AJPW NEW YEAR WARS 2020
JANUARY 2 & 3, 2020
11:30 AM JST, 9:30 PM EST
KORAKUEN HALL
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: AJPW.TV 

Unlike many other wrestling promotions, All Japan does not have an official biggest show of the year. However, you could make a case that the annual Korakuen Hall back-to-back shows on January 2 and 3 are definitely among the most important events on the All Japan calendar. The 2020 edition is no different. There is a big Triple Crown match and lots of outsiders in some interesting and unique matches. These shows could set a new direction for All Japan in 2020.

Both shows start at 11:30 AM Tokyo time, which means the shows start at 9:30 PM Eastern in North America. Getting All Japan in primetime is a nice treat and is great motivation to watch both of these shows live on AJPW.TV.

And with lots of Western wrestling fans in Japan for Wrestle Kingdom 14, expect these shows to get more attention than the average All Japan Korakuen Hall show. Last year, Dave Meltzer being in attendance for the awesome Kento Miyahara vs KAI Triple Crown match and raving about Miyahara being one of the best wrestlers in the world, got a lot more attention on Miyahara from puroresu fans in the West.

MEET OUR PREVIEWERS:

Gerard Di Trolio (@gerardditrolio): 2019 marked 20 years watching puroresu for me. 2019 was also the first year in which I saw every single show that made tape from a promotion. In this case, the promotion was All Japan. I plan on accomplishing the same feat in 2020.

Paul Völsch: Just spent two hours complaining about All Japan’s booking on Omakase and then voted it his favourite promotion in 2019. Said that Violent Giants need to split up then voted them Best Tag Team of 2019. Thinks that Kento needs to lose the title then voted him MVP of 2019. Might be a Tsundere.

JANUARY 2 

JAKE LEE, NAOYA NOMURA & FUMINORI ABE VS. JUN AKIYAMA, TAKAO OMORI & BLACK MENSO~RE 

Gerard: Nomura isn’t exactly getting much to do on these shows. He deserves at least a singles match I think. Anyway, this should pretty good given the wrestlers involved here. Going to guess Abe pins or submits Menso~re. Let’s hope this is the start of a lot more Abe in All Japan in 2020. Prediction: Jake Lee, Naoya Nomura & Fuminori Abe.

Paul: Not happy with Nomura’s placement, but then again he isn’t the one being pushed right now. Otherwise this is actually a pretty stacked opening match. Abe would be a fun addition to the JIN stable given that he trained with Iwamoto. Regardless, I do hope that he gets booked more by All Japan in 2020 as he is tremendous. The result in this shouldn’t be in any doubt. Prediction: Jake Lee, Naoya Nomura & Fuminori Abe

SHIGEHIRO IRIE, UTAMARO, IZANAGI & X VS. KENTO MIYAHARA, YOSHITATSU & HOKUTO OMORI

Gerard: Who is X? Could it be a returning Dylan James from injury? Is it someone we have never seen in All Japan before? Is there a chance that it is one of Irie’s stablemates from Strong Hearts? Given that Irie himself was a surprise participant on the December 21 show, I think a Strong Hearts member is very possible. This is one of my most anticipated matches on these shows because I always love a mystery wrestler. 

Izanagi, a name you might not recognize is Atsushi Maruyama under yet another masked gimmick. He first appeared in the gimmick but didn’t wrestle on the December 21 show. The name comes from a figure in Shinto mythology.

I would bet that X gets the victory over Omori. Prediction: Shigehiro Irie, UTAMARO, Izanagi & X.

Paul: Happy to see Irie in All Japan. I hope that this means he is going to be in the CC and maybe we will finally see a full blown Strong Hearts invasion. Then again All Japan has been working with Dragon Gate recently, so I’m not sure if that would work out politically. As for who X could be I think this either has to be someone whos been in All Japan before returning or a big debut. We’ve already got Ire making his debut so Dylan James returning here makes the most sense to me.

