A little delayed, but still filled with all the Pro Wreslting NOAH goodness. Hisame gives us all the previous week’s NOAH information we love!
CURRENT TOUR RECAP
NOAH held the last three dates of “Global Tag League 2019” in Yokohama on the 29th and 30th April, with the final night being on the 4th May, and an event “Navigation to a New Era” to celebrate the new Reiwa era on the 2nd May.
It had been a grueling tour with two injuries, and four consecutive days in a row, with a day off and then a day on. Not surprisingly when they returned home after the event on the 30th April, their Twitters went dead (aside from Masa Kitamiya who had slept on the bus, couldn’t sleep afterwards, and ate a double helping of a rice and curry dish at 4am).
Happily, NOAH managed to sell out both nights in Yokohama, the event in Fuji Messe, and had the greatest crowd at Korakuen Hall (sold out too), with the best crowd they had ever had since 2015.
True to his new persona, Naomichi Marufuji took to winding up Kenoh (by holding the ropes open for him, and also pretending not to see him when Kenoh decided to menace him by holding his fist in his face), but saved most of it for Daisuke Harada on the 30th April.
Marufuji and Harada decided that they were both going to climb on the same turnbuckle to do Tadasuke’s pose and they got into a tussle (which made them look like Sideshow Bob and Sideshow Cecil fighting over the bunk-bed), and later in the match, Harada refused to tag in Marufuji. Harada tagged in HAYATA, who (not being bothered by such pettiness), tagged in Marufuji. However, Harada wasn’t finished being childish, and wouldn’t let Marufuji join in with the RATELS handshake at the end of the match and kept turning his back on him, or else kicking him away. Eventually Harada threw him out of the ring, and Marufuji (after slapping the apron in an anger), went over to where the belts where, and lightly touched the IPW Junior Heavyweight title.
Later RATELS had to find another way back to the locker room, as Marufuji had decided to stand in the doorway to one of the exits.
Naturally, with YO-HEY being injured in Yokohama (see the entry below), whatever was meant to happen between RATELS and Stinger at Korakuen Hall didn’t, with Atsushi Kotoge taking YO-HEY’s place in the subsequent card change. A nice set up was made for Global Junior Tag League though, with Tadasuke pinning Yoshinari Ogawa.
Hideki Suzuki and NOSAWA Rongai (“The Sugiura Army”) took on Naomichi Marufuji and Junta Miyawaki at the final night of Global Tag League at Korakuen Hall. Although Miyawaki lost (albeit to some very near falls), he said he wants a singles match with Hideki Suzuki.
Suzuki, however, is far more interested in facing Naomichi Marufuji, or as he put it, someone with a belt.
Kenoh’s simmering resentment and jealously finally boiled over in Yokohama on the 30th April when Kaito Kiyomiya was counted out by Masao Inoue clinging on to him and preventing him from getting in the ring, meaning that Kaioh were knocked out of Global Tag League 2019. The Dark Agents actually did better than anyone expected in the league, especially compared to previous years.
Kenoh grabbed Kiyomiya’s hair and screamed at him before getting on the microphone and screaming at him that “tonight, we are done” among other paranoid ramblings about Kiyomiya only speaking words that the company had told him, and that he wasn’t going to do that, no he was not going to be “the company dog” to bark, wag and fetch when the company demanded. Then, in true Kenoh fashion, he finished his tantrum by throwing the microphone at Kiyomiya before stalking off.
Kiyomiya (although he had said they were never friends and probably wouldn’t be, looked upset) and said that the words he spoke were his own and told Kenoh not to be “silly”, and if Kenoh wanted to fight him, instead of stand by him and create a new NOAH, then so be it.
On the 2nd May in Fuji Messe, after the match with THE TOUGH, Kenoh seemingly formed an alliance with them when the three of them stood staring at each other, and Kenoh backed off still staring and pointing his fingers, backstage he hinted at a possible alliance.
