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Puro Fury: AJPW Royal Road Final 2016

October 25, 2016 | Posted by Arnold Furious
AJPW All Japan Pro Wrestling
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Puro Fury: AJPW Royal Road Final 2016  

AJPW Royal Road Finals


September 19 2016


This is the fourth All Japan Royal Road tournament. We started in 2013 with Akebono winning, Go Shiozaki won year two and Jun Akiyama won last year. In a way that shows how weak the All Japan roster has become in recent years (Akebono was/is in horrible shape, Go has flopped everywhere as a main event, Akiyama is the booker). The tournament winner gets a title shot so we will see who Kento Miyahara will be defending against, providing he doesn’t win himself. Which he can’t because he lost to Suwama in the first round. This should be sufficient to give Suwama a title shot himself by the way.


Osamu Nishimura, Ryuji Hijikata & SUSHI vs. Masanobu Fuchi, Hikaru Sato & Atsushi Aoki

SUSHI’s gimmick of having dancing girls is starting to really get him over with the folks in Korakuen. Learn the SUSHI dance lads, it’s a winner with the ladies. Nishimura looks as if he was expecting to go for a high price massage this evening, with his elaborate robe. Fuchi looks as if he’s going to a local bar to get shit-faced. This is what happens to respectable gentlemen when they age and less respectable gentlemen when they age horribly. Fuchi is like your Dad, he wants to still be one of the lads and go and have a beer but after the first four pints he wants to go home and put his slippers on. Fuchi is up for wrestling but when he gets in there he just wants to read the paper, or do a crossword instead. Not a tough one, mind you. Or do a stalling scoop slam despite his knackered shoulder. There are some pretty good wrestlers around him, including an inspired Aoki. Nishimura-Aoki is a fun contest although Nishimura is really slow. It’s tough to combine the talents here when two of them are over the hill. It makes the pacing and the tone completely weird. Especially when SUSHI is up top adjusting his nigiri and you’ve got Fuchi dodging the top rope spot. Fuchi ends up rolling SUSHI up for the pin. That really helps no one. This was fun but patchy. All Japan has massive problems with the junior division. To the point where they might as well not have one, although that limits what Aoki, Sato and SUSHI get to do.

Final Rating: **3/4


Royal Road Semi Final

Jun Akiyama vs. Zeus

Zeus has been one of Akiyama’s biggest successes since he took over the book. His improvements have been rapid and focused. To the point where Akiyama is prepared to lie down for him. Akiyama decides to put Zeus through the ringer here with a mass of knee abuse from the bell. Where Zeus lives up to his new higher spot is in coming back from that and beating the piss out of the pencil. He shows genuine fire and Akiyama, from a character perspective, has to defend himself by taking it to the mat. Akiyama is hugely effective at grinding Zeus down, taking away his power base and exploiting his weaknesses. Akiyama just doesn’t have enough to finish Zeus off and when Zeus comes firing back the storyline really kicks in as Akiyama tries the old school mentality of butting heads, not literally, and gets mangled and beaten with the Jackhammer. Zeus got badly worn down here, even in a ten minute sprint and that will effect him in the final. Great showing from Akiyama though. He knows how to put people over. He knows how to present people. He knows that he needs to put his guys through a beating before putting them over. It worked with Miyahara and it worked again here.

Final Rating: ***1/2


Royal Road Semi Final

Kendo Kashin vs. Suwama

Kashin is deliberately in this spot to lose. At this point it’s a debate as to whether Suwama is already set for a title shot without winning this tournament and they go with Zeus before him or not. Suwama missed six months earlier in the year with a torn Achilles. He’s looked tentative since returning but he’s a few months into his comeback and is looking more comfortable. Kashin, asshole that he is, works the Achilles and that’s the focus of the match. Unfortunately Kashin tries for a shoot-style and the size difference doesn’t allow it to work. Plus Suwama’s response is to work the ankle and Kashin feels the need to undo his boot. You can see the look on Suwama’s face; what the fuck are you doing? From there they throw in a ‘hot finish’ with lots of near falls. Suwama ends up pulling the boot off and hooking the anklelock for the submission and holding on for the five count because fuck Kendo Kashin for working over the Achilles. Suwama’s massive ‘fuck you’ finish pulled this one up from Kashin’s weirdness. Worst match on the show.

