ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
CHAMPIONS NIGHT 4
JUNE 19, 2022
OTA CITY GENERAL GYMNASIUM
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: AJPW.TV

OJI SHIIBA DEF. RYO INOUE (4:53)

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 was his All Japan debut.

These guys went hard for an opener. Great mat work, hard strikes and fast-paced action. Shiiba, despite his injuries, still has that explosiveness that many Dragongate wrestlers are trained to have.

Inoue missed a Missile Dropkick and Shiiba got him in a Boston Crab for the submission. Short, even for an opening match, but every second was great.

Shiiba, if he can get over the injury bug, still has a chance to make something of his career given he turns 26 next month. ***¼

GAORA TV CHAMPIONSHIP FOUR-WAY LADDER MATCH
TOSHIZO DEF. IZANAGI ©, BLACK MENSO~RE & YUSUKE KODAMA (7:37)

Did not expect this match to end up being scheduled second, but I think this was a good spot for it.

Each wrestler carried a ladder to the ring upon their entrance but Izanagi, who entered last as champion, had a small step ladder. That is the kind of comedy one learns in Osaka Pro.

So it turns out this is a match with ladders as weapons as the belt isn’t actually hanging from the ceiling. That was probably clarified beforehand but lost in translation. Now, companies in Japan have done ladder matches before where there’s no climbing, but All Japan has done the climbing version before. This was a standard four-way match but it did have lots of ladder spots.

Not surprisingly they spent a lot of time setting up those spots, but there was some decent action sprinkled in there. Toshizo Superplexed Menso~re off the ladder and got a 2.9 count. He then hit the Fisherman’s Buster on Menso~re and got a three count.

This was a surprising finish. I didn’t think Izanagi was guaranteed to retain, but Toshizo seemed like the least likely winner as he’s a part-time wrestler. What this means is that Voodoo Murders are going to be sticking around for a while. Make of that what you will. Izanagi failed in his V1 defense. **¾

MASANOBU FUCHI, TAKAO OMORI & ATM DEF. YOSHITATSU, MASAO INOUE & SUSHI (10:02)

This was the comedy match of the show. ATM, who I suspect is Carbell Ito under a new mask, does a money gimmick. He’s got a money gun and hands envelopes of yen to not only the audience, but he’s tried to bribe referees with them as well.

We got Fuchi’s spots which is always nice to see as he only wrestles a few times a year at this point.

ATM tried to offer Yoshitatsu money to lay down, but he rejected it. Yoshitatsu Kingdom cannot be traded away so easily. ATM tried the same with referee Daisuke Kamibayashi who also rejected it, but ATM stuffed money in his pocket anyway.

Omori and SUSHI were the only ones to actually do any actual wrestling sequences. Omori pinned SUSHI after an Axe Bomber.

This was what it was, but I enjoyed the comedy. **½

ATSUKI AOYAGI DEF. RISING HAYATO (10:07)

There was no perfunctory feeling out or mat work. They just started trading forearms and then pulled out high flying stuff. At one point, HAYATO did a Swanton Bomb over the top rope to Aoyagi who was laying on the ground outside.

HAYATO survived a Poison Rana followed by three Fisherman’s Suplexes. Aoyagi then hit a Moonsault that got a 2.9. Aoyagi finally put HAYATO away after a Firebird Splash.

This rocked. It didn’t quite make it to epic levels, but it was great back-and-forth Jr. action. These guys have something better in them in the future, and they will get the chance to surpass this as it’s clear they are now the future pillars of All Japan’s Jr. division.

After the match, Aoyagi looked on at HAYATO laying on the mat, but did not go over to help his tag team partner up. Looks like Aoyagi may finally be leaving Nextream to join his brother. ****

NAOYA NOMURA DEF. HOKUTO OMORI (4:29)

Omori attacked Nomura before he could even get into the ring. Nomura soon fought back with a vicious shoulder block on the outside. Nomura didn’t do anything flashy but he brought intensity and really laid into Omori. This was fitting of his new, harder edged persona.

Omori got some brief hope spots, but Nomura would quickly overwhelm him, using stiff slaps that he never used to do. Nomura used a bunch of stiff elbows on Omori then finished him off with the Maximum for the three count.

