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FOUR DAYS IN APRIL: ALL JAPAN, NOAH, AND THEIR TROUBLED HISTORY

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April 2018: Naomichi Marufuji (left) and Toshiaki Kawada (centre) holding a memorial for Motoko Baba.

By the 22nd April 2018, two events had already been planned, Naomichi Marufuji, the vice-president from Pro-Wrestling NOAH, would face the President of All Japan, and old colleague, Jun Akiyama in All Japan’s Champion Carnival. The next day he would have a “talk battle” with old All Japan veteran, Toshiaki Kawada, who was a stranger to him.

Fate, which had played such a role in the lives of three, would play another card to make these events all the more poignant. After a long struggle with liver failure, Mokoto Baba, the widow of Giant Baba, died at the age of seventy-eight on the 14th April 2018. Her death, like much of her life, was kept secret until the 22nd.

What bound these four together from the All Japan days was more of a question of who, rather than what and where.

To understand the story, and to discover the significance behind what happened in April 2018, we need to go back to the source. We need to follow the river upstream, past the ring, the dojo and wrestling politics, newspapers, internet journalists, TV stations, reporters and fan opinion, back to Ashikaga-kodai High School, where Mitsuharu Misawa met Toshiaki Kawada in the late seventies. Both men would go on to join the All Japan Dojo, and train under the watchful eye of Shohei “Giant” Baba. They would become two of the “Four Pillars of Heaven” (as Giant Baba named them, the other two being Akira Taue and Kenta Kobashi), and their wars against each other would be epic, their rivalry on a scale that would never be replicated. Former friends, had to turn into rivals, and the ripples from this would turn into a wave that would blow itself out decades later when the water finally calmed.

Mr & Mrs Baba

Into this masculine world of wrestling with all of its traditions and testosterone, had stepped a young woman called Mokoto Baba in 1972 when All Japan was founded. The Japanese have a private face and a public face, and even now it is very rare to hear wrestlers talk about their personal lives (obviously with some exception), and so it wasn’t known to the public until the early eighties that Baba even had a wife. If the public didn’t know it, then All Japan did.

Puro can be very paternal, (especially in relationships between student and teacher), and so while Baba was the father to the dojo, Mokoto had to be the mother. Baba tended to be the indulgent dad and was beloved by the boys; Mokoto had to be out of necessity, the strict mom, and so wasn’t much liked.

In the early nineties, Jun Akiyama joined the All Japan dojo. He was followed by Naomichi Marufuji six years later. It was management who decided who would train who, and it was fate that put Marufuji with Misawa. Toshiaki Kawada knowing the rules of the game, had to completely withdraw from Misawa, and this meant from Marufuji too. His behaviour was often seen as hostile or perhaps downright rude as he pretty much had to ignore him completely. “Kayfabe” had to be maintained; rivals could not have any contact with each other outside the ring (just as at award ceremonies, promotions were then forbidden from talking to anyone outside the promotion), they were forbidden to give advice to even their rival’s trainees.

However, this did not stop Marufuji reflecting that while all the veterans had something to teach, Kawada was the one who “taught fear.”   

So for two years our four were together in All Japan, but they were tough years by the late nineties. It wasn’t just the strict hierarchy that existed in the dojo (Marufuji would later comment that it was something he had never come across before, there was naturally a hierarchy in Japanese society, but this was something else), it wasn’t the fact that puro was changing (promotions were becoming a little less insular as technology grew, the internet was born and the world began to open up digitally); it was the fact that Baba was dying. A heavy cigar smoker, he succumbed to cancer in 1999. 

Into the void left by his death, stepped his widow, and much to his surprise stepped Misawa, who as per the term of Baba’s will, was now appointed president of All Japan. It was to be both an unfortunate and a remarkable pairing; no woman before had ever headed up a wrestling promotion. Mokoto Baba may have been business savvy, but she was also grief stricken, and determined to keep All Japan as it was under her husband. She knew how to fight, and fight she would.  

Despite his upbringing in the cloistered world of the All Japan dojo, Misawa had been overseas (and had always had a penchant for gaijin wrestlers), and looking around at the new century, he saw new opportunities to take All Japan into the millennium by taking the company in a new and different direction. Friction arose with Mokoto almost immediately. Nothing would change in All Japan; it would remain how it always had been. 

The relationship between the woman who had been the mother to the boys, and the man who had experienced a family life in All Japan, that he had never had in reality, reached the breaking point. Both could be infuriatingly stubborn, both knew how to fight, and neither would give way. Therefore the only option open to save All Japan, was for Mokoto to remove Misawa and he was stripped of his presidency by a majority vote of executive board members. 

