Kento Miyahara | All Japan’s Best of the Best

Historically one of the biggest companies in Pro Wrestling, All Japan Pro Wrestling have confronted a number of challenges that changed the face of the promotion. All Japan’s legacy is one of larger-than-life performers that ultimately depart in search of new horizons, and with each departure, a hole is made to be filled by another future star.

In 2013, All Japan found their next figurehead in a long list of icons – Kento Miyahara.

Miyahara defines an entire era of All-Japan history, a history that he both helped to build and built with his own hands. That being said, Miyahara’s own history is not defined by his time in All Japan, and his journey to stardom within the promotion is there to be explored so that can fans unfamiliar with Miyahara can discover how the Best of the Best era in All Japan was born.

AJPW's Kento Miyahara to debut for NJPW on June 18th
[Photo: POST Wrestling]

Kento Miyahara – Kensuke Office & NOAH

The place where Kento Miyahara would start his wrestling career was owned by none other than former IWGP Heavyweight Champion Kensuke Sasaki and his wife, the former Joshi star Akira Hokuto.

Kensuke Office was created in 2005, three years before Miyahara’s debut for the promotion. It has been the start of many a gifted performer’s journeys, most notably Katsuhiko Nakajima.

Kensuke Sasaki competed in the promotion himself, though one of his main roles there was training up-and-coming puroresu stars like Miyahara & Nakajima.

Another benefit to being trained at Kensuke Office was the promotion’s relationship with other, much more prestigious promotions. As a part of the Global Professional Wrestling Alliance (GPWA), Kensuke Office could share facilities, talents, and events with promotions such as Ring of Honor, DDT Pro Wrestling, Big Japan Pro Wrestling, and Dragon Gate.

Miyahara made use of this by appearing frequently for Pro Wrestling NOAH, competing in both the Mauritius Cup and the NTV G+ Cup Junior Heavyweight Tag League. This also allowed him to venture overseas to take part in the Mexican independent promotion International Wrestling Revolution Group.

IWRG’s Copa Higher Power as part of an all-Japanese team of wrestlers. Having this expanded platform with which to perform on had many touting Miyahara as the next Kensuke Sasaki.

The comparison between Miyahara and Sasaki led to a rivalry between the two following a change in the promotion’s name from Kensuke Office to Diamond Ring. Miyahara turned on his mentor Sasaki to join the stable, directly opposed to everything Sasaki stood for in the promotion and the wrestling world.

This stable Voodoo Murders employed classic heel tactics in most of their matches, and their members adopted cult-like personas.

Towards the end of Kento Miyahara’s time with Diamond Ring, he and fellow student Taishi Takizawa aligned with “brother” YASSHI during a feud over the legitimacy of two rivaling sub-factions of Voodoo Murders. By the end of the feud, the two sub-factions merged into one, and Miyahara became a fledgling member of the new Voodoo Murders.

As Voodoo Murders were seen very much as an anti-authority group within the promotion, they then clashed with those considered to be loyal to Diamond Ring, such as Katsuhiko Nakajima and Satoshi Kajiwara, to name a few.

AJPW Announces Free Streaming Of Entire February 27 Shinkiba Tournament
[Photo: Wrestling Inc]

Walking the King’s Road

Kento Miyahara made his intentions to leave Diamond Ring clear in August of 2013 so that he could participate in All Japan Pro Wrestling’s famed Ōdō Tournament in September.

For All Japan, this period was yet another turbulent one. Just five months earlier in May, All Japan figurehead at the time, Keiji Mutoh, departed from the promotion after Nobuo Shiraishi became the president of the promotion.

Losing a force like Mutoh was hard enough for All Japan, but it was made even harder when a dozen other stars, referees, and even announcer Makoto Abe departed in solidarity with Mutoh, going on to form a new promotion called Wrestle-1 in the process.

The roster had halved in size, and Miyahara was just one of many brought in to help steady the ship. Though it was the longest match of the round, Miyahara was knocked out of the Ōdō Tournament in the first round by reigning Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion Suwama, who had stayed put in All Japan during the exodus period.

Due to his commitments with All Japan, Miyahara ended his affiliation with Voodoo Murders, and it wasn’t long before he found himself in another stable. Go Shiozaki, who had recently left a stable (Burning) himself, created a group named Xceed with Kenso (Kenzo Suzuki).

But Kenso’s membership was short-lived when he turned on Go Shiozaki on their first outing to align with D-Lo Brown and Bambi Killer. With Go Shiozaki vastly outnumbered, Kento Miyahara, along with Kotaro Suzuki and Atsushi Aoki, came to Shiozaki’s aid, joining Xceed in the process.