This was exactly what it needed to be. It introduced the new Nomura to All Japan and showed that he’s not messing around. After the match, Nomura got on the mic and screamed “I am back! I made up my mind to come back to AJPW! Get me someone stronger next time! I will knock him out!” This was clearly not a one-off. I am extremely pumped for what he does next in All Japan. ***½

PWF WORLD JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP – ATSUSHI AOKI MEMORIAL MATCH
TIGER MASK DEF. HIKARU SATO © (14:51)

Sato came out with the PWF Jr. World Heavyweight title belt that was given to Aoki’s family after his passing. It was a poignant moment for those of us who still miss Aoki dearly.

This started out with the usual shoot style feeling out process. Tiger Mask backed Sato into the corner then unloaded some big kicks on him. Sato would recover then start to work on Tiger Mask’s left arm.

Tiger Mask would go on the attack again and got some near falls and submissions. Tiger Mask hit a Superplex and applied a Kimura. Sato escaped and also kicked out of Tiger Driver. There looked like a botched suplex of some kind from Tiger Mask, but Tiger Mask then kicked Sato in the head and got the win with a Tiger Suplex.

This was not the most dynamic match, but it was worked by two old pros and Tiger Mask’s limitations due to age were covered up well. For those invested in the Aoki memorial aspect, that also added greatly to it. But I could see this not landing for those who are not big fans of the style.

Because this was the Aoki memorial match, I didn’t expect Tiger Mask to win, but that was something that always had a chance of happening. There will definitely be All Japan fans more upset at the result than I am, which is understandable. It was the Aoki memorial match and Sato was having a great reign. Such are the things one must deal with when working with New Japan.

After the match, Yuji Nagata came out to congratulate his fellow New Japan wrestler. Dan Tamura also came out to challenge Tiger Mask but so did Izanagi. What seems to be the trajectory for this reign is that Tiger Mask defends against Tamura and Izanagi in a three-way and hopefully drops the title to Atsuki Aoyagi at the Nippon Budokan in September. Sato failed in his V4 defense of the title. ***½

SHUJI KONDO DEF. YUMA AOYAGI (11:33)

Aoyagi came out eating Kondo’s favorite brand of cake which was a nice insult. Kondo refused an offer of a handshake from Aoyagi.

They did the usual early match stuff then Kondo knocked Aoyagi off the top rope and Aoyagi took a big tumble outside the ring. Kondo then worked over Aoyagi for a while.

In the first half of the match, I thought the work was fine, but was lacking a little something. Then business really picked up in the second half after some strike battles.

Aoyagi seemed to have Kondo in trouble using spin kicks, but Kondo managed to hang on, hit a short Lariat for a near fall then hit the King Kong Lariat for the win.

A somewhat abrupt finish but there was some cool stuff in the second half of this match. But I was expecting a great match and this was only good. After the match, Toshizo jumped into the ring and Aoyagi got beat down but Atsuki made the save for his big brother. It was announced soon after this match that Atsuki left Nextream like I suspected he would.

An interesting result to be sure. This has to be leading somewhere for Aoyagi. Hopefully this is leading to him slumping but then winning the Royal Road Tournament in August. It was announced that Kondo was X scheduled for the shows on June 25 and 26 where he will re-form his tag team with Suwama. ***½

WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
SHOTARO ASHINO & RYUKI HONDA DEF. TWIN TOWERS (SHUJI ISHIKAWA & KOHEI SATO) © (16:09)

Honda has new gear which looks good. Honda managed to get the better of Sato early on, but then got worked over by the Twin Towers. When Ashino got the hot tag, he went after Sato hard and it ruled. The best sequences I’ve seen Sato part of in a while.

Down the stretch, Ashino and Ishikawa did some great stuff together. And credit to Ishikawa, he took a Superplex/Final Event combo from Ashino and Honda. It was quite the bump for the Big Dog.

Then the match got crazy. While there was one botched German Suplex from Ashino on Ishikawa, it barely detracted from things. Ishikawa got a couple of near falls on Ashino that I totally bit on. I was standing and pacing. Ashino reversed a Splash Mountain attempt with a Hurricanrana for a 2.9 count and then slapped on the Ankle Lock. Ishikawa nearly escaped a couple of times but then tapped out. The crowd made noise for that result. This match wildly exceeded my expectations. Honda becomes the youngest ever winner of these belts at only 22 years old.

