AJPW Dream Power Series
March 25 2018
We’re in Saitama, Japan at the Super Arena. This aired lived on AJPW.TV, their new streaming service. You can sign up for free if you want to watch it. I got up too late and missed the live version but I’m now checking out my first show on AJPW.TV a few hours after the fact. Because this is a big show it’s nearly four hours long, which I’m not happy about but hopefully there’s a really long intermission in there somewhere. Also I hate the Super Arena. It’s a fucking barn, the sound just disappears into the roof and the seating sucks.
Yutaka Yoshie, Atsushi Maruyama, Naoshi Sano, Kaiichi Sato & Carbell Ito vs. Masakado, Ishikiri, Revlon, FG Mask & So Daimonji
The one team I’m drawing a massive blank on. I know Masakado and I recognise Ishikiri but everyone else I don’t know at all. The camera doesn’t exactly kill it here, missing the first big dive from Carbell Ito. The match is weird, with structuring issues and poor execution from some of the unknown lads. Particularly on top rope moves and general storytelling. People are in the wrong place and pinfalls are stopped for no reason. It’s just poorly planned out. Yoshie gets pissed off with it and splashes one of the mystery men for the pin. This had potential, from the early craziness, but ended up a mess.
Final Rating: *
Masanobu Fuchi, Tajiri & Yohei Nakajima vs. Osamu Nishimura, Kotaro Suzuki & Ultimo Dragon
I’m very into AJPW’s ‘old man’ matches. Fuchi is a fucking Don of old man matches. Meanwhile Nishimura was born aged 45 and wearing a smoking jacket. I’ve never seen anyone hit middle age as a rookie.
I know no one reads these match reviews for old man trios matches and they’re just waiting for me to insert a Fuchi GIF of him doing the ‘I didn’t punch him ref’ shtick. Well, here ya go.
The match also includes Ultimo hugging the ropes to dodge a dropkick from Fuchi, which elicits loud (for the Super Arena) boos. Fuchi is a mega-babyface because he cheats. Ultimo actually pins him and people are not happy. About time Fuchi had one last main event run. Maybe in a tag team. But not with that asshole Ultimo Dragon. Fuck that guy.
Final Rating: **1/2
Koji Iwamoto vs. Josh Bodom
I’m amazed Bodom managed to find his way to Japan when he couldn’t catch a flight to Germany to defend the Kult Cup. That said, I’m actually pretty pleased to see another British face in the Japanese scene. It helps to reflect the strength of the British wrestling scene and Bodom has huge potential if he can keep his attitude in check. I’m not keen on his chain gimmick in Japan but I’m excited to see how this tour pans out for him. I’m sad that Steve isn’t in attendance, like he is at all the Rev Pro shows, so there are no loud one-man “let’s go Bodom” chants. Bodom looks a little nervous here, perhaps put off by the quiet and distant crowd. It’s not a bad turn by Bodom, by any stretch of the imagination, but without his patented heat garnering the match falls a little flat. Luckily the building blocks of a technical match are still there and they try and have a blinder, which is somewhat hampered by the crowd. Bodom manages the best work of the match by selling his knee heavily on an apron Tombstone, thus allowing Iwamoto the time to recover and get fired up ahead of the Hirai Ghosi, his judo throw finish. Without that subtle selling the end of the match would have been totally weird. There was enough going on here to make me believe Bodom can be a big hit in Japan going forward but he clearly wasn’t pleased with the crowd reaction and it effected his performance. It will take time for the Japanese fans to bite on you, Josh, patience is key. It probably didn’t help that his character is ill defined. He’s not a heel, or a face, and the chain is misleading.
Final Rating: ***
KAI & Naoya Nomura vs. Yuji Hino & Yoshitatsu
Tatsu is looking a lot happier after his run with Kento. Teaming him with another super Indie performer in Hino isn’t a bad move. KAI & Nomura have a bit more history. I’m a big Hino fan. I was disappointed that he ended up in Wrestle-1 and I hope he gets a push in AJPW this year, which results in him being an AJPW regular. Nomura taking it to Hino is a major highlight of this match. I see Nomura piling on the pounds, trying to rise through the ranks of All Japan. And Hino beats the fucking shit out of him for it. The powerbomb that finishes is a beauty.
I really enjoyed this match but it was a total sprint and was over before I’d had time to digest how good it was.
