The date was December 14th 2014. A match was scheduled for the AJPW Kyohei Wada Referee 40th Anniversary & 60th Anniversary Show which was taking place in the famed Korakuen Hall. Kento Miyahara, who had been competing for AJPW for over a year at that point, had a match against a 19 year old who was making his debut in the world of professional wrestling. After a spirited effort from this young rookie, Kento Miyahara forced him to tap out at around the 12 minute mark with a deep Boston Crab submission hold. Miyahara showed respect to this newcomer by helping him up and hugging him after the match. This newcomer’s name was Yuma Aoyagi. Everyone watching the match was unaware at the time but this was the beginning of a storied history over the past nine years between Miyahara and Aoyagi both as partners and opponents. It was also the beginning of Yuma Aoyagi competing under the shadow of Kento Miyahara.
Yuma Aoyagi trained in the AJPW Dojo for 8 months prior to that debut match with Kento Miyahara. He made the decision to join the AJPW Dojo right after he graduated high school in 2014. Pro wrestling legend and then president of AJPW Jun Akiyama noticed the hard work Aoyagi was putting into his training and gave him a pair of his blue tights which Aoyagi wore during his debut match.
Aoyagi wrestled for AJPW on a regular basis beginning in 2015, competing in 97 matches. From January through August, Aoyagi participated in numerous singles and tag team encounters and, with the exception of a tag team match in April, Aoyagi normally found himself on the losing end of matches he was competing in. On August 9th 2015, Yuma Aoyagi earned his first singles victory defeating Naoya Nomura at an AJPW event. There is little doubt that this was a proud moment for the young Yuma Aoyagi.
While Kento Miyahara was forging his path to becoming the top star and face of AJPW, Miyahara and Aoyagi met again on May 12th 2015. This time they were tag team partners not opponents. They faced a better team that evening in Jun Akiyama and Ultimo Dragon as Miyahara and Aoyagi fell short and were defeated. Again, the fans watching the match were unaware they were getting a preview of future two time AJPW World Tag Team Champions in Miyahara & Aoyagi.
On February 12th, 2016, Yuma Aoyagi received his first shot at a championship as he challenged Yohei Nakajima for the Gaora TV Title. Aoyagi was unsuccessful in winning the the Gaora TV Title as Nakajima defeated him in a little over 12 minutes. Also on that AJPW event in 2016, Kento Miyahara defeated Zeus in the main event to win the AJPW Triple Crown Title for the first time. While Aoyagi had to deal with a defeat, Miyahara was celebrating and cementing his status as the top star of AJPW.
In September 2016, Jake Lee and Kento Miyahara, who were in the NEXTREAM faction asked Aoyagi and Naoya Nomura to join the faction. Both Aoyagi and Nomura accepted. Now in a top faction led by Miyahara, Yuma Aoyagi continued to rise the ranks in AJPW competing in singles and tag team matches. Aoyagi won his first title on September 30th 2017 when he teamed with Naoya Nomura to defeat Black Tiger and Taka Michinoku for the All Asia Tag Team Titles. While he had won his first tag team title, one month earlier Kento Miyahara won the Triple Crown Title for the second time in his career.
On January 3rd 2020 Kento Miyahara, in his 4th reign as Triple Crown Champion, defeated Jake Lee to retain the title. Following the match, Yuma Aoyagi, who was cornering his Nextream teammate Miyahara, came into the ring and attacked Miyahara then challenged him for the Triple Crown Title. Aoyagi vowed to leave Nextream if he couldn’t beat Miyahara. On February 11th, 2020 at the AJPW Excite Series 2020 event, Yuma Aoyagi received his first shot at the Triple Crown Title but came up short as Kento Miyahara retained his championship and Aoyagi had no choice but to leave Nextream.
Up until January 2021, Aoyagi had not held any version of an AJPW World Title. He held the All Asia Tag Team Titles twice but never a world title. That changed in January 2021 when Aoyagi became one half of the AJPW World Tag Team Champions with his partner Kento Miyahara. They defeated Suwama and Shuji Ishikawa at AJPW New Year Wars 2021 to win the titles. Aoyagi won his first World Title but he was still stuck behind the shadow of the now AJPW ace Kento Miyahara. The day after he and Miyahara won the AJPW World Tag Team Titles, Aoyagi had a shot at becoming the AJPW Triple Crown Champion for the first time against titleholder Suwama. A win over Suwama and winning the Triple Crown Title would have helped Yuma Aoyagi escape the shadow of Miyahara but he once again fell short of winning that title.
