ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
NEW YEAR WARS 2020
JANUARY 2, 2020
Before the show started, it was announced that TAJIRI and Ryuki Honda are now signed to All Japan contracts. TAJIRI being formally signed is not surprising given he’s has a hand in running the company. Honda is a solid pick up and only turns 21 this February and shows lots of potential.
PURPLE HAZE (SHIGEHIRO IRIE & IZANAGI) DEF. ATSUKI AOYAGI & RISING HAYATO (7:56)
A solid opener. Purple Haze played the heels and Aoyagi and HAYATO played the high-flying babyfaces. Aoyagi in particular busted out a few high-flying moves. Purple Haze took most of the match though their opponents got a few hope spots. Irie won with the Beast Bomber on Aoyagi. ***
YOSHITATSU, RYUJI HIJIKATA, TAKAYUKI UEKI & CHIKARA DEF. TAKAO OMORI, OSAMU NISHIMURA, BLACK MENSO~RE & RYUKI HONDA (9:02)
This match featured way too much CHIKARA and his yelling early on. It got much better when he got out of there. Honda got in there towards the end and looked pretty good but then submitted to a Crab Hold from Yoshitatsu. This was your standard second from the bottom type of match in All Japan which are not necessarily good but at least has some comedy. However, CHIKARA does not make me laugh. **1/4
ENFANTS TERRIBLES (KUMA ARASHI & KOJI DOI) DEF. EVOLUTION (HIKARU SATO & DAN TAMURA) (10:54)
KumaDoi make their return as a tag team for the first time since Wrestle-1 folded. Doi and Sato started with some grappling then Arashi and Tamura tagged in. Arashi then started working over Tamura for a bit. Tamura got some shine later on when he gutwrench suplexed both members of Enfants Terribles and got a near fall on Doi. Eventually, Doi fought back and hit a Lariat on Tamura for the win. I thought this started a little slow but got really good when Tamura went on his offensive flurry. ***1/4
ENFANTS TERRIBLES (SHOTARO ASHINO, YUSUKE KODAMA & HOKUTO OMORI) DEF. JAKE LEE, TAJIRI & FRANCESCO AKIRA (8:11)
After a nice little opening sequence between Akira and Omori, Enfants Terribles targeted TAJIRI’s left leg and worked it over. We got what looked like a pretty good Ashino versus Lee stretch, but after some forearm and European Uppercut exchanges, Lee tagged out before it could get really good. Ashino made Akira tapped to a grapevined Ankle Lock. This had some good moments but was too short to become great. ***
NEW YEAR BATTLE ROYAL
WINNER: THE BODYGUARD (9:49)
Participants were: Atsuki Aoyagi, Black Menso~re, Shigehiro Irie, Izanagi, Ryuji Hijikata, Yoshitatsu, Dan Tamura, TAJIRI, Rising HAYATO, CHIKARA, Takayuki Ueki, Shotaro Ashino, Koji Doi, Yusuke Kodama, Francesco Akira, Osamu Nishimura, Hikaru Sato, Dan Tamura, Kuma Arashi, Hokuto Omori, Takao Omori, Ryuki Honda, and The Bodyguard.
The Bodyguard sang his theme on the way to the ring and it was great.
