Before we get to the review, how about a little bit of history? All Japan Pro Wrestling was huge in the 1990’s. Tons of wrestling purists, elitists and puro lovers consider that era the Golden Era of Puro. The Holy Grail to many people. Multiple five-star matches. The 4 Pillars of Heaven. Gaijin, stiffness and hot crowds. Eventually the greatest star of All Japan, Mitsuharu Misawa left the company to form Pro Wrestling NOAH. Disagreements between Misawa and Giant Baba’s wife forced Misawa to play his hand. NOAH had a hot era as well with some of the stars from the Golden Era of AJPW. Eventually wrestling hit a down turn in the 2000’s. All Japan was not at its peak as well as New Japan and countless other Japanese promotions. There was a scandal in All Japan that forced out Keiji Mutoh and All Japan is still recovering from it somewhat. In the time that happened NOAH had a downturn as well. However they had made a few stars in KENTA, Marufuji, Go Shiozaki, Atsushi Aoki, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Jun Akiyama. Akiyama could have been a star in NOAH but it was not in the cards and Misawa as well as Kobashi would keep that company afloat. Then in a tragic moment Mitsuharu Misawa died. You lost a huge star and a great person in Puro. Then Kobashi got cancer. He still managed to beat it. But by this point Kobashi’s knees were wrecked and he had to retire. Plenty of politics come into this. At this point the younger stars as well as Akiyama were frustrated with how the company treated Kobashi. Which brings us to this point. Akiyama and the other stars in Burning: Aoki, Kanemaru, Shiozaki & Kotaro Suzuki were brought in to All Japan to shake up business. All Japan has had scandals and problems with the current president Nobuo Shiraishi. Keiji Mutoh recovered from the All Japan scandal and has formed Wrestle-1. This past July it was determined that Akiyama was taking over All Japan as President and forming a new All Japan that only had a connection to Makoto Baba and current star Suwama. Suwama would be Senior Managing Director and Makoto would be head sponsor as well as Director Advisor. Akebono would be on the board of directors as well. Okay enough of that business talk. All Japan is rebooting and going in a new direction and I couldn’t be happier for them. You have the gaijin still. You have young stars wanting to prove their worth and you have grizzled old veterans. Sounds like a decent enough recipe for success. If none of this makes sense to you, remember Google is your friend. Enough rambling. Let’s get to the action.
Akebono & Yoshinobu Kanemaru vs. Takao Omori & Yutaka Yoshie: Kanemaru and Omori start and trade holds but Omori gets the advantage. Hey kids! It’s SHOULDER TACKLE TIME WITH AKEBONO! You will win nothing. Except for a dislocated shoulder. Yoshie is in to try to see if he can do better than Omori. Instead Yoshie is met with a lariat and an elbow drop that would collapse my lungs. Kanemaru is back in but Yoshie gives him no quarter. Body slam and a senton roll from Yoshie. Kanemaru narrowly avoids a splash from Yoshie. Yoshie and Akebono trade corner splashes but Yoshie gets the advantage and a body press. Goes back to Kanemaru and Omori. There is some back and forth between Yoshie and Akebono. Near falls between Kanemaru and Omori. It all culminates in an Axe Bomber that turns Kanemaru inside out and gives Omori and Yoshie the win. This could have been a singles match between Omori and Kanemaru and I would have enjoyed it more than this. This just seemed thrown together and served no purpose. It really felt like Omori and Kanemaru’s talent was wasted in this match. No need for you to watch this. *1/4
Masanobu Fuchi vs. Yohei Nakajima: If you want to talk grizzled old veterans, Fuchi is definitely in the running. 60 years old and still plugging away. Man. Good for him. Nakajima was previously a comedy character known as Menso~re Oyaji. This is him wrestling under his real name and being serious. Handshake of respect to start the match. A long collar and elbow tie up leads to Nakajima kicking Fuchi in the chest. Follows that up with a dropkick and a plancha. Nasty boots from Fuchi. Fuchi does his usual bodyslams. He does a Boston Crab which I’m fine with because he is targeting the back. They both trade stretches and dropkicks towards the end. Fuchi destroys the kid with multiple backdrops. Nakajima gets some fiery fighting spirit but Fuchi has too much experience and nails Nakajima with one final nasty looking backdrop for the win. Fuchi moves around very slowly at his age but he also doesn’t try to do much and he gave Nakajima a nice little match here. Nakajima is practically Kotaro Suzuki Jr. Just in appearance. Maybe I’m the only one who sees it. Still a decent match. If Nakajima keeps progressing he can be a solid wrestler. **
