JUNE 30, 2020

Watch: AJPW.TV


These guys got right to it with a bunch of chain wrestling and even a Plancha from Aoyagi. Definitely a lot different than how they usually work. It’s nice to see that this tournament, which is the equivalent of New Japan’s Young Lion’s Cup is letting these guys really show off what they’ve got. This was a back-and-forth with each guy getting in a good share of offense. Tamura showed off some new moves like a Backbreaker and got the win with another new move, a Texas Cloverleaf Hold that Aoyagi tapped to. A good start to the tournament. ***


This match was a little slower paced than the opener. The work was still mostly solid. This was again a match where both men got in their fair share of offense. The issue with both of these tournament matches I’d argue is that despite the solid work, these guys don’t quite have the experience to build to exciting finishes. Omori hit a Cutter and then a German Suplex Hold to win, but there wasn’t much excitement to it. Despite that, all of these young boys clearly have potential and are beginning to step up and introduce new moves to their repertoires. **3/4


The usual Purple Haze match. UTAMARO and Zeus worked over Menso~re a bunch and they took some cheap shots. UTAMARO did a Tope Suicida in this match and I thought to myself, buddy you don’t have to do this on the third match on the card against a team that generally does the job. But then again UTAMARO, after not being used during the other empty arena shows is probably eager to prove his worth to All Japan which is where he has primarily appeared since last Autumn. Anyway, Zeus got the win with the Jackhammer on Menso~re. Textbook stuff but far from offensive, and I liked that UTAMARO worked pretty hard in a match like this. **3/4


This wasn’t much. TAJIRI and Tachibana did most of the work and Aoyagi was just in here for a short time and really didn’t do much except for hitting a nice dropkick. The work kind of picked up towards the end of this match. Yoshitatsu got the win by making TAJIRI submit to the Yoshitatsu Fantasy. While this match was nothing special, I am enjoying the Yoshitatsu and Tachibana team and their weird charisma. **1/2


Jiro had an ungodly long entrance for this match. He kept avoiding getting into the ring. But I will be fair and only judge what happened once the bell rang. Akira and Sato had a good sequence early on, and Akira is now using the Tarantula as a tribute to his mentor TAJIRI who recruited him to All Japan. This turned into a fun sprint. Akira and Okada were the glue that held this match together. Jiro was annoying, Ishikawa didn’t do much and Miyahara had a few fun spots. Miyahara pinned Okada with a regular German Suplex Hold for the win. After the match, both Jiro and Akira ask to be chosen as Miyahara’s partner. Miyahara chooses both of them, suggesting a new faction has been formed. In the backstage promos after the match Okada and Sato got into an argument, and we’re going to get a lot more teases of Evolution breaking up. ***1/4


I wouldn’t have expected these two to have the chemistry they did, but I was delightfully surprised. This started with some good chain wrestling and then Kodama worked Iwamoto over for a bit. For all of Kodama playing a weirdo, which can sometimes cause wrestlers to stress the character over the workrate, he has really good fundamentals in the ring. Iwamoto, who I think is good but can be hit-or-miss in singles matches was pretty good here, he did not fall too much into the formulaic stuff he sometimes does. I thought the finish was slightly flat. It was certainly definitive though. Iwamoto hit two STOs that Kodama kicked out of followed up by the Koko no Geijitsu for the win. I thought the back-and-forth nature of the match should have led to a hotter finishing sequence. However, this was still pretty good, and Iwamoto now faces Susumu Yokosuka on July 25 in Korakuen Hall. ***1/2


Arashi attacked before the bell with an eye rake. This soon spilled outside where Arashi worked over Lee some more. There was a point when Lee got the advantage on the outside and stuck his foot in Arashi’s face with a devil may care attitude which I thought was great and something we don’t really see from Lee. He definitely showed more aggression here than he does in an average match. This match was pretty simple and at times, more of a brawl than a match but it held my attention and I really liked it even though it was a bunch of eye rakes and illegal holds. Given that Arashi had been hounding Lee for a match on the past several shows, this worked in the context of the story. Lee escaped from a Fire Thunder Powerbomb attempt, hit a running knee and a Backdrop for the win. I thought this was really fun and a good pay off to their feud, even if the length of the match seems short at first glance. ***1/2


