ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
50TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW
SEPTEMBER 18, 2022
Watch: BS NTV/AJPW.TV
All Japan celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, a milestone many may not have predicted given its history after the NOAH split in 2000 and its ups and downs. The company returns to a building where it once held its greatest matches, the Nippon Budokan. This is the first All Japan show at the building since February 22, 2004, where Toshiaki Kawada defended the Triple Crown against Shinya Hashimoto.
For its 50th anniversary, All Japan is presenting a 12-match card. While it doesn’t feel like a truly epic card for reasons I will get into later, it is probably the best they could do under their current circumstances.
Special guests for the show include Stan Hansen, making his first trip to Japan since the pandemic started and Keiji Muto. Muto will not be wrestling. No word if that is due to his unwillingness to participate in any more matches beyond what has been announced on his retirement road or if his asking price was too high for All Japan. Kenta Kobashi will also be on commentary. The J-pop idol group Shingeki will perform before the show starts at 4:00 p.m. JST.
Unfortunately, the show will not air live on AJPW.TV. It will instead air live on BS NTV. The BS NTV broadcast starts at 7:00 p.m. JST, two and a half hours into the show. That means even if you’re lucky enough to have access to BS NTV (and it’s not that hard to get it, especially if only for this show), you will have to wait until September 22 at 7:00 p.m. JST to see the full show when it goes up on AJPW.TV. There’s no word yet on what matches are being left off the live broadcast, but I assume things will begin around the fifth or sixth match.
The attendance here will be interesting. Looking at ticket sites, things do not look very promising. There is no section of tickets sold out, including the premium ringside tickets. I would consider that a big success if they can somehow get to 3,000, around where the last couple of NOAH Budokan shows were at.
RISING HAYATO & RYO INOUE VS. YUSUKE KODAMA & OJI SHIIBA
This is a good choice for an opener. These guys will deliver fast-paced Jr. action and hopefully, they can get ten minutes to really shine. Given that I think HAYATO will be getting a Jr. title shot soon, I think he will pin Shiiba here. For his part, Shiiba has been a welcome addition to All Japan shows and I hope he continues with the company. Prediction: Rising HAYATO & Ryo Inoue
YOSHITATSU, TAJIRI, MITSUYA NAGAI & ATM VS IZANAGI, BLACK MENSO~RE, SUSHI & ANDY WU
Probably the second weakest match on the card in terms of what it will deliver in-ring quality-wise. However, there is still enough talent in here to make this passable. I would assume that Yoshitatsu’s team wins here because it also features ATM, the alter ego of the company’s biggest sponsor. Prediction: Yoshitatsu, TAJIRI, Mitsuya Nagai & ATM
SAITO BROTHERS TRIUMPHANT RETURN MATCH 6-MAN TAG MATCH
SHUJI ISHIKAWA, KOHEI SATO & YUKIO NAYA VS. SAITO BROTHERS (JUN SAITO & REI SAITO) & CYRUS
The Saito Brothers have finally returned from their excursion to the U.S. (as well as a quick tour of Europe). I watched some of their early matches in the U.S., and I thought they did okay against teams like the Brick City Boyz. They also did a lot of training with Jay Freddie, an underrated wrestler. So I am cautiously optimistic that they will show some progress.
This match was originally supposed to feature Ren Ayabe, but unfortunately, he suffered a collapsed lung but is thankfully recovering. DDT’s Yukio Naya got the call to be his replacement as there’s not a lot of other really tall wrestlers who could step up here.
With Ayabe out, there’s not an obvious pin eater here. It’s entirely possible that one of the Saitos gets pinned instead here. It also seems unlikely that DDT would let their guy take a pin. However, I could see a scenario where Ishikawa takes the pin here from Cyrus, continuing their rivalry. I still assume that All Japan intends to give the Saito Brothers a big push, so I will go with their team. Prediction: Saito Brothers & Cyrus
ALL ASIA TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
VOODOO MURDERS (MINORU & TOSHIZO) © VS. EVOLUTION (HIKARU SATO & DAN TAMURA)
The story arc of the Voodoo Murders returning to All Japan seems to be reaching its climax. This match is essential to that story, given that Suwama turned on his former Evolution stablemates.
