ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
2021 CHAMPIONS NIGHT 2 – ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING 49TH ANNIVERSARY
OCTOBER 16, 2021
OTA WARD GYMNASIUM
RYOMA TSUKAMOTO VS. RYUJI HIJIKATA
Thus far, after only a handful of matches, Tsukamoto has been an absolute delight. He has energy and moves very well for someone whose size is listed at 5’7” and 225 pounds, with a great dropkick. I think he is going to be an integral part of the company in the coming years, though his height is going to be an issue in a company like All Japan that has a lot of taller-than-average wrestlers.
Hijikata is a part-time wrestler at this point, he is a city councilor in Saitama. I’ve been a fan since his Battlarts days, and really enjoyed his run in All Japan in the 2000s.
This should be a good little match to open the show, but the winner here is obvious. I hope they go to the ground in this because I would like to see what Tsukamoto’s mat work looks like. Prediction: Ryuji Hijiakta
ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING 49TH ANNIVERSARY COMMEMORATIVE MATCH
MASANOBU FUCHI, GREAT KOJIKA, SUSHI & CHIKARA VS. YOSHIAKI FUJIWARA, MASAO INOUE, KIKUTARO & DEVIL MURASAKI
Well, this is your anniversary match for the show. It’s not going to be great, but it will probably be kept short given that two of the wrestlers in this are over 70 years old (Fujiwara is 72 and Kojika is 79!), and Fuchi is 67.
The only interesting thing to note about this match is the return of Inoue. He hasn’t worked NOAH since August. Maybe they didn’t need him for the N-1 Victory tour, but he has worked a couple of indie shows in the meantime. So perhaps he’s just popping in for the 49th-anniversary celebration or perhaps we will be seeing him do more of these comedy/nostalgia matches in All Japan going forward. He’s not booked on any of NOAH’s upcoming shows. I’m going to pick Fuchi’s team to win because his team deserves to win this match because it’s god damn Masanobu Fuchi celebrating All Japan’s anniversary. Prediction: Masanobu Fuchi, Great Kojika, Sushi & Chikara
ZEUS, KOJI IWAMOTO, RYUKI HONDA & KENGO MASHIMO VS. JUN SAITO, REI SAITO, KOJI DOI & KUMA ARASHI
This is being billed as a preview of the upcoming Real World Tag League featuring participants in that tournament. Mashimo is making his first appearance in All Japan since December 2018. He was supposed to be in the 2019 Champion Carnival, but suffered a major injury that kept him out. It’s nice to see him back in All Japan and I am looking forward to his team with Kazma Sakamoto in the RWTL.
As a total aside, I suggest checking out the Saito Twins vs. Takao Omori and Black Menso~re from the October 9 show, to see how the Saitos are beginning to put it together in the ring.
With the Saito Twins in the match, expect one of them to take the fall, with Mashimo getting it, given he is the outsider they need to build up. This could be a pretty good match if given enough time. Prediction: Zeus, Koji Iwamoto, Ryuki Honda & Kengo Mashimo
THREE-WAY TAG TEAM MATCH
EVOLUTION (HIKARU SATO & DAN TAMURA) VS. TOTAL ECLIPSE (HOKUTO OMORI & YUSUKE KODAMA) & BLACK MENSO~RE & ANDY WU
On one level, this feels like it’s being booked just to get everyone on the show. That being said, it has the potential to be good. I think this may end up being a de facto #1 contenders’ match for the All Asia tag titles, and that is how I am going to make my pick for the winners. Menso~re and Wu would be cool challengers for the titles, but Wu only works All Japan sporadically. I don’t think Evolution is winning because they are doing an angle where Sato is angry about Suwama teaming with Shotaro Ashino, and I would suggest watching to see if that angle is advanced here with Sato not getting along with Tamura and that costing them the match. I’m going to go with Total Eclipse winning. Prediction: Total Eclipse (Hokuto Omori & Yusuke Kodama)
NEXTREAM (YUMA AOYAGI, ATSUKI AOYAGI & RISING HAYATO) VS. SHIRO KOSHINAKA, MITSUYA NAGAI & LEONA
This was originally supposed to be the Aoyagi Brothers vs. LEONA and his dad, Tatsumi Fujinami, but the legend came down with cellulitis in his foot and has to miss the show. Get well soon, Dragon!
LEONA has always sucked and Nagai sucks now due to age. Koshinaka, however, can still be a lot of fun against the right opponent. So it’s going to be up to the Nextream team to make something of this. It’s certainly possible that they can, but I wouldn’t guarantee that. Anyway, my expectations are pretty low for this, so I could be pleasantly surprised. I actually think the outsider team is going to win here because LEONA and Nagai are in the RWTL, and again as I mentioned with Mashimo, you gotta heat up the outsiders for the upcoming tournament. Prediction: Shiro Koshinaka, Mitsuya Nagai & LEONA
AJPW TV 6 MAN TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP DECISION MATCH
YOSHITATSU KINGDOM (YOSHITATSU & SEIGO TACHIBANA) & TAKAYUKI UEKI VS. TAKAO OMORI, TAMURA & REIMU IMAI
Yoshitatsu, Tachibana and Carbell Ito were the previous champions, but Carbell Ito fractured his wrist and the titles were then vacated. Omori has brought in HEAT-UP ace and owner TAMURA and the rookie Imai to team with him.
Imai is very interesting. He is only 16 (though he turns 17 two days after this show) years old and also got press because he is wrestling while deaf, which he has been since birth. But that’s not even his biggest claim to fame. His mother is Eriko Imai, a former pop star from the band Speed in the 1990s who eventually went solo in the 2000s. She then became a politician who is currently sitting in Japan’s House of Councillors. This will be Imai’s biggest match of his career up to this point.
