AJPW Champion Carnival Day 5 on April 22, 2017
Watch: The RealHero Archive
Shinagawa Prince Hotel Stella Ball – Tokyo, Japan
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We had a better-than-typical opening match that put a focus on Yusuke Okada and the juniors in it, as KAI, Koji Iwamoto, and Minoru Tanaka faced Evolution of Atsushi Aoki and Hikaru Sato, alongside Yusuke Okada. The reason why this was better than a lot of these touring openers is that 1) there was a lot of good, enjoyable work and 2) it had a story going with Okada being denied any chance of a tag by cocky Evolution. Everyone was a blast to watch, we got tons of interactions between everyone, and the Okada denial eventually paid off with an excellent hot tag for him to showcase his skills. Although he survived KAI’s offense for a bit, Okada would eventually tap out to the Boston Crab as Evolution were already walking away. So much fun.
Dalton Drellich was able to have a lot better of a showcase in his singles match against Yuma Aoyagi, than standing to the side in a jam-packed tag. Although this only went 6 minutes, it was able to get Drellich over as a prototypical heel “monster”, decimating Aoyagi who sold like a champ. Aoyagi only got in a few short bursts of offense, otherwise being dominated by the arrogant Funkin Dojo student. Not even a chokeslam was enough to put away Aoyagi, who would then turn the tide with a roll-up victory out of nowhere. A solid undercard match, and a solid outing for both.
We had another vintage all-star (for many reasons) type of tag on hand with the team of Dory Funk Jr., Jun Akiyama, Ryoji Sai, Ultimo Dragon, and Yohei Nakajima taking on the team of Masanobu Fuchi, Atsushi Maruyama, Osamu Nishimura, Takao Omori, and Yutaka Yoshi. You had Funk hitting the slowest most graceful spinning toe hold of all time, taking uppercuts. Jun Akiyama in a ‘Giant Baba undercard tag’ type of role is always intriguing to see. The eclectic mix of individuals provided a light-hearted affair, in which Fuchi got a surprising amount of in-ring time in, even hitting a huge backdrop suplex for a near fall. Ultimo Dragon got to work with Maruyama a fair bit which was a nice change of pace. Speaking of such, Dragon got the win for his team with the La Magistral cradle on Maruyama. The whip came a cracking post-match with Maruyama catching the brunt of Dory’s rage!!!
The rest to come was tournament matches, with B Block action pitting Shuji Ishikawa against Naoya Nomura. I love this match, as it’s one of the best sub-10 minute matches this year. I didn’t expect this to be the match of the night with Doering-Kento having been slotted in the main event, but I should have known better. ‘The Big Dog’ is still on a tear, able to work at his best in plenty environments with plenty wrestlers. This one wasted no time getting LIT with Nomura taking it to Ishikawa at full force. This would result in him regretting it in many ways, including getting dumped on the apron (falling on his head), smashed into the ring post, plus being tortured in all the trademark Big Dog spots. The other surprises came in the form of kick outs, as Nomura stayed in the match after multiple knees and the Fire Thunder Driver. Nomura hit two spears but it wasn’t enough. Ishikawa won after Splash Mountain. My favorite match of the tournament so far. Must see.
Although Jake Lee and Zeus in A Block action only went 6 minutes, it was an effective sprint that hid any and all of Lee’s flaws, while giving Zeus some time to be in peril without a long match length. This all combined for a fun few minute ride with Lee, like Nomura in the previous match, wasting no time/not being afraid to take it to Zeus. Zeus served as the base for all this dynamic offense that tried to put him down, but Zeus wouldn’t stay down. It got to the point where Lee was able to put down his knee pad, and not be stopped this time, then hitting his knee on Zeus for the win. Love the finish as Lee was able to finish it unlike in the Kento match.
In the other B Block match of the night, and also the longest match of the night, Suwama and Kengo Mashimo provided a rock solid co-main event. It wasn’t anything blow away, but the match built to an exciting finishing sequence that wrapped all the work done before it together in a nice little bow. That work being Suwama powering through injuries sustained to his leg in the process of Kengo’s excellent limb work (the key to having a good match). Although it was main event length it didn’t feel overbearing. Suwama couldn’t get Kengo up for the Last Ride, and he couldn’t quite put the finishing touch on the match, ending up falling into the quicksand that was Kengo’s grip on his leg. He fell into the final leg lock of the match, as that would be enough to make Suwama tap out. Very smart finish to put over Kengo’s style, and a semi-shocking win.
In the Block A main event of the evening, Joe Doering took on the Triple Crown champion in Kento Miyahara. Miyahara is always a pleasure to watch, Doering too, but Kento has that A-list star power that keeps you mostly glued to the screen. The match didn’t venture to any extreme main event type of work, but it sustained a story with Kento’s back being decimated by a former Triple Crown champ himself. Doering would combine the work on the back (Crabs, punches, Irish whip damage, etc) with power moves to provide good drama and near falls along the line. Kento didn’t get much offense in which was a good way to establish Doering as a constant threat to any opponent — and potentially to Kento down the line in a Crown defense. For tonight though, Kento snuck out with a win, after multiple blackout knees. The highlight of the match came when Kento hit the first blackout and Doering went to sleep onto the ropes in a great sell. The other mounting knees would be a further downfall off a cliff for the formerly undefeated in the CC Doering.
Kento sent the fans home happy with a celebratory promo, while also taking a *free* picture with a baby. Ace material forever.
AJPW CHAMPION CARNIVAL DAY 5 ON APRIL 22, 2017
Good - 7.5/10
I'm feeling a strong 7.9/10 type of good on AJPW Champion Carnival Day 5. It was one of the easiest shows to watch this year and is right alongside Day 1 for best show of the tournament. The non-tournament matches delivered in a better-than-usual way and all four tournament matches told good-great stories and were all under 15:00. When I look back on this show I'll remember a killer Shuji-Nomura match and Dory Funk Jr. campaigning to be the 2017 WOTY.