The dastardly UTAMARO abducted poor Atsushi Maruyama recently and now the mysterious Izanagi makes an appearance to fill his slot. I hope Maruyama is ok and maybe Yohei Nakajima can help with the search since he’s still on that self imposed suspension. One side has a mystery participant, a big debut, and a new gimmick and the other side has a young boy. Figuring out this result isn’t rocket science. Prediction: Shigehiro Irie, UTAMARO, Izanagi & X

YUSUKE OKADA, ATSUKI AOYAGI & DAN TAMURA VS. AKIRA FRANCESCO, RISING HAYATO & DANNY JONES

Gerard: I have been saying for a while now that All Japan’s junior heavyweight division is slowly but surely improving. Here’s some more proof of that. This should be a good match of young wrestlers.

Rising HAYATO is 20 years old and is from Ehime Pro Wrestling, a small company that runs shows in Ehime Prefecture. He’s a handsome guy so he will probably gain a lot of new fans by making an appearance in a larger wrestling promotion. He will also be participating on several shows on the New Year Wars tour and has moved into their Dojo, so it looks like he will be a regular in the company moving forward, though he has not shed his EPW affiliation.

Jones makes his first appearance in All Japan since October 2017. He showed potential back then, and while I don’t really follow the British wrestling scene, I have been told that he has improved. Though his weight is that of the junior heavyweight, he is 6’3” so if I were booking him, I’d move him into the heavyweight division sooner than later if he is going to be a regular in All Japan from now on. Jones will be on the whole tour. Expect the team of HAYATO and the gaijin to win to establish themselves. Prediction: Akira Francesco, Rising HAYATO & Danny Jones.

Paul: Good Italian boy Akira Francesco makes his return to Japan. All Japan struck gold with that kid as he’s loaded with potential and will become an amazing wrestler with the right seasoning. He recently had a match at OTT in Ireland and all reports coming back from that were positive. Danny Jones is one of the victims of the British scene being killed by WWE. He’s got a lot of potential but these past two years he got half the opportunities he got in 2017 and 2016. I hope that he can parlay this appearance into a regular gig with All Japan, which would help his development.

Wasn’t happy with Okada’s booking in the Junior tournament. All the build up seemed to emphasize his relationship with Aoki and how he was going to win this for his mentor and then he just gets unceremoniously by Kagetora in the first round. He’ll still become the ace of the Junior division eventually but I had hoped that his coronation would come sooner. It sure won’t come here as hes teaming with two young boys. Prediction: Akira Francesco, Rising HAYATO & Danny Jones.

THE GREAT SASUKE, MASANOBU FUCHI & TAJIRI VS. ABDULLAH KOBAYASHI, GREAT KOJIKA & FRANK ATSUSHI

Gerard: My God. I don’t even know what to say about this match. Going to go in with low expectations so maybe they will surprise me. I’m sure we will get some absolutely epic exchanges between TAJIRI and Kojika. Atsushi is basically a jobber in Big Japan, so I’m assuming he’s taking the fall here. Abdullah Kobayashi might not even make this show as he is out with the flu alongside a bunch of Big Japan wrestlers, but his withdrawal has not been announced yet. Prediction: The Great Sasuke, Masanobu Fuchi & TAJIRI.

Paul: I’m confused why All Japan would book the match of the decade on the second day of the 20s. The total age of this match is 323 years and the average age is 53.8, which is dragged down by 39-year-old young boy Frank Atsushi. Now the big question though is if this match will even happen in this configuration as Abdullah apparently gave everyone in Big Japan the flu. Sasuke is fresh off trying to kill himself in the Great Space war again, so I guess he’ll take it easy here or maybe not who knows its Sasuke. I’m just happy that Fuchi is in this match as that means he’ll forget to mute everyone’s theme music after this match again. Prediction: The Great Sasuke, Masanobu Fuchi & TAJIRI

AJPW WORLD JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT SEMI-FINAL
HIKARU SATO VS. KAGETORA

Gerard: This should be good. Kagetora had one of the best junior heavyweight matches of the year in All Japan in the first round of this tournament against Yusuke Okada. Hikaru Sato is in his element against guys that can do shoot style stuff like him. Kagetora, though in his late 30s and not getting a push in his home promotion of Dragon Gate, can still go. But since Kagetora is not a pushed commodity, it is doubtful he will end up in the finals. Also the former tag partner of late great Atsushi Aoki making going to the finals is the obvious storyline in this tournament. Prediction: Hikaru Sato.

