Welcome to Looking Back. Here, I will be narrating and reviewing either wrestling matches or rivalries, trying to explain as well as I can how much I enjoyed said match or rivalry, as well as narrating the whole story. This fifth article will be covering the feud between the Ace of Big Japan Pro Wrestling, Daisuke Sekimoto, and Billy Robinson’s apprentice, the modern master of the Catch As Catch Can style, Hideki Suzuki, lasting from March 5th 2017, to November 11th 2018.
This will be the first of two parts, covering the first three matches between the two men in Big Japan.
Prior to what would actually become a full-fledged rivalry, Sekimoto and Suzuki both took part in Pro Wrestling ZERO1’s Fire Festival, in 2014 and 2015, where they were in the same block. In those two block matches, Sekimoto picked up the win over Suzuki. Following those encounters, the two would meet various times in tag matches, but they would have to wait almost two years before their third singles match, the first with more than two tournament points at stake, for the richest prize in BJW’s Strong Heavyweight division.
Chapter I, March 5th 2017 : A new challenge arises
After Sekimoto retained the World Strong Heavyweight championship against Moon Vulcan member Yoshihisa Uto on January 29th, the Muscle Monster’s next challenger would be the most prominent figure of the trio also featuring a young Takuya Nomura, Nomura’s trainer, Hideki Suzuki, who had yet to lose a singles match in 10 months. The two men would clash in front of a packed Korakuen Hall, filled with excited fans.
The match starts off with Sekimoto requesting a handshake as a show of respect, which Suzuki responds to by shaking the champion’s hand. Both men each get their sequence of early dominance, trying to impose their will. Sekimoto with a headlock, Suzuki with a headscissors. They even mirror each other, escaping by forcing their opponent into a pin. Suzuki manages to hit two suplexes, a Capture and Belly-to-Belly variations, first after a combo of strikes, then after catching Sekimoto off guard as he took the champion’s strikes, driving Sekimoto over the top rope and out of the ring.
Here we reach the first momentum switching moment, as this allows Suzuki to follow suit with his offence as he gets Sekimoto back in the ring. However, his running elbow, Monkey Flip and knee drop combo only gives him a two count. He then tries to hit the Double Arm suplex, but is countered by Sekimoto’s Gutwrench suplex, allowing the champion to get his first real chunk of offence. He goes for the Boston Crab, which Suzuki first denies, but smartly, Sekimoto, while still holding the legs, gets Suzuki’s shoulders down, forcing him to kick out and get caught in the submission.
After Suzuki got to the ropes, Sekimoto continues with his offence, striking hard, spearing Suzuki into the corner and hitting a Double Arm suplex of his own, for a two count. Sekimoto follows with the Argentine Backbreaker, which Suzuki ultimately breaks away from using a Sleeper Hold. Sekimoto counters with an Atomic Drop, then runs in the ropes to try a lariat, but Suzuki ducks and catches him with a German suplex. The champion powers up, goes for the lariat again, takes an uppercut from Suzuki but manages to hit a lariat on his third attempt. After getting back up, both men go for another stiff striking exchange where nobody goes down, even after Sekimoto nailed Suzuki with an Enzuigiri. Sekimoto tries for another lariat, Suzuki ducks again, both men counter each other until Sekimoto locks Suzuki into a German suplex set-up, but Suzuki blocks him using his leg. Sekimoto decides to switch hold and applies a Sleeper Hold, but Suzuki counters with a backbreaker. Suzuki then hits a neckbreaker and goes for a pin, only to get a two count again. He then tries his finisher again, but Suzuki counters, suplexing him through sheer power and bridges for a pin, also getting a two count.
