Unlike most tours by wrestling promotions in Japan, AJPW New Year Wars started with back-to-back shows at Korakuen Hall on January 2 and 3 that featured all but one of the championship matches on this tour. This article will be reviewing matches worth watching from the remainder of the tour. They’re not MOTYCs mind you, but are worth a watch if you are or want to get into AJPW but don’t have the time to watch every spot show.
JANUARY 5, 2019
CHIBA BLUE FIELD
ZEUS DEF. YUMA AOYAGI
This match showed Aoyagi’s progress.
While Zeus took control early, Aoyagi managed to pull out a number of reversals in this match and got a sizable amount of offense in and went toe-to-toe in strike exchanges with Zeus.
Aoyagi also managed to get some big kick outs after a lariat and then a chokeslam before Zeus finally put him away with the Jackhammer in about 12 minutes.
Aoyagi’s work and position on the card continues to climb upward. ***½
JANUARY 9, 2019
SHIN-KIBA 1ST RING
KENTO MIYAHARA, SUWAMA & SHUJI ISHIKAWA DEF. JAKE LEE, NAOYA NOMURA & YOSHITATSU
A cross-faction match featuring members of Nextream facing each other as well as featuring members from Evolution and Sweeper.
As a result of these pairings, Miyahara and Violence Giants, as well as Lee and Nomura, showed some dissension within their teams.
This managed to be a fast-paced back-and-forth match between the teams despite having to tease a number of angles within it.
Towards the end of the match, Suwama shoves Miyahara which Lee takes advantage of to clear the ring of the Violence Giants but Miyahara manages to cradle Yoshitatsu for the win during a set up for a submission.
After the match, both Lee teases a challenge to Miyahara for the Triple Crown.
Well worth a watch to see a great six man featuring the present and future of the company. And the team dissensions will play a role later during the tour setting up a match for Excite Series in February ***¾
BLACK TIGER VII, KOTARO SUZUKI, SEIKI YOSHIOKA & YUSUKE OKADA DEF. KOJI IWAMOTO, ATSUSHI AOKI, HIKARU SATO & ATSUSHI MARUYAMA
This match is a preview of the Jr. Battle of Glory Tournament that will be taking place during the Excite Series tour. It’s also my first viewing of Yoshioka and I was impressed.
This was your standard but solid Jr. Heavyweight eight-man tag with all the fast action and high spots you’d expect.
The standout in the match was Kotaro Suzuki who had some great sequences with both Aoki and Iwamoto.
Yoshioka gets the win with a Shining Wizard on Maruyama. ***½
After the match another tournament participant, Black Menso-re comes to the ring to call out Yoshioka. Apparently, no one likes Menso-re because a combination of members from both teams in this match then beat him down.
Then Okada, Iwamoto, Sato and Maruyama all cut promos. This was a great build for the tournament and made me far more interested in it then before I watched this show.
JANUARY 12, 2019
DREAM MESSE MIYAGI WEST BUILDING HALL
ZEUS DEF. YOSHITATSU
Yes, you read that right. I’m including this in my list of matches worth watching from this tour because I thought Yoshitatsu was pretty decent on this tour. He’s come a ways since the final days of his NJPW run and the beginning of his time in AJPW. Worth a watch to see how he can be a perfectly decent midcarder in this company. ***¼
KENTO MIYAHARA, NOMURA NOMURA & YUMA AOYAGI DEF. SUWAMA, SHUJI ISHIKAWA & HIKARU SATO
This match pushes forward the beefing between Miyahara and SUWAMA. Lots of taunting by the Violence Giants towards Miyahara at the beginning of the match.
Nomura was the standout and went toe-to-toe with both of the Violence Giants, and his exchanges with Ishikawa were the highlight of the match.
Heck, even Sato, who does not always impress me, was pretty good here as the submission guy slapping them on all three members of the opposing team at points. Sato was also great in the finishing sequences with some submission counters on Miyahara before falling to the Deadlift German Suplex. ***¾
JANUARY 14, 2019
NAGOYA INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE HALL
YUMA AOYAGI DEF. HOKUTO OMORI
Omori debuted this past November. While it’s still too early to make sweeping claims about his future, in this match he showed good fire and managed to get the crowd to pop for him with his dropkicks and numerous kickouts in this match.