This match started off with just a couple of dudes with amateur wrestling backgrounds doing some grappling and it was great. Ashino played the aggressive heel. He landed some punches to SUWAMA’s face early on and even did an old school just choke the guy laying on that mat. SUWAMA eventually got sick of Ashino’s games and decided to be a bit of a dick himself with some choking and boots to the head while Ashino was down. Ashino eventually went after the left leg. Ashino then transitioning to working over the lower leg was also a nice touch as it was a callback to the Achilles Tendon injury that SUWAMA suffered in early 2016 that forced him to vacate the Triple Crown. Ashino as you can tell by what I have written so far, was tremendous in this match. He did plenty of little things that were great like grabbing SUWAMA’s leg during a Powerbomb attempt. And in a company that has a lot of top wrestlers that are bigger guys, Ashino didn’t feel small here. That was thanks to the quality of his work that made this match a great technical versus power bout, though when Ashino did finally hit suplexes on SUWAMA, I popped big.

There was a point in the match where Ashino had SUWAMA in the Ankle Lock and SUWAMA would escape but it would get put back on, that I thought went too long. The finishing stretch was not the wild spamming of moves you would get in a Miyahara match. SUWAMA was dominant, but Ashino withstood moves like the Backdrop and you thought he was about to mount a comeback because he tried to grab SUWAMA to stop him but couldn’t quite manage too. SUWAMA won with the Last Ride Powerbomb. A great match and a tremendous performance from Ashino. SUWAMA of course deserves credit too. He does a great job of being able to beat someone down for an extended period and keep it interesting, and that was the case here. I can see someone thinking this got slow in some parts, but if you have watched the whole Enfants Terribles invasion of All Japan, you are far more invested and even some of the slower parts were compelling for that reason. But, sure if five minutes were cut from this match I don’t think anyone would have noticed and those unfamiliar with All Japan probably could have gotten into it more. I usually don’t say something like that for a match I enjoyed this much. After the match, Shuji Ishikawa came down to challenge SUWAMA next, furthering the dissension in Evolution angle we saw earlier on the show. ****1/4


I stated in my reviews leading up to this show that I think that All Japan should have just pulled the trigger and have Ashino win the Triple Crown. But deep down in my gut, I thought he was going to lose here. I still think, however, Ashino winning here would have given All Japan the shot in the arm it needed. That being said, I don’t think that the Enfants Terribles invasion has been ruined here. Ashino still looked strong in defeat and will no doubt continue to be a major player. With all of these empty arena shows there is the challenge of booking something to move the company along and then having to save stuff for once the fans can return. In this case, there was the situation of Wrestle-1 closing and talent becoming available, Naoya Nomura getting injured, and the pandemic. Booking choices were definitely changed. In the absence of the pandemic, I think SUWAMA would have lost the Triple Crown by now, especially because the Champion Carnival would have happened. There is also the issue of a general booking conservatism in many Japanese promotions. Outsiders will get pushes but often do not win the top title quickly and on their first chance. I think that is also a factor in what happened here but as long as All Japan keeps Ashino in the top mix, I will be fine.

It is possible of course, we will look back and think All Japan botched the booking on this show. There for sure has been some uneven booking on the empty arena shows but I would say with All Japan booking wrestlers like Ayato Yoshida and Fuminori Abe again during the July shows with fans, angles like the tension in Evolution, and the Champion Carnival now scheduled for September that whether or not this show made all the wrong choices won’t become clear for a little bit.

Despite the uneven booking, as All Japan readies to run in front of fans again, it can at least claim to have been a company that actually put on compelling empty arena shows that booked some hot angles like the Enfants Terribles invasion and has begun to take steps to push its younger talent like Franceso Akira and Hokuto Omori up the card.