ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
CHAMPION CARNIVAL 2020
OCTOBER 5, 2020
To open the show, all the wrestlers came out and referee Kyohei Wada held a picture of Road Warrior Animal, and there was a ten-bell salute to commemorate his passing. Fun fact: Masanobu Fuchi and Takao Omori are the only current All Japan roster members to have worked with Animal.
JIN (JAKE LEE & KOJI IWAMOTO) & TAJRI DEF. WILD MENSO~RE (TAKAO OMORI & BLACK MENSO~RE) & ATSUKI AOYAGI (5:51)
This match was billed as a prelude to the Iwamoto vs. Aoyagi Jr. Title match that happens on the 10/24 Korakuen Hall show.This was your standard opener where everyone did their usual spots. The sequences between Aoyagi and Iwamoto were pretty good. I have been hot and cold on Iwamoto over the years, but he’s been carrying himself well during this current Jr. Title reign. Iwamoto got the win over Black Menso~re with the Koko no Geijutsu. This could have actually gone on a bit longer and have been pretty good, but it got the job done in building to Aoyagi vs. Iwamoto. After the match, Aoyagi hit a Missile Dropkick on Iwamoto and did the belt motion. **3/4
OSAMU NISHIMURA & RYUJI HIJIKATA DEF. HIKARU SATO & RYUKI HONDA (4:33)
We got some cool grappling from Hijikata and Sato to start. With Wrestle-1 defunct, it’s nice to see Hijikata pop back up in All Japan occasionally. Honda showed good fire here, trying to take it to the veterans, but they usually got the best of him. Honda managed to hit a German Suplex on Hijikata but Hijikata transitioned over into an arm bar and as Honda struggled to escape, Hijikata turned it into a Cross Armbreaker for the win. Another short match that was good while it lasted, with it doing it’s role of showing off Honda as a young hungry wrestler. **1/2
YOSHITATSU KINGDOM (YOSHITATSU & YUSUKE OKADA) & CHIKARA LAND’S END (RYOUJI SAI, SO DAIMONJI & ISHIKIRI) (9:35)
One of the positives of All Japan returning to shows in front of fans, is the more sparing use of Sai who does nothing for me, though I like his Land’s End guys. CHIKARA is one of the worst wrestlers in Japan despite being Rikidozan’s grandson. It’s fascinating that with each successive generation the Momota family finds less and less success in wrestling. Sai got on my good side here by being an absolute prick to CHIKARA early on in this, just blasting him with kicks and raking his back. Ishikiri is a nice little high flyer that All Japan should use more. The match structure was right for this match. The Land’s End guys worked over CHIKARA for a while building to a Yoshitatsu hot tag. CHIKARA got the win with a chop to the head jumping off the top rope to Ishikiri. Okada was a total non-factor here, only getting a little ring time at the beginning of the match. This was shockingly better than I expected. ***
JIRO “IKEMEN” KUROSHIO, FRANCESCO AKIRA & RISING HAYATO DEF. PURPLE HAZE (SHIGEHIRO IRIE, UTAMARO & IZANAGI) (4:59)
Purple Haze thankfully attacked while Jiro was making his entrance, saving us from the pain of a full entrance. This was a fast paced match that was all action. Jiro to his credit, looked good here. Hayato got a surprise win over Izanagi with a Jackknife Hold and it looks like we may be getting Akira and Hayato challenging Izanagi and Zeus for the All Asia Tag Team Championship. A fun match while it lasted but it could have gone longer. ***
ENFANTS TERRIBLES (SHOTARO ASHINO, KUMA ARASHI & HOKUTO OMORI) DEF. EVOLUTION (SUWAMA, SHUJI ISHIKAWA & DAN TAMURA) (12:42)
Only a couple minutes into this match and we got a tease of Violent Giants dissension as Ishikawa accidently clotheslined SUWAMA. Tamura got worked over for a while by Enfants Terribles who also did some cheating. Ashino and SUWAMA had a nice little sequence in the middle of this. Tamura managed to deadlift gutwrench suplex Arashi which was impressive. Arashi pinned Tamura with a Diving Senton off the top-rope. This was a pretty good match where everyone got time to shine. After the match Ashino and Arashi took to the mic to challenge the Violent Giants to the World Tag Team Championship on the 10/24 Korakuen Hall show. Ishikawa and SUWAMA left separately to the back to sell their tension. ***1/2
YUMA AOYAGI DEF. KOJI DOI (10:53)
Aoyagi immediately Dropkicked Doi when he got in the ring. They then brawled around the outside. This had the feeling of a grudge match right away. After the hot opening, it slowed down a bit but not for so long that it hurt the match. Both wrestlers locked in their submissions at points but rope breaks happened. Good finishing stretch with some close near falls on both but Aoyagi persevered and managed to lock in the End Game for the referee stoppage. This was a pretty darn good match but I think Doi should have won in order to make a fresh future Triple Crown challenger. ***3/4
CHAMPION CARNIVAL 2020 FINALS
ZEUS DEF. KENTO MIYAHARA (31:05)
This started exactly like a Miyahara match. Some lock-ups and headlocks in the beginning and then some brawling on the outside. Zeus hit a nasty looking overhead belly-to-belly suplex on the outside on Miyahara. Zeus then worked over Miyahara’s back. Zeus hit an Air Raid Crash to Miyahara on the apon that looked sick. Miyahara sold it and Zeus’ follow-up moves well but then just automatically turned on the comeback like he was magically healed. Zeus, however, was awesome here, and pulled out lots of moves he doesn’t use often. There was a great moment when they both grabbed each others’ throat and then had a stiff forearm and chop exchange. Despite all the build up of the Facelock, Zeus simply applied it for a bit then went for a cover when Miyahara wouldn’t tap.
Zeus kicked out of the Shutdown German Suplex which doesn’t happen a lot recently. Zeus escaped another Shutdown attempt and hit a big Lariat and the Jackhammer for the win. While I have my quibbles with some of the selling and the fact that the Facelock wasn’t a real factor here after it was built up so much, this was still an awesome match, and was Miyahara’s best match in a while and the best match in All Japan so far this year. The closing stretch was incredibly dramatic and I really couldn’t get a feel on who was going to win here. After the match, Zeus offered a handshake to Miyahara and then they embraced. Yuma Aoyagi even jumped into the ring to console Miyahara and help him to the back suggesting Aoyagi is turning face. In the post match celebration, Zeus came off as a total babyface despite Purple Haze being heels. Zeus now presumably faces SUWAMA for the Triple Crown on 10/17 in Osaka. ****1/2
This was a good show, strangely made that way by only having one match part of the Champion Carnival part of it. This show drew 619 which is pretty good for a Monday show under pandemic attendance restrictions.
The nightmare of the Champion Carnival is over. While I never found it truly awful, it was extremely disappointing given how great it has been the last couple of years. After watching this tremendous final, I got the feeling that the Champion Carnival this year was done for the sake of it, which I suspect is tied to the fact that Zeus won it over Miyahara or Jake Lee. Coming out of this show, a lot of seeds were planted for things moving forward. That of course isn’t an excuse. A lot of Western fans got turned off of All Japan by the quality of the Champion Carnival compared to the G1 and N-1. The next couple of months are going to tell us whether the Champion Carnival marks a new disappointing state of affairs in All Japan or just an aberration done just to get it over with. There are certainly signs that things could get interesting during the Autumn and Winter, but I will believe it when I see it.