MAY 14 & 15, 2022

Watch: AJPW.TV

MAY 14


When Kyohei Wada was introduced as the referee for this match, there were a few audible calls of “Kyohei!” from the crowd, suggesting that audiences in Japan might be getting restless when it comes to restrictions on cheering.

Inoue immediately dropkicked Yoshitatsu to start, and in anger Yoshitatsu too this outside early on to rough up the rookie. Inoue got a good amount of offense here like I thought he might. Inoue escaped a Boston Crab and even tried some flash pins. But after several kicks and another Boston Crab, Yoshitatsu got the submission victory.

This was a fun little opener and Inoue continued to impress. Yoshitatsu is good as the veteran beating up the rookies. It feels like they are finally cycling him out of the midcard into an opening match role similar to Takao Omori. He does turn 45 in August. At least in All Japan he’ll only do the occasional job instead of being beaten like a drum if he had stayed in New Japan. ***


Issei was a much touted rookie who debuted in 2006 in All Japan. Billed at 6’4” and 308 lbs., he was getting wins over opening match guys only a few months into his career and was clearly being positioned to be a generation rival to Suwama. But only 18 months into his career while on a excursion to North America, he injured his shoulder in a match in Puerto Rico and retired. Out of nowhere, he resurfaced and worked three JUST TAP OUT shows in 2020. So this was a double homecoming of sorts, as he returns to All Japan and is from Hokkaido.

Issei did a few spots at the beginning to establish his size and power against the two Jrs. But other than a running splash, he really didn’t do anything of note. Issei threw Menso~re on top of Izanagi stomach first and then put his foot on Menso~re’s back. Referee Nikkan Lee counted to three but it was ruled that it was Menso~re who had pinned Izanagi! Other than the clever ending, there was really nothing to this, but I wouldn’t call it offensive or anything like that.

Though he had an injury and only worked a handful of matches in the past 16 years, I wouldn’t say after seeing him here that All Japan missed out something big with Issei retiring when he did.


Honda is still rocking the sunglasses for his entrances. This was kind of slow to start. Total Eclipse worked over Tamura for a while. Things picked up when Honda and Sato started slugging each other. Tamura looked to have Honda on the ropes, but TAJRI got involved and turned the tide. Honda then hit the Final Event on Tamura to get the pin. This was perfectly solid professional wrestling. Though this was a match featuring TAJIRI, I thought the other three might have put together something a little more exciting, so I’d say I thought this slightly underdelivered. **¾


Lee is from Hokkaido which explains why he’s getting two singles matches on these shows, but I think there’s another reason as well.

They got right down to business and Omori even went for an elbow drop off the second rope a minute in. Omori missed that but landed a successful one on the second try. Omori hit a Full Nelson Slam but Lee retaliated with a bunch of knees and got Omori in an armbar that led to a referee stoppage. It was clear from how they started working this match that it wouldn’t last long. I liked it for what it was. It was short, but I’d still consider this one of Lee’s better heel performances based on his mugging for the crowd after the match, but that’s not a high bar these days. ***


Tomoya and Yoshida are local indie wrestlers who work All Japan shows when they are in Hokkaido. Since this is All Japan’s first show in that prefecture since the pandemic started, they have not appeared for the company for almost three years.

Kodama and Omori worked as de facto faces here and didn’t use cheap tactics like they sometimes do and that helped the match. Omori is from Ebetsu which is a city that borders Sapporo.

Tomoya and Yoshida worked over Kodama for a while, using a lot of chops and slaps. The hot tag was finally made to Omori and he looked great and brought lots of energy. Later on, Yoshida hit some big moves on Kodama and got a couple near falls, but Omori came in to help out his partner. After Omori got thrown out, Kodama surprised Yoshida with a dropkick to the knee and used a La Magistral for the win. This was Total Eclipse’s fourth successful defense of the titles.

This was a lot of fun. Kodama and Omori continue to impress, especially when they’re not being cheap heels, and Tomoya and Yoshida are a very solid team that I think All Japan should use more often even outside of Hokkaido. ***½


This was a preview of the Triple Crown match the next day. And what a preview it was.

