All Japan Pro Wrestling
Champion Carnival 2019 Night 18 – Finals
April 29, 2019
Meet Our Reviewers:
- Thomas Fischbeck: Twitter @rasslinratings, wrestling would not fit ;p. 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. Also, go Raptors!
Both Gerard and Thomas were on John Carroll’s Wrestling Omakase podcast yesterday to talk about the tournament in full, covering our favorite matches and performances of the tournament (along with some DDT & NJPW as well) so make sure to check that out here or on any of your favorite podcasting platforms.
Hokuto Omori def. Dan Tamura
Thomas: The All Japan equivalent of a young lions match opened the show here. I really like Tamura, his look is great and I think his fundamentals are really sound. These guys have a lot more moves to their disposal than the New Japan young lions do, but the match is still built around the boston crab, and Omori eventually picks up the wins with one in a match that was better than it had any right to be, both guys really impressed me on the big stage. ***1/4
Gerard: This match is up there with anything that New Japan’s Young Lions are producing right now. As Thomas said, these guys are allowed to do more stuff, with Tamura’s deadlift gutwrench suplex being a highlight. I think Tamura’s future is as a Jr. that uses a power style. And to top it off, this guy only debuted at the beginning of January. Omori, who has a couple of more months more experience than Tamura, was looking pretty good here too. Omori wins with a Crab Hold. Definitely a must watch to see what the future of All Japan looks like. ***1/2
Koji Iwamoto & Keiichi Sato defeat Yusuke Okada & Hikaru Sato
Thomas: To be honest I forgot Keiichi Sato existed, he hasn’t been in All Japan since last year. Since he’s worked A-TEAM, K-DOJO, and Kanda Pro, three promotions largely off my radar. He was just ok here, but the other three guys are the class of the junior division in All Japan, and there were some great exchanges here between Okada and Iwamoto, rekindling their long rivalry. Iwamoto hit the Joe Lanza special on Okada for the win. I’m interested to see where the junior division goes from here, I was kind of expecting either Sato or Okada to score a fall here and set up a challenge. ***1/4
Gerard: Evolution and SWEEPER collide! This starts out quite heated with both teams going for the jugular early. It eventually settles into into a regular tag team match with some good wrestling exchanges with Hikaru Sato vs. Iwamoto, and Keiichi Sato vs. Okada. This match really picked up after Hikaru Sato tried to lock in a Flying Cross Arm Breaker on Iwamoto. The finish comes down to Iwamoto vs. Okada. Okada gets in got in some offense like a Diving Headbutt, but Iwamoto got in a bunch of offense. To Okada’s credit, he managed to survive a couple STOs and one Koko no Geijutsu before falling to a second. Ending was a bit formulaic from Iwamoto, which is a pattern from him. I think Okada continuing to improve and be able to hang with Iwamoto is a good long term story for the Jr. division. This match was definitely one of the stronger examples of what the All Japan Jr. division is capable of. ***1/2
Black Menso-re & Takao Omori def. Jun Akiyama & Atsuki Aoyagi
Thomas: I love Akiyama getting to work in a serious match here on the final show rather than some comedy thing. Menso-re and Omori are probably the most under the radar tag team in the world, they are so much better than you’d expect, and their All-Asia Tag Title match from the 1/3 Korakuen was legit ****.
Akiyama still has it, and he proved it here showing great fire still at the ripe age of 49. I don’t think I’m as high on Atsuki Aoyagi as Gerard is, but Aoyagi put in a good performance here before eventually succumbing to the camel clutch. **3/4
Gerard: Thomas is correct about their 1/3/19 Korakuen match for the All-Asia Tag Titles. I went ****1/4 on it. Somehow Omori and Black Menso-re just click as a team. And that was the case here too.
This took the place of the traditional comedy match on many of the All Japan undercards that feature Masanobu Fuchi. Unlike those matches, this one featured a lot more action with some comedy spliced in at points. The comedy stuff here consisted of Menso-re and Akiyama beefing with each other.
Not surprisingly, this match came down to Aoyagi and Menso-re. While Thomas is correct that I am high on Aoyagi, I think actually at this point he would rank third if I were to rank the three rookies. But he and Menso-re had some good exchanges were, and eventually tapped out to a Menso-re Camel Clutch. After the match while on the outside, Akiyama seemingly raised Menso-re’s arm to admit victory but then immediately picked him up and body slammed him which got a chuckle out of me. Again, I quite liked this for its synthesis of comedy and action. ***1/4
Dylan James & Joe Doering def. Joel Redman & Sam Adonis
Thomas: This is the first of a trio of tags on this show featuring the 16 carnival participants that didn’t make the finals. I find it kind of funny that they threw the white guys in a tag together, but it makes sense, as Doering/James are an awesome tag team (they’ll actually be challenging for the AJPW World Tag Titles on the June Korakuen) and Adonis and Doering had some heated moments throughout the tournament, even when they were on the same team in the undercard tags.
