AJPW Champion Carnival Final
April 30 2018
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall.
Osamu Nishimura & Masanobu Fuchi vs. Takao Omori & Yutaka Yoshie
Straight into the action with old man Fuchi, who’s over as fuck. Why wouldn’t he be though? That concealed punch is probably my favourite spot in wrestling today. Given the spot everyone has been tossed into here it should be evident that Yoshie was never winning Champion Carnival and also that AJPW has an endearing habit of using its veterans to warm the crowd up, rather than it’s young lions. That’s not always the case but it is here. Omori ends up pinning Fuchi with a fucking horrible looking Axe Bomber. My standard love of Fuchi aside there was nothing to see here.
Final Rating: *1/4
Evolution (Atsushi Aoki, Hikaru Sato & Yusuke Okada) vs. Atsushi Maruyama, Koji Iwamoto & Yohei Nakajima
This is one of those wacky elimination matches that have suddenly started cropping up in Japan, where over the top rope is an elimination. Maybe they’ve been around for ages and I’ve just not noticed but this is the third one I’ve seen this month. This was tagged “beauty and health research presents”. Japan, eh? Nakajima is first out, trapped and submitted by Sato. He is a premiere mat specialist. Okada sacrifices himself to eliminate Iwamoto, leaving Maruyama against the top two Evolution boys. He looks to be totally boned but Sato goes over the top and Aoki manages to get himself rolled up moments later. I bet Yusuke Okada is pretty damn mad about that. He did the hard bit!
Final Rating: **1/2
Yoshitatsu & Naoya Nomura vs. Violent Giants
This is an excellent idea; putting Ishikawa & Suwama against two underdogs. Especially Nomura who’s killed it in this tournament and had an excellent singles bout with Shuji along the way.
Tatsu decides to mock Shuji. Why would you do such a thing? Shuji beats the piss out of him for it and runs him head first into the EAST sign. I kinda wish Sha Samuels could wrestle at Korakuen Hall for that visual. Watching the match I notice on Tatsu’s gear the geek still has the Bullet Club Hunter stuff. Just get new tights. Or wear older ones. Nerd. Tatsu takes a continued thrashing until hot tagging Nomura who comes in like an uncoordinated house of fire! He’s a trier. I love that Nomura comes right for Shuji and gets hammered for it. Nomura clearly wants to beat Ishikawa bad but just isn’t strong enough yet. Buoyed by a win over Joe Doering he’s here to have another go and Shuji kills him. I could watch these two wrestle on every AJPW show if I’m honest. It’s always a good time with Nomura playing that underdog role to perfection and his gutsy comebacks being a huge highlight here. On continued good news this is the best Tatsu has looked in AJPW (apart from tagging with Kento Miyahara, obviously). Both Tatsu and Nomura look animated and eager and in turn that fires up the big lads. Suwama looks legitimately mad that YoshifuckinTatsu is trying to submit him. The resultant choke hold not only ends the match but takes several officials and Nomura stomping him to break it up! You step to the grumpiest guy in the company and you get what you deserve.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Ryouji Sai & Dylan James vs. KAI & TAJIRI
This is an energised bout with KAI hitting a tope before it even starts and Sai quickly showing his intention to murder KAI for it, only denied by a crowd who don’t move out of his way.
This has been a decent tournament for Dylan James, who’s established himself as a big old powerhouse. It doesn’t help him here as he eats Tajiri’s green mist and then gets twatted with a combination of moves for KAI to frogsplash him. This was brisk! It was around 5 minutes long. KAI & Tajiri made for a really good team. I could easily go for more of that. The fire KAI showed in particular was awesome.
