Wrestling 365 – 4/18

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Stan Hansen © vs Jumbo Tsuruta ©

NWA International Heavyweight/PWF Heavyweight/NWA United National Heavyweight Unification Match

04/18/89

Following on from Stan Hansen’s defeat of Genichiro Tenryu to the PWF and NWA United National champion, and over a year after Tenryu had originally unified these belts, Hansen would step into the ring with Jumbo Tsuruta. Tsuruta at this time was the NWA International Heavyweight champion, with the winner taking all three belts home. Initially clashing on the 16th of April, that match would end in a double disqualification, leading to a quickly booked rematch two days later for the right to be considered the first every Triple Crown champion in All Japan history.

Unlike previous years, Tsuruta didn’t have the crowd fully behind him anymore, receiving boos in both the first match and the rematch. In a promotion where gaijin are often the de facto heels, this was a huge turnaround. Tsuruta would often play up to this negative reaction, displaying greater arrogance and increased surliness in his general demeanour. Upon both names being announced, Hansen was clearly more popularly received, though Tsuruta still garnered more than smattering of applause amongst the boos.

An early trading of single slaps saw Tsuruta tell Hansen to bring it on, clearly fired up by the chance to make history. Attacks in the ropes on Tsuruta’s arm, a move that might usually see the crowd react disparagingly against the perpetrator, saw little to no reaction; the fans seemingly happy for Hansen to bend the rules to take the fight to Tsuruta. This was echoed by Hansen’s refusal to release a choke when Tsuruta was hanging halfway out of the ring – the fans seemed content for it to be that way if it gave Hansen the upper hand.

The initial altercations took place primarily on the mat, but it was Hansen who first took the match to the outside and used the ringpost as a weapon, gaining a two count in the process. A chinlock was supplemented with several big forearms across the chest for another two, whilst a couple of Tsuruta punches were shrugged off to allow Hansen to land a snapmare and return to the grounded choke. With two such heavy hitters, the contest was never going to stay grounded for long and it would be Tsuruta’s jumping knee that would earn him the first nearfall of the contest.

Returning the favour from earlier in the contest, Tsuruta took Hansen to the ringside and introduced him to the ringpost. Hansen would return to ringside shortly afterwards, though in a rather more unceremonious manner, flying over the top rope on a missed charge into the corner. Not content to give him even a second to rest, Tsuruta would head out to kick his fallen opponent. A return to the ring and the customary Tsuruta raised fist would be met with equal amount jeers and cheers as the crowd still seemed unsure how best to respond to their fallen hero.

With each man beginning to tire due to the flurries of hard hitting offense, Hansen would walk into the crowd seemingly to gain some respite, only for Tsuruta to drag him back to the ring by his hair. Several Tsuruta chops in the corner would send the big Texan down to the canvas, but this time it would be Tsuruta who missed a charge into the corner, colliding knee first with the turnbuckle. A Hansen back suplex would get a two count, but more importantly, allowed him to go to work with several big knees to the back and head.

The mass of humanity at ringside following the match almost lead to one person getting squashed as Hansen cracked Tsuruta with an elbow, whilst a chairshot then busted the native wide open. A fistdrop off of the second rope got Hansen his closest pinfall yet and he would even use the jumping knee to further add insult to injury. Just as it felt like Hansen had the contest in hand, an attempted lariat would be ducked by Tsuruta; the resulting collision with the ropes sent Hansen to the mat and allowed Tsuruta to steal the three count, winning all three belts as he did so.

A bloodied Tsuruta would have to endure a post-match beatdown by Hansen, yet would still receive a noticeably mixed reaction as he lifted the three titles into the air. For those who chose to boo, they didn’t have to wait too long for Jumbo to get his comeuppance, as he dropped the Triple Crown to Genichiro Tenryu only a month and a half later.

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