Paul: This has the potential to be really good. Kagetora always steps up when he’s given the chance and this shouldn’t be any different. With Okada out of the tournament it makes all the sense in the world for Aoki’s tag team partner to make the final instead. Prediction: Hikaru Sato

AJPW WORLD JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT SEMI-FINAL
KOJI IWAMOTO VS. SUSUMU YOKOSUKA

Gerard: I was not particularly impressed with Yokosuka’s first-round match against Atsushi Maruyama in this tournament. It wasn’t bad, but it was just kind of there. Anyway, here’s his chance to redeem himself, and I’m fairly confident he will. Yokosuka despite being 41, is still pushed in Dragon Gate. He is just coming off of a 228 day Open the Brave Gate Championship reign that ended in November. He’s a good candidate to make an appearance in the finals, as I’m sure getting to use all of this Dragon Gate talent means that All Japan has to give them some sort of rub. While it looked like for a while there that Iwamoto was being positioned as the new junior heavyweight ace (he even won this year’s Jr. Battle of Glory while the Jr. champion), he seems to have cooled off a lot in the second half of 2019 despite holding the All Asia Tag Team Championship with Jake Lee. Prediction: Susumu Yokosuka.

Paul: I loved Iwamoto’s 2018 but his 2019 really has been a mixed bag. While he ascended to the top of All Japan’s junior division he became somewhat of a one trick pony in ring. He also did fairly little in the second half of the year, though I don’t want to blame him for that since there clearly was a major reshuffle of plans following Aoki’s death. He is still young and has a ton of potential so I hope he can get back on track in 2020. Susumu just like Kagetora always is ready to perform when called upon in a big spot and I’m sure this won’t be any different. Prediction: Susumu Yokosuka

NEW YEARS BATTLE ROYAL

Gerard: The only announced participants for this thing so far are Osamu Nishimura and the awful CHIKARA. I doubt either of them are winning. The winner of this annual event usually is a pushed wrestler or someone they are about to push. That’s why I think they should have Naoya Nomura win this thing, since he’s not really doing much on these shows. Prediction: Naoya Nomura.

Paul: This is All Japan’s traditional New Years Battle Royal. The only notable thing to happen in these recently is referee Kyohei Wada getting injured two years ago after he attempted a top rope walk. As for who wins I guess Joe Doering since he isn’t doing anything else on this show. Prediction: Joe Doering 

I have been informed that Joe Doering apparently isn’t booked for these shows. So I’ll just guess that Kento wins it because he hasn’t won it yet and that was their reason for giving him the CC last year. Makes as much sense as anything. Prediction: Kento Miyahara.

AJPW WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
ZEUS & RYOUJI SAI © VS. VIOLENT GIANTS (SUWAMA & SHUJI ISHIKAWA)

Gerard: Zeus and Sai defeated the Violent Giants for the tag titles back in September. They also beat them in the Real World Tag League. So booking logic dictates that Violent Giants finally get their win and the tag titles back. Nothing much more to add to this match other than all of their matches have been quite good and Zeus has been the standout in them. Prediction: Violent Giants.

Paul: I think I’ve made my feelings on Violent Giants winning RWTL abundantly clear so let’s move on from that. They should absolutely win this match. The Zeus and Ryouji Sai has been a failure as Sai just took a massive step down in 2019 and Zeus has clearly been carrying this team. The faster we move on from it the better. With that said Violent Giants might be the one team capable of getting a good match out of this team. At least everything involving Zeus should be good. Prediction: Violent Giants





JANUARY 3

UTAMARO & IZANAGI VS. ATSUKI AOYAGI & DAN TAMURA

Gerard: UTAMARO and Izanagi seem to have formed a new tag team in December. That’s good because they would be a nice addition to the All Asia Tag Team Championship scene and it is time to establish a new team to win those belts because it is also time to get Jake Lee out of that division. Prediction: UTAMARO & Izanagi

Paul: Should be a solid opening tag match. Dan Tamura has a ton of potential and All Japan has already given him a couple shots outside of the promotion to get some seasoning. Will be interesting to see how Izanagi works in this gimmick. Prediction: UTAMARO & Izanagi

SHIGEHIRO IRIE & X VS. SUWAMA & YUSUKE OKADA

Gerard: Having a heavyweight and a Jr. team up on one team only adds to my speculation about X. I’m leaning towards X being a Jr. which again could mean a member of Strong Hearts. While there are political issues to this, given All Japan’s relationship with Dragon Gate, one cannot totally discount the idea. Seiki Yoshioka has worked All Japan in the past, and is a Strong Hearts member that is in Wrestle-1 which would not be an issue. However, I seriously doubt that they would make him a mystery opponent. Again, if you’re going to do an X gimmick, their team should win. Prediction: Shigehiro Irie & X.

