ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
NEW YEAR WARS
JANUARY 2, 2020
AKIRA FRANCESCO, RISING HAYATO & DANNY JONES. DEF. YUSUKE OKADA, ATSUKI AOYAGI & DAN TAMURA (5:35)
RISING Hayato started this match getting into a heated forearm and slap fight with Aoyagi. Good way to establish himself. Jones got in some flashy moves that popped the crowd. This was a really fun match wrestled at a fast pace with lots of moves. Finish came with Akira scoring a cradle victory on Okada which the crowd gasped for. I think this may be Akira’s biggest win in All Japan to date. After the match, Hayato got into a shoving match against Aoyagi and Tamura. Hayato recently moved into the All Japan Dojo for a few months so it looks like he will be feuding with the young boys who also happen to be his roommates. Awkward. ***1/2
JAKE LEE, NAOYA NOMURA & FUMINORI ABE DEF. JUN AKIYAMA, TAKAO OMORI & BLACK MENSO~RE (8:14)
Omori is sporting cool looking new trunks that are red on the front and black on the back. Jake Lee gets very little heat for his entrance. He also got little heat for the beginning of this match where he and Lee do a Shoulder Block battle to try to get high. He does not feel like he is about to challenge for the Triple Crown and that is a huge red flag. When Nomura gets tagged in, people are yelling for him, and his stuff against Akiyama got a lot more heat. I was told by someone attending the show that “Nomura is so much more over than him (Lee).” Abe got some good heat for mocking Menso~re’s whole shot shot shot schtick. This also got more heat than Jake Lee did. But the rest of the Abe vs. Menso~re stuff was kind of slow. Lee tagged back in and managed to win back the crowd with a bunch of big moves on Menso~re and a Backdrop for the win. Though the crowd immediately quieted down after the match ended. This was fine but I would have liked to have seen more stuff from Nomura and Akiyama. ***
THE GREAT SASUKE, MASANOBU FUCHI & TAJIRI DEF. ABDULLAH KOBAYASHI, GREAT KOJIKA & FRANK ATSUSHI (10:14)
Kobayashi is in fact here despite having to miss some matches last week due to a flu that is going around and affected a good chunk of the Big Japan roster.
There was stalling before this match even began. TAJIRI and Kojika started. It’s like they were reading my mind. TAJIRI sold like a 77 year old wrestler is causing him great pain. It kind of makes it all tolerable. When then got some Sasuke vs. Kobayashi and they went with comedy with Sasuke and Kobayashi using invisible objects on each other. I don’t want to be one of these respectability nerds but this is the kind of ironic comedy that has its place but it’s not in All Japan. Sasuke and Atsushi continued the invisible stuff and I hated it but they soon got to wrestling. Okay, I actually popped for some of the Fuchi and Kojika stuff as they know how to do comedy that fits with All Japan better. Atsushi hit Fuchi several times with his giant fake sausage or whatever it is and referee Kyohei Wada didn’t do anything. Red Shoes Wada over here. TAJIRI pinned Atsushi with a Small Package after some miscommunication with Kojika and the big sausage. I hated how this started and then started laughing towards the end. I’ll give this a passing grade. Though why they got over ten minutes and some other undercard matches didn’t is frustrating. **1/2
NEW YEAR BATTLE ROYAL (7:38)
The techno remix of the Star Wars theme opens up the wrestler entrances just like hit has for decades. Participants are Osamu Nishimura, CHIKARA, Jake Lee, Akira Francesco, Danny Jones, Naoya Nomura, Yusuke Okada, Dan Tamura, Atsuki Aoyagi, Fuminori Abe, Black Menso~re, RISING Hayato and Takao Omori. Black Menso~re became the target and everyone took turns giving him a Bodyslam. Jake Lee was eliminated first with everyone piling on him. The irony is not lost. Akira, clearly pushed and protected on this show is eliminated by being thrown over the top rope by Abe instead of being pinned. Aoyagi and Hayato were also thrown over the top rope, and Nomura was piled on for elimination. The final three came down to Menso~re, Abe and Jones. Abe got eliminated when Jones and Menso~re piled on him after Abe looked like he was going to pin Jones. Jones then pinned Menso~re with the Falcon Arrow to win. I guess Jones is in line for a push. I base that prediction off of the fact that the list of New Years Battle Royal winners are wrestlers that are always pushed fairly high up on the card or are about to be. This was fine and I’ve seen worse Battle Royals in All Japan. **3/4
GOD’S LEGION (SHIGEHIRO IRIE, UTAMARO, IZANAGI & LUCAS STEEL) DEF. KENTO MIYAHARA, YOSHITATSU & HOKUTO OMORI (10:13)
X was Lucas Steel, a British wrestler I am not familiar with. Izanagi is Atsushi Maruyama in another masked gimmick. Irie, UTAMARO and Izanagi seem to be forming a faction of their own named God’s Legion, and I guess Steel is the newest member. Steel looked average in this. He did a lot of stomps and tagged in and out fairly quickly. God’s Legion worked Aoyagi for a while.