Out of the bitterness, the humiliation, the frustration, Misawa decided to create his own promotion, and what is known as “the first exodus” was staged whereby Misawa walked out of All Japan taking with him many of his colleagues, including Jun Akiyama, and his trainee, Naomichi Marufuji. Toshiaki Kawada elected to stay with All Japan. 

Furious and humiliated, Mokoto issued a statement which basically said Misawa had acted rashly and inconsiderately. Misawa also released his own statement at a press conference with those who had elected to follow him out of the safety of established All Japan and onto the small raft that was heading out for unknown waters, NOAH; he praised Baba, acknowledged the difficulties he had, and ignored Mokoto completely. He never spoke publicly of her.  

Mokoto would have her revenge. Misawa was to be left off of any subsequent DVD release, no matter how much the fans wanted to see it, and no matter how much it would have benefited All Japan. His memory was to be airbrushed as much as possible. In a radio interview soon afterwards she spoke of him in a way that sounded as if a mother had lost a son, saying that when Baba was alive they got a long, but after Baba died, Misawa changed. 

All Japan were facing a crisis; Misawa had walked out with the majority of the top talent, and the majority of the future talent, and days later, office workers and admin staff quit to join him. Their TV deal was also cancelled and Noah took their slot. Mokoto, the woman who had been so strict about her husband’s wishes, now shocked everyone by bringing back Genichiro Tenryu, who had left All Japan in 1990. People didn’t leave promotions to go to other promotions. It wasn’t done, and Baba swore that he would never let this wayward son back in the house, but yet here he was, shaking hands with mother. It didn’t make too much of a difference, All Japan found that they were now half selling shows in places they had originally been able to fill to the rafters.   

There would be one more conflict between NOAH and All Japan, and this harked back to the old days with the no contact rule, when NOAH and All Japan participated in four tour dates together in July 2000. NOAH wrestled NOAH, and All Japan wrestled All Japan. Neither side met in the ring or outside of it. There was no friendly meeting with old friends. Nothing. Toshiaki Kawada mentioned that it was unnecessary for NOAH to be there and Misawa was unnecessary for All Japan. NOAH never said anything (although Steve Williams took it upon himself to goad him), and at the end of the tour, Misawa took everybody back to Differ, not even waiting for the show to finish. By this time even Mokoto realised that All Japan could no longer function as barricaded fortress, and a deal was struck with New Japan. 

This would have been unheard of in Baba’s era. Still, the stone had been thrown into the water, and the ripples were turning into waves that would one day reach the shore.

Toshiaki Kawada (left) and Mitsuharu Misawa (right) in high school before the days of promotions, dojos, trainees or rivalries on a grand scale.

With the passage of years, and his decision to freelance (ironically involving difficulties with All Japan), time had done much to mellow the relationship between Misawa and Kawada and on July 18th 2005, they wrestled their final match together at the Tokyo Dome, the place where long ago, their epic wars had taken place. It was a reconciliation of some sorts, but the ice was never properly broken between them.

Following an accident in the ring, caused by years of postponing his own retirement, and an accumulation of injuries, Mitsuharu Misawa died in June 2009. NOAH held memorial shows, on which Toshaki Kawada appeared. Ironically, he also found kind of a home in NOAH, feuding with Takeshi Morishima (who had been one of the trainees who had walked out of All Japan), and participating in the first Global League. The death of Misawa shocked him, and although he never publicly announced that he was going to retire, he did admit that with Misawa gone, his heart was no longer in wrestling. He would reignite his passion in 2018, but in a different way.

Fate decided that it was now time for NOAH and All Japan to cross paths again, this time involving Naomichi Marufuji and Jun Akiyama. Fate was about to repeat itself.

In his will, Misawa left the position of vice president in Noah to Naomichi Marufuji. It had been said that Misawa was planning to retire, and therefore would have started to introduce the man who was like son to him, to the business world, but there hadn’t been time, and so Marufuji found himself not only thrust into a role that he didn’t know, but also faced with angry seniors. Those who had been in All Japan during the days of Misawa and Mrs. Baba now felt the same thing. Who wanted to work with this young man? He knew nothing of business? He was going to change things, things they didn’t like, things Misawa didn’t like. Several of the veterans quit, and Naomichi Marufuji spent the next few years learning the ropes and with a pounding headache.

In December 2012, Pro Wrestling Noah took the decision to terminate the contract of Kenta Kobashi due to injuries. Furious at this insult to their teacher, Jun Akiyama, along with four other wrestlers refused to renew their contracts with NOAH, and all left for All Japan. It was a similar repeat of what had happened years before, and while it was on a much smaller scale, it was to have devastating consequences for NOAH. With Misawa gone, the promotion had managed to stay afloat for a few years, but a scandal involving the Yakuza had ruined their reputation (something which NOAH are still feeling the effects of in 2018), and they could not afford the walk out of such talent. The waves from the stone thrown in 2000 had reached the shore.

