ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
NEW YEAR WARS 2022 Night 1
JANUARY 2, 2022
The show began with the annual new year’s greeting featuring the roster. There’s a new 50th anniversary ring mat and new tracksuits for the wrestlers. Rising HAYATO and Shotaro Ashino were revealed as officially signing with All Japan. The announcement of Ashino got an audible pop from the crowd. This was what I expected and am glad it has finally happened. It’s being reported that HAYATO will have a “double affiliation” with All Japan and Ehime Pro Wrestling, where he debuted. The new Dojo recruit Yuma Anzai was also revealed to the crowd and got to say a few words. He looks like a future star, though he needs a better haircut.
I was somewhat surprised that there was no announcement about Koji Doi or Kuma Arashi officially signing. They got a push during the Real World Tag League and I thought they might end up signing. It could be a situation where the company isn’t exactly raking in the dough given pandemic restrictions, though I would not read into it as some sort of financial crisis given they did sign two wrestlers, have one debuting on this show, and have a high profile trainee entering the Dojo. However, none of the contracted members of Total Eclipse, being the heel stable, came out during the opening greeting so we will see what their status is later.
The 50th anniversary show will happen on September 18 at the Nippon Budokan! On the one hand, it is incredibly ambitious to try to run the Budokan before trying Sumo Hall again, but on the other, at this point it seems almost a dream to expect pandemic restrictions to be fully lifted by then given the way things are going around the world right now.
RYO INOUE DEBUT MATCH: DAN TAMURA DEF. RYO INOUE (6:24)
Inoue looks good in his dark purple trunks and kneepads. He moved around well and has a nice dropkick, and got a good bit of offense in. Inoue eventually tapped out to that scourge of rookies – a Crab Hold. This was a perfectly fine debut match. **½
SHUJI ISHIKWA & JUN SAITO DEF. RISING HAYATO & REI SAITO (9:45)
Ishikawa works really well against the Saitos. They just hit each other really hard which is what you want from these large men. HAYATO got beat up a lot here. The Rei vs. Jun sequences were fun. They really slapped each other hard. Jun’s facials and selling are really improving. Jun hit a Vertical Suplex on Rei and locked him in a Crab Hold. Rei almost made the ropes but Jun pulled him back to the middle and got the tap out. If you are a member of the Saito Brothers Respect Army, you will dig this. ***¼
MASNOBU FUCHI, TAKAO OMORI, BLACK MENSO~RE, ANDY WU & TAMURA DEF. YOSHITATSU KINGDOM (YOSHITATSU, SEIGO TACHIBANA, TAKAYUKI UEKI, BALIYAN AKKI & RAIMU IMAI) (7:15)
This was the de facto comedy match of the show, featuring wrestling’s most pointless stable. Imai has officially joined Yoshitatsu Kingdom. Ueki pointed his gun at Fuchi, but Fuchi totally no-sold it and slapped it out of Ueki’s hand. Generally, I would think stuff like that is stupid, but it’s Masanobu motherfucking Fuchi we’re talking about here, so it ruled. There was bit of a schmozz towards the end with everyone brawling and then Omori pinned Tachibana with the Axe Bomber.
There have been worse comedy matches in All Japan, and there have been better. I will at least remember this for the gun spot. **¼
CIMA, TAJIRI & SUPER CRAZY DEF. MUSASHI, IZANAGI & SUGI (10:01)
MUSASHI is replacing Kaz Hayashi who had to bow out at the last minute due to a torn meniscus. Get well soon, Kaz!
Congratulations are in order for MUSASHI who managed to have some decent sequences with TAJIRI early on. This might have had more comedy than the previous match, with TAJIRI and CIMA coming to blows but then quickly making up. There wasn’t much to the rest of this other than some dives from MUSASHI and SUGI. Super Crazy pinned SUGI with a Powerbomb so that should tip you off to the result of their title match tomorrow. CIMA and MUSASHI looked to be beefing after the match, which may lead to something in GLEAT. This was just there. **½
RISING HAYATO WINS THE NEW YEAR BATTLE ROYAL (7:54)
The sound of the Star Wars disco theme from Meco means its New Year Battle Royal time. We got Shigehiro Irie, Shuji Ishikawa, Ryo Inoue, Baliyan Akki, Takayuki Ueki, the Saito Brothers, Reimu Imai, Dan Tamura, Yoshitatsu, Devil Murasaki, Andy Wu, TAMURA, Takao Omori, Rising HAYATO, Seigo Tachibana and Black Menso~re in here. It was your standard Japanese Battle Royal (they’re usually not very good) with everyone piling on for most eliminations, though some like Irie and Ishikawa got thrown over the top rope.
The final six were Yoshitatsu, Ueki, Akki, Tachibana, Murasaki and Rising HAYATO. Yoshitatsu tried to get his stablemates to work together but they all turned on him, gave him a triple Powerbomb and pinned him. That, I admit, ruled. Murasaki and Tachibana were fighting on the apron, then HAYATO dropkicked them off for the final two eliminations. A nice win for the new roster member of All Japan.
