The Gaora TV Championship has been existing within AJPW since Agusut 2012. However, during the last 8 years, the title hasn’t received that much attention and wasn’t exactly elevated as the official secondary title for anyone in All Japan to compete for. The top stars don’t even bother challenging for it, and the most successful champion has been a 47 years old Jun Akiyama in 2017, who as good as he still was, couldn’t really be considered one of top guys at that time.
The goal of this article is to discuss how and why All Japan should think about making this championship a bigger deal than it currently is.
What are your first thoughts when thinking of the Gaora TV Championship ? Mine would be along the lines of « Who really cares about that belt ? », and I think this is a bit of an issue within All Japan Pro Wrestling. While the company has been more than able to handle their singles Heavyweight division with only the Triple Crown Championship as an actual prize to win, hold and defend proudly, the growth of the current main event scene has led me to think that All Japan may need to do something in regards to occupying some of their major players, when they are not involved in the Triple Crown, World Tag or All Asia Tag titles scenes. While the possibility of creating a brand new championship, either replacing the Gaora title completely or more simply pushing it even further down the card is also there, why not use a championship you already have and try to make it worth more ? Shuji Ishikawa certainly has the personel to accomplish such thing, and as he has showed us since taking the booking role over, he seemingly has the ability to book things rather well.
So, which wrestlers would not only benefit from getting non-Triple Crown gold around their waist, while being able to elevate the championship’s prestige while champion ? Let’s dive into the list of names !
The current leader of JIN may very well be the perfect candidate for the job. Popular, good looking, most definitely a top notch wrestler, and someone who is still searching for big singles success in All Japan, after his Royal Road tournament win last year and his failed attempts at taking the Triple Crown championship from Kento Miyahara. Lee definitely is on the rise, but after failing many times to capture the top gold, a change of pace probably would be a good thing. Another tag team run seems a bit unlikely, given he and Koji Iwamoto recently lost the All Asia tag titles. You’d expect Lee to slowly but surely return near the Triple Crown scene, possibly by the end of 2020 or next year, unless the plan for him is to win the Champion Carnival, whenever it happens.
In the meantime ? How about giving Jake a chance to prove his worth as a singles champion by giving him the Gaora TV championship ? Similarily to someone like Zeus, he could either incarnate a fighting and prideful champion, or act a bit more heelish, as Jake has shown cockiness before.
Using Jake Lee to elevate such a title, and assuming Jake makes it work, certainly would cement his case to become Triple Crown champion within the next year or two.
The « issue » with Zeus currently is his relevancy. The 38 years old and former Triple Crown champion, since losing the title back to Kento Miyahara two years ago, has had a bit of a difficult time finding singles success. The rise of both Naoya Nomura and Jake Lee, Miyahara’s dominance and Suwama’s recent return to singles prominence has left the current leader of Purple Haze a bit behind when it comes to chasing the Triple Crown title, and he had to resort to teaming with Ryouji Sai last year for a little while. Together, they managed to grab the World Tag Team titles from Suwama and Ishikawa, until the Violent / Runaway Giants won their third Real World Tag League to take the belts back.
Since then, Zeus essentially has done nothing of note, and given how good the wrestler is, this is a bit of a shame. Given his age, and the more stacked main event scene, it his hard to tell if Zeus will even get another crack at the Triple Crown, after having to wait a very long time before getting his firs reign.
Therefore, why not put the reliable veteran in a spot where his job is to deliver very good matches against anyone you could throw at him, in order to make the Gaora TV Championship a more prestigious title ? While Zeus is currently a heel, him fighting with pride remains one of his traits and asserting his dominance through his sheer power could be a reflexion of his current heelish ways (adding some cockiness in the process). Lastly, giving someone like Zeus, partly due to his age compared to your other stars, would allow your younger stars to focus on the Triple Crown.
Maybe you didn’t expect to see this name appear here, and I wouldn’t blame you for it. Now, hear me out. Besides his loss to Suwama for the Triple Crown title last month, Ashino, who came in to All Japan and quickly gained lots of momentum, still has quite a good amount of it left. He is not quite yet at the level of the other All Japan stars given he essentially just arrived to his new home promotion, but his star power exist and he has all the talent in the world to bring prestige to any gold he holds, by having great match after great match.
In that sense, having Ashino win the Gaora TV championship isn’t too much of a farfetched idea, as it would allow the leader of Enfants Terribles to keep on expressing dominance over the All Japan roster, keep on gaining momentum prior to an eventual other Triple Crown challenge, and leaving a mark in quite a unique way.
Similarily to Jake Lee, the idea behind an Ashino Gaora reign is to build him back up for greater things to accomplish, and as I was just referring to leaving a mark, Ashino taking the secondary and largely ignored singles title All Japan has to offer, to cement himself and the belt at an even higher standard, would absolutely make him stand out even more than he currently does.
The older Aoyagi brother and former NEXTREAM member, after breaking away from Kento Miyahara for the opportunity to challenge for the Triple Crown championship, is kind of lost in the shuffle at the moment, with not much certainties regarding what will be next for him. For one of the four people Miyahara himself declared as the ones who would be leading All Japan in the future, the other two being Jake Lee and Naoya Nomura, this is an intriguing spot to be in.
Currently a lone wolf compared to the other three I just mentioned, Aoyagi has to be looking for something to do, primarily to keep elevating himself closer to the level his three now former comrades (as all were in NEXTREAM before) have reached. As good as Yuma has gotten, he still is a bit behind even when compared to Lee and Nomura.
Therefore, putting him in a position where he has to work his way up by bringing more relevancy to a championship which lacks quite a lot of it at the moment would make sense. Yuma, as shown during the match with Kento, is able to showcase more heelish tendencies while still being somebody the crowds will cheer for, which sounds like good champion material on paper.
If there is one name you may have expected even less to make this article, it potentially is the current 2AW Openweight champion and member of JIN. Since returning to All Japan, having one of the best matches of 2020 with Naoya Nomura and gaining his place in JIN following the encounter, Yoshida has been having quite the very good year. Constantly getting better, winning his first championships in his rebranded home promotion, Yoshida is definitely on the rise and potentially 2020’s breakout star coming from Japan.
As he was supposed to take part in the Champion Carnival back in April, it was quite clear All Japan saw Yoshida’s great potential, as if the inclusion in JIN didn’t make it obvious enough. And while a championship like the Triple Crown is way out of reach so far for Yoshida, winning the Gaora TV championship, possibly even holding two titles at the same time, would help raise his profile within a promotion he’s not exactly a regular figure (yet ?).
What putting the young Ace of 2AW in such a position would also indicate is that All Japan really trusts him and wishes to invest in him long term, which the Champion Carnival participation was already teasing, with the promotion wishing to see how Yoshida could hang against some of All Japan’s more prominent players.
Lastly, Yoshida could defend such a title in 2AW, which has a good pool of talents to produce really good matches (Asakawa, Nagai, Takizawa, Mashimo, etc…), thus helping raise the title’s prestige.
Now, even more than bringing up names which would potentially be credible to, in the long run, elevate the prestige of the Gaora TV championship, none of this will be possible if All Japan doesn’t have the will to make this title more meaningful than it currently is. That not only means putting the championship on someone able to elevate it, or giving all the opportunities to current champion Yoshitatsu to do it if you trust him, but also bring bigger names as challengers. While the likes of Seigo Tachibana, UTAMARO and Noriyuki Yoshida just to name some of Yoshitatsu’s challengers are respectable wrestlers, you can’t elevate a championship if at least some of the people challenging for it aren’t relevant figures either within All Japan itself, or the entirety of the Japanese scene.