This didn’t feel like it was going to be a draw. Miyahara and Yuma started off feeling each other out, then the Jrs. did some fast paced chain wrestling. HAYATO even pulled out a plancha onto the Aoyagis. There was a good bit of back-and-forth action for nearly half of the match before HAYATO ended up in the Ricky Morton role. The Aoyagi Brothers were absolute dicks to HAYATO during this and it was glorious. HAYATO showed more fire than I have ever seen from him before working from below during this part of the match. Towards the end, HAYATO even hit a Swanton Bomb from over the top rope onto Atsuki who was laying on the floor.

As this went on, the crowd started making some noise on several of the near falls. Atsuki and HAYATO were the legal men heading into the final minutes but Miyahara and Yuma would pop in and everyone would hit big moves on each other. Atsuki tried a number of flash pins on HAYATO but HAYATO kept kicking out as the time limit expired. After the match HAYATO looked livid at his partner Atsuki, and looked like he wanted to keep fighting.

This was tremendous. I dare say it was a match of the year contender. There was very little down time and it never felt like they were working this in a way to be a draw. The result actually made the Triple Crown match on the following show a lot more unpredictable in terms of who was going to win.

The star of this was HAYATO. He was perfect in his role and this was a star making performance. He had a shaky performance back in January against SUGI for the Jr. title, but since then it seems like that was a challenge thrown down to him to step up his game. And he has stepped it up big time on several of the past few shows. I wasn’t always sure what his ceiling would be in the company, and I didn’t think it would be that high, but after this, I think there’s a case to be made that he should be Atsuki’s generational rival at the top of the Jr. division.

I had originally given this match ****½, but several hours after watching it, I was still buzzing from it. I can’t go the full five, but fuck it, this was almost perfect and accomplished two big things in making the Triple Crown match unpredictable and elevating Atsuki and HAYATO. ****¾


This match has already happened during Runaway SUPLEX’s reign back in October 2021 and it was their first defense. Despite some real strides in getting back on track, one major weakness All Japan has had is a lack of credible teams to challenge for the World Tag Titles. They weren’t even defended on the Dream Power Series tour last March.

All Japan is a top of the card company in many ways, so to follow such an incredible semi-main event is a weird position for these teams to be in. But they tried at least.

Suwama of all people ended up being the one getting worked over. While it seems strange on the surface, Suwama is a criminally underrated seller. While this started off well enough, Sato decided to use holds to work over Suwama which slowed the match down for a bit.

Sato really doesn’t do much for me these days. His biggest strength is how hard he hits, which can still be fun in tags, but he struggles to do anything early on in matches that can draw you in. Sato hitting a shoot headbutt on Ashino did get some loud gasps from the crowd, so credit where credit is due, I guess.

Things came down to former partners, Ishikawa and Suwama. There was some good hard hitting stuff between these two. Suwama kicked out of a Fire Thunder Driver, and took the initiative. Suwama held up Ishikawa for Ashino to do a Missile Dropkick on but Ishikawa moved and Runaway SUPLEX collided. This allowed Sato to throw Ashino out of the ring, and hit a Falcon Arrow on Suwama that looked very impressive. Suwama then kicked out of a running knee and Fire Thunder Driver from Ishiakwa. But Ishikawa followed that up with a Giant Slam, again looking very impressive to do on a man the size of Suwama, for the pin. The champions fail in their V4 defense.

This one is hard to rate. There was a lot of nothing early on, but it wasn’t actively bad. The last few minutes between Ishikawa and Suwama was very good though.

This was definitely not the result I was expecting. Ashino and Suwama had been teasing problems between each other, but it seemed like a set up for them to win here and then put those problems behind them. It’s a common theme for top tag teams in All Japan, and the Violent Giants did this several times before their eventual breakup. But with a lack of teams to challenge, a title switch here isn’t the worst idea even if I think Sato is lacking in the ring these days. Ashino said in backstage comments that he wants a rematch so I could see these teams facing off again at Ota Ward Gym in June with Runaway SUPLEX reclaiming the belts, but that might not happen given what went down the next day. ***½

MAY 15

Before the show began, there was a video message from TARU (still not in jail) where he called out Suwama and Evolution and said he’d be at the May 29 Korakuen Hall show. Let’s see where this goes, though I can’t say I’m a fan.


