ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
CHAMPION CARNIVAL 2021 NIGHT 1
APRIL 9, 2021
OSAKA EDION ARENA #2
OSAKA, JAPAN

Watch: AJPW.TV

NON-TOURNAMENT MATCHES

  • Koji Iwamoto, Hikaru Sato & Dan Tamura def. NEXTREAM (Atsuki Aoyagi & Rising HAYATO) & Yasutaka Oosera (8:01)
  • Total Eclipse (TAJIRI, Hokuto Omori & Yusuke Kodama) def. Takao Omori, Black Menso~re & Francesco Akira (6:47)
  • Izanagi & The Bodyguard def. Yoshitatsu & Ryuki Honda (9:44)

CHAMPION CARNIVAL
SHUJI ISHIKAWA [2] DEF. KOJI DOI [0] (9:09)

This was a good sprint. However, Doi worked over Ishikawa’s left arm but the Big Dog kept using it to do strikes and Lariats. If you can get past that, it was still fun. Doi even got Ishikawa up in an Argentine Backbreaker. Ishikawa won with a Thesz Press which looks convincing against a much smaller opponent, but Doi is a fairly beefy guy so I have a harder time taking it seriously as a finisher in this context. Doi looked good and got in plenty of offense. I think he will turn out to be a good addition to the tournament this year. ***1/4

CHAMPION CARNIVAL
KOHEI SATO [2] DEF. SUWAMA [0] (10:49)

Well, this was better than their February Triple Crown match. That was in part due to this being the length it was. They threw bombs out of the gate and didn’t go so long that these guys, both over 40 years old, got gassed. This was what you think a Sato versus SUWAMA match would actually be. There was some sloppiness, but the stiff action and big moves made up for it. Again, SUWAMA once again was great at selling in this match, which is something he doesn’t get a lot of recognition for. A lot of people would be far less critical of SUWAMA if he wrestled more shorter matches like this. ***1/2

CHAMPION CARNIVAL
SHINJIRO OTANI [2] DEF. YUMA AOYAGI [0] (9:51)

Ohtani is one surly motherfucker. Aoyagi was the perfect first opponent for him, as Aoyagi can play the young upstart trying to inflame the veteran and also a sympathetic babyface. Aoyagi did both here. He mocked Otani and his signature facewash. Otani they proceed to torture his much younger opponent with lots of kicks to the face. Aoyagi managed to regain momentum and even got a near tap out with the End Game. Otani managed to fight back and hit a huge lariat that Aoyagi kicked out at one, then Otani hit Kesagiri Chops for the win. This was great and each man played their role perfectly. If you haven’t seen Otani in a while (and many haven’t because Zero1 barely makes tape), he hasn’t lost very many steps and is as big an asshole as he’s always been. I’m excited for more Otani matches in this tournament. ***3/4

CHAMPION CARNIVAL
JAKE LEE [2] DEF. SHOTARO ASHINO [0] (3:44)

Ashino hit suplexes early and went for the Ankle Lock right away. Lee threw the referee at a charging Ashino, and Ashino ran into him. Lee then used this to hit a running knee to the back of Ashino’s head and then follow up with the D4C for the quick win. This was certainly not how I thought this match would go. It was arguably more of an angle than a match to get over just how dastardly Lee is now. I think it accomplished that, and I love Lee’s diabolical cackling. Now if you think this made Ashino look too weak, I don’t blame you, but let’s see where his character arc goes. This was still good while it lasted. **3/4

CHAMPION CARNIVAL
ZEUS [2] DEF. KENTO MIYAHARA [0] (18:16)

Miyahara and Zeus can have a great match in their sleep. This was like a digest sized version of their other matches. We got the Piledriver on the arpon from Miyahara and Zeus going for a Frog Splash. They cut out some of their sequences where they just lay into each other with stiff strikes that look nasty. But hey, this is night one of the tournament and you don’t want to take too much of a beating. If you’ve seen their other matches, you know these guys are also great in their finishing stretches and that was the case here. Zeus managed to endure several Blackout Knees from Miyahara and used some great looking Lariats to neutralize Miyahara and won with the Jackhammer. This was not their best match, but still a great way to close out this show. ****

FINAL THOUGHTS

This was a great opening night of the Champion Carnival. There were no stinkers and everyone worked relatively hard. This year has already exceeded last year’s Champion Carnival (except for the final which was amazing) after one night. Though to be fair, it’s a low bar. But I have a good feeling that things will remain high quality throughout the tournament going forward.

My only apprehension after night one was some of the booking. Having Jake Lee get a dominant win and Kento Miyahara losing on night one makes me wonder if we are headed for some situation where Lee is on top all tournament while Miyahara gets off to a bad start but fights back to be in contention on the final night and then actually wins the whole thing. I think that’s a bad idea because I have been emphasizing just how important it is for Jake Lee to win this tournament.