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

Takuya Nomura Def. Naoya Nomura

My friends this is how you open a show.

This wasn’t a match between two young lions trading holds and trying to apply Boston Crabs, this was a match between two rookies, two young men, who kept up with one another hold-for-hold, strike-for-strike, counter-for-counter, and fought as if they had something to prove.

Takuya Nomura—for a man who has been an active pro wrestler for less than a year—is scary talented. I’m almost convinced Big Japan made this guy in a factory, I don’t know how it’s possible to pick something up as fast as he’s picked up this wrestling thing. If I didn’t tell you that he was a rookie, you’d think he has years of experience under his belt. He works like a grumpy little prick, everything he does looks smooth, crisp and real.

I’d put him up against any other rookie in wrestling with the exception of Matt Riddle and argue that he blows them out of the water. Hell, I’d put him up against most wrestlers in general. The guy has something. Hop on board, enjoy the ride, watch as he slowly but surely rises to the top. It’s just a matter of time before he gets there. ***1/2

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

There were eleven matches on this show. This was one of them.

Kikuchi looks like a zombie, Tomato did his goofy shtick, Inoue was…Inoue, Sano was there, Tamura and SUSHI put together a nice little closing stretch and that was about it. Inoffensive but very much a meaningless multi-man second from the bottom on an eleven match card. Very forgettable. **1/2

Super Tiger, Ryuji Hijikata, Rey Paloma & Diablo Def. Mitsuya Nagai, Tatsuhito Takaiwa, Takeshi Minamino & Black Tiger VII

I have no idea what All Japan’s doing with all these tigers. You got Super Tiger, you got Tatsuhito Takaiwa, also known as Black Tiger V, you have Black Tiger VII who may or may not be NOSAWA “Out-of-the-Question” Rongai, there’s a Great Tiger now, what the hell is going on here?

Then you had Rey Paloma, who 90% of the people in attendance have never even heard of, getting his own entrance and being positioned as the clear focus of the match. This was all very bizarre. Another inoffensive but totally forgettable multi-man at the bottom of an eleven match card. **1/4

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

Dory Funk Jr. was very clearly who this segment was built around, and though the match itself wasn’t anything special, it was pretty cool seeing him in Sumo Hall for what could be the last time. I mean, look, I don’t like the guy very much historically, I’ve never found him to very enjoyable and have always preferred his brother (like most people to be fair), but he’s looked at as a big deal in Japan and is rightfully presented as one.

The match was decent enough fun, I can’t pretend it was any sort of good match, it was simply fun. Ultimo Dragon did some cool stuff as he tends to do, Kodaka didn’t do much, TAJIRI was enjoyable, and the rest of the them did what old men do. They grabbed some headlocks, grabbed some toeholds and they did their thing. The crowd was into it and that’s what matters. I can’t rate this. N/R

Kengo Mashimo, Ryouji Sai & Konosuke Takeshita Def. Jake Lee, Yuma Aoyagi & Koji Iwamoto

Matches like these make me wish there was an indie puro trios title that was defended in all sorts of different promotions against all sorts of weird teams across Japan to give matches like these a bit more juice and a bit more stake.

I’ve come to enjoy this whole NEXTREAM unit with Miyahara and all the rookies, and I specifically enjoy when the rookies get in there by themselves and get their asses handed to them by guys like Mashimo, Sai and Takeshita.

Everyone involved in this match looked great, especially Sai, who’s really grown on me this year. If you’re looking to nitpick this show and only watch a few matches, make this one of them. A hot trios match is always worth your time. ***3/4

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

A lot of the matches on this show were stupid, but stupid in a fun, light-hearted, enjoyable sort of way. This match was none of those, it was just stupid.

Kendo Kashin wasn’t good in 1992 and he isn’t good now, yet he continually manages to sneak his way onto shows and into matches he has no business being involved in like the little cockroach that he is. What does Kendo Kashin have to do with Akiyama, Omori and Soya? Could Akiyama not find a better partner? Was someone like Shuji Ishikawa not good enough? Could he not call on one of his old pals to team up with him for one night? I don’t get it.

The match was eight minutes long, it was boring, it was devoid of any and all heat, and if I never had to sit through another Kendo Kashin match ever again, I’d die a happy man. *3/4

GAORA TV Championship
Jiro Kuroshio Def. Yohei Nakajima (c)

Nakajima wrestles the same *** – ***1/2 match every time out and has been for a long time. You watch his matches and you say to yourself “that was a good little match” and that’s cool for a while, but that wears off eventually, and it’s worn off for him.

