On September 12 and 13, All Japan ran their first two nights of their biggest tournament of the year: the Champion Carnival. Due to how close together these shows were, I decided to lump these two nights into one review. Without further ado, let’s dive into these shows.
Venue: Nagoya Congress Center in Aichi Prefecture
Reported Attendance: 482
Match 1: TAJIRI & Francesco Akira vs. Koji Iwamoto & Atsuki Aoyagi
Result: Akira pins Aoyagi in 8:34
A nice little match to open the show. I’m enjoying Atsuki Aoyagi more and more with every match that he has; the kid has some real potential in the junior division as a high-flyer, something All Japan needs to mix with their more technical juniors with the likes of Iwamoto and Sato. Akira made it clear that he was going after the World Junior title, which could set up a potential title match in the near future.
Match 2: Yoshitatsu Kingdom [Yusuke Okada & Seigo Tachibana] vs. LANDS END [Ryouji Sai & Ishikiri]
Result: Sai pins Tachibana in 7:01
Despite being cut from the Champion Carnival following the change in format for this year, Ryouji Sai still finds his way onto the card. A fairly decent match here though I sometimes find it difficult to get invested in a match where the majority of the competitors don’t mean much to All Japan’s future in the long run. I was going to say at least Okada didn’t take the fall here but… Well, I’ll get back to Okada when we look at the next show.
Match 3: Takao Omori, Black Menso~re & Ryuki Honda vs. Purple Haze [Zeus, Izanagi & UTAMARO]
Result: Zeus submits Honda in 4:11
This is Ryuki Honda’s debut match and he’s getting the full young boy treatment here: black trunks and getting the piss pounded out of him by Zeus. Some good offense from Zeus here and the match overall was alright. It was short and sweet, and I love it when matches don’t feel the need to overstay their welcome.
Match 4: Evolution [Hikaru Sato & Dan Tamura] vs. Enfants Terribles [Shotaro Ashino & Hokuto Omori]
Result: Ashino submits Tamura in 6:03
We have two combinations of opponents who have recently faced one another: Ashino and Sato who had a singles match this past month, and Hokuto and Tamura who faced off in the Asunaro Cup Finals back in July. Overall a fine match here with everyone looking good. Hokuto in Enfants was definitely one of All Japan’s better ideas this year.
Match 5: Champion Carnival B Block, Shuji Ishikawa vs. Yuma Aoyagi
Result: Ishikawa pins Aoyagi in 8:01
And thus begins my praising of Yuma Aoyagi in the Champion Carnival. I tell you what, out of everyone in this field so far, Yuma’s been looking great. He’s been in both of my favorite Carnival matches. I’m very happy about this because I feel like Yuma’s been kind of coasting along not doing much after his Triple Crown title shot against Kento earlier this year, so it’s nice hearing people talk about him in this tournament. Some good work here; Ishikawa targeted the back while Yuma targeted the legs. I honestly thought Yuma would pull out the win here but Ishikawa gets the pin after wrecking Yuma with a thresz press. Definitely match of the night.
Match 6: Champion Carnival A Block, Jake Lee vs. Kuroshio “Ikemen” Jiro
Result: Lee pins Jiro in 8:36
If you’ve read my reviews before, you would know I’m not a huge fan of Jiro. I don’t like the character and I don’t like him in this tournament. In a bigger field, having Jiro here would be fine, but not when there’s only ten competitors in total. That being said, I did find this match enjoyable. In fact, I usually find Jiro’s work to be good it’s just the goofiness of the character can get old quickly and I think it all just works better in an undercard match, not the biggest tournament in the promotion. But I do have to give Jiro credit, I did not hate this match.
Match 7: Champion Carnival A Block, Suwama vs. Kuma Arashi
Result: Suwama pins Arashi in 3:54
I’m conflicted here. I love Suwama being this dominant champion who just put his opponent away so quickly and proved how strong he was. But on the other hand, this could have been really damn good if they gave it more time. And judging from the main event length, they for sure could have given this match more time. What we saw was good, the staple of All Japan: beefy men beating seven shades of shit out of one another, but I just feel it ended way too soon.