Suzuki continues, hitting a bodyslam set-up Tombstone, and giving Suzuki a big forarm strike, only to pin him for a two count yet again. The challenger then tries the Dragon suplex, but gets countered and received another Enzuigiri. Sekimoto follows with a German suplex attempt, which he hits, but Suzuki kicks out too. While still on the mat, Suzuki quickly gets to his opponent and locks him in an arm lock (likely a Kimura lock variant), but Sekimoto powers his way out by slamming Suzuki down. Sekimoto then goes for a lariat, Suzuki ducks and both men hit each other with lariats, but it is Sekimoto hitting the decisive one, bringing his opponent down. He goes for the pin, but him being groggy doesn’t allow him to pin Suzuki quick enough, allowing the latter to kick out at two. We reached the 20 minute mark at this point.
Sekimoto is the one following suit with offence, slamming Suzuki down and going for a splash from the top rope. However, Suzuki gets his knees up at the last moment. The challenger gets up first and tries to win the match by catching his opponent in a backslide pin, but Sekimoto kicks out. He keeps up by applying a Cobra Twist, but Sekimoto manages to reach the ropes. This allows Suzuki to hit a bridging Dragon suplex, but this move only gives him a two count. Suzuki keeps the pressure on with a Front Face Lock, driving Sekimoto to the mat. Sekimoto doesn’t give up or pass out, so Suzuki lets go off the hold to pin him, but the champion kicks out at two again. Suzuki then kicks Sekimoto in the back, probably out of frustration, whick sparks another striking exchange, won by Sekimoto after a big lariat. He goes for the pin, Suzuki kicks out. The champion follows with a Liger bomb but gets another kick out at two from Suzuki. Sekimoto keeps on going with forearms, Suzuki takes them all, barely manages to respond with strikes of his own, yet as soon as he and Sekimoto start to slow down, he rolls Sekimoto up for another nearfall.
Sekimoto jumps for a pin attempt while Suzuki is down, but the latter kicks out and locks his opponent in a Sleeper, driving him back to the mat when he tried to power through. Ultimately, Sekimoto gets his foot on the rope to break free. The Muscle Monster then hits Suzuki with a Vertical suplex, but only gets a two count yet again. Realizing we are approaching the 30 minutes time limit, Suzuki quickly gets back up and catches Sekimoto in another pinfall variant, for another two count. They get back up for yet another exchange of strikes as both men barely have any energy left. Suzuki gets the upper hand until Sekimoto hits another lariat. He seemingly tries to pin Suzuki, but he gets pushed away. Sekimoto then tries to hit his own finisher, the Deadlift German suplex, but Suzuki doesn’t let himself being elevated and keeps dropping down, until he goes in the rope to force a break.
Both men get up, they strike each other, Suzuki takes the upper hand, drives Sekimoto into a seating position and hits him with a big forearm… For another nearfall. As they get up, they strike again, Suzuki taunts and slaps Sekimoto, telling him to strike him as we reach the last seconds of the match. After a few more strikes where both men can’t take the advantage, Suzuki goes for the Double Arm suplex but can’t hit it, so he rolls Sekimoto into a pin, but also gets a nearfall. Sekimoto then quickly goes for his German suplex, hits it, but his pin attempt is close to the ropes, which allows Suzuki to catch them on the count of one.
Right when Sekimoto lets go off the hold, the bell rings, signaling the end of this contest.
This match had one purpose, and one purpose only. Setting the basics and show the champion and his challenger as equals, which was done to perfection all the way through. Nobody truly managed to get the upper hand for more than a minute, this match was a constant back and forth where both men were only able to counter each other with strikes and big moves, but never gather enough momentum once. This match had Korakuen Hall into it like very few matches, the fans reacting for the various big spots, Suzuki’s submissions and counters, and the various nearfalls.
As Sekimoto barely retained the Strong title, a rematch between the two men would be set at the end of month.
Chapter II, March 30th 2017 : The anticipated rematch
Given how the first encounter for the World Strong Heavyweight championship has ended, of course a rematch would happen. Of course said rematch would happen in front of the Korakuen Hall audience, which is eager to see who between these two awesome wrestlers will be able to win.
