I’ve had a lot of fun in my latest Japan trip. I’ve eaten a ton of great food like ramen, gyoza, and yakiniku. I’ve been to some amazing places like Tokyo Disneyland, Disneysea, the Ghibli Museum. But as great as the food has been, and as fun as the sights have been, the highlight of my trip was easily the live BJW house show I went to in Nagoya. No question.
If you’re like me, most of the Japanese wrestling you watch comes from NJPW World, or sites like DailyMotion and Youtube. Residing in Australia, seeing a live Japanese wrestling show is a very rare treat, so I thought I would share my experience of what a live BJW show is like.
The show was titled BJW “Death Market 26” and was held in Nagoya’s Diamond Hall on April 26. It’s the only live wrestling show I’ve been able to catch on this trip. There were some big DDT, NJPW, and Dragon Gate shows that I would love to have seen, but they all required too much traveling or clashed with already scheculed plans. Nagoya is the nearest large city to where I’ve been staying in Japan (my wife’s family is from a fairly rural area), and this show fell on a day that I had free, so it worked out perfectly.
Honestly, I was a little hesitant about going to a BJW show. It is probably fourth on my list of Japanese promotions I follow, behind the ones I just mentioned above. BJW is known for its death matches and flurescent light matches. If you’ve ever listened to my Japanese wrestling podcast, J-Shoot, you’ll know that I am not a fan of that style of wrestling. So much so that I’ve come to skipping right over them when I watch BJW shows. Fortunately for me, BJW also has a great heavyweight division called Strong BJ, which includes guys I love watching like Daisuke Sekimoto, Yuji Okabayashi, and Kazuki Hashimoto. They also have a good mix of comedy matches and even some straightforward wrestling. This particular show, for example, only had one death match and one fluorescent light match, the five other matches were a mixture of comedy and Strong BJ division matches. So I figured that sitting through the stuff I don’t like would be worth it to see the stuff I do. And it was.
Here’s a look at the card so you know what I’m talking about (thanks to puroresuspirit.wordpress.com):
(1) Yuichi Taniguchi & Konaka = Pale One vs. Frank Atsushi & Toshiyuki Sakuda
(2) Atsushi Maruyama & Yoshihisa Uto vs. Isamu Oshita & Tatsuo Omori
(3) SOS vs Gokudo Heisei Combi: Tsutomu Osugi & Hercules Senga vs. Kankuro Hoshino & Masato Inaba
(4) Hardcore Tag Match: Jaki Numazawa & Yuji Okabayashi vs. Shu & Kei Brahman
(5) Daisuke Sekimoto & Hideyoshi Kamitani vs. Ryuichi Kawakami & Kazuki Hashimoto
(6) New Generation Special Death Match: Takumi Tsukamoto vs. Takayuki Ueki
(7) Tag Death Match: Yuko Miyamoto  & Isami Kodaka [UNION] vs. Ryuji Ito & Abdullah Kobayashi
I went to the show with a couple of Japanese friends whom I met while living here a couple of years ago, and one of their friends. That makes two surgeons, a psychiatrist, and an English teacher. How’s that for a group of wrestling fans?
When I arrived at Diamond Hall, about 30 minutes before the opening match, one of my friends was already waiting. After the hellos and how are yous, the first thing he did was give me a newspaper and said, “This is a very important thing for a BJW show.” If you’ve ever seen a BJW show, you’ll probably know why that is. And sure enough, it came in very handy indeed.
Once the rest of the gang of misfits arrived, we went in. One thing I found interesting is that because Diamond Hall is mainly a small live music venue, you have to pay ¥500 for a drink ticket when entering. No exceptions. Doesn’t matter if you’ve got a ticket for the show like we did. You have to buy the drink ticket to be able to enter. It’s not a big deal. I would’ve, and did, bought a drink or five anyway. I just found it a little surprising. Then again, I don’t get out too much.
So we entered and head straight to the merch tables where many of BJW’s stars were selling goods and taking photos with fans. Before the show, I had already decided I wanted to get a Daisuke Sekimoto or Yuji Okabayashi t-shirt, or both, and maybe a BJW logo shirt as well. Standing at the first merch table I saw was Daisuke Sekimoto himself. As you might expect, I made a very quick beeline to that table. Sekimoto was wearing one of his own shirts, but I couldn’t find it anywhere on the table to purchase. As my Japanese is almost nonexistent, one of my friends asked Sekimoto for me if there were any of his shirts for sale. Unfortunately, there were none, so I didn’t make any purchases at this time, but Sekimoto was still nice enough to take a photo with me and talk for a couple of minutes. Big thanks to my friends for translating for me. I’d just got a photo with one of my favourite pro wrestlers, so as you can expect, I was a very happy camper, and the show hadn’t even started yet. There was a cool looking Yuji Okabayashi t-shirt that I was going to buy, but my friend suggested waiting until intermission when Okabayashi might come out to the merch section.
We then went to another merch table where Abdullah Kobayashi was sitting. Abdullah was surprisingly super friendly. He pointed out that he liked my Macho Man Randy Savage t-shirt (from wweshop.com) and took a photo with me a my friends.
