Taking place between the 15th to the 29th July, and ending with a big show in the EDION Arena Osaka, AJPW’s Summer action series proved to be one of the promotions most eventful tours this year. Each of the promotions six titles would be defended over the course of the tour, with all but two of these changing hands, leaving the All Japan landscape very much changed by the end of it. With that in mind let’s take a look at the biggest talking points coming out of AJPW’s Summer Action Series 2018.
Cheating pays half of the time for TAJIRI
TAJIRI started off his tour in a big way, winning the Gaora TV championship with an upset win over the boss Jun Akiyama (with the aid of some mist of course). This ended Akiyama’s record 490 day reign with the belt, in what would have been his 11th successful defence (Unfortunately for Akiyama, this wasn’t the end of his woes this tour, but more on that later). TAJIRI wasn’t done there though, as he also looked to win the world tag team championships, teaming with Gianni Valletti to take on the Violent Giants (Shuji Ishikawa & Suwama) halfway through the tour. Gianni is a newcomer to All Japan, and his hardcore style and wild man look is very reminiscent of Bruiser Brody and other Gaijin brawlers from the 70’s and 80’s who often toured All Japan. Gianni and TAJIRI began a habit of bringing a metal chain and kendo stick respectively, to their prelude matches with the violent giants, often assaulting one or more of the duo with these weapons post match. Unsurprisingly, the title match itself would be full of ref bumps, brawling, foreign objects, mist and the like. The Violent Giants would power through nonetheless though, and successfully defend their titles. The World Tag titles have been thrown about quite a bit this year in All Japan, so perhaps the Violent Giants can stabilise the belts somewhat with a strong reign.
Aoki remains Junior Champion
The first night of the tour saw Koji Iwamoto, of Jake Lee’s Sweeper faction, challenge Atsushi Aoki for the Junior Heavyweight title. The 28 year old Iwamoto has all the potential to be a future Junior Ace for All Japan, yet despite a strong showing he was unable to defeat current champ Atsushi Aoki. However, Iwamoto was able to get a pin fall victory over Aoki in a multi-tag on the last night of the tour in Osaka, so it seems Iwamoto may well be getting another shot at the belt sometime soon. Aoki as Junior champion is fine, but All Japan have been in need of a younger star to take the Junior division forward and Iwamoto seems perfect for that role.
Nomura and Aoyagi (and Jake Lee) show All Japan’s future is bright.
Nomura had a second shot at the All Asia titles, alongside fellow NEXTREAM faction member Yuma Aoyagi, at the tour’s conclusion in Osaka. Before he got there though, he had a singles match with former faction member Jake Lee. Jake Lee has bags of potential, but has sometimes struggled to really put everything together, often coming across awkward in his matches. Against his former tag team partner Nomura though, Jake Lee showed a vicious side, battering Nomura with stiff kicks on his way to victory, in what was a great showing for both men. Jake Lee had a relatively low-key tour, but he seems to really be getting back into the grind of things now, after his return from injury several months ago, and hopefully we get to see more great showings from him moving forward. Nomura may have taken the loss to Lee, but his tour ended on a great note, as he and Aoyagi took the All Asia tag titles away from the team of Yuji Nagata and Jun Akiyama. The duo had challenged for the titles unsuccessfully on the recent Dynamite series tour, but the youngsters where finally able to overcome the veterans here, with Aoyagi managing to defeat his old mentor Akiyama. This now leaves Akiyama, who went into the tour a double champion, without any gold.
Two year’s ago, Zeus and Kento Miyahara fought over the then vacant Triple Crown championship, with Miyahara coming out victorious. Miyahara would go on to make a name for himself as the ace of All Japan, leading the company back to heights few thought they would reach again, and dominating the Triple crown title scene over the next couple of years. Zeus meanwhile has struggled somewhat on the outskirts of the main event scene, trying to prove he is an equally vital part of All Japan. Their Triple crown main event title match in Osaka was everything it needed to be, as the two men went all out to prove they indeed belonged at the top of the promotion. It seemed that Miyahara would in fact retain after kicking out of Zeus’s Jackhammer finisher and making a big comeback, but in the end Zeus would put Miyahara away with a second thunderous Jackhammer to secure the win and the Triple Crown championship. Zeus’s tag team partner Bodyguard has also won gold earlier in the evening, winning the All Asia championship, and the two men celebrated in the ring afterwards, before Zeus made a point to walk around the ring and individually thank as many fans as he could for being there. This marked the end of a long road for Zeus, and whether you wanted him or Miyahara to win, it was undeniably a heartwarming moment to see the big man succeed. The loss will do little to hurt Miyahara, who will likely remain the one true ace of the promotion, but now he has a true young native rival, who can lead the promotion forward and hopefully to even greater heights. It will certainly be interesting to see how Zeus’s title reign goes over the next few months.
Tour MVP: Zeus
On the up: Naoya Nomura
Match of the tour: Zeus vs Kento Miyahara
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