AJPW 45th Anniversary Show
August 27 2017
We’re in Tokyo at the Ryogoku Kokugikan. This aired live on Samurai TV. I opted not to watch it live because I’m a big fan of sleep. Instead I’m watching it some four days later. 6,550 fans turned up for this, one of All Japan’s biggest shows of recent years. This is a stacked card with thirteen matches over five hours. It’s like watching a WWE PPV, pre-show and all.
Takuya Nomura & Yuya Aoki vs. Yohei Nakajima & Fuminori Abe
Aoki is a rookie from Big Japan who I’ve never seen wrestle. Nomura is the superstar here, not wanting to take any of Abe’s bullshit. Apart from Nakajima, everyone is into the hard-hitting no-nonsense style that defines Japan. Nakajima doesn’t want to feel left out and joins in, roundhousing rookie Aoki for the pin. This was rock solid stuff from bell to bell.
Final Rating: **1/2
Danny Jones, Massimo & Sam Adonis vs. Ryouji Sai, Masakado & Ishikiri
This is pretty surreal. The last time I saw Danny Jones wrestle was in Cheltenham. The young Welshman is enjoying his highest profile tour, ever.
Hard to imagine him in a group of evil foreigners that feature Wales, Italy and Donald Trump’s America. Adonis has been running his pro-Trump gimmick in Mexico to obvious heat. Sai is easily the biggest star in the match. He finds the 6’4” Adonis a challenge though. All the gaijin are big lads. Danny is the smallest of the three so he’s picked off by the natives for a beating. Sai finishes him with the double stomp and Adonis, sore loser (taking after Trump), jumps Sai. He promptly gets his ass kicked and we can move on.
Final Rating: **1/4
Dory Funk Jr & Hiro Saito vs. Masanobu Fuchi & The Great Kabuki
I know we’re celebrating 45 years of All Japan but did we really need to include wrestlers who were on the first show? Sadly Dory wasn’t actually on the first show but he did make his AJPW debut in 1973. Here he gets confused and holds his flowers aloft for ages until everyone copies him.
This is elderly wrestling, done at a leisurely pace. Like walking football for pensioners. Fuchi has a hell of time pretending that Dory can get anything behind his ancient forearms. This is honestly one of the most painful matches I’ve sat through all year. Dory shouldn’t be in a wrestling ring under any circumstances. Every match he’s in is the drizzling shits, below any kind of acceptable level and only tolerated because he’s a legend. Fuchi ends up tapping to the Funk Spinning Toehold. This was an embarrassment. As are all Dory matches these days. Yes, he’s a legend but that doesn’t mean he should be booked.
Final Rating: -**
BANG TV! World Heavyweight Championship Battle Royal
The champion coming in is Osamu Nishimura. There are a mass of challengers including, but not limited to, Abdullah Kobayashi, Dinosaur Takuma, Great Kojika, Kazuhiro Tamura, Naoshi Sano and Yutaka Yoshie. It should be called the Obscure Wrestlers Battle Royal. They even manage to drum up a wrestler I’ve never heard of in Carbell Ito (?) but also others like Akira Shinose who cause me to scurry to Cagematch to find out where I recognise the name from. The entrances take ages. My pre-match pick is Kojika because he’s too old to go over the top rope. The old ‘Iron Sheik’ clause. We get underway and the likes of Takuma and Abby do the work while the more useless elements stand around doing nothing. Yoshie is the first man out, as a result of a pile-on, reminding me that pinfalls count. That’s bad news for Kojika. While I’m fairly sure he can’t go over the top rope he can certainly lie down for three seconds. The field thins out, through a series of antics, before we hit the final four. Takuma and Tamura, my favourites, don’t make it. Abby, pretending to be Stan Hansen does.
FINAL FOUR: Abby, Kojika, Rikiya Fudo and Nishimura. Fudo is a big boy, who features heavily during the match. He collides with Abby and Kojika pins them both leaving him vs. Nishimura. Kojika tries his hardest to not look like a total relic, like Dory just did. Unfortunately Dory comes out here to distract and Nishimura rolls him up for the pin. Can’t wait for the abortion that will be Kojika vs. Dory in some sort of gimmick match. It’ll be the worst professional wrestling match of all time. This was fun, even though the last few minutes stank. Abby as Stan Hansen is worth a look.
