This will be an ongoing series within the blog, where I will do a review of events I went to see live. I will start with the most recent one: All Japan Pro Wrestling’s Champion Carnival Day 7 from Hakata Star Lanes in Fukuoka. First I’ll give some info on the venue itself, then the live event experience in terms of everything other than the in-ring stuff and last, but not least the matches itself and my review and personal opinion on them.
Hakata Star Lanes is an entertainment complex close to Fukuoka’s central station. Mostly it is known as a bowling alley but on the second floor it is the most relevant pro wrestling venue in Fukuoka, with all major groups running the venue regularly, with especially Dragon Gate running a show there pretty much every month. The capacity is very flexible, with sometimes only holding seats for around 400 people and the highest claimed attendance there was actually an All Japan show with 3,300 people, but normally there is seating for around 800 people.
A nice fun fact about the venue is, that it was actually here were the last All Japan Show before the split in 2000 happened.
Setup and Amenities:
I was a little bit disappointed in All Japan’s setup, as for example Dragon Gate sets the venue up differently and uses another entrance into the hall and offer beer and a couple of different snack options right before you enter the hall with the wrestlers standing at the merch tables before the event as well. All Japan doesn’t offer any food or drinks (what is actually not as terrible because a convenience store is just around the corner) and the wrestlers came to the merch tables during intermission. What was pretty cool about All Japan’s setup was the Carny trophy showcased right next to both blocks’ standings right after entering the hall itself. It’s such a huge trophy and as they didn’t really change the design it is just one of the more legendary trophies in all of wrestling.
AJPW “CHAMPION CARNIVAL 2018”, 15.04.2018 (AJPW TV / Samurai! TV)
Hakata Star Lane
1. Yohei Nakajima beats Yusuke Okada (6:13) with a Crab Hold. [*]
2. Takao Omori & Yoshie Yoshie beat Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato (11:03) after a Diving Body Press from Yoshie against Sato. [**]
3. Naoya Nomura, Yoshitatsu, Dylan James & Koji Iwamoto beats Zeus, The Bodyguard, KAI & Atsushi Maruyama (12:15) after a Chokeslam from James against Maruyama. [**1/4]
4. Champion Carnival – Block A: Joe Doering  beats Ryouji Sai  (5:53) with the Revolution Bomb. [**]
5. Champion Carnival – Block A: Yuji Hino  beats Shingo Takagi  (16:25) with the Fucking BOMB. [****1/4]
6. Champion Carnival – Block B: Suwama  beats Jun Akiyama  (13:03) via Referee Stop (Manriki Sleeper). [***]
7. Champion Carnival – Block A: Kento Miyahara  beats Shuji Ishikawa  (16:57) with the Shutdown Suplex Hold. [***1/2]
The Opener was just there really with Yusuke Okada showing some fire but it was too short to actually amount to anything. Not the biggest fan of Nakajima, just a little bit on the bland side.
Next one got some crowd reaction with Takao Omori (who is just one of the old grumpy veterans, but can still hold his own with the right opponent) and Yoshie Yoshie coming out. Yutaka “Yoshie” Yoshie is powerhouse who is declining as a wrestler but who is still pretty entertaining. Does the power role quite well and in this unspectacular match it was the power of the two heavyweights clashing with AJPW Junior Heavyweight Champion Atsushi Aoki and Hikaru Sato, that was the main story. Quick and easy and something you probably forget two days after watching the show.
Now came an Eight-Man Tag Match, that was also just there. I love Zeus and The Bodyguard but yeah, that never really picked up and was fine, but I was also personally itching by then to see the tournament matches. Big bowl of nothing for me, but Dylan James’ Chokeslam was pretty impressive and had a lot of impact.
Now the first tournament match happened and even though I know that Carny Block matches are often pretty short and uneventful, not even six minutes of two guys I like was just a tad disappointing. Doering and Sai looked both ok, but yeah it was just a little bit too short to amount to anything.
Now came a match I was eagerly awaiting as Shingo Takagi grew to be one of my favorites after seeing him live with Dragon Gate. While I was always aware of him and thought he was good just watching Dragon Gate, seeing him live made me realize how good he actually is. His facials, charisma, crowd connection and of course his in-ring work is top notch and he could be a star for any promotion in Japan. Yuji Hino on the other side is just a big, bad dude with an incredibly wide upper body. Those two had a real slugfest with Hino opening up Takagi’s chest with some vicious chops. The crowd was definitely the hottest for this match and it made up for a lackluster undercard. Hino won with his spectacular Fucking BOMB in a great match.
Next up were Jun Akiyama and Suwama in a pretty good brawl that ended with the Manriki Sleeper by Suwama, where Akiyama passed out. Akiyama is still very crisp and can go with the best of them. I’m not the biggest Suwama fan, but I think that they had a good match but nothing out of the ordinary.
I was excited for the main event as it was Kento Miyahara coming to his hometown in a highly anticipated rematch with Shuji Ishikawa. Next to me sat a couple of Ishikawa fans what made clouds my judgement a little bit, but I was expecting the crowd a little bit more animated for the Hometown Ace. It was a very good match but not as good as past encounters between the two.
All in all I would give the event around a 6,5/10. A decent event with a great match in Hino-Takagi, that is really worth going out of your way to watch. And the star ratings behind the matches on the card are just my opinion not Observer ratings or anything.