All Japan Pro Wrestling’s biggest tournament will begin on April 4th, and with yet another crowded field in the two blocks, I wanted to look at the cases of B block participants Jake Lee and Naoya Nomura, of the Sweeper faction. Can these two men impact the whole tournament ? Let’s find out !
First things first, for anyone who may not be up to date with All Japan, the Champion Carnival is a tournament with similar rules to the New Japan’s G1 Climax, or NOAH’s N-1 Victory, formerly known as Global League. The winner of the tournament will earn a opportunity at winning the Triple Crown Championship, currently held by Kento Miyahara.
As for Sweeper, the faction has been founded in the summer of last year, soon after Jake Lee made his return to All Japan and announced he would leave Nextream (lead by Miyahara), the group he was in before, as he wanted to face his now former stablemates. Once the group formed around Lee, Dylan James, Koji Iwamoto, Keiichi Sato and Ryoji Say, the goal was simple : “Sweep” All Japan by bringing all the titles to their side. Since then, Dylan James has left the group to form a partnership with Joe Doering, and Naoya Nomura, just like his former Nextream partner Lee, left Miyahara’s group very recently to join Sweeper, as he challenged his former stablemate for the Triple Crown Championship on March 19th, which is a match I recommend you to watch.
The other big thing to know is that right now, All Japan is climbing back up, lead by the Ace Miyahara, but while he has been a great Ace so far and should keep on that track for a long while, there is a bit of a lack of other rising stars alongside Kento, or should I say, there are some very promising wrestlers, but the main thing they lack at this point is build to be credible rivals for Kento. After all, is an Ace without at least one big rival really an Ace ?
This is where both Sweeper members Lee and Nomura come in, and I suggest we start with the most recent addition to the group. As said before in this article, Naoya Nomura faced Kento Miyahara for the Triple Crown Championship during the Dream Power Series tour. While he lost the match, he did deliver a great performance and showed he was getting closer to be a future threat to Kento’s championship, and who knows, his status of Ace, but this is still a bit of a longshot. During their bout, Nomura has shown the ability to take a lot of punishment, a very strong will and even some attitude towards his former stablemate, which only encourages me to think that these two will collide again, as their match really felt like the start of something bigger. Nomura only being 25, he’s only starting to rise and as good as he is already is, it will be very interesting to see him progress, especially this year.
Now I suggest we take a look at the most prominent figure in Sweeper, Jake Lee. The 30 years old former MMA fighter has more under his belt than his younger partner, as you may have guessed. Currently holding the All-Asia Tag Team Championships alongside Koji Iwamoto, Lee has already been facing Miyahara in the past, losing twice but also showing he could definitely hang with Kento. Even though Lee once challenged Shuji Ishikawa for the championship a few years ago, he never faced Kento for it, even though he did ask for a title shot, but got a non-title match instead.
As you can see, both men already some history with Miyahara, and both will look to do their best in this upcoming Champion Carnival. One interesting to note however, is that not only both Lee and Nomura will enter the tournament for the third time this year, Lee never got past two points, and Nomura only went up to four points once. With that in mind, you may wonder how these two men in particular could actually have a big tournament, especially in the B block where guys like former Ace Suwama and Joe Doering will also be in. Let’s not forget that Lee and Nomura will also have to face each other, which I will say it right now : We should be in for one of the B block’s most decisive matches.
But, this is where things get interesting. The one important thing to know is that tournaments can be a great way to give the necessary build up to some wrestlers in need of it. As I stated earlier, there is a need for other stars to rise up alongside Kento, and two potential prospects are right there with the two Sweeper members. Both men could benefit from a great showing in the tournament, but also not to same extent.
Let’s start with Jake Lee this time. As stated, Lee is the more experienced and established of the two here, and to go straight to my point, he is my favourite to win the tournament this year. The case here being that, in All Japan’s current landscape as well as how the B block is shaped up, there is a big opportunity to propel Jake Lee to a level he is ,quite frankly, already quite close to reach, but he hasn’t fully made the jump yet. Defeating two established veterans in Suwama and Doering and potentially go on to win the tournament would be huge for Lee, as it would be a big leap compared to his previous performances in the tournament. Let’s say he actually wins the Carnival, whether or not he actually goes on to claim his first win over Miyahara afterwards, he would already benefit from a big boost, and would be seen as a credible main eventer from that point on.
With Naoya Nomura now, we tone things down a bit, slightly. While an even bigger surprise could happen with Nomura winning the B Block, it is also hard to imagine such a thing actually happening, because of the block’s crowded field. Nomura isn’t yet as established as his elder, but he could definitely reach a similar level of establishment to the one Lee currently has, by having an impressive tournament. In terms of ranking, do not be surprised if you see Nomura end up in the top four of the block, as he could manage to claim a win over a more established Suwama (his former stablemate in Evolution) or Doering. It isn’t hard to expect that Nomura rides the momentum following his performance against Miyahara, as he now only has one thing to do, which just like Jake Lee, to prove that leaving Nextream was the right choice all along, and that now, it is Sweeper which will lead All Japan into a New Era, acknowledged by Kento Miyahara himself after his match with Nomura.