This was one of the better Adonis performances I saw, although it was nothing special. Dylan James continued to put in great work against the two smaller guys, and Doering put in low effort again. It has been rumored that he is nursing a shoulder injury, but I’ve not been able to substantiate this. Doering hit the body splash, one of my favorite finishes, on Adonis for the win. **3/4
Gerard: The Bomber (Doering & James) are challenging Violent Giants for the World Tag Team Titles in June, so the finish was no surprise here. However, I dug this match.
I thought Redman and Doering actually showed some much more chemistry here than they did in their tournament match. Doering was willing to do a bit of mat stuff though obviously countered a lot of it using his size and strength. Another bonus of this match was the chemistry with James and Redman which was also quite good. Clearly, Redman is a guy they need to bring back. I think his style adds depth to a midcard that desperately needs some and he has managed to get himself over with the crowd in several cities on the Champion Carnival tour.
Adonis was again very passable here but was clearly overshadowed by everyone else in this match. Adonis misses a Swanton Bomb and soon after that Doering hits a Running Crossbody for the win. ***1/4
Yuma Aoyagi & Yoshitatsu def. Naoya Nomura & Ryoji Sai
Thomas: This match was hot from the get-go, with Nomura and Yoshitatsu (who had a **** match together in this tournament) exchanging strikes. The main story of this match, however, was the interactions between Aoyagi and Nomura, longtime All-Asia Tag champs that only relinquished the title when Nomura felt he could move on to bigger and better things. The strike sequences between these two didn’t last very long, but their was massive heat for them, and the Korakuen crowd was crazy throughout this match. Sai got his win back on Aoyagi from the A Block finals show with the running knee in an awesome sprint. ***3/4
Gerard: I thought this match started a bit slow but once Nomura and Aoyagi got in there, I thought this match really picked up, and the crowd heat increased exponentially. The match was very faced paced after that point.
While Sai got some revenge for his loss to Aoyagi in the tournament, what I loved about the finish was that Nomura who was not the legal man made his way into the ring and hit a Lancer (Spear) on Aoyagi that led to Sai hitting a Running Knee in the corner for the win. The Aoyagi and Nomura rivalry continues. ***1/2
Shuji Ishikawa, Suwama, Atsushi Aoki & Takashi Yoshida def. Daichi Hashimoto, Gianni Valletta, Yuji Okabayashi & Zeus
Thomas: As we discussed on Omakase, Yuji Okabayashi is not human, and he put in yet another great performance here, having great interactions with all four members of the opposing team, especially Shuji. We had a little bit of crowd brawling fun while Daichi mauled Aoki in the ring, but it didn’t get to the extent of the walk and brawl trope that we sometimes see.
A lot of these tags are a lot better in practice than they are on paper just because everyone puts in a whole lot of effort with it being the Carnival finals, such a storied event. One of my favorite spots saw Shuji send Aoki, his partner, flying out of the ring into their opponents. The Violence Giants isolated Valletta and the running knee from Shuji eventually picked up the win in a great match. ***3/4
Gerard: What I loved about this match is that it managed to be a fun match that also managed to cover up the weaknesses of wrestlers like Valletta and Yoshida. Heck, after this match, I want to see Yoshida vs. Zeus who had some of the best exchanges of this match. With the eight-man format, and the fact that this match only lasted just over 10 minutes, everyone can be made to look good. The Ishikawa vs. Valletta closing stretch was even fun! ***1/2
AJPW Champion Carnival 2019 Final
Kento Miyahara def. Jake Lee
Thomas: Kento has never won the Champion Carnival despite being one of the great champions in the history of All Japan. By the time of the next time he defends the Triple Crown, only Mitsuharu Misawa himself will have held the Triple Crown for more combined days than Kento. A Triple Crown champ, however, has not won the Carnival since 2001. It wouldn’t be entirely unprecedented in recent history, though, All Japan World Junior Champion Koji Iwamoto won the Junior Battle of Glory just a couple of months ago, so this would just be that on a larger scale.
I feel like my opinion on Jake Lee changes with the weather, and by the midpoint of this tournament I would tell you that he is being unbelievably pushed down my throat, but I turned the corner on him after he had a great match with Suwama, one of Doering’s best matches of the tournament, and an awesome block decider against Naoya Nomura down the home stretch. At this point, I’m cheering for him. The story makes sense, with Kento being the dickhead champion that no one wants to be around as Jake Lee used to be a member of Kento’s NEXTREAM faction before leaving.
They started hot here, none of the outside brawling that we’ve come to expect from the Kento formula. Kento really dominated the early portions of the match, and every time Jake Lee countered something it seemed like Kento would have something right back, somewhat reminiscent of the match Kento had with the new #2 in the NEXTREAM faction, Yuma Aoyagi.
The turning point in this one was when Lee rocked Kento with a knee and was able to take control and show off some of his cocky prick side that was on full display in the Nomura match yesterday. There were some brutal spots like Kento hitting a German off of the apron after Lee tried with every fiber of his being to hold onto the ropes.
Lee showed fire throughout this match just laying in kicks and knees every chance he got and wrenching back on any submission attempt, just an incredible performance from him. I’d say I had one foot on the Lee train and one foot still scraping the tracks, but now I’m fully on board.