2013’s World’s Strongest Tag Determination League would feature all members of Xceed, with the team of Kento Miyahara and Go Shiozaki making it all the way to the final but fell short of winning the tournament after a loss to World Tag Team Champions Suwama and Joe Doering.

Xceed were involved in a number of title matches the following year, with each member failing to win whichever title they challenged for. This period saw Miyahara’s first opportunity at gold in All Japan come when he faced reigning Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion Akebono for his title at the Dream Power Series.

The former K-1 star quickly dispatched Miyahara, as he often did with his opponents during his reigns.

That year, Miyahara went on to finish second bottom in Block A of the Champion Carnival, All Japan’s most prestigious tournament that parallels New Japan Pro Wrestling’s G1 Climax.

It wasn’t all bad for Miyahara, though, as he later went on to win the All Asia Tag Team Championships with Kotaro Suzuki, his first title in All Japan. He even reached the final of the Real World Tag League with Go Shiozaki and the semi-finals of the Ōdō Tournament, a significant improvement on the previous year’s effort.

Miyahara and Kotaro Suzuki’s run with the All Asia Tag Team Titles stretched into 2015 until the duo lost the titles to Mitsuya Nagai and Takeshi Minamino of the Dark Kingdom, Kenso’s stable.

Despite the loss of the tag titles, gold was never too far from Miyahara’s reach as he later challenged stablemate Go Shiozaki for his Triple Crown Heavyweight Title. This was ideal for Xceed; it would be fantastic practice for the pair in preparation for the upcoming Champion Carnival, and no matter the result of the match, the title would stay in their possession.

Miyahara failed in his second attempt to capture the Triple Crown for the first time and soon after fell to Akebono’s score in the Champion Carnival.

Once again, despite the setback, Miyahara found himself in pursuit of gold again. This time, Miyahara was on the same side as Go Shiozaki as the two challenged Akebono and Yutaka Yoshie for the World Tag Team Titles.

The pair were successful; Miyahara’s second All Japan title was in his possession, but it would not last. Four months into their reign, Go Shiozaki announced his departure from the promotion, stating that;

“I want to further increase my potential and try various things. I think that by quitting, I will be able to see various possibilities. Nothing is set in stone for the future, but I hope my expectations grow.”

This meant that the World Tag Team Titles had to be vacated, and the leadership of Xceed fell to Kotaro Suzuki. He then departed All Japan himself a month after Shiozaki, and so Xceed disbanded.

The breakup of Xceed left Kento Miyahara without a partner for that year’s Real World Tag League, and he ended up in a team with Suwama. One may not have expected the pair to win the tournament after such a turbulent few months for Miyahara, yet against all odds, the pair swept The Big Guns, The Bodyguard, and Zeus aside in the final.

Kento Miyahara with the original AJPW Triple Crown Championship Belts : r/SquaredCircle
[Photo: Reddit]

Ace of All Japan

Departures throughout All Japan had placed Miyahara in a prime position to make the jump to the next level as one of the promotion’s stars. Go Shiozaki needed to be replaced, and who better to replace him with that his former partner?

Speaking of partners, Miyahara had found a new one of his own – the future “Good Looking Emperor,” Jake Lee.

He and Miyahara formed NEXTREAM, meaning new wind or a generational change. The stable introduced a number of different members over the years: Keiichi Sato, Naoya Nomura, Yuma Aoyagi, Atsuki Aoyagi, and Rising HAYATO, but Miyahara always remained the leader of the group.

Success in the Tag League and a number of victories with Jake Lee at his side had earned Miyahara another match for the now-vacant Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship. He would face and subsequently beat Zeus at the 2016 Excite Series to earn All Japan’s biggest prize at the third time of asking.

He had around his waist a title that marked the stars of All Japan from the rest, a title held by Jumbo Tsuruta, Mitsuharu Misawa, Stan Hansen, and many more legendary names before him.

Zeus would at least get a grade of revenge against Miyahara when he and The Bodyguard denied Miyahara & Jake Lee the World Tag Team Titles. Nonetheless, it wouldn’t put too big a dent in Miyahara’s run.

Takao Omori was the first to fall to Miyahara, closely followed by the winner of the 2016 Champion Carnival, Daisuke Sekimoto, who had picked up a victory over Miyahara during the tournament.

Miyahara’s ambition was to break the record for most defenses of the Triple Crown, held by Toshiaki Kawada, who made ten defenses during his reign.

As Miyahara’s reign hit one year, he made his eighth defense against The Bodyguard, and the prospect of equalling Kawada’s record was now very real. However, a new winner of the Champion Carnival comes with each year that passes, and therefore a new challenger for the Triple Crown comes to be.

