All Japan Pro Wrestling
Junior Battle of Glory
February 21st, 2016
EDION Arena Osaka #2
All Japan wrapped up their annual Junior Battle of Glory tour on February 21st in Osaka. The tour began on February 12th, where Kento Miyahara had been set to challenge Suwama for the Triple Crown Championship. Due to an injury Suwama suffered on January 2nd, he was unable to compete and was stripped of the belt, so Zeus stepped up to the plate. Zeus and Miyahara went to battle over the vacant title, with Miyahara coming out on top to win his first Triple Crown. The next day, Miyahara and Jake Lee took on Jun Akiyama and Takao Omori in a match to determine the top contenders for Zeus and Bodyguard’s AJPW tag straps, and again, Miyahara came out on top. Could Miyahara beat Zeus again, and in the process become a double champion, all in the span of nine days? Read on.
Junior Battle of Glory 2016 Block B Play Off Match
Hikaru Sato vs. Atsushi Maruyama
One focus of this tour is the Junior Battle of Glory. The winner of this match would go on to face Atsushi Aoki in the finals of the tournament. Both of these guys had a great tour, having the chance to show their skill in a number of singles matches, all of which delivered. Atsushi Maruyama, better known to most as Tigers Mask from Osaka Pro, has been in BJW since 2014 as a lower mid-carder and is pretty good, while Hikaru Sato has been an All Japan regular for the past few years as an Evolution member. The match was only about four minutes long but did its job in having Sato advance to the finals while looking good in the process. Keep an eye on Maruyama this year, he’s off to a good start and I have a feeling we may see him back in All Japan. ***
Billy Ken Kid, Soma Takao, Takeshi Minamino & YO-HEY vs. HUB, Ryuji Hijikata, SUSHI & Ultimo Dragon
You’re probably wondering who a lot of these guys are, and I can’t really blame you. YO-HEY was in Dragon Gate for a few months in 2009 under the names Youhei Fujita and RYOMA. He doesn’t wrestle all that much, but when he does it’s mainly in Osaka. Billy Ken Kid and HUB are Osaka Pro originals, and some of you may know HUB as Super Demekin, Super Dolphin (a tribute to Super Delfin, his trainer), or another of his various gimmicks. He also had a short run in Dragon Gate, most notably as a member of Team Veteran Returns. Like YO-HEY, both Ken Kid and HUB wrestle mainly in Osaka. The All Japan guys did most of the work here so you pretty much got what you’d expect out of that. Ken Kid looked good when he was in. Minamino and SUSHI seem to have a thing going on as Minamino started ripping SUSHI’s mask after pinning him (which I really did not care for). I like SUSHI to an extent but he’s very much a guy I’d rather not see in a singles feud, especially against Minamino. It was “just a match.” **½
Masanobu Fuchi vs. Kuishinbo Kamen
If you’re an Osaka Pro fan (and good God there are a lot of Osaka Pro guys on this show), I know for a fact you’ve seen Kamen. He’s the weird comedy dude who wrestled Ebessan a lot and helped innovate the slow mo act. I would make a dumb old man joke here, but Fuchi isn’t all that bad. The match was exactly what you’d expect, no more, no less. Totally inoffensive. Fuchi got the win via small package. *½
Shigehiro Irie vs. Naoya Nomura
I like both of these guys a lot. Irie is one of the top guys in DDT while Nomura is one of the younger guys in All Japan and has been coming along very well these past few months. Irie got the win here, Nomura looked good in defeat, and that’s all there was to this match. It was only about seven minutes long and very skippable. **
Jun Akiyama vs. Yuma Aoyagi
Aoyagi started in All Japan last year and is pretty much your everyday rookie. The match was short, and the exact grumpy vet versus green young boy match you knew you were expecting to get. Aoyagi attacked Akiyama before the bell, so Akiyama dominated the rest of the match to beat the hell out him for the silly mistake he made. They told a good story but the match was very much skippable. *¾
Isami Kodaka & Yuko Miyamoto vs. Takao Omori & Yohei Nakajima
Isami Kodaka has had one hell of a year. He’s had great matches everywhere he’s wrestled, from DDT where he’s their top champion, to BJW, to BASARA, to here in All Japan, where he and Miyamoto are All Asia tag champions. Omori also has a big next few weeks ahead of him as he’s challenging Miyahara for the Triple Crown on March 21st in Okinawa and may also get a shot at Miyamoto and Kodaka down the line as he made the challenge to them following this match, in which Kodaka won following a double knee on Nakajima.