Match 8: Champion Carnival B Block, Kento Miyahara vs. Yoshitatsu
Result: Yoshitatsu submits Kento in 21:52
First and foremost, this match went way too long. The match really dragged in some places, especially the Kento control spot on the outside where it seemed like he beat down Yoshitatsu for an eternity. The only thing that spot did was make me think, “huh, Yoshitatsu is going to win this, isn’t he?” And you can accomplish that without making those spots drag on for so long. Some parts of the match also felt kind of sloppy but after the show it was announced that Yoshitatsu is dealing with back pains and had to be removed from the September 13 show, so that explains the quality of the work. They tried, I’ll give them that. But with the match dragging and the crowd unable to cheer, there was a lot to be desired.
Venue: Culttz Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture
Reported Attendance: 462
Match 1: JIN [Jake Lee & Fuminori Abe] vs. Yusuke Okada & Baliyan Akki
Result: Lee pins Okada in 5:04
Note: The original lineup had Tachibana teaming with Okada, but Tachibana sustained an injury after the September 12 show. Baliyan Akki is in as a replacement and will seemingly be slotted in for Tachibana for the remainder of this tour
Okay, you obviously want Jake Lee getting a win here because he’s in the Carnival. But you have Akki here to take the fall so why is Okada looking up at the lights? I don’t know, it just seems silly to me. Decent work here from everybody and it is cool to see Akki get a spotlight in more promotions (even if it did come at the cost of Tachibana getting injured).
Match 2: Shuji Ishikawa & Ryuki Honda vs. Takao Omori & TAMURA [Pro-Wrestling HEAT UP]
Result: Omori pins Honda in 8:51
Note: This match was not a part of the original lineup. This was originally listed as a “match zero” where it was a singles match of Takao Omori vs. Ryuki Honda. It got changed to a tag match after Yoshitatsu was taken off the show due to back pains, therefore the Carnival match with Ishikawa was off the table.
I swear this show was like cursed or something. You already had a bunch of card rearrangements due to injury and whatnot. And then before this match they had to pretty much tear apart the entire ring to fix something. We get to see a bit more here from Honda (which is smart since the original plan was a singles match anyways) but just like the previous night, he eventually gets picked off by the veterans. Solid stuff.
Match 3: Evolution [Hikaru Sato & Dan Tamura] vs. Purple Haze [Izanagi & Shigehiro Irie]
Result: Irie pins Tamura in 5:57
Irie is a favorite of mine so I was desperately hoping for more of him after last month’s Atsushi Aoki Memorial Show. And look at that, he’s back! That’s awesome. And look, Irie and Tamura had a good ol’ strike exchange. That’s awesome too. Good stuff from these guys, I’m glad Purple Haze has still been turning down the shenanigans.
Match 4: Kento Miyahara & Francesco Akira vs. Enfants Terribles [Koji Doi & Yusuke Kodama]
Result: Doi pins Akira in 8:22
I always love tag matches that have fun babyface team against a no-nonsense heel team. I think that clapping rhythm from this match is still engraved in my brain. A fun match from these guys and I love the finish of Akira focusing his attention on Kodama pulling at his feet that he doesn’t notice Doi behind him and Doi just straight up murders him with a lariat.
Match 5: Koji Iwamoto, TAJIRI & Atsuski Aoyagi vs. Black Menso~re, Hokuto Omori & Fuminori Abe
Note: No, that’s not a typo. Abe pulled double duty tonight because it was announced that Ikuto Hidaka was in close contact with someone that tested positive for COVID (I think a trainer or something?) so they kept him off this show to be on the safe side. He has since tested negative on a PCR test and will be on the rest of this tour, thus the Junior Title Match on September 21 is still a go.
