All Japan Pro-Wrestling
2017 SUMMER EXPLOSION ~ AJPW 45th Anniversary Show
August 27, 2017
Ryogoku Kokugikan
Tokyo, Japan

Meet our previewers:

  • Brennan Patrick: Co-host of Burning Spirits. VOW contributor. Son of a masked Chicago-based jobber named Beast #1. (@bren_patrick).
  • Drew Wardlaw: Co-host of Burning Spirits.  Occasional VOW contributor.  Dimension Hatröss. (@_burningspirits)
  • Kevin Hare: Co-host of Burning Spirits. THE Stan Hansen. (@stan__hansen)

Yohei Nakajima & Fuminori Abe vs. Takuya Nomura & Yuya Aoki

Brennan Patrick: My interest in Yohei Nakajima with his shitty hair and Ronald McDonald ring gear is about 3%; however, that percentage goes way up when talking about Takuya Nomura and Fuminori Abe, and the idea of those two mixing it up is definitely more appealing than Nakajima and his stupid hair. Yuya Aoki has a lot of potential and has been consistently improving in-ring so more exposure is always a good thing. Prediction: Takuya Nomura & Yuya Aoki

Drew Wardlaw: Well I really enjoy Nakajima.  I like him as a midcard workhorse junior; a guy who is rarely great but is always solid and always puts in maximum effort.  Seeing him as the veteran here will be very interesting, since the other team is made up of fire-y, hard-hitting youngsters.  I’m looking to see how he responds to getting stiffed by Nomura in particular.  Elsewhere, you’ve got the intriguing matchup of Nomura and Fuminori Abe, another top young prospect in Japan out of the Sportiva dojo.  He’s been working more AJPW shows and some people think he’s destined to be a full time member of the roster at some point.  Yuya Aoki is the newest BJW young boy who has been steadily improving over the year since his debut early in 2017.  This should be a nice, simple, hard-hitting match with young and hungry talent.  Can’t go wrong here! Prediction: Nakajima & Abe

Kevin Hare: All hail Nomura. Prediction: Takuya Nomura & Yuya Aoki

All Japan 45th Anniversary Tag Match
Dory Funk Jr. & Hiro Saito vs. Masanobu Fuchi & The Great Kabuki

Brennan Patrick: Ooooh boy, the grandaddy of all matches…literally. As long as Dory Funkhouser Jr. comes into Sumo Hall cracking his whip and taking 20+ minutes to shake hands and pose with babies, we all win. But when Masa Fuchi’s the most spry of the bunch, you know you’ve got yourself a true mat classic waiting to unfold. Can’t wait. Prediction: Dory Funk Jr. & Hiro Saito via the world’s slowest spinning toehold

Drew Wardlaw: I’m with Kevin here.  This doesn’t have the absurdity of last year’s Dory Jr. tag, which is a disappointment and will ultimately hurt this match, which is simply a nostalgia match for some well-loved veterans.  That being said, I’m never going to be upset to see ol’ Dory in an AJPW ring, or to see his wife filming him on her iPad at ringside.  Oh also, just to backtrack, I’ll be curious to see if Dory presents the BANG! TV Title belt during the match or if they’ll have another imposter like last month. Prediction: Dory Funk Jr. & Hiro Saito

Kevin Hare: I was really disappointed when I saw this match.  The greatness of the last Dory Funk AJPW Sumo Hall match was how completely random and absurd the lineup was (featuring Chavo Classic [RIP] and Isami Kodaka among others).  This one just seems bland and bad.  But still, we’ll get ultimate babyface Dory Funk Jr., and I can never complain about that. Prediction: Masanobu Fuchi & The Great Kabuki

LAND’S END vs. Multi-Nation Alliance
Ryouji Sai, Masakado & Ishikiri vs. Massimo, Danny Jones & Sam Adonis

Brennan Patrick: Well, I know Ryouji Sai and I recently saw Massimo at the last Korakuen Hall show so…uh, coin toss? Prediction: LAND’S END

Drew Wardlaw: Almost an old school style native vs gaijin match here, which is cool.  Massimo I have only seen in the last Korakuen, Sam Adonis is a northeast indie guy, and Danny Jones is a young and hungry guy from the UK who has been working out in the All Japan dojo and looks to be eager to make a name for himself.  It’ll be cool to see how these three respond to working in front of what may be the largest crowd they’ve ever wrestled in front of.  As for the match, I love Ryouji Sai and I really want to see him cave in some gaijin chests with some of the best kicks in the country. Prediction: LAND’S END

