Something for all tastes in junior spectacular
March 1’s All Star Junior Festival 2023 more than lived up to its billing, as a sold out Korakuen Hall crowd was treated to a unique, thrilling and spectacular night few are likely to forget any time soon.
There were certainly hopes high that such an all star affair not be a one and done deal but rather more far reaching, and Rocky Romero would drop by with a video message from Mexico to add credibility to those hopes. Rocky offered event producer Hiromu Takahashi the chance to bring ASJF to the United States this year- just what might arise from such a card?
Without getting too far ahead, this card would be headlined but a singles battle between AJPW’s Atsuki Aoyagi and NJPW’s Master Wato. A back and forth affair, Aoyagi appeared to have the upper hand with a crushing moonsault nearly sealing things, but it would be Recientememte II that did the honours, Wato promising a bright future for all of junior wrestling with him at the forefront.
A five way bout would see Ninja Mack, YO-HEY, Taiji Ishimori, Shun Skywalker and Soberano Jr. all compete with every man for themselves. Loose alliances were formed and broken between Ninja Mack and YO-HEY, but it would be Ishimori and Skywalker’s pairing that proved most effective- until Ishimori blindsided the Open the Dream Gate Champion to finish off YO-HEY with a Bloody Cross.
Not listed on the original card was CIMA facing Kazuki Hirata of DDT. Hirata would use his dancing glasses, themselves a reference to CIMA’s old rival Magnum Tokyo, to work the STRONGHEARTS member into a move busting frenzy, but CIMA would break the spell to hit Meteora in the end.
Eight man masked action had NOAH’s Alejandro, Osaka Pro’s Billy Ken Kid, Ryukyu Dragon’s Gurukun Mask and CMLL’s Mistico take on Atlantis Jr, Black Mensore of AJPW, Dragon Kid from Dragon Gate and NJPW’s BUSHI. A high flying spectacle, this thrilled fans from bell to bell, but it was Mensore taking the fall- and a post match misting from BUSHI to boot.
Former Japaneses Del Mal running buddies in Mexico, DOUKI and HANAOKA were the only duo with team experience in a three way tag that also saw El Lindaman and DDT’s Yuki Ueno together, and El Desperado with Volador Jr. with all three teams in at once and lucha tag rules, it was a hard one to keep track of, for HANAOKA especially who came close but was thwarted with a Desperado Pinche Loco.
Rocky Romero’s aforementioned video message came immediately following a six man tag for Hikaru Sato, Yumehito Imanari and Ryusuke Taguchi against Batten Burabura, Tigers Mask and the Great Sasuke. Rocky was a sight for sore eyes, as what played out in ring left many near blindness, Sato winning with an armbar in a match that was full of R rated shenanigans.
Young stars from across the junior spectrum faced a parade of legends and veterans in a match that was made to honour the legend Shinjiro Otani, a portion of the gate going to support him in his recovery from an in ring accident last year. Chicharito Shoki of 2AW would take the fall to a Death Valley Bomb from Otani’s long time tag partner and friend Tatsuhito Takaiwa, while BJW junior heavyweight champion Kota Sekifuda was left calling out hardcore icon Jun Kasai after Kasai got liberal with the rules and buried wooden skewers into his skull.
That, incredibly, didn’t draw a DQ in the third, but SHO intentionally disqualified himself in the second match of the night. When frustration with partner Onryo of Triple 6 saw an I’ll advised blow, the venegeful spirit quickly made this a handicap match with DDT’s MAO and BASARA’s Isami Kodaka. SHO got himself DQd to get out the whole mess, Kodaka demanding he face SHO in a hardcore deathmatch as a result with the Murder Machine hastily refusing.
The night started officially with HAYATA from NOAH, YAMATO of Dragon Gate and BJW’s Kazuki Hashimoto meeting Hiromu Takahashi, AMAKUSA and Fujita ‘Jr’ Hayato. In a feel good moment for the inspirational Hayato, the K.I.D submission ended the night for Hashimoto with Fujita’s hand held high.
With a special pre show match seeing YOH take a victory alongside Souma Watanabe of GLEAT and Kazuma Sumi of DDT in a spectacular start to the proceedings, it was a stunning card from top to bottom in Korakuen!