All Japan Pro Wrestling
New Year Wars 2019
January 2, 2019
Korakuen Hall

Watch: AJPW.TV

Before the show begins, the AJPW roster in their extremely sweet tracksuits enter the ring and Jun Akiyama gives what I’m assuming is probably a New Year’s greeting and then announces that Shuji Ishikawa is now a contracted full-time member of the roster.

This is great news and I suspect now that he has a contract he will probably be back in the main event in singles action sometime this year.

Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato def. Atsuki Aoyagi & Danji Tamura

This is the debut match for Aoyagi and Tamura who are both junior heavyweight size. It was unsurprisingly a very basic match that saw a lot of amateur style mat stuff early on between the teams.

Tamura and Aoyagi don’t do anything too interesting but Aoyagi does have a nice dropkick. The veterans don’t do too much either but Aoki manages to hold the match together while Sato is just there.

Aoki gets the win over Aoyagi with a crab hold that he leans back hard on. A perfectly acceptable debut with no botches or anything from the rookies. **1/4

Gianni Valletta & Black Tiger VII def. Jake Lee & Hokuto Omori

Having only subscribed to AJPW TV over the holidays, I’ve been catching up on individual matches that I’ve heard are must see from 2018 as opposed to watching whole shows. So this is my first viewing of Valletta. I’ve heard he is bad, but I thought he really wasn’t that offensive.

However, if he’s going to do a Bruiser Brody knock-off gimmick, he really needs to emote more. He started off the match trying to get heat by doing the barking thing but he lacked any passion doing it.

Omori is a rookie who debuted on November 17. He’s also a junior Heavyweight and he’s really skinny.

Most of this match is Black Tiger and Valletta working over Omori in a very basic fashion. It’s kind of boring though Omori takes a beating well and showed some fire when he managed to make the hot tag to Lee. Omori also possibly busted his nose in this match as it was bleeding.

Lee was the only wrestler in this match that showed anything like skill but he wasn’t in the match for very long. When a bloodied Omori wanted to get tagged back in it was obvious that the match was about to enter its closing sequence and Black Tiger won with a crab hold on Omori soon after.

While Lee and Valletta had one decent back and forth in this match, Black Tiger was literally a JAGM – Just a Guy in a Mask. **¼

Masanobu Fuchi, Osamu Nishimura & TAJIRI def. Jun Akiyama, Kotaro Suzuki & Atsushi Maruyama

Fun fact: The average age in this match is 48.3 years old.

I naively went into this match thinking it would be better than it was.

And it started like it would be better than it was with some chain wrestling from Suzuki and Tajiri, though it was clear that Suzuki was the one doing the heavy lifting to build the sequence.

Eventually, we get to Maruyama and Fuchi and then the comedy spots start including Fuchi missing a dropkick then Maruyama’s own partner Akiyama getting into the ring and helping Fuchi land a dropkick.

But then Akiyama gets tagged in and is a dick towards Fuchi and has a great shit eating grin.

That’s the highlight of this match really because then TAJIRI and Maruyama then tag in and Tajiri gets a roll up on Maruyama after a short chain wrestling exchange that had no drama or heat. **

New Year Openweight Battle Royal
Winner: Jake Lee

All Japan’s New Year Battle Royals have been a staple of the first Korakuen Hall show of the year going back to the 1980s. At one point, there were separate Jr. and Heavyweight Battle Royals. But thankfully there is now only one. That’s because these January Battle Royals have never had a good reputation and this one was no exception.

This Battle Royal featured everyone from the first three matches on the card minus Omori but plus Yutaka Yoshie. Lots of simple comedy and lots of standing around by the wrestlers not involved in the spot that is going on at any given moment.

Fuchi is again mainly the locus of the comedy spots. And because the last match was so thrilling you know Fuchi and Maruyama rekindle their comedy spot filled rivalry in this one.

The rookies are eliminated first via being thrown over the top rope while the rest of the eliminations are big pile-ons.

Lee, Yoshie, and Sato are the final three and I can’t even remember the sequence of Sato and Yoshie’s elimination because I had mostly checked out from this but Lee eliminates them both by leveraging both of them on top of each other to get successive pins.

At least someone who is going to be pushed this year got the win. And the crowd did laugh at all the comedy spots to be fair. *1/2

Kento Miyahara, Naoya Nomura, Yuma Aoyagi & Yoshitatsu def. Zeus, KAI, Takao Omori & Black Menso-re

This is a preview of the next day’s All-Asian Tag and Triple Crown title matches.

Miyahara and KAI start and have a good back and forth exchange.

Then Zeus and Yoshitatsu tag in and have a silly pose-off that slows the match down.

Aoyagi and Black Menso-re are tagged in next and this devolves into everyone on both teams brawling outside the ring and even into the crowd. It’s not particularly thrilling ringside brawling either.