Kevin Hare: Interesting to see Sam Adonis here.  I know he works a pro-Trump gimmick but have not seen much of it.  Very curious to see how that translates to a Japanese audience.  That said, he’s DEFINITELY losing here. Prediction: Ryouji Sai, Masakado & Ishikiri

BANG!TV World Heavyweight Championship Battle Royal
Osamu Nishimura © vs. Naoshi Sano, Yutaka Yoshie, Abdullah Kobayashi, Rikya Fudo, and more…

Brennan Patrick: If you look back in the pro-wrestling history books, to a span of time between 1999-2002, Osamu Nishimura ruled. Fast forward to 2017 and…well, Osamu Nishimura still rules? Kind of? Okay, maybe not, but this should have plenty of nostalgia acts and who comes out of the Battle Royal with the prestigious BANG! TV World Heavyweight Title is anyone’s guess. Prediction: Osamu Nishimura

Drew Wardlaw: Yo! I forgot Abby was on the card until now! That’s awesome.  I generally enjoy Nishimura’s BANG! TV Title defenses that show up on tape, with him getting some quick roll ups and what not.  Put him in a battle royal with special guests and I’m perfectly happy.  We do know at this point that one of the surprise entrants is Carbell’s (main sponsor for AJPW) president working a gimmick called “Carbell Ito.”  Apparently he’s been training hard for the opportunity so we’ll see how that goes.  I saw a video where he did a tope!  I’ll also disagree with Brennan about Nishimura being good until 2002.  You ever see that Fujinami vs Nishimura MUGA match from 2006? Pheeeeeeew! Prediction: Osamu Nishimura

Kevin Hare: I’m just glad to see King Abdullah Kobayashi in the ring of Jumbo, Misawa and Baba. Prediction: “and more…”

Yuma Aoyagi vs. Taichi

Brennan Patrick: Taichi being a scummy prick and Yuma Aoyagi getting all fired up about it but eventually succumbing to Taichi’s crummy tricks. That’s probably the gist of this match and while it’s a match I could live without, it’ll at least be entertaining. But I think Yuma could really use a solid win here over the invader and Taichi doesn’t really need a win over Aoyagi. Or any wins ever. Prediction: Yuma Aoyagi

Drew Wardlaw:  Legitimately one of my most anticipated matches on the card.  I’m one of the very few Taichi defenders and I always love him using ripping his pants off as a highspot (or lowspot) in the match.  We all remember poor Aoyagi getting beaten last year during the J Cup so now he’s back for revenge!  He’s a year older and he’s better and somehow has even more fire.  Expect the crowd to be fully behind Aoyagi and waving their towels in the air.  I’d love to see Aoyagi win but I’d love equally as much for Taichi to just bum out everyone involved and go 2-0 on the youngster, so it’s a win-win.  As far as who to pick, I’ll go with the safe choice I guess. Prediction: Taichi

Kevin Hare: AJPW is already reaping the rewards of whatever their new relationship with NJPW is… by getting one of the worst members of the NJPW roster.  I’m really hoping that Aoyagi will get the win, but I’m not counting on it. Prediction: Taichi

Caristico vs. El Diamante

Brennan Patrick: I don’t watch know, aside from those possibly illegal drunken bloodfest brawls in and around an outdoor ring somewhere in Chihuahua. I don’t know who these guys are but, if I were to choose someone based solely on how cool the names are…El Diamante wins. What is that? The Diamond? Yeah, El Diamante. Prediction: El Diamante via the El Diamante Cutter

Drew Wardlaw: Admittedly I’m not familiar with El Diamante either, but this is actually one of the more interesting matches on the card for the sheer randomness of it.  AJPW isn’t a promotion that typically uses lucha talent so seeing them get a showcase singles match stands out here so maybe we’ll see more lucha talent in the future.  Either way, this should be a nice change of pace halfway through the card. Prediction: Caristico

Kevin Hare: Caristico is the former Mistico/Sin Cara.  I’m not familiar with El Diamante at all.  This should be a decent lucha showcase.  I’m curious to see how the crowd reacts, as this style is completely different from the normal AJPW style. Prediction: Caristico