This match was initially announced as Evolution vs. the winners of the title match in GLEAT on September 10. Soma Watanabe and Yu Iizuka failed in their challenge, allowing Evolution to finally get their revenge on Voodoo Murders. I do expect that to happen here. The return of Voodoo Murders was fine for one night only, but they have become the focus of the promotion to its detriment.
At least it’s coming to an end, it seems. Tamura should really get the pin in this. It would be a big step up for him and given all of the beatings he took from Voodoo Murders, the ideal way to close out the story.
As for the quality of the match itself, I think it could be quite good given the talent involved, but all of the Voodoo Murders shenanigans could bring it down. Prediction: Evolution
SPECIAL SINGLES MATCH
HOKUTO OMORI VS. MINORU SUZUKI
It’s looking more and more like Omori is moving up to the heavyweight division. He’s bulked up quite a bit. And this match also seems to be a signal that it’s happening.
I think this will be pretty good for a Suzuki match in 2022. Omori has worked well previously with other wrestlers who have a similar style to Suzuki. While Suzuki probably wins, I expect Omori to have a good showing, and I even think there is a slim chance he wins.
I don’t think Omori losing here harms his ascent into the heavyweight division at all as long as he has a good performance here. Prediction: Minoru Suzuki
YUMA ANZAI DEBUT MATCH
YUMA ANZAI VS. YUJI NAGATA
Anzai is All Japan’s new super rookie. He was personally scouted by Suwama, from the Triple Crown champion’s alma mater Chuo University and its amateur wrestling team. Anzai stands about 6’2” and if you read the tweets of other wrestlers, you’ll notice they all say how handsome he is. That he is debuting on this show and against Nagata is no coincidence. He is going to be pushed out of the gate. Of course, it remains to be seen what his in-ring work is like, but he is definitely someone with the potential to help turn the company around.
Nagata is the perfect first opponent for Anzai. While he’s really showing his age these days, he is always great against rookies and will try to make a top prospect like Anzai look good. Nagata wins this of course.
And if you needed more proof that Anzai is a big deal, well his entrance will have a live performance by Osamu Suzuki, the same person who composed Jake Lee’s current theme. Prediction: Yuji Nagata
SPECIAL SINGLES MATCH
YUMA AOYAGI VS. CHRISTOPHER DANIELS
With it being less than a week before the show and over a week since the incident everyone is talking about at AEW’s All Out, I think it’s safe to say that Christopher Daniels’ suspension is not affecting his ability to work this show, especially given he worked the NJPW Strong tapings in Las Vegas on September 11.
I’ve got a lot to say about this match. First of all, I think it will be great. Daniels can still generally deliver and Aoyagi is one of the best wrestlers in the world right now.
The result will be interesting. While AEW wrestlers generally can’t do jobs outside the company, it still occasionally happens and Daniels is not a pushed talent. However, and unfortunately, I could still see All Japan have Daniels go over just to say they had an AEW wrestler on their show in a prominent match. I could also see Daniels going over to set up another scenario that I will discuss later.
Having Aoyagi lose to another outsider, after already losing to Shuji Kondo in June, is an incredibly stupid idea (that this company would totally do). The momentum he gained after winning the Champion Carnival is really slowing down, and losing here will only further hurt it.
That being said, I’m still leaning towards Aoyagi winning here. I could also see a future where this match sets up Aoyagi getting some sort of tryout match on AEW Dark or Elevation at some point, though I certainly wouldn’t bet on it. Prediction: Yuma Aoyagi
ALL JAPAN PRO-WRESTLING 50TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL 6-MAN TAG MATCH
MASANOBU FUCHI, ATSUSHI ONITA & SHIRO KOSHINAKA VS. GREAT KOJIKA, YOSHIAKI YATSU & MASAO INOUE
Kyohei Wada will be the special guest referee for this match and Fumito “Tiger” Kihara will be the special guest ring announcer.
