Call it the Super Rookie Shock, or the Miracle at Ōta-ku, or whatever you want. The fact is there was a momentous shift today in the direction of All Japan when Yuma Anzai defeated Katsushiko Nakajima for the Triple Crown. At 24 years and ten months he is the youngest champion ever and has only been wrestling for about 18 months. It probably will mark a significant shift for the company in the coming months and years. Let’s break it down.

How Anzai Won

Anzai won by surprising an otherwise dominant Nakajima with a Jumbo Knee and a German Suplex. I assume it was to be reminiscent of Mitsuharu Misawa’s big win over Jumbo Tsuruta on June 8, 1990, in terms of both the surprise and the feeling it was a victory gained by just squeaking by. I loved the match, while others seem to have mixed feelings. However, most agree that Nakajima’s relentless attacks on Anzai and the latter’s selling was top notch. Bothering some was Nakajima getting up and walking to the back quickly. But extensively selling what was a surprise victory with barely any build up to the finish would’ve also been strange. With the Champion Carnival only weeks away, how Anzai performs there and beyond will tell us far more about whether he’s ready or not to be the champion.

Champion Carnival Predictions

Those may be out the window for many. With Anzai now the champion, a lot more possible winners are opened up because many thought Kento Miyahara may win to finish the story with Nakajima, or perhaps even Suwama would win given how much he and Nakajima have been talking about each other. Yuma Aoyagi or even Hideki Suzuki could now be much more serious players to win it all. Hell, even Anzai winning it himself wouldn’t be the worst idea to get him off to a strong start. I don’t expect a particularly long first Triple Crown reign for Anzai, two or three defensives will be sufficient, but he has to retain against the Champion Carnival winner.

More Backstage Drama?

We seemed to have turned a corner after the very chaotic and controversial start to All Japan’s year that saw several departures. With Nakajima dropping the title and not being part of the Champion Carnival, many are speculating he may be done with All Japan. At this point, it is only speculation, and there have been reports he is signed for longer. However, if Nakajima is done, it would be a blow given the unresolved storylines with Miyahara and Suwama. And if Nakajima is done, was this always his exit point, or did President Tsuyoki Fukuda bungle another important relationship after seemingly smoothing things over from the January debacles? It would be Miyahara who loses the most if Nakajima is done, but let me reiterate: we won’t know if Nakajima is done or not until after the Champion Carnival.

Winners & Losers on the Roster

At the end of the show, fellow champions Rising HAYATO, Dan Tamura and The Saito Brothers came out to congratulate Anzai. All of these wrestlers emerged during Fukuda’s presidency and the waning days of Jun Akiyama in the company, with the Saitos coming into the company after Akiyama was gone. It is a testament to the young core of wrestlers that All Japan has managed to cultivate and continue to turn out of their dojo. The Saitos are even becoming crossover stars. What does this mean for others on the roster?

Miyahara is probably safe given that he’s far and away the company’s biggest draw. What will happen to Yuma Aoyagi will be interesting. He had a successful Triple Crown reign that saw business go up. But with the rapid ascension of Anzai, could Aoyagi end up becoming part of a lost generation of All Japan wrestlers alongside his cohort of Jake Lee and Naoya Nomura that never lived up to the potential that many saw in them? Only time will tell, but the next few months will probably be an indication of the direction of Aoyagi’s future. For someone like Shotaro Ashino, however, his tragic arm injury in the 2023 Champion Carnival finals may have permanently derailed his path to the top of the card. It seems even less likely with Anzai atop it now. Ryuki Honda stands to gain though as the tag team partner of the new champion.

All Japan is Interesting Again

2024 has been solid but unspectacular for All Japan so far. There hasn’t been anything reaching the highs of late 2023, but Nakajima was proving to be a strong champion and young wrestlers continued their climb up the card. Now with Anzai holding the Triple Crown, the company has become a lot more interesting, just to see how they can make or break a young prodigy that they need to be a business-changing superstar for them.

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