Every week on Place to Be Nation, a combination of correspondents review one match from the world of wrestling that YOU as the viewer should seek out!
The entire 11/27 All Japan Sumo Hall show is available on the RealHero Archive.
Since winning the Triple Crown, Miyahara has essentially went through the entire All Japan heavyweight roster. SUWAMA was out for 4 months with an injury and hasn’t yet challenged for the Triple Crown since Miyahara has become champion. Also, SUWAMA has a commanding lead on the series of singles matches with these two to date.
This was decent, and both men played their roles well, but they had a tough job to engage a crowd who’d sat through nearly five hours of wrestling before this match had even started. My interest waned at points when Suwama was in control, but Miyahara helped keep me (and the crowd) engaged with some excellent selling, and by the time Suwama started throwing bombs and Miyahara made the comeback it had warmed up nicely. Overall, a solid main event with a strong closing stretch.
Not unlike his Sasaki Office alumnus Katsuhiko Nakajima, who is the current GHC Champion at NOAH, the hope is that Miyahara will lead his promotion to prosperity once more, and he deserves credit for shouldering that pressure. At present I still find him a little derivative, but he’s a natural babyface, still young, and occasions such as this will surely only help develop a more assured and distinctive performer.
It’s been a long road back to a venue of this size for All Japan and you can’t help but be pleased that one of the world’s great wrestling promotion looks to be on the way up again. There have been better title matches in All Japan this year, but none more important.
It really wasn’t supposed to happen like this. The feud was always intended, starting with the seeds being planted for a feud between Kento Miyahara and Suwama last fall. But sometimes real life makes the plan far more interesting. Suwama blew out his Achilles tendon back in January and All Japan was forced to hotshot the Triple Crown Title onto Miyahara. Then something wonderful happened. Miyahara took a leap that seemed impossible previously. After each defense, slowly but surely, he began to feel like a true main eventer and ace.
Suwama, to his credit, brought an A-Game that he was suspected to just not be capable of at this point. He was light on his feet and showed a respectable range of mobility and energy. Only watching this match, you’d never guess that he’d blown an Achilles just ten months before. He pounced like an animal and showed a viciousness that has been sorely missed since his return. He was the X-Factor AJPW fans were worried about ruining the top of the show. He gutted it out and put on, by far, his best performance since his recovery and return.
Miyahara is the real hero here though. Suwama’s onslaught doesn’t look as effective without Kento’s ragdoll selling. Every hope spot was expertly timed, and all the routine spots that Miyahara has incorporated for the last year (German suplex exchange, strike exchange with both parties dodging) were used in the most effective way possible. His presence, which has been ever increasing all year, felt big enough to present to a Sumo Hall crowd. That is absurd for AJPW which has become a ghost of its former self. Being able to perform in front of a crowd significantly bigger than a Korakuen Hall crowd was the last piece of the recipe for him. He’s not just a star compared to everyone else in AJPW now. He’s an honest to god star now.
I feel like a stubborn grandpa yelling get off my lawn when it comes to All Japan and Miyahara in 2016. I have found both entities to have good years and a welcome change from the sludge that All Japan has been in the last few years. However, I see WOTY and claims that All Japan is in contention for promotion of the year and I shake my head in disbelief at both of those claims. Just as aces in Japanese promotions, I have SHINGO, Okada, and Naito comfortably ahead of Miyahara on my WOTY overall list. I was expecting this Sumo Hall show to be some sort of confirmation for me that the growth of All Japan has been overstated. Instead, I was wrong and All Japan pulled out a really nice drawing card. How much that was based on the glut of legends that were trotted remains to be seen.
This match had an uphill climb against it. It followed a LONG show. It featured Suwama who has been at best passable since returning from his injury. The one bit of intrigue going in was the finish and I was luckily enough to stay spoiler free.
As an overall match, I felt this was worked in a general changing of the guard style match moreso than anything resembling as such in All Japan mythos. I thought Miyahara dominated the action here more than Misawa did vs. Jumbo, Kobashi vs. Misawa, etc. Suwama seemingly felt like the person that was always going to have to come up with something miraculous to pull out the win. In some ways, this reduced the drama in the final stretch as I had imagined a Miyahara victory feeling like an overcoming the odds story given these two competitors past history. As a counter argument, this really accomplished the meta narrative for All Japan going forward. Miyahara is the ace, savior, etc for the foreseeable future. It is fitting that Jun Akiyama has the reigns of a lot of All Japan decisions these days as Miyahara in this position feels like more opportunity than he ever got throughout his illustrious career. I look forward to enjoy the upward projection of All Japan with Miyahara at the helm. This match was just the next stepping stone for that narrative.