No handshake to start this one off, Sekimoto and Suzuki go straight to business… Sort of. While they exactly rush before making the first contact 25 days ago, here both men truly take some time to observe and feel each other out. They begin with a standard collar and elbow tie-up, transitioning into Sekimoto holding Suzuki in a German suplex set-up. Suzuki quickly drops a knee down, only to roll Sekimoto on the mat, grabbing a hold of his arm. Sekimoto quickly catches Suzuki in a headscissors, and tries to take the upper hand with it. However, Suzuki positions himself in front of his opponent and start grabbing and applying person to Sekimoto’s foot, easing his escape from the headscissors. Sekimoto slaps Suzuki while he was applying more pressure with his knee on the ankle, but Suzuki grabs the foot again as punishment. He transitions into a hold of the foot to gain control, but Sekimoto steadily manages to relocate and roll Suzuki into a pin to break free of the hold.
As they go back to feeling each other out, Sekimoto goes for Suzuki’s left arm and starts applying pressure on the forearm. After a little while, Suzuki is the one rolling Sekimoto up, getting a quick two count. They follow up with a similar test of strength to the one starting their last match, where Sekimoto slowly gains the edge. However, Suzuki counters by catching the champion in an European clutch to then pin him. After Sekimoto kicks out and gets up, he quickly slides towards him and gounds him. Suzuki throws a forearm and tries to force both of Sekimoto’s shoulder on the mat. He then focuses back on Sekimoto’s foot, but the latter quickly grabs the bottom rope.
We are five minutes in, and it is quite clear Suzuki is the one trying to impose his will and style early on. They lock up again, looking equal in strength, only for Suzuki to push Sekimoto in the ropes and slap him, catching the champion off guard. This triggers Sekimoto, who starts the first striking exchange of the match. They go back and forth until a chop from Sekimoto gets Suzuki down to a knee. He quickly responds with a combo of strikes, runs towards his opponent who uses his momentum to throw him out of the ring. Sekimoto tries to dive to the outside but receives an elbow from Suzuki as he was diving between the top and middle ropes. Suzuki eventually gets Sekimoto back in the ring, and irish whips into the ropes, using the momentum to lock the champion in a Cobra Twist. Sekimoto manages to power Suzuki over him to break free, but Suzuki stays on the attack and quickly goes for a headlock. Once again, Sekimoto tries to use his power to counter, trying to slam Suzuki, but the latter uses the momentum to roll and keep his hold applied. Suzuki then gets Sekimoto up, headbutts him a few times and hits a neckbreaker, followed by a knee drop. He goes for a pin at the 10 minute mark, for a two count.
Suzuki follows up, driving the champion in the corner and running towards him. Sekimoto gets his legs up and jumps on the second rope to hit a dropkick, but Suzuki moves away, pushing Sekimoto’s legs in the process. Suzuki gets his opponent up and lifts him into a powerslam set-up, but Sekimoto gets away, pushes Suzuki in the corner and catches up for a big Atomic Drop. He goes on trying to apply a Boston Crab, but Suzuki denies him the exact same way than last time. Sekimoto then uses the same tactic to lock the submission in, and succeeds. Suzuki manages to get to the ropes quickly, but after Sekimoto lets go of the hold, he stays on the attack, chops Suzuki and drives him into the opposite corner. He follows up by attempting the Argentine Backbreaker. Suzuki tries to apply a Headlock to counter, but Sekimoto powers through and gets him up. Suzuki then changes his approach and goes for Sekimoto’s left arm to force him to let go, which succeeds. He then applies a arm lock, but Sekimoto uses Suzuki’s positioning to grab and bodyslam him, thus breaking free as well. The champion goes to the top rope, but Suzuki gets up quickly and knocks him with a forearm, then a uppercut. He gets on the second rope and drives Suzuki down with a Belly-to-Back suplex. Suzuki then tries to lariat Sekimoto, who dodges and goes for the Boston Crab. Suzuki counters by catching him in a backslide, releasing on the count of two and knocking Sekimoto with a running uppercut. Sekimoto tries to use the momentum to lariat Suzuki, who first ducks away, but gets caught by another lariat on the other hand. However, again Suzuki gets up quickly and strikes a forearm on Sekimoto, falling over him afterwards. Luckily for the champion, he quickly got to get a shoulder up before he could get pinned.
