ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
ROYAL ROAD TOURNAMENT 2022 Finals
AUGUST 20, 2022
EVOLUTION (HIKARU SATO & DAN TAMURA) & ROCKY KAWAMURA 2 DEF. BLACK MENSO~RE, ANDY WU & SUSHI (7:45)
This was generally wrestled as a serious match with some exceptions from Kawamura 2 and Menso~re.
SUSHI hit a top rope headbutt on Tamura, but Dan the Man powered back and hit a big lariat and pinned SUSHI with a Death Valley Driver.
Very simple stuff and this had an opening match feel, but it was nice to see Tamura put over strong. **¾
ROYAL ROAD TOURNAMENT 2022 SEMI-FINAL
JAKE LEE DEF. TAKAO OMORI (5:46)
I had called for an Omori victory here. I thought it would be a nice underdog story and something to give Omori for the 50th anniversary. Given Naoya Nomura was supposed to be in this and caught COVID, why not give the crowd a big surprise? Sadly, it was not to be.
The match was pretty good while it lasted. Omori went right after Lee’s left leg and controlled most of the match. Perhaps it was the short length that allowed him to go hard, but Omori looked great here.
Omori was going for the Axe Guillotine Driver but Lee countered and this allowed Lee to get the first amount of sustained offense for him in the match. He then hit the D4C for the victory. I was gutted at the result but was happy at how good the match was, all things considered. Omori deserved to at least kick out of some big moves though. ***½
ROYAL ROAD TOURNAMENT 2022 SEMI-FINAL
KENTO MIYAHARA DEF. YUJI NAGATA (10:48)
These two have faced each other once before in the 2012 Global League in NOAH where Nagata was victorious.
While they engaged in some back-and-forth promos battles (and even dancing) at the conclusion of the last show, this didn’t quite feel as big as it should have.
That being said, this was great. They wrestled it like a compressed big match. Miyahara was in control at first and arrogant. Nagata fought back and went after Miyhara’s left arm. Miyahara managed to make the ropes while being locked in a Nagata Lock II.
Miyahara countered a Backdrop with a knee to the face. This led to what was supposed to be a frantic finishing sequence but unfortunately there was a botched hurricanrana and Miyahara’s small package at the end was also botched. I hate to say this, but it looked as if it was a Nagata issue here, not being able to move fast enough for these moves.
This was pretty good up to the botched moves and could have been Nagata’s best singles performance since a match against Tomohiro Ishii in July 2021, but sadly we didn’t get there.
Miyahara’s shit eating grin while doing a salute after the finish was great though. ***½
YOSHITATSU, TAJIRI & CYRUS DEF. SHUJI ISHIKAWA, REN AYABE & RYO INOUE (8:58)
Given the size of some of the participants this was fairly fast-paced. Cyrus looked good throwing Inoue around. Ayabe hit a nice looking dropkick and then a missile dropkick on Yoshitatsu.
Inoue hit a beautiful Half-Hatch Suplex on Yoshitatsu but then Cyrus tagged in. Inoue put on one hell of a valiant struggle against him, but then got pinned by a Vader Bomb. Inoue looked like a future star here against Cyrus.
This was shockingly a lot of fun. ***¼
VOODOO MURDERS (SUWAMA, TARU, KONO & TOSHIZO) DEF. GUNGNIR OF ANARCHY (SHOTARO ASHINO, RYUKI HONDA, YUSUKE KODAMA & SEIGO TACHIBANA) (11:18)
So the Ashino faction finally has a name. It’s a weird one for sure. They came out with what looked like a pillow of Suwama’s head that they threw around which was funny.
This managed to not get out of hand for a while. Surprisingly, Honda ended being the one that Voodoo Murders worked over for an extended period.
At one point Gungnir of Anarchy all put on their shades to hit a quadruple dropkick on TARU and pose for the cameras. That was cool.
There was very little Voodoo Murders bullshit in this. KONO hit Ashino with the gas tank at one point, but it didn’t distract too much from the match. Towards the end TARU threw powder at Ashino and Tachibana. Now to be fair Tachibana did immediately kick out of a Suwama lariat after that. Suwama then pinned Tachibana with a tremendous looking Backdrop.
Again, a surprisingly good match given what Voodoo Murders have been doing lately. They seem to have dialed the cheating back a bit which helps. ***
Some matches for the September 18 50th anniversary show at Budokan show were announced at this point on the show:
- Tiger Mask vs. Atsuki Aoyagi for the PWF World Jr. Heavyweight Championship
- Suwama vs. Royal Road Tournament winner for the Triple Crown
- Yuma Aoyagi vs. Christopher Daniels
- Hokuto Omori vs. Minoru Suzuki
- Kohei Sato, Ren Ayabe & Shuji Ishikawa vs. Jun Saito, Rei Saito & Cyrus
- Kuma Arashi and Koji Doi were announced as returning at the September 19 Korakuen Hall show
YUMA AOYAGI, ATSUKI AOYAGI & HOKUTO OMORI DEF. TAKUYA NOMURA, RISING HAYATO & OJI SHIIBA (12:26)
There was no way this wasn’t going to deliver. Omori already works well with his new teammates, the Aoyagi Bros. Nomura of course rocked. Shiiba took a wild bump over the guardrails which made me wince given his history of injuries.
Yuma got ganged up on with a bunch of high flying moves but he avoided a Shiiba diving foot stomp and soon locked on the End Game for the submission victory.
This was a great demonstration of the young talent in this company. ***½
ROYAL ROAD TOURNAMENT 2022 FINALS
KENTO MIYAHARA DEF. JAKE LEE (22:04)
Another Lee vs. Miyahara match. Now to be fair, this was something they had to do given Naoya Nomura caught COVID. But back in June, the last time this match happened they heavily pushed it as being their last meeting (at least for a while).
Lee was selling the damage to his left knee from the previous match early on. They didn’t really break any new ground here. This was a great match, but didn’t stray too much from their usual formula except for some nasty looking strike exchanges and intensity in the closing minutes. Miyahara played it like he was desperate to win and really laid it into Lee. They played it up for a bit that Lee might be knocked out. But it was Lee playing possum like his new tag team partner Yuma Aoyagi.
That led into a great closing stretch where Miyahara actually landed a Frankensteiner properly. Lee hit the D4C but was slow to cover which allowed Miyahara to kick out at 2.9. Lee went for a Moonsault, Miyahara tried to counter with a Powerbomb that Lee turned into a Frankensteiner but Miyahara then caught him with a Blackout Knee and then the Shutdown German Suplex for the win.
While these two have had a lot of matches in the past three years, they did turn up the viciousness towards the end that really helped this. ****⅓
The attendance for this show was 820. Not a disaster, but more evidence that business has dropped since Suwama won the Triple Crown and Voodoo Murders have been all over the shows.
This show encapsulated what I love and hate about All Japan. The booking was conservative but the younger talent got a chance to shine.
While there were some very intriguing matches announced for Budokan, it doesn’t feel like a Budokan show. The main event being Miyahara vs. Suwama once again certainly doesn’t help. Let’s hope the remaining matches they announce for the show really take things up a notch, but I’m not bullish on the business it will do.