Big Japan Wrestling
Ryogokutan 2017
July 17, 2017
Ryogoku Kokugikan – Tokyo Japan (Attendeance – 3,179)

Ryuichi Sekine & Tatsuhiko Yoshino Def. Kota Sekifuda & Yuya Aoki

If Takuya Nomura, Kota Sekifuda and Yuya Aoki are any evidence, Big Japan has got themselves something special with their dojo. Sekifuda, while not as good as Nomura, may have the best look of the three and shows a ton of potential.

He debuted back in 2014 and stuck around until March 2015 before disappearing for a year and popping up in America for excursion. He returned in August of last year and then got injured in November, thus returning from injury on this show. To say hes had an odd career would be an understatement, but hes back, hes in good shape, in good health, can go in the ring, and thats all you can ask for. Him and Yoshino were the two standouts here, with Yoshino scoring the fall over him. Fun opener. ***

Hercules Senga, Tsutomu Oosugi & Great Kojika Def. Brahman Kei, Brahman Shu & Kendo Kashin

Kendo Kashin and Great Kojika are in scarily similar shape despite there being a near 30 year age gap. Kashin looks like absolute garbage for a 48-year-old man. Go watch 47-year-old Masaaki Mochizuki, 47-year-old Don Fujii, 50-year-old Minoru Suzuki, or 48-year-old Masakatsu Funaki in the next match, and then watch 48-year-old Kendo Kashin. I almost feel bad for the guy. He should not be in such horrendous shape. Aside from that, this was a decent enough comedy match for what it was. I have no interest in the Brahmans, but when they only go a few minutes and the crowd is super into it then I have no issues. It was quick and it was comedically weird enough to keep me somewhat in tune. **

Kazumi Kikuta & Masakatsu Funaki Def. Takuya Nomura & Yoshihisa Uto

Nomura is one of the most dangerous wrestlers out there and Funaki, a 48-year-old man well past his prime, came into his company, his home, and he destroyed him in front of everyone. It was a lesson for young Nomura. A lesson that, while he might be tough and he might be good enough to go with his Big Japan contemporaries, he may not be ready to go with legends like Funaki. Funaki is at that next level in which Nomura has not yet reached. He will eventually. Maybe in another year or two, but for right now he was simply outclassed (in a kayfabe sense). Both of them were great here, with Uto and Kikuta holding their own as well. Nomura fought from underneath and played an excellent babyface in peril, desperate to get ahead of Funaki but never being able to. Funaki put him away with a Hybrid Blaster in the end, in what was a strong, enjoyable, well-worked tag match. ***1/2

Tetsuori & KMGT  Deathmatch
Isami Kodaka & Yuko Miyamoto Def. Takumi Tsukamoto & Toshiyuki Sakuda

As a non-deathmatch fan, I enjoyed this. Too many deathmatches tend to be generic and uninspired, which is why I no longer have any appreciation for them, but when the guys can put together something unique and something fresh, I enjoy it. Kodaka and Miyamoto are two of the best deathmatchers around for this reason, because not only can they do a lot with the stipulations, they’re also very athletic, and they implement that into the matches. All four guys took nasty looking bumps and did nasty looking shit to themselves, making for a highly enjoy spot-fest with Kodaka and Miyamoto coming out on top. ***1/4

BJW Junior Heavyweight Championship League Final
Shinobu Def. Kazuki Hashimoto

Hashimoto shocked everyone with his improvements upon return in August. He returned in the best shape of his life, he looked great, he stopped teaming with Daichi, and he quickly became one of the more interesting guys in the company, which is saying a lot considering I could never get into him previously. When Big Japan announced this tournament, you could have make a safe bet that Hashimoto was at least going to be in the mix, and I myself was expecting him to win as it would have been a great end to the story of him returning and breaking out on his own. Instead they gave the title to Shinobu, who is extremely popular and has been with the company forever.

