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Thoughts on AJPW’s Champion Carnival Night Five

September 27, 2020 | Posted by Dick Ford
AJPW Champion Carnival

This is it. Who is going to win the A Block? Who is going to win the B Block? In a couple hours, those questions will have answers, as we march towards the October 5 finale of the 2020 Champion Carnival. In the A Block, it is down to Zeus and Jake Lee for who is going to the finals. As for the B Block, it’s down to Kento Miyahara and Shuji Ishikawa. When I wrote the preview column (here) Zeus, Jake Lee & Kento Miyahara were the three favourites, with Miyahara really being the only one in the B Block who could win the tournament. So it isn’t surprising that we are where we are. That doesn’t mean this tournament has lacked surprises, there’s been plenty of those.

Yoshitatsu (2 points) vs Shotaro Ashino (2 points)

The only match that Yoshitatsu won was his first match against Kento Miyahara during night one. As for Shotaro Ashino, it’s been a tournament of loses, as he’s also only won one match going into his last. There’s nothing in it for these two except pride.

Yoshitatsu has his lower back heavily taped, an injury that forced him out of his second match earlier in the tournament. It doesn’t take long for Ashino to rip off that tape and focus his entire heat on the lower back of Yoshitatsu. It’s easy to see that the forfeit earlier in the tournament was indeed a storyline injury, as every match since the back has been the focus.

Have I mentioned lately how Shotaro Ashino is the real deal? The best match of his in this tournament was against Yuma Aoyagi. I expected Ashino to be in it until the end but All Japan had different plans. Maybe they’ll save a big tournament for when the Carnival goes back to normal in 2021? Lots of big power moves and lower back submissions by Ashino. Eventually they’re too much for Yoshitatsu and he gives up to a sit out ankle lock.

Yoshitatsu finishes with 2 points, Ashino finishes with 4.

Jiro Kuroshio (2 points) vs Kuma Arashi (0 points)

I would expect Arashi to have at least one victory, he has zero. Jiro is about where you would expect being in the A Block. I’m really beginning to appreciate the talent that is Jiro “Ikemen” Kuroshio. I never saw W-1 so my first exposure to him is here in All Japan. At first, I didn’t get it, now I do.

After a high cross body, Arashi got his first victory of the tournament and he reacted like it was a big deal. Jumping up and down celebrating. Jiro, when he loses, has the facial expressions that make you believe he’s about to burst into tears. He had that working tonight after losing this match.

Both men end their 2020 Champion Carnival with two points.

Zeus (6 points) vs Jake Lee (6 points)

Getting over new submission finishes seems to be happening a lot lately in Japan. Zeus and Jake Lee have been doing a much better job than Kazuchika Okada has. Zeus has won with this cross face chin lock that looks like he is trying to twist his opponent’s head off. Jake Lee has won matches while trying to break his opponent’s arm. Which one is going to get the job done tonight?

In a shortened Carnival, having Zeus win here is acceptable. He’s good. He’s safe. All Japan can save one of the young guys winning for when the Carnival is back to normal. Save a Jake Lee or a Shotaro Ashino for when it could really do something for them. Zeus was the top favourite to win the tournament. I handicapped him at -125 at the start.

What started off with submissions and more ground and pound, turns stiff, as Zeus was fed up with Jake Lee working over the arm. Zeus throws some of the best chops in the pro-wrestling business. Lee vs Suwama was very good and while Zeus hasn’t had a blown me away in any match, I’m really enjoying this. The story being who is going to finish their opponent first with their new submission move is so simple, yet compelling. Because you never know which submission move is going to be the one to get the job done. The live crowd bought into each armor that Jake Lee performed and were buying in when Zeus made Lee tap out to his cross face chin lock, going undefeated in the Carnival and advancing to the finals.

Zeus ends with 8 points and Jake Lee finishes with an A Block runner-up total of 6 points.

Kento Miyahara (4 points) vs Shuji Ishikawa (4 points)

Not all four points are created equal. Kento Miyahara lost his first match to Yoshitatsu and then had to win out to get here. Shuji Ishikawa won his first match, won his second via forfeit and hasn’t won since. Bringing us to this winner-takes-all showdown here at night five.

The Miyahara cross face against the ring post spot is fun but I can see why some people might hate it. I’ve said this once or twice this tournament, Miyahara does a fantastic job selling. You can say, he’s the best of the best and when he’s facing a bigger opponent, he gets better. Shuji’s power offense works great with the selling talents of Miyahara. At one point, Shuji slapped on the best cobra clutch in all of puroresu. There was a firearm exchange that was tremendous. Miyahara threw several firearms, Shuji would take them, then throw just one and Miyahara would go down.

Miyahara does these late match facial expressions that tell you he feels like he’s close to closing it out. He hits a couple of blackout knees but he doesn’t get the pin. Shuji follows it up with his own flurry of signature moves (the sit out driver and running knee) but Miyahara kicks out. There were some near falls on Miyahara that were so close to three, I almost took the bait. Shuji hit the Lou Thesz press mount pin fall, a pin he’s used to win with in the tournament, but Miyahara kicked out at the last possible second. The struggle shutdown suplex spot never gets old, don’t listen to the Miyahara naysayers, and three seconds later Kento Miyahara is headed to the finals of the 2020 Champion Carnival to face Zeus.

Shuji Ishikawa finished with 4 points and Kento Miyahara, the B Block winner, finished with 6.

The final night of Champion Carnival is October 5. I come back from Las Vegas that day so I will try and get my recap up ASAP.

You can tweet your thoughts to Dick Ford on Twitter @ffsford or email: [email protected]

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AJPW Champion Carnival, Dick Ford