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  1. This was fun. I had some structural problems with it and the pacing threw me off (too many times where they were just wandering around setting up the next spot, disliked the ringside brawling) but I enjoyed it thoroughly and it had an exciting finish which didn't go overboard with the kick-outs and ended when it should have. ***1/4
  2. Kento Miyahara pretty much came off as the best wrestler in the world in this. His work over the arm & the taped up hand of Suwama was excellent + the way he portrayed his character was a thing of beauty; even though his historic title reign just recently ended by the hands of Shuji Ishikawa, he still is the most confident dude around, because he is the goddamn young ace of the company. His facial expressions tell the whole story; he acts like he has the match in the bag because he dominates Suwama w/ that arm work of his, but then Suwama ends up fighting through it w/ his high impact comebacks & gets the W. Great stuff, a brilliant Kento Miyahara show. ****
  3. No wasted motion or dull moment with this only going 13 minutes - the story was that Doering dominated The Ace by working over his back. I thought that Doering did a really fantastic job doing that. The Boston Crab drama was fantastic. Miyahara also delivered a superb selling performance - he really put over Doering's brutal work by selling his ass off w/ his physical selling as well as his tremendous vocal & facial selling. His comebacks were tremendous & when he got the W, you really got the feeling that he just barely survived. Fantastic match. ****1/2
  4. Very fun tag match, specially for an exhibition show/match. It had a lot of really good exchanges and they did not shy away from the stuff people wanted to see the most. Tana was the star in this, as he gave us asshole heel Tana and he's always fucking amazing in that role. His cutoffs were perfectly timed and I loved the little things like doing to Mutoh sign right in from of him after doing a dragon screw. I also gotta give him MAJOR props for making Sekimoto look amazing, Tana let Daisuke chop him hard as fuck, lariat him to oblivion AND do the doble german suplex spot, that's a level of generosity that's rarely seen in a interpromotional match, specially between such a big star and a big indy name. Kento did the most with his interactions with Tana, and he really came off as a star too imo. He had control of the crowd and his defience over Tanahashi felt natural and not try hard. The air guitar bit was Yoshi was fine, he doesn't do anything wrong but his stuff doesn't really resonate with the crowd (and myself), he's just there. The finish kinda hurt because of that, as the pairing to bring to match home was Miyahara/Yoshi, and even though what they did was good, it didn't really got much of a reaction. This really makes me want to see Tanahashi vs Kento - maybe at this year's CC? Tana is gonna be available - and Tanahashi vs Sekimoto, but that one has no shot of ever happening Cool match, kinda long but I was satisfied with what they did.
  5. There were a lot of positive comments about this Carnival on the main page. Kudos to those folks for taking the time to go through and watch most or perhaps all of the Carnival matches in real time. It certainly was my impetus for tracking what I could down on the 'tube. Here's a link to that post for the participants, outcomes, and discussion. There are spoilers after the first couple entries so be warned. As usual, I'll try to be spoiler free here in the blog. https://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/41548-ajpw-2018-champions-carnival/ I'll begin by saying, I did not nor did I have a desire to watch the entire run of matches. I'm a cherry picking bastard. I'm sure I missed some neat bouts but, I've got a brick of DVDs I want to get to so, this could only be a brief diversion. With that said, I wanted to see 14 matches but, only half were available. So, branched out from the 7 matches and did so chronological as possible. These are my brief take-aways from the matches. -04/14- SHINGO vs Bodyguard: Surprisingly sweet, energetic & charismatic with a great pace. 2 cameras helped (most CC matches are 1 camera from the stands). Highly recommended!! -04/15- SHINGO