Yohei Komatsu vs. Hirai Kawato (NJPW – 01/03/16)

Yohei Komatsu vs. Hirai Kawato
New Japan Pro Wrestling
January 3, 2016
Differ Ariake
* 1/2

The focus for a wrestler’s debut match is usually on the debuting wrestler for the obvious reasons. However, there is scarcely anything meaningful that can be gleamed about a wrestler’s potential from a five-minute match where the new guy receives little to no offense. So rather than act as if we have any better idea of Kawato’s prospects after watching his public in-ring debut than we did before, let’s look at how Komatsu fared instead. This match was Kawato’s first, but it was also the first chance to see Komatsu assume a new role.

While I don’t know with absolute certainty for this to be fact, Komatsu’s match with Kawato was likely the first time Komatsu wrestled a singles match with a less experienced and limited wrestler. Granted, Komatsu likely wrestled with Kawato before in training but a match in front of a live crowd presents unique challenges.

At the risk of assigning too much importance to this match in Komatsu’s overall career arc, it does represent a next step. Thus far as a young lion Komatsu has gone from being in Kawato’s current spot to wrestling ultra basic matches with Sho Tanaka to working slightly more complicated matches with Tanaka to getting more (and more complicated) offense in against wrestlers higher up the New Japan food chain. Leading a match with an inexperienced opponent is a logical next step in his progression.

Komatsu did a fine job in that role – no better or no worse than what could have been reasonably expected of him. He kept the match very simple (not as if he had another choice). Kawato was never placed in the position to string together more than one move or hold on offense in a sequence. Komatsu’s offense was out of his 2013 playbook in terms of simplicity in order to protect his young opponent from having to take any bumps or eat any offense beyond the very, very basic.

Komatsu’s challenge was weaving a watchable match around all of those limitations. The match was very much one move followed by a hold or two, followed by another move followed by another hold or two. That’s all it could be and Komatsu managed that rather well. I did think there was a moment or two where Komatsu left some dead air between holds or offense but that was extremely minor stuff.

Overall, Komatsu looked confident and got his newbie opponent through a match without any real rough spots, which is really all you can ask for. In the ring with a legitimate rookie, it was even clearer than before that Komatsu is ready to shed the young lion label and move onto the next stage of his career, whatever that might be.

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