All Japan Pro Wrestling
AJPW Ryogoku Kokugikan ~ NEW EXPLOSION
November 27, 2016
Ryogoku Kokugikan – Tokyo

Meet our previewers:

  • Drew Wardlaw: Co-host of Burning Spirits. First-time contributor to Voices of Wrestling. Patiently awaiting roving marauders to take over the last remaining water supplies of Southern California. (@_burningspirits)
  • Bren Patrick: Writer at Voices of Wrestling. Co-host of Burning Spirits ~ Endless Fight ~ Heatstroke of Demon! Special Pro-Wrestling Podcast (the name will only continue to grow, folks). Big fan of Takuya Nomura’s no selling. (@bren_patrick).
  • Dylan Justin: Japanese professional wrestling reviewer for this very site. Thought-thinker. Has far too much time on his hands. Can be found on Twitter talking about random stuff going on in his life. (@DylanJx4)

Naoya Nomura vs. Takuya Nomura

Drew Wardlaw: Takuya is a gifted young spitfire who has set the undercard of BJW on fire in the short few months since his debut. His combination of MMA-influenced technical proficiency, stiff striking, and underdog charisma get big reactions from crowds, and make him an easy Rookie of the Year in my eyes. Naoya has been wrestling a bit longer, and is the newest member of the NEXTREAM stable, and will surely have something to prove after being upset by Takuya on the 10/25 AJ Phoenix show. This has the potential to be the best match of the night, and will at least be a heated opener with tons of stiff strikes and heated action. Prediction: Naoya Nomura

Bren Patrick: Well, I’m officially more excited about the opener than the night’s main event. That’s okay though because it’s the Nomuras from different mothers battling it out to see which Nomura (and which Nomura’s mom) reigns supreme. Naoya Nomura is looking for revenge sweet revenge after his loss to Takuya at the 10/25 AJ Phoenix show and Takuya Nomura is just looking to hurt Naoya. Expect lots of slaps here and the home promotion boy, Naoya, getting the win. Prediction: Naoya Nomura

Dylan Justin: Takuya Nomura has quickly become one of my guys. He’s right up there with Futa Nakamura/Ben-K of Dragon Gate as the best true rookie in wrestling. He’s been active for no more than a few months and is already one of the most entertaining guys on the Big Japan roster. If things work out in his favor, he’s going to be a huge star in two or three years, without question. Have I made it clear that I’m a Takuya Nomura fan? I love the guy, and the other Nomura is no slouch either. Expectations are high for this one. Prediction: Naoya Nomura

SUSHI, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Masao Inoue vs. Kaji Tomato, Kazuhiro Tamura & Naoshi Sano

Drew Wardlaw: The first of several grab-bag multi-man matches on the card. On the surface this looks like a harmless, light-hearted affair with HEAT UP ace Kazuhiro Tamura leading the charge with Tomato and Sano hamming it up against legendary face-in-peril Kikuchi and loveable loser Inoue. However, if SUSHI decides to work like he did on the 10/9 Korakuen show and take offense to these outsiders coming into his promotion, we could see him play ultimate killjoy and make rotten ketchup out of ol’ Tomato. Prediction: SUSHI, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Masao Inoue vs. Kaji Tomato, Kazuhiro Tamura & Naoshi Sano

Bren Patrick: Random six-man tag with a boy tomato and a flashy piece of sushi. The teaming of Tomato with Kazuhiro “Heat-Up” Tamura and indy goof, Naoshi Sano, has me intrigued but not necessarily excited. Expect equal parts humor and junior-style glitz. Prediction: SUSHI, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Masao Inoue

Dylan Justin: Kazuhiro Tamura and Kaji Tomato on the same team, ain’t that something. Kikuchi’s 52 years old, he’s still kicking around, and he probably won’t do much in this match. He’s someone I, like a lot of people, enjoyed in his prime so is someone I enjoy seeing booked on this show. Should be a fun little match, SUSHI or Tomato will eat the pin, and that’ll be that. Prediction: SUSHI, Tsuyoshi Kikuchi & Masaou Inoue

Super Tiger, Ryuji Hijikata, Rey Paloma & Diablo vs. “DARK NIGHTMARE” Mitsuya Nagai, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Takeshi Minamino & Black Tiger VII

