The All Japan Champion Carnival was a tournament started in 1973 by Giant Baba for his promotion AJPW, which has been held every year ever since it was started (aside going on hiatus between 1983-1990), while these days it may not have the same prestige as the G1 Climax and All Japan is a much smaller promotion these days, the tournament has still produced some great matches over the years. So since this years Champion Carnival is now coming up I thought it be interesting to look back at the tournament from its beginning and review as many matches as I can from each year it was held. Now I know I won’t be able to cover all of it and there’ll be a lot that is unavailable to watch but I’ll cover what I can and will be mainly using the All Japan archive as my source for matches.
-Now unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be any matches available from the inaugural tournament , so the first match will be from 1974 and it’s the only match from that year.
27/4/1974 – The Destroyer vs. Abdullah the Butcher
So this is the earliest match I could watch and it’s not bad. Abdullah mainly just cheats and uses his utensil, but Destroyer retaliates with his own and they both end up bleeding, Destroyer even tries raking Abdullah’s eyes and biting him and things get so heated that they end up on the outside and Destroyer uses a chair, which all leads to either a double count-out or no contest. Either way the bell rings and they still go at it and even go back in the ring where Abdullah tries to pull of Destroyers mask.
Just a decent little sub-10 minute match.
Winner: No-contest **3/4
10/4/1975 – Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Bob Orton Jr.
So this next match, is also the only Champion Carnival match of 1975 I can find and it’s a first round match part of Block C. Both Tsuruta and Orton were only a couple of years into their careers at this point so were still some up-and-comers, but they put on a good showcase which was evenly matched. they exchanged holds, suplexes, waistlocks, shoulder blocks. hip tosses and at different point both guys get a small amount of control with a headlock, in the end though Tsuruta lands a butterfly suplex for the win. Good stuff.
Winner: Tsuruta(via butterfly suplex) ***1/4
1/5/1976 – Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Giant Baba
Onto 1976 and this time there’s more than one match, including the final. This one of the later rounds, featuring two of All Japans biggest stars.
Baba dominates alot of it with various holds but Tsuruta hold his own too with a few hold himself and utilises his agility to help him through, there are some nice exchanges between the two and Jumbo has a few chances to get the win but ultimately falls victim to a Gian backdrop for the pinfall. Really good match between the two, both put in a solid effort.
Winner: Baba(via backdrop) ***3/4
8/5/1976 – Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Kintaro Oki
This match took place on the final day and the version available is heavily cut sine this match apparently went to a 30 minute draw, didn’t seem like a bad match though aside an over the rope sunset flip going a bit awry. I’m not familiar with Kintaro at all so I’ve no clue how good he is, would have been nice to see the full match.
Winner: Time Limit draw NR
8/5/1976 – Giant Baba vs. The Barracuda
This was another match from the final day, this is in full though since its only 12 minutes and its pretty decent. Mainly just an exchange of hold with couple moves and strikes to break it up until Baba finally gets the neckbreaker drop for the win and advances to the final. Nothing special but not bad.
Winner: Baba(via neckbreaker drop) **3/4
8/5/1976 – Champion Carnival Final: Giant Baba vs. Abdullah the Butcher
So this is the actual tournament final, the earliest one that I’ve actually managed to watched so far.
Abdullah full on assaults Baba right from the get go, including throwing him to the outside a bunch and busting him wide open, Baba only manages to make a comeback after dodging a running elbow drop and retaliates with his own assault on Abdullah, leading to him hitting a neckbreaker drop that also knocks the ref out of the ring. An outside official makes the count but it’s only a two so, Babe proceeds to stomp and beat Abdullah’s head in and eventually gets disqualified making Abdullah the winner of the tournament.
This was pretty intense, they really went at each other and the fact that Baba ended up not caring if he got disqualified really shows the massive heat between them, really good stuff.
Winner: Abdullah The Butcher(via Disqualification) ***3/4
-Unfortunately there were no matches from ’77 available, however there is a good number from ’78 which is awesome.
4/3/1978 – Kintaro Oki vs. Luke Graham
So this is from the first day of the Carnival and is the first tournament match of it. Only the last 2 minutes of it was shown, though the match actually lasted around 8 and half minutes. Basically just some strike exchanges and then Oki hitting a few hit headbutts to get the win and earn himself 2 points. No idea who Luke Graham though apparently he was the storyline brother of ‘Superstar’ Billy Graham, seemed a little slow going is all I can say about him and its the second time I’ve seen Oki in a clipped match.
