Genichiro Tenryu (Tenryū Gen'ichirō), real name Genichiro Shimada (嶋田源一郎 Shimada Gen'ichirō, February 2, 1950), is a Japanese retired professional wrestler. At age 13, he entered sumo wrestling and stayed there for 13 years, after which he turned to Western-style professional wrestling. "Tenryu" was his shikona.

Sumo wrestling career

As a sumo wrestler, Tenryu was ranked as a sekitori for 27 tournaments, 16 of them in the top makuuchi division. His highest rank was maegashira 1. Upon the death of his stablemaster at Nishonoseki stable he wanted to join former stablemate Daikirin's newly established Oshiogawa stable, which had just broken off from Nishonoseki, but the JSA insisted he stay at Nishonoseki whose new stablemaster, Kongō, he did not get along with. He finished one more tournament, and even though his career still showed promise, he decided to leave the sumo world at the young age of 26 in September 1976.

Professional wrestling career

Scouted by Giant Baba, the All Japan Pro Wrestling owner, Tenryu was sent to Amarillo, Texas to be trained by Dory Funk, Jr. and Terry Funk, and debuted in Texas in 1976, against Ted DiBiase. After returning to Japan, he stayed in the undercard until about 1982 when he began to get a slight push in that year's Champion Carnival tournament. In 1983, following a brief stint in Jim Crockett Promotions, his push began in earnest when Jumbo Tsuruta pursued the NWA International heavyweight title, now the main title in the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship.

1984 saw Tenryu winning the NWA United National title, now also part of the Triple Crown, as well as the NWA International tag team title with Tsuruta. Their combination was called "Kakuryu" (鶴 = kaku = tsuru (the "tsuru" in Tsuruta) + 龍 = ryū in Tenryū). The team feuded with Riki Chōshū and Yoshiaki Yatsu, who were the leaders in an "invasion" angle by the Japan Pro Wrestling promotion, an All Japan satellite made up of former New Japan Pro Wrestling talent.

In 1987, following the departure of the Japan Pro talent, Kakuryu broke up after losing the tag team titles to the Road Warriors, which led to Tenryu forming his own stable, "Revolution", with former International Pro Wrestling wrestlers Ashura Hara and Hiromichi Fuyuki, as well as All Japan rookies Toshiaki Kawada, and Yoshinari Ogawa; Tatsumi Kitahara would join the group upon his debut in 1988. Tenryu and Hara feuded with Tsuruta and his new partner Yatsu over the PWF (Pacific Wrestling Federation) tag team titles and later with their replacement, the AJPW Unified World Tag Team Championship (a combination of the PWF and NWA International tag belts). Hara was kicked out of the promotion in late 1988, and Tenryu replaced him with Stan Hansen, with whom he held the World Tag Team Championship as well.

1989 was Tenryu's banner year. Tsuruta became the first Triple Crown champion on April 18 of that year, and just two days later Tenryu became his first challenger. The Tsuruta-Tenryu series that ensued set the standard for all Triple Crown matches and feuds to follow. When Tenryu won the belts on June 5, the match was so spectacular it was deemed Match of the Year by major Japanese publications. The same year saw him finally pin his mentor Baba, albeit in a tag match - but still a major success for a Japanese wrestler. Only Mitsuharu Misawa would follow him to that. In addition, Tenryu was chosen to be one-third of the NWA World 6-Man Tag Team Champions with the Road Warriors after the Road Warriors turned heel against their former co-holder of the title, Dusty Rhodes. However, Tenryu's increasing commitments to All Japan meant less time to wrestle in the United States, and this resulted in the six man championship being vacated and temporarily being abandoned until 1991, when it was temporarily resurrected as a World Championship Wrestling championship.

Tenryu's most high-profile North American match was for the World Wrestling Federation in 1991 at WrestleMania VII, where he teamed with Koji Kitao to defeat Demolition. He also appeared in both the 1993 Royal Rumble and 1994 Royal Rumble; in the latter he made it to the final five but was eliminated by eventual co-winners Lex Luger and Bret Hart. An angle had he and The Great Kabuki hired as mercenaries by Yokozuna's manager, Mr. Fuji, to attack Luger and prevent him from winning.