Drew Wardlaw: YES. The fully formed DARK NIGHTMARE with newest member Takaiwa takes on a truly rag-tag bunch including chief sleaze merchant of Dove Pro Rey Paloma. I am absolutely stoked to see DARK NIGHTMARE in full force here. Makai Club holdover Nagai will do his best to make Sumo Hall feel like Techwood Studios with all of his sneering and jeering. Elsewhere in the match, you have not one but two Black Tigers here, going against Real Japan stalwart Super Tiger, which is legitimately interesting. Throw all that together with AJPW frequent flyer Hijikata, greaser Minamino, and the masked Diablo for a devil of a good time. Prediction: DARK NIGHTMARE

Bren Patrick: I predict that this will be Drew’s favorite match. Seriously. I understand that these random six and eight-man tags aren’t going to be very good but I’ve accepted that and I’m going in with open arms, a smile, and probably a chocolate chip cookie or two. Expect Nagai throwing chairs, Black Tiger #7 shenanigans, and Takaiwa dropping someone on his head twice. Prediction: “DARK NIGHTMARE”

Dylan Justin: There’s not a whole lot to say about this, really. I enjoy Hijikata when he shows up, which is rare. Super Tiger has had a decent little year in All Japan. Minamino sucks, Nagai is just a guy, Takaiwa is whatever, and lord knows who Black Tiger VII is. It’ll be short and it’ll be a match. Prediction: Takeshi Minamino, Mitsuya Nagai, Tatsuhito Takaiwa & Black Tiger VII

Dory Funk Jr., Chavo Guerrero Sr., Ultimo Dragon & TAJIRI vs. The Great Kabuki, Osamu Nishimura, Yutaka Yoshie & Isami Kodaka

Drew Wardlaw: We continue on with part of what makes this such a smartly booked, albeit scattered (and somewhat frustrating to some) card. All Japan has booked essentially an indie super showcase, bringing in a wild assortment of characters, both past and present, from several companies who they have collaborated with throughout the year. It’s a very smart move from a business perspective, with the company hoping to boost attendance by attracting fans from several promotions and backgrounds. A combined 262 years of in-ring experience provides this match with a variety of legends, feel good freelancers, and deathmatch superstars. I’m looking for one of two things to happen here: A battle of mist spits between Kabuki and Tajiri, or Kodaka bringing light tubes and cinder blocks to the ring and turning this into a very uncomfortable bloodbath.  Prediction: The Great Kabuki, Osamu Nishimura, Yutaka Yoshie, & Isami Kodaka

Bren Patrick: I did some very basic math here. The average age of team Funk is 59.25. Round down to 59 and that’s still old. This is like one of those tent set-ups at the local county fair where you pay $3 dollars to see what’s behind the curtain. It could be ugly, real ugly, but for whatever reason, you can’t look away. Expect one slow spinning toehold and a Kodaka with a faceful of Tajiri’s mist. Ew. Prediction: Dory Funk Jr., Chavo Guerrero Sr., Ultimo Dragon & TAJIRI

Dylan Justin: Great Kabuki, Chavo Guerrero Sr. and Dory Funk Jr. in the same match in 2016, how about that. Dory Funk Jr. looks like he could fall over and croak at any second, that man does not need to be wrestling anymore. Dragon and Kodaka will work as hard as they can, but the focus of the match is clearly the old guys and seeing them in Sumo Hall for what could be the last time (they’re pro wrestlers, it won’t be the last time). Prediction: Dory Funk Jr., Chavo Guerrero Sr., Ultimo Dragon & TAJIRI

Jake Lee, Yuma Aoyagi & Koji Iwamoto vs. Ryoji Sai, Kengo Mashimo & Konosuke Takeshita

Drew Wardlaw: Koji Iwamoto, formerly of the Sportiva dojo, has just signed with AJPW. A great move by both parties, with Iwamoto being a talented youngster finally finding a home promotion and AJPW adding another up-and-coming star to their full time roster. What makes this match interesting is that he is teaming with Nextream members Jake Lee and Yuma Aoyagi, which initially leads me to think he could be joining the group. However, Iwamoto teamed with rival faction Evolution on the 11/17 show, so there’s an added level of intrigue as we could be seeing a bidding war over the new signee who must be feeling like the bell of the ball at this point. This match has a lot of young talent, with the aforementioned Lee and Aoyagi and former DDT KO-D Openweight Champion Konosuke Takeshita. On the veteran end, you’ve got Ryuji Sai and K-Dojo’s Kengo Mashimo to back up Takeshita and really deliver a thorough thrashing of the young AJPW team. Prediction: Ryuji Sai, Kengo Mashimo, & Konosuke Takeshita

