All Japan Pro Wrestling
Champion Carnival 2019 Night 16 – A Block Finals
April 25, 2019
Korakuen Hall
Tokyo, Japan

Watch: AJPW.tv

Meet Our Reviewers:

 

  • Thomas Fischbeck: Twitter @rasslinratings. Don’t worry it’s an ironic handle. Mostly. Tony Bennett is the best coach in college basketball.

 

  • Gerard Di Trolio: Hey I’ve watched every Champion Carnival show including the undercard matches, and I think I deserve an award. You can follow me on Twitter at @GerardDiTrolio

 

 

Quick programming note: Both Gerard and Thomas will be on John Carroll’s Wrestling Omakase podcast to talk about the tournament in full (along with potentially some DDT & NJPW as well). Make sure to check that out early next week.

Here are the A Block standings heading into the show:

Dylan James [9]

Yuji Okabayashi [9]

Zeus [8]

Kento Miyahara [8]

ELIMINATED

Shuji Ishikawa [7]

Ryouji Sai [7]

Atsushi Aoki [6]

Gianni Valletta [6]

Yuma Aoyagi [4]

  • James advances with a win and an Okabayashi loss or draw
  • Zeus advances with a win, a James loss, and an Okabayashi loss
  • Okabayashi advances with a win and a James loss
  • Kento advances with a win, a James loss, and a Zeus loss
  • In the event James and Okabayashi both win, there will be a block champion decider

Hikaru Sato & Yusuke Okada def. Atsushi Maruyama & Dan Tamura

Thomas: Hikaru Sato was my favorite wrestler in All Japan’s junior tournament, the Junior Battle Of Glory, earlier this year, so when Atsushi Aoki was announced as the junior taking Kengo Mashimo’s spot in the Carnival, I was a little bit disappointed. Aoki has proved his worth throughout the tournament, but I still feel a little for Sato, who is 38 and not getting any younger, Aoki had already participated in a Carnival so I think it would’ve been cool to give Sato that spot, but I’m not losing sleep over it or anything.

This was a pretty standard opening tag match for the most part, but I will say everyone showed a little bit more fire than normal thanks to the Korakuen atmosphere, Sato especially impressed me and he eventually picked up the win on Tamura with an armbar in a fun opener. ***

Gerard: I’m not as high on Sato as Thomas is, and I think he is very uneven from match to match (though he has had good ones) but I thought he looked pretty good here and was definitely the stand out of this match. My main take away from this match is despite his bad hairstyle, Tamura has been progressing nicely, especially given the fact he only debuted in January. **3/4

Black Menso-re, Masanobu Fuchi & Takao Omori def Atsuki Aoyagi, Jun Akiyama & Koji Iwamoto

Thomas: You either love or you hate Masanobu Fuchi, and I love him, at least as a prelim wrestler. The crowd is crazy for everything that he does, and it makes for a fun little undercard tag match every time. At one point in this match, Akiyama holds onto the ropes as Fuchi goes for a rebound dropkick and the crowd boos loudly.

Black Menso-re, an always underrated talent, picks up the win on Atsuki Aoyagi with a double foot stomp in a decent match. **

Gerard: I am less forgiving than Thomas. If you don’t like Fuchi, I’m going to think less of your other opinions. As Dave Meltzer has stated on numerous occasions, Daniel Bryan has been inspired by Fuchi on how to get a reaction from the crowd by doing as little as possible.

The Akiyama vs. Fuchi sequences are always the highlight of these comedy matches. As a hardcore All Japan boy, I am always in favor of comedy matches on the undercard.

I agree with Thomas that Black Menso-re is underrated and I say this as a guy that was never impressed when he was unmasked as Yohei Nakajima. He deserves a legitimate push as a challenger for Iwamoto’s Jr. Title.

My only criticism of this match beyond its obvious limitations, is that the younger Aoyagi is wasted in these comedy matches when he could be doing better stuff in the opening match. **1/4

Jake Lee, Sam Adonis, Suwama & Yoshitatsu def. Gianni Valletta, Joe Doering, Joel Redman & Naoya Nomura

Thomas: Here we have a little preview tag featuring six of the eight wrestlers that will participate in block matches on the B Block final show, (Daichi Hashimoto and Takashi Yoshida being the two absent) along with the two guys that got left off of the final shows: Valletta and Redman.

