Big Japan Pro Wrestling. A promotion I started diving into in the early part of 2019, which quickly became one of my regular watches due to their appealing Strong division.
This division, more specifically two of the people who could be the future of the promotion, will be at the center of today’s piece.
Daichi Hashimoto, the current BJW World Strong Heavyweight champion, and Takuya Nomura, current holder of the Capture International championship and BJW’s uprising young star.
So, this is the first time I discuss BJW on this blog, slightly less than a year after I started previewing and reviewing some of their events. While the promotion is in current need for financial support, making it unknown if BJW will even be able to make it through the current crisis, I still wanted to tackle the topic I’m about to dive into. Currently within BJW’s Strong Division, not too many people can be considered as legitimate contenders to be World Strong Heavyweight champion, and fewer can be seen as people who you can center the division around. The most prominent stars in Daisuke Sekimoto and Yuji Okabayashi, respectively 39 years old with a twenty years career and 37 years old with an eleven years career, aren’t exactly the people you will look to be at or near the forefront of the promotion in five to ten years. Especially Sekimoto. The only two men who are still under 30 years old who have been Strong Heavyweight champion within the last five years have been both members of Okami, Hideyoshi Kamitani and Daichi Hashimoto, the latter receiving the stronger push higher on the card.
Hashimoto had his first matches in Big Japan in 2012, but only signed with the promotion in early 2016, which coincided with the start of his rise up the ranks. After making the semi-finals of the 2016 Ikkitousen Strong Climb, Hashimoto and Kamitani won the 2017 Saikyou Tag League, even making back to back finals appearances the year later. However, there isn’t a BJW Tag Team Championship reign to enforce Okami’s establishment further. Back to singles competition, Hashimoto won his first Strong Heavyweight Championship in December 2017 at Death Vegas, putting an end to Hideki Suzuki’s first reign. As champion, he’d make it to the Strong Climb finals in 2018, losing to Suzuki there in what actually was a title match, ending his first run at the third defence, without really getting the chance to leave a mark. Almost two years go by and we are at the 2019 edition of Death Vegas in September. The current Strong Heavyweight champion is Kohei Sato, and Hashimoto challenges him for the title following his Okami’s partner loss. The quite meaningful match between Daichi and his father’s student Sato was set for Ryogokutan 2019, where Hashimoto claimed the championship for the second time, not in the most convincing fashion as the match didn’t exactly blew Sumo Hall’s roof off.
As months have gone by, Hashimoto has now successfully defended the title against Yuji Okabayashi, Takuya Nomura, and Daisuke Sekimoto. Adding to Kohei Sato whom he beat to win the title in the first place, this is a quartet of legitimately great wrestlers that Hashimoto defeated. Oh, and Daichi also won the 2020 edition of the Strong Climb tournament, defeating Quiet Storm in the finals just a few weeks ago, making him the first man to win the tournament as champion, while also being the first man to make back to back finals appearances as such. On paper, this is quite a strong resume for someone who is seemingly being in his strongest push to date, but once we’re looking at the matches Daichi gave us, things look a bit differently. While the Okabayashi and Nomura matches are ones which received praise, with Daichi looking really good in the latter, his defence against Sekimoto wasn’t on that level. His Strong Climb tournament, especially the semi-final and final, weren’t the type of performances you would expect from someone who is supposedly as strong as Daichi looks on paper. So far, Daichi isn’t exactly looking like a dominant champion with convincing wins to his resume, which may be a bit of an issue given his current status. Lastly, while not receiving particularly negative reactions, Daichi doesn’t seem to be rallying crowds behind him in a big way during big title matches. At least, not on a regular basis. Though, given he is only 28 years old, Daichi has time to work on the things he may not be as polished as he « should » be, or grow to become more popular.
Now before asking the real questions, let’s look at the second man I wanted to talk about, Takuya Nomura. Nomura is known as Hideki Suzuki’s student and is two years younger than Daichi Hashimoto. He hasn’t won any particular championship in BJW, and is currently holding his first ever in the Capture International Championship, a shoot style wrestling title he won late last year by defeating Masashi Takeda. Nomura started his career in 2016, and while he has way less experience than most standouts names in BJW, he hardly is deniable as one of the main singles competitors, singles stars even. He also is one half of a tag team, the uprising Astronauts, alongside BASARA’s Fuminori Abe. Back to singles matter however, Nomura has now challenged three times for the BJW World Strong Heavyweight Championship. The first time against his mentor Hideki Suzuki, which gave out very promising signs regarding the young man’s future. The second time was last summer at Strong World against Yuji Okabayashi, which was an even bigger breakout performance for Nomura at the highest level, and then his latest challenge against Hashimoto, which only furthered confirmed Nomura’s great abilities and capacity to, one day, hold the Strong Heavyweight title.
