ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
EXCITE SERIES 2020
FEBRUARY 11, 2020
KORAKUEN HALL
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: AJPW.TV

EVOLUTION (HIKARU SATO & YUSUKE OKADA) & JR KRATOS DEF. HOKUTO OMORI, RISING HAYATO & TSUGUTAKA SATO (8:37)

The debuting Kratos tried to intimidate the opposing team as soon as he entered the ring, and Sato and Okada had to hold him back.

Omori showed how much he has improved as of late by doing some good mat work with Sato to start.

Kratos got tagged in and showed his power against Omori and Hayato but looked a little awkward at times. Match got back on track with some good Okada vs. Omori sequences. Okada ended up getting the win on Omori with the Sudden Death (Fisherman’s Buster). This turned into something fun after some initial shakiness though Kratos didn’t really make an impact here. **3/4

PURPLE HAZE (ZEUS, UTAMARO & IZANAGI) DEF. JIN ( AYATO YOSHIDA & FUMINORI ABE) & TATSUYA HANAMI (5:19)

Hanami is a young 2AW wrestler replacing Naoya Nomura in this match who is out with a herniated cervical disk.

Purple Haze attacked at the bell and we got some crowd brawling to start. Zeus took control of Abe for a while then there was a hot tag to Yoshida who was just explosive in the ring and took out all of the members of Purple Haze.

Zeus got the win with a Jackhammer on Hanami. This was short but fun and did a good job of establishing a rivalry between JIN and Purple Haze. ***

ALL ASIA TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
JIN (JAKE LEE & KOJI IWAMOTO) © DEF. TAKAO OMORI & BLACK MENSO~RE (9:56)

This match went right into action and we saw a Hurricanrana and a Tope Suicida from Menso~re early on. As I said in my preview of this show, Menso~re and Omori will work a lot harder in a title match like this.

This was a fun back-and-forth match. Menso~re got worked over for a bit, but after a while we got to see Omori go up against Lee and looked better than he has in a while. Iwamoto got several near falls on Menso~re with a STO, Brainbuster and German Suplex. Menso~re got a few of his own with some roll ups. Iwamoto pinned Menso~re with the Koko no Geijutsu in a hot finishing sequence that saw Lee and Omori get involved and several more near falls on each wrestler. As I suspected, this would be the sleeper match of the show. ***3/4

MANABU NAKANISHI ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING FINAL
MANABU NAKANISHI, JUN AKIYAMA, OSAMU NISHIMURA & YUTAKA YOSHIE DEF. YOSHITATSU, RYOUJI SAI, TAJIRI & DAN TAMURA (10:29)

We were teased with Nakanishi vs. TAJIR to start thisI, but TAIJRI tagged out to Yoshitatsu before they could lock up, thankfully. Yoshitatsu and Nakanishi did some basic holds but it was probably the last time we were going to see Nakanishi do them. Akiyama beat up on Tamura for a bit when they were the legal men. Tamura then became the whipping boy for Yoshie and then Nakanishi.

There was a fun spot where Sai, TAJIRI and Yoshitatsu triple teamed Nakanishi to a bunch of boos only to have Nakanishi fight them off to a pop.

Tamura and then Nakanishi had an extended sequence where they went toe-to-toe and Tamura even Bodyslammed him. Tamura looked great here. Nakanishi eventually gained control and put Tamura in the Argentine Backbreaker for the win. This was a lot of fun and a great send off to Nakanishi and a young guy like Tamura got some rub as well. ***

During the intermission the participants of the 2020 Champion Carnival were announced:

  • Kento Miyahara
  • Yuma Aoyagi
  • Suwama
  • Shuji Ishikawa
  • Zeus
  • Jake Lee
  • Yoshitatsu
  • Naoya Nomura
  • Ryoji Sai
  • KAI
  • Ayato Yoshida
  • Hideyoshi Kamitani
  • Shigehiro Irie
  • Gianni Valletta
  • Joel Redman
  • Lucas Steel
  • Davey Boy Smith Jr.
  • Takashi Sugiura

The Champion Carnival begins on April 6 at Korakuen Hall and ends on May 5 at Korakuen Hall.

AJPW WORLD JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
SUSUMU YOKOSUKA © DEF. FRANCESCO AKIRA (11:52)

Akira hit a Tope Suicida early and took control, but Yokosuka eventually began to work over the leg.

