I know everyone wants to talk about Wrestle Kingdom 9, but since this preceded that event, and this main event is getting good reviews…and since the undercard entices me, this is what everyone is getting. KENSO puts his GAORA TV Title on the line, Shuji Ishikawa shows up in AJPW, Shingo Takagi goes up against Suwama and Sato, All Asia Tag Team Titles are on the line and the main event is Joe Doering putting up the Triple Crown Title against Go Shiozaki. The card looks half-decent on paper, will AJPW continue their forward momentum from 2014 and capitalize in 2015?
Masanobu Fuchi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru & Ultimo Dragon vs. Yohei Nakajima, Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi: I haven’t seen Nomura or Aoyagi before, but they seem to have plenty of fire and Nakajima improves each time I see him. I need @mookieghana to do the combined age of Masanobu Fuchi, Yoshinobu Kanemaru and Ultimo Dragon plus all of their titles combined. Masanobu Fuchi has done plenty in his career, it’s time for him to retire.
Nomura is worked over until Aoyagi tags in and gets a dropkick on Kanemaru. The veteran team works over Aoyagi for a while and every comeback is cut short with BODYSLAMS! They recycle through the same moves with repetitive dropkicks, but the fans back the younger team. FuchiBodySlamMania is running wild!
Eventually Kanemaru gets the win for his team after a splash from the top rope onto Aoyagi. A nothing match here but both Aoyagi and Nomura have potential, we got to cheer for rookies man. *3/4
Soma Takao vs. Atsushi Aoki: This was originally supposed to be Keisuke Ishii vs. Atsushi Aoki for the World Junior Heavyweight Title but was changed last minute as Ishii had a high fever and could not compete. This is just as good, Takao is an underrated worker and Aoki doesn’t get enough love from people, he is really only 3rd in command in Evolution.
Takao’s speed is too much for Aoki at first, Takao gets some rapid fire offense and a double stomp to the back of Aoki on the outside. Aoki targets Takao’s back with kicks and guardrail shots. Takao works some pretty great comebacks and the fans get behind him even as he is helplessly out of his depth exchanging forearms with Aoki. Takao strikes quick, fast and often, it’s keeping him alive in this match. Alas, Aoki eventaully locks in the Texas Clover Hold to win. Both guys put on a solid match while being a suitable replacement for a title match that will have to wait for now. ***1/4
GAORA TV Title Match-Ryuji Hijikata vs. KENSO: IF THERE IS ONE WRESTLER WHO I DON’T WANT TO SEE AT ALL IN 2015, IT WILL ALWAYS BE KENSO! I dread having to watch these matches, just know that I’m suffering for you people. Ryuji Hijikata on the other hand…I enjoy seeing this guy high kick people and be extra-stiff. Hijikata has no time for KENSO’s shenanigans and proceeds to give him an open hand slap. Hijikata hits a top rope superplex followed up by a Fisherman’s Buster but then we get the inevitable ref bump in a KENSO match, the man has to meet his quota. KENSO chokes out Hijikata with his belt and then gets a Shining Wizard followed by a diving elbow drop to mercifully end this match. Hijikata kept this match from going completely off the rails, and I will keep complaining about KENSO until he is off of my television screen. *1/2
Akebono, Shigehiro Irie & Shuji Ishikawa vs. Jun Akiyama, SUSHI & Takao Omori: One of the Twin Towers in AJPW is great, but man, imagine Kohei Sato in AJPW wrecking fools left and right. Akebono and Omori go at it for a bit until they reach a stalemate and then SUSHI is the sacrificial lamb to Akebono and Ishikawa, poor guy. It’s great the way SUSHI works with Akiyama and Omori. Irie is a fantastic face in peril and I just noticed a SUSHI chop to the face busted him open. Ishikawa and Akiyama! SUSHI gets some hope spots against Akebono until the girth becomes too much and SUSHI falls to an Akebono Russian Leg Sweep.
You want to know where the beef is? Right here, in this match which had some great pairings and everyone played their roles to perfection. They stuck to their strengths and we got a solid mid card match, perfectly acceptable. If we could get more Ishikawa and Irie against Akiyama and Omori then I’m a happy man. Counters, great back and forth and they didn’t move a million miles a minute makes me appreciate what they were trying to do even more now. ***1/2
Shingo Takagi & Zeus vs. Suwama & Hikaru Sato: Zeus is solid, Sato is underrated and Shingo as well as Suwama are two bulls who will charge into each other with furious vengeance. You don’t need storylines for that, people. We start with Suwama and Shingo, we are not hesitating tonight and I’m content with it.