Final Rating: **1/2
Diamante vs. Caristico
Caristico is from CMLL and is the star. Diamante is a randomly selected luchadore to face him. You may remember Caristico as Mistico or the original Sin Cara. Once upon a time he was the most highly touted Indie wrestler in the world. That was a while ago but he’s been rebuilding his reputation in CMLL. Caristico certainly enhances that here. He’s doing dives and lucha flips and Diamante is just a warm Hispanic body to take it all. It’s an exhibition but it’s very flashy. Any offence Diamante gets in involves him countering some super flashy Caristico high spot. It’s never a contest but Caristico gets in one last super flashy spot; La Mistica to get the submission.
Final Rating: ***
All Asia Tag Team Championship
Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato (c) vs. TAKA Michinoku & Black Tiger
TAKA gets the badass version of his music. Black Tiger is Nosawa Rongai. The current champions have held these titles for two months, after reclaiming them from Onita & Fuchi. This is a bit weird as TAKA is on loan from K-Dojo, by way of New Japan. With Taichi and Kojima also on the show it seems AJPW has gained a working relationship with NJPW. One that didn’t exactly benefit NOAH in 2015-2016. Watch out Jun! That said TAKA looks good here. Genuinely invested in the match and working his cotton socks off. Nosawa tries to match that but his talent levels aren’t quite so high. He does a few Muta homages, as opposed to paying homage to the previous Black Tigers. He’s a weird guy. Nosawa catches Sato with La Majistral and the challengers claim gold.
TAKA and Nosawa are the 102nd All Asia Tag champs. It’s TAKA’s first title in AJPW since being their junior champion in 2005. Nosawa has held this title before, tagging with MiSu back in 2009.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Keiichi Sato vs. Yusuke Okada
This was taped pre-show as the “dark match”. I’m not sure All Japan understand the concept of a dark match as it’s now being aired during intermission. I’m just annoyed I can’t skip ahead 20 minutes. Okada comes out aggressive as fuck, looking to body Sato before he’s paying attention. Okada is the local boy; an AJPW rookie who debuted this year. Sato has already got a journeyman reputation although his base of operations is AJPW. The inexperience of both men shines through in a three minute contest. Sato’s habit of spamming the superkick is a little concerning. He gets Okada with a German suplex for the win. This was very hurried and both guys brawl around afterwards, implying the start of a wonderful friendship. I love how Sato is so nonchalant about both winning and being hit by upstart Okada.
Final Rating: **
Natsumi Maki (gold) & Saori Anou (blue) vs. Miyuki Takase (red) & Tae Honma (green)
All these ladies are from Actwres girl’Z. Yes, that is how it’s spelled. I’m not familiar with the as a promotion, it would be fair to say. All the wrestlers are short and fairly nondescript, which means I don’t really know what’s happening. Especially as the tag team partner (Anou) joins in on a double team for the wrong side at one point. Does that make sense? In order to colour code who is who I’ve added colours in parenthesis so if you’re watching while reading this you too can tell who’s who. Honma is the stand-out for me. She looks driven and her timing is mint. Anou puts her away with a tabletop suplex though. Decent match but hard to get invested when I don’t know any of them. Anou looked like a fun worker. Honma one to watch out for.
