryu has nothing left and Wada counts three – new Triple Crown holder!

Perhaps no match this year had a better story behind it than this one. Tenryu seems to be getting by on savvy and Muto is a hot commodity right now. I don't think anyone was surprised by this title change and it has proven to elevate the Triple Crown and the promotion behind it some. This match's place in history will be quite prevalent, so it is fitting the match itself was of this high-caliber. My only drawbacks were Muto's selling, which I've never been too keen on and I think the finish could have been better. Not to say it was a bad match because it is definitely a MOTY candidate. These two veterans worked hard and showed people why experience can make up for a youthful workrate.

Rating: ****

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