15 minute mark, both men go for another exchange of strikes. The shots are stiff, and Suzuki is the first to gain an edge, dropping Sekimoto to a knee, holding himself on the middle rope. The exchange continues afterwards until the champion hits a headbutt and an Enzuigiri. He then goes for a lariat which Suzuki counters, but hits another. Suzuki doesn’t fall. Sekimoto then grabs Suzuki and goes for a stalling Vertical suplex, which he hits. Sekimoto goes for the pin, and gets a two count. He follows up by getting Suzuki up and going for a lariat, which Suzuki ducks again and tries to catch him for a Dragon suplex. Both men counter each other until Sekimoto lands an eblow and another Enzuiguiri. Sekimoto then goes for another lariat and hits it, following up by a pin attempt. He gets another two count, but got closer to three this time.
Sekimoto then tries to hit the Deadlift German, but Suzuki blocks him. Sekimoto switches to a Sleeper Hold, but quickly goes back to his finisher and hits it. He bridges for the pin, but only gets a nearfall. He tries to hit his finisher again, fully deadlifting Suzuki, but again Suzuki blocks with his leg. Suzuki then elbows Sekimoto to break free and locks in the Octopus Stretch. Sekimoto manages to power through the hold and get to the ropes, but Suzuki quickly lands a Dragon suplex on him. He then gives Sekimoto a forearm, pins him but gets a nearfall as well.
Suzuki gets Sekimoto back up, gives him another forearm, a jumping Enzuigiri followed by his finisher, the Double Arm suplex. He goes for the pin. 1, 2, 3. To the ecstatic reaction of the crowd, Hideki Suzuki has become the new BJW World Strong Heavyweight champion. The new champion after the match goes towards the now vanquished Sekimoto, they talk for a moment and shake hands, showing sportsmanship.
This second match took what was set earlier in the month, and went at a faster pace. This match, while still hard hitting, had less striking exchanges and went straight to the point. Both men didn’t want this rematch to go to a time limit draw, and it showed. Suzuki also adapted his gameplan and showed the ability to propose alternatives, where Sekimoto couldn’t and saw himself countered a bunch of times.
The new champion Suzuki would then go on to defend the championship successfully five times, before losing it to Daichi Hashimoto in December. As for him and Sekimoto, they wouldn’t meet again in singles competition until (nearly) a year later.
Chapter III, March 11th 2018 : Strong Climb difference maker
Almost a year after Hideki Suzuki defeated Daisuke Sekimoto to win the World Strong Heavyweight championship, the two men are set to clash for the third time in a BJW ring, both in their first match of the 2018 Ikkitousen Strong Climb tournament. Suzuki lost the Strong Heavyweight championship to Daichi Hashimoto in December, while Sekimoto, since last losing to Zeus in All Japan’s Champion Carnival, hasn’t lost once in singles competition prior to this match, making it close to 11 months of invincibility.
The match starts off similarily to the other ones, both competitors feel each other out, but much faster than prior. They now are more familiar with each other and it already shows. Sekimoto gets Suzuki down to the mat first, holding his arm, but Suzuki quickly is the one grab the other’s arm. Nobody has the time to assert dominance as Sekimoto catches Suzuki in a headscissors as fast as the latter escapes from it. However, both men don’t slow down following this first sequence. They lock up again fast, Suzuki goes for the arm again and grounds Sekimoto, going for the legs instead. Sekimoto rather quickly transitions it into a headlock, which he tries to maintain, but Suzuki moves him into a pinning position, forcing Sekimoto to grab the ropes.
