If you haven’t yet checked out the review for days 1-4 of the tournament yet, you can do so HERE
We now reach the part of the tournament that separates potential winners from those likely to finish bottom of the pack. Will the likes of Doering and KAI make up for their slow starts and can the likes of Hino and Takagi build upon their big wins and make a late run into the tournament? Let’s take a look at what happened on days 5-8 of the Champion Carnival tournament…
Block B Match: Jun Akiyama vs Yutaka Yoshie
This is very similar to Yoshie’s previous two matches; we get the dive from the apron early on, Yoshie’s dominating stretch where his opponent struggles to hit their signature move (in this case Akiyama’s exploder suplex) and Yoshie making the big mistake of going up top only to end up crashing down to the mat. Akiyama manages to hit the exploder in the end, but Yoshie manages to make the kick out. Akiyama follows up with some knees and then the wrist clutch exploder for the three, getting his first win of the tournament not via a roll-up. Fine match but if you’ve seen Yoshie’s previous two matches in the tournament, then there’s nothing new here.
Block A Match: Nomura Naoya vs the Bodyguard
It’s a battle between the Bodyguard’s power and experience vs. Naoya’s speed and fighting spirit. Bodyguard takes the early advantage and begins to wear Naoya down. Bodyguard keeps it slow paced, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have some big lariats and power moves in store for poor Nomura. Nomura fights back though, trading spears and strikes with the Bodyguard, before going up top and hitting a diving splash for the two. Nomura tries his luck again, but eats a pair of knees this time. A Samoan drop, diving back elbow, high kick and a big lariat soon come Naoya’s way but he manages to survive it all. Naoya then avoids a press slam and rolls up the bodyguard for two. Bodyguard delivers another high kick, but Naoya manages another roll up for the three. Great match from two guys that will likely be finishing near the bottom of the A Block.
Block B Match: Naomichi Marufuji vs Dylan James
You can bet Marafuji doesn’t plan on falling to the man his arch rival in this tournament (Akiyama), beat in quick time on the first night. James attacks Marafuji before the bell and from that point he is a freight train that Marafuji can’t seem to slow. With his strikes having little impact, Marafuji goes up top but gets knocked right out onto the ringside floor. A pair of dropkicks finally bring the big man down late into the match, but Dylan recovers quickly and Marafuji ends up eating a powerslam and a delayed suplex. Dylan goes for the chokeslam but Marafuji backflips his way out of it, in a moment that needs to be seen. Marafuji then brings in some classic Marafuji striking offence, but Dylan seems unaffected and goes right back to the chokeslam but Marafuji counters this one into a rollup and gets the win. This match did well in that it made Dylan James look really strong in defeat. Nothing to go out of your way for.
Block A Match: Shingo Takagi vs Bodyguard
Bodyguard lets Takagi know early on that this isn’t Dragongate, and he doesn’t have the power advantage at all here. They go outside where Takagi gets introduced to the pillars holding the venue up, and then to the floor with a DDT, before getting rolled back into the ring for a two. Takagi tries to make a comeback by exchanging strikes but this does not work out in his favour, and a corner lariat, backdrop and an elbow drop soon follow. Takagi manages to mount some offence but momentum sticks with Bodyguard, who hits the diving back elbow and suplexes Takagi into the ropes. Takagi turns the tables in his favour with a Death Valley drop on the ring apron, with Bodyguard getting back in the ring at nine. Takagi then wins a big exchange of lariats for the win. This was an ok match but nothing too special to see here really.
Block A Match: Nomura Naoya vs Yuji Hino
This was one of the first matches of the tournament that felt truly one sided, with Hino clearly being the more dominant. That’s not to say the plucky Naoya didn’t have his moments, notably hitting a big german suplex and getting several near falls from roll-ups. It’s Hino who wins very comfortably in the end though, finishing Naoya off with a massive lariat and powerbomb for the win. Again not a must see match by any stretch, but serves its purpose of continuing to make Hino look good.
Block B Match: Zeus vs Yutaka Yoshie
Finally, we get to see something different out of Yoshie in this tournament. It’s Zeus who takes the early advantage here, as someone strong and powerful enough to take the fight to big old Yoshie. Yoshie gets back into the match but then makes the same mistake he made in his previous matches, by going to the top rope and ending up getting thrown to the mat. A lariat exchange follows, and Zeus looks to end things with the Jackhammer but isn’t able to get it, instead getting squashed by Yoshie. Yoshie then goes back to the top again… and he hits the splash for the three! Was nice to see a match that didn’t feel as formulaic as Yoshie’s previous matches but unfortunately its plodding pace continues the night’s theme of just ok matches.
Block A Match: Miyahara Kent vs Ryoji Sai
Miyahara starts strong, but after missing a blackout knee and hitting the post, the story of the match is spelled out. Sai works over Miyahara’s knee with submissions and also ends up hitting a dragon screw on the apron, causing further damage. Miyahara manages to hit some offence when he gets the chance to create space and build speed, and when Sai misses a diving foot stomp from the top, Miyahara capitalises with two blackout knees and a German for a two. Another blackout knee soon follows, and the shutdown German suplex puts Sai away. Really good match, not on par with the very best we’ve seen in this tournament, but head and shoulders above everything else on the card tonight.
Block A Match: Joe Doering vs Ryoji Sai
Sai gets a takedown on Joe early and targets the leg, smart stuff right? He then decides to switch to a more striking/power game which is not such a smart idea against Joe. Sai tries to set Joe up for a superplex but it doesn’t work out too well, though he does hit a big regular old vertical suplex for a two count. Joe comes back with a huge crossbody and the revolution bomb for the win. Short but sweet match.
