This year’s Royal Road Tournament, the eighth of its kind, is taking place in August instead of the usual September. There was no reason given for this change, though it is not outlandish to assume that with the G1 Climax and N1 Victory beginning in September again this year, a choice was made to move the tournament up. This is also the first Royal Road Tournament in two years, as it did not happen last year due to the COVID-19 and the Champion Carnival took its place in the calendar.

As well as being the first Royal Road Tournament in August, there is another first to this tournament. For the first time ever, it is a 32-man field instead of the usual 16.

With 32 wrestlers to discuss, instead of giving each one a profile, I will preview the 16 matches of the first round and make comments as to whether or not I think any of the competitors in the match has a chance at winning it all. Being able to field a 32-man Royal Road Tournament is a testament to All Japan’s relative success in building up its roster depth over the past couple of years.

This year’s tournament kicks off with a doubleheader at Shinjuku FACE on August 15, with an afternoon and evening show. The second round takes place on August 18 in Yokohama at Hodogaya Public Hall while the quarter-finals happen on August 24 at Shin-Kiba 1st RING in Tokyo. The semi-finals and finals take place on the same night, August 29 at the legendary Korakuen Hall in Tokyo. The shows themselves can be watched live at AJPW.TV.

Now let’s take a look at the first round of the tournament. I’ve previewed each match starting from their position in the bracket. For example, Jake Lee vs. SUGI is the top of the left side of the bracket, moving down from there. Dan Tamura vs. Abdullah Kobayashi is on the top right side of the bracket, again moving down from there.

AJPW Royal Road 2021


The Triple Crown champion versus the Jr. champion. This is a match that is rarely booked in All Japan so I don’t have a feel on how they will present it. I’m pretty sure it will be Lee winning dominantly with SUGI getting a few high-flying hope spots. SUGI is not winning this tournament, nor is Lee who will go far but ultimately lose, as the winner will be getting a Triple Crown shot. I can seek Ayato Yoshida knocking Lee out of this thing in the quarter-finals. This tournament feels like just a way to set up a #1 contender to Jake Lee more than a tournament where the win itself is a big prize all on its own.


Iwamoto’s openweight turn seems to have caused polarized opinions. Some have loved his matches against Miyahara and Suwama, while others don’t like the whole idea of the openweight gimmick. I’m on the side of mostly liking it. Doi has generally been a jobber in All Japan but I have enjoyed his performances. I think Iwamoto gets his first win over a heavyweight here and goes on to face Jake Lee in the second round where there is an already built in story of Lee turning on Iwamoto to establish Total Eclipse. This should be a good hard-hitting match, however.


This is one of my most eagerly awaited matches in the first round. Both guys here are young and beginning to move up the card and definitely deserve it. This will be a match where both can really show what they are capable of now. Hopefully, they get enough time to have a good match here, because I think with an eight-match show of all tournament matches, some won’t get much time and that is often a problem for All Japan’s midcard. Omori, who continues to really embrace being a heel, is higher ranked and I think he will be winning here. And Omori also has a story with his second-round match should he win here, being a Total Eclipse member that Ayato Yoshida has to overcome to get to face Jake Lee.


Now that Yoshida isn’t the 2AW champion, he is popping up in other promotions more often. That’s good news for All Japan who really should be booking him more given they have a relationship with 2AW. This match will pan out like Lee versus SUGI will. Yoshida will get a dominant victory and Menso~re will get a couple of hope spots. I really think Yoshida is going far in this tournament. He has a chance of facing Lee in the quarterfinals which I think will happen and Yoshida will beat him setting up a Triple Crown shot later. All Japan has another Ota Ward Gym show in October, and Lee versus Yoshida for the Triple Crown would make a great main event. Lee and Yoshida have unfinished business since he left the JIN stable to form Total Eclipse. Though I don’t think he will win the tournament, Yoshida will be most likely making it to the semi-finals or even finals.


The winner of this won’t be making it out of the second round. Given how wrestlers are ranked in All Japan, there’s no way Aoyagi is winning here, especially since he is a Jr. But I think this will be more of a back-and-forth than other Jrs. versus heavyweight matches in this tournament. Omori wins this and probably loses to TAJIRI in the second round.


Without a doubt, this will be the worst match of the first round. No one has really figured out who Murasaki is yet, so I think he’s an obscure indy guy. He’s not very good either and does lots of cheating. Certainly not the type of wrestler that is going to have a good match with TAJIRI who is 50 years old. TAJIRI will win this of course. Unfortunately, I think TAJIRI has a good chance of making it as far as the quarter-finals before losing to probably  Shotaro Ashino.


Tachibana only recently returned to the ring and won the AJPW TV 6 man titles after being on the shelf since last September with a foot injury. I think Tachibana is a solid worker, though some are turned off by his comedy heavy gimmick and being Yoshitatsu’s sidekick. And while Zeus is usually awesome, some of his previous matches against Jrs. have failed to be fun smaller guy versus big guy matchups. So this could be a lot of fun or pretty bland. Zeus wins this but probably loses in the second round to the winner of Yuma Aoyagi versus Shotaro Ashino.


