ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
CHAMPIONS NIGHT 2021
JUNE 26, 2021
OTA WARD GYMNASIUM
MEET OUR PREVIEWERS
Gerard Di Trolio: After a delay of over a month and then the main event falling apart, Gerard has finally made peace with this show and is excited to watch it. Watch something else bad happen between the publication of this preview and the show itself that will make him scream. He’s on Twitter at @GerardDiTrolio.
Paul Völsch: Paul is excited for All Japan’s biggest show in four years when they last ran Sumo Hall for their 45th anniversary. He is certain that nothing bad will happen between the publication of this preview and the actual show and thats totally not the reason he was stalling finishing his part. Don’t follow him on Twitter.
JUN SAITO VS. REI SAITO
Gerard: The Saito Twins explode! But seriously, these two have only had three matches up to this point, and they have all been tags so this is the first singles match for both men. And as someone that has seen all of their matches, I have to say that I think Jun (he wears tights) is showing a little more promise than Rei (he wears a singlet). Jun moves a little better and his offense feels more explosive. If the company also sees it, I expect him to get the win here. Prediction: Jun Saito
Paul: Boxing never gave us a fight between the Klitschko brothers so I am happy to see that AJPW is not as cowardly and gives us a match between the wrestling Klitschos early on in their careers. It’s clear that the promotion intends to push these guys quite hard right out of the gate given their size, sumo pedigree and that they are already in their mid-30s. Since they are going to be primarily a tag team going forward it wouldn’t make sense for them to put one of the other unless one has been standing out more during training. Prediction: Draw
SHOTARO ASHINO & RYUKI HONDA VS. TOTAL ECLIPSE (KUMA ARASHI & KOJI DOI)
Gerard: This match is a result of SUWAMA catching COVID-19. The Total Eclipse team were challenging for the World Tag Team Championship, while Ashino and Honda were facing the Saito Twins. This match featuring all Wrestle-1 alumni should be pretty good, but with KumaDoi getting their tag title match delayed, I would expect them to pick up the win here. However, I would expect Honda to still get a lot of shine in this, as it looks like he is being pushed above young boy status. Prediction: Total Eclipse
Paul: The outcome here shouldn’t be in any doubt as one side has a rookie and the other side has the challengers for the tag titles. At least Ashino won’t be taking the fall for his team (most likely). Still, this could be a lot of fun as Ashino has good chemistry with both Doi and Arashi and Honda has shown a lot of potential as a hoss. Prediction: Total Eclipse
NEXTREAM (ATSUKI AOYAGI & RISING HAYATO) VS. EVOLUTION (HIKARU SATO & DAN TAMURA) VS. TATSUHITO TAKAIWA & SUGI
Gerard: There’s no real story to this match, just three good teams going at it. SUGI and Takaiwa both looked good in the Jr. Battle of Glory and I hope they stick around in All Japan for a while. I don’t really have a feel for this. I think Sato and Tamura will win, but I want the ex-Zero1 team of SUGI and Takaiwa to win because they would be a nice little addition to the All Japan Jr. division, even if on a part-time basis. Prediction: SUGI & Tatsuhito Takaiwa
Paul: This is basically just a way to get everyone from Jr Battle of Glory onto the card. At the very least this match should give us some fun junior action. Doubt SUGI and Takaiwa will stick around beyond this show but I am ready to be positively surprised. I do expect that whoever wins this is in line for a shot at the All Asia Tag titles or whoever scores the fall will challenge the winner of the Jr title match. Since All Japan seems to be willing to push their young juniors right now I am going with the NEXTREAM team to get the win. Prediction: NEXTREAM
JUMBO TSURUTA MEMORIAL MATCH
MASANOBU FUCHI, SHIRO KOSHINAKA, MASAHIKO TAKASUGI & RYUJI HIJIKATA VS. OSAMU NISHIMURA, SHINICHI NAKANO, SUSHI & CHIKARA