Result: Iwamoto pins Menso~re in 9:52
Despite their being a bit of a mix up on this match due to Hidaka’s absence, the match was still good. Atsuki continues to look good, Hokuto continues to be a prick, and Abe was doing Hidaka spots during the match which was pretty funny. Good stuff, correct guy won and correct guy took the fall (but we still love you, Menso~re!).
Match 6: Champion Carnival A Block, Zeus vs. Kuma Arashi
Result: Zeus submits Arashi in 8:34
Much better match here than Arashi’s matchup with Suwama primarily because it was actually given some semblance of time. We get more of that lovely big men just laying into each other and some really fun spots where Arashi was trying to overpower Zeus but Zeus just kept a hold of the control. Zeus’s output has just been so much better since Purple Haze isn’t doing token heel team bullshit. Only thing I could ask for here (and I have a feeling I’m going to be repeating this a lot throughout the Carnival unfortunately) is a bit more time between these two.
Match 7: Champion Carnival B Block, Shotaro Ashino vs. Yuma Aoyagi
Result: Aoyagi wins via ref stoppage in 10:21
Hell yes! This was awesome. Yuma Aoyagi is very quickly becoming MVP of this tournament with another one of his matches being match of the night for me. Yuma and Ashino are now 1-1 against one another, as Ashino got a victory over Yuma during the empty arena era. As much as I love Ashino, I’m glad Yuma won because he I was sure he wouldn’t be winning either of his matches from this weekend. I was a little worried that the Purple Ha- er, sorry Enfants Terribles interference spots would bring the match down (and it did at the start) but it really didn’t make too much of a difference in my opinion in terms of overall match quality. Ashino tried to make work of Yuma’s leg, but Yuma emerged victorious in the end.
Post-match Ashino looks strong by getting back at Yuma, and cuts a promo that unfortunately I lack the knowledge to translate. But then mid-promo Kento comes out to make the save! I love this, you’re building up the September 15 match between Kento and Ashino AND the September 21 match between Kento and Yuma. Could we be seeing a NEXTREAM reunion in the making?
Match 8: Champion Carnival A Block, Suwama vs. Kuroshio “Ikemen” Jiro
Result: Jiro pins Suwama in 14:00
It happened and I knew it would happen. As soon as I saw the block matches I pointed towards this match being a Jiro victory. I’m strangely not as irritated about it as I thought I would be. Perhaps it’s because I could already see this finish coming, or perhaps it was because I’ve actually been enjoying Jiro’s work here. Now is there a shopping list worth of guys I would replace him with? Absolutely. But, his output has been better than I thought it would be so I’ll take the L on underestimating him. He’s been good. Not great, but good. Suwama got control early on and just beat the holy hell out of Jiro, but this match was about Jiro finding his way to outsmart Suwama and pull off the victory, which he did! Good stuff between these two.
And that wraps up this review of the first two nights of the Champion Carnival. Check back here on Wednesday for the next review which will be looking at the September 15 Carnival show from Korakuen Hall. Now that there is a big show! Highlights include Suwama vs. Jake Lee and Kento Miyahara vs. Shotaro Ashino, I’m excited for it!
After these first two nights, here and the current 2020 Champion Carnival Standings:
- Suwama – 2 Points
- Kuroshio “Ikemen” Jiro – 2 Points
- Jake Lee – 2 Points
- Zeus – 2 Points
- Kuma Arashi – 0 Points
- Shuji Ishikawa – 4 Points
- Yuma Aoyagi – 2 Points
- Yoshitatsu – 2 Points
- Kento Miyahara – 0 Points
- Shotaro Ashino – 0 Points
You can catch the 2020 Champion Carnival, live and on demand content on AJPW TV! It’s a monthly subscription fee of only 900 yen a month; if you live in the U.S., that’s roughly about $8.50 a month – a great deal if you ask me!