We started our look at the upcoming AJPW Champion Carnival with some histories of the A Block competitors in Part 1 so let’s continue that with Block B and dive right in.
Akiyama was a stand out athlete long before he entered the professional ranks, practicing swimming, freestyle wrestling, and judo in High School. He became a high level amateur at Senshu University, the same school that produced other famous pro wrestlers like Riki Choshu, Hiroshi Hase, and Manabu Nakanishi. AJPW recruited Akiyama when he finished his amateur career and debuted in September 1992. Akiyama took to the sport like a natural and was quickly thrust into prominent matches and would win a number of awards including the Wrestling Observer Rookie of the Year for 1993 as well as earning his first of seven 5 star match ratings from Dave Meltzer (this meant a lot more back then) for a 6 man tag in July 1993. Akiyama’s biggest success in his first run in AJPW would come as a tag team wrestler. He won his first tag title teaming with Takao Omori, winning the All Asia belts in 1995.
His tag team with AJPW ace Mitsuhara Misawa took him to the next level winning the Unified World Tag titles in February 1996 from Kawada and Taue (The Holy Demon Army aka the greatest tag team name ever) and having a number of classic battles that again recieved attention in the Observer Newsletter. However, it was the formation of the team “Burning” with Kenta Kobashi where he found the most success. Burning would win the Real World Tag League back to back in 1998 and 1999 and winning the Unified World Tag titles 3 times. Despite all of his success as a tag wrestler and his popularity with the fans Akiyama never won a singles belt or the Champions Carnival. He would receive 4 opportunities over the years to win the Triple Crown but despite coming close he could never quite close the deal. The AJPW main event roster was crowded but some had already began to develop doubts about whether Akiyama would ever be able to break through to the top and be the Ace if he got the chance.
He would be given that opportunity though when internal strife after the death of Giant Baba came to a head and the entire native roster aside from Toshiaki Kawada and Masanobu Fuchi quit AJPW to form Pro Wrestling NOAH in the middle of 2000. With the formation of the new company Akiyama was given a makeover (as were most of the roster), gone were his trademark blue tights for which he had earned his nickname “Blue Thunder” and named the powerbomb variation he had innovated. Instead he dyed his hair brown and now wore all white. And right from the first show he was established as a major threat in a 2 out of 3 falls tag match teaming with Kenta Kobashi against Misawa and Taue: he first made Misawa submit then pinned Taue in 2 straight falls then in the main event of the second show he won the match by choking out Kenta Kobashi. He would pick up his first GHC Heavyweight Championship (NOAH’s top title) not long after by defeating Misawa in July 2001. Despite having some excellent matches including invading NJPW, Akiyama had run out of credible challengers and they wanted to transition the title back to Misawa.
So they had Akiyama lost the title to Yoshinari Ogawa, a career midcard to upper midcard act (being generous) prior to NOAH, in less than 7 minutes. This didn’t do much for Akiyama’s credibility or ability to carry the company in the future however you feel about Ogawa. In 2004 Akiyama created the GHC Openweight Hardcore title to help get him back into singles competition mode after spending time as a tag wrestler. He would make a failed bid for the GHC Heavyweight title and then spend much of later 2004 and early 2005 feuding with his protege Makoto Hashi showing Hashi some “Tough Love” in brutally hard hitting matches. Akiyama would regain the GHC Heavyweight title in January 2006 holding the strap for 9 months before losing it to Naomichi Marufuji. After losing the title he temporarily went back to his old school “Blue Thunder” look and worked his way back up the card before winning the GHC tag titles with Takeshi Rikio.
In 2009 Akiyama would win the GHC Heavyweight title for the third and final time on March 1st. However, he vacated the title on June 14th, the day after Misawa tragically died from an in-ring injury. Akiyama would miss the rest of the year and continue to suffer for some time from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as well as serious back problems. 2011 was a better year for Akiyama as he would win the first ever Global Tag League tournament teaming with Akitoshi Saito in NOAH before returning to AJPW as an invader to finally win the AJPW Triple Crown when he defeated AJPW’s current Ace, Suwama, in October 2011. Akiyama kept the Triple Crown until August 2012 before losing to Masakatsu Funaki in under 5 minutes. So the key is to beat him quick! At the end of December 2012 it was reported that Akiyama was considering not resigning with NOAH due to NOAH cutting the contract of Kenta Kobashi, Akiyama’s long time best friend.