Suwama gets the better of the exchange and now we are ready for Zeus (I’ll clear this up in case people keep asking, not the guy from the No Holds Barred movie). Sato and Zeus square off but Sato cannot compete with Zeus’s strength, he’s not Hercules after all. That was a bad joke. Some fun posing from Shingo and Zeus as they take out Sato with a combo chokeslam and backdrop. Suwama kicks away at Shingo in frustration before going back to his corner. The chokeslam and Jackhammer from Zeus seal the win for Shingo and Zeus in what was a pretty great contest. Suwama tossed people all over the ring, Sato was crafty with being the smallest guy in the ring, Shingo needs to work more places besides Dragon Gate and Zeus is one of the better power wrestlers I’ve seen recently. If this leads to a Shingo vs. Suwama match whether in Dragon Gate or AJPW then I will be a happy man. We need more inter-promotional warfare in 2015. ***3/4
All Asia Tag Team Title Match-Dark Kingdom (Mitsuya Nagai & Takeshi Minamino) vs. Xceed (Kento Miyahara & Kotaro Suzuki): It isn’t just KENSO I don’t like, it’s all of Dark Kingdom. Their matches grate at my patience and are extremely hard to sit through. Of course we get an ambush at the beginning from DK and fighting in the crowd, how original. I don’t hate or even dislike DK because they are heels, it’s the simple fact all of their matches are the same, and no variety makes a very one-sided wrestler with a one-sided match. Suzuki gets a deadlift suplex and the hot tag to Kento who lights up Nagai’s face with boots and forearms which is already something different. KENSO runs the interference and Suzuki is the recipient of a brainbuster. The ref gets pulled out of the ring and KENSO throws powder in Suzuki’s face, hits him with the GAORA title and makes him wear a chair as a necktie. Nagai finishes him off with a knee to the face from the top rope and we have new champions.
The show fell off a cliff here, the title change makes no sense, the fans were not happy about this result and I’m not happy that they keep this faction around. I want to go blind every time they come on. We were riding a wave of slightly good matches and then this garbage. Overbooked mess that went nowhere. What does AJPW see in these guys? I will continue to watch AJPW and review it for you lovely people, but can we make a deal that I don’t have to watch anymore Dark Kingdom matches ever again, in my life? Someone pass that along to AJPW, they have a great roster but this was a dumpster fire that even hobos would run away from. DUD
Triple Crown Title Match-Go Shiozaki vs. Joe Doering: Never would have thought that Joe Doering would be Triple Crown Champion in 2015, let alone have a reign that made him better over 2014-2015. Wrestling is funny like that, isn’t it? On the flip side, we have Shiozaki who I thought would be champion by now while building AJPW back up to its former glory.
Great thing about the commentary was they were putting over the importance of the Triple Crown Championship and its lineage. This is going to get intense as soon as they lock up, and it does after a shoulder block leads to a chop and forearm battle. Doering is great here, he cuts off Shiozaki at every turn just as Shiozaki is coming back into the match. This is a straight up war of attrition. Doering is in great form, he gets rejuvenated by Shiozaki’s 3 DDT’s and gets up with crazy eyes only to be taken out of his boots with a nasty lariat. Doering appears to be out on his feet as he rolls to the floor and Shiozaki awaits in the ring. These fans are exploding for every Shiozaki near fall.
I jumped off of my couch as Shiozaki gets Doering up for a Burning Hammer and then does an inverted Go Flasher! I can’t make out the chants, Go or Joe? Either way, these fans are witnessing an amazing match. There are multiple teases of both men not being able to make the ten count. Doering begs Shiozaki to keep hitting him and in one of my favorite visuals of 2015, Doering with a face full of spittle is sent crashing to the mat from a Go Arm Lariat and Shiozaki has captured his 1st Triple Crown Championship. I don’t know if my words will do this match justice but Shiozaki had his working boots on and Doering had a career making performance, in my opinion the best of his career.
They traded heavy offense, they sold brilliantly and the crowd was in the palm of their hand. Not a bad way to end a main event for the beginning of 2015. No doubt in my mind that if this match was to take place on WK9, it would be the 3rd best match on the card. ****3/4
Most of the undercard is skippable, but go watch Shingo in his tag match, the six man with Ishikawa, the singles match with Soma Takao and Aoki and the main event. To think — we have multiple MOTY contenders in 2015 and January isn’t even half over. What a time to be a wrestling fan, jump on and enjoy the ride people. Tweet me, @RobsBrutalWorld.