AJPW Champion Carnival 2018 Review: Finals (Day 13-15) (25/4/18-30/4/28)

Added by Mike Grindle

You can check out the review for the previous days of the tournament here:

1-4 http://bit.ly/2HiXqTE

5-8 http://bit.ly/2Hb39Yf

9-12 http://bit.ly/2HsRfcq

So we’ve made it to the finals! We’re be looking at both the A block and B Block finals as well as the actual final match itself here. Hino and Zeus go into the block finals in the best position, in that they don’t have to depend on any other results going a certain way. Marafuji, Akiyama, Suwama, Miyahara, Doering and Takagi are all still in the running, whilst everyone else if fighting for pride.

B Block Finals (Day 13)

Naoya Nomura vs. Shingo Takagi (A block match)

Nomura and Takagi both still had a match in hand, so we get this one A block match here tonight. Nomura is already out of the running, but Takagi needs a win to go into the A block finals with a chance. Nomura knocks Takagi to the outside early, and Takagi is clearly annoyed that this “young boy” could do that to him. Takagi soon takes control and his offence has an extra aggressiveness to it as he looks to teach the young Nomura a lesson. Nomura fights back in typical Nomura style, and hits a northern lights suplex and a spear but it’s not enough to put Takagi away. Nomura then hits the top rope splash for two, but when he goes back up you just know he’s getting caught, he manages to fight out of a superplex attempt but eats a pair of knees as he goes for the splash. Some big lariats soon come Normura’s way, but he survives and nearly steals it with a rollup. Some more lariats come Nomura’s way but in the end it takes a falconry to put him away. Alongside Miyahara, these two have been the most consistently good performers and this match continued that trend.

Yoshitatsu vs. Yoshi

Both men are already out of the tournament, but certainly Yoshitatsu will be looking to finish what has been a great tournament for him on a high. Things don’t go his way however, and its Yoshie who picks up the win after several sentons and a top rope splash. This match was fine for what it was but don’t worry about skipping and getting to the good stuff in all truth.

Zeus vs. Kai

Zeus can still make the finals whilst KAI is only looking to spoil the party. Zeus overpowers KAI in the early going, KAI tries to fight back and deliver a dive to the outside but Zeus catches him for a big suplex. Zeus then proceeds to introduce KAI to the entirety of the venue’s seating arrangement (ok that’s an overstatement but honestly, KAI crashes through a lot of chairs). KAI manages to start reeling off some offence after winning a lariat exchange, delivering a big powerbomb, a series of kicks and the splash plancha but Zeus stays in it. A Zeus chokeslam soon comes KAI’s way, but KAI manages to avoid the Jackhammer and a unique rollup gives him the win. With this Zeus is out of the running.

Suwama vs. Dylan James

With Zeus taking the loss, the door is open for Suwama to make another Champons Carnival final. Dylan controls for the majority of the match, but Suwama manages to fight back and hit the backdrop for a two count. Dylan avoids the last ride attempt and after multiple lariat exchanges, he delivers the chokeslam for his biggest win of the tournament. Not a match to blow you away by any means, but a great way for Dylan James to finish off his tournament.

Naomichi Marufuji vs. Jun Akiyama

Was it ever going to finish on anything else? This match has a big fight feel, not just because it essentially serves as the semi-final but there’s a lot of history going into this. You might expect these two to just come out and start punching each other in the face but what we get is a tentative start. When Marafuji disrespects Akiyama on the rope break though, you know things are going to step up a notch and they soon do. Akiyama goes full destroyer mode, delivering a piledriver outside, the knee drop on the apron and a DDT also on the apron. Back in the ring, Akiyama continues to lay in the punishment, every big strike delivered with a real sense of hatred and it is brilliant stuff. Marafuji fights back with his trademark striking combo’s, but when he goes for sliced bread, he gets a back drop followed by a guillotine choke instead. Akiyama delivers the exploder suplex, but Marafuji springs up to deliver a high knee, leaving both men struggling to their feet. Marufuji comes out on top of a striking exchange and delivers sliced bread #2 but Akiyama gets a hand on the rope! Marafuji looks to go for the emerald fusion but Akiyama avoids it and hits a brainbuster, high knee and another exploder suplex but Marafuji kicks out at two. From here it’s a battle of knee strikes and it is Marufuji who comes out on top, delivering strike after strike until one final blow puts Akiyama away for the three. This is crazy amounts of good, maybe match of the tournament. While it can’t hold up to say Takagi vs Miyahara in terms of pure athleticism, the history and psychology of the match was just brilliant.