At the final night of Global Tag League, this was confirmed when Kenoh announced the formation of a new unit called “Kongō” (the name means “Diamond”), and called out the wrestlers who were dissatisfied with the new company. Yoshiki Inamura (who is only joining as he cannot be separated from Masa Kitamiya at the moment just like Kaito Kiyomiya was with Go Shiozaki this time last year), and the aforementioned Masa Kitamiya were already in the ring, but Atsushi Kotoge came out. Kotoge’s participation is a little bizarre considering that he has joined with Mitsutya Nagai as “The Revolutionary Cloak Heroes”, but this could be the meaning of his vague “Revolution”. Kotoge, however, says he will do things his own way.
After he and Kenoh had yelled at each other from the ring and apron, Kaito Kiyomiya, started an alliance with Maybach Taniguchi, who had now “rebooted” himself as he said he would on the 2nd May, and had gone back to his old name and persona of “Shuhei Taniguchi”.
Fans have cautioned Kiyomiya not to trust him, as (somewhat like Kenoh), Taniguchi has betrayed pretty much every partner he has ever had…but for now Taniguchi seems to be pretty faithful, warning Kongō that he is going to show them “what a company slave can do”.
Masa Kitamiya (who fell to Taniguchi’s new submission of a chicken wing camel clutch), said that between them, it isn’t over….
AXIZ & The Sugiura army clashed twice, first in Yokohama on the 29th April in a vicious match, which started with Takashi Sugiura standing and staring at them and not moving a muscle (Kaioh had the sense to back off when they saw him do it at the start of their match).
The two teams met in the finals of Global Tag League, whereby Sugiura made Nakajima tap out to the ankle lock. AXIZ it seemed, had been hoping to get rid of such a team like “The Sugiura Army” quickly, except now they found they were going to be facing them in the finals.
Takashi Sugiura said that he was now going after two belts, the GHC Heavyweight Tag and the GHC Heavyweight single. No formal challenge has been made yet for the GHC Heavyweight single.
Yoshiki Inamura picked up his first win by using the “Oklahoma Stampede” (which was a move used by Dr Death Steve Williams) over Masao Inoue.
At the final night of Global Tag League, Inamura had a singles match against Yuji Hino, who praised him after the match.
Sadly, there has been no announcement of when Kinya Okada will return to the ring.
The Backbreakers ended their tag team in Yokohama on the 30th, with Hajime Ohara later joining The Sugiura Army after the event in Fuji Messe on the 2nd May (he wishes to become dominant in the Junior League, and he feels that Takashi Sugiura is the best person to learn this from), and Hitoshi Kumano looking towards the singles league. Kumano said he wanted to thank Ohara for all the experience he had gained by tagging with him, so aside from the singles match they had on the 2nd, there seems to be no further bad blood between them.
“NOAH THE SPIRIT 2019”
NOAH has a small tour in between the end of “Global Tag League 2019” ending, and “Global Junior League 2019” starting.
Saturday 11th May 2019 (17:00): Okazakishi Tatsumigaoka Hall, Aichi
Sunday 12th May 2019 (15:00): Esuporu Iseuma, Saitama
Sunday 19th May 2019 (17:30): YAMADA Green Dome, Maebashi Sub Event Arena
GLOBAL JUNIOR TAG LEAGUE
Global Junior Tag League will run the following dates:
Tuesday May 28th 2019, Korakuen Hall, Tokyo – 18.30
Thursday May 30th 2019, Hiroshima Industry West Hall Exhibition Hall, Hiroshima – 18.30
Friday May 31st 2019, Yonago Convention Centre BIG SHIP – 18.30
Saturday June 1st 2019, Osaka World Hall – 17.00
Sunday June 2nd 2019, Act City Hamamatsu, Shizuoka – 18.00
Saturday June 8th 2019, Yokohama Radiant Hall – 17.30
Sunday June 9th 2019, Tokyo Korakuen Hall – 11.30 (Mitsuharu Misawa memorial)
Thursday June 13th 2019, Osaka Edion Arena – 18.30 (Mitsuharu Misawa memorial)
In a long awaited happening, it has been announced that Chris Ridgeway will participate in this years league, teaming with Hitoshi Kumano. He says that it has long been a life goal to wrestle in Japan, and also for Pro Wrestling NOAH. Ridgeway is of course no stranger to NOAH, albeit in the UK and not in Japan, having wrestled Kenoh for Frontline’s opening night, and Daisuke Harada in the IPW Junior Heavyweight Tournament.
