ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
CHAMPION CARNIVAL 2019 NIGHT 11
APRIL 17, 2019
SHIN-KIBA 1ST RING
As usual, we’ll only be covering the tournament matches here. Let’s jump right into it!
BLOCK A – ATSUSHI AOKI (4) DEF. RYOUJI SAI (5)
Aoki has been one of the biggest surprises of the tournament to me so far. He’s had more than a couple of really good matches, but this match with Sai was largely paint by numbers.
I’ve said before in these reviews how Sai just isn’t my guy, and that continued here. Something was just off in the chemistry between these two, the timing felt really off throughout the match. The sold-out crowd at Shin-Kiba gave these guys a lot to work with, but this was largely just fine. Aoki got the win with a flash pin and secured his second win in a row after starting the tournament without a victory until night ten. ***
BLOCK B – GIANNI VALLETTA (4) DEF. SHUJI ISHIKAWA (7)
We got biting here and the chain gimmick from Valletta, but I’ll be real with you, there was the outline of a decent match here. I don’t see that often from Valletta, but Shuji really made this match interesting, as you might expect from one of the very best wrestlers in the entire world. Valletta picked up the win with a low blow.
I’m not going to lie, Valletta is clearly a cut below his competition in this tournament, but this was a legitimately fun match that broke up the seriousness of the Carnival, maybe my favorite Valletta singles match to date. ***
BLOCK B – JAKE LEE (6) DEF. TAKASHI YOSHIDA (6)
This match should be fun, I’ve enjoyed Yoshida’s work in the Carnival up to this point (I realize I might be an outlier on that), but this match is a little bit methodical at the beginning and I still don’t see it with Jake Lee as a future ace.
Yoshida did a really good job in this one working heel and getting the crowd behind Lee, but I never really got into this match because it seems every couple of minutes one guy would just slap on a submission. This was by no means bad, but just painfully average. **3/4
BLOCK A – KENTO MIYAHARA (6) DEF. YUMA AOYAGI (4)
This has been my most hyped match of the tournament since the get-go. I think it is finally Yuma Aoyagi’s time to show out here and put up a great showing against his stable leader, Kento Miyahara. In fact, in Gerard and I’s Champion Carnival preview, I previewed the A block, and about this match, I said, “I’d watch out for the April 17th Shinkiba 1st Ring show that will be headlined by Miyahara vs Aoyagi. … I wouldn’t be surprised if they give Aoyagi a good showing too, and if we get a draw in this tournament, I think that would be a good place to do it.” Lee and Nomura get a lot of the attention, but Aoyagi is another guy that All Japan has been grooming for a while to be a future top star.
Kento worked full-on dick here, which is my favorite version of him, and Aoyagi played the outclassed babyface role perfectly, struggling to keep up with a guy that was portrayed as being just a step above him in the pecking order. I think I’m higher on Aoyagi than most, but he is still so young and he has a lot of the little things like selling and facials already down better than most top guys do. He played such an incredible babyface in this match at one point the referee helped him get back in the ring the crowd was cheering so much.
Aoyagi is just a step too slow for Kento at every turn, each time he seems to get a flurry of offense in, Kento shuts it down, and this is the perfect story to tell with the young upstart against the faction leader. Another theme that we’ve seen in Kento singles matches throughout the year is the struggle to avoid the Shutdown German, Kento’s deadly finisher, and that was on full display here, as the second Aoyagi realizes what Kento is going for he fights his way out, at one point desperately kicking at the knee like KAI did in the 1/2 match, but in this instance Aoyagi was actually successful.
Aoyagi gets a combo of German’s for a near fall and we move into the high paced closing stretch with each dodging the others’ moves. Aoyagi gets a bridging pin out of nowhere and Kento kicks out at the last possible instant, leading to audible gasps from the crowd and me jumping out of my seat in the middle of the library where I’m watching this. Aoyagi gets hit with multiple knees from Kento but keeps popping back up, the sold-out crowd is going absolutely insane. Shin-Kiba 1st Ring officially seats just 290 but All Japan packed over 300 into the tiny building, and it led to one of the best atmospheres of the Carnival.
Kento finally locks in the Shutdown German and pins Aoyagi for the win. In-ring this was probably in the ***3/4-**** range, but it wasn’t supposed to be a classic, one guy was clearly a step better, and the story it told was absolutely superb. Top three match of the tournament for me. ****1/4
The match moved Kento into a tie for third in Block A and eliminated Aoyagi from finals consideration.
1. Zeus (4-2, eight points)
2. Shuji Ishikawa (3-2-1, seven points)
T3. Kento Miyahara, Dylan James (3-2, six points)
5. Ryouji Sai (2-2-1, five points)
6. Yuji Okabayashi (2-1, four points)
7. Atsushi Aoki (2-3, four points)
8. Gianni Valletta (2-4, four points)
9. Yuma Aoyagi (2-5, four points)
1. Naoya Nomura (4-2, eight points)
T2. Jake Lee, Suwama (3-2, six points)
4. Takashi Yoshida (3-4, six points)
T5. Yoshitatsu, Daichi Hashimoto (2-2, four points)
T7. Joe Doering, Sam Adonis, Joel Redman (2-3, four points)