ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
RAISING AN ARMY MEMORIAL SERIES 2000
OCTOBER 24, 2020
ENFANTS TERRIBLES (YUSUKE KODAMA & HOKUTO OMORI) DEF. EVOLUTION (HIKARU SATO & DAN TAMURA) (8:21)
I loved this. Very basic match where Tamura made a splash early but then got worked over by Enfants Terribles. The young boys Omori and Tamura were the highlights here. Omori is slowly but surely becoming a great prick heel. Omori as the illegal man managed to jump into the ring and help Kodama neutralize Tamura so Kodama could hit the Frog Splash for the win on Tamura. This was a lot of fun and the kind of match you want as an opener. ***1/2
TAKAO OMORI, MASANOBU FUCHI, BLACK MENSO~RE, MITSUO MOMOTA & RYUKI HONDA DEF. YOSHITATSU, RYOUJI SAI, YUSUKE OKADA, CHIKARA & ISHIKIRI (9:35)
Your obligatory All Japan undercard match with comedy from the old guys. This is a bit interesting since Momota and CHIKARA started as a battle of father versus son with some slaps and chops between them. Momota is 72 by the way, and looks every year of it, but to his credit, while he doesn’t do much, he does not move around at a snail’s pace. The rest of this match is what you would expect. The wrestlers got their main spots in and Fuchi did his delightful comedy spots. The ten-man tag format in this did allow for some wrestling between the comedy which helped the match. Omori won the match for his team with an Axe Bomber on CHIKARA. It is a shame though that Ishikiri or Okada didn’t get to show much off in this. **1/2
ALL ASIA TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
PURPLE HAZE (ZEUS & IZANAGI) © DEF. FRANCESCO AKIRA & RISING HAYATO (11:17)
Purple Haze didn’t even attack before the bell here, instead respecting the entrance of a champion. However, Izanagi offered his hand to shake to Akira at the beginning of the match then proceeded to kick the good Italian boy in the head. From that point, this spilled to the outside and became a more traditional Purple Haze match. Zeus gave a beating to Akira early on including a Gorilla Press Slam on the outside.
Once it got to Hayato against Izanagi the match really picked up the pace with a bunch of Jr. heavyweight style spots. Akira eventually managed to get a shocking amount of offense in on Zeus including taking him out of the ring. However, that didn’t stop Izanagi as his craftiness allowed him to get an Inside Cradle on Hayato after being distracted by Zeus for the win after a pretty hot closing sequence featuring a lot of cradle attempts and kicks and suplexes and Akira and Hayato managed to look good here against a team of the wiley junior veteran and a heavyweight full of power moves. Purple Haze make their V1 defense of the All Asia tag titles. ***1/2
JUST BEFORE REAL WORLD TAG LEAGUE SPECIAL SIX MAN TAG MATCH
JAKE LEE, MASATO TANAKA & TAJIRI DEF. KENTO MIYAHARA, YUMA AOYAGI & DAISUKE SEKIMOTO (12:59)
Tanaka is one of my all-time favorite wrestlers. His run in ECW in late 1999 played a major part in me getting into puroresu. So I am always pumped when he shows up in All Japan. Tanaka and TAJIRI came out to the ECW on TNN theme and TAJRI carried a kendo stick while Tanaka had a chair. This made me laugh in part because I did not expect ECW nostalgia, despite being seemingly everywhere in pro wrestling, to also end up in All Japan.
Before the match started, it was established that Miyahara and Sekimoto were not getting along as partners. Sekimoto would go on to hitting Miyahara with hard chops a couple of times later on in the match to tag in. We got Miyahara versus Tanaka to start which is a matchup I’ve long wanted to see. It was pretty good while it lasted. From there this was a very good match with lots of action and everyone getting their spots in. We were teased a spot where Tanaka would hit a Top Rope Splash on Miyahara to a table on the outside that sadly did not happen. TAJIRI used his kendo stick to hit Aoyagi while Tanaka followed up with a Sliding D for the win. The biggest issue I had with this match was that it was only starting to heat up and could have used a few more minutes. ***1/2
PWF WORLD JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
KOJI IWAMOTO DEF. ATSUKI AOYAGI (14:01)
Aoyagi has completed his graduation from young boy status here as he debuted a nice new outfit here. This started up with some basic grappling with Iwamoto in control for the majority of it. Iwamoto started to up his offense while Aoyagi didn’t respond for a bit. However, when Aoyagi finally got sustained offense, this match really picked up.
We got spinning planchas and big kicks. Iwamoto managed to get back the momentum but then Aoyagi countered with a Poison Rana and chain Fisherman’s Suplexes. Iwamoto would thwart Aoyagi’s top rope move attempts and then eventually put him away with the Koko no Geijutsu. I loved this. It was a perfect up and coming wrestler versus veteran match. Iwamoto controlled dominantly early but then Aoyagi got a lot of stuff in, Iwamoto controlled some more and then Aoyagi did, then Iwamoto did again and got the win.
It never felt like Aoyagi was in control because of a fluke, but he still lost because he is simply not as good as Iwamoto is at this point. Aoyagi’s performance here may have been the single biggest transformation from one match to the next I have ever seen. It was not just his look, he used a lot of new moves and also looked good on the mat. This was an awesome surprise. This was one of those payoff moments when you watch a wrestler closely from their debut as I have with Aoyagi (he only debuted in January 2019) alongside Houkto Omori and Dan Tamura. ****
WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
VIOLENT GIANTS (SUWAMA & SHUJI ISHIKAWA) DEF. ENFANTS TERRIBLES (SHOTARO ASHINO & KUMA ARASHI) (20:55)
This started with some nice grappling between Ashino and SUWAMA. Then we got a lot of fun beefy boy action between Arashi and Ishikawa. Arashi got in some impressive power spots against Ishikawa. Enfants Terribles were in control for quite a bit of this match. These sequences were good, but was rather strange given how Enfants Terribles have been usually booked (especially Arashi) in singles matches against Violent Giants in the past. That being said, this was a lot of fun with mostly all action, little down time and lots of big moves. I thought Ashino was brilliant here with great sequences against SUWAMA and did lots of little things like trying to motivate Arashi to get up while he was down. The last few minutes were really hot with Arashi and Ishikawa going at it, but with lots of Ashino and SUWAMA run-ins as well. Ishikawa finally got the upperhand and hit a Giant Slam for the win. Not the result I would have booked but this was great. ****1/4
This was the best top to bottom All Japan show in some time. That being said, I can still understand those who are disappointed that Enfants Terrible didn’t win the tag titles. While I am more patient than many in making declarations, it is now clear that Enfants have a ceiling in All Japan. It is baffling, especially given the need for fresh blood. All Japan needs at the top of the card but outsiders coming in unless they are absolutely huge star, often have ceilings in Japanese pro wrestling promotions. All Japan is far from the biggest promotion in Japan and really have no reason to drag their feet on this.
SUWAMA’s run as both Triple Crown Champion and World Tag Team Champion has gone on way too long at this point. He needs to drop both titles sooner rather than later to spur some development in this promotion. However, given there has been Violent Giants dissension teased over the past few months, hopefully a breakup will happen during the Real World Tag League and its immediate aftermath.
That being said, also despite my disappointment in Zeus not winning the Triple Crown, this show gave me some juice going into the Real World Tag League which has potential but given the way the Champion Carnival was booked, I am going to have to see a good tournament to believe it.