The teams announced for the tournament are:
Yoshinari Ogawa & Kotaro Suzuki (current champions)
YO-HEY* & HAYATA
Hajime Ohara & NOSAWA Rongai
Hi69 & Minoru Tanaka
Daisuke Harada & Tadasuke
Hitoshi Kumano & Chris Ridgeway
Seiya Morohashi & Junta Miyawaki
YO-HEY & HAYATA
Sadly on the second night in Yokohama (the 30th), YO-HEY picked up an injury to his left lung. If you watch the match you can see him clutch his lower rib-cage and speak to the ref, ironically this worked out quite well as given Stinger’s heel tactics, it looked as if he was hamming it up while his teammates beat up on the opponents outside the ring.
Sadly, this was not a work, and after the match, YO-HEY said that he didn’t feel well and was taken to hospital. Hooked up to various machines (plus a tube in his lung), he was visited in the hospital by various NOAH wrestlers (and other friends like Jiro Ikemen, who YO-HEY said was “the twink from the proctology department”), officials, and his old friends in RATELS. Daisuke Harada and Go Shiozaki played with an iron grappling claw (by making it pinch YO-HEY), one of the trainers bought him erotic books, Tadasuke bought him cigarettes (which he couldn’t smoke), and on a couple of occasions, people bought him MacDonalds. Interestingly, although YO-HEY seems to have documented most of his visitors (including Atsushi Kotoge who has been the most recent visitor, who YO-HEY said had come to give him a psych evaluation, and the first day YO-HEY has left his hospital room), at the time of writing, Stinger, apparently have not.
Although he was in a lot of pain when the tube was first put into his lungs, the tube has since been removed (which he described as “severe pain” unsurprisingly), YO-HEY appears to be on the mend, although no date has been set for his return.
YO-HEY’S first visitor was HAYATA, which was surprising as both RATELS and Stinger were at war with each other. Following this, YO-HEY said in a tweet and later an interview, that he wanted ti team with HAYATA for the third year in Global Junior League.
“After all, this tag league follows the two consecutive wins with HAYATA. Although I will be with Stinger, and HAYATA with RATELS, I think I want to aim for the third consecutive victory with YO-HEY & HAYATA, my feelings on this are strong…I don’t know what he thinks, or Ogawa and Kotaro from Stinger, and I don’t know what RATELS think either, but if HAYATA is good, I want to go into the tag league with HAYATA and aim for the third win in a row!”
When asked about it, HAYATA just walked off. This isn’t anything to be read into though, this is just HAYATA being HAYATA. YO-HEY later posted about their teaming again with delight, ending the post with “thank you wife”.
- GHC Heavyweight Champion: Kaito Kiyomiya
- GHC Junior Champion: Minoru Tanaka
- GHC Heavyweight Tag Champions: AXIZ (Go Shiozaki and Katsuhiko Nakajima)
- GHC Junior Tag Champions: Stinger (Kotaro Suzuki & Yoshinari Ogawa)
~ Kenoh & Takashi Sugiura had a Twitter war over “Kongoh”
~ Tadasuke celebrated his 14th anniversary in wrestling, while Atsushi Kotoge celebrated his 12th.
~ Mohammed Yone’s afro has reached mighty proportions apparently
~ Naomichi Marufuji (who may have been a little drunk) tweeted about looking for a tag team partner, Takashi Sugiura said that he sounded lonely, so maybe he should join Kongoh…
~ Minoru Tanaka & Hi69 photobombed Kaioh when they pulled their pose with Tanaka pulling a face and Hi69 giggling
~ NOAH’s new boy is still at ringside
~ Katsuhiko Nakajima asked the audience if AXIZ would show them a new “symbol of strength” when they faced Takashi Sugiura, and the audience said “NO!”.
~ Yoshinari Ogawa has been wrestling in three of Japan’s eras, he spent his early career in All Japan during the Showa Era (he entered the dojo very young at only about 16 or 17 years old), NOAH was born during the Heisei era in 2000, and now Japan is in the Reiwa era.