Bren Patrick: Now this I can get behind. On the one hand you have newly signed Koji Iwamoto teaming with NEXTREM, possibly an indication that he will be joining the young faction at some point in the near future. On the other hand, you have the awesome, ragtag team of Sai, Mashimo and Takeshita and that’s a team I fully support. Expect Sai kicking Iwamoto a lot.

Prediction: Ryoji Sai, Kengo Mashimo & Konosuke Takeshita

Dylan Justin: Iwamoto, like Takuya Nomura and Ben-K, is a tremendous rookie, a guy who will without question be a big deal in Japan come 2019. He’s young, he’s got some way to go, but he’ll get there eventually, or at least he has the potential to. This will be seven minutes long, Mashimo is going to beat the living hell out of Iwamoto, Lee and Aoyagi and it’ll be a good time. Looking forward to this. Prediction: Ryoji Sai, Kengo Mashimo & Konosuke Takeshita

Jun Akiyama & Kendo Kashin vs. Takao Omori & Manabu Soya

Drew Wardlaw: Manabu Soya showed up at the Royal Road Tournament finals on 9/19 asking for a match against former Get Wild tag partner Takao Omori. Well, instead of that, he got squashed by Jun Akiyama at the 10/9 Korakuen show. Omori and Soya have since decided to re-form Get Wild and enter this year’s World’s Strongest Tag Determination League, so I’m expecting Soya to get some payback on Akiyama and get some momentum heading into the tournament. Prediction: Get Wild

Bren Patrick: I’m secretly excited about this tag match. I expect it to be either a complete mess or utterly awesome. It’s a coin toss. I think Soya will get some sort of revenge on Akiyama after the beatdown daddy Jun gave him last month. Expect some Akiyama/Kashin bullying of Soya until Omori makes the hot save. Prediction: Takao Omori & Manabu Soya

Dylan Justin: Something tells me Akiyama doesn’t want to team with Kendo Kashin. I mean, no one wants to team with Kendo Kashin. He isn’t good, he’s never been good, and he’s taking up space on this show. Soya and Omori are one of my favorite tag teams and I’ll never complain about them being paired together, but man, I really wish Akiyama found himself a better partner. It’ll be fine if they play it right and don’t keep Kashin in there for too long. Prediction: Takao Omori & Manabu Soya

GAORA TV Championship Match
Yohei Nakajima © vs. Jiro “Ikemen” Kuroshio

Drew Wardlaw: I keep mentioning the 10/9 Korakuen show, and if you saw that, you would have seen that Jiro Kuroshio was the most over guy on the show. You would have also seen Jiro get an upset pin on Nakajima, which earned him this title shot. “Ikemen” is a charismatic young long hair working for Wrestle-1 looking for his first singles title here, and I expect him to win. The TV title switches pretty frequently, and Nakajima has had it for a few months now. Nakajima is more or less the ace of the TV title and for my money, always puts on enjoyable, if unremarkable, title matches. This should be a fine start to the heavy meat of the card. Prediction: Jiro “Ikemen” Kuroshio

Bren Patrick: I have yet to jump on the “Ikemen” bandwagon and Yohei Nakajima isn’t a guy that excites me so I’m not expecting a whole lot out of this. But there’s no denying Jiro’s popularity and charisma so I think the logical choice is to give him the title to further along this W-1/AJPW feud. Expect mediocrity? Prediction: Jiro “Ikemen” Kuroshio

Dylan Justin: The war between All Japan and WRESTLE-1 (if you can even call it a war) rages on as Jiro Kuroshio looks to win his first singles title. While Nakajima only holds onto this title for a month or two before losing it to someone then winning it right back, so it’s a title no one takes seriously, it’s a title that serves its purpose in All Japan. Giving mid-carders something to do is never a bad thing, and that’s what this title’s for. There’s no way Jiro loses, how long he holds onto it is what’s in question. Jiro is Nakajima’s biggest opponent to date, so giving the title back to Nakajima in a month would be rather silly, but hey, does it really matter? It doesn’t. Prediction: Jiro Kuroshio

World Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
Soma Takao (c) vs. Keisuke Ishii

Drew Wardlaw: This match is a good sign of the healthy working relationship All Japan has with other companies, as both of these wrestlers are affiliated with DDT, and are wrestling for an AJPW title. Former DDT KO-D six man tag champions face off here in what should be a fast-paced, high-flying contest. Ishii pinned Takao on the 10/19 show to earn this title shot, and I’m going to say he will continue that momentum here with a win over Takao. Prediction: Keisuke Ishii

Bren Patrick: DDT GUYZ IN AJPW! PINK VS. RED! Two of the most indy-riffic junior heavyweights out there glitzing the place up with what should be a mindlessly entertaining spotfest. My expectations aren’t  that high. I mean, I like Ishii more than I like Takao but honestly, I have zero clue who is winning this match. Expect high-flying, innovative action!!! Prediction: Keisuke Ishii

Dylan Justin: The DDT/All Japan relationship continues to flourish as Soma Takao and Keisuke Ishii, two DDT guys, partners, or I guess former partners as a matter of fact, square off one-on-one in Sumo Hall for the All Japan junior title. The result doesn’t really matter as much here, I could see it going either way, though I prefer Takao over Ishii so am going with him. This’ll be fun. Prediction: Soma Takao

Asia Tag Championship Match
Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato © vs. Masanobu Fuchi & Atsushi Onita

Drew Wardlaw: After their 4th successful title defense on 10/15, the Evolution team of Sato and Aoki called out veterans Masanobu Fuchi & Atsushi Onita. Never one to pass up the opportunity to make a grand declaration, Onita responded by saying he wants to make this a death match, so he can bring his “electric current blast bat” to Sumo Hall. I don’t know if we’re going to get that, but what we will get is Aoki, who always works well against larger opponents. His ability to bump big and create lots of motion in the ring makes for a great dynamic, and should work well here against the more physically limited veteran team. Depending on how salty Fuchi is feeling, we could get a very cool veteran beat down of the younger, smaller champions, leading to a hot comeback. Do I want more than anything to see Masa Fuchi and Onita as the All Asia Tag champs in 2016? Yes. Is that what I’m expecting?  No. Prediction: Aoki & Sato

Bren Patrick: Another exciting $3.00 carnival attraction for all the kiddos in attendance. Old man Fuchi and living deathmatch legend Onita beating up Aoki and Sato before losing steam and allowing Evolution to keep the tag titles. That’s my prediction and something I can’t wait to watch. Match-ups like this has been All Japan’s bread and butter this year and it’s the fun, unpredictability of it that has me hooked. Expect Fuchi backdropping Sato at least three times. Maybe four. Prediction: Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato

Dylan Justin: Now this is a match right here, my friends. This is indeed a match. Fuchi is 89 years old, Onita’s still the badass he’s always been, Aoki’s the man, Sato’s fun, there’s no way this isn’t at least somewhat enjoyable. Would I have preferred a legitimate title defense for Aoki and Sato? Sure, but All Japan had to stack this card up with, like Bren mentioned, attractions. It’s more about the spectacle, it’s more about the crowd having a good time and seeing guys like Onita and Kabuki and crew, not so much the matches from a workrate perspective. Prediction: Atsuhi Aoki & Hikaru Sato

World Tag Championship Match
Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi © vs. Zeus & The Bodyguard

Drew Wardlaw: These beefy hunks have been feuding all year, with each match following a similar formula of screams, shoulderblocks, lariats, and bombs. I’m expecting nothing less here, and I think the larger stage of Sumo Hall works well for this sort of spectacle. A note should be made about Zeus here, who has improved dramatically in 2016, to the point where he is being asked to carry singles matches against people like Suwama. He fits into his power role very well, and is able to pull off some more athletic moves as well, making him stand out in the promotion. I’m expecting Zeus to get the pin here, and for Big Guns to regain the titles. Prediction: Big Guns

Bren Patrick: Is this the fourth time these two teams have fought for the titles? Maybe the fifth? I’ve lost track and to be honest, it’s not a match-up that really does anything for me anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I love Strong BJ, but when they’re up against the Big Guns, you know what to expect. Lots of big dudes testing strength and smashing into each other. Plenty of chops, lariats, and yelling. With Strong BJ winning the Saikyou Tag League, I can see them dropping the titles back to Big Guns to focus on taking the BJW Tag Titles from Twin Towers. Prediction: Big Guns

