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AJPW ‘Royal Road 2019’ First Round Preview & Predictions



The seventh edition of the Royal Road tournament begins on Saturday with its first two matches. Winning the single-elimination tournament deems you the next challenger for the top prize in AJPW, the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. Two of the sixteen entrants are past winners, Suwama (2016 & 2017) and reigning Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, Kento Miyahara (2018). The tournament also features two first time entrants, Jiro ‘Ikemen’ Kuroshio and Sam Adonis.

Let’s begin breaking down the first round matches with a preview followed by predictions on who will advance.

Saturday, September 14
Naoya Nomura vs Sam Adnois

Returning to All Japan for the first time since the Champion Carnival back in April is Sam Adnois. Finishing the tournament on the bottom of the B Block with a 3-5 record is where you’d picture someone making their debut would end up. Adnois opted for a more character-heavy approach rather than adopting a pure wrestling style you’d expect from someone in AJPW. He’s sneaky and resorts to tricks as opposed to the hard-hitting style of Naoya Nomura which puts Nomura in danger right off the bat.

These two met in the Champion Carnival that saw Nomura come out with the win. You’d think coming off a recent Triple Crown challenge that Nomura would pick up another win but Adnois is a total wildcard. I’m going to pick Nomura in hopes they keep up his momentum but you heard it here first if Adnois cheats his way into the next round.
Prediction: Naoya Nomura

Saturday, September 14
Suwama vs Jake Lee

Dating back to 2016, and most recently this year’s Champion Carnival, Jake Lee has never beat Suwama. He comes into this match with an 0-3 record against the two time winner of the Royal Road, four time AJPW World Tag Team Champion and six time Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, Suwama. Now without the tag title, Suwama can put his full focus into being a singles competitor.

This will be Lee’s third entry in the Royal Road tournament. His first year he was bounced in round one but last year advanced to the second round where he was defeated by rival and eventual winner, Kento Miyahara. This is make or break for Jake. A win over Suwama would say a lot and right now Al Japan needs to make a play for their future. At 42 years old, Suwama is no spring chicken. This is a match that not only Lee needs but AJPW as a whole needs.
Prediction: Jake Lee

Sunday, September 15
Shuji Ishikawa vs Ryoji Sai

I still have nightmares over their thirty minute Champion Carnival draw. The tournament featured two draws, one was a clear MOTYC (Yuji Okabayashi vs Dylan James) and the other was a contender for the worst match this year. Fortunately, these two won’t go thirty again, guaranteeing this will be a better match. Just last week the team of Sai and Zeus defeated Ishikawa and Suwama for the tag team titles. Since I have Suwama getting bounced in round one, I see this being the way Ishikawa puts a stamp on their rematch.

This is Sai’s fourth Royal Road. He’s made it to the second round twice but hasn’t advanced any further. Ishikawa is a former Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion and three time AJPW World Tag Team Champion. The man is a main fixture and has recent ties to Sai so I see him pulling out the win here.
Prediction: Shuji Ishikawa

Sunday, September 15
Zeus vs Dylan James

Dylan James was my early pick to win the tournament but his loss at the most recent Korakuen show has me completely off the guy as a potential winner. When you’re tagging with a junior and you still take the fall, I can’t pick you to win Royal Road. I can however see him advancing to the second round. As one half of the current AJPW World Tag Team Champions, Zeus taking a loss to James would set up a title match down the line and since Zeus’s partner is a former champion with James as well, that’d be an interesting story.

These two have a history of trading singles wins dating back to last year’s Champion Carnival when James beat Zeus in under five minutes. Zeus paid him back in this year’s tournament, evening their series at one win each. Since I have Sai losing in the first round, I can’t see the other half of the tag champs taking a loss, especially considering it’s the same show, especially considering James is taking high profile roll-up losses.
Prediction: Zeus

Monday, September 16
Gianni Valletta vs Taishi Takizawa

Neither man comes in a stranger to Royal Road. Taishi Takizawa made an appearance in the 2016 tournament where he defeated a young Naoya Nomura in the opening round but couldn’t get past Suwama in the second. The former K-DOJO, now 2AW, product is an interesting pick up for this year’s tournament. He’s a man with massive size who can fit in very well to the big man style of All Japan.

It’s said that Gianni Valletta is inspired by Bruiser Brody but I just don’t see it. In any case, he’s back and is sure to try to cheat his way into the second round at any cost. The idea of Takizawa vs Ishikawa in the second round has me just as excited as Valletta vs Ishikawa has me disgusted. Hopefully the right man wins but you never know with Valletta, the man has a win over Kento Miyahara of all people.
Prediction: Taishi Takizawa

Monday, September 16
Yuma Aoyagi vs KAI

KAI makes his first appearance in several months, recently spending most of his time with Dragon Gate. His history with All Japan is a rocky one. He started his career in AJPW before jumping to WRESTLE-1, returned in 2017 and earned a shot at the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship only to leave for Dragon Gate shortly thereafter. KAI is here to put someone over but Yuma Aoyagi is not the guy.

The only original member of NEXTREAM not to leave Kento Miyahara, Yuma Aoyagi is someone who will soon be on the rise but isn’t seen at either Naoya Nomura or Jake Lee’s level yet. This will be his fourth entry in the tournament but it’s not his time. I strongly feel like KAI is here to put over Jake Lee in the second round.
Prediction: KAI

Monday, September 16
Jiro Kuroshio vs Yoshitatsu

A surprise appearance from former GAORA TV Champion and current DDT Extreme Champion, Jiro ‘Ikemen’ Kuroshio. This man is one of the most charismatic wrestlers you will find and he faces off with the charisma vacuum that is Yoshitatsu. Shade on Yoshitatsu aside, he’s put on several great performances since joining All Japan and deserves better than to be knocked out by Ikemen in the first round.

Ikemen has a great personality and I personally love everything about him but him being in this tournament is a bit of a joke. If he were to advance to the second round he’d be facing either Kento Miyahara or Joe Doering. That match would be even more egregious than this one. Thanks for the smiles, Ikemen, but we have serious business that deserves our attention.
Prediction: Yoshitatsu

Monday, September 16
Kento Miyahara vs Joe Doering

Time for the big one! Their first singles clash since last April, Joe Doering is back in All Japan to get his hands on the Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, Kento Miyahara. Kento is the man who ended Doering’s second reign as champion. Doering got his revenge less than a month later in the Champion Carnival only for Kento to lose the title to Zeus before Doering could make his claim for a rematch.

The history between these two is awesome. Their first singles dates back to the 2014 Royal Road which saw Doering come out with the win. He’d go on to pick up two more singles victories before taking his first loss to Kento in the 2017 Champion Carnival followed by two more losses until last years Carnival. This is one of the coolest rivalries in All Japan. Kento is running low on challengers so hopefully Doering picks up this win and continues their feud.
Prediction: Joe Doering

Predicted Second Round
Joe Doering vs Yoshitatsu
Naoya Nomura vs Zeus
Jake Lee vs KAI
Shuji Ishikawa vs Taishi Takizawa

Along with providing show reviews from across Japan, Robert McCauley is also an editor for FightboothPW.

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