ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
ROYAL ROAD TOURNAMENT 2021
AUGUST 29, 2021
JUN SAITO DEF. RYOMA TSUKAMOTO (2:44)
That Saito got a singles match here, is, I think I sign they see that he has more talent than his brother. A basic rookie match with lots of striking back-and-forth. Saito used his size, but Tsukamoto got some nice counters in. Tsukamoto’s Dropkick is great, especially for someone with his proportions (5’7” 220 lbs.). Saito also showed some new moves like Yoshihiro Takayama style knees to the stomach. Saito finished Tsukamoto off in a Crab Hold of course. As I have said far too many times on this website, this was another All Japan undercard match that could have used some more time. I mean New Japan gives their Young Lions ten whole minutes in their debut matches.. **¾
ROYAL ROAD TOURNAMENT 2021 SEMI-FINAL
SUWAMA DEF. KENTO MIYAHARA (12:39)
This was like a lot of their matches to start out, but accelerated. Hitting each other hard to start off, then they brawled outside the ring. Miyahara hit Suwama with a Piledriver on the apron. Back in the ring, they went straight to throwing bombs at each other. Miyahara went for a running Blackout Knee but Suwama caught him and then rolled him up in a Small Package for the win. On one hand, this was a lot of fun. On the other hand, given the history of 30 minute matches between these two, an ending like this was a bit ridiculous. Still, very solid work. ***¼
ROYAL ROAD TOURNAMENT 2021 SEMI-FINAL
SHOTARO ASHINO DEF. JAKE LEE (9:34)
Lee went to work right away on Ashino’s right arm. Ashino made a comeback with suplexes.
Lee locked in a Guillotine but Ashino escaped. Ashino managed to lift Lee on to the turnbuckle from a Cross Armbreaker attempt and then picked him up for a Last Ride and got the three count. If this finish seems puzzling, All Japan just released a video on YouTube of Ashino and Suwama training together so Ashino using that finish is clearly based off of that. This was a nice little match and since they got right down to business didn’t suffer from any of Lee’s slow working over sequences he started doing after he turned heel. However, given how the feud between these two has been built up, you can say this wasn’t the most dynamic way to give Ashino his first win over Lee. ***¼
KOJI IWAMOTO & RYUKI HONDA DEF. EVOLUTION (HIKARU SATO & DAN TAMURA) (8:23)
As I expected, this was a lot of fun. Honda and Tamura really laid into each other. Iwamoto and Sato had some good technical back-and-forth sequences. Honda and Tamura had a solid closing sequence with Tamura kicking out of a Spear before getting pinned by a German Suplex Hold. A notable finish because just a few months ago Tamura would have been slotted above Honda, but the push for Honda has clearly begun. ***½
TOTAL ECLIPSE (KUMA ARASHI, KOJI DOI, TAJIRI, YUSUKE KODAMA & HOKUTO OMORI) DEF. SHUJI ISHIKAWA, TAKAO OMORI, ABULLAH KOBAYASHI, RYUJI HIJIKATA & REI SAITO) (7:44)
Takao Omori got worked over a lot but finally Kobyashi made a blind tag. Saito got a couple of nice spots here and didn’t look as awkward as he had previously which is a nice sign. Doi hit a Short Arm Lariat on Saito and Arashi, the legal man, followed up with a Top Rope Senton for the win. After the match, Takao Omori brawled with Total Eclipse. This was decent but could have used more stuff from guys like Hijikata and Hokuto Omori. **¾
YOSHITATSU KINGDOM (YOSHITATSU & SEIGO TACHIBANA) & T-HAWK DEF. PURPLE HAZE (ZEUS, IZANAGI & DEVIL MURASAKI) (7:18)
Tachibana got worked over by Purple Haze for a bit then made the hot tag to Yoshitatsu. T-Hawk and Murasaki ended up in the ring and T-Hawk got in an offensive flurry and finished off Murasaki with a running knee for the win. After the match T-Hawk cut a promo and challenged Zeus for the All Asia Tag Team Championship and then El Lindaman ran out and also cut a promo. Those two were supposed to challenge Zeus & Izanagi for the titles previously until T-Hawk suffered a rib injury in July. Though El Lindaman and Issei Onitsuka just unsuccessfully challenged for the titles last month makes me think the they will be winning them. **½
NEXTREAM (YUMA AOYAGI, ATSUKI AOYAGI & RISING HAYATO) DEF. SUGI, FRANCESCO AKIRA & BLACK MENSO~RE (11:12)
That this match went on before the main event, makes me think that All Japan wants to elevate the Jr. title. Atsuki Aoyagi versus SUGI for the Jr. title just got announced for the September 7 show.
Atsuki Aoyagi and SUGI had some great exchanges in this, making me more excited for their title match. Then after that, Akira Atsuki Aoyagi also had some great exchanges with Atsuki Aoyagi pinning Akira with the Firebird Splash. A nice build to Atsuki Aoyagi versus SUGI. And with this match, Akira returns home to Italy after spending the pandemic up to this point in Japan. Look for him in the WXW Catch Grand Prix in September. While this match wasn’t a straight Jr. versus Jr. affair, it’s clear the company is leaning more into the division. ***½
ROYAL ROAD TOURNAMENT 2021 FINALS
SUWAMA DEF. SHOTARO ASHINO (21:57)
There was some grappling to start, but given that this was both their second match of the night, it didn’t take long to move up to the next gear. They did the let’s German Suplex each other and no sell it spot which was cool. There was a spot where Ashino had Suwama in an Ankle Lock for a long time with Suwama ultimately escaping and then Ashino hitting a German Suplex which I thought was a bit much in terms of believing Suwama could survive all of that. After some reversals from each man, Ashino kicked out of a big Lariat and two Backdrops before being pinned by a Backdrop Hold. This was good, however definitely not their best match. And with this result, Ashino is now 0-4 versus Suwama. And the strange part of that booking is they are going to be forming a tag team. ****
This was a good but definitely not great tournament. My highest rating was ****¼ for Yuma Aoyagi versus Shotaro Ashino in the first round. Nothing was truly awful, especially after the first round. The irony to All Japan right now is that the undercards are as strong as they have been in years but the main events are beginning to lose their hype and luster. That is a situation that can be easily rectified, but some changes are needed.
Going to Jake Lee versus Suwama was the obvious destination of this tournament and one that I not only predicted but supported. However, I think a few different things could have been done in terms of finding a new challenger for Lee beyond next month. He’s going to beat Suwama but still needs a credible challenger for the Ota Ward Gym show in October. I don’t know who that will be, but it is still way too early to go back to Kento Miyahara. But increasingly I think it will be him.