AJPW Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori 25th Anniversary Show
October 21 2017
We’re in Yokohama, Japan at the Bunka Gymnasium. This aired on Gaora TV and featured the big Joe Doering title shot at former running mate Suwama. Plus guest spots from Sekimoto & Ito along with a host of multi-man action on the undercard and Ultimo Dragon vs. Tajiri in a 2004 WWE cruiserweight division tribute match.
And also Yoshitatsu is on this show.
Yohei Nakajima & Kotaro Suzuki vs. Koji Iwamoto & Yusuke Okada
Kotaro has been a genuinely fun undercard guy for AJPW recently. His absolute refusal to sell for anything Okada does is pretty great. A rookie, in yellow trunks for fuck’s sake, deserves to take a sound thrashing for daring to step up! Nakajima is slightly kinder, in that he’s prepared to sell and take some near falls off cheeky roll ups, but he still lays in the strikes. Kotaro looks clearly disappointed in his partner’s lack of ruthlessness. The finish is a little problematic as Yohei wins with a spin kick, which is barely in the top five kicks he hit all match. Kotaro immediately walks off, not even willing to look at the fallen Okada. Sensationally dickish stuff from Kotaro here. I loved it.
Final Rating: **1/2
Masanobu Fuchi & Osamu Nishimura vs. Atsushi Maruyama & Masashi Takeda
Big Japan vs. Old Japan. I’m watching this on Openload and the temptation to watch at a higher speed is strong. Not because I get bored by Fuchi but because high speed Fuchi is a hilarious prospect. I flick it up to 2x and Fuchi is on the apron. He literally doesn’t move an inch for two minutes. Conserving energy! Another minute passes by and he scratches his ear. FuchiCam should be a thing. He comes in does the concealed punch into a series of scoop slams sequence, which is his entire repertoire now. The 2x chants are amazing. Fuchi gets a roll up but Takeda rolls it over and Maruyama gets the pin. This was chucklesome in the extreme. Would it have been as funny at normal speed? Maybe. Fuchi is a highlight reel of old man spots nowadays. Nishimura and Maruyama did some downright serious wrestling in this, presumably to set up a BANG TV title match.
Final Rating: **1/4
Saori Anou & Nasumi Mako vs. Saki & Haruka Kato
This is effectively a guest match from the REINA promotion. Although the women are mostly based elsewhere. Anou & Mako in Actwres girl’Z for example.
There are some genuinely tiny wrestlers involved in this match. Saki is not small and looks like a giant. She’s 5’4”. Anou, the one in blue for visual references, is 5’3”. So when they’re in there it’s all Big Lads stuff. Kato is my least favourite woman in this match. Her gear is dreadful. Cut off jeans and what looks like a sports bra. It looks like she forgot her gear and had to wrestle in whatever she happened to have on her. Her actual work is better but I prefer Anou & Mako as a team. The match is filled with awkward moments, including a Mako dropkick that barely scratches Kato but she bumps it anyway. There are also lots of ‘standing around’ waiting for moves moments. The effort is there but the execution is off. Anou botches the finish by falling off the pin leaving Kato to lie there counting lights with no weight on her shoulders. Urgh.
Final Rating: *3/4
Ryouji Sai, Rikiya Fudo & Ishikiri vs. Yutaka Yoshie, Danny Jones & Fuminori Abe
This is another one of Akiyama’s weird trios matches. Danny has improved during this AJPW run and during this match he wrestles like a Japanese rookie. Like they’ve honed him and trained bad habits out of him. It’s interesting to watch. Sai controls the match, switching tempo when it deems it necessary. Abe is coming along nicely. He performs well here. Meanwhile Ishikiri vs. Yoshie is a satisfying battle of the big men. The Flying Pink Tank takes the victory with a top rope splash. This was a fun sprint. Running just over 6 minutes and never outstaying its welcome.
Final Rating: **3/4
Promo Time: Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori
They’re out here to receive love and flowers for their 25 years in the wrestling business. Remember when Omori was in the 1996 Royal Rumble because WWF didn’t have 30 wrestlers under contract? Good times. Remember when Akiyama debuted against Kenta Kobashi and they made a big deal of it? He went like 12 minutes and came out of it a freshly made star. AJPW remembers and brings Kenta out here with flowers for the boys. He drops them on his way through the curtain. Still, a touching moment. It’s also nice that among a host of former opponents is Toshiaki Kawada. I miss Kawada. He was the fucking best. Nobody loved kicking people in the face more than Kawada.
Kento Miyahara, KAI & Yoshitatsu vs. Shuji Ishikawa, Zeus & The Bodyguard
Now we’re into the business end of things.