This is a fitting 50th-anniversary match, I think with representation of the company from the 1970s to the 1990s. Don’t expect an in-ring classic from this, but if Koshinaka and Inoue do the bulk of the wrestling for their respective teams, it will not be horrible.
But this isn’t about the in-ring work, it’s a celebration of this company and I am looking forward to it. However, this should go less than 10 minutes. Given Fuchi is still a roster member and Onita is the biggest star in this match, their team will likely win. Prediction: Masanobu Fuchi, Atsushi Onita & Shiro Koshinaka
WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
GUNGNIR OF ANARCHY (SHOTARO ASHINO & RYUKI HONDA) © VS. GET WILD (TAKAO OMORI & MANABU SOYA)
After defeating Honda in the Royal Road Tournament, Omori said he would challenge for these titles and pick a suitable partner. Many thought that might be Jun Akiyama, but sadly, that was not to be. Soya is not a bad pick at all. Get Wild had a good run in this company as a top tag team and were over.
I think this has the potential to be quite good. I would expect a hard hitting match given the styles of all the participants. Ashino and Honda will want to prove themselves on a big stage. Omori always works hard to put over younger talent, and Soya is a very dependable bruiser that really doesn’t get the credit he deserves in NOAH’s mid-card.
While a win and nostalgia run for Get Wild seems like a possibility, I don’t think it will happen. That would mainly mean Soya would have to step away from NOAH since we are about two months away from the Real World Tag League. That just doesn’t seem likely. Also, Ashino and Honda are a dynamic young team. Go full speed ahead with them. I would assume that this ends with Honda pinning Omori to get revenge for losing in the Royal Road Tournament. Prediction: Gungnir of Anarchy
PWF WORLD JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
TIGER MASK © VS. ATSUKI AOYAGI
This Tiger Mask title reign was not needed. Hikaru Sato was having a great reign before Tiger Mask won the title. While that match was decent, Tiger Mask has been disappointing since then. He’s washed.
I hope Tiger Mask at least tries to make Aoyagi look like the next Jr. superstar that he’s being set up to be here. Aoyagi will almost certainly win and inaugurate a new era for the Jr. title that has passed far too often in the last couple of years. This will also be a test to see what Aoyagi can get from a lesser opponent. That ability is a sign of a truly great wrestler. Prediction: Atsuki Aoyagi
TRIPLE CROWN HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP NEXT CHALLENGER DECISION MATCH
JAKE LEE VS. NAOYA NOMURA
This was originally supposed to be Lee vs. Joe Doering, but sadly Doering’s brain cancer returned.
Lee and Nomura were set to face each other in the semi-finals of the Royal Road Tournament, but Nomura got COVID-19 and had to pull out.
I have high expectations for this match. There is a lot of history between these two, and Nomura has called out Lee since returning to the company. Both guys will work hard in a semi-main event position on a show like this.
I’m leaning towards Nomura winning. Lee is damaged goods at this point (some of it his fault, some of it the booking). Nomura’s quasi-invasion angle should continue with him racking up wins.
The case for Nomura winning was strengthened after Nomura tweeted proposing to make his match against Lee a #1 contender’s match for the title challenge the following day. Soon after, All Japan made it official. Prediction: Naoya Nomura
TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
SUWAMA © VS. KENTO MIYAHARA
Ideally this isn’t the main event of this show. I always thought the main event should have been Yuma Aoyagi challenging Kento Miyahara for the Triple Crown and finally winning it. The road to get to what we actually got here was ugly.
I think this match will be pretty good, however. Miyahara and Suwama still have excellent chemistry even if Suwama has slowed down. These two are professionals and will work hard in the main event of a show like this.
