ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
SUMMER ACTION SERIES 2021
JULY 22, 2021
TAKAO OMORI, OSAMU NISHIMURA & RYUJI HIJIKATA DEF. JUN SAITO, REI SAITO & RYOMA TSUKAMOTO (7:12)
This was the debut match for Tsukamoto. He’s listed at about 5’7” and 100 kg. He trained at Animal Hamaguchi’s gym and also happens to be a big fan of Tetsuya Naito. That leads me to believe he tried to enter the New Japan Dojo but got rejected due to his height. He looks like a younger clone of Tomohiro Ishii, and I think he should probably pattern his style that way. He brought a lot of energy to his debut which is a good sign.
When the Saito Twins were in this match, it was pretty nondescript. They didn’t get as much offense as they have been getting in their other matches. Tsukamoto got to hit a lot of dropkicks on Omori and even got a two-count on the veteran. Omori fought back and submitted Tsukamoto with a Crab Hold. There wasn’t much to this match, but I have a good feeling about Tsukamoto. **1/2
Tsukamoto is the sixth wrestler All Japan has graduated from their Dojo in 32 months. That is impressive if you consider that during that period, Atsushi Aoki tragically passed away and Jun Akiyama left the company. Along with grabbing Ryuki Honda after Wrestle-1 closed and making Rising HAYATO of Ehime Pro basically an unofficial full-time roster member, All Japan has built a good set of young wrestlers to take them into the future.
DAN TAMURA & RYUKI HONDA DEF. NEXTREAM (ATSUKI AOYAGI & RISING HAYATO) (6:28)
This was a fun sprint from these four young guys. HAYATO got worked over a bit in the opening minutes to set the tone, but the match was all action from there. Honda was the standout here and he continues to prove he was a good pick up after the closure of Wrestle-1. He is clearly being elevated up the card, has picked up some wins and has been working higher up on the card on spot shows. Everyone else looked good here too, and Tamura has added a backbreaker to his arsenal which works for his power Jr. style. Honda was dominant in the closing stretch hitting a double Spear to Aoyagi and HAYATO then after a kick out from Aoyagi, Honda pinned him with a deadlift German Suplex Hold. All Japan’s young wrestlers are really coming into their own as I said previously, and this match is proof of it. ***1/2
AJPW TV 6-MAN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
YOSHITATSU KINGDOM (YOSHITATSU & SEIGO TACHIBANA) & CARBELL ITO DEF. TOTAL ECLIPSE HOKUTO OMORI, TAJIRI & YUSUKE KODAMA © (8:58)
This was Tachibana’s first match since last September when he broke his foot. So it is kind of weird he is getting a title shot here, but hey these 6-man titles don’t really mean anything. Not surprisingly, Tachibana got worked over by Total Eclipse a whole lot until he made the tag to Ito. Tachibana finally got on the offensive later on against Omori, but we got a ref bump followed up by a low blow from Omori who then hit a Cutter on Tachibana for a near fall. Yoshitatsu then hit a Superkick to Omori who was holding a chair. Tachibana then got back in the ring and hit an awkward-looking Olympic Slam to pin Omori and win the titles for his team. Total Eclipse fails at their V1 defense.
I didn’t hate this but there were several spots that were sloppy (though not completely botched) and the booking is just weird. All Japan keeps giving Omori these little stories he is involved in (he stole Yuma Aoyagi’s World Tag titles a couple of shows ago), but he keeps getting pinned in most of his matches. **3/4
ALL ASIA TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
STRONG HEARTS (EL LINDAMAN & ISSEI ONITSUKA) DEF. PURPLE HAZE (ZEUS & IZANAGI) © (10:22)
Onitsuka subbed for T-Hawk here, due to the latter’s rib injury sustained on the first official GLEAT show.
Zeus no-sold Onitsuka a bunch, but Strong Hearts managed to gain the advantage for a while by working over Izanagi. Zeus got the advantage back for his team, but he sold for El Lindaman. Ultimately, Onitsuka managed to get Zeus with some chest slaps which was a nice spot that was built to throughout the match with Zeus’ previous no-selling. Izanagi hit Onitsuka with a Blade Kick and got a 2.9 count. Izanagi then followed up with an Inside Cradle for the victory which felt anticlimactic.
This was Purple Haze’s V6 defense of the titles. Good match, but I was somewhat disappointed. I like Zeus beating up much smaller wrestlers, but it also prevented this from being the kind of crazy sprint a lot of Strong Hearts tag matches are. I also would have put the titles on Strong Hearts here as Purple Haze has already run through a bunch of teams made up of All Japan’s midcarders. ***1/4
KENTO MIYAHARA DEF. KOJI IWAMOTO (11:07)
Iwamoto attacked Miyahara right at the bell and the two had a hot opening sequence of chain wrestling and Miyahara teased the Shutdown German Suplex. From there, it settled into the usual Miyahara formula and they brawled around ringside a bunch and Miyahara threw some headbutts. Miyahara, to his credit, is sold more than Zeus and SUWAMA did for Iwamoto in their recent singles matches. Iwamoto got a good amount of offense during the latter half of the match. Iwamoto even escaped from two Shutdown German Suplex attempts, which generally only happens in big matches. But as has been the case in his recent singles matches against heavyweights, Iwamoto was unable to hit the Koko no Geijutsu on the larger opponent. Miyahara turned the attempted Koko no Geijutsu into a Shutdown German Suplex attempt that Iwamoto escaped, but Miyahara slapped another one right back on and was successful that time and got the win.