On January 26 2013, Akiyama, Go Shiozaki, Atsushi Aoki, Kotaro Suzuki, and Yoshinobu Kanemaru all signed with AJPW after refusing to sign new contracts with NOAH over the Kobashi controversy. They formed a new Burning stable and Akiyama and Shiozaki quickly struck a blow by winning the Unified Tag Titles in March. Akiyama would win his first Champion Carnival in 2013 as well. Suwama would gain a measure of revenge on him though by fending off Akiyama when he received his title shot for winning the tournament. During Mutoh’s mass exodus Burning announced they were staying with AJPW, however, the stable itself broke up with only Kanemaru sticking with Akiyama. Akiyama and Kanemaru are the current All Asia tag champs. He also has recently reached out to old ally Takao Omori to form the team Wild Burning in an unsuccessful attempt to win the Unified Tag belts. Akiyama’s odds of winning back to back Carnival’s at this point in his career seem pretty low. It doesn’t seem like a good idea for him to win the Carnival over a younger guy, especially if he’s just going to lose to Akebono, which also wouldn’t make a lot of sense because why have him win then? So I don’t see it happening.
Shiozaki entered Pro Wrestling NOAH’s Dojo in 2003 and graduated to the main roster in 2004 where he was taken under the wing of the legendary Kenta Kobashi. By the end of 2006 Shiozaki was wrestling with the top stars of NOAH in competitive matches and, although still falling short against them, he was clearly destined for big things. NOAH decided to send Shiozaki on a foreign learning excursion as is traditional for young wrestlers that companies see potential in. Go started in Ring of Honor during their tour of England in August of 2006 and during his time with the top American Indy would wrestle for their World title and wrestle for them when they ran a show in Japan. During his stint in America he would also work for RoH’s sister company Full Impact Pro and Harley Race’s World League Wrestling holding the top singles belts of both companies.
Shiozaki made his return to NOAH in the middle of 2009 and was given an immediate push as the tag partner of major legend (and company president) Mitsuhara Misawa. The two won the Global Tag League in May of 2009 but during their title shot for the GHC tag titles in June, Misawa was badly injured in a spot gone wrong and died. With Misawa dead and the GHC World Champ Jun Akiyama vacating his title a new champ needed to be crowned. Akiyama himself nominated Shiozaki to face the number one contender Takeshi Rikio for the vacant title. On June 14th Shiozaki managed to beat Rikio and become the GHC Champ and would hold onto it until December before being defeated by Takashi Sugiura. In May 2010 Shiozaki and Atsushi Aoki won the AAA World Tag Titles but would lose them soon after when they traveled to Mexico to defend them at AAA’s annual TripleMania event. Go would continue that year’s work in other companies by taking part in New Japan’s G1 Climax tournament in August and manage to win four of his seven round robin matches, unfortunately after going to a time limit draw with one of New Japan’s top stars in Shinsuke Nakamura, Shiozaki fell short of making the finals and was eliminated.
Shiozaki and Nakamura would have a “No Time Limits” re-match on a NOAH show on August 22nd with Shiozaki picking up the big win over the former IWGP World Champ. The two would have a re-match at NJPW’s biggest show of the year, their annual Tokyo Dome show on January 4th 2011, and this time Nakamura would manage to pick up the win in a hard-fought battle. On July 10th 2011 Shiozaki defeated Sugiura to regain the GHC World Title. During his title reign he would once again appear at New Japan’s Tokyo Dome show, this time at the 2012 show teaming with fellow NOAH star Naomichi Marufuji against Nakamura and Toru Yano in a successful effort for the NOAH duo. Go would drop the GHC World Title to Takeshi Morishima at the end of January before moving on to a title rein in October with Akitoshi Saito. Not long into the tag title reign the story broke that Shiozaki was among a group of NOAH wrestlers refusing to re-sign their contacts for the next year due to NOAH releasing Kenta Kobashi. Shiozaki would lose the GHC Tag Titles only a few days after the story broke and in January 2013 Go Shiozaki left Pro Wrestling NOAH to join All Japan Pro Wrestling.