The one thing that could bring this down is interference from Voodoo Murders. While they seem to have dialed it back recently, it’s still a thing. It seems insane to have interference in a Triple Crown match on the 50th anniversary show, but it is a frightening possibility. Hopefully they just tease some early on, and then wrestle the rest of the match cleanly.
Miyahara will win here. Suwama’s chance is as close to zero as you can get. At least the company’s biggest star will be standing tall and probably make the cover of Weekly Fight at the end of the 50th anniversary show. Prediction: Kento Miyahara
But wait, there’s more!
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SEPTEMBER 19, 2022
This show will be broadcast live on AJPW.TV at least. It’s rather audacious booking by All Japan to have a Korakuen Hall show the next day, something they need more of. Only one match has been announced for the show, and in a big shocker, the Triple Crown will be defended against the winner of the Jake Lee vs. Naoya Nomura match at Budokan.
I really hate title defenses, especially of a company’s top title, on consecutive days. I think it devalues the title, but it’s becoming more common in Japanese wrestling with New Japan, Stardom and Dragongate having done it in recent years.
Based on my predictions, Nomura will probably be getting the title shot after defeating Lee. While I think he should be in line for one soon, doing it on this show is anticlimactic. Miyahara is going to retain here. A 24-hour Triple Crown reign, even if he drops it to Nomura, is absolutely the stupidest fucking booking thing this company has done, and there’s a long list to choose from.
It also makes one wonder if perhaps Nomura’s return to All Japan was a temporary thing and that he may be gone after this. While I’m leaning towards that not being the case, ever since his injury, I’ve learned the hard way not to get too excited about Nomura’s career trajectory despite him being arguably my favorite active wrestler. After facing Miyahara, he would have faced all of the wrestlers he called out upon his return to All Japan. And if Nomura somehow wins the Triple Crown, it would be a waste of a story of him returning to the company and then chasing Miyahara for it.
I think the original scenario was that Joe Doering would have defeated Jake Lee at Budokan and then challenged Miyahara. That’s a match that hasn’t been done in a couple of years, and makes sense doing it the next day since Doering is signed with Impact so you wouldn’t have the chance to bring him in whenever you wanted.
Another angle that may be resolved on this show is some of the teases that Miyahara may turn heel. While I don’t think he should never turn, and I think he’d play a tremendous heel, it’s too early to do it.
Miyahara is the company’s top draw, and has a fanbase that consists of women and kids. Someone with those same connections needs to be in that position before Miyahara can turn heel. There has to be a young babyface that can genuinely draw for him to feud with. Aoyagi is almost, but not quite there. Lee is damaged goods and Nomura is a heel (you could always do a double turn, but like Aoyagi, he’s not quite there yet).
Announced for this show are: Yuji Nagata, Tiger Mask, Minoru Suzuki Christopher Daniels, Black Tiger, TARU, Toshizo, and finally the returning Kuma Arashi and Koji Doi.
Arashi and Doi seemed to have been cycled out of All Japan to make way for Voodoo Murders as well as Nagata and Tiger Mask. Let’s hope this is them coming back as regulars and a sign that some of the other outside talent will be in All Japan a lot less.
What this show needs to be is a reset of all the angles. Voodoo Murders should be disbanded on this show and storylines going into the Real World Tag Leauge need to be set up. All Japan has done some very angle heavy shows this year, so it’s not a stretch for them to do that again.
With Yuma Anzai debuting and the Saito Brothers returning, All Japan’s roster is (relatively) deeper than it has been in ages. There is also plenty of young and hungry talent that the company clearly wants to push, but keeps postponing it to try to chase what they think will bring in bigger gates. That’s how we ended up with yet another Miyahara vs. Suwama match main eventing Buodkan. But it’s self-defeating in the long run because no matter how much potential you may think the young talent has, they never get the chance to breakthrough to the next level.
If this Korakuen Hall show does not end with Voodoo Murders disbanding and no clear direction for many of the young roster members who are ready to be pushed up the card, the company will continue to just stagger along. It would be a shame to end the 50th anniversary celebrations in that way.