Back in the ring, Aoyagi is worked over by Omori and Zeus but makes it compelling with some great selling.

Aoyagi makes a hot tag to Miyahara and we get another great Miyahara vs. KAI sequence.

Yoshitatsu is tagged in next and actually gives a half decent effort against KAI, Zeus and then Omori.

The finishing sequence involves the All-Asian champs and their next challengers. Aoyagi and Nomura clear the ring and Nomura hits a splash on Omori for a near fall and then finishes off Omori with a Death Valley Driver.

A big win for Nomura over a veteran like Omori though if the goal was to give Nomura a big win over Omori then why not do it in tomorrow’s All-Asian Tag title match? I think this finish may be giving tomorrow’s result away…

This match started slow and goofy but actually built into something decent. Zeus and Yoshitatsu have words for each other after the match and though I thought their pose off was silly, by the end of the match, I’m ready to see a match between the two. ***¼

AJPW World Jr. Heavyweight Championship
Koji Iwamoto © def. Yusuke Okada

This is Okada’s first challenge for the title and hopefully the first of many defenses of many Iwamoto given the rather pointless 68-day Jr. title reign Shuji Kondo got between Iwamoto’s brief first and now second reign.

Okada has slowly but surely getting more positive buzz as he establishes himself, with this January marking 2 years since his debut. This match will certainly add to that buzz.

They start with a basic feeling out sequence and they both then tumble out of the ring. Okada takes control on the outside at first but then Iwamoto hits Judo throw like maneuver to regain the initiative.

The action then returns to the ring and Iwamoto works over Okada for an extended period. Okada does a great sell job including favoring his neck after a couple of DDTs and a nasty looking lariat.

Okada regains control with a nice dropkick and gets some near falls on Iwamoto with a German Suplex and Fisherman’s Suplex. Okada is winning the crowd to his side.

Iwamoto would eventually hit a German on Okada that leads to the finish. Okada gets a couple 2.9 kick outs but eventually, Iwamoto puts him away with his Judo throw looking thing that I don’t know the name of.

I actually thought Okada outshone Iwamoto in this one and definitely won over the crowd. This was structured like a basic young guy challenging an established guy but Okada gave a great performance and the crowd was into him. Okada will be a top Jr. sooner rather than later and I expect even better matches between the two in the future. ***½

AJPW World Tag Team Championships
Violent Giants (Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa) (c) def. Joe Doering & Dylan James

Just some big hosses doing big hoss things, but I mean that in the nicest way possible. This match was better than their match on the final night of the World Strongest Tag Determination League as Doering wasn’t as banged up.

Dylan James has improved since his early days as James Raideen in Zero-One and is a pretty good partner for Doering.

And who knew Suwama plays such a great face in peril? That was his role for most of the first ten minutes of the match.

While this was not the most fast-paced match, it moved along at a solid pace and was never plodding which can happen in a match full of big hosses.

And like a good big hoss match, the moves look like they hurt in part because they are not crisp or slick in their execution. The crossbody that Doering gives to Suwama and Ishikawa simultaneously is the prime example of that in this match.

It was clear that we were in the final stretch of the match when Ishikawa started to dominate James, hitting a Fire Thunder Driver that Doering breaks up the pin on. Ishikawa then brutalizes James with knees followed up by a Giant Slam for the pin.

I thought the finish was slightly flat and could have used a dramatic 2.9 kick out by James or a hope spot from him because you could see this match ending when it did from a mile away. I’d be happy to see another defense against Doering and James later this year. ***¾

After the match, the team of Strong BJ consisting of Daisuke Sekimoto and Yuji Okabayashi come out to challenge the Violent Giants. The crowd pops huge for this and this got more heat than anything else on this show I think. This should be a must watch tag title match when it happens.

Final Thoughts:

I would give this show a very tepid thumbs up. Everything after the battle royal was good with the title matches worth a watch if you are an All Japan fan. If you’re trying to get your friend into All Japan, I wouldn’t recommend this show to them though as a good introduction to the company though.

The undercard leaves a lot to be desired. There are too many old guys. I’ve got a soft spot for Fuchi as a long time AJPW fan, but I wish TAJIRI and Black Tiger VII would just disappear.

By all accounts, All Japan’s momentum stagnated in 2018 when looking at attendance numbers.

I don’t think it’s peaked nor do I think there is going to be a sudden decline, but if All Japan wants to get to the next level it needs better undercards. Hopefully, with three rookies making their debut over the last couple of months, they can rely less on some of the older undercard talent.

Still, there are bright spots in the company. The next World Tag title match should rock, and Nomura and Aoyagi are on the cusp of something big I think. The only question mark is if Jake Lee can get as good as the company needs him to be this year.