Both guys worked hard to make this great, both looked good, but it was a bit shy of greatness. Shinobu was, however, a great babyface in the match as he did a nice job selling the arm Hashimoto had worked over, showing lots of heart and ultimately pulling through to get the win. I have no gripes with their performances for what they were because as said, both were good, I just wanted more out of it. It was a simple match, and simple was not exactly what I was looking for. Regardless, Shinobu is a worthy champion. ***1/4

Concrete Block Deathmatch
Jaki Numazawa & Masashi Takeda Def. Kankuro Hoshino & Minoru Fujita

I, like a lot of wrestling fans, went through my own phase where I was into deathmatches at one point. I was heavily into them several years ago before falling out for two or three years, then began enjoying them again in 2015 but quickly fell back out, and I feel safe in saying now that I am completely over them. With that said, I can watch a deathmatch and even enjoy them in some cases, like I did the previous one. I dislike them simply because they tend to be samey and monotonous, not because I have trouble watching the disgusting bullshit that occurs in them. Not many deathmatches have made me genuinely uncomfortable. And with that said, this match made me genuinely uncomfortable.

Wrestlers can do all the dumb shit they want to do to their bodies as far as I care, but this was too much, even for me. Bumping on concrete blocks is where I draw my personal line, and it seemed as though the crowd was the same way. Not a bad match for what it was necessarily, just extremely tough to watch. *3/4

Yokohama Shopping Street Six-Man Championship
Ryota Hama, Shogun Okamoto & Yasufumi Nakanoue (c) Def. Daichi Hashimoto, Hideyoshi Kamitani & Kohei Sato

I have no idea what happened to Kamitani, but he totally just exists at this point and has clearly regressed as a worker. He was in the semi-main event last year and had one of the best matches of 2017 with Yuji Okabayashi, and here he was doing next to nothing. I get the sense that they lost faith in him due to his poor run as champion and have a feeling this will be his spot for a while moving forward. Him and Hashimoto are better in a tag team role than they are in a singles role, so having them team is for the best. Hashimoto, speaking of, is next in line for a shot at Suzuki on August 19th following Suzuki vs. Kawakami.  Otherwise, this was a very basic six-man, similar to ones you see on every Big Japan Korakuen show. Everyone was good but no one was great and nothing all that notable happened. Shogun Okamoto is a guy I know could impress people if given a proper chance, so I hope they keep him around once him, Hama and Nakanoue drop these belts, which is sure to happen soon. I enjoyed him here.

While good, it really should have been better than it was. It was my most anticipated match on the entire show and it under-delivered. ***1/4

BJW Strong Championship
Hideki Suzuki (c) Def. Ryuichi Kawakami

For as good as he generally is, every now and again Hideki Suzuki will have a match that reminds me why I took so long to turn the corner on him. I hated him up until last year. He bored me to tears, his matches were devoid of any heat, he had no charisma, and I hated having to watch him. Rarely does he have matches like that anymore, but this was one of them.

I appreciate how clean the work was, I appreciate how crisp everything looked, I appreciate how technically impressive the grappling was and I appreciated the vicious looking strikes; the problem is that the match was boring. Big Japan has set a standard for their Strong title matches in this building, and I understand that some might have enjoyed this because it was a change of pace, but regardless, it failed to live up to these set standards. It was not the time nor the place for this type of match, it was everything I feared it would be, and again, the crowd seemed to have thought the same. Suzuki is a good champion and I want to see what else he can do moving forward, I just hope these are not the type of matches he starts having again. I want him to be built up as a top guy to where it means something when someone beats him. He’s clearly not the long-term champion, Big Japan just has a lack of depth in this division and Suzuki is their best choice at the moment while they build someone underneath.

If you enjoy classical shoot style type matches, then you might enjoy this. If you were looking for more of a typical Strong division type match, this was not that. In my mind, this was one of the most underwhelming title matches to take place in Sumo Hall maybe ever. **3/4

BJW Tag Team Championship
Abdullah Kobayashi & Ryuji Ito Def. Daisuke Sekimoto & Yuji Okabayashi (c)

Kobayashi, Ito and Sekimoto have shaped Big Japan into what it is today, Okabayashi has been instrumental in them continuing to grow in recent years, and this was the four of them coming together for the biggest spectacle the company could have put on. Sekimoto and Okabayashi, on their worst days, are incredible pro wrestlers. On a show where just about everything has under-delivered, you can count on these two to bring the business, and for as much as I may not enjoy them sometimes, whenever Kobayashi and Ito are put in a big spot, you can count on them as well.