vs Yuji Hino: Good action with a vocal crowd. Its mainly macho stuff but done with gusto. Highly recommended!! Kento Miyahara vs Shuji Ishikawa: Deliberately paced with Ishikawa focusing on Kento's neck. Killer apron move but, overall its repetitive and somewhat dull. OK match Jun Akiyama vs SUWAMA: Despite the funeral crowd, they fought with purpose and vigor. That's a different kind of finish. Recommended match! -04/20- Joe Doering vs SHINGO: Very good big man-small man dynamics with excellent intensity. Recommended match! Naomichi Marufuji vs Zeus: Zeus is getting really good. They had great chemistry and enthusiasm for fighting. Great match!!! -04/21- SHINGO vs Ryouji Sai: Great attack psychology and selling. Its not an even steven match like some (most?) matches nowadays but, damn SHINGO is bringing the goods. Simple well told story, a Great Match!!! Jun Akiyama vs Zeus: Fought like the Finals, hot damn! Great match perhaps!!! Naomichi Marufuji vs SUWAMA: Best day so far. Headlock focus, nice surprises, good striking. 'Fuji looked like a kool killer here. A great finish too..this felt like a classic 90's AJ CC match. They really put it out there. Great match!!! -04/22- Naomichi Marufuji vs KAI: Alright KAI! Another really good fight with body work giving it focus. Both dudes kicks were right on the money but, the single fixed camera hurt this. We (I) needed to see the full impact though. Highly recommended nonetheless!! Kento Miyahara vs Joe Doering: Started slow but turned out pretty good. Recommended match! ...whew...still going... -04/25- Zeus vs KAI: Oh yeah! great action, good selling, a nice match indeed. Great or highly recommended!! Jun Akiyama vs Naomichi Marufuji: Unfortunately, the YouTuber loaded the wrong match but should he or she fix that, I desperately want to see it and I will put that review here. (Added 06/15/18): Finally someone put this up! Oh and I'm so glad that they did. Of course there's a backstory but, all in all its the head honcho of NOAH facing the head honcho of AJPW. And damn! It delivered like the mailman! The move selection is something that really sets AJ apart from modern stuff. Its really back to basics compared to NJ for instance. Just good solid hits, holds, and throws. I wouldn't say its Sekimoto/Okabayashi simple all of the time but, it definitely resembles AJPW from the 90's. Anyhow, the moves chosen, the pacing, the fakeouts, taking the time to do nothing but sell, and the truly select few false finishes made this a classic CC match to me. -04/29- Kento Miyahara vs Yuji Hino: Very good contest where the outcome was in doubt (its round robin so Kento could lose but still make the Finals...to me at least!). The finish was a bit too sudden but a Great Match nonetheless!!! Shuji Ishikawa vs SHINGO: Holy shit man! Wolverine vs the Hulk. Ishikawa is great but, SHINGO added so many nice touches and knows when to explode and how to intelligently cut guys off. It came across so well here...dude blew the CC up! Fantastic, classic match. Best bout!!!! -04/30- FINAL Kento Miyahara vs Naomichi Marufuji: A great finish to the Carnival. There were perhaps 2 better matches but, stylistically and business wise, this an awesome closer. Miyahara's comebacks puzzled the fuck outta me though. See:https://prowrestlingonly.com/index.php?/topic/41898-kento-miyahara-vs-naomichi-marufuji-ajpw-champions-carnival-4302018/&do=findComment&comment=5851519 It makes it sound like I loathe the match but, damn it was so close to a classic that I couldn't let it go Out of the Carnival we get a Triple Crown challenge. Kento Miyahara vs Naomichi Marufuji: NOAH leader, old school AJ trained, Misawa endorsed Marufuji vs AJPW's new ace, Kensuke Sasaki trained and hardened Kento Miyahara. It was a great match which featured allusions to their CC 2018 Final. I liked that Marufuji & Kento sorta address the issue of Kento's burst offence. In this match, 'Fuji just about cuts him off every time and with authority. If this was a cognizant decision then, they are in the headspace of the 90's greats of AJ & AJW. Hopefully, we get a rubber match because with the over-time/match-to-match psychology it appears they're employing, that bout has the potential to be a classic. I really, truly hope that happens! Ha! What a dork!
