Big Japan Pro Wrestling
January 2, 2019 (aired January 12, 2019)
Big Japan’s first big show of the year emanated from Korakuen Hall two days before Wrestle Kingdom, and they drew a solid 1,513 fans for a show headlined by two big title defenses for their new champions that were crowned at the Ryogoku show in November as Daisuke Sekimoto defended the Strong Title against Ryota Hama and Masaya Takahashi defended the Death Match Title against Takumi Tsukamoto. That’s a pretty similar number to what NOAH and AJPW got, and just a couple hundred behind DDT and NJPW, who both claimed sellouts. All signs are pointing up in 2019 for Big Japan, so hop on the bandwagon now.
Brahman Kei, Brahman Shu, Kazuki Hashimoto & Yuya Aoki def. Speed Of Sounds (Banana Senga & Tsutomu Oosugi), Kota Sekifuda & Tatsuhiko Yoshino
Alright, we’re getting the Brahmans out of the way early here, so that’s good. We join this match in progress, and it was only seven minutes to start with. I feel bad for Hashimoto and Aoki especially because they rule and this was pretty much a nothing match. They do a spot with ink and the Brahmans get a double pin for the win in under five minutes after the clipping. ½*
Fuminori Abe, Koju Takeda & Shinobu def. Akira Hyodo, Takuho Kato & Yuki Ishikawa
Fuminori Abe might be the best wrestler you’ve never seen. He wrestles a lot in ZERO1 and BASARA with Ikuto Hidaka, and their match vs Akiyori Takizawa & Ryota Nakatsu from BASARA 85 is one of my favorites this year so far (****¼). This is a showcase match for a lot of the juniors in BJW, a division that they didn’t do a ton with last year outside of a really good match at Ryogokutan. This is a fun match and a real nice snap german from the former Jr Champ Shinobu gets the win for his team. **3/4
Kohei Sato & Yasufumi Nakanoue def. Okami (Daichi Hashimoto & Hideyoshi Kamitani)
Hashimoto and Nakanoue had two awesome matches last year when Hashimoto was Strong Champion, and his team with Kamitani had some great matches in 2018, especially in the back half of last year after he lost the belt, so I had pretty high expectations for this. Kohei Sato is coming off of a challenge for the ZERO1 Heavyweight Title the day previous, unsuccessful against the man co-main eventing this show, Daisuke Sekimoto (I went ****¼ on that match). He rebounds pretty well here as he and Nakanoue take 80% of the match, and Nakanoue murders Hashimoto with a lariat to get the pin. This was fun with a lot of stiff strikes, and they got over Sato and Nakanoue as killers. Kamitani and Sato get into it after the match and then later backstage as well. ***½
Masashi Takeda & Yuko Miyamoto def. 3rd Generation Chimidoro Brothers (Takayuki Ueki & Toshiyuki Sakuda)
This is a “Weapon Bringing Death Match,” our first death match of the night. We are also at the point in the show where we are getting entrances. They do some spots with a nail board and a sorta half of a pair of scissors looking thing. Takeda takes a lot of stuff here for a guy that went from main eventing pretty much every big show for the past 500 days to being in the 4th match on the card. He gets the pin in a pretty good match. ***¼
Jaki Numazawa, Ryuichi Sekine & Ryuji Ito def. Kankuro Hoshino, Minoru Fujita & Yuichi Taniguchi
Oh well, we are back to no entrances and joining mid-match. This a good ol’ Barbed Wire Board Death Match. Ito is getting the next deathmatch title shot and they definitely focused on him here. We get some unprotected chair shots and some rough looking bumps onto the barbed wire boards, but this was overall just fine to me. Ito gets the pin with a top rope splash. **1/4
Kazumi Kikuta, Ryuichi Kawakami & Yuji Okabayashi def. Hideki Suzuki, Takuya Nomura & Yoshihisa Uto
This should be awesome. Some of the class of the strong division here mixing it up with a couple deathmatch wrestlers stepping out of their element. We start with Suzuki and Okabayashi… yes please. Takuya Nomura gets in, who might’ve been the best wrestler in the strong division last year. He’s the young upstart that doesn’t win often but always impresses. Nomura and Okabayashi do a strike battle all around Korakuen and the chops are deafening. Yuji starts beating up Abe, who is Nomura’s Tag partner, after Abe comes to Nomura’s defense. Generally, I’m not a big fan of the whole brawling outside the ring trope, but this was actually really good. Suzuki and Uto, who used to be a tag team, hit a Hart Attack on Kawakami but with an awesome lariat so it looks even better than the normal move. Yuji locks Hideki in a crab, and Nomura comes in to save Hideki which is significant because the two have been pretty big rivals in the past with Normura always losing but getting closer every time against his former mentor. Yuji picks up the win by submission, over Nomura of course, in an absolutely awesome match. ***3/4
Post-match Suzuki and Uto beat off the winners with chairs, teasing a reunification of Moon Vulcan, which disbanded last year. They are joined by Abdullah Kobayashi for the backstage interview segment, who was also watching the match ringside. I like them downcycling Suzuki into the tag division after his long run at the top to keep him doing interesting things. That’s something that a lot of companies struggle with, what to do with a guy that was a champion for a while after he loses it, for example, NOAH right now with Takashi Sugiura.