In April 1990, Tenryu left All Japan to form SWS. After its collapse in June 1992, Tenryu, aided by Masatomo Takei (brother of his wife Makiyo) formed WAR. WAR became his base from where he would take on top wrestlers from other promotions, such as Atsushi Onita, Nobuhiko Takada, The Great Muta, Shinya Hashimoto and Masahiro Chono, all of whom he defeated. He also traded victories with Tatsumi Fujinami and Antonio Inoki, thus becoming the only Japanese wrestler to defeat both Inoki and Baba by pinfall.

In 1998, as WAR went into decline, Tenryu began an earnest comeback, this time in New Japan. He first joined Heisei Ishingun, allied with its leader Shiro Koshinaka, and they won the IWGP Tag Team Championship from Team Wolf, Masahiro Chono and Hiroyoshi Tenzan. In December 1999, Tenryu made history as the first native to win the top two distinctions of professional wrestling in Japan (All Japan's Triple Crown and New Japan's IWGP Heavyweight title) by beating Mutoh for the IWGP title. (The first man to win both titles was Big Van Vader, an American.)

In 2000, following the near-collapse of All Japan due to the Pro Wrestling Noah split, Tenryu closed WAR and rejoined All Japan, eager to test his mettle against the remaining ace, his former disciple Kawada. Tenryu beat Kawada in the subsequent tournament for the vacant Triple Crown, winning the belts for a second time. In his second stay in All Japan, he would capture the belts a third time and also the World Tag Team Championship with former WAR-UWFI feud rival Yoji Anjo.

In 2003, he joined Fighting World of Japan Pro Wrestling for a few matches, but as it declined rapidly, he switched back and forth aimlessly between New Japan and All Japan.

In 2005, he entered Noah, and began feuds with Misawa, Kenta Kobashi, and other wrestlers he knew from his first All Japan stint, as well as new faces he's never met in the ring before, such as Jun Akiyama. Tenryu has been also been with the HUSTLE promotion and was a part of the main heel group led by Generalissimo Takada. During this time, he teamed with Toshiaki Kawada mainly. At HUSTLE Aid 2007, however, Tenryu was defeated by Razor Ramon HG and joined the main face group led by Razor Ramon HG, HUSTLE Army.

In December 2009, following the folding of Hustle, Tenryu began running his own Tenryu Project promotion. He still makes forays into other promotions, still active even past age 60.

In wrestling

  • Finishing moves
  • Signature moves
  • "Mr. Puroresu"
  • Entrance themes
  • "Thunder Storm" by Masayoshi Takanaka (AJPW / SWS / WAR; 1981–1990, 1991–present)
  • "Genichiro Tenryu SWS" (SWS / WWF; 1990–1991)

Championships and accomplishments

  • Match of the Year (1999) vs. Keiji Mutoh on May 3
  • PWI ranked him #44 of the 500 best singles wrestlers during the "PWI Years" in 2003
  • PWI ranked him #14 of the 100 best tag teams of the "PWI Years" with Jumbo Tsuruta in 2003
  • SWS vs WWF Tournament (1990)
  • One Night Tag Team Tournament (1990) - with Koji Kitao
  • Wrestler of the Year (1986, 1987, 1988, 1993)
  • Popularity Award (1977)
  • Technique Award (1990)
  • Performance Award (1981, 1984, 1996)
  • Fighting Spirit Award (1983)
  • Tag Team of the Year (1983, 1985)- with Jumbo Tsuruta
  • Tag Team of the Year (1987)- with Ashura Hara
  • Match of the Year (1987)- vs. Jumbo Tsuruta on August 31, 1987
  • Match of the Year (1988)- vs. Stan Hansen on July 27, 1988
  • Match of the Year (1989)- vs. Jumbo Tsuruta on June 5, 1989
  • Match of the Year (1991)- vs. Hulk Hogan on December 12, 1991
  • Match of the Year (1993)- vs. Riki Choshu on January 4, 1993
  • Match of the Year (1994)- with Ashura Hara vs. Atsushi Onita and Tarzan Goto on March 2, 1994
  • Match of the Year (1996)- vs. Nobuhiko Takada on September 11, 1996
  • Match of the Year (1999)- vs. Keiji Mutoh on May 3, 1999
  • Match of the Year (2015)- vs. Kazuchika Okada on November 15, 2015
  • Wrestling Observer Newsletter awards

External links

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