AJPW Super Power Series
May 24 2018
We’re in Tokyo, Japan at Korakuen Hall. This is the follow up to Champion Carnival with Naomichi Marufuji taking his title shot against the very man he beat to win CC; Triple Crown Champion/AJPW Ace Kento Miyahara.
Ishikiri vs. Yohei Nakajima
I’ve seen Ishikiri before but I really don’t remember anything about him. He and Nakajima run through a bunch of back and forth stuff like armdrags and whatnot. The roll ups are great and Yohei does a good job of marshalling the approach. He finishes with a spin kick. This was solid but brisk.
Final Rating: **1/4
Takao Omori & Masanobu Fuchi vs. Jun Akiyama & Osamu Nishimura
Two surly old guys tagging with two older less surly, more comedic guys.
Fuchi tries his shit on Akiyama and gets it reversed. Akiyama stealing Fuchi’s spots is my jam. Fuchi gets his own back by punching Nishimura in the face and then Akiyama gets a fist in the eye for his troubles too. Akiyama’s accusing finger point as he collapses to the mat is wonderful stuff. Although Fuchi basically only has two moves I could watch him wrestle all day. His conditioning is getting worse somehow. Hey, steak and beer every day will do that. Look at me! I don’t do as much steak either. Akiyama beats his old ass with a roll up and looks really happy about it, which in turn makes me happy.
Final Rating: ***
Joe Doering, Zeus, Black Tiger & Atsushi Maruyama vs. Evolution (Suwama, Shuji Ishikawa, Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato)
Aoki & Sato become the number one cheering section for Shuji Ishikawa, which is lovely. If they don’t cheer him they get a sound thrashing, of course. Shuji insists that Zeus show him the power (motherfucker) with Doering looking antsy on the apron behind him about being absent from a test of strength. Nosawa and Aoki both wearing masks when everyone knows who they are is weird to me. The juniors do a whole bunch of weird shit involving handshakes and itching. I must have missed an episode this TV show that details why all this nonsense is happening. On the sly Nosawa does the best selling in the match; shaking his hand after being tagged in by Joe Doering.
When Zeus decides to chop Shuji’s pecs off the match stops being a load of goofy bollocks and turns into a slobberknocker. Seriously; Zeus goes right after Shuji and fucks him up.
Then he batters Suwama for good measure and Maruyama decides he’s going to blind tag in, getting immediately beheaded by a Suwama lariat. What’s with the juniors who think they’re rock hard all of a sudden? Suwama naturally murders him and that’ll do it. This was fun. I have no idea where this ‘thinks he’s a badass’ Maruyama came from but he’s awesome. Trying to take on heavyweights all the time and just dying.
Final Rating: ***1/2
Ryouji Sai, Dylan James & Keiichi Sato vs. KAI, Kotaro Suzuki & Tajiri
Apart from Tajiri’s wacky facials there’s not a lot to latch on to here. I’m slightly interested to see how Sato fares against better, more experienced opponents. His stuff looks dancey, with him giving away the next step too frequently. He’s relatively inexperienced so everything he does wrong is forgivable but there’s definitely room for improvement. I don’t even buy into him trying to get a hot tag.
Then there’s KAI. At this point; what do you do with KAI? They make such a mess of a dive set up here that Dylan James has to helpfully leave the ring to assist Sai in beating up Tajiri (no, really) so that KAI is free to hit a tope. What were they thinking? As if to say ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’ KAI then gets Irish whipped out of the building. Just stop running you idiot! I do appreciate them realising the match is getting so dumb they can’t go anywhere and sitting in a chinlock to have a chat about it. The best thing about the match is Tajiri being shit scared of Dylan James, although James does almost nothing to enforce that mentality. Often holding Tajiri to stop his hijinks. A lot of the work in this just rubbed me up the wrong way. Kotaro puts Sato away and we can all move on with our lives. Tajiri’s cowardice was the best thing about this midcard mess.
Final Rating: *3/4
Jake Lee & Koji Iwamoto vs. Yoshitatsu & Naoya Nomura
This is Jake Lee’s return match. He’s been out since July last year. An absence of 10 full months. He announced prior to returning that he’s leaving NEXSTEAM, the Kento Miyahara led stable. Naoya Nomura is first on his hit-list of NEXSTREAM members and he’s working his way up to Miyahara. Nomura was one of the best performers in Champion Carnival so I’m excited to see how him vs. Lee plays out. All Japan has been lacking in top end star power so it’s interesting to see the crowd reaction to Jake as well. He is potentially a big star for them.