While Kenta Kobashi seemingly later made peace with NOAH, Jun Akiyama was not forgiven and his actions were seen as a betrayal. Another rift began between NOAH and All Japan, which was not made better when Akiyama became president in 2014 which was perceived as a too close threat to NOAH at a time when NOAH could barely afford such competitors or to have someone who had been once one of their own and a symbol of the company, one of their rivals.

Both companies however were now entering their dark years. NOAH was suffering through scandal and loss of talent (plus the disaster of the New Japan alliance), and All Japan were experiencing the after effects another mass walkout, again due to the company leadership. These walkouts have become known as “The Exodus” and are even numbered. To complicate things even further, the former president of All Japan, became the president of NOAH. The two companies settled into bitter resentment on both sides as they faced their mounting problems and picked up the pieces from the wave that had been waiting to come since 2000.

On February 3rd 2018, Naomichi Marufuji out of the blue announced on a rainy day, that he had been invited to take part in All Japan’s “Champion Carnival”. The news caused outrage, not only amongst wrestlers, but also amongst fans. It had been five years since Naomichi Marufuji and Jun Akiyama had had anything to do with other, five years since NOAH lost their talent to All Japan. To All Japan fans it was a question of why on earth NOAH was being allowed back to All Japan? Why was their vice-president here? What was going to come of this? Where All Japan and NOAH going to merge? Rumors and misconceptions flew around.

What came of it was peace. It was finality. It was acceptance.
It was a much needed burial of the past.

On 25th April 2018, after five years, Naomichi Marufuji and Jun Akiyama met in the ring. They had an epic battle. In this match everything came out, the difficult years, the dark past, the resentment, the bitterness, the lid blew off and the miasma scattered as they hit each other (the bruises could be seen the next day very clearly). Fans of both NOAH and All Japan, were in tears as it was emotional. Like the ghosts of Taira clan watching Hoichi The Earless play “The Tale of The Heike”, they saw it all; the shared past of Misawa and Kawada, Baba, Mokoto, Jumbo Tsuruta and the old guard, then the upturning of Puro and the new way it was taken in the new century, the return of Kobashi and “The Burning” stable made up of those who walked out of NOAH, all of it.

At the end of it, the demons exorcised, the past was laid finally to rest by a simple gesture of a fist bump between the two.

Nothing more needed be said. NOAH was here, All Japan was here.
Both were still here.

Toshiaki Kawada and Naomichi Marufuji in April 2018. The last lingering ghosts of the past were laid to rest.

There was a final closure to be had the next day when Toshiaki Kawada and Naomichi Marufuji met in the ring. By this time long out of action, Kawada had turned to producing. He too wanted to show the new generation against the older generation, which was a story that Puro knew so well, at his first event “Holy War”.

Unable to wrestle, he and Marufuji basically sat down and talked about All Japan. Kawada noticing that Marufuji was using a lot more psychological techniques, now that he realised that nearing forty he couldn’t really moonsault anymore, and a lot of those techniques where his. Kawada told the bruised and battered Misawa protégée, that his hostility in the dojo stemmed from the way things had to be back then, he couldn’t have helped him, even spoken to or properly acknowledged him, and he didn’t want things to be like that anymore.

It didn’t need to be.

Not now.

There has been a long bitter struggle between All Japan and NOAH for many years, but now both promotions can look to the future. NOAH will never again rely on another promotion only on themselves, and it would be a hideous contradiction of Misawa’s wishes which are held sacred in NOAH, for them to merge with All Japan and vice-versa in All Japan with Giant Baba, but with the rise of the younger generation in both companies, there is nothing now to stop a co-operation between them which can only benefit everybody.

NOAH and All Japan are still here. Let’s keep it that way.


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International Coverage

Stardom’s 5 Star Grand Prix Preview

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You liked how I and Andrew covered the Champion Carnival, King of Gate, and the G1 Climax? Well, guess what? We’re teaming up once again and this time we’ll be covering Stardom’s tournament, the Five Star Grand Prix!

This year marks the seventh annual tournament and just like the other ones we cover, the winner will be getting the World Championship match against the current champion, Kagetsu. In 2012, Yuzuki Aikawa defeated Kyoko Kimura to win the first Grand Prix and other people have won it such as Nanae Takahashi, Io Shirai, Kairi Sane (Hojo), Yoko Bito, and Toni Storm who won it last year and won the title due to Mayu being injured during the match.

The rules are pretty much similar to the other tournaments, but we’ll still go down the list for those that don’t know.

