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Thoughts on AJPW’s Champion Carnival Night Four

September 22, 2020 | Posted by Dick Ford
AJPW Champion Carnival

After almost a week off, 2020 Champion Carnival is back for the fourth installment. The first three nights were highlighted by upsets. What will night four have in store? I’m watching it right now, so let’s get to it.

(The number next to the wrestler’s name is the total points scored so far)

Kuma Arashi (0) vs Jake Lee (4)

Could this be the one? Could this be the one match that Kuma Arashi gets? If so, it’ll keep Jake Lee at four points and in a tie with Zeus. The final match of the tournament for Jake Lee is against Zeus. So theoretically, Lee could lose, Zeus could win his match later vs Suwama, and Lee could still have a chance at winning. Arashi would be able to play spoiler, get a victory, and make it harder for Lee to win the A Block. Plus, Arashi can’t go winless, can he?

I have enjoyed Arashi’s matches in this Champion Carnival, it’s clear that he’s trying to make this his best one yet. Arashi is getting a lot of offense in and loves to hit that big man senton. He’s done it from the apron to the floor, from the second turnbuckle to the ring. However, all that offense isn’t enough, as Jake Lee rebounds, hits a running knee and then slaps on an armbar submission move, Arashi gives up. Jake Lee now stands alone at six points atop the A Block.

Shuji Ishikawa (4) vs Shotaro Ashino (0)

The biggest atrocity in this whole tournament and it’s not even close, is the fact that Shotaro Ashino has ZERO points. He’s running out of chances to get some points. I’m not even quite certain that I’ll be able to continue if he loses here.

This has been very good back and forth physical style pro-wrestling. Ishikawa’s hard hitting offense has been very crisp. Ashino is determined to get SOMEONE to tap out to an ankle lock in this tournament. Ishikawa was able to reverse an ankle lock into a release German suplex. Ashino has kicked out at two in three very close near falls. Finally, Shotaro Ashino was able to tap someone out to an ankle lock. The finish he’s been looking for the whole tournament and his first two points. Maybe there’s a chance?

Zeus (4) vs Suwama (2)

From the beginning of this tournament (here) I have been telling you that Zeus is the favourite to win the whole thing. A win over Suwama would further cement this belief. I expect these two to hit hard, lots of suplexes and more hard hitting. The match opens with lariats and suplexes from Suwama. There’s an arm injury that Suwama keeps selling. Is it a real injury or this is a kayfabe injury? It feels like it’s just an angle but what do I know?

Zeus, despite only being 5’8 and that’s if he’s lucky, is able to work a big strong man style because he’s such a big dude. He uses his power moves to slap on a standing cross face submission and Suwama gives it up. Zeus is left standing in the center of the ring, the victor, knowing that it’s coming down to him and Jake Lee in the A Block.

Kento Miyahara (2) vs Yuma Aoyagi (4)

I was at my first ever attended All Japan show on January 3, 2020 (seems like 17 months ago) when Kento Miyahara successfully defended the Triple Crown championship against Jake Lee. While the result of the match was shocking enough, as myself and Dave Meltzer talked about prior to the match, it seemed like it was going to be Jake Lee’s time to become champion. It was the post match angle that left us all in total shock, Yuma Aoyagi turned his back on his friend to try and become Triple Crown champion. That effort would be in vain, as Aoyagi would lose his match vs Miyahara in February. Fast forward seven months, to the next chapter in the Miyahara/Aoyagi story, this time, while the Triple Crown isn’t on the line, an opportunity to fight for it is.

It’s a main event match, at the tail end of Champion Carnival, Kento Miyahara is fighting for his tournament life. If he doesn’t win this match, he can’t be in the running to win it all. He has to win, right? There’s an argument that Miyahara should return the favor from February, which means Aoyagi would win and be in complete control of the B Block. Which now thinking about it, probably means that Miyahara is going to win this match. I so desperately want Yuma Aoyagi to get as close as humanly possible to Miyahara’s level. A win here would go a long way in doing just that. We’ll have our answer in about 30 minutes.

The match starts with tons of showmanship from both men by getting the crowd to clap different beats with pose-downs, there was even some dancing in place by Aoyagi, who doesn’t lack in the charisma department. Miyahara does a great job of stalling but not in a heel way. He doesn’t get in the ring and then quickly roll out but he does walk around the outside, almost like stalking and mix that with his facial expressions and its all just tremendous. I know some people are critical of this and of other things that can be known as the “Miyahara formula” but I would argue that they work! If you take a look back in the history of some of the top guys, formulas were all a part of the act. There’s one thing that very few are better than Miyahara at and that’s selling and if he’s going to win this match, he’s going to be doing a lot of that.

The beginning of this match is Aoyagi on the offensive and Miyahara trying to avoid getting trapped in the front guillotine choke that has worked for Aoyagi in this tournament to win matches. Aoyagi is showing a more vicious side as he chokes Miyahara with the guardrail, Miyahara returns the favor. Another move in the Miyahara formula is the cross face against the ring post and he does here, sticking his tongue out as photogs cameras go crazy. I will say that I am a fan of the physicality that often happens between Wada (referee) and Miyahara. Kento doesn’t like to break hold and Wada isn’t afraid to force him to. While I watch this match, trying to figure out who is going to win, I am reminded of the Koji Doi attacking Aoyagi angles they have done after his matches in this tournament. Knowing that a win here puts him in a position where he almost couldn’t lose, Aoyagi is going to lose this match. I have convinced myself.

So far, this has been a very good back-and-forth match. With neither man getting long runs of offense in. It’s all in spurts and it’s back-and-forth. When both men end up laying on the outside of the ring, the pace slows down but once both men get back in the ring, it’s right back to firing on all cylinders. Miyahara hits a blackout knee in the corner but Aoyagi hits a German suplex and its back to both men being down, this time in the center of the ring. Both men, exhausted, are throwing forearm shots in the middle of the ring and they’re not stopping. Faster and faster, Miyahara tries to get the advantage with a running boot but instead is kicked in the face. Aoyagi hits three consecutive German suplexes but only is able to get a two count. The tide of the match turns when Miyahara hits a big time German suplex from the second turnbuckle. Aoyagi blocks the shutdown suplex, then blocks the blackout knee strike, hits a forearm and perfectly executed spinning heel kick but hesitates to cover and only get a two! Aoyagi locks in his front guillotine choke and for a brief moment, it looks like Miyahara’s goose might be cooked. However, he is able to get to the ropes to break the hold and it feels like it is just a matter of time now for Miyahara to close this match out.

There’s a great finishing sequence of moves and counters that eventually leads to the shutdown suplex and the victory for Kento Miyahara in what could be the best match of the tournament so far. Actually, it is the best match of the tournament up to this point. In fact, the best two matches of this tournament so far include Yuma Aoyagi. Let’s have Yuma Aoyagi be the MVP of this shortened Champion Carnival so that for the 2021 Champion Carnival he can be the winner. There’s my entirely too early prediction for next year’s Carnival: Yuma Aoyagi will win. Back to present day, they did a spot in the post match where Miyahara helped Aoyagi up to his feet and Yuma picked up Kento like he was going to German suplex like he did on Jan 3. He didn’t and was smiling and laughing, Kento was not. However, the two did shake hands and it seems like this is it for now between these two. They picked a great way to go their separate ways as this match on this show was 10x better than the match in February.

The 2020 Champion Carnival continues on September 26 with night 5.

Share your thoughts with Dick Ford on Champion Carnival on Twitter @ffsford or via email: [email protected]

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AJPW Champion Carnival, Dick Ford