Triple Crown Championship – Genichiro Tenryu (c) vs Keiji Mutoh All Japan June 8th 2001
The Setting – Keiji Mutoh had returned to Japan in later 2000 with a completely new look as well as a new finisher called the Shining Wizard. Mutoh would quick go straight back to the top of the card in his native land after a couple of years in decline. He had spent some time in 2000 treading water in WCW a pale shadow of his former self. Tenryu may be better known to fans who never watch Puro for his stints in WWE in 1991 and 1994. He had been the champion of All Japan for over seven months when this bout happened.
The Match –
Mutoh gets things started with two dropkicks and the Shining Wizard putting this match at a quicker pace straight away. The crowd erupts as Mutoh slams Tenryu climbs the turnbuckles for a Moonsault. Tenryu, ‘Mr. Puroresu’, rolls out to ringside. After some stalling they lock up with Genichiro taking control briefly with a wristlock. They get back to their feet and lock up again this time Keiji taking control. He gives his opponent a snapmare then his trademark quick elbow drop and applies a rear chinlock. Tenyru powers out with a back Suplex. Whipping Mutoh into the ropes he misses a clothesline and is dropkicked. In a corner he is whipped to the other side and gets a boot up as Mutoh tried to land a handspring back elbow. After a leaping enziguri Mr. Puroresu only gets a two count. Powerbomb for another two. Whilst being viciously kicked and chopped Mutoh responds with a cartwheel kick for a big cheer. Keiji slingshots himself over the ropes onto Tenyru who escaped for a breather. On the ring apron Mutoh dropkicks a knee repeatedly to create a weakness on his foe. He tries to Suplex him over the ropes and into the ring but Tenyru manages to counter it with a Suplex from the apron to the ringside floor below. Both men lie exhausted on the floor.
Out of nowhere Tenyru dives onto Mutoh. As he climbs back onto the apron Keiji grabs a leg and pulls him down with a nasty looking Dragonscrew Legwhip. This is followed up by a missile dropkick from the ring to Genichiro’s hurt knee in another great looking spot. They eventually get back in the ring which is applauded by the crowd. Mutoh strikes another dropkick, this time from the top rope. Coming off the ropes again he just misses an elbow drop which leaves him looking befuddled. It seems to be a botch of sorts from these two masters. He quickly gets back to work on Tenryu’s bad knee with a Figure Four Leglock. A rope break saves Mr. Puro but Mutoh won’t leave the hurt leg alone. Tenryu makes a comeback with stiff punches and a dropkick of his own to a knee. This leads to the two exchange dropkicks till Tenryu delivers a Dragonscrew Legwhip and applies a leglock of his own. After a rope break both men fight for control until Keiji is tripped up and put in the Texas Cloverleaf that Tenryu struggles to keep in place. Mutoh is place onto the top turnbuckle. After dropping his foe with his trademark Spider German Suplex he launches off the ropes with a elbow drop for a nearfall.
Both men get to their feet and Genichiro runs the ropes only to be caught with a killer Frankensteiner. Mutoh tries to follow up with the dreaded Shining Wizard but its blocked and Mr. Puro starts throwing punches and hits a Brainbuster. Keiji is propped back on the top turnbuckle and Tenryu executes a Frankensteiner of his own for a nearfall. After exchanging chops Mutoh blasts his opponent with a Pele kick and the Shining Wizard for a nearfall. The audience are on fire by now with heat. Another Shining Wizard but this somehow doesn’t get the three count either. Mutoh leaps to the top rope and lands a great Moonsault, a move he invented, to finally get the pin and win the Triple Crown of championships for the first time.
The Aftermath – Mutoh would go on to win the AJPW Double Tag Championship and IWGP Tag Championship by the end of the year (both with Taiyo Kea) meaning he had SIX BELTS at the same time. He would then jump to All Japan full time, become its president, then owner and eventually sell the company in early 2013 due to money issues. Tenryu would defeat Mutoh for the then vacant Triple Crown in April 2002 but would lose it to him again 6 months later. He now wrestles as a ‘freelancer’.
Watch it here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PS1yA7OWfM8
James Simpson (@knowyourpuro)