While not locked up, whether on the mat or on their feet, both men stay close to each other, keeping on feeling each other, trying to find an opening. They lock up, Suzuki tries to lock the shoulder area, but Sekimoto counters him by going for the arm. Suzuki rolls and drops Sekimoto on the mat, going over his back and locks the head, trying to gain control. He then steadily rolls Sekimoto into a pin, which the latter kicks out of early. Both men don’t stay away from each other for long following this sequence, as Suzuki quickly goes for a headlock. Sekimoto tries to hit Suzuki’s arms to break free, but Suzuki releases on the second attempt to apply the same hold right back, putting more pressure on it. Sekimoto tries to power his way out by slamming Suzuki, but the latter counters the same way he did during their last match, keeping his hold applied. Sekimoto eventually manages to escape from the hold and lock Suzuki in a Full Nelson, only for both men to counter each other until Sekimoto gets a hold of Suzuki’s arm. Suzuki grabs Sekimoto’s leg to drop him, sees himself pushed to the ropes but does a wheel to go back near his opponent. Sekimoto gets up fast in the meantime and takes some distance.
They keep observing and feeling other out, taking some more time than previously, then lock up again. Sekimoto grabs a hold of Suzuki’s arm again and gains the upper hand, similarily to how Suzuki did with the headlock earlier. Suzuki does try to escape, but Sekimoto keeps his hold as he and Suzuki rolled together. He will eventually manage to escape, quickly going for the Double Arm suplex, but Sekimoto drops him over his back the same way he did during their first match. After Sekimoto drove Suzuki in the corner and runs towards him, Suzuki ducks him and locks a Sleeper Hold, climbing to the second rope. Suzuki then goes for a Tarantula, choking Sekimoto with his legs (reminiscent of the other Suzuki, Minoru). He releases on the three count from the referee, but Sekimoto has the time to elevate him back on his shoulders in an Electric Chair position. Suzuki then rolls over for a pinning attempt, going for the European clutch just when the count reached two, to get a second nearfall to the sound of an impressed crowd. As they get back up, Sekimoto goes for the Boston Crab and locks it in. However, Suzuki is able to make Sekimoto flip and release the submission hold.
Sekimoto goes back to the same move, but Suzuki first blocks and then reverses it, using his legs to drive Sekimoto away. The latter quickly goes back on the attack, but Suzuki catches him in a Cobra Twist. Sekimoto does manage to power through and get to the ropes, but Suzuki stays close to him, gives him a few strikes and positions him right into the Octopus Stretch. Again, Sekimoto escape using power. Suzuki tries to keep a waist hold of Sekimoto, but the latter flips him over and bridges over for a two count. Suzuki goes back up in the corner and Sekimoto hits him with a spear. He then throws Suzuki in opposite corners twice, following it up with the Argentine Backbreaker. Suzuki first tries to break free using the Sleeper but Sekimoto applies pressure to make him release it. Suzuki then resort to grab the eyes first, then apply the Sleeper to escape the hold. However, Sekimoto counters the Sleeper with an Atomic Drop.
Sekimoto goes for a lariat, Suzuki ducks and they both hit each other with one. Suzuki slaps Sekimoto’s chest, backing him down which allows him to hit Suzuki with another lariat. He pins Suzuki, and gets a nearfall. Sekimoto screams to hype himself up, goes for a lariat but Suzuki again counters. Both men counter each other until Sekimoto locks Suzuki in a German suplex set up and hits him with one. He bridges for the pin and wins the match that way, in less than 13 minutes.
That third match is very different from the other two. Both men want and need this win, and not only for the two tournament points. He needs to prove to himself he can beat Suzuki, while Suzuki globally needs momentum back following his loss of the Strong Heavyweight title. Sekimoto is the one gaining the upper hand, not even winning with his actual finisher in quick fashion.
That would be Suzuki’s only loss of the tournament, as he would go on to make the Strong Climb final, meeting Daichi Hashimoto there in a rematch to claim both the Strong Climb tournament and the title… Which he would win, kicking off his second reign as champion.