All Japan 45th Anniversary Special Tag Match
Jun Akiyama, Takao Omori, Minoru Tanaka & Koji Iwamoto vs. Joe Doering, Zeus, The Bodyguard & Kotaro Suzuki

Brennan Patrick: This is your standard AJPW multi-man tag and from the looks of it, one side definitely outweighs the other. I wouldn’t mind seeing Joe Doering form some sort of rough-and-tough quasi-alliance with the Big Guns and I’m fully expecting him to pick up the win here as he continues to build momentum toward an eventual Triple Crown shot. Kotaro Suzuki returning to the fold adds an interesting veteran element to the already veteran-heavy junior division and unfortunately for Iwamoto, he’s the obvious fall guy. Prediction: Joe Doering, Zeus, The Bodyguard & Kotaro Suzuki

Drew Wardlaw: This is an absolutely STACKED 8 man tag, and honestly I wish some of these guys had more important spots on the card, but you know what? That will just make this match even better, and it speaks to the quality of the card as a whole that they can afford to relegate some big names to this spot.  A standout name here is Kotaro Suzuki, who returned to All Japan (just as a freelancer) after leaving in 2015.  This can only be good for both parties, and having him in the junior title mix would be a welcome addition.  The more the merrier I say.  Anyway, I think the big story of this match is Joe Doering, who recently turned on his tag team partner and Evolution stablemate Suwama, declaring that the group was finished.  I’m expecting Doering to have a big fall season and this match to jumpstart that and give him momentum heading into the Royal Road Tournament. Prediction: Joe Doering, Zeus, The Bodyguard, & Kotaro Suzuki

Kevin Hare: Joe Doering just left his long-time partner Suwama and is starting the next chapter of his career.  I’m most excited to see what he does in this match and how it dictates his future.  This should be pretty awesome.  Akiyama isn’t featured as much these days, so seeing him with Big Guns should be great.  Excited for this. Prediction: Joe Doering, Zeus, The Bodyguard & Kotaro Suzuki

Asia Tag Championship Match
Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato © vs. Black Tiger VII & TAKA Michinoku

Brennan Patrick: On the one hand, you have Atsushi Aoki, Hikaru Sato, and TAKA Michinoku in a match together, which is a good thing…on the other, you’ve got Black Tiger VII aka NOSAWA Rongai thrown in to add a little stink to the tag match. I’m sure we’re not going to get straightforward junior heavyweight tag team action and instead, this is likely to be rift with shenanigans and possibly Mitsuya Nagai throwing chairs. This could, in fact, be the “Drew Wardlaw Bad Boy Special” of the evening. Prediction: Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato

Drew Wardlaw: I’m conflicted here.  On the one hand, we get TAKA Michinoku, but on the other, we don’t get Mitsuya Nagai.  I’m not sure which outweighs the other, but here we are.  I like Aoki & Sato, although them as All Asia tag champs is a bit tired, but I’m not expecting BTVII and TAKA to win here.  Despite that though, I’m very much looking forward to this match.  Depending on who BTVII is (Takaiwa or NOSAWA?) we could get some nice grappling with the four, or we could get the challenger team getting really nasty and heelish with their tactics.  Maybe Sato will have more of his hair cut? Prediction: Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato

Kevin Hare: Are we getting black tights Taka or blue tights Taka?  That will tell you everything you need to know about what to expect from this. Prediction: Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato

World Junior Heavyweight Championship Match
TAJIRI © vs. Ultimo Dragon

Brennan Patrick: Hey All Japan. You’ve got a lot of promising young junior heavyweights in Iwamoto, Aoyagi, Okada, uh…okay, maybe you don’t, but TAJIRI? Really? I’m not expecting a lot from this match-up but, that being said, Ultimo Dragon can still go on occasion and maybe working Sumo Hall will motivate him to carrying TAJIRI to a ***½ match. Ultimo could pick up the win here and I wouldn’t be surprised but they must think TAJIRI’s still a draw so I imagine he’ll hold onto the title belt until they finally put it on Iwamoto. Prediction: TAJIRI

