The impressive growth of Yuya Aoki

Big Japan Pro Wrestling is a promotion with a bunch of young talents to exploit. Purely looking at the younger wrestlers within the roster, it’s easy to tell ourselves that the future is bright. It certainly look like it is from an in-ring perspective.
Today, I wanted to focus my attention, and yours, on one of the biggest reasons why, in the former Junior Heavyweight champion Yuya Aoki !
From his growth over the last two years to what may be next, let’s talk about one of the hottest young stars in BJW !

Among all the interesting things we could be discussing regarding Big Japan Pro Wrestling, I suggest we take a look at a rather important aspect of any promotion’s ability to sustain : Constantly forming new talents and make them grow. The last few years, BJW has managed through its dojo to form quite talented young wrestlers. The number one name being Takuya Nomura, whom I already dedicated an article to last year. The likes of Akira Hyodo, Takuho Kato, Yuki Ishikawa and Kosuke Sato have all more or less recently started to carve their spot in the roster. Then enters Yuya Aoki, whom besides Nomura found the most success at this stage of his career.
From being featured against the experienced Junior Kazuki Hashimoto at the 2018 Ryogokutan event, all the way to his first reign as BJW Junior Heavyweight champion, Aoki has never ceased to climb the ranks. He took part in last year’s Ikkitousen Strong Climb tournament, his second appearance, facing generationnal « rival » Nomura, the now current Strong Heavyweight champion Yasufumi Nakanoue (whom he defeated for the second time in this tournament !), AJPW’s Jake Lee and Kazuki Kikuta. Being featured alongside such Heavyweight talents and not actually falling dead last in that D block should be rather telling about how the then Junior champion was, and still is viewed by his home promotion (even though the tournament was sort of ruined by the Covid outbreak). By the end of 2020, Aoki also had been paired alongside the legendary Shinjiro Otani for Saikyô Tag League (which Aoki’s entrance jacket pays tribute to), which can only be seen as another indicator regarding the value Aoki has in the eyes of Big Japan.
Furthermore, even prior to his second Strong Climb participation, Aoki went in ZERO1 in 2019, entering the Fire Festival tournament. Of all the wrestlers in BJW, he was picked. Surely that must count for something as well given who else could have entered in his place.

Now let’s tackle Aoki, the wrestler, more than the things he accomplished. As young wrestlers tend to learn, one of the first (if not the first) aspects of his wrestling he developed was the ability to work as an underdog and look the part in such a position. Through selling, high flying moves and the « BJW-esque » kind of intensity you’d expect from an Okabayashi trainee, Aoki pulled out a few great showcases quite early on, primarily against (Kazuki) Hashimoto in Ryogoku Kokugikan. That aspect now translates differently, as Aoki, following his first Junior reign and participations in Heavyweights filled tournaments, now works this way on a more regular basis against bigger opponents, while still showing he can absolutely hang with some of them, and grab victories.
Speaking of his Junior reign, this is what sparked Aoki’s growth from a young, fiery, and hungry underdog to a wrestler with more edge to him, while keeping the components which helped him stand out in the first place. He also shows another step-up in intensity at times, notably against particular Heavyweights or when facing STRONGHEARTS, whom he crossed path with a bunch of times since July 2019. While I’m at it, let’s quickly go back to that specific time, July 2019. At the Strong World event in Osaka on the 21st, almost two years ago, STRONGHEARTS made their first BJW appearance. The trio of CIMA, T-Hawk and El Lindaman faced off against three of the top Juniors in BJW. Yuya Aoki was one of them, and I would argue you he was the one to stand out the most in that encounter, while on the receiving end of a whole bunch of hard-hitting, fast-paced offense. On a more personal note, this show was the first one I ever covered for Puroresu Gate, and in that match, Aoki sure stood out the most to me, more than Kazuki Hashimoto and Kota Sekifuda.
Lastly, circling back to intensity, I cannot ommit his interactions with Takuya Nomura, whom Aoki has great chemistry with and displays a next-level kind of fire. Something you would expect as we are speaking of two, if the not THE two core pieces of what shapes BJW’s future.

