AJPW Raising an Army
October 9 2017
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall. This is the big Suwama title shot show. He fucked up and got beat by Miyahara in the summer but this is a tired, beatable Miyahara who’s already traded the belt with Shuji Ishikawa.
Koji Iwamoto vs. Kotaro Suzuki
Iwamoto has had a shocking level of success in AJPW but now he’s battling Kotaro Suzuki, the freelance ace. Where will he turn up next? That’s a genuine question! He’s appeared in ten Japanese promotions this year alone. His regular haunt is Zero1, so naturally I love him. Until he turns his back on the beautiful yellow ring for a bigger pay day. Then he can get fucked. Kotaro’s autumn years may his most promising. He can still go but his surliness is starting to seep through. The mentality of every aging Japanese wrestler to hate anyone with less than a decade of ring time. Iwamoto is taken lightly but the youngster (he’s 27 but eh) is persistent and lovingly counters the dumbest of Kotaro’s spots. The ones where disbelief has to be suspended while he’s gambolling around like a fucking idiot. Iwamoto has definitely benefitted from wrestling in AJPW. Although he displeases me by not countering the 619. Nobody should ever successfully hit that shit. It’s a spirited contest, with Suzuki not taking Iwamoto seriously at all and therefore falling prey to lots of Koji offence. It’s only when Iwamoto has the indecency to engage in strike duels that Kotaro is battered out of his funk. Holy shit, this match is great! Iwamoto has awoken the beast and eats a Jumping Tombstone, which doesn’t get it done but a particularly savage Tiger Driver finishes moments later. We’re off and running. This was somehow sub-ten minutes but felt like a mini-epic.
Final Rating: ***1/4
Manabu Soya, Taiyo Kea & Masanobu Fuchi vs. Yohei Nakajima, TAJIRI & Fuminori Abe
What the fuck is this? Soya is a former Wrestle-1 champion. I’m still not sure why Wrestle-1 is a separate company seeing as they’ve been trading talent back and forth with AJPW for two years now. They only broke away from AJPW in 2013! I honestly thought Kea had retired. I’d not seen anything from him in two years and that was a throwaway trios match. He was also in Wrestle-1 but came back. Fuchi has been with AJPW since the beginning of time. Before there was AJPW there was Fuchi, scoop slamming bitches. On the other team are cruiserweights. TAJIRI is pushing 50 but has actually worked for WWE this calendar year. His hair has gotten weirder since then. Abe is a veritable child compared to everyone else but that FREEDOMS swagger about him. Like he’s turned up for a shoot fight, regardless of what everyone else wants to do.
Kea has his angry face on. He looks like a Mr Potato Head permanently stuck in grumpy. And yet his Hawaiian shorts just scream fun! He’s a man of contrasts. Let’s not forget he used to wrestle under the name “Maunakea Mossman”. I used to skip his matches on the AJPW comps because everyone was better than him. Not much has changed. For someone to be virtually retired at 41 is telling. TAJIRI looks like a confused old woman in this match, who’s walked into a parlour and accidentally ordered a bizarre hairstyle.
But then she had half a bottle of sherry and now she’s kinda into it. I love that Fuchi gets blown up in this match, punching TAJIRI in the eye behind the referee’s back. TAJIRI’s overblown selling is a goddamn delight. He flops like a fish across the apron, like a salmon swimming upstream to the very spawning grounds of puroresu! And he’s terrified of Fuchi. Terrified of potentially being punched in the eye a third time! Mossman hits the Moss Covered Family…he doesn’t. It’s called the TKO. The old heavyweights win. This was a lot of fun. I’ve gone full circle on Fuchi. I now find his old man antics to be fantastic.
Final Rating: ***
KAI, Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi vs. Atsushi Aoki, Hikaru Sato & Yusuke Okada
At first I was all ‘oh shit, it’s KAI’ but then I saw his tag team partners!
That’s right, make KAI stand in the back. Main events in front, midcarder at the back. Nomura promptly has a stinker, stumbling around like a chubby lost child at the mall. “Takuya is the good one” I find myself yelling inexplicably at a video of Japanese people thousands of miles, and a couple of weeks ago. The team ends up infuriating me, apart from Aoyagi. The breaking up of submissions and shit like that especially. KAI throws a horrible looking punch and insists on doing it throughout. Aoki and Sato largely control the pace and for that I’m grateful. Okada, who Sato & Aoki have zero interest in letting into the match, promptly tags himself in and shows these wannabes how to throw a fucking dropkick. He spams the shit out of that move. He’s a dropkicking machine. And of course KAI pins him. Of course he does. This was logical with the heat making sense and the finish making sense but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
Final Rating: **1/4
BANG TV Championship
Osamu Nishimura (c) vs. Danny Jones
So Danny Jones is getting a bit old title shot! His gear has started to get very ‘Welsh Dragon’/’Welsh Balor’. It’s an advancement on his former gear, which was very nondescript. His age is enhanced by wrestling the ancient Nishimura. Somehow Nishimura is only 46 years old. That can’t be right. He’s looked that old for at least ten years. I think he was born old, like Benjamin Button or Larry Zbyszko. The BANG TV title is defended under a round system, which I had forgotten, which makes me think Danny has submitted to a headlock. Danny Jones is another of the crop of youngsters coming through the UK scene. He’s only 21. He does a lot of basic things extremely well. He’s not had the chance to shine much in AJPW, having worked a tonne of tags and trios. He’s not helped massively here, losing clean early in round three to a roll up. A lot of the mat grappling was good but it didn’t grow into anything else. Danny has hopefully learned from this experience and I’m sure AJPW are happy with his progress or he wouldn’t be in this match.