After debuting for AJPW Shiozaki would make a quick impact by winning the AJPW Unified World Tag Titles with partner Jun Akiyama to form the company’s top tag team GET WILD. After declaring his intention of going after the Triple Crown he defeated the champion Suwama in a non title 2 out of 3 falls match on July 14th but when he received his title match in August he failed to replicate his success. After making it to the finals of the Odo Cup in September, before losing to Akebono, and then in October losing the Unified Tag Titles Shiozaki announced he was leaving the stable of NOAH exiles “Burning” to focus on winning the Triple Crown. Go formed his own stable (a key component in focusing on the Triple Crown obviously) in November called “Xceed” but his first member, KENSO turned on him. Shiozaki was luckily saved by Atsushi Aoki, Kento Miyahara, and Kotaro Suzuki who became the new members of the group. In December Go and Miyahara would make it to the finals of the RWTL before falling to Suwama and Joe Doering, and on February 23rd Shiozaki would get another chance at the Triple Crown, this time facing Akebono but the big man managed to retain his title. Shiozaki has a reasonable chance in the Carnival because he’s clearly going to be one of All Japan’s stars for years to come but he just had a shot and lost and he also has that NOAH taint still. I wouldn’t mind seeing him lose in the Finals.
Originally receiving his training at the joint Can-Am Wrestling-TNA School in 2004 Joe Doering made only a few actual appearances on TNA television during his time with the company, including his debut on the 2005 Turning Point pre-show and his final match for the company on a September 2006 Impact taping. After leaving TNA he joined All Japan in June 2007. Doering’s first big wins in All Japan started in October 2007 when he defeated Suwama one on one. Then while teaming with Keiji Mutoh during the RWTL he once again pinned Suwama before going on to win the tournament. On January 3rd 2008 Doering and Mutoh won the Unified World Tag Titles but lost the titles in June in their very first defense (not exactly fighting champs). In October of 2008 Doering turned heel and joined the Voodoo Murders faction and teamed up with his former enemies.
Despite further attempts at winning the RWTL Doering would come up short and in January 2010 he would sign a development contract with WWE. In his final match with All Japan he was given a shot at the Triple Crown but failed to beat champion Satoshi Kojima. Joe made his debut in the WWE’s developmental territory of Florida Championship Wrestling in February 2010 but Doering would only stay until September before leaving. By November he was once again back in Japan with AJPW. Doering rejoined Voodoo Murders upon his return and in February 2011 he and Masayuki Kono won the Unified World Tag Titles but the two were forced to vacate the belts after a serious backstage incident in June in which a real fight between Voodoo Murders leader TARU and fellow member Nobukazu Hirai (several other members where involved at least to the extent that they failed to break the fight up, but the non-Japanese members were not in the room/forced to leave.) caused Hirai to suffer a serious stroke and left him in a coma for some time. The stable was disbanded, all the Japanese members were suspended, and all the titles they currently held were stripped from the members.
Doering, now teaming with Seiya Sanada, briefly regained the Unified Tag Titles in May 2012 but a month later lost the belts. Joe then formed the “Last Revolution” stable with Suwama, adding Kaz Hayashi, Shuji Kondo, and Yasufumi Nakanaoueno. Doering and Suwama would go the the finals of the RWTL in 2012 but any further potential success for the team or the stable was cut short but the split between All Japan and Keiji Mutoh in June 2013. Suwama and Doering decided to stay with All Japan but the other members all left the company, which caused Doering to decide to disband the team. After Doering beat his former partner in a non-title match they reformed their team as “Evolution”. On October 22 2013 Doering and Suwama won the Unified Tag Titles (Doering’s fourth time) and would also win the 2013 RWTL tournament. Doering would finish out 2013 by getting a Triple Crown shot after having pinned Akebono in a tag encounter, but when he recieved his shot in November he was unable to defeat Akebono. In February 2014 Suwama and Doering admitted junior heavyweight Hikaru Sato into “Evolution” and made it a stable.
I think Doering has one of the better chances at winning the Carnival despite the relative rareness of a non-Japanese winning. He hasn’t had a shot for longer than most of the major competitors and at 6 foot 5 he’s one of the few people that are even close to a believable visual threat to Akebono. WWE doesn’t seem to be interested in him and he stayed with the company when Mutoh split so he’s loyal, might as well give him the reward and push. They really don’t have much to lose at this point.
Kenzo Suzuki debuted as a pro wrestler for New Japan Pro Wrestling in January 2000 after a career playing for Japan at the international level in Rugby. With his real sports pedigree and his 6 foot 3 frame (quite tall for a Japanese wrestler) he was marked out for an immediate push. Later in his debut year he won the Young Lion’s Cup, a tournament open only to the young stars of the company. In 2002 he would become the only person to win the Cup twice when he defeated future New Japan ace Hiroshi Tanahashi in the finals. Despite seemingly having a great future ahead of him with the company Suzuki resigned in 2003 to follow Riki Choshu, the man who had trained him when Choshu departed the company to form World Japan.
