AJPW Champion Carnival Day 1 on April 16, 2017
Watch: The RealHero Archive
Korakuen Hall – Tokyo, Japan
AJPW’s Champion Carnival is one of the most fun tournaments in wrestling all year. It has a storied history with winners such as Giant Baba, Mitsuharu Misawa, Vader, Genichiro Tenryu, and also, last year’s winner in Daisuke Sekimoto. It’s a round robin two block tournament, with the two competitors with the most points meeting in the finals at the end of the tour. Essentially the G1 Climax. You earn 2 points for a win, 1 point for a draw, and 0 points for a loss or DQ.
- Daisuke Sekimoto
- Jake Lee
- Joe Doering
- Kento Miyahara
- Ryouji Sai
- Daichi Hashimoto
- Kengo Mashimo
- Naoya Nomura
- Shuji Ishikawa
- Takao Omori
- The Bodyguard
Dory Funk Jr. led the opening ceremony of the tournament, it was so adorable — especially the way he says “Korakuen”. It wasn’t always going to be classy though, as a brawl broke out thanks to Joe Doering. The ring slowly cleared out with a confused Dory at the head of the ceremony. That would transition us into two non-tournament tags that were wacky as all hell on paper, in a vintage All Japan fashion!
The first tag of the show pitted Evolution in Atsushi Aoki and Hikaru Sato, tagging with Minoru Tanaka and Ultimo Dragon to face Atsushi Maruyama, Koji Iwamoto, Yohei Nakajima, and Yuma Aoyagi. It was a short match with nothing bad coming out of it. We got a lot of simple two on two interactions, but the high point of the match came when Sato and Nakajima provided the closing stretch. Nakajima hung in the match only for Sato to submit him in a combo arm/leg lock. There wasn’t anything else memorable other than Iwamoto’s beautiful judo throw. Simple junior style tag for a few minutes.
It was Dory time as Dory Funk Jr. teamed with Jun Akiyama, Osamu Nishimura, and Yutaka Yoshie to face Dalton Drellich, Masanobu Fuchi, Ryouji Sai and Takao Omori. For those who are confused upon reading the name of Drellich, he’s a student of Funk’s. This went even shorter than the opener and was just as forgetful, but was the most fun out of the two due to Omori continuously stalking, and at times, bantering Funk. Funk had a spinning toe hold applied on Nishimura but Omori stopped it in its tracks. Speaking of Nishimura, he cradled Drellich into a roll-up for the win. Big fat meh. Nothing to see here.
In B Block action, Daichi Hashimoto faced Naoya Nomura in an intriguing match. It was a lot of fun for the five minutes it went, with Daichi getting in a lot of strong offense. As Nomura is used to by now, he was punished, but he also more than held his own — especially in a great open to the match where it was a 30-second forearm trading sequence. In a neat spot, Daichi got frustrated after a kick out, elbowing Nomura down, only for Nomura to kick out at 1 only to be put away with the Shining Wizard. Great finish to a good match to kick the tournament matches off.
In more B Block action, Kengo Mashimo faced The Bodyguard in what would end up being a frustrating match. The outskirts of the match made me joyous, with Mashimo closing in on the leg of the big man. Bodyguard’s ability to move around was already reduced to limp thanks to the limb work — it wasn’t ignored. Mashimo dominated for a good amount of the time, and the injury became increasingly frustrating for Bodyguard. Then came the finishing stretch where everything went to hell. A mound of offense was capped off with a HEAD KICK FROM THE INJURED LEG (that was worked on the entire match). The best part? That was the finish. One question: why?!
In the first A Block match of the night, KAI took on a tough test in Zeus. This was the biggest mismatch of Day 1, as everyone either knows KAI as a big geek who can’t get over, or a wrestler scarred by awful booking and awfully imposed ideas such as Dean Ambrose cosplay. Perhaps both. None the less, I enjoyed this for how they managed to work it, with KAI instantaneously being destroyed, and having to come back in effective ways. They even brawled around Korakuen for a hot minute. The near falls were done very well too, including a Zeus chokeslam. One of the highlights of the show came when Zeus was taunting while KAI was down, though it looked like a character in a game was disconnected because he froze up. Within a blink of an eye, KAI hit Meteor Impact for a shocking victory. KAI already isn’t booked like a geek. Good work.
In an A Block match, Jake Lee faced the toughest test of his block on the first day in, in Triple Crown Champion, and someone he knows all too well, Kento Miyahara. This blew everything out of the water, with the exception of the main event on its tail. It hit the 14-minute sweet-spot better than most matches this year but was still worked as if it was an important main event style match. Kento was in control for the majority of the match — it became a natural story with Lee fighting for his life reaching towards a closing stretch of his own. When he got there, he unraveled his knee pad, about to hit his version of the blackout, only for Miyahara to kill him with a knee of his own. Although Lee kicked out of a German suplex, he was finished off with the arm-trap German suplex as the Triple Crown champ kicks off the tournament with a win. I highly enjoyed this, and it could be considered great for how rough it got, and how easily it told the story sitting right in front of them to execute.
In the last A Block match of the night, Daisuke Sekimoto collided with Joe Doering in what was a super sprint! It only lasted less than 7 minutes but managed to do a lot in that time-frame. The two are incredibly talented hosses, and that’s what we got in terms of the work — dynamic hoss battles. One second the two were doing a super cartoonish lock-up, only for seconds later for Sekimoto to hit a destructive TOPE. Doering kicked out of a German suplex, as he was dominated for a lot of the match, but came back with a fury of offense that proved to be too much for the 2016 Champion Carnival winner. Doering won after a Revolution Bomb. Another semi-surprising victory in a match that, if gone longer, could have been an epic.
In a Block B main event, Suwama squared off against the 2016 puroresu MVP, The Big Dog, Shuji Ishikawa. Suwama has never been my cup of tea, nor do I think he’s too great, but with the help of some color and Shuji’s madness; this match became something very good-great levels. It wasn’t an epic pace or a huge main event timespan, but this managed to tell a great story in a compact main event fashion. The outskirts of the match proved to be a little bland, but it picked up fairly quickly, with Shuji decimating Suwama, even busting him open with a headbutt. The prototypical Suwama comeback seems bland in his current state, but when you add in that juicy color, it makes things all the better. It became a war with Suwama kicking out of a Fire Thunder Driver. He then stopped Shuji’s knee to the midsection just in time, only to lift him out of that position for the Last Ride that would not be enough. A backdrop suplex kicked Suwama’s tournament run off with a bang. Now that I think about it, this was better than I originally thought it was. Excellent job from both.
AJPW CHAMPION CARNIVAL DAY 1 ON APRIL 16, 2017
GREAT - 8/10
I'm feeling a great on AJPW Champion Carnival 2017 Day 1. It just made it to an 8. If Bodyguard remembered to not do a shitty finish, it'd be an even better show. With two excellent outings for the tournament already in Lee/Miyahara (match of the night) and the main event, this is an incredibly breezy watch that went by like no tomorrow. I'd highly suggest you jump on the All Japan train, even if you haven't watched before. There's something for everyone on the show. The biggest selling point is the fact that it went by so fast but contained a high dosage of quality wrestling.