  •  There is a fifteen-minute time limit
  •  A win equals two points
  •  A loss gives you no points
  •  A draw will give both competitors one point

Instead of just calling them A and B Block, they just call the blocks Red Star and Blue Star just to fit with the theme of the promotion with stars. Andrew will be covering the Red Star and I’ll be covering the Blue Star. Down below are the list of participants and we’ll be picking our top three winners from our respective blocks.

 

Red Star:

Kagetsu (World of Stardom Champion)
Jungle Kyona (Artist (Trios) of Stardom Champion)
Tam Nakano
Konami
Natsuko Tora (Artist (Trios) of Stardom Champion)
Utami Hayashishita
Rachel Ellering
Kimber Lee

Blue Star:

Mayu Iwatani (Goddess of Stardom Champion)
Momo Watanabe (Wonder of Stardom Champion)
Saki Kashima (Goddess of Stardom Champion)
Hazuki
Natsu Sumire
Kelly Klein
Nicole Savoy (SHIMMER Champion)
Jamie Hayter (Rev Pro Women’s Champion)

 

Blue Star Predictions:

3. Kelly Klein

– It’s no secret that the Stardom President, Rossy Ogawa is a big fan of bringing Gaijins in his promotion and likes to push them quite a lot and unfortunately, we lost quite a few good ones like Toni Storm and Deonna Purrazzo, and now it just felt like the company was given the scraps for the regular tours. However, we got quite the solid line up of talented female wrestlers from around the world and Kelly Klein is no stranger to the company as she won their Goddesses of Stardom Tag League with Bea Priestly last year, so this could be a good time to elevate her to that next step. It may be unlikely, but again, Rossy loves to push the Gaijins in Stardom and feels like Kelly could fit the bill unless they want one of the champions from the other companies like Nicole Savoy and Jamie Hayter to get the win, but feels like that might be predictable.

 

2. Hazuki

– This one seems very unlikely, but I feel like she could be a dark horse of the Blue Star Block if they really wanna go with the Oedo Tai vs. Oedo Tai route for her against Kagetsu. Hazuki has made some dramatic changes ever since she got drafted from Queen’s Quest to Oedo Tai and just changed her look, her style, and just her outlook while showing great character progression. She recently came off a big loss from Momo Watanabe for the Wonder of Stardom Championship, but she has a second chance at her due to them being on the same block and hopes to beat her there this time. If she does somehow win the tournament, I wonder how Kagetsu will take it, will she be accepting of it like how Naito is and fight to strengthen their bonds or will Hazuki betray the faction that took her in and treated her like one of their own.

 

1. Mayu Iwatani

– This one is more of favoritism than anything since it does feel like the more obvious choices to win the tournaments have actually lost them near the end. She recently fought Kagetsu for the World of Stardom Championship on August 12th and she once again failed to capture the red belt, so they could either do this as a redemption story for her to win it this time around or to help build someone else up to delay her chase for the title. Both seem very well likely scenario’s as she has been building herself up since her return almost a year ago to reclaim the belt she never fully lost and this might be the time to cash in on it.

 

Red Star Predictions (Andrew coming in with the Edit Powers):

3. Tam Nakano

– This one is purely personal preference. She’s only been professionally wrestling for 2 years, but her character work makes her cute and she’s been gradually getting better. She seems to be developing some chemistry with Starlight Kid and a few others, as well as picking up a few wins since he Exploding Barbed Wire Death Match. She even won the mini Dream Come True tournament that Stardom and RISE held. She’s a long shot definitely, but I’m curious to see how hard they push her.

 

2. Kagetsu

– It’s hard to think the champion will have a bad showing. Now I’m aware this tournament doesn’t have the same history as the G1 or Champion Carnival, but I’m still not sold on a champion winning the tournament. There’s always a chance, and Kagetsu has been being billed well since Io Shirai left, even avenging her Tag Title loss by successfully defending against Mayu Iwatani. Plus she’s the Prime Minister, so most champions can’t say that…maybe that will make her special.

 

1.  Konami

– Up, up, down, down, left, right – wait…what? Konami code makes all things easier, so she’s gotta be good right? Well I mean, she is a technical wrestler and part of Queen’s Quest. So being that she’s up and coming, as well as having a connection to Io, that could be what’s necessary to give her the rub. Another notable point for Konami is her being trained by Kana (WWE Asuka). So since Stardom needs to reestablish their main event, Konami could be a good catalyst.

As you know, my block record has been pretty bad since even though I got most of the actual winners right in these, they would come from Andrew’s Blocks, making me 0-3 on my blocks winning the whole thing, but I kinda feel lucky on this one…hopefully. Anyway, here are both me and Andrew’s predictions for block winners and final winner.

