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Wrestling / Genichiro Tenryu

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Genichiro Shimada (born February 2, 1950) is a Japanese sumo and Professional Wrestler and promoter, better known as Genichiro Tenryu. He started as a sumo wrestler at the age of 13 and competed for 13 years. All Japan Pro Wrestling's Giant Baba sent Shimada (Tenryu was his Shikona, or ring name, in Sumo) to train with the Funk Brothers (Terry and Dory Jr.) in their Amarillo, Texas promotion. Tenryu debuted against Ted DiBiase in 1976. After some time in the AJPW undercard and a brief run in Jim Crockett Promotions, his career started picking up in the 1980s. He is the second wrestler (Big Van Vader was the first) and the first native-born one to win both the All Japan Pro Wrestling Unified Triple Crown Heavyweight Title and the New Japan IWGP Heavyweight Title. He also held the NWA World 6-Man Tag Team Titles with The Road Warriors. Tenryu and fellow former sumo wrestler Koji Kitao defeated Demolition (Smash and Crush) in the team's last-ever PPV match, at WrestleMania VII in 1991. Tenryu also was in the 1993 Royal Rumble and, as a hired gun for Mr. Fuji, was one of the ten wrestlers who attacked The Undertaker during his casket match with WWE World Heavyweight Champion Yokozuna at Royal Rumble 1994. (He also competed in the Rumble match itself.) He was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996.

His list of symbolic achievements is pretty long: he is the only Japanese wrestler who ever pinned both Giant Baba AND Antonio Inoki, the only wrestler in being a consistent top draw player in almost all the known puroresu promotions (hence his nickname "Mr. Puroresu"), the only founder whose wrestling promotion closed by itself and not due to money troubles, and finally one of the oldest wrestlers to retire (65). He might be the trope namer for a pro wrestling version of the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.

"Sky-Rising Tropes":

  • The Alcoholic: He is a known drinking animal, to the extent that "Tenryu Cocktail" is puroresu slang for "getting shitfaced by sake on the rocks".
  • Anti-Hero: Has played both as a heel and as a face, but his wrestling persona has been always the same: a brutal jerkass with respect for nobody, which evolved into a Grumpy Old Man over the decades.
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • Riki Choshu.
    • Jumbo Tsuruta. After Tenryu defeated him for the Triple Crown, Tsuruta offered a handshake out of respect, but Tenryu refused to shake hands.
    • With Keiji Mutoh/The Great Muta. It extends to real life, as Tenryu left All Japan in the 2000s mostly because the role of chairman was given to Mutoh instead of him.
  • Author Appeal: Likes to book wrestlers with a background in Sumo Wrestling like himself, and seemed to have a spot for martial artists and shoot-style wrestlers too.
  • Bash Brothers: With Ashura Hara, Jumbo Tsuruta, John Tenta and Koji Kitao.
  • Big Brother Mentor:
    • Many wrestlers who worked with Tenryu at the beginning of their careers, among them Mitsuharu Misawa and Toshiaki Kawada, have called him this.
    • The story of Shiro Koshinaka exemplifies this. In 1984, when the talented junior was passed over in favor of the younger Misawa, who was given the Tiger Mask gimmick, Koshinaka desired to jump ship to NJPW, where he believed he would have a better future. Baba refused to approve this, but Koshinaka happened to bump into Tenryu, who then accompanied him and persuaded Baba to grant his request. Tenryu then stuffed a wad of ¥10,000 bills into his coat pocket as a parting gift.
  • Cadre of Foreign Bodyguards: Did the pro wrestling equivalent of this when he founded WAR. Instead of trying to keep afloat a proper company with contracted wrestlers, which would be even more difficult given Tenryu's controversial reputation at the time, he filled the roster with freelancers, foreigners and people from other promotions, who he could bring or not depending on how much money he was doing (though he still had some personal loyalists and trainees, like famous company man Nobutaka Araya). This enabled WAR to adapt to the market and keep in activity until Tenryu deemed the promotion not necessary anymore.
  • Captain Ersatz: In Fire Pro Wrestling since Combination Tag in 1989.
