ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
CHAMPIONS NIGHT 3
MARCH 21, 2022
OTA WARD GYMNASIUM
ANDY WU, HIROSHI YAMATO & SEIGO TACHIBANA DEF. SUGI, TAKATO NAKANO & RYO INOUE (9:39)
Inoue and Wu started with some chain wrestling. Inoue is very expressive for someone with his experience level. It’s a very good sign. Being at the bottom of the pecking order, he also got worked over a lot in this match. SUGI got the hot tag and then did all of his flippy stuff. After some help from his teammates, Inoue got a near fall on Yamato. But Yamato made a comeback and pinned Inoue with a Fisherman’s Suplex. This was fun non-stop action. Inoue got a ton of shine here and looked like a future star. ***½
YOSHITATSU, CARBELL ITO & RAIMU IMAI DEF. SHIGEHIRO IRIE, IZANAGI & SUSHI (10:23)
I have to say, for a 50-year-old part time wrestler with a relatively small number of matches under their belt who is also returning from injury, Carbell Ito looked pretty good. Imai also continued to impress. The 17-year-old is pretty smooth for someone with less than two years of experience, but many HEAT-UP trained wrestlers share that quality. Much like the previous match, they worked at a quick pace here, which was something I was somewhat surprised by given some of the talent involved here. Yoshitatsu pinned SUSHI after a Codebreaker from the top rope, but not before Carbell Ito did one of his wild dives off the top rope to the outside. This was shockingly good given what I was expecting. ***¼
ABDULLAH KOBAYASHI & DAN TAMURA DEF. TAKAO OMORI & BLACK MENSO~RE (11:31)
Looks like they will be continuing the Kobayashi and Tamura tag team since Kobayashi missed their All Asia tag title challenge due to COVID-19 protocols as he was in close contact with someone who tested positive.
Kobayashi and Tamura came out holding hands signifying their friendship. They’ve also been posting on social media about how they are BFFs. This match wasn’t wrestled at the pace of the previous two. With Kobayashi in there, things get a little more methodical, and that’s putting it nicely. This did have a lot more back-and-forth action as opposed to someone getting worked over for an extended period. There was a funny spot where Menso~re tried to get Kobayashi over for a Sunset Flip but even Omori couldn’t help get him over and Tamura made the save. Kobayashi then pinned Menso~re with this top rope elbow drop. This picked up towards the end, and if you are enjoying the Kobayashi and Tamura team, you’ll like this. ***
LAST MAN STANDING
SHOTARO ASHINO DEF. RYUKI HONDA (12:31)
Honda rushed Ashino in the aisle as he was making his entrance. Honda has quickly taken to playing the heel role well. This was a lot of brawling with a chair and table involved in the opening minutes. There were some hellacious slaps from Ashino. Because this is a no-DQ match, Honda was liberal with the low blows. Honda hit the Final Event through a table pretty early on in this. Ashino got up at the count of nine. Ashino recovered and German Suplexed Honda into some steel chairs in the ring but Honda got up before the ten count. Ashino then started giving Honda more German Suplexes, every time Honda managed to beat the count and get back up. After this happened like five times, Ashino gave Honda three German Suplexes in a row. Honda almost managed to get back up but collapsed at the last moment.
This wasn’t a long match, but they packed a lot into it. I liked the idea of Ashino just suplexing Honda until he couldn’t get up any more. That far more logical booking of a Last Man Standing match than what you get at least in North America. After the match, Honda crawled to the back. These two will be meeting next month in the Champion Carnival, so expect their feud to continue. Honda was looking very dejected after the match and you know he wants revenge now. Ashino looked dominant here too, which is what he needed. ***¾
DRADITION (TATSUMI FUJINAMI, MITSUYA NAGAI & LEONA) DEF. NEXTREAM (YUMA AOYAGI, ATSUKI AOYAGI & RISING HAYATO) (12:16)
After seeing Fujinami’s performance on the New Japan 50th Anniversary Show, my interest in this match increased. And to make matters even better, we got Yuma vs. Fujinami to start things off!
Yuma had the better of the legend for a little bit, but Fujinami responded with a Dragon Screw. HAYATO and LEONA managed to have some decent sequences which was one of the bigger issues this match could have had. Nagai’s involvement was also relatively limited. LEONA got worked over for a while which was the right way to lay this match out.
Things came down to Fujinami and Atsuki. Fujinami hit the Dragon Backbreaker on Atsuki and then applied the Dragon Sleeper to get the tap out. Strange booking given HAYATO was in this match and usually takes the fall. I enjoyed this for what it was, and Nextream worked hard to make something of this given the limitations of their opponents. ***
During intermission, it was announced that the 50th anniversary show on September 18 will be broadcast on BS Nippon TV, the satellite channel of NTV. This marks All Japan’s return to NTV after 22 years when they were canceled by the station in the aftermath of the NOAH split.
Champions Night 4 was also announced for June 19 at Ota Ward Gymnasium
PWF WORLD JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
HIKARU SATO © DEF. HOKUTO OMORI (16:39)
This started with some grappling. They did a call back to their Jr. Battle of Glory match last year where they both grabbed head others’ left hands then proceeded to have a forearm battle with their right arms. Omori looked to be in trouble for a while and was favoring his neck, but he managed to make a comeback. They did some more forearm duels. Omori hit a Powerslam off the top rope for a near fall. He got another near fall with a Dragon Suplex Hold. Sato fought back with a Death Valley Driver and several Backdrops. A fourth Backdrop got the win for Sato and he was successful in his V1 defense or the Jr. title.