To be totally fair, Mathew is the King of Joshi around here, so if my block wins, that’s just plain dumb luck. – Andrew

 

Mathew’s pick: Mayu Iwatani vs. Konami Winner: Mayu Iwatani

Andrew’s pick: Kelly Klein vs Konami  Winner: Konami

 

If you wanna check out the tournament, it starts on August 18th and it ends September 24th and subscribe to Stardom at http://www.stardom-world.com/ and subscription is really cheap since it’s only 6.50 a month and even has English subtitles for their promos so it would be easier for you to follow.

Unfortunately, the bad news is that it’s not like the other streaming services where they would upload the whole show once it’s over and likes to do it in loops meaning the full show wouldn’t fully be loaded between a week or two after it happened. But we do promise that once we have enough content to write our articles in parts, we’ll have it to you ASAP. I hope you do check us out on this one and we feel like it’s a good idea to showcase the women for this tournament due to them deserving more exposure, especially around the time of the Mae Young Classic and WWE Evolution happening right around the corner from it.

Hope you all enjoy it as we do this next journey together!


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International Coverage

AJPW Summer Action Series Results & Review (7/29/2018)

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Now that the G1 Climax is over and done with, time to return to the promotions that I cover as we return to All Japan Pro Wrestling.

I believe the last time I covered them was when Kento Miyahara retained the title against Dylan James and Zeus would become the next challenger for the Triple Crown Championship, and luckily for you that this is the show we’ll be looking at today. I just realized that I still don’t have a rating system yet and after talking to Andrew, figured out which one I could do that doesn’t involve stars or those snowflakes. I am going to be ranking them by regular wrestling podcast people or whoever Conrad Thompson partnered with also, and each person will be a ‘star’, here is who will be who.

5 Stars: Jim Cornette
4 Stars: Bruce Prichard
3 Stars: Eric Bischoff
2 Stars: Tony Schiavone
1 Star: Vince Russo
0 Stars: Dave Meltzer

Anyway, why don’t we just…dive right in?

 

Eight Man Tag Team Match
Atsushi Maruyama, Shoichi Uchida, Takao Omori & TORU vs. Carbell Ito, Hiroaki Moriya, Ultimo Dragon & Yoshitatsu

Review: Our opening bout appears to be a regular old exhibition tag match with some people thrown together as we got Yoshitatsu and Ultimo Dragon in a team and we got Shoichi Uchida from DOVE making an appearance here tonight as well. I also loved how Carbell Ito was the only one that came out to music and it also appears that the wrestlers are giving out bags of snacks to the audience, that’s nice of them actually.

Nothing really special to write about it since it was as basic as you can get with this match and what they do with all eight of these men getting an equal amount of time with the ten minutes or so they did together. Think Atsushi had more time out of the rest and had some pretty decent offense in with Yoshitatsu and hit a pretty neat Full Nelson Slam onto him. Yoshitatsu picked up the win by hitting the Codebreaker of Jericho on Atsushi…I still can’t believe he still calls it that. God damnit, Yoshi…

Rating: Tony Schiavone

Eight Man Tag Team Match
Atsushi Aoki, Hikaru Sato, Masaaki Mochizuki & Shun Skywalker vs. Black Tiger, Koji Iwamoto, TAJIRI & Yohei Nakajima

Review: Up next, we got another eight-man tag match and this is involving people who are involved in the Junior Tag Battle of Glory tournament and we got some nice surprises here like Masaaki Mochizuki and Shun Skywalker from Dragon Gate being apart of this match to hype up the league due to them being apart of it. I’ve been very critical of the junior division in All Japan since it’s the weakest division in the company right now and I’m hoping it could shed some light on potential contenders for Atsushi Aoki since he has no challengers right now for his title.

Oh, snap, Shun rocking some new gear and not wearing that full body suit anymore, good because that was pretty ugly on him and like this new look much better. I don’t know what’s going on with Black Tiger abusing Yohei Nakajima like this since that’s his own partner, but I’m just gonna roll with it. Shun and Masaaki were the saving graces for this match just by how good they are and especially Shun from how far he’s come and felt like they would fit right in if Dragon Gate didn’t need them still. Still didn’t expect Massaki to be considered junior since he was Dragon Gate’s top champion a couple months ago and then again the majority of the Dragon Gate roster is pretty small like a junior heavyweight, so it makes sense. I wouldn’t mind some of Dragon Gate going over to help out the junior division since a lot of them fit that weight class and are incredibly athletic as well, can definitely shed some new life to that division.

Anyway, the match was slightly average except for Masaaki and Shun along with Tiger abusing his own partner. Koji would apply the Katagatame on Atsushi to make the champion tap out as Koji won it for his team. After the match, Koji Iwamoto claimed that he was going to win the Junior Tag League and once he does, he wants a match against him for the Junior Championship.