All Japan Battle Royals are generally not that great. A lot of standing around happens so that a wrestler that does get taken down gets piled on to be eliminated via pin. There were still a couple fun spots here and there, including Kodama and Black Menso~re briefly teasing a reunion of their short lived team, only to have Kodama betray Menso~re again. Final three came down to The Bodyguard, Akira and Honda. The Bodyguard and Akira briefly teamed up against Honda but then The Bodyguard accidentally eliminated Akira with a Lariat while Akira was on the apron. The Bodyguard won the Battle Royal by hitting the High Kick on Honda and making him tap to the Camel Clutch. This wasn’t much but I liked the showdown of the final three, so I’ll give it a passing grade. **1/2
ASTRONAUTS (TAKUYA NOMURA & FUMINORI ABE) DEF. KOJI IWAMOTO & IKUTO HIDAKA (11:19)
Iwamoto and Nomura laid in some stiff shots on each other early on which helped to set the tone of this match. This was a pretty great back-and-forth with everyone looking good. I’m not sure how much Hidaka and Nomura have been in the ring together before, but they had great chemistry. They packed in a lot here in this relatively short match. Abe got the surprise win on Iwamoto when he countered the Koko no Geijutsu into a pinning cradle. After the match, Abe got on the mic and challenged his fellow JIN stablemate to a match for the PWF. Jr. Heavyweight Championship. I thought the finish was a little sudden given how great the flow of this match was but it works in the context of building to a Jr. title match. This was a match that caught a lot of people’s eye when it was announced and it definitely delivered. ***3/4
MASATO TANAKA DEF. ZEUS (10:48)
This was my most anticipated match in the week of shows in Japan leading up to Wrestle Kingdom. Tanaka targeted Zeus’ neck from nearly the beginning of the match with elbows and knees. Tanaka controlled a lot of the match early on, but Zeus fought back to take more control as the match progressed. There were some great moments like when they just kept Lariating each other and some nasty-looking forearm exchanges. Zeus looked to be in control after a Chokeslam but Tanaka fought back, and hit a Sliding D almost out of nowhere for a surprise pin. Not a great finish but the rest of the match was pretty damn good. The finish here can be salvaged if they keep this rivalry going into the future. ***1/2
WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
NEXTREAM (KENTO MIYAHARA & YUMA AOYAGI) DEF. VIOLENT GIANTS (SUWAMA & SHUJI ISHIKAWA) © (25:26)
Aoyagi and SUWAMA started and gave us a tease of their Triple Crown match coming up tomorrow. They had some good sequences but eventually, Aoyagi started getting worked over by both Violent Giants for a while. Aoyagi finally made the hot tag to Miyahara and then we got some good action between Ishikawa and Miyahara. Aoyagi then got worked over some more by SUWAMA. Things finally turned around for Aoyagi when he countered a Last Ride attempt from SUWAMA into a Hurricanrana. From there the match entered the closing stretch. Aoyagi got some near falls on SUWAMA. Violent Giants hit their Suplerplex/Powerbomb combo on Aoyagi but Miyhara made the save but then Ishikawa hit the Thunder Fire Driver on him on the apron which made the crowd scream in violation of the rules. After a bunch of big suplexes from SUWAMA to Aoyagi where Aoyagi managed to kick out of, SUWAMA went for the Backdrop, but Aoyagi countered into a Front Neck Lock that he rolled over into the End Game which eventually led to a referee stoppage as SUWAMA was unresponsive.
This was a little shaky at parts earlier on but the last few minutes of Aoyagi hanging in there against SUWAMA were great and really helped to make this match. Aoyagi was the star here though Miyahara was no slouch either in making the declining Violent Giants still look like a formidable tag team. Let’s see if Aoyagi can make SUWAMA look good as he did here in their Triple Crown match tomorrow. The Violent Giants fail on their sixth defense attempt of their fourth reign with the World Tag Team Championship and lose the titles exactly one year to the day they won them. And with this loss, the Violent Giants are breaking up so the tag division is getting a much-needed reboot for 2021. After Nextream cut their post-match promos, the Big Japan team of Abdullah Kobayashi and Daisuke Sekimoto are out to challenge for the tag titles as they beat Nextream in the Real World Tag League. ****1/4
This show was an easy watch and a promising start for All Japan this year. The only thing I really didn’t like was the finish to Zeus vs. Tanaka. However the finish in the main event was absolutely the right one with Aoyagi beating SUWAMA. SUWAMA is going to retain the Triple Crown tomorrow in all likelihood, but Aoyagi will have still been elevated. Hopefully SUWAMA’s Triple Crown reign will end soon. I am most interested in what will happen to the tag division in the future now that Nextream are the champions and the Violent Giants are no more.