Nomura and Suwama started off the match and had some fun interactions ahead of their main event match on the B Block final show on Sunday. Most of the guys put in sub-maximal effort here as could be expected at the end of a long tour. Yoshitatsu hit two CBJ’s (Code Breaker from Jericho) on Valletta for the win. **

Gerard: Yeah this wasn’t particularly anything interesting. The early Nomura vs. SUWAMA stuff was the highlight. I’m glad Yoshitatsu got to get the win here because I think he was pretty solid in this tournament and yes, I think he should be considered as a future Triple Crown challenger in the future (he has already had one shot vs. Doering). **

A Block – Yuma Aoyagi (6) def. Ryouji Sai (7)

Thomas: Let’s face facts, Ryouji Sai has been bad throughout this tournament. Outside of the Zeus match, which ruled, everything has been at the very best fine. On the other hand, Aoyagi has had a really great tournament, probably not a breakout level performance, but I think he has won some people over, although I’ve been on his train for a while.

Aoyagi worked this one desperate, attacking Sai before the bell, which didn’t make a ton of sense given he was already eliminated, I guess he didn’t want to finish last? This went just under 12 minutes but felt like a lot longer to me. The closing stretch was actually really fun and sort of made me eat me words but the first 50% of the match did nothing for me so I can’t go higher than ***½. Aoyagi picked up the win with the End Game, a dragon sleeper.

Gerard: I am also on the Sai was bad in this tournament train. I thought his 30-minute draw against Shuji Ishikawa was one of the most boring matches I’ve ever seen.

Aoyagi brought the fire early on by attacking Sai before the bell. This match felt had the atmosphere of a fight where both guys were trying to incapacitate the other. Both wrestlers showed more intensity than I have seen throughout the tournament.

I thought this was actually pretty fun throughout. Aoyagi is progressing into being a pretty damn good wrestler so all you needed from Sai is some nice kicks and suplexes to put something together, and he delivered there. Aoyagi getting the win with the End Game over someone like Sai only further adds to establishing that move. ***1/2

A Block – Atsushi Aoki (8) def. Dylan James (9)

Thomas: Aoki, a junior, is pretty clearly placed here to play spoiler here against the bigger James. James winning would eliminate everyone but Okabayashi, so it was clear to me coming in that he was losing, which probably did tamper with my enjoyment of the match to an extent.

James has had some awesome performances in this tournament, but this wasn’t really one of them. His control period was pretty boring, on purpose I’d guess to get the crowd to rally behind Aoki. Aoki crawled under the ring and rolled up James from behind Hornswoggle style for a near fall that really got the crowd, and me. Aoki survived all of James’ pounding strikes and rolled him up while the big man was going for a chokeslam to pick up the win, eliminating James from finals contention. ***1/4

Gerard: The placement of this match did not register with me initially, but in the last few days, it became clear that Aoki was going to act as a spoiler here.

My initial reaction to Aoki replacing Kengo Mashimo in this tournament was disappointment. That’s not because I don’t like Aoki, but I wanted to see Jun Akiyama in the Champion Carnival. But I have to take the L here, because Aoki rocked in this tournament.

I mean all of his matches generally followed the same formula but he has the talent to always make these matches with him as an underdog great. Crowd was chanting for Aoki in this match too.

And of course this has been a breakout tournament for Dylan James and he brought the stiffness to this match.

Aoki took a lot more punishment in this match than he has in most of his other ones too but still managed to cradle James for the win to keep him from the finals. ***1/4





A Block – Shuji Ishikawa (9) def. Zeus (8)

Thomas:  Zeus has had an incredible tournament, and while Shuji has been inconsistent, he has peaked just as high, so needless to say I was hyped for this match coming in. Something I noticed at this point is that this show was flying by, even with a lengthy intermission we were only an hour and a half into the show at the time this match began.

They started at a pretty slow pace but it picked up early on and then the two big men had an all-out slugfest, trading big moves back and forth for near falls. The Korakuen atmosphere is always incredible for these big Carnival shows, and this was no exception, they’ve been hot since the opening tag.

There have been some absolutely incredible strike exchanges throughout this tournament, but this match had without a doubt some of the best. Shuji won with the Giant Slam after Zeus kicked out of literally everything else. I thought they might be winding down Zeus because of his age and the failed title run, but not only is All Japan not giving up on Zeus but Zeus is not giving up on All Japan, he had a terrific tournament, but unfortunately, the loss eliminated him from block champion consideration. ****

Gerard: The hype for Zeus’ performance in this tournament has been somewhat overshadowed by the hype that James and Okabayashi have received. But he should be in the conversation for Champion Carnival MVP.

These guys waste little time and hoss it up quickly and spill on to the floor. This leads to my favorite spot of the match where Ishikawa is in the crowd, and Zeus runs and leaps over the guardrail to deliver a Lariat. That was a stand up out of my chair and clap kind of spot.

