Ah yes. It’s finally time for one of the things in wrestling I’m most excited about this calendar year. The BJW Ikkitousen Strong Climb tournament. This is the G1 Climax for strong boys and the like. There are so many matchups that have the potential to be blow away. Unless Yuji Okabayashi wins the tournament, the winner of the 2016 Strong Climb will have the right to challenge Okabayashi for his World Strong Heavyweight Championship. Here are the blocks:
Shinobu (Kazuki Hashimoto’s replacement)
Without further ado, let’s get into the show!
A no frills 6 man to kick things off. As you can see via my star rating, it was perfectly fine and a nice way to kick off the show. Daichi Hashimoto came off as the star of the match, with Uto of the opposition looking like a big man that’s progressed into something well-rounded. Ueki surprisingly did not bring out a lot of his comedy side, as he was either being checked for his gun which was taken away, on the apron, or in the match actually wrestling. Tatsuhiko Yoshino is already a name people should know, but if you watch this match, expect to see him and what he’s all about — including his beautiful missile dropkick, and a great “one up” sequence with Daichi. It was an interesting added dynamic to see smaller Sakuda turn around the workover in his favor even at his size, he can also do moonsaults! The finish saw a ridiculously flashy sequence between Daichi and Kikuta, with a superkick from Kikuta and a rolling kick from Daichi. Then Daichi managed to hit the Shining Wizard as the exclamation point for the win after both guys kicked out of signatures.
Unfortunately this was clipped, but from what was shown it looked like more of a “light-hearted” death match for the fans. Although hitting people with weapons and putting them through such never seems light-hearted, this was worked in a “let’s just screw each other up for the fans’ enjoyment” way; as all of the guys involved sans Takeda garner laughs during a match no matter what. Poor Kobayashi was destroyed with blocks over his back and was bleeding seconds into the clips! The full finish was shown and boy was it ever cool. Between Kobayashi doing the YEAOH tribute act only to be stopped before doing the Rainmaker, to Inaba taking so much punishment and still kicking out, and Kobayashi stealing the show once again with his 1 vs. 2 sequence; and the cherry on top being a Takeda Angle Slam onto the blocks which put away Inaba for good — this was a killer (no pun intended) match for a clipped one. I actually recommend you check this out if you’re okay with punishment.
I’m never going to lie when it pertains to my knowledge bank. Sometimes I didn’t even know who was on the ring (as I was unfamiliar with the looks of Takahashi and Inematsu at first, and probably still got things wrong), but that, along with the fact that this was a fun death match increased the fun factor of taking it all in. There were weapons used, Yankee Two didn’t get a lot of time except for Isami doing his thing; and Inematsu was demolished as the match was built around that. Tsukamoto along with Sekine were a solid tag team that would continue to utilize each other throughout the match. Before I embarrass myself any further, and move on to my specialty in coverage, the finish was quite the treat. Inematsu gave Numazawa a Death Valley Driver onto thumbtacks for the win. Inematsu at one point got the bucket of thumbtacks and dumped it over his own head. This is probably my worst match review ever. Onto the best of the best and that’s the Strong Climb matches.
Think of this match as Shinobu walking a tightrope. Most of the time he was wobbly and nearly fell off, and those rare other times saw him conquer the tremors and stand up straight before tumbling to the ground. Hideki Suzuki also (no pun intended) walked the fine line between selling for a small man and keeping things realistic. The first part of the match saw Hideki in control with tight cravates and elbows that made Shinobu flop over into the “YEAOH” position. However, the times when the tightrope was easier to walk on came later in the match after Shinobu fearlessly dived on the outside wiping out big man Hideki. Hideki would try to get a grip on Shinobu, but a new found confidence was there with reversals to everything Suzuki had, including the double arm suplex that’s put away everybody. The main takeaway from the match was the fact that that was never hit, and Suzuki had to twist on Shinobu’s body and pop his arm almost all the way back to make him give up. The kicker? All of this was done in under ten minutes. What a way to kickoff the tournament.