Aoyagi and HAYATO seemed to be getting along after last night’s epic draw where they really went after each other. Total Eclipse took control early on and worked over Aoyagi with your standard cheap heel stuff like choking on the ring ropes. Then Nextream took control and worked over Omori. The work in all of this was fine, but not the most dynamic. Things did pick up after Honda made a hot tag and he and Aoyagi had some great sequences with a bruiser vs. high flyer clash. HAYATO took a nasty looking German Suplex bump on to his neck from Omori, but Aoyagi intervened to gain momentum again. Aoyagi took out Honda with an Orihara Moonsault to the outside. HAYATO and Omori had a hot closing stretch with several near falls. HAYATO looked to be in trouble but he fought back with some hard chops and hit the Shimanami Driver to pin Omori.

That’s a huge win for HAYATO and you’ve got to assume he and HAYATO are going to be challenging for the All Asia Tag Titles soon. This took a bit to get going, and was long for an opening match on an All Japan show, but turned into something pretty damn good. This is the future of All Japan Pro Wrestling on display here and the future looks pretty good. ***¾


Kawahara is another indie worker from Hokkaido, but he hasn’t appeared in All Japan before nor have I ever seen him. However, he is a trainee of Smackdown #1 Announcer Sho Funaki. Inoue looked good in his first moments in the ring against TAJIRI and got in some offense but then Issei got in there, and Inoue then became the whipping boy. Kawahara looked solid. He can get some good air on his dropkick and leaps from the top rope. He had the best sequences against Issei over these two shows because he knew how to work as a high flyer against a limited big man.

Inoue got a couple of hope spots on TAJIRI in the closing stretch, but some kicks and a Piledriver got TAJIRI the pin over Inoue. This actually turned out to be a little better than I expected. If I was All Japan, I’d definitely ask Kawahara to come back. There is a place on the roster for a guy like him. **½


Izanagi and Menso~re have long been rivals in the Jr. division, but they’ve been teaming together recently and I like their goofy chemistry. The Hokkaido guys were mostly in control working over the masked men and they used some flashy moves. Towards the end, Izanagi got some hope spots, but Tomoya pinned him after a spinning Michinoku Driver.

This was a lot of fun. Though I can’t help but feel some indie guys pinning Izanagi is a sign that with the Osaka Pro re-launch taking up his time, that Izanagi may end up not being long for All Japan. Anway, I hope to see Tomoya and Yoshida back in this company soon. ***¼


This started off with some decent mat work. Lee took control and went for a second rope Moonsault but almost totally overshot Yoshitatsu. Then Yoshitatsu got in a burst of offense but Lee reversed a suplex attempt into the D4C and got the sudden win.

All things considered, this wasn’t a bad match at all. I actually thought Lee carried himself decently here. But he’s been so inconsistent, I am weary of saying he’s turned some kind of corner on his character work. ***¼


The match started at a quick pace and kept it up. There was no love lost between Ishikawa and Suwama here. Tamura was the glue here, zipping around the ring and bumping for the tall men. Tamura got double team by the Twin Towers and then Omori pinned him after an Axe Bomber for a quick victory.

After the match, Ashino stood on the outside looking very unimpressed. Ashino got back in the ring and berated Suwama and shoved him. Ashino turned away and an angry Suwama hit a Backdrop on Ashino and then left with Tamura. This was an angle more than a match, and while I am interested to see where it goes, hopefully it involves Ashino finally defeating Suwama in a singles match before Runaway SUPLEX reconcile. **¾


While this wasn’t quite Go Shiozaki vs. Kazuyuki Fujita, these guys did take a minute or two before they ever locked up. The grappled for a bit and showed a side of Kodama, you don’t usually see. Kodama managed to get Sato on to the apron and hit a twisting neckbreaker off of it. Kodama then followed up with a Tope con Hilo. After that, Kodama dragged Sato under the ring, but Sato beat the count. Sato would eventually take control after knocking Kodama off of the top rope. From there the match became a good back-and-forth. Sato brought his stiff strikes while Kodama used moves like DDTs to go after Sato’s neck. Sato caught Kodama in an Armbar after a Mad Splash, but Kodama used a cradle cutback for a big near fall. Kodama would get several more near falls before Sato countered a German Suplex Hold into his Cross Arm Breaker and Leg Lock hold to get the submission.