Final Rating: **1/2
Shingo Takagi & Big Guns vs. Jun Akiyama, Yuji Hino & Joe Doering
This could actually steal the show. Shingo has been nothing short of magnificent in this Champion Carnival. Hino is arguably the second best performer behind him. Akiyama loves these trios matches and tends to be good at marshalling them. Bodyguard fascinates me. Who starts a pro-wrestling career at 39 years old? He was a bodybuilder turned wrestler and he’s now pushing 50 and in his wrestling prime. The ten year veteran sweet spot. Doering reunites with Zeus with lovely callback to January. “Show me the power motherfucker” redux. Zeus does indeed show him that power. Zeus shows him so much power he tags out! Then Zeus actually rattles ‘chop fan’ Hino by chopping him in the throat. So Hino overpowers Zeus! I’m already very into the dynamic established here.
I’m also very into Shingo tagging in and wanting a piece of Akiyama! Zeus patterns himself as team captain here and is eager to get back in there and show his superiority. He paints Akiyama’s chest beet red with chops. Jun must like Zeus to allow that kind of match structure.
You can tell the match is good because even Doering is all fired up. The dropkick he lands on Zeus almost had me jumping out of my seat. Of course Zeus goes to war with everybody here. He’s having the time of his life. The chop duel with Hino is so fierce.
People are popping every chop because it’s so harsh. I fucking love this match. The best part is when they clip to Doering and Akiyama on the apron and they’re beaming because it’s so awesome. Zeus gets all fired up and Hino looks thrilled to have a play mate in his sadistic game. I also adore Big Guns doing Shingo leg-lift charge spot, even if Bodyguard can’t get it right. This match is so much fun. Spiralbomb puts Bodyguard away and this was tremendous pro wrestling.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Champion Carnival Final
Kento Miyahara vs. Naomichi Marufuji
Miyahara walks in here as Triple Crown Champion. Marufuji, an outsider, has less support but neither man has won CC so we’ll have a first time winner here. Marufuji hasn’t exactly shone during the tournament but picked his game up in the final match of Block B; a match of the tournament against Jun Akiyama.
They have a tough job to follow the last match but they start strong by showing their relative abilities in rapid near miss sequences. It helps to establish parity. That neither man will dominate here. Not AJPW’s ace, nor Marufuji who took it to New Japan during his stay there. The early sequences are crowned by Marufuji doing his hook kick around the ring post, into the ring. It’s an incredible spot and Yohei Nakajima, at ringside doing young boy work, can’t help but smile. Establishing moves and then switching them up is the best. They get into a slightly slower pace as the match is likely to run nearly 30 minutes. However Kento has grown into his role as AJPW’s Guy and he knows when to push the pace.
Marufuji, being a stalwart NOAH ‘style’ guy knows a big match needs a big apron spot; hence him hitting a piledriver on that son of a bitch here. It’s the hardest part of the ring. If it was an old school NOAH main the spot would have been off the apron. I’m glad sanity has taken over. Marufuji strikes first blood here and with the inevitable rash of finishers. Shiranui is kicked out of, obviously. This is a big old match and the first ‘finisher’ won’t finish. Kento’s dynamic aggression comes through in spades with him countering Marufuji’s trademarks with an assorted of flying knees. Marufuji digs deep into his offence to counter this with a Cobra Clutch. I love it when moves don’t work so wrestlers go to something different rather than just smashing the same move until it finishes (Hi Brock Lesnar!) It helps that both guys use the same sort of strikes, which establishes another parity spot where they go for a big knee at the same time and their knees collide.
Miyahara keeps going to that well and the German suplex, assuming that eventually Marufuji will stay down. Marufuji just has other options. So Miyahara’s dogged determination is his undoing. While attempting yet another German suplex he’s countered, kneed in the face a few times and the Emerald Flowsion finishes for Marufuji! What a match this was. Given the history here; Miyahara leading the new improved All Japan, and Marufuji the trainee and protégé of Misawa; harking back to the old days of AJPW. It was not only a clash of similar styles but similar ideologies, kept apart by politics. The result was a sensational match. One of the best of the year.
Final Rating: ****3/4
Totally awesome show from AJPW.