Final Rating: **
The Big Guns vs. Burning Wild
We’re getting into the business end of the show!
Akiyama and Omori stroll in, confident they’re the guys who run this promotion. Big Guns flatten them both. There’s a moment where I think Omori is jobbing in about two minutes because it’s so one-sided. Zeus might have lost a step during the year, going from top card contender to tag flunky…all while Bodyguard stepped up and had a killer title match with Miyahara. Everyone is on here and it’s a cracking sprint with the old boys clearing Big Guns out and Omori puts Bodyguard down with the Axe Bomber in five minutes! Hell of a sprint but it left me wanting more! More!
Final Rating: ***1/4
Joe Doering vs. Shuji Ishikawa
Showdown of the Big Boys! Doering is 6’5”, 300lbs and the modern day version of Stan Hansen. Ishikawa is 6’5”, 285lbs. It’s more like a WWF match from the 80s than an All Japan contest. I do appreciate two large men beating each other senseless though. Especially as Joe is back to full fitness after nearly dying and Shuji has been given a sugar run as Triple Crown champ. A world where Shuji Ishikawa can refer to himself as a former Triple Crown Champion is a good world. As Doering runs through Shuji, it finally clicks with me how large Doering is. Ishikawa is presented as a monster in all Japanese contests due to his size and Doering is bigger. It’s Godzilla vs. American Cowboy Godzilla. Both trampling Tokyoites under their mahoosive feet. It’s tough to describe the match because it’s just two huge men beating the shit out of each other. If that’s your cup of tea (or coffee, or sake) then you should probably get on this. The way Shuji jacks Joe up for the Fire Thunder Driver make me tingle. The way they throw each other around is freakish because they’re both so huge. Nobody else can throw them around like this. Doering gets the pin with a crossbody off the top but both guys were looking exhausted by the end of this, although it was only 11 minutes. Joe is definitely back!
Final Rating: ***3/4
Triple Crown Championship
Kento Miyahara (c) vs. Suwama
Suwama won the Oudou tournament (not to be confused with the Oudou promotion) to get a title shot and a replica of the European Cup from the 70s.
Suwama hasn’t been on the best of form since tearing his Achilles heel, which is the injury that forced AJPW to go with Miyahara as champion and boy did that ever pay off! His confidence levels are through the roof and his knee-throwing offence is like an overly reckless Shinsuke Nakamura. Suwama’s response is to work the knee, which is sensible. Cut those knees off at the, uh, knee. Miyahara sells the shit out of it, stumbling as he’s Irish whipped across the ring and looking crippled by the assault. Everyone in that building is in no doubt; that knee is fucked. Kento has to switch gears and throw forearms but anytime Suwama wants to cut him off he just goes to the leg. It’s a dismantling of a great champion by a challenger who came in with a plan.
Miyahara’s comeback is all about self sacrifice. He feels he needs the big knee spots so he hits them regardless of his wellbeing, thus hurting himself in hurting Suwama. There’s a logic there but it’s a tactical issue for Miyahara. The longer he stays in charge of the match, the more damage he’s doing to himself. Logically Suwama just has to survive long enough to capitalise. Ideally Miyahara would change knees but the injured right knee struggles to support his weight. So he uses it as a weapon. It’s like tearing your broken leg off and beating someone up with it. Turn that weakness into a strength. I mean, it can’t get any more fucked up, might as well use it. There are certainly selling issues that erupt from this. Largely due to Miyahara’s movement around the ring but also his ability to hold bridges and shit like that. The potential for selling is there throughout and he just ignores the opportunities. As if to say ‘the leg portion of the match is now over’. Normally I don’t punish matches for ignoring limb work, because they all do, but this one seemed particularly focused and then it isn’t.
The second half of the match is all big bombs and back and forth business with desperate last gasp kick-outs. If I had the choice, I would rather just see the match from this point onward. As it feels like two matches tacked together. They are both great matches, just to be clear, but they feel disconnected. As if one match ended and then another, completely different match, began. For this I don’t have the investment that I should have. Certainly not feeling the MOTY shouts I’ve heard from reputable sources. Kento’s kick-outs as pretty special though and Suwama’s wobbly legged selling matches it. Last Ride finishes for Suwama and he wins the title he was in line for before the injury. This was an epic effort and I wish I’d known the leg work was going nowhere so I could have just ignored it like I usually do. Skip the entire first half of this and you’ve got a genuine MOTYC, with the leg stuff it’s not that good. Low-end MOTYC. I will say this though; it’s a 31 minute match and it felt nowhere near that long.
Final Rating: ****1/4
Post Match: Joe Doering strolls out here, formally a team mate of Suwama, to put himself in the title picture while Miyahara, who carried the company on his back for two years, slides out of the ring quietly.
Main event has MOTY buzz and I seem to be the low man on the rating. The cagematch rating is currently at 9.21, which is immense. That means the vast majority of people have gone ****1/2 or better. The nagging issues with the knee bothered me enough to not go that high. All Japan shows in general are really fun though, regardless of how I feel about their massively hyped main events. It’s a promotion I could watch more frequently and enjoy. Their undercard stuff is routinely solid. Akiyama has done an excellent job of building cards and making me want to see random singles matches or even randomer trios tags. This is an easy two hours at the wrestling. Many thanks to Samurai TV for editing the show so tidily. I love their two hour edits of shows.