Strong BJ and Twin Towers clash, but in singles action! This was an unreal match, and it says a lot about it that I rated it as such with some video problems and audio lagging behind by literally 10 seconds. When I watched on mute, I was almost as invested because of the sheer brutality of these guys’ matches in the strong division; as well as the best seller in the world (Okabayashi) telling the story via physicality and the facial expressions he’s oh so praised for. This was what you’d think it’d be, and the possibilities came unglued during this match. There were far too many headbutts to keep a man in his comfort zone, there were so many face in peril spots it became glorious, and The Big Dog Ishikawa never gave up until he got what he got: a win over the BJW World Strong Heavyweight Champion. There were so many little things as per usual in an Okabayashi match that made this what it was even with disadvantages in watching. Things like Okabayashi absorbing 3 stiff headbutts only to deliver his signature powerbomb, attempting the Golum Splash but Ishikawa getting his knees up, Ishikawa pressing down on Okabayashi’s worked over mid-section upon applying a hold yet Okabayashi winding up his arms on the bottom of the hold trying to get back up and get the crowd hyped. I love these men. The finishing sequence was crazy with it taking a headbutt, another knee to the mid-section, and a reversal of Okabayashi’s lariat into a backdrop in order for Ishikawa to get the win. Pro wrestling near its best, even with 10 second delays and fast forwards on tape.
This match was the literal textbook definition of anything you can do I can do better. The two mirrored each others’ every move, literally, and managed to work an arm vs. a leg, Sekimoto got the one up by high-flying BEFORE Sanada, the crowd wasn’t sure who to cheer — and this all resulted in a quality wrestling match. There’s not much else I can do to describe this in more detail than to go in-depth on the finish of the match that goes hand in hand with the story told. Without further ado, here’s the ridiculousness that was cloning each other in attempts to gain the first win of the tournament. Sekimoto misses his splash, Sanada misses his moonsault, Sanada flips out of a German but has his arm lariated plus a headbutt and enzuiguri combo from Sekimoto. More German activities and a roll-up kickout. The finish shortly after saw Sekimoto counter Sanada’s hurrincanrana with a powerbomb yet a kickout. However, a final German suplex allowed Sekimoto to get the win and start the tournament undefeated. The two embraced post-match. Great work, and a unique match in the sense that it was all about mirror image and who could do better at what.
Two respective tag champions in Japan clash in the main event for Strong Climb A Block domination! This was a match that was so simplistic yet worked so well, as younger Hideyoshi Kamitani thought he could stroll right into the match and place Sato in a hold for the majority of the time. That attitude changed real quick after Sato slipped out and started to give Kamitani one of the beatings of a lifetime. Elbows, elbows, elbows, mostly all elbows shellshocked Kamitani so hard he hardly knew where he was. His selling of the beatdown was tremendous, getting the crowd behind him but also showing how much of a cocky prick he was at the start of the match. The story continued on as although Kamitani started to get more offense in, Sato found his way around the trademark backdrop finish like a soldier avoiding a landmine. He grabbed the ropes, he hooked the leg, anything Kohei Sato could do to avoid a put-away finish he did; and the strategy was at least effective for a while. Sato thought he had Kamitani put away, but little did he know Kamitani was down for some slip and slide as well! Kamitani got out of the powerbomb grip which would have put him away a handful of times, but got GERMAN SUPLEXED ON HIS HEAD. That still wasn’t enough as shoulder tackles, enzuiguri’s and lariats couldn’t put Sato away. But, not one, but two backdrops that dropped Kohei Sato directly on his head allowed Kamitani to pick up the win. Just on the edge of ***3/4, and just on the brink of being a better match than Okabayashi vs. Ishikawa. Still incredible work by both men and a helluva way to wrap up the first show of the tournament.
As usual from BJW, a fantastic show with no weak links. The opener did well for itself, especially Daichi as well as Kikuta, the two death matches were harmless to watch, although not for the competitors, and the four Ikkitousen block matches all brought something to the table whilst still giving you the Strong Division experience. BJW continues to be the best promotion in the world, and you won’t have to look any further for coverage of the entire tournament, as well as Night 2, as Izzac already has his review up. Until next time, signing out for Dai Nippon!