Final Rating: **3/4
Suwama, Hikaru Sato & Yusuke Okada vs. Kazuyuki Fujita, Kendo Kashin & Nosawa Rongai
I get that this match has appeal in Japan and that some people think Kazu Fujita is good at wrestling. That said any time Suwama is in one of these big blood feud things it falls on its face and Fujita sucks. And this is happening?
Team Fujita has got one thing going for them; they’re supposed to be heels and I hate them. But I hate them because they’re sloppy and their spots suck. I feel bad for the face team for all the shit they have to take. The difference between that and Suwama’s offence in his comeback is like night and day. They do a lot of stuff in here with chair shots and it’s all nonsense. Honestly they should have just had Suwama vs. Fujita but I guess they got burned by doing Suwama vs. Kojima and it getting no reaction. Not that you can hear any reactions in this building. And after a boring, awful match they culminate in a bad finish where the ref stops it while the camera is watching something else. Get in the fucking bin Fujita. Go back to IGF.
Final Rating: DUD
This Champion Carnival dates picture serves to remind me that there is a fucking tonne of wrestling that weekend. It’s ‘Mania weekend and on top of that we’ve got Champion Carnival kicking off and AJPW.tv is airing all those shows. I may have to give up sleeping. Is that possible? Something will have to go that weekend. I reckon I can probably power through on about 4 hours a night. Naps between shows?
All Asia Tag Team Championship
Jun Akiyama & Yuji Nagata (c) vs. Manabu Nakanishi & Takao Omori
Uncle Jun went and got himself a tag partner from NJPW so his mate in Burning Wild went and did the same thing, getting fellow ‘Dad’ Nakanishi for a Monster Morning in Saitama. Omori vs. Nagata ends up being the crux of the match as Omori is a bit jealous that Akiyama won the belts with someone other than him. This is compounded by Nagata knowing full well he can kick Nakanishi’s ass. Nagata is in far better shape. Nakanishi seems to enjoy having an important role to play. He’s been relegated to pet dinosaur in NJPW. While the effort is appreciated he comes across as clumsy and over the hill during most of the more ambitious action. So it’s left to Omori to fight on his own, which usually equals him being crushed and this is no exception. He does manage to fire off the Axe Guillotine Driver on Nagata and he floors both opponents with the Axe Bomber but Nakanishi is too old to stop the pins getting broken up. Omori, at his level best, just cannot take on two world class, albeit seasoned, wrestlers. To add insult to injury Omori even eats the pin, thanks to the Wrist Clutch Exploder.
This match was good in spite of Nakanishi, rather than because of him. I hope Omori keeps going off and finding new partners until he gets someone who can actually beat either Akiyama or Nagata. That would be an interesting theme for the title run.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Post Match: Fujita and Kashin come down to offer their congratulations. Just tell them to fuck off Jun! Oh, I suppose he booked them right? I don’t get this at all. Although Fujita specifically celebrates with Nagata and Nakanishi, his former mates in New Japan while Akiyama heads backstage alone. There goes my Omori dynamic, dashed by New Japan politics from 2005.
AJPW Junior Heavyweight Championship
Atsushi Aoki (c) vs. Shuji Kondo
Kondo won the Junior Battle of Glory to get this title shot. An outsider coming in to win the tournament somewhat highlighted the relatively weak junior division in AJPW. Until recently old man Tajiri was running around with the strap. Kondo is barely a junior too, having packed on a lot of muscle. He does not have the upper body of a junior wrestler. I’m going to be brutally honest here. This is a long fucking show and this match doesn’t add anything to it. Aoki is one of those wrestlers who believes in slow burning matches and building them up slowly and that’s not cool on a four hour show. We’re 2.5 hours in at this point and I’ve seen enough. The match does pick up but it’s just a chore to sit through. Which is pretty typical of AJPW’s junior division as a whole. This match is where the AJPW player starts to buffer, just a tiny bit, which makes me think it fell asleep watching Atsushi Aoki wrestle. I’m certain the arena doesn’t help as it’s so quiet and there’s no atmosphere. When Kondo starts belting Aoki with big power moves is when I start getting into the match but it’s gone on too long by that point. Kondo’s creative offence is the driving force of the second half of the match. I love the big piledriver spot and the bulldog off the apron onto the rail is a good idea, albeit middling execution. Aoki tries to break Kondo’s arm and that’s the finish. At this point I’m glad the match is over but it probably looks great in highlights. If there’s a heavily clipped version of this match I would much rather see that. The first half of this was worthless.
Final Rating: **1/2
Well done, you have successfully bored me into a catatonic state of wanting sleep. Or coffee. The show is too long for this bullshit.
