Woohoo, it’s finally time that AJ Phoenix has arrived in full. In case you missed it, Izzac covered the first ever BJW D-RIZE show, which contains a parallel to this other than young lions getting showcased and a partnership being showcased; Naoya Nomura in the main event! I haven’t watched said main event, but I have seen the rest of D-RIZE, and boy was it ever above average for something you’d think it’d be. I’ve been more excited for this variant of the month-by-month switch, all because of highlights of a few matches on Battlemen. It’s time to dive into the full matches, as well as the show. It’s AJ Phoenix from Shin-Kiba 1st Ring with just under 200 people in attendance.
Solid opener. Jake Lee didn’t look like anything special in this match, as he had an extra special opponent in Sekimoto. Sekimoto always makes wrestlers look good, and this was no exception in some ways, but at a talent standpoint, Lee wasn’t much to look out for in this case. Sekimoto’s mid-match Sharpshooter continues to be put over as a dangerous yet effective trap that strains the opponent. Once Jake started mounting a comeback we saw the last few minutes of the match filled with Jake kicking the hell out of Sekimoto, chops for replies to Jake, nearfalls in which Sekimoto had to power out, and the crowd starting to get a little into it. However, Sekimoto put Lee to rest fairly easy and after only a short time with his trademark German. As average as can be.
Uto has been fun to watch grow, although this wasn’t as good an opportunity as a Strong Division tag. These guys only got a few minutes with each other, which means more basic stuff. Zeus was in control for the early going, dismantling Uto and dragging him everywhere including the outside. However, Uto started to mount a comeback with his beautiful looking leg drop. The finishing stretch was excellent — which saw Zeus go for a chokeslam but get countered into an Ace Crusher. Zeus still kicked out, and managed to fend off Uto, yet Uto fighting back by kicking out of a lariat, until he could hit the chokeslam for the win. More basic OK work, as we can’t get too hyper-analytical of the short matches because of the time and place.
This was a promising tag that featured massive looking Yohei & GAORA TV Champion Yuma taking on smaller yet gritty Sakuda, and the best worker in the promotion, the top guy in the promotion, and one of the best workers in the world; Yuji Okabayashi. This was a good tag, but nothing more. The finish was troublesome in the sense that I don’t think they knew where they were going — so it was basically the generic puroresu tag match ending: with ins and outs until the final partner sacrifice got his other partner the chance to win, opponent kicks out that’s at a handicap, opponent eventually takes the pin. None the less, that was fine, and before that things were great. Seeing Sakuda come right out and #GrappleFuck was one for the record books, with Aoyagi proving he could go on the mat as well as control his body like some of the better high fliers in the world (key word: control), and Yohei Nakajima proving why he can be a solid workhorse in a match. However, the true workhorse award, as well as all praise will be thrown at Yuji Okabayashi for this match’s body of work. He can work with any partner, he can work any opponent, and he can work most styles. All the cops unleashed were ferocious, and Yuji’s chest even went a little red from some stiff work in the match. Yuji got his lariat over well and played a crucial role in the match until getting the tag to Sakuda to come back in and eventually being phased out. Aoyagi pinned Sakuda after a second crossbody for a nearfall and a fisherman’s buster.
(This was my initial review at peak time to review…4 AM; being exhausted and grumpy. Not sure if I’d respond like this now, but I’m not watching again as I value initial reaction and fair first time viewing of all matches on a review over a slightly fixed review that would be geared towards not harming the match).
The feels train rolls on as Kazuki Hashimoto is now injured, with all the build, including this tag, spotlighting not only the brothers vs. Evolution but specifically Kazuki vs. Aoki is now rendered on the sidelines. I still know this is going to be consistent at least. I guess I was wrong. I mean, it was definitely a passable wrestling match, but I don’t think I’ve ever been this out of it watching a puro match this year. I just ended up not caring whatsoever. The check kicks went on far too long, then Sato started to fade away from my vision as someone who’s important in the match, Aoki seemed to come in once in a while, we got good beef between Aoki and Kazuki. The match just ended and I don’t remember anything except the check kicks and the finish. This also went 20 minutes, which is quite ridiculous in itself. Kazuki tried to save Daichi from Sato’s submission but ended up being locked in an Aoki submission in which both refused to tap as time limit expired. That was cool, but the only notable thing in the match except the three minutes of check kicks. The rest was filler, I either forgot because it didn’t have much meaning, or was blocked out by my non-enjoyment of the match. I usually love Team Yamato. This is a rare instance where I can say skip this match. It DID do its job though, don’t get me wrong, just not to my personal enjoyment.
