ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
CHAMPIONS NIGHT 2021
JUNE 26, 2021
OTA WARD GYMNASIUM
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: AJPW.TV

MEET OUR REVIEWERS

Gerard Di Trolio: The show is finally here. LET’S FUCKING GOOOOOOOO! He is on Twitter at @GerardDiTrolio 

Paul Völsch: Paul is glad that nothing bad happened between the preview for this show being posted and now that would have reshuffled this card again. Obviously, he knew this so it was not a surprise. He has a Twitter account and it’ll probably be linked in the tweet for this review so go find it there.

JUN SAITO DEF. REI SAITO (4:01)

Gerard: While the Saito Twins have thinned out since their days as Sumo wrestlers, they still move around the ring like them. This was only each brothers’ fourth ever professional match and both their first singles match. They slapped and chopped each other and yelled a lot. That was the meat of the match, just an extended chop and slap back-and-forth sequence but it was fun. Jun used the Sumo slaps and a dropkick. The crowd was really into this and clapped along quite a bit for an opening match. Jun, much like I predicted, got the win with a Crab Hold. Given these two were only accepted into the All Japan Dojo in December 2020, they are showing some good potential, especially Jun. **3/4 

Paul: These guys are only in their fourth match and they already rule. They look very awkward moving around the ring right now but the potential is clearly obvious. They just laid into each other with some nasty-sounding forearms and slaps. I expect them to be a very enjoyable tag team by the time the Real World Tag League rolls around this year. I wouldn’t be shocked if they actually made quite the run in that tournament.

THREE-WAY MATCH
TATSUHITO TAKAIWA & SUGI DEF. NEXTREAM (ATSUKI AOYAGI & RISING HAYATO) & EVOLUTION (HIKARU SATO & DAN TAMURA) (5:51)

Gerard: This was conducted under rules where one member from each team was in the ring at all times. There was no feeling out here, they got right down to business, and there was liberal interference from teammates who were supposed to be standing on the apron. The referee didn’t even bother trying to send them back. There were lots of double teams and everyone got a chance to hit their big spots. SUGI won the match by pinning Aoyagi with his Springboard Firebird Splash. The ending was abrupt, but I enjoyed the non-stop action. So far, I’m two for two on my predictions. ***1/4 

Paul: Well so much for my prediction of SUGI and Takaiwa not sticking around. Seems like they’ll be in All Japan more going forward given the result here. The match was just a complete spot fest and that is exactly what a match like this should be. There were so many double-team moves that it would have made sense to make this a tornado tag match but who cares about the rules in a second from the bottom tag match anyway. Just non-stop action and everyone got their chance to shine.

JUMBO TSURUTA MEMORIAL MATCH
MASANOBU FUCHI, SHIRO KOSHINAKA, MASAHIKO TAKASUGI & RYUJI HIJIKATA DEF. OSAMU NISHIMURA, SHINICHI NAKANO, SUSHI & CHIKARA (9:44)

Gerard: Fuchi came out wearing a T-Shirt of a cover of one of Jumbo’s music albums from the 1980s. The highlight of this for me was the extended Fuchi versus Nishimura sequence which saw some technical wrestling as well as Fuchi doing his closed fist punch and bodyslam spots. Takasugi was pretty limited and did not look very good. Koshinaka, however, still looks pretty spry for someone in his early 60s, and got the pin on CHIKARA with a Jumping Hip Attack. **1/4, and that’s all for Fuchi’s stuff.

Paul: Time to slow things down. The combined age of Fuchi’s team is 238 years including their young boy 43 year old Hijikata. At 67 years old Fuchi is still better than some wrestlers that are 9 years younger than him. The match was exactly what it needed to be and didn’t overstay its welcome. Got to admire CHIKARA even in a meaningless match like this selling the frustration of getting pinned.

