Big Japan Pro Wrestling is on its way up. As of this writing, all of the current roster members have returned from injury and have rejoined the promotion, as Ryuichi Kawakami, Kota Sekifuda, and Kazuki Hashimoto have all been out until very recently.
Kawakami returned first at Ryogokutan, Sekifuda shortly after, and Kazuki only two days after Death Mania IV. The Strong division is in excellent shape as young star Hideyoshi Kamitani leads the back as the current Strong Heavyweight champion, a title he earned by defeating Yuji Okabayashi at Ryogokutan. He faces his first challenger here, another of the new generation of BJW wrestlers in Ryuichi Kawakami, one of the most stand-out performs among a class that has always been great.
In contrast, the Deathmatch division is now being lead by one of the oldest members of the roster in Kankuro Hoshino, who made his lifelong dream come true by defeating Ryuji Ito for the Deathmatch title at Ryogokutan. He too faces his first challenger today in Abdullah Kobayashi, one of the most well-known deathmatch names across the world. Also on the card is a rare treat as Daichi Hashimoto teams up with DDT ace Harashima in a tag match against grappler Atsushi Maruyama and former Strong Heavyweight champion, Yuji Okabayashi.
Death Mania IV looks like an excellent card, so let’s delve right into it.
Kazumi Kikuta & Kota Sekifuda def. Kengo Takai & Takuya Nomura
Kota Sekifuda is one of the recent returning Big Japan young boys and finds himself paired with Kazumi Kikuta here, a solid enough worker who works well to fill out tag teams on the lower end of the card. They’re taking on Kengo Takai, a freelancer who spends his time darting between promotions from bigger companies like BJW to the smaller indies like HEAT-UP and Takuya Nomura, one of the most beloved young boys amongst the English-speaking contingent of the Big Japan faithful. Sekifuda was always impressive but Nomura seems to exist on a different level; his shy personality completely fades when he is in the ring and he becomes like a shark sensing blood in the water, vicious and strike-heavy as he goes after his opponents. If you need any more proof that the future of Big Japan is bright, this match will probably be a good measure of proof.
Everyone looked very solid in this outing and Kengo Takai is probably the only person I’ve seen almost jump over the ropes in his desire to get tagged into the ring. Sekifuda looked good here, very solid, and had fun interactions with both Takai and Nomura. Nomura and Kikuta engaged in some excellent little grappling as soon as they hit the ring, something the Nomura especially always looks good at. It cannot be overstated how confidently Nomura carries himself in the ring because he is incredibly young and very new to professional wrestling in general, but he’s already established himself as a very good worker. He and Sekifuda looked fantastic here and Takai made a good contrast to the three smaller, leaner men in the match as he bodied Sekifuda and Kikuta. Sekifuda hit a beautiful cross-body on Takai and not to be outdone, Nomura showed off his strength with a gorgeous suplex to Kikuta. Kikuta picked up the win for his team, abandoning a Boston crab to sink in a single-legged version and forcing Nomura to tap out.
Barbed Wire Board Death Match
Masaya Takahashi & Takayuki Ueki def. Ryuji Ito & Toshiyuki Sakuda
It’s not secret to absolutely anyone who knows me that while most people favor the Strong division, I favor the Deathmatch division, and this match has me excited. Ueki started his career in Big Japan as a comedy wrestler who pulled a gun on people for the laughs, but as time has passed he’s found his way into the deathmatch scene and has become almost like an entirely different person.
He’s fantastic and innovative, a breath of fresh air in a division that was severely lacking any young boys. He’s teaming with partner Masaya Takahashi who never fails to impress in his deathmatches, but their opponents are where the excitement truly is. Ryuji Ito is deathmatch wrestling, one of the best men to step into the ring and his influence over the style will live on forever. He’s teaming here with the newest of the deathmatch recruits, young Toshiyuki Sakuda. While people have already written him off for deciding to adopt this style of wrestling, Sakuda has already proven in his first match that his exciting offense offers something intriguing and here, he has a real chance to shine.
