Now this is an interesting kettle of fish. Everybody I’m sure knows the story of what was the All Japan of the 90’s basically turning into NOAH, and leaving a few remnants to scrape together some semblance of a promotion with guys from all corners of the map. Then of course, Keiji Muto jumped from New Japan and took over as president of the new AJPW. Operating on a small, near indy, scale – modern day All Japan has a unique feel to it modelled after Muto’s “ProWres Love” ideals. Through a combination of booking which gets the most out of a thin roster, and the hard work of a promising crop of young wrestlers, this fed has continued to produce an enjoyable product.
This year has been all about pushing the next generation. Suwama leads the way as the Triple Crown champion, having just won the belts in an incredible 40 minute war of attrition against Minoru Suzuki in Sumo Hall. He’s hot-headed, aggresive and a damn good wrestler. Most importantly he’s over with the crowd, and thus is the perfect man to lead the charge. The afformentioned Suzuki has formed an alliance with his former Pancrase rival from the 90’s, Masakatsu Funaki. These two have looked great in tag matches and complementeach other well with Suzuki’s off the charts charisma balanced out by the more stoic, intense Funaki. The near 15 year break from wrestling has allowed the former shootstyle star to come back in incredible shape with little mileage on his tyres.
Often teaming with Suwama was Masayuki Kono, another young star who just took a big step in his progression by turning full-on heel and being renamed KONO as part of the rudo unit “The Voodoo Murders”. He will be someone to keep an eye on for the next few months. As will the new All Asia Tag Champs – Seiya Sanada & Manabu Soya. These are the two youngest heavyweights on the roster and have looked great in recent times, particularly Sanada who has almost all the tools to be a huge star. With top class veterans like Taiyo Kea (who has been in great form this year) there to rub off on them, they can only get better.
The junior division has gone from one I wasn’t really interested in to one that is awesome. Kaz Hayashi has held the title for almost 20 months and has pretty much run out of challengers so it will be interesting to see where they go next as he tries to beat Masa Fuchi’s record for defenses. Underneath Kaz is the ever reliable Shuji Kondo and Minoru, youngsters KAI, Hiroshi Yamato (who is so so great) and BUSHI, and veterans like Super Crazy.
The only negative to All Japan is there propensity to bring in wrestlers who are less than stellar in the ring. Generally if you steer clear of the matches with Akebono, KENSO and the like, you’ll be fine. Some would lump Ryota Hama into this category but his incredible charisma and “lovability” overcomes any shortcomings he has between the ropes. A great great man!