Dylan Justin: Look, we’ve been down this road before. Like Bren said, you know what to expect with these two teams. This is clearly the blowoff to the feud, it’s the semi-main event of Sumo Hall, there’s no way it won’t be exciting, there’s no way it won’t deliver, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s next for both teams moving forward afterward. I’d like to see Sekimoto and Okabayashi retain but something tells me that’s not what’s going to happen. Prediction: Zeus & The Bodyguard

Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship Match
Kento Miyahara (c) vs. Suwama

Drew Wardlaw: Let’s take a big step back here. Suwama turned on former tag partner Kento Miyahara at the end of 2015 after Miyahara declined to join Evolution. Shortly after, Suwama beat Akiyama for the Triple Crown. The groundwork was laid for a Triple Crown feud, eventually leading to Miyahara becoming the new ace of All Japan. Of course that didn’t happen. Suwama blew out his achilles tendon and vacated the title, leading to Miyahara’s lackluster title win over Zeus. All Japan has a storied history of new stars rising out of adversity and absence, and we’ve seen this happen yet again as Miyahara has single-handedly carried the promotion on his back in 2016, running through every challenger that’s been set before him, and breathing life into a company thought to be on death’s doorstep. Suwama returned over the summer to win the Royal Road Tournament and reclaim his title that he never lost.

If you would have asked me two months ago, I would have said without hesitation that Suwama was winning the title in Sumo Hall. A closer look at the stats (thanks @ElStopSpot) reveals that Suwama is 10-1 against Miyahara going into their match. This is pushing me in the other direction. Suwama has not looked good since returning, there’s no way around it. He’s been slow and his conditioning seems to be severely lacking. There’s been flashes of energy and aggression, most notably against Miyahara in their Royal Road encounter, but overall has been underwhelming. If Suwama wins, Miyahara can chase, maybe winning the Champion Carnival and finally beating Suwama (he’s never beaten him in a single’s match) which seems like the better story to tell. In the meantime though, can Suwama maintain the momentum that the company desperately needs to maintain? If Miyahara wins, where does he go from here?  He’s beaten everyone, and there aren’t a lot of challengers left for him. I’m predicting the company stays on course for the logical conclusion of the story they started a year ago. Prediction: Suwama

Bren Patrick: My gut’s telling me one thing, my heart is whispering another. Watching ACE! Kento Miyahara run through the All Japan roster has been a big part of my 2016 viewing enjoyment but maybe the ultimate party pooper has arrived in the sluggish form of Suwama. The company has wanted him back since the day he injured himself and relinquished the title. They brought him back, albeit prematurely in my opinion, to win the Ōdō Tournament and now he’s headlining Sumo Hall against the young superstar who’s been carrying the promotion on his shoulders. Do you take a chance on Suwama? Or do you let the ace hold onto the strap through the end of 2016, cementing what has already been a career-defining year for Miyahara? Again, my heart says yes but my gut says Jun wants Suwama back in the driver’s seat. Screw it. Let’s go with the heart. I just want to see these two go out there and tear the roof off of Sumo Hall. Expect SLEEPER HOLDS. Prediction: Kento Miyahara

Dylan Justin: Kento Miyahara has had the biggest and most successful year of his young life, he’s the ace All Japan needed, the guy All Japan needed to carry them out of the trenches, and he’s done that. Not only has he stepped up to the plate and claimed that ace role, but he’s ran with it and he’s been one of, if not the best ace in all of professional wrestling, and the funny part about it, despite the fact that everyone who’s been paying attention knew what he was capable of, is that All Japan may not have even put the title on him if not for Suwama getting himself injured in January. Suwama’s back now, the old ace has returned, and he’s looking to take back what was once his. Suwama is not in good shape, he has not been good since coming back, and frankly, I fear how this match will good. I’m fully convinced that Miyahara is a superworker and can carry a lamp to a decent enough match, but this is Sumo Hall, and this is the main event. It’s going to take more than a cary-job here. Suwama is going to have to step up and he’s going to have to deliver. Can he do it? I think he can. Will he do it? I don’t know, we’ll just have to wait and see. Prediction: Kento Miyahara