Once they get back into the ring it is a sight to behold. Ishikawa runs through his entire arsenal trying to put Zeus away, including a Fire Thunder Driver on the apron.

Despite everything Zeus takes, he remains competitive in this match to the end. Zeus eventually falls victims to several knee strikes followed by the Giant Slam. Just an absolute slugfest. I think that Zeus could have a much more successful Triple Crown title reign than his first one, if given the chance. ****1/4

A Block – Kento Miyahara (10) def. Yuji Okabayashi (9)

Thomas: After a month of matches, the block came down to this match. Kento needed a win to go through to the finals for back-to-back years and keep his dream of winning the Carnival, something he has somehow still never done, alive. Okabayashi had an incredible tournament in his own right, but Kento’s tourney is one of my favorites ever, and I don’t say that lightly, I’d put it at a similar level to Kota Ibushi and Tomohiro Ishii’s respective G1 Climax runs last year that drew similar levels of praise, maybe higher.

They started this at a frenetic pace, and while Kento’s trope of brawling around ringside for the first few minutes of every big match sometimes bothers me, it did not here. Early on, Okabayashi had Kento laid on the ringpost for a chop and Kento moved out of the way, causing Okabayashi to hit the post. Maybe it was just two wrestlers doing a fairly common wrestling spot, but I’d like to think it was a callback to the sequence in the Miyahara-Marufuji match last year, signaling Kento had learned and progressed in the last year. I distinctly remember that spot because Marufuji was able to chop Kento three times against the post without Kento dodging, defying the trope.

The “finishing sequence” if you could even call it that lasted for about half of the match. The two kept this one to a tidy 18 minutes. Honestly the show had flown by so fast up to this point that I was expecting a draw, but after loads of counters and reversals and kickouts, Kento finally won with the Shutdown German in what was a shocker to me, I didn’t see the Kento win coming at all. The win moved Kento to 10 points and sole possession of 1st place in the block. He advances to the finals Monday. ****¼

Gerard: My God. You’ve got two of the best wrestlers in the world in this match and they delivered.  

They got to business right away and brawled in the crowd early on. Thomas is spot on that this part was not full of the usual Miyahara cliches.

There was even a second outside the ring sequence where Okabayashi gets Miyahara into the Torture Rack and and then throws him to the ground in a brutal looking move.

This led to a rather awkward spot that bothered me where Miyahara almost instantly landed a Blackout Knee soon after he had made it back to the ring despite how much he had just been selling.

But beyond that part, this match just keeps getting better. Okabayashi brings the Lariats and Powerbombs but Miyahara stays competitive thanks to a lot Blackout Knees. I see some criticism of Miyahara’s reliance on this move which isn’t totally off base, but Okabayashi’s skill helps to smooth that when he retaliated with his offense.

But yes, the knees play a major role in eventually allowing Miyahara to hit the Shutdown German Suplex for the win.

This match went only 18:24 but still felt like an epic match. This was my favourite match of the tournament so far. Just an absolutely incredible demonstration of both wrestlers’ skills. ****1/2

Final A Block Standings

1. Kento Miyahara [10]

T2. Dylan James & Yuji Okabayashi [9]

4. Shuji Ishikawa [9]

5. Zeus [8]

6. Atsushi Aoki [8]

7. Ryouji Sai [7]

8. Yuma Aoyagi [6]

9. Gianni Valletta [6]

Final Thoughts:

Thomas: This was an all-around great show, probably second only to the opening night along  his tournament, but I’m still just floored by the result of that main event, didn’t see it coming from a mile away. I’m guessing they are giving Kento the Carnival win as champion and having him choose a challenger like Daisuke Sekimoto. AJPW had the champion win the Junior Battle of Glory earlier this year, so it isn’t unprecedented. B Block is a complete mess right now with six guys tied at the top of the block with a 4-3 record, so we’ll wait and see who Kento’s opponent is on Sunday. Right now I’m thinking Joe Doering could be a good foil. AJPW already did Kento-Nomura and Kento-Suwama in the past two months, and if he is losing I’m not sure you want Jake Lee in that spot. Who knows. Maybe we get a Yoshitatsu or Daichi Hashimoto in the Carnival final, both of which are actually still possible!

Gerard: This is the best show of the tournament by far. The final B Block show will probably be good to, but not this good. I think Miyahara is taking it all. Miyahara is clearly peaking in his ability and All Japan might as well go all in on him. Give him the epic title reign that Kazuchika Okada had from 2016-2018. Have him win the Champion Carnival and then go on to beat Toshiaki Kawada’s Triple Crown defense record of 10.