The GAORA TV title means absolutely nothing, it’s simply a mid-card title, I have no problem with that, in fact, I enjoy mid-card titles that give mid-carders a little something to do. Nakajima, however, is now in need of a little something to do. He’s past this title, he’s been screwing around with it for well over a year, and now’s the time to move him into another a role. He’d be fine as a singles or tag guy, assuming he’d be used as a junior, he just needs to get away from this belt. Jiro is the perfect guy to hold onto it. He’s popular, he’s young, he’s the definition of a mid-carder, and there are a lot of fresh matches to be had in both All Japan and WRESTLE-1. That’s what this thing’s for.

While the match itself was nothing spectacular, Jiro’s performance was tremendous and the crowd was super into him, which was cool to see. ***1/4

AJPW Junior Heavyweight Championship
Keisuke Ishii Def. Soma Takao (c)

This was the wrong match to have at this point in the show and I felt bad for both guys as a result. The crowd could not possibly care less about either of them to begin with, and on an eleven match, five hour show, it was impossible to get invested in what they were doing when they were in the ninth match towards the end of the third hour, regardless of the quality.

They both worked hard, they both did everything they could to make it a good match, they both looked like they were happy to be in the position they were in, yet not a single person in the crowd gave a damn about any of it. Yuma Aoyagi jumped in the ring afterward and challenged Ishii for his newly won title, so don’t be surprised if Ishii ends up having a short reign. ***1/4

All Asia Tag Team Championship
Atsushi Onita & Masanobu Fuchi Def. Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato (c)

This was clearly more spectacle than match. It was an extended squash that gave Onita and Fuchi a definitive win over the champions. I don’t know why Onita and Fuchi are All Asia Tag champions, I don’t know what this accomplishes, I find it rather silly if anything, but hey, they’re the All Asia tag titles, they’re not all that important. Who cares. Fun match, I suppose. **1/2

AJPW World Tag Team Championship
Zeus & The Bodyguard Def. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi (c)

There are a few guys in wrestling who simply cannot have a bad match together: Kazuchika Okada and Hiroshi Tanahashi have never had a less than stellar match together. Will Ospreay and Marty Scurll managed to have several matches in a short period of time and make each one different from the other. Kobashi and Misawa have never not delivered big together.

Some people in wrestling just have that chemistry, you never know who it is, it’s not exactly something that’s tangible. These two teams here have that. You can stick all four of them in there on their worst days and they’ll still manage to produce a **** match, incapable of delivering anything less.

I’ve said it a million times now, but if Zeus doesn’t receive your vote for Most Improved, I don’t know what to tell you. No one even comes close if you ask me. He’s great, and as for his partner…look, there’s a reason The Bodyguard is primarily a tag guy. His charisma is best suited for a tag team role. He’s good in these matches, he’s good in his role. As long as they keep him and Zeus together, he’ll be alright. He’s 50 years old, he’s jacked out of his mind, and he’s fun to watch.

This was far and away the best match on the show and one of the best tag team matches of the year, right up there with the two matches Sekimoto and Okabayashi had on the October 31 BJW show.

If The Revival didn’t exist, those two would run away with my Tag Team of the Year vote. They never fail to deliver, they’re always one of, if not the highlight of every show they’re on. This was stiff, this was nasty, this was rough, this was a match between four large men who desperately wanted to defeat one another. Go out of your way to watch it if you haven’t already. ****1/4

Triple Crown Championship
Kento Miyahara (c) Def. Suwama

I had to watch this match twice before I could appreciate it. The show was five hours long, and I watched all five. I was tired, I was exhausted, and sometimes, when you’re in that state, you can’t appreciate a good match for what it is.

The first half was all about Miyahara slowly but surely being worked over, unable to get the upper hand on the man who knows him so well, the man who’s defeated him numerous times in the past, and the man he’s never been able to overcome. Suwama was the ace of All Japan for a long time, Suwama’s main evented Sumo Hall as the ace and as the champion more times than I can count, and had he not gotten injured earlier in the year, chances are he would have done it again this year.

All Japan’s hand was forced, they put the title on Miyahara, a decision I was skeptical of at first, but a decision that’s clearly paid off. It was the best thing that’s happened to them in a long time, and not by choice.