You can quibble with the booking of Iwamoto thus far as an “openweight” but I thought this was the best of his singles matches against top heavyweights in the company. ***3/4
ATSUSHI AOKI MEMORIAL MATCH
EVOLUTION (SUWAMA & HIKARU SATO) & KING TANY DEF. YUMA AOYAGI, TAKUYA WADA & SUSHI (14:06)
This was the first appearance of a Pro Wrestling NOAH wrestler in All Japan since Jun Akiyama left the company, which is an interesting note. All of the wrestlers except SUSHI had some sort of connection to Aoki. Taniguchi was in the same dojo class as Aoki in NOAH. SUWAMA and Sato were Aoki’s stablemates in Evolution. Aoyagi was Aoki’s trainee. And the MMA fighter and sometimes pro wrestler Wada was a friend of Aoki and Sato.
For the record, I’m not a fan of Shuhei Taniguchi’s transformation into King Tany. Even though he’s in his mid 40s now, Taniguchi was still capable of having fun and hard hitting matches playing the old grumpy guy a few times a year, but now it seems he’s been completely downcycled to the bottom of the card, which is unfortunate.
We got some lighthearted stuff from SUSHI and Tany to start. Even Aoyagi got in on some comedy when he tagged in. Sato and Wada did some good shoot style work together. I’ve always wanted All Japan to use Wada more, and GLEAT should book him too for their UWF division. But after their sequences, the rest of the match went back to being lighthearted, though there was plenty of decent wrestling sprinkled in with the comedy. SUWAMA pinned SUSHI with a Backdrop.
Being a memorial match, the rating shouldn’t matter here, but this was definitely a higher quality match than most All Japan comedy six-man tags. Which is a fitting tribute to one hell of a skilled and very much missed wrestler. I can’t believe it’s already been two years since Aoki left us. ***1/4
PWF WORLD JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
SUGI DEF. FRANCESCO AKIRA © (14:11)
As you can imagine, this match started a million miles per hour and didn’t let up much at all. SUGI, learning from his past encounter with Akira in the Jr. Battle of Glory, did try to ground the Jr. Champ for a bit, but it didn’t work and Akira was soon back to flying around. There was a great sequence where Akira hit a Poison Rana and then went to follow up with a running move, but SUGI countered into a Spanish Fly. That got some big stomps from the crowd.
These two hit a ton of big moves on each other in the closing stretch. If you like selling you won’t love it, but I liked it for what it was. SUGI and Akira botched a Poison Rana which I guess you could take marks off of, but it didn’t look that bad. Akira kicked out of SUGI’s Springboard Firebird Splash which got an audible gasp from the crowd. SUGI then got the win with the Shooting Star Press. Akira failed in his V1 defense.
I know I’ve heard people say SUGI had a chance to win here, but All Japan seemed all in on Akira so the result was a surprise to me. This was a total spot fest with little psychology, but All Japan is not a spot fest promotion, so I think these kinds of matches are perfect for the Jr. title as they offer a change of pace. And to these guys’ credit, there was only one glaring botch in a match that could have been full of them. ***3/4
TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
JAKE LEE © DEF. SHOTARO ASHINO (20:25)
Jake Lee was sporting a goatee and had his hair up in a man bun, so he has definitely cranked up his sleaze factor to 11. It definitely works for his heel persona.
Ashino’s left arm is bandaged up, as Lee had been working it over in tag matches leading up to this show. However, Ashino also managed Lee to submit to the Ankle Lock in a tag match on the July 13 show.
After Ashino took control early with a flurry of offense, Lee got the advantage and began to work over the injured arm. And to Ashino’s credit, he kept selling that arm when he got back on offense. Ashino’s selling was such that when Lee did put his arm in a submission the crowd was wildly stomping and clapping. The crowd was also extremely into every time Ashino went on offense. There was a great spot that got the crowd really into it when Ashino reversed a D4C attempt from Lee into the Ankle Lock.
The match was really building to something with all of Lee’s kicks and knees as well as Ashino’s attempts at the Ankle Lock. Lee hit a Backdrop that Ashino kicked out of at 2.9 then Lee followed up with the D4C for the win and his V1 defense of the Triple Crown. Given how this match was building, I didn’t feel like the finish stretch was dramatic and I’m going to deduct points for that. I thought at one point this had a chance to be All Japan’s best match of the year thus far, but it didn’t quite reach it. Still, I loved this and it had tremendous selling from Ashino, and as the match went on, Lee started selling all the Ankle Lock attempts really well and was limping around after the match. I also felt that in this match, Lee was doing a much better job playing a heel than he was a couple of months ago.
As much as I enjoyed this match, your mileage may vary if you’re growing exhausted with the way All Japan has been booking Ashino and can’t get invested in his matches any longer. And at just over 20 minutes, this match was the shortest Triple Crown match (if you don’t include the Lee versus Miyahara match from the tomoe-sen for the vacant title this past June 26) since Joe Doering versus Miyahara on March 25, 2018. ****1/4
This was All Japan’s best Korakuen Hall show in several months. They managed to sell it out several days before, which they had not done during the pandemic up to this point. They announced an attendance of 709. Of course, trying to understand what certain attendances mean during the pandemic can be a fool’s game, but I don’t think it means nothing, especially since All Japan’s last Korakuen Hall show was their lowest attendance during the pandemic era. Though this show had the benefit of being on Marine Day, a holiday, but at the same time the Olympics are about to start, and there’s a new State of Emergency in Tokyo.
As good as the main event was, and some booking choices on this show aside, the debut of Tsukamoto really felt to me that All Japan has really laid down some foundations for long-term success. But in this company, things can turn on a dime, so keep things at only being cautiously optimistic.
All Japan now takes the remainder of the Olympics off and returns on August 15 for the Ōdō Tournament, which looks more interesting than usual with All Japan using a 32-man field for it for the first time.