APRIL 9, 2021

Watch: AJPW.TV


What a fun little opener. Akira and Aoyagi started with some Jr. style chain wrestling, and the pace of the match didn’t let up from there. There were lots of counters and reversals, and Alejandro hit a Tope con Hilo to the outside for good measure. This was Akira’s first match since winning the Jr. Battle of Glory last week, and he is wrestling with a new found confidence he didn’t even have last month. Nextream had Akira isolated but Akira managed to survive an offensive flurry and hit the Yutaka (an OsCutter) on HAYATO for the win. This was just tons of fun, with great work from all involved. The perfect opener to any show. I hope Akira and Alejandro keep teaming. As my colleague here at VOW Paul Völsch has been saying for a while now, don’t sleep on the All Japan Jrs. ***1/2


I’m still not sure who Murasaki is yet, but he is probably from the Osaka area or elsewhere in Southwestern Japan given he’s a Purple Haze member and Zeus and Izanagi are from that area. That match itself wasn’t much. Murasaki wrestles in a heel style with lots of cheap shots and brawling on the outside. Menso~re gave a decent effort, however. Izanagi distracted the referee which allowed Murasaki to attack Menso~re with a chair, but the referee did turn around and saw the second chair attack and called for a DQ. Izanagi had to come in the ring and tell Murasaki to stop attacking with the chair after the bell. Not great but Menso~re did some fun stuff here at times. **1/2


The Saito twins are All Japan’s much-hyped rookies who have a Sumo background and both are around 6’3” in height. They are also half-American and English speakers, which is something I think All Japan should take advantage of as they (tentatively) increase their international outreach. This match was originally supposed to be them against Daisuke Sekimoto and Yasufumi Nakanoue, but all the Big Japan wrestlers are in quarantine right now because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the company. Jun was in the tights and Rei was in the singlet, which is useful to know because they look extremely similar (I don’t know if they are identical or fraternal).

The Saitos got some good applause from the crowd upon their entrance. Both of the Saitos started with some basic standing stuff like switches and armlocks. Rei got in some offense like a shoulder block and bodyslam on Honda, but he eventually got worked over by Honda and Omori. Rei got put in a Crab Hold by Honda but managed to make the ropes, and then knocked down Honda with a Headbutt, leading to the hot tag to Jun. Jun did the Sumo slaps to Honda which got some noise out of the crowd. The Saitos both teased hitting Chokeslams at a couple of points in the match but were unsuccessful. I expect that to be part of their offense in the future. Omori hit Rei with a Backdrop and then put on a Crab Hold for the submission victory. This match might have gone a couple of minutes too long.

The Saitos looked fine for a debut, and I thought Jun, in particular, stood out, though that may have been the way the match was structured with him getting the hot tag. Honda and Omori deserve credit here for making this 11-minute match with two rookies not feel like a drag, even if it was hardly dynamic.

Being ex-Sumo, these guys will get a fairly quick push for rookies, plus they are already in their early 30s. But as much as Japanese promotions love their former Sumos, it has been a mixed bag historically. For every Genichiro Tenryu, there is a Hiroshi Wajima. And someone like Ryota Hama never lived up to expectations, while a Sumo star like Akebono never became a long term draw in pro-wrestling. **3/4


Zeus picked up Kodama right away in a Gorilla Press and threw him on TAJIRI and Omori on the outside for a hot start. Izanagi eventually settled into the role of whipping boy for Total Eclipse. The teams just brawled around, and the point of the match was to establish just how dastardly Total Eclipse is. Kodama dropkicked Izanagi into a ref, then Devil Murasaki interfered and accidentally hit Izanagi with a chair instead of Kodama. That allowed Total Eclipse to triple team Izanagi and Kodama hit him with the Mad Splash for the win. Murasaki isn’t exactly endearing himself here, not only does he try to cheat and do interference, he regularly fails at it. **1/2

In between matches at this point, the Ōdō Tournament was announced for August, and it was also announced that Strong Hearts (CIMA, T-Hawk, El Lindaman & Issei Onitsuka), Tatsuhito Takaiwa and SUGI would be on the June 26 Ota Ward Gym show.


Lee has brought back his rarely seen goatee, and now that he is a heel it works so well and needs to keep it. Lee and SUWAMA started, and the Total Eclipse leader got the better of the Triple Crown champion in the opening minutes. Doi and Tamura had some fun exchanges, trying to knock down each other with shoulder blocks. Doi got the better of the young Tamura, and then Tamura got worked over for a while. Tamura managed to finally power up and bodyslam Arashi to big applause, then made the hot tag to Ashino. Ashino threw around Arashi and Doi, but after that, we returned to Lee vs. SUWAMA. At points, it looked like either team had a decisive advantage but then things spilled on to the outside with Lee and SUWAMA remaining in the ring. Those two traded near falls, but then Lee blocked a SUWAMA Backdrop with a high kick and hit a Backdrop of his own for the win over the Triple Crown Champion.

