ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING
50TH ANNIVERSARY SHOW
SEPTEMBER 18, 2022
NIPPON BUDOKAN
TOKYO, JAPAN

Watch: AJPW.TV

Prior to the show, Shuji Ishikawa introduced the five recruits of Evolution, the joshi promotion he is spearheading with Suwama. They are ZONES, Sunny, Rin Hoshino, Otsu Mizuhara and Chi Chi. It’s been two years since Suwama started floating this idea and honestly, I’m a little surprised we managed to get to this point. That being said, I wish them all the best of luck and look forward to seeing them establish themselves.

Of all of them, ZONES stands out the most to me given that she is a bodybuilder and has faced a lot of adversity in her life, giving her huge babyface potential.

It should be noted that Evolution is not All Japan’s joshi division. It’s a separate company not owned by All Japan. Ishikawa and Suwama are running it however with the support of All Japan’s business partner/sponsor STATUS.

RISING HAYATO & RYO INOUE DEF. YUSUKE KODAMA & OJI SHIIBA (4:18)

I will not say this about some other matches on this show but this should have been given a few more minutes. Everyone worked hard and it was go-go-go Jr. action. HAYATO and Shiiba really stood out the most, and they were also involved in the finish with HAYATO pinning Shiiba with the Shimanami Driver. ***

YOSHITATSU, TAJIRI, MITSUYA NAGAI & ATM DEF. IZANAGI, BLACK MENSO~RE, SUSHI & ANDY WU (6:04)

Perfectly inoffensive wrestling. They all hit their spots and guys like ATM and SUSHI did a little bit of comedy. Nagai got the win by making SUSHI submit to the Stretch Plum in a nice callback to Toshiaki Kawada. **½

SAITO BROTHERS TRIUMPHANT RETURN MATCH
SAITO BROTHERS (JUN SAITO & REI SAITO) & CYRUS DEF. SHUJI ISHIKAWA, KOHEI SATO & YUKIO NAYA (7:38)

This was six large men running into each other. It’s hard to fuck something like that up. The Saitos are not elite level workers after their excursion but they have clearly improved their work and personas. Cyrus had some fun sequences with Naya.

In the biggest upset of the evening, Rei pinned Ishikawa after a top rope splash that was set up by a double chokeslam from the Saito Brothers and a vertical suplex from Jun.

Also, the Saito Brothers are using “Dream Warriors” by Dokken as their theme which I think is hilarious. ***¼

ALL ASIA TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
EVOLUTION (HIKARU SATO & DAN TAMURA) DEF. VOODOO MURDERS (MINORU & TOSHIZO) © (14:22)

Thankfully this had very little cheating from Voodoo Murders. That being said, given all of the build up to this match including Voodoo Murders terrorizing Sato and Tamura (including a lot of bleeding from Tamura), I just thought this was just okay with the lack of drama hampering it.

This should have felt like a blow off to a blood feud, but it was really just a well worked match. And the finishing sequence, while it made Tamura look dominant, was not particularly exciting.

Perhaps this was a victim of my expectations. That being said, I am happy that Tamura has finally won his first title in the company. I think the new champions will have a good reign though once they move away from Voodoo Murders.

After the match, Gungnir of Anarchy’s Seigo Tachibana and Yusuke Kodama came out to challenge and that match will happen on October 23 in Osaka. ***¼

SPECIAL SINGLES MATCH
MINORU SUZUKI DEF. HOKUTO OMORI (12:04)

This match was exactly what it needed to be.

Suzuki sold for Omori’s offense early on. Then we got plenty of Suzuki brutalizing young Omori in the way that Suzuki does. Omori got some near falls at the end of the match and was quite competitive throughout. Suzuki won with the Gotch-Style Piledriver.