~ Atsushi Kotoge made HAYATA do the “Revolutionary Fist Pose”.
The final night of Global Tag League will be broadcast on May 11th at 10pm JST on Samurai TV
The first night of Global Junior League will be broadcast live on G+ on May 28th 2019 at 6.30pm JST.
The 9th June show (the Misawa Memorial from Korakuen Hall, Tokyo and the second to last night of Global Junior Tag League) will be broadcast by G+ on Thursday 13th at 8pm JST.
Kenoh formed a new unit “Kongoh”, Kaito Kiyomiya teams with Maybach Shuhei Taniguchi
Sugiura’s team defeat the GHC Tag Champions in the Global Tag League War
Kenoh launches a unit of dissidents “We won’t be obedient to the company”
Takashi Sugiura targets GHC tag and single full of Noah love
GHC Heavyweight champion Kaito Kiyomiya, builds a “Golden Age”
Terminator theme for when Noah live streams mute “When Love Comes To Town” for Takashi Sugiura
GIF OF THE WEEK
PICTURE CREDITS: Noah GHC, PKDX
Newsletter written by Hisame
Andrew’s AJPW Champion Carnival Results & Match Ratings: 4.9.2021
All Japan’s Champion Carnival kicks off today! The Triple Crown Champion Suwama is in action as well as the Ace of the company Kento Miyahara! Check it out!
All Japan’s Champion Carnival kicks off today! The Triple Crown Champion Suwama is in action as well as the Ace of the company Kento Miyahara! Check it out!
Now I haven’t kept close eyes on the product last few months, because personally, they weren’t grabbing my interest post Quarantine Comeback. But since my Puro Patronus Mathew Sarpraicone is having some computer issues, I guess I’m covering the first couple of these!
Let’s see how the tournament starts!
- Shuji Ishikawa vs Koji Doi: Ishikawa wins via Thesz Press @9:09 – ** ½
- Suwama vs Kohei Sato: Sato wins via German Suplex Hold @10:49 – ***
- Yuma Aoyagi vs Shinjiro Otani: Otani wins via Overhand Chop @9:51 – *** ¼
- Jake Lee vs Shotaro Ashino: Jake wins via D4C @3:44 – **
- Zeus vs Kento Miyahara: Zeus wins via Jackhammer @18:16 – **** ¼
Shuji Ishikawa vs Koji Doi
Doi is the least recognized name in the tournament this year, and last I was aware of his was during the closure of Wrestle-1. Most of his success has come in the tag team division, but he’s no real slouch. Interestingly, Ishikawa is the newest Gaora TV Champion, but also was tied heavily to Suwama and their Violence Giant tag team.
We see Doi come out fast trying to throw Ishikawa into the corners and take him off his base. Ishikawa towers over Doi, so Doi was underneath, literally and figuratively the entire match. As Ishikawa hit most of his signature spots, including the Mushroom Stomp from the middle rope, Doi had a moment where he locked in the Rings of Saturn; but Ishikawa is just too big.
As Doi tried to keep the pressure up, rope runs, big strikes, Murder Lariat attempts from Doi but Ishikawa stifles the surge with a Fire/Thunder Driver. They both stumble up, run the ropes a bit trading lariats and charges, Ishikawa jumps, hits a Thesz Press and manages to keep Doi down for the 3 count!
Suwama vs Kohei Sato
An early card match gives us the Triple Crown champion against one of his more recent challengers! Falling short for the Triple Crown a few months ago, Sato has a little bit to prove.
The match opens as a slugfest, Suwama gets the best of things and rides the power advantage over Sato for a long time. Sato is taller than Suwama but Suwama is more powerful and controlled the pacing. Things went to the outside and the former Violence Giant kept up to the name.