All four of these guys looked impressive, with Nakajima kind of being the oddball of sorts as someone who’s usually not put in these type of spots, but he worked hard and clicked well enough as the secondary man to Omori. Miyamoto is a good technical wrestler but usually wastes his time doing deathmatches. I’ve enjoyed him in this All Japan run thus far as he’s had the chance to have normal matches and show his skills. This was another good match notch on Kodaka’s belt. If you haven’t kept an eye on Kodaka, I suggest you start keeping an eye on him now, as he’s seriously having one of the best years of any wrestler in Japan. ***½
Junior Battle of Glory 2016 Finals: Atsushi Aoki vs. Hikaru Sato
I’ve always loved Atsushi Aoki. I loved his run in NOAH, and I’ve loved his run in All Japan. He’s a guy any promoter would love to have, especially to get their younger guys over. He trains a lot of the young guys you see in All Japan, and I’d say he does a tremendous job. On top of that, he’s one of the better in-ring workers the company has. I spoke on Sato earlier, and he’s not half bad himself, though I really dislike the fact that he wrestles barefoot and wears kickpads. It just bugs me. Aoki & Sato have a Lance Storm/Chris Candido or Tommy End/Chris Hero type thing going on where they make for a great team but are also great opponents. They clicked perfectly here. Sato did a lot of his kicks early on while Aoki attacked Sato’s arm, ultimately leading to Aoki tapping him out. Respect was shown by the two Evolution members after the match as Aoki was crowned the new junior champion, which was vacated when Kotaro Suzuki left the company.
No MOTYC or anything like that, but both guys looked great and delivered a very good match that I’m sure any All Japan fan will appreciate. ***½
AJPW Tag Team Championship: Zeus & Bodyguard (c) vs. Kento Miyahara & Jake Lee
All Japan made the mistake of giving Miyahara the Triple Crown Championship instead of Zeus and then not having Zeus and Bodyguard drop the tag straps to Miyahara and Lee. The match between Miyahara and Zeus was not only dry, but the Korakuen crowd hardly reacted at all to Miyahara’s big win. The match just did not feel like a big deal, not at all special, and very much felt like JUST a match. It could have been replaced by any mid-card match on the show and no one would have been able to tell the difference in a vacuum. And that match was Miyahara’s first Triple Crown win. You can only have one first win, and this was not a memorable one. Now where they go from there, I’m not sure. They can probably have him beat a bigger name on a bigger stage to solidify himself, but that doesn’t change the fact that I do not think he was ready for the title win, and that the circumstances made his first Triple Crown win seem minor league.
Fast forward to the next day. Miyahara and Jake Lee defeat Akiyama and Omori, thus setting up this match for Zeus and Bodyguard’s All Japan tag straps. I’ve never cared for Bodyguard, but he’s been very good on the last few shows. Zeus improved towards the end of 2015 and is what I would call a good to very good wrestler, where as a year ago I would have told you sucked and was one of the worst guys on the All Japan roster. Jake Lee is a rookie, he’s not great nor is he terrible, he’s just a rookie. I will say that this Miyahara tag team is by far the best thing for Lee, and it also gives Miyahara something to do on the side, so it’s a win for both parties. I would have had Zeus win the Triple Crown then have Miyahara and Lee win the tag belts, because even though Zeus isn’t ready for the Triple Crown, giving Zeus the belt in an anti-climactic, rushed match wasn’t going to hurt because he isn’t the guy they’re building the company around anyway.
Anyway, this tag match itself was solid. All four worked hard, all four looked good, and Jake Lee obviously took the pin. ***¼
Final Thoughts: There were two very good matches on the show but everything else was kind of just there, and a lot was skippable. The January 12th show which featured the Miyahara vs. Zeus was much better from top to bottom. In fact, most All Japan shows this year have been better, but do go out of your way to watch the two matches prior to the main event, which you could also watch out of posterity but isn’t really necessary.
The next few All Japan cards can be found here: http://puroresuspirit.net/2016/02/ajpw-event-cards-for-march-april-2016/