Kobayashi and Ito, the deathmatch legends, the men who carried the deathmatch division on their backs for over a decade, had to go toe-to-toe with two of the best wrestlers in the world at a style they never work. Kobayashi and Ito decided themselves that, in one of the most important matches of their careers, they would put the weapons aside and conform to a straight up tag match against one of the best tag teams going. And not only were they able to hang in there with them, they were able to beat them at their own game.

Kobayashi was especially great here as he did everything he could to make this special. He’s clearly limited by his weight and is clearly banged up in general due to working deathmatches his entire adult life, but he moved around nicely with all things being considered and managed to do some impressive looking things. Okabayashi was the other standout as he worked grumpier than he ever has, annoyed that these deathmatchers were taking it to him and Sekimoto and were refusing to die. He chopped away at Kobayashi, and Kobayashi because of all the pain he’s endured throughout his career, was almost completely unfazed by it. Sekimoto and Okabayashi gave them everything they had, but Kobayashi and Ito had so much to prove, so much on the line with it being their chance to show that theyre more than just deathmatchers, and so they were the better team on this night as they unseated the champions.

Not a great match, not a match you’d lose your mind over, but what this match did was tell an excellent story and revive what was otherwise a dead show in my eyes. It was the only match on the show I would consider must-watch, and really the only match that I would consider somewhat close to great, though not quite there. I thank these men for that, because this was much, much needed at this point. ****

BJW Deathmatch Championship
Masaya Takahashi (c) Def. Takayuki Ueki

Ueki debuted back in October 2013 and spent a lot of time as a comedy guy before becoming a deathmatcher and working his way up the card, to the point where hes headlining their biggest show of the year. Takahashi, on the other hand, debuted for WNC back in 2012 before jumping to Big Japan in early 2013 and immediately becoming a deathmatcher. Here they were together as two young men, two tag team partners, both meeting the pinnacle of their careers in the main event of Sumo Hall.

Although it was only the third or fourth best match on the show, this was a fun, gruesome main event that the fans were into. It told the story of these two young guys almost literally killing themselves to impress in the biggest match of their lives and see which one of them could withstand the most, similar to Naito and Ibushi in their G1 match about an hour earlier. Ueki took all sorts of insane bumps and showed a whole lot of guts. He looked like he wanted nothing more than to beat Takahashi and truly prove himself by winning the highest prize you could possibly win in this company and by defeating his more experienced partner. Unfortunately he was unable to do such, but he did manage to show that hes a worthy main eventer.

I feel like the two have another match in them, possibly on another big show, with Ueki ultimately winning the title. He has to win at some point considering how popular he is, but Takahashi was the right move for now. Big Japan is running out of deathmatch stars since most are up there in age, so building a guy like Takahashi is smart on their part. Hes now a made man in the division, and in a lot of ways he needed to win here. Both of them shined, both of them showed a lot of potential as deathmatch stars, and for that I tip my cap to them. ***1/2

Final Thoughts:

I said last year before Ryogokutan that the card was no good and that I had minimal interest in it, especially with all the other great wrestling happening on the same day, and that show well exceeded my expectations. I said this year once the card was released that it was no good and that I had minimal interest. However, once I let it sink in, once I had a chance to think about it more, I decided that it was actually not bad, and that I had at least some interest in it.

Turns out Big Japan burned me on this one. While nothing on the show was bad, just about everything on the show was disappointing in one way or another. It was a decent little show with decent little matches, but that’s not enough. Not in Sumo Hall. Sumo Hall is not the place for decent little matches. I wanted more. I got done watching it and felt the same way I do when I get done watching a solid Korakuen show. Lots of decent, solid, even good matches, but nothing memorable. Nothing truly worth your time outside of maybe one match. It gets a thumbs in the middle from me for being watchable and fun at times. I wish I could say nicer things about it, I really do.