Wrestle Kingdom Rewind takes a look at classic moments of the past years on January 4 as we count down to Wrestle Kingdom 18.
<— January 4’s first main event Inoki vs Tenryu a year in the making–>
January 4 1993 saw Super Warriors followed up by Fantastic Story in Tokyo Dome. Featured matches included Sting taking on the fast rising Hiroshi Hase, Jyushin Thunder Liger facing the challenge of Ultimo Dragon for the IWGP Junior Heavyweight Championship, and Masahiro Chono and the Great Muta clashing in a double NWA World Heavyweight and IWGP Heavyweight Championship match.
In beating Rick Rude in the finals of the then single elimination G1 Climax tournament in 1992, Masahiro Chono captured the vacated big gold NWA Heavyweight Championship. Chono would defend his title in the US in a rematch with Rude, as well as in Japan against Steve Austin and Scott Steiner, yet he would finish his year by facing his fellow Three Musketeer in demonic guise in the Omni at Starrcade, the Great Muta.
Chono came out on top that night, but the rematch on January 4 1993 would have the stakes raised, with Muta’s IWGP Heavyweight Championship on the line to boot. This time it would be Muta victorious in a memorable bout, with an iconic attack down the immensely long Tokyo Dome ramp from Muta.
What of Muta’s opponents one year earlier? Heading into January 4 1992 having recently lost their IWGP Tag team Championships, the Steiner Brothers would go to war with Big Van Vader and Crusher Bam Bam Bigelow and emerge victorious in the summer of ’92, picking up the tag belts for a second time. Yet just as they had one year earlier, the brothers would lose the titles in a fated month of November, to Scott Norton and Tony Halme. Once more, they sought vengeance in the Tokyo Dome, but it was not Norton and Halme but rather their successors that they faced.
The Hellraisers, Hawk Warrior and Power Warrior were a fearsome duo indeed, Kensuke Sasaki taking the Power Warrior mantle when Hawk’s regular partner Animal was out injured. Sasaki exactly fit the no nonsense, all power mentality that the Warrior name commanded, and that was evident all the way through this violent tag battle, neither side giving an inch before Scott Steiner and Hawk were so wrapped up in an outside brawl that a double countout was rendered.
It was a loaded card indeed, but even a double title match of the scale of Muto vs Chono didn’t top an interpromotional double header ending with a dream singles main event. Plenty of controversy in the very early 1990s concerned an ill fated venture with big money backing in the promotion known as SWS. Genichiro Tenryu had been hand picked out of All Japan to lead the group in front of camera and behind the scenes, and when SWS folded through little fault of Tenryu, he spun their roster, including former AJPW contemporary Takashi Ishikawa, into new promotion WAR.
Wanting to make as big a splash as he could to compete, Tenryu saw the opportunity to compete against NJPW’s best, and when Ishikawa and Koki Kitahara defeated Tatsumi Fujinami and AKira Nogami in December 1992 in Osaka, the WAR boys did nothing but brag about their considerable achievement. That set Fujinami off, leading to a singles bout in the Tokyo Dome, and a partisan crowd exploded at Fujinami’s opening Dragon Rocket tope suicida. A chrous of boos greeted Ishikawa’s attempts to suppress the Dragon with a lengthy sleeper hold, but he couldn’t contain Fujinami. A trio of enzuigiri and the Dragon Sleeper ended Ishikawa’s night; his boss waiting in the wings to take on another icon of NJPW.
Tenryu and Choshu’s paths first crossed in the mid 1980s. Choshu briefly left NJPW, taking his Ishin Gundan stable with him, and while wrestling under his own World Japan banner, would often ply his trade in All Japan rings. The fast growing face of AJPW was a man in Genichiro Tenryu who had a late start to his pro-wrestling career after a successful stint in sumo, but who had quickly become one of the most popular members of the All Japan roster.
At the turn of the decade, Tenryu would leave AJPW, while Choshu would return to his roots in NJPW in 1987. It would seem as if the two warriors would never cross paths again, until Tenryu formed a new promotion under the name of WAR that was eager to prove its wrestlers against all comers.
Just as Tenryu had feuded with the Ishingun in the mid 1980s, so the new Heisei Ishingun stable would battle Tenryu’s charges in 1992. These battles would expand to include other NJPW wrestlers outside of Heisei Ishingun’s purview, and as WAR and NJPW wrestlers would show up to the opposite promotions events, matters would escalate until WAR’s president Tenryu would take on NJPW’s locker room leader in Choshu.
The resulting match was intense and hard fought, both Choshu and Tenryu putting considerable pride on the line. By night’s end, after Tenryu stood victorious with a powerbomb, he and his company had earned respect of all around, including Antonio Inoki, who issued a challenge on the spot for the very next year, the main event of January 4 1994 all but decided a year in advance.
Next: Inoki vs Tenryu! –>