  6. This was an AJPW triple crown title match. This match had a difficult hill to climb, While Kento is really over as ace Dylan James is not he is tag champ but has only been in the company for 4 months and did not have a great CC meaning that he was quite a weak challenger. They only drew just over 1000 people to Korakuen compared to the 4 1600-1750 Korakuen shows in a row for the company. The nobody believed that James had a chance at winning especially with the big osaka show coming up next month and Jake lee making noises about facing Kento. Faced with this challenge of not having anyone believing that Kento would lose the guys did a very admirable job of giving the chance that James could possibly win. They did this by having a very one sided match more so than the match at this show last year when Shuji ishikawa beat Kento for the title. James controlled the majority of the match by working over Kento's chest. This is a simpler and easier body part to work over as it does not really limit the moves that the wrestler worked over can do like leg selling would but still shows the dominance of James in the match. James largely worked over Kento with chops, back elbows, elbow drops, lariats and stomps. It was a brutish display by James with Kento putting over every chop like his chest was being crushed. The comebacks of Kento were quite regular but he never got an extended period of control until the very end where he hit several knee strikes and the shutdown German for the win. What hurt James in the match was that he would control the match with his simple brutish offense but when he went for something more complicated or bigger it was countered and it showed the story of Kento being much better than James in holds and reversals but outgunned in terms of striking. This was how James lost the match, he went for a powerbomb to the floor and a powerbomb later in the match which were reversed he went for something to big and he paid for it. Overall it was a match on the lower end of the great scale with very good performances from both men and did not have any moment when I thought that they ignored selling like I thought Kento did in the second Marufuji match. This match was something of a missed opportunity, not in the work done but in the buildup. With a better built James going in the crowd would have been better and bigger and it would have had more of a possibility that James could win something that myself and the crowd did not seem to think could happen until towards the end. This match could have been really great with a better build up but as it was i will settle at just great. ****1/4 Another great Triple crown title match probably the second best of the year after the Zeus vs Joe match and on a level of the maru and Joe vs Kento Matches. ...
  7. Miyahara's flash offense doesn't bode well with leg selling but he did better than most in that regard all things considered - you could argue he should change his formula when the story of the match is his leg getting worked on, but made the effort to sell as much as possible - and Shingo was awesome working on top. The Wada fuckery at the beginning made this fun from the get go too. Strong main event for Day 1.
  8. I love both of these guys and this delivered almost everything I wanted. From the get go Kento is annoyed by the young kid that the crowd has really grown into in the last year, at first he tries to establish his dominance and act cocky, more concerned about Wada not letting him do what he wants that really treating Nomura as a threat. But Naoya is no slouch and he's in it for a fight, he MAKES Miyahara give a damn by hitting him with elbows and getting up every single time Kento hit him hard. Loved the countout tease and Nomura's comeback afterwards, that spear to roll up pin combination was dope as fuck and had me fooled. Same with Naoya fighting with everything he got so Kento wouldn't hit the straight jacket German because he knew that was death for him. This had some down times but I was compelled throughout by Miyahara's antics, Wada being Wada and Nomura's resilience. The final 5-6 minutes were great - I know some will hate the german suplex "no sell" by Nomura but I was fine with, it was just 1 and he hit one move before going down - shit, whole match was awesome.
  9. Rematch from the RWTL. I thought this was slightly better, mainly because I actually cared this time around for the first half of the match. This is mostly 20 minutes of bomb throwing. There's not a lot of subtleties in it and the control section from the champs is really short - which is a good thing because I think Yoshi sucks as a FIP - so Kento can get in and pick up the pace. For what they were going for, this was good, wouldn't call it a MOTYC or anything like it but I was entertained throughout.
  10. This is for the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. BODYGAA is over in this, to the point that at first he's portrayed not that differently from an underdog fighting from underneath and Kento is doing the dastardly work of a body part (in this case, the neck). The match itself, while not being anything special, is enjoyable because both performers give the sense of urgency a title match needs, and because the crowd is into this the whole way. Kento show much more emotion than Okada usually does. I wonder if they met in their careers, or if they ever will. Bodyguard is charismatic as fuck - considering he's best buds with ZEUS, that isn't a surprise. *** 1/2
  11. This match felt like a more condensed version of their CC match from earlier this year, that was short in itself at around 12m. This match goes eight and a half and is hot all the way through with a great sold out crowd fully behind Joe. The story is, much like the CC match, about Joe working kento's back via clubbing blows, Boston crabs and some of the best Irish whips you will see all year into the corner. Kento sells this work really well but here is where the problem with the short time comes in. He has been worked over but then makes a quick comeback around 5 mins in, they do a few counters before kento wins with the shutdown German. Him coming back so quickly felt rushed due to time constraints and it felt too easy. After the match doering expressed his desire for a triple crown shot in the future but this match made him look a bit too easy to beat for him to earn such a big match. Kento has beaten him twice this year why should he offer him a championship match if he wins his belt back as expected at sumo hall. Small gripes aside this was a very well worked big guy Vs little guy match with a hot crowd. A small way below the cc match at ***3/4.
