With the Champion Carnival coming to a close, the races are getting tighter! Let’s see who takes the lead before the A Block Finale night!
This will be a bit of an action packed article. The Grand Finale is April 29th, but the two nights before that, are nights dedicated to one block and declaring the winner.
Not a foreign concept to many, but since All Japan uses many freelancers, the days aren’t always as clean as say…G1 Climax. Since we’ve got a few days to catch up on, let’s get to the results!
Matches included are from 4/20 + 4/21 + 4/23 + 4/24
- Yuji Okabayashi vs Dylan James: Time Limit Draw @30:00 – **** 1/4
- Kento Miyahara vs Gianni Valletta: Valleta wins via TKO @14:00 – **
- Zeus vs Yuji Okabayashi: Okabayashi wins via Golem Splash @16:30 – **** 3/4
- Atsushi Aoki vs Gianni Valletta: Aoki wins via Choke Reversal Pin @6:50 – *
- Yuji Okabayashi vs Ryoji Sai: Sai wins via Sky Kick @10:05 – ***
- Shuji Ishikawa vs Dylan James: James wins via Chokeslam @15:20 – *** 3/4
- Yuji Okabayashi vs Atsushi Aoki: Okabayashi wins via Argentine Backbreaker @8:30 – ** 1/2
- Kento Miyahara vs Ryoji Sai: Miyahara wins via Shutdown Suplex Hold @22:50 – *** 3/4
This was a hard hitting big boy match. Strong Style, King’s Road style, whatever you like to refer to “old puro” style as, this was very close to it. Yuji caught Dylan with one of his haymakers since you could see one eye start to swell. It had some nice use of the barricades, aprons and ring posts. Yuji hit his Golem Splash, which has won him a few matches, but Dylan rolled out of the ring. A lot of surprising power spurts for the fact the match went so long and they’re bigger wrestlers. If you like big hoss wrestlers just beating the hell out of one another, this is definitely your match.
Well it’s another K-mart corny Bruiser Brody match. Yes, I’m more entertained by different ways to describe my dislike of Valletta than anything he does in matches. The most amusing portion of this match is when Kento fires up, Valletta acts rattled, bites Kento and then Kento bites Valletta back. This match wasn’t good though. A few amusing moments, but given that it’s a Kento Miyahara match, more was definitely expected. It also goes too long since it’s not a good match and just tied together with a few more comedic heel spots. Miyahara losing in such a shitshow of a match hurts on a spiritual level.
The only 4/21 match for A Block is Zeus and Yuji! Coming off the time limit brawl, how much does Yuji have left in the tank? Well now, that answer is a lot. This wasn’t a short match and had a pretty brisk pace considering both men are power wrestlers. They had a rotating Kobashi Machine Gun Chop battle in the corner that Yuji seemed to win. Locomotion Vertical Suplex trades, strike trades…this was just great. Whatever little bit the draw lacked, Zeus and Yuji have great chemistry and beat the hell out of each other. Best match of A Block so far.
Great 4/23 starts with Valletta. This is rough to sustain through an entire tournament. He doesn’t bump well for Aoki, the ref bump looks dumb, the match just looks clunky. Then the finish is unique but kinda stupid as well. I really didn’t like anything about this match, except for Aoki winning.
Well now, we’ve got basically the MVP of A Block, Yuji Okabayshi against…Ryoji Sai. Well this match definitely felt like Sai caught Yuji at the right time. Two long hard hitting matches, Yuji was slower than usual and got caught on several occasions. Solid enough story, but Ryoji is nothing special to watch. His winning keeps the block close, but Yuji should still be well positioned to win the whole thing.
Dylan’s first match since the draw and the black eye is nice and dark now. We get another big boy power battle, and it was pretty fun. Shuji threw a lot at Dylan, and Dylan sold well during the match. Shuji worked on the arm since Dylan’s finishers are a Lariat and Chokeslam, but Dylan fired up at the right time and managed to overcome the damage. Good match with possible tag team championship implications.
Aoki has been pulling off a string of surprise wins, but his luck runs out at Okabayashi. Not a bad match, just never really seemed to capture any type of suspension of disbelief or anticipation. Decent enough match that had somewhat important points ramifications heading into the last day of Block matches.
Our last match of 4/24 and the last match before the ‘Block Finals Day’, contains the Ace of All Japan, Kento Miyahara! I’ll be the first to say that Sai has a propensity to just not engage me in his matches, and this one started off bad. It looked like after the initial exchange he jammed his thumb to the point where the referee had to check on him in the corner and tell Kento to stay back. He continued to mess with his thumb for a good bit of the early portion of the match and that hurt the pacing a lot. Things were spaced too far out, and Ryoji’s constant messing with his thumb was distracting. Eventually the match overcame that and we had a fun spot on the apron where the Young Boy seconds saw Ryoji was going to suplex Kento or something so they pulled out another mat to buffer the champions fall. The last few minutes definitely saved what was a rather reudimentary match, into being something suspenseful.
Overall Score: 8.5/10
With the Valletta exception, this was a lot of solid action. Two big boys duking it out and showing that they’ve got the tanks for 30+ minute matches, a match of the tournament thus far with Zeus and Okabayashi, plus we even got Ryoji Sai’s best match.
Now when we look at the standing, those pesky Draws have really muddied up this whole Champion Carnival block. Let’s go over the eliminated:
Yuma only has 4 points and 1 match left, so he’s dead.
Valletta is out of matches and mustered 6 points too many, but not enough.
Aoki started off slow, but won 3 of his last 4, so he no matter how his last match goes he ends on a higher note. Remember he was the fill in Junior Heavyweight, so he was the underdog from the beginning.
Ryoji is eliminated because of breakers. He does have a win over Yuji, but he lost to Dylan and only has 1 match left. So even if Dylan were to lose, they’d both be at 9, and Dylan has the victory tie breaker.
Shuji is similar to Ryoji, but he lost to both men in the lead and can only tie their point total.
So for the Block Finals:
Kento vs Okabayashi
Zeus vs Ishikawa
Aoki vs Dylan
Yuma vs Ryoji (has no bearing on the winner)
As we see from the matches, Zeus and Kento both need to win, but Kento needs Zeus to lose since Zeus has the tie breaker.
Dylan and Okabayashi are in an interesting spot since they don’t have any head to head tie breaker since they drew, so if they both win, I’m actually not 100% how they would figure that out.
Dylan has the easiest path since Aoki is undersized and definitely not the favorite in that match.
So Zeus still has a shot to pull this out, and I have no reason to doubt my pizza snacks!
Dylan James (4-2-1) – 9 Points
Yuji Okabayashi (4-2-1) – 9 Points
Zeus (4-3) – 8 Points
Kento Miyahara (4-3) – 8 Points
Ryoji Sai (3-3-1) – 7 Point – ELIMINATED
Shuji Ishikawa (3-3-1) – 7 Points – ELIMINATED
Atsushi Aoki (3-4) – 6 Points – ELIMINATED
Gianni Valletta (3-5) – 6 Points – ELIMINATED
Yuma Aoyagi (2-5) – 4 Points – ELIMINATED