I will give this a passing grade for the feel good moment of HAYATO winning and the Yoshitatsu Kingdom turmoil. **½
NEXTREAM (KENTO MIYAHARA, YUMA AOYAGI & ATSUKI AOYAGI) DEF. EVOLUTION (SUWAMA & HIKARU SATO) & SHOTARO ASHINO (11:44)
This got heated with Miyahara and Suwama reigniting their long running rivalry, and Ashino going after Yuma Aoyagi. Atsuki Aoyagi got suplexed a lot by Ashino and Suwama. Great closing stretch between Yuma Aoyagi and Ashino. Yuma got suplexed a bunch but pulled through and hit the Spin Kick to pin Ashino for the win. Ashino sold it like he was knocked out.
Miyahara and Suwama brawled after the match and Miyahara hit an apron piledriver on Suwama. Good build to tomorrow’s tag title match, though I think the finish was given away with the result here. Yuma Aoyagi vs. Ashino is a long term feud that I think the company can build around. ***½
DAISUKE SEKIMOTO, ABDULLAH KOBAYASH & RYUJI ITO DEF. TOTAL ECLIPSE (KOJI DOI, KUMA ARASHI & RYUKI HONDA) (9:19)
This All Japan vs. Big Japan match up replaced the Triple Crown match due to Jake Lee’s orbital bone fracture and broken nose. After their singles match on December 26, where Lee got injured, Honda said he wanted to join Total Eclipse. Lee originally did not say yes to Honda, but we got the answer here, with this being Honda’s first match as a Total Eclipse member. He has new black and silver trunks and a dye job.
Honda jumped the Big Japan team before the bell and his teammates joined in. I thought Honda played heel pretty well here, though the match was slow at the start because it was Total Eclipse working over Kobayashi. When referee Nikkan Lee’s back was turned her ex-husband Ito pulled out the kendo stick and used it on Total Eclipse. That’s a sentence you don’t think I’d ever write, but this is professional wrestling. Ito, who is 45, looks older than Masanobu Fuchi, but that’s what Death Matches will do to a man.
Doi and Sekimoto had some nice exchanges where they lariated each other a lot. Sekimoto hit a German Suplex on Arashi followed up with an Ito Frog Splash which was then followed by Kobayashi’s Elbow Drop from the top for the win. This was not pretty at points, but there were a couple cool sequences in there. I guess Kobayashi might still be in Triple Crown contention? He cut a promo after the match, so we shall see (I hope not).
At least Honda didn’t do the job here on his first night as a member of Total Eclipse. After the match, Honda ran back into the ring and took out the Big Japan team including hitting a big Lariat on Kobayashi. **¾
ALL ASIA TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP: TOTAL ECLIPSE (HOKUTO OMORI & YUSUKE KODAMA) DEF. STRONGHEARTS (T-HAWK & EL LINDAMAN) © (14:40)
It’s cool that with the Triple Crown match off, they moved this into the main event. That’s good for Omori especially, because I think he’s getting a big push in 2022. Omori and Kodama earned this title shot by winning the 2021 Jr. Battle of Glory on December 26, defeating Hikaru Sato and Dan Tamura in the finals.
Kodama and Lindaman started this by pulling each other’s hair and biting each other. But then they actually did some wrestling and it was good. Kodama had his working boots on tonight which is not always the case. T-Hawk’s chops and slaps were more thunderous than usual here.
This had some good back-and-forth action. No one really played the whipping boy for long, and there was little downtime after the first few minutes. Kodama even did a top-rope Spanish Fly to Lindaman here which means you know he’s really trying. Lindaman got saved from an Omori German Suplex then kicked out of a Dragon Suplex. Omori then followed that with the Muso Issen for the win. Great match. Everyone worked hard. And thank God for no cheap heel stuff from Total Eclipse. Omori has dropped that in his last couple of big matches and it has been a big improvement. My main quibble here would be that Stronghearts should have gotten some more near falls of their own towards the end to heighten the drama.
As much as I’ve loved Stronghearts in All Japan, the result here was really the right one. Given the state of this company starting off this year, it’s time to go all in on the young talent, and they did here. This is Omori’s first title in All Japan, and he is the first of his generational trio with Atsuki Aoyagi and Dan Tamura to win a title. ***¾
The show drew 720, which is encouraging but also expected given it is a holiday week in Japan. My expectations going into this show weren’t very high, so I was mostly pleasantly surprised here. The only really disappointing match on this show was the Jr. six-man, but everything else was at the level I expected or exceeded it.
The main takeaway from this show is that All Japan is going to be pushing young talent in 2022, with Ryuki Honda and Hokuto Omori clearly earmarked for something. That is something encouraging to see after a lot of recent disappointments.