ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
CHAMPIONS NIGHT 4
JUNE 19, 2022
OTA CITY GENERAL GYMNASIUM
Everywhere I go, I hear people saying, “wow, I’ve gotten back into All Japan lately and been impressed.” Okay, it’s not quite like that, but there is definitely a feeling online that more people have started watching All Japan again since the Champion Carnival and have mostly liked what they’ve seen and will keep watching. I’ve had people tweet my podcast’s Twitter account (@EmeraldFlowShow) saying exactly that.
This is definitely one of the strongest top-to-bottom cards that All Japan has put on in a while, and that includes the previous Champions Night shows which have been mostly good. I don’t think there’s been an All Japan card that has looked this good since 2019 honestly. This is the most excited I’ve been for a wrestling show in a long time. With the company getting a modest but increasing buzz, a successful show here will go a long way to raise All Japan’s profile. It will also be the company’s biggest show before September’s 50th-anniversary show at the Nippon Budokan.
Despite some chaotic booking which has seen several changes in factional alignments, young talent is getting pushed, and that’s a good sign for the future of any pro wrestling company. Given what All Japan has been building up to for and beyond this show, I would also expect a few angles to play out.
The most interesting question about this show is what it will draw. Anything less than Champions Night 3’s 1,319 back in March should be seen as a disappointment, especially with a card this strong. With some of All Japan’s recent attendances defying expectations, I think a good turnout is likely.
As of the time of publication of this article, All Japan has not announced an official match order.
RYO INOUE VS. OJI SHIIBA
Shiiba is a former Dragongate wrestler (and brother of the retired Kotoka) who left the company in the Spring of 2020. While freelancing, he would suffer a major knee injury that kept him out of action for over a year. In late 2021, he popped back up in Dove Pro and has worked HARD HIT and Tenryu Project shows. This is his All Japan debut. He never got very high up the card in Dragongate card and had the injury bug. But he showed promise, though was never quite able to define himself. I haven’t seen any of his indy run, but if he still has the talent we caught glimpses of in Dragongate, this could be an excellent opening match. If he impresses, hopefully we see more of him in All Japan.
Shiiba might not be a very highly ranked wrestler even on the indies, but he will beat the rookie Inoue here. Prediction: Oji Shiiba
MASANOBU FUCHI, TAKAO OMORI & ATM VS. YOSHITATSU, MASAO INOUE & SUSHI
This is the comedy match of the show. ATM, who I suspect is Carbell Ito under a new gimmick, does a money gimmick. He’s got a money gun and hands envelopes of yen to not only the audience but has tried to bribe referees.
It’s always nice to see Fuchi in action. He only works a few shows a year now, but he is one of my favorite wrestlers ever, and in my opinion, one of the most underrated wrestlers ever. Even Bryan Danielson studies the ways in which Fuchi manages to get crowd reactions by doing subtle things.
Once again, Yoshitatsu finds himself in a nothing match on the card and my prediction that he has finally been downcycled to the undercard comedy spot seems to be coming more true with each show. I think the future for him is basically similar to the spot that Omori has these days.
Fuchi’s team will win here I think in part because ATM is All Japan’s biggest sponsor and it will be nice to see Fuchi on a winning team during the 50th-anniversary celebrations for the company. Prediction: Masanobu Fuchi, Takao Omori & ATM
GAORA TV CHAMPIONSHIP FOUR-WAY LADDER MATCH
IZANAGI © VS. BLACK MENSO~RE VS. TOSHIZO VS. YUSUKE KODAMA
This was originally supposed to be just Izanagi vs. Menso~re in a ladder match, but Toshizo got added and then Kodama did. I can’t say I love this new direction for the GAORA TV title, I thought Shigehiro Irie was doing a good job as champion, but I’ll give it a chance. All four men are good wrestlers but none of them are really high flyers or take big bumps. Izanagi and Toshizo are in their forties.
So there’s a chance this is a good little match, but it could definitely underwhelm at the same time. Hopefully, everyone decides to work hard because of how big a show this is. Given it’s also a no-disqualification match, I expect weapons and tables to be used here. I figure since Izanagi just won the title, he retains. Prediction: Izanagi
ATSUKI AOYAGI VS. RISING HAYATO
Not only could this be a great Jr. heavyweight match, but I expect some story progression here. After Yuma Aoyagi left Nextream after unsuccessfully challenging for the Triple Crown last month, his brother Atsuki seemed to remain in the group. However, Atsuki and HAYATO just lost an All Asia tag title match on June 12, and now they want to face each other. I think what happens here is that Atsuki wins and formally leaves Nextream to join back up with his brother.
