ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
CHAMPION CARNIVAL 2019 NIGHT 1
APRIL 4, 2019
KORAKUEN HALL
TOKYO JAPAN

Watch: AJPW.TV

BLOCK B: TAKASHI YOSHIDA (2) DEF. DAICHI HASHIMOTO

This match starts way to slow for a match that only goes 7:52. You get some grappling leading to rope breaks and then headlocks. As if that’s not boring enough, Yoshida unwraps his wrist tape and chokes Hashimoto with it.

Biggest problem with this match was Yoshida spent the majority of it in control in it was boring. Hashimoto looked fine in his brief offensive spurts, but nothing to write home about.

Hashimoto finally looks to be on the offensive and his readying Yoshida for a kick to the head while he’s down but Yoshida avoids it, pushes Nikkan Lee as a distraction, hits the mist on Hashimoto leading to a small package for the win.

Not a good start to this tournament for these two guys, though I’m still curious to see what Hashimoto can do against a better opponent. **

BLOCK B: NAOYA NOMURA (2) DEF. JAKE LEE

Now we’re talking. Nomura is still riding high off of his awesome Triple Crown title match against Miyahara from March 19. He’s over as hell, working the crowd and showing great fire.

I’ve been down on Lee a lot this year but I have noted in during the last tour he had been showing more fire. That was definitely the case here. Lee was definitely showing a good amount of fire by recent Jake Lee standards which is a promising sign, but he’s still got away to go. However, his work in the match was pretty good.

The match was a pretty even back and forth and the crowd was really hot. The biggest problem with the match came with the finish.

Lee goes for a Backdrop but Nomura counters with a DDT that he rolls over into a Butterfly Lock. He then transitions into a modified Ground Cobra Twist (I think that’s what it is at least) that is being called the Nomura Lock to get the win via referee stoppage.

Debuting a new submission finisher can often lead to a flat ending because the crowd doesn’t initially understand what the move means. That’s what I felt about this ending, though the referee stoppage itself did get good heat when it was called. Better to build up this new finisher at the beginning of the tournament.

Good effort from these guys. The match was about building the Nomura Lock and only went about 12 minutes. Though their work demonstrated they can easily pull off a better match between them. Nomura is going to be amazing in this tournament, and I am cautiously optimistic about Lee. ***1/2

BLOCK A: KENTO MIYAHARA (2) DEF. ATSUSHI AOKI

It was announced that Miyahara would be debuting a new theme on this show, which understandably made people angry and/or anxious. I’m happy to report the new theme is just a remix of his old one and frankly I can’t even really tell the difference.

When I heard Aoki was going to replace the injured Kengo Mashimo in this tournament I was kinda disappointed. I think Aoki is a great wrestler. It’s just that I wanted Jun Akiyama, the guy working comedy matches that could probably still pull off a MOTYC against Yuji Nagata if given the chance to be in this tournament.

After seeing this match, I’m sold on Aoki in this tournament. This matched ruled because it told a very basic story: the cocky young ace vs. the wiley veteran. And both of these wrestlers played their part to perfection.

Miyahara went on the offensive at first, daring Aoki to strike him and then working him over on the outside.

Miyahara does his headlock against the ring post spot which leads to his always hilarious bickering with referee Kyohei Wada. Aoki uses this bickering to go on the offensive and then we get a lot of cool spots of Aoki trying to outsmart Miyahara any way he can including trying to get him counted out.

They both work hard too with Aoki busting out a Superplex off of the barricade with the aid of a chair.

Aoki even gets a couple of credible near falls with a piledriver and the Assault Point. Crowd is chanting for Aoki at this point and jeering Miyahara. Miyahara then goes into a very Miyahara ending  sequence where he spams the Blackout Knee, Aoki gets one cradle hope spot, then Aoki falls to the Shutdown German Suplex.

If these are the kind of stories that Aoki is going to tell in this tournament than I’m all in. And credit to one of the hottest wrestlers in the world right now to give a veteran Jr. Heavyweight that is on his way down the card so much in this match from taking Aoki’s offense, selling it, and getting the crowd to boo the company’s Ace. ****

BLOCK B: SUWAMA (2) DEF. JOE DOERING

A fun hoss battle. They just start beating each other up from the opening bell. There’s really not much else to say other than the crowd heat was pretty high.

Doering, who has been working a light schedule in All Japan this year and hasn’t had a singles match and frankly hasn’t been putting much effort into his tag matches, looked good here and worked harder than I have see from him in a while.

Finish of this match was similar to that of Nomura vs. Lee. SUWAMA wins via referee stoppage with his Sleeper Hold after hitting his Backdrop on Doering. Though SUWAMA has gotten a few wins with his Sleeper Hold this year, I’m sure this is building to it being teased or getting a win in a match that will determine who wins the B block.

With the match only going 9:14, and them not doing any wild balls to the wall power move sequences, I really can’t go much higher than this. ***1/4

BLOCK A: YUJI OKABAYASHI (2) DEF. SHUJI ISHIKAWA

Another hoss battle. And a great choice to be the main event of the show. This match as a built in story because of the Strong BJ vs. Violent Giants feud over the World Tag Team Titles that took up the first few months of 2019. In their match on March 19, Ishikawa pinned Okabayashi to win back the tag titles. Okabayashi obviously is out for his revenge. A simple pro wrestling story but it’s high art when it’s guys like these two in the ring.

Ishikawa spent a lot of time on offense, but Okabayashi would keep fighting back with stiff chops and Lariats.

The whole match was kind of structured as a call back to the March tag title match in a way. That match was a battle of guys just throwing bombs at each other until someone couldn’t respond any more. That was pretty much the format here too.

These guys also go for broke here. Ishikawa hits a Tenzan Tombstone Driver on Okabayashi on the ring apron. Soon after Okabayashi responds with a Powerslam to Ishikawa on the floor. Glad they’re going all out on Night 1 to set the tone for this tournament.

The ending of the match was even more explicitly a call back. In the March tag title match, Ishikawa finished off Okabayashi with knee strikes. Ishikawa attempts the same here but Okabayashi manages to counter Ishikawa’s running knee that he wanted to finally put away the Strong BJ stalwart with into a Powerbomb (that is sort of botched) for a near fall. Okabayashi and Ishikawa are both back up to their feet and try to Lariat each other at the same time. Okabayashi recovers first and follows up with another Lariat and a Golem Splash for the win.

This time around it was Ishikawa who could no longer get back up after being on the receiving end of numerous Lariats and other stiff strikes during the match. It would not surprise me if either of these two wrestlers are in the running for tournament MVP by the end of this. ****1/4

FINAL THOUGHTS

Apart from the first tournament match on the show, all of these matches delivered in one way or another.

The matches that Nomura and SUWAMA won were set up to to tease possible match ending submission spots down the road.

Miyahara vs. Aoki and Okabayashi vs. Ishikawa both told basic pro wrestling stories but were pulled off by some of the best workers on the planet.

While no one is expecting anything resembling the consistency of recent G1 tournaments, I think any All Japan fan will have a good feeling about Champion Carnival 2019 after this first night.