Category Archives: April 2014

(04/29) Jun Akiyama & Yoshinobu Kanemaru (c) vs. Dream Team Futures (Keisuke Ishii & Shigehiro Irie)

DDT
Korauken Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
AJPW All Asia Tag Team Championship 

In a quick turnaround for Jun Akiyama, just two days after falling to Takao Omori in the Champion Carnival finals he and tag team partner Yoshinobu Kanemaru put their All Asia Tag Team titles on the line at a DDT Korakuen card.

As a duo, Ishii and Irie have appeared on some recent All Japan cards.  Even so, this match on paper had all of the markings of a lower-profile promotion attempting to use an outside title defense to beef up their major card.  Those matches usually follow a pattern.  The local challengers get a bunch of close near falls and are made to look good, but ultimately fall short.  The fact that the script was flipped – with Ishii and Irie actually capturing the All Asia belts – was the most noteworthy development in this match.

Ishii and Irie are still a bit green, but worked hard.  Between this match and the final day of the Carnival there has been a lot of Akiyama to watch recently.  He continued his solid but ultimately unmemorable string of performances here.  Kanemaru ran all around the ring here getting in his offense and bumping late for the DDT pair.

The match picked up a bit in the last minute or saw as the Dream Team Futures started to roll out some near falls that were accentuated by late kick outs from the champs.  It appeared that the crowd did not totally buy a title change but at the same time the near fall reactions got progressively better so they certainly succeeded to that end.  When Kanemaru is rolled up and counted down for three, there is a nice loud and genuinely stunned reaction from the DDT fans.  Nothing truly out of the ordinary but a good, excited reception for the surprise title win nonetheless.

This was a solidly executed underdog title win but one without any real future ramifications in all likelihood.  It is sort of shocking that the All Japan would even keep a secondary set of tag titles around given their current state.  Being the All Asia tag title holders does not mean much anymore, but maybe it will give Ishii and Irie a little rub and slightly higher profile.

Diagnostics
Japan Tag | Common | Tag Title Switch

(04/27) Takao Omori vs. Jun Akiyama

All Japan Pro Wrestling
Osaka Bodymaker Coliseum, Main Building (Osaka, Japan)
2014 Champion Carnival Final 

In no way, shape or form will anyone confuse this match with a Champion Carnival finals classic like – for example – the 1995 Misawa vs. Taue final.  2014 Akiyama and 2014 Omori are not 1995 Misawa and 1995 Taue.  This All Japan is not that All Japan.

What the current version of All Japan is – at least on its best days – is a promotion full of veteran and/or experienced workers who know who they are and have solid matches.  That attainable upside is reflected in the 2014 Champion Carnival finals.  Akiyama and Omori wrestle what can only be descried as a solid match.  They don’t do anything that wows, but they also don’t do much that frustrates.  There is no confusing this year’s Carnival final for a classic but it is a perfectly acceptable professional wrestling match.  Whether that is “good enough” is a trickier question but it is certainly better than many of the alternatives.

The match is worked at a good pace considering both participants are in their 40’s.  They begin with the obligatory strike exchange that is unfortunately almost all but unavoidable in modern Japanese wrestling.  The bright side is that it does not last very long.  The opening minutes also feature a quick back-and-forth cumulating in a brief standoff that was both well-executed and well-placed within the structure of the match.

The rest is standard fare.  The match heads to the floor where Akiyama lands a DDT on the ramp – an old spot of his that he continues to show a fondness for.  Both guys had their necks worked over in their semi-final matches but DDT aside that never really comes into play here.  It is not a big deal because neither wrestler’s neck was ever treated as a legitimate weak spot anytime during the night.

If there is an aspect of this match that best demonstrates Akiyama and Omori’s positive” old pro” attributes, it is that the match never goes overboard into too many moves, fighting spirit spots, or head drops.  Maybe they have learned from the mistake of many of their peers from 90’s-era All Japan or maybe they simply don’t feel like killing themselves in their third match of the evening in front of a small crowd (though decent sized by modern AJPW standards).  Regardless of the motivation, the result is a positive in that they build a match that has an air of importance to it without resorting to those overkill tactics to achieve it.