Suzuki’s time in World Japan would not last long and would end in both confusion and tragedy when a student training under his supervision died. MMA cult favourite Takyuki Okada aka Giant Ochiai suffered an acute subdural hematoma and after first falling into a coma from which he never woke, passed away. A large cover up followed as to what exactly happened and Kenzo left Japan to work in the US under a dark cloud. After briefly working the independent scene and a few appearances with TNA, Kenzo signed a developmental deal with WWE and was assigned to Ohio Valley Wrestling.
The original plans for Kenzo’s main roster debut were for him to debut as “Hirohito” (as in the World War 2 era Emperor) and be an anti-American, Japanese patriot. For some strange reason this gimmick was dropped and instead he and his real life wife who would be working as his valet, Hiroko, debuted on Smackdown. In September 2004 Kenzo won the Tag Team Titles with Rene Dupree and after losing the titles in December would briefly feud with John Cena for the US title. After suffering a collapsed lung Kenzo was sent back down to OVW to continue his training. Despite being drafted to the RAW roster in June 2005 he and Hiroko were released without re-debuting.
After departing WWE Kenzo would return to Japan and work for the Sports Entertainment/comedy-oriented company HUSTLE as well as in Mexico first for AAA and then starting in 2007 for AAA through mid 2010. During 2007 he would also work for the Dragon Gate promotion in Japan joining the mega heel unit Muscle Outlaw’z for a month long run in November. But it was in July 2010 that Kenzo found his permanent home promotion when disguised under a La Parka mask he debuted in All Japan helping the Voodoo Murders put Keiji Mutoh through a table.
After unmasking Suzuki declared he would be known only as “Kenso” and was joining the Voodoo Murders. Kenso made a big impact quickly by, with his partner Masayuki Kono winning the 2010 RWTL. The two men failed to win in their shot at the Unified Tag Titles and not long after Kenso quit the Voodoo Murders and became a face. After winning a triple threat match Kenso won the right to challenge Suwama for the Triple Crown. The two faced off on March 21 2011 and had one of the worst Triple Crown matches in history, going for the better part of an hour, far longer than Kenso should ever wrestle (and I don’t hate Kenso, but know a fella’s limitations people.) before Suwama put him away.
After this Kenso teamed up with the Great Muta to win the Unified World Titles but after losing them in October 2011 Muta turned on him as part of a larger storyline where AJPW wrestlers refused to take him seriously and join the stable he was trying to form. After repeatedly attempting and failing to get wrestlers to join him he instead decided to join Go Shiozaki’s Xceed stable in November 2013, however, it was all a trick as in his very first match teaming with Shiozaki he turned on him and brutally attacked him with the aid of D-Lo Brown and Bambi Killer before announcing the formation of the new heel stable (with a guy called Bambi Killer in it I’d assume they were heels) called “Dark Kingdom.” I don’t think Kenso has much chance of winning the Carnival, and I really hope he doesn’t either because the idea of Akebono vs Kenso for the Triple Crown is terrifying.
Yutaka Yoshie debuted for New Japan Pro Wrestling in 1994 but it wasn’t until several years into his career that he would get a chance to move out of the undercards when on January 4th he was the first man chosen to face Riki Choshu in his retirement tour (his retirement didn’t last). After spending some time competing in Germany and massively bulking up Yoshie returned to NJPW in March 2000 and displayed a totally new style based on Sumo and was quickly recruited into Yuji Nagata’s “Fighting Club G-EGGS” stable which consisted only of those with sporting backgrounds, which Yoshie fit as he did have a previous Judo background before joining New Japan. Yoshie picked up two huge wins later in 2000 when he defeated top stars Hiroyoshi Tenzan and Satoshi Kojima in singles matches. However Yoshie’s momentum was cut off when Nagata disbanded G-EGGS and he fell back down the card. In 2003 Yoshie would have a 6 month IWGP Tag Team Championship run partnering with Hiroshi Tanahashi but after that he continued to have no luck breaking through to the main event and in January 2006 decided to leave and become a freelancer.
Yoshie would quickly find success upon leaving New Japan, appearing first in Zero1 where he teamed up with former ECW World Champion Steve Corino to win the NWA Intercontinental Tag Titles in February of 2006. He would make his AJPW debut in 2006 and participating in the Champion Carnival. Yoshie also would work for Tatsumi Fujinami’s Muga World promotion and in December 2007 would even defeat the legendary Fujinami in the finals of the Dragon Cup. Yoshie would return to NJPW in 2008 and teaming with Manabu Nakanishi reach the semi finals of the G1 Tag league before being knocked out by Tenzan and Kojima.