When the match came back in to the ring Suwama looks to try and finish things, goes for the Rolling Lariat, but it gets blocked. Sato starts fighting back, hits a Falcon Arrow for a near fall, and then Suwama starts looking like he’s in trouble. Suwama hits the Double Chop comeback, and tries a Powerbomb, but Sato blocks it, Sato goes for a Powerbomb, but Suwama blocks it. The power struggle is tangible, but Suwama seems to be losing some of the back and forth. Sato rocks Suwama, locks in the German Suplex, and hits the German Suplex Hold.
Kohei gets on the board and avenges his loss! Depending on how the tournament shakes out, Kohei might get another shot at the title in the future.
Yuma Aoyagi vs Shinjiro Otani
The veteran Otani is putting Yuma through the paces early. He’s side stepping Dropkicks and just kicking Yuma to prove a point. Yuma tries to fire back, and then Otani continues to push off certain moves and be funny.
Yuma does manage to take advantage of his youth, but when he goes for the disrespect by attempting the Bootwash, Otani fires, lays out the younger wrestler and hits the Wash. Yuma goes to the outside, and when he turns back to the ring, Otani charges and hits a running Bootwash straight to Yuma’s face.
As Otani takes the role of the cagey veteran punishing the Young Boy, Yuma tries to find ways to come back, but things Otani stays a little ahead of the younger wrestler. Yuma gets a close moment where he locks in End Game, but Otani fights to the ropes. Otani then backs the younger wrestler down, hits Dragon Suplex, then goes for another, but Yuma blocks. Otani counters the block with a lariat, then another Dragon Suplex but Yuma kicks out at 1! Refusing to stay down, Otani goes into his bag of tricks and hits Yuma twice with Hashimoto style Overhand Chops, to finally keep the younger man down.
Jake Lee vs Shotaro Ashino
So there is some fun history between these two when Ashino brought Enfantes Terrible over to AJPW and took JIN down a peg. But then recently, Jake stole the Enfantes members from Ashino and betrayed JIN. Ashino is looking to avenge the turnabout, but Jake is trying to craft his Carnival masterpiece.
Jake definitely has the swagger of an anime villain. He widens his arms like he’s conducting a symphony and moves slowly yet deliberately. Ashino starts quick, hitting a Drop Toe Hold and going to the ground game, but Jake stabilizes. Ashino again brings Jake down after successive German Suplexes and goes for the Ankle Lock! Jake has trouble navigating it for a while, but eventually finds the ropes.
Retreating to the corner, Jake sees the referee, Ashino charges, Jake uses the referee shield and starts taking advantage. A few direct blows to the head, Giant Killing to the back of the head, followed by D4C. Jake drags the referee back, picks up the win and leaves cackling. He’s limping heavily, selling the viciousness of the Ankle Lock even in a short match, but yeah, not what I expected.
The match was used to help build Jake’s new persona and possibly give Ashino a steeper mountain to climb. But the length and abrupt end was definitely not expected. Interesting, but also a little off putting.
Zeus vs Kento Miyahara
Zeus and Kento have had great wars. There was a point a few years ago where Kento was Zeus’ hurdle, but after beating him for the Tag titles, he then gathered momentum. Zeus has beaten Kento for the Triple Crown before, has beaten him in the Carnival, and this has been one of the best rivalries of the last few years in current AJPW. Kento is of course the current generation Ace, and everyone knows that; but given Zeus’ track record and Kento’s stagnation the last year since losing the Triple Crown to Suwama, we could get something interesting.
The match starts with their usual sarcastic respect to one another during breaks and outside the ring moments. Given that they’ve had 2 5 Snowflake classics in the last 3 years, this had a lot to live up to. But at no point did it feel like retreading, since they are both in different positions comparatively, this felt like a whole new book, not an additional chapter. Zeus landed a lot of power spots while Kento combated everything with his Knees.
Kento’s usual attack of Blackouts from different angles rocked Zeus pretty hard. Zeus ate a few, grabbed a Chokeslam and they both landed for a rest spot. Zeus drives Kento into a corner, goes for an Outside-In Brainbuster and starts trying to end things. Kento goes for the Shutdown Suplex, Zeus fires out, a few big Lariats and a Jackhammer from Zeus…AND ZEUS WINS!
