ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
EXCITE SERIES 2022
FEBRUARY 23, 2022
KORAKUEN HALL
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: AJPW.TV

RYUKI HONDA DEF. RYO INOUE (4:00)

Inoue went right after Honda as soon as the bell sounded and showed a lot of fire. This was a nice continuation of their match on the last show. Inoue knows he has to be more aggressive if he even wants to survive a few more minutes than he did last time. Honda was also much more of an aggressor right off the bat, hammering Inoue instead of letting the match develop. Honda won once again with a Lariat. This was a pretty simple match, but both showed fire and it told a story. This match was run again because Hokuto Omori and Yusuke Kodama were in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19 and were taken off the show. In a strange twist, we now have a nice little rivalry brewing between Honda and Inoue. **¾

RYUJI HIJIKATA & DAN TAMURA DEF. TAKUHO KATO KAZUMASA YOSHIDA (6:49)

This was another pretty simple match. Everyone did stuff here but it didn’t feel like it meant anything, though that doesn’t mean the work was bad. Kato especially looked like he was trying hard. Tamura made Yoshida submit to the Dan Lock. **¾

SHUJI ISHIKAWA, TAKAO OMORI & BLACK MENSO~RE DEF. NEXTREAM (YUMA AOYAGI, ATSUKI AOYAGI & RISING HAYATO) (9:02)

This started off with some fun stuff between Atsuki and Ishikawa, playing off of their size difference. This was a standard six-man tag, and Menso~re got worked over a lot. There was some good stuff towards the end with Ishikawa seemingly taking on all of Nextream on his own but he fought back and pinned HAYATO after the Fire Thunder Driver. I thought this started slow but picked up at the end. It’s not often you see Ishikawa working hard in a six-man tag, but he did here. ***¼

KAZMA SAKAMOTO, TAKAYUKI UEKI & SEIGO TACHIBANA DEF. YOSHITATSU, IZANAGI & DEVIL MURASAKI (8:22)

You know, SAKAMOTO and his team actually make a decent heel unit. They all bring something different to the table. SAKAMOTO is the powerhouse, Ueki is the brawler and Tachibana can do comedy but is also a very underrated technical wrestler.

SAKAMOTO cut a promo before the match while it looked like he was reading something off of his phone. Then he and his team jumped their opponents before the bell. They all went directly after Yoshitatsu, which made me laugh.

Izanagi got worked over for a while, which was also the right choice because Murasaki in that position would have been horrid. In the closing stretch SAKAMOTO and Yoshitatsu actually did some good stuff. At one point Ueki dived into the corner at Yoshitatsu and went all the way over the ropes onto the floor. I think he meant to do that, but a strange bump to take just for a match like this.

Yoshitatsu had SAKAMOTO in the Yoshitatsu fantasy but before SAKAMATO could tap, Baliyan Akki came out of nowhere wearing a referee shirt and pulled the actual referee out of the ring. SAKAMOTO then was able to Schoolboy Yoshitatsu and Akki made a fast three count and after some hesitation, the bell rang. I can’t say I loved the finish, but this match certainly exceeded expectations despite the goofy finish. At least there was no bullshit with Murasaki.

Presumably, Yoshitatsu and SAKAMOTO will have a singles match at the next Korakuen Hall show or even Ota Ward Gym in March. The way this story has been told, it suggests Yoshitatsu would win their singles encounter, but that would be a waste of SAKAMOTO. ***

KENSO came out to plug another Amazon Prime series for All Japan. Sounds like it has already been taped as The Saito Brothers are on it. KAI and Jason Lee from Dragon Gate are wrestling on it too. Riki Choshu is also involved, probably on commentary.

TARU has sent a message talking about the Voodoo Murders returning, which made me laugh. Truly celebrating All Japan’s 50th anniversary.

We then got graphics announcing upcoming matches. Voodoo Murders will be at the March 21 Ota Ward Gym show as will Tatsumi Fujinami, Mitsuya Nagai & LEONA. Jake Lee returns from injury as well.

On March 7 in Yokohama, Izanagi and Black Menso~re will face the Brahman Brothers. At least it’s not on a big show.