If these guys get enough time, this could be the sleeper match of the show. These two were involved in my current match of the year (HAYATO & Kento Miyahara vs. Yuma & Atsuki from May 14). Atsuki has looked tremendous lately (his sequences with Shingo Takagi on the Jumbo Tsuruta Memorial Show at the end of May were incredible) and HAYATO has also stepped up his game after a disappointing Jr. title challenge in January. I assume Aoyagi wins because he’s positioned higher, but I guess HAYATO winning isn’t beyond the realm of possibility because that could also trigger Atsuki leaving Nextream. Prediction: Atsuki Aoyagi
YUMA AOYAGI VS. SHUJI KONDO
While Aoyagi has tangentially been involved with the return of Voodoo Murders, this match came out of nowhere, and is a welcome surprise. Like the previous match, if this gets enough time it could be incredible. Aoyagi is one of the best in the world right now and Kondo is still a beast at 44 years old. I think Aoyagi is being prepared to be in the main event of the Nippon Budokan show in September so he is almost certain to win here. Plus in All Japan canon, Kondo is still a Jr. I dare say this will be the second best match of the show after the main event. Prediction: Yuma Aoyagi
VOODOO MURDERS (SUWAMA & TARU) VS. EVOLUTION (YUJI NAGATA & DAN TAMURA)
This match has been built up for several weeks. In late May, Suwama returned to his heel Voodoo Murders form and turned on his Evolution stablemates. He teamed with Yuji Nagata at the Jumbo Tsuruta Memorial Show and they defeated Taichi and TAKA Michinoku, but after the match, Suwama turned on Nagata. Dan Tamura and Hikaru Sato made the save for Nagata and Nagata seems to have joined what remains of Evolution.
This match probably won’t be pretty. TARU sucks (and should be in jail), and heel Suwama does a lot of brawling and uses weapons. But the story, especially how upset Tamura has been at Suwama’s turn, has been done well. So there is emotional investment built into the match even if it’s not pretty.
Having Nagata in All Japan is really cool. I’m kind of surprised because the previous times he’s been in All Japan over the past several years seemed to be Jun Akiyama bringing him in based on their long friendship. And this isn’t a one-off either, he’ll be back for All Japan’s shows on June 25 and 26. Now that the borders are open again, New Japan seems to be letting a lot of its older talent find outside stuff to do now that the foreigners are back. I think that helps the scene as a whole.
As for the result of this match, it’s easy to think that Tamura eats the pin here, but I actually think his team wins. On June 25, Nagata and Tamura face Suwama and the dreaded X. I have no idea who X is, but that match will mean a lot less if the Voodoo Murders win here. So I am cautiously optimistic that Evolution is victorious. Ideally, Tamura pins TARU, but it will probably be Nagata pinning TARU. A DQ finish or no contest isn’t out of the question either when the Voodoo Murders are involved sadly. Prediction: Evolution
NAOYA NOMURA VS. HOKUTO OMORI
When I awoke on June 6 to the news that Naoya Nomura had shown up on the All Japan show that had taken place early in the morning in my time zone I was ecstatic. Nomura has finally come home after announcing in December he was leaving in All Japan.
Nomura is/was my favorite wrestler. When it was announced he had two herniated cervical discs back in February 2020, I thought he would be gone for six, maybe nine months. But time kept passing. Then it was a year. Then it was 18 months. I grew skeptical and incredibly sad that he’d ever return. It was actually quite depressing to me. Then suddenly Nomura appeared on a Korakuen Hall show to say that he would be returning in December 2021… but also leaving the company. I was gutted once again. Here was a guy, still not even 30 years old, who was an explosive wrestler who could put on incredible matches and really felt like the kind of guy that should be a main eventer in this company. At first I thought, okay maybe he really can’t wrestle more than the one match he had in December with Yuma Aoyagi and would retire. I could live with that because it was about his health.
But then he announced he was going to Capture International and then popped up in Ganbare Pro. With all due respect to the Ganbare (and I guess Capture) fans out there, but this is a waste of his talents. Sure All Japan is a small company, but he could at least reach his full potential in it and have high end matches. Strangely, the man who had a role in training him, Jun Akiyama, never seemed to have tried to bring him to DDT.