  12. Well this sure was fantastic. I am not very familiar with Jake Lee, but if he hasn't had that breakthrough performance/match/moment yet, this sure had to be that breakthrough performance/match. They did a fantastic job in teasing that he might pull off the upset against the ace - Kento sold his ass off for him & sold that "oh shit, this kid is the real deal" feeling with his great facial expressions. This was so good. ****
  13. A piece of shit shooter and a bully big boy against the babyface ace and the thicc big boy. Gotta provide at least some stiff shit. This is a weird mixture of light hearted action and bomb throwing. There is no sense of urgence, which is not exactly a bad thing, since they provide some laughs and still put on a good match. Hino and Sekimoto chop exchanges are gross. They are pretty much hitting forearms to the jaw at points, and the sound is loud as shit. Unusual to see Sekimoto being overwhelmed in this type of duel, but it happens here. Miyahara gets his ass kicked by both Sato and Hino and it is glorious. He is a very good underdog in this setting, and even if he does have them lightning kicks, he is blasted with chops and kicks and elbows throughout most of the match and has to fight from underneath. They go into a 30 minute time limite draw, and then ask for more 5 minutes. From them on its just non stop bomb throwing and hot nearfalls, which kinda balances out the more carefree pace of the regular time. Still, no one can actually get the pin. Fun match. Hino is the clear highlight here. He just oozes charisma and some of his offense is pretty unique. *** 3/4
  14. This one is for the vacant Triple Crown Championship. Zeus looks like such an asshole with his sunglasses at a closed building. Great look for a heel. The match itself features your usual story of strenght vs speed. They thankfully leave the feeling out process to a minimum, and while there is some matwork, it feels like they are actually testing each other instead of doing it for the sake of doing it. Story of the match is Miyahara working from underneath after Zeus works on his back, doing a whole lot of slams and holds targetting that region. However, he just cannot get a sustainable offense, instead doing short flurries before getting cut out by Zeus overwhelming power. He is a big boy. The finishing stretch is just bomb throwing after bomb throwing, and Kento does raise the suspense after not being able to bridge on a German Suplex - is he going to overcome the odds? With a nice sense of urgence, Kento finally seals the deal and beats Zeus with an armtrap German. Kento is pretty darn good at playing the babyface ace who gives his all fighting from underneath, and Zeus is charismatic as shit as this heelish roided freak. Some spots felt disjointed at points, and at times the pacing of the match felt slow, but otherwise a good watch. *** 3/4
  15. Some thoughts on this match: Larger arena and card than the Champ. Carnival matches from 2016. Very nice to see AJPW in a venue of this size. Its nice to have SUWAMA back as the roster is kinda sparce. On to the match: Great heelish tactics from SUWAMA. Strong focus on the sleeper hold and trying to damage Kento's neck. Fantastic strike exchanges and selling by both but, esp. Miyahara as the babyface champ. Glad to see zero flip bumps taken from a lariat. Miyahara finally looked like a world champ here and felt the torch has been passed in this match. Rather than "put the belt on the young handsome babyface." Traditional puro with little flash or gimmicks. An alternative to the current NJ style. This was a classic encounter especially for 2010s AJPW.
  16. A feeling out process with referee Wada getting involved when Miyahara won't release the hold in the corner which starts up the body of the match. This was a nice touch. Tiger is focused on Kento's arm with kicks and some great looking armbars. This was a short match so there was no drawn out selling intended, Tiger was just going for the kill. Kento fought back with his kicks and knees and this turned out to be a intense match with good strikes and suplexes in the end. Highly recommended match
  17. If we take AJPW as an Indy promotion, then our expectations won't be set too high. At this point, AJ is an Indy and nothing like the venerated promotion of the 90's. Well, except for the style. With Akiyama back and in charge it is decidedly a throwback to the early 90s. Omori & Jun play the tough but a little over the hill vets with champ Miyahara teaching Jake Lee the ropes. Lee has good potential as he's young, a stiff worker, and not too handsome. He'll hone his craft rather than worry about modeling and super stardom. This match was very good at telling the above story to the fans. Everyone was solid and the work was snug. There wasn't anything awesome but, there wasn't anything offensive either. Jake Lee made an impression which was the point, I think. Recommended match
  18. Good match but much like their match from last year's Champion Carnival it is more a fun sprint than a match of quality similar to their 2014 classic. I think that's probably because of how even both matches were worked, I'd have liked to see longer control segments. For what it was it was fun, both guys have good offence and the finishing run with both of them unloading on each other with vicious knee strikes was very cool. ***-ish