Although his Nexstream partner was in the opener, Triple Crown Champ Miyahara is in the co-main event of the evening. This was booked as a 50/50 split, but the way the match was laid out made it more of a struggle [builds to] eventual overpower from the weaker force. The first half of the match saw the Triple Crown Champion Miyahara nearly playful in his approach to cute little young lion Kikuta’s ‘ferocity’. That very ferocity revved to its highest gear as we bridged the gap between both parts, whilst still implementing some sound, simple humor to the match. This wasn’t a fantastic match, but it was a story-driven contest in which both men played their roles well, but the in-ring never completely translated. Miyahara would sometimes hangout in attempt to wait for the impact to hit to sell, or maybe the handful of times he did such, he did so, knowing he was the champ, and knowing he would eventually get the victory he so needs in order to not be embarrassed. Kikuta got control for the second half a lot, but it was Kento that would shift the gear back down in Kikuta’s case. After more struggle to stay in control, Kikuta did so, but eventually the champ showed his perseverance and status above the young lion — putting him to rest with a German bridge suplex.
Nomura’s second main event in the second ever rotating youngster’s spectacle. Kamitani is a great opponent. This match is art. Puroresu art in fact. I’m not just going to talk about Evolution in the sense that that’s the stable young Naoya Nomura belongs to. This word, not name of a stable in this case, applies to Hideyoshi Kamitani, who even in the year I’ve been watching him — has improved from Point A of a BJW wrestler, to a more elite Point B of a BJW wrestler. Much like Yuji Okabayashi and Daisuke Sekimoto, among others in their class, Kamitani knows how to pace a main event. He knows when the lows of the match are going to be low, and when to bring the match into shock and awe territory. This was one of the best performances of the year thus far from Kamitani. However, Nomura is an interesting subject to examine in this match as well. You’ll remember him post-match for the young lion that got beat up, yet was resilient and paced through the match trying to dethrone one of BJW’s best. At least that’s my thinking. He slapped back, gave some suplexes, went from here to there, but it was Kamitani who formulated nearly everything revolving around the work, and then some, plus actually bringing his larger than life ability to the table for this showcase. Kamitani beat the holy hell out of Nomura, but also kept him in holds to wear him down. He kept Nomura in holds to the point where they looked more vicious than the slaps he gave; they looked as if they were tearing away and Nomura’s wretched heart — he doesn’t have the same stamina to keep up, so there for he had to constantly get into fighting spirit mode. Nomura had to dig deep, close his eyes, and throw darts of slaps, hoping they would connect. The finishing sequence of this match was so eloquently timed. You never knew what was coming next, except near death via BJW’s ‘strong’ brand of offense that Kings Road’s Nomura had to adjust to. The slaps became too much, the bigger, more experienced man became too much, the stamina became too much, it was time the larger than life battle-thon came to an end with Kamitani’s multi-blitz offense of enzuiguri’s, ECHO IN A CAVE SLAPS, and a backdrop that on first glance appears to break Nomura’s neck. This was a fantastic main event, giving me everything I want from a battle like such, between these two exact men. Not a MOTYC, but something that you can look back on, for a first of its kind of show’s main event, and say…damn — this was puroresu.
An alright first show here for AJ PHOENIX. If you really wanted to, and have time to kill, watch the full card. However, if you’re looking for the meat and potatoes of the good wrestling on the show, take-in the main event experience that will most likely make you verbally react like myself. It was still a fun watch, albeit not quite as good as D-RIZE, in which I actually thought it would blow away. Shows how you can’t judge a book by it’s cover (or by 3 minute highlights on Battlemen). I look forward to seeing what AJPW & BJW do in the future together, and in the future in general, seeing as so many bright young stars to come were featured here on this show.