Winner: Kintaro Oki(via Headbutt) NR – clipped
4/3/1978 – Don Leo Jonathan vs. Jumbo Tsuruta
Second match of the tournament and this one is in full, not clipped. Very technical affair, they run the ropes to begin and then go into 8 minutes of purely exchanging hold, which has some very nice counters and reversals. Jumbo then throws a few strikes into the mix including hitting his signature dropkick and jumping knee, which then leads to the end bit where Jumbo locks in a short-arm scissor and keeps rolling back into it when Don would try to escape, eventually Don powers him up but Tsuruta still rolls him back onto the ground, they then roll out of the ring to the outside with the short arm scissors still locked in, so Don powers him up on the outside, steps onto the apron and Jumbo rolls him over the ropes straight back into it, so finally Don powers him up a 3rd time, but when Jumbo goes to roll him back over but Don doesn’t budge this time and holds Jumbo down for the pinfall and nab himself. Really interesting way to ending for sure and it was a very solid match overall, It’s my first time seeing Don Leo Jonathan but I was certainly impressed by him, particularly earlier in the match where he backflipped with the ropes while in an arm wringer. Very enjoyable.
Winner: Don Leo Jonathan(via pinfall) ***1/2
4/3/1978 – Abdullah the Butcher vs. Black Terror
3rd match of night 1 and its a very short one, they basically exchange some strikes, end up on the outside, Abdullah gets busted open they go back in the ring for a few seconds but Abdullah throws Black Terror back outside, they get caught in a lockup and start walking around which leads to them both getting counted out, so no-one gets the points. they then keep at each other even after the bell has rung. Fairly standard Butcher stuff really.
Winner: No-one(double countout) NR
4/3/1978 – Giant Baba vs. Kim Duk
Final match of night 1 and this one was cut slightly and missing the finish, but Baba is the one that gets the win and the points. Matched seemed alright certainly nothing special.
Winner: Giant Baba(via pinfall) NR – Missing finish
11/3/1978 – The Destroyer vs. Black Terror
We now jump to night 7 with this match and it’s pretty decent. They do some hold exchanges for the first half, then Black Terror starts churning out some strikes and before finally relying on dirtier tactics like choking destroyer with the ropes. He finally throws Destroyer to the outside and grabs him in a headlock but gets pushed off into the turnpost, Destroyer gets back into the ring and Terror ends up getting counted out, serves him right for trying to play dirty.
Winner: the Destroyer(via countout) ***
11/3/1978 – Frank Morrell vs. Giant Baba
Another match from night 7 and it’s pretty much a squash, running for just over minute. Morrell basically attacks Baba while his back his turned, starts choking him on the apron and attacking him on the outside, Baba retaliates, they get back in the ring and after a little more scuffling, Baba hits the big boot to get the win.
Morrell reminded me of a thinner, hairless George ‘the Animal’ Steele.
Winner: Baba(via big Boot) NR
11/3/1978 – Abdullah the Butcher vs. Don Leo Jonathan
3rd match from night 7 and it’s another decent contest. In the beginning they kept going for the tie-up and striking each other, Abdullah kept jabbing Don in the throat so he retaliated by kicking him in the throat and then was doing offense on his throat and jaw area, eventually Abby strikes him in the throat which takes him over the ropes to the outside, Don tries to get in twice but gets headbutted off the apron, he then does a goddamn handspring back into the ring, gets in some offense and goes for a running splash, but Abby gets his knees up and hits his running elbow drop to get the win.
Winner: Abdullah The Butcher(via running elbow drop) ***
11/3/1978 – Kintaro Oki vs. Jumbo Tsuruta
Final match of night 7, and it’s missing the finish, though Jumbo apparently wins by DQ. Match weren’t bad though, quite a back &forth contest, a mix of moves and strikes, at one point Kintaro lays in a bunch of headbutts and throws Jumbo to the outside and Jumbo makes a comeback by taking him down with a snapmare and stomping his head in.