Paul: I’ll still stick with X being Dylan James and I wouldn’t mind seeing him team with Irie for a while to ease him back in. With that said, this match makes it a lot more likely for X to be another Strong Hearts member. Nevertheless, Irie and his partner are clearly winning this match and that might set up a tag title show with the Giants winning the titles the night before. Prediction: Shigehiro Irie & X

JUN AKIYAMA, OSAMU NISHIMURA, MASANOBU FUCHI & RISING HAYATO VS. TAKAO OMORI, SUSHI, HOKUTO OMORI & ATSUKI AOYAGI

Gerard: Given some of the wrestlers involved, this is technically the comedy match of the show. But with the young juniors in it, it will at least have some good action and will almost certainly be better than your average All Japan comedy match. Going to say that the team with the fewer young boys will win this. Prediction: Jun Akiyama, Osamu Nishimura, Masanobu Fuchi & Rising HAYATO.

Paul: Finally we see the return of Karate expert SUSHI to All Japan. This is going to every comedy undercard multi-man tag match ever. It will be fine but will hardly produce anything of note. Prediction: Jun Akiyama, Osamu Nishimura, Masanobu Fuchi & Rising HAYATO

SHUJI ISHIKAWA, ZEUS, YOSHITATSU & NAOYA NOMURA VS. RYOUJI SAI, YUMA AOYAGI, AYATO YOSHIDA & DANNY JONES

Gerard: Always nice to see Yoshida in All Japan and I hope he is another wrestler that we see more of in this company in 2020.

This is a pretty good collection of talent, so hopefully they actually get a good amount of time for this match because it could be very good. Jones is probably eating a pin here. Prediction: Shuji Ishikawa, Zeus, Yoshitatsu & Naoya Nomura.

Paul: Ayato Yoshida seemed to be poised to jump to New Japan before the whole Taka situation happened. Haven’t seen a lot of him since the formation of 2AW as that isn’t really a promotion I follow closely. I hope he gets more bookings in All Japan going forward as he has a lot of potential. Interesting that Zeus and Sai are on opposite sides here as that could be an indicator that their team is done after the previous show. Prediction: Shuji Ishikawa, Zeus, Yoshitatsu & Naoya Nomura

SPECIAL SIX PERSON SHUFFLE TAG
BLACK MENSO~RE, AKIRA FRANCESCO, MASAHIRO TAKANASHI, FUMINORI ABE, & JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT SEMI-FINAL LOSERS

Gerard: We don’t know exactly what the teams and probably won’t until the day of the show. But whoever ends up in this match and whatever the teams, this could be awesome. All Japan has an issue where undercard multi-man tags, even when every wrestler in them are great, do not get enough time. Hopefully that is not the case here, but I’ve hoped that idea many times before with this company and have been disappointed. Prediction: Whichever team Akira Francesco is on.

Paul: This is a wild collection of talent and we don’t even know two of the participants yet. This should a bit of mindless fun as the talent assembled already is pretty good and whoever gets added will only improve the match even further. Whoever gets the pin in this might be first in line for a shot at the Junior title. As such I’m hoping for Abe to get the pin here. Prediction: Whichever team doesn’t have Black Menso~re

AJPW WORLD JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL
HIKARU SATO OR KAGETORA VS. SUSUMU YOKOSUKA OR KOJI IWAMOTO

Gerard: As I wrote earlier, I think we are getting a Sato vs. Yokosuka final and that Sato will get the sentimental win to pay tribute to Aoki.

A quick check on Cagematch shows that those two have never faced each other before in any setting. Yokosuka has proven that he can have great matches with wrestlers of differing styles so I am pretty confident they will deliver here. Prediction: Hikaru Sato.