Ultimo Dragon, Hikaru Sato & Keisuke Ishii vs. SUSHI, Ryuji Hijikata & Kaji Tomato: We are joined in progress. Starts fast and furious with Ishii & Tomato. I think it’s pretty great a guy is called Tomato. Another great thing that All Japan has done in recent years is deal with other companies’ talent. DDT, K-Dojo and other places. Back to the action. Tomato gets a plancha on both Sato and Ishii and a Tiger Drop onto Ishii. Ishii comes back with a dropkick. Dragon tags in. Wow. Ultimo Dragon is still wrestling. Dragon gets a nasty standing clutch on Tomato. Hijikata gets in and wrecks Ishii with a huge high kick. Hijikata wails away on Ishii but Ishii gets a hurricanrana but is met with another high kick from Hijikata. Dragon back in. Multiple kicks to Hijikata. The La Magistral back and forth was nice. Huge forearm and high kick from Hijikata. First time seeing Hijikata and I kinda like him. It comes down to SUSHI and Sato. SUSHI gets a flying headbutt from the top rope. Sato comes back with a high kick, backdrop and tries for an armbar but SUSHI gets it reversed. SUSHI goes for a pin attempt but Sato gets the armbar and SUSHI taps. Tons of action in this. Fast paced and moves everywhere. It served its purpose. Perk the crowd up and hope that they stay this hot the rest of the night. **
Suwama vs. Atsushi Aoki (Royal Road Tournament 2014 Round 1): The leader of Evolution, Suwama and the newest member of Evolution, Aoki go to battle. Suwama is one of the main reasons I still kept up with All Japan in those dark days. He is the star of your company and a guardian of All Japan. Forearm exchange to start the match which Suwama gets the better of. They trade holds and mat work but Aoki gets an armbar and Suwama gets the ropes. The fans love these two. Aoki works the arm. He cannot combat the strength of Suwama. I love the expressions from both men. Aoki is pissed Suwama won’t take him seriously and Suwama keeps egging Aoki on. Basically saying you are not on my level. It gets very heated as they exchange slaps to the face but Suwama continues to keep Aoki down. Aoki gets back in it with a tope suicida. Suwama cuts Aoki off with a lariat and backdrop and then the Last Ride Powerbomb gets countered and we get another great exchange. Lariats, double chops, forearms and a dropkick. Not an easy day at the office Suwama. Aoki is unloading all of his artillery. Frog splash and armbars. Suwama with a great looking sleeper that Dolph Ziggler would be jealous of. Suwama is hurting but still gets lariats and a sweet German suplex. Aoki will not quit. Suwama knows he has to put down Aoki. He gets that deep sleeper on and Aoki goes to sleep. Loved the dynamic here. Team mates going to war. The Jr. Champ trying to prove his worth to the former Triple Crown champ. The limb work actually went somewhere and the selling made sense. The whole match is solid. Whether Suwama wins or loses, he is doing all that he can to protect All Japan and keep it in the hearts and minds of the fans. Aoki, while not on Suwama’s level shows that he belongs in Evolution and All Japan. Plus the fans gain sympathy towards him. ***1/2
Kotaro Suzuki vs. KENSO (Royal Road Tournament 2014 Round 1): I thought I knew KENSO from WWE. AAA too. Suzuki was one of my favorites in NOAH. He will still be known for taking the greatest Go 2 Sleep from KENTA in my opinion. Plus getting other titles along the way. Forget past glories though. Onto the action. At least KENSO is only going by one name now. 2 Suzuki’s would be confusing. Imagine if Minoru Suzuki was involved as well. KENSO tries to get a quick win with a boot and a lariat. Nope. Not that fast. KENSO works over Suzuki on the outside. Back inside Suzuki gets some momentum but that’s cut off with a KENSO lariat. KENSO just works over Suzuki with turnbuckle shots, slaps and a brainbuster. Suzuki kicks out of the diving elbow drop. This is moving slow man. Suzuki hits a top rope suplex that KENSO no sells. Seriously? The fans seem to enjoy KENSO though. All this guy does is slap his opponents. Many would say he keeps his pimp hand strong. I however will not and say that is KENSO’s only offensive move. Suzuki comes back into the match with forearms and rolling elbows. Intricate pin attempts from Suzuki and he finally gets the 3 after some rolling around on the mat. That is the Endless Waltz. Some would consider this an upset. Yeah. I’m upset I had to watch that garbage. Suzuki did his best to keep this a decent match and at least he won. Fast forward or skip this one. I’m not upset either way. *