It’s also cool to see Ueki back in All Japan. He popped up there after leaving Big Japan, and there was speculation that he was done with deathmatches. But then after a couple of months in All Japan he went to FREEDOMS and got back into the deathmatches. But Ueki is a good wrestler even without the light tubes. Ueki as part of this team would certainly be able to have better matches as champion than with Carbell Ito.
I think Yoshitatsu and his underlings win this one, as it’s basically filling the void left by Ito’s injury. However, given there is this whole All Japan/GLEAT/HEAT-UP nexus going on right now, I don’t think it’s impossible for Omori, Tamura and Imai to win. Prediction: Yoshitatsu, Seigo Tachibana & Takayuki Ueki
PWF WORLD JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
SUGI © VS. IZANAGI
The battle of the masked men with single names. Not much story to this one, Izanagi just came out and challenged SUGI after the champion’s last title defense against Yusuke Kodama. This will be SUGI’s third defense.
This should be a good match. SUGI has been great in All Japan and his spot fest matches have been a nice change of pace. Izanagi is an underappreciated midcard work in this company under whatever gimmick he’s doing (and there’s been quite a few).
I don’t think the winner is in doubt here. SUGI is holding this title until Francesco Akira returns from Europe probably early next year, or at least that’s my read of it. Don’t sleep on this match though, it should be crazy fun. Prediction: SUGI
WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
RUNAWAY SUPLEX (SUWAMA & SHOTARO ASHINO) © VS. TWIN TOWERS (SHUJI ISHIKAWA & KOHEI SATO)
Like the Jr. title match, there’s no story beyond the Twin Towers challenging Runaway Suplex after they won the titles from Miyahara and Aoyagi in September. This will be Runaway Suplex’s first title defense.
The match should be good. Ashino is always awesome, Suwama, though controversial to some, is still good in tag matches. Ishikawa has been having a much better 2021 in the ring than he had in 2020. Sato is the question mark here. I haven’t loved his stuff since popping up in All Japan at the beginning of this year after leaving ZERO1. He’s showing his age, though he can still hit people really hard. If I had to guess, I think this will be good.
I’m going with Runaway Suplex here. Though All Japan has changed the tag titles soon before the RWTL in the past, it would be incredibly stupid to do so here, because it would only reinforce the idea that Ashino is a geek. Plus Ishikawa pinned Suwama in a tag match building to this match, so I think that only makes my prediction more likely. Prediction: Runaway Suplex (Suwama & Shotaro Ashino)
TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
JAKE LEE © VS. KENTO MIYAHARA
I’ve recently gone on record on this very website, writing that Lee’s Triple Crown reign isn’t really doing it for me. I loved the match between these two in the Champion Carnival finals, but it’s been downhill for Lee after he won the Triple Crown in June. Now to be fair, he was cursed because Suwama had to vacate it due to catching COVID-19. However, Lee’s title defenses haven’t exactly set my world on fire, though they weren’t disasters either. This will be Lee’s third defense.
It feels too soon to have Miyahara challenge here, given that he was part of the tomoe-sen that Lee won the title in, but this is the biggest (and best quality in-ring) match they can provide for a major Ota Ward Gymnasium show.
If Lee dials back the heel character work and wrestles the kind of match he was having with Miyahara in 2019, this could be awesome. But I fear that won’t happen. Saying Lee has regressed is too strong, but it is clear trying to play a heel is not natural for him and it takes away from his in-ring work. Lee should just try to be a heel by kicking the shit out of Miyahara instead of mugging for the camera, doing sinister-looking grins and raising his arms in the air.
The result here is the toughest on the show. I’ve chatted with a few people who think Miyahara is winning here, though not everyone thinks that. For my prediction, I’m going to go with Lee. As I said, Lee hasn’t bombed as Triple Crown champion, he’s just been uninspiring. I think the company is still all-in on him.
In a company that desperately needs to create new stars at the top of the card, pulling the plug now would be a bad idea. That was what NOAH did in the late 2000s when new champions weren’t drawing well at first, which prevented Naomichi Marufuji and Go Shiozaki from becoming stars as big as they could have. There’s also the fact that wrestling shows in Japan are still under pandemic restrictions. With things finally beginning to look like they’re going to open up, they should give Lee more of a chance to see if he can draw or not. But I will not be shocked if Miyahara ends this show winning his fifth Triple Crown.
They have also been running with the angle that Miyahara is in a slump. He has not held the Triple Crown since March 2020, which is his longest drought without the title since he first won it in February 2016. He is the undisputed ace of the company, and while Ashino gives him a run for his money as the best worker in the company, he is without a doubt the top draw. At 32 years old, and as someone who works a smart style that doesn’t involve taking a million head drops, Miyahara still has a long career ahead of him. That means you are going to have to find stuff beyond the Triple Crown for him to do while elevating young talent. They should run with the slump angle until the All Japan 50th anniversary show next year where he finally wins the Triple Crown again.
Not that long ago, All Japan had a hot Triple Crown scene with a bland undercard with little to no depth. While they have greatly improved their undercards and are cultivating some young talent with great potential, the Triple Crown scene has become much weaker. That’s the conundrum that All Japan now faces. And to really drive growth in the company, they have to be strong on both counts. It’s clear that those running All Japan really want the company to grow, as they have recently entered into an agreement with Total Promotion Agency Status, a marketing and event promotion firm that has done work for major Japanese companies like Panasonic, Sony and Square Enix.
Jake Lee finally living up to his potential or failing as Triple Crown champion is going to be a defining moment for the future of All Japan, for better or worse. Prediction: Jake Lee