Outside of Nomura’s abilities in the ring, which are legitimately great for his age given the few years of experience under his belt, he also seems to connect pretty well with the BJW crowd. His title matches against Suzuki and Okabayashi especially have showcased big time support for the then challenger. That support hasn’t faded away and you might want to look at Nomura’s as one of the very popular wrestlers in Big Japan.
Lastly about Nomura, one interesting fact to point out is that in now seven matches against Hashimoto, he has yet to win a single one.
With these things in mind, you may start to wonder why I am putting these two men side by side and, in a way, comparing them. Well, like I said prior, BJW is in a position where they kind of need to build someone up to be the next figure on top, speaking rather long term here. Something they are seemingly doing with Daichi Hashimoto, by the looks of his current run. However, with Hashimoto giving out some lackluster performances, one may wonder if BJW has been putting their money on the wrong horse, especially given how Nomura has been delivering delivering on quite a constant basis while not being booked as strongly.
Another point I would like to put some emphasis on is what looks to be the Strong division’s identity, part of it at least. To talk about this, I feel like I have to look at the likes of Sekimoto and Okabayashi, quite obviously. Two really strong wrestlers with strikes as stiff as great their presence is, with legitimate mat-wrestling abilities to add a more technical spice to their matches. Two fiery, warrior-like personalities in the ring, sometimes even beast-like given their feats of strength and yelling tendencies in order to fire themselves up. When first looking at Hashimoto, he does have the striking ability and strength to a lesser extent, but when it comes to the fiery personality, that is where things look different. In his matches, Daichi yells a lot, too, you can see he is firing himself up and that should help getting the crowd hyped up, like when Sekimoto or Okabayashi do that sort of thing. It doesn’t quite work as well with Daichi however, and he has a harder time garnering a big amount of support, based off crowd reactions.
In comparison, since that’s kind of what we’re doing here, Nomura is on yet another spectrum. While he is able to garner support and rally crowds behind him, I’d say in a better way than Hashimoto, he isn’t doing that the “Strong BJ” way, for a lack of a better term, at least not as much. Much like Suzuki, Nomura isn’t a fiery personality on the surface, but shows a lot of intensity through his wrestling once in the ring. He isn’t just throwing out strong strikes and locking submissions in, he is doing it in a collected yet intense way, carrying a relatively similar intensity the likes of Sekimoto and Okabayashi display, though in their more “outspoken” way.
The point I’m trying to get across by comparing them ? Well, based off the guys who have been the staples of your division and gave it an identity for 8 years now, between Hashimoto and Nomura, who fits that mold better ? You may have guessed my personal point of view on this matter as you read the previous paragraph.
With all these things in mind, my question is : Where do you go from here ?
Assuming Big Japan can be back following this pandemic we’re currently in, what do you do with Daichi and Nomura ? Quite obviously, it’s hard to picture Hashimoto lose his championship anytime soon. He’s been established to the point where it might look bad to have him lose this soon, after the strong start to his second Strong Heavyweight reign. Therefore, needless to say he’ll likely have another few defences under his belt before eventually letting go of the title.
Also, given Nomura has already challenged Daichi for the title during this reign, and currently sits at 0-7, chances are the smart idea here is to not have them fight one on one again for quite a while, and take that time to keep building Nomura up. To do that, I’d look at the BJW Tag Team titles and the next Saikyou Tag League. Since it’s hardly imaginable to hotshot Nomura right back into Strong Heavyweight title contention, build Astronauts up and by the time Saikyou Tag League comes around, maybe you can have them look at one of the teams to come out of the Strong block. During Astronauts’ previous two tag leagues, the pair has made a first jump. In 2018, they only won one match which only gave them 2 points. Last year ? They won three matches, giving them 6 points total.
Assuming this trend keeps up for the next edition of the tag league, it’ll be hard to expect Nomura and Abe not to featuring near the top of the Strong Block, possibly earning a title match by defeating the current champions, or making it past the group stage for the first time in their short careers.