Rating: Eric Bischoff

 

Singles Match
Gianni Valletta vs. Joe Doering

Review: We got our first singles match for the night as former Triple Crown Champion, Joe Doering is set to take on Gianni Valletta who has been starting his tour here early on in July when TAJIRI brought him over to go for the Tag Team Championships which they also lost. I can’t wait to see how he does against the former champ. Can Gianni get a big win over Doering or will Joe squash him like the rest of his opponents?

I really felt like Joe wasn’t full trying in this match and it just came off incredibly slow and stale which threw the match off quite a bit in my opinion. Gianni is someone that is pretty average as well, but he did show some promise since he has a pretty good look and had signs of growth he could do since he’s only been wrestling for a few years. I wouldn’t say it was a complete squash match, but still had an average amount of time together in the ring with seven minutes as Gianni would try to use his heel tactics to grab his chain to try and hit Joe with it, but he was caught with a Diving Body Press and a Revolution Bomb to get another easy win for Joe Doering.

Rating: Tony Schiavone and a half.

 

Six Man Tag Team Match
Billy Ken Kid, Shuji Ishikawa & Suwama vs. Dylan James, Jake Lee & Keiichi Sato

Review: We got our current World Tag Team Champions, The Violent Giants teaming up with Billy Ken Kid as they take on former Tag Champion, Dylan James and his partners, Keiichi Sato and future star, Jake Lee. Dylan looking to get a victory over the Violent Giants so he could get a rematch for those titles and maybe with a new partnership with one of his fellow teammates if they do somehow win tonight.

Dylan looks to be slowly finding his stride after his match with Kento Miyahara a couple of months ago and it’s a good thing to see this progression of his ability and if he keeps it up, he could be much better in the ring. This tag match was very solid with Violent Giants proving why they’re one of the best tag teams in Japan right now and the growth of Jake Lee, who I still considered the future of AJPW next to Kento Miyahara. Plenty of high impact between both of these teams with Shuji showing why he’s one of the best there, plus the interactions with him and Dylan weren’t too shabby either while Jake was mostly focused on Suwama and it feels like it could be a big seller if done right since you have Suwama who was the former ace of the company and a guy on the rise, so it would be a neat passing of the torch if they wanted to go that route.

Near the ending of the match, Shuji and Dylan were in the ring as Shuji hits Dylan with the Dragon Suplex and then a Running Knee while Suwama held Jake down with a Sleeper Hold to prevent him from interfering as Shuji hits the Fire Thunder to win the match. After the match, Yoshitatsu would come out to make a challenge to both Shuji and Suwama for the titles and said his partner would be Kento Miyahara again. For those that don’t know, Kento’s goal was to be Triple Crown Champion and Tag Team Champion at the same time to make it so he would be the first to hold five titles since the tag team is considered two per belt but he would always hold onto one or the other, not fulfilling his goal and wants to accomplish it soon.

Rating: Eric Bischoff

 

All Asia Heavyweight Title Match
Ryouji Sai (c) vs. The Bodyguard

Review: We get an All Asia Heavyweight Championship match with Ryouji Sai defending the title against The Bodyguard. The All Asia Heavyweight Championship has been inactive since 1995 and it came back in January of this year where Ryouji would defeat Bodyguard in the finals to win the title. In the Champion Carnival, Bodyguard scored a victory over him to set up this title match here due to them having a win over each other and would be time to settle it here. Can Bodyguard win the title or will Ryouji retain it once again?

What could I say about this match? Well, let’s start with the beginning and it started off really strong since it was mostly brute force with each other to try and beat each other down and it worked for Bodyguard when he kicked Ryouji to the outside and started mauling him down to the point where Ryouji looked like he was kinda knocked out for a bit there. This was where they started to tell more of their story with Ryouji being unable to get up most of the time, even when Bodyguard went for an Irish Whip and Sai just collapsed just from the beating he took.

After that the match starts falling apart, soon as Bodyguard would hit his first Spear the match would begin to get really slow and sloppy and it’s a shame too because I was actually really enjoying it. The Bodyguard would start to hit his power moves over to try and get the victory like his Elbow Drop off the top rope but Ryouji would start kicking out of it all. The Bodyguard went up to the top rope again only for Ryouji to get back up quick enough to hit a superplex for a two count. The Bodyguard would start to hit a second sloppy Spear for another two count and goes for his Bounce move and he completely messed that up big time to win the All Asia Heavyweight Championship.