Not surprisingly he falls to a crab hold from the elder Aoyagi but he did put up a fight before tapping.
A simple match but worth taking a look at to see Omori in action at this point in his career. ***
NAOYA NOMURA & DAN TAMURA DEF. TAKAO OMORI & ATSUKI AOYAGI
Building off the first match on this show, this is another match highlighting the AJPW rookies Tamura and Aoyagi (Yes, he’s Yuma’s younger brother) who debuted on January 2.
Tamura and Aoyagi tend to start their matches when facing each other or Hokuto Omori with a lot of matwork. More matwork than the NJPW Young Lions I tend to find. These two also like to have chest strike battles with each other that look pretty stiff.
Aoyagi was the standout in this one. He’s got a great looking dropkick and he showed a lot of fighting spirit against Nomura in the final stretch of the match before falling to a Spear. ***¼
JANUARY 15, 2019
ABENO CITIZEN CENTER
YOSHITATSU DEF. GIANNI VALLETTA
Look I don’t have much to say about this match except you should watch it to be shocked in how inoffensive and not bad it is. **3/4
KENTO MIYAHARA, NAOYA NOMURA & YUMA AOYAGI DEF. ZEUS, THE BODYGUARD & ATSUSHI MARUYAMA
Every multi-man tag match this tour has been really good and a sign that AJPW has the talent to put on really fun spot shows and this was no exception. Also this is a must see because it’s The Bodyguard’s only match on this tour.
We’re in Osaka for this show so The Big Guns and Maruyama are the home team and get lots of heat.
Nomura and Maruyama were the standouts here. And there was a really hot finishing sequence between Maruyama and Miyahara that involved a lot of run-ins with power moves from The Big Guns that wanted to try to convince you that maybe there would be an upset.
Miyahara eventually puts Maruyama away in a WWE style booking decision to have the hometown guys lose. ***½
After the match, NOMURA CHALLENGES MIYAHARA FOR THE TRIPLE CROWN!
JANUARY 18, 2019
YOKOHAMA RADIANT HALL
ATSUKI AOYAGI DEF. DAN TAMURA
They do their simple but solid mat work to start.
Then they do their stiff blows to the chest exchange.
This match picks up however when Tamura busts out a shoulder block from the 2nd rope.
We also get several really nice dropkicks from Aoyagi culminating with a missile dropkick attempt from him that misses.
However Tamura also soon after fails to connect with a missile dropkick. Aoyagi slaps on the crab hold but Tamura nearly reaches the ropes before Aoyagi manages to pull him back into the middle of the ring where the tap out happens. **¾
These guys have had several opening matches against each other this tour, but I decided to review this one because I thought it was the best one they had. These guys had been pro wrestlers for 16 days up to this match and I think it’s safe to say that they’ve got potential.
TAKAO OMORI & BLACK MENSO-RE DEF. TAJIRI & HOKUTO OMORI
The team of T. Omori and Menso-re are really underrated. They had a great match against Nomura & Aoyagi for the All Asia Tag Titles on January 3 that I went ****¼ on and are pretty good whenever they team together on shows. I include this match as proof of how good they are as a team for managing to pull a passable match out of a guy who has been wrestling for only two months (Hokuto Omori) and in my opinion, the worst worker who is an AJPW regular (TAJIRI).
Of course, in order to do that, the rookie Omori spent most of the match as a whipping boy while TAJIRI did very little, but that allowed him just to throw a couple kicks when need be and otherwise be inoffensive. **¾
Black Menso-re was the best part of this match and I hope Yohei Nakajima, who I used to be not very high on, never drops this gimmick.
JAKE LEE & KOJI IWAMOTO DEF. HIKARU SATO & YUSUKE OKADA
This started a little slow at first but really pick up with some great wrestling between Lee and Okada that ruled.
I’ve also got to say that after watching every show on this tour Sato’s in-ring work is beginning to grow on me. He was also pretty good in this against Iwamoto. To finally steal my heart, he needs to wear boots regularly and get a haircut, however.
Lee puts away Okada with a backdrop. ***¼
After the match, Sato and Iwamoto brawl to further build up to the Jr. Battle of Glory and damn it, now I want to see Sato in singles action.
