Big Japan Wrestling
Ryogokutan 2016
July 24, 2016
Ryogoku Kokugikan – Tokyo, Japan

Atsushi Maruyama & Daichi Hashimoto Def. Kazumi Kikuta & Tatsuhiko Yoshino

You would have to assume Daichi was meant to team with his brother on this show had he not been injury. Him and Maruyama made for a pretty decent makeshift team here, as did Kikuta and Yoshino, who I was pleased to see booked on this show even if it was to take a beating for nine minutes in the opener. I always enjoy watching Daichi beat on people, so I enjoyed this a good amount. Fun match. ***

Speed of Sounds (Hercules Senga & Tsutomu Oosugi) Def. Billy Ken Kid & Tsubasa

Well it’s certainly nice to see the Speed of Sounds in a match that doesn’t involve the Brahmans, and it’s always nice to see these old Osaka Pro vets get some work. Billy Ken Kid is my favorite Osaka Pro guy next to HUB, so seeing him booked makes me quite happy. As you would expect, this was very fast-paced, very action-packed, but very short. Had they been given a few more minutes I think they really could have hit that next level, but what they did with the short amount of time they had was highly enjoyable. ***1/4

Brahman Kei, Brahman Shu & The Great Sasuke Def. Shinobu, Toshiyuki Sakuda & The Great Kojika

The Great Sasuke, in my opinion, is one of the greatest professional wrestlers to ever walk this planet. I always respect the hell out of the wrestlers like him who have worked a rough style their entire career yet can still dial it up when necessary and put on a great performance even at an older age. It’s something I tend to say about Ultimo Dragon, and I guess something we can start saying about Dragon Kid here soon. Sasuke is an absolute joy to watch every time he makes tape and I’ll never get tired of seeing him. So yes, I thought I’d use this match as a way to tell you how much I love the guy. Just fun, lighthearted comedy. No more, no less. **1/2

Hideki Suzuki & Takuya Nomura Def. Yasufumi Nakanoue & Yoshihisa Uto

In his review of Dragon Gate’s Kobe World show, Case Lowe talked a little bit about a new rookie by the name of Futa Nakamura, who had what I believe was his second match to ever make tape on said show. Nakamura left a huge impression on all of those who watched; many of whom even went as far as to compare the young upstart to one of the promotion’s biggest stars, and one my personal favorite wrestlers of 2016, Shingo Takagi. As it would turn out, Mr. Nakamura wasn’t the only rookie to leave an impression that day, as the young Takuya Nomura came into a match where he clearly wasn’t the main focus, yet was without question the biggest star. The 22-year-old looked, worked and felt like an absolute star, and he will be some day. Big Japan has something special with this guy, and if there’s one thing they’re good at, it’s making stars, much like Dragon Gate. July 24 was quite the day for young talent. Watch this match, not only for him, but for everyone. Everyone held their own. Now we await the eventual Suzuki/Nakanoue singles match that will more than likely result in the death of either one of, or both of them. ***3/4

Yokohama Shopping Street Six-Man Tag Team Championship Iron Maiden Run to the Hell Deathmatch
Abdullah Kobayashi, Masaya Takahashi & Takayuki Ueki Def. Jaki Numazawa, Masashi Takeda & Takumi Tsukamoto

What can I say? Your typical deathmatch minus the light tubes, since light tubes are prohibited in Sumo Hall. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t anything you need to see. Most forgettable match on the show by a large margin. *3/4

Ryuichi Kawakami Return Match: Daisuke Sekimoto Def. Ryuichi Kawakami

Kawakami has been out since Tenryu’s retirement show back in November, so sticking him in a singles match at Sumo Hall was a pretty big risk to say the least. However, this match wasn’t as underwhelming as I was lead to believe by those who watched the show and while he was a bit rusty, he looked real good. Both of them worked hard, both of them did their job, and the match was exactly what it needed to be. Look forward to seeing more or Kawakami moving forward. Glad to have him back. ***3/4

All Asia Tag Team Championship
Atsushi Aoki & Hikaru Sato Def. Isami Kodaka & Yuko Miyamoto (c)

Kodaka and Miyamoto have been one of my favorite tag teams to watch for some time now, but it was this match that finally put them over the top to where I can comfortably call them my favorite tag team in Japan. Their chemistry is unmatched by almost any other tag team not only in Japan, but in the world. They’re great on their own, but they’re better together.