Akira fought back and hit a Tope con Hilo on Yokosuka on the outside. There was a bunch of reversals from both guys and Akira even hit a Slingblade on the apron. Yokosuka hit a Death Valley Driver from the top rope for a 2.9 and a Sliding Lariat for another near fall. The crowd was going crazy at this point. After a big Hurricanrana counter from Akira, Yokosuka eventually got back the momentum and hit a Yokosuka Cutter for the win.

This was awesome and the best match Akira has ever had. He will be Jr. Heavyweight champion sooner than later I think. If I had one minor gripe, the leg work was ignored even though it seemed like it would be brought back into play into the match after Akira hit a Meteora then started favor his leg. But that didn’t have a big effect on my enjoyment of this.

Yokousuka’s title reign is the shot in the arm that AJPW’s Jr. Heavyweight division needed. ****

After the match, Yusuke Okada came out to challenge Yokosuka next.




AJPW WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
VIOLENT GIANTS (SUWAMA & SHUJI ISHIKAWA) © DEF. PURPLE HAZE (SHIGEHIRO IRIE & LUCAS STEEL) (11:28)

These guys brawled into the crowd almost immediately. When they got back in the ring, we got some great stiff strikes from Irie and Ishikawa facing off.

Steel showed off he was a big man who could do some flying with a Leg Drop off the top rope onto Ishikawa on the apron.

The Violent Giants accidentally collided and teased some dissension. But SUWAMA then almost got a pin on Steel but Izanagi pulled referee Nikkan Lee out of the ring. Izanagi and UTAMARO also got into the ring to interfere but SUWAMA managed to fight them off.

SUWAMA had to hit three Backdrops to finally put Steel away. This match had its moments but the outside interference is a turnoff. While AJPW needs a midcard heel faction like Purple Haze, they need to tone down the interference. The All Japan crowds really don’t like it when it happens. Steel continues to impress, however. ***1/2

TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
KENTO MIYAHARA © DEF. YUMA AOYAGI (24:09)

Aoyagi wore a new leather vest for his entrance and new short tights. Aoyagi also sarcastically gave thumbs up to the crowd as he came out.

Early on, while fighting on the outside, Miyahara missed Aoyagi and drilled his right arm into the ringpost. Aoyagi immediately went after the arm. Miyahara managed to fight back with a flurry of headbutts.

They got back into the ring and went back and forth, but then Aoyagi went back after the arm. Aoyagi was going to do a move to Miyahara off of the apron, but Miyahara hit a Piledriver on the apron as a counter.

From there, the match middled along. Both guys got some near falls but it didn’t quite hit the usual level of a Miyahara Triple Crown match. Going the usual Miyahara match length does not highlight Aoyagi’s strengths. He is better in a match designed to be a sprint.

The match finally picked up when Aoyagi hit his need Spin Kick move for a 2.9 and a Fisherman’s buster for another 2.9 that got a big pop from the crowd. Miyahara then hit the Break Heart (a high angle Pedigree), which he hadn’t used in ages. From there I thought the match would finally pick up but then Miyahara soon hit the Shutdown German Suplex for the win. Oh and once the match was over Miyahara finally decided to start selling his arm again.

This was the weakest Miyahara title defense in a long time. While Aoyagi did some good heel work, he was exposed in a match going this length. That being said, Miyahara was still able to get something good out of this. And this was Miyahara’s V10 defense, now tying him with Toshiaki Kawada for most successful Triple Crown defenses. ***3/4

After the match, Miyahara congratulated Aoyagi on “graduating” up to the title challenger level and moving on from Nextream, but Aoyagi refused to shake Miyahara’s hand on his way out.

SUWAMA came out to accept Miyahara’s sort of open challenge saying he wants to have a match that shows what All Japan stands for. That will be your March Korakuen Hall main event where Miyahara tries to set the all-time defense record for the Triple Crown. Think of this match as a battle of the two top stars of the company over who really symbolizes it.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This show drew 1687 which is the largest crowd for AJPW in Korakuen Hall since last year’s Champion Carnival finals and should be seen as a big success given how their Korkuen Hall attendance were trending in the second half of 2019.

Despite a weaker than usual main event, this was a really fun show. AJPW continues with its new direction and while he did not have a Match of the Year Contender, Aoyagi was elevated.

Akira proved that he is a future champion and also showed us that in 2020, AJPW’s Jr. Heavyweight division is a must watch.

Despite some questionable things like outside interference from Purple Haze, things continue to look up for AJPW, especially with that killer Champion Carnival lineup. But some questions remain. Can Aoyagi reach the level of Lee and Nomura? And will Nomura’s neck injury keep him out of the Champion Carnival that many expect him to win and be the guy who eventually beats Miyahara for the Triple Crown?