SUWAMA, SHUJI ISHIKAWA & ATSUSHI AOKI DEF. KENTO MIYAHARA, NAOYA NOMURA & YUMA AOYAGI
I had several thoughts enter my mind as I watched this match.
The first was that I really want to see SUWAMA vs. Nomura. They had a great exchange very early on in this match and SUWAMA sold well for Nomura.
The second was, that Aoyagi is such a great face-in-peril for Nextream in these multi-man tag matches. He gets fired up in a chain wrestling sequence early on against Aoki, dropkicks him out of the ring, goes for a pescado and then gets nailed by a chair thrown at him during the move by Aoki. It was not the most brutal looking chair shot on a guys using a flying move I’ve ever seen but Aoyagi sells it so well. Aoyagi then becomes Ricky Morton for an extended period of this match and keeps up the selling.
Once Aoyagi finally tags out there a flurry of action with lots of tags in-and-out from both teams.
Finally, it’s down to SUWAMA vs. Miyahara. We get a German Suplex from SUWAMA, then Ishikawa enters the ring to hit a Dragon Suplex. SUWAMA then nails a dropkick that looks like it has a forceful impact and soon follows that up with a Last Ride for the win over the Triple Crown Champion. ***¾
The third thought I had watching this match was that the rumors of SUWAMA’s decline are overrated. Sure he doesn’t move around like he did five years ago but can still put on a great performance as the big veteran that can beat the shit out of you.
SUWAMA not surprisingly challenges Miyahara for the Triple Crown.
YAMADA GREEN DOME MAEBASHI SUB EVENT ARENA
NAOYA NOMURA DEF. GIANNI VALLETTA
Again, another match I include to show the progress of the AJPW midcard. I have no hesitation these days saying Nomura is the future of the company and I’d argue you should look to matches like this as to why that is.
Valletta, I’d argue is relatively inoffensive from a work standpoint. His character work is not very convincing and extremely cliche Bruiser Brody stuff complete with a chain.
And this match features shenanigans with the chain and even a ref bump of Nikkan Lee.
Nomura sells effectively as a babyface making you think Valletta is more fearsome an opponent than he actually is. But that helps build up the heat when he finally manages to recover after getting choked out by the chain leading to him hitting a few big moves culminating in a Death Valley Driver for the win.
A gentleman’s ***, but a great example of how far Nomura has come and glimpses into his ultimate potential.
I really enjoyed this tour even once the Korakuen shows were over. While nothing after Korakuen Hall managed to hit **** or above, there was some really solid wrestling and all of the multi-man tag main events were good if not bordering on great.
The three rookies really help round out the cards. The company is relying less on old guys to fill up the undercard.
Thankfully, TAJIRI wasn’t on every show this tour. Though TAJIRI still had embarrassing moments like a really bad match vs. Tsuyoshi Kikuchi on January 12 for the GAORA TV Title. He is the #1 negative in this promotion right now in my opinion, especially because he keeps getting upper midcard singles matches because he is a champion.
Another strong part about this tour was its builds towards the future. We had a SUWAMA vs. Miyahara Triple Crown match set up for February 24 in Yokohama coming out of this tour. The tension between these two was built up on the tour well before SUWAMA pinned Miyahara on January 18 so you were rewarded with a nice build if you watched every show on this tour like I did.
Going forward we also probably will see Nomura and Lee challenge Miyahara for the Triple Crown.
I’d expect Lee vs. Miyahara on a big show after the Champion Carnival, especially given Lee is one of the favourites to win it this year.
AJPW has one of their smaller tours in March between Excite Series and Champion Carnival. A tour like that would be a good spot for Nomura to get his first ever shot at the Triple Crown.
And finally, despite very legitimate knocks against AJPW’s Jr. division, we finally have something good developing there. Iwamoto is a great champion. Okada is poised to have a breakout 2019 after a strong first challenge for Iwamoto’s title.
Jr. Battle of Glory lineup isn’t spotless (TAJIRI is in it), the company has put together a decent list of participants and have teased matches effectively for it during this tour.
After tuning out of AJPW for most of 2018, I am legitimately excited with the potential the company has in 2019 to start gaining some momentum again.