This was very good and I loved the structure of it. Sato is on fire right now in this title reign. This was his V3 defense. After the match, Sato got on the mic and called out New Japan’s Tiger Mask IV! I know not everyone loves this current iteration of Tiger Mask, but I actually think they could have a good match against each other, and Sato’s style can help cover up Tiger Mask’s weaknesses. It’s not like New Japan was going to give All Japan it’s pick of an opponent to put over Sato. You take what you can get. ****


Aoyagi got the extended theme in his introduction and was rocking sweet new gear. Aoyagi was the aggressor to start. He hit a Dragon Screw on Miyahara that sent the champion to the outside. Aoyagi then went to work on Miyahara’s right leg which is something you don’t see too often. But it’s a smart strategy to neutralize Miyahara’s Blackout Knee. Miyahara got back in control and methodically worked over Aoyagi’s head and neck.

While on the apron, Aoyagi escaped a Piledriver attempt and hit one of his own, turning the tables on Miyahara who often uses that move. Miyahara started to use the Blackout Knee but it was causing him pain which allowed Aoyagi to regain some momentum. Aoyagi went into berserker mode at one point clobbering a downed Miyahara with forearms and headbutts. Aoyagi did his playing possum spot again and suckered Miyahara into the End Game.

Miyahara fired back with a Blackout Knee that hurt him and that allowed Aoyagi to get some huge near falls with cradle attempts. The crowd started making noise as the match kicked into high gear with these near falls. There were definitely some moments where it looked like Aoyagi was going to pull this one out. There was an epic struggle at the end as Miyahara attempted to lock in the Shutdown German Suplex. Aoyagi escaped several times and Miyahara had to settle for some traditional German Suplexes at one point. But Miyahara finally locked in the Shutdown German Suplex and got the three count. Miyahara succeeded in his V3 defense of his current reign.

After the match, Miyahara looked defiant. Aoyagi offered his hand but Miyahara continued to stick the belt in his face. This prompted another German Suplex tease from Aoyagi, keeping that story running. Aoyagi did offer a bow to Miyahara in the end. Miyahara got on the mic and called out T-Hawk which will no doubt be an excellent match and looks to be set for May 29. T-Hawk’s name also got an audible reaction from the crowd.

This was pretty damn good. But I do have a gripe. The work on the right knee really could have meant a lot more to the story of this match if Miyahara was more consistent in selling it. This is hardly the first time limb work selling has been an issue for him. But it’s something that definitely bothered me in this match and kept it from being a true epic. That being said, you have to watch this. And for those who think Aoyagi should have won, I don’t think this result is damaging in any way. Aoyagi is going to get that big win, and it will probably sooner rather than later. It was also pretty obvious once Miyahara got the Triple Crown back that he’d be going into the Budokan show in September with the belt. Whether he leaves the Budokan with it is a different question. And yes, you’re reading that rating right. ****⅖


May 14 drew 533 and May 15 drew 695. The venue looked very full on both nights. I would have to say that is probably a success for All Japan under the current circumstances, and I’m sure that after these two shows once they return to Sapporo with fewer restrictions, that can easily exceed those numbers.

What an awesome two days. These were the strongest back-to-back shows All Japan has done in a long time. Add the Champion Carnival finals to this, and you’ve got yourself a hot streak, or at least one by All Japan standards.

There were matches on both shows that will end up on people’s year end lists. There were young guys getting shine and stories moving forward. Now in the case of Suwama, Ashino and the TARU appearance, these things could end up going in a bad direction. But I’m going to remain hopeful given that All Japan is making moves now that pandemic restrictions are lifting that they don’t fuck this up, because they have a good thing going right now. However, given the lack of roster depth, things can go south very fast if they do bungle stuff.

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