While Jake has been wrestling for longer and is five years older, Nomura has way more matches under his belt. At 29 years old it’s about time All Japan did something with Lee, while Nomura remains in the company getting better for when his time comes to step out of Kento’s shadow. Iwamoto’s role here is the most simplistic. He’s here to get beaten up. Tatsu is basically dressing and the match focuses mostly on Lee’s sudden issue with former ‘brother’ Nomura. Their interactions are smooth and calculated. While Lee gets the bulk of the offence, Nomura doesn’t get crushed. It’s notable that Lee’s timing is a little off and Tatsu is not the man to cover for that. Their bad spots are really bad. The tornado DDT is a mess. Thankfully Lee and Nomura have great chemistry and aren’t afraid to wail on each other. Iwamoto’s judo throw out of nowhere on Nomura is incredible and breaks up a sequence where Lee and Nomura beat the hell out of each other. Backdrop Driver finishes Nomura and he’s on his Road to Miyahara. I would rather have seen Lee vs. Nomura in singles but Iwamoto’s judo throw was worth him being in the match for it to happen.
Final Rating: ***1/2
AJPW Triple Crown Championship
Kento Miyahara (c) vs. Naomichi Marufuji
These two put on a beautifully nuanced bout in the final of Champion’s Carnival this year, where veteran NOAH grappler Marufuji came out on top. Thus earning himself a title match. Miyahara actually comes out first and the crowd erupts into a chant of his name. What a fucking superstar this guy is.
It’s almost a shame this match only has 1600 fans to appreciate it but all 1600 voices are heard.
Marufuji leans heels in the early going, not giving Miyahara a clean break after Kento had given him a very clear cut clean break right beforehand. Marufuji doesn’t need to do a lot as the crowd are already very pro-Kento and it’s not about cheering one over the other, as the crowd respect both men. It’s a tactical choice. Kento feels he doesn’t need to take any shortcuts, despite having lost to Marufuji already. Maybe he feels he’s in better shape here, or is better prepared. Miyahara is also very deliberate about using headbutts to prove he’s tougher than his NOAH rival. Strong Style? Here’s Stronger Style.
Marufuji aims to turn this into a NOAH main event. One that builds slowly and he takes the wind out of Miyahara’s sails with headlocks. Whereas Miyahara wants to hurry things along and beat Marufuji in 15 minutes or less. Marufuji’s insistence at hooking headlocks actually fascinates me as it shows his capacity to slow down and teach the younger man the value of a basic hold. And it works because as he counters into it the reaction gets louder. As with the failure to clean break, it’s Marufuji making Kento the face. The guy who has a hill to climb. It’s the same when he’s laying in the chops. It’s all about him showing Miyahara who’s the boss and taking the match at his pace. It’s up to Miyahara to bring the explosive comebacks and boy does he! Marufuji, to his credit, takes a lot of bumps to get over Miyahara’s comebacks. He might be old and fragile but he’s also fearless and trusting of Miyahara’s ideas. Both men work towards being regarded as “The Man”. It’s all about superiority and the two approaches to it. Marufuji taking the veteran route. Miyahara the youthful bursts of offence. When Marufuji flips that on its head, with his kick combos, it’s a lovely moment of Marufuji beating Kento at his own game. Showing that the old dog still has the heart of a puppy, to accompany the veterans head.
I’m also a big fan of Marufuji breaking out the Kawada Kicks (referencing back to his training as Misawa’s protégé and being unable to even talk to Kawada in the dojo, but having recently had a first ever chat with his mentor’s enemy). The match escalates beautifully with Marufuji unable to win via his wear down procedures, culminating in a piledriver on the apron that Kento survives. So he has to fight Miyahara at his own game but still maintains control by hitting heavier strikes. While Kento went to the well with headbutts Marufuji just beats the shit out of Miyahara with chops and kicks. The constant threat from Miyahara is that he’s fast and impactful. A lot like Kenny Omega. He throws the same dangerous strikes and hits moves out of nowhere. The veteran finds himself in trouble frequently and having to kick out of a big move. The similarity of the two move sets interests me. Especially as they both throw a big knee. As the match gets into the stretch and it becomes clear there isn’t long left the crowd get very loud. The big spots landing start to get big, big reactions. They both have an effective arsenal and there are plenty of options as to what order they throw things into the mix.
My god, the crowd as they trade on knees. It’s amazing. Everyone on the edge of their seat. The match concludes with a flurry of knees before Marufuji falls to the Shutdown German suplex. Goddamn it this was good. I’ve read a few other reviews of this match saying it ‘lacked something’. What do you want from wrestling!? This had everything. The drama, the emotion, the storytelling. One of my favourite matches of the year.
Final Rating: ****3/4
The main event is as ‘must see’ as the Champion Carnival final. The rest of the card is patchy but there’s enough quality to say it’s a worthwhile watch. Good to see Jake Lee back in action after so long on the shelf and interesting to see Jun Akiyama’s booking ideas on the undercard. The show will be remembered for Miyahara-Marufuji II though. The layers of storytelling in this was awesome. The details were great and the last couple of minutes were blow-away good.