All Japan Pro Wrestling is in a bizarre predicament currently. Although drawing steadily, and not as scarce as NOAH’s smaller shows, the roster depth is the problem, with more ‘weird roster additions’ hopping aboard the get paid bandwagon. This show proves such, but also gives a weird match card that I figured I should cover since no one else is. The only thing certain is that a great main event is booked in Wild Burning vs. Nexstream. We also have noted GUTS World workhorse Tatsuhiko Yoshino facing GAORA Television Champion Yohei Nakajima in the opener, Team Dream Futures coming over from DDT, and much more. Let’s get into the show.
This was a really good sub 10 minute match. To Lawrence’s she-grin, Yoshino looked aces. Not only did he provide a good effort, but was the star of the match. This was worked at a sprint pace, which meant Yoshino getting dropped on his head, Yohei almost being out smarted, and the crowd slightly investing into a hot opener. The finishing sequence was fantastic with a Blue Thunder Bomb delivered to Nakajima, but it still wasn’t enough. A roll-up still wasn’t enough. Yoshino delivered a superkick, but Nakajima did one harder. A kick to the head had Yoshino down for a 2, but a spinning kick put Yoshino down for the count. Short and simplistic, yet entertaining. I’m glad Yoshino is making the rounds in Japan with those pale white GUTS World trunks proudly equipped every step of the way.
This was solid enough albeit completely skip worthy. At least DDT talent made this watchable. SUSHI is flat out boring most of the time, and Kotaro Nasu is alright at best. There was a lot of work over on SUSHI, with comedy involved, like headbutts with Irie, or Irie just being a cute goofy man like he tends to be. Nasu, when tagged in, was good with his stiff kicks and overall veteran presence. SUSHI got clotheslined, but Irie was thrown from the top because of Nasu holding him down. Penalty Kick from Nasu and a diving headbutt from SUSHI but Ishii broke up the pin and was thrown back out. A corner enzuiguri and following dive off apron were delivered to SUSHI and Nasu from Ishii, and a big boy senton was hit from Irie on SUSHI in the corner. A huge splash followed that up as Team Dream Futures pick up a win in Radient Hall.
You had two goofy wrestlers in Honda and Kozou, yes, a SUSHI twin (SUSHI was in the last match), and two of the oldest wrestlers in the world in Gabaiji-chan and Fuchi. Fuchi is old, but can still move and lock in holds. The Gabaiji-chan gimmick is the oldest wrestler in the world, only able to navigate the ring with a cane, moving as slow as a snail. You could only imagine what this clash of personalities created. Wrestling comedy! My favorite part of the match was when Gabaiji smashed his club against Kozou’s head. There were constant moments where Gabaiji and Fuchi would try to double team someone on the opposition, but they couldn’t muster enough strength to pick them up. Part of Gabaiji’s gimmick is that he randomly breaks into super speed mode where he moves faster than any other wrestler in the match. This allowed for the team to take control of the match near the end, with Fuchi in the ring for all of the offensive time, bodyslamming both and eye racking them. Kozou performed the Old School rope move Gabaiji couldn’t do earlier in the match, taking both guys out in the process. Honda did a Dusty Rhodes impression but hit Kozou down with his elbow. Gabaiji did a hurricanrana and Fuchi pinned Kozou after a backdrop. What a time to be alive.
Another TEW random simulator matchup took place. Evolution took on two former Pancrase combatants. As you could tell this was worked very much like shoot style. The most entertaining thing about the match was the fact that Theodore would look nervous walking back and forth on the apron. It looked out of place, as well did he. This was worked at a boring pace with roll around all match until it surprisingly picked up into more of an actual match with Theodore busting out a belly to belly suplex and a swing! He also pulled off two well-done submission spots, struggling to get out of a leg lock, and putting an arm bar (I think) on Aoki. Ito saved Theodore after a double backdrop, Aoki hit a splash for a kickout but immediately turned it into a Kimura lock for the submission victory. Literally OK. Comedic that this match happened. I wish Aoki and Sato wrestled more like a PRO WRESTLING tag team and not a worked shoot bridge gap.