I would’ve rated this a little bit higher if it wasn’t for the fact that the poorly paced and sloppy second half took away from the match. The Bodyguard is the new champion and got his revenge over Ryouji at the end of it all and I don’t know where this run is going to go but should be at least interesting. The Bodyguard is like Joe Doering, he can go when they show it and are highly motivated but it’s so far in between that there’s hardly any consistency with their quality of matches and it just hurts them.

Rating: Eric Bischoff and a half.

 

All Asia Tag Team Title Match
Jun Akiyama & Yuji Nagata (c) vs. Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi

Review: We first had the All Asia Heavyweight Championship match and now we got the All Asia Tag Team Championships on the line with a rematch from the June 12th show where Jun Akiyama and Yuji Nagata defend the titles against Naoya Nomura and Yuma Aoyagi. The last time they both fought, they had a great tag team match and they would be able to retain the titles, but NEXTREAM said they would want a rematch for the belts soon and we’re getting that tonight. Can they get that big win over these two legends or will they make lightning strike twice on them and still come out on top?

There is a small little story here between Yuma and Jun where Yuma was never able to pin him directly and would always come up short when they’re in the same ring together, but he is looking to change that today during the match and from the looks of it, he’s going to need a lot of luck. Jun and Yuji are just too tough for our two rookies here as they just have the power, the experience, and just better than them overall, but Naoya and Yuma have that determination to never give up and make sure they will win this time, and that story is what sells for this match since you know how important it is to them to prove themselves against some of Japan’s best in this match. I loved the interactions between Uncle Jun and Yuma since I mentioned just a while ago about how Yuma never defeated him and you can see the intensity in their interactions together and it’s mostly them in the match together to sell the story between the two much better. I loved their first bout together better since it showed great action and storytelling, but this was more focused on the story of the match and that part was told better here than the first match, but I would give the first match the better overall. Jun would go back and forth with Yuma with the knees and Jun catches him with an Exploding Suplex for Naoya to break it up before getting tossed out by Yuji, so Jun tries to do it again and he hits another Exploding Suplex but for him to kick out of it this time! Yuma is all fired up now and hits a knee on Jun to daze him as he hits the Rock Star Buster on him to go for the pin and we have new champions!

Yuma was finally able to get the direct win over Jun Akiyama in this match and just seeing them fight together gave me a little bit of doubt, but it was the right time for them to drop the belts to the younger generation. Congrats to NEXTREAM on winning the belts, they worked really hard and are only going to get better from here.

Rating: Bruce Prichard

 

Triple Crown Title Match
Kento Miyahara (c) vs. Zeus

Review: It is now time for our main event with a highly anticipated match as we have Kento Miyahara defending his Triple Crown Championship against Zeus. Sometime in March before the Champion Carnival happened, Zeus would get the direct win over Kento and said he had plans on winning the Carnival and to take the championship, but Zeus would fail to win the tournament and had to wait a little bit to build himself back up until he was ready. In June after Kento retained against Dylan James, Zeus came back out to say he was now ready to fight him for the title since he still did have that clean win over him and wanted to get mentally prepared for this match. Can Zeus win the belt in his hometown of Osaka or will Kento knock him down once again?

Normally the crowd would mostly back up Kento but with the combination of being in Zeus’ hometown and how over he’s been with the fans lately, they were more supportive of him over Kento. The two start off a little bit explosive with some back and forth action with Zeus showing his strength and athletic ability while Kento just showed his intelligence in the ring to try and outmaneuver Zeus whenever he can. Zeus would hit a Diving Shoulder Tackle and then kips up and takes him outside to do a little bit more damage to him, but Kento would throw him over the guardrail and attempts a kick until Zeus caught his leg and slams it on the edge of the guardrail to hurt his leg a little bit.

Zeus then had him by the entrance ramp to go for a Lariat but gets caught with a kick to the midsection and hits a DDT onto the ramp to do some damage to his head and that doesn’t stop there as he hits some Headbutts to knock him down nearly dazed, and tops it off with putting his head on the turnbuckle post to hold him there while he laughs in front of the camera until the referee pulled his hair to take him off. Zeus would start selling his head more and get dizzy for the majority of it while Kento finds an opening to try and take care of him and attempts a German Suplex onto the ring apron but Zeus fights him off to get some breathing room, but it doesn’t last long as Kento ran up to him to hit a Brainbuster to the outside. Kento would hit another Blackout and does for just a regular German Suplex Hold as Zeus kicks out of that one and starts to get a small little comeback with some stiff Lariats to turn him nearly inside out, then hits a Chokeslam before going for the Jackhammer and he hits it but Kento kicks out of it!