Final Rating: **3/4
Taichi vs. Yuma Aoyagi
The only good thing about Taichi being here is that Miho Abe is also in the house. This is already the ninth match on this show. We’re not even halfway into the five hour broadcast. It’s a good job there’s been plenty of variety. Taichi beat Aoyagi in the Super J Cup first round last year. This is Aoyagi’s shot at revenge but the odds are against him as Taichi brought that shithead Kanemaru, TAKA and Miho with him. And he cheats anyway. The major shocker is that AJPW have better officials than NJPW and eject Suzuki-gun, allowing Taichi to have an honest to God wrestling match. It’s proof that he can actually work. It happens with such rarity that I sometimes forget. He has spots that I genuinely love, like his superkick and the stripper trousers. But here his work plumbs new depths of competency that I’m just not used to. Taichi even forgoes cheating to win, simply using power, skill and experience. He takes it with a powerbomb with slide and I am shocked at the quality on display. If Taichi put this kind of effort in more frequently I wouldn’t consider him to be a bottom-feeding sack of shit.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Joe Doering, Big Guns & Kotaro Suzuki vs. Jun Akiyama, Takao Omori, Minoru Tanaka & Koji Iwamoto
There’s a stack of talent involved here. Suzuki vs. Iwamoto for cruiser fans. Lots of name value elsewhere. Zeus vs. Akiyama seems to be the big focal point. Uncle Jun is starting to show signs of aging but battling Zeus gives him that mountain to climb. It’s perhaps not as great as it could be but it’s one of the best ever versus one of the best now and it works. Big Joe Doering walks off after a miscue as we get very ‘booking heavy’. It leaves Bodygaaaah vulnerable and Omori beats him with the Axe Bomber. Kotaro and Iwamoto are still trying to kill each other after that. It’s a lot to digest. Match was very rushed considering the participants.
Final Rating: **1/2
AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Championship
TAJIRI (c) vs. Ultimo Dragon
This is certainly something! I saw both these lads in WWE about 14 years ago. Amazing that they’re still going strong and Tajiri was in WWE this year. These two have a combined experience of 52 years. That’s not a typo. Fifty-two years. Ultimo began his in-ring career in 1987. The mask probably helps but he doesn’t look any older now than in the mid 90s when I first started watching him wrestle. Tajiri has opted to go blond and has added a distinctive streak of blue at the front. It’s a brave fashion choice for a man in his 40s. We used to mock WCW for putting on bouts between two old timers and this would certainly qualify for mockery if it didn’t work out. Their combined age is 96. They keep it basic with Tajiri chasing pins and wearing Ultimo down. Both guys are way past their best so it’s a good idea to tell stories, rather than go flipz crazy. It is pretty dull though. There are too many rest holds and the spurts of offence don’t make amends. Plus it goes long after a gruelling show and I’m not in the mood for this shit. If you’re in the top four matches on a five hour you’d better fucking deliver. Do yourself a favour – skip this and watch something from their prime instead. Ultimo was amazing in the mid 90s. Tajiri’s batshit tag stuff in ECW was groundbreaking. Anyway, Ultimo hits the Asai DDT for the win. 17 minutes I’ll never get back.
Final Rating: **
AJPW World Tag Team Championship
KAI & Naoya Nomura vs. Strong BJ
These titles are currently vacant thanks to Jake Lee getting injured. His partner in NEXSTREAM Nomura has gone after a new partner to reclaim the belts. Unfortunately for him it’s KAI. No doubt they’ll choke. Especially when faced against the enormity of Strong BJ; the world’s bestest tag team. The lack of hoss on the other team puts them at a massive disadvantage. Strong BJ have their way with Nomura in particular. He looks like a small child in their interactions. Continually bodied by two gigantic powerhouses. KAI gets a hot tag and then gets his ass kicked too. The structure of the match is a fine demonstration of how difficult it is to get anywhere against Strong BJ because both men are equally excellent. There’s no weak link. No injuries to slow these boys down. KAI tries various different aggressive tactics and all to no avail. The only mileage he gets is with suplexes and even then Sekimoto won’t stay down for long. Nomura gets more joy in his second run in there, going after speed moves and taking advantage of the expended energy of Okabayashi. But even then he’s overpowered at will. It’s only when they combine KAI’s aggression with Nomura’s speed that they can get anywhere. It’s a true demonstration of tag teaming and how you need to work together to succeed. The best example of this is KAI hitting a superkick to knock Okabayashi into position for a spear. Great teamwork. Strong BJ are all about sacrifice though. Okabayashi doing the stacker German suplex on Sekimoto to kill KAI is evidence of this. They’re prepared to destroy themselves to win. This started out plodding and by the numbers but it gets better and better. By the time of the conclusion, and the Golem Splash, it’s a banger. Strong BJ are the best tag team in the world. If they teamed everywhere possible regularly all year end awards would be a cakewalk. KAI & Nomura looked good here too. Thumbs up all round.