I spotted a little BJW duck mascot, apparently named Kamo the Death Duck, and bought it from Abdullah, making sure to lose any cred I may have had in the process. I’m a sucker for adorable little Japanese characters. What can I say?
After that, we grabbed our compulsory drinks and sat down for the first match. We had some pretty amazing seats right next to the entrance ramp in the second row. I was sat right on the aisle seat, which is maybe a litte too close to the action for my liking, but when in Rome.
Matches: The First Half
The opening match was Yuichi Taniguchi & Konaka/Pale One vs. Frank Atsushi & Toshiyuki Sakuda. I wasn’t very familiar with any of these guys, though I knew Frank was also a BJW referee. The Pale One is, for lack of a better word, weird, but he has a cool finisher where he does a big senton from the top rope, but while he’s in the air, he crosses his legs like he’s meditating. The match was pretty fun. My main takeaway was that Frank is very loud like Akira Tozawa, and his head seems disproportionally big. Pale One picked up the win following the Zazenton on Frank. Great move!
Match 2: Atsushi Maruyama & Yoshihisa Uto vs. Isamu Oshita & Tatsuo Omori
This was prbably the most straightforawrd wrestling match on the show. Nothing great, nothing bad, kind of forgettable. Actually, all I remember is one guy and very scabby legs. Maruyama won with a Cross Armbar on Omori.
The third match is one that I was excited for when I saw the card for the show. It featured Speed of Sounds (Tsutomu Osugi & Hercules Senga) vs. Gokudo Heisei Combi (Kankuro Hoshino & Masato Inaba). SOS are a really fun team. They’re very fast paced, hence the name, and have a lot of Motor City Machine Guns inspired offense. I’d never even heard of Kankuro Hoshino or Masato Inaba before this match, but they won me over right away with their veteran heel antics and comedy stylings. Their characters are like a couple of old yakuza guys. They didn’t do a lot, but what they did was very entertaining. One spot was them teasing stereo suicidas on SOS, but isntead of flying through the ropes, they leisurely climbed through them and jumped off the aprons with double axe hammers. Senga got the win for SOS with the Koryu on Inaba.
Match 4: Hardcore Tag Match: Jaki Numazawa & Yuji Okabayashi vs. Shu & Kei Brahman
This match is where the newspaper my friend gave me from earlier came in very handy, and where sitting in the aisle seat next to the entrance ramp made me very nervous. It was really funny when the Brahman’s music hit, suddeny you can see everyone in the audience start to cover their face and heads with newspapers or whatever they had on hand to protect themselves as though a thunder storm was about to hit. The Nagoya crowd may have been small, but they’re certainly no neophytes.
As they do, the Brahmans came out spitting water all over everyone and everything from their 2 litre bottles. I was saved by my newspaper, but some fans weren’t quite as lucky. There were a couple of young ladies in the front row who were targeted by the Brahmans. Sadly, they had no newspaper to save them.
There was a lot of joking at the start of the match because all the participants had bald heads, or partly bald. The only move I can recall from the early minutes of the match involved Yuji Okabayashi’s fingers in the Brahmans’ mouths.
The match involved a lot of the Brahmans trademark spots, such as the bowling ball into the suitcase into the crotch of their opponent. I think it was Numazawa in this case. It also involved me. Well, to be more accurate, my clothing. During the match, one of the Brahman’s spotted my newly purchased green hoodie (got it on special from UNIQLO). It was very warm in the building, so I was holding it in my lap. He asked if he could use it, and before I had time to process what was happening, he was calling me a gentleman and getting in the ring with my hoodie. The Brahmans used the hoodie to double team rub Numazawa’s head, followed by his crotch. I dont know another situation where I’ve simultaneously felt as much delight as I have disgust. Trust the Brahmans to bring out such emotions.
Click here to see the moment captured by a photographer in attendance. If you look closely you can see me and the joy/disgust on my face.
I’ve since washed that hoodie twice, but I’m still hesitant to wear it. Maybe I shouldn’t have washed it and tried selling it on Ebay instead. Do kids still use Ebay?
At another point during the match, one of the Brahmans shouted a question at me that sounded like “Are you sesrawlings?” I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about, so I just politely smiled and nodded. In another trademark spot, the Brahmans pulled out the black ink and tried to spit it in Okabayashi and Numawawa’s faces, but they tucked their heads, so it went all over the top of their bald heads instead. On second attempt, Yuji Okabayashi was hit in the face with the ink.
Okabayashi had a great hulking up spot at the end where he shrugged off blows from a stop sign and a suitcase and destroyed the Brahmans, getting the win with the Golem Splash on Kei.
I love Okabayashi for his great heavyweight matches, but his comedic timing and facial expressions are also top notch.
As the Brahmans made their way to the back, one of them once again asked me “Are you sesrawlings?” Again, I had no idea what he was saying until a few minutes later when it hit me. He was asking “Are you Seth Rollins?” Dammit! If only I could go back and answer him more apppropriately, instead of looking like a confused, dopey gaijin, which is pretty much my regular look.