Overall Score: 7.25/10
Now this wasn’t a bad start to things! Sure the Ashino/Jake Lee match did not go the way I expected, it definitely told enough of a story to prove it’s going somewhere. Shinjiro Otani gets a solid start to things, Shuji Ishikawa won a match he was supposed to and Zeus/Kento ended up being a solid day 1 main event.
Kento has started on the back foot before. I guess we get to see if he wins out until the Final Day, or if he has a larger struggle. Let’s check out the Day 1 Standings!
- Zeus: 1-0 – (2 Points)
- Shuji Ishikawa: 1-0 – (2 Points)
- Shinjiro Otani: 1-0 – (2 Points)
- Kohei Sato: 1-0 – (2 Points)
- Jake Lee: 1-0 – (2 Points)
- Kento Miyahara: 0-1 – (0 Points)
- Suwama: 0-1 – (0 Points)
- Yuma Aoyagi: 0-1 – (0 Points)
- Shotaro Ashino: 0-1 – (0 Points)
- Koji Doi: 0-1 – (0 Points)
Champion Carnival 2021 Preview : Will Anyone Dethrone Suwama ?
Val breaks down the 2021 Champion Carnival and gives his take on how he thinks it will shake out! Check out the AJPW round robin tournament April 9-May 3!
Knock knock ! It’s tournament season at the door !
Here we are ladies and gentlemen, the first few tournaments of the year are starting to take place, and today we are focusing on the biggest upcoming one, All Japan’s Champion Carnival !
With “new” faces entering the field, and a slightly different format yet again, what does this year’s edition has in store for us ?
Let’s discuss that, and more !
As mentioned in the intro, the format of this year’s Carnival, once again, has changed a little bit. Thankfully we do get the tournament during the usual time period, this time from April 9th until May 3rd.
While the number of participants remains the same at ten, this time, there is no block to win, and all the competition to go through. One block, the two men with the most points make it to the finals. A rather simple formula, for a rather complex tournament to fully predict.
This year’s field once again feels quite stacked, with at least 6 potential finalists !
With all of that said, let’s look at all the participants !
Jake Lee (Total Eclipse) ; 4th entry
Let’s start with the man with all the momentum going his way as the Carnival approaches : Jake Lee. The leader of Total Eclipse, All Japan’s newest faction, recently turned on Koji Iwamoto, leaving his long-time partner in Sweeper and JIN to formed this new group, with all of the now former Enfants Terribles members, at the exception of Shotaro Ashino, as well as Tajiri sliding in.
With this new shift, Lee enters the tournament with one purpose. Finally winning the tournament, and claim the Triple Crown championship for the first time. Is this the year for Jake Lee to eclipse all the competition once and for all ?
Key match-ups : Suwama, Kento Miyahara, Shotaro Ashino, Zeus.
Shuji Ishikawa ; 5th entry, GAORA TV champion
The second man we’ll be talking about is Suwama’s former tag team partner, and new GAORA TV champion Shuji Ishikawa. While he didn’t take too much of step back in last year’s CC, Ishikawa might have to this year given the stacked nature of the field. We ultimately can’t take Ishikawa fully out of the equation, yet this year could be the first one where he doesn’t end up within the higher half of the participants points wise.
Key match-ups : Suwama, Kohei Sato, Koji Doi.
Suwama (Evolution) ; 16th entry, Triple Crown champion
While we’re onto the former Runaway Giants, let’s talk about the man with a target on his back in Suwama. The Triple Crown champion has now been carrying the belt for more than a year. He’ll look to cap that reign off with another big time Carnival performance, aiming for the ultimate victory. As it is often the case with champions, he most likely will fall short, but count on All Japan’s veteran champion to find his way near the top of this one block.
Key match-ups : Shotaro Ashino, Jake Lee, Zeus, Shinjiro Otani.
Kento Miyahara (NEXTREAM) ; 8th entry, World Tag Team champion, 2020 finalist
As we spoke of the champion aiming for victory, here is the only man in the field to win the Carnival while being Triple Crown champion : Kento Miyahara. Now holding the World Tag Team titles alongside best mate Yuma Aoyagi, it is rather safe to say Kento won’t win the Carnival this year. Reaching his fourth finals in a row isn’t however, and ruling out the possibility of the current All Japan Ace making history that way wouldn’t be the smartest thing to do.
