(02/07) Shinya Ishikawa vs. Ryuichi Kawakami

Big Japan Pro Wrestling
Korakuen Hall (Tokyo, Japan)
BJW Strong World Heavyweight Championship (Decision Match)

Daisuke Sekimoto defined the style of the still-in-its-infancy BJW Strong Heavyweight division with his nine-month World Heavyweight title reign that ended prematurely due to injury this January. With Sekimoto’s tag partner Yuji Okabayashi also out with an injury, Ishikawa and Kawakami were unexpectedly pushed to into a featured role as they vied for the vacant championship. The decision match was worked very much in the style that Sekimoto had previously established for BJW title matches and that resulted in an easy-to-watch title match that contained its fair share of neat moments.

Like many Sekimoto Strong matches, this one starts out with a somewhat extended feeling out process where the wrestlers exchange some holds and basic submissions. I don’t subscribe to the “mat/limb work must lead somewhere” school of thought and am perfectly content with enjoyable opening hold exchanges that stand alone – enjoyable being the operative word. One such example from this match is a segment where Kawakami attempts to permanently escape from a head scissors only to finally succeed on the third or fourth try with a clever head deke.

Ishikawa moves onto utilizing both a normal abdominal stretch and an Octopus hold, the former of which Kawakami escapes from twice by walking to the ropes. With some half crabs and other holds thrown in to keep the match moving, the opening portion was very enjoyable. It is this opening work – whether it leads anywhere or not – that makes BJW Strong matches more palatable to my tastes than a lot of other current Japan heavyweight style matches.

The match is ten minutes old before the first pin attempt happens, signally a shift from the holds into the more striking and suplex-oriented part of the contest. This is where there is always potential for the wheels to come off in these matches, but Ishikawa and Kawakami hold it together well and even sprinkle in a few cool elements along the way. I liked the dynamic where Ishikawa was presented at a disadvantage with elbow strikes. He resorts to head butts to get out of the first two exchanges, losses a few of the other elbow smash back-and-forths, and later moves onto kicks to counter his opponent’s strikes. It helped to better define each guy’s role in the match and kept the match from even veering into no-selling, strike exchange mode.

Ishikawa – after at least one earlier attempt during the stretch run – gets the Octopus hold cinched in in a really painful-looking way to get the submission victory in about 18 minutes. I liked this a lot, maybe more so than any non-NJPW Japan match from 2014. The pacing and layout felt like an early to mid-90’s New Japan juniors match only with strikes & suplexes following up the mat work rather than flying & suplexes. The match flew by too on the initial viewing which is always a positive sign that they are doing something right. In the grand scheme of things this will [rightfully] get lost in the shuffle, but I enjoyed it for what it was.

Big Japan Strong | Worthwhile | Quality

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