Gerard: For those who may not know, Takasugi is the former Ultra Seven who wrestled in All Japan in the early to mid-1980s and started his career back in IWE in 1977. All Japan has dialed back the comedy undercard matches on their Korakuen Hall shows. Your mileage may vary on them, but I do enjoy them and always have. Plus, Fuchi hasn’t been around much during the pandemic, so it will be nice to see him again. I’d also expect his team to win, since the other team has two wrestlers in particular (CHIKARA and SUSHI) who scream I am going to do the job in this match. Prediction: Masanobu Fuchi, Shiro Koshinaka, Masahiko Takasugi & Ryuji Hijikata
Paul: This is about as meaningless a match as it gets and I expect once we get to this match the undercard will start to drag a bit. Everyone will get time to hit their signature spots and that will be it. Prediction: Masanobu Fuchi, Shiro Koshinaka, Masahiko Takasugi & Ryuji Hijikata
AJPW TV SIX-MAN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
TAKAO OMORI, BLACK MENSO~RE & CARBELL ITO © VS. TOTAL ECLIPSE (TAJIRI, HOKUTO OMORI & YUSUKE KODAMA)
Gerard: Given the changes that have happened to this show, this match has been the only that has been built up the longest and most consistently. During the Champion Carnival tour, Omori pinned Menso~re in multi-man tags on several shows and stole his mask at one point. So there is some heat here between these teams. I have always thought that these six-man titles were money mark titles for Carbell Ito who is the owner of Carbell, which is All Japan’s single largest sponsor. So despite the fact that Total Eclipse is hot and Omori definitely deserves to win his first title, you can’t count out the money mark’s team. Prediction: Takao Omori, Black Menso~re & Carbell Ito
Paul: Carbell Ito has no business being as good as he is. Now in no way is he a great worker but he’s the 50-year-old CEO of All Japan’s biggest sponsor and within those parameters, he exceeds all expectations. His Tope Suicida is actually great as he just chucks himself over the top rope with the confidence of a man certain that he will be caught because All Japan really can’t afford him dying. However, I do expect his reign as Six-Man champion to come to an end here. This is a great first title for Hokuto Omori to hold and could be the first step to all of Total Eclipse holding titles. Prediction: Total Eclipse
PURPLE HAZE (ZEUS, IZANAGI, SHIGEHIRO IRIE & UTAMARO) VS. STRONG HEARTS (CIMA, T-HAWK, EL LINDAMAN & ISSEI ONITSUKA)
Gerard: I have said that I have enjoyed CIMA in All Japan, though I have some bad things to say about him that I will save for a different match preview on this show. Strong Hearts as a whole, has looked great. El Lindaman ruled in the Jr. Battle of Glory, and Strong Hearts’ previous multi-man tag on the Champion Carnival on May 3 was tremendous. There is a slight chance that there is going to be an angle with this match. Irie is still a member of Strong Hearts. He has been a member of that group longer than he has been in Purple Haze. So where does his true loyalty lie? I think they should have Irie turn here, because that would give juice to a longer-term Purple Haze versus Strong Hearts feud that could be a lot of fun. I’m going to assume that Strong Hearts win here, and I hope they stick around even as GLEAT ramps up. Prediction: Strong Hearts (CIMA, T-HAWK, EL LINDAMAN & ISSEI ONITSUKA)
Paul: Strong Hearts explodes as Irie faces off against his stablemates. Until very recently I would have guaranteed that Strong Hearts would win this match and maybe even challenge for the All Asia belts afterward. But with the announcement of SHO working GLEAT and all kinds of rumors floating around regarding a potential New Japan and GLEAT partnership, Strong Hearts might not be around long-term. New Japan would be stupid not to bring at least some of them in if they develop a proper relationship with GLEAT but that would likely mean the end of Strong Hearts in other promotions. Therefore, the outcome of this match might be a good indicator of what is going to happen on that front. Prediction: Purple Haze