Match has been incredible and loving the back and forth action and the crowd being behind it as well makes it all the more exciting since you can’t tell who was gonna win the match and it could go either way. Kento would hit him with a few more Blackouts on his head to get him down as he goes for the Shutdown German Suplex Hold, but Zeus would break out of it once again by kicking out his bad leg, but gets caught with more Blackouts on his head. Kento would get all fired up to hit him with one more Blackout once Zeus got to his knees and Zeus would still kick out at two! Kento would charge at him one more time but Zeus catches him with not one but two Lariats and Kento would kick out at two, but Zeus quickly picked him up to hit the Jackhammer and we have a new Triple Crown Champion!

Zeus has finally done it, he has won the belt that has alluded him for years and it happened in his hometown of Osaka, Japan. Zeus has been with the company since 2014 and has been making a name for himself there in his eleven-year career. Zeus would get emotional after the match and rightfully so as he thanked everyone is Osaka for their endless support and he hopes to be a good champion. Zeus would end the show by having a kid in the ring and would carry him over his head to show that he was the champion of the people. Congrats to Zeus for finally winning the big belt, he’s definitely earned it and I’m excited to see where his reign would go.

Rating: Jim Cornette

 

Overall: The undercard was rather weak, but the last two matches were the best part of the show despite an anti-climatic Asia Heavyweight title match also. We got an emotional main event with Zeus getting the big belt finally. We found out that Zeus’s first title defense would be against Shuji Ishikawa and I can’t wait to see how that one turns out.

Favorite Match: Kento Miyahara vs. Zeus

Least Favorite Match: Atsushi Maruyama, Shoichi Uchida, Takao Omori & TORU vs. Carbell Ito, Hiroaki Moriya, Ultimo Dragon & Yoshitatsu

Score: 7.5/10


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International Coverage

(NOAH) POST MATCH INTERVIEWS – 31ST JULY 2018, YOKOHAMA RADIANT HALL

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MINORU TANAKA & HI69

TANAKA: We are the 34th GHC Junior Tag Champions and that equals the strongest NOAH junior tag team, that said, the league has ended inconclusively. But everyone, the story will end in Korakuen in three days time. We saw it earlier. I don’t know exactly who will be the winner, but we will watch it on the monitor like fans. I am looking forward to it, defending the belt against them.

HI69: I think that is true, I thought that getting the win would be natural, so I am disapointed with the results, but the team who wins the league will aim for the belt, that is true of all of us…we will show the GHC Heavyweight fight to all the NOAH fans.

TANAKA: The story of the worthless champions is over now. It is a story that belongs to the past, and it doesn’t matter. Understand?

THE BACKBREAKERS (HITOSHI KUMANO AND HAJIME OHARA)

Q: You have taken a big step towards the finals?

KUMANO: We have aimed to win since the beginning. Ohara has tried hard in spite of the injury, and today we took it. The final will be taken by The Backbreakers. If anyone can win, it will be us.

OHARA: So far I’ve been disappointed, as I have lost a lot. I will not give up, and will take the big step towards winning the title at Korakuen. Kawasaki! Kawasaki will be the title match! I have big ambitions. This year it will be for the Backbreakers, so Mui Bien today too!

SUPER NEW GENERATION ARMY (KAITO KIYOMIYA, KENOH, MASA KITAMIYA, KATSUHIKO NAKAJIMA)

Q: A victory today, but still nothing to say?

Go Shiozaki silently touches the reporters chest and leaves.

KITAMIYA: Losing the belt does not change what you do. There is always someone in front of you, the belt is a target, people will keep biting at it…putting the belt on does not change.

NAKAJIMA: Although the belt might have been taken over there, we have just started, don’t forget…we are the ones who take the iniative.

KITAMIYA: If you are a champion, then be strong like a champion. Do you think you have unarmed us without the belt? It is not enough.

Q: Kenoh, Kiyomiya, what your thoughts on the generation struggle so far?

KENOH: I think its funny that those old men have three belts. Like Nakajima said, this has only just begun and I will take back the belt and end this generation struggle.

KIYOMIYA basically says that you have nothing to fear when a team rides on momentum.

YO-HEY & HAYATA

YO-HEY: Finally! Finally! We got our ticket to the finals! But! Frankly 10%, 20%….no, I’m glad about 747%. However, YO-HEY will be in tune for the final match at Korakuen Hall. We will knock the Backbreaking people down with twisting bodies. We will raise the atmosphere, and get a ticket for our second consecutive title! We are satisfied with such a team for the final! This team will go into the final and defeat the opponents! HAYATA & YO-HEY will win two consecutive times…our….I want to eat pumpkin.

HAYATA decides he is leaving. YO-HEY won’t let him

YO-HEY: I want to eat pumpkin…one word…bride…I was impressed by the two moonsaults…

HAYATA walking off as YO-HEY clings to him: Same!

YO-HEY: Same!

Link to original article from Noah.co.jp (in Japanese)


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