I had little doubt that Suzuki would win this, but I was pleasantly surprised just how even this match was at times. Omori has added a decent amount of mass over the last year and it’s clear that he is being moved up to heavyweight. This was a good first match on that journey. ***½

YUMA ANZAI DEBUT MATCH
YUJI NAGATA DEF. YUMA ANZAI (9:09)

Well this was a big success. Other than maybe putting on a few more pounds of muscle, Anzai pretty much looks like a future superstar. He carried himself pretty well and never really looked lost even if his offense was limited.

As much as I’ve said Nagata is showing his age recently, he was the perfect first opponent for Anzai. Nagata gave Anzai a lot of offense for a debuting wrestler. Anzai hit a Butterfly Suplex (a nod to Jumbo Tsuruta) and a nice looking Missile Dropkick. Anzai even kicked out of an Exploder. Nagata got the submission victory with the Nagata Lock II.

I am so excited for Anzai. ***¼

SPECIAL SINGLES MATCH
YUMA AOYAGI DEF. CHRISTOPHER DANIELS (11:31)

Daniels repeatedly refused to shake Aoyagi’s hand at the beginning of the match telling Aoyagi he had to work for it.

This was good back-and-forth action. Daniels sold a lot for Aoyagi, and while he’s 52 and looks a tad shaky at times, he still managed to hit all of his moves. Aoyagi even kicked out of the Angel’s Wings. Daniels went for a top rope version of the move but Aoyagi escaped.

Aoyagi hit a top rope Rockstar Buster, a Spin Kick and then The Fool for the victory.

After the match, Daniels not only shook Aoyagi’s hand but raised it and they embraced. Daniels should be commended for how he put over Aoyagi.

Now the question is, will we see Aoyagi in AEW? ***½

ALL JAPAN PRO-WRESTLING 50TH ANNIVERSARY SPECIAL 6-MAN TAG MATCH
MASANOBU FUCHI, ATSUSHI ONITA & SHIRO KOSHINAKA DEF. GREAT KOJIKA, YOSHIAKI YATSU & MASAO INOUE (11:55)

This match was what you’d expect. Everybody did their basic stuff only really slowly. Onita did manage to hit a Butterfly Suplex on Inoue, so that’s something. This match went too long for what it was. Koshinaka hit a top rope hip attack on Inoue and it should’ve ended there, but it kept going.

Fuchi did pin Inoue after two Backdrops which I liked and he really deserved the win here for his nearly 50 year tenure with the company. Fuchi got on the mic and cut a promo after the match and Onita got in a couple words. The two former tag partners also hugged which was a nice touch.

This match had a combined age of 394 and an average age of 66.

WORLD TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
GUNGNIR OF ANARCHY (SHOTARO ASHINO & RYUKI HONDA) © DEF. GET WILD (TAKAO OMORI & MANABU SOYA) (16:22)

Toshiaki Kawada and Akira Taue came out as special guests for this match. Kawada is still moving very well after all these years, Taue much less so.

Soya teased us by coming out with his old Get Wild gear and even a wig but ended up just wrestling in his current Kongo gear. For shame.

GOA targeted Omori’s right arm to try to neutralize the Axe Bomber. Soya worked really well with his former Wrestle-1 comrades.

Omori looked in trouble for a bit and Soya kept saving him. Then Get Wild got several big near falls and the match really went into overdrive.

The last few minutes with Honda and Omori dueling with Lariats and Axe Bombers was great. Omori even kicked out of a Spear at one. But GOA used some big double team moves on Omori and Honda got the pin with the Final Event.

This turned out great. Everyone worked hard. Big match Omori was on full display and he really worked hard to put over the younger team.

After the match, the Saito Brothers came out to challenge with that match taking place on the following day’s Korakuen Hall show. ****

PWF WORLD JR. HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
ATSUKI AOYAGI DEF. TIGER MASK © (13:23)

Aoyagi came out in shiny white and gold gear and dyed his hair pink.

Tiger Mask went after Aoyagi’s right leg. Aoyagi fought back with some high flying offense. Tiger Mask hit a top rope Butterfly Suplex and a Tiger Driver and Aoyagi kicked out at 2.9.