ROAD TO THE ROYAL ROAD STRONG STYLE ~ HETEROGENEOUS FIGHTING BATTLE 3RD~
YOSHITATSU VS. YOSUKE NISHIJIMA
Gerard: Yoshitatsu continues his vanity run of different style fights against middling MMA fighters and kickboxers while wearing short black trunks in a nod to some Inoki cosplay. I do not give a shit. However, it seems as if these kind of matches, and his Triple Crown shot against SUWAMA in March are consolation prizes for being left out of the Champion Carnival and not being anywhere near the upper midcard like he used to be. So in that regard, I’ll accept it, because I think he needs to be downcycled. And I should add, this match already happened in HARD HIT on December 30, 2019. Yoshitatsu won that one and he’ll win this one, not that it really means anything. Nishijima was a fairly successful boxer who later transitioned into MMA and kickboxing with much less success, though he does hold a KO victory over Bob Sapp in K-1 that happened in 2013. Prediction: Yoshitatsu
Paul: I like these kinds of matches as palette cleansers on a HARD HIT show or to see SUSHI get his ass kicked in Karate. Not a fan of this gimmick though as it seems like a weird cross between Double J MMA from Impact and Kenoh fighting shooters in NOAH this year and it’s nowhere near as fun as either of those. As Gerard pointed out this seems to be a make-good to Yoshitatsu for being left out of the Champion Carnival but then I question why Yoshitatsu is someone that needs to be appeased as he doesn’t add much and is not a draw. Prediction: Brock Lesnar debuts and squashes both men
GAORA TV CHAMPIONSHIP
SHUJI ISHIKAWA © VS. YUKO MIYAMOTO
Gerard: There isn’t really a story here other than after teaming together on a show on May 21 and winning, Miyamoto challenged Ishikawa to a match for the title and Ishikiawa accepted. Miyamoto hasn’t been on any All Japan shows since then, so they haven’t had a chance to build the match. I think it will be good, though it is not a deathmatch or any kind of no-DQ match, I still expect weapons to be involved considering who is in this. Ishikawa’s performance in the Champion Carnival was the best he looked in a while, and he and Miyamoto go back a long way into Ishikawa’s deathmatch days so they have chemistry. Ishikawa will retain here in all likelihood because he also holds a singles win over Jake Lee from the Champion Carnival, and I think that fact will come into play soon after this show. Prediction: Shuji Ishikawa
Paul: While this isn’t a death match the GAORA TV title continues to be the title fought over by deathmatch guys. I would prefer is Miyamoto’s tag partner Isami Kodaka was the one challenging for the belt instead. Miyamoto is a solid enough wrestler for this to become a decent match. Given that there has essentially been no build at all I would be surprised if he beats Ishikawa. Seems like it’s just a way to give Ishikawa one more defense of the belt and give him a title match on the big show. Prediction: Shuji Ishikawa
PWF WORLD JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
KOJI IWAMOTO © VS. FRANCESCO AKIRA
Gerard: Akira is getting this show as he won the Jr. Battle of Glory earlier this month. At first, I assumed Iwamoto is winning here, since he just won the Jr. title back from CIMA. But on the June 20 show, Iwamoto pinned Akira in a tag. Which is strange booking, especially since Akira is still seen as a rising talent so having him lose again in the title match doesn’t help him at all. All Japan has also been posting a lot of Akira’s matches on their YouTube channel. So all of a sudden I think Akira is winning here and I am pretty comfortable with that
If Akira wins and Iwamoto loses the Jr. title after only 17 days, then I gotta give a hearty FUCK YOU to CIMA for not putting over the good Italian boy. Akira beating a legend like CIMA would be a much bigger deal than beating Iwamoto even if he is the ace of the All Japan Jrs. But alas, CIMA is going to CIMA.
