Please, sit down. I want to speak to you about YOSHI-HASHI.

No, come back here, sit down. We’re going to talk about YOSHI-HASHI.

I won’t take too much of your time so just relax. Roll on back to September 28, 2019. The night I watched YOSHI-HASHI versus KENTA at Hammerstein Ballroom and absolutely hated it. The night had already gone on longer than it had meant to, and it was the only time that night I could feel the crowd’s energy levels and excitement be challenged and tested. The match went on and on, and I just wanted it to end. My favorite part of the match is where we got the inevitable defeat of YOSHI-HASHI. I was glad and hoped it was a long time before I sat through a proper YOSHI-HASHI match ever again. YOSHI-HASHI to me was nothing but a punchline.

Kind of cruel isn’t it?

Especially when KENTA was in the match and didn’t do his part to help make it entertaining. It is definitely cruel, but I wasn’t the only one. YOSHI-HASHI has been for years kind of a verbal punching bag to many within the fanbase. Ever since losing his return from an excursion to Kazuchika Okada in 2012 in under five minutes, it’s had been a career which while there has been moments that shone so brightly, long periods of futility would extinguish them to the point at times I got to think hard to remember what they were. It’s quite unfair, YOSHI-HASHI is by no means a bad worker, just not too many people one they go seeking out when they feel like some writing. When he was memorable, they were often not for the best of reasons. I definitely remember the time he fell headfirst and busted his face open. Poor YOSHI-HASHI, not the best thing to have immediately popped into someone’s mind when they think about your career. Not exactly something you remember and immediately think, that’s a wrestler I want to watch and see more of.

These were foolish notions and utterances. There was always another YOSHI-HASHI existing through it all. You have to stop telling jokes, watch closely, and at times dig into your memory banks. When these three things are done a different YOSHI-HASHI emerges through the fog of ridicule. There exists a YOSHI-HASHI who while maybe not possessing the most impressive track record was more than capable of rising to the occasion and putting on very good to great efforts that deserve more credit and appreciation. A YOSHI-HASHI that was dedicated and worked hard at his craft. While he maybe didn’t often excel above and beyond his peers, he could hold his head up high and be proud that he had put in the effort and done his best with the tools he’s had. YOSHI-HASHI has always been a very capable wrestler. There are litterings and smatterings of evidence to support this. One just more often than not, just as myself, discard and dismiss them because it’s way easier to remember and laugh at the futilities of a person than applaud the achievements of one.

Through the long and bumpy road of his career, we entered 2020, enter the pandemic. Enter the COVID-era of NJPW. Where others at times decided to put in less effort and less work. Where others at times were clearly phoning it in and going by the paint by numbers motions. YOSHI-HASHI did what he always did. Put in the effort, did his job, and he did it well. It did not go unnoticed. YOSHI-HASHI along with Hirooki Goto and Tomohiro Ishii had a fun run in the NEVER Six-Man Tag tournament. This tournament would conclude with one of the feel-good moments of NJPW’s summer when YOSHI-HASHI successfully obtained his first title reign in his twelve-year career. Through hard work and hard-fought efforts, he both deserved and earned it. He showcased himself and played his parts well during the final. When the title was put around his waist by Okada it was just a wonderful moment to watch.

Alas, even in that match there were snickerings and teasing. YOSHI-HASHI wins his first title and he’s not even involved in the decision (Ishii pins SHO). Oh that YOSHI-HASHI, he gets his first title, but it’s the NEVER SIX-MAN TITLE so it doesn’t matter. This and that, this and that. Pitter Patter. Even in what is potentially one of YOSHI-HASHI’s happiest moments, the ridicule and jokes remained. What would it take?

Then the G1 Climax was scheduled and YOSHI-HASHI earned his spot back into the fray. There was again smatterings of dismissiveness and head shaking, myself included. The lesson hasn’t been learned. YOSHI-HASHI had more teaching to do. YOSHI-HASHI hadn’t come to play games, YOSHI-HASHI had come to work. He clocked in and went straight to it. In the dreaded and underwhelming B-Block, YOSHI-HASHI did his best to stand out. In my humble opinion, he succeeded. It wasn’t just that he was putting in solid work, he was putting in very good work and having entertaining bouts in a block many found lacking at times. The jokes lessen, and the ridicule diminished as match after match YOSHI-HASHI would put in another hard effort performance, and even though he ended with only four points, he won something more. The chance at respect.

The chance arose for the choir to sing his praises instead of the comedians taking their shots. YOSHI-HASHI was finally getting the eyes of viewers to not turn to the side and wait for more appealing material, but now turning to the screen not dismissing, not scorning, but rooting for YOSHI-HASHI. I can’t begin to explain how much I wanted YOSHI-HASHI to pull off the victory over Tanahashi, over Naito. He didn’t in either of those cases but he definitely showcased himself well in both those and other bouts. He probably didn’t have a match I would put in the top matches in the tournament, but he was consistently good, consistently entertaining, and that consistency in an at times very inconsistent B Block should not be ignored. It should be praised. YOSHI-HASHI should be able to stand tall and proud of the work he did in this G1, and in my mind has solidified future entries. He helped elevate an otherwise disappointing block with his consistent work and with the possibility of big wins. While those wins never came, he did his best to make you feel THEY COULD come and that in itself is just as important as the actual victories.

To paraphrase Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, “YOSHI-HASHI was definitely born again hard.” Born again is a tad much. He wasn’t so much born again as he was opening eyes to new appreciation and respect. Yes some of us still snickered and took our pot shots when in the final show of the G1 he got pinned by DOUKI of all people. It made some of us feel he was back to geek status, that the magical YOSHI-HASHI summer and fall was all for naught. The magic had run out. It was a means to an end though. It led to something great. YOSHI-HASHI and his teammates defended the six-man titles against Taichi, Zack Sabre Jr, and DOUKI and an excellent and fun main event of a “Road To Power Struggle” show. Unlike when he won the titles, YOSHI-HASHI got the pinfall against DOUKI in this match and was the reason his team ended up retaining the titles. There was nothing to joke, nothing to “Yeah but”, no pot shots, no teasing. What was said was “Damn that was a great match”. Damn, YOSHI-HASHI was great in that match”. YOSHI-HASHI now has tag title aspirations. Will, he achieved that? Honestly? Probably not, but I’ll have fun rooting for him all the same.

Last year I looked at my friend and said in a near scornful tone I never want to sit through a proper YOSHI-HASHI match ever again.

I apologize.

YOSHI-HASHI deserves more than that. Sure he’s had his faults, fumbles, follies, but in the end, it shouldn’t cause me to dismissively wave him away. What I should be doing is remember that through it all YOSHI-HASHI is a capable wrestler. A hard worker who puts in efforts and goes to work bringing what he can to the table. While rarely the main course, always being the best side dish he can be. So by all means, take your pots shots, throw out your jokes, tease him as much as you want. For Me? I’m going to do something that I should’ve done much sooner. I’m going to start putting respect on his name, and I’ll sit through a YOSHI-HASHI match anytime.

You now have my permission to leave.