Aoyagi eventually fought back and hit a Moonsault that Tiger Mask kicked out of at one. Some more kicks from Aoyagi and a Firebird Splash got the new Jr. ace the win.

This was a little sloppy looking at times, but was easily Tiger Mask’s best match from this All Japan run.

Now the Atsuki Aoyagi Jr. ace era begins and it has the chance of really elevating the division.

Thanks to the Aoyagi Brothers, All Japan has victories over AEW and New Japan on this show which is quite the accomplishment for a company of its size. ***⅓

SPECIAL SINGLES MATCH
NAOYA NOMURA DEF. JAKE LEE (0:43)

Nomura was wearing camo pants which was quite the look for him.

Nomura rushed Lee into the corner right at the bell. He unleashed a flurry of slaps. Lee fought back a little bit, but Nomura dictated the pace and even used the referee as a shield at one point. That allowed Nomura to hit the Spear and Jackknife hold to get the win. A hard hitting squash.

I laughed. I can’t tell if this booking decision was because the show was running long or if Lee was getting punished for his constant comments about being in the G1 or just to set up Nomura’s Triple Crown challenge the next day.

Whatever the reason, it’s time to keep Lee out of the Triple Crown scene for a while. A tag team run with Yuma Aoyagi is the best decision for now. ***

TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
KENTO MIYAHARA DEF. SUWAMA © (16:35)

Stan Hansen and Kenta Kobashi came out to oversee this match.

They got right down to business. There was a lot less meandering brawling in this than in other big Miyahara matches early on. And there was practically no Voodoo Murders shenanigans.

Suwama hit several Backdrops on Miyahara and also tried to get a submission using a Sleeper Hold. Suwama kicked out of a Shutdown German Suplex and hit yet another Backdrop but Miyahara kicked out at 2.99. Suwama started a flurry of strikes but Miyahara caught him with a jumping Blackout Knee and hit the Shutdown German Suplex for the win.

This was a fine match. But it wasn’t at the level of what these guys have done in the past. I don’t know if they felt they needed to end it as soon as possible because of time or not. They did pack a fair amount of stuff into it. And at the same time, with Miyahara so obviously winning, why bother going 25 or more minutes? It accomplished what it needed to do, namely give Miyahara a big moment in the Budokan winning the Triple Crown flanked by Stan Hansen and Kenta Kobashi. A picture that will live on for ages.

Kyohei Wada did referee this match, his first Triple Crown match in months. I think the reason for that was this was the 50th anniversary after all. For me, he is the greatest referee of all time even if age has caught up with his movements. Hopefully, he’ll be out of them again going forward. ***¾

FINAL THOUGHTS

Have you heard of STATUS?

But seriously, at 4,780 fans, this is the most attended All Japan show since 2017 and one of the most attended wrestling shows in the Budokan since the pandemic. However, given what the ticket website looked like in the days leading up to the show, what we have here is probably a case of sponsors buying blocks of tickets from the company to help fill things up. That’s what All Japan also did for their Sumo Hall shows in 2016 and 2017.

But whoever paid for them, this show almost certainly didn’t lose money, especially with the deal with NTV for the show to be broadcast on BS NTV.

A quick note about the show not ending before the BS NTV timeslot was up. The show was also being simulcast on BS 142, and even aired some matches from before the BS NTV broadcast started. Outside of North America, it is not unusual to have to switch channels when a sporting event goes long. And they even had on screen graphics advising you where to go to see the rest of the main event. Was it ideal? No, but it certainly wasn’t a disaster either.

It was international fans that generally made the most noise about this as a lot of the nefarious means to get Japanese TV out there don’t have BS 142 which is a much lesser channel than BS NTV. I saw Japanese fans on Twitter posting images of them watching the post match ceremonies live so they were certainly able to find it.

This show did not have anything blow away on it, but I still liked it a lot. It was solid from top-to-bottom and the result of every match was the right one, which is a rarity for All Japan. I won’t repeat what I said in my review of the show following this one, except for to say keep pushing the young talent.