There were some nitpicky negatives in the match.  Omori does that really terrible looking backdrop tombstone pile driver move.  Akiyama straps on the leg head scissors without much thought when they need a break.  Plus as fine as “solid” is, there is nothing truly memorable or re-watchable here.  The aspect that comes the closest is the story of Omori finally winning the big one which is a nice moment and a fine way to give an otherwise non-descript Carnival some added value.

It is hard to imagine that the plan all along was for anything other than Omori winning the entire tournament.  Akebono needs more challengers not fewer, so it is unlikely he was schedule for the victory.  Shiozaki just recently challenged for the title and lost in what was a fun bout, so a win from either injured participant was likely never in the cards.  Omori will now go after Akebono again after falling to him in a title match earlier this year.  Wouldn’t be surprised if the 2nd time is the charm for him.

 

Diagnostics
Japan Singles | Worthwhile | Quality & Importance (Champion Carnival Final)

(04/27) Suwama vs. Takao Omori

All Japan Pro Wrestling
Osaka Bodymaker Coliseum, Main Building (Osaka, Japan)
2014 Champion Carnival Block A Finals

In the A-block, Suwama and Omori also both ended with 8 points apiece necessitating another tiebreaker for the block championship. Again, All Japan appeared fortunate in how the booking worked out. Suwama’s third and latest Triple Crown reign immediately proceeded Akebono’s current reign. Omori has to be on the more enduring, well-regarded Japanese heavyweights of the past 20 year period to have never won a major singles championship or tournament in his home country. It is not a bad matchup for a semi-final considering the circumstances. All Japan was somewhat fortunate in this regard as had they booked the early matches of the tournament differently, the injuries suffered by Akebono and Shiozaki could have theoretically forced their hands into booking less-compelling semi-final and final matches involving wrestlers like Zeus, Yutaka Yoshie, and Kendo Kashin.

The Block A semi-final was a tick below the Akiyama/Doering semi but neither match was materially better or worse than the other. There are a few more strike exchanges and a little less selling here which is an issue if that stuff is not your particular cup of tea. They work hard but not dissimilar to the Block B final, this is just a brief bridge to get to the championship match. This match – like the one before it – clocks in at just around 10 minutes.

Suwama is window-dressing for this match. Akiyama has already advanced to the finals. An Akiyama and Suwama final match lacks any real importance. Omori’s quest to win the big one and a matchup between the two guys that were around during the All Japan 90’s golden era (even if Omori was a young, non-star wrestler during those years) are the true compelling stories left in the injury-ravaged tournament. Any final involving Suwama wouldn’t be nearly as compelling so it seemed only a matter of time before he fell. The match needed to be competitive, however. Omori could not run right through Suwama without giving away the tournament ending. Omori wins this one but the match does nothing to make anyone believe he is destined to win the finals and get the championship monkey off of his back.

Diagnostics
Japan Singles | Common | Importance (Champion Carnival Semi-Final)

(04/27) Jun Akiyama vs. Joe Doering

All Japan Pro Wrestling
Osaka Bodymaker Coliseum, Main Building (Osaka, Japan)
2014 Champion Carnival Block B Finals

Booking pro wrestling tournaments is never easy. Laying out a strong tournament requires advance thinking and planning, as well as the ability to think and react on the fly when those best-laid plans are challenged by uncontrollable circumstances. One can assume that those charged with booking the 2014 All Japan Champion Carnival had a plan for the tournament that they liked and that was well thought out in advance. Unfortunately for them, that pre-planning mattered little as soon as Triple Crown Champion Akebono and Go Shiozaki were forced to withdraw from competition mid-tournament due to injuries.

Nothing left to do but to move onto “Plan B”. As far as Plan B’s go, All Japan’s handling of the last day of the 2014 Champion Carnival turned out very well.

Doering and Akiyama tied with eight points apiece in Block B necessitating a tiebreaker match after both wrestlers had already competed earlier in the evening. Akiyama is the (active) elder statesman of All Japan; he is the most obvious active link to the 1990’s glory days of the promotion. Doering – despite being primarily a tag-team competitor during his time with the promotion – is also arguably All Japan’s top gaijin. You could do a lot worse for a backup plan tiebreaker match than the “last link to the glory days” versus “top gaijin”.