It was slow. But eventually Irie vs. Aoyagi got things moving. There was some good Irie vs. Miyahara stuff in here too. Steel did get to show some potential when he got to beat on the young boy Omori including a Dropkick. Steel pinned Omori with a Chokeslam variation where he jumps into the air and lands on his back. This turned into something decent in the end and I am willing to give Steel a chance once he gets more comfortable here. I am also very pro the creation of a midcard faction like God’s Legion. I think this company desperately needs something where there can be some sort of direction in the midcard. ***1/4
AJPW WORLD JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT SEMI-FINAL
HIKARU SATO DEF. KAGETORA (12:37)
This is a special occasion because Sato is wearing new black and red tights. The early part of this match was really good with a feeling out sequence that built well. Sato and Kagetora both go after each other’s left arm. But eventually Sato gained the advantage and really took it to Kagetora’s left arm. This match had the kind of solid build that I love where there was a steady progression up from mat work to bigger moves and submissions. Sato controlled a lot of the first half of this match but Kagetora managed to eventually get in control for a bit. Kagetora also got some great near falls on Sato countering his submissions with cradles. Sato got the win with a Cross Armbreaker after a battle to lock it in with Kagetora. What a great shoot style and traditional pro wrestling style of hybrid match. A great way to kick off the All Japan Jr. Heavyweight division for 2020. ****
AJPW WORLD JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP TOURNAMENT SEMI-FINAL
SUSUMU YOKOSUKA DEF. KOJI IWAMOTO (10:32)
These guys got into a fairly brisk pace pretty quickly. Iwamoto got some shine in early showing that he can take it to the legendary Dragon Gate veteran. The beginning sequences of the match weren’t bad but lacked the compelling story that the last match brought you in on early. It just seemed like they were doing random moves to each other with little structure of a build to bigger stuff. Later in the match Iwamoto took control again with some big moves and that stuff was good but not great. Again big moves for the sake of moves. Things did eventually get pretty heated and Yokosuka brought some heated near falls. Yokosuka won after several Jumbo No Kachi! Lariats. Yokosuka managed to turn this into something good in the end. After the match, Sato entered the ring and he and Yokosuka shaked hands. ***1/2
AJPW WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
VIOLENT GIANTS (SUWAMA & SHUJI ISHIKAWA) DEF. ZEUS & RYOUJI SAI © (18:12)
This started pretty slowly. Some brawling outside of the ring and Sai did a bunch of boring stuff to SUWAMA. Zeus finally got in there and decided to turn up this match and did some great stuff with SUWAMA. Zeus and SUWAMA were looking like they would be the glue that held this match together. However after a Backdrop from SUWAMA and soon after that a Lariat, Zeus collapsed and looked like he was knocked out. Kyohei Wada, being the best referee of all time sensed this and called for the bell giving the Violent Giants a win by TKO. Zeus was legit knocked out and you could tell as they were rolling him out of the ring. Who knows even if that was supposed to be the result of this match. I hope Zeus is okay. This match had finally got on track and was building to something but suffered from an unfortunate ending. ***
It should be noted that before the show, it was announced that Yoshitatsu has signed a contract with the company.
This show drew 1445 which was up five people from last year and is a good sign given some of their recent attendances at Korakuen Hall. Despite the ending of the main event, this was a good first outing for All Japan in 2020 that set some new things in motion like the creation of God’s Legion and what is looking like pushes for Danny Jones and Lucas Steel.
And while I predicted that Lee would win tomorrow, I think that given the level of heat he got on this show that having him beat Miyahara for the Triple Crown is now a big mistake. Hopefully, that does not happen on January 3.