Drew Wardlaw:  I, like Kevin and Brennan, am disappointed in the junior title match on this card.  This has been a strong year for All Japan juniors, with Keisuke Ishii have a great reign early in the year, Sato carrying it from there, and a worthy batch of young challengers like Yuma Aoyagi and Koji Iwamoto.  I would have liked to see one of the young guys here, but I get why TAJIRI & Ultimo Dragon are in this match.  Both are important veterans, Ultimo is celebrating his 30th anniversary and TAJIRI has returned from a lengthy absence from the company.  I’m holding off my full judgement here, and if we get a veteran champion dropping the belt to a younger challenger sometime in the near future, I will have no problem with this decision at all.  I’m expecting TAJIRI to win the belt and hang around All Japan for a bit in the fall.  The match has the potential to be at least enjoyable in that special veteran junior way, where you just keep being amazed these guys are willing to bump and work as hard as they do.  Let’s hope for that! Prediction: TAJIRI

Kevin Hare: This is the most disappointing part of the card.  Guys like Iwamoto are prime to steal the show in a great mid-card jrs match but… instead we get two old guys who are barely around showcased.  I don’t dislike either of these guys or anything, but it just comes off as super boring to me.  Yawn. Prediction: Ultimo Dragon

World Tag Championship Decision Match
Naoya Nomura & KAI vs. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi

Brennan Patrick: Wow, it only took…nine matches to get to my first highly anticipated match of the biggest AJPW show of the year (I apologize if I’m coming off overly negative here). Unfortunately, both KAI and Nomura lost their respective partners to injuries, which finds them teaming together in an interesting little narrative against tried-and-true former champions, Strong BJ. Now, Strong BJ could easily decimate them and win the titles and it would be business as usual but I think the bigger story here is Nomura and KAI overcoming their differences and the circumstances that got them to this point, and finding a way to beat Big Japan’s beefiest. KAI in AJPW has been the most motivated he’s been in years and Nomura is starting to look and wrestle like a true heavyweight so I’m expecting plenty of fire on their end and a big promotion win. Prediction: Naoya Nomura & KAI

Drew Wardlaw: Man, I can’t help but wish Jake Lee was healthy enough to be in this match.  He recently tore his ACL in a match against the Big Guns and is expected to be out of action for up to a year.  The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time, as 2017 was really Lee’s breakout year, with great matches against Kento Miyahara and Shuji Ishikawa.  What makes this match a really great story though, is his replacement: KAI.  KAI recently won the tag team title with his partner Kengo Mashimo, who is also currently injured.  So you have the team of Naoya Nomura and KAI, two wrestlers without partners, perhaps brought together by fate, to take on the biggest and baddest of them all, Strong BJ!  I’m really looking forward to this match.  KAI is a great, I repeat, GREAT face-in-peril, and who better to deliver a beating than Strong BJ? Nomura has been bulking up and constantly improving in the ring, and shows great fire, especially in a tag team setting.  Let’s give these teams 20 minutes and let them go all out. Prediction: Naoya Nomura & KAI

Kevin Hare: I’m pumped that Strong BJ is finally back.  This match is really intriguing.  How do Kai and Nomura fair as a team?  How does the young Nomura fair against the beefiest team in the world?  Will Strong BJ win the belts and stick around as champs?  Kai has been a bit refreshed since returning.  Sometimes these AJPW tag matches finish right before they hit high gear.  I’m hoping that this one has the opportunity to do that. Prediction: Naoya Nomura & KAI

Special Single Match
Suwama vs. Satoshi Kojima

Brennan Patrick: When Satoshi Kojima was announced as the “former Triple Crown champion” appearing at this year’s Sumo Hall show, it was a pleasant surprise. Kojima had an underrated 2016 and he had one of the more memorable 2017 G1 performances against Kazuchika Okada. While he wasn’t very successful in this year’s tournament, I’m hoping he takes that frustration into All Japan and lets it out against Suwama. Suwama needs a fresh opponent like Kojima because although he’s had some great matches against Ishikawa and Miyahara, he can only go back to those wells so many times before falling into the same old ruts again. Sumo Hall should be fired up for the Bread Man and I’m fully expecting this to be a hard-hitting slugfest with plenty of elbows and lariats. A Kojima win and possible TC challenge at some point would be a welcome change. Prediction: Satoshi Kojima