A Block Finals (Day 14)

Bodyguard vs. Sai

Neither of these guys can reach the finals from here, so it’s only pride on the line. Bodyguard weakens Sai up with a series of gullotines, headlocks and clutch holds, and while Sai comes back to hit some big knee strikes and suplexes, the damage proves too much and Bodyguard makes Sai tap out to the camel clutch.

Joe Doering vs. Naoya Nomura

Doering hasn’t had a bad Champion Carnival, but he has sort of just been there at time. Nomura on the other hand has shined throughout, despite a poor win/loss record. Nomura comes out of the gate fast, but soon runs into the wall that is Doering who then proceeds to punish him. Nomura comes back to hit the spear and a top rope splash, but a crossbody and lariat by Doering later and it looks like it might be lights out for Nomura. As Joe goes for the resolution bomb however, Nomura gets a rollup for the win. A huge (and very quick) win for Nomura here, as Joe fails to make the final.

Shingo Takagi vs. Shuji Ishikawa

Everyone will have their favourites coming out of this tournament, but Takagi might just be the MVP match quality rise, his style helping him stand out from the pack. Ishikawa doesn’t care too much for Takagi’s offence early on here, no selling a fair chunk of it before dominating for a stretch. Takagi comes back with a huge suplex on the big man. The two tease several big spots on the apron before Takagi hits a dive. Ishikawa manages some high flying of his own, with a top rope dropkick and a diving footstomp for a two count. Ishikawa goes up top again, but this time gets caught with a superplex. We get some striking battles, ending with Ishikawa catching Takagi to hit a dragon suplex which he follows up on with a knee strike and the fire thunder. A splash mountain powerbomb soon comes Takagi’s way too but he still keeps on going, going so far as to hit a big lariat and a falconry for a pair of two counts. We then get a striking exchange and Ishikawa hits two knee strikes but again Takagi survives. In the end it takes the Giant slam by Ishikawa to put Takagi, and his hopes of reaching the final, away. What a match this was! Legit near falls, brilliant pacing and a hot as hell crowd. Great stuff.

Kento Miyahara vs. Hino

So it comes down to these two, and both men seem potential candidates for going the whole way. It’s the classic battle of speed vs. power early on but after multiple exchanges it is Hino who takes control. Miyahara makes several attempts at getting back into the match, often using his trademark Blackout knees, but Hino proves to be too big and strong each time, even shaking off a delayed German suplex. After some big lariats, Hino hits a top rope splash for two before signalling for the powerbomb finish. Miyahara escapes the F Bomb however, and delivers the shutdown German for the win! This story here was that Hino is an unstoppable force and Miyahara was lucky to survive, and they told it well. It never quite reached the heights it could have though, and wasn’t quite as good as the other block final or the match it had to immediately follow.

The Final (Day 15)

Naomichi Marufuji vs. Kento Miyahara

Legit dream match here, in front of a red hot crowd in a major tournament final, doesn’t get much better in wrestling then this. Fast and furious counter wrestling to start before Miyahara takes control of the match. Things don’t go Miyahara’s way for long though, as he misses a closeline and goes shoulder first into the turnbuckle post outside. Marafuji controls to some degree, but it’s a piledriver on the apron that truly puts him in the driver’s seat. Miyahara struggles to get back into the ring, and takes a springboard dropkick to the head when he does so. Miyahara does manage to avoid sliced bread #2 however, and hits a German suplex, followed by a blackout knee in the corner and brainbuster suplex. Marafuji comes back with one of his kick combo’s and after winning a striking exchange he hits sliced bread #2 but only gets a two count. Miyahara comes back with some blackout knees and a delayed German but soon finds himself struggling to survive in a cobra clutch, which Marafuji then turns into a back drop for the two count. They exchange knee strikes and Miyahara catches Marafuji in another German suplex. Miyahara goes for shutdown german, but Marafuji kicks out and delivers several big knee strikes before delivering Emerald Fusion for the win. Wow, something of a controversial finish perhaps but considering AJPW’s history of booking outsiders well in this tournament perhaps it’s not such a big surprise. Brilliant way to finish the tournament that leaves room for a big rematch in the future!
Well I hope you’ve enjoyed my coverage of this tournament! It’s been a long road but it has been a lot of fun. AJPW may still be known as “that 90’s promotion” to some but they’ve been growing at a crazy rate since Kento became the guy, and this tournament was a brilliant showcase of just how far they’ve come. You can catch the whole tournament on demand at https://www.ajpw.tv/ and you can follow me on twitter at @MikeGrindle