BJW Strong World Heavyweight Title
Daisuke Sekimoto (c) def. Ryota Hama
This is Sekimoto’s first title defense since winning the belt back from Hideki Suzuki in November and his tag partner, Okabayashi, is in his corner. Hama is one half of the BJW Tag champs and this is his first Strong Title challenge in almost two years. He’s also one of the few people that can make Sekimoto look small. These two are a combined 750 pounds and Hama makes up 2/3rds of that. They do a lot of test of strength stuff with Sekimoto working from the bottom. We move into the shoulder block and chop phase. Everything that Hama does looks ten times worse because of his size and he does an elbow drop that looks like death. Rolling senton from the 500 pounder gets a two count but Sekimoto rolls away from certain death when Hama was looking for a body splash. Sekimoto tries to get Hama up for a body slam and gets nowhere fast, but survives a running ass smash and then the jumping body splash. The Korakuen crowd is absolutely molten and Sekimoto’s selling is excellent here. Hama looks for a Vader Bomb but Seki gets up and hits a powerbomb and then is able to get Hama up for a suplex! Hama stays on his feet from two lariats but the third knocks him down and Sekimoto gets the win at the 15-minute mark in a really great co-main. ****
They told a really good story of Sekimoto fighting from the bottom, which he doesn’t get to do often. Halfway through I wasn’t really into this one but the second half was tremendous and Sekimoto’s selling was really great. V1 for the muscle monster.
BJW Death Match Heavyweight Title
Masaya Takahashi (c) def. Takumi Tsukamoto
Tsukamoto challenged his Tag partner Masashi Takeda last year on 1/2 in what was one of the best matches of Takeda’s historic reign as BJW Death Match champ. I loved that match and went ****1/2, I hope we get something close to that here. This is a “Fluorescent Light Tubes, Fluorescent Items & Alpha Death Match” and has the Gabe Sapolsky match name gimmick, as the announcers call it the “New Year of Death” match. We start with a collar and elbow tie-up… lol. They tease light tube shots for the first few minutes and the crowd is dying for it when we finally get our first one to break. We get the normal Japanese fighting spirit exchange with light tubes but Tsukamoto cracks the light tubes over his own head instead of Takahashi’s to show that he’s a badass. Tsukamoto brings his megamallet out and Takahashi sells the hammer shot as if he got hit by a car.
We really start to pick up now and Takahashi hits a body slam onto a pile of chairs, then a pile of light tubes, and finally onto a PILE OF ROCKS. This is great. They have to go to the back to get a table of all things and Takahashi takes a nasty looking bump on a side slam from the apron through the table. They do a fun spot where Tsukamoto puts some light tubes in Takahashi’s shirt and hits his splash. Takahashi takes his shirt off now, meaning we’re in the closing stretch but immediately gets hit with a fisherman buster… onto rocks… for a two count… Jesus Christ. Masaya fires back with a powerbomb onto the rocks. This is insane. They add a giant pile of tacks to the rocks and both guys take front facing bumps onto the tacks/rocks/broken glass combo. My lord… We go right into a strike exchange and then some shoot headbutts because why not. An STO and hip toss onto the pile of death from Takahashi gets two. He adds a group of light tubes to the pile and hits a jackhammer onto it for the win. Unbelievable match and safely in my top five of the year so far, probably the best death match I’ve seen not involving Masashi Takeda in over a year. ****½
I was a little worried about this one because it could have been really good and still felt like a disappointment after the transcendent reign that Masashi Takeda had as death match champion, but Takahashi kicked off his reign on the right foot here with an absolutely superb performance, and Tsukamoto delivered in a big spot again as well, so props to him as well. I’d like to see him and Takeda possibly go after the tag belts before they cycle either of them back up for another DM title challenge.
After the match, Ryuji Ito challenges Takahashi for the Death Match Title on 1/14.
This is a perfect jumping on point for Big Japan as both major champs picked up their first defense and we also got a must-watch main event and three other really good-great matches. Probably the #2 show of the year thus far behind only Wrestle Kingdom. The next time Big Japan makes tape will be on January 20th when they’ll try and cram their 1/13 and 1/14 shows into a two hour block. Those shows are headlined by The Violent Giants vs Strong BJ for the AJPW World Tag Titles and Ito vs Takahashi in Ito’s 20th anniversary match for the BJW Deathmatch Heavyweight Title. I’d be shocked if either of those matches didn’t deliver.