The most intriguing match of the first round is also the hardest to pick a winner for. Ashino should win. He’s currently 1-2 in singles against Aoyagi and the World tag team champion has defeated Ashino in two straight. Much frustration has been had about Ashino’s booking in All Japan. While he hasn’t been given a real top spot, it is clear the company still has plans for him. So I think he will get a decent run in this tournament to try to maintain some credibility. He needs it much more than Aoyagi. This year, Aoyagi has clearly been elevated and is on an ascent to eventually a main event spot. But he can lose here to someone who needs a big win a lot more. I think, and this may be too optimistic for this company, Ashino makes it to the semis and loses to Ayato Yoshida there.


For whatever reason, given all the talent on the BJW (and there is some great talent there that is underutilized), All Japan chooses to keep booking Kobayashi. I don’t hate Kobayashi, but he’s wrong for a singles tournament with a lineup of mostly serious wrestlers. I don’t think this will be a good match, but if Tamura works hard to bump for Kobayashi, I think it can be passable. Kobayashi will win here, but thankfully he will almost certainly lose in the round to Suwama.


Rei is the Saito Twin that has been the least impressive to me. Now both of them have a long way to go, but Rei does not seem as confident in the ring as his brother Jun. This could still be fun because Suwama is gonna beat up Saito a lot and I have always enjoyed how Suwama works when he administers a big beating. Suwama will not only win here, but I am making my prediction that he wins the whole tournament. The reason is pretty clear: All Japan still needs to run Jake Lee versus Suwama for the Triple Crown. Having Suwama win here restores his credibility as much as it can be given SUWAMA had to vacate the Triple Crown due to catching COVID-19. Once Suwama gets some new momentum from this tournament win, expect him to unsuccessfully challenge Lee for the Triple Crown on September’s Super Deluxe Series tour.


A pair of round wrestlers prepare to do battle here. Irie is always fun, but Arashi is much better as a tag wrestler. That being said, this could still be good if this is just a beef slapper that covers up Arashi’s weaknesses. I guess this one could go either way, but I expect Irie to win for the reason that Arashi has done lots of jobs in All Japan, but Irie has jobbed a lot less. Irie has a decent chance of going as far as the quarter-finals and losing to Suwama there, but I doubt any further.


This one could be tough to call. Given how All Japan books, you would think Yoshitatsu the heavyweight wins here. But Sato has scored occasional wins over heavyweights before and it feels like All Japan is pushing Yoshitatsu down in status from the upper midcard he was in when he originally started working in All Japan to lower card comedy guy. But I am going to go with All Japan’s traditional booking patterns and say Yoshitatsu will win. And if Yoshitatsu wins here, he could go as far as the quarter-finals I think because he has a chance of beating Irie in the second round.


Unlike Zeus, Miyahara works well against Jrs. But the problem here could be Kodama. When Kodama puts in effort, I think he’s really great. When he just goes through the motions, he’s a replacement-level pro wrestler. I would hope working against the company ace, Kodama decides to bring his working shoes. The result is obvious. Miyahara will be going far in the Royal Road Tournament, but I think he is losing in the semis to the eventual winner, Suwama. It’s too early to do another Lee versus Miyahara match, anyway.


Well, we’re just a few days away from the tournament starting, so I assume T-Hawk is going to be medically cleared for this show. He has been out of action after suffering an injury to his ribs on the GLEAT debut show. This will be a good match, one of the best of the opening round, but we all know who the winner is. But the second round is where it gets interesting. It is a certainty that we will be getting Miyahara versus T-Hawk in that round. I am going to predict Miyahara wins that one, but I can’t totally rule out T-Hawk getting a big upset and going far in the Royal Road Tournament.


As I have previously mentioned, I think Jun shows the most (relative) promise of the two Saito Twins. So this match will be where we can find out just how much promise he has. Ishikawa is obviously winning this, but it will be a chance for Jun to show off what he’s got. I think it has the potential to be a nice little hard-hitting match between two big guys. As for Ishikawa’s ultimate trajectory in this tournament, I’m guessing he loses in the quarter-finals to Miyahara.


This is the only actual Jr. versus Jr. match in the first round of the tournament. This should be really good, one of the best of the opening round. Akira has really come into his own since getting his big push and Izanagi is an underrated guy who can keep almost any kind of match together against limited opponents. Hopefully, this gets like ten minutes, but I am skeptical. Akira most likely wins here but loses to Shuji Ishikawa in second round. Akira will get one win in this tournament before he heads back to Europe to show off what he’s learned in the All Japan Dojo, but hopefully, he can return soon as Japan makes progress on its vaccination rate.


  • The Final Four: Ayato Yoshida, Shotaro Ashino, Suwama & Kento Miyahara
  • The Finals: Ayato Yoshida vs. Suwama
  • Darkhorse Winners: Ayato Yoshida & T-Hawk