ALL JAPAN PRO WRESTLING DREAM POWER SERIES 2020
MARCH 23, 2020
HOKUTO OMORI & TATSUYA HANAMI DEF. DAN TAMURA & RISING HAYATO (6:49)
A really fun opener that was a sprint. Hanami also looked pretty good here. I wonder if he is going to be one of those other guys that have great talent but get stuck in 2AW. Not much else to say except the progression of Omori, Tamura and Hayato continues apace and these guys are going to be really good, really soon. Omori got the win with a beautiful Bridging German Suplex on Tamura. ***1/4
SHUJI ISHIKAWA, HIKARU SATO & YUSUKE OKADA DEF. BLACK MENSO~RE, FRANCESCO AKIRA & TSUGUTAKA SATO (10:34)
This started off with some great chain wrestling from Akira and Okada and didn’t let up. Menso~re was the whipping boy for most of this match which is a role he usually plays well so long as his opponents can go. Sato, who I’ve said that All Japan should use more, also looked pretty good here, going toe-to-toe against Ishikawa and managing to get some shots in against the Violent Giant. Okada and Akira were the standouts in this thing. Definitely seemed like these guys were hungry to get back in the ring and really worked hard here for an undercard multi-man tag. Hot finishing sequence with Akira and Hikaru Sato, with Akira trying to counter Sato’s kicks and submissions but eventually fell to Sato’s Cross Arm Breaker. Would love to see a 15 minute match between those two. This was awesome. ***3/4
YOSHITATSU, TAJIRI & JINSEI SHINZAKI DEF. JUN AKIYAMA, TAKAO OMORI & OSAMU NISHIMURA (8:06)
Shinzaki, who turns 54 later this year, is still doing cartwheels and rope walks and the crowd is still popping for those spots. Strangely enough, I didn’t hate TAJIRI here who did a bunch of slow-ish mat work spots with Nishimura, but that’s the kind of guy to do those spots with and have them being entertaining and not boring. The Omori vs. Yoshitatsu sequences leading to the finish were even decent. Yoshitatsu got the submission win with the Yoshitatsu Fantasy on Omori. Got to heat up the world-famous Yoshitatsu going into the Champion Carnival. This was good for a match with no one under 40 in it, and multiple wrestlers over 50 in it. ***
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ROAD TO THE 2020 CHAMPION CARNIVAL
ZEUS, YUMA AOYAGI & KAI DEF. RYOUJI SAI, AYATO YOSHIDA & GIANNI VALLETTA (6:27)
Got a chuckle early on while some of the wrestlers were still to answer, Aoyagi antagonized Valletta and then drew back like a cowardly heel when Valletta started growling at him. The new Aoyagi heel character has been great. Zeus attacked before the bell and they BRAWLED INTO THE CROWD despite all of the COVID-19 measures taken for those in attendance. Wrestlers will be wrestlers I guess. The only real highlight of this match was the Yoshida vs. Zeus sequences which rocked. KAI got the win with a Gannosuke Clutch on Valletta who tried to hit him with the chain. After the match, Zeus and Yoshida went at it. Which is interesting since they are in opposite blocks in the Champion Carnival. Could that be a sign of something? Probably not, since JIN and Purple Haze have been feuding, but in a perfect world it would be hinting at something more significant. This was fine for what it was and had good heat. ***
PWF WORLD JUNIOR HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP
SUSUMU YOKOSUKA © DEF. IZANAGI (8:35)
In my preview of this show, I said that there could be shenanigans in this match which brings it down. Well, in the first minute or so, UTAMARO pulled Yokosuka out of the ring. Izanagi would throw Yokosuka out of the ring not long after that, and UTAMARO gave him a DDT. The actual in-ring stuff was pretty good. But this I don’t like interference in a title match. There were also distraction spots that led to Izanagi hitting a low blow and hitting Yokosuka with a nightstick. Izanagi got some near falls that got some big heat from the crowd. Yokosuka got in a low blow of his own after some failed interference saw UTAMARO hit Izanagi with a chair. Yokosuka would soon get the win with the Mugen. If this had been an eight-minute sprint, this would have been awesome, but I have to deduct points for the interference. I counted at least five examples of outside interference in this match. After the match, Hikaru Sato came out to challenge Yokosuka during the champion’s post-match promo. Though many will think that Sato could beat Yokosuka, I think they should let his Jr. title reign go longer. If you’re bringing in a big outsider like Yokosuka, you need him to put over a young up-and-comer at the end of his title reign. But given that this match is supposed to take place in Dragongate, I don’t think we’re getting a title change. ***1/4