Miyahara has been dumped into a truly horrific trios team here. Good lord. KAI is bad enough but Yoshitatsu? Is this one of those; go out there and prove you’re the best moments? If he doesn’t tag out all match that would be for the best. Sadly he does and I’m treated to my first look at Tatsu in AJPW. He’s not as embarrassingly out of his league as he is in New Japan but there’s still a gulf in class between him and Zeus, which is quite startling. Tatsu’s deterioration is ongoing. Speaking of deteriorated; KAI is pathetic here. His half-assed approach when contrasted to Miyahara is staggering. Did Wrestle-1 ruin him that much? He is at least in place for his spots and doesn’t botch anything. Speaking of botches – AJPW put Tatsu over Zeus here via submission. Oh no. Do they think he’s marketable? He’s gone from NJPW joke to besting one of AJPW’s top card talents. This match was ok but I’m honestly stunned at the outcome.
Final Rating: ***
All Asia Tag Team Championship
Yuma Aoyagi & Naoya Nomura (c) vs. Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato
Young punks vs. established guys is something I’m usually quite into. Especially in Japan where the veterans make a point of not selling for the kids and fucking them up. Although they slyly do end up selling for them. It’s a cool dynamic. They work a very deliberate pace here to stress the battle between the less experienced boys and the established lads. Sato ends up selling way more than I was expecting. As if they’ve decided it’s time to show Aoyagi & Nomura as being closer to Aoki’s level. Aoki is the smoothest worker in the match so he dictates the pace and generally controls all aspects of proceedings. It’s a very long match, pushing twenty minutes (long for the comparative experience levels of the participants) and it’s designed specifically to get over Aoyagi & Nomura as a big deal in the making. Aoyagi is definitely ready for this spot. The 22 year old is in his third full year as a wrestler and he’s now got that range of skills. He’s still reliant on cheeky roll ups and finds himself out-gunned in the technical stakes, trapped in submissions and needing saving, but he’s very good at both the young boy offence and the selling. Nomura is a further behind in his development despite debuting months earlier. I always think of Aoyagi as the more advanced of the two. It’s perhaps no shock therefore that he scores the pin on Sato. I would have been happier with Aoyagi & Nomura taking a valiant defeat but AJPW clearly need to establish some new stars and these boys are home grown.
Final Rating: ***1/2
AJPW World Junior Championship
Ultimo Dragon (c) vs. TAJIRI
Remember when this match happened on Smackdown? Probably not, it was about 3 minutes long. The house show matches they had were threeways featuring Jamie Noble, boooooy. Which is to say WWE had Ultimo and Tajiri and never bothered putting them together in a meaningful match. Unfortunately by this point it’s too late. Dragon is 50 years old and is now heavily reliant on grinding rest holds. Not exactly what you want from a cruiserweight match three off the top. The innovative and exciting kicks remain and TAJIRI’s blue rinse has washed out slightly, making him look less like a mad old lady pissed on sherry. The odd burst of energy and frantic kicks make amends for the otherwise sluggish pacing but they insert a ref bump to protect Ultimo (who is fifty fucking years old) and a Mist spot ahead of Tajiri kicking Ultimo’s head off and winning the belt. Remember when we used to mock WCW for putting on old wrestlers in spots that should rightfully have been there for young talent (including Ultimo)? Yep.
Final Rating: *1/2
I looked up the contents of the Smackdown show Dragon vs. Tajiri (2.41 in length) happened on. Here’s the rest of the card:
Basham Bros vs. Rikishi & Scotty 2 Hotty.
Danny Basham retired in 2008. After leaving WWE he wrestled for TNA until they noticed he wasn’t very good. Then the Juggalos. Doug Basham retired in 2009 after a similar career trajectory plus a run in Eurograps for OTT, AWW and the camps. Shaniqua, Basham’s manager at the time, got the boot and never wrestled again, apart from one match against Nidia in Mexico. I kinda want to see it. Big Kish went into the Hall of Fame. He still wrestles but not anywhere important in over ten years. Scotty has been winding down for ten years. He stopped last year.
Chris Benoit & Kurt Angle vs. John Cena & The A Train
Benoit you know. Angle is RAW GM. Cena a first round Hall of Fame pick in anyone’s book. Albert turned into NXT’s head honcho after a successful stint in NJPW. I said he was good all along and you all didn’t believe me.
World’s Greatest Tag Team vs. The FBI
Shelts is back. Haas works around the NWA affiliates. Since leaving ROH in 2013 he’s been a bit of a non-entity. I totally forgot about the rehashed FBI. Palumbo has worked for AJPW. But foolishly went back to WWE. That killed him and he retired in 2008. Stamboli also worked for AJPW (in the dark days). Also CMLL, TNA, AAA, and assorted Indies. He’s retired. Nunzio still works the Indies. He pops in places like House of Hardcore.
APA vs. Lesnar & Big Show
Ron retired. JBL retired. Lesnar is still the champ. Show is still in WWE.
