A new year just started, and many wrestling promotions took different turns in its veil or as soon as it started. In All Japan Pro Wrestling, the first few tours of the year gave us a handful of surprises which have reshaped the promotion’s landscape in a big way !
This article will be taking a look at all the major changes and breaking them down !
Let’s start things off by looking at the faction emerging from the ashes of Sweeper : JIN. Officially forming in december of last year, after Ryouji Sai teamed up with Zeus to enjoy a run as World Tag Team champions, the group was only made of the three “OG’s” in Jake Lee, Koji Iwamoto and Naoya Nomura, whom finally joined Lee’s side last summer, following Nomura’s departure from NEXTREAM earlier in the year. As soon as 2020 started however, things picked up, as first, BASARA’s Fuminori Abe joined the group, following a three on three tag match against Evolution, which Lee and his mates have been feuding with for quite a while now. Then, it was 2AW’s Ayato Yoshida who would be invited to join, after he and Naoya Nomura went to a 30 minutes time limit draw. With five members, JIN is currently the most stacked group in the company alongside one I will talk about later, and not just in numbers. Obviously, the duo of Lee and Nomura, given they both are in the run to eventually win the Triple Crown championship, are the top guys and they alone make JIN a group to look out for. Same goes with Koji Iwamoto who is one, if not THE top Junior Heavyweight in the company. As for the last two additions, both Abe and Yoshida are stars in the making, or at least have all the tools to reach that status. The first one being one of the most exciting Juniors in all of Japan, while the second, which is dubbed as the “Next generation Ace”, has all the potential to be more than the rising star he currently is, whether it is in his home promotion or elsewhere.
As we speak, JIN is most likely All Japan’s strongest faction, top to bottom.
Let’s now look at the other recently formed group which made its presence felt rather quickly within All Japan : Purple Haze. Everything started with Atsushi Maruyama entering 2020 as a new persona named Izanagi, teaming up alongside UTAMARO, STRONGHEARTS’ Shigehiro Irie, and UK’s own Lucas Steel, which would all become his stablemates as part of a faction which had yet to be officially named at the time. Then, the now named Izanagi focused on getting Zeus to join his side. Zeus refused for a while, but on the last show of the New Year Wars tour and a tag match alongside both Izanagi and UTAMARO, the man finally accepted to join this new faction, which would then dub itself as Purple Haze. The new heels in town are not afraid to use dirty tactics in order to win or gain a mental edge, at least if you ask Izanagi.
With Zeus and Irie especially, Purple Haze also counts as a group to not underestimate. Adding one former Triple Crown champion and favourite to win this year’s Champion Carnival, as well as one of the best members of STRONGHEARTS to your side is no joke, and while the rest of the group isn’t exactly as shiny in terms of talent, Lucas Steel in particular is someone you might want to keep an eye on as time goes by.
Currently, they are the only heel group in All Japan and have started feuding with JIN, which may or may not lead to something big during this year’s Champion Carnival, and globally throughout 2020.
Lastly, when it comes to factions (since Evolution hasn’t moved one bit, even though they probably should), let’s discuss Kento Miyahara and his now non-existent group : NEXTREAM. The last member of the group in Yuma Aoyagi left Kento’s side in order to challenge him for the Triple Crown title two months ago, leaving the ever so dominant champion pretty much alone. We can easily wonder what will be next when it comes to NEXTREAM. Does Yoshitatsu, one of Kento’s most trusted allies, join in to start a new version of the faction ? Will we see someone like the Italian sensation Akira Francesco grow alongside All Japan’s Ace ? What about Joel Redman ? Or will Kento remain alone at the top of the mountain from now on ? All these questions have yet to be answered, and I personally wouldn’t be surprised AT ALL if Miyahara, in response to the likes of Lee and Zeus respectively reforming and joining groups of their own, were to recreate a faction himself. After all, with this change in landscape, the last thing you want is to fall behind while everything around you reshapes, right ?
Lastly, since Kento just lost the Triple Crown title to Suwama, the Ace of All Japan will have to regain focus, find something else to chase. Therefore, no matter if Kento stays by himself or reforms a group, the next few months should be very interesting to see how he recovers from his historic run, and how he will bounce back.