ALL ASIA TAG TEAM CHAMPIONSHIP
YANKEE TWO KENJU (ISAMI KODAKA & YUKO MIYAMOTO) DEF. JIN (JAKE LEE & KOJI IWAMOTO) © (12:24)
The crowd was into this very early on. However, it did start a little slow with JIN working over Kodama for an extended period. Things picked up when Miyamoto got tagged in. Iwamoto and Kodaka had some good chemistry. Lee, who has been generally good in this All Asia Tag Team Championship matches was just kind of there though. Kodaka pinned Iwamoto with the Izamuashi Zan. This became quite good towards the end. Given how long this match was, they should have just turned this into a sprint right off that bat, and I would have given this a higher rating. Yankee Two Kenju are now two-time All Asia Tag Team Champions. With Lee dropping these titles right before the Champion Carnival, it certainly makes you think what that tournament may hold for him. ***1/2
TRIPLE CROWN CHAMPIONSHIP
SUWAMA DEF. KENTO MIYAHARA © (31:25)
There was a great promo video show before the match with each wrestler cutting promos in it about the stakes of the match. It didn’t take long into this match before Miyahara took the crowd into the palm of his hand. Now that sounds like a typical Miyhara match, but in this one, it was on another level, especially because Miyahara takes SUWAMA more seriously than some of his other opponents as soon as the match started. While the formula here was very much similar to other Miyahara title matches – early back-and-forth and brawling outside of the ring, something felt different here. Miyahara was a lot more serious and didn’t do any of his cocky posturing. Instead of Miyahara using the ring to do cheap holds that he has to break at the five count, it was SUWAMA that did it here. And this match was also a perfect example of when Miyahara knows how to escalate his matches to the next level. SUWAMA won the match with a Backdrop Hold after Miyahara took a ton of punishment.
Now here are my minor issues. While Miyahara gave a tremendous performance doing all of these little things to draw the crowd in, I thought SUWAMA took too much of the match and that the finishing sequence wasn’t quite at the level of some past Miyahara matches. I think the desire to put SUWAMA over strongly here interfered a bit with what this match could have been. Given how dominant Miyahara was during this title reign, SUWAMA should have just barely eked out a win. As the match went on, I never felt that Miyahara was in a real position of control, let alone having a chance to win it. That being said, Miyahara put on an incredible performance here and SUWAMA was not far behind him. After the match, all of the Champion Carnival participants on the show came to the ring to cut promos. ****1/2
This show drew 1213 which has to be seen as a success under the circumstances. It was the largest crowd at Korakuen Hall in some time. The booking was surprising to many. A lot of people expected Miyahara to set the record for most defenses of the Triple Crown during a single reign, surpassing Toshiaki Kawada, and tie Mitsuharu Misawa’s total number of Triple Crown defenses. To SUWAMA’s credit he surpassed his own record of total Triple Crown reigns, and is now a seven-time champion, and he also joins an elite group that has held the Triple Crown and World Tag Team Championship at the same time on more than one occasion.
SUWAMA, however, feels like a transitional champion. Jake Lee finally dropping the All Asia Tag Team Championship seems to be a signal that he could be winning the Champion Carnival. But you can’t discount Miyahara winning it now either. And there is still plenty of reason to give Takashi Sugiura good odds of winning the Champion Carnival and beating SUWAMA for the Triple Crown. Overall, this was a very good show with a great main event that laid the ground for the Champion Carnival. And for the first time in All Japan in a while, what will happen next isn’t obvious, which is a good thing.