I’m keeping an eye on the interactions between him and Ueki as I’m wholly convinced we’re going to get a legitimate feud between them now.
This match was a good showcase for how Sakuda’s wrestling style will work into his new deathmatch style of wrestling as he’s very good at flips, very agile, and also gets great air when he’s flying or just when his opponents have thrown him into a barbed wire board. There was a little hesitance on his part as he thought through what he wanted to do in the ring but otherwise he looks good in his role as the new deathmatch young boy and he makes a good foil for Ueki as Ueki as stepped it up in terms of who he is in Big Japan now. He and Takahashi make great teammates for each other and have a lot of chemistry as partners, able to execute team maneuvers with ease. And of course, Ito is Ito.
His sheer presence says it all, and he played it up as the tough-as-nails veteran nobody wants to fuck with. A funny little spot saw him, steel chair in hand, catch Ueki as he tried to sneak up on him, grabbing Ueki by the back of his jeans when Ueki immediately tried to get away from him. And another saw him tease hitting Takahashi on the back with the chair only to tap him on the head with it. Sakuda took the fall here, pinned by Ueki, and I really do hope we get that feud in the future. I have faith it’ll be great. Until then, Sakuda benefits from working with the older deathmatch veterans, picking up tips and tricks along the way as he becomes a fuller and more complete wrestler.
Ryota Hama & Yasufumi Nakanoue def. Yankee Two Kenju
Who was not absolutely thrilled when Yasufumi Nakanoue announced he was leaving Wrestle-1, waiting with bated breath for the news that he was becoming a permanent fixture in Big Japan? He’s a young and exciting talent, having formed a successful tag team with Yuji Okabayashi in Wrestle-1 and having one of the best tag matches this year with Yuji against Hideki Suzuki and Yoshihisa Uto. He teams here with Ryota Hama, one of the best former sumo wrestlers to enter into the professional wrestling industry, and a former tag team champion himself. They’re facing off against one of BJW’s biggest tag teams, Yankee Two Kenju, comprised of Isami Kodaka and Yuko Miyamoto. They need no introduction, not after the strong appearance they put in against Hikaru Sato and Atsushi Aoki at Ryogokutan. Nakanoue and Hama have the size advantage here, but size has never been an issue for Kodaka and Miyamoto.
This turned into a little comedy affair as can be expected with most of the men who find themselves wrestling Ryota Hama. It’s something that always works because Hama is just bigger than everyone else and therefore harder to knock down as a result. Isami and Yuko put their all into the effort of taking the big man down, getting bodied in the process. At one point, Hama caught Isami in mid-air and Yuko took the opportunity to finally get Hama off of his feet by dropkicking Isami in the back and knocking them both over. Watching Yankee scramble to get away from Hama was pretty hilarious, too, as they are too extremely charismatic men who made it a fun little thing to watch. Nakanoue wasn’t funny per se but what he did do was show his excellent grappling when in the ring with Isami, something that the two of them have in common as Isami can work a very grappling and submission-heavy style. More of them as time goes on, please. Nakanoue picked up the victory here after luring Isami into accidentally hitting Yuko with the double knee-drop and finishing him off with a top rope elbow drop. Fun match, and Nakanoue continues to look like he’s always belonged right here in Big Japan.
Daisuke Sekimoto def. Yoshihisa Uto
Daisuke Sekimoto is considered one of the best wrestlers in Japan for obvious reasons, and he’s been shining not only in Big Japan this year but also in All Japan after winning Champion Carnival and challenging Kento Miyahara for the Triple Crown. He lost, but the match was amazing, and he bounced back not long after by successfully capturing the tag titles with Strong BJ partner Yuji Okabayashi. At Ryogokutan, he found himself further down the card than usual and welcomed Ryuichi Kawakami back to Big Japan by battering the hell out of him. That’s probably what we’re going to see in this match, too, as he takes on Yoshihisa Uto. Uto is well-known as the prospective protege of Hideki Suzuki and his style has been coming along nicely as a result, as he’s been striking harder and weaving in complex submissions that have surely been taught to him by his mentor. Uto has also shown a huge amount of spine lately, as he was comfortable standing across the ring and throwing everything he had at Suzuki, so I can only hope we get more of that here even if it’s pretty much guaranteed he isn’t going to win this match.