This was a very different Jr. style match then what All Japan has been doing lately. I liked how they laid into each other, and there was the added bonus of Omori not doing cheap heel stuff. He seems to have gotten rid of that finally. I do feel, however, this didn’t quite reach truly great heights. There was something missing to it that kept it from reaching a higher level, but I can’t quite put my finger on what it was. That being said, it was a good first defense for Sato and a demonstration from Omori that he’s ready to move up the card.
After the match, Hiroshi Yamato came out to challenge for the title. Since we’re celebrating All Japan’s 50th anniversary and we’ve got the Voodoo Murders reunion on this show, let’s take a trip back to a rivalry from 2012. Seriously though, they should have a good match. ***½
TOTAL ECLIPSE (JAKE LEE, KOJI DOI, KUMA ARASHI, TAJIRI & YUSUKE KODAMA) NC VOODOO MURDERS (SUWAMA, TARU, KONO, SHUJI KONDO & TOSHIZO) (12:51)
This was Lee’s first match since December 26. He suffered a fractured orbital bone and broken nose in a match against Ryuki Honda. Total Eclipse came out to a guitarist playing Jake Lee’s theme live. Arashi and Doi did lots of air guitar.
TARU (somehow not in jail) threw powder at Total Eclipse before the bell and everyone brawled. And just like that, I’ve been transported back to 2007. Suwama went after Lee, and showed some edginess that he hasn’t in a long time.
This had a lot of brawling and cheating from Voodoo Murders. Kodama ended up being the main whipping boy for them. The Lee vs. Suwama sequences were the highlight here. Lee also debuted a moonsault here, which he had been teasing on social media that he was working on. Lee also showed more personality here than he had been previously. Perhaps his injury had the silver lining of him thinking about how he should carry himself in the ring during his time recuperating.
Referee Kyohei Wada got pulled out of the ring and Suwama attacked Lee with a chair and then used it on other Total Eclipse members. TARU then brought out a metal bar and hit Lee in the knee with it and then Wada called for the bell. While it looked like Voodoo Murders got themselves DQed, All Japan is ruling this match a no contest. There was a big brawl between both teams after the match. I hated the ending, but at the same time, I guess it’s actually better than Total Eclipse losing. The post-match brawl between the teams and especially Lee and Suwama was heated. Lee and Suwama were wielding guardrails at each other.
I’m not going to completely bury this match. I liked the Lee vs. Suwama stuff, and loved Suwama’s heel work here. If he wasn’t already teaming with Shotaro Ashino in a clear babyface team, I’d say he should turn heel to freshen him up. **¼
TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
KENTO MIYAHARA © VS. SHUJI ISHIKAWA (32:28)
This started off much like any other big Miyahara match. A little chain wrestling to start and then some brawling outside the ring. Ishikawa hit a double footstomp from the apron to the floor onto Miyahara. When Miyahara was climbing back in, Ishikawa hit a big dropkick to knock the champion back to the floor. That looked cool. Ishikawa then worked over Miyahara’s midsection. After Ishikawa threw Miyahara head first into the corner, he targeted the neck. Ishikawa hit a Fire Thunder Driver on the apron which Miyahara sold like he was dead.
After being beaten down for a while, Miyahara began to make his comeback, including hitting a Superplex. But Ishikawa soon fired back, hitting a nasty looking modified backdrop where Miyahara landed right on his head. Miyahara kicked out after a Fire Thunder Driver and blocked a Giant Slam attempt. From there we got the usual Miyahara match closing stretch frenetic pace. Miyahara barely kicked out of the Miyahara Slayer 2022 which is like Brody King’s Gonzo Bomb that Ishikawa recently debuted. That got a gasp from the crowd and was the only time in this match where I thought Miyahara could lose. Miyahara hit a Hurricanrana, a Blackout Knee and then the Shutdown German Suplex for the three count. The champion succeeded in his V2 defense.
I can’t say this was a bad match, there were some really good moments in this. But we didn’t chart any new territory here. This was Ishikawa wrecking Miyahara for most of the match then Miyahara basically hulking up and getting the win. Ishikawa barely kicked out of that many moves to get us to that point. I will say that I thought Ishikawa looked good here, and despite some previous concerns, he still does have gas left in the tank.
This was a paint-by-numbers Miyahara match designed to make him look as sympathetic as possible. This match was also a big sign of why we really need new challengers for him. When they put the Triple Crown back on Miyahara in January, I thought that getting to the big 50th-anniversary show at the Nippon Budokan would feel like a slog if Miyahara doesn’t get new challengers. That may end up being the case. ***¾
This show drew 1319 which I would say was a success. That’s more than Champions Night 2’s 1242, but less than Champions Night 1’s 1480. It’s a good sign for All Japan and Miyahara’s strength as a draw.
While the undercard was an easy watch, the Voodoo Murders match and the main event left me underwhelmed. That’s often the case on the tour before the Champion Carnival, it’s just something you have to muddle through in order to get to something bigger. I also think with Jake Lee’s injury, the main event got changed, and Ishikawa challenging for the Triple Crown was the best thing they could come up with.
A strong Champion Carnival can make me forget the issues I had with this show. Thankfully it has the potential to be the best tournament the company has had since the pandemic started. At least the younger talent on the roster continues to show they’ve got potential which is what gets me through All Japan these days a lot of the time.
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