The crowd was absolutely on fire in this match, somewhat split early on but by the end fully behind their ace Kento. They did the spot from the Nomura match with Lee busting out of the Shutdown German after Kento had locked it in and then Lee just laid in with knees and hit the backdrop suplex for a near fall that completely got the crowd. The finishing stretch was everything you’d expect with reversals galore as Lee had the knee pad exposed. Lee fought like hell to escape it, but Kento eventually locked in the Shutdown German for the win, worth noting it only took one shutdown to put Lee away vs two for Nomura, and that Nomura won between the two in the block match when both were fresh while Lee needed Nomura tired after a 20+ minute match vs Suwama to defeat the young upstart, so I think it’d be fair to say Nomura might be slightly ahead of Lee in the All Japan pecking order. lolkentowinz of course, but seriously, this match ruled, and the two stared down after the match, perhaps teasing a continuation of the feud. ****1/2 and my favorite Lee match to date.
Gerard: Like Thomas, my opinion on Lee used to change daily based on how he performed on the most recent show. However, during the Champion Carnival, Lee was very good in the second half and finished the block stage extremely strong.
I can say with confidence that this match was the best that Lee had ever had and is probably a star-making performance.
Miyahara came up to nuclear heat, and Lee received some loud applause on his entrance, but nothing on the level of the champ. However, Lee would eventually win over the crowd.
Lee was the aggressor early on with lots of kicks. His running knee on the outside, while Kento was hanging over the ring apron, screamed that Lee was being serious here. I also liked how on the initial fighting on the outside of this match, it didn’t follow the pattern of other Miyahara matches when the action spills outside, and that includes the Miyahara vs. Nomura Triple Crown match from March.
My only criticism of the match is I thought that there were some parts in the middle that were a little slow. I thought the match started very hot and action-packed, and the long finishing sequence was incredible.
The finishing sequence made this match and Jake Lee. He brutalized Miyahara with knee strikes and got some near falls. Lee also kicked out of plenty of Miyahara moves like Blackout Knees and escaped from Shutdown German Suplexes on a couple of occasions.
This match built into something incredible by the end. Lee eventually managed to attract massive heat from the Korakuen audience himself. Lee also brought the intensity—something he notoriously has lacked—but has managed to show as the Champion Carnival went on. He was a tremendous asshole towards Miyahara at points in this match with some of his kicks and knees. I had a legitimate moment near the end of this match where Lee broke out of a Shutdown German Suplex attempt and kneed Miyahara in the chest and I stood up out of my chair and screamed.
Miyahara of course finally gets the win with the Shutdown German Suplex after over 27 minutes. Just an incredible match. I thought this was going to be awesome, but it even exceeded that expectation and is one of my top three matches of the year so far along with Miyahara vs. KAI from 1/3 and Tanahashi vs. Omega from 1/4. As someone that goes back-and-forth on Lee, I hope he can hold this momentum. And given the cheers from the crowd for him after he was escorted to the back after this match, the opportunity is there. ****3/4
Thomas: Wow, what a tournament this was. At the end of the day, I had 19 matches at **** or higher, and that’s not an outlier take among people caught up with the Tournament. We were blessed with two legit MOTYC on the final two days, and while I feel many people will give up on this tournament because of the slow start, anybody that does so will be missing out on a litany of bangers.
I’m not shocked Kento won, he’s moving up on the all-time list among Triple Crown champs, and I think a potential defense record break could be in the cards, but let me say, his run in this tournament was legendary. I had seven of his nine matches at **** or higher and five of his nine at ****¼ or higher. His median match was ****¼, that’s absurd. Just an all-time performance up there with some of the best in recent history and maybe ever, and he capped it off by making Jake Lee a star. Sad to see this tournament go, but this was a great way to end it.
Gerard: The undercard exceeded my expectations. It was a strong showing from All Japan because that doesn’t always happen, even when the main event is tremendous. This Champion Carnival seems very well received with many even being more laudatory towards some of the matches than Thomas and I. This company has momentum coming out of this tournament, and I hope they try to maintain it by bringing in people like Joel Redman to help add depth to the midcard.
I am feeling very good about the future of this company. Nomura is a made man now and will no doubt be considered by many as one of the best in the world. While I still have a bit of lingering concern about Jake Lee, he just put on a MOTYC and I hope he can maintain this. The Jr. rookies are also a big bright spot in a company that has traditionally had a weak Jr. division.
While I didn’t predict that Miyahara was going to win the Champion Carnival, I think it makes sense. He hasn’t won one before, and he is peaking as a wrestler. While sometimes All Japan booking is hard to predict, it would not surprise me that Miyahara, now in his fourth Triple Crown reign has a run like Okada’s fourth IWGP Heavyweight Title reign. That means that Miyahara surpasses Toshiaki Kawada’s Triple Crown defense record of ten. He already has three defenses so far, and given that the Triple Crown is defended pretty regularly these days, he could easily hit that record early in 2020. It is probably the time to do this epic title run, because by the time Miyahara surpasses the defense record, Nomura or Lee (though my money is on Nomura), will probably be finally ready to win All Japan’s legendary top championship.