In 2017, the 6’5 Shuji Ishikawa won the tournament and faced off against Miyahara for the Triple Crown at the Super Power Series. After a hard-fought twenty-minute match, Ishikawa hit Miyahara with a giant slam and became the 56th Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion, ending Miyahara’s run on his ninth defense.

All Japan experienced an upturn in income during the reign of Miyahara. How much he had to play in fans’ renewed interest in the promotion was debatable but he headlined the majority of cards through 2016-2017.

With that in mind, All Japan soon put the title back on Miyahara three months later before he lost it once again, this time to former partner and 2017 Ōdō Tournament winner Suwama.

A third reign came in 2018, along with another World Tag Team Title victory with former WWE superstar Yoshitatsu. A fourth reign came in the same year after Miyahara won the Ōdō Tournament, in which Miyahara finally equaled Kawada’s record of ten title defenses in a single reign, falling short of breaking it after a loss to long-time rival Zeus.

By this point, Miyahara was the undisputed megastar of All Japan Pro Wrestling. Wherever the Triple Crown Heavyweight Championship was, Miyahara would not be far. Any losses accrued by Miyahara would quickly be forgotten about when he found his way back into the title picture.

It’s up for debate whether All Japan had enough other stars of a similar level to Miyahara to warrant keeping the Triple Crown off his waist for long. Suwama, Ishikawa, and Zeus were no doubt stars with credible in-ring ability, all of which have had lengthy stints with All Japan at or near the top of the card for good reason.

Still, none could replicate the draw that Miyahara was at the time. This era of dominance earned Miyahara the nickname “The Best of the Best.”

Following Miyahara’s Champion Carnival win in 2019 and loss of his Triple Crown title during his fourth reign, Miyahara would focus on developing the success of his NEXTREAM and Zennichi Shin Jidai stables, which consist mostly of the same members.

Official Graphic for Katsuhiko Nakajima vs Kento Miyahara at One Night Dream : r/CyberFight
[Photo: Reddit]

What the Pros Say

Prior to their match at one of Miyahara’s appearances in Pro Wrestling NOAH, Katsuhiko Nakajima had this to say about his impressions of Miyahara during their time together in Kensuke Office.

“Truly, he practiced very hard, he was determined, he had his own view of the world, and, of course, he was honest. He was young and a wonderful junior.”

Former Triple Crown Heavyweight Champion and Japan icon Satoshi Kojima took to social media to praise Miyahara after they teamed together.

“Today, (his ally) Kento Miyahara’s ability to control the audience’ was amazing. Even though most of the people were rooting for Yuma Aoyagi, they brought out the Kojima call.

With his loud voice and powerful voice, everyone is drawn into Kento’s charm. I always feel that he is a talented professional wrestler.”

The King of the Road

Kento Miyahara himself cites Hulk Hogan as his inspiration for wanting to become a wrestler. In an interview with Tokyo Sports prior to his match with Katsuhiko Nakajima, the Best of the Best said that.

“I’ve been aiming for “bright, fun, and intense,” including what I do to attract people at the entrance.”

This rings true when one thinks of Hulk Hogan – A larger-than-life character with a larger-than-life personality outside of their ability in the ring.

Inside the ropes, Miyahara has a diverse move set that brings together the King’s Road style of All Japan tradition with a light touch of technical wrestling. The ace of All Japan could just as easily drop his opponent with a high-impact suplex as he could with a subtle transition into a cradle.

In terms of qualities, Kento Miyahara is comparable to the likes of New Japan Pro Wrestling ace Kazuchika Okada and, in the west, performers like Shawn Michaels. Even so, these comparisons may be harder to justify for Miyahara than most.

His name has not broken down the international barriers that the aforementioned stars have. Outside of Japan, the name Kento Miyahara is not one many are familiar with; it’s not a name featured on everyone’s list of dream matches, though he possesses the ability to make what should be a normal match into an epic.

The Best of the Best may only be considered such within the ropes of All Japan, and his loyalty to a promotion without the global reach they once had in the days of Giant Baba and the Four Pillars of Heaven has placed limits on his stardom.

Be that as it may, Miyahara has given All Japan his loyalty for over a decade and the departure of someone of Miyahara’s caliber would be a travesty for All Japan, who have been in that very situation all too many times.

To All Japan Pro Wrestling, Kento Miyahara embodies an entire era in the long and turbulent history of the promotion.

Kento Miyahara will go down in the history books as a man who provided stability for All Japan Pro Wrestling and stepped up during uncertain times. He headed a new age for the promotion that, at the time, only he could. When we look back at the legacy of All Japan Pro Wrestling and reach 2013, Miyahara’s name will be right there as the Best of the Best.