Match 5: New Generation Special Death Match: Takumi Tsukamoto vs. Takayuki Ueki
On one hand, I wasn’t looking forward to this match because it was the first real death match on the show. On the other hand, I love Takayuki Ueki’s comedy, so I was excited for that. In the end, it turned out to be a disappointment. Not because the match was bad, but because of Takayuki Ueki. Ueki is usally a comedy wrestler. During his matches, he often pulls out a gun and holds up the wrestlers and the audience. It’s funnier than it sounds. Recently though, he’s started doing more straightforward death match wrestling, if you can call death matches straightforward. So, I got to see the serious, death match Ueki instead of the hilarious comedy match Ueki. That isn’t bad, it’s just not my thing.
As for the match, I will say after seeing the barbed wire tables and Ueki’s barbed wire covered police shield up close (Ueki comes out dressed like a police officer), death matches are much more impressive live than they are at home on the TV, or in my case, computer screen. You can clearly see the barbs ripping at the flesh and puncturing the bodies of the wrestlers. Don’t get me wrong, I can still happily live without ever seeing another death match, but it is a different experience live.
Tsukamoto won with a Ground Manjigatame on a Barbed-wire Board.
Interesting side note: Ueki actually was a real poclice officer in Kanagawa before becoming a pro wrestler.
Before the final two matches, there was a brief intermission, so I went back to the merch section to see if there were any different wrestlers at the tables. One of the SOS guys saw my Macho Man t-shirt and got super excited. He called his partner and me over for a photo which was really cool!
I then spotted Yuji Okabayashi at the merch table in place of Sekimoto, so I headed over to buy the t-shirt I had seen earlier. As with every wrestler I had met that night, Okabayashi was really cool and approachable. He signed the t-shirt I bought and happily took a photo with me. You can’t imagine how happy I was by this point.
Before intermission ended, I also got a quick photo with Pale One, and bought a little Brahman Brothers keychain in honour of getting brahman’d (a term I love, which I believe was coined by @peskyyy) earlier in the night. I don’t know if I got a Shu or Kei Brahman keychain. Honestly, they looked exactly the same.
Matches: The Second Half
After intermission was the match I was most looking forward to. It featured Daisuke Sekimoto & Hideyoshi Kamitani vs. Ryuichi Kawakami & Kazuki Hashimoto. Watching Sekimoto wrestle up close is something else. The sound of his lariats connecting with this opponents is brutal and incredible. He’s also got a presence about him, and an intensity that’s hard to match. I was a huge fan of his before this show, but seeing him live just blew me away. Also really good is Kazuki Hashimoto. His kicks are super stiff, like an old KENTA or Daniel Bryan. He did one kick to Sekimoto’s head as he was kneeling down that was so loud that I thought Sekimoto must be out. Really hard hitting, brutal stuff in this match, exactly what I’d hoped for and expected from the Strong BJ guys. Sekimoto pinned Kazuki with his Deadlift Bridging German Suplex. Simply awesome.
The main event of the evening was a Fluorescent Light Tag Death Match with Yuko Miyamoto & Isami Kodaka vs. Ryuji Ito & Abdullah Kobayashi. As I’ve said before, death matches aren’t my thing, and neither are fluorescent light death matches. But once again, it’s a different beast live compared to watching at home. The sound that the lights make when they explode is pretty amazing, and kind of addictive. And the powder that’s released when they explode makes for a great visual. The newspaper from earlier came in handy once again as I used it to block little shards of glass that would go flying each time a fluorescent light was used as a weapon. It’s amazing how much broken glass accumulates in and around the ring. Every step a wrestler takes makes this awesome crunching sound under their feet. I found myself really getting sucked into the match. If I was watching at home, I wouldn’t have given this match the time of day, but live, I was kind of into it. It’s much more compelling and engaging.
Another thing I noted from this match is that Abdullah Kobayashi does a pretty great Shiunsuke Nakamura impression, and noticably gets slower as the match goes on. This match went about fifteen minutes. The longest on the show. By the end, he is almost comedically tired, which actually makes him more entertaning. Miyamoto won the match for his team with a Gannosuke Clutch on Kobayashi.
And that was the end of my first live BJW experience. After the show, my friends and I went out to an apparently famous little yakitori restaurant where we talked about Japenese wrestling for hours.
As we were leaving the building we saw a BJW truck parked outside. Sitting in the driver’s seat was none other than Yuji Okabayashi. Either he was just chilling after the show, or he also doubles as a BJW driver.
If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend seeing a BJW show live. Even if you’re like me and not into the whole death match thing. There was a wide variety of wrestling on the show, and almost all of it was really enjoyable. Out of the seven matches, only two of them were death matches. And one of them, the flurescent light match, I actually enjoyed. On top of that, all the BJW wrestlers in the merch area are really approachable and happy to take photos and talk with the fans. I had an awesome time and can’t wait for my next Japan trip so I can got to another show.
Also, if you like getting compliments from wrestlers, make sure you wear you Macho Man shirt to the show. Works like a charm.
Thanks for reading! You can share your live show experiences with me on Twitter @TheKoalaMask.