While Aoyagi and Miyahara were successfully defending their AJPW World Tag Team Titles for a number of months, Aoyagi received another opportunity at the AJPW Triple Crown Championship. It was a Triple Threat match for the vacant title at the AJPW Champions Night – From The Land Of The Triple Crown Unification Flight To The 50th Anniversary event on June 26th 2021. Yuma Aoyagi faced Jake Lee and Kento Miyahara for that vacant Triple Crown Title. The match was under elimination rules and Yuma Aoyagi was the first to be eliminated. He was eliminated by Kento Miyahara via pinfall as Jake Lee went on to win the vacant APJW Triple Crown Title on that night.
In 2022, Yuma Aoyagi pulled off a major accomplishment as he won the prestigious AJPW Champion Carnival Tournament for the first time in his career. He defeated Jake Lee in the finals to secure the victory to become the AJPW Champion Carnival 2022 winner and thus earned a shot at the AJPW Triple Crown Title. The Triple Crown Champion at the time? Kento Miyahara, who was in his 5th reign as the titleholder. Miyahara faced Yuma Aoyagi in the Champion Carnival 2022 in the match to see who would meet Jake Lee in the finals. That match went to a 30 minute limit draw. Yuma Aoyagi got his shot at the Triple Crown Title against Kento Miyahara on May 15th 2022. In a match that lasted 32 minutes, Kento Miyahara once again showed that Yuma Aoyagi takes a backseat to him in AJPW by retaining his title. It was also symbolic that Miyahara won in 32 minutes following the 30 minute Champion Carnival draw between him and Aoyagi. Without using words, Miyahara forced Aoyagi to face the probability that if the Champion Carnival 2022 match between them was two minutes longer, Miyahara would have won.
On February 4th 2023 at AJPW Excite Series 2023, Yuma Aoyagi received another opportunity at winning the Triple Crown Championship which was being held once again by Kento Miyahara who was now in his sixth reign with AJPW’s top prize. Despite a valiant effort on the part of Aoyagi, he fell short as Kento Miyahara was once again victorious over Aoyagi. Aoyagi just could not seem to get over the hurdle known as Kento Miyahara.
The AJPW Champion Carnival 2023 was scheduled to get underway on April 8th 2023. Kento Miyahara had since dropped the title to Yuji Nagata and was entered in the Champion Carnival as was Yuma Aoyagi. AJPW decided to schedule an opening round match between Yuma Aoyagi and Kento Miyahara in the Champion Carnival 2023 tournament. Fans watching knew that Miyahara with all his prior victories over Aoyagi had a mental advantage. But on this night Aoyagi was out to prove he was the better man. He seemed poised for a victory that would surprise and even shock fans. And that’s what happened. Yuma Aoyagi defeated Kento Miyahara in the opening round of the Champion Carnival 2023 Tournament. While Aoyagi didn’t win the tournament, he took a huge step out from Miyahara’s seemingly inescapable shadow.
On June 27th 2023, Yuma Aoyagi won the AJPW World Tag Team Championship for the third time with Kento Miyahara which was their second reign. But it was two weeks later on July 2nd at AJPW Dynamite Series 2023 in which Aoyagi accomplished his greatest feat. He defeated Yuji Nagata to become the AJPW Triple Crown Champion for the first time in his career. After 9 years in AJPW, he was finally the holder of the top prize in AJPW. Aoyagi went on to successfully defend the Triple Crown Title four times against Hokuto Omori, Suwama, Satoshi Kojima and Ryuki Honda. After his 4th victory over Honda, another individual indicated that he wanted a shot. His name? Kento Miyahara. The fifth title defense for Yuma Aoyagi was made official as he would face Kento Miyahara in a match of epic proportions.
The match between Yuma Aoyagi and Kento Miyahara for the AJPW Triple Crown Championship was set for October 21st at the AJPW 51st Anniversary Tour event and scheduled at Korakuen Hall. Aoyagi went into this match at a mental disadvantage. He never defeated Miyahara in a Triple Crown Match and his won loss record against Miyahara was very poor. Aoyagi would have to go into this match and perform better than he had ever performed in the ring before. He would have to fight and fight hard if he wanted to step out from Miyahara’s shadow and stand in front of him. He would have to greatest match of his life if he wanted to show that this is now the era of Yuma Aoyagi. And that is exactly what he did. In a spectacular match that Aoyagi would not let himself lose, Aoyagi defeated Miyahara and retained the Triple Crown Title.
On October 21st 2023, Yuma Aoyagi finally escaped the shadow of Kento Miyahara and is now at the forefront of AJPW. The era of Yuma Aoyagi has finally arrived in AJPW and the best is yet to come.
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