Key match-ups : Jake Lee, Shotaro Ashino, Suwama, Zeus, Shinjiro Otani.
Yuma Aoyagi (NEXTREAM) ; 3rd entry, World Tag Team champion
Moving on to the other half of the World Tag Team champion and NEXTREAM lieutenant Yuma Aoyagi. Yuma has been on the rise ever since his first Triple Crown title match against Miyahara, and he now comes across as someone we can rather easily consider as a potential finalist this year. While it may still be early for Yuma to break through to such a degree, this Carnival looks like the perfect field for him to further the statement he made not only against Kento, but against Suwama as well : He definitely belongs as one of All Japan’s top stars.
Key match-ups : Suwama, Shotaro Ashino, Shinjiro Otani, Koji Doi.
Shotaro Ashino ; 2nd entry
Let’s now talk about the other man currently caught in the eye of the storm, the former leader of Enfants Terribles Shotaro Ashino. Not only motivated by the wish to do much better than last year, Ashino enters with the prospect of beating the man who took his faction away from him in Jake Lee, and finally get a win over Suwama.
Needless to say Ashino enters this tournament as one of the favourites to reach the finals, given his implication within All Japan’s main arc going on.
Key match-ups : Suwama, Jake Lee, Kento Miyahara, Koji Doi.
Kohei Sato ; 1st entry
Surprisingly or not, this is indeed Kohei Sato’s first ever Carnival appearance ! The veteran, one half of Twin Towers alongside other participant Shuji Ishikawa, is no easy foe to take on for anyone taking part in this tournament. While it wouldn’t be shocking to see Sato rack up double digit points, chances are we might actually see him take a step back, as the younger generation comes knocking hard in All Japan, and there may not be enough place around the top of this block for Sato.
One thing is assured, the tower once belonging to ZERO1 will leave broken skulls behind its path.
Key match-ups : Suwama, Shuji Ishikawa, Shinjiro Otani, Yuma Aoyagi, Jake Lee.
Zeus (Purple Haze) ; 8th entry, All Asia Tag Team champion, 2020 winner
Now let’s finally look at the defending Carnival winner, and current holder of the All Asia Tag titles. Since losing to Suwama for the Triple Crown, Zeus has sort of fallen back among the hierarchy, if he ever truly climbed a few spots since his sole Triple Crown title run. If there is someone among the current All Japan stars who might fall back this year a little bit, it might very well be Zeus.
Key match-ups : Suwama, Kento Miyahara, Jake Lee, Shotaro Ashino, Yuma Aoyagi.
Shinjiro Otani ; 1st entry
And now, let’s take a look at this year’s wild card : The legendary Shinjiro Otani. In the field of veterans still able to work more than decently well as they get closer to 50, Otani ranks more in the upper echelon. Is there much to expect in terms of results ? Hard to say. How much will Otani impact this year’s field should be one of the most interesting things to follow during this Carnival, coming across as the n°1 wild card here.
Key match-ups : Suwama, Kento Miyahara, Kohei Sato, Shotaro Ashino, Yuma Aoyagi.
- Koji Doi (Total Eclipse) ; 1st entry
Finally, let’s talk about the man who will, most likely, eat a lot of pinfall losses. In such a field, there will be someone taking much more losses than the others and, it’s hard to not look at Doi here. Whether he does fit in such a role, like Kuma Arashi last year or does better than expected record wise, let’s hope he can at least show how talented he is on what likely is All Japan’s biggest stage.
Key match-ups : Shotaro Ashino, Zeus, Shuji Ishikawa, Yuma Aoyagi.
Matches to look out for :
In case this is your first Champion Carnival and / or simply don’t really know which matches to look forward to, here is a list. Most of these matches should impact the standings and help shape up how the tournament will go, with a select few likely being decisive matches. And if they’re not, you will almost be guaranteed a good watch !