Akebono def. Brahman Kei & Brahman Shu (w/ Karate Brahman) & Speed Of Sounds (w/ Yapper Man 1 & Yapper Man 2)
Akebono made his return to Big Japan to team with partner Ryota Hama in their tag team SMOP. It’s a slightly concerning affair given the fact that Akebono’s health isn’t what it used to be and while his tag team with Hama has always been fun, absolutely none of us want to see him hurting himself or risking his own health and safety to get back in the ring for extended periods of time. At least this should be a fairly easy match for him. He’s facing the Brahman brothers, a couple of wacky violent cult members who serve as the Great Sasuke’s favorite tag team partners and who might have lost their idol glamour but not their idol voices, and Speed of Sounds, one of the best high-flying tag team duos ever. Each team might have brought some “help” with them to the ring, but this is Akebono, and he’s nearly impossible to defeat. I don’t even think the four of them together would stack up against him, but I guess we’ll see.
This match was funny and it was a good way to have Akebono in the ring without having to worry about him overexerting himself in the process. Speed of Sounds and the Brahmans broke down initially as a team as the Brahmans immediately moved to bring weapons in and Speed of Sounds were not having it. Hercules Senga tried to protect Akebono from being spit on and succeeded only for the big man to have two buckets of water dumped on him. Speed of Sounds and the Brahmans finally started working as a team only for Akebono to take out Speed of Sounds; the BJW young boys led them to the back. The Brahmans brought out Karate Brahman in an effort to tip the odds in their favor but Karate Brahman instead had watermelon spit on him and wisely helped Akebono set the Brahmans up for the suitcase/bowling ball spot. Yapper Man 1 and 2 from Michi Pro suddenly ran out but even a four-man team-up on Akebono was not enough. He pinned Brahman Kei and Yapper Man 2 for the victory. Perfectly inoffensive and even fun if you like the Brahman shenanigans, which I always do.
Daichi Hashimoto & Harashima def. Atsushi Maruyama & Yuji Okabayashi
Now THIS is an exciting match-up. Daichi Hashimoto has been one of the shining stars of Big Japan, coming along quite well over the years and looking excellent as a singles star while his regular partner in Team Yamato, Kazuki Hashimoto, has been out with an injury. He found himself rocketing toward the Strong Heavyweight title earlier this year before his match with best friend Hideyoshi Kamitani stopped him in his tracks. He was supposed to have reunited with Kazuki at Ryogokutan, but Kazuki wasn’t ready yet. Here, he partners with someone who knows a thing or two about being an ace in Harashima, the face of DDT. Harashima is a seasoned veteran with a well of experience to draw from and an amazing skillset. On the other side of the ring is Atsushi Maruyama, a veteran with plenty of his own experience and a grappling offense to die for. His partner is Yuji Okabayashi, also considered to be one of the best in Japan and the former Strong Heavyweight champion.