  • The Cavalry: When All Japan lost most of it's roster to Pro Wrestling NOAH they were kept afloat by the return of Tenryu, who brought the wrestlers that would have otherwise been working for WAR with him.
  • Celebrity Endorsement: He left All Japan Pro Wrestling to become the spokesman for the eye glass company Megane Super. However, MS executive Hachiro Tanaka wanted to run his very own pro wrestling promotion and used Tenryu to help launch what he called Super World Of Sports.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Black and yellow, reflected on his tights and boots.
  • Eviler than Thou: After exiting New Japan by breaking Riki Choshu's face with a kick, Akira Maeda commented that All Japan's wrestling style was too soft for his liking, especially compared to shoot-style, and that it "looked like they were fooling around". Hearing those comments, Tenryu went to his next match against Hiroshi Wajima and completely wrecked him with stiff kicks, to the point Maeda himself was left in horror. Later Tenryu admitted he did it because he wanted to teach Wajima, a former yokozuna or grand sumo champion, that pro wrestling was much harder than sumo.
  • Enemy Mine: Tenryu's Pro Wrestling Alliance against Akio Sato's Fighting for Future included IWA Japan, Sato's former promotion, whose members were angry at him.
  • A Father to His Men: Even if he was certainly a cruel trainer and worker, he is described by everybody as a very generous and benevolent boss, even to people from other promotions and foreign wrestlers. In a time in which going to Japan to wrestle was synonymous of being treated coldly, paid little money and left to subsist in bad hotels, people like Lance Storm and Chris Jericho only had good things to tell about him.
  • Finishing Move: Powerbomb (he learned it directly from its inventor Lou Thesz, and passed it on to Toshiaki Kawada), lariat, Northern Lights Bomb (scoop brainbuster, originally adopted from Kensuke Sasaki to taunt him) and 53 Sai (a snap brainbuster he started using after turning 53 years old).
  • Good Is Not Soft: Even when playing a babyface, Tenryu's way was beating the crap out of his opponent and looking mean while doing so.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Once broke a beer bottle on Katsuyori Shibata's head.
  • Grumpy Old Man: His gimmick in the last part of his career. In a subversion, he was not only grumpy towards kids these days, but towards everybody as well.
  • Handshake Refusal: Famously did so before (and again after) the match where he finally defeated Jumbo for the Triple Crown.
  • Hard Head: Once challenged Yoshiaki Fujiwara to a headbutt contest while pretty drunk, and he supposedly went toe to toe to him, which is an awesome feat.
  • I Know Sumo Wrestling: Had a sumo career which was discharged by a scandal, and he is known as a friend to all sumo pro wrestlers, especially if they are disgraced like him. He also trained some Catch Wrestling with Billy Robinson and Lou Thesz, though he never showed it much.
  • Identity Impersonator: Donned a mask as "Hayabusa" to team with the original (who had renamed himself "H") for a win over GOEMON and Kodo Fuyuki at FMW's June 16, 2000 show.
  • Improbable Weapon User: His trademark water bottle, which he would throw on his opponent's face with impressive accuracy. He once knocked out Commander An Jo from the other side of the ring with it.
  • I Was Quite a Looker: In his sumo days, he was considerably more slender-looking compared to his peers and he was popular with women as a handsome wrestler due to his muscular build and gentle, well-proportioned features.
  • Jerkass: In character. In real life as well: though a respected and venerated wrestler, he was notoriusly stiff and uncaring when working with young wrestlers or people he didn't like in real life.
  • Kick Them While They Are Down: Used stiff soccer kicks when his adversaries were on hands and knees.
  • Licensed Game: Tenryu Genichiro no Pro Wrestling Revolution for the Super Nintendo, based on Wrestle and Romance (which would become WAR).
  • Life of the Party: Known as one of the greatest to party with in Japanese wrestling.
  • Lightning Bruiser: Strong and fast, able to do power moves and surprisingly agile spots.
  • Mighty Glacier: During the last couple years of his career. Kazuchika Okada couldn't so much as turn him for the rainmaker and Tenryu's strikes were every bit as good as always, but his steps were labored.