I did not expect this finish, but it was absolutely the right thing to do. Whatever you want to say about the sports entertainment stuff the company is now doing (and they are perilously close to it becoming too much), All Japan is clearly pushing young talent. Twin Towers fail in their V2 defense of the titles. ****¼

VOODOO MURDERS (SUWAMA & TARU) DEF. EVOLUTION (YUJI NAGATA & DAN TAMURA) (11:55)

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.

At this point in the show, Kenta Kobashi joined the commentary team.

Tamura offered up some onigiri to Suwama, trying to remind him of better times, but Suwama didn’t accept.

They brawled outside the ring to start, then got in and wrestled a bit, but found themselves on the outside again. TARU put the dog collar and leash on Tamura again and Suwama beat him with a wooden board. Tamura’s back got scratched up badly. Tamura got a hot tag to Nagata and Blue Justice and TARU managed to have a shockingly decent exchange before Suwama tagged in.

It was fun to see Nagata and Suwama in the same ring again after a long time. They worked well together. Tamura and Nagata were double teaming Suwama, but Toshizo hit Nagata with an object while running the ropes. This allowed Suwama to gain the advantage. While Tamura did get one near fall with a School Boy, Suwama soon pinned Tamura after a Backdrop.

After the match, Voodoo Murders beat down Nagata and Tamura and Suwama stuffed the onigiri in Tamura’s mouth. This was surprisingly fine, exceeding my low expectations. The interference and brawling won’t be for everyone, but I thought it all worked. ***¼

TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
JAKE LEE DEF. KENTO MIYAHARA © (27:57)

There was an awesome video package before the match that definitely gave me vibes Lee would win despite my prediction of Miyahara. The lesson here is that you should listen to the video package.

For the second straight time, Daisuke Kamibayashi was the referee for the Triple Crown match. I think Kyohei Wada’s days refereeing Triple Crown matches are over. While I think Wada is the greatest pro wrestling referee of all time, it’s time to move on as his physical limitations are clear. Kenta Kobashi presented the Triple Crown before the match.

I’ve been saying I think Lee has been generally doing better character work lately, and he certainly brought intensity to this match early on. There was a good bit of brawling outside early in the match, even more than usual for a big Miyahara match. This led to Lee becoming cocky as he was in control for it.

Lee then worked over Miyahara’s midsection. Lee’s right leg would get injured and he would favor it every time he used it. Lee would control for a while, but Miyahara would turn the tide using Lariats, something he rarely does.

The closing stretch was the usual Miyahara greatness. Lots of near falls and reversals. Lee survived some Miyahara Blackout Knees then hit a couple of high kicks and a running knee to the back of the head followed up by the D4C to get the pinfall. This was a surprising result. Miyahara was having a great reign, and while pandemic attendance numbers are difficult to truly gauge, there was evidence he was improving things. This was also a big moment for Lee as it was the first time he has defeated Miyahara in a Triple Crown match. That story arc is now over.

This was the best match these two have had since Lee turned heel. There was very little down time, and Lee felt the most comfortable I’ve seen him in his role as an aggressive heel. There was a much rougher feeling to this match than some of their others.

There are those who won’t be enamored with this result, and in some ways it is concerning with the Budokan show coming up in September. Lee simply doesn’t feel ready to be holding the Triple Crown going into that show. Miyahara felt like the perfect person to be champion going in. I’m not ruling out Lee having a better Triple Crown run now than before, but he still has a ways to go to truly feel like a top guy, though he’s closer than he was at the beginning of the year.

After the match, Suwama and the rest of Voodoo Murders came out to confront Lee, so it looks like that’s his first challenger. Miyahara fails in his V5 defense of his fifth Triple Crown reign. ****½

FINAL THOUGHTS

This show drew 1398, and while better than Champions Night 3, was not as good as I thought it would be given how strong the card was on paper. However, given that the Tenshin Nasukawa vs. Takeru Segawa show was going on at the same time, and drew over 56,000 to the Tokyo Dome, I’d say that is a good number all things considered.

This was a very good show. One of All Japan’s best overall shows in a while. While a couple of matches overdelivered, I thought Aoyagi vs. Kondo underdelivered a bit.

There were some truly positive signs on this show, but many will be skeptical of the Voodoo Murders stuff which is understandable. The Budokan main event seems unpredictable at this point, and that’s not necessarily a good thing. If it were up to me, at this point I’d consider doing Aoyagi vs. Lee again in a rematch from the Champion Carnival final.

Still, having Nomura back is wonderful and if he stays, that will be a huge boost to All Japan.