Aoki and Sato are the same way, both being great on their own, but being even better as either opponents or a tag team. That said, this was one of the best tag matches you’ll see anywhere this year, which is saying a lot. This was on par with, maybe even better than the American Alpha/Revival matches from NXT, on par with the Momo No Seishun/Kenoh and Ohara matches from NOAH, and better than any New Japan junior tag match. I will miss seeing Kodaka and Miyamoto defend the belts in all the different promotions they wrestle for, but Aoki and Sato taking the belts back to All Japan in a Big Japan ring was a nice moment. ****1/4

BJW Tag Team Championship
Twin Towers (Shuji Ishikawa & Kohei Sato) (c) Def. SMOP (Akebono & Ryota Hama)

Something occurred to me while watching this match. Well, a number of things occurred to me, and I’ll touch on all of them, but the biggest thing was the fact that a lot of the wrestlers people refer to as some of the best, are either over the age of 40, or pushing 40. Tomohiro Ishii, arguably the greatest wrestler on the planet, is 40 years old. Jun Akiyama, who some have made the argument for as the greatest wrestler on the planet, is 46 years old. AJ Styles, Masaaki Mochizuki, the list goes on and on. 2016 has been a great year for the younger guys like Will Ospreay, Dragon Lee, Lio Rush, Trevor Lee, etc., but 2016 has also been a great year for that general age group. Shuji Ishikawa, at 40 years old, is one of the best wrestlers out there. Between his matches in All Japan, his matches here in Big Japan, and his matches in DDT, I think you could make a legitimate case for him as the best Japanese wrestler of 2016.

Another thing that occurred to me while watching this match, is how historically underrated Kohei Sato is. He’s been great for years but has largely slid under radar since he wrestles for ZERO1, which is a promotion not all that many people have ever paid much attention to.

Lastly, it appears to me that Akebono may be wrapping things up here soon, which is probably a good thing. The guy is in awful condition, he’s been in and out of the hospital for years for a number of different reasons, and it’s to the point where I can’t fully enjoy watching him anymore when I know how bad his health is, even if he’s perfectly serviceable in the ring. He was fine here but was very much second fiddle to Hama, who was absolutely fantastic throughout.

Great match that exceeded expectations. **** 

BJW Strong Championship
Hideyoshi Kamitani Def. Yuji Okabayashi (c)

Yuji Okabayashi defeated Daisuke Sekimoto for the title just over a year ago at this very show, and for a year has ran through a majority of the Big Japan roster. In doing so, he encountered one Hideyoshi Kamitani, who has very clearly been positioned as the promotion’s next top star. The 24-year-old with only four years of experience came up short in December and was pushed back down the totem pole as a result, leaving it up to him to work his way back to the top. Big Japan saw something in him and wanted him to be their guy, but they also wanted him to earn it, because not everything is handed to you on a silver platter in this world. Kamitani fought his way through the Strong Climb tournament in March and the early part of April, trying as hard as he possibly could to prove himself, and despite falling short to Shuji Ishikawa in the finals, he managed to do just that. He proved himself, and he was given another shot.

Okabayashi may have underestimated him coming into this match. He knew he was good, he knew he could fight, but he already beat him, as did Ishikawa, so why should he give him the time of day? What Okabayashi failed to realize is just how good of a fighter he’s become. Kamitani wasn’t ready the first time around, but he was ready this time. He’s matured, having realized how hard he would have to fight if he really wanted this, it possibly being his last chance to not only win the title, not only win the title in Sumo Hall, but to earn the respect of Yuji Okabayashi, who quickly realized that he did indeed underestimate him. Okabayashi fought as hard as he could, but Kamitani fought harder. Kamitani simply wanted it more. He didn’t want what happened the last time to happen again, and you could see throughout the match that there were times he was afraid it would, but at the end of the day he had too much heart to let it.

It was Sekimoto who did the deed for Okabayashi last year, and it was Okabayashi who paid it forward this year. Maybe some day Kamitani will pay it forward, but that’s not what matters right now. What matters right now, is him, and only him, because this is his time.

As good as any match you’ve seen this year and as emotional as any match you’ve ever seen. Tremendous performance by both men. ****3/4

BJW Deathmatch Championship
Kankuro Hoshino Def. Ryuji Ito (c)

Big Japan likes to rotate the strong and deathmatch divisions per year. Last year it was the strong division that headlined this show, and this year it was the deathmatch division. It’s a decent idea on paper, the only problem being that the strong division match is always the highlight of the show by quite a large margin, so it’s hard to get invested in a deathmatch main event. Maybe I’m being an ignorant westerner who has an opinion, but to my defense, this year’s show did do a few hundred less fans than last year’s. I’m not sure how much that really says, but it’s something to think about. Did this feel like a big match? Sure, but not nearly as big as Okabayashi vs. Kamitani. Nevertheless, it was enjoyable, coming from a guy who generally finds both Hoshino and Ito to be utter trash. A match worth checking out if you’re open-minded, I suppose. Hoshino celebrating with his child was a nice moment to cap things off. ***3/4

Final Thoughts:

July 24 was a very big day for professional wrestling all across the board. WWE held their annual Battleground PPV, headlined by the three former Shield members; New Japan held a G1 show in Korakuen Hall, headlined by Michael Elgin and Tetsuya Naito; Dragon Gate held their annual Kobe World show…the list of events goes on and on. I must admit, I overlooked this show when looking at said list of events. It was hard for me to get invested in a show headlined by Ryuji Ito, and it was hard for me to get invested in a show that’s happening at the exact same time as Kobe World. I knew the show would be good, but I didn’t know the show would be as good as it was, and that’s 100% my fault. Big Japan always delivers, and they delivered here. For that, I thank them. Two thumbs up.