Come one come all to Wrestling With Words’ coverage of the 2016 All Japan Pro Wrestling Champion Carnival. Over the years this tournament has had ridiculously substantial impact on puroresu and tape trading worldwide, with legendary matches and winners such as Stan Hansen, Giant Baba, Jumbo Tsuruta among other legends, and this years, after Akebono won the year prior; looks to follow in a good footstep path and not a bad one. First off, in order to do so, we have to get some good booking and fantastic matches. Those are possible with the blocks. Here they are in all their glory:
Atsushi Aoki (replacing Joe Doering)
Now that you can see the blocks, I’d like to voice my frustration about something. Whatever the hell’s going on over at GAORA is a bunch of bullshit. The opening day of the tournament will not air until after the finals of the Champion Carnival conclude. How does that make sense? Oh right, it doesn’t. To boot, Kento Miyahara and Kengo Mashimo went 30 minutes, the full broadway, and of course, it won’t air till after the finals are over making it obsolite. None the less, I will be able to cover seemingly every other show, and that begins with day 2. Without further ado, let’s kickoff the view able portions of Champion Carnival!
I keep forgetting how young Aoki still is. He faces someone 10+ years older than him in the opener, but he looks almost just as old. This was a more than fine opener that turned out better than expected. Aoki got a fine match out of slightly immobile/harder to watch Inoue. We had solid grappling to kick things off that set the pace for continuity later on, arm for arm pace was worked. There were many near falls that were done well like a shoulder block, lariat, missile dropkick, inside cradle, jackknife pin and more! Aoki sold extremely well for Inoue, carrying the match by staying down after moves and providing arm work technicality. I loved when Aoki uppercut Inoue’s arm. A high angle cradle from Inoue was popped into an arm bar for the Aoki win.
My god. I don’t know any of these guys sans Kentaro so I’m just going to provide general thoughts on this VERY unique offer match. YOTCHAN HAD A GUITAR SOLO INTRO. Mucha got low-blowed, Yotchan slipped on the ropes and hit himself in the nuts. There were sound effects and commentary over the loud speaker. WHAT. The ref had a shoe and stomped on two simultaneous seemingly failed dolphin drop attempts. PONTA did old school on Jushin then Flair flopped because why not. Yotchan went to smash the guitar over Jushin’s head but he flopped anyways and hit him with an (ass attack)? Yotchan hit Diamond with the guitar! A LITTLE KID HIT A SNAPMARE TAKEDOWN AND HIT A CARTWHEEL ELBOW. AND A BULLDOG. HOT TAG TO GREAT MUCHA. Michinoku Driver and Mucha told PONTA to roll from across the place to get into position for the finish. A knee drop gets the win for Mucha’s team. What in gods name was this? I’ll tell you, it is legitimately one of my favorite matches of the year just for its unpredictability and wackiness. I need to see more of these Shinshu lads! A job well done.
Nexstream who aren’t in tournament matches take on two of the most fun to watch midcard talents in AJPW. Nakajima and SUSHI have even recently done battle for Nakajima’s GAORA TV title (I’m still mad at you, GAORA). This was yet another extremely fun addition to the undercard. These two teams had a breezy dynamic going, and the match was fairly short and simple. It had a light hearted vibe but managed to stay a ‘contest’. I wish Nakajima was in the Carnival because he could have dope matches. Yohei hit an AWESOME tope on Miyahara. A beautiful stomp and diving headbutt combo from the two weren’t enough as Kento saved Jake. SUSHI kicked out of Miyahara’s corner knee, a German was reversed into multiple roll-up variations including what I like to call a Rainmaker Venis fly trap! Kento sold the near fall so well. A bicycle kick near fall occured and Kento finally put away SUSHI with a German. Great short exciting tag match.