Winner: Jumbo(via DQ) NR – missing finish
14/3/1978 – Black Terror vs. Rocky Hata
Moving on to night 10 of the tournament and this is another match that’s clipped, starts while Terror’s locking in a shoulderclaw, Rocky makes a come back, but gets foiled and a big vertical suplex keeps him down for the 3 count. Not bad.
Winner: Black Terror(via suplex) NR – clipped
14/3/1978 – Kintaro Oki vs. King Iaukea
a second match from night 10 and its short one, running just under 4 minutes. A strike heavy match-up with King using some dirty tactics like choking. He eventually throws Kintaro outside and starts attacking him, even body slamming him on the floor, however he goes to dive off a table and misses and doesn’t make it in the ring before the 10 count, giving Kintaro the victory. Alright for what it was.
Winner: Kintaro Oki(via countout) **1/2
14/3/1978 – Ted Dibiase vs. Jumbo Tsuruta
3rd match from night 10 featuring a young Ted Dibiase. They unfortunately cut the first couple minutes, but match was pretty good overall, technical affair for most part with lots of hold exchanges until they start delving into strikes and bit of offense towards the end, leading to Jumbo successfully executing a sunset flip for the victory.
winner: Jumbo Tsuruta(via sunset flip) ***
14/3/1978 – Abdullah the Butcher vs. The Destroyer
Final match of night 10 and it’s not bad. Starts quite back and forth with each guy getting some control and gets more and more heated, til they are going at it on the outisde and Abby keeps trying to choke Destroyer until Destroyer takes him down to the floor and starts choking him instead. King Iaukea then gets involved and takes Destroyer of Abby, Destroyer then deals with Iaukea while Abby gets in the ring and wins the match via countout. Someone comes in the ring and tries to talk to the ref about Iaukeas involvement, but Abby starts attacking him while Iaukea and Destroyer are brawling outside, Jumbo then gets involved and him and abby start going at it and they all start brawling in the ring until Abdullah and Iaukea make their exit.
Winner: Abdullah the Butcher(via countout) **1/2
25/3/1978 – Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Kim Duk
We now jump ahead to day 19 with a match that goes to a 30 minute time limit draw and the first couple of minutes are cut. It’s a really good match though, the first half is purely technical wrestling with them exchanging holds, Jumbo gains considerable control working on Kims arm and Kim comes back hitting a piledriver and tombstone and then for the rest of the match they go back and forth trying to get the fall, until Kim locks in a boston crab and the bells goes off for the time limit. both men are disappointed and have a small go at each other outside but I quickly broke apart. Good showing from both men.
Winner: Time limit Draw ***3/4
25/3/1978 – Giant Baba vs. Black Terror
Second match from day 19 and it’s just a short 4 minute affair, not much to it really, just an easy night for both guys with Baba getting the win.
Winner: Giant Baba(via Russian Leg Sweep) **1/4
25/3/1978 – Abdullah The Butcher vs. Kintaro Oki
Final match of day 19 and before Abdullah is even fully in the ring Kintaro just assaults him with lots of headbutts and keeps up the headbutts for a good couple minutes, before Abdullah hulks up and has a small comeback until Kintaro gets in more headbutts and Abby makes another come back…then the finish is unfortunately cut, but Abby wins by countout. Not bad, quite enjoyed Kintaro’s headbutt assault.
Winner: Abdullah(via countout) NR – no finish
1/4/1978 – Don Leo Jonathan vs. King Iaukea
On to day 26. Another short contest here, mainly them exchanging a bunch of strikes, before finally ending up on the outside and both getting counted out. After the bell Don locks in a bow and arrow lock on the outside and throws King’s hard in to the turnbuckle post, before King finally runs away. It was ok.
No Winner: Double count-out **1/4
1/4/1978 – Jumbo Tsuruta vs. Abdullah the butcher
Another one from day 26 and it was pretty good overall. Jumbo definitely seemed pumped up, when the tie-up at the start breaks off and runs at Abdullah with a forearm smash and later on really lays in some uppercuts in the corner, Abdullah manages to get into control for a short amount but then Jumbo come back with an assault that include two piledrivers and stomps to the head that unsurprisingly bust Abby wide open, but in the end Abby gets back into things and shoulder barges Jumbo to the outside, leading him to win by count-out.
