The Annual Junior Tag Battle Of Glory (previously known simply as Junior tag league) will be taking place over the course of All Japan’s Summer Explosion tour this August, starting on the 3rd and concluding on the 25th. This year’s tournament will feature seven teams made up of not only All Japan Junior heavyweights, but wrestlers from Dragon Gate, Wrestle-1 , Big Japan Wrestling and K-Dojo. With that in mind lets take a look at the tournaments history, format and this year’s competitors.
History of the tournament
All Japan held Junior tag leagues in 1984 and 2002 under the names ‘International Junior Heavyweight Tag Team League’, and ‘Worlds Strongest Junior Tag League’ respectively. They would go on to hold the first tournament under the name ‘Junior tag league’ in 2006, and from 2008 onward, the tournament would become an annual fixture. When the singles Junior tournament, Junior league, was renamed to Junior Battle of Glory in 2014, the Junior tag league followed suit, becoming known as the Junior Tag Battle of Glory, and it continues to be known as that today. The tournament has varied in size over the years, with this year’s edition matching the 2011 tournament for being the biggest with seven teams being featured, whilst most tournaments have featured five and occasionally six teams. Atsushi Aoki and Hikaru Sato are the only team to have won the tournament more then once, winning the tournament three times in a row between 2014 and 2016. Aoki has been the most successful individual, having also won the tournament with Kotaro Suzuki to bring his total to four (successive) tournament wins. Outside of Aoki and Sato, Kaz Hayashi is the only other man to win the tournament more then once, winning the 2011 tournament with KAI, and the 2012 tournament with Shuji Kondo.
The tournament rules and format
Each team faces each other once, gaining two points for a win, one point for a draw and nothing for a loss. There is no elimination stage or final at the end of the tournament (though in previous tournaments the top two ranked teams would face each other in the final), instead the winner is simply whoever has the most points at the end of the tournament. However, since the tournament does not feature a tiebreaker rule like most Japanese wrestling tournaments, if two or more teams finish at the top of the table on the same points, then a playoff round will then take place to decide the winners. The winners of the tournament have often received an All Asia tag title shot, but this is not always the case.
Atsushi Maruyama & Masashi Takeda
Before Maruyama was an All Japan regular, he often competed for deathmatch promotions such as BJW and Freedoms, so his partnering with the current BJW deathmatch freedoms world champion isn’t as random a pairing as you might think. In fact not only did this team compete in last year’s tournament, but they ended up winning the whole thing. They have to be considered potential winners this year too, so keep an eye on how their points add up.
Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato
As mentioned before, not only has this pairing won the tournament three times, but they achieved that feat with back to back wins, winning every tournament between 2014-2016. It’s not implausible that they win again this year, but with more teams and more competition, it’s going to be no easy feat. Still, these two continue to be integral parts of All Japan’s Junior division (Aoki is the current Junior champion for one thing) and at the very least you can expect them to be in the running to the very end.
Yohei Nakajima & Black Tiger VII
In all truth, these two are very unlikely to win the tournament this year. Nakajima had a slew of Gaora TV title wins back in 2016, but hasn’t achieved much since, whilst veteran Black Tiger (portrayed by Nosawa) is an undercard multi-tag mainstay in All Japan, in similar vein to the current tiger mask in New Japan. Still, they’re unlikely to allow themselves to be whitewashed, and if they bring their a-game we should see some decent matches out of them.
(Edit: it is now being reported that Yohei is being replaced by Black Meno~re)
Koji Iwamoto & TAJIRI
This is an interesting and formidable combo to say the least, as Iwamoto teams with someone outside of the Sweeper faction. Iwamoto has a big Junior Heavyweight title clash with Aoki on the 26th August, and the last night of the Glory tag tournament on the 25th, sees him take Aoki and his tag team partner Sato. Whether or not this match effects the final standings remains to be seen, but at the very least the match should provide a great prelude to their title showdown.
Kaji Tomato & Shiori Asahi
Representing K-Dojo in this year’s tournament is the team of Tomato and Asahi. These two are no strangers to each other, having won the Strongest-K tag titles as a team back in 2014, and they are no strangers to AJPW either, both having done several tours for the promotion over the years. They are highly unlikely to win, but should have a decent run and add some big wins to their names.
Kotaro Suzuki & Shuji Kondo
Just a quick look at the accolades of these two will show you just how big a factor they will be in this tournament. Suzuki has done it all, being a former All Asia tag champion (a title he won with current AJPW ace, Kento Miyahara no less), AJPW Junior champion, GHC Junior champion, Wrestle-1 cruiserweight champion and a Zero-1 Junior heavyweight champion. Kondo meanwhile has made a name for himself over the years as a powerhouse among Junior weights, also having an AJPW Junior and GHC Junior title to his name. He’s more commonly seen in Wrestle-1 these days, but his recent ventures in All Japan saw him claim the singles Junior Battle of Glory tournament, and with Suzuki by his side, he could quite possibly achieve the double by winning this tournament as well. It’s also worth noting that both of these men have won previous incarnations of this tournament as well, albeit with different tag partners.
Masaaki Mochizuki & Shun Skywalker
Representing Dragongate is the team of Mochizuki, a veteran Junior, and the 22 year old Shun Skywalker. Bar a six man tag, both are fairly unknown to AJPW (Though Mochizuki did appear in a tournament back in 2015). Expect Skywalker to eat the pins for his team here as he’s still something of a jobber in Dragon Gate. They’re unlikely to win the tournament but their bringing the Dragon Gate Junior style to proceedings can only be a good thing.