Final Rating: *1/2


Before the next match Godzilla comes to the ring. No, really. Kendo Kashin’s reaction is walking backwards into the locker room. Do I have to wrestle that thing as well? Godzilla opens a present at ringside and it’s a rugby ball. Whoever is playing Godzilla looks incredibly pissed off while stomping to the back. Watch out Tokyo!




Bodyguard, Ryouji Sai & Taishi Takizawa vs. Takao Omori, Yutaka Yoshie & Mitsuya Nagai

Omori has switched to short blonde hair and his age is starting to show. The magical ‘one last run’ title win is long in the rear view mirror (June 2014*). Takizawa is another loanee for the strapped for cash AJPW. He’s a K-Dojo regular. He’s keen to show he deserves the shot and takes it to Omori. Seeing as everyone else in the match doesn’t care it makes him stand out. Sai, while minimizing his effort, can still throw some tasty strikes to make himself look like the biggest star in the match. Unless you base your status level on muscles, in which case Bodyguard wins. Nagai looks particularly indifferent, especially to Takizawa and he makes the K-Dojo guy look like shit on several occasions. Minamino is out here cornering for Nagai and he pisses off his teammates by tripping Omori. Nagai wipes out the referee and Dark Nightmare cause the match to be thrown out. If this leads to Omori & Bodyguard vs. Dark Nightmare at least this makes sense. It wasn’t good though.

Final Rating: *3/4


*Since then All Japan have had the worst luck with champions. Joe Doering had an experimental run before leaving the promotion and getting diagnosed with a brain tumour. He’s not wrestled in over a year. Go Shiozaki didn’t draw flies so they took the belt off him, tried to adjust his contract to ‘per appearance’ money and he left to join NOAH. Akebono was in poor shape, again, and dropped the belt before leaving to create his own promotion (Oudou) and guesting in BJW. Akiyama had to put the title on himself because there was no one else. Suwama then won it and tore his Achilles. Miyahara has been a regular saviour. He’s enjoying the longest title run since Akiyama’s first run in 2011-2012.


Post Match: Manabu Soya comes out to remind Omori they used to be a tag team. Well, that’d work too. Soya in a suit is just wrong. Also him standing next to Omori reveals how incredibly short he is. Maybe it’s just Omori being tall, at 6’3” but Soya looks tiny and weird.


GAORA TV Championship

Billy Ken Kid (c) vs. Yohei Nakajima

Nakajima has already held this relatively low-key belt three times and is gunning for number four. Billy Ken Kid used to be an Osaka Pro guy. I remember seeing him on a lot of old Osaka Pro tapes. That was a weird company to watch. Osaka is a bit…odd. The GAORA title I thought might have been going places when HEAT-UP ace Tamura won the belt but he held it for just over a week and it’s not been interesting since. Nakajima is his usual self. He’s a bit sloppy but determined. I’ve never really rated him as a worker and I like his ring gear even less. This match has the junior style, where you’d expect flips and such. Neither guy is great, nor do they have exceptional move sets. It’s a reasonably competitive outing and Billy Ken Kid brings that Indy sleaze that we all know and love. Aging budget luchadore is a decent spot for him and AJPW are smart in using him. They botch a reverse rana horribly, to the point where I worry about Billy’s neck. Nakajima clearly isn’t worried about it because he spin kicks him in the neck for the win and his fourth title.

Final Rating: **1/2


Post Match: Masao Inoue comes out to challenge Nakajima to a title match. Inoue is winding his career down, into his mid-40s, and does mostly comedy to get by nowadays. Given Nakajima’s middling talent, I can’t see this working out well.