- Yuma Aoyagi vs Shinjiro Otani – April 9th
- Jake Lee vs Shotaro Ashino – April 9th
- Suwama vs Jake Lee – April 10th
- Yuma Aoyagi vs Shotaro Ashino – April 10th
- Kento Miyahara vs Shotaro Ashino – April 11th
- Jake Lee vs Shinjiro Otani – April 17th
- Jake Lee vs Yuma Aoyagi – April 18th
- Suwama vs Yuma Aoyagi – April 24th
- Kento Miyahara vs Kohei Sato – April 24th
- Shotaro Ashino vs Shinjiro Otani – April 25th
- Suwama vs Kento Miyahara – April 25th
- Jake Lee vs Zeus – April 25th
- Suwama vs Shinjiro Otani – April 28th
- Zeus vs Shotaro Ashino – April 28th
- Suwama vs Shotaro Ashino – April 29th
- Kento Miyahara vs Yuma Aoyagi – April 29th
- Kento Miyahara vs Jake Lee – May 3rd
- Shotaro Ashino vs Koji Doi – May 3rd
Val’s predictions and thoughts :
As I often brought up while going over each of the participants, this year’s field is rather stacked and thus, more so difficult to predict in general. As you’d expect from the Champion Carnival, in a sense. However, there still is one big guideline allowing us to start somewhere.
Last month, all of Enfants Terribles turned on Shotaro Ashino, leaving him all alone while Jake Lee sided with the now leaderless Enfants, taking over leadership and ditching JIN and his longtime partner Koji Iwamoto in the process. The Lee-Ashino match-up already looked like the main story to build towards last year when the Carnival was finally held, but a different route was taken. Approximately 6 months later, this match-up got pushed towards second gear, and we enter this year’s Carnival with a pretty clear “main arc” to develop.
The question being : Will the tournament revolve around this arc ?
I don’t think I need to preface this : I think that yes, and I would dare say it is rather obvious, that this year’s Carnival is set around Jake Lee and Shotaro Ashino. Thus, I lean towards the same finals match-up I predicted last year, which already was these two facing each other.
With that said, what about the winner of this final ?
Last year, I picked Jake Lee to win the Carnival over Ashino. That also isn’t changing, for two main reasons. The first one being Jake Lee’s ascent, which is obviously linked to Ashino’s “downfall” here. Both men were at a bit of a critical place prior to the landscape shifting moment happening. Lee especially was struggling to find success after his losses to Miyahara, failing to beat Zeus in the Carnival last year, in the A block’s deciding match. He also failed to win Real World Tag League alongside Iwamoto, as JIN came up short against NEXTREAM in the finals, failing at this stage for the second year in a row.
While Ashino comes off two losses against Suwama for the Triple Crown, the situation is different. One can afford to lose in order to keep chasing the one that cannot. The one that cannot drastically changed his ways, in what may be read as a desperate attempt at finally finding success again. Success Lee hasn’t touched since September 2019 when winning the Royal Road tournament.
Therefore, according to my possibly nonsensical and illogical ramblings, Jake Lee will be the Champion Carnival winner this year. And mostly likely end up being the one to dethrone Suwama.
One other aspect I wanted to discuss rapidly in this section is : How is Yuma Aoyagi’s Carnival going to look like ?
Ever since trying to prove his worth against Kento Miyahara last year, Aoyagi has only kept growing and legitimizing his status as one of the upcoming top players in All Japan. Winning RWTL alongside Kento, defeating Suwama and Shuji Ishikawa for the World Tag Team titles, and following a day later with a star-making performance against the same Suwama for the Triple Crown.
Following this match, there is little to no doubt, at least in my mind, that the Carnival should serve as a way for Aoyagi to cement what the Suwama match showcased. By putting very good to great matches of course, but that won’t be enough. Yuma needs to win, and if possible against big names. He needs to end up ranking rather high in this 10 men block. Is making it into the top 5 with double digit points a fair bar to reach for the oldest of Aoyagi brothers ?
With that said, this 2021 Champion Carnival preview reaches its end. What are some of your thoughts, predictions and expectations ? Hopefully, you are looking forward to this year’s edition as much as I do, as this Carnival definitely looks promising.
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