AJPW New Year Wars
January 2 2018
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall. The ‘WK gaijin’ effect is working and the crowd is a healthy 1500. All Japan aren’t exactly putting their best foot forward and it’s a by-the-numbers Korakuen card, headlined by Doering vs. Zeus and Tajiri vs. Kotaro Suzuki. The rest of the card is a bunch of tags and the traditional new year battle royal.
Yusuke Okada vs. Keiichi Sato
This is down as a “dark match” on Cagematch but here it is! These guys are the same age but Okada has far less ring time. He’s marking his one-year anniversary in the biz. His debut was January 9 last year. It’s a competent match with both guys showing plenty of fire. Okada gets to boss big chunks of the match but he doesn’t have anything that will put Sato away. A prime example being when the Boston crab doesn’t finish because Sato isn’t considered a young boy anymore. Meanwhile Sato has a legitimate finisher, which puts Okada down and Okada, ahead of the curve on surliness refuses a handshake in defeat. Instead opting to slap Sato across the chops. There should be more sore losers. Sportsmanship is horseshit.
Final Rating: **1/2
Masanobu Fuchi, Dick Togo & Atsushi Maruyama vs. Osamu Nishimura, Ultimo Dragon & Yohei Nakajima
Akiyama loves his wacky trios matches and this is a tremendous collection of talent.
I am a huge Dick Togo fan. I’m happy he came out of retirement to batter another generation of punks. Fuchi brings a lot of old man comedy. Complaining of illegalities and then blatantly cheating. His concealed punch and explanation thereof is one of my favourite things in wrestling.
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) January 12, 2018
I could watch that GIF all fucking day. Dick wrestles circles around Nakajima, making me wish Togo was in a big important match. Instead I have to make do with him ‘not getting paid by the minute’ and submitting Nakajima about 30 seconds after first legally entering the match. Machine!
Final Rating: **3/4
NEXTREAM (Kento Miyahara, Naoya Nomura, Yuma Aoyagi) & Yoshitatsu vs. The Bodyguard, Ryoji Sai, KAI & Hikaru Sato
I like how Kento is the figurehead of the younger wrestlers and what they aspire to be. His positivity and drive are what make AJPW tick. He can make anything better…apart from Yoshitatsu. All Japan is increasingly becoming a dumping ground for wrestling’s forgotten men. I wonder if Bone Soldier will turn up at some point. Tatsu irritates me by doing the ‘please clap me’ clapping thing. The crowd respond with a healthy “Bodygaaaah” chant. Love it. Kento plays cheerleader quite a bit, getting his young partners to take it to the more experienced opponents. Everyone is better when Kento is around. Like they don’t want to disappoint him. It’s a fun little match, albeit throwaway. The idea being to entertain on the undercard while not stealing anyone’s main event thunder. There are some really good sequences, especially surrounding Miyahara. Sato trying like hell to submit him is something else. It would be quite the upset. Kento knees him in the face for the pin.
Final Rating: ***
Instead of listing participants I’ve gone and put up a picture of everyone involved. It’s basically everyone from the undercard plus Black Tiger, Kaji Tomato, Yoshie and a few others. Kento has an interesting tactic; he literally hides behind the referee. While everyone else puts a sleeper on Masa Fuchi.
For a moment it looks as if Fuchi will bodyslam everyone in the match. That gets cut off when Fuchi spots Yoshie and Bodyguard. He opts to sneak around them and bodyslam Kaji a few times.
Everyone stops as Fuchi tries to slam Bodyguard. He can’t and Fuchi gets pinned to deafening boos! If he’d bodyslammed everyone in the match I would have gone full boat on the snowflakes. All in! Bodyguard gets group pinned and Kento spends too long celebrating and gets thrown out. The favourites never win Japanese battle royals because everyone gangs up and eliminates them. They keep daring each other to do top rope spots and then pushing people off the ropes when they go up. How dumb do you have to be to get baited into going up top? Yoshie is the biggest threat but the rest can’t get him off his feet to pin him, nor over the rope for the elimination. Eventually Maruyama and Abe sneaky pin him. It ends up as Maruyama vs. KAI and the latter gets the win. This was a load of fun, although the Fuchi stuff could have gone on for longer and the top rope dares made a few guys look stupid. Fun match though.