This wasn’t bad, but I thought the closing stretch lacked the urgency you think there would be with it coming down to Lee vs. Suwama. Tamura was the standout here.

Given booking patterns, I hope SUWAMA gets a direct win over Lee in a tag match before the Ota Ward Gym show over Lee, because it would be a huge blunder to have SUWAMA win their Triple Crown match. ***1/4


I’ve enjoyed CIMA’s Jr. title run. I have long called for Strong Hearts to pop up in All Japan and I am extremely happy that it finally happened. But I will get to my issues with the booking after I review the match.

Iwamoto was dominant early, working over CIMA’s neck, a callback to their previous title match that CIMA won. Once CIMA gained the advantage, he went after the neck as well. CIMA kept this on the ground for a while working different holds targeting the neck. Iwamoto had a burst of offense, then went to holds too. Things finally picked up after Iwamoto hit a Twist and Shout off of the apron to the floor on CIMA. Iwamoto got some near falls on CIMA. The Stong Hearts leader fired back with a twisting DDT and top-rope Hurricanrana. Iwamoto hit the Koko no Geijutsu out of nowhere, CIMA countered with a cradle, Iwamoto hit another Koko no Geijutsu followed up by a sit down Last Ride for the win.

While a good match, this was a notch below their previous encounter, which got a lot more time to build. The finishing stretch here was far more abrupt. Iwamoto also looked more dominant here in their last match, and I generally prefer when you are building to a wrestler finally overcoming another one they have lost to before, that the match is a lot more back-and-forth. CIMA didn’t even really get any convincing near falls here.

After the match, CIMA slapped Iwamoto a couple of times, but then relented and placed the title on him and raised his arm. Iwamoto pointed at El Lindaman hinting something, but Francesco Akira, fresh off of his Jr. Battle of Glory win, came out to challenge the new champion for a match on June 26.

I have no issue with Iwamoto as the company’s Jr. ace. But they have relied on Iwamoto overcoming the outsider far too much. In 2018, he had a similar program with Shuji Kondo, where he dropped the title and then gained it back from Kondo after only a couple of months. Iwamoto also defeated Susumu Yokosuka to win the title last year, and in 2019 he defeated Seiki Yoshioka to win the Jr. Battle of Glory. He needs different storylines, because beating the outsider is getting stale with him. ***1/2


This was slow to start. Ishikawa and Miyahara did some grappling to start off that really didn’t mean anything. Aoyagi and Sato got in the ring and Aoyagi worked a headlock for a while, and the match settled into the clear story of Sato getting worked over by Nextream. Ishiakawa finally gets back in there, and acts like a giant, successfully taking on Aoyagi and Miyahara at the same time. Aoyagi then became the one to get worked over for an extended period. Hot tags to Ishikawa and Miyahara finally led the match kicking it up another level. Miyahara and Sato had a good exchange where he kicked out Miyahara’s leg during a Shutdown German Suplex attempt and landed a Urange.

The closing stretch was really good. Ishikawa had the advantage over Aoyagi but Miyahara intervened to turn the tide for his partner. But that didn’t last long as Sato came in and hit a Falcon Arrow on Aoyagi off the top rope! Ishikawa then proceeded to brutalize Aoyagi and hit a Fire Thunder Driver, but Miyahara made the save. Aoyagi then kicked out of the Splash mountain by grabbing referee Kyohei Wada’s arm during the count. Ishikawa then went for the Giant Slam but Aoyagi reversed that into the End Game for the submission. Nextream succeed on their V3 defense.

What a great finish, though I thought the match took a while to get going. I’m tempted to go **** but I just can’t quite, given the first three quarters which were fine but not spectacular. Sato was definitely the weak link here. But whatever the weaknesses of the match, Aoyagi getting a submission victory over Ishikawa only further solidifies his elevation.

After the match Kuma Arashi and Koji Doi came out and challenged the champions to a match that will happen at the Ota Ward Gym Show on June 26. KumaDoi shook the champions hands but then attacked them and cut a promo. ***3/4


While still a decent show overall, this was the weakest All Japan Korakuen Hall show in a while. The top two matches were good but did not deliver to what they could have. In some ways this was an angle heavy show that was intended to build to Champion’s Night on June 26.

All Japan undercards have slowly but surely gotten better over the past two years, but they certainly hurt some of that by focusing on Devil Murasaki’s antics.

However, the overall booking direction is still strong and overcoming the nadir of the second half of 2020. New talent is being elevated, and really the only way they can blow this is by having SUWAMA beat Jake Lee at Champion’s Night.