NEXTREAM (Kento Miyahara & Jake Lee) vs. Naoya Nomura & Yuma Aoyagi

Kento has become AJPW’s top guy, so him being in a tag means it’s second top because he’s in it and he gets a rousing reception from Korakuen, although the camera angles reveal huge blocks of empty seats. They drew 1,183 to this show. It’s better than it was but those empty seats are easy to spot. Kento has dragged Jake Lee up into the upper card with him and boy is this guy a fucking star in the making. I’d personally hold off on Miyahara losing the belt until Jake Lee is ready to face him. It might take two years but it’ll be straight up fire. Nomura and Aoyagi are both very talented too and this is the future of All Japan in the ring. These four guys are going to be rocking All Japan for the next ten years, so it’s best to get them acclimated to each other. Jake is still green and both Nomura and Aoyagi have gaping flaws but they all have time to improve. The clumsy inexperience hurts the match but the effort is so high that it’s ok. Especially Aoyagi’s very deliberate attempts to prevent Miyahara from even getting into the match and Jake Lee stomping the fuck out of him for it. Without even entering the match Miyahara looks like a goddamn star. When he tags in he just murders Aoyagi with a Boston crab where he take a perch on Aoyagi’s kidneys. The match is so fiery good that it almost makes me forget the awkward moments where it doesn’t quite click because of inexperience. Everyone is fucking great in this. Miyahara’s no selling of Aoyagi is brilliant. Nomura going toe to toe with him is great. Miyahara is determined to turn all three of these boys into stars by association. Miyahara eventually kills Nomura with a knee to the face. This is the future of AJPW right here and if Miyahara continues to perform like he is the future is extremely bright.

Final Rating: ****


Royal Road Tournament 2016 Final

Suwama vs. Zeus

I’m looking at the clock and there are 30 minutes left on the show at this point. I really don’t want to see this go 30 minutes. They kick off by standing in the middle elbowing each other. It’s a solid way to work the match because they’re both low on mobility but big on power. It makes sense. They aim high to begin with, and Suwama’s red chest a few minutes in is testament to this, but the wheels fall off the concept as soon as Suwama decides he doesn’t want to take a back bump on the apron in mid move. The match settles into a series of rest holds, given the lengthy run time. Holds are hooked for the sole purpose of eating into the match time rather than serving a reason within the match. You could argue Suwama’s chinlocks are specifically designed to wear away at Zeus’ conditioning but he powers out of them regardless. If a tactic is not working, don’t continue to use it. It makes no sense. Even the referee gets bored and at one point starts yelling at both guys, on a double down, to get the fuck up and wrestle. It’s Akiyama’s fault for putting these two in a long match when they’re not capable of making it interesting. Zeus is massively improved but this kind of thing is beyond him at the moment. Suwama is better off in shorter matches too. They could have got in all their stuff and had a far better match in half the time. Throw in some suspect selling, like Suwama standing there waiting to be hit while swaying slightly, and it’s a weak main event. When they’re striking each other, and using up energy, the match really works. Imagine a 12-15 minute sprint of a match that keeps all that only with more energy! I’m generally not down on long matches but it depends who’s wrestling them. You can see Suwama’s energy levels deplete during this contest and the sequences suffer because of it. There are times where I worry for Zeus’s safety. Eventually, after twenty-five and a one half minutes, Suwama finishes Zeus off with a powerbomb. I’m immediately left wondering if Suwama-Miyahara is a match I really want to see. I worry that Suwama peaked as a wrestler a few years back. You don’t want him unseating Miyahara if he’s on a down swing.

Final Rating: **3/4



The final score: review Average
The 411
The obvious high for All Japan is that whatever Kento Miyahara and Jun Akiyama are involved in drags everything around them up. The downside is the lack of depth on the roster and the general lack of talent available to the promotion. They’re running short on ideas and talent combinations and it’s pleasing to see the kids getting a push because of this and seeing them respond with such positivity. Now All Japan just need another dozen or so like that and they’ll be set! Maybe they should contact DDT about loaning some of their kids because DDT have a huge roster for such a small company. Or even Dragon Gate. At this point AJPW just need some fresh talent.

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AJPW, Puro Fury, Arnold Furious