AJPW TV SIX-MAN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
TOTAL ECLIPSE (TAJIRI, HOKUTO OMORI & YUSUKE KODAMA) DEF. TAKAO OMORI, BLACK MENSO~RE & CARBELL ITO © (6:58)

Gerard: Ito got worked over by Total Eclipse for a while to start. Then the match picked up. The stars of this were Hokuto Omori and Black Menso~re who really carried this. Ito did some crazy spots for a 50 year old part time wrestler like a top rope Hurricanrana and a dive off the top rope to the outside. Menso~re had the advantage over Hokuto, but with some help from TAJIRI, Hokuto hit the Muso Issen on Menso~re for the win and the titles. The champions fall on their V2 defense. This exceeded my expectations. Let the two best workers in the match do their thing and keep TAJIRI involvement to a minimum and you’ve got a solid match. ***1/4 

Paul: Buy whatever Carbell sells! He actually did quite a bit in this match as he got worked over early on and then hit a beautiful plancha to the outside on Kodama. As I said in the preview this is way more than you would expect from a 50 year old business executive. He was the clear MVP of the match but Hokuto wasn’t far behind. He looked incredibly dominant here and is the clear leader of this team. Wouldn’t even be surprised if he eventually long down the line usurps leadership of the faction from Jake.

TOTAL ECLIPSE (KUMA ARASHI & KOJI DOI) DEF. SHOTARO ASHINO & RYUKI HONDA (5:08)

Gerard: Honda has been adding some mass to his frame and definitely looks more credible in the ring. He surprised Total Eclipse with a dropkick at the bell and Powerslammed Doi. Honda ended up getting worked over for a bit, but that just built to the Ashino hot tag, where the Master of Suplex came in and started throwing Arashi around. Honda looked like he had the advantage over Arashi but Arashi fought back and hit the Top Rope Senton on Honda for the win. This was really good while it lasted, but it should have gone longer. Honda has also been showing a lot of fire lately and I think his run as a young boy is near its end. KumaDoi remain looking strong going into their challenge of Nextream for the World Tag Team Championship. ***1/4 

Paul: Now this was a proper hoss fight. Just four meaty men laying into each other. Honda came into this match like a house on fire to show that he can hang with the big boys. But ultimately KumaDoi regained control of the match and just proceeded to grind Honda down. Ashino ended up doing very little in the match but he also wasn’t part of the story. The story here was KumaDoi getting a dominant win to keep them hot for their upcoming tag title match. A very fun undercard tag match.

STRONG HEARTS (CIMA, T-HAWK, EL LINDAMAN & ISSEI ONITSUKA) DEF. PURPLE HAZE (ZEUS, IZANAGI, SHIGEHIRO IRIE & UTAMARO) (6:50)

 Gerard: This was wrestled exactly how this should have been between these two teams. The smaller guys did their thing and Zeus got time to do his power spots. The standouts here were Izanagi and T-Hawk. Izanagi is a guy that takes a lot of big bumps for someone that is over 40. T-Hawk just looked tremendous working with everyone and his exchanges with Zeus were a highlight. Strong Hearts took out Purple Haze and that allowed T-Hawk to hit the Night Ride on Izanagi for the victory. Hopefully that means that they will be sticking around a little longer in All Japan even as GLEAT continues to heat up. My biggest complaint with this match was it needed more El Lindaman. You can never have too much El Lindaman. ***3/4 

Paul: Linda has clearly spent a lot of time in the sun recently as he almost looks burned. This match was awesome as both factions had great chemistry with each other and worked this at an insane pace. Highlight of the match was Zeus and T-Hawk facing off against each other as they exchanged some very very stiff chops until Zeus just overpowered his opponent. I hope that we get a singles match between these two at some point as it has the potential to be tremendous. With this win Strong Hearts is in line for a shot at the All Asia tag titles and whatever combination they send will likely have a great match with Zeus and Izanagi.