Final Rating: ***
Violent Giants (Shuji Ishikawa & Suwama) & Atsushi Aoki vs. Burning Wild & Koji Iwamoto
We’re almost into the serious part of the show and Akiyama is in no mood to take any shit so it looks like Burning Wild vs. Violent Giants is happening soon. Suwama looks to put a beating on Omori, who’s arguably the weak link. Although he’s even more dismissive of Iwamoto, clubbing him out of the ring when he dares to interfere. Shuji vs. Akiyama is great stuff. Shuji battering Akiyama with his sheer size, Akiyama firing back with pluck and tenacity. Aoki vs. Iwamoto is a nice little aside to this, a hard-hitting but much quicker clash. Aoki ends up tapping Iwamoto out with an armbar and we’re out of here inside nine minutes. I could have gone for more of this.
Final Rating: **3/4
AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Championship
Tajiri (c) vs. Kotaro Suzuki
Yesterday I watched Masato Tanaka in action, in a banger, and today it’s Tajiri in a big match. The Japanese guys from ECW have aged far better than their American cousins. Both these guys are excellent technicians so they roll around on the mat for a while and it’s tidy as fuck. Kotaro is pushing 40 and Tajiri is 47 but you wouldn’t know it. It’s timeless back and forth. I wonder if the fish-heavy Japanese diet is responsible for so many Japanese wrestlers being in such excellent condition in later life. Tajiri is open to violence and is the first to instigate a more aggressive phase of the match. Plus Tajiri drags the referee in the way of a move for self preservation. Kotaro is smart to Tajiri’s antics though and makes a point of blocking the Mist shot. It feels as if he’s come in adequately prepared to defeat the champion, dismantling his game and being a superior talent. However Tajiri keeps that Mist up his sleeve, or cheek I guess, and catches Kotaro unexpectedly during a sunset flip.
The result is a Buzzsaw Kick and Tajiri retains the belt.
Final Rating: ***1/2
AJPW Triple Crown Championship
Joe Doering (c) vs. Zeus
Zeus has never really recovered from AJPW’s decision to go with Kento Miyahara instead of him as their saviour when Suwama went down injured. It was the correct decision but Zeus looked rattled and disappeared back into the midcard. It’s nice to see him get a second shot at the top spot. Will Doering’s size be enough to see off Zeus’ power?
Doering needs to be a bigger star if he’s to carry one of the most prestigious belts in wrestling. He is respected and loved in Japan, especially as he beat cancer and came back. It’s a nice story. His in-ring is improved too and they have an obvious Power War story to tell. Doering has to impose himself on the muscular Zeus and he does a blinding job of convincing me that’s the more aggressive, the better prepared of the two. It leaves Zeus facing an uphill battle and having to throw heavy strikes to just get on Joe’s level. They do a good job of setting the scene before Zeus starts to have any kind of impact on the match. Meanwhile Joe can rely on being able to smash Zeus with a clothesline that could end the match at any moment. Zeus managing to press slam Joe feels like a big moment. The match is a real war and I appreciate the efforts of both men to get everything over.
Joe Doering's clotheslines are wonderfully violent. pic.twitter.com/xZpWdFoZ3l
— Arn~! (@ArnoldFurious) January 12, 2018
They do a lot of stuff that looks like actual collisions rather than a wrestling move. I dig that. It’s very violent. I also like how Joe gets tired and stops moving around so much as the match progresses, but he still swings for the fences with the lariats. Spiralbomb puts Zeus away and Doering retains in a tremendous main.
Final Rating: ****
This show was a terrific time. I really enjoyed myself. The light-hearted comedy stuff on the undercard set me up for some belting top end action. The main event was really good. A fun two hours at the wrestling. Jun Akiyama continues to book shows that appeal to a wide audience, getting over an assortment of talent in unique ways. Looking forward to their 2018 output.