  19. House show match not worth going out of your way to see unless you're a gigantic fan of both guys. I prefer Sato to Miyahara-more convincing when in control and a lot more likely to bust out something I like, whether it be a cool kick, submission or a nice throw. Miyahara knows how to do finishing stretches right but I am not sold on him at all outiside of that and he hasn't really figured out exactly *who* he is as a wrestler yet. Their above average acting made the chest slap exchange suprisingly solid but couldn't cary long control segments of *stuff for the sake of stuff*. **1/2
  20. Wild Burning (Jun Akiyama & Takao Omori) vs. Xceed (Go Shiozaki & Kento Miyahara) - AJPW 12/6/14 There have been strecthes in all these 2014 AJPW matches where they are wrestling at a ***** level and it feels like you are watching 90s AJPW again. The action is explosive, urgent, but also with a sense of purpose directed towards winning the match. The best example of this high-caliber of work is towards the beginning. Miyahara has out worked the bigger, older Omori exposing a midsection weakness. This was not enough for Miyahara who was became obsessed with getting his shots in on Akiyama on the apron. Of course, he paid for his negliglence in the form of a wicked big boot by Omori. Akiyama without missing a beat, seized Miyahara and flung him outside to whip him in the railing. He explosively DDTs him all over the floor. It was like nothing else you would see in modern wrestling landscape. Maybe Brock is that explosive, but that is the only thing that comes close. The problem is unlike 90s AJPW they can not maintain the caliber of wrestling throughout a match rather these are fleeting moments of excellence. These stretches elevate the matches from the usual late 00s NOAH fare. I would say the matches are more similart to early NOAH than anything else. Back to the match, I am 100% sure now that Akiyama was the best offensive wrestler in the world last year. It is scary how deep his arsenal is, but without Misawa, Kobashi, and Taue it is going to waste. Akiyama blasts Miyahara with knees and hits a piledriver in short order. When he does not get the pin, he tags out with authority. I am sure Akiyama has a chip on his shoulder regarding Miyahara. Omori bouncing Miyahara head off the top of the steel post for the super back suplex was the best thing Omori has ever done. Miyahara is such a great young talent. I love how when he gets piledriven he is searching for the bottom rope because he knows he does not have the power to kick out. That is a wrestling acumen very few ever reach. As always, since 2000, a suplex struggle signals Miyahara hitting a hard-fought suplex to tag Shiozaki. I will give Akiyama-Miyahara their suple struggles look hard-fought and having seen a lot of perfunctory suplex struggles I am appreciative of it. Miyahara does the smart thing and tags in Shiozaki. I like Shiozaki's hot tag. It is simple but effective. His chop is the great equalizer. It is the only thing Akiyama has consistently sold all year so it feels like a real weapon. He actually blasts through both Akiyama and Omori. I like Akiyama's desperation to stop the bleeding with one of his bombs but Shiozaki has too much spunk to go for that. Shiozaki is looking lariat but eats a knee and Akiyama clamps on a choke. That is good shit. Shiozaki looks to put his team firmly in position to win, but gets caught quickly. Shiozaki powers out. I like how they are putting over Go. Omori comes in and hits his generic offense and the heat dissapates quickly. Shiozaki chops Omori's lariat arm and tags out to Miyahara. After the tag to Miyahara he trades some moves with Omori. One second Miyahara eats a superplex and the next he is kicking off someone's head with a scissors kick. Once Akiyama is in, he is looking for the win and the match kicks into the big finish stretch. I like Akiyama looking for the Exploder seeing Go coming so he lets go to cut him off, but it is too late and eats the lariat. Miyahara gets a flash triangle and his scissor kick/deadlift German combo as nearfalls. He goes for his kill finish the Butterfly Piledriver, but nothing doing and Omori BLASTS him with a wicked lariat. Omori is good for something. I liked the Boma Ye knee/Lariat combo to a sitting up opponent. Go saves. Akiyama runs through his usual offense of knees to the head and an Exploder head drop to polish off the young hotshot. Easily my favorite of the touted 2014 All Japan match as this one combined a ton of action with the great Akiyama/Miyahara story. Omori dragged shit down a bit. I thought Go wrestled well in the beginning and was a decent hot tag. I liked how they treated his chop and his interactions with Akiyama were good. Still, Akiyama/Miyahara made this match special. If they could just replace Omori with the recently retired Sasaki or someone like that, this match would have a real shot at match of the year. As is, it stands as the one All Japan match that can hang with the best of New Japan. ****1/2