As for the match itself, I think this has a chance to be a real banger. Iwamoto is a good base that Akira can work from, and Akira has been wrestling with a lot more confidence and intensity since he’s tournament win. Even if beating CIMA can’t happen, his match will still go a long way in establishing Akira as a rising Jr. star. Prediction: Francesco Akira
Paul: The good Italian boy is finally going to do it and win the first title of his career. Regardless of the outcome of this match he will come out of it in a much better position than he was going in. But this really feels like it was built for Akira to win the belt as there is really nothing for Iwamoto to gain from beating him. Their last singles match actually happened on May 19, 2021 where Iwamoto easily won in 7 minutes and with him also beating Akira in a tag match this seems all set up for Iwamoto to go into the match overconfident and paying for it. Iwamoto is one of the best workers in the junior division and with Akira gaining confidence in his offense this match has the potential to steal the show and continue the streak of All Japan being carried by its Junior division. Prediction: Francesco Akira
TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP DECISION MATCH
YUMA AOYAGI VS. JAKE LEE VS. KENTO MIYAHARA
Gerard: FIRST, LET ME EXPLAIN SOMETHING TO YOU. Despite what you may have heard, this match is not like the finals of the 1997 Champion Carnival finals. In those finals, Toshiaki Kawada, Kenta Kobashi and Mitsuharu Misawa all tied for first place during the tournament. The finals were then scheduled to be another mini-round robin tournament. In that mini-round robin, Kobashi and Misawa went to a draw, Kawada defeated Misawa, then defeated Kobashi. All three wrestlers faced each other and Kawada ended up with 4 points, and Kobashi and Misawa only had 1 point.
This seems to be confusing people. The format of the match here is tomoe-sen, which originates in Sumo Wrestling but has also been used in joshi by promotions like Stardom and WAVE. The tomoe-sen is basically a gauntlet match that goes on until a wrestler successfully scores two falls in a row. It is not the same thing as the 1997 Champion Carnival finals which were three separate matches and points were used.
While this kind of format wouldn’t be my top choice, I understand they need something to draw attention to the main event on a show that had to change it a week before. All three men here are excellent wrestlers. Aoyagi has a legit claim to being one of the most outstanding wrestlers this year, Lee has really come into his own with his heel persona and Miyahara has been one of the best in the world for several years now. I expect this match to go at least 40 minutes and I think there will be more than three matchups over the course of it. The only possible downside to this match is wacky booking for some of the falls or even involving the final fall. They should just keep it simple.
As for the winner, it has to be Jake Lee. I’ve seen people say that to make up for SUWAMA pulling out of the match and the Triple Crown being vacated, they need to swerve us. I reject that idea. Too much has already been invested into Lee and he needs to win it here and if he doesn’t, he is truly toast as a top guy in this company. And if they book this match well, Lee winning here can set up eagerly awaiting rematches with Aoyagi and Miyahara. It’s Jake’s time now, folks. Prediction: Jake Lee
Paul: All Japan really made the best of a bad situation here. They easily could have just gone the safe route after Suwama caught COVID and just had a singles match between Jake and Kento or just fed someone like Ashino to Jake. Instead, we get an inventive new match type that he’s been used to great success by Joshi promotions and every participant will carry one of the titles that make up the Triple Crown to the ring, which should make for a cool visual.
While it’s terrible that Suwama caught this horrible disease that has been ruining all of our lives for the last year, it also leaves a bit of a sour taste in my mouth that this is how his title reign ends. I have been very vocal about not being a fan of his reign but at least it was going to end with him putting over someone new and now we won’t even get that. That leaves us with a year-plus title reign that had like two good defenses and some truly dreadful ones like his match with Kohei Sato.
I do expect Jake to win this match but honestly, I believe it is in All Japan’s best interest to pivot here and go with someone else. Jake never was and never will be the top guy and hasn’t blown me away since his heel turn. Kento would be the safe choice since he is easily the biggest star and best wrestler in the promotion but he wouldn’t be my first choice. All Japan should take the plunge and just pull the trigger on Yuma Aoyagi. During their Champion Carnival match, Yuma just completely outshined Jake in every aspect important for a main eventer. He has shown a lot more fire and charisma than Jake ever has and has also passed him by in terms of in-ring skills. The match itself has the potential to be very good but it is a style that none of the participants are familiar with, so there could be a high variance in quality. Still, the ceiling of this match is very high if everyone gets comfortable with the style and they tell a good story. Prediction: Jake Lee