ROAD TO THE ROYAL ROAD STRONG STYLE ~ HETEROGENEOUS FIGHTING BATTLE 3RD~
YOSHITATSU DEF. YOSUKE NISHIJIMA (1:26 – ROUND 3)

Gerard: Yoshitatsu was accompanied to the ring by Seigo Tachibana, who is making his return from injury on July 22. Yoshitatsu grappled. Nishijima, who was wearing boxing gloves, threw punches. Rinse and repeat. Since it is the 45th anniversary of Antonio Inoki versus Muhammed Ali, Yoshitatsu started doing the Inoki kicks from the ground at the start of the second round. At one point, Yoshitatsu got knocked down by a not so violent looking punch rush, but got up before the ten count. Before the start of the third round, Tachibana started verbally berating Yoshitatsu, so Yoshitatsu slapped Tachibana, knocking him off the apron. After being knocked down again at the beginning of the third round, Yoshitatsu managed to out maneuver Nishijima and locked on a Sleeper Hold for the win. This sucked, and sucked even by the low standards of these Yoshitatsu different style fights. Yoshitatsu did a lot of standing around while Nishijima tried to punch him. Nishijima isn’t very good and has only done a couple of worked matches and it showed. At least this was kept relatively short. *1/2  

Paul: I’m going to go take a shower. Congratulations to Yoshitatsu for winning his fake fight on this show that is all fake fights. He did indeed manage to beat a guy that he already beat on a HARD HIT show. Yay. Can we please move on from Yoshitatsu vanity projects now.

GAORA TV CHAMPIONSHIP
SHUJI ISHIKAWA © VS. YUKO MIYAMOTO (11:51)

Gerard: Miyamoto went after Ishikawa’s left leg early on. Miyamoto had the advantage for much of the first half of the match, with Ishikawa only getting in a little offense. When Ishikawa finally made his big comeback, the leg selling went out the window. Ishikawa hit a bunch of different knee strikes and won with the Splash Mountain. While the abandonment of the leg selling hurts the match in my books, the rest of the match was fine, and Miyamoto looked good, but Miyamoto taking most of the match and then Ishikawa winning after a little amount of time on offense was weird and kept the match from hitting that next level. ***1/4 

Paul: Very curious match structure with the much larger Ishikawa playing the underdog role und getting dominated by the smaller Miyamoto. Really just about the only offense Shuji got in was him spamming his various finishers and Miyamoto kicking out of almost all of them. It wasn’t a bad match, just a weird one. Didn’t go in with super high expectations so I suppose they were matched at least.

PWF WORLD JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
KOJI IWAMOTO ©  VS. FRANCESCO AKIRA (16:01)

Gerard: Iwamoto was in control early on, and even acting a little heel-like. He threw Akira around outside and stomped him down a lot in the ring. Akira then made his comeback, and the match had a much better back-and-forth structure that the previous match could have used. There was a steady elevation and both guys busted out moves they don’t usually do. Both men kicked out of a lot of stuff, and Iwamoto even used a Vertebreaker at one point for a 2.9 count. Iwamoto went for his Koko no Geijutsu finisher but Akira countered that with a Crucifix and then hit the Yutaka for the win. Akira looked awesome here and has really developed his intensity and confidence, but I’m getting to the point with Iwamoto where even if his work is technically good, it doesn’t draw me into the match on an emotional level. So this was very good but not great, but you should still watch this match for the moment. The crowd let out an audible cheer for the result. After the match SUGI came out to challenge, setting up another match between them which should be great. I would also like to take a moment to give a big FUCK YOU to CIMA for not putting over the Good Italian Boy. Iwamoto is All Japan’s Jr. ace so beating him means something, but beating a legend like CIMA would have meant even more. ***3/4 

Paul: THE GOOD ITALIAN BOY HAS DONE IT! After coming out of nowhere to win the Jr. Battle of Glory, Akira finally overcomes Iwamoto to become champion. One of the things that makes Iwamato so great as champion is that his theme sounds like proper last boss music. That is exactly what he feels like here. He is the last boss that Akira needs to overcome to claim the top prize. Iwamoto came into the match confident in his victory, however, slowly but surely Akira showed that he can go toe to toe with Iwamoto. Iwamoto got desperate to win down the stretch as he even busted out some moves that he rarely uses like the vertebreaker but Akira would not be denied. SUGI is the first challenger in a rematch from the Jr Battle of Glory semi finals. Just a great performance from both men and we now have a Jr. champion that has a ton of fresh matchups. ****

TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP DECISION MATCH
JAKE LEE DEF. YUMA AOYAGI & KENTO MIYAHARA (47:41)

Gerard: Aoyagi versus Miyahara to start us off was awesome. It was a ****1/2 match all on its own. Aoyagi is on another level right now and is one of the best wrestlers in the world. Miyahara also brought his usual main event self as well. Everytime these guys have a singles match, it just gets better and better. Their next meeting can only be mind blowing if they continue this trend

However, I had issues with Lee versus Miyahara. Lee came in fresh and Miyahara looked exhausted. Instead of going for a quick kill, Lee toyed with Miyahara and eventually All Japan’s ace managed to make a huge comeback, though Lee won their match in the end. There was still great stuff, but I can only go ***3/4 with that match structure. 

It came down to Aoyagi versus Lee and what was another home run. Aoyagi despite being the slightly fresher man, still played the underdog role impeccably while Lee put on a great performance as a vicious heel. Lee would beat Aoyagi with the D4C to finally win the Triple Crown. I will go ****1/4 for this one. It’s biggest issue is that it began to drag a little towards the end.

The crowd didn’t really have a big reaction to Jake’s win which I thought was a bad sign for things. I know it is a clap crowd but, they made noise for Akira winning the Jr.  title and I didn’t think the claps for Lee’s win were as loud as other claps.on thr show. And when Lee was posing for the cameras with the belts, he didn’t exactly ooze charisma. Though he did manage to win the crowd over somewhat later when Ashino and Ishikawa came out to challenge the new champ. Lee got a fair number of laughs out of the crowd while he was on the mic. But as of right now, I’m a little concerned about how well this reign is going to go.

If I had to give the whole thing a waiting, I’d go ****1/4. It felt like it was going on too long by the end of it. I think this could have benefited from doing five or six shorter matches, where Lee didn’t spend so much time working over his opponents and wait straight to the action.

Paul: Jake Lee has finally done it. After countless tries he is finally the Triple Crown champion. I had some worries about stipulation going into the match. It easily could have devolved to a point where the individual matches don’t mean much and guys get pinned off of moves that normally wouldn’t end a match. What we ended up getting was the opposite of that. We got three great singles matches for the price of one. Great visual at then with Jake not just holding the normal Triple Crown belt but also all of the constituent belts as well. This feels like a proper coronation of a new champion. 

The first match between Yuma and Kento was tremendous and the best of the three but all of them were great. Kento and Yuma established right away that these are proper singles matches not just parts of a greater match. By itself this would have been a great match that I would have ranked highly. Just a great back and forth that also showed that Kento and Yuma are on the same level. As a whole I felt like Yuma came out of this match looking stronger despite him getting pinned twice.

The second match between Kento and Jake was great as well. Jake did well as the asshole that is just toying with his food. But that also led to him being overconfident which almost cost him the match at some points. Kento sold the exhaustion from the previous match well and just gave Jake a lot while still looking strong whenever he got to take over.

The third and final match between Jake and Yuma was unsurprisingly also great. Yuma came into the match hot having been able to rest a bit after losing to Miyahara. But it quickly became clear that he really only recovered enough for that quick burst of energy as Jake then dominated the rest of the match. This where the first match being such a war actually helped the story of this match. It was believable that Yuma was more beaten down than Jake, despite having a rest, as he had gone through a much more intense match and beating. Jake basically just toyed around with Miyahara before putting him away. Still Yuma managed to hold on for a long time as Jake again got overconfident. There were quite a few spots where I thought Yuma would actually manage to pull out a win and beat Jake but ultimately Jake just proved too strong.

Despite getting two wins by just picking up the bones from the first match Jake actually came out of this match looking very strong. He got to work with the two best wrestlers in All Japan who both sold their asses off for him. Jake’s offense meanwhile looked vicious and he carried himself very well. After being critical of him for quite a while I have to say he did look like a top guy in this match. Hopefully he can keep that energy up for his upcoming title reign. He’s got a good challenge for that right away with Ashino. ****1/2