This was better than expected. I fear for the team work of Zeus and Yuma in their future booked endeavors. We’ll get to that soon. Anyway, the match was built on heat put on the Zeus hot tag in the early goings, which ended up going a bit long; but even if Hoshitango is wrestling, who doesn’t want to see Shuji Ishikawa beat the hell out of a young’in? That’s exactly what happened with all the knees in the world and Hoshitango throwing his weight around, all to pressure Yuma into giving up. Zeus eventually got tagged in, and we had ourselves a fun two vs. one showdown while Yuma was recovering. The match then kicked into the honestly well-done finishing sequence with only one spot that wasn’t well done. I have no idea what they were thinking, but freaking Zeus put Shuji UP ON HIS SHOULDERS in the Doomsday position. Not only that, but Yuma went for a springboard attack and slipped, and had to redo the spot. None the less, more action continued and even after a corner lariat and brutal knee, Yuma was saved by Zeus. They did the typical equalizer spot where Hoshitango and Zeus brawled on the outside. Yuma got a few roll-ups in but it was not enough, as he fell victim to the Splash Mountain as big hoss’ got the win.
Veteran Yoshie took on young Evolution upstart, who’s been prominently featured in All Japan and some Big Japan shows all throughout the year so far, Naoya Nomura. This was another surprisingly good match. Yoshie can still go, and proved it here. His colorful pink get-up makes him seem that much more fluid in the ring as a worker, because he’s colorful, big in size, and unique; almost like a Shigehiro Irie. Nomura and Yoshie worked this match in a unique way for about a 10 minute match. They brought the fire, and both brought something to the table, then collided and used their strategies consistently. Nomura jumped Yoshie during his entrance yet Yoshie isolated him on the outside, yet Yoshie was the one a few minutes later to be standing on the outside thinking what to do next. The rest of the match was simply solid work with some fun twists, like Yoshie’s leg being chopped down and worked over, but Nomura still being put in a crab. Yoshie blocked every single spear attempt, and we got a near fall after Nomura was slammed multiple times. Then, Yoshie hit a top rope splash for the victory. I couldn’t have asked for more, or I’d be spoiled.
It’s the main event of the evening, and it’s definitely not the first time these teams have met. This also served as the last prelude to the Triple Crown main event between Omori and Miyahara on 3/23. This followed the formula that the other tag matches with these two teams have followed, and that’s a mediocre build to an exhilarating few minutes, which by and large is perfect for a house show like this. The damage was dealt on Miyahara throughout the match, with Wild Burning targeting his neck and making his life a living hell. There were two pairings here: the champ vs. challenger and intense Lee vs. Akiyama sequences that were a nice switch up. With Omori and Miyahara came handfuls of situations where attacks caused spit to slip out one ones’ hurting mouth in reaction to moves. That put the offense over the top. Kento even took FOUR piledrivers, selling the neck extremely well throughout the match. He also took an Akiyama knee drop on the apron. Nexstream routed back, but Akiyama saved Omori after a vintage German. Omori caught Kento’s knee and gave him an axe guillotine but a kickout. He, then again, kicked out of an axe bomber but failed to kickout of another one as the challenger picked up a win against the man he’d be facing in only a few days time. Sometimes paint by the numbers, sometimes intense as all hell, and sometimes plain and simple tag wrestling, this main event delivered and was structured like most of these guys’ tags. Nothing to complain about.
I wouldn’t go as far as to say this show was sneakily good, but it gets a passing grade. Yoshino/Nakajima was a hoot for an opener. DDT talent in the undercard was fun, although they were used for comedy and/or skippable instances. The Evolution vs. Pancrase made sense on paper but was mostly a bore come to the end of the bout. The top three matches all delivered, with Ishikawa/Hoshitango vs. Zeus/Aoyagi being good, Nomura vs. Yoshie being even better than expected, and the main event providing quality tag wrestling with a statement made from Wild Burning. At least All Japan is using their talent fine, solidifying an ace, and bringing in unique talents from other promotions and areas in the world to fill out their cards. No Suzuki-gun bullshit here. Plus, Joe Doering returns for the Champions Carnival in April, which should be tremendous. Until next time.