Compare this to when I was writing about 80s wrestling some 15 years after it happened. He’s dead, he’s dead, he’s dead, drugs, dead, drugs, dead. It was depressing stuff. Only Benoit didn’t make it from this batch and he killed himself. It’s a little less depressing to be a wrestling fan nowadays. Plus ten guys still wrestle and none of them are embarrassing themselves. Leading healthier lives has led to less saddening stories in the wrestling business. It’s a shame things couldn’t have changed sooner or we’d still be getting Eddie Guerrero hijinks on a weekly basis.
AJPW World Tag Championship
Burning Wild (Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori) (c) vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Ryuji Ito
It would be a rum deal for Akiyama & Omori to lose their titles on a show dedicated to their respective careers. Considering Burning Wild are both old men too, the standard is a lot higher here than in the previous match. Omori’s effort levels are really high, even if he’s always been a step below the top guys. Akiyama on the other hand is still a bad motherfucker and here he decides to go toe to toe with Sekimoto and to hell with the consequences. Ito, if you don’t watch Big Japan, is a deathmatch guy who wrestles in spiffy gloves. He’s shockingly good at non-deathmatch elements of pro wrestling. There’s some genuine emotion here in watching poor old Akiyama take a beating off two younger, stronger opponents. All while he tries to not take a beating. Then Omori tags in and blows a neckbreaker on Sekimoto. Urp. All the elements of a neckbreaker were there…sort of. Sekimoto’s vastly delayed bump did not help. Sekimoto has such a high floor and such a consistent ceiling that when he’s in a match that’s not fantastic it’s confusing. Although he can hardly be blamed for this as Omori is the one making all the mistakes and deflating the crowd. At least Sekimoto vs. Akiyama is consistently good throughout. Omori definitely has the feel of a man who’s best is behind him. Akiyama downs Sekimoto with the Exploder and this was a good 18 minute contest. Shame about the issues, which prevented it from reaching higher ground but the fans were very respectful of the veterans and enjoyed their presence here.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Triple Crown Championship
Suwama (c) vs. Joe Doering
Suwama just won the title, his 6th such win, cutting Kento Miyahara’s second run short. Doering has one previous title run too. It wasn’t particularly successful, although it lasted some nine months.
Since then he’s had an abundance of issues with illness and this marks his return to a main event level. After he missed the entire of 2016 there was suggestions that he might never return to the ring at all, let alone be a main event star again. In Suwama he faces a friend and former ally. This should ensure no shenanigans although Joe has proven he is fine with working a strong style. Instead Suwama takes his leg, switching from an obvious target to one that will limit the big man’s mobility and aggression. Unfortunately that eliminates the slobberknocker element that I was personally hoping for. Replacing it with pained facial reactions from Big Joe and lots of scientific mat work. Not that Joe bothers to sell that leg in the slightest. As soon as he’s out of a ten minute leglock he pops off a stalling vertical suplex. There’s really no logic to that. At least test the knee first! Nope. A lot of wrestlers have an issue with the logical progression of selling in modern wrestling and some just don’t give a fuck about the process at all. The thing is – the first ten minutes of this match are pointless rest holds. So skip the first ten minutes of this match and get into the part where they start barrelling into each other.
I don’t get why you book Doering for twenty minutes anyway. Just book him in ten minute matches. I should love Joe Doering because he’s a big lad who does big lad stuff but I find his work to be wildly inconsistent. For the main event in a company that has thrived on in-ring for the past two years that’s simply not good enough. Miyahara carried the belt from a darker time into the light. Putting Doering back in the picture takes us back to a time when All Japan wasn’t doing well. Suwama does a decent job of trying to tell a story with him. First with the leg work, which goes nowhere and then by barely kicking out of stuff and struggling to find desperation counters. He works from a position of technical dominance for half the match and spends the second half fighting from underneath. In both circumstances he does good work. The match is not a failure because of Suwama. In the past that might have been true but he’s having a good 2017 and he’s fine here. Doering grabs Suwama with the Spiral Bomb for his second Triple Crown and the crowd goes mild. Suwama had to scratch and claw his way into a 6th title run. Doering walked into this one, had a bad match and he’s champ again. Didn’t work last time, won’t work this time.
Final Rating: ***1/4
It must seem like I’m down on All Japan because I keep dishing out underwhelming ratings on their overhyped main events of late. However it’s still an easy watch. It’s still a solid undercard. The trouble is, sometimes the show delivers and sometimes it doesn’t and when it doesn’t it’s really disappointing because of the lack of consistency. Like Yoshitatsu coming out to challenge Joe after this match. Yoshitatsu! So yeah, I might be done with their product for the rest of the year. They’ve had some sensational highs this year. This show was not one of them.