Winner: Abdullah(via Count-out) ***1/4
1/4/1978 – Kintaro Oki vs. Giant Baba
Final match of day 26 and it’s a simple little match. Baba basically dominates throughout and Kintaro keeps trying to stay in it with his headbutts, in the end Baba hits a big boot and goes for the lateral press, but Kintaro hits a low blow while in the pin and then lands a headbutt to get the pinfall. It was alright, nothing special.
Winner: Kintaro Oki(via Headbutt) **3/4
7/4/1978 – Champion Carnival final: Abdullah the Butcher vs. Giant Baba
We finally come to the final of the 1978 Champion Carnival and its once again Baba taking on Abdullah. Last year Baba ended up getting himself disqualified but this time he gets the win by count-out, after dropkicking Abdullah off the apron, Abdullah isn’t happy though and they keep going at it after the match.
Wasn’t a big fan of this match was a little boring and slow going, didn’t really pick up til the last couple of minutes, shame really.
Winner: Giant Baba(via Double countout) **1/4
3/3/1979 – Dick Slater vs. Killer Tor Kamata
Gonna round of this long-ass review with the last few Champion Carnival matches of the 70’s, first up is a match from day 1 and before Kamata even gets to the ring, Slater starts brawling with him on the outside, they eventually get back inside and the match starts, with Kamata going for dirty tactics like eye rakes, biting and choking, and Slater delivering heavy strikes. In the end Kamata ties up Slater in the ropes and keeps choking him, refuses to break it and even pushes the ref out of the way, leading to him getting disqualified. They then just keep brawling after the match and even Baba has to come out to help break it up. Not bad just a short 5 minute affair.
Winner: Dick Slater(via DQ) **1/2
6/3/1979 – Dick Slater vs. Abdullah the Butcher
On to day 6 and another Dick Slater match. Tor Kamata appears to to attack Slater on the outside before hand, so Slater crawls into the ring busted open, Abdullah then takes control right off the bat and digs his utensil into Slater’s skull and eye, but Slater won’t stay down and eventually makes a come back even using his own utnesil to bust open Abdullah. After Slater gets more offense, Abdullah uses his utensil once again but ends up getting backdropped while using it , allowing Slater to use Abdullah’s own utensil against him, which leads to them brawling on the outside and both getting counted out. they continue to go at it after the bell and then Tor Kamata comes out to help Abdullah, they gang up on Dick, until help is given by some other wrestler including Jumbo.
That was quite the heated contest fair play, enjoyed that.
No Winner: Double Countout ***1/4
24/3/1979 – Dos Caras vs. Jumbo Tsuruta
Moving Swiftly on to day 19 and it’s a solid match between these two. It’s a very even contest that features some nice technical wrestling, Jumbo even busts out a giant swing and Dos Caras does a tope suicida!, in the end Cara goes for a ‘Rana but Tsuruta reverses it to a powerbomb for the win. Good showing from both guys.
Winner: Jumbo(via Powerbomb) ***1/2
24/3/1979 – Abdullah the Butcher vs. Giant Baba
Final match from day 19 and it’s another Butcher/Baba match. This contest is like their last one I looked at, in that it was a little dull to begin with, then they picked things up a little at the end. They both end up brawling on the outside twice, with the second time leading to them both getting counted out. After the bell had rung they are still going at it and then Tor Kamata comes out and helps Abdullah and gang up on Baba, until help arrives, leading to Dick Slater and Jumbo Tsuruta digging an umbrella into Abdullah’s head.
No Winner: Double Countout **
6/4/1979 – Champion Carnival final: Abdullah the Butcher vs. Jumbo Tsuruta
And now we get to the 1979 final, featuring Abdullah the Butcher once again, but this time against Jumbo. It’s a good match fairplay, with Jumbo really bring it to Abby. he actually dominates to begin and even piledrives Abby on the outside, Abby makes a come back and takes control himself, it all leads to them brawling on the outside and getting counted out, but there must a be a winner so the match is restarted and Jumbo fronts an all out assault on Abby, but in the end he dives of the top gets caught with a forearm and the Abby lands his running elbow drop to get the pinfall and win the tournament.
Winner: Abdullah the Butcher(via running elbow drop) ***1/4
So that’s all the 70’s matches that were available on the All Japan archive, nothing outstanding but there was definitely a fair amount of good matches, as well as nice variety of styles. I really haven’t watched much 70’s All Japan at all, so it’s been fun exploring more from that era and I look forward to covering some more matches.