All Japan Pro Wrestling
2016 New Year Wars – Night 1
January 2nd, 2016
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

All Japan doesn’t get enough praise, not only for their great in-ring product, but for surviving for as long as they have with no outside support, no backbone, very little money coming in, and constantly losing talent. You can’t help but look at Jun Akiyama, who’s doing everything in his power to make AJPW a product that people care about, and feel bad for him. The universe just hasn’t worked in his favor. He can’t get people to come to the shows. He’s lost tons of talent due to injury and defections. Frankly, the end may be near. 2015 was a poor year for AJPW, and 2016 looks to be no better, and perhaps even worse. It all begins here. New Year Wars.

Osamu Nishimura, Ryuji Hijikata & Ultimo Dragon vs. Masanobu Fuchi, SUSHI & SUSHI Kozou

Masanobu Fuchi was blown up two minutes into the match. Dude’s 62 years old and looks like he’s going to croak in the ring at any second. This was a nothing match until Ultimo Dragon and SUSHI Kozou (who is a lot better than SUSHI from what I’ve seen) tagged in. Kozou tried to out-lucha Dragon by bouncing from rope to rope and whipping him around by the arm, but Dragon basically said ‘fuck you’ and rolled him up for the win. Good one minute performance out of those two, nothing to see here otherwise.

Shuji Ishikawa vs. Hikaru Sato

This had a Drew Galloway vs. Mike Bailey from BOLA Night 2 type vibe, with the big ass kicker versus the small karate dude who only has enough money for kickpads and not boots. The in-ring wasn’t nearly as good as the Galloway/Bailey match obviously, but they did play up a similar story so I can’t complain too much. This didn’t have to go any longer than 8 minutes, with both guys looking good, and Ishikawa looking particularly strong. Mission accomplished, in my book. Ishikawa got the win, as expected. I assume they’re building him towards a Triple Crown match, since he’s one of the three guys that came out and challenged the champ at the end of the show. ***

Isami Kodaka, Yuko Miyamoto & Kazuhiro Tamura vs. Keiichi Sato, Yohei Nakajima & Yuma Aoyagi

I guess the biggest story here would be Keiichi Sato and him leaving All Japan due to the personal issues he’s been having. I’m not going to go all out and say that he was the future of the company or anything like that, but he was clearly improving. Not a huge loss for All Japan, but another loss nonetheless. This roster gets smaller by the day.

Anyhow, Yuko Miyamoto was the best wrestler in this match by a large margin. He didn’t do a ton, but what he did do was clean and good. For someone who has busted light tubes over his own back and wraped himself in barbed wire for most of his career, he’s a great worker and I wish more companies would use him in this role. Tamura was another standout. He’s one of the lesser known indie guys in Japan and did a good job here. Everyone else was just there. Miyamoto landed a Teddy Hart-esque moonsault on Sato and got the win. Fun match, I suppose. **¾

Atsushi Aoki & Naoya Nomura vs. Jake Lee & Kento Miyahara

They cut right to the chase here and started brawling immediately. Lee was the focal point of the match and did a great job, tagging in Miyahara for a minute and wasting no time getting right back in. There wasn’t a ton to this aside from that, as it only went about seven minutes. Lee and Miyahara are booked for a lot of shows as a tag team going forward. This can only lead to good things for Lee, and gives Miyahara something to do on the side as he pursues the Triple Crown. I’m on board. That being said, I don’t know why they had Nomura pin Lee. **½

Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi vs. Takao Omori & Zeus

Zeus has improved so much over the past few months and has developed into what I would call a good to very good worker. He looked great here, so much so that I’d call him the most impressive guy in the match. The story, which is the same story in every Strong BJ match, was that all four of these dudes have way too much pride to sell or lay down for anything thrown at them.They beat the hell out of each other for 13 minutes and the match was exactly what you’d expect. Okabayashi got the win for his team over Omori.

All Japan is in need of new talent, and right now, Sekimoto & Okabayashi are their two best bets. I know a lot of All Japan guys have been working BJW shows as of late and are scheduled for some more coming up at the end of the month, so maybe that’s an indication that they have some sort of working relationship going on and will be bringing in some more BJW talent the future. Companies working together like this is always a good thing for both parties. Hopefully Sekimoto & Okabayashi are brought back. ***½

New Year Battle Royal
Hikaru Sato, Yuma Aoyagi, Isami Kodaka, Kazuhiro Tamura, Keiichi Sato, Masanobu Fuchi, Ryuji Hijikata, Shigehiro Irie, Shuji Ishikawa, SUSHI, SUSHI Kozou, Ultimo Dragon, Yohei Nakajima, Yuko Miyamoto

Just a fun battle royal that meant absolutely nothing. Most of these guys had already wrestled on the show. They do this match every year. Ultimo Dragon and Hikaru Sato had a nice exchange towards the end. That’s all of note. Yuma Aoyagi won. *

Triple Crown Championship
Jun Akiyama (c) vs. Suwama

This match was good, but not great, so not at all what I would have expected out of these two since they’ve had some amazing matches in the past. The biggest problem was that they were trying to replicate their two Sumo Hall matches but couldn’t get the pacing right, couldn’t get the crowd invested, and what they were doing just didn’t work for roughly 1,000 fans in Korakuen Hall. Had they worked an Akiyama vs. Shibata style match instead of a slow burn end-of-feud style match, this would have connected with the small crowd a lot better.

Suwama got a minor pop when he won, in one of those deals where fans were just happy to be in the building when a new champion was crowned.

Nonetheless, the work was clean, snug, and believable and the near falls towards the end were compelling. If you like aggressive strong style matches, I’m sure you’ll like this to some extent. ***½

Zeus, Kento Miyahara, and Shuji Ishikawa came out and each challenged Suwama for the Triple Crown. Suwama told them that whoever won the next night would be granted a shot. Miyahara won, and a match was set up for February 12th in Korakuen Hall. Fast forward a few days, and Zeus challenged Suwama again. So your next two challengers wereset, but unfortunately Suwama was forced to vacate the championship due to a foot injury and will be out for the next six months. Zeus vs. Miyahara was booked for February 12th to crown the new champion.

I’m concerned how they go about this. Zeus isn’t ready for a Triple Crown run, and he’s also not the right guy to have Miyahara go over. They’ve booked themselves into a corner here. Doing a three-way between these two and Akiyama where Akiyama pins Zeus and then goes over Miyahara down the line would have been a smarter booking decision. Miyahara has to win in the main event of the Sumo Hall show in October. And since Suwama is out, Akiyama is the only star they have to put over Miyahara in a big match setting. So since they’ve already booked themselves into the corner and the damage is done, there’s only one way to get out of it in my mind, which is to have Zeus win and then lose to Akiyama sometime before October.

All Japan doesn’t know how to keep the Triple Crown on anyone for longer than a few months maximum these days anyway. There were four champions in 2015, four champions in 2014 (plus a 16 day vacancy), and three champions in 2013. Long reigns in All Japan are no more, and considering how screwed up things are and how often Akiyama seemingly changes his mind, the days of long Triple Crown runs may be over.

Final Thoughts: There was nothing bad on this show. Everything was easy to swallow and fun to watch, so despite the odd post Suwama injury booking, I tip my cap to All Japan for a job well done.