AJPW Champion Carnival 2018 N12
April 22 2018
We’re in Nagoya, Japan at the International Conference Hall. Tonight features one of the biggest bouts on the tour so far; Doering vs. Miyahara. The last two Triple Crown champions going head to head. If Big Joe loses here he’s done. The tournament is very close to finished now with the final block matches taking place in Korakuen Hall on 25, 29 and 30th April. The last date being the grand final plus whatever AJPW throws onto that final show. Who will be there? We will cull the herd over the next three shows to find out.
Ryouji Sai  vs. Shuji Ishikawa 
A Sai win here would be a huge upset as Shuji is still alive in the tournament and Sai is not. A loss for Ishikawa would mean his elimination. Sai, having failed at one aspect of the leg match, turns up aiming to succeed at the other and works over Shuji’s leg to bring him down to size. Due to Sai’s persistence in this role it turns out better than his attempts at selling. The downside to Sai’s persistence is that the match is almost unspeakably dull. With a leg match you almost cannot win anymore. Either the selling doesn’t work or the match is bad for other reasons. Shuji doesn’t pay much attention to the injury, pulling the odd face and relying on Sai to bring his attention back to it.
After all this Shuji just stops selling and starts hitting his big moves. Sai then flukes a roll up for the pin. My god this was a calamity. Why spend the whole match working the leg for that fucking finish. Oh my god. And now Shuji Ishikawa is out of the tournament. You could argue that Ishikawa’s leg being weakened stopped him from hitting Splash Mountain and that’s why Sai won but I’m not buying it.
Final Rating: **
KAI  vs. Naomichi Marufuji 
Unless I have completely misread the purpose of this entire tournament Marufuji is winning here. If he loses he’s out and I don’t understand why the tournament is happening at all. After the chore of a leg match KAI makes the sensible decision of doing a leg match. Did you not just see what just fucking happened? This is why people hate you!
If Shuji barely paid lip service to the leg work in the first match Marufuji doesn’t even acknowledge a thing. Right into doing loads of kicks and then pausing to show the crowd his knee is a tiny bit sore and then more kicks. The match is a whole lot better when they move away from the leg work and just pay homage to it by having Marufuji hit something and it hurt his own leg. Like blocking a KAI frogsplash with his knees or trying for Ko-Oh, which is a completely dumb move all things considered. The only thing that saves the match is that it’s better paced than the opener. Otherwise it’s the same shit. They do have me biting on near falls by the finish with Marufuji struggling to kick out because of his bad wheel. Marufuji ends up winning with Shiranui but the fact I bought into him not winning was testament to the match structure. Even if I didn’t want to see a leg match after a leg match. This would be better on an island, far away from Sai vs. Ishikawa.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Yoshitatsu  vs. Suwama 
Suwama has the chance to go clear on top of Block B with a win here. Tatsu starts brightly, aiming to score the quick win and catch Suwama cold. That gets shut down pretty quickly. As soon as Suwama is in control it’s a procession. Suwama has been physically dominating during Champion Carnival and this is no exception. Tatsu picks up his game to try and find ways to win but I’m not buying into it. The crowd seem to be enjoying themselves. Especially as Suwama tires during a strike duel and Tatsu turns from an unlikely underdog to a possible winner. Suwama’s performance is inconsistent, sometimes firing up and looking good and at other times looking sluggish and borderline lazy. When he is fired up though. My word he’s good. This is what irks me about Suwama, that you’re never quite sure which Suwama will turn up and sometimes both do. Tatsu getting lucky roll ups for near falls and continually catching Suwama unawares, sometimes with the Koji Clutch, shows Suwama’s poor strategic thinking. As a wrestler he’s a dummy. The Koji Clutch ends up finishing and blowing the block wide open. Big win for Yoshitatsu. Big loss for Suwama. Were it not for Suwama’s hit and miss approach here this could have been very good.
Final Rating: ***
Joe Doering  vs. Kento Miyahara 
Miyahara brings that ‘big match feel’ by himself but Joe is a mountain to climb and a beast to overcome (when he’s sober). The match is troubled to begin with as the crowd are distant and they ply the bout with heat. Doering’s pacing here could politely be called measured. Nobody told Joe this was a big deal. Where the match amuses me is around the 10 minute mark where Kento fires up and Doering cuts off his comeback with big meaty strikes. It’s been a leathering for Miyahara but Doering isn’t finished yet! Joe doesn’t perform well here, and hasn’t for most of the tournament, but his domination of the action allows Kento to be the hero underdog. Miyahara’s desperation counters and kick-outs make the match feel special. Spiralbomb puts him away and Doering advances to 8 points. This was not the home run I was hoping for, thanks to Doering.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Let’s look at the Blocks before we go. Miyahara losing to Doering does make sense. Now four guys are alive going into the last night of action. Block B also has four guys left alive going into the final round of matches. Block A has a match on Block B finals days with Shingo Takagi having the chance to move level with the leaders on 8 points.
YUJI HINO- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
KENTO MIYAHARA- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
JOE DOERING- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
SHINGO TAKAGI- M5, W3, D0, L2- PTS 6
SHUJI ISHIKAWA- M6, W3, D0, L3- PTS 6
RYOUJI SAI- M6, W3, D0, L3- PTS 6
NAOYA NOMURA- M5, W1, D0, L4- PTS 2
THE BODYGUARD- M6, W1, D0, L5- PTS 2
JUN AKIYAMA- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
SUWAMA- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
ZEUS- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
NAOMICHI MARUFUJI- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
DYLAN JAMES- M6, W2, D0, L4- PTS 4
YOSHITATSU- M6, W3, D0, L3- PTS 6
KAI- M6, W2, D0, L4- PTS 4
YUTAKA YOSHIE- M6, W1, D0, L5- PTS 2
Totally skippable show. The quality was there at times but there’s nothing here worth hunting down.
So here’s something a bit different. Here is a ranking of Champion Carnival competitors based on how good they’ve been during the tournament;
- SHINGO TAKAGI- M5, W3, D0, L2- PTS 6
- KENTO MIYAHARA- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
- JUN AKIYAMA- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
- YUJI HINO- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
- NAOYA NOMURA- M5, W1, D0, L4- PTS 2
- ZEUS- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
- SHUJI ISHIKAWA- M6, W3, D0, L3- PTS 6
- SUWAMA- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
- NAOMICHI MARUFUJI- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
- RYOUJI SAI- M6, W3, D0, L3- PTS 6
- KAI- M6, W2, D0, L4- PTS 4
- YOSHITATSU- M6, W3, D0, L3- PTS 6
- JOE DOERING- M6, W4, D0, L2- PTS 8
- DYLAN JAMES- M6, W2, D0, L4- PTS 4
- THE BODYGUARD- M6, W1, D0, L5- PTS 2
- YUTAKA YOSHIE- M6, W1, D0, L5- PTS 2