ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
CHAMPION CARNIVAL 2021 NIGHT 10
MAY 3, 2021
PURPLE HAZE (ZEUS, IZANAGI & UTAMARO) DEF. EVOLUTION (HIKARU SATO & DAN TAMURA) & FRANCESCO AKIRA (4:54)
Not much to say about this match given the length, but it was a perfectly fine opener. Akira and Izanagi had a nice little closing stretch where Akira had the advantage but Izanagi surprised him with an inside cradle for the win. This was mostly just to build to the Zeus & Izanagi versus Sato and Tamura All Asia tag title match on 5/16. **3/4
TOTAL ECLIPSE (KUMA ARASHI, YUSUKE KODAMA, TAJIRI & HOKUTO OMORI) DEF. YOSHITATSU, TAKAO OMORI, BLACK MENSO~RE & RYUKI HONDA (7:23)
This was more about the angle at the end. Total Eclipse did lots of heelish things in the match, and once again Hokuto Omori pinned Menso~re with the Muso Issen. Pretty formulaic and nothing stood out. After the match, Total Eclipse beat down their opponents and also attacked Carbell Ito who had accompanied them. This, like the first match was to build to a match on 5/16 which sees TAJIRI, Kodama & Hokuto Omori challenge for the AJPW TV 6-Man titles against Takao Omori, Menso~re & Carbell Ito. **1/2
CHAMPION CARNIVAL 2021
SHOTARO ASHINO  DEF. KOJI DOI  (8:46)
This was a fun little sprint, a good back-and-forth between two good wrestlers. Ashino got the win with the Ankle Lock. Again, like the previous match, this was about setting up an angle. Given that Doi turned on Ashino to leave Enfants Terribles for Total Eclipse, this match lacked the feeling of a serious blood feud which could have certainly taken this to the next level even if they didn’t have a lot of time. After the match, Kuma Arashi attacked Ashino and Ryuki Honda made the save and hit a tremendous-looking German Suplex on the much larger Arashi. Ashino & Honda will face Doi & Arashi in a tag match on 5/16. ***
STRONG HEARTS (CIMA, T-HAWK & EL LINDAMAN) DEF. NEXTREAM (ATSUKI AOYAGI & RISING HAYATO) & KOJI IWAMOTO (9:26)
Yet another undercard match to build to a future match, in this case CIMA versus Iwamoto for the Jr. title on 5/16, but this was worth a watch. First of all, I am ecstatic to see the other members of Strong Hearts in All Japan, beyond just CIMA. Second of all, El Lindaman’s hair these days is awesome. T-Hawk and El Lindaman worked excellently with the Nextream boys in a fast-paced, high-flying style of a 6-Man sprint. The finish was not quite as hot as the rest of the match with CIMA pinning Aoyagi with the Spartan Cut, which is not exactly the most exciting move. However, the rest of this match is awesome and well worth a watch even if you don’t have time to watch the whole show. In his post-match promo, CIMA seemed to suggest that Strong Hearts will be around for the next little while in All Japan which is great news. ***3/4
CHAMPION CARNIVAL 2021
YUMA AOYAGI  DEF. KOHEI SATO  (8:54)
On the one hand, there wasn’t much to this match at all. On the other hand, the booking was good with Aoyagi picking up the win over the veteran Sato with the Japanese Leg Roll Clutch. But the rest of the match was just Sato mostly dominating until Aoyagi got the surprise win and played spoiler. It wasn’t a bad match at all, just nothing thrilling, but at least Aoyagi got another win over a veteran. **3/4
CHAMPION CARNIVAL 2021
SHUJI ISHIKAWA  DEF. SUWAMA  (20:15)
Ishikawa and SUWAMA have gotten their fair share of criticism over the last while because it is said that they are getting old and losing some steps. That is true, but I think the extent of their decline is overrated, and this match was a good example as to why. This ruled. It was two large men throwing bombs at each other and SUWAMA even drew some accidental blood from Ishikawa which really added to the match. The finish was wild with Ishikawa using three Fire Thunder Drivers and then the Giant Slam to put SUWAMA away. The length was perfect here as these two have had longer matches in the past that felt like they dragged on too long. Now, one can criticize the bookerman for putting himself over the champ (and other top names like Lee and Miyahara) over the course of the tournament, but if Jake Lee beats SUWAMA for the Triple Crown on 5/16, and I believe he will, he needs fresh challengers and Ishikawa versus Lee is a match that has not been done to death like some of the other combinations of top wrestlers in this company. ****
CHAMPION CARNIVAL 2021
JAKE LEE  DEF. KENTO MIYAHARA  (27:48)
This in many ways was Lee’s coming out match as a heel. While I have liked elements of his heel persona from the jump, I felt he was a little shaky working as a heel at the beginning of the Champion Carnival. But over the course of the tournament he began to put it together, and while he still has some ways to go, he played a tremendous heel here, and Miyahara helped him big time with selling his moves as dangerous and powerful.
This was my match of the Champion Carnival. It wasn’t perfect, hell it wasn’t even in front of fans due to the State of Emergency in Tokyo, but it got the job done. Lee took most of the match, with Miyahara making a valiant comeback, nearly winning it, only to be finally defeated by Lee. The long control stretch from Lee particularly in the first half of the match wasn’t the most dynamic but it wasn’t going to put me to sleep. That is something he certainly can work on going forward. But after Miyahara hit a Piledriver on the apron, this match went into overdrive.
Lee even kicked out of a Shutdown German Suplex in a tremendous spot, that I wish got to be in front of a crowd, because even a clap crowd would have broken the rules and popped for it. Miyahara went for another Shutdown German Suplex, but Lee fought like a madman to escape, and even bit the ropes to block it, Tomohiro Ishii style. Lee finally escaped and hit some savage-looking knees and then the D4C to win the Champion Carnival for the first time.
Lee looked a lot more comfortable in his skin as a heel here and Miyahara really helped it along with his selling and a really hot closing stretch to make up for the slower opening minutes of Lee control. ****1/2
This show definitely delivered even if it was in an empty Korakuen Hall. The top two matches on the card make it one of the best of the tournament, even if other shows, like the first show, was more consistent top-to-bottom.
This Champion Carnival certainly saved All Japan from its seeming malaise. Interest in the tournament by international fans, appeared to be the highest in All Japan in quite some time. That is a great and encouraging sign.
While the tournament was far better than the awful 2020 Champion Carnival, I would not rate it as high as 2018 or 2019’s editions, but I don’t think that is too big a deal. This tournament’s task was to solidify Jake Lee as the top heel and future Triple Crown champion. And by the end of the tournament, I feel that task has been accomplished.
This show also did a strong job of setting up the 5/16 show at Ota Ward Gym. The lineup—which will be previewed soon on Voices of Wrestling—looks to be another great offering. If they can knock that show out of the park, especially if Jake Lee versus SUWAMA is an awesome match, they will have turned around the (lack) of momentum they had last Autumn by an impressive amount.