AJPW Champion Carnival
April 4 2019
To honour Japanese tournaments in general I will be skipping the undercard and only watching tournament matches.
Takashi Yoshida vs. Daichi Hashimoto
I love All Japan getting all expansionist and bringing in guys from Dragon Gate and Big Japan. It gives us this match, which normally would never happen.
Yoshida and his shit beard come after Daichi’s legs. That doesn’t go anywhere. Yoshida is clearly going to work heel in this tournament, which isn’t ideal. He’s very sluggish until the finish where he sneaks under the ring, spits green mist in Daichi’s face and lariats his head off for the win. I love the ref asking him if he cheated and he’s all “I have no idea where all this green came from, I was just wrestling out here baby”.
Final Rating: **1/2
Jake Lee vs. Naoya Nomura
The future of All Japan’s heavyweight division in action here. And also Jake Lee.
I feel very invested in this because All Japan put all their machinery behind Jake Lee and nothing happened but meanwhile Nomura organically became the great hopeful for the promotion. Nomura cheap shots Lee on the ropes and we get some actual fire from Jakey Boy. Will wonders never cease. Nomura does some fantastic last gasp kick outs and makes me think he’s beaten from some pretty straightforward stuff. Suffice to say the effort levels here are way above the Yoshida/Hashimoto match. Way above. The elbow duels are fucking incredible. Sometimes Lee doesn’t convince me at all but here he has Nomura to sell for him and cover up any issues. It makes Lee’s kicks looks totally badass.
I’m just getting into it in a big way when Lee is forced to submit because of his dodgy shoulder. Quitter! Nomura gets the big win and he deserves it. Great performance from him.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Kento Miyahara vs. Atsushi Aoki
There’s big news here; Miyahara has new music.
It’s not massively different so I don’t have a strong opinion on it as yet. The chances of an Aoki win here feel slim at best. Kento is the incumbent champion. Aoki is basically a junior. Miyahara effectively goads Aoki into going toe to toe and fighting his fight. It’s not an overly effective tactic as Aoki is able to switch it up but when it is a scrap Miyahara dominates. The shoot headbutt on the floor is sickening. Given his size advantage Kento decides to behave like a despicable shithead. Which isn’t that much of a reach from his standard behavior. That pose is ridiculous. Aoki, for his part, shows great commitment and desire. Plus his innovation is exciting and his suplex off the rail to the floor is genuinely a great spot. It ends up being a really competitive bout and Aoki wrestles his little socks off. I assume they’re little because he’s 5’ 7”. Aoki even gets to kick out of assortment of abuse like knees to the face and the German suplex. Miyahara gives him the Straightjacket version of it and that’s the end of Aoki. Good effort from him though and Miyahara always turns up.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Joe Doering vs. Suwama
Joe Doering, with his fur coat and cowboy hat, looks like a goddamn pimp. Suwama is a miracle of pro graps. A few years ago he was useless. Dead and buried. Barely able to breath let alone work hard. Now look at him! Still as burly as ever but suddenly turning back the clock and kicking ass.
Well, until he runs headlong into Diamond Joe Doering who flattens him. We get a lot of high calibre clubbering in this. Doering is keen to pound Suwama into pizza dough. Suwama continues to fight back. It’s a bit weird they’ve got this back to back with the main as it’s all big dudes. Joe Doering’s face is incredible in this match. He’s always giving off the impression that he’s a) in a real fight and b) having the time of his life. Until Suwama chokes him unconscious of course. That should go without saying. I had a nice time here. Two big lads doing big lad things. There was a strong hint at the top of the show that Joe was going to do well in this Carnival so it’s a little weird he lost his opener. Gives him a hill to climb. I dig it.
Final Rating: ***3/4
Yuji Okabayashi vs. Shuji Ishikawa
This is a war on paper. Big Shuji has made AJPW his home and now he needs to bash invading Big Japan bitch Okabayashi on his big bald head. They do the shoulderblock trading thing, like two moose attempting to establish dominance. Or two whales fighting over a shoal of tuna. And it gets better from there! Okabayashi is happy to take anything Shuji wants to dish out including a double stomp off the apron. He’s 286lbs people! Okabayashi means business and when he spears Shuji I’m pretty sure he made everyone in Korakuen Hall pregnant. The power offence from this guy is unreal. He throws Ishikawa around like he’s nothing.
At one point Shuji has him for headbutts and he just grabs the bastard by the neck and lariats him. Okabayashi must have been mainlining cans of Monster because he’s so energised it’s ridiculous. He takes a bump on his head and springs back up. The delay on the sell is about 30 seconds because he’s got so much adrenaline chugging through those veins he doesn’t even realise he’s got a broken neck. Shuji calmly tries to control Okabayashi and he just can’t. The size advantage means nothing here. Nothing! Even when he gets a brief advantage and curb stomps Okabayashi into the buckles he can’t put him away. He tries to choke him out. He tries to knock him out. No dice. Even the Fire Thunder Driver only gets two and Shuji stares at the referee with incredulity. What do you mean he kicked out? Okabayashi is like the Terminator here. He takes everything but he won’t stop. I’m so in love with the match that I can almost forgive the missed Golem Splash, where it’s never connecting and Okabayashi crashes into knees on purpose. Also the match goes on past the point where it should logically end, which is a little disappointing. The late in the day moves show Okabayashi to be gassed. Shuji virtually powerbombs himself at one point. Luckily they don’t go ridiculously long and the Golem Splash finishes.
Final Rating: ****1/4
If only they’d gone home a few minutes earlier in the main event and you’d be looking at a sure-fire low-end MOTYC. As it stands it’ll struggle to impact MOTM but it was an excellent bout. The undercard was mainly solid although I have no desire to see any more of those heel antic Yoshida matches. The standard should be super high this year and I’m here for it!