All Japan Pro Wrestling
August 20, 2016
Kobe Sambo Hall – Kobe, Hyogo, Japan
Yuma Aoyagi & Naoki Tanizaki Def. HAYATA & Naoya Nomura
Naoki Tanizaki, who I’ve always been one of the biggest fans of, is in weird spot at this point in his career. He isn’t booked on as many Dragon Gate shows anymore and isn’t heavily featured on them even when he is. His schedule keeps getting lighter, and frankly, I wouldn’t be all that surprised to see him completely disappear eventually. The match itself was fine but nothing you really need to see unless you’re as big a Tanizaki fan as I am, which I would imagine not many people are. **3/4
Gabaiji-chan & The Bodyguard Def. SUSHI & Takao Omori
If you’re not as familiar with Gabaiji-chan, allow me to enlighten you since I, unfortunately, am a person with way too much time on my hands and therefore have seen him on many an occasion.
Gabaji-chan works for the sleazy Japanese indies that normal people don’t watch as a decrepit old man, played by TAKA Michinoku trainee PSYCHO. It’s a gimmick some may enjoy, but a gimmick this reviewer only enjoys in small doses. There were points in this match that got me to smirk, and there were points in this match that got me to cringe. Overall, it was decent comedy that the crowd seemed to enjoy, so I can’t complain. Again, nothing you need to see unless you’re really into this sort of thing. **
GAORA TV Championship
Billy Ken Kid Def. Yohei Nakajima (c)
All Japan seems to enjoy taking this belt off of Nakajima and then giving it right back to him a few days later. He dropped it to Kazuhiro Tamura in June then won it back six days later, did the same with Takeshi Minamino in July, and will presumably do the same with Billy Ken Kid. Anyone who’s read any of my work on this site knows how much I enjoy Ken Kid, so seeing him win some gold in All Japan is nice, but knowing it probably won’t lead to anything hurts a bit. The match itself was fun, as expected. Both being extremely talented and bringing something different to the table in a promotion that so heavily features guys like Miyahara, Akiyama, Sekimoto, Zeus and others who work that style. Ken Kid defends against Kazuaki Mihara of Dotonbori Pro on September 9th, so there’s at least one win under his belt before he inevitably drops the title back to Nakajima. ***1/2
All Asia Tag Team Championship
Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato (c) Def. Rey Paloma & Shoichi Uchida
I’d be lying if I told you I was familiar with Rey Paloma beyond having seen his name before. I know Uchida a bit from Dragon Gate and Big Japan, as he’s done some shots for them in Osaka over the years, but not enough for me to have a real opinion on him. Both he and Paloma looked good here.
I’ve always enjoyed seeing local guys challenge for titles on these “middle of the road” shows, and these two teams working well together definitely helps. It was patently obvious halfway through the match that this was an extended squash and a very dominant title defense for the two Evolution members, but all the same, it was thoroughly enjoyable. ***3/4
Kento Miyahara, Jake Lee & Shuji Ishikawa Def. Rikiya Fudo, Ryouji Sai & Tatsuhito Takaiwa
The focal point of this match heading in was obviously Ryouji Sai and his upcoming Triple Crown match with Kento Miyahara. The two had some nice interactions, but Jake Lee was far and away the star of the match. The fire he showed when getting beat down by Sai, Fudo and Takaiwa while desperate to make the tag was excellent and made an otherwise forgettable match worth watching. Everyone played their part well, Miyahara and Ishikawa are never not good, while Sai, Fudo and Takaiwa can all be hit or miss. It did its job of providing a preview for the aforementioned Triple Crown match, but again, Jake Lee was the star. ***1/2
Suwama Def. Zeus
This was a weird one, to say the least. Suwama has been out since early January, so I get that he may be a bit rusty, but frankly, he wrestled Akiyama earlier this year in a match I found super underwhelming, and a match I found him to be the lesser of the two performers in. I like Suwama, always have, but unfortunately he is one of those guys who suffers from his inconsistencies. When he’s good, he’s damn good, but when he’s not good, he is extremely dull. This was one of his more dull performances, and I’m not exactly comfortable chalking it up to him being rusty. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he gets himself together soon, especially since he’ll be playing a major part in All Japan moving forward. Zeus was good here, as he’s been for the past several months. This wasn’t one of his best performances, but he outshined Suwama for what that’s worth.
There were very few things that clicked in the match, the finish not being one of them. My guess would be that they didn’t want Zeus taking a pin so had him get choked out, which makes sense, but I personally don’t think being pinned by Suwama would hurt him much, if at all. It falling completely flat certainly didn’t help, either. The match was 18 minutes long and very much just a match. ***
AJPW World Tag Team Championship
Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi (c) vs. Jun Akiyama & Daichi Hashimoto
They aren’t finishing on a lot of ballots and they definitely aren’t winning, but Strong BJ is a viable contender for Tag Team of the Year, and both Sekimoto and Okabayashi are viable contenders for Most Outstanding. They may not have the amount of MOTY level matches say The Revival have (depends on who you ask though, I guess), but they sure as hell have had a lot of great ones. You would really have to try to have a bad match if you were to wrestle these two and under-deliver, and even then I’m not so sure it wouldn’t at least be good. Hashimto hasn’t been doing much in Big Japan, so seeing him in a somewhat prominent role in All Japan teaming with someone of Akiyama’s stature is quite nice and will hopefully be a thing for a good while. I love their chemistry together. The match, as you already know, was excellent. By far the best match on the show. ****1/4
This was a fun show. Not great, not exactly up to par with other All Japan shows, had Suwama vs. Zeus delivered, maybe it would have hit that next level, but it was enjoyable for what it was. Watch the main event.