Block A Match: Shingo Takagi vs Yuji Hino
Oh man, this match. Both of these guys are potential finalists, and the outcome here will likely have a big impact on the final standings. Hino has no respect for Takagi and lets him know it early on. Takagi is not having any of that, and he goes for the full-on assault early, but Hino is just an immovable object he can’t power his way through. Takagi finds an equaliser in the form of a trusty steel chair, using it to target Hino’s arm. Hino isn’t on the defence for long however, and he soon reasserts his dominance by delivering multiple power moves on Takagi. As the match wears on, Hino get more and cockier, strutting around like Takagi is no threat at all. Takagi tries for the Death Valley driver on the apron spot, Hino blocks but Takagi ends up delivering it on the outside instead. Back inside Hino wins a huge chop battle and delivers a top rope splash for a two and three quarters count. Takagi avoid a powerbomb and hits the last Falconary but it’s not enough to put Hino away. Takagi then hits two massive lariats, but Hino survives again. We end up with the two men having a full blown Lariat battle, which Hino ultimately wins for yet another near fall. Finally Hino Hits the F bomb for the big win. What a match this was, a definite contender for match of the tournament and we still have two big matches to go tonight.
Block B Match: Jun Akiyama vs Suwama
After some initial strike battles, this turns into a brawl outside with barricades and chairs going everywhere and the announcer getting very grumpy with both men. Akiyama lands a knee drop to the back of Suwama’s head, then a high knee in the ring, followed by a guillotine but Suwama reaches the ropes. Some exploder suplexes come Suwama’s way, followed by another knee but he kicks out at two. Suwama gets some offence of his own in, and goes for a powerbomb but Akiyama blocks. Suwama hits a big lariat, but it only gets a one count. More lariats follow for a two, but then Suwama locks in a chokehold and that gets him the win. This wasn’t the night for these two men to steal the show, but they provided a compelling match nonetheless.
Block A Match: Kento Miyahara vs Shuji Ishikawa
Miyahara has the home field advantage here as he’s from Fukuoka (where tonight’s event is taking place). Early on Ishikawa introduces Miyahara to the barricades and then gives him a draping DDT on the floor, Miyahara does a great job of selling his neck following this, and that becomes the target of Ishikawa’s destruction, who punishes him with his power offence and delivers a nasty piledriver out on the apron. Yet more punishment comes Miyahara’s way in the form of a diving top rope foot stomp, and a dragon suplex soon follows too. Miyahara’s comebacks mostly come in the form of his blackout knees, but they never last too long and soon another Fire Thunder piledriver comes his way, to which Miyahara makes the big kick out at two. Ishikawa follows up with the splash mountain powerbomb, but Miyahara survives again! Miyahara hits one of the biggest blackout knees you’ll ever see and then follows it with the shutdown german suplex for the win. Really great main event that played well to the crowd that was totally behind Miyahara.
Block B Match: KAI vs Yutaka Yoshie
It’s been a bad start for KAI in the tournament this year, and he’s looking to get back on track here. It’s your typical Yoshie match, with all the usual manoeuvres and spots, so when he heads up top, you know it’s going to end soon one way or the other. KAI prevents Yoshie from taking off and hit the Meteor Impact for his first win. Skippable match.
Block B Match: Yoshitatsu vs Dylan James
Two guys here who entered the tournament with points to prove, arguably produce the best match either of them has had yet in the tournament. Yoshitatsu uses his experience and speed to get the advantage early on, but Dylan takes control when he blocks a codebreaker attempt and hits a big lariat. Momentum shifts a few times, with Yoshitatsu showing a lot of heart and personality throughout the match. Dylan hits a big vertical suplex, to which Yoshitatsu springs right up from, only to take a big lariat from Dylan for a close fall. In the end though it’s the codebreaker that makes the difference, giving Yoshitatsu his second victory of the tournament. Yoshitatsu looked really good here, coming across very likeable and legit. Dylan James also looked good even in defeat.
Block A Match: Shuji Ishikawa vs Nomura Naoya
Naoya shows his heart early on, bringing the offence to Ishikawa until he takes a really rough bodyslam to the ring apron. Ishikawa is more or less in control for a good long stretch afterwards, hitting a diving footstomp to Naoya’s back and then later another one to his front. Naoya continues to fight back though, and hits a top rope splash for a two. Naoya tries to go for another top rope splash, but he gets caught by Ishikawa and takes a superplex, only to spring straight back up, take a dragon suplex, spring back up again and hit a spear! They trade forearms with Ishikawa coming out better and going for the Fire Thunder piledriver, but Naoya escapes, delivers a german suplex and gets the roll up for a near fall. Ishikawa gets back in control and goes for the piledriver again, but again Naoya avoids it and gets the roll up for an even closer fall. Finally Ishikawa delivers the Fire Thunder piledriver, but Naoya manages to get shoulder up (barely). Despite this, Naoya doesn’t really have any fight left in him, and the Splash Mountain powerbomb ends the match. This exceeded all expectations here and was a great bout.
Sometimes tournaments can begin to drag at this stage, and it looked like that may be the case when day six came around. Day seven proved to be the best yet though, with Hino vs. Takagi and Miyahara vs. Ishikawa being two of the tournaments best matches so far. Outsiders Hino and Takagi have done an amazing job of representing their promotions, and alongside Miyahara and Ishikawa, are the MVP’s of the tournament so far. Miyahara vs. Hino or Takagi is maybe the good prediction for the final, but while we’re over the halfway mark, there’s still a long way to go here.
Watch the Champions Carnival on demand: https://www.ajpw.tv/