Beginner’s Guide to AJPW: Tournaments

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All Japan Pro Wrestling (AJPW) is one of the biggest promotions in Japan. In most Japanese wrestling companies, tournaments are a staple of programming that would be seen year-round. With AJPW’s rise in popularity, including a focus on airing more shows in 2020, it is appropriate to cover the tournaments commonly seen in this promotion.

Junior Tag Battle of Glory

The term “Battle of Glory” is something that is used often for AJPW’s tournaments involving junior heavyweight wrestling. The Junior Tag Battle of Glory is one of the first tournaments of the year. This year, it will start on January 10th. This tournament’s main focus is to crown number one contenders for the All Asia Tag Team Championship. This tournament was won in 2019 by Hikaru Sato & Yusuke Okada. The Junior Tag Battle of Glory‘s veterans are the late Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato.

Junior Battle of Glory

The junior heavyweight division is a heavy focus at the very beginning of All Japan’s year. The Junior Battle of Glory takes place around February of each year; however, it was absent from last year. The Junior Battle of Glory is a round-robin tournament consisting of AJPW’s best junior heavyweights. Unlike the heavyweight version of this tournament, the Junior Battle of Glory consists of 6 wrestlers per block. The previous winner of the tournament was Koji Iwamoto. With All Japan’s major focus on improving the junior heavyweight scene last year, with the likes of Dan Tamura and Atsushi Aoyagi, in addition to junior heavyweight veterans, this tournament could be really entertaining in 2021.

AJPW Champion Carnival 2020

Champion Carnival

We switch from January to usually March or April of 2020 with the biggest tournament of All Japan’s calendar: the Champion Carnival. This major annual tournament for AJPW is held under round-robin rules, not unlike Pro Wrestling NOAH‘s N1 Victory or NJPW‘s G1 Climax. It usually features 10 wrestlers on each block and 19 shows in total. The Champion Carnival has led to some of the best action of the year for the company. As of 2019, however, AJPW decreased the number of shows.

The goal of this tournament is to crown a number one contender for the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. The titleholder will also participate in the tournament. Last year’s Champion Carnival was won by Zeus, who defeated the 2019 winner, Kento Miyahara. The winner receives a title shot at the next big show for the company; last year, Zeus lost his title match against Suwama. This is also one of the oldest tournaments in wrestling, dating back to 1974. This tournament’s veteran would be the late Giant Baba, who would win this tournament 7 times.

Royal Road 

After the Champions Carnival, AJPW takes a break from tournaments. Keep in mind that the Champions Carnival consists of several events throughout April. Tournament season kicks back in during September with Royal Road, which is All Japan’s final singles tournament of the year. This tournament consisting of single-elimination action featuring 16 wrestlers in total.

The Royal Road winner will face off against the Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion at that month or next month’s big show. Last year’s winner was Jake Lee; he defeated 2018’s winner, Kento Miyahara, in the finals. However, Lee would fail in this title shot against Miyahara at a future show. The veteran of this tournament is Suwama, winning this tournament 2 times.

The World’s Strongest Tag Determination League

After Royal Road, towards November, AJPW approaches the final tour of the year. Enter The World’s Strongest Tag Determination League, the heavyweight tag league of All Japan. This tournament consists of round-robin action, usually featuring one block of 8 to 10 tag teams. This tournament, alongside the Champion Carnival, is a major part of why people know of AJPW. Some of the most legendary tag bouts of 90’s All Japan happening during The World’s Strongest Tag Determination League.

This tournament’s major goal is to crown contenders for the World Tag Team Championship. In recent memory, the winners faced off in the first event of the new year. This tournament usually consists of 19 shows. This year, however, the tournament was downsized due to COVID-19. It’s unknown if they’ll return to the previous format later on in the year.  This year’s winners were Kento Miyahara & Yuma Aoyagi, defeating Koji Iwamoto & Jake Lee. Miyahara & Aoyagi will challenge Suwama & Shuji Ishikawa in the first event of 2021. The veteran of The World’s Strongest Tag Determination League is Kenta Kobashi, winning the tournament 5 times in his legendary career.

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