Dory Funk Jr. and Jun Akiyama on opposing sides was enough to sell this match to me. I love how Aoyagi is the only person under 38 in this match. This was all spectacle when Dory Funk Jr. was in the ring and/or making the crowd react, other than that it was OK for what it was with some bright spots. Aoyagi got beat up on a lot of the time by Team Veteran. Dory and Akiyama locked up and that was all I wanted from the match. Akiyama as well as Fuchi got huge heat just by touching him let alone making him take a back bump! Ouch. Dory made Fuchi leave the ring apron because of taunting him which was awesome. Akiyama slapped Yuma to the crowd so hard it made an Earth-shattering thud. Dory pushed the ref and applied the Spinning Toe Hold on Akiyama and Fuchi, but not for long, as Fuchi gave him an eye rake. Nishimura even put a Toe Hold on Super Tiger. Super Tiger was solid in the match, I’m intruiged as to how his tournament run will go. Nishimura reversed the momentum of a roll-up to beat Fuchi when Dory and Yuma were about to get involved to break up the win.
Dory cut a promo post-match thanking everybody. Part Japanese part English. God bless the guy.
MY GOD. This is arguably the best sub 10 minute match so far this year. It was unreal. It got off to a wondrous hot start with Nomura spearing Mashimo onto the floor on the outside. Mashimo stayed in control though and tried to wear out the youngest Evolution member. Nomura hit ANOTHER spear and turned it into a jackknife pin that made for a HUGE kickout. Mashimo put his knees up for the flying crossbody and kneed the hell out of Nomura’s midsection as he attempted yet another spear. We got a ridiculous backdrop and buzzsaw kick combo which made for … yet again, an insanely timed 2.9 kickout. Mashimo RIPPED Nomura’s apart for the win via submission. Kengo Mashimo is the very early on MVP for the tournament, having going 30 minutes vs. Miyahara (which won’t air till after the finals) and putting on a helluva short match against All Japan’s baby-boy prospect.
Two large men with different motives and outlooks on life (and their gimmicks) clash! I can absolutely dig it. These two had a solid hoss fight, nothing more/nothing less. The momentum switched tons of times, and the best part of the match was when Zeus Irish whipped Yoshie into the barricade so hard that a fan fell out of his chair. Yoshie came back with a hip attack to Zeus on the barricade. Yoshie stayed in control with a press near fall and a hip attack. Zeus showcased his muscles not by taunting but by overhead suplexing Yoshie like he was nothing. Yoshie gave a lariat in return to make for an awesome fighting spirit spot. Zeus gave a superplex to Yoshie and pinned him after a Jackhammer. Nothing bad at all but I won’t remember this in a week.
Sai has Cleveland Cavaliers inspired gear that looked pretty sweet. The Chris Hero touring attire of Japan! The heat was real between these two before the match even began. This was a very good main event, on the same level of the fantastic sub 10 minute Nomura/Mashimo match if not more epic. I’m a big fan of the story that was told, it gave it said epic feel. It was as if Sai’s offense kept coming down a production line and Omori would be the worker to pluck everything off; he just kept staying in. Somehow, when I thought all hope was lost, Omori would kickout of whatever was given to him. Sai even worked over the arm of Omori to prevent the Axe Bomber from happening, but when it still came at him, he reversed it, multitudes of times. Brainbusters, bicycle kicks, kicks, a SUPER BRAINBUSTER, and so much more was thrown down to pile on Omori but he got out of the mess. The crowd finally started to get behind the match a little bit. The finishing sequence was aces. Sai kicked out of the Axe Guillotine Driver, blocked the Ace Bomber twice, hit a gutbuster for a near fall, missed a knee drop which led to Omori hitting an Axe Bomber for the win! Other than some dead air in between moves this was a very good effort from both men.
At first thought I thought this show would be pretty bad, but it turned out to almost be a hidden gem type of show. For first exposure of the Champion Carnival this gets two thumbs up, and even with a weak card it completely delivered. I suggest you watch the whole 2 hour and a bit adventure for variety, but if short on time watch either all three Carnival bouts or just the first and last. From grappling to comedy to SUSHI taking on a Triple Crown Champion in a tag match to Dory Funk Jr. and Jun Akiyama locking it up to three different types of matches in the tournament, it was a good few hours of watching wrestling. PLUS A KID WRESTLED. For all your 2016 Champion Carnival coverage, you’re already at the right place, Wrestling With Words.
Here are the standings after Day 2.
— Mort (@mortenvh) April 10, 2016