It is nice to see that Joe is fully embracing the obvious comparisons to Stan Hansen. He is now sporting a full-on vintage Stan Hansen mustache to complete the look. The resemblance might not be uncanny, but it is certainly noticeable. Doering opens the math by charging right at Akiyama and knocking to the mat with a shoulder block. If not for Akiyama’s bald head, the complete lack of fans in the crowd and the fact this was NOT a 30-minute draw, you *might* think you accidentally slipped in a tape of the 1997 Champion Carnival match between Akiyama and Hansen instead (or maybe not . . .).

Doering is okay as a Stan Hansen doppelganger and Akiyama is still pretty solid in his advanced age. Akiyama spends most of the sub-ten minute match selling and does a fine job. Doering has a bunch of offense and it is a mixed bag, though what he pulls out here is generally acceptable big-man offense of powerbombs, suplexes, and lariats. Towards the end of the match, Akiyama catches Doering with a desperation exploder suplex as he has done many, many times throughout his career. Doering pops right up in a fighting spirit moment but sees his attempted-lariat blocked by Jun who delivers another exploder. The sequence was well done and done so quickly that it negated what is often an eye-rolling and unnecessary moment of no-selling. The match could have ended there but at least they got a strong near fall out of it.

Akiyama does eventually prevail, moving to the finals for only the second time in his career: 1998 when he lost to Misawa and 2013 when he captured his only Carnival championship.

Diagnostics
Japan Singles | Common | Importance (Champion Carnival Semi-Final)

(04/05) Christopher Daniels & Frankie Kazarian vs. Harlem & Lancelot Bravado

Dragon Gate USA
McAlister Auditorium (New Orleans, LA)

Even though both Daniels and Kazarian were still under TNA contract at the time this match took place and had wrestled outside of TNA at least sporadically in prior years (they had a watchable outing versus the Young Bucks last year in California), this match serves as somewhat of a first look at Bad Influence’s inevitable post-TNA career. This match – which headlined the WrestleMania weekend Saturday DGUSA show – was not included on the live stream nor will it be included on the home release as TNA contracts forbid those sorts of things. Presumably, the match is okay to air on YouTube because of the fact that it is free.

For some reason even though the match was released by DGUSA directly, it is not in widescreen.

If a single match can be used as any serious indication, then Bad Influence would seem to have some value as a veteran mid-card tag team that can have okay matches and put guys over. When the former TNA tag team champions are in charge early in the match, there is a fun, breezy tag team flow to it. The spot where Kazarian telegraphed the obligatory arm drag take over after cutting off the Bravado’s offense was neat without being overly contrived. Kazarian cut off one of the Bravados and went to arm drag him over in a normal babyface tag team spot. The Bravado saw it coming and put on the breaks but Kazarian was already easing into the move and fell on his side. The Bravado pointed to his head letting us know how smart he is (Arn Anderson would approve) and the match continued. Some seconds later, Kazarian bluffed an arm drag and the Bravado brother in the ring flinched which then allowed Kazarian the opening to perform the move for real and hit it this time. It was a fun sequence playing off some normal tag team conventions.

The Bravados took over on offense and worked an extended heat segment on Daniels which just wasn’t very good. This is largely because the Bravados are not very good. In a promotion with a deep tag team roster, I think they could be decent opening match heels but that might be the extent of their value right now. They have a time-tested gimmick of rich, southern white boys and play it well (cardigans instead of ring jackets is a nice touch) but for guys who have been teaming together for a while now, they are not quite where one might expect them to be. Their movements are very tentative and they simply lacked the offense here to work a compelling a heat segment on Daniels.

If the body of the match revealed the Bravados’ weaknesses, then the ending did the same for Bad Influence. Their post-hot tag offense ranged from dated US indie offense (Daniels’ iconoclasm) to just goofy in general (Kazarian’s reverse tombstone pile driver deal). Watching this match, the impression I get is that Bad Influence would work well in working 5 to 10 minute matches as either veteran heels or faces but in all likelihood promotions will book them in more expanded, dream match roles which is far from their best use at this stage in their career.

The first few minutes and even the heat segment of the match showed they could be a fun veteran baby face team putting over heel tag teams in, for example, Ring of Honor. The end showed that booking them in long, featured matches might be a less than ideal role in terms of maximizing their value, but I imagine that is what they will mainly end up doing post-TNA anyway.

Diagnostics
US Tag Team | Common | Rare (Bad Influence outside of TNA)