Harashima and Daichi Hashimoto make a better team than they have any right to make considering they don’t tag on even a semi-regular basis. This match was very kick-heavy as Maruyama, Daichi, and Harashima lashed out with the strong kicks that all three men are well known for. Harashima showed off his grappling a bit as he and Maruyama took to the mat, but the match quickly picked up in intensity when during a tentative lock-up session, Daichi kicked Okabayashi in the thigh and turned his aggression level up to ten in the process. They two battered each other with forearms and lariats. Harashima was also able to show off his strength here as he hit a second rope superplex on Okabayashi. There was also an incredible spot where he picked Maruyama up, draped his body between the first and second rope, and stomped him down onto where Okabayashi was laid out on the mat. Harashima and Okabayashi found themselves tangling on the outside, leaving Daichi and Maruyama in the ring. It looked like Daichi almost had this won with a PK, followed by a brainbuster near-fall, but finally got the tap-out victory as he held Maruyama in an STF and Harashima trapped Okabayashi in the ropes with a Manjigatame. Tremendous match and it’s fun to see Harashima mixing it up with Big Japan.
BJW Strong Heavyweight Title
Hideyoshi Kamitani (c) def. Ryuichi Kawakami
This match is not a match I would have expected to see this early, but that only makes me believe that my thoughts of Kawakami being the one to take this belt off of Kamitani are true. Kawakami is simply one of the best in BJW, and he was unfortunately sidelined with an injury that took him out of the picture back in November of 2015. If not for that injury, he might very well have been on his way to where his opponent is now. Hideyoshi Kamitani has had an incredible career so far in Big Japan— and he’s only twenty-four years old. He’s been a tag team champion with his mentor Ryota Hama, found himself in the finals of the Strong Climb tournament against Shuji Ishikawa, had to miss Champion Carnival because of an injury, and then came back stronger than ever to defeat his best friend Daichi to earn a title shot against Okabayashi at Ryogokutan. It turned out to be the moment he needed to break through to becoming champion, as he won the belt and ushered in a new era for Big Japan. Kawakami earned a pin over him and demanded a championship shot, and now he’s going to get it.
Kawakami carries himself very seriously for someone as young as he is. It’s something I said above about Nomura but Kawakami is several levels above just being confident. He makes himself look like an ass kicker just by the way he holds his body and changes his expressions, and that made this match great. There was never any doubt that Kamitani would retain here, as this was his first defense, but Kawakami still managed to look dominant and strong throughout the bout, throwing Kamitani into the ringpost after a small bit of brawling on the outside and following it up by slamming his back into the apron. He fought Kamitani with everything he had, throwing hard lariats and even throwing in a superplex and a German suplex in an attempt to keep the young champion down. Nothing was enough, though, as Kamitani rolled back to his feet and took Kawakami down. His lariats and head kicks quickly turned the match back to his favor and he showed an incredible fire in this match, which is not news to anyone but is still wonderful to see. Kamitani picks up the win with a backdrop, and I can only hope these two meet again later down the road in another title match. This made both of them look great.
BJW Deathmatch Heavyweight Title
Kankuro Hoshino (c) def. Abdullah Kobayashi
Kankuro Hoshino had dreamed for years of becoming the Deathmatch Heavyweight champion and he achieved that dream at Ryogokutan after pinning Ryuji Ito, a feat that seemed absolutely impossible after Ito held the title for over a year. He’s one of the older men on the roster and absolutely proved that age has nothing to do with your ability to get the job done. His challenger is Abdullah Kobayashi, who is surely coming to the end of his seasoned career as his mobility continues to decrease. That doesn’t mean he still doesn’t find ways to outdo himself, though, as the Ryogokutan show saw him hit an elbow drop off of the top of a barbed wire iron maiden. People might not be excited to see him in a title match, but his long history with Big Japan has earned him this shot and he has the ability to be surprisingly good when he puts the effort in.
JESUS CHRIST THIS MATCH.