Paul: Out of everyone left in the tournament Hikaro Sato makes the most sense. However, with Dragon Gate apparently getting into some sort of relationship with All Japan I wouldn’t be surprised if one of the DG walks away with the title here. Susumu seems like the better choice there as he would be a nice addition to the roster and would be able to help the young guys in AJPW’s junior division develop even further. Prediction: Susumu Yokosuka


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TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
KENTO MIYAHARA © VS. JAKE LEE

Gerard: This was not the Triple Crown match that I predicted that we would be getting here. Lee was Miyahara’s last challenger in October. While All Japan has a small pool of Triple Crown challengers, they have not had two consecutive defenses of the title against the same wrestler since Go Shiozaki made two consecutive challenges against Joe Doering back on October 29, 2014 and January 3, 2015. A very similar scenario to what we have with Miyahara and Lee here. Incidentally, Shiozaki would beat Doering to win the Triple Crown on January 3, 2015. Could history repeat itself of consecutive challenges by the same wrestler leading to a championship win on the same date?

I’ve thought a lot about that. Initially, I thought Miyahara would win. He has talked a lot about wanting to break Toshiaki Kawada’s record of ten successful defenses of the Triple Crown in one reign. Then again, he said that during his first Triple Crown reign. 

On a recent episode of Wrestling Omakase, Thomas Fishbeck laid out why he thinks Lee will win. He managed to convince me. Given that All Japan’s business has slightly declined in 2019, and the top of the card is getting stale, it is time to make some bold moves. Pro Wrestling NOAH’s resurgence in 2019 very much had to do with them taking big risks in booking and the venues they chose to run for big shows. All Japan should do the same.

But is Lee the guy to go with right now? I’m a little hesitant. Lee is a good wrestler. He had a tremendous match of the year candidate match with Miyahara in the Champion Carnival finals. His match against Miyahara for the Triple Crown in October was very good, but not as good as the Champion Carnival finals and had some boring stretches in the middle of it. While Lee does have his fans, he lacks the kind of crowd connection that Nomura has managed to establish in his matches against Miyahara. 

I have long fantasy booked that in 2020, Miyahara would break the defense record in March, then Nomura would win the Championship Carnival then beat Miyahara for the Triple Crown. That could still happen, but despite Nomura’s tremendous strides forward to the point where I think he is a better wrestler than Lee, management seems to still rank Lee above Nomura in the pecking order. Nomura ate most of the pins on their team during the Real World Tag League. Lee is also older, taller, and has a MMA background.

One factor working against Lee winning is that he is currently one half of the All Asia Tag Team Champions. Holding the Triple Crown and the All Asia Tag Team Championship is a thing that does not happen. There is even an All Asia Tag Team Championship match scheduled for January 10. They need to get the All Asia Tag Team Championship off of Lee and Iwamoto in my opinion, but doing that immediately after winning the Triple Crown makes the champion look weak because they are the secondary tag team titles. But holding both titles for an extended period is weird too. 

While this is the prediction for these sows that I am least confident in, I am going with Lee here because under the circumstances, All Japan needs to do something daring to try to freshen up the top of the card and chart a new course for 2020, even if it goes against some of their established booking traditions. Hopefully if Lee does win, he can finally carry himself like a superstar 100% of the time. Prediction: Jake Lee.

Paul: Now first things first go read Gerard’s preview of the match above this again as its clearly better than whatever I’m going to write after this. I laid out a lot of my feelings on this match in the aforementioned episode of Omakase and they haven’t changed since.

As such I’ll focus on the match itself and not the booking. For that I’m going into this match with high expectations. It will have a lot to follow up on not just in regards to the previous Jake vs Kento matches but also last years 1/3 title match of Kento vs KAI, which was a genuine match of the year contender. Nevertheless, this has all the potential to rival that. Kento and Lee have good chemistry with them building a great repertoire of call backs from previous matches, some of which I’m sure will play into this match. Jake Lee also took a big step forward during RWTL as something just seemed to click for him and I hope he can carry that over to this match.

Just like for Gerard, Thomas actually did a lot of work convincing me that Jake is winning this. But at the end of the day I don’t think that they will pull the trigger on Jake here, even though they absolutely should. My hopes are firmly rooted in Nomura winning CC and then dethroning Kento. But I’m ready to be positively surprised by All Japan here. 

You know what screw it. I was all ready to delete the paragraph above and rewrite it. But I’ll let it stand like that because you now what Jake is winning this because he has to. Its time for that tall nerd to step up and seize the crowns that are rightfully his and for All Japan to start off 2020 on a positive note with the eyes firmly planted on the future. Prediction: Jake Lee.