Suwama was Miyahara’s biggest challenge to date, and not because Suwama is a better wrestler, not because Suwama is tougher than Miyahara, but because of Suwama’s experience, because of his aforementioned accolades, because he knows Miyahara better than Miyahara knows him, because he knows how to beat Miyahara as proven over the years. If Miyahara was really the ace, if he was really the man who was going to carry the All Japan banner into the future, he would have to go through the old ace first.

Suwama is out of shape, he gets gassed very easily, he’s not been very good between the ropes, and I worried about that coming in. I worried that the 40-year-old man, clearly on the back-end of his career, would not be able to pull it off once more in the main event of Sumo Hall. I worried about how this match would go, I didn’t think a carry-job would work here. We all knew Miyahara could do it, we all knew Miyahara could carry Suwama to a good match if he had to, we all knew Miyahara would deliver because that’s what Miyahara does, he never fails, and he especially wasn’t going to fail here.

Suwama did what he could given his current condition, I can’t call him bad, but he was far from great. He tried, so for that, I have to give him credit. However, this was a smoke-and-mirrors match if I’ve ever seen one. Miyahara did everything in his power to make Suwama look like the biggest threat imaginable. There wasn’t a second in this match where Suwama didn’t look like he wasn’t on Miyahara’s level, despite the fact that he clearly wasn’t if you’ve been paying any sort of attention since he made his return in July.

Suwama was in firm control of him throughout the first half of the match as mentioned and Miyahara’s selling was some of the very best I’ve seen in wrestling all year. While this may not have been Miyahara’s best match, it was sure as hell one of, if not his best performance. His performance here was reminiscent of that of Kazuchika Okada’s in his match with Genichiro Tenryu around this time last year in the same building. Miyahara was beyond great in this match, he was elite, up there with anyone else in the world, to the point where I’ve seriously considered giving him my vote for Wrestler of the Year.

I could see where the match would bore a lot of people, it was worked a bit differently than you would probably expect, and it bored me upon initial viewing. I don’t like talking about matches in a vacuum, I think context is a very important thing in wrestling, this was the last match on a five-hour show, everyone was tired, everyone was exhausted, these guys were in a tough spot. I needed to view the match with fresh eyes to appreciate it, and now that I’ve rewatched it, I thought it was a genuinely great match.

As for where Miyahara goes from here…the story all along was him and Suwama. Miyahara needed to get through Suwama to become the ace, and now that that story’s over, now’s the time to move on to another story. Who’s left, might you ask? Who could possibly be next in line after Suwama? I’ll put it to you this way. Joe Doering, the only other man Miyahara has never once defeated, the man who defeated Suwama for the Triple Crown title in 2014, and the man who has a 3-1 record over Suwama, is making his return in January. The Miyahara and Suwama story is over, Miyahara is now the ace of All Japan while Suwama takes a back seat, however, this does not mean Miyahara cannot lose the title to another man. Think of it like the Tanahashi and Okada story. Tanahashi, for years, is what prevented Okada from becoming the ace of New Japan. You have to definitively overcome the current ace in order to become the new ace. It only makes sense. Okada put an end to that story on the biggest show of the year in January, Okada became the man Tanahashi once was, Okada became the ace. That story ended and a new one started. Tetsuya Naito earned himself a shot, and he beat the new ace four months after the Tanahashi saga came to a close. This doesn’t take away from Okada and Tanahashi’s story, it simply adds to Okada and Naito’s story. Okada had to learn how to overcome yet another obstacle, like Miyahara will now have to do in the future. Miyahara and Suwama’s story is over. Miyahara’s the ace, and now he’s going to have to learn how to survive as the ace. We can safely assume that Joe Doering is his next bump in the road, the man he’s never once defeated before. Will history repeat itself? Will the former champion take back what was once his? This isn’t a new chapter for Miyahara, this is a new story, a story that will end the same way this one did. It’s how we get there that matters. ****

Final Thoughts:

This wasn’t a show you sit down on a Saturday afternoon and watch from start to finish by yourself. This, like last year’s Tenryu Project show, was a show that required some sort of interaction with others watching along. This was a show that had to be watched in real time. That’s where the fun came in. As a wrestling show, this was not anything. There were four matches I’d recommend seeking out on your own time, but as someone who watched this from start to finish in real time whilst interacting with others watching, I genuinely enjoyed myself throughout. It’s not one of those things you can recreate, so I can’t recommend watching all five hours. Watch what appeals to you unless you really want to all five, in which case I cannot stop you from doing. It wasn’t a bad show, it wasn’t a great show, it was simply a fun show to stay up all night and watch live.