Now, naturally, Kobayashi is reaching a stage of his life where his mobility has been decreasing and therefore his match quality suffers, but this match was far better than it had absolutely any right to be. Hoshino was absolutely the man to take the title off of Ito after what he displayed here. He took around fifty headbutts from Kobayashi throughout the entirety of the match and around thirty all at once, took headbutts through light tubes and had broken glass ground into his chest. He STO’d Kobayashi through a pyramid of concrete blocks that Kobayashi constructed beforehand and used a concrete block to smash light tubes on Kobayashi’s back before grinding the glass in with the concrete. These two put everything they had into this match, absolutely everything. Kobayashi even hit a top rope elbow drop. The finish was red hot as an absolutely mental Hoshino gave Kobayashi the STO, a second rope senton through the steel steps, and a TOP ROPE SENTON through the steel steps to retain his championship successfully. The atmosphere for this match was incredible and it was a great effort by both men, especially for Kobayashi when nobody really thought he had it in him. Hoshino proved he really is the man here. Great deathmatch between these two.
Death Mania IV was a great little show with several really fun comedy matches on it. Sakuda continues to look good as a new member of the deathmatch division and will no doubt start graduating to harder and bloodier matches with more weapons as he becomes more confident in his new position. Kamitani was fantastic and Hoshino really proved he’s right where he belongs, the two champions having solid first defenses back-to-back in a parallel to their back-to-back wins at Ryogokutan. The young boys of BJW also look fantastic. The future for this promotion is bright.
This match isn’t part of Death Mania IV. This particular match took place three days later and finally brought the last roster member of BJW back home as Kazuki Hashimoto made his return from injury. He’s been out since February, his last match at Junior Battle of Glory, and was scheduled to make his return at Ryogokutan on the 24th of July in a match where he would have tagged with Team Yamato partner Daichi Hashimoto. Obviously, that did not happen, and Kazuki remained sidelined. He came back on the August 23rd show of Summer Ueno on a match that did not make tape, but his first match that did make tape was against current BJW heavyweight champions Twin Towers on the 24th. The show itself was solid, a typical tour show, but Kazuki’s return is important, so you get the review of his Twin Towers match below.
Twin Towers def. Kazuki Hashimoto & Takumi Tsukamoto
Kazuki Hashimoto, affectionately known as K-Hashi, is well-known as one of the best juniors in Big Japan with some of the stiffest kicks around. He’s known for being a punk, an asshole who isn’t afraid to get up in anyone’s faces no matter what, and typically teams with Daichi Hashimoto (no, they aren’t related) as Team Yamato. He’s also an incredible wrestler who already promises great things this early in his career. What became quickly the most shocking thing about his return is that he’s dropped a huge amount of weight, showing up in the ring with a much leaner frame and abs on top of that. He teams here with Takumi Tsukamoto, a member of legendary deathmatch stable B Faultless Junky’s and an overall great wrestler. Their opponents are current BJW tag champions Kohei Sato and Shuji Ishikawa of Twin Towers. Kohei spends most of his time in Zero1 while Shuji has been tearing it up in DDT this year alongside BJW, and their chemistry as a tag team is nearly incomparable. They’re tough opponents for the returning Kazuki, but BJW doesn’t believe in taking things easy and never has.
This was a solid little match. Kazuki looked good and showed some of that attitude that’s always been a part of his character when he slapped Kohei Sato in the back of the head a few times. For the most part, Twin Towers dominated. Their superior size and strength allowed them to pick at their competitors as they pleased and their patented double team maneuvers gave them an edge, as they’re a long-time tag team and have been competing together for years, unlike Tsukamoto and Kazuki. But that doesn’t mean they stayed on top the entire time. Kazuki found himself in control of Ishikawa at one point, nailing him with kicks in the corner and catching him in an ankle lock. He and Kohei traded kicks at one point and while Kohei’s caused Kazuki more pain, he still came back at him with all he had. He showed incredible intensity and fire, and despite being flung around like a doll at the end as Kohei and Ishikawa took turns kneeing him in the gut, he never backed down. Tsukamoto was able to show off how strong he is as at one point, he held Kohei suspended in the air before nailing him with a spinebuster. In the end, the champions won, as Kohei put Kazuki into position and finished him off with a piledriver.
Twin Towers continue to look like dominant badasses and Kazuki Hashimoto is finally back home where he belongs. Welcome back, K-Hash. You have been missed.