A second Champion Carnival appearance in 2012 would be cut short by an ankle fracture forcing him to pull out of the tournament. Since then he has continued to make appearances in AJPW sometimes teaming with a super-heavyweight with Akebono, and prior to his departure with Mutoh, their fellow super-heavyweight Ryoto Hama. Sadly Yoshie is essentially a warm body for this (or any other tournament) and doesn’t have any real chance at winning. He’s a good big man and has charisma and people dig him but for whatever reason he’s never gotten his big chance.
To be completely honest I don’t know much about Zeus and there isn’t a ton of info out there in English and even the Japanese sources are sparse on him aside from the most bare bones of stuff. I’ve seen a handful of his matches here and there but I haven’t followed him or his promotions enough to tell you much. So what can I tell you?
Zeus was into bodybuilding and in 2004 won the Osaka Light heavyweight Bodybuilding Championship. He also once appeared on a “All-Star Thanksgiving Special” on TBS and displayed his strength by bending frying pans. Zeus debuted in Osaka Pro in December 2006 and shortly thereafter won the Tag Titles with GAINA. He would later leave Osaka Pro to work for HUSTLE before in 2009 going into boxing for a brief period.
After retiring from boxing he returned to Osaka Pro in 2010 which he made his primary base of operations. In January 2014 he won the Osaka Pro Wrestling Championship the top title in the promotion and continues to hold it as of this date. Osaka Pro is unfortunately being forced to close this month due to financial problems. It’s entirely possible Zeus may wind up as a permanent member of the AJPW roster, especially if he impresses during the Carnival, but he’s likely to be on jobbing duty for most of the tournament with maybe one win to give him something.
Well that’s everyone and I hope you enjoyed our look at the participants. Here’s a list of the upcoming shows and cards to close us out, thanks for reading!
All Japan Pro-Wrestling “2014 Champion Carnival ~Opener” , 4/13/2014
B Block Match: Go Shiozaki vs. KENSO
B Block Match: Jun Akiyama vs. Zeus
A Block Match: Suwama vs. Takao Omori
All Japan Pro-Wrestling “2014 Champion Carnival“,
B Block Match: Yutaka Yoshie vs. Zeus
A Block Match: Suwama vs. Osamu Nishimura
A Block Match: Akebono vs. Kento Miyahara
All Japan Pro-Wrestling “2014 Champion Carnival“, 4/15/2014
B Block Match: Joe Doering vs. KENSO
A Block Match: Go Shiozaki vs. Yutaka Yoshie
A Block Match: Akebono vs. Kendo Kashin
All Japan Pro-Wrestling “2014 Champion Carnival“, 4/16/2014
B Block Match: Jun Akiyama vs. Joe Doering
A Block Match: Takao Omori vs. Kento Miyahara
All Japan Pro-Wrestling “2014 Champion Carnival“, 4/19/2014
A Block Match: Kento Miyahara vs. Kendo Kashin
A Block Match: Akebono vs. Osamu Nishimura
All Japan Pro-Wrestling “2014 Champion Carnival“, 4/20/2014
B Block Match: Go Shiozaki vs. Joe Doering
B Block Match: Jun Akiyama vs. Yutaka Yoshie
A Block Match: Osamu Nishimura vs. Kendo Kashin
All Japan Pro-Wrestling “2014 Champion Carnival“, 4/23/2014
B Block Match: KENSO vs. Yutaka Yoshie
B Block Match: Go Shiozaki vs. Zeus
A Block Match: Suwama vs. Kendo Kashin
A Block Match: Akebono vs. Takao Omori
All Japan Pro-Wrestling “2014 Champion Carnival“, 4/26/2014
B Block Match: Joe Doering vs. Zeus
B Block Match: Jun Akiyama vs. KENSO
A Block Match: Takao Omori vs. Osamu Nishimura
A Block Match: Suwama vs. Kento Miyahara
All Japan Pro-Wrestling “2014 Champion Carnival ~ FINAL”, 4/27/2014
B Block Match: KENSO vs. Zeus
B Block Match: Joe Doering vs. Yutaka Yoshie
B Block Match: Jun Akiyama vs. Go Shiozaki
A Block Match: Kento Miyahara vs. Osamu Nishimura
A Block Match: Takao Omori vs. Kendo Kashin
A Block Match: Akebono vs. Suwama
2014 Champion Carnival Final Match: A Block #1 vs. B Block #1