All-Japan Pro Wrestling
Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Championship
Eyeing the card for All Japan’s January 2nd Korakuen Hall show, the match of the most interest to me was Ultimo Dragon defended the AJPW World Junior Heavyweight Championship against Atsushi Aoki. Let me restate that – a juniors match between a well past his prime Ultimo Dragon and the nondescript Atsushi Aoki was (on paper at least) the matchup on an All-Japan card that I was drawn to above anything else on the card.
This is not your father’s All Japan.
All Japan’s struggles aside, Ultimo Dragon is still a remarkably solid professional wrestler even in the twilight of his career. It was more than a decade ago that Dragon’s in-ring career was thought to be over due to a back injury, but here he is in 2014 carrying a slightly-off Atsushi Aoki through a perfectly acceptable junior heavyweight title match.
Aoki targets Dragon’s arm with very basic but effective arm work for the bulk of the match. This comes after an opening section that ultimately leads nowhere, which was a staple (and largely a negative one) of junior matches during their mid-90’s heyday – a heyday that Dragon was a big part of. Dragon impresses during these opening minutes with some mat work and arm drags that are as smooth as ever. Aoki, as mentioned, is effective working over the arm and Dragon’s selling of the arm does it justice. The small, uninterested All Japan crowd at Korakuen even byes a false finish when Aoki is able to apply a cross arm breaker.
Objectively, this was just a run-of-the-mill mid-90’s junior style match but in 2014, we don’t get many solid matches in that style. For that reason, it sticks out. It is the best match from this card, even if by default.
Juniors | Watchable | Title Match