  • Mob War: Tenryu's Pro Wrestling Alliance against Akio Sato's Fighting for Future, two opposite unions of independent puroresu companies. The war had an uneventful ending, as Sato's union crumbled before and Tenryu's disbanded due to the disappearance of their enemy.
  • My Kung-Fu Is Stronger Than Yours: Tenryu and Antonio Inoki happened to develop the enzuigiri independently and at the same time, with the only difference being that Inoki's version involved jumping high before kicking, while Tenryu grabbed the opponent's shoulder to prop himself in order to do it. Tenryu never intended his move to be a regular part of his moveset, but when he heard Inoki was using a similar move, he decided to keep doing it to show off his version was superior. Akira Taue and other wrestlers in AJPW soon adopted Tenryu's version too.
  • Non-Indicative Name: His shikona and ring name "Tenryu" literally means "Heaven Dragon", whose benign connotations are somewhat dissonant for a characteristically callous wrestler like Tenryu.
  • Odd Friendship: With rakugo comedian Sanyutei Enraku IV. Justified because they were classmates back in school.
  • Popularity Power: Tenryu used to be an enormous draw in AJPW, and even although his career took many turns, he never really lost the ability to keep a promotion afloat with his sole name. As a proof, WAR remains as the only defunct major puroresu promotion that folded by practical reasons and not due to monetary reasons or disagreements; it did suffer both, with a minor money scandal emerging in 1994 and Takashi Ishikawa causing a breakaway shortly after, but endured them nicely and went to survive a few more years until Tenryu became too busy to promote it.
  • Power Stable: Revolution in All Japan, New Japan and Super World Sports (SWS), which also included Toshiaki Kawada, Hiromichi "Samson" Fuyuki, and Yoshinari Ogawa.
  • Red Baron: "Mr. Puroresu", "Fuun Nobori Ryu" (Japanese for "Sky-Rising Dragon"), "HUSTLE General" and "Monster General" (as a member of Generalissimo Takada's Monster Army in HUSTLE).
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The Blue Oni to both of the Road Warriors, usually warming up or stretching in the corner while they made a much more showy entrance.
  • Renaissance Man: Tenryu has faced off against the standardbearers of all kinds of pro wrestling (King's Road, strong-style, shoot-style, lucha libre, lucharesu, garbage, joshi...) and often in their own styles.
  • Ring Oldies: His active career came to an end while he was 65.
  • Sadist Teacher: A harsh trainer. It's said that Tenryu instructed foreign wrestlers to be as stiff as possible against the native WAR rookies.
  • Start My Own:
    • First SWS, then WAR, both defunct. The former was born as a proposition by a sponsor, and the latter was started partially because Giant Baba felt betrayed by the SWS deal and would not allow Tenryu to return to All Japan.
    • Tenryu also created Pro Wrestling Alliance, a network of independent promotions who opposed Akio Sato's Fighting for Future union.
    • He later created Tenryu Project, intending for it to serve as his "final residence" due to the suspension of activities of Fighting Opera Hustle, which came true in 2015. He eventually resumed the promotion 2021.
  • Super Spit: Often did the Asian mist with water from his bottle.
  • True Companions: With disgraced yokozuna and pro wrestler Koji Kitao. Tenryu befriended him for their similar sumo backgrounds and made him the second star in SWS, only for Kitao and his anarchistic tendences to cause the company to fold. Even so, Tenryu remained his friend and brought him to his next promotion, WAR, where Kitao finally redeemed himself to the puroresu world. One can't help but admire Tenryu's patience.
  • Uncle Pennybags: He has this reputation while hanging out with other wrestlers and celebrities.
  • Worked Shoot: Tenryu's wrestling style was just traditional puro, but he worked notoriously stiff, to the extent that he could believably face shoot-style users in their own terms. His matches with Nobuhiko Takada and Koji Kitao are worth to mention.
  • Would Hit a Girl: Has wrestled singles matches with joshi wrestlers. Even more, he has done it in his signature brutal style with absolutely zero qualms. After a match with Tenryu, Shinobu Kandori (a former judo medalist known by her toughness) reported having believed she was going to die during their match.