When looking at Yuya Aoki, I think it’s rather difficult to not see a future star. Pretty much all the elements you would want of a heavily featured babyface are there. The ability to be compelling, to rally crowds behind him, and display the confidence of a champion. This speaks to Aoki’s talent of course, but also BJW’s ability to produce really good wrestlers. Yuji Okabayashi being the one to teach you the ways of Professional Wrestling has to be of great help.
With that in mind, what does the future have in store for BJW’s Blue Thunder ? Most likely, other reigns as Junior Heavyweight champion. Now, after two Strong Climb appearances and one win over the current Strong Heavyweight champion Nakanoue dating from last year, could Aoki jump all the way to his first shot at the Strong division’s main title ? This thought surely can be entertained while Nakanoue remains champion, which may not last very long since Daisuke Sekimoto has been named challenger, and the Strong division’s longtime Ace figure will get his shot on May 5th.
No matter what or who holds the title, sooner or later, I would bet with you who reads that we will eventuallly see Yuya Aoki challenge for the World Strong Heavyweight championship. And he will, once again, shine bright on this bigger stage.

Before closing this article, to illustrate some of the points I made regarding Aoki’s talent and growth, here is a list of matches for you to check out or revisit. I like to think they examplify quite well Aoki’s ascent, as well as some being some key moments in his young career :

  • Shinobu (c) vs Yuya Aoki – BJW TV Show – November 1st 2017 – BJW Junior Heavyweight Championship
  • Takuya Nomura vs Yuya Aoki – BJW Ikkitousen Strong Climb – March 21st 2018
  • Kazuki Hashimoto (c) vs Yuya Aoki – BJW Ryogokutan November 11th 2018 – BJW Junior Heavyweight Championship
  • ASUKA vs Yuya Aoki – ZERO1 Fire Festival Tournament July 20th 2019
  • CIMA, T-Hawk & El Lindaman vs Kazuki Hashimoto, Kota Sekifuda & Yuya Aoki – BJW Osaka Surprise 42 ~ Strong World – July 21st 2019
  • TAJIRI vs Yuya Aoki – BJW Death Vegas – September 15th 2019 – BJW Junior Heavyweight Championship
  • Yuya Aoki (c) vs Kazuki Hashimoto – BJW 25th Anniversary Memorial ~ SUPER STAR WARRIORS – December 18th 2019
  • Yuya Aoki (c) vs Fuminori Abe – BJW TV show – February 11th 2020 – BJW Junior Heavyweight Championship
  • Yuya Aoki (c) vs El Lindaman – BJW Osaka Surprise 48 ~ Millenium Rut – February 24th 2020 – BJW Junior Heavyweight Championship
  • Yasufumi Nakanoue vs Yuya Aoki – BJW Ikkitousen Strong Climb – March 21st 2020
  • Takuya Nomura & Fuminori Abe vs Shinjiro Otani & Yuya Aoki – BJW Saikyô Tag League – September 14th 2020
  • Yuya Aoki (c) vs Tatsuhiko Yoshino – BJW Deathmatch, Strong And Junior Major Three Title Matches – October 21st 2020 – BJW Junior Heavyweight Championship
  • CIMA & Shigehiro Irie vs Daichi Hashimoto & Yuya Aoki – BJW 25th Anniversary Osaka Event – All Best Main Event – November 23rd 2020
  • CIMA, T-Hawk & El Lindaman vs Yuya Aoki, Kota Sekifuda & Kosuke Sato – BJW Death Mania VII – December 20th 2020
  • Yasufumi Nakanoue & Daichi Hashimoto vs Yuya Aoki & Yuji OkabayashiBJW TV ShowFebruary 23rd 2021

In a promotion facing both financial and « creative » difficulties on its Deathmatch side, Yuya Aoki has been one of the main bright spots in BJW’s Strong division, and for quite a while.
He even has been one of the lowkey better wrestlers of last year, and is constantly getting better.
Now tell me, which of Aoki’s matches stand out the most to you ?

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