Drew Wardlaw: This match is a huge deal.  Kojima, as the All Japan ace, was trusted to carry the company after Kawada left.  In the late 2000s, Suwama was able to rise to the top of the company, giving them the next generation ace as Kojima was getting older.  Kojima then left All Japan for New Japan in 2010 after dropping the Triple Crown title to Ryota Hama, leaving a company that was struggling.  The rumor is that Kojima refused to lose to Suwama, a move that would have perhaps cemented Suwama at the top, or at the very least add considerable credibility to his position, and Suwama was furious.  He even went so far as to tell the press his intentions for Kojima, which were, reportedly, less than kind.  (Thanks to Irving from Shining Road for the info).  As you can see, there’s a lot of heat here.  I don’t know if the two have since made up or what, but this has the potential to be an intense, personal brawl with seven years of built up tension.  Kojima can still go in the ring, and he can provide both the power to stand toe-to-toe with Suwama but also the movement Suwama sometimes needs to have a great match.  This could be a brutal affair folks, and one that Suwama will not lose. Prediction: Suwama

Kevin Hare: This match is years in the making.  Suwama supposedly holds a major grudge against Kojima for bolting AJPW as he was champion in 2010. Kojima proved in the G1 that he is still a great wrestler. I’m expecting heel Kojima to make his presence known here.  It should be super heated, with both guys completely laying it in to one another. Can’t wait. Prediction: Suwama

Triple Crown
Shuji Ishikawa © vs. Kento Miyahara

Brennan Patrick: Alright, so I’m going to stick with my trend of going against the projected favorite here. Many have predicted Miyahara to reclaim the Triple Crown at Sumo Hall. just like many predicted  Big Japan’s Ryuichi Kawakami and DDT’s Tetsuya Endo to dethrone champions at Sumo Hall. See where that got them? So I’m throwing my hat in Ishikawa’s corner because A) he’s one of my favorite wrestlers and B) there’s still quite a few fresh defenses left for him. Although Ishikawa winning here may squash the idea of him returning to Big Japan to challenge Hideki Suzuki, I’d much rather see him continue his reign in AJPW. I’m not ready for the trash bag pants to return. Ishikawa has a true champion’s aura about him and I’m fully expecting Miyahara to give his all here in an attempt to win back the title but the story of him continuing the uphill climb back to the top is more interesting to me than just giving him the title again so soon after losing it. Miyahara’s been tapping into his heelish side more often and it would be awesome to see him fully snap on Ishikawa in an attempt to regain what he believes is rightfully his. Prediction: Shuji Ishikawa

Drew Wardlaw: This continues the trend of the summer, where the storyline might dictate that the challenger should win, but I personally don’t want to see that happen because I’m enjoying the reign so much.  Hideki Suzuki vs Ryuichi Kawakami in BJW, Konosuke Takeshita vs Tetsuya Endo in DDT, and now Shuji Ishikawa vs Kento Miyahara in AJPW.  Brennan has pointed this out, but in each of those matches, the champion retained, and in retrospect, it was the right move all along.  Also, all of those matches were in Sumo Hall.  That’s a little bit of “meta” storytelling there which adds another layer to this match.  Anyway, the actual match itself…. Shuji Ishikawa is on the run of a lifetime over the past few years.  He’s won tournaments, he’s held belts (both singles and tags) and has had a list of great matches as long as his retired garbage bag pants.  He’s the Triple Crown champion now.  He’s got black trunks and red boots and looks absolutely devastating.  It doesn’t feel like his time is up yet.  He’s drawn well at the top of All Japan cards and it really feels like he’s just heating up as champion.  However, there is a newly crowned ace that might have something to say about that.  Kento Miyahara’s year+ long title reign was ended by Ishikawa earlier this summer, and now he’s coming for his title.  Has Miyahara been able to re-group enough to overcome the monster?  Will he stumble again on his way back to the top?  Personally, I think Miyahara still has a bit to learn before he’s champion again, and we might see him take a bit more of a back seat through the fall.  Of course, it’s likely I’m wrong and Ishikawa is just a stop along the way and Miyahara will get back to dominating the company with his knees and suplexes.  Either way, this should be an awesome match. Prediction:  Shuji Ishikawa

Kevin Hare: Ishikawa’s rise on the Japanese indy circuit has been one of the most fascinating stories of the past few years.  He conquered everywhere else before finally winning the holy grail: the Triple Crown.  I’ve really enjoyed his title run.  He comes off as a complete monster, with an old school Jumbo-esque feel.  Whoever beats him will have truly slayed a beast.  However, I think that his title reign was only a roadblock in the greater Miyahara story.  The young ace got bested by the bigger man he couldn’t quite beat, only to come back stronger down the line.  Still, this has MOTYC potential.  Should be great. Prediction: Kento Miyahara