All the credit for Nomura’s return should go to Yuma Aoyagi. In December after the departures of Nomura and Koji Iwamoto from the company, Aoyagi told the media that All Japan needed to change. A month later in the new year, there were clear signs that the company was headed in a new direction that has mostly been successful thus far. It looks like Aoyagi’s cyberbullying of Nomura – calling him a “basement champion” on Twitter for winning Capture’s title and a comment on what kind of venues Capture runs – has paid off.
This match isn’t a one-off. Omori got involved when Nomura and Ganbare’s Mizuki Watase stormed the ring before the main event on the June 6 show. It would be a very strange payoff to that story just to have Nomura win this match and then leave again when his issues with Aoyagi haven’t been settled. Nomura has said in the press he wants Aoyagi next and to terrorize All Japan. He obviously wins here, and it should be a good match. I’ve seen some clips of Nomura in Capture and he seems to have developed a much more vicious and hard-hitting style that works for him. Omori has really come into his own during his All Asia tag title run and will want to prove himself in a big singles match like this.
And maybe, just maybe, one day Nomura will return home permanently. Prediction: Naoya Nomura
PWF WORLD JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP – ATSUSHI AOKI MEMORIAL MATCH
HIKARU SATO © VS. TIGER MASK
I’ve actually always liked this version of Tiger Mask. Interestingly enough, the first time I ever saw him was on the Giant Baba Memorial Show in May 1999 which goes to show how long I’ve been following this company for better or worse. Now he returns to an All Japan stand-alone show for the first time since 2008 (he was on joint AJPW-NJPW 40th anniversary shows in 2012).
Yes, Tiger Mask isn’t what he once was, but I think if anyone can get a good match out of him these days, it’s Sato. They have similar shoot style influences and can do lots of strikes and holds to make up for Tiger Mask’s age. At first, I thought Tiger Mask actually might have a chance to win this. New Japan is protective of their guys, even the old ones. But given this is also an Atsushi Aoki Memorial Match, and Sato was Aoki’s tag team partner, I don’t think he loses this.
Not only am I predicting a Sato win, but the quality of this will exceed expectations. Also, Sato has been having a great title reign and I don’t want it to end. Prediction: Hikaru Sato
WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
TWIN TOWERS (SHUJI ISHIKAWA & KOHEI SATO) © VS. SHOTARO ASHINO & RYUKI HONDA
While All Japan has done some much-needed shake-ups in its booking, teaming Ashino and Honda together so soon after they had a blood feud, kind of bothered me. I can live with it if they win the titles here. Is that a possibility? My heart says yes, but my gut says no. They will push Ashino and Honda as a team, but it will probably be a longer process.
I think the match will be good if Ashino and Honda really bring it. Sato is washed, but Ishikawa can still turn it up, though he’s still not what he once was. So fingers crossed that this delivers.
If Ashino and Honda do win, and I don’t think that’s impossible, then you know All Japan is really serious about pushing the young guys. Prediction: Twin Towers
TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
KENTO MIYAHARA © VS. JAKE LEE
Miyahara called out Lee because Lee never lost the Triple Crown, having to vacate due to fracturing his orbital bone. This is a match that has main evented many times before, but it has generally drawn well by All Japan standards and the match quality always delivers.
Lee is in a weird spot. I can’t say he’s finally grown into his heel role, but he’s better at it than he was a few months ago. Miyahara most likely will be able to get some viciousness out of him. I also say Lee is in a weird spot, because Miyahara is probably winning this match, as Lee pinned him in a six-man tag on the main event of the June 12 Korakuen Hall show. This loss will probably begin a chain of events where Lee either disbands Total Eclipse or the remaining members turn on him. That will allow Lee to finally cement his reluctant tag team with Yuma Aoyagi.
So because of where Lee is probably going, I don’t know what kind of style he will bring to this match. Ideally, he foreshadows his face turn by working more like he did in matches against Miyahara before the heel turn, which were generally better than the matches after it. Regardless of the style, it should still be at least a **** affair. All Japan is really leaning into the fact that the last time these two had a Triple Crown match back in October, it was a 60-minute draw, so this could be a longer than usual Miyahara match. I could even see them going 40 minutes instead of 30 or 35, but I highly doubt it will be another time limit draw.
If Lee wins here, and Miyahara isn’t the Triple Crown champion heading into the Budokan in September, I say it’s the upset of the year. Expect an angle of some kind after the match. Prediction: Kento Miyahara
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