AJPW World Tag Team Championship
Big Guns (c) vs. Ryoji Sai & Dylan James
Dylan James is former Zero1 star James Raideen. He’s been repackaged and is now an AJPW guy. As part of their rebuilding work he’s not a bad choice. Raideen certainly struggled earlier in his career but he’s looked better over the past few years and he’s a hard-hitting big lad. He should do ok in Champion Carnival.
— Absolute Arnie (@ArnoldFurious) March 25, 2018
This is a big test for him, against AJPW’s top team. Zeus is one of AJPW’s stand-out talents and a good measuring stick for anyone coming in to AJPW. Raideen has brought his awful Zero1 haircut with him.
It’s weird how as a younger man I was very into the technical stuff and now I’m older I just want two large men doing tests of strength. It’s a complete reversal of attitude. I suspect it has a lot to do with WWE changing their approach to wrestling (although there will always be hosses). Big powerhouse James is equals parts terrifying, due to his sheer speed and strength, and yet capable of lame looking elbow drops from WWE circa 2003. It’s weird how his genetic makeup only gets him halfway there. If he can eliminate those weaker looking moves he could be a huge star. The focal point of the match is teaming. While Big Guns are on the same page Sai and James are just two good singles wrestlers put together. I’m surprised they’ve put together but put them in separate blocks for CC. There was a chance to have them implode here, thus getting some heat on a CC match but unless they both make the final (no chance) it’s not happening. I don’t remember Sai and James teaming in Zero1 but they might have. AJPW has a weird thing with their tag titles. For starters they have two sets. Secondly they continually switch them. Sai continues that record here with a double stomp for the pin. The last time a team successfully defended the AJPW tag straps was July 2017. Since then there have been six sets of champions who’ve lost the belts on their first defence.
Final Rating: ***1/2
AJPW Triple Crown Championship
Joe Doering (c) vs. Kento Miyahara
The Monster Joe Doering title run has been an intriguing one. He’s bullied an assortment of scrub midcarders into submission. But now he faces The Ace of All Japan. The man who saved AJPW from the brink of extinction and brought them to the hallowed ground of Video on Demand.
Where, in other title defences, Joe was able to bully smaller and less powerful opponents he cannot do that here. Kento has too much speed, aggression and charisma. Miyahara almost wrestles heel, taking shortcuts and showing Joe that he’s prepared to do what it takes to get that belt back for a third time. Joe does get control periods, because the match would be weird if he didn’t. Kento looks suitably helpless during them and the match has the vibe of one of those Shawn Michaels bouts circa 1995 when he was really, really good. Miyahara tends to keep his bumps in check so it’s not quite that good but it’s the same dynamic.
You know that thing I said about Kento ‘toning the bumps down’? Well, about that.
Me: Kento Miyahara is really smart about not taking stupid bumps in big matches just for the sake of it.
Moments later: pic.twitter.com/705rpjroZ3
— Absolute Arnie (@ArnoldFurious) March 25, 2018
The ‘thud’ noise, which you can’t hear, is fairly sickening. Joe’s impact moves tend to all focus on driving the air out of Kento’s lungs. Putting him back first on the mat, over and over again, to try and incapacitate him so he cannot kick out. It makes good sense and Kento has to improvise to escape holds rather than suffer yet another back first bump.
Some of Joe’s offence is electric. The spinebuster is so good. The crossbody is amazing. I love how Kento gets fired up and how Joe keeps shutting down his comebacks with one strike. It shows Joe’s power versus Kento’s youthful enthusiasm. It’s Kento who comes out on top, pulling off the German suplex and pinning Doering for the three. I would have been happy with either outcome. Kento’s first reign helped to invigorate the company and Doering’s had been the best reign since that. Both guys came out of this match looking sharp and it’s credit to both men. Doering is very underrated. Miyahara is a world beater.
Final Rating: ****1/4
The show is too long but I say that about lots of big shows and nothing seems to happen about it. I’d much rather watch a two hour TV block cut of a show like Samurai TV do. There was a lot of filler on the undercard but that said I did enjoy getting to see Josh Bodom in Japan. It was a fascinating debut and I think he’ll do well. The Fujita thing was awful and Aoki bored me but aside from that the show was ok. Main event was obviously on a higher level than the rest of the card. Miyahara has been carrying this company for some considerable time although injuries have not been kind to AJPW and their booking. The upcoming Champion Carnival should breath fresh life into the company.