Final Rating: ****
Post Match: Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori come out here to lay down a challenge. Yes, please!
Suwama vs. Satoshi Kojima
There is a major story at play here, hence the high card placement. Kojima was AJPW’s champion back in the day (2010). He refused to put Suwama over (according to scuttlebutt) and instead dropped the belt to Ryota Hama, a big fat rookie at the time, before jumping ship to New Japan. Kojima blamed AJPW for refusing to talk contracts with him because he was wrestling hurt. All Japan was in dire straits at the time and needed Kojima to do that. Kojima’s failure to drop the title to Suwama hurt their business for years.
However seven years of build-up goes completely into the toilet pre-match as Joe Doering jumps Suwama and leaves him lying. Thus decimating the heat. Doering’s claims that this was “his match” make no sense at all. This was a blood feud waiting to explode and instead we get a tepid pre-match angle that tanks the whole business. You had seven years to plan and *this* is what you came up with? It doesn’t help that here’s AJPW’s top singles guy (arguably more important to the company than Miyahara) and he’s been treated like a bitch by a guy who went 1-8 in the G1. It’s almost as if New Japan booked this as ‘a favour’ as long as nobody from AJPW got over thanks to it. Oh and Kojima wins where with a half-hearted lariat, counted down by New Japan official Red Shoes. This might be the most disappointing match of the year. The politics behind it are stupid and Suwama is right to be pissed off and refuse a handshake from Kojima after the match.
Final Rating: *1/2
AJPW Triple Crown Championship
Shuji Ishikawa (c) vs. Kento Miyahara
This used to be one of the most prestigious titles in the world and Miyahara, over the past 18 months or so, has done a blinding job of attempting to re-establish it. The loss to Shuji established him as vulnerable but he’s back to try and reclaim the strap. The title switch was at the Super Power Series (****1/2) back in May. It’s a pity this match is attached to the back end of the absolute grind that has been this show. In order to freshen up, mentally, I take a quick break. This gives me ample time to mentally prepare for Shuji hitting the Fire Thunder Driver on the apron. Kento is dead. Shuji retains.
FIRE THUNDER DRIVER ON THE APRON FROM ISHIKAWA AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH pic.twitter.com/FyqerGX1tE
— Durk Universe (@DurkHendrunkqs) August 29, 2017
Seriously, he’s fucked. It’s over. Ring the bell.
Somehow that’s not the finish with Kento’s reanimated corpse beating the count. Zombie Kento is now impervious to all pain, which is clinical storytelling when you look at it through pop culture eyes. He pops up after big moves with nothing but the thirst for human brains. Shuji has a particularly dense skull so he must first shatter it with knees! Get to the gooey tissue inside and slurp it down while holding his championship aloft. The strikes in this match are beautifully brutal. The knees and elbows connect every time, sending sweat flying from overworked bodies. Shuji is much heavier but Miyahara’s addition speed increases his impact. Kento takes a shellacking. Fire Thunder Driver. Splash Mountain. Shuji running through his cool moves repertoire until Kento stops kicking out. Miyahara does a tremendous job of convincing me that he’s fucked. Stumbling around and barely able to interact with Shuji until his desperation strikes connect. The beating elicits screams of “Kento” from desperate female fans in the audience. The last gasp kick-outs, from both guys, are tremendous. Kento finally outlasts Shuji. He survives the abuse and hits the straightjacket Shutdown German suplex to get his title back.
Final Rating: ****1/2
I would definitely recommend cherry picking your way through this show. Several of the top end matches are especially disappointing. Suwama-Kojima and Tajiri-Ultimo are not good. That said if you do cherry pick the tag match is great and the main is great. Not much to fault there. Also check out Taichi’s match, yes really, as it’s one of the best pure wrestling matches I’ve ever seen him have. I personally enjoyed the two pre-show matches they slid into the intermission and the BANG TV! Battle royal. But then I’m weird. Skipping liberally is the best way to survive this epic journey. Don’t be afraid to skip chunks. If I had that option I would have done so.