Kento Miyahara vs. Jun Akiyama (Royal Road Tournament 2014 Round 1): Grumpy Jun Akiyama is my favorite. Kento Miyahara has slowly and steadily worked his way up in All Japan. The veteran vs. the upstart. One of my favorite storylines. I’m already excited. Let’s go. Collar and elbow tie up to start. Some nice chain wrestling. Clean break. Big boot from Akiyama takes Miyahara to the outside but Miyahara gives it right back to Akiyama. Miyahara then crushes Akiyama’s face into the guardrail. Miyahara works over Akiyama until Akiyama comes back to his feet and goes to town on the kid with forearms. Akiyama begs Miyahara to hit him harder but Akiyama destroys the kid with kicks, headbutts, forearms and a general lack of not caring about Miyahara’s well-being. Akiyama is telling Miyahara today is the day you get those lessons I learned while I was your age and I’m going to love every minute of the punishment I dish out to you. DDT on the apron from Akiyama. He wants Miyahara to suffer. This is brilliant. Calf Branding into the apron from Akiyama. Akiyama is relishing everything in this match. Miyahara gets back in only to be met with a sliding knee. How is Miyahara still in this? Miyahara gets some offense in until Akiyama comes back with a lariat. Thrust kick from Miyahara and both men are down. Suplex from the top rope fires Miyahara up and he runs into an Akiyama Exploder. Apron Exploder from Akiyama. This is great. Akiyama is tired of Miyahara at this point. Nasty knee from Akiyama. Guillotine choke. Miyahara is fading. Miyahara somehow stays alive. Reverses an Exploder and hits a trio of kicks on Akiyama. They trade boots until Miyahara gets a Triangle Choke. Akiyama to the ropes. Akiyama lands multiple knees that must have broken Miyahara’s jaw. Fantastic near falls at the end. More Exploders. Miyahara is barely standing. Miyahara reverses the Wrist Clutch Exploder and somehow gets a huge knee, follows that up with a German suplex and finally finishes off Akiyama with The Heart Break for the win and his biggest win in All Japan. THIS! This is how you make a star. If this was done in the 1990’s, Miyahara would take off. However it is done in 2014 with All Japan not being as hot as it once was. Everything in this match was top notch. The selling. The reversals. The back and forth. The fans buying into Miyahara as the match went along. The stiffness. Just an amazing match that people who are down on All Japan can watch and enjoy. Even if you don’t care for Akiyama or Miyahara, they suck you in and take you on a journey. Now if other companies could capture this magic and make stars that way. ****1/4
Go Shiozaki vs. Joe Doering (Royal Road Tournament 2014 Round 1): Never would I think Joe Doering would be Triple Crown Champion. Go Shiozaki was one of my favorites in NOAH. Still remember his wars with Takashi Sugiura and KENTA. If Shiozaki wins this he would be in line for a Triple Crown title shot. Doering has a grimace that lasts for days. Onto the action. Doering blitzes Go at the start. Go comes back with forearms and chops but Doering wails away at Go. Doering obliterates Go on the floor. Back inside they trade forearms and chops. Go lands a dropkick and gets his running corner chops. Everything Go throws at Doering seems to have no effect. Go eventually gets a suplex and both men are down. More chops but Doering hits a shoulder block from the corner. Doering nails 2 nasty lariats and an elbow drop. I enjoy the struggle to put certain moves over and both men fighting to hit their moves. Whether it’s chops or suplexes. This is about showing domination and who is the strongest. Doering traps Go and hits a Death Valley Driver on the floor. Another Death Valley in the ring. We get a Go hurricanrana and Doering with a flying cross body. Those sledge hammers of Doering’s carry some force. Go is barely able to stand from all the punishment he has endured. Go gets a lariat and the Go Flasher only for 2. Another chop battle. Two heavyweights on wobbly legs and Doering still hits a lariat. Go escapes the Spinning Powerbomb and gets a stretch on Doering. The fans are solidly behind both men. I can’t tell if it’s Joe or Go. They trade lariats but Go hits the final deciding one with the Go Arm lariat for the 3. Fantastic heavyweight battle here. Go trying to stay in there with Doering. Doering not wanting to show he is worth the title that is around his waist. Power moves, back and forth. The selling. We end the card with another solid match. This may just be Doering’s best singles match. ****
Go see Doering vs. Shiozaki, Aoki vs. Suwama and definitely watch Miyahara vs. Akiyama. Those three are worth the price of admission. Besides those three, skip everything else. Expect some more All Japan soon. Thanks. Again, if I did good or bad my Twitter handle is @RobsBrutalWorld.