GAORA TV CHAMPIONSHIP
SHIGEHIRO IRIE © DEF. ISAMI KODAKA (10:22)

They wasted no time here and had a hot start. Kodaka then went to work on Irie’s arms, trying in part to prevent being finished by the Beast Bomber. I thought the work here was pretty good. Irie kept selling his arms throughout and Kodaka got a lot of near falls. Irie hit what looked like several spinning uppercuts before pinning Kodaka. It did not come off as the most thrilling finish, but everything leading up to it was a lot of fun. This could have used a few more minutes obviously, but they also deserve credit for making something of this with the time they had.

This was Irie’s V2 defense of the title. ***½

PWF WORLD JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
HIKARU SATO DEF. SUGI © (9:51)

A couple minutes in, and this featured the most mat wrestling I’ve seen SUGI do in years. It was good though, I mean the guy was trained by Ultimo Dragon and Skayde. Though SUGI has the background in mat-based work, the match was still very much about the clash of styles and that element was integrated well until SUGI straight-up missed a standing Shooting Star Press and made zero contact with Sato. The bad taste of that was washed out by a hot sequence with SUGI in a Cross Armbreaker before finally making the rope break. SUGI got back on offense and then went for his Springboard Firebird Splash but Sato caught him in a Cross Armbreaker and then managed to grab all of his limbs and then SUGI tapped out. I thought this might happen. I can’t say this was a great match but I generally enjoyed it despite the very obvious botch.

SUGI fails on his V3 defense of his second reign and Sato begins his third reign with the title. ***¼

WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
RUNAWAY SUPLEX (SUWAMA & SHOTARO ASHINO) © DEF. TOTAL ECLIPSE (KOJI DOI & KUMA ARASHI) (18:26)

While KumaDoi has been doing a lot of flagrant cheating leading up to this match, they played the heel role well here without doing anything over the top like tying someone to the barricades. I thought Arashi looked good here against SUWAMA which only further confirms my point that he should really just be a tag team wrestler.

There was a great sequence from Ashino where he escaped from a Doomsday Device attempt from Arashi’s shoulders then ran up to the top rope to suplex Doi off of it. After surviving many German Suplexes from Ashino, Doi then got pinned by the Master of Suplex’s T-Bone Suplex. This was pretty damn good, though I don’t think it got to some kind of truly great status. I know KumaDoi has their fans but it’s Runaway SUPLEX’s time and I think Ashino and Suwama can have better matches against a wider array of opponents.

After the match, Ryuki Honda ran in and attacked the champions. Honda challenged Ashino to a singles match at Ota Ward Gym on March 21 and Ashino accepted. ***¾

TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
KENTO MIYAHARA © VS. ABDULLAH KOBAYASHI (16:06)

I have to say the banter between these two on social media has been funny. And the video recap before the match was good.

Kobayashi tried to do some chain wrestling at the start and even got a Drop Toe Hold on Miyahara. The whole sequence wasn’t the smoothest, but it didn’t look horrible. While brawling on the outside, Miyahara did his usual headbutt but sold it like Kobayashi had an extra hard heat. I will say this, Kobayashi worked harder here than I have seen him do in some time. I also liked the way they fought over the Shutdown German Suplex attempt from Miyahara.

Miyahara would eventually land a Deadlift German Suplex that Kobayashi kicked out of before pinning Kobayashi with another German Suplex.

I’m torn on how to rate this. They wrestled at a good pace and though there was some sloppy stuff, it somehow managed to all work. Kobayashi deserves credit for his effort. I’m going to have to break out a special rating for this.

Miyahara succeeds in his V1 defense of his fifth Triple Crown reign. After the match Shuji Ishikawa came out to challenge for the Triple Crown at Ota Ward Gym on March 21. ***⅔

FINAL THOUGHTS

At 794 fans claimed, that is the best All Japan number in Korakuen Hall since the pandemic started. Shockingly, unlike the past several years, the Excite Series Korakuen Hall show did not have an announcement of the Champion Carnival participants. I’m not sure when that is happening. March 21 at Ota Ward Gym is too close to the tournament to announce, so unless they say that they are doing it online, I would guess they make the announcement on March 12 at Korakuen Hall.

This was not anything approaching a spectacular show. This was a somewhat surprisingly solid show where the matches that looked dicey on